Jams: Week of January 5th

It's a new year, music has slowly begun to trickle in, and 2018 looks like it will be a great year for music. On this mini jams you'll find some musical staples as well as some newcomers. So let's take a look at some of the best new music of 2018.


Albums


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#1


Jeff Rosenstock
Post-

 


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#2


Daniel Romano
Human Touch


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#3


Cupcakke
Ephorize


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#4


Daniel Romano
Nerveless


Songs


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Titus Andronicus
Number One (In New York)


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Superorganism
Everybody Wants To Be Famous


Music Videos



Jams: Week of May 26th

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Albums


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Cende #1 Hit Single

Cende is a bit of DIY rock super group with members from LVL UP and Porches, this band was formed by college buds who all loved the music of the band The Marked Men. Cameron Wisch leads with infectious melodies and passionate vocals that often morph into screams, backed intricate guitar riffs and killer solos. Really there’s nothing super flashy or distinct about this band, they just make some really well constructed and super catchy rock, sometimes bordering on punk, with heartfelt lyrics. The opener “Bed” consists on the relatable premise of not wanting to get back up.  “What I Want” features Cameron’s former Porches bandmate and fantastic musician in her own right Greta Kline a.k.a. Frankie Cosmos. These songs a short, sweet and powerful. Hear Brian play “Bed” on Best Song Ever.


Kite Base Latent Whispers

Another band that Brian played on the show, maybe that’s why it took me longer to do jams this week, cuz they’re all Brian’s band (really it was because I moved and have been busy). The name Kite Base comes from the beginning fold in origami, that allows you to branch and create other folds. Our last episode of Best Song Ever ended with the awesome opening track of this album “Transition” which talks about making “something new from the old.” That’s just what Savages bassist Ayse Hassan did when she joined with her friend and fellow bassist Kendra Frost, using their bass skills in a new way. These songs are comprised solely of skeletal electronic beats, pulsing bass, and brooding synths, walking the line between electronica and post-punk. With how bare the composition is these songs reach surprising heights, with vocal crescendos backed by various electronics. This a unique sound that I don’t hear enough of and it’s executed flawlessly. Ayse heads in an interesting new direction with a thread you can trace back to her other band, and slight nods to their female punk predecessors.

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Pet Symmetry Vision

Canadian singer/songwriter Daniel Romano has trafficked in country revival until recently. On his new album he channels 70’s psychedelic rock and folk, reminiscent of the likes of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Rod Stewart, and Grateful Dead. Daniel’s distinct timbre is backed by elaborate compositions with bouncy bass and drums, and killer guitar riffs, The guitar is the star on this album, harkening back to the time when guitar rock ruled the world of music. Overall the production flawlessly emulates his vintage influences, yet employs some current production tricks and vocal effects. I love when a songwriter can take inspirations and situations from modern times and make them sound from another time and another place and give them a grander scope than you would expect. The common theme on this album is love, whether a failed love like the one on “Ugly Human Heart” or the love that took time to mature in, “When I Learned Your Name.” The beautiful album closer feels like finale of a broadway show, saving the most powerful song for last. On the chorus Daniel desperately questions, “What’s to become of a lover like me, who’s been hid from the light but now finally sees? And what are the wish of the stars from above? Tell me what’s to become of the meaning of love?” Daniel’s performance on this closing track becomes increasingly more volatile ending in a frustrated scream, this song has really stuck with me and become one of my favorites of the year. This album is incredible, it evokes nostalgia, yet comments on Modern Pressure. Hear Brian and I listen to “When I Learned Your Name” on Best Song Ever.


Loved Ones Harness

The lovable lads from Liverpool return with their sophomore album, no not The Beatles, it’s the band Loved Ones (full disclosure that’s the third time I’ve done that joke). The liverpool quartet’s debut was more lo-fi ambient rock, but their return finds them with crisp, elaborate production and orchestration. They retain some of the ambient atmosphere on songs like “End of an Error” yet they demonstrate some significant growth. This is bright and airy, and while the songs may not be bangers they are well done and enjoyable to listen to. Listen to me play, “Without Face” on Best Song Ever.

