Thursday, September 14, 2017

Fall 2017 New Music Playlist


While we are still waiting for the much-heralded Beck album due in a few weeks, I can’t complain. The past few months brought new music from some of my very fave bands sounding as strong as ever: Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem and The National. So enjoy this playlist featuring songs from these and other recent releases as we transition to fall. Listen on Spotify or as a YouTube Playlist.

1. “Dear Life” – Beck
Another single appeared as Beck readies to release his 13th studio album since 1985 next month. With a jaunty piano intro, “Dear Life” brings another genre stew with guitar swagger and lyrical darkness as he mixes up the sentiment, “Dear life, I’m holding on,” for the howling chorus.

2. “tonite” – LCD Soundsystem
James Murphy finally returns to the music that most inspires him after producing other bands and various creative projects: his own. (And it turns out David Bowie had a hand in this eventual return after seven years!) The fourth album since 2002, American Dream heralds the band’s first number one album but better yet, it comprises all the sonic trademarks expected from LCD, from low reverberating synths, pulsating percussion layers and Murphy’s speak-sing rattling off random thoughts, as found in the song “tonite.”

3. “Put Your Money on Me” – Arcade Fire
“Put Your Money on Me” is perhaps my favorite track on the fifth Arcade Fire album since 2001, Everything Now.  The slow build with alternating male/female vocals recalls the romantic push and pull of “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)” from the last album, which was presented live as Win Butler and Régine Chassagne sang longingly to each other across the crowd during the last tour in Montreal to great effect.

4. “You Push, I’ll Go (feat. Alex Sanchez)” – Baby Dayliner
A favorite play on KEXP’s “John in the Morning Show,” this cult hit by Baby Dayliner (the stage name of NYC native Ethan Marunas) has finally attained an official release on an EP of the same name, after two albums over a decade ago. The infectious tune “You Push, I’ll Go” follows city dwellers on a night out, vowing to keep the faith in modern life.

5. “Offering” – Cults
NYC indie pop duo Cults is getting ready to release its third album since 2010, with this title track “Offering” serving as a teaser single. The lush instrumentation by Brian Oblivion under sweet youthful vocals by Madeline Follin find their confident musical stride.

6. “Don’t Delete the Kisses” – Wolf Alice
A four piece alt rock band from North London, Wolf Alice pulls away from punk to offer a tender love song, “Don’t Delete the Kisses,” a single for the upcoming sophomore album since 2010, Visions of a Life. The band embraces standard pop sensibilities with a synth heavy take to conjure up images of modern romance, as sung in hushed whispers by Ellie Rowsell.

7. “Airbourne” – Cut Copy
When any band is formed by a DJ, it usually leans heavily into dance music, as with Australian band Cut Copy. “Airbourne,” this quirky party song bubbling with electronics, is off the fifth album since 2001, Haiku from Zero.

8. “Mourning Sound” – Grizzly Bear
Brooklyn-based quartet Grizzly Bear is back with its fifth album since 2002, Painted Ruins. Complex, lavish instrumentation forms the foundation for Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen to trade honeyed vocals once again.

9. “Valley Boy” – Wolf Parade
Canadian indie rock band Wolf Parade will release its fourth studio album since 2003 (after a hiatus from 2011 to 2016).  You'd never know the band was on hiatus for five years by this swaggering single and title track “Valley Boy” with Dan Boeckner’s gritty yet soulful vocals.

10. “We Stayed Up All Night (featuring Ardyn)” ­– Tourist
Tourist (AKA British electronic musician and Grammy-winning songwriter William Phillips) teams up with British twins Ardyn for this buoyant single “We Stayed Up All Night.”  The melodic polish fills this pop song with poise.

11. “Something to Remember Me By” – The Horrors
Veteran English rock band The Horrors has offered a teaser single “Something to Remember Me By,” for its fifth studio album since 2005, V.  The classic pop sensibility of lead vocalist Faris Badwan blithely carries the tune over wavering synths and pulsing drums. 

12. “Asido” – Purity Ring
Canadian electronic duo Purity Ring recently released this stand alone single, “Asido.” The song blankets Megan James’ childlike vocals over electronic production provided by Corin Roddick.

13. “Call It Dreaming” – Iron & Wine
Iron & Wine is the musical project of South Carolinian Samuel Ervin Beam. His sixth full-length album since 2002, The Beast Epic, continues the acoustic aesthetic with his signature sweet soft vocals, this time about themes of time and aging.

14. “Guilty Party” – The National
Indie rock quintet from Cincinnati, Ohio, The National just released Sleep Well Beast, its seventh album since 1999.  “Guilty Party” offers a tender side of the band, although complexity reigns underneath the introspective lyrics as conveyed by singer Matt Berninger.

15. “Party in the Dark”­ – Mogwai
Scottish post-rock band Mogwai released its ninth studio album since 1995, Every Country’s Sun.  “Party in the Dark” is a sweet tune that takes shoegaze into a resplendent chorus and back.

