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Monday, August 31, 2015

Top 20 Songs of August 2015

Every month I comb through all the new releases and personally select the top 20 best songs released that month. Then I lovingly craft them into a play list for your--yes YOU--listening pleasure. It's like a mixtape of the month club, but via the interwebz. Follow my Best New Music of 2015 playlist on Spotify, for all the updates and rad new tunes.

As life continues to be short for all of us, I'm continuing with the TL;DR version of the month's top tunes.

    'Ain't Got Far To Go' - Jess Glynne : Soulful vocals set to big brassy instrumentals. You many know Jess Glynne from Clean Bandit guest vocals, but her potential is so much more.
    'My Gold' - KOPPS : Like Jock Jams with a weird dystopian twist. Much needed revisit to the genre?
    'No Mans Land' - Panda Bear : Panda Bear is back. Only good, strange things can come of this.
    'Down' - Petite Noir : Experimental electro with R&B vocals and at least some homage to Malian pop from 21-year-old South African, Yannick Iluga.
    'You're The Best' - Wet : After a breakout debut EP a year and a half ago, Wet are back. Thankfully signing to Columbia does not seem to have damaged their sound.
    'Drive' - Oh Wonder : After releasing a single a month for a year, this savvy London duo are ready to release a full-length that sounds just like their Insta. Yeah, it sounds sickening, but secretly you love it.
    'Never Be' - Meg Mac : Epic vocals and bare bones blues rhythms from an Aussie who's about to take the world by storm.
    'Come' - Jain : OBSESSED with this little lady. Globe-trotting roots give French pop a new twist. Wes Anderson is crying with joy somewhere.
    'Return To The Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, with Crescendo)' - EL VY : Matt Berninger (The National) and Brent Knopf (Menomena) collab. By their powers combined they're even better than you'd think.
    'June & Johnny' - Jon Foreman : Lead singer of truly awful band Switchfoot proves to be a surprisingly capable soloist in the vein of Bright Eyes. Plus, he likes Carter & Cash.
    'Times Square' - Destroyer : Dan Bejar starts from scratch again and strikes a lovely balance between some of his earlier sounds, plus sax solo.
    'Snakeskin' - Deerhunter : Is Bradford Cox feeling...happy? This new track positively jams until is disintegrates into the craziness we'd expect from Deerhunter.
    'Sleeper Hold' - Saintseneca : The kind of sounds that NPR Music drools over - folk with just the right indie edge for credible authenticity. But really, I like it.
    'Smile' - The Royal Concept : Tongue-in-cheek lyrics about SoCal from saucy Swedish rock band that probably have a leather-pants strut down pat.
    'S.O.B.' - Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats : If The Blues Brothers and Robert Johnson had a baby. Haven't liked a song about drug addiction this much since Old Crow Medicine Show's songs about cocaine.
    'Church' - Gary Clark Jr. : Actually makes you want to go to church and beg for salvation on your knees. Vocals and harmonica burn the tape and your soul.
    'Georgia' - Tiggs Da Author : American southern soul meets African beats with a distinctive accent, thanks to an English Tasmanian.
    'Good Times Roll' - Griz and Big Gigantic : Sicker than ill collab that's got to have Mark Ronson loosing sleep. I dare you know to let your back bone slip.
    'Chocolate Milk' - Coucheron feat. Rye Rye: Badass lady raps over some fun sounds, trippy and bit crunchy, by a Norwegian producer.
    'Pleasure This Pain' - Kwamie Liv featuring Angel Haze : There so much music out there right now that just sultry female vocals over ethereal sounds, which is turning into a mass droning bore. Thank god that this track adds something a little more weighty, and actually tackles some serious shit.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Top 20 Songs of July 2015

Every month I comb through all the new releases and personally select the top 20 best songs released that month. Then I lovingly craft them into a play list for your--yes YOU--listening pleasure. It's like a mixtape of the month club, but via the interwebz. Follow my Best New Music of 2015 playlist on Spotify, for all the updates and rad new tunes.

Life is short for me, and for you, so rather than wasting your time with my musical pontification, I thought we'd try a TLDR version of this month's top tunes. What do you think?