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Lil Yachty Teenage Emotions

In Noisey’s doc about Atlanta’s trap music scene Killer Mike said that Yachty brought a brightness to trap that was previously missing. In that same doc I got to know some interesting facts about Lil Boat: He was in high school living with his parents when he got famous and he doesn’t drink or smoke weed, which is unheard of in the rap world. Yachty’s music is auto-drench trap, but it's usually in a major key which is a stark contrast to most trap. Let’s be real he’s an awful singer, but this is a style that values style and swagger over technical talent. While I sometimes cringe at how much he repeats phrases (he seriously says peek-a-boo a hundred times) and can’t hit notes, damnit if the songs don’t get stuck in my head. I also respect him for being a part of rap culture while being sober. On this album he reminds us he’s still a teenager with Teenage Emotions, yet that’s juxtaposed with him being a superstar. So you have a strange blend of talking bout bitches and talking about "being together forever,” I guess that’s the uncertainty of Teenage Emotions. Though I find some of this album unlistenable, I do like that he blurs the line of what rap & trap can be. Certain songs like “Better” just sound like a Jason Mraz-esque pop song, not resembling rap in the slightest. All these mainstream rap albums are so long it’s annoying, it’s because it is more about the persona rather than the actual content so they just pretty much word vomit any of their thoughts over well produced beats. It’s quantity over quality, but that’s part of the style, it’s not my favorite but it’s got some songs that are fun. After a plethora of mixtapes Yachty has finally made him proper debut, and he continues to do something different, whether it’s good or bad is up for debate. Yachty had to apologize for the line, “she blow that dick like a cello,” because he thought it was a woodwind. That’s why you need to stay in school kids. Finish high school, then become a superstar.


Jams: Week of May 19th

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Albums


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The Mountain Goats Goths

With each new album the prolific folk-rock outfit find new areas to explore and new ways to evolve their existing sound. In 13 years, the band has grown from John Darnielle recording single takes into a busted into a full band known for infectious folk songs with elaborate compositions. Darnielle's clever and heartfelt lyrics, full of flawed yet relatable characters have earned the band a devout fanbase and a wiki cataloging all their stories. They are also known for their interesting album concepts: 2009’s The Life of the World To Come found Darnielle basing songs off of Bible verses, and 2015’s Beat The Champ told stories of glory, shame, family, and love all through the lens of professional wrestling. On their sixteenth studio album, Goths, not only do they explore another fascinating sub-culture, but they extremely alter their instrumental setup. The band started with just John and a guitar, yet on Goths he ditches his guit-fiddle and instead craft subtle compositions consisting of bass, drums, various keys organs, brass, and woodwinds. The band has ventured into this style in the past but now they’ve fully committed. They avoid any similarities to goth-rock using it solely as a subject rather than a musical influence. This instrumental shift does not effect the band’s signature style at all, the structures, melodies, and storytelling remain consistent with the rest of the band’s catalogue. Whether it’s goth band members, venues, or fashion Darnielle channels his immense knowledge on the subject and his  attention to detail to tell vivid yet vague tales of the customs and motivations of participants in the culture. His lyrics are dense with all manner of obscure references, whether it’s bible verses, shakespeare, or discontinued stereo equipment, Darnielle gives excruciating detail to make his stories so immersive. The album begins with the epic and ominous “Rain In Soho” with vocal contributions from commenting on life's great unknowns and the passage of time, referencing the influential nightclub and “birthplace of southern English goth culture” The Batcave, saying no one knows when it closed. Followed by the bouncy “Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back To Leeds” telling the story of The Sisters of Mercy frontman Andrew Eldritch moving back to his old town, telling the story of faded dreams, old friends, and coming home. “The Grey King and the Silver Flame Attunement” and “We Do It Different on the West Coast” explores the different interpretations of the culture and the extremes people take it to. “Wear Black” chronicles all the situations and reasons you would wear black, which amounts to all the time in any situation. Committing to the culture as one ages is a theme throughout the records, exploring how far you will take and what level of dedication are you willing to exhibit, and the accompanying doubts. Overall this album examines identity and community and how these is found in different ways through music, or clothing, or region. Beyond that Darnielle accomplishes what he did on Beat The Champ, shedding light on a culture that most people don’t even know exists, let alone understand the depth, diversity, and nuance within that culture. He tells the stories of forgotten, unknown, and outcast characters in beautiful ways that give a moment of beauty and glory to some who never received it in life. These are people you’ve seen maybe even known and you can picture your experience with them and apply this rich backstory to alter your perspective of them. Every time I think I can’t love this band more they push the envelope and do something surprising and amazing. Hear as we listen to “Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back To Leeds” and discuss our love of The Mountain Goats on Best Song Ever.


