The Music Concierge: Finding New Songs You'll Like, So You Don't Have To Search

After my first job MTV working as a music programmer, I can't stop trying to matchmake people with music they might like. So, I wrote a book called Record Collecting for Girls and started interviewing musicians. The Music Concierge is a column where I share music I'm listening to that you might enjoy, with a little context. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook, or leave me a comment below and tell me what you're listening to this week.
Björk “The Gate”
This is the most noteworthy song of the week that you need to hear but probably haven't yet. The backstory is that her next is a follow-up album to Vulnicura, an album that focused on the dissolution of her marriage. But, where that album was about a very personal heartbreak, this one will address "a love that’s even greater. It’s about rediscovering love — but in a spiritual way, for lack of a better word," Björk told Dazed. That sounds so appealing to me at this particular time in our culture, when it feels like people in control of the government are working for their self-interest over the greater good, when literal Nazis feel safe walking the streets while screaming hateful rhetoric at the top of their lungs, and when our culture is so fractured that if seems as if we can't hear each other. Simply to listen to Björk cooing, "I care for you," repeatedly is a balm for the soul. I will gladly join her hologram utopia.
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Dej Loaf "Changes"
This one hits me in a super personal space. I had a birthday this week, which spurred a lot of soul searching on all fronts in that way that milestones will make you take stock of your life. From the brassy horns on the top of that '70s-sounding sample off the top to the anthemic, driving beats that remind me of golden era Bad Boy production to the lyric "Nobody did me no favors/I'm sorry if you can't take it/I been goin' through changes" — this song is a real gut-puncher. At the same time, it's not a downer; it's anthemic and empowering!
Little Mix and CNCO “Reggaetón Lento (Remix)”
If you will allow me to music nerd out on you a little bit, the thing that makes this song so infectious (and is prevalent in the Latanix music explosion) is that the chorus is a straight up banger. The song structure, like much of reggaeton, follows a more old school song structure where you lift the chorus, drop everything you've got into it, and put it in a major key. Even if you hadn't been paying attention to the song before that, you will be the second this chorus kicks in and that makes you feel the song in real time — meaning the song passes more as how we, as humans, experience time with the exiting parts sped up and amplified (for more on that idea, check out this episode of Ways of Hearing). That stands in opposition to so much pop music right now (see "Look What You Made Me Do," "1-800-273-8255," and "XO TOUR Llif3" at the top of the Spotify charts as examples), where the chorus is downplayed with minor chords and music/tempo that doesn't change from verse to chorus. It makes machine time, or the click track the songs are performed to, push the song through in one tempo and stops the song from having a big moment that grabs our attention (for more on that idea, check out this episode of Switched On Pop).
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That's enough nerd talk. This song will make you dance your butt off.
The Weather Station “Kept It All to Myself”
On the heels of the new indie rock saviors The War on Drugs and Courtney Barnett is The Weather Station, a.k.a. Toronto’s Tamara Lindeman. From start to finish the song is like jumping into a conversation with a fast-talking and eloquent woman with whom you need only agree until she steps into the next conversation, leaving a gaping hole where her presence just was. The lyrics remind me of Joni Mitchell while the delivery brings Aimee Mann to mind, with just a touch of debt to Fiona Apple's way with words. There's something so early '00s retro about the aesthetic of this song and video to me which appeals.
Sam Smith "Too Good At Goodbyes"
Serious question: Is Sam Smith too depressing for casual listening? His latest track tests the theory, more so than any song on his debut album, when he was still chasing an unattainable love. This ode to a lover who keeps ending their relationship (hm, sounds like someone I dated earlier this year) is also a rebuke of the transient nature of swiping culture in dating. In a world full of Tinders, Smith is an old-school fix up who believes in love at first sight. Here, all he's giving us is world-weariness which is apt if you're in the midst of a dark relationship/breakup or have the fall blues already. The reason I can't stop listening to this track, however, is not the sadness in it but the richness of his voice and the music, which has the luxurious tone of being recorded live in a studio full of expensive throw rugs with an unlimited production budget. It's the kind of cashmere sweater I want to wrap myself up in when the temperature drops, although I live on a synthetic fabrics budget.
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