ALBUM REVIEW: Neon Trees – Pop Psychology

Catching ZZZ's and the #1 spot.

Pop goes the album (and the charts.)

Almost six years ago, the Utah band Neon Trees signed to Mercury Records, beginning their trek onto the pop charts with smashes like “Animal”, “Everybody Talks” and their latest radio cut (and former #1 on my personal chart) “Sleeping With A Friend”. The quartet, consisting of Chris Allen, Elaine Bradley, Branden Campbell and Tyler Glenn, have been a favorite of mine since their major label debut; they also played Spring Weekend during my junior year of college in 2011. Firmly rooted in the golden age of new wave and dance, our masters students in music are now teaching a course in Pop Psychology, their third full-length album, out on Tuesday.

Of course, the group’s promoted their latest release through live appearances and such, but several moves on lead singer Glenn’s part have kept their name in the press, including a now deleted rant last October in which he called out members of the band’s management and his recent coming out last month to magazine Rolling Stone. How much these actions will affect the debut week sales of Pop Psychology (which has a good chance of debuting in the top ten regardless thanks to a low sales threshold) has yet to be fully determined. Luckily, the album itself is pretty solid. I think I’ll let the music speak for itself, as we take a ride into the electronic sonic atmosphere of Neon Trees‘s latest effort.

Highlights of the set include the pulsating pop opener “Love In The 21st Century”, which sets the mood with its portrayal of “broken heart technology”, a future concept of love that’s become material rather than physical. (This is also followed by the even more technologically savvy “Text Me In The Morning”, a 90′s Alternative-inspired ode to cellular crushes.) “Century” could lend itself well as a good followup to the aforementioned “Friend”, as well as fourth track “Teenager In Love”. With a power pop meets early 80′s rock vibe, much like a Greg Kihn or Tom Petty record, the glossy number takes a more negative outlook on the protagonist’s world: “He’s a teenager in love/What a tragic attraction/What’s the point of romance?” While not necessarily the darkest moment on here, it does seem to put a damper on things.

Other inspired tracks include the Depeche Mode flavor of “Unavoidable”, featuring a shared lead vocal by Bradley and Glenn. The lyrical content is oversimplified to an extent (“You are the magnet/I am metallic/So do what you do to me”) but overall, it does pop in the lineup. Next to it is the more mysterious “Voices In The Hall”, a song that wouldn’t sound out-of-place mashed with Alphaville‘s “Forever Young”. The synth-driven melody mixed with the recollections from a relationship long departed ends far too soon; it’s a more minimalist side to the band that isn’t really heard elsewhere on the album, and certainly would’ve benefitted from other vulnerable moments like this.

Although Pop Psychology is full of fun sounds and playful lyrics, the biggest downside to it all is that unlike some of the experiences in love detailed on here, the album suffers from material which isn’t so remarkable outside of the first listen. Now, this isn’t to say that the quartet plays it safe. They do have a comfortable zone musically, but they go outside it and generally have no huge issues. Unfortunately, songs like “I Love You (But I Hate Your Friends)” and “Foolish Behavior”, though worthy of being heard in the first place, are just not the most memorable pieces. They blend in quite easily to the Alternative musical movement at hand. Single “Sleeping With A Friend”, a lovable jam when it comes to my tastes, is also a victim of the same fate, struggling to break the top ten at the radio format. Does this mean the saturation point is near for 80′s pop on the airwaves? It could be. I hope it isn’t, but it isn’t helping these guys on a national level.

At this time, both Habits and Picture Show rank as stronger records for me, but this new album from Neon Trees could always be a grower. The concept of it is loud and clear: passion and romance have their ups and downs, as judged by the sequencing on here, but all in all, it’s a matter of taking care of yourself and finding “what you deserve”, as Glenn sings on “First Things First”. However, as far as “choosing where to go” in this album’s run on the charts, it’s only a matter of time before this follows a path similar to the first few eras. All is fair in love and worn out.

(Pre-order and stream Neon Trees’s Pop Psychology, due in stores on April 22)

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TURN IT UP TUESDAY: What’s New In Stores This Week (April 15)

Looking for breathing room.

