Thursday, February 9, 2017

Romantic Songs Playlist for Valentine's Day 2017

Time to indulge in some romantic songs to provide a soundtrack for a sweet Valentine's Day. Here are some perfect tunes from the past year on my latest playlist, along with others that recently appeared on my radar or in my memory as worthy of revisiting. The playlist begins with the seductive vocals of Earth, Wind & Fire honoring the death of founder Maurice White – which made 2016 a heavy year of losses along with David Bowie, Prince and George Michael. This band was the thankful antithesis of teenage angst for me and my classmates in high school, and their music has certainly stood the test of passing decades. From there, other favorite singers are represented in song; like the sound of a loved one's voice, they are intimately connected in my musical life forever.

Listen to my Romantic Songs Playlist for Valentine's Day 2017 on Spotify here.  For further inspiration, visit my posts from past years: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012.

1. "That's the Way of the World" – Earth Wind & Fire
2. "'Cause I'm a Man" – Tame Impala
3. "Whatever, Wherever" – Band of Horses
4. "No Surprises" – Radiohead
5. "The Soul Serene" – Villagers
6. "True Affection"  – Father John Misty
7. "Bring My Baby Back" – Dr. Dog
8. "1959"– Hamilton & Rostam (featuring Angel Deradoorian)
9. "Just Say Goodbye" – Wilco
10. "One Thing" – Beach House
11. "Hold On To Me" – Mondo Cozmo
12. "No Time to Crank the Sun" – EL VY
13. "What Part of Me" – Low
14. "Should Have Known Better" – Sufjan Stevens
15. "I Don't Want to Let You Down" – Sharon Van Etten
16. "My Sad Captains" – Elbow
17. "No Hard Feelings" – The Avett Brothers

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Winter 2017 New Music Playlist

Here’s a playlist to get caught up on recent releases as well as others on the horizon. Check out new tunes from The Shins, Elbow, the xx, and Animal Collective along with up and coming bands like Day Wave and the latest collab of artists called LIV. There are also tunes from new musical projects by Michael Nau, Peter Silberman and Joshua Ostrander plus a cover by Nada Surf. Listen up on Spotify or as a YouTubePlaylist.

1. “Name For You” – The Shins
Songwriter James Mercer confidently returns to earlier Shins form with this swinging single “Name for You” appearing on an upcoming album, Heartworms.  This is the fifth album for the Albuquerque band since 1996.

2. “Here in Spirit” – Jim James
“Here in Spirit” features the plaintive vocal stylings of Jim James, the primary songwriter of Louisville band My Morning Jacket.  The song is off his second solo album since 2010, Eternally Even.

3. “Wasting Time” – Day Wave
Day Wave is the musical project of Jackson Phillips in Oakland, California, enlisting touring musicians as needed. “Wasting Time” is a lush indie pop tune off his second EP, Headcase.

4. “Follow the Leader” – Foxygen
“Follow the Leader” is another overblown but irresistible song by L.A. band Foxygen, created by Sam France and Jonathan Rado in 2005. It serves as the single for their third album of psych pop, Hang.

5. “On Hold” – the xx
London band the xx is back with a third album since 2009. It veers away from what The New York Times once called "miserabilist," thanks to band member/producer Jamie xx’s infusion of beats to up the mood. Co-members Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft coo the lyrics back and forth in this single “On Hold” from the new release Trio.

6. “Noise Pollution (featuring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Zoe Manville)” – Portugal. The Man.
Portland based band Portugal. The Man. is ready with its eighth album since 2004, Gloomin + Doomin, with Mike D of the Beastie Boys producing.  This explains the new sound for the group, as a gritty dance groove permeates the single “Noise Pollution.”

7. “Sweep Me Off My Feet” – Pond
Australian psych rock band Pond, a collaborative music project, shares members with fellow Aussies Tame Impala. This stand alone single, “Sweep Me Off My Feet,” begins in a buzz of synths to expand into a meandering sonic journey of wavering melodies over a percussive landline.

8. “Shine” – Mondo Cozmo
Mondo Cozmo (a.k.a. Joshua Ostrander) is an L.A. based musician, visual artist and human rights activist who has released a series of songs. This cathartic single “Shine” imagines a worry-free world, complete with an uplifting sing along chorus.