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Land of Talk Life After Youth

Elizabeth Powell meant to get around to making another album years ago, but life got in the way. She moved back to her Canadian hometown to take care of her ailing father after he suffered a stroke. It’s now been 7 years since the last Land of Talk album and it was worth the wait. While taking care of her dad, Powell listened to a lot of classical and ambient music and found it very therapeutic and she wanted to carry that over to this album. She approached making these new songs, rather than being all guitar based songs she started from more ambient synth beds and building on that. These songs rise from a base of dreamy ambience, yet Powell’s frenetic guitar playing and passionate vocals add immediacy to the otherwise hazy backdrop. The guitar work on this album is still fantastic, often leaping from the background to add a fuzzed out solo that oddly fits perfectly. Powell enlisted some amazing musical friends to assist on this album. It was produced and mixed by John Angello and Besnard Lakes' Jace Lasek, and it has contributions from Sharon Van Etten, Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley, Sal Maida who’s played with the likes of Sparks and Roxy Music, and the whole of Besnard Lakes. The result is an album that feels very personal and vulnerable, yet it’s so catchy and well crafted. The ambiance is key on this album, what sets it apart is the sonic environment she created, inspired by the ambient music she used to heal, it's unlike any other album I’ve heard all year. Hear as i play “This Time” and we discuss on Best Song Ever.


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Daniel Romano Modern Pressure

Canadian singer/songwriter Daniel Romano has trafficked in country revival until recently. On his new album he channels 70’s psychedelic rock and folk, reminiscent of the likes of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Rod Stewart, and Grateful Dead. Daniel’s distinct timbre is backed by elaborate compositions with bouncy bass and drums, and killer guitar riffs, The guitar is the star on this album, harkening back to the time when guitar rock ruled the world of music. Overall the production flawlessly emulates his vintage influences, yet employs some current production tricks and vocal effects. I love when a songwriter can take inspirations and situations from modern times and make them sound from another time and another place and give them a grander scope than you would expect. The common theme on this album is love, whether a failed love like the one on “Ugly Human Heart” or the love that took time to mature in, “When I Learned Your Name.” The beautiful album closer feels like finale of a broadway show, saving the most powerful song for last. On the chorus Daniel desperately questions, “What’s to become of a lover like me, who’s been hid from the light but now finally sees? And what are the wish of the stars from above? Tell me what’s to become of the meaning of love?” Daniel’s performance on this closing track becomes increasingly more volatile ending in a frustrated scream, this song has really stuck with me and become one of my favorites of the year. This album is incredible, it evokes nostalgia, yet comments on Modern Pressure. Hear Brian and I listen to “When I Learned Your Name” on Best Song Ever.


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(Sandy) Alex G Rocket

Philedelphia’s Alex Giannascoli is only 24 years old and he’s released 8 albums. Last year, Frank Ocean enlisted Alex to play guitar on both his albums Endless and Blonde. Alex started as a one man band, DIY, bedroom pop type musician. His previous albums were solo efforts, self-recorded and self-released. However, on this album he’s joined by different players and collaborators, although he really is the master mind and man in control of everything. Rocket, is his most diverse, most ambitious, and best work yet. While some songs retain the lo-fi bedroom pop sound, tracks like, “Country” and the auto-tuned “Sportstar” a lot of tracks venture into country pop and folk with banjo’s and acoustic guitar and fiddle, like the album opener “Poison Root” and lead singles “Proud” and “Bobby.” The track “Brick” is Death Grips-esque noise rock with screams. There is a theme of uncertainty and doubt which is emphasized by the genre-hopping, sporadic style of the album. Alex said with this album he “wanted it to be full of these characters that don’t know how crazy they are.” You hear these characters who’s dreams and ideas perhaps don’t align with the reality they find themselves a part of. This is a huge step forward for an already accomplished artist. Hear as Brian and I listen to “Bobby” and discuss on Best Song Ever.


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Wavves You're Welcome

I know what you’re thinking: Did Wavves cover Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s song “You’re Welcome” from Disney’s Moana. Answer: No they did not. In fact, the fifth album by the beloved punk band is perhaps their best since 2010’s King of the Beach. It’s difficult to venture in a genre like pop-punk where it’s simplicity is it’s great asset, yet an album full of simple catchy punk songs could be surprisingly boring. I thought perhaps Wavves had exhauster their sound, but I mistaken. What they’ve managed to do on this album, more effectively than on their last couple, is make the songs very diverse, all possessing their own interesting element. The band manages to uphold their tradition of bracing pop-punk but they permeated by static crunches, electronic flourishes, and other production tricks that push the songs over the edge of awesomeness. Nathan Williams has been wont to write some twee and cutesy songs occasionally, and that is the case on some of these songs. Many of these songs are about love (the album close is called “I Love You”), yet they never get unbearable, they are all well constructed and well executed, and they rock so hard that it’s a good balance. I didn’t think this band could make their sound even bigger and rock even harder but somehow they pulled it off. 