Looking for breathing room in the top five.

Out of all the releases on the schedule this week, these ones get to the “Heart” of the charts. Where exactly will they land? Here’s what albums and singles are in stores for the week of April 15:

  • One of this week’s top new releases comes from rockers NEEDTOBREATHE and their fifth studio album, Rivers In The Wasteland. Lead single “The Heart” is currently at AAA radio. Given that their last effort debuted in the top ten on the Billboard 200, look for this to as well, with a good chance of entering the top five. (iTunes)
  • Singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson‘s Lights Out lights up record stores this week; it’s her first album release since 2012. “Girls Chase Boys” is currently gaining airplay at several formats and should carry the album to an easy top five debut given her decent fan base. (iTunes)
  • Last year, while Jason Derulo charted moderately in Europe with album called Tattoos, his U.S. audience only received a five song EP of the same name. Now, that full-length effort gets a Stateside release as Talk Dirty, named after his recent hit. Derulo’s never been a big seller when it comes to albums, so don’t except impressive numbers with this. Still, a top ten debut is very much in the cards. (iTunes)
  • Popular metal band Sevendust are back and their latest is titled Time Travelers & Bonfires. It’s an all acoustic album, featuring both new material and reworked versions of some of their classics. (iTunes)
  • Rapper Nas‘s classic Illmatic album turns 20 this month; now, Illmatic XX, a deluxe rerelease with new packaging and bonus material, is in stores today.  (iTunes)
  • Other releases out this week include: Afghan Whigs‘s Do To The Beast (iTunes), Billy Porter‘s Billy’s Back On Broadway (iTunes), Breathe Carolina‘s Savages (iTunes), Dan Wilson‘s Love Without Fear (iTunes), Emerson Hart‘s Beauty In Disrepair (iTunes), Ian Anderson‘s Homo Erraticus (iTunes), Justin Nozuka‘s Ulysses (iTunes), Paolo Nutini‘s Iron Sky (EP) (iTunes), Rodney Crowell‘s Tarpaper Sky (iTunes), Secret Sisters‘s Put Your Needle Down (iTunes) and The Both‘s The Both (iTunes).

New digital-only singles that you can buy this week include:

  • “Heart’s On Fire”, a new digital single from Passenger. (iTunes)
  • “Human”, the latest pre-release track from Cher Lloyd. (iTunes)
  • “Love Runs Out”, new from OneRepublic from the re-release of their album Native. (iTunes)
  • “Not In That Way”, another digital track from singer Sam Smith. (iTunes)
  • “West Coast”, the first single from Lana Del Rey‘s forthcoming album. (iTunes)

Next week, rapper Iggy Azalea‘s The New Classic and electro-rockers Neon Trees‘s Pop Psychology are among the schedule’s top new releases. A full preview is coming in seven!

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Better Off Bread: A Poppin’ Playlist For Matzah Monday

Well, at least you can listen to these guys...

At least you can listen to these guys…

To all of my Jewish readers out there, you know that tonight begins the holiday of Passover, an eight night celebration commemorating how Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and to the Promised Land. Besides all of the prep work you’ll be doing for the seder, you also know that this marks the beginning of Matzahfest 2014. It’s not quite as hip as Coachella, but it’s something we have to eat instead of our usual round of bread and all the other products deemed as chametz for this period of time.

Now, even though bread can’t touch your plate around this time of year, it can touch your playlist. Thankfully, looking through the chart archives, we’ve certainly had our small fill of acts and songs that takes their names from nourishment and load their lyrics with loaves and lots of them. Don’t throw these treats out yet!

“Bread And Butter”, The Newbeats (#2, 1964)
The trio from Louisiana individually played in separate groups for several years before forming their most recognized configuration in the early 60′s. This was their biggest single together, which spent two weeks at #2 in September 1964. A few followups by the band charted until the end of the decade; three of those went top 40. A cover of “Bread” sung by Robert John peaked at #68 on the Hot 100 in 1983.

“Toast And Marmalade For Tea”, Tin Tin (#20, 1971)
Do you remember this four man band from Australia? During the summer of 1971, they hit with their only significant single, best known for its warbled piano melody. It was produced by Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees, who is also behind the bass on the song. A followup single, “Is That the Way?”, peaked at #59 later that year.