9. “Dream Awake” – liv
Liv is the Swedish word for life, and this supergroup of musicians from the country (Lykke Li, Bjorn Yttling of Peter Bjorn and John, and Pontus Winnberg, along with Andrew Wyatt, of Miike Snow) churn out a grand vision for pop songs like “Dream Awake.” Li has described the vibe as a lovechild of ABBA and Fleetwood Mac.

10. “Love Survive” – Michael Nau
Guitarist Michael Nau, formerly of the Cumberland, Maryland, indie folk outfit Cotton Jones, has embarked on a new solo project writing songs like the lilting “Love Survive.”

11. “One Eye Open” – Trentemøller
Trentemøller is the musical moniker of Danish producer and multi-instrumentalist Anders Trentmøller, based in Copenhagen. “One Eye Open” showcases the haunting vocals of singer Marie Fisker – the first track Trentemøller worked on for the fourth album since 2006, Fixion.

12. “Mountain Game” – Animal Collective
Animal Collective was formed in Baltimore as an experimental pop quartet that would eagerly crisscross genres and bend many rules. After ten albums since 2003, the atmospheric “Mountain Game” was released as a single after somehow being rejected for a video game.

13. “Laura Lee” ­– The Besnard Lakes
Montreal’s six-piece The Besnard Lakes recently released its sixth studio album since 2003, when it was formed by the husband and wife musical team of Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas. “Laura Lee” is a prime example of the ambitious sound of the band’s expansive songs.

14. “Magnificent (She Says)” – Elbow
English alt rock band Elbow will soon release its seventh studio album since 1997, Little Fiction. The elegant comfort of Guy Garvey’s vocals return in full force for the single “Magnificent (She Says).”

15. “Distant Shore” – Porcelain Raft
NYC- based Italian musician and producer Mauro Remiddi is releasing the third album of his solo career, Microclimate. The gauzy sonic structure of “Distant Shore” is emblematic of Remiddi’s alluring compositions.

16. “Where Is My Mind” ­– Nada Surf
Nada Surf singer Matthew Caws brings an enigmatic yet casual take on this cover of The Pixie’s “Where Is My Mind,” which was recently snagged to soundtrack a Samsung ad. The NYC indie band has released eight albums since 1992.

17. “Slips Away” – Peter Silberman
Peter Silberman of The Antlers has a new solo project with a debut album called Impermanence. He has brought the same restraint to songwriting after dealing with severe hearing problems, displayed here in the single "Slips Away."

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Here's to 2017 -- New Releases Ahead by Favorite Bands

Out with the old and in with the new please! I'm getting another playlist ready for publication while drooling over this list of anticipated releases by some of my very favorite bands. Strange how only two announce a solid drop date: The Flaming Lips', Oczy Mlody, set to arrive next week on January 13 (just in time for my birthday weekend) and Elbow's Little Fictions is due February 3. Add in TBD albums from Spoon, Arcade Fire, Beck, Gorillaz, The National plus LCD Soundsystem, and that's more than half of "My Essential Music – Fave Band Playlists" post, an awesome lineup to be sure.

So here's to the clean slate of a new year with all the promise it holds and the days ahead complimented by a great soundtrack of new tunes – music from bands I love along with songs by ones I've yet to discover.  Follow me as newmusicmatters on Spotify as I add these albums to a dedicated playlist and more.

January 13 – The Flaming Lips, Oczy Mlody (Warner Brothers)
February 3 – Elbow, Little Fiction (Universal Music)
Spoon, TBD
Arcade Fire, TBD
Beck, TBD
Gorillaz, TBD
LCD Soundsystem, TBD
The National, TBD
Grizzly Bear, TBD
Father John Misty, TBD
The Shins, TBD
Real Estate, TBD
The War on Drugs, TBD
Vampire Weekend, TBD
Wolf Parade, TBD
The xx, TBD
Phosphorescent, TBD
My Morning Jacket, TBD
Spiritualized, TBD
Broken Social Scene, TBD
Strand of Oaks, TBD