    'So Good' - Beat Connection : If you were looking for a summer party jam, look no further. This really is so good.
    'Holding On' - Julio Bashmore featuring Sam Dew : Old school disco samples at a new school BPM with distinctive falsetto vocals that ring like a bell.
    'Weathered' - Jack Garratt : Though provoking lyrics, epic use of the crescendo, and intriguing use of electro beats.
    'Gone' - Jr. Jr. : Artists formerly know as Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. venture into folktronica. Whistle along to the drop.
    'Amadeus' - Family and Friends : Hand clapping, foot stomping, finger picking good tune that appropriately ends with gang shouts and violin.
    'My Church' - Maren Morris : Strong gospel country voice worships Johnny Cash instead of Jesus. Praise be to dirty organ sounds.
    '24 Frames' - Jason Isbell : Jason Isbell finds a new voice sans The 400 Unit or Drive-By Truckers, burns with sage emotion and guitar solos.
    'Phone In A Pool' - Ben Folds : Ben Folds uses signature tongue-in-cheek, rambling story telling to tackle the topic of being an old rocker.
    'Dead Weight' - Mimicking Birds : Dark and increasingly complex layers echo and spin on for a full six minutes while maintaining constant awesomeness.
    'In Motion' - The Lighthouse and The Whaler : Surf punk vocals over alt rock riffs tinged in shoegaze sparkles somehow really works.
    'Fell You' - Julia Holter : Goddess of Baroque pop is back with a song about Mexico City featuring harpsichords. ***SQUEEL***
    'Jonah' - Kaya Stewart : 15 year-old daughter of Eurythmics' Dave Stewart bursts with raw vocals and stripped down production.
    'Seventeen' - Sjowgren : Beautiful and honest female harmonies over driving fuzzed out guitars from the Bay Area. Sure to blow up soon.
    'Desire' - Dilly Dally : 90s female-fronted grunge reincarnated. Overdue successor to Garbage/The Breeders/Hole torch of badassery.
    'Pretty Pimpin' - Kurt Vile : Kurt Vile borrows a page of out Mac Demarco/Lou Reed's book and get a little less country and a little more psychotic bard.
    'Mountain At My Gates' - Foals : Award winning UK rockers are intent on slaying it with their fourth studio full-length.
    'Come Down' - Wavves and Cloud Nothings : Wet dream of a post-punk collab finally comes to glorious fruition after much internet rumors. Act like you don't care about anything, but you secretly really care about this.
    'We Made It' - Born Ruffians : Now over a decade old, but these Canadians still go big with little to no fi.
    'Closure' - Jill Scott : She's back and badder than ever! Pure sass with your morning after breakfast (or lack there of). If she did a song with Leon Bridges, I might just die.
    'In The Wind' - Statik Selektah featuring Joey Bada$$, Big K.R.I.T. & Chauncy Sherod : OG style, laid back, smart rap from a former radio DJ with an up-and-coming cast of supporters.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Top 20 Songs of June 2015

Every month I comb through all the new releases and personally select the top 20 best songs released that month. Then I lovingly craft them into a play list for your--yes YOU--listening pleasure. It's like a mixtape of the month club, but via the interwebz. Follow my Best New Music of 2015 playlist on Spotify, for all the updates and rad new tunes.

This month's top 20 playlist kicks off summer bright and sunny with a number of upbeat dance tracks. When not giving enigmatic TED talks, Alan Palomo, aka Neon Indian, found time to release a new single, 'Annie', which is full of his familiar bubbly beats. I've had a soft spot for Neon Indian ever since I took a little trip at Virgin Mobile Free Fest and somehow ended up in the front room of his set in The Dance Forest. Twenty years after her debut, pop icon Robyn has launched a new project called La Bagatelle Magique, and their first release is 'Love Is Free', which harkens back to the golden Jock Jams days of the 90s while still maintaining a certain je-ne-sais-quoi edge. Then there's fresh-faced newcomers, Superwalkers, a Swedish duo with almost googlable history. Check 'em out now before Ed Banger Records scoops up their sweet euro, nu disco sounds and blows them up.

Over in Australia two electro darlings seem to have some decidedly new sounds brewing. Chet Faker's new single 'Bend' is dark, sparse and surprisingly lyric-driven. Between flawless production and bluesy vocals, Chet Faker is well on his way to cementing himself in the hallowed halls of producer fame. Even more surprising is 'Some Minds', a haunting shifting song from Flume with vocals by Andrew Wyatt. In a major departure from his self-titled debut in 2012, this is not a song you can dance to.

But don't despair, it's still summer. Tep No bring on the beach vibes with 'Pacing', a head bobbing tune almost made for drinking pina coladas to, with the perfect tickle of guitar riffs. Then former Craft Spells' drummer, Peter Michel, tries on some new musical hats as Hibou, a project that does an excellent job of channeling all my favorite things about Real Estate and DIIV. It's very promising, and we should all keep an eye out for a full-length from Barsuk Records this fall.

