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!

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.

Friday, July 29, 2016

New Song by Classixx, "In These Fine Times" Featuring De Lux (New Album Out)

Michael David & Tyler Blake of Classixx (Photo from Facebook)

The summer song trail continues with this irresistible new track by L.A. duo Classixx, off the production and DJ team's new sophomore album Faraway Reach (via Innovative Leisure). The childhood friends Michael David and Tyler Blake took the moniker to honor their love of classic compilations of different music, and the latest collection dips into various genres with ease. The band recently stopped by KCRW for a live session, listen in the archives with "In These Fine Times" second on the set list.

From the intriguing synths introducing a breezy beat, the tune boasts a vocal assist by Sean Guerin of fellow L.A. band De Lux that was behind my favorite song last summer, "Oh Man the Future" (picked for my Summer 2015 New Music Playlist and cited as a Top 20 Songs of 2015 plus the album Generation was one of my Top Ten Releases of 2015).  "In These Fine Times" is already cued up in my next playlist, but don't wait to check out the song in the video here and let the seasonal vibes take the lead!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

New Song by Allah-Las, "Could Be You" (New Album Due September 9 & NYC Tour Date August 21)

Allah-Lahs (Photo credit: Laura Lynn Petrick)
Here's another song for your summer – L.A. band the Allah-Lahs released a new song "Could Be You" this week, soaked in sunny vibes, garage rock casualness and a classic surf music guitar solo.  This serves as a teaser for the group's third album, Calico Review, due September 9 via Mexican Summer. It was recorded in L.A.'s historic Valentine Recording Studio (which was stood empty since 1979) with new instrumentation by adding viola, harpsichord, mellotron and theremin.

The Allah-Las include Pedrum Siadatian (vocals/lead guitar), Miles Michaud (vocals/rhythm guitar), Matthew Correia (vocals/drum) and Spencer Dunham (vocals/bass).  Correia, Dunham and Siadatian met while working at the cavernous famed Amoeba Music store and formed the band in 2008. “We were all music fans before we were musicians,” says Correia. “We’ve spent a lot of time listening to music, and understanding what works for us and what doesn’t.” The band came across my radar with KCRW's airplay of the lush and laid-back instrumental "Ferus Gallery" from the last album (2014's Worship the Sun), which I picked for my Winter 2015 New Music Playlist as well as the year end's Top 20 Songs of 2015. Give a listen to "Could Be You" with the video below. You can find the band in NYC at the Full Moon Festival on August 21.  

Thursday, July 14, 2016

New Song by Ages & Ages, "They Want More" (New Album Due August 19)

Ages & Ages (Photo by Alicia J. Rose)
Portland's folk rock band Ages & Ages got everyone singing with the standout track "Do the Right Thing" off its sophomore album, 2014's Divisionary. (The uplifting tune still circles occasionally in my head, ever since it was picked for my Spring 2014 New Music Playlist.)

The band is back with a new album coming August 19 called Something to Ruin via Partisan Records. A single, "They Want More," contains the same simplicity of songwriting that cuts straight through the clutter of the current music scene. Its theme of anti-materialism also provides an antidote against American commercialism, after a trip to Central America brought a fresh focus. Check out the video as directed by Alicia J. Rose and look for the album next month.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Summer 2016 New Music Playlist

The season is in full swing with the Fourth of July behind us so here’s a playlist of new tunes to add to your summer soundtrack. There’s another single from Beck teasing his next album and others from Glass Animals, Blind Pilot and Unknown Mortal Orchestra.  A debut by onDeadWaves is perfectly chill while indie rockers Parquet Courts, Deerhoof and Wolf Parade return to kick things up a gear. Then things mellow out with ambient tracks by Gold Panda, Hammock, CFCF.  Listen on Spotify or as a YouTube Playlist (without Deerhoof or the new Kinobe remix however).

1. “Life Itself” – Glass Animals
English indie rock band Glass Animals is ready to release a sophomore album, How to Be a Human, with this rhythmic single “Life Itself” leading the way. Singer Dave Bayley grew up in Texas with dreams of becoming a doctor, but that fell by the wayside after forming this unique quartet in 2012.

2. “Moods” – Sonny & The Sunsets
San Francisco’s Sonny & The Sunsets brings a quirky Californian vibe to “Moods.”  Led by Sonny Smith, this kooky tune is found on his eleventh album, Moods Baby Moods.

