Jams: Week of January 12th, 2018

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Albums


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#1


Typhoon
Offerings

The fourth album of this 11 member Portland indie-rock band is an album in 4 parts, exploring the loss of memory and the loss of self. On this album songwriter Kyle Morton attempts to answer the question "What are we without our memories?" Inspired by works like Flowers for Algernon and Fellini's "8 1/2" Morton charts the decline of memory from the perspective of someone who is losing their sense of who they are. While much of the albums is fictional, for anyone who knows someone suffering from Dimensia or Alzheimer's these lyrics are all too real. In exploring an abstract concept Morton makes powerful insights about a very real human problem. He also draws some inspiration from the current political climate, examining the larger scale loss of "cultural memory" that we are currently living out, in which we fail to learn from history and are doomed to repeat it. Sometimes this album seems like it is just a singer/songwriter project with pared down, orchestrated folk like Sufjan Stevens or Jordan Klassen. However, the rest of the band makes their presence known, with grand instrumental bursts that leave the listener engaged and astounded.


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#2


Unlikely Friends
Crooked Numbers

Members of Seattle bands BOAT and Math & Physics Club come together to form Unlikely Friends. Their sophomore albums is made up of bright, bouncy rock songs. These songs are super flashy they're short, sweet, simple, and insanely catchy. I'd put this band in a league with the like of Guided By Voices and Elf Power, with witty lyrics surrounded by fuzzed out guitars. Just when you think you have this album figured out, the guys will throw you for a loop and take an interesting turn. 


Songs


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#1


Ezra Furman
Suck The Blood From My Wound

This song is the album opener for Transangelic Exodus, Ezra Fruman's concept album where he's in love with an angel in a world where being an angel is illegal. Their love is a crime so they're on the run from an oppressive government, which is an all too real struggle for so many people. This punk anthem establishes the premise of the rebellious young lovers on the run from an oppressive system as Ezra sings, "I know they hurt you band and they hurt me too, but I'm not about to sit here and watch as they suck the blood from my wound." 

Transangelic Exodus is out February 9th on Bella Union. 
Hear "Love You So Bad" on Best Song Ever


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#2


Superchunk feat. Waxahatchee & Stephin Merritt
Erasure

On the latest single from the band's upcoming eleventh album Mac Macaughan enlists Katie Crutchfield a.k.a. Waxahatchee and The Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt for some hard rocking power pop about letting go of the past. Mac delivers some insanely catchy melodies, Katie lends some killer harmonies, and Merritt brings the beritone, over epic, screeching guitars. 

What A Time To Be Alive is out February 16th on Merge Records
Hear "What A Time To Be Alive" on Best Song Ever


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#3


Jay Som
Pirouette

Last year Melina Duterte delivered the fantastic Everybody Works as Jay Som. The band's performance was one of my favorites at Mopop this year. She delivers this breezy, bouncy outtake from Everybody Works, with some smooth and spiky guitar tones and Melina's low key vocals that slide into a sweet falsetto. While this song would've been a welcome addition to the last album, this song is solid on it's own. 

Listen on Bandcamp


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#4


Frankie Cosmos
Jesse

Greta Kline is back with the first single from Frankie Cosmos' sophomore album, and this song promises that there will be no sophomore slump. Greta begins the song, singly meekly over bare, intimate guitar, before building to a big rock chorus. This songs takes the dreamy indie-rock sound of their first album and adds a bit of a rock edge. 

Vessel is out March 30th on SubPop


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#5


Karen O feat. Michael Kiwanuka
Yo! My Saint

Last year the Kenzo perfume company announced their new fragrance with a short film directed by Spike Jonze set to music by Sam Spiegel, Jonze's brother, and Assassin. This time Kenzo elists Yeah Yeah Yeah's mastermind Karen O, and English singer/songwriter Michael Kiwanuka, who you may know from his amazing 2016 album Love & Hate and his song "Cold Little Heart" which is the Big Little Lies theme song. Michael and Karen trade off haunting vocal performances in a song that has a few interesting phases that are made even more powerful when watching the film. 


Music Videos


Best Albums of 2017

Luke LaBenne | December 30, 2017

I could not have made it through 2017 without all the amazing music that was released during the year. This is a list of 100 artists that shared their ideas and experiences to connect us all through song. These albums listed are just a fraction of the wonderful music that come out during the year but every album on this list is worthy of multiple listens. So as a thank you to all the musicians who helped us get through the year, let's support them by enjoying and appreciating their work. 

Setlist: Roger Waters @ The Palace of Auburn Hills August 2nd, 2017

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Last night, thousands of Michiganders crammed into The Palace of Auburn Hills to see legendary Pink Floyd mastermind Roger Waters. The show that Roger and his band put on was truly a spectacle, the likes of which I've never seen before. He played two sets beginning with the Dark Side of The Moon opener "Speak To Me/Breathe," played some of his new songs as well as selections from other classic Floyd albums The Wall and Wish You Were Here. His backing band was phenomenal, including Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig from Lucius and, as Roger put it, "Our obligatory hippie from LA" Eisley's Jonathon Wilson. The song "Wish You Were Here" is one of my favorite songs of all time and one of the first I learned on guitar so it was really special to see him perform that song. During "Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 2" children took to the stage in orange prison jumpsuits which they ultimately ripped off, revealing shirts that read, "RESIST." Roger went easy on Trump in the first set but didn't hold back for the second. After playing "Dogs" the band put on animal masks and toasted with champagne, then busted into "Pigs (Three DIfferent Ones)". A faux-Animals factory made of screens, on which they projected images of Trump with a tiny penis, as a baby in Putin's hands, and ended by projecting some of his worst quotes on the screen then the final blow read, "Trump Is A Pig" This prompted a small group of people in my section to walk out with middle fingers held high. The show easily could've ended after DSOTM closers "Brain Damage" and "Eclipse" (in which a giant prism with rainbow lights ala the album cover was projected). However, he finished it off with a few tracks from The Wall, ending with the classic "Comfortably Numb." As the band finished out Roger went down into the crowd and shook fans' hands. At 73 years old Waters is still a performance powerhouse, political critic, and all around cool dude. Not only did he play some of the greatest Pink Floyd songs from their 4 greatest albums but he created a one of a kind sensory experience. Find the unbelievable setlist below.

Jams: Week of June 16th


Albums


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Jason Isbelle and the 400 Unit The Nashville Sound

Jason Isbell recently appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and Trevor made it clear that he prefers to be labeled as a “folk singer” rather than a “country singer.” While the focus is clearly storytelling in his music, you can’t help but hear the southern influence in the music and his voice. Isbell walks that line, being a folk singer in a country world. His band the 400 Unit assist in creating crisp country compositions, with twangy slide guitars and Jason’s wife Amanda Shires, a musician herself, contributes vocals and fiddle. On this album Jason proves that he’s progressive, tackling topics that country singers wouldn’t go near. However, the first two songs on the album find him putting himself in the shoes of those who fight and fear progress. The album opener “Last of My Kind” follows a country boy who can’t adjust to life in the city. This is followed by the hard-rocking “Cumberland Gap” in which a coal miner’s kid is trapped in an rural town who turns to drinking, demonstrating that “ the Cumberland Gap just swallows you whole.” On “White Man’s World” he examines sexism through the lens of his daughter’s future, and tackles racism and white privilege, acknowledging everything that he has at the expense of others. He delivers some off-kilter love songs with “If We Were Vampires” and “Molotov” in which he chronicles his and Amanda’s love story (spoiler: they meet at a County Fair, that’s as country as a love story can get). Jason opens up about his anxiety on the aptly titled “Anxiety.” He ends the album with the most unifying and optimistic tracks, “Hope The High Road” where he muses “Wherever you are I hope the high road leads you home again, to the world you wanna live in,” and the album closer “Something to Love” where the couple sings their hopes for their daughter, “I hope you find something to love, something to do when you feel like giving up.” A couple years ago this would have even been too country for me to listen to, and now it’s one of my favorite albums of the year. The main message that comes through on this album is one of love and understanding. Hear me play “Last of My Kind” on Best Song Ever.


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Fleet Foxes Crack-Up

Fleet Foxes return with their first album in 5 years. Over that time frontman Robin Pecknold went back to college, did some soul searching, and found his way back to music. You can tell the band has matured and the music has matured along with them. These songs are more restrained, expansive, and experimental with bare and dissonant stretches that evolve in melodic flourishes. Fleet Foxes have always walked the line between folk and indie-rock but on this album they really lean into their folk sensibilities. Songs are mostly acoustic with some piano, strings, and electric guitar rounding out the compositions, and of course their signature harmonies are back in full force. This band has always felt like they were from another time, yet even they are not immune to political commentary. They attack topics like patriarchy and division subtly and with poetic flare. This album isn’t as flashy or infectious as the bands previous work. Rather than putting this one to sing along with your friends, this is a piece of work to be absorbed into, sinking into the rich harmonies and carefully placed, atmospheric layers. Hear me play “Third of May/Odaigahara” on Best Song Ever.


Jams: Week of June 2nd


Albums


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Roger Waters Is This The Life We Really Want?

“Teacher Leave Those Kids Alone.” “Welcome To The Machine.” “Charade You Are.” For over 40 years Roger Waters delivered poetic political commentary through progressive rock as a member of one of the greatest bands of all time, Pink Floyd. Now, Donald Trump and the rise of populism all around the world has brought the man out of retirement to give us some much needed musical therapy. Last year, Roger came out swinging at a show in Mexico City, projecting images of Trump and assigning that iconic “Pigs” lyric on to him, “Charade You Are.” Though the other members aren’t present this feels like a new Pink Floyd album, demonstrating how integral Waters was to the band’s sound (see bass players are important). Full with audio collages, experimental jams, and soaring ballads, activating the nostalgia of Floyd fans while feeling of the moment. This album covers so much ground, tackling old staples like corporate greed, war culture, and refugees that sadly are just as relevant now as they were in the band’s heyday. Though it paints an accurately melancholy picture of our world, this album is addictive. Songs either are smooth and bouncy progressive jams, reminiscent of classics like “Have A Cigar” and “Another Brick In The Wall" or unbearably beautiful epics in the vein of “Wish you Were Here” and “Comfortably Numb.” I find myself reminded of the fact that Roger was a contemporary of David Bowie, there are some similarities in their writing and they are some of the finest songwriters of all time. It’s awesome to see Roger back and better than ever the year after we lost Bowie. This album feels like a visit from an old friend, and though the world is falling apart around us at least we have each other. 


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Noga Erez Off The Radar

Gal Gadot isn't the only Wonder Woman to come out of Tel Aviv, the city in Israel is also home to one of music's most talented and fearless new musicians, Noga Erez. The producer/singer/rapper makes sharply crafted electronic music full of wisdom and political commentary. Skeletal electronics shift into rich, melodic flourishes, with inventive electronic sounds perfectly place. Noga Erez happened to emerge during an increasingly insane time in global politics. Corruption and incompetence aren't limited to any one nation or government, and women who speak out are often at risk of verbal and physical harm. Noga's music was released with the backdrop of the women's marches, the #shepersisted incident, and all the battles of women fighting for their rights and safety all over the world. It would be enough for this album to be technically impressive or socially essential, but somehow it's both. Hear as we listen to "Dance While You Shoot" on Best Song Ever.


