Thursday, December 18, 2014

Top 20+ Songs of 2014 With YouTube Playlist

I put together this Top 20 plus songs of 2014 list while putting up holiday decorations -- thinking over the year and culling the songs that meant so much to me (while finding the best order of presentation of course!) If I had to pick a Song of the Year, I'd add my vote to others that chose Future Islands' "Seasons Waiting on You." Along with the breakout performance by frontman Samuel Herring on David Letterman that was so crazy passionate and borderline creepy, the tune encapsulated all three genres listed on their Wikipedia page with gusto:  synthpop, alternative rock and indie pop.  It's simply a great song that doesn't get old with repeated listens.

Yet the song that yielded the most meaning for me this year would have to be Field Report's "Home (Leave the Lights On)."  As I wrote about in a post back in October, hearing this song in a different context gave this sublime tune a personal resonance that cut to my core. It's going to be one of those many songs that will take me back to that time and place in the fall of 2014.

Listen via the YouTube playlist below or at the link here. Here's to another fine year of new music!

1. "Inspector Norse"  Todd Terje 
2. "Can't Do With Without You" − Caribou 
3. "Dangerous" − Big Data 
4. "Red Eyes" − The War On Drugs 
5. "Seasons Waiting On You" − Future Islands 
6. "Come a Little Closer" − Cage the Elephant 
7. "Digital Witness" − St. Vincent 
8. "Fall In Love" − Phantogram 
9. "Do You" − Spoon 
10. "Home (Leave the Lights On)" − Field Report 
11. "Step Out" − José  González 
12. "Past Life" − Lost In the Trees 
13. "The Tower" − Wye Oak 
14. "Alexandra"  − Hamilton Leithauser 
15. "Handreds of Ways" − Conor Oberst 
16.  "Blue Moon" − Beck 
17.  "Summer Noon" − Tweedy 
18. "Woke Up To the Light" − Strand of Oaks 
19. "Lonely Press Play" − Damon Albarn 
20. "New York Morning" − Elbow 
21. "Moving To the Left" − Woods 
22. "Divisionary (Do the Right Thing)" − Ages And Ages

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Top Ten Releases of 2014 With Video Highlights

Here is my slightly ranked list of Top Ten Releases for 2014 -- with Spoon definitely taking the top spot.  The best thing about compiling such a list is revisiting these songs that became the soundtrack to my life this year, and remembering how these albums are all worth many more plays from start to finish.  I was also lucky to see three of the bands/artists over the course of the year so I've pulled videos from the  NMMatterscorp YouTube channel from those shows: Spoon, Beck, and Elbow.  For the others, I looked for live performances in order to imagine hearing the music being played live: from official gigs at CBS, an AMEX event, and Pitchfork festivals, along with studio sessions from my favorite online radio stations KCRW and KEXP. Check out anything you haven't yet, and enjoy!

1. Spoon, They Want My Soul
After taking some time off since 2010's Transference, Austin-bred band Spoon reconvened last year to put together what may be its best album yet.  With the strength of the singles "Rent I Pay," "Do You," and "Inside Out," I've heard more Spoon airplay than ever, never a band thing. Spoon opened up for Arcade Fire when we caught the final night of the tour in Montreal, where many in the crowd had not yet heard of them (thus the chatter in the video, but listen to the squeals of delight as uber frontman Britt Daniel approaches each side of the stage!) The guy next to us vowed to purchase the new album immediately and tell all his friends about Spoon when he returned home.

2. Beck, Morning Phase
When we first listened to this album (studio collection number twelve for this prolific musician), husband/music guru Paul exclaimed "Who broke Beck's heart?" It's that melancholy side of the guy heard back in 2002 with Sea Change, all slower meters and dreamy textures.  But at least it wasn't the folky Beck seen at festivals the last go around (still say he could loose the goofy black hat).  At least I could finally check him off my concert bucket list after a night at Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC -- a night split in half between the new and yes, all the old hits!

3. Elbow, The Take Off and Landing of Everything
The sound of Guy Garvey's voice brings warmth and depth of meaning to any lyric, so why not elongate the title of the group's sixth album too? Everything reads like a stream of consciousness travel journal after time Garvey spent in NYC where "folks are nice to Yoko."  I caught the U.K. band in May at Webster Hall NYC, where a couple took this romantic music to another level with a marriage proposal. 

4. Wye Oak, Shriek
Some Wye Oak fans didn't know what to make of the duo's fourth album, after singer Jenn Wasner learned the bass and layers of electronics were added without the signature guitar sound.  I gladly heralded this move into complexity and Shriek was on heavy rotation all summer.  

