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CATCHING UP 2.0: LYRA, RIO HIIRAGI, THE NIGHT OF, COOL GHOULS, ZOE, CEDRIC ANTONELLI (COLUMN IS NSFW: ALBUM COVER W/ NUDITY)

by Michael McCarthy

If you like Florence + The Machine, you have to check out Lyra’s W.I.L.D (Wake – Induced Lucid Dream). It’s one of the best EPs I’ve heard all year. Truly breath-taking tunes that erupt like the kind of volcanoes that burn cities to the ground. Her verses can be subtle, almost gentle even, but the choruses are monsters. To that end, it must be said that the production is exquisite. Her vocals sound mighty and it features massive drums (and other percussive instruments) that could probably blow your subwoofer if you played her songs loud enough.

Have you heard Rio Hiiragi’s “Banzai! Banzai!”? It’s insanely catchy, easily the best Kyary Pamyu Pamyu-inspired J-Pop song I’ve heard so far. Uber-fast, techno beats plus zany piano, a highly infectious chorus – this one has it all and a barrel of monkeys. It even has that trademark J-Pop heavy metal guitar peppered throughout the track, but never to a cheesy point. Well, OK, you could probably say the whole song is cheesy, but it’s cheesy in a deliberate, over the top way. It’s not like J-Pop songs that sound cheesy because they’re terrible. Not by a long-shot. B-side “Please Be Mine” is also a rock solid pop monster. Finally, I have to give a big round of applause to Rio herself because her cute voice is as key to these songs being the addictive gems that they are as any other element.

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Did you catch the first episode of HBO’s compelling new series The Night Of? It’s about a somewhat shy Pakistani college student named Naz who’s invited to a party someone he tutors is attending, but he gets side-tracked and winds up having the night of his life with a girl whose name he doesn’t even know. (He’s en route to the party in his father’s taxi when she gets in and she’s too beautiful for him to kick out, basically.) It involves drugs, which he clearly hasn’t done before, and after they have sex he wakes up in the basement only to find that she’s been murdered when he heads upstairs for his clothes. He makes a couple of foolish mistakes that make the cops think he did it and the way it’s written makes the viewer wonder about that as well. Very suspenseful. I’ve been thinking about it all week.

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If you like indie rock you should check out the album Animal Races by Cool Ghouls. To my ears, they sound like a cross between early Weezer and early Interpol. Their songs have a nice enough pop vibe – also reminding me of The Monkees at times – but they’re very relaxed. I especially like “Sundial” and “(If I Can’t Be) The Man.” At first they don’t seem super catchy, if I’m being entirely honest, but soon they’re fitting you like a comfortable pair of loose fitting jeans. Animal Races is the third full-length release by the San Francisco band.  Their album will be out August 19th.

Zoe-Debut-Deluxe-Edition

In the French music department, I must give high praise to the album debut by Zoë, whose voice strikes me as a cross between that of Charlotte Church (there’s an angelic quality to it) and Tina Arena (she also yields some serious vocal power). Songs like “Loin d’ici” (“Far From Here”) and “Devinez” (“Guess”) are wholly modern French pop while “Pourquoi alors je pleure” (“Why Then I Cry”) calls to mind old Jane Birkin songs from the ’60’s. I highly recommend the deluxe edition of the album, which features a lovely acoustic version of “Loin d’ici” and a partial cover of “Royals” by Lorde. (I say partial because she just does the first verse then the chorus twice. This could have something to do with her having been a Eurovision star; she probably performed a shortened version of the song on the show and chose to do the same version here. Pity though, she does it beautifully and it would’ve been wonderful to have a proper, full-length cover of the song by her.)

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Another recent French release I’m enjoying is Cédric Antonelli’s Passer la nuit (Stay the Night). He delivers mostly laid-back songs with lots of organic instruments. Definitely nothing “electro” about his album. It all sounds like it could’ve been recorded live in the studio with actual instruments (nothing programmed), which is refreshing. His style reminds me of Benjamin Biolay’s. One track is a duet with Coralie Clément, “Ich Liebe dich,” which is a German title that Google translates as “I Love You.” Most of the song is actually in French though. It’s a very subtle, acoustic ballad that’s sure to relax your inner French pop junkie.

For this week’s playlist I added some songs by artists not mentioned in the column to make things more interesting!

 

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Written by

Paris365

An entertainment journalist for 20 years, Michael McCarthy was a columnist and contributing editor for the magazines Lollipop and LiveWire. He co-created and wrote for Cinezine, one of the '90's most popular movie E-zines. The only time he's not listening to music is when he's watching television shows and movies or reading, usually music magazines.

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