Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Top 20+ Songs of 2017 with Spotify and YouTube Playlist

So I broke my own rule here – I usually run over the total of twenty songs to represent the year but this time I allowed a double helping of two of my very fave bands Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem. (And keeping the choices down to just two songs was not easy to do!) But beyond songs from my  Top Ten Releases of 2017 heard on repeat, there are some singles on the list that became instant ear worms in a very good way. The upbeat approach of Phoenix's "J-Boy" along with the optimism of Woods' "Love Is Love" and Poolside's "Everything Goes" were just the antidote needed during this calamity of a year under the Trump Administration. Here's to weathering another year ahead with another soundtrack of sanity.

Listen on Spotify or as a YouTube Playlist below (except "Wave Is Not the Water" by Wye Oak).

1. "Andromeda" (featuring DRAM) – Gorillaz
2. "Hot Thoughts" – Spoon
3. "Everything Now" – Arcade Fire
4. "Put Your Money on Me" – Arcade Fire
5. "Dreams" – Beck
6. "The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness" – The National
7. "call the police" – LCD Soundsystem
8. "american dream" – LCD Soundsystem
9. "Mourning Sound" – Grizzly Bear
10. "Wave Is Not the Water" – Wye Oak
11. "All About Waiting" (featuring Camila Grey) – Dhani Harrison
12. "How It Feels" – Ages and Ages
13. "Everything Goes" (Instrumental) – Poolside
14. "J-Boy" – Phoenix
15. "Hard to Say Goodbye" – Washed Out
16. "Noise Pollution" (featuring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Zoe Manville) – Portugal. The Man.
17. "Love Is Love (Sun On Time)" – Woods
18. "Shine" – Mondo Cozmo
19. "Magnificent (She Says)" – Elbow
20. "Name for You" – The Shins
21. "Call It Dreaming" – Iron & Wine
22. "Carry Me to Safety" – Mew
23. "Leven" – The Octopus Project

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Top Ten Releases of 2017 with Video Highlights

Here I go again gushing about how this year was an awesome year of music... But really when your very fave bands come out with releases full of listening goodness, what other proper response is there? With plenty of new tunes from Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, and Spoon, plus those long
awaited Beck and Gorillaz albums, 2017 had me in music fan heaven. Add in beloved indie veterans (The National, The Flaming Lips, Mew, Elbow, Grizzly Bear) along with newcomer Mondo Cozmo, and it was a blissful, busy time catching up with everything across the calendar.

Give a listen on Spotify to all my Top Ten Albums of 2017 as well as Other Fave Albums of 2017 and check out my picks below with live video highlights. Also, I've created a Next New Music Matters Playlist to follow in order to see what's already cued up for 2018.

1. LCD Soundsystem, American Dream
The LCD Soundsystem songs on American Dream continued the Brooklyn band's musical thread after a long seven years – this is the fourth album since 2002 – like they never lost a beat! They also toured extensively and appeared all over the place (seen here confidently presenting "Call the Police" on the U.K. television program Live on Later... with Jools Holland) as if to make up for lost time and appease all the fans who were more than willing to buy tickets.

2. Arcade Fire, Everything Now
Arcade Fire's fifth album since 2001 caught heat for some ABBA-type dancehall leanings (see the Montreal based band rocking the title track "Everything Now" on daytime television with Régine Chassagne playing my dream instrument) but there were also plenty of soulful tracks to dig deep into, especially "We Don't Deserve Love" which is already cued up in my next Valentine's Day playlist. 

3. Spoon, Hot Thoughts
Austin band Spoon returned super strong with its ninth album since 1993, acknowledging many female fans mindset by the title Hot Thoughts. Frontman Britt Daniels exhibits why during this smoking hot performance of the song, "Do I Have to Talk You Into It," to open their sold out show at Brooklyn Steel December 8th.

4. Beck,  Colors
Beck's 13th studio album Colors arrived in the fall with stylish songs across the spectrum to showcase yet again his musical prowess, but all contain the artist's mantra of group catharsis.  He also toured widely and continued to be eager to please his fans with hits old and new. Here Beck brings the single "Dream" to life in a session for his L.A. hometown station KCRW.

5. The National, Sleep Well Beast
Cincinnati-raised quintet The National is now dispersed across the country, but gathered in a newly built recording space in an upstate New York barn to create the seventh album since 1999, Sleep Well Beast. The songs seemed even stronger live, with the power of this band's groupthink exhibited on stage. Check out "The Day I Die" at the Pitchfork Music Festival Paris 2017.

6. Gorillaz, Humanz
Six years passed between albums for the animated U.K. band Gorillaz, as Humanz landed with a host of featured artists in cameos almost distracting the mission.  Damon Albarn is still the mastermind behind it all, seen here leading the way with the song "Andromeda" in a live session at New York City's WFUV.

7. Mondo Cozmo, Plastic Soul
L.A. artist Josh Ostrander, a.k.a. Mondo Cozmo, appeared on KCRW late in 2016 after the strength of a few well played singles. This new band quickly went from small venues (I was lucky to see him at the tiny Mercury Lounge in January) to playing festivals and headlining concert halls. Witness Ostrander's gritty determination here, singing the title track of his debut album "Plastic Soul."

8. Grizzly Bear, Painted Ruins
The quartet Grizzly Bear has expanded from its Brooklyn base, but the band's tightly layered sound remains in sharp focus for the fifth album since 2002, Painted Ruins.  The group dynamic is on full display here during "Mourning Sound" at the Electric Lady Studios in NYC for WFUV.

9. Elbow, Little Fictions
English alt rock band Elbow released its seventh album since1997, Little Fictions, full of trademark emotional depth and lush textures.  Guy Garvey's rich vocals provide the passionate porthole, as witnessed on the U.K. Graham Norton Show with "Magnificent She Says." 

10. Mew, Visuals
Another transfixing voice that transcends our mortal coil is that of Mew's Jonas Bjerre. Angelic yet immediate, he leads the quartet into a singular space of musical brilliance for the seventh album since 1995 Visuals, as evident in "Carry Me to Safety" performance at Seattle's KEXP.

Honorable Mention: The Flaming Lips, Oczy Mlody
One more shout out to The Flaming Lips, for releasing a whopping sixteenth album since 1983 in dreary January with the title Oczy Mlody (that roughly translates to a Polish expression meaning eyes of the young) with wacked out pysch rock that still keeps us on our toes. My favorite tracks are "The Castle" and "We A Family," but this video of "There Should Be Unicorns" shows frontman Wayne Coyne's willingness to continue playing the rock star.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Late Fall 2017 New Music Playlist

Listen on Spotify or as a YouTube Playlist (except Wye Oak's "Wave Is Not the Water," not found there!)

1. "875 Dollars" – De Lux
2. "Plimsoll Punks" – Alvvays
3. "Wave Is Not the Water" – Wye Oak
4. "Hurts to Liv" – liv
5. "All About Waiting" – Dhani Harrison (featuring Camila Gray)
6. "Los Ageless" – St. Vincent
7. "Soul and Cigarette" – Daniele Luppi & Parquet Courts
8. "Feels Like Heaven" – Ariel Pink
9. "Tic Tac Toe" – Django Django
10. "Deadly Valentine" – Charlotte Gainsburg
11. "Tinseltown Swimming in Blood" – Destroyer
12. "How It Feels" – Ages and Ages
13. "Little Dark Age" – MGMT
14. "Wallowa Lake Monster" – Sufjan Stevens
15. "Sleeping and Falling" – Jonti
16. "North" – Yotto
17. "Redlining" – Dan Deacon

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.