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Gothic Tropic Fast or Feast

LA based singer/songwriter Cecilia Della Peruti makes indie-rock under the moniker is Gothic Tropic. The name perfectly suits the music, which possesses the melancholy, gothic spirit, and the breezy and bright atmosphere that provides the tropic. She calls it a, "a new brand of female fronted, guitar-driven indie rock.” The instrumentation on this album is all around fantastic, but Della’s guitar is what really shines. From bouncy licks to meandering solos, she establishes herself as a guitarist to know. She formerly played as a session musician with the likes of Charli XCX and Borns and she’s got a sponsorship from my favorite guitar brand, Fender. She nods to great female rock pioneers like Chrissy Hinde and Debbie Harry, and joins the ranks of Annie Clark and Brittany Howard as one of the great female guitarists of our time. Hear me play “How Life Works” on Best Song Ever.


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Chris Bathgate Dizzy Seas

Illinois native Chris Bathgate rose to prominence in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti folk scene in the early aughts. 10 albums later he is a bit of a hometown hero in the West Michigan music scene. I saw Chris back in 2011 on his tour for Salt Year, on that album he started taking his purely folk sound and polish it off a bit, gravitating towards a more polished, less acoustic sound. On his tenth album, Dizzy Seas, he settles in nicely to that sound. Much of this album is misty and expansive, earning it's title with dizzying guitars and synth pads. Though he's polished off the sound a lot of the folk structures remain. Organic percussion and fiddles appear on many songs, and Bathgate still has a knack for writing melodies that sound like folk hymns. This is an exciting new step for the Michigan folk mainstay. His new sound makes him even more accessible while retaining his signature style for longtime fans. Hear as I play "Low Hey" on Best Song Ever, featuring another Michigan musician, Tunde Olaniran.


Videos


Jams: Week of May 12th

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Sir The Baptist Saint or Sinner

The debut album from self-proclaimed Hip Hop Chaplain, Sir The Baptist, is an engaging blend of gospel, hip-hop, soul, r&b, even a little trap in there. Sir William James Stokes grew up in Chicago and his love of music came from his dad who was a pastor and activist. He used to sing and play in church and he used that gospel influence to make a really unique brand of hip hop. He quit a job in the advertising industry to make music and slept in his car for a bit, but now he’s enjoyed success appearing on Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment’s song “Familiar,” and landed a song on the soundtrack for Birth of a Nation. The instrumentation is right from the church stage with piano and organ being punched up by thunderous percussion. I love how he doesn’t mess around when talking about political stuff, in “The Wall” he relates the walls of Jericho to the wall Trump wants to build, and straight up says, “We gon’ shout until Trump’s wall comes tumbling down.” This album is a good blend of hip hop, gospel, soul, and r&b, and a nice mixture of personal anecdotes, political commentary, and clever levity. If you want me to take you to church listen to the new episode of Best Song Ever, where I play “Raise Hell” and we discuss it in God Talk.


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Amber Mark 3:33am

New York’s Amber Mark is a one-in-a-million success story. She put her song “S P A C E” on Soundcloud and it attracted some attention and wound up in the hands of Beats 1 host and all around musical tastemaker Zane Lowe. Now her debut will only broaden her reach and listening to it you can understand why her rise was so quick. Not only is Amber’s voice lower and more dynamic than most pop singers you hear (almost androgynous at times), but her beats are intricately crafted, mixing sounds both synthetic and organic, and employing interesting production choices that add to their value. She cites a wide range of influences like Michael Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, and A Tribe Called Quest and her eclectic style has been likened to French-Cuban sister duo Ibeyi (which is funny cuz Amber’s sister Mia Mark appears on the album). This is an incredible solo debut and rivals, if not surpasses, radio pop production quality. Compositions that would take a team to create Amber has done herself and she got the fast track to musical success that she deserves.