3. “Umpqua Rushing” – Blind Pilot
Indie folk band Blind Pilot is a six-piece based in Portland that will soon drop its third album since 2005, And Then Like Lions.  The single “Umpqua Rushing” confidently ushers in the new collection with the soulful singing of Israel Nebeker.

4. “Community of Hope” – PJ Harvey
English writer, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist PJ Harvey has released her ninth studio album since 1992, The Hope Six Demolition Project. “Community of Hope,” originally one of her poems, is a rallying cry condemning urban development in D.C.

5. “First World Problem” – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Portland’s psych rock band Unknown Mortal Orchestra was formed by New Zealander Ruban Nielson in 2010.  This stand-alone single, “First World Problem,” brings another irresistible and funky ode to modern love. (See last year’s “I Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” picked for my Summer 2015 New Music Playlist!)

6. “Plastic Thrills” – Deerhoof
San Francisco based experimental rock band Deerhoof has released its 13th studio album since 2009, The Magic. The quartet’s dense textures are anchored by the wavering vocals of Satomi Matsuzaki.

7. “If You Should See” – Wye Oak
“If You Should See” is a standout track from Tween, the fifth album since 2006 from Baltimore’s Wye Oak. The duo of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack create lush arrangements that swirl sonically.

8. “The Pool” – Papertwin
Brooklyn based trio Papertwin’s third studio release Vacation acknowledges a variety of influences, from The Cure to Gillian Welch. “The Pool” is synth heavy but doesn’t dwell in the past.

9. “Past Lives” – Local Natives
In September, L.A. based indie rock band Local Natives will release its third album, Sunlit Youth. The single “Past Lives” is a musical journey all its own, from the opening cry of “Save Me” to the layered sonic romp that follows.

10. “California” ­– onDeadWaves
This new band formed by British singer-songwriter Polly Scattergood and James Chapman of Maps has released a self-titled debut album full of laid-back shoegaze. “California” is an ode to the U.S. West Coast and a perfect summer song.

11. “Dust” – Parquet Courts
NYC rock quartet Parquet Courts concoct more high energy punk tunes in its fifth studio album since 2010, Human Performance. This fun catchy song “Dust” is a witty take on city living.

12. “Floating World” – Wolf Parade
Canadian indie rock band Wolf Parade was formed in Montreal in 2003, yet it’s just back after a five year hiatus – the new self-titled EP (like the three before it) effortlessly brings the original scrappy sound back to life.

13. “Wow” – Beck
West Coast musical wunderkind Beck released a second single, “Wow,” from his forthcoming album due in October that is three years in the making (some songs predate the 2014 Grammy-winning Morning Phase). Cited influences include The Strokes and the Talking Heads, plus a yearning for communal hands-in-the-air concert moments.

14. “Slip Into Something More Comfortable – Psychemagik Late Nite Remix” – Kinobe
English electronic music duo Kinobe have been on the scene since 1998, most recently with remixes of the song “Slip Into Something More Comfortable.” Julius Waters and Dave Pemberton are known to take a ten-piece touring band out of the studio on the road in order to recreate studio compositions.

15. “In My Car”­ – Gold Panda
Gold Panda is a British electronic record producer, performer and composer who has performed since 2009. His recent third album, Good Luck and Do Your Best, is filled with ambient tracks such as the lilting tune “In My Car.”

16. “Reverence” – Hammock
Nashville’s Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson use a combination of live instrumentation and electronic beats for their musical project since 2005, known as Hammock.  Its ninth album Everything and Nothing includes delicate ambient songs such as “Reverence.”

17. “In the Courtyard”  – CFCF
CFCF is the stage name of Canadian electronic musician and vocalist Michael Silver. (Based in Montreal, the name is derived from the city’s television station CFCF-TV.) “In the Courtyard” is a lovely drifting composition from its fifth album since 2009, On Vacation.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

New Song by Wye Oak, "If You Should See" (New Album Out)

Jenn Wasner & Andy Stack of Wye Oak (Photo via Merge Records)
I suppose I couldn't help but like the band Wye Oak, with a name chosen back in 2006 to honor the Maryland State tree that was felled in a storm a few years earlier. I spent 25 years in that state as my parents made it their home, so this duo from Baltimore had an introduction that only a sense of place could offer. Jenn Wasner (lead vocals, guitar, bass) and Andy Stack (backup vocals, drums, keyboards) also provide some of indie's most original music, with lush arrangements that could fool a listener to thinking there are many more musicians involved.

