Entertainment » Culture

Listen Up!: Julia Michaels, Mura Masa, Briana Marela, Guided By Voices, Mondo Cozmo

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Tuesday Aug 15, 2017

The Ohio-based indie rock band Guided by Voices releases their 25th studio album -- their first-ever double album. It's actually the band's second LP of the year, after "August By Cake" in April. And it's actually front man Robert Pollard's 100th full-length album to date! Olympia-based singer Briana Marela sings about love in new ways on her new sophomore album "Call It Love." Philly-born troubadour Mondo Cozmo releases his new punk-folk album, "Plastic Soul," his first full-length studio debut, the title of which he said was influenced by David Bowie. And Julia Michaels, the year's biggest global breakthrough artist, releases her debut album, "Nervous System," a streamlined seven tracks that showcase her talents.


"How Do You Spell Heaven" (Guided by Voices)

The Ohio-based indie rock band Guided by Voices releases their 25th studio album -- their first-ever double album. It's actually the band's second LP of the year, after "August By Cake" in April. And it's actually front man Robert Pollard's 100th full-length album to date! The 15-track album was recorded in New York and Ohio, and "capitalizes on the current incarnation's tour-buffed shine without sacrificing eternal verities." The album features crazy chords, imperfect harmonies and fragmented structures, all there on purpose. They start with "The Birthday Democrats," singing, "your dream is a dust speck in your eye/ make a wish blow out the candle." The shuffling guitar of "King" cedes mid-song to a fast, hard-rocking power move, and merges into the electric-guitar cut "Boy," where Pollard sings, "baby fantastic, six years spastic." GBV has no problem mashing up nonsense lyrics and music to create their short two- or three-minute songs. You'll get creeped out by "Steppenwolf Mausoleum" and its heavy metal patina. Pollard makes "Cretinous Number Ones" a fun affair with lyrics like, "yeah, I dream of drinking" over his poppy guitar chords. "At the age of birth they learn to talk/ at the age of death they learn to listen," he booms in the comically-ominous (cominous?) .55-second strummer "They Fall Silent." It's classic GBV in "Diver Dan" as they urge you to "take a shot with your eyes now/ gaze into the water at Diver Dan." In "How to Murder a Man" they sing about how "sociopathological liars invented the wheel" and take an acoustic break to muse how, "On her third glass of wine she said 'you're not mine, not to speak, to seek my point.'" An affable electric guitar cut, "Pearly Gates Smoke Machine" will have you tapping your feet along with the rhythm, as will their indie cut "How Do You Spell Heaven." They slow things down for "Low Flying Perfection," and "Nothing Gets You Real," and finish with the affable "Just to Show You." GBV hits the road at the end of the summer, with dates in Illinois, Wisconsin, Baltimore and beach towns along the East Coast.
(Guided By Voices, Inc.)


"Call It Love" (Briana Marela)

Olympia-based singer Briana Marela sings about love in new ways on her new sophomore album "Call It Love." (To be fair, she self-released two albums before signing with Jagjaguwar Records). The album, produced by Juan Pieczanski and Ryan Heynor, balances Marela's love for ambient, ethereal music and pop music. "Originally, I was trying to make this album have cohesive pairs of songs," Marela says. "Sister songs, where all the ambient songs would have a poppier match, and vice versa." What followed instead was a fusion of the two styles, with Marela's subtler, sweeter side crashing into her bolder, brighter one. This student of audio production from The Evergreen State College starts things with a gauzy, ephemeral soundscape of "Be In Love"; mid-song, it embraces its pop leanings. Her single, "Give Me Your Love," explores "love's immature, silly and selfish side" in a singsong way, before Marela builds up to a break. The ambient buzz of "I'm Sorry" has her singing, "I couldn't tell you that I'm sorry; I can't get through to you." Her high, fine voice adds to the ambient instrumentals in "He Knows," and her single "Quit" has you falling into the ambient reverb before her lyrics cut through with a plaintive, "You quit calling my name." "Baby I want a real love, more than you cannot give/ I'll be living it up," she sings in "Feel What I Feel" a song about her first big breakup, with subtle electronica. Marela wonders what good is dreaming when there's someone there, what good is memory when you can't forget, in the foggy "Last Time." A fast-paced electro dance beat lies under the soft vocal lines of "Call It Love," as Marela sings, "wonder how long you can burn an old flame and watch it fade/ tell me before it's too late." She's deep in the ambient mist of the "Farthest Shore," with its electronica simulating running water, and finishes her 10-track album with the hymn-like "Rise," with its heavy ambience and message to "rise from the ashes." Marela goes on tour in the Midwest this fall, hitting Detroit, Indianapolis, Des Moines, Denver, Salt Lake City and more.
(Jagjaguwar)


"Nervous System" (Julia Michaels)