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Smidley Smidley

One of the year's strangest and quirkiest albums is also one of it's most raw and powerful. Foxing's Conor Murphy named his new project after his dog that died, demonstrating the line this album walks, both goofy and beautiful. Dead friends, self-loathing, pill addiction: he tackles these topics with just the right amount of levity and desperation. "Dead retrievers are all golden." "No one likes you." "I love every moment when I'm fucked up." These expressive, self-deprecating lines work their way into your brain and mirror Conor's inner monologue. Switching from measured folk to explosive alt-rock, Murphy wanders around yet find his way back to repetitive choruses with ear-worm melodies. This album highlights the exuberant and confounding absurdity of life. It's a surprisingly accomplished debut. Hear as we listen to "Dead Retrievers" on Best Song Ever.


Jams: Week of May 5th

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Albums


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Logic Everybody

Sir Robert Bryson Hall III a.k.a. Bobby Tarantino a.k.a. Logic is one of the fiercest most enlightened young rappers out today. Known for his creative album concepts, eye-catching album art, and not to mention lightning fast rhyming abilities, Logic takes it to the next level on his third studio album. He uses anecdotes and lessons he’s learned being a light-skinned bi-racial man living in America to examine racial tensions and the current political climate with one goal, to bring EVERYBODY together. We get insight into his difficult childhood, with both parents addicted to drugs and his white mom exhibiting racism towards her biracial children. He also inhabits the mindset of many different kinds of people to make it feel like an inclusive experience that everyone can relate to. Not only are Logic’s informed and insightful lyrics back by fantastic production by producer 6ix, Logic himself, and more, but it also feature’s an amazing cast of contributors. Rap legends Black Thought, Chuck D, and Killer Mike but also newcomers Damian Lamar Hudson, Alessia Cara, and Kalid, and frequent collaborators Big Lenbo, Lucy Rose, and Damian Lamar Hudson (Quincy Jones even contributed on a song). On his major label debut The Incredible True Story Logic took the classic rap trope of skits throughout and uses them to establish a grand narrative to his albums. The narrative on this album is his best yet, a story of a man who dies, existing in a “waiting room” as “god” explains life and the afterlife to him. The best part: god is voiced by astrophysicist and all around awesome dude Neil Degrasse Tyson. There is also a cryptic announcement that I won’t spoil here you have to listen to the whole album. This is Logic’s finest work yet I could really  write about it forever. There is so much awesome supporting material for this album. Check out Logic and Neil talk about life, music, and art for Complex and check out Logic talking break down every song on the album for Genius.


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Perfume Genius No Shape

Mike Hadreas is back with the fourth album as Perfume Genius and he takes his sound to astounding new heights. Over the course of his first three albums, Hadreas has gone from more bare and basic folk compositions to more exciting elaborate compositions. On this album he goes even further with producer Blake Mills, they make his sound and bright and explosive and is it tender and vulnerable. So many bold and daring choices are made on this album, whether it’s the synths, the meter, the melody, the rhythm, so many parts are tweaked and altered in ways to make every moment delightfully unpredictable. Unlikely elements are forced together and work vexingly well. Hadreas’ fragile voice holds it’s own against the sonic tornado occurring around it, with gorgeous melodies compliments the heart-wrenching yet uplifting lyrics. Hadreas changes tone from the wise older brother vibe of “Just Like Love” to the sexy strutting of “Go Ahead” whatever emotion he’s exuding it’s delivered with a smooth steady voice. Hadreas speaks from experience, having been persecuted for his sexuality, his experiences being an addict, his experience suffering from Crohn’s disease and tries to deliver some truth. As the title tells us “Shape” is the major theme on this album on “Slip Away” the repeated refrain is “Love they’ll never break the shape we take,” on “Every Night” he pleads with an energy he feels (ghost, interdemensional being) to take shape and reveal itself, and on “Wreath” he dreams, “I wanna hover with no shape” longing to exist free of his body and gender. It’s perfect that this album came out the same day as Logic’s Everybody because that line is a mirror image of Logic’s line from Black Spiderman, “I don’t wanna be black I don’t wanna be white I just wanna be a man today. I don’t wanna be christian, muslim, gay, straight, or bi, see you later bye.” Hadreas wrote the music for all these before the lyrics, so the instrumentals display the emotions just as well as the lyrics. This record captures the struggles that affect, not just gay men, but so many of us who try to live our truth without being devoured by our own destructive urges. Just like life this album has ups and downs that all take different shapes (see what i did there). The highs reach unseen heights and the lows are  yet beautiful. This album is anecdotal, romantic, introspective, cosmic, existential, spiritual and timely. That is an nearly impossible combination to capture and here it’s done masterfully. Hear me play my favorite song of the year “Slip Away” on Best Song Ever.


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Walter Martin My Kinda Music

The Walkmen’s Walter Martin is back with his signature brand of incessantly catchy, cleverly casual, fourth wall breaking folk music. The follow up to last year’s fantastic Art’s and Leisure find Martin outfitting his acoustic guitar compositions with twangy guitars, call and response background vocals, bongos, and cartoonish sound effects that never detract but add to the playful, island vibe of the album. As you can tell from the title Martin often talks about music in the song, like on the album opener “Wishing Well” where he wishes for guitar solo, or the titular “My Kinda Music” where  The album highlight for me is the song “Hey Matt” where Walter seeks guidance on how to write a song from The National’s Matt Berninger, who readily offers a verse of advice. It ends with a hilarious exchange where Walter admits that Matt wasn’t his first choice he had first asked Randy Newman. Matt asks, “You really asked Randy Newman to sing on this song?” Walt responds, “Yea I did actually/” Though Berninger makes this song amazing Newman would’ve been a good choice since Walt’s style is clearly influenced by him. Martin remains one of the most creative folk storytellers, whether he’s telling his daughter a bedtime story or charting his ancestry he makes it fun and breezy. I can’t think of another who writes music quite like Walter Martin, it really is a one of a kind experience listening to one of his albums.


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Christopher Paul Stelling Itinerant Arias

So much of the music on this list is political. It’s unavoidable at this point and I actually kind of want to thank Donald Trump for being such an abomination that he’s inspired so much awesome protest music. Country/folk singer Christopher Paul Stelling’s fourth album offers comfort to the scared and criticism to those in power. From gentle folk ballads to big bluesy compositions with horns, Stelling’s smokey voice is an apt companion for these turbulent times. This is a beautiful album of well constructed protest folk. I’m going to keep this one short because the artist can say it all better himself.  Check out NPR’s feature where CPS gives a brief description of how he wrote the songs and their meaning, read it here.


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Cayetana New Kind of Normal

Philly rock band Cayetana teased their sophomore album, putting two of it’s songs on a split EP with Camp Cope. It got me excited to hear more music from them and now it’s here. New Kind Of Normal draws on the reality that humans will eventually adjust to even the most jarring or horrific conditions. Whether it’s prison, slavery, or captivity, while escape and freedom are constantly in your mind a routine is eventually established and the unthinkable becomes the status quo. Cayetana frontwoman Augusta Coch extends this idea and applies it to suffering from depression, getting comfortable in emotions that feel unbearable. I’ve felt this and seen it others who suffer from depression how it almost becomes comforting to stay in the mindset of “all is lost.” This becomes The New Kind of Normal rather than take the more difficult path of trying to take positive steps toward change, you take the easier path of inactivity and pain. If only it were so simple, over the course of this album we hear Augusta’ struggle between wanting to be better and turn her back on her destructive habits, as it applies to love and relationships, and the crippling doubt and regret that keep her in that comfortably uncomfortable state. This album provides like-minded listeners badass inspiration rock, not acting like everything is ok, but trying to be better and keep moving. I really just enjoyed their catchy pop-punk vibes and I had no idea how powerful and profound the upcoming album would be. This is a beautiful yet painful portrait of depression and uncertainty. Hear Brian and I listen to “Certain For Miles” and discuss the album’s meaning on Best Song Ever.


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Fazerdaze Morningside

New Zealand singer/songwriter Amelia Murray released her debut EP as Fazerdaze in 2014 and she was picked up by Flying Nun Records (don’t drop her!). Now her debut full length is here and it’s a great introduction to the world. Murray ornaments crunchy guitars with echoey synths and vocal effects, striking the perfect balance of dreamy and immediate. Fazerdaze is the perfect description of her sound, as the songs are rocking and danceable yet they’re surrounded by hypnotic compositions that put you in a daze. It seems like every other song or album that is sent to me is some dream-pop or hazy indie-rock and it really makes a lot of them blend together. However, Amelia Murray manages to lull you into the dreaminess and then take you off guard by rocking super hard. We are seeing more artists play every role in making a record, and Murray is no exception, playing all instruments, as well as mixing and mastering. This is a well done debut that promises some great music from her in the future. Hear Brian and I listen to “Lucky Girl” and discuss on the new episode of Best Song Ever.


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Mac Demarco This Old Dog

Mac is back baby, with his dreamy synths and guitar tones, crooning about life and love over hazy, shimmering instrumentals. As the title shows you, Mac is getting older and I feel like this fact is captured throughout the album. Whether it’s seeing more of his “old man” in himself, or pledging his love to his counterpart, we see a more mature and grounded Mac than we’ve seen in the past. I loved his first couple albums but soured on him a bit after 2015’s Another One because it was all too hazy that i felt the songs didn’t stand out from each other. However, on this album he successfully injects some immediacy into his hazy instrumentals, with more crisp acoustic guitar parts balanced with dreamy guitar and synths. Mac really channels his folk roots on this album and it assists in delivering some of the catchiest and most insightful songs that he’s written in recent years. 


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Slowdive Slowdive

British band Slowdive have been delivering shoegaze/dream pop since the late 80’s who enjoyed success, worked with legend Brian Eno, and ultimately disbanded in 1995. They reformed in 2014 and now bring us their first album in 22 years. They broke up after being dropped from the label when their sound changed, but their classic style is alive and well on this new album. Though many of the songs are driving and catchy the guitars are echoey and twinkling as vocals are soft and buried in sound. Songs may start sharp but melt into a dreamy mist. I was never a huge fan of this band or shoe gaze in general, it always just seemed like the most boring genre, with some exceptions. However, this album is super engaging and beautiful. This is a great album to throw on, relax, and sink into the haze.


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Blondie Pollinator

Legendary rock band Blondie reunited many years ago and have released a few albums, but for their eleventh album they enlisted some all-star musical talent to breathe new life into their retro-act. Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes, Tv On The Radio’s Dave Sitek, Sia, and Charli XCX all contributed on the album and my favorite producer John Congleton produced, making the album sound fantastic. Debbie Harry has always been a magnetic frontwoman and she doesn’t miss a step on this record. This album starts strong with driving, bouncy rock tracks reminiscent of the band’s early work. However, as it goes in it loses it focus and goes off into some strange directions. Some synths are a bit too abrasive and some lyrics goofy and off putting. Needless to say I don’t think this will be topping year end lists, but it's still a fun and enjoyable listen for fans of the band of rock royalty.