Irish, teenage songstress SOAK is back with her heartrending vocals and deeply pensive lyrics on a full-length, Before We Forgot How To Dream, which is chock full o' perfectly wonderful songs, though I picked 'Reckless Behaviour' to showcase. Beirut has been making music for almost a decade now, but they've still got it. I just can't get enough of their signature horns on 'No No No'. So brassy. So good. It pairs well with the weirdly worldly 'Margarita' by Mas Ysa, a musician that musicians love who is emerging from hiding in Woodstock to release an album.

Then we make some room for some more ladies, 'cause they're pretty darn awesome. Hailing from Los Angles, meet Miya Folick, who writes songs with brilliant train-of-thought lyrics and dreamy tones. It seems that she's represented by the Danger Village music collective, so this is another newcomer to watch. Next, soulful Lianne La Havas is back with 'What You Don't Do', and her voice is more powerful than ever. Seriously, she reminds me of a young Aretha Franklin. And, Wolf Alice has jumped across the pond to give us My Love Is Cool with the finely layered 'Bros'.

Plus, Matt Pond PA is back! Let us rejoice! The new album in the prodigious discography is The State of Gold, and it sounds a lot more ambitious. This is album is more uplifting and filled with big, crescendos of sound. It's almost dancey, which may alarm purists. Thankfully I doubt too many of those follow this blog. Which is good, because they probably wouldn't like Iron And Wine covering the Talking Heads. This is a cover of a perfect song that is somehow more perfect. Blasphemy! Fie. Ben Bridwell from Band of Horses lends the sweetest slide guitar touches. I'm so head over heals for this cover, which is something I almost never say. And, everyone's already talking about Wildheart, the new album from Miguel, so I'll just leave 'leaves' right here.

Blaring into mass attention are the L.A. post punkers FIDLAR, who in good punk fashion give approximately zero fucks. Someone give these kids a forty already. They're poised to blow up. (Wikipedia just told me that the brothers Kuehn are the sons of the keyboardist for T.S.O.L.--punk isn't dead--it just had babies--that are now in bands? WTF.) On the folkier side of punk, The Front Bottoms have released a super fantastic new split that proves they're really maturing into a force to be reckoned with. The harmonies on 'Cough It Out' practically beg to be singed along to. If this is making you feel old, you'll appreciate 'Girls' from Widowspeak, which takes a tired tone while languishing from youth envy.

We finish with a little country cherry on top from Kacey Musgraves. Don't let looks deceive you. This little lady ain't cut from top 40 CMT cloth. She has more in common with June Carter Cash than Carrier Underwood. Her new album Pageant Material is contemporary visit to country music's golden era, and refreshingly sparce.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Longwood Gardens

If you're ever in Philly (and have access to have a car), you need to make sometime for a picturesque drive out of the city to the rolling fields and shady glens of Chester County. Down Route 1, know to locals as Baltimore Pike, past Brandywine Battlefield State Park and the Brandywine River Museum, home to a large collection of Wyeth family artwork, but before you reach Kennett Square, you'll find Longwood Gardens. Once the private estate and grounds of Pierre S. du Pont, the gardens are now open to the public and in addition to being otherworldly gorgeous, they have fountain shows, theatrical events, and a working horticulture school. When I visited last summer the new edition was a native plant field. While this may not be as stunning as the Italian water garden, I love it because it embodies all that make this area beautiful. This is the land that inspired Andrew Wyeth's paintings. This is what home looks like to me.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Top 20 Songs of May 2015

It's late, but it's here: the Top 20 Songs of May 2015! Sorry for the delay, dear listeners. I've been exploring Mexico on a much needed vacation, and will eventually make it up to you with beautiful adventure photos. Now for your regularly scheduled programming.

Yep, yep, you know that I go
This is me on the regular, so you know

'On The Regular' - Shamir

First up on the top 20 tunes, is Shamir. Don't let his voice fool you. He's burst on the scene this past year with sounds that are both reminiscent of the best that 90s hip hop had to offer and strangely push the limits of the genre. He clearly owns his distinctive voice, and is looking for meaningful things to say with it. Keep an eye on this kid. Hot on his heals are a couple of more upbeat, dance-y tracks to get you in a good summer time mood. There's a new track from the bird and the bee called 'Will You Dance?', which offers a new more synth based sound for this indie pop duo from Los Angeles. Then Goldroom makes it rain with the help of vocals from Nikki Segal in a breezy track appropriately titled 'California Rain'. Up next, brace yourself for the raw talent of filous, a 17 year-old producer from Vienna, Austria. His pure catchy beats on 'How Hard I Try', made especially earnest thanks to guest vocals by fellow Austrian, James Hersey, are almost impossible to for your feet to resist tapping.