Julia Michaels, the year's biggest global breakthrough artist, releases her debut album, "Nervous System," a streamlined seven tracks that showcase her talents. Primarily, her talent has consisted of writing hit songs for Justin Bieber, Nick Jonas, Selena Gomez, Ed Sheeran, Gwen Stefani, and Britney Spears. Her single "Issues" is already RIAA double platinum-certified, the best-selling and highest-streaming cut this year. Her throaty voice gets a workout as she dishes about her main issue -- how bad she needs you -- singing, "Baby believe me, I can love you just like that and I can leave you just as fast." She's got issues, but you got them too, sings Michaels. It's easy to see from the get-go how she is responsible for some of the best hits of the past five years; she's superbly talented. Her clipped acoustic guitar instrumentals pair well with her clipped delivery in "Uh Huh," as her emotions go in for the kill. She released her single "Uh Huh" on Spotify, and revealed it to the world on July 27 on "The Late Late Show With James Corden." She remembers when they worked well together, encouraged them to go out with friends and celebrated each other successes, but now that stakes are high, all you do is bring out the "Worst in Me." "I always ruin good things like that time with your friends," she sings in the electro-pop bouncer, "Make It Up To You." She wants to be that tender, stable girl you want, but that's just not her. She can tell in your eyes that you want to tell her something, so you should "Just Do It" sings Michaels as deep bass chords and clap tracks lend a doo-wop patina to the tune. She gets anthemic in "Pink" as she sings about her man, who's got a thing for fitness, seven days a week, and can't get enough of her, as she whispers, "There's no innuendos, it's exactly what you think/ believe me when I tell you, he loves the color pink." She ends the album strong with "Don't Wanna Think," her lonesome drinking song that brings her to brink of tears. At the end, she sings, "I know that when I wake up there's gonna be seven texts and three calls to you and I'm not gonna know what to do/ I'll make up some excuse about how that was meant for someone else, when the truth is I'm not over you." Catch Michaels when she plays on September 23 at iHeartRadio's Music Fest in Las Vegas.
(Republic Records)


"Plastic Soul" (Mondo Cozmo)

Philly-born troubadour Mondo Cozmo releases his new punk-folk album, "Plastic Soul," his first full-length studio debut, the title of which he said was influenced by David Bowie. The album features gospel chorus, haunting confessions, wild guitars, keys and synthesizers, and that grunge spirit. He starts things off with the title track, a Bob Dylan-esque piece of folksy grunge featuring strings and harmonica as he sings, "Didn't I see you tearing down the wall back in 1989?/ Didn't you feel my hand against your heart, when I told you you were always mine?" He channels Bowie in "Hold On To Me," singing impassionedly, "Why you sitting on your broken-hearted hands tonight?/ You wanna sing like us? You gotta rip your eyes out." Heavy bass drums and cowbell make "Higher" a dance club anthem that you can really sink your teeth into, with references to cosmic vultures and suicide lovers and how silence is the killer, as he sings, "I pour another glass, she smokes another bone." Dogs barking opens "Come With Me," a cacophonous tune that shows Mondo's punk side, with an addictive Motown back-beat and a Rolling Stones vibe. His #1 AAA single "Shine" has already got people saying he's a contender for best new rock act of 2017. It's an odd one, but crazy catchy, as he asks Jesus to stick with him, and show him the light, with the chorus, "Let 'em get high, let 'em get stoned/ Everything will be alright if you let it go." He starts slow and builds up intensity in "Thunder" as he's waiting in the darkness for your everlasting love, but lays the funk on thick from the very beginning of the jaunty "Automatic," singing, "it's the end of the world and we're doing it right!" His cut "Acre" is a fast-moving blend of electronica and hard-rocking punk guitar with a snare drum backbeat keeping time, and comes across as a throwback '90s track. The dark, brooding "Angel" has the deep intensity of a Bruce Springsteen song, and his "Chemical Dream" is a shimmering musical soundscape with a brief spoken word intro. Cozmo has laid the groundwork for success by touring with Bastille this spring, and recording a Spotify Live Session at SXSW. This summer, you'll find him at nearly every top festival from Bonnaroo to Lollapalooza; in the fall, he plays select dates with SPOON.
(Republic Records)


"Mura Masa" (Mura Masa)

Electronic music producer Mura Masa, aka Alex Crossan, releases his debut self-titled album this month, after success with his number one hit "Love$ick," featuring rapper A$AP Rocky. He kicks things off with "Messy Love," with its electronica distortion sounding like traditional Asian music, perhaps a homage to his moniker, which he styled after famous Japanese swordsmith, Muramasa Sengo. A heavily distorted spoken word intro in "Nuggets" soon cedes to a dance/dubstep beat with female vocals, singing, "They try to chase my supply, go and get your own damn high/ 'cause I got, I got nuggets." He asks, "pretty please with a cherry on top" for "Love" in this bass-heavy rap cut. He teams up with Charli XCX for the xylophone-peppered "1 Night," saying, "I think I just had that beat lying around for a while and we sent it to a couple of people. Then Charli just did her thing." Her 'thing' included her singing, "You are something special, 20 karat solid gold/ what we had was precious but I had to let you go." The rapper Desiigner is featured thanking God for all his money and fine cars in "All Around the World," and Mura Masa gets that old-style Asian beat back in the short poem-song "give me The ground." In "What If I Go?" female singer Bonzai sings "Luck of the draw, you/ That's my lottery won./ A gem in the rough, I could be your finishing touch." The bright electronic dance cut "Firefly" has Nao singing, "Pavement's turning into gold and it's risin' up into my eyes/ Up on my back I feel the static and more, tripping the wire, surrounded in time." "You can take my shit, burn my clothes, I know this is it/your love's more precious than gold," sings Jamie Lidell in the funky electronica/R&B meld "NOTHING ELSE!" The vibe is all very Morris Day and the Time. In the next track, "helpline," the sound is very lo-fi and pop/punk as Tom Tripp sings, "Gina, I know that I felt fine but I need a helpline to kill this fever." Christine and the Queens lend a hand in the slowed-down "Second 2 None." The hand drums in "Who Is It Gonna B" give the song a primal feel, as A.K. Paul sings to a lover who has to choose between two, singing, "every sin is greater when I kiss you/ I've been waiting. Thinking crazy love I need that it's special (it's safe with me)." One thing to Mura Masa's credit; he's certainly not afraid to take chances with a wide variety of musical styles, or to ask his friends for help putting it all together. Look for great things from this Guernsey boy.
(Universal Music/Polydor/Interscope)


Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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