Thursday, May 4, 2017

Late Spring 2017 New Music Playlist

Ready to kick off the warm weather season with another soundtrack of new tunes bookended with the much anticipated Gorillaz album and LCD Soundsystem singles? There are teaser singles by Phoenix, Broken Social Scene and Local Natives, plus a debut by baby band Hoops. Chill out to instrumentals by The Octopus Project, Geotic and Poolside while Sondre Lerche’s crooning sets a summery mood. The political scene also brought a bevy of emotionally charged music, represented by Woods and Toro y Moi. Listen on Spotify or as a YouTubePlaylist.

1. “Andromeda (featuring D.R.A.M.)” – Gorillaz
After six years, the ageless cartoon façade of the U.K. band Gorillaz (animated by Jamie Hewitt) is rejuvenated yet again by the musical vision of Blur’s Damon Albarn with the fifth studio album since 1998, Humanz. “Andromeda” takes its name from an 80s nightclub, represented in synth swirls and positive dance energy, with some ad libbing and vocal harmonies by D.R.A.M.

2. “Halfway Home” – Broken Social Scene
Toronto collaborative Broken Social Scene is working on its first album since 2010, (its fifth since 1999) with this single “Halfway Home” heralding the return of the band’s signature choral onslaught and thick instrumental arrangements. Thirteen musicians are credited for this song “Halfway Home,” as members of associated acts such as Stars and Metric contribute their talents.

3. “J-Boy” – Phoenix
French quartet electro pop band Phoenix will soon release its sixth album since 1999, Ti-Amo. “J-Boy” is essentially a dark love song, but the zap of synthesizers quickly turns it all into escapist dance music in the best possibly way.

4. “Oh the Saviour” – Temples
English psych rock quartet Temples is back with a self-produced second album since 2012, Volcano, after recording sessions at the band’s own studio. The gritty garage sound blends storytelling vocals that build into a cascading chorus.

5. “On Top” – Hoops
Indiana quartet Hoops is ready with a full length album after forming in 2014, taking the name from greenhouse structures where frontman Drew Auscherman worked. The single “On Top” boasts melodic guitar lines and intricate drum patterns with an easygoing vibe.

6. “Everything Goes (Instrumental)” – Poolside
L.A.’s best-named duo Poolside (Danish producer, DJ and multi-instrumentalist Filip Nikolic plus San Fran DJ Jeffrey Paradise) dropped this stand-alone single without the clutter of vocals for a blissful take of unabashed sunny synths.  The two have but one album and one EP since forming in 2010, but countless singles, mixtapes and remixes.

7. “Actually Smiling” – Geotic
L.A. native Will Wiesenfeld is a classically trained musician who creates electronic music as Baths and Geotic, which he explains is for more passive listening. The tenth album since 2008, Abysma, features the smooth soundscape “Actually Smiling.”

8. “Disco Kid” – Chaz Bundick Meets the Mattson 2
South Carolina native and CA transplant Chaz Bundick (a.k.a. Toro y Moi) has yet another side venture with the Californian twin-brother jazz duo, The Mattson 2. The jamming riff of guitars and crazed keyboards brings out a boldly animated side of this chillwave musician.

9. “So Tied Up” ­– Cold War Kids
Long Beach indie rock quintet Cold War Kids released its sixth studio album since 2004, L.A. Divine. The pulsing drive of “So Tied Up” showcases the fierce backing vocals of British musician Bishop Briggs (Sarah Grace McLaughlin).

10. “Baby Come to Me” – Sondre Lerche
Norwegian singer Sondre Lerche (now based in NYC) cites an interesting combination of influences from Brazilian music to 80s pop. The cool swagger of “Baby Come to Me” is found on his eighth studio album since 2001, Pleasure.

11. “Love Is Love (Sun on Time)” – Woods
Brooklyn folk rock band Woods released a tenth studio album since 2005, Love Is Love, in response to the Trump era’s divisive policies. In this song, “Love Is Love (Sun on Time)” singer/songwriter and bandleader Jeremy Earl echoes Lin-Manual Miranda’s poem from last year’s Tony Awards that pleads for tolerance.

12. “I Saw You Close Your Eyes” – Local Natives
L.A. indie rock band Local Natives are currently on tour supporting the 2016 album Sunlit Youth, but teased a single imploring fans to unplug and listen to the new song with eyes closed. (The website played the music only after a webcam detected this action.) The swaying melody “I Saw You Close Your Eyes” also serves as a live concert highlight as fans sing along to the new tune.