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Elf Power Twitching In Time

Psych-rock pioneers Elf Power were a part of the legendary Elephant 6 Collective alongside acts like of Montreal and Neutral Milk Hotel. Led by Andrew Rieger, Elf Power have been together for over 20 years and have released 12 albums in that time. Now their thirteenth album finds them up to their old tricks, yet pushing their sound even further. Based on the lyrics and the title of this album it seems to be an indirect allegory for the digital age. They experiment with a variety of sounds and styles on this album, balancing jangly, catchy folk rock with expansive meandering. As their band name denotes, they have a sort of medieval/fantasy vibe to their music, which is alive and well on this album. Much of the language and vocabulary of this album is very poetic and old school, yet it’s applied to modern life, which makes for an interesting combination. I love this band and with every new album they develop their sound a little more and push themselves further. I will be playing a song from this album on an upcoming episode of Best Song Ever so look out for that.


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Girlpool Powerplant

The third album from LA duo Girlpool finds them rounding out their sound with a full band, and I have mixed feelings. While their music still sounds great there is a part of me that dislikes the change. The bare minimal sounds, specially the absence of drums really set them apart and is part of why i loved their last album. I’m sure that sound has it’s challenges for the performers but I kind of miss it. Now they fit the mold of a hazy rock band and we have more than enough of those. Somehow with all the electric guitars and drums it sounds more boring to me, because it’s a sound i hear so often, where now their earlier more bare sounds feel more powerful and immediate. This could also have to do with a growing artist, where their earlier stuff was more raw they have matured and so has their sound, becoming more polished and full, yet I can’t help long for those younger days when things were simpler. While I do appreciate the lyrics on most of these song and they are well executed, this album fell short for me. Change is an inevitable part of life and that’s reflected in art. These ladies are still young and i’m sure their band will see many more changes over the course of their career, and I will try not compare them all to Before The World Was Big and give them a fair shake, but it will  be hard for them to top that album.


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Paramore After The Laughter

On their new album the superstar pop-punk band Paramore head in a completely new direction with solid results. Channeling influences of 80’s pop-rock like Talking Heads, Paramore breath new life into their tired format. The result is bright, breezy, and bouncy, pop songs complete with handclaps, shiny synths, chanted hooks, and the echoey thundering toms that appear in every 80’s song (it mainly makes me think of Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight). They’re now venturing into HAIM territory, and while they can’t touch the queens of 80’s influence indie-rock, they execute this sound effectively. While many of the songs deal with depression and anxiety the songs are insatiably upbeat and catchy. Veteran synth-pop producer Justin-Meldal Johnsen produced along with Paramore guitarist Taylor York and they expertly pulled off the polished pop sound. I rolled my eyes when people started telling me that Paramore’s new songs are good, but listening to these songs I can’t deny their merit. I’m a Paramore fan now. Weird.


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Harry Styles Harry Styles

Even weirder than being a Paramore fan is being a fan of former One Direction frontman Harry Styles. I didn’t even bother to listen to his new singles, until he played on SNL and his politically inspired song "Sign Of The Times” changed my mind. While it’s still apparent that these song were written by a young pop star they are of course solidly produced and decently written. The songs all vary in terms of genre and style, shifting from pop to blues rock to folk/country, if you’re not a fan of one song. He seems to be creating a new persona that less Justin Beiber and more Mick Jagger. He definitely channels Jagger and Springsteen at times. It was very strange seeing Harry Styles name alongside the other great artists on this list, but I can’t fight it, the guys writes a good song, at least it’s better than "Pillowtalk." I tell my cousin and co-host Brian that I'm interested in this album on Best Song Ever and he scoffed at me, then texted me within the hour saying, "This is Harry Styles is actually ok." 


Songs


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HAIM Right Now

A couple weeks ago on Best Song Ever, my co-host/cousin Brian played “Want You Back” by HAIM. I admitted that while I like the song I was thrown off when I watched their live in studio video of “Right Now" (directed by Paul Thomas Anderson) because I feared that they were following a similar trajectory to Lorde. Where both acts were so new and unique then they got famous, hung out with Taylor Swift, and now I worry they are shedding that originality to become generic pop stars. Brian and I agreed that will most likely not happen with HAIM and that we should wait to hear the studio version of “Right Now” Well now it has arrived and I’ve changed my tune. While the song is mostly the same as it was in the video the key difference comes in the second verse. The subtle hum of feedback pads the first couple lines before a burst of electric guitar and synths create a brief, soaring crescendo. The song quickly returns into it’s softer state for the chorus, then gets even more bare in the spoken-word bridge (reminiscent of Ezra Koenig’s part in "Ya Hey”) before finishing out the song with another chorus backed shimmering synths and some thunder drums. This song took me surprise and now I’m really looking forward to see what tricks the Haim sisters have in store for the new album.


Videos