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Monday, March 2, 2015

Top 20 Songs of February 2015

It was a 'go big or go home' kind of month for new music in February. Artists were dropping big sounding singles all over the place in preparation to take 2015 by storm with new albums. This could really be an interesting year for music. There's a lot of innovative sounds that have brewing in the underground for a little while now, and finally seem poised, ripe and ready, to break forth fully formed.

First, punk seems ready for a come back, but this isn't your dad's lo-fi, 'fist in the air high above a mohawk' punk or even the stripped down no-fi emotional outpourings of hipsters pretending that they learned their instruments last week. New artists are clearly nodding to the punk aesthetic of noisy guitars while making the most of new production techniques, and being free to explore lyrically outside of the traditional ideology: anarchy and being young bored. With a number of ladies leading this charge, Courtney Barnett is at the forefront. The Aussie's witty, deadpan vocals are one step removed from insane ramblings in the best way possible and come drenched in distortion.

Readers, I think folktronic will become a full-fledged THING this year. This isn't underground per se, since it's genre almost single-handedly invented by Avicii, but as more artists explore the intersection of these two genres it may develop in intriguing ways. As a sucker for house anthems and banjos, I must admit I'm keeping my fingers crossed. New singles from Coleman Hell, a member of the Toronto-based Sideways Collective, are the most promising new additions to the nascent folktronic canon.

If you're more of a electronica purist, and folktronic's got you down, then you may be happy to learn that I'm not the only one predicting a world-wide resurgence of UK garage. NPR Music agrees, and I cannot urge you enough to read this article: A Rational Conversation: Is EDM Easy Listening Now? It's the most intelligent thing I've read about the current state of pop music. If you're looking for new music in the garage vein, I recommend my favorite indie label of late, Black Acre Records. They just released a new album from Romare called 'Projections'.

Besides, folktronic, another guilty pleasure genre I'm not-so-secretly gunning for is electro swing, and this random track I found from Lunchmoney Lewis is seriously hitting the spot. His name says it all. Lighten up and give this fun ditty a try.

Several indie darlings from Alabama Shakes to Unknown Mortal Orchestra are gearing up for new releases, but the one that has me the most excited is Lord Huron. I've been waiting for new music from this LA nu-folk band for 3 years, and 'Fool for Love' did not disappoint. I must see Lord Huron live ASAP, but their shows here keep selling out. (Honorable mention to Murder By Death, who have been going strong since 2000, and just released their 8th full-length that's just as good as ever.)

Finally, Kendrick Lamar is moving away from 4am party anthems, and towards some unapologetic socially conscious rap the likes of which haven't been heard in years. 'The Blacker The Berry' is so blatantly real that it's hard not to hear it as a very loud call for activism. Dead Prez would be proud. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Kendrick Lamar is saving hip hop.

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