13. “Omaha” – Toro y Moi
Chaz Bundick contributed a new song as Toro y Moi to Our First 100 Days, a musical fundraising project benefiting advocacy groups (such as People’s Climate Movement, Southerners New Ground and All Above All) in protest to the Trump administration. The laid-back groove of vocals over vintage synths and funky bass line provide a nice tonic against this new era of political strife.

14. “Same Dark Places”­ – JR JR
Detroit indie-pop band JR JR glosses over dark lyrical content with the upbeat single “Same Dark Places,” complete with horns and strings to buoy the composition (it was also picked for the Neflix series about teen suicide, “13 Reasons Why”). The songwriting team of Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott has three albums of infectious songs since 2010.

15. “This Song” – RAC, Rostam
Andre Allen Anjos has created music as RAC for ten years, with “This Song” celebrating how it all began back in his dorm room. This collaboration enlists the honeyed vocals of Rostam Batmanglij, a former member of Vampire Weekend now known as Rostam.

16. “Leven”  – The Octopus Project
Austin’s experimental pop indietronica band The Octopus Project released its sixth album since 1999, Memory Mirror. “Leven” slows things down into a charming, gauzy haze capped with a Ttheremin solo by Yvonne Lambert.

17. “Thinking of a Place”  – The War on Drugs
This epic single provided a special vinyl collectible for fans on this year's Record Store Day and heralded the upcoming fourth album since 2005 by Philly’s indie rock band The War on Drugs. At over ten minutes, “Thinking of a Place” concentrates our attention on the languid guitar and unique vocal stylings of frontman Adam Granduciel.

18. "call the police" – LCD Soundsystem
Hit the dance floor again with the Brooklyn band that broke up then didn't, as LCD Soundsystem released two singles in advance of the fourth album since 2002 expected this year. "call the police" follows the winning of formula in so many soaring LCD anthems of the past, from blasting synth chords and disco ball beats to the layered harmonies lead by mastermind James Murphy.

19. "american dream" – LCD Soundsystem
This second tune is a dreamy send-off until fans can dig into another morsel of sound from this seminal indie juggernaut.  Melodically building to the final chorus, "american dream" ends in a blissful buzz of hope.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Early Spring 2017 New Music Playlist

Spring has arrived early ­ – and I don’t just mean the recent unseasonably warm spell of weather here in the Northeast. There’s enough new music to fill up another listening session with tunes by indie stalwarts Spoon, Arcade Fire and The New Pornographers, plus Father John Misty, Future Islands and Mew.  Slowdive returns after decades while new band Day Wave drops a single off an upcoming debut. Music also incites action by soliciting donations for organizations jeopardized by the new administration. And check out the new collaboration known as BNQT featuring playlist faves along with bands such as Animal Collective, Goldfrapp and more. Listen up on Spotify or as a YouTube Playlist.

1. “Hot Thoughts” – Spoon
This is the single and title track for the ninth album from Austin’s indie rock band Spoon. The band was formed by lead singer/guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno back in 1993, but shows no sign of slowing down. Producer Dave Fridmann returns after 2014’s They Want My Soul, continuing to push this group’s gritty approach into a wider experimental arena.

2. “Darling” – Real Estate
New Jersey formed but now Brooklyn based jangle pop quartet Real Estate is ready with a fourth album since 2009, Mind.  This single “Darling” finds the signature layered guitar lines and harmonies intact, like a sunny disposition in song.

3. “High Ticket Attractions” – The New Pornographers
Canadian indie rock seven-piece The New Pornographers will soon release its seventh album since 1999 called Whiteout Conditions (the first without founding member Dan Bejar). “High Ticket Attractions” continues the band’s energetic and full-textured sound that showcases the singers Carl Newman and Neko Case.

4. “I Give You Power (featuring Mavis Staples)” – Arcade Fire
Montreal-based band Arcade Fire released this stand alone single to coincide with the Trump inauguration, with all proceeds donated to the ACLU in protest. “I Give You Power” is highlighted by the powerhouse vocals of Civil Rights icon Mavis Staples, bringing the issue a needed urgency.