Songs


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LCD Soundsystem Call The Police/American Dream

Ahead of their SNL debut last weekend, LCD Soundsystem released the first two singles from their upcoming follow up to 2010’s This Is Happening an album that was intended to be their last. Following their epic last show at Madison Square Garden (chronicled in the doc Shut Up and Play The Hits) where the likes of Donald Glover where in attendance and Reggie Watts and Arcade Fire’s Win Butler appeared on stage, the crew took a 7 year hiatus. Now they’re back with two expansive politically charge singles, and it’s good to hear from an old friend in these trying times. They rocked both of them on SNL with Nancy Whang donning a Bad Hombres shirt showing Trump and Putin’s faces. The first song Call The Police is the upbeat banger of the two, reminiscent of the groups earlier work, and it covers a lot of ground. The refrain, “We don’t waste time with love” could be the motto of the Republican party, feeling especially relevant after they signed the bill taking healthcare away from 24 million people. He also brings the alt-right to mind talking about debating “the history of the jews.” American Dream chronicles the morning after an insightful acid trip and one night stand. The slow shimmering track captures the despair and disconnection of the times juxtaposing it with the idea of the “American dream.” It’s amazing to have this band back and both of these singles are more than I could’ve hoped for from their return. No details on the album yet but it’s due this year. Hear Brian and I listen to “Call The Police” and discuss on Best Song Ever.


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The National The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness

The National frontman Matt Berninger warned people who think their music is too slow and depressing to wait for what they have planned for the next album. Boy was he right, this new song hits hard. Beginning with a heavenly chorus of female voices, ominous piano then hits over an electronic beat, before the heavy guitar riff that returns throughout the song. Thumping toms drive the song, and electronics flutter as Berniger’s signature Beritone delivers some classic National melodies, staying in his lower register until the soaring chorus build where he passionately cries, “I can’t explain it any other way.” While Berninger said a lot of this album will be about the struggles of marriage, as his wife Carin often consults and helps him write songs (there’s a song on this track list called “Carin At The Liquor Store”) this one is notably more political. Matt Berninger has this to say, "That one, for me, is a hibernation—the dark before the dawn sort of thing. That one’s less about relationships than it is more of the strange way our world and our idea of identity mutates—sometimes overnight, as we’ve seen recently. It’s an abstract portrait of a weird time we’re in." I feel like this is one of the most upbeat, rocking songs that The National has made in a long time. While it’s still textured and nuanced as we’d expect, they exhibit the edge that people often overlook. If you’ve ever seen this band live it’s laughable to call them boring of depressing, with Matt’s furious screams that are often subtly mixed into recordings, and the bands passionate performance. This song and the album that follows will surely put the haters to rest. I’m beyond excited for this album, it’s exciting to see an already amazing band brave new territory in an uncertain time. The follow up to 2013’s fantastic Trouble Will Find Me is called Sleep Well Beast out September 8th on 4AD.


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Grizzly Bear Three Rings

The final of the three indie-rock titans that released new music this week comes from Grizzly Bear. Unlike the two preceding this song is not political and really just seems like a beautiful heart-breaking love song. The verses a brooding yet beautiful, with layered synths and guitars making and dark, dreamy atmosphere that feels uncomfortable and uncertain a little bit. Not only does this capture how Ed Droste is feeling in the song, but for fans who have been awaiting new music from them for 5 years, it's suspenseful wondering will they have changed too much, will this pay off like it usually does. The song carefully builds to it's crescendo with Ed pleading, "Don't you ever leave me // Don't you know that I could make it better." First this is sung with modest instrumentation before blooming into gleaming peak reminiscent of classic tracks like, "Ready, Able." Since my girlfriend follows Busy Phillips Instagram religiously, Ed is her good friend and hearing this song brought her to tears. This song is a subtle show stealer, holding back before blowing you away. We'll get more word on when to expect the album soon.


Videos


Jams: Week of April 28th

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Gorillaz Humanz

The long awaited return of Damon Albarn’s cartoon gang falls in line with some of the years best albums, indirectly commenting on political tensions through engaging music. while there are many moments on this 26-track epic that are reminiscent of Gorillaz past sound that we know and love. However, a good deal of the album takes Gorillaz electronic proclivity and pushes into overdrive, with most of the album dominated by thumping techno beats, with samples and a range vocals coming in and out. Albarn set out to paint a dystopian image of Trump’s presidency (which he really does need any help doing) and the result is an album that feels like scenes from a nightclub at the end of the world. Albarn himself makes minimal appearances and instead lends most of the album to an insane list of features, some household names like Pusha T, Vince Staples, and Mavis Staples, and some newcomers like Benjamin Clementine deliver awesome debut performances. This makes the album feel intentionally disjointed, which I appreciate, but I can’t help missing the Damon Albarn dominated Gorillaz albums of the past. Alongside Plastic Beach and Demon Days, as a whole this one is not one of my favorites. But on it’s own it’s an amazing return and there are standout tracks that will go down in history as Gorillaz classics. 


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Sylvan Esso What Now

When vocalist Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn joined forces in 2014 to become Sylvan Esso, they found a cozy spot somewhere in between synth pop and indie-rock. Their first album was ground-breaking and topped many year end lists. Their sophomore effort takes their style even further, reaching new heights of glimmering electronic pop. Amelia reflects on her youth, love, death, the music industry, and society as whole and finds some truth in all of it. Whether the songs are  driving bangers like “Radio” and “The Glow” or bare, vulnerable coos like “Sound” and “Slackjaw” these songs hit even harder and sound even sweeter than the groups already astounding debut. Hear Brian and I talk about Sylvan Esso and listen to “Kick Jump Twist” on Best Song Ever.


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Morning Teleportation Salivating for Symbiosis

On their sophomore album the Kentucky-based rock band pushes the boundaries of genre, balancing flowing melodies with innovation and experimentation. Songs on this album are solid folk rock tunes at the structural level, but the band pushes it further, whether with big horn arrangements, mid-song style shifts, and interesting effects and production tricks. Every track brings a new vibe and element to the table, “Rise and Fall” begins with Cat Stevens-esque acoustic picking, “The Code” follows it up with dark and bouncy horn-rock. The driving rock of “Calm Is Intention Devouring It’s Frailty” is permeated by a funky experimental groove, ending in a gorgeous twinkling piano composition. Next, the odd and comical “Rocks Gears Desert Trucking” is followed by the more socially relevant tracks like “Escalate” with the chorus, “Things are starting to escalate and I don’t want you to evaporate.” the explosive “Riot In Time” and the titular “Salivating for Symbiosis” a heartfelt plea for unity and connection. Following the catchy guitar driven, “Turning The Time” they referencing “The Code’ lyrics with instrumental “A Cell Divides” This is an incredibly ambitious and eclectic album, not only will songs and melodies plant themselves firmly into your brain, but the songs have instrumental and intellectual levels that are not always present in indie-rock. This album’s phenomenal instrumentation features contributions from Mimicking Birds’ Aaron  Hanson, Cage The Elephant’s Daniel Tichenor, and Death Cab For Cutie’s Dave Depper. This band delivered a spirit of inventiveness into a genre that is desperately in need. Check out the new episode of Best Song Ever where I play "Calm Is Intention Devouring It's Frailty" and we ask frontman Tiger Merritt fro his birth certificate.


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Shugo Tokumaru Toss

Japanese multi-instrumentalist Shugo Tokumaru has been making On his new album he enlisted musicians from all over the world to record parts and he assembled them into one of the most earth-shattering combination of sounds. Shugo outfits bouncy folk tunes and tender ballads with all manner of effects and experimentation. This “cut-and-paste” style never makes the songs feel disjointed, it is all well balanced and thoughtfully placed to add to the experience. Deerhoof drummer Greg Sunier delivers incredible drum parts, following all the twists and turns the songs take. Though I don’t know what the lyrics say Shugo’s vocals are lovely and heartfelt. Songs with vocals are broken up by instrumental compositions, whether it’s the cartoonish symphony of “Cheese Eye” or the bare guitar work of “Dody” these add nice intermissions and preludes for the exciting tracks that follow. Though Shugo has been making music for a while this album is really his greatest accomplishment yet, really putting him on the map as one of modern music’s great inventors. This album is full of beautiful and catchy songs that constantly surprise the listener in the most delightful way possible. Hear Brian and I discuss and play “Hikageno” on Best Song Ever.


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Feist Pleasure

Leslie Feist returns with her first album in 6 years, and it’s a surprisingly bare yet beautiful departure from the polished folky pop-rock that made her a household name. She said that she kept the takes raw because that was her emotional state at the times. This album has a similar sonic environment to Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest with the space feeling large, dark, and echoey while it’s filled with thumping drums, bassy guitar strums. While the production is minimal songs do grow to be very grand and structurally Feist experiments with different rhythm’s and time signatures, so the songs don’t feel rushed or lazily assembled. Feist’s vocals are as always powerful and beautiful, and she’s occasionally backed by a leveling chorus of backup vocalists. This is a beautiful return for a beloved artist.


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Willie Nelson God's Problem Child

Willie Nelson has been a staple of the country music for like 2 of my lifetimes combined. The cover of Willie’s new album show’s Nelson cast in red light, looking down with an ocean of pain on his face. He expressed this pain over the course of the album in beautiful and sometimes fun ways. Whether he’s lamenting lost friends and fearing that the end of his life is near, or commenting on the political climate, Nelson deliver clever and heartfelt lyrics that cut deep. The title track feature Leon Russel, recorded shortly before his death, making the weight of Willie’s words even heavier. This album is a lovely expression from a music legend.


Songs


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Phoenix J-Boy

Beloved French indie-rock band Phoenix have been teasing new music for the past few months, with cryptic Instagram posts, and music for a Calvin Klein commercial starring Rashida Jones among others and directed by the great Sofia Coppola (who is married to Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars). Now they’ve delivered the first single of their upcoming album Ti Amo due June 9 on Glassnote Records. Once again Phoenix deliver bouncy, infectious synth pop with J-Boy which stands for Just Because of You. This is quite simply a love song, though he does look at some societal anecdotes and examines where the blame falls. The band said this album was inspired by a romanticized version of Italy and it’s themes are “simple, pure emotions: love, desire, lust, and innocence.” From the sound of it, they will be examining this idea of paradise and the harsh realities that often mar the picture of perfection. This first single is very promising that the follow up to 2013’s Bankrupt will be solid, though this band has never made a bad album so I’m not worried.


Videos


Jams: Week of April 21st

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Charly Bliss Guppy

If you’re like me you may think that you couldn’t love a pop punk band that channels 90’s rock and grunge with a cute blonde frontwoman with a high pitched voice. However, I was pleasantly surprised to  find the Brooklyn band Charly Bliss balances all of this masterfully and not only did I not hate them, but I became obsessed with them. Frontwoman Eva Grace Hendricks and guitarist Spencer Fox met in line at a Tokyo Police Club show and Charly Bliss was born. Eva’s high voice could’ve been the groups greatest detractor yet it is actually the greatest asset and helps make their music distinct. It also adds to her scream, which makes several appearances, it’s piercing peak feels so visceral and expressive. She can sound like Taylor Swift at her sweet or Kathleen Hannah at her fiercest. Eva’s writing revolves around friendships, relationships, and growing up. Often with self-deprecating humor, painting herself as a sort of bumbling anti-hero who you root for despite their follies. One of my favorite tracks “DQ” chronicles a time when she “bounced so high I peed the trampoline,” and she foresees a grim future for herself, “I’m gonna end up working at Dairy Queen.” Amidst the humor you hear the soul of a person who is just trying to find their way, and she taps into truths about youth, love, and growing pains. Every song on this album is in your face, super catchy, and rocks so hard, channeling the likes of Nirvana and Bikini Kill they are reminiscent of the 90’s while feeling perfectly suited for 2017. This album was not on my radar and now it’s shot up to the top of my list. Hear Brian and I talk about them and play their song “Black Hole” on Best Song Ever.