16. “Planet” – Four Tet
Four Tet is the stage name for Kiernan Hebden, an English musician who also considers himself in the post-rock genre. This stand alone single “Planet” flaunts his wide range of influences, with a world view of instrumentation and vocal pairings.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Summer 2017 New Music Playlist


Now that summer is in full swing, here’s another compilation of new tunes curated into a personal listening session.  There are singles from anticipated albums by Arcade Fire, The National, and Grizzly Bear, along with Mondo Cozmo, The War on Drugs and Rostam’s debut. Stand alone songs by Alex Ebert, Declan McKenna and liv round out the list with unreleased music by Gorillaz, Beach House and Daphni plus more. Listen on Spotify or as a YouTube Playlist.

1. “Everything Now” – Arcade Fire
“Everything Now” is a swirling, musical ride and title track for the upcoming fifth studio album since 2001 by North American indie juggernaut Arcade Fire. While lyrically skewering materialism, the band seems eager to dance with the help of co-producer Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk. 

2. “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” – The National
“The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” serves as a vigorous reintroduction to The National, the indie rock band from Cincinnati formed in 1999.  This is the first single for Sleep Well Beast, the seventh studio album from the group. Guitarist twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner develop the musical structure for each song, then singer Matt Berninger adds a melody and lyrics to fit the composition, as the creative collaboration continues.

3. “Automatic” – Mondo Cozmo
Mondo Cozmo, a.k.a. Josh Ostander, is ready to release his debut album in August, Plastic Soul. “Automatic” features his gritty vocals and rock anthem leanings, that have quickly found a solid fan base for this new musical project (during the 2017 tour the backing band is Illinois).

4. “Dancing is the Best Revenge” – !!!
“Dancing is the Best Revenge” sums up the credo for this dance punk band out of Sacramento, CA. It is a funky, fun single for the group’s seventh album since 1996, Shake the Shudder, which was formed out of jam sessions during a week in Barcelona.

5. “Hard To Say Goodbye” – Washed Out
Georgia native Ernest Greene has released a third album, Mister Mellow, full of quirky tunes and studio wizardry.  “Hard to Say Goodbye” boasts an infectious melody over Greene’s signature chillwave sonic foundation formulated in 2009.

6. “Three Rings” – Grizzly Bear
“Three Rings” is the first single from Painted Ruins, the fifth album since 2002 by indie quartet Grizzly Bear, which is due in August. The group is now split between coasts, so recording took place in both NYC and LA studios using the usual mix of traditional and electronic instruments for this elegant soundscape.

7. “Broken Record” – Alex Ebert
L.A. based singer/songwriter Alex Ebert is best known as the frontman of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Ima Robot. His distinctive vocals highlight the jumpy flow of “Broken Record,” a single for the follow up to his solo debut, 2011’s Alexander.

8. “Chariot” – Beach House
The sumptuous opening organ chords and majestic singing in “Chariot” herald a new Beach House song on a compilation album of unreleased cuts and one other new song, B-Sides and Rarities.  Baltimore duo Victoria Legrand (vocalist/organist) and Alex Scally (guitarist) decided to release every song that did not exist on an album elsewhere for the band’s dedicated fans.

9. “Humongous” – Declan McKenna
Young English singer/songwriter Declan McKenna is ready to release his debut album, What Do You Think About the Car? “Humongous” is yet another solid pop single from the collection.  After a breakout year in 2016, McKenna is now confidently playing festivals.

10. “Ultralife” ­– Oh Wonder
Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West record as Oh Wonder, a London based alt-pop duo. “Ultralife” is the title track to their second album since 2014, a melodic romp sweetened by synth riffs.

11. “Bike Dream” – Rostam
Multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij will soon release a debut solo album after years with Vampire Weekend and collaborating with Hamilton Leithauser, among others. The single “Bike Dream” is a sweet tune that genuinely expresses joy over life’s little moments.

12. “Heaven” – liv
Swedish indie band collective liv released another single, “Heaven,” a hopeful, hazy, pop gem flaunting the powerhouse vocals of Lykke Li and Andrew Watt of Miike Snow.

13. “Tin” – Daphni
Canadian electronic mastermind Dan Snaith (who also records under Caribou) returns to his Daphni alter ego for another album since 2012 of unreleased tracks. The dance music whirl of “Tin” fits in with the title, fabriclive93, which honors the venerable London nightclub.

14. “City Music” – Kevin Morby
L.A. based musician Kevin Morby,  former bass player of the folk rock band Woods, just released his fourth solo album, City Music. This title track, with Woods’ husky, soulful voice on full display, refers to the idea that cities have singular identities of musical style.

15. “Holding On”­ – The War on Drugs
“Holding On” is the second single for the fourth album since 2005, A Deeper Understanding, by Philly band The War on Drugs due out in August. Adam Granduciel’s gritty singing and guitar wailing is the backbone for the group’s sumptuous, expansive sound.

16. “Sleeping Powder” – Gorillaz
This previously unreleased track seems more emblematic of this U.K. cartoon band, with its cheeky harpsichord intro and melodious dance spin with synths galore. “Sleeping Powder” is reportedly one of over 40 unused songs from the group’s fifth album since 2001, last year’s Humanz, so fans can hope for many more singles ahead.


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 closeyoureyes.net 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