I have written at length about the fact that that I am very excited about the 2015 Memorial Day Weekend Boston Calling lineup (May 22–24 at City Hall Plaza), except for the ways in which I am not. After compiling this list I am feeling less ambivalent.
The upcoming festival boasts a strong set of headliners and, in my opinion, an even better cast of supporting acts. (You can see the full lineup and buy tickets to the weekend here.) If nothing else, this list of 10 exemplary songs from musicians on the bill should convince you that the art of songwriting is very much alive in pop:
The Lone Bellow: “Then Came the Morning”
The Lone Bellow are a country-ish band from New York City, and they write a lot of great songs, but “Then Came the Morning” is by far my favorite. The song features a sunny, soaring chorus with a sharp note of bitterness at its core: “Then came the morning / It was bright, like the light / That you kept from your smile.”
iLoveMakonnen feat. Drake: “Tuesday”
I like the idea of the club going up on a Tuesday; I’ve been saying for ages it is best to go out on Tuesdays because that way you don’t have to hang out with other people. The more I listen to this song the more I relate to it: “I don’t think that I should dance / I’m just going to have another drink.”
Boston’s own Krill are an excruciatingly creative band. I like “Torturer” because it is written in a complex, shifting time signature and yet still manages a singable hook.
Tove Lo: “Talking Body”
Tove Lo strikes a magical balance between sugary, universal pop sentiment and raw, personal content. In “Talking Body” she makes monogamy sexy, funny and a little bit desperate: “So if we’re talking body / You got a perfect one, so put it on me / Swear it won’t take you long / If you love me right / We f*** for life / On and on and on.”
Pixies: “Where Is My Mind”
Spoiler alert! Brad Pitt is a figment of Edward Norton’s imagination and “Where Is My Mind” is still the best Pixies song.
St. Vincent: “Bring Me Your Loves”
Annie Clark of St. Vincent has been doing weird and progressive things with pop music for a while now, and I’m really into her dance moves at the moment. I think they are intentionally a little bit silly and off-putting — an avant-garde deconstruction of pop performance, perhaps. You could also read them as a self-conscious disruption of Guitar-Hero posturing, given that Clark is clearly an impressive shredder in her own right. Or maybe she’s just having fun.
Sharon Van Etten: “Every Time the Sun Comes Up”
Sharon Van Etten is a mesmerizing performer, and “Every Time the Sun Comes Up” is a masterful exercise in simplicity bringing about catharsis.
Jason Isbell: “Cover Me Up”
At first it bothered me that the beginning four notes of “Cover Me Up” sound exactly like the melody to “Norwegian Wood” by the Beatles, but now I find it comforting.
Taking Beyoncé out of the equation, Beck is a great songwriter any way you cut it. And yeah, “Morning Phase” might have won the Grammy, but the ultimate Beck song will always be the singer’s 1994 breakthrough hit “Loser,” a drum machine-driven, slide guitar-manic ballad of desperation.
Lucius: "How Loud Your Heart Gets"
After Chet Faker had to cancel his appearance due to an unspecified injury, Lucius was added to the bill. The New York-based band is adept at intricate-yet-catchy pop tunes, but they are most affecting when they slow it down.
We updated this post after Chet Faker cancelled and Lucius was added.
This article was originally published on May 19, 2015.