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Overcoats Young

Overcoats is band made up of besties, Hanna Elion and JJ Mitchell. They describe their sound as “Chet Faker meets Simon & Garfunkle” which is a good way to describe it. I’ve said they’re do synth pop in the vein of Sylvan Esso but with a bluesy country/folk influence like Fiona Apple or KT Tunstall. It makes sense that they are such close friends, hearing how their voices move together almost telepathically to create heavenly harmonies over flawlessly assembled electronic compositions. They sing about love, loss and family, on the opener “Father” and closer “Mother” they examine these themes through the lens of parents. I would usually be turned off to another female synth pop band who sings about love, but they do it so well and sound so perfect it’s hard not to love them. On “23” they chronicle a marriage that happened too young, on “Siren” they counsel a girl who’s just had her heart broke, and on my personal favorite track “Nighttime Hunger” they long for the love of a man, though recognizing the inclination to be alone, while tapping into the frenetic regret and loneliness that can hit when you’re up at night while everyone else sleeps. This an astounding debut album, it is beautiful and innovative from start to finish. I’m bout to play them on the podcast (don’t tell Brian) and I’m having a hard time deciding whether to see them or The xx and Sampha, so head over to @BestSongEverPod on Facebook or Twitter and cast your vote in the poll.


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Real Life Buildings Significant Weather

Brooklyn has delivered some incredible indie-rock in recent years. The Epoch collective bands like Bellows, Told Slant, and the band formerly known as Eskimeaux have given some great albums. Not to mention, Vagabon which gave us one of the best albums of the year so far. Laetitia Tamco who is the voice and mind behind Vagabon, along with Crying’s Elaiza Santos, back up frontman Matthew Van Asselt to add to the lexicon of great rock coming out of Brooklyn. This band does carry on the same style of those Brooklyn bands I mentioned, with 90’s/early aughts emo and indie-rock influences, songs often begin bare and deceptive, exploding unpredictably into power pop hooks. Matthew’s soft shaky vocals make song feel very vulnerable. Yet with this band of heavy hitters they take that sound and maximize it, making it rock even harder, often taking the listener by surprise.  Laetitia and Elaiza adds some lovely backup vocals and harmonies, and Elaiza’s keys add a really interesting feel to this style that you don’t hear too often. Matt’s lyrics stem from simple thoughts like his key not working in a door, or a picture of a sunset on Instagram, then they meandering with stream-of-consiousness trails leading to relatable truths about finding your way through life and figuring out your purpose. His writing feels very casual with random thoughts assembled together, making it feel like your friend is talking to you trying to connect many different examples to make a point. All songs kind of bleed together seamlessly, yet take on their own personality throughout. This is a fantastic second album from my favorite new indie-rock supergroup. Hear when Brian played their song “Tare” on Best Song Ever.


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Sevdaliza ISON

Born in Iran, and raised in the Netherlands, Sevda Alizadeh became a successful basketball player and walked away from a position in the corporate world to pursue music. It’s a good thing she did too, because not only is she skilled when it comes to sports, business, and academics (she has a master’s in communications), but she’s an extremely gifted songwriter and performer. Over the past couple years she’s released two EP's, remixed one of her songs with A$AP Ferg, dropped her first Persian language track in protest of the travel ban, and now her debut full-length is on the horizon. This album doesn’t feel like a debut though, because her sound is already so refined. She worked with frequent collaborator, Mucky, which is both his name and the perfect way to describe the production on this album. These songs do a lot with very little, every sound feels meticulously placed, and small changes have a big effect. These songs can by moody, sexy, eerie, and lovely. To read the rest of my thoughts on this fantastic album head over to Ghettoblaster Magazine and subscribe and check out when I played "Marilyn Monroe" on Best Song Ever.


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Eric Slick Palisades

Eric Slick is the drummer for one of my favorite bands, Dr. Dog, and now he’s released his debut which is in stark contrast with the band’s sound. However, some of Dr. Dog’s folk-rock structures and hymnal melodies have stuck with Eric, yet his production is a bit more chaotic. Eric breaks up finely assembled folk compositions with noise-rock bursts, adding an interesting edge to the sound. His vocals are often soft and restrained yet with passionate swells at the right moment. This album take a bunch of crazy turns, it can go from bouncy and modest, to ominous and epic. Eric recently moves from Philly to North Carolina and he underwent meditations and dream therapy to help him through it, the result was this collection of songs chronicling the experience. This accounts for the dreamy vibe of many of the songs. I always enjoy seeing a supporting member of a band step out from behind the kit and show us a side of them we hadn’t previously seen. This is a well done debut and establishes Eric as a standalone creative force.


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Joe Goddard Electric Lines

Here we have another member from a band I love breaking off and doing their own thing. The driving force behind Hot Chip’s infectious synth compositions, Joe Goddard, has released his first proper solo album, making dance music more soulful that I thought was possible. Electric Lines, stands up beside much of Hot Chip’s catalog, which is rare when a member’s solo work is as fully formed as their work with a band. Goddard blends bouncy synth-pop with funk and soul samples added in. Like any dance record you expect excessive repetition, yet Goddard knows how to add in elements to keep the listener engaged throughout. Goddard himself adds some auto-tuned soaked vocals, yet many of the instrumentals can standalone. English vocalist SLO contributes soaring vocals on two songs, making them feel more like full-fledged pop songs. Goddard continues to innovate in the field of electronics, adding interesting synth tones and vocal effects. This record is not only one of the best dance albums I’ve heard in a while, but it’s also one of the best side-project/solo albums I’ve heard this year.


Songs


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DJ Shadow feat. Nas Systematic

Every year this time the HBO show Silicon Valley starts up again, a day I anxiously wait for. The show is packed with comedy actors I adore and they always find away to paint our heroes into a corner right before they cut to credits, making you ache for next’s week episode. The music that ends each episode is crucial to making the stakes feel high. Last year, an episode ended with “Nobody Speak” by DJ Shadow feat. Run The Jewels which alerted the world to the fact that DJ Shadow was returning, shortly after he delivered The Mountain Will Fall. Shadow also tags this season’s premier with another legendary rapper by his side. Over a badass driving beat, Nas, gives killer verses about how “the system is fucked”, his dream of selling guns in the hood, talking about investing in startups, and “methodical corporate culture.” All this feels fitting following the scene where Gavin Belson moves Jack Barker's desk to the basement across from the men’s room, all over a minor travel squabble. I’m not sure if this song will appear on another release from Shadow, but one can only hope. It’s just good to see two heavy hitters team up to add to the already high quality of Silicon Valley.


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Michigander Fears

Jason Singer a.k.a. Michigander has enjoyed success while remaining unsigned. Though the band is in it’s infancy he’s released a handful of singles opened for the likes of Flint Eastwood and Ra Ra Riot and he’s playing MoPop Festival in Detroit this summer. I feel like he has the potential to be an inescapable pop-rock act. His songs are so catchy, his lyrics heartfelt and passionate, and his vocals soaring and emotive. All this is demonstrated in his new single “Fears” Over a bouncy composition with thunderous drums and twinkling keys, he pleads with a lover in the chorus, “You can go but just don’t leave me. Cuz I need to feel your heart beating.” This is the latest of many beautiful and infectious singles that Michigander has released recently. He has quickly become one of my favorite local acts to root for and I am anxiously awaiting his debut full length. No word on when that will be yet but until then enjoy this song and check out when I played “Nineties” on Best Song Ever.


Videos


'Cause All I Do Is Dance: The Best of Gorillaz

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The year was 2005. The video for a song called, "Feel Good Inc" was all over VH1 and MTV. I was a lad of 15, and I was unable to discern what I was seeing. Was it a band? Was it a rap group? Was it both? Why was the song being sung by a cartoon? I then went on to discover the genius of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, creating the world's first digital band, with music that ventures into every genre possible with big name features, and animated accompanying films that follow our heroes through grand dystopian adventures. It wasn't until the release of Plastic Beach in 2010 that I made sure to watch every video and experience the saga of 2D, Murdoch, Noodle, and Russell. Now on the precipice of their highly anticipated album Humanz let's revisit the songs that earned them the title of GOAT and made us love a fictional band more than we ever thought possible. Here are 25 of my favorite Gorillaz songs. Let's be real, it's dominated by Demon Days and Plastic Beach, but there's tracks from their self-titled debut a few Humanz tracks and even a track from D-Sides. There has never been a band like Gorillaz and there never will be again. Check out some of my favorite Gorillaz videos below as well as the two new ones for Saturnz Barz and Hallelujah Money and check out the full playlist here.

Jams: Week of April 14th

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Kendrick Lamar DAMN.

Ladies and Gentlemen the king has returned, King Kendrick aka Kung Fu Kenny aka Cornrow Kenny aka Kenny Duckworth, whatever you call him he’s back and he once again is unrivaled making music of this quality on the scale that he does. Throughout the course of his career, Kendrick has chipped away at the mold of what a rapper can do and think and accomplish. Now in a fuck-bitches-get-money culture of hip hop ruling the radio Kendrick dares to be different and take chances, not just in his lyrics but in the musical styles he explores. Following the opening track where he gets shot trying to help a blind woman, Kendrick takes on Fox News, cops, and the government, low hanging fruit for rappers yet he does it better than anyone, and he examines what’s in his DNA stating, “Shit I been through probly offend you.” Most importantly Geraldo Rivera, who responded by saying Drake is better) Throughout this album you can find so many reasons that Kendrick is THE best rapper, not only is his writing profound, thought-provoking, exciting, but his physical capacity to deliver rhymes is truly staggering. The biggest thing that set him apart on this album is that he is, “HUMBLE.” While he partakes in braggadocio throughout (how could you not being him) this album is largely an examination of himself, with several confessions that he if flawed, which is the sort of thing you don’t hear much of in rap. On “FEEL” he explores a range of emotions and offers criticism of himself and the world around him, on “XXX” he examines the contradictory nature of wanting to stop black on black violence, yet counsels his friend to kill the man who killed his son. Not only does he depict the complexities of humanity, but he obviously contemplates the extremely complicated life of a black man in 2017. This complexities are mirrored in the two sided elemental song titles, “DNA” & “BLOOD”, “PRIDE” & “HUMBLE”, “LUST” & “LOVE,” showing that there are different sides and facets to all situations. Kendrick perfectly encapsulates the atrocities that black Americans endure, and offers a comforting and guiding voice for all of us, while admitting that he’s not perfect himself, “In a perfect world I’d be perfect, world.” In the past Kendrick has gotten stupid criticism for being too serious, but I feel like he still brings the party on tracks like, “LOYALTY” “HUMBLE” and “GOD,” “ELEMENT” is such a classic confidence boosting rap track, “Pull up, hop out, air out, made it look sexy.” Yet for fans of intellectual rap, the whole album is dense with philosophical pondering, astute wordplay, and cultural significance. Beside all that is sounds fucking amazing working with an all-star lineup of producers including Mike Will Made It, James Blake, and many more, as well as collaborators like Anna Wise and The Internet’s Steve Lacy, not to mention the big budget features of Rihanna and U2. I’ll end my review the same way the album ends, with the most amazing story told in recent rap history. Kendrick chronicles the youth of the perviously mysterious Anthony “Top Dog” Tiffith, C.E.O. of Top Dawg Entertainment. He tells Anthony’s plans to rob a KFC and shoot the cashier, Ducky, Kendrick’s dad, who gave Anthony free chicken and biscuits, resulting in him letting Ducky live. Years later Ducky’s son was signed to the label of the man who almost killed his dad. Kendrick blurs the lines, allowing pop and indie-rock to bleed into hip hop, and further secures his spot on the hip hop storyteller throne.