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Top 20+ Songs of 2016 With YouTube Playlist

It's always a nice exercise to review all the gifts of music encountered over the course of twelve months. This year was especially easy to go over the twenty song allotment for this end of year recap of top tunes. It's such a diverse group of artists but the list contains some of my very favorite voices on the music scene: Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Beck, Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses, Hamilton Leithauser, Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, Fran Healy of Travis, Will Sheff of Okkervil River, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, The Avett Brothers and Santigold. Plus I was so thankful for plenty of soaring melodies to carry me away from the neverending stress of daily news during this election year, for example The Boxer Rebellion, Wye Oak and Ra Ra Riot + Rostam.

Listen on Spotify or as a YouTube Playlist below.

1. "Can't Get Enough of Myself" – Santigold
2. "Burn the Witch" – Radiohead
3. "The Industry" – Okkervil River
4. "If You Should See" – Wye Oak
5. "Wow" – Beck
6. "2AM" – Bear Hands
7. "They Want More" – Ages and Ages
8. "Casual Party" – Band of Horses 
9. "Selectallcopy" – Autolux
10. "Magnificent Time" – Travis
11. "In These Fine Times" (featuring De Lux) – Classixx
12. "Hey Lion" – Sofi Tukker
13. "Trouble" – Cage the Elephant
14. "Never Ever" – STRFKR
15. "Summer Was a Day"  – Pete Yorn
16. "Water" – Ra Ra Riot & Rostam
17. "Beneath the Black Sea" – LNZNDRF
18. "Big Ideas" – The Boxer Rebellion
19. "If I Ever Was a Child" – Wilco
20. "The Castle" – The Flaming Lips
21. "No Hard Feelings" – The Avett Brothers
22. "In a Black Out" – Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam
23. "In My Car" – Gold Panda

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Top Ten Releases of 2016 With Video Highlights

2016 ranked as another great year to be a music fan – some of my very fave bands came out with new releases (and I'm still eagerly awaiting ones from Beck and the Gorillaz!) Indie rock veterans Radiohead and Wilco continued their dominance with stellar albums worthy of multiple listening sessions. Band of Horses, Okkervil River and Pete Yorn brought a laid back twang to my year's soundtrack while Santigold and Tycho provided tracks ready for a dance party when needed. Then there's the intimacy of Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam to round out my list, along with the crowd pleasing anthems of Travis.

Give a listen on Spotify to all my Top Ten Albums of 2016 as well as Other Fave Albums of 2016, and check out my picks below with live video highlights.

1. Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool
Legendary English band Radiohead released its ninth studio album since 1985, A Moon Shaped Pool. The single "Burn the Witch" dropped with great fanfare as a stop-motion animated video, but it was captured live at Chicago's Lollapalooza festival over the summer. (I actually watched the online feed as it happened and highly recommend revisiting the entire set on YouTube.) It's clear that this band is still at the top of its game and we fans are lucky indeed.

2. Okkervil River, Away
When I heard "The Industry" on local radio WFUV, I was thrilled since I knew immediately it was Will Sheff's creation. Beyond his warm vocals, there was a song structure that belied the intensity of the emotional connection of lyrics and melody. This tune served as the single for Okkervil River's eighth studio album since 1998, Away, which heralds a new creative phase for the frontman with different backing members and life without his beloved grandfather. (When I caught his band at Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2013, he performed next to a framed photo of him in tribute.)

3. Band of Horses, Why Are You OK
Southern indie rockers Band of Horses released its fifth studio album since 2004, Why Are You OK, with a confident collection of songs by this tight knit quintet. Produced by Jason Lytle of Grandaddy and written by singer Ben Bridell, the songs touch on navigating life as a father to three daughters while creating music with a groupthink of incredibly talented guys who happen to really like each other, as evidenced in this video capturing the performance of the single "Casual Party."

4. Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam, I Had a Dream That You Were Mine

The collaboration between The Walkmen's frontman and soulful singer Hamilton Leithauser and Vampire Weekend's multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij, I Had a Dream That You Were Mine, was one of the best surprises of the year. This solid debut offered songs of both transcendence and foot stomping exuberance – I was able to catch a performance of the band at the Rough Trade space in Brooklyn, the perfect size to get up close and personal with the material. This bewitching tune "In a Black Out" was even tapped for a major Apple iPhone commercial, exponentially expanding the band's reach.