5. Conor Oberst, Upside Down Mountain 
Conor Oberst released his sixth album as a solo artist, connecting to his story telling vibe and touring with the band Dawes as backing musicians.  The sound is at once full yet immediate, baring his Nebraskan soul in songs about adult responsibilities and looking for meaning in the every day. 

6. Caribou, One Love
Canadian Dan Snaith released his sixth studio album as Caribou, expanding the electronica with genres such as hip hop and  R&B, plus contributions by Jessy Lanza and Owen Pallett.  When he plays live, Snaith takes over the percussion and performs with a live band clustered together in musical solidarity while the party in the audience carries on...

7. TV on the Radio, Seeds (live from KCRW)
TV on the Radio released its fifth album in November, so I'm still uncovering the many attributes to each song. The band is now split between Brooklyn and L.A. but as a group remains as solid as ever. (This is the first album without their bass player Gerard Smith, who died of cancer in 2011.)

8. Hamilton Leithauser, Black Hours
When I fretted about The Walkmen taking a hiatus, it was really the idea of not hearing Hamilton Leithauser's ardent vocals without a solid band base that had me worried.  His solo album seemed a bit solitary in spirit, but not in musicianship. The entire collection appears ready made for a full listen seamlessly from song to song.  

9.  The War on Drugs, Lost In a Dream 
The mastery and wash of guitar reverb permeates this third album by Philadelphia's The War on Drugs. Singer/songwriter Adam Granduciel had trouble adjusting after the successful tour behind 2011's Slave Ambient, resulting in these profoundly emotional songs.

10. St. Vincent, St. Vincent 
St. Vincent's Annie Clark not only garnered attention for this self-titled fourth album, but for her choreographed stage shows performed with her usual epic shredding on guitar.  Her songs cut to the quick musically and lyrically, while remaining deeply ambiguous and intriguing at every listen. 

Future Islands, Singles
Vacationer, Relief

Friday, December 5, 2014

Yo La Tengo @ Town Hall NYC December 5th

James McNew w/married couple Georgia Hubley & Ira Kaplan
Devoted Yo La Tengo (YLT) fans streamed into the Town Hall in Manhattan without the storied venue Maxwell's on the band's home turf of Hoboken, New Jersey across the Hudson River. This relocated annual holiday show also celebrated the group's thirtieth anniversary and the reissue of 1993's Painful LP as Extra Painful, loaded with bonus tracks.  I was one of the few newer devotees  in the crowd, after being smitten with their thirteenth album Fade which I picked for my list of  Top Ten Releases of 2013.  As they took the stage with waves, the strains of my very favorite song "Ohm" broke the game plan. I figured I'd be waiting for this song to be rolled out much later, maybe even during an encore. This seemed to make sense, since it's the most popular tune with the cute videos from their last album -- full of simple truths such as in the chorus: "But nothing ever stays the same, nothing's explained." The lilting melody chugs along a slightly messy foundation like life itself, and I couldn't help but hold my heart to express the inner emotional pull.

After hearing the song you most want to hear first, then what?  Busting conventions is what this group is all about, made clear from the very start of the concert. So I sat back and enjoyed the ride, as the band plucked from its vast catalogue with only one other pick from Fade.  (It was another easy going tune with three-art harmonies, "It's Not Enough," rounding out that genre along with "Upside-Down" from 1992's May I Sing With Me and the super sweet song about first love, "Our Way To Fall" from 2000's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.)  In softer moments, drummer Georgia Hubley takes the lead vocals and quiets her instruments to hush the sound for sublime songs like "Little Eyes" from 2003's Summer Sun and "Tears are In Your Eyes" also from And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.  YLT also loves to indulge in psychedelic jams, usually as a way to crank up a song to conclusion, however the instrumental "I Heard You Looking Pain," from that reissue Painful, seemed to drag on with the volume way too loud. 

Yo La Tengo's Hoboken cohorts The Feelies warmed up the reflective glow from the adoring audience in stripes and plaids, and returned to fill in as needed. For example, Dave Stamm joined YLT for two early songs he originally recorded with the band, adding to the rockabilly with jangly guitar lines. The night ended with both groups on stage gamely covering The Psychedelic Furs' "Pretty In Pink," almost thirty years to the day the song ended a set at Maxwells -- now that's longevity. Videos and set lists below...

The Feelies Set List
Lo Ya Tengo Set List

Moby Octopad
Tears Are In Your Eyes
Mr. Tough
Is That Enough
Little Eyes
The Cone of Silence
The River of Water
Yellow Sarong
Sudden Organ
Barnaby, Suddenly Working
From a Motel 6 
I Heard You Looking 
Our Way to Fall

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

YouTube Playlist of Fall 2014 New Music Playlist

This time around the videos for my latest playlist yielded no straight up band in action footage, which I have mentioned before is my favorite kind. Getting a glimpse of a group doing their thing is always a treat, whether in a montage of gigs or any livestream opportunity. The exception here is the Operators' song "Start Again," as I chose a live session from my fave morning listening station KEXP since there was no other official video. Not to complain however, as I was able to see this new band's set up and witness the vibes between the new personnel and rock veteran Dan Boekner (Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs and Divine Fits) -- interesting indeed.