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Deep State Thought Garden

Athens, GA has a rich musical history. Cult-classic bands from the Elephant 6 collective like of Montreal, Elf Power, and Neutral Milk Hotel called Athens home. Now a band joins the ranks of Athens musical heritage with traces of it's predecessors. Founded by Taylor Chmura who, "wanted to form an aggressive/cathartic/punk band that was undeniably catchy.” That's exactly what he did, all of these songs are immediate and in your face, but with some of the most infectious melodies this side of the Mississippi. Taylor stated that he had so many melodies swirling in his head that he had to unleash them somehow. As the cover demonstrates the lyrics are pensive and clever, covering so much terrain with inescapable melodies they feel like concoctions brewed and perfected over time, growing in Chmura's thought garden until they were begging to be plucked and presented. This is punk at it's finest, balancing the raw "fuck you" attitude of old school punk with welcoming pop structures. Hear me play their song "Mountains" on Best Song Ever.


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Little Dragon Season High

Swedish Electro-pop band have been a mainstay of the indie music world for years and they’ve collaborated with the likes of Gorillaz, De La Soul, and Kaytranda. Yet on their new album they go in a bold new direction, channeling 80’s pop like Prince and Michael Jackson, which frontwoman Yukimi Nagano’s meek yet powerful vocals have no problem adjusting to. They made these songs to escape the gloomy days that waited outside and many of the tracks have that chill, slightly melancholy vibe. However, many of the tracks on this album are big synthpop jams. This album wins the award for most strange unique synth sounds packed into one record. I’m not a huge fan of 80’s pop so I’m surprised I enjoyed this album as much as I did, but also it’s Little Dragon and they would have to try hard to lose me as a fan. These songs have so much happening in them, but it all gels together to make a smooth synthetic storm. Hear Brian and I discuss this album and play “Celebrate” on Best Song Ever.


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Lillie Mae Forever and Then Some

Nashville singer/songwriter has been playing in bands since she was 9 years old, and for the past few years has lent her talents on fiddle and mandolin to Jack White’s tour band. Naturally, Jack repaid the favor by producing her debut album, Forever and Then Some, and releasing it on his own Third Man Records (that may mean it was pressed at the plant in Detroit, down the street from me). Lillie Mae Rische delivers a beautiful debut album, with rich yet subtle compositions of classic country instruments, outfitted with gorgeous orchestration that rounds out the powerful swells in her vocals. This is crisp, clean country, not surprising that this album sounds flawless considering White was at the helm. She sings of love, loss, regret, and coming home, through vulnerable ballads and toe-tapping honkey tonk jams. This is a beautiful debut and the latest in a long line of fine music that Jack White has produced.


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Spoek Mathambo Mzansi Beat Code

Veteran South African producer Spoek Mathambo has made a name for himself combining pulsing house and techno with hip hop, funk, injecting African folk influences to bring his native sound to a wider audience. That’s certainly what he does on his new album Mzansi Beat Code. Mzansi is the name for “south” in the local language so he is bringing the beat of the south of Africa to the world. He blurs the lines of genres, bouncing from repetative skeletal techno to melodic bouncy synth pop. This is the first album where Spoek didn’t contribute vocals on the album, and his focus on the instrumentals comes through as they are expertly constructed. Filling his spot is a long list of lesser known singers and rappers that give the varied vocal personalities to each song. This is Spoek’s best work yet and hopefully will spread the Mzansi beat far and wide.  Hear Brian talk about how these song remind him of LCD Soundsystem and we listen to the opener “Want Ur Love” on Best Song Ever.


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Shamir Hope

Shamir Bailey has been writing songs with an Epiphone guitar since age 9. Identifying as neither male of female, Shamir burst onto the scene in 2014 with a striking androgynous countertenor voice and a clever confidence. Shamir's 2015 debut Ratchet found Bailey singing and rapping over pulsing electronic beats, considered by many, myself included, as one of the best records of the year. However, Hope, is a stark contrast to the previous record, release entirely by surprise, even his manager didn't know. Shamir recorded every part on a four track recorder over a weekend. The most surprising part is that it's pretty much a straight up rock record, which makes sense considering the early Epiphone days, but this truly was a side of Shamir we had not yet seen. Shamir said that this record feels like a "coming out" since a coming out was never necessary, Shamir just existed and people figured it out. This is 100% Shamir's most personal record, the raw rock sound adds to the vulnerability heard on all of these tracks. Shamir tests the limits of countertenor vocal ability, with crescendos finding Bailey's voice so high it could break glass. While the debut record was more polished and produced this album is rough around the edges. This may result in some disappointed fans the support has mostly been really positive, appreciate the vulnerability of Shamir. Though these tracks are lo-fi and a bit abrasive at times this feels like deeply genuine expression from a practiced songwriter. You can find the full album on Shamir's soundcloud.


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Cotillon The Afternoons

In 2015 Cotillon, the rock project of Jordan Corso, made their debut with rocking self-titled album and now Jordan’s back with The Afternoons. The debut was recorded in San Francisco and Jordan wanted this to be a New York album so he left sunny California and made his way to the Big Apple (he chronicles the experience on “10 Dish Set"). Corso teamed up with Quilt's Shane Butler who felt Corso's music was fittingly representative of the city. The lyrics are cusually comfortable, speaking to the listener as if they're an old friend. This album finds Corse reinvigorating his sound, sliding from crunchy punk, breezy alt-rock, and more expansive rock tracks. This album is sounds fantastic with veteran players like John Andrews and Jon Nellen supporting. This is a successful next step for an already fantastic band. 


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Talib Kweli & Styles P The Seven

Any political rap album released this week is obviously going to overshadowed by DAMN., but if anyone could make one to stand beside King Kendrick, it's hip hop legends Talib Kweli and Styles P. These guys were heavy hitters in hip hop when I was growing up and getting into the genre. I've lost track of both of their careers since the mid aughts but I've been seeing their names resurface as features and now they've teamed up to deliver a much needed statement from our rap elders. It feels like business as usual, Kweli familiar voice is comforting and his writing is as sharp as ever. The two examine what it means to be black in America in 2017 and touch on the obvious topics. Joined by the usual suspects like Common and Jadakiss, this album feels reminiscent of a bygone era of rap, tailored for the current climate. 


Songs


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Logic Black Spiderman

I've been seriously obsessed with this song and video. For those of you who don't know Logic, the stage name of Bobby Bryson Hall III, is an insanely talented young rapper who's known for his creative concepts, eye-catching album art, and not to mention lightning fast rhyming abilities. His third studio album is shaping up to be his best yet. Like so many rappers he's drawing from the political and social climate, touching on issues like race and sexuality. His perspective is especially unique because he looks white for the most part, yet is biracial, putting him in a strange in between space, suffering the discrimination from racists and skepticism regarding his rapping from members of the black community. Yet his mindset is to rise above, be proud of who he is, and encourage others to do the same. The video for this song is amazing, you'll find it below, I love how he puts himself in the shoes of struggling single mothers and members of the LGBTQ community. This song has a feeling of joy in the face of adversity, not to mention Logic demonstrates his immense verbal talent and thoughtful writing skills. The chorus touches on the racist backlash of the call for Donald Glover to be the next Spiderman. Which, Tom Holland is pretty good, but I think we've seen enough white scrawny teenage Spidermen that casting Glover would be a cool reimagining. At least Glover is probably gonna be a cool villain in Homecoming though. I am so excited for Logic's new album Everybody out May 5th on Def Jam.


Videos


Jams: Week of April 7th

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Father John Misty Pure Comedy

What can you say about this album that Father John Misty doesn’t say on the album itself. This is a self-aware, prophetic, political, meta-masterpiece. On his first two albums as FJM Josh Tillman told stories of love and adventure, pages from the life of a Hollywood hipster, dense with sly sarcasm and cultural references. After a fully justified meltdown while playing a festival in the midst of the election cycle, Tillman decided to turn the focus of his music to skewering the frustrating customs and institutions of our country. He delivered probably one of the most daring and strange SNL performances, playing his 6 minute epic Pure Comedy, where he picks apart religion, politics, gender roles, and addiction. I was most excited when he played Total Entertainment Forever, which begins “Bedding Taylor Swift every night inside the oculus rift,” which garnered modest controversy, but I saw him play it at MoPop and thought it was a perfect cariciture of our entertainment addicted culture. Each song brings a new concept around this theme, whether it’s “Ballad of The Dying Man” in which he prophecies his own death, or the 13 minute “Leaving LA” in which he predicts the departure of many fans (ironic because i feel like he’s more popular than ever now) and tells a story of himself choking in a JC Penny’s as a kid. These songs are intelligent, deep, and though often sarcastic and satirist, heartfelt. I saw it in his face and heard it in his voice when he said to us at MoPop that he doesn’t mean to be insulting or pretentious. He offers kind warnings and paints a grim yet accurate picture of what the future holds. I played the titular “Pure Comedy” on Best Song Ever.


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Joey Bada$$ ALL AMERIKKKAN BADA$$

New York MC Joey Bada$$ has been making music since he was 15 years old, listening to his work it’s astounding how bright and insightful he is for his age. This is especially clear on his second full length, ALL AMERIKKKAN BADA$$. The 22 year old rapper presents musings on politics and race relations filtered through the lens of his life and experiences, giving these macro problems a individual perspective. In the lineage of great intellectual MC’s like Nas and Common, Joey speaks about the state of the world without feeling too preachy, rather feeling like a soldier in the ranks. The production on this album is so airy smooth, making these songs so inviting despite the sometimes tragic content contained within. Make no mistake this album is very bright and positive both musically and lyrically. Featuring the likes of Schoolboy Q and J. Cole, this album pushes Joey even further down the road to greatness. We always knew he was talented, but we’ve never seen him juggle social significance, personal expression, and sonic delight as effectively as he does on this album. Brian played the song "Rockabye Baby" on Best Song Ever. 


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Future Islands The Far Field

In 2014 Baltimore synth pop band Future Islands released Singles, it was their fourth album but it was the one that helped them gain notoriety. They made their Network TV debut playing Seasons (Waiting on You) which Pitchfork named the best song of the year. Now, they follow up their breakout album with The Far Field, carrying on their infectious synth compositions and Sam Herring’s unmistakeable, erratic vocals. The bright and bouncy instrumentals on this album are deceiving as the album largely focuses on the end of a relationship. Throughout the album Herring examines past relationships and the toll that being on the road takes. He often breaks the fourth wall, so to speak, talking about writing songs and being a musician, but it adds the context. Herring has such a strange voice that I wasn’t sure if I liked at first, but it’s so emotive and animated, so is his stage performance, that it’s endearing and powerful. Herring accepts the departure of his lover, understanding their motivations, yet still acknowledging the pain it’s caused him. This album was produced by one of my favorites, John Congleton, and I feel like it is the band’s best work yet. This is a beautiful examination of love that’s as catchy as it is heart-breaking.


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White Reaper The World's Best American Band

On the Louisville punk band’s second full-length they successfully super-size their garage punk sound into giant arena rock. They channel the likes of KISS, ACDC, The New York Dolls, and more as they pack this album with powerful, catchy guitar riffs and inescapable melodies. Each song takes new chances with the guitar sound and general vibe touching on all areas of classic rock, each feeling appropriate and well placed. The World’s Best American Band is not just an awesome title but it’s the band’s mantra. Frontman Tony Esposito said, “ “Just like Muhammad Ali was the greatest, you gotta say it out loud for people to believe it.” This positivity is paying off as this is the best work yet. This album revives the spirit of party rock, where pop and hip-hop now have the party music market cornered, this harkens back to a time when rock and roll ruled the airwaves. I played the song "The Stack" on Best Song Ever check it out.


