Pop Music Done Right : 21st Century Pop Music With Timeless Appeal
We’ve all heard that person at a party say “they just don’t write music like they used to” when a top-40 hit comes on the radio. The condescension is palpable. We often keep a tight grip on our beer and nod with approval. “Yeah, the 60s… those were the days… or the 70s… maybe not the 80s… but definitely the 90s.” The big names are mentioned, but no one else in the circle knows what you know; there ARE people writing classic pop music. Here are a few of them:
The Legal Matters – Self Titled
-Immediately the album reveals its root identity on “Rite of Spring,” with juicy Beach Boys-esque harmonies and an easy rock beat. That flavor stays true throughout the album. With a mature sensibility, the songs address themes decidedly different than Brian Wilson once did. But the idyllic harmonies help the listener connect with rich ideas about love, society, and identity. You will hear shades of Eagles, Tom Petty, and even The Doors on this album. It’s a picture of mid 20th century pop music freshened up for today. If you only have time for one, check out “Mary Anne.”
Kat Perkins – Fearless
-Perkins has a powerful vocal quality. She can fill an arena with her sound for sure. What makes Perkins the perfect candidate for this list, though, is that she has the ability to bridge two very contrasting gaps. She sings with the inspirational value of someone like Celine Dion, but with the grit of someone like Katy Perry. It’s an intriguing combination. The title track “Fearless” is an outstanding pop song in every way, from full guitar backing to soaring lead vocals. This is an album that should be much more widely known and appreciated. Her cover of Grace Potter’s “Paris (Ooh La La)” is downright sultry.
Montropo – Follow Me
-This may not be the kind of album you’d typically think of as pop, but Montropo has an upbeat, positive style infused with fantastic layered vocals. This is pop. You’ll hear some Beatles, some classic chord progressions, and a lot of folk-influenced themes. Imagine taking the popular folk acts of the 60s (like Peter, Paul, and Mary) then blending them with some of the more popular emerging rock bands (Beatles, Monkees, etc.). That’s what you hear with Montropo and the catch is, the album is a 21st century release. This is a timeless folk rock album. “Brother, Stay” stuns for its harmonies, “Letter to Mary” impresses for the guitar work, and “Cathedral” is probably the class of a stellar album. It’s definitely worth a listen.
Polyenso – Pure in the Plastic
-Imagine a haunting pop, a kind of sound that makes you feel warm and happy in one moment, while also deeply moved in another. That’s the sound of Polyenso. There are some hip hop rhythms and some old fashioned pop hooks, but more than anything, the sound is an exquisite blend of sounds. The debut hit “17 New Years” is eclectic and sometimes even jazz-infused, but the rest of the album is worth a spin as well. The song “IWWITIW” is the one that put this album on this list for me; a timeless altered-tempo track that is part audio contortion, part provocative anthem. It’s just the kind of pop that may not expect to hear on the Billboard chart, but the glowing, expressive sounds refuse to be categorized anywhere else.