Songs I Want to Talk About
“Symptom of Your Touch” by Aly & A.j. (2021)
When I first started doing these monthly writeups, I told myself I would only allow artists to appear in each category (Song, Album, or Artist) once a year. As you might recall, I featured the Aly & A.j. song “Listen!!!” in my January writeup.
Then I heard the first few notes of “Symptom of Your Touch” and realized I could not enforce such a silly rule.
The whole ’80s-inspired pop trend has been around for enough years now that it barely feels like a trend anymore… and yet “Symptom of Your Touch” stands out from the pack and makes me want to keep that trend around for five more years. There’s a great interplay between tension in the verses and catharsis in the chorus. I loved it immediately, and I want as many people to hear it as possible.
“And We Danced” by The Hooters (1985)
Spotify recommend this as I was trying to flesh out a playlist, and this song stole my heart. It’s an ‘80s pop/rock anthem that I thought was largely forgotten by time, but whenever I expressed my discovery and new found love of “And We Danced” to a friend, they usually said “oh yeah, I’ve heard it. It is pretty good.” This song checks all the boxes of what great 1985 songs typically offer: a catchy chorus that stays with you; a narrative about finding new love on a dancefloor that you’ve 100% heard before, yet somehow it’s still captivating; quality synths; heavy guitars that you just don’t seem to hear in pop today (admittedly not as showoff-y as some of the true rock of the era a la Eddie Van Halen). I’ve learned in the month of April 2021, that I always have room for another great ‘80s anthem in my heart. Welcome to the club, “And We Danced.” You’re in great company that includes “Heat of the Moment,” and “Your Love.”
“We Don’t Talk Enough” by Quinn XCII ft. Alexander 23 (2021)
A lot of great songs are great because they take a near-universal feeling and put it into words when we can’t. “We Don’t Talk Enough” is an understated, bittersweet song about life blowing you and your friends in different directions. I think the reason it’s so powerful is because relationships that end this way are so much more common than the dramatic breakups that are more common in music. When we naturally grow apart from people we still genuinely care about, it can be emotionally taxing, and the fact that there’s no logical explanation can make matters worse. The song makes me think about how lucky I am to have a lot of great people in my life while making me miss them at the same time.
Albums I Want to Talk About
High Country Sound by Canaan Smith (2021)
In late April, I fell into a fairly strong country mood, but there was one album that captured my heart like no other: High Country Sound. I’d never heard of him before, but I discovered him through Grady Smith’s favorite country playlist (he’s a country music Youtube influencer you should 100% be following if you have even the slightest tolerance for country). High Country Sound, much like the terrain that the title evokes, features peaks and valleys. My personal favorite song, “Catch Me If You Can” is about moonshiners running from the cops, and it’s probably the most uptempo, rough-and-tumble song of the whole album. It’s perfectly positioned around the midway point, providing a fresh spark of energy that reinvigorates the album. My 2nd favorite song is on the sweeter side, “Losin’ Sleep Over a Girl” which examines the different reasons Smith has lost sleep over a girl throughout his life. The way Smith is able to navigate both the sweet and sentimental as well as the rough and rowdy is one of the more impressive things happening here. We also get more smart lyricism with “Colder Than You” where Smith finally found something colder than his ex to soften the blow of the breakup. Spoiler alert: it’s his beer.
I also think High Country Sound does a great job of being commercial and approachable, but in a way that still very loyal to country. Smith certainly isn’t reinventing any wheels of country music with this, but he also isn’t trying to be a crossover act either. There’s memorable hooks that still stick with you, but I certainly wouldn’t call this “pop country” either. The smart lyricism and fun instrumentals shine bright, but I could also still see this being an album that lassos the casual country listener such as myself into its charm.
Dancing With the Devil… The Art of Starting Over by Demi Lovato (2021)
While I’ve respected Demi Lovato’s talent before, I’ve never latched onto a full album of hers the way I’ve latched onto this one. We’ve known since 2011’s “Skyscraper” that Demi is capable of pouring her soul out into a song, but I find that her albums typically combine a few of those deep heartfelt tracks with a lot of catchy, but generic pop hooks that feel less authentic to me.
Dancing With the Devil… The Art of Starting Over starts with one of those amazingly soul crushing ballads, and yet somehow it’s still able to maintain that authenticity throughout the album’s runtime, even as it does veer into poppier, somewhat generic sounding stuff. The album is theme around Demi’s well-publicized battle with addiction. Because this album is about going to very dark places and then trying to learn and grow from those experiences, it naturally lends itself to a variety of different moods. That means Demi has bountiful opportunities to showcase her versatility. She can have moments where she’s and alone, and other moments where she’s celebrating the single life such as the Saweetie collab and album standout “My Girlfriends are My Boyfriend.”
It’s a great record where the happy moments are made happier because of the sad moments and vice versa.