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Aye Nako Silver Haze

Brooklyn punk band Aye Nako formed with a “community-oriented, anti-capitalist, LGBTQ-friendly ideology.” Now on their first full length on Don Giovanni they’ve refined their sound, delivering disorienting fuzzy punk with melodic swells that eventuate the vulnerable emotional lyrics. Singers Jade and Mars, are two sides of the same coin, offering varying yet connected perspectives of the queer black experience in America. These aggressive and uncertain sonics perfectly mirror that experience, even the prettiest melody isn’t safe from an off note thrown in to change the whole dynamic of the notes. This band is a part of an incredible music scene in Brooklyn with the likes of Vagabon and Epoch collective bands, and not only are they friends with some of these musicians but they all share an early aughts indie aesthetic that they all channel into different concepts and styles. I was expecting an album that would be emotionally significant but kind of brutal to listen to, and what I heard was the opposite. This album is full of energy and power and it presents a perspective that is not represented enough. Brian played the awesome single “Particle Mace” on Best Song Ever.


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Tashaki Miyaki The Dream

The mysterious LA indie-rock band Tashaki Miyaki broke up before they even got the chance to be established, but now a couple years later they’ve reformed to deliver a gorgeous album. Frontwoman Lucy (not her real name) writes heartfelt, yet cleverly comedic, lyrics and croons over dreamy instrumentals. This album is a great marriage of noise, dream pop, and some 50’s soul influence. Beautifully layered orchestrations emerge from beds of fuzz as Lucy’s vocals are layered and effected so all elements make a sweet, hazy sonic atmosphere. Lucy’s vocals remind me of Jenny Lewis with the old Hollywood Americana vibe of Lana Del Rey. The striking album art perfectly demonstrates the beauty of this album where the band name demonstrates their goofy side (I mean they have a song called "Cool Runnings”). This is a combination I can get on board with. I played their song “Girls On TV’ on Best Song Ever and we watched the James Franco directed video starring the incomparable Juno Temple.


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San Fermin Belong

When a band has both a male and female singer who trade off vocal duties, you’re going to have your favorite and the songs that the other singer leads are not going to be as good. With Belle and Sebastian the favorite is Stuart Murdoch, with Of Monsters and Men the favorite is Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir. However,  on Brooklyn band San Fermin’s third album, both Ellis Ludwig-Leone and Charlene Kaye deliver some solids songs. I grouped this band in with other indie-rock/synthpop bands like Sylvan Esso, and they are in that same vein, but this album was much more impressive and engaging than I thought it would be. Ellis is a composer which makes perfect sense hearing these dense, textured pop songs that come off so effortless. Not only are the lyrics and vocals lovely, but the composition are an ever-changing tapestry of sound, that keeps every song interesting throughout. This band takes an oversaturated style and breathes new life into it.


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Sweet Spirit St. Mojo

A Giant Dog’s Sabrina Ellis started a solo project that morphed into an 8 person rock band with a sound that is big, bold, and rocking. When Brian played their song “The Mighty” on Best Song Ever he said it was a “total Luke song” because it’s reminiscent of Queen, and indeed I did enjoy it quite a bit. The instrumentation on this album is interesting because it’s rich and layered with orchestration and 50’s  girl group harmonies, backing up raw instrumentals and Sabrina’s unpredictable vocals. Whether she’s screaming about her childhood Dorthy Hamill haircut or her love of Pamela Anderson, her delivery is powerful, changing from speak-sung screams to operatic belting. At times this album is a bit goofy and over the top, but what do you expect from a sound this big? It’s gonna go over the top, and if you’re a fan of A Giant Dog, you know Sabrina likes to inject some levity into her music. I can truly say there is nothing else like this out right now. Brian played their epic song "The Mighty" on Best Song Ever.


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Guided By Voices August By Cake

If you listen to Best Song Ever you know Guided By Voices, Grandaddy, and Ween were 3 90’s bands that are cult favorites and people have been telling me to listen to for years. I am now well acquainted with all of them and GBV is actually my least favorite of the 3 (David Obenour will literally kill me if he reads this) but that’s not really an insult because all of them are really amazing bands. Mainly what those 3 bands are is that in the midst of the 90’s grunge mania they made choices that set their music apart. GBV is really unique in the way that they are so prolific (this is Robert Pollard’s 100th album) and they make albums with 30+ songs that are all 1-3 minutes long. That’s a tradition they continued on this album. August By Cake feels like a sort of musical scrapbook, just quick glimpses of different stories and worlds. This is some grade a fuzzed out folk rock with Beatles-esque melodies and bold guitar hooks, yet with 30+ songs you have time for all manner of experimentation and they certainly experiment. I took a long time to get into this band but I am truly in awe that they can make music of this quality and this volume for so many decades. Happy hundredth Robert. Hear when Brian played the song “Hiking Skin” on Best Song Ever.


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Diet Cig Swear I'm Good At This

The debut of Brooklyn pop-punk duo Diet Cig is the heartfelt yet self-deprecating autobiography of frontwoman Alex Luciano. The title I Swear I’m Good At This could apply to sex, love, socialization, or just life in general. That’s the thread running through this album, Alex is a young well intentioned woman trying to navigate love and life, and experiencing some comical follies. Like having sex with a person with the same name as her or just the quirky yet relatable comfort of having ice cream on your birthday. When songs aren’t fuzzed out, driving pop punk, Alex delivers a couple White Stripes-esque tender ballads. There are times when Alex’s voice feels a bit whiny, but overall this is a solid debut. The duo have a knack for writing infectious pop-punk and Alex’s writing captures that feeling when you feel like you have confidence in your abilities, talents, or personality yet that doesn’t come through when you want it to. That struggle between having big ideas that lack big execution. Brian played their song “Tummy Ache” on Best Song Ever.


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Happyness Write In

In 2014, British indie-rockers Happyness made their debut with Weird Little Birthday channeling their alt-rock influences and garnering attention for a song where they talk about wearing Win Butler of Arcade Fire’s hair after scalping him. On their second album they broaden their horizons and channel the likes of The Beach Boys, Big Star, and Roxy Music to make lavishly textured 60’s influenced pop-rock combined with Jangle-pop and alt-rock influences making this album feel a strange kind of familiar. The band recorded in their Jelly Boy Studios which is in a building that is being redeveloped so this is kind of the end of an era for the band as this is the last album that will be recorded there. Who knows what the future holds for Happyness, but given the path they’ve been on I think we will just see them further develop their sound and explore new territories. I played the album’s expansive opening track “Falling Down” on Best Song Ever so check that out and then just continue listening to the rest of the album.


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Tee Grizzley My Moment

The debut full length of Detroit MC Tee Grizzley is equal parts street aggression and glorious homecoming. After serving three years in prison for home invasions he returned home, contrary to the belief of haters, and got a record deal. Tee first made waves with “First Day Out” that chronicles his arrest, case, and homecoming in epic fashion. His style is really distinct, he raps in a sort of stream of consciousness way, he just goes without stopping, covering so much terrain. He holds back before unleashing his full force, which is mirrored by the swells in the beat. This album is not for the faint of heart, Tee is no joke, be prepared to hear a lot of death threats and brags about bitches. However, there are more vulnerable moments, with heart-breaking verses about people he’s lost and pain he’s endured. The aggression feels justified coming from someone who’s been to hell and back. This album is his triumphant return, his moment. 


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The New Pornographers Whiteout Conditions

The poster child for indie-rock supergroups in Canadian band The New Pornographers. Containing the immense talents of Neko Case, A.C. Newman, and Dan Bejar a.k.a. Destroyer, they’ve been a staple of the indie-rock landscape for over 15 years. They've developed their sound over the years going from raw indie-rock to more elaborate orchestrated rock. This is their first album without Dan Bejar and while Neko and A.C. can absolutely carry an album on their own, I do miss his presence. On this album they carry on the crunchy guitar and spiky synths that they implemented on their last album Brill Bruisers. However, for some reason that sound feels a bit played out on here. I really enjoyed the singles shared before the release of this album, and I even played "High Ticket Attractions" on Best Song Ever but this just didn't do much for me. I love the album artwork and much of the lyrical content is very relevant and the album is well done but compared to their last four records this one fell short for me. I'm sure I'll give it another chance and maybe appreciate it more, but it just had me longing for the old New Pornogs.


Allan Kingdom LINES

Canadian rapper Allan Kingdom has four mixtapes and a Kanye feature under his belt (last year’s Northern Lights was fantastic) and now with LINES he furthers his rise to greatness. Allan cites Cudi as a main influences of sound and that is definitely apparent. Cudi was one of the pioneers of the sing-speak style of rapping that now is extremely oversaturated, yet for certain artist it provides an interesting vehicle for their flow. Allan is one of the few rappers, alongside Lil Boat and Chance, who I enjoy doing the positive sing/rap stye, he also raps in the traditional manner, either way his flow and wordplay and super impressive and infectious. Allan is in with some indie rappers as well as heavy hitters, I was glad to see one of the former, Kevin Abstract a rapper/singer who’s music speaks a lot about his homosexuality. Compared to Northern Lights this album falls a little short, but if you were to throw any of these songs on I would still jam out cuz this guy can do wrong.


Songs


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Shugo Tokumaru Hikageno

The music of Japanese multi-instrumentalist Shugo Tokumaru can best be described as a cacophony of awesomeness. For his new album Shugo enlisted a bunch of artists to record different part and then he pieced them together. The result is some of the most innovative and enjoyable music I've heard in a long time. This song begins as a tender acoustic ballad, yet constantly evolves with different sounds make appearances, ultimately building to a bitchin' guitar solo that you would think would be too jarring yet it perfectly fits. Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier adds some meandering drums that chaotically accompany Shugo's vocals as the song winds back down to it's basic part before ending. I am beyond excited for this album to come out and it's gonna totally fuck up the list I started for my best albums of the year, it's gonna up at the top. Check out the new episode of Best Song Everwhere Brian plays the song and we talk about it. Toss is out April 28th on Polyvinyl.


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Frank Ocean feat. Jay-Z & Tyler, The Creator Biking

We got our second post-Blond Frank song today and it features Hov himself and Frank's ex-Odd Future bandmate Tyler, The Creator. Jay delivers an interestingly lo-fi verse comparing life's cycles to the wheels of a bike and so the bike metaphor begins. I'm still not entirely sure what "biking" is supposed to mean but I think it's kind of supposed to be used how Aimee Mann uses the ferris wheel to describe bipolar disorder: ups and downs around and round. Frank's verse is different that what we're used to from him. Instead of doing his signature meandering r&b vocals he does a sort of sing/rap sort of thing I would expect from D.R.A.M. or Chance. I don't mind it though in fact his flow on this song it super infectious. Tyler spits a pretty good verse and then Frank ends it with a cool scream/sung bridge in the end. I feel like everything Frank has done since Channel Orange has just been super strange (although that albums pretty strange too). Not sure if he has an album coming out soon but whatever he's up to I'm down with it.


