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Monday, May 11, 2015

Top 20 Songs of April 2015

March's top 20 songs playlist was so well received that I felt compelled to try particularly hard on this April's playlist. Perhaps too, with Coachella in full-throttle and SXSW over best-album-of-the-year contenders were released in droves. Or, is it just a celebration of spring? Whatever the reason, I think we can all rejoice that April was a particularly good month for new music. Without further ado, here are the top 20 songs of April 2015.

We kick things off with a new single from Jamie xx, of The xx, who's gearing up to release his debut solo full-length this summer. 'Loud Places' is both big and dreamy, catching summer vibes without seeming trite, which bodes well for his forthcoming album, In Colour, and for the next release from The xx. Keeping it smooth, we move along to 'California Girls', a track from NoMBe, a.k.a. Noah McBeth, a new artist with 90's R&B vocals and contemporary production. With slickly thick bass lines The Knocks get us ready to strap on our dancing shoes with 'Dancing With Myself', which sounds exactly like 4am in NYC after you leave the club and you decide to dance in the middle of the deserted streets instead of catching that cab with your friends -- complete with echoing sax solo.

BUT WAIT! YOU FOUND THE AFTER PARTY! And, you discover this rad new band called Fickle Friends, who sound like all your favorite new wave 80's sounds mashed up into that summer in between high school and college that brimmed with warm possibility. By 6am your mind is buzzing and reality is slipping back and forth between sunrise and sleep, and that's what this kind of trance-y number from veteran house producer, George Fitzgerald, sounds like. The song, 'Crystallise', is off the new album Fading Love and features Lawrence Hart.

While this is where my NYC party analogies end, I'm not sad, because this brings us up to 'Aftergold' by Big Wild in the playlist. I'm going to double down here and say that this is my favorite song on the entire playlist this month. LA-based Big Wild is the second artist to be released on Foreign Family Collective, ODESZA recently launched label, and his sound is infectious. 'Aftergold' is almost impossibly catchy of for a song that melds so many disparate genres: trip hop, electro swing, chill wave, old school hip hop, and more. It's like Flume, Kid Koala, YACHT, and What So Not had a radiant baby. I'm obsessed.

Continuing with confession time, The Japanese House has almost made the top 20 playlist the last two months. I've been on the fence about this artist, who's released a number of singles recently that sound like stream of consciousness dotted with found sounds. The result is a little disconcerting. It's hard to know how intentional the song is, and in a few minutes what starts as singer-song-writer devolves into experimental weirdness that in and of itself isn't necessarily groundbreaking. Still, the pairing is intriguing and The Japanese House remains enigmatic. True music nerds are encourage to explore these singles more, starting with 'Pools to Bathe In'.

Up next, a new single from Son Lux with anthem-like vocals and big booms of distortion appropriately titled 'Change Is Everything'. Followed by 'Destruction' by Joywave of their new album How Do You Feel Now?, which presents a nicely updated approach to indie dance post-punk. Then I quickly switch gears into soul. Allen Stone gives us his new single 'Upside', and solidly joins the ranks of white-men-with-soul who have been liberated by Mayor Hawthorne. It's cool, though. We ain't mad atcha. More soul can pretty much only be a good thing. Which is why the next song is 'Sugar' by Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, which I think I'll affectionately describe as revival soul.

At this point in the playlist my ears are good and ready for some folkiness, so I'm freaking thrilled to present a new song from Good Old War, 'Tell Me What You Want from Me', their first new song in three years. Their last full-length, Come Back As Rain, has been a staple singalong record for me, and I've been yearning for new harmonies from these Philly kids. Plus, this new album of theirs can only mean a new tour, and I highly recommend their live shows as a participatory rollicking good time. There's also new tunes from several other established artists, who also carry the folk banner: 'Zero in the City' by Great Lake Swimmers off their new album A Forest of Arms, 'Burn Card' by The Barr Brothers off their new EP Alta Falls, and 'I Do Not Feel Like Being Good' by Ryan Adams. Adams presents a new sound in this single, a rambling, bluesy, lonesome, story-telling sound, which blows past Bob Dylan to speak to even older roots. I hope we hear more like this from him soon.

I transition the playlist out of quite time with a new single from The Weepies, 'Crooked Smile' off Sirens. After the second listen you'll catch yourself singing along to the doo-doo-doo-dooos on this song that is almost painfully short at 2 minutes and 20 some odd seconds. The Weepies are still so good at capturing all my emo feels that it might be witch craft. This band has been around for 15 years, and still captures all the beautiful awkwardness of teenage love even though their first songs are now old enough to be in high school.

Speaking of things that sound like high school, Girlpool has a new single, 'Before The World Was Big'. This deceptively simple song sounds like your best friend's band in high school, until you consider the pristine production and the artfully layered rounds of chorus that end the song. Then there's new music from Young Fathers, an irreverently driving and buzzing song titled 'Shame'. Finally we finish with 'Mene', a new single from Brand New. Bring the heat. I still stand by my firm believe that every time I start to question whether or not I've grown out of this band they release something new that sounds like exactly where I've grown too. 'Mene' is surprisingly rocking with noodling guitars, and could signal yet another new direction for Brand New, a band that seems to constantly, and almost effortlessly, be in a state of reinvention.

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