5. Wye Oak, Tween

Baltimore's Wye Oak created its fifth album since 2002 from remnants of songs from the past two albums, yet Tween exists just fine on its own with lush production and layered nuances that has you wondering how exactly the music is pulled off by only two band members. Jenn Wasner (vocals, guitars and bass) and Andy Stack (drums, keyboards and backup vocals) combine their talents to create original compositions that expand such sonic constraints, as witnessed in this fan footage of "If You Should See" at a recent concert.

6. Santigold, 99 Cents
Philly native Santigold (née Santi White) is the total indie pop star package, a singer and producer who also creates her costumes, dance moves and positive vibes together with social commentary in her music since 2008. Poking fun at the selfie culture, "I Can't Get Enough of Myself" from the latest album 99 Cents, is an infectious romp of fun as exhibited during this performance on the daytime television show Ellen.

7. Tycho, Epoch
Tycho is the ambient music project of San Francisco's Scott Hansen, who uses vintage-style synths and a live backing band as caught on camera at a recent KCRW session playing "Horizon." The song served as the single for the fourth album since 2002, Epoch, full of electronic experimentation without losing the musical vision of the creator.

8. Pete Yorn, Arranging Time
Pete Yorn returned to his solo career after a stint as The Olms with J.D. King, releasing a sixth album since 2000 called Arranging Time. The single "Summer Was a Day" showcased Yorn's breathy vocals and lean production, finding the perfect balance in live performance as well as the studio.

9. Wilco, Schmilco

With a wink and a nod towards Harry Nilsson's album Nilsson Schmilsson, Chicago's alternative rock band Wilco rolled out its tenth album since 1994, Schmilco.  The sweet single, "If I Ever Was a Child," is never cloying or mendacious under this band's credo and Jeff Tweedy's subtle vocal approach.

10. Travis, Everything at Once

Scottish indie rockers Travis released its eighth studio album since 1990, Everything at Once, another collection penned mostly by the frontman, singer/songwriter Fran Healy. The band's cheery optimism is on full display in this official video of "Magnificent Time" with Healy's golden vocals cheerleading the group. But I love the fan footage below it even more, showing Healy teaching the crowd in his thick brogue how to dance along, documenting the exuberance of the band and the sheer joy of being at of their shows (which I witnessed firsthand during their last tour in NYC). Gotta give it up to the audience member hanging on to that empty drink cup!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Fall 2016 New Music Playlist

Here’s my latest listening session with a nice mix of new and established bands to update any music collection. Listen to newcomers Lo Moon, DeClan McKenna and Geowulf while checking out the latest from indie mainstays of Montreal, STRFKR, and Death Cab for Cutie. Plus returning veterans Grandaddy, The Avalanches and The Flaming Lips have all been busy in the studio, releasing songs to eager fans. All that and more on Spotify or as a YouTube playlist.

1. “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar” – Tennis
Denver couple Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore are working on their fourth album as the indie pop duo Tennis since 2010, releasing this saucy teaser single of self-empowerment. With her tongue planted firmly in her cheek, Moore’s sultry singing rips lyrically into preconceived notions of women musicians.

2. “Colours” – The Avalanches
Aussie electronic band The Avalanches just released its first album in sixteen years, Wildflower, with only two original members (Robbie Chater and Tony DiBlasi) since the group was formed in 1997.  “Colours” features honeyed vocals by Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue who also receives a songwriting credit for the mesmerizing tune.

3. “let’s relate” – of Montreal
Athens experimental pop group of Montreal, formed by Kevin Barnes in 1996, recently released its fourteenth studio album, Innocence Reaches. The tune “let’s relate” boasts EDM-inspired sounds embedded in the band’s psych rock leanings.

4. “Saltwater” – Geowulf
New beach pop duo Geowulf is the combination of Star Kendrick and Toma, who moved from their native Australia to London with sun drenched music in tow.  The dreamy single “Saltwater” is already making waves on the music scene, with plans for a full release soon.