Videos


Jams: Week of March 31st

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Aimee Mann Mental Illness

There’s so much to say about how great this album is, I think it may even be my favorite album of the year. The veteran singer/songwriter embraces a less is more mentality, keeping the instrumentation limited mainly to acoustic guitar and vocals, yet it’s outfitted with strings and light percussion (sleigh bells). Aimee was inspired by 70’s east listening music and added beds of backup vocals, that add soaring crescendos to her minimal compositions. The lyrics focus on, you guessed it, Mental Illness, whether she’s examining her own behavior or someone she knows, she offers powerful case studies into the human mind. On “Goose Snow Cone” she misses her cat and captures the feeling of homesickness and loneliness, on “Patient Zero” she’s seduced then let down by Hollywood, and on “Philly Sinks” she describes someone she calls “borderline sociopathic” with a drinking problem to boot. However, judgement isn’t cast instead it shed’s light on the motivations of those involved. Every song of this album tells a new beautiful and heart-breaking story, offering solidarity and understanding for those of us who picture our friends, family member, or even ourselves in these flawed protagonists. After a couple decades of making great music (the Magnolia soundtrack rules) Aimee Mann still finds a way to make evocative and infectious songs. Brian played her beautiful song “Goose Snow Cone” on Best Song Ever which I think may be one of my favorite songs of the year.


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Tei Shi Crawl Space

Argentinian singer/songwriter Valerie Teicher a.k.a. Tei Shi released her debut full length, Crawlspace, referring to the spot where she would face her fear of the dark as a child. On this album she faces her fears whether it’s the tarantula on her face in the album cover, the fear that she won’t be a good singer, or the fear of losing a love. She delivers a rich and ever changing synth-pop sound, all held together with her soulful voice, surprising the listen with the heights it reaches. 80’s referencing synth-pop is a dime a dozen these days and I would normally be turned off to this sound. However, her shimmering compositions and soaring hooks are inescapable. She also includes audio clips of herself as a child, she starts the record with her child self describing "How To Record” and talks about wanting to sing like Britney Spears and it’s adorable. This is an incredible debut album and we can expect great things from Mei Shi in the future. Brian played the song “Keep Running” on Best Song Ever, check it out here.


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Wire Silver/Lead

Legendary English rock band Wire recently celebrated the 40th Anniversary of their eponymous debut album Pink Flag. They’ve been know for pushing the boundaries of rock and punk and their sound continues to evolve. They masterfully walk the line between noisy and atmospheric, gruff and dissonant, heartfelt and melodic. As the name Silver/Lead and the grey album art demonstrate, cryptic and mysterious lyrics paint a melancholy picture of the future, yet bursts of light and hope permeate the intentional monotony. Wire is such an influential band and they continue to add to an already amazing catalogue. Brian and I talk about them on Best Song Ever and play their song “Short Elevated Period" check it out here.


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Lydia Ainsworth Darling of the Afterglow

Lydia Ainsworth makes a strange yet intriguing combination of folk influenced synth pop. Banjo licks lay in aside big wobbly bass drops, lead by Ainsworth’s pop star voice it’s a surprisingly infectious cocktail. These songs begin dark and moody before erupting into grand pop crescendos. Her sound grew on me, I was not a fan when it was first sent to me. The big synth sound can be a bit abrasive at times, but the more I listen I appreciate the bold compositional choices she makes, not to mention her melodies are glorious. if she had just stuck with folk or just stuck with synth pop, she would perhaps struggle to stand out, but with the combination of both she emerges as an original. This is an impressive sophomore album developing a truly unique sound.


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Pile A Hairshirt of Purpose

Another post-punk band with a four letter name, Boston band Pile no doubt was influenced by Wire in some way. This band began as a solo act and grew into a full band and their sixth album is their finest yet. It’s equal parts harsh & abrasive and soulful & melodic. When the guys aren’t rocking with jagged punk hooks and speak-sung lyrics, Rick Maguire croons over gently strummed guitar backed by orchestration. The sound of this album is so big, yet it feels far away, all noise filling an open space. This album has enough driving force and intimate vulnerability to keep me interested, and is dissonant enough to alienate the masses


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Freddie Gibbs You Only Live 2wice

The veteran MC reminds us of his influence, tells tales from the streets, comments on the political state and gives some advice to the kids. Rap music often romanticizes thug life, some of my favorite rap does this, but it is nice to hear rappers like Killer Mike and Freddie Gibbs telling the up and comers that it’s actually some heavy shit and to avoid if you can, though not everybody can. Gibbs states,”I think n****s forgot who gave these n****s this flow,” and throughout it’s clear that his flow is incredible and is absolutely imitated. The production on this album is somewhat old school, this definitely is reminiscent of 90’s and early aughts hip hop. Beats consist of looped samples and basic electronic drum beats, they’re understated yet effective. 


Songs


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Bleachers Don't Take The Money

For the last 5 years FUN.'s Jack Antanoff has been winning Grammys and writing songs for pop stars, and in 2014 he released his solo debut as Bleachers. Now he and Lorde are pop’s dynamic duo, with him co-writing and producing her upcoming Melodrama, and she supports him on this track, co-writing and lending backup vocals. Jack released a lengthy statement to his fans along with this song, explaining how he uses “Don’t Take The Money” to mean don’t walk away from a gut feeling you have, because usually those gut feelings lead to great things. He applies the metaphor to love, he said he wanted to reflect how difficult relationships can be and in the chorus begs his love not to walk away, repeating “Don’t Take The Money.” Antanoff was recently referred to as “pop’s secret weapon” and he certainly has a knack for writing big, bright, infectious songs. On this song his sound is working better than ever, I actually like this one more than anything on is last album so this sophomore release is looking very promising. Bleachers album Everybody Lost Somebody is due June 2nd on RCA.


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Amber Coffman No Coffee

Recently Amber Coffman commented on the latest release from former band Dirty Projectors, and she kind of gave her side of the story: her and Dave broke up in 2012, he helped produce some of her solo album and then things took an “uncomfortable downturn” and she distanced herself. I thought her response was very tactful not being angry or pointing the finger she just said she’s excited to move forward and share her music. Shortly after we got the second single from her upcoming solo album, and she seems to be heading in an interesting new direction. The guitar riff that begins the song is reminiscent of 70’s soul and funk, before layering on acoustic guitar and bass in the chorus. The instrumentals here are flawless, and they perfectly suit Amber’s beautiful. unmistakeable voice. She swoons over a lover saying, "Don't need no coffee, I'm wide awake. I'm not much for sleeping when your love is at stake." This is a sweet love song and it gives us a sense of what the album will contain. I think it’s safe to say we’re going to see another side to Amber that we haven’t seen before, whether it’s the style of music of the content of the lyrics, she is entering into new territory. I feel like I don’t need coffee when I listen to this song cuz it’s so sunny and bouncy it’ll set your day off to a great start. Her debut solo album City of No Reply is due sometime this year on Columbia Records.


Videos


Jams: Week of March 24th


Albums


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Craig Finn We All Want The Same Things

I’ve been sitting on this album for a long time patiently awaiting it’s release so the world could hear what I did. This is one of my favorite albums of the year if not my favorite. The former Hold Steady frontman channels his inner Springsteen and tells elaborate tales of the human condition, landing on the truth, “We All Want The Same Things.” Whether it’s “Junebug and Jester” “Nathan you’re my only friend.” or “James I’m glad that you’re here” we’re introduced relatable characters that help us access the triumphant highs and defeating lows of life. This is Finn's most ambitious and instrumentally diverse album. Whether it’s jangly folk or polished driving rock, Finn creates a new musical atmosphere for each song. Every song feels like a new scene in an anthology film, with a new director showing each scene through a different lens yet they all connect in ways. Finn has had a lot of experience as a storyteller and this feels like his Master’s thesis, the intersection of master storytelling and production expertise. I played the beautiful song “Preludes” on Best Song Ever.


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Sera Cahoone From Where I Started

On her fourth solo album, the singer/songwriter and former Band of Horses drummer looks back on her life and reflects on what she’s learned and what she still wants to improve. She looks at where she is now compared to where she started. She talks about overcoming her stage fright, the untimely loss of a loved one, and her desire to be a “Better Woman” a better lover and a better friend. She has previously been classified as lo-fi country but that’s not the case on this album. This is crisp and clean country, consisting mostly of Sera’s soft and majestic voice over a gently picked guitar, with occasional swells of strings or guitars or harmonicas, helping the songs bloom into more elaborate compositions. I never knew that a phenomenal singer/songwriter was back behind Ben Bridwell all this time, and now I’m glad I was able to see the amazing music Sera is capable of creating.


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Spiral Stairs Doris and The Daggers

Pavement’s Scott Kannberg a.k.a. Spiral Stairs enjoyed a couple years of quiet life in Australian countryside with his wife and child, before they grew tired of the country life and moved back to the states. He initially intended to record this album very quickly but the death of his friend and bandmate Darius Minwalla died caused him to make the songs more emotional and expansive. This extra time and attention to detail pays off, where he intended these song to be straight garage rock, now each tune is outfitted with synths, or affected guitar riffs, giving each song it’s own vibe and personality. Not only does this album sound great but it features a killer indie-rock lineup of contributors. The National’s Matt Berninger lends vocals on “Exiled Tonight” and Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew lends vocals and Justin Peroff plays drums on the whole album along with bassist Matt Harris. I played the song “Dance (Cry Wolf)” on Best Song Ever and we talk about the video which stars Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle watch it here and watch the video for "Emoshuns" below.


Songs


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Kendrick Lamar The Heart Part 4

Kendrick surprised everyone this week when he announced his album in one of the most unique ways. Over the course of this epic 5 minute track Kendrick updates us on where he’s at over a smooth, soulful composition repeating the chorus, “Don’t tell a lie on me and I won’t tell a truth about you.” The beat is constantly evolving with the tone, hitting harder, as Kendrick reminds us all who is “King Kunta” taking what many people believed to be veiled shots at Drake. The beat gets darker and more driving while Kendrick establishes “I am the greatest rapper alive,” reviewing his career and where he’s at now, while effortlessly weaving in musical and cultural references, social commentary, and even calling out Donald Trump. He ends it say, “Ya’ll got til April the 7th to get your shit together.” I was actually enjoying Drake’s new album and then Kendrick has to come along and remind everyone that he can’t be touched. His writing is so phenomenal because he covers so much ground in a way that doesn’t feel disjointed, while simultaneously making innovative choices that make his flow the most interesting to listen to. As he announce in the song his follow up to 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly is out April 7th. 


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Sufjan Stevens Saturn

You never quite know what to expect from a new Sufjan Stevens album. The multi-instrumentalist genius and Detroit native is always coming up with amazing new ideas and album concepts, whether it was the 50 states projects, the BQE symphony, or his fore into electronic music The Age of Adz. Now he’s following up 2015’s Carrie and Lowell, the scaled down folk album about the life and death of his mother, with an album about space. He’s enlisted musician friends like The National’s Bryce Dessner,  Nico Muhly, and James McAlister to compose an ode to the cosmos. This album was written and toured four years ago but now they’re finally putting the songs out as an album. I’m sure some people, like my cousin and co-host, will not like this more electronics saturated sound, with arpeggiated synths and heavily auto-tuned vocals. However, the genius of Sufjan is that he has his signature song structures and melodies that feel familiar, but he presents them in so many different ways, whether it’s electronic like this and Age of Adz or on All Delighted People where he did different genre versions of the title track. I am excited to hear what Sufjan music about space is like, I’m sure it will not disappoint. Planetarium is set to come out sometime this year.