Zach Yudin released a couple lovely tracks under the name Oregon Bike Trails, before forming a band with his twin brother Ben called Cayucas. After a couple years of obscurity, Cayucas is finally releasing a full-length album on Secretly Canadian at the end of June. This first single, 'Moony Eyed Walrus', is a fun, rambling song that manages it keep a wide range of sounds cohesively together into something that sounds like a trippy beach day. It is quite promising. Django Django are back with a new album Born Under Saturn, their second release after their lauded self-titled album from 2012. 'Beginning to Fade' is a representative song for the album: their signature psychedelic sound remains, but it seems to have slowed down to take a little time to think. This could be a good thing, and certainly seems to have allowed the band to side step the sophomore slump. Surfer Blood also has a new album, 1000 Palms, and increasingly seem to be channeling Brian Willson, particularly on 'Saber-Tooth & Bone', which is actually making me like them a whole lot more. This is a more mature sound for a band that had previously sounded a little too much like inchoate garage rock jam sessions, and in a way that just did not sit well with me. ALSO, guess what, dear listeners?! Tame Impala is releasing a new album - THANK YOU SWEET MUSICAL GODS. This single 'Eventually' is a masterfully produced journey that bodes very well for the album, Currents, which will be released in July.

The Helio Sequence have released their 8th album, and have finally gotten around to a self-titled effort. These guys have had some ups and downs, but kept at it for 16 years, which is absolutely admirable. 'Stoic Resemblance' is a solid effort on a sold album. Mac Demarco has a new single, 'The Way You'd Love Her', with some truly spaced out guitar that makes his narrative lyrics all the more engrossing. 'Compound Fracture' is off The Waterfall, the seventh studio album from My Morning Jacket, and is a predictably solid effort from these indie veterans. Unpredictably, the new single from Destroyer, 'Dream Lover', is big and brassy with almost nothing in common to his last album besides the signature monotone vocals. It's a pretty brilliant departure, and I love it.

If you have not heard Leon Bridges yet, you need to get on that, like yesterday. In the past year he's released a string of soulful singles that have attracted a lot of attention, gaining his an opening spot for Sharon Van Etten and a deal with Columbia Records. The man sounds like Sam Cooke reincarnate. His songs, like 'River' will rip the heart strings right out of your chest.That's followed by 'Say What' from My Brightest Diamond, an artist I've admittedly been on the fence about. That said, this song has potentially made up my mind for the best. It's a really unusual song with unique guitar riffs and primal rhythmic vocals all layered with bold complexity.

William Fitzsimmons let's us take a softly quiet moment in this playlist with 'Pittsburgh' off an album by the same name, and also where this artist happens to be from. That's what this song sounds like: home, a hearth in winter, sun breaking through the boughs of a favorite backyard tree, and wistful homesickness. This makes way for new music from two of my favorite folk artists. First, The Tallest Man on Earth has finally released a new album, Dark Bird Is Home, and it sounds more like his break out Wild Hunt from 2010 than that bit of a slump that was last album. 'Darkness of the Dream' has that wide open quality that makes it perfect for singalongs on western road trips under big skies. King of banjo and songs that require hand clapping so hard that your hands hurt, Langhorne Slim, has a single with his band The Law called 'Strangers' that also requires whistling along, which I can only see as a plus (even though I can't whistle). It also has some pretty rad organ and horns. This is clearly the kind of song you'd end a set with at a sold out show, and everyone would be joyfully shouting the doo-doo-doos with you.

This playlist ends a little more than eclectic, but please bare with me, dear listeners. Be fearless in your listening. Listen to ALL the music! It's an important part of expanding your ears and your mind. Pokey LaFarge is a fun swing revival artist with southern leanings that perfectly walks the fine line between kitschy and quaint, somehow 'Something In The Water' works. Philly rap legends Jedi Mind Tricks have a new single 'Deathless Light' which has epic string samples and raw, ripping lyrics that sound as fresh as ever. Finally, Brendan Philip is a Toronto-based artist that is laying down some seriously weird sounds that he calls post R&B. This is some next wave shit for a genre that's seriously been needing some reinvention. Give 'The Feels' at least a couple listens and see if it doesn't oddly grow on you.

That's all for this month, dear listeners! June's top 20 songs will be published on time, so be sure and check back in a couple weeks for your monthly dose of new tunes.