I also enjoyed the dancing found in the videos for Foxygen and Sondre Lerche. Californian duo Foxygen brings out colorful characters in a bleak office setting for this psychedelic groove and I especially loved the back up dancers. (Sign me up!) Meanwhile Norwegian singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche shows off his solo moves in a stylish white fitted shirt, although I had a hard time believing he could not attract any partners.

The TV on the Radio, Ariel Pink and Field Report videos were already featured on the blog, but I relished seeing them again in context of the Fall New Music Playlist. Plus kudos for Populous for producing an arty animated video to capture the listener's attention, and Tom Vek's colorful old school Hollywood glamour infuses an effective use of strobe lighting to mimic musical blasts. The September Girls and Cold War Kids opted for black and white footage to tell their song's stories while Bear In Heaven filmed a series of bleak NYC scenes. Sorry to include only an album teaser for my favorite Purling Hiss song, "Learning Slowly,"and Flying Lotus's entire album is up on YouTube but not the track "Turkey Dog Coma." Rounding things out is Zero 7's cover artwork for visuals along with lyric videos for Motopony and The Drums (did I really need to know how to sing EEH EEH OOH OOH?) Check it out below or on the NMMatterscorp YouTube page.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Fall 2014 New Music Playlist

Catch up with recent releases here  piles of colorful new music to rake up and add to this fall’s soundtrack.  Bands such as Motopony, Bear In Heaven and Foxygen offer songs from solid follow-ups, while music scene stalwarts TV on the Radio and Cold War Kids return to drop more tunes into a vast archive. Solo artists Sondre Lerche, Ariel Pink and Jenny Lewis also appear on the playlist along with Dan Boeckner’s new band Operators. It’s a harvest to behold, so listen here and enjoy!

1. “Time Between” – Bear In Heaven
Brooklyn-based indie rock quartet Bear In Heaven just released its fourth studio album since 2003; Time Is Over One Day Old. “Time Between” offers a mix of handclaps, heavy percussion and pulsating synths layered with singer (and founder of the band) Jon Philpot’s seductive crooning.

2. “Kiss Me Again” – The Drums
The Drums is the musical project of childhood friends Jonathan Pierce and Jacob Graham, now living in Brooklyn.  This indie pop confection, “Kiss Me Again,” is off their third studio album since 2005, Encyclopedia.

3. “Bad Law” – Sondre Lerche
Norwegian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sondre Lerche has added life experiences such as divorce to his sunny singing, allowing dissonance and expressive word play. “Bad Law” is the single from Please, his seventh full length album since 2001.

4. “Get Down (Come Up)” – Motopony
Seattle rock sextet Motopony has released a follow up to its 2011 self-titled debut with this solid single “Get Down (Come Up),” part of an EP called Idle Beauty. Singer Daniel Blue brings an out of this world shaman approach to this soulful odyssey.

5. “Put Your Number In My Phone” ­– Ariel Pink
“Put Your Number In My Phone” is the single for L.A. artist Ariel Pink’s first album released as a solo artist, pom pom.  His combination of wry lyrics and gauzy pop convictions laid the foundation for a new seven-piece band.

6. “Start Again” – Operators
Canadian Dan Boeckener (Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs and Divine Fits) has a new band, Operators, with an EP titled EP 1.  His signature gritty vocals pour over the synth-centric and hard rocking urgency of “Start Again.”

7. “All This Could Be Yours” – Cold War Kids
Indie rock quintet Cold War Kids of Long Beach, CA released its fifth album since 2004, called Hold My Home.  “All This Could Be Yours” is the first single for the new collection, with singer Nathan Willet’s passionate delivery leading the way.

8. “Happy Idiot” – TV on the Radio
Brooklyn indie rock band TV on the Radio is ready to release its fifth studio album since 2001, Seeds. This teaser single, “Happy Idiot,” features Tunde Adebimpe’s smooth vocals riding above a pulsing soundscape.

9.  “Sherman (Animals in the Jungle)” – Tom Vek
London multi-instrumentalist Tom Vek returns with a third album since 2005, Luck.  His signature gravelly voice provides a sonic drive for the single, “Sherman (Animals in the Jungle).”

10. “Heartbeats” – September Girls
This quintet from Dublin mixes a 60s girl group vibe with 90s low-fi production and a punk rock attitude.  “Heartbeats” is a single from the September Girls’ debut album, Cursing the Sea.