5. “New Song” – Warpaint
L.A. indie gal group Warpaint released a third studio album since 2004, Heads Up. The single “New Song” led the way with the band’s signature combo of dream pop and psych rock.

6. “Tape Machine” – STRFKR
Portland’s indie rockers STRFKR released “Tape Machine” as the single for its fifth album, Being No One, Going Nowhere. Originally a solo project by Joshua Hodges in 2007, the band’s danceable electronica credo remains strong in this quirky new tune.

7. “Are You Lost in the World Like Me?” – Moby, The Void Pacific Choir
Moby indulges his rave dance party side with “Are You Lost in the World Like Me?”  It is off the electronic titan's thirteenth studio album (but his first with new musical project The Void Pacific Choir) called These Systems are Failing.

8. “Million Dollar Loan” – Death Cab for Cutie
“Million Dollar Loan” is the first song in the “30 Days 30 Songs” venture by writer Dave Eggers with new music written and recorded by artists for a Trump-Free America.  Death Cab for Cutie’s trademark sound sweetly intones the campaign moment when Trump referred to receiving such a loan from his father.

9. “Isobard” – Declan McKenna
Young English singer/songwriter Declan McKenna became a buzz-worthy artist at this year’s SXSW on the strength of his debut EP Liar, and just released this soaring single “Isobard.” McKenna is a talented musician with charismatic voice who usually performs all his own instruments.

10. “Way We Won’t” ­– Grandaddy
Californian indie rock masters Grandaddy are back after a hiatus with new material after four studio albums from 1992 to 2006. “Way We Won’t” is the endearing single to announce the end of the band’s decade-long absence.

11. “Modern Act” – Cloud Nothings
Cleveland singer/songwriter Dylan Baldi founded the band Cloud Nothings in 2009 and will soon release a fifth album, Life Without Sound.  The confident single “Modern Act” offers a glimpse of the new collection.

12. “Certainty” – Temples
English psych rock quartet Temples recently dropped this catchy single “Certainty,” which will be part of the follow-up album to the band’s debut in 2014. 

13. “Some Sunsick Day” – Morgan Delt
L.A. musician Morgan Delt creates gauzy tunes with a home-fi approach in his second album, Phase Zero, as evident in the closer “Some Sunsick Day.”

13. “The Castle” – The Flaming Lips
Oklahoma City’s veteran psych rockers The Flaming Lips announced that its sixteenth studio album since 1983 will drop in January 2017; it is titled Oczy Mlody (a rough translation of a Polish expression meaning eyes of the young).  Until then, this single “The Castle” provides fans something new with frontman Wayne Coyne’s floating plaintive vocals.

14. “Loveless” – Lo Moon
“Loveless” is the single debut by new L.A. band Lo Moon, a seven-minute meditation with synths and wafting vocals.

15. “Ambo”­ – The Album Leaf
What once was the solo music project of San Diego’s Jimmy LaValle since 1998, The Album Leaf is now a live quartet performing music from a sixth full-length album, Between Waves. The chill intentions remain mostly intact, as in the lilting tune “Ambo.”

Friday, August 5, 2016

Late Summer 2016 New Music Playlist

I certainly did not think I’d be posting another playlist so soon. But the surprise album by new band Nice as Fuck and a new collaboration between Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam Batmanglij plus singles galore (Woods, Wilco, Jagwar Ma, Allah-las, The Head and the Heart, Father John Misty, and more) filled my inbox and online radio listening sources, so here we go again!  There are also releases from veterans The Avett Brothers and Fruit Bats to keep the summer soundtrack chill, along with some solid electronica from Mark Pritchard to zone out on a hot day. Listen on Spotify or as a YouTube playlist.

1. “In These Fine Times” – Classixx (featuring De Lux)
Production and DJ duo Michael David and Tyler Blake enlisted fellow L.A. musician Sean Guerin of De Lux to double the vocals for this breezy tune. It is off the band’s second album of electronica since 2008, Faraway Reach.