5. “Away from Today” – Dan Croll
British singer/songwriter Dan Croll has a powerful command of the pop music idiom, having attended the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts founded by Paul McCartney. “Away from Today” boasts a sweeping melodic structure, complete with horn section, to ready fans for the next album since 2014’s debut.  

6. “Break Apart (featuring Rhye)” – Bonobo
Bonobo is the stage name of British musician, producer and D.J. Simon Green, who brings L.A.’s R & B musical duo Rhye on board to flesh out this lilting tune. It is found on Migration, the sixth studio album since 1999.

7. “Ran” – Future Islands
Synthpop Baltimore quartet Future Islands will release its fifth studio album The Far Field in April, after traveling to L.A.’s iconic Sunset Sound studio to record new songs with Grammy award-winning producer John Congleton (the first collection since 2006 with live drums). This single, “Ran,” leads with a mysterious chord before percussion, guitars and Samuel T. Herring’s distinctive growling vocals.

8. “Ladada” – Dr. Dog
Philly area based Dr. Dog recently offered up an entire surprise album on Bandcamp with proceeds going to the Southern Poverty Law Center – titled Abandoned Mansion, the group’s tenth release since 1999.  The shared vocals of Toby Leamon (bass) and Scott McMichen (lead guitar) impart a musical earnestness to everything the band does in studio or on stage.

9. “Star Roving” – Slowdive
This lush wash in song, “Star Roving,” is English dream pop band Slowdive’s first single in 22 years. Formed by childhood friend Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell in 1989, the group is currently working on its fourth album.

10. “Peacemaker” – Animal Collective
Experimental pop band Animal Collective just released its eighth EP, The Painters, since forming in Baltimore back in 2003. It serves a companion to the recent studio album, Painting With, as “Peacemaker” challenges the listener to follow down another winding, wonderful musical path in song.

11. “Ballad of the Dying Man” – Father John Misty
Father John Misty (a.k.a.  singer/songwriter Joshua Michael Tillman) is ready with a third studio album in his solo career, Pure Comedy. He recently wrote to fans that it “is the story of a species with a half-formed brain” but his music is always a worthy listen no matter what the subject.

12. “Something Here” – Day Wave
Day Wave is the musical project of Jackson Phillips, who enlists touring musicians for live shows yet the fully-formed tune “Something Here” belies the newly arrived band. It is a single for his upcoming debut album called The Days We Had.

13. “Restart” ­– BNQT
“Restart” is the single and opening track for Volume 1, a debut album coming in April for the new supergroup with Fran Healy (Travis), Ben Bridell (Band of Horses), and Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand), along with Jason Lytle (Grandaddy) plus three members of Midlake.  With such a stellar lineup, the song pulls off confident swagger from the opening note!

14. “Anymore” – Goldfrapp
Goldfrapp is the English electronic songwriting duo of Alison Goldfrapp (vocals, synths) and Will Gregory (synths), who record under a mantra that music is a visual experience. “Anymore” struts along with buzzy underpinnings as the single for the band’s upcoming album Silver Eye, its seventh since 1999.

15. “Dear To Me” – Electric Guest
L.A.-based electric pop band Electric Guest is ready with a second album, Plural. (It was formed in 2011, although this easy breezy tune “Dear To Me” served as my introduction.) The group is made up of Asa Taccone (vocals, instrumentals) and Matthew Compton (drums) plus brothers Todd (bass) and Tory Dahlhott (keys and guitar).

16. “Carry Me To Safety” ­– Mew
Danish alternative rock band Mew will release its seventh studio album, Visuals, next month. This gorgeous and expansive composition, “Carry Me to Safety,” serves as the single as well as the closing track, buoyed as always by Jonas Bjerre’s sweet voice.

17. “Fallss” – Bayonne
Bayonne is the stage moniker for Austin’s Roger Seller, who has performed under the name since 2015. He explained that he wrote this delicate song for an upcoming album during an emotional time when he was “striving for growth and getting better as a person and song writer.” 

18. “First Rain (featuring S. Carey)” ­ ­– Teen Daze
Teen Daze is the musical project of Canadian electronic musician Jamison Isaak, who is ready to release his sixth album since 2010, Themes for a Dying Earth. The meditative single “First Rain” recruits the talents of S. Carey  (musician Sean Carey of Eau Claire, Wisconsin).

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 Spotify and 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!