11. “Learning Slowly” – Purling Hiss
Philadelphia’s Mike Polizze has created a trail of albums as Purling Hiss; the latest is called Weirdon.  “Learning Slowly” showcases the band’s confident grunge rock aesthetic: weaving guitars over a percussive backbone and buried vocals.

12. “Home (Leave the Lights On)” – Field Report
Christopher Porterfield formed alt folk band Field Report (an anagram of his name) a few years ago in Milwaukee, WI. The group just released its sophomore album, Marigolden, full of heartfelt melodies and soul-searching lyrics as found in “Home (Leave the Lights On).”

13. “How Can You Really” – Foxygen
Jonathan Rado and Sam France started band life together at age fifteen in Agoura Hills, CA. “How Can You Really” is the first single from Foxygen’s third album since 2005; … And Star Power, highlights psych pop leanings and over the top musical indulgences.

14. “Just One of the Guys” – Jenny Lewis
L.A. singer/songwriter Jenny Lewis has released her third solo album, Voyager.  As produced by Ryan Adams, sunny songs such as the single “Just One of the Guys” juxtapose a sweet delivery with searing lyrical content.

15. “Turkey Dog Coma” – Flying Lotus
Multi-genre electronic producer Flying Lotus (the stage name for L.A.’s Steven Ellison) has released You’re Dead!, his fourth album since 2001.  This intricate tune, “Turkey Dog Coma,” demonstrates his fearless approach to composing music.

16. “Brasilia (feat. Giorgio Tuma)” – Populous
Populous is the musical project of Italian producer Andrea Mangia, who returns to this moniker after the side project Life & Limb.  “Brasilia,” the closer for the new album Night Safari (the fourth since 2002), is a multi-layered composition with haunting vocals. 

17. “Simple Science” – Zero 7
British duo Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker are back with an EP called Simple Science, their eighth release since 2001 as Zero 7.  The title track weaves a tuneful web of sung melodies and multifaceted electronica.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

New Song by Field Report "Home (Leave the Lights On)"

My beloved bike from college at the St. Michaels harbor
Sometimes it takes hearing a song in the right setting to have it really resonate within. I had listened to the second album by Field Report, Marigolden (out October 7 via Partisan Records), in its entirety recently without finding a standout tune for my next new music playlist. Yet last week I found myself back in Maryland shortly after celebrating the life of my mother, with my father landing in the impressive University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

Per usual, I found solace in music through local radio stations as I ferried myself back and forth over the Bay Bridge from the Eastern Shore, where my parents have lived for over twenty years in St. Michaels. Independent station WTMD 89.7 in Baltimore offered up favorite bands such as Dr. Dog, Okkervil River and Band of Horses just as I needed an infusion musical jams to keep me rolling, while WRNR 103.1 out of Annapolis presented a more standard lineup and advertising breaks that clued me into the local scene. WRNR also had the inside scoop about area boy Dave Grohl's visit for an episode of his HBO show Sonic Highways, airing an interview where Grohl admitted to flying some Chesapeake blue crabs out to the West Coast because he missed them so much! Plus when R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" came on WRNR as I drove my Dad home from his extended stay, my heart sank with every swelling refrain.

But that first night I drove to stay at my parents house alone, which in itself was unprecedented, was crazy dark and stormy. The Field Report song, "Home (Leave the Lights On)" came on WTMD, with a breezy beginning that belies the depth of meaning found in the lyrics. Voiced by laid back singer/songwriter Christopher Porterfield of Milwaukee, the tune haunted my soul as I realized there wasn't anyone to complete this simple task at my destination. Truths such as how we wake "up everyday just a little bit changed," and how "the body remembers what the mind forgets, archives every heartache" resonated deeply, as I faced another challenge in my family. Check out the band's video below, and I suggest listening carefully to every word.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Theme Song for HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver - "Go" By Valley Lodge

John Oliver (Photo via HBO)
That catchy tune picked as the theme song for HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver got me wondering who was behind this simple blast of guitars acting as an energizing boost to the show ahead.  I've been a fan of John Oliver since his early days on The Daily Show, so I'm rooting for him as he establishes himself as a comedy curator with a more in depth analysis of the world's craziness. (Although I still can't get used to the uncensored copy, wincing at so many words that would have been bleeped out on other channels -- as my English teacher mother would remind us, there are plenty of other colorful words to choose from!) 

The theme song turns out to be "Go" by Valley Lodge, a power pop quintet based in New York.  It is off their third self-released album, Use Your Weapons (2013).  I can't say I'm a fan of the stylized vocals, but the straight-forward, basic band approach is refreshing in this day of too much overproduced mayhem.  Take a listen to the full song and check out the band in the video below.