2. “O B 1” – Jagwar Ma
Australian trio Jagwar Ma are getting ready to release a follow up album since its debut in 2013, Every Now & Then. This stellar psychedelic dance rock single includes drums by Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa.

3. “Could Be You” – Allah-Las
L.A. based surf rock revivalists Allah-Las are back with “Could Be You,” a teaser single for its third album, Calico Review.  The tune is full of signature harmonies and fuzzed out guitar, along with new additional instruments to expand the sound: viola, harpsichord and theremin.

4. “Door” – Nice as Fuck
Jenny Lewis’s latest band with Erika Forster (Savoir Adore) and Tennessee Thomas (The Like) dropped a surprise album of smirk-inducing catchy tunes such as “door.” The self-titled LP comes complete with a theme song for the new group.

5. “All We Ever Knew” – The Head and the Heart
Seattle’s indie folk band The Head and the Heart will soon release its third album since 2009, Signs of Light. “All We Ever Knew” is brimming with the optimistic attitude this six-piece is known for.

6. “They Want More” – Ages and Ages
Portland based sextet Ages and Ages just recorded a third album since 2009 at Ice Cream Party Studio, owned by Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock (he also wielded a guitar on another track). The single “They Want More” confronts commercialism with a infectious melody and trademark sing along chorus.

7. “Know Your Minute” – Woods
“Know Your Minute” is a limited edition, tour-only 7” and digital download single by this Brooklyn folk rock band formed in 2005. Led by laid-back vocals of guitarist Jeremy Earl, Woods continues on its own path of quirky Americana.

8. “If I Ever Was a Child” – Wilco
Chicago’s resident indie juggernaut Wilco has another album ready less than a year since Star Wars. The tenth LP since 1994 is called Schmilco (with a nod to Harry Nilsson’s Nilsson Schmilsson) and this single shows the softer side of the band, led by Jeff Tweedy’s melancholy vocals.

9. “Ain’t No Man” – The Avett Brothers
The Avett Brothers reunited with mega producer Rick Rubin for the North Carolina band’s ninth album since 2000, True Sadness.  This foot stomping song finds brothers Scott and Seth energetically attacking the music with an infectious beat.

10. “Throw Down Your Guns” ­– Wild Belle
Natalie Bergman’s commanding vocals on “Throw Down Your Guns” leads the charge with her bandmate/brother Elliot for this song off the band’s second full album since 2011, Dreamland.

11. “Real Love Baby” – Father John Misty
L.A.-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and drummer Joshua Michael Tillman released this lush stand alone single after two albums as Father John Misty since 2012. This melodic ode to married life is in a irresistible classic pop tune style.

12. “A 1000 Times” – Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam
“A 1000 Times” is a single by the new collaborative project between Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij and The Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser, highlighted by Leithauser’s earthy vocals. Batmanglij provided an assist to Leithauser’s debut solo album and the pair clearly took to the collaborative writing process well.

13. “The Industry” – Okkervil River
Brooklyn-based Will Sheff of Okkervil River has been working on another album with a different band configuration with songs about moving on and finding new beginnings. “The Industry” is the single for the eighth collection since 1998, Away, conveyed by Sheff’s original yearning vocals.

14. “Run Run Blood” – Phantogram
“Run Run Blood” is the single for the synthpop duo Phantogram’s third album since 2007, simply called Three. Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel of Saratoga Springs find a confident vibe for this epic dance tune.

15. “Birthday Drunk”­ – Fruit Bats
Chicago’s folk rock band Fruit Bats released its sixth album since 1997, Absolute Loser.  The sweet acoustic tune “Birthday Drunk” showcases the wry vocals of singer/songwriter Eric D. Johnson.

16. “Division” – Tycho
San Francisco-based ambient musician Scott Hanson, performing under the stage name Tycho, released this fluid single with the intention of another full album in the future, the fifth since 2002.  His music encompasses both lo-fi analog equipment and a futuristic electronica style, completely mesmerizing at the same time.

17. “Khufu”  – Mark Prichard
English electronic musician Mark Prichard is now working out of Australia, testing the musical boundaries with new collaborations and various genres. “Khnufu” is from his fourteenth album since 1992, Under the Sun.