The duo's latest album, Tween, was actually created utilizing remnants of its past two albums, 2011's Civilian and 2014's Shreik.  (With an expanded sound to include electronics and bass, Shreik landed on my Top Ten Releases of 2014 list and the song "Tower" was selected as for my Spring 2014 New Music Playlist, as well as my Top 20 Songs of 2014.) My favorite track off the new album is "If You Should See," a glorious tune with interlocking, percussive melodies and vocals that soar above it all. Take a listen via the YouTube upload by Merge Records below and be sure to make time for the entire album.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

New Song by onDeadWaves, "California" (Debut Album Out)

James Chapman & Polly Scattergood of onDeadWaves (Photo credit: Cat Mook)
New band onDeadWaves is the result of combining the talents of British singer-songwriter Polly Scattergood and compatriot musician James Chapman, a.k.a. Maps. Their debut self-titled album is filled with a sun-soaked gauzy indie pop, as revealed on the song "California" with gleaming guitars and hushed vocals.

A new video for the tune is a long-shot of a magical 70s Californian party paradise where people actually swim in pools, as directed by Mexico's Groovy Chaos (who also provided a creative vision for Moby). The track has already been added to my favorite online radio new music sources KEXP and KCRW, and this album seems ready made for summer listening sessions. onDeadWaves is also sharing mixes and other compilations on their SoundCloud page to keep the vibe going.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

In Honor of Father's Day - A Family Songs Playlist

When you realize that your parents REALLY like to sing...
This spring brought a new baby into my tiny family tree as well as another wedding for the next generation - a much happier occasion for us to gather together, rather than the recent memorial services for my father and my mother.  The baby's arrival got me thinking about all the songs that we've enjoyed singing as a family - sing alongs and lullabies that resonated with both parents as well as the kids. There are also ones that arrived on the music scene and were quickly incorporated into our daily life (even with an expletive like in the Gorillaz tune!)

So in honor of the Father's Day weekend, here is my playlist of favorite family songs that were sung in the car and around our house, forever claimed as family memories in musical form.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

New Song by Gold Panda, "In My Car" (New Album Out)

Gold Panda (Photo via Ghostly International)
What is it about music in a car – the instant escape of listening to an awesome song with the combination of being on wheels and gliding down a road, definitely one of life's greatest gifts. Gold Panda's new dreamy tune "In My Car" captures the notion perfectly. It caught my ear the other morning on KEXP, spun by the station's DJ Morgan (who said this came to mind for the playlist while stuck in traffic on the way to the studio that morning!)  As the stand out track on Gold Panda's fourth studio album since 2010, Good Luck and Do Your Best, the music floats along in a wavy pattern of electronics to provide a sonic journey.

The U.K. producer/composer, now based in Berlin, is currently on a world tour through the fall in support of the new album.  Listen to "In My Car" in the official video as directed Rob Brandon, where Gold Panda spends a sweet day with his dear Granny.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

New Song by Sonny and the Sunsets, "Moods" (New Album Out)

Sonny Smith, right, with his band (Photo via Polyvinyl Records)
My latest new favorite song comes curtesy of San Francisco's psych rock band Sonny and the Sunsets. The quirky tune "Moods" is off the group's new album, Moods Baby Moods, that serves as the fourth album for Polyvinyl since 2012. There are also seven others since 2000, four self-released, plus musical side projects galore by frontman Sonny Smith. For "100 Records" in 2010, he invited 100 artists to create cover art for albums by 100 fictional bands, then Smith wrote two tunes (A side and B side natch) for each. The artwork was exhibited in San Francisco and Williamsburg, NYC, with a jukebox playing the tunes which were featured in a box set.

Smith is a singer/songwriter, author and former troubadour who weaves a storytelling vibe in laid back vocals. As Polyvinyl puts it, "he's in a funk but he's turned it into funk." "Moods" flaunts this retro-tinged sound for a song about synthetic feelings afforded by the modern drug culture. As produced by Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, the percussive thread is thrust front and center. Take a listen to "Moods" on Soundcloud and give a listen to the entire album out now.