Videos


Jams: Week of March 17th

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Albums


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Drake More Life

A new album from record breaking superstar rapper Drake is always bittersweet for me. I used to be an enormous fan of his (I still have some songs on Thank Me Later memorized) but his last few albums have been an insane amount of songs that all do the dark minimal trap sound so they all blended together and were boring. After all the dissing of Pusha-T and Kid Cudi shit I was not planning on liking More Life or even listening to it for that matter. However, I gave it a chance and it became my favorite album of the week. I feel like this album is the culmination of every style Drake has tampered with in the past: the trap sound he’s run into the ground is definitely present, the dancehall sound he employed on “One Dance” is present on songs like “Passionfruit”, and there are more traditional rap songs more resembling his early work. The production on this album is top notch, as it should be with the team of producers he has on here including 40 and Boy-1da. My favorite addition on this album is how many British musicians he features, Grime rappers Skepta and Giggs appear on a couple songs and Sampha lends his phenomenal voice to “4422”. He also has appearance from hip hop’s biggest stars like Young Thug and Migos as well as the man himself Kanye West. The big argument people have about Drake and my problem with him was that he’s the biggest artists in the world, he’s super rich, and it seemed like he’s either whining about a girl or beef with another rapper. However, he’s dialed down his whininess and I actually love some of the songs where he sings rather than rap. His writing and flow are hard to have a problem with, he is really on point with this album. It seems like old Wheelchair Jimmy has gotten back to basics and he’s definitely pulled a Weezer and won back some fans that had soured on him. If you wanna hear me start a nasty rumor about Drake, check out the latest episode of Best Song Ever.

 


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Spoon Hot Thoughts

The veteran indie-rock band, and one of my personal favorite bands, Spoon have put out their ninth studio album Hot Thoughts, and they retain the consistent quality that we’ve come to expect from them. Their style has never really undergone any huge change they’ve got their sound down, and that’s the case on this new album. Following up 2014’s They Want My Soul, they go in a slightly different direction, with tracks that are a bit darker and more lush and 80’s influenced, but overall it’s Spoon up to their old tricks. Certain tracks are indecipherable from earlier albums, it’s almost as if it’s the same sound just coming through a different filter, the descending piano foundations and fuzzy guitar riffs are still present, they’re just clocked in different synths and effects so that they come across in a new way. Brit Daniel’s songwriting is still on point, and his unmistakeable voice fits in perfectly with the new elements added. While this album can’t outdo previous works like Gimme Fiction or Transference, it is the next in a line of unimpeachable albums. If you want to hear about my complicated history with this amazing band, or the time I saw Brit Daniel at MoPop Festival check out this episode of Best Song Ever where I also played “Hot Thoughts.” 


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Sorority Noise You're Not As ____ As You Think

I first listened to this band because their name sounded cool, their music was emo influenced indie-rock that was good but didn’t really stand out. However, on their album You’re Not As ____ As You Think they reach new depths of emotional vulnerability as frontman Cameron Boucher process the deaths of his close friends through these songs, literally unleashing his emotions through screaming in some cases. I’ve said it before that emo music can be so underutilized, with shallow poppy tunes whining about a breakup or something, yet when it’s used as a venue for deep and serious pain the genre is the perfect venue for vulnerability and powerful emotional confessions. That is the case on this album it is extremely powerful, both in the sense of destructive guitar riffs, pounding drums, and piercing screams, but in the quite moments everything feels so much closer and immediate, adding to it’s weight. This album was produced by Mike Sapone who has worked with the likes of Taking Back Sunday and Brand New, which makes perfect sense because this album captures that same sound, but refines it even further. Last year we saw bands like Microwave and Touche Amore, using emo and screamo to attack really profound moments in life, and it’s great to see a band like Sorority Noise showing a new side of themselves in the same way.


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Real Estate In Mind

Can an album be too catchy? I say yes. I feel like there are albums where every song starts of with a super catchy riff and then maybe loses momentum throughout the song, so at first glance every song is so catchy, then they all blend together. That has been the case with most Real Estate albums for me. I put it on and it sounds so great, the dreamy synths, mixed with the bouncy guitar riffs, are so chill and lovely that I’m hooked. However, after a minute of reverie vocals and swirling guitars I zone out and then repeat this process for 10-12 songs. I completely recognize this is high quality indie-rock but since it’s done in the dream pop style i often sink in to the haze and miss out on the individual merits of the album. That being said, I think that is some of the appeal of this music as well, if you want to sink into some haze you know where to go. Real Estate has never put out a bad album and when I’m listening to the songs that guitar parts put my weary heart at ease, yet right when the song is finished I couldn’t tell you how it went.


Songs


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Perfume Genius Slip Away

Under the moniker Perfume Genius, Seattle singer/songwriter Mike Hadreas has released three beautiful albums. Over the course of those albums, his sound has evolved from quiet folk and piano ballads, to grander indie-rock arrangements. With the release of this new single, it seems his upcoming fourth album will be his grandest and most realized yet. This song begins with modest production as Hadreas sings about "breaking free" and never having to hide, as a gay man who has faced oppression to not have to hide these words carry even more weight. On the inspirational chorus he says, "Oh, ooh love. They'll never break the shape we take. Oh, ooh. Baby let all them voices slip away." This resilience is mirrored in the music with an Arena rock sized burst of drums and keys with a plethora of other noises making appearance. The song ends in a bittersweet, noisy, and dissonant crescendo. This is without a doubt the most technically impressive and emotionally powerful song I've heard from this artist and I can't wait for the new album, No Shape out May 5th on Matador.


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Gorillaz feat. Popcaan Saturnz Barz

The world has been waiting 7 years for Damon Albarn to follow up Gorillaz phenomenal 2010 album Plastic Beach, and this week we got a leaked tracklist showing an insande amount of amazing features including D.R.A.M., Savages' Jhenny Beth, Vince Staples, and De La Soul to name a few. There are so many other amazing features or superstar artists and lesser known talents. We got our first taste of the album yesterday, along with a stunning short film from Jamie Hewlett, where our favorite animated band spends a night in a haunted house. All of this, the dark and eerie beat that Damon and Popcaan spit over, and the creepy video draws comparisons to early tracks and videos like "Dirty Harry." I just read there was some angry Popcaan fans who dissed Drake for not featuring the guy on either of his last two albums, but hey he's on a Gorillaz song so he'll be just fine. I am insanely excited for this new album this is one of my favorite bands ever. We now know that Humanz is coming out April 24th


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Feist Pleasure

This is the first taste we've gotten from Feist's first album in six years, following up 2011's Metals, and it's got me ready for more. I lost track of Feist after her seminal album The Reminder, and now hearing this new song she has really altered her sound, but in a cool and interesting way. This song blooms over the course of 5 minutes starting from a soft strummed guitar and Feist's mumbly vocals, then fuzzy guitar riffs and percussion are added all leading a up to a hand clap crescendo, with a chorus of voices chanting "Pleasure". The album of the same name, Pleasure, is out April 28th on Interscope Records.


Music Videos


Jams: Week of March 10th

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Albums


Hurray for the Riff Raff The Navigator

The age of the Bob Dylans and the Lou Reeds seems to be long gone. Those musicians lead crazy lives, that at times put them in the way of danger and even brought them to the brink of death, but were super interesting and exciting and they produced some of the greatest music we know today. Now many musicians have that wild side, but lead pretty normal lives as working stiffs just in an artistic field. However, Alynda Segarra may be one of the last to lead this bohemian lifestyle that is straight out of an old folk song. She recently appeared on The Daily Show, and talk about her time train hopping as a teenager, and playing washboard on the streets of New Orleans. All of this experience shaped her music, whether it’s her folk storytelling that resembles the aforementioned Dillon, or the New Orleans musical influence which accounts for her interesting blend of folk, country, and some jazz influence. As she talks about on The Daily Show a lot this album is about how she struggled to find a place to belong, and she draws parallels with the struggle of artists, women, and immigrants in America. She wasn’t always in touch with her Peurto Rican heritage but recently she’s connected to it and it’s a big part of this album. The emotional culmination of this album comes on “Pa’lante” when she sings to all the people who fought to survive and says to them “Pa’lante” which is a phrase used to mean forward. This rousing message finishes off a beautiful and engaging album about how hard it is just to live let alone find a place where you feel welcomed and valued. This is ALynda’s most ambitious and most instrumentally elaborate album, a far cry from her past albums which we’re largely acoustic. The Navigator is an big step in an exciting new direction. I played the politically charged single “Rican Beach” on Best Song Ever, check it here.


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Bonny Doon Bonny Doon

My cousin and co-host Brian LaBenne played this on the podcast and I was really excited. I’m a fan of Tyvek so when I heard members of their band making some really beautiful and gently catchy folk/rock I got super excited. This album has so many things working for it, with earworm guitar riffs, production that tows the line between raw and pristine, and lyrics and stories that feel so Detroit. We see a Detroit punk growing older, reflecting on the world changing around him changing with friends and lovers leaving while he stays in place. For how melancholy many of the lyrics are the music is delightful. Bill Lennox writes emotional confessions with a sort of self-deprecating sense of humor that and finds the humor and beauty in misfortune and mistakes. This is such an amazing debut album and while there is some fantastic music coming out of Detroit nothing has impressed me and connected with me as much as this album. 


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Jay Som Everybody Works

Last year, California based singer/songwriter Melina Duterte released her debut Turn Into, under the name Jay Som. Since then she’s toured with Mitski, Peter Bjorn and John, and Japanese Breakfast and has now released her second album Everybody Works, has garnered some acclaim and rightfully so. This album is incredibly dynamic, you never know what the next song holds. Duterte combines influences of 80’s pop, 90’s singer/songwriters, and early aughts indie-rock into her own dreamy and unpredictable concoction. Whether it’s fuzzy guitar, piano trills or trumpet (the instruments she first played) it’s all drawn together with Duterte’s calm, measured voice. It’s also important to mention that she did everything on the album, played every instrument and produced. There is an air of maturation on this album, even the album title “Everybody Works” and the song of the same name talk about trying to living up to the expectations placed on you, and the financial struggles of an artist. Over the course of the album Duterte works her way through love and insecurity, while mostly uncertain there are moments of joy and confidence. This is a fantastic follow up to Turn Into, no sophomore slump for Jay Som, with Everybody Works Duterte establishes herself as an important addition to the indie-rock landscape. 


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Laura Marling Semper Femina

Following up 2015’s Short Movie, British singer/songwriter Laura Marling examines the painful paradoxes of femininity, humanity, and love. Bringing to mind great female folk predecessors like Nico, Joni Mitchell, and Vashti Bunyan, Marling’s writing is ponderous and insightful, her melodies are infectious and familiar, and her voice is dense and soulful. Atop pristine, minimal folk compositions her pain and revelations carry significant weight. This is how a folk album should sound, driven by flawless acoustic guitar yet outfitted with strings and other instrumentation that give it an original flare. Not only is this album politically and socially relevant but it feels timeless and universal. This album is a gorgeous ode to womanhood and individual freedom, exploring the downsides and challenges that bring on regret and doubt, yet ultimately only strengthen her resolve. Marling taps into how the nature of a woman mirrors life and humanity as a whole, "Fickle and changeable. Semper Femina."


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Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever The French Press

Melbourne trio Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (boy that name is a mouthful) classify themselves as Tough Pop/Soft Punk. That’s exactly how their sound feels, it falls between the lines of many indie-rock genre, their songs a too lush and chill to be considered full on punk, yet they have powerful rock riffs that rip through the softness and add an edge