Outside of the top 40, a handful of other “Bread” titles charted in the 1960′s: “Jelly Bread” by Booker T. & The MG’s (#82 in 1963) and two versions of the same song, by Paul Chaplain and His Emeralds (as “Shortnin’ Bread”, #82 in 1960) and The Bell Notes (as “Shortenin’ Bread”, #96 in 1960).

This is probably the most obvious of the selections in this post; after all, look at the group’s name. The quartet from Los Angeles totaled 12 top 40 singles, including soft rock classics like the #1 “Make It With You” in 1970 and “Everything I Own”, a #5 hit in 1972. Leader David Gates also made the top 40 three times as a solo artist. He appears to be active as live act.

Cornbread and Jerry
Both of the charting singles from girl group The Dixiebelles gave a featured credit to this act, which were “(Down At) Papa Joe’s” (#9 in 1963) and “Southtown, U.S.A.” (#15 in 1964). After a third single failed to break the big Billboard survey, the group parted ways.

Not much else in the way of acts baked their way into the heat of the Hot 100 except for a spoken word record credited to Cornbread and Biscuits, who climbed to #75 in 1960 with a double-sided single titled “The Big Time Spender”.

For tasty music on the menu and a whole lot more, follow the blog below or find PGTC on social media by clicking the “Get Social!” tab.

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Highlights from Adam’s Top 40: April 13, 2014

The Hunger for more.

Could this be the “Magic” at last?

40. One Direction – You & I
39. Chromeo – Jealous (I Ain’t With It)
38. Katy Perry – Birthday
30. Ed Sheeran – Sing | HIGHEST DEBUT

32. Sheppard – Geronimo (38)
29. Andy Grammer – Back Home (35)
20. Foster The People – Best Friend (28)
15. A Great Big World – Already Home (24) | BIGGEST MOVER — two weeks
12. Passenger – Scare Away The Dark (17)
04. Bleachers – I Wanna Get Better (09)

10. Christina Perri – Human (10) | PEAK: #01 for six weeks
09. Gary Barlow and Elton John – Face To Face (06) | PEAK: #04
08. Foster The People – Coming Of Age (04) | PEAK: #03
07. The 1975 – Settle Down (05) | PEAK: #05
06. DJ Cassidy featuring Jessie J & Robin Thicke – Calling All Hearts (07) | PEAK: #07
05. Phillip Phillips – Raging Fire (08) | PEAK: #05
04. Bleachers – I Wanna Get Better (09) | PEAK: #04
03. Neon Trees – Sleeping With A Friend (01) | PEAK: #01 for six weeks
02. Bastille – Bad Blood (02) | PEAK: #02
01. Coldplay – Magic (03) | PEAK: #01 for one week

Top 10 Next In Line:
1. Taylor Henderson – When You Were Mine (2)
2. SecondCity – I Wanna Feel (10)
3. Gary Barlow – Since I Saw You Last (6)
4. Disco Mystery – No Price (-)
5. MAGIC! – Don’t Kill The Magic (-)
6. Donkeyboy – Crazy Something Normal (-)
7. Christina Perri – Burning Gold (8)
8. Saint Raymond – Everything She Wants (-)
9. Sebell – Till The Sun Burns Out (9)
10. The 1975 – Robbers (-)

In The Mix:
Avril Lavigne – Give You What You Like
Clean Bandit featuring Sharna Bass – Extraordinary (new)
Daughtry – Battleships
Grizfolk – The Struggle
Imagine Dragons – Bleeding Out
Jeremy Redmore – Bad Philosophy
Kylie Minogue – I Was Gonna Cancel (new)
Paloma Faith – Only Love Can Hurt Like This (new)
Ray LaMontagne – Supernova
Red Wanting Blue – You Are My Las Vegas (new)
Sam Smith – Stay With Me
Sarah McLachlan – In Your Shoes (new)
The Fray – Break Your Plans
The Seasons – Apples

Chart Notes:

  • We have a new one at the top this week — leaping from 3-1 is Coldplay, who now have their fifth #1 on my top 40 with “Magic”. It’s the first radio single from the group’s forthcoming album, Ghost Stories, due on May 19. Their previous four chart-toppers were 2008′s “Viva La Vida”, 2011′s “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall” and “Paradise”, and 2013′s “Atlas”.
  • Look for four songs to jump into the top ten next week, the most action upward into that region during one frame in several years. Still, with hot singles by A Great Big World (which takes the Biggest Mover title for the second week in a row), Clean Bandit/Jess Glynne, Passenger and Rixton, it’s certainly worth accommodating for. Will all four be able to reach the top spot? Highly doubtful, but with a faster turnover rate, anything can happen.
  • Of this week’s four debuts, Ed Sheeran debuts the highest at #30 with “Sing”, and no, I’m afraid that it’s not a hot Carpenters remake. (That would sound pretty peculiar anyways.) It’s his fourth chart entry to date; his biggest, “The A Team”, spent a week at #1 in April 2012. His sophomore album, X (read as “multiply”), streets on June 23.
  • Further down are the other three debuts this week: Katy Perry lands at #38 with the latest single from PRISM, “Birthday”, while Canadian duo Chromeo enter the chart for the very first time at #39 with “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)”. Finally, at #40, is one of three songs in the countdown for boy band One Direction. “You & I” is the U.S. followup to “Story Of My Life”, which recently spent three weeks at #1.
  • Next week looks like another hectic week for debuts with potential entries from British DJ/producer SecondCity, the yet-to-be-identified “disco supergroup” known as Disco Mystery and Canadian rockers MAGIC!. Who gets in and who gets shut out? Find out next Sunday.

(See my full chart on the M4BCC message board)

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ADAM’S TOP 40 FLASHBACK: April 15, 2007

All about "Me".

All about “Me”.

Welcome back for another edition of Adam’s Top 40 Flashback! Every Saturday, the day before my new top 40 goes up for the week, I’ll be featuring a past countdown straight from chart files of Adam’s Top 40. They’re all here — the hit songs, the songs that flopped, and the songs that may be a little embarrassing to reflect on. By this point in 2007, I was looking at colleges to apply to, and keeping busy with the Speech Team and our a cappella group, Uncommon Time. Meanwhile, here’s what was happening on my chart dated April 15, 2007:

40. BRANDI CARLILE, “The Story”
24. DARREN HAYES, “Who Would Have Thought?”

Biggest Mover:
MANDY MOORE, “Extraordinary” (33-25) (8 spots)

10. PAOLO NUTINI, “New Shoes”
Singer/songwriter Nutini was only 20 years old when his first single made my chart, which was at its peak position on this particular week. Though it just missed the Hot 100, it accumulated some minor airplay at the Hot AC format and landed in the #1 spot on AAA radio for four weeks. He recently entered my top 40 with new single “Scream (Funk My Life Up)”.

09. MODEST MOUSE, “Dashboard”
This band from Washington state broke my top ten three years prior with the song “Float On”, but it would take until their second album, We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, to return to their upper reaches of the chart. The sextet hasn’t released a full-length effort since it, but they still perform live. No word on when new material from them will be coming.

08. JOSS STONE, “Tell Me ‘Bout It”
She bubbled under my chart a few times in 2004 with songs like “Fell In Love With A Boy” and “You Had Me”, but in the spring of 2007, Stone finally made my top 40 and the top ten with this leadoff single from her third album, Introducing… Joss Stone. The introduction didn’t last for long. Though she’s still recording, none of her songs since “Tell” have charted.

07. NICKELBACK, “If Everyone Cared”
With the fourth single from their biggest selling album ever, 2005′s All The Right Reasons, the Canadian group’s rocking song with a more politicized message took a long trip up on my chart, eventually topping out at #2 later that spring. They may no longer be with Roadrunner, their longtime record label since 1999, but they still had a fine chain of hits with them.

06. DAUGHTRY, “It’s Not Over”
It certainly was not over for the former American Idol finalist and his group, climbing into the countdown with their first single. “Over” spent five weeks at #5, their second highest peak from the Daughtry era behind “What About Now”, which rose to #3. The sextet released an album last year, the very poppy Baptized; single “Waiting For Superman” peaked at #6.

05. DBCLIFFORD, “Simple Things”
Watching the charts up in Canada brought this single to my attention, which spent six weeks at #1 earlier in 2007. Clifford was born in France and eventually moved up north before shifting his focuses on the United Kingdom during the past few years. A followup, “Don’t Wanna”, peaked at #2 on my survey that same year. The performer has yet to chart since then.

04. THE FRAY, “Look After You”
Back when they were touring behind their debut era, the Colorado band was one of the hottest new acts to rank on my top 40. This was the third of three top five hits for the band from How To Save To Life, peaking at #2 for a week. Though “All At Once” would break the streak later in 2007, they’re still very much active, scoring with the recent hit “Love Don’t Die”.

03. ROB THOMAS, “Little Wonders”
From the soundtrack to the Disney animated flick Meet The Robinsons, this was Thomas’s fifth consecutive single to rise into the top 3 following four releases from his 2005 Something To Be album. That’s one hot streak. “Wonders” ended up in the runner-up spot for a few frames before falling down. A third solo effort is expected from the singer later this year.

02. JAMES MORRISON, “You Give Me Something”
He’s one of the most underrated vocalists on the survey this week, especially from an American perspective. “Something” was a big hit across Europe, but U.S. radio largely ignored it beyond a few outlets here and there. Morrison has not issued an album out in three years, but he’s been cooking up some new material as of earlier this year. Hope to hear it very soon!

01. MAROON 5, “Makes Me Wonder”
The hype was huge on this record from the California group, who were a month away from the release of their sophomore effort, It Won’t Be Soon Before Long. Needless to say, it zipped up the charts, both at radio and retail. “Wonder” was in its third of eleven weeks at #1 on my survey, and remains the last song in my chart’s history (at least thus far) to debut at the top spot. With six #1 songs and 18 entries since 2003, they’ll surely be reaching the 2-0 mark when their next album hits.

Check back next Saturday for another Adam’s Top 40 Flashback and don’t forget to follow the blog by using the tab below or find PGTC on social media by clicking the “Get Social!” tab at the top of the page.

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Are You Afraid Of The “Dark”? Songs In The Shadows

Lighting up the charts.

Lighting up the charts.

In the middle of a U.S. promotional tour and raking in some new stations at both the AAA and Hot AC formats, the singer and songwriter known as Passenger (born Mike Rosenberg) is looking to score his second big Stateside hit with “Scare Away The Dark”. Now, of course, when he’s had three #1 singles in a row on my personal chart, you can probably figure that “Scare” is bound to be another big record on my top 40. (Spoiler Alert: it looks like it’s going to be just outside the top ten on my next update.) However, when it comes to a national audience, things could look mighty different.

Sometimes, it’s a dark world out there, and in the world of charts, it can also be a “dark” one. Since the Hot 100 began back in 1958, there have been plenty of murky musical sensations to rank, but only a handful of them have cast their shadows up into the top ten. Grab a flashlight as we take a look back:

“Reach Out Of The Darkness”, Friend And Lover (#10, 1968)
This was only big single for this once-married duo of Cathy and Jim Post, the latter of whom was inspired to write this song from his experience at a peaceful gathering in New York City. The folky “Reach” spent three straight weeks at #10 in June.

“Dark Lady”, Cher (#1, 1974)
Nearly a decade after first charting as one half of Sonny & Cher, the legendary Mrs. Sarkisian put her solo career into full gear with two consecutive #1 singles, 1973′s “Half-Breed” and this. She’s currently performing on her Dressed To Kill tour.

“Dancing In The Dark”, Bruce Springsteen (#2, 1984)
They call him The Boss, and given the seven top ten singles in a row from Born In The U.S.A., that nickname was especially true then. “Dancing” stalled out in the #2 spot on the Hot 100 for four weeks, but it spent two weeks at #1 on rival Cashbox.

“On The Dark Side”, John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band (#7, 1984)
Originally from the soundtrack to Eddie And The Cruisers, “On” originally peaked at a lowly #64 in 1983 and the film didn’t do much better. Thanks to some help from HBO, the song earned a second run based on the repeat airings and went top ten.

“Piano In The Dark”, Brenda Russell featuring Joe Esposito (#6, 1988)
In perhaps one of the most interesting comeback stories of the 80′s, Russell trumped her #30 peak for 1979′s “So Good, So Right” with this big top ten ballad in 1988. It hit the top ten once again in 2012 as a sample on rapper Flo Rida‘s hit “I Cry”.

“Coming Out Of The Dark”, Gloria Estefan (#1, 1991)
After a pretty serious bus accident in March 1990 during the promotion of her Cuts Both Ways album, Estefan spent much time in rehabilitation before returning the studio to record Into The Light. “Coming” is her last #1 on the Hot 100 thus far.

“Dark Horse”, Katy Perry featuring Juicy J (#1, 2014)
Just a few weeks ago, this was the #1 single on both CHR radio and the Hot 100. It was the third to be released from Perry’s PRISM and is the biggest of the era so far. However, it’s now falling as “Birthday” unwraps the gift of fresh airplay and sales.

For more ditties that keep it “dark” and lyrics that let the light in, follow the blog below or find PGTC on social media by clicking the “Get Social!” tab.

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A New “Dance” Or Three: Will The U.S. Step To These Global Hits?

It’s certainly not easy to break the music market in one country, but these fellows are doing it by the dozens. The three acts highlighted here have proven themselves worthy of the international crowd, but will it translate into yet another big success here in the U.S.? The time is ticking, but a combination of chart data and social stats has my pop prediction cap buzzing a little bit louder than usual. If you don’t know these guys by now, get ready to pump up the jams:

Sometimes he feels like the only Cab on the road.

Sometimes he feels like the only Cab on the road.

CRIS CAB featuring PHARRELL WILLIAMS – “Liar Liar”
Album: Where I Belong (2014)

You may remember this now 21-year-old singer’s 2012 single “Good Girls (Don’t Grow on Trees)”, which featured rapper Big Sean. It was sent to radio in the U.S., but failed to pick up any traction. This new single of his, however, has been all over the global charts, breaking the top ten in Austria, France, Germany, Italy and more. It also ranks within the top 40 on iTunes currently in over a dozen countries, not to mention that the music video just passed ten million views. He may be singing about liars, but that success is the truth. 2014 looks to be another banner year for Williams, who co-wrote and co-produced this, so why not give it a shot in the States? With an island meets R&B sound, this will chill things right away.

Better than Ezra.

He may be better than Ezra.

GEORGE EZRA – “Budapest”
Album: Did You Hear The Rain? (EP) (2013)

Here’s another young musician who went from playing at Glastonbury last year to playing on his own headlining tour this year. It’s amazing what time can do, can it? The 21-year-old from Bristol has issued two EPs in the past six months and it is the former one that’s given him his breakout hit. Ezra’s single is climbing all over Europe, with top ten peaks in Belgium and The Netherlands and some modest action in Denmark and Switzerland. It’s also notable for a pretty simple clip with the performer strumming his guitar against various colored backgrounds, but three million views later… who needs a big budget to get attention? With a much older voice and a pleasant vibe, this feels like a promising AAA radio hit. We’ll see!

No use crying over spilt Milky.

No use crying over spilled Milky.

MILKY CHANCE – “Stolen Dance”
Album: Sadnecessary (2013)

If you’re not one of the 22 million views that this video has accumulated on YouTube, then what are you waiting for? The duo of singer and musician Clemens Rehbein and DJ Philipp Dausch formed just two years ago in Germany, but acclaim has come their way and quickly at that. The two have absolutely dominated the charts overseas with their rhythmic folk track, going to #1 in a handful of countries and top ten in many others. While a followup single, “Down By The River”, is being promoted in several territories (including the United Kingdom, where “Dance” has yet to be a hit), it would seem as though the bigger cut could fly onto the Alternative chart and beyond with a good push before its momentum is “stolen”.

Which of these three international smashes will make it to the U.S. first and potentially do the best here? Let me know! Comment below or click on the “Get Social!” tab above to find PGTC on Facebook and Twitter.

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