Pop music is great, but if you’re looking for emotional depth, you may not find it in an LMFAO song. So when Chase Manhattan was recalibrating after his band short-circuited midway to their big breakthrough, he turned his focus to making pop music with substance. Enter Goodnight Argent, a nod to an old studio on Argent Road in the band’s hometown of Pasco, Wash. The band crafts burning, soulful pop, part Justin Timberlake, part Ben Gibbard. Those Were The Days is a smoldering look at summer love, driven by a simple back beat and panging piano. When the sun comes up will the stars remember our love? Manhattan wonders. Then, like an admonishment, the band fires back with Don’t Get Sentimental, a track filled with spacy sequences and piercing guitars. The only thing these guys have in common with LMFAO is that they’re sexy and they know it.
Line Spectra may have burst onto the Canadian pop scene from the west side of Montreal, but just listen to City Stars and you’ll see that the entire metropolis is their muse. Languid and dreamy, the track has a sparkle and drawl similar to a Rilo Kiley tune. I’ll never leave the city I call home, sings Vanessa Morelli. And then she repeats it in French, like a true Quebecer. Summer, Oh Wait! is more upbeat fare, a percussive jumble of guitars, keys, drums and handclaps. It’s the kind of catchy, wistful, and kinetic song that’s meant for driving with the windows down and the volume up. Line Spectra’s jangly indie pop continues with Choosing Sides, a coursing melody where guitars growl, keys hammer out an insistent line and drums keep it all moving forward. These three femmes are doing their city proud. Bravo, mademoiselles.
With a father who sang for the Vienna Opera House, a mother who was a professional piano player and singer and a grandfather who won the gold in the Senior Olympics for playing a saw, Kat Parsons boosts a DNA advantage for a rich musical career. But genetic predispositions can only take you so far before you have to roll up your sleeves and do some work. Parsons is clearly accomplished”a multi-instrumentalist with a limber, gossamer voice. With the torchy Go Find Her, she proves her mettle as a chanteuse. But Parson’s got some pop chops as well. Miss Me is Fiona Apple meets Vanessa Carlton, a spare, emotive ballad that tumbles into gleaming pop with cascading keys. And then there’s No Will Power, a starry-eyed melody with jagged guitars and reverberating keys. Whether it’s jazz or pop, Parsons is equally adept. With all that pedigree, being a one-trick pony just isn’t an option.
Ty Mayfield may have had some success behind the kit early in life”if you count a rousing rendition of Genesis’s In The Air Tonight for a high school talent show”but he really found his calling when he dropped the drumsticks and sidled up to the piano. Exhibit A: 19 to 2, a punchy piano melody with an airborne chorus that catapults your spirits. Mayfield’s charismatic crooning and gleeful piano playing are a straight shot of serotonin. From his cheerful professions of love on The One For Me to the high-speed swagger of The Curveball, the singer/pianist delivers mood-enhancing piano pop a la Gavin DeGraw or Ben Folds. For the most part, Mayfield sticks to piano and organ, but he’s not adverse to technology. Do What I Do is the most ambitious of his tracks, a percussive mélange of digital bleeps and blips that tapers into the slow coast of the chorus. Despite his youthful appearance, Mayfield’s a polished performer on the brink of success. You can feel it in the air.
“19-2” – Ty Mayfield
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Alexandria Maillot is far from an ordinary teenager. Unless you consider graduation at 16, followed by music awards, performances overseas, songwriting credits on gold-selling records, and spot in Oprah’s Search for the World’s Smartest and Most Talented Kids ordinary. Think of her as a more grounded version of Miley Cyrus”an artist blessed with an equally powerful voice, a pretty face, but more likely to spend her free time volunteering with charities than trolling the streets in minuscule jean shorts. Hope and the power of positive thinking are common themes in Maillot’s songcraft. All We Need is a mercurial little number that segues from a doleful piano intro to a sailing power pop chorus. The message may be sappy but it’s sweet: You’re all good as long as you have a hand to hold. Revolution is soulful pop with a percolating bass line, where Maillot invites her fellow youth to rebuild society. If all the feel-goodness makes you queasy, put on Confession for a sexier, edgier kiss-off. Maillot is wholesome, sure. But she’s not squeaky clean. And in that one regard, she’s a completely ordinary teen.