Off-the-wall media entertains

The radio is often one’s main source of new music but it is constantly replaying the same old songs with little variation of character. Because of this, I am sharing some of my personal favorite, less popular albums. The artists and albums listed are not too abstract or “hipster” yet are still extremely likeable.
The National “High Violet” – 2010
“High Violet” is one of my favorite albums because of lead singer Matt Berninger’s voice, which has the quality of enveloping the listener in a blanket of noise. Berninger’s somber baritone and the depressingly beautiful lyrics work together to create a feel that can be interpreted as either hopelessly sad or hugely inspiring. Berninger sings at a volume that could be defined as “an inside voice.” Each word is slightly held back and drawn out to better let them sink in.The lyrics are often heavy with melodramatic imagery—“Sorrow’s my body on the waves/ Sorrow’s a girl inside my cake/ I live in a city sorrow built,” Berninger mumbles in “Sorrow.”
Although not technically in a minor key, “High Violet” and the majority of The National’s discography has a ring of sadness to it.”The National” is a band whose sound molds emotion. It is not debatable that the National cannot put out explicitly positive music (the Dallas Observer has an article entitled “The National Can’t Write Happy Songs”) but the instrumental backing is enough to masquerade their melancholic songs as almost happy.
Highlights: “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” “Conversation 16,” “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”
Little Joy “Little Joy” – 2008
Easy-going and light, the sole album of “Little Joy” begins with a disjointed and staccato plucky guitar riff. The album as a whole has a sweet and happy tone. The album moves on to songs with less movement and more sustained melodies with longer notes but still manages to have a positive overall tone. It all sounds very loose; almost lazy but not quite disorganized.
In “Keep Me in Mind,” lead vocalist Rodrigo Amarante sounds slightly flat and reminiscent of the Strokes; an homage to the fact that drummer Fabrizio Moretti was a member of that alternative rock band. There is variation within the separate songs as Amarante and female vocalist Binki Shapiro take turns taking lead vocals. One of my favorite things about this album is that each song has its own unique trait that sets it apart from the rest, be it the fuzz and distortion that is a trademark of lo-fi music, a verse in Portuguese or the enjoyable subtle presence of a cowbell.
Highlights: “Next Time Around,” “Brand New Start,” “How To Hang A Warhol”
Kishi Bashi “151a” – 2012
Poppy with a touch of orchestral instrumentation, Kishi Bashi is unique. “151a” sounds kind of… sparkly. He utilizes lots of chimes, layered vocals and looped violin bites to create a busy melodies. Every part each song is thought out and individual. Each part comes together and meshes into a bright patchwork of violins, soothing falsetto and soft murmurs. The result of this are songs that are equally likeable and like nothing I have heard before.
Kishi Bashi is more than loopers and shiny noise; he delivers his lyrics with a grace that would make it possible for him to mutter the phonebook and I would still enjoy it. Besides that, the lyrics themselves are beautifully written and vaguely existential. He repeats the chorus of “I am the Antichrist to You” several times—“Who are you? Who am I to you?/ I am the antichrist to you/ fallen from the sky with grace/ into your arms race.”
Highlights: “Manchester,” “Bright Whites,” “It All Began With A Burst”
Sky Ferreira “Night Time, My Time” – 2013
Sky Ferreira’s music has a sound that makes me surprised that she is not played on the radio, especially when you take into account that she was raised knowing Michael Jackson and was featured in Vampire Weekend’s “Diane Young” music video. “Night Time, My Time” is poppy and upbeat, full of catchy melodies and easy to learn lyrics. Sky Ferreira has a voice that is very youthful yet somehow mature at the same time. Her smooth vocals create contrast with the fuzzy sounding guitars.
Pop and distorted guitars are both in excess and I would say not much sets Ferreira apart from your typical radio music such as Katy Perry and Lorde. Ferreira has twice the charm of Katy Perry, just as grunge-inspired of a look as Lorde and an equal talent for what sounds catchy. One of the reasons I like Sky Ferreira and “Night Time, My Time” so much is that Ferreira manages to capture the self-doubt and angst that are so, so prevalent in adolescence.
Highlights: “Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay),” “I Blame Myself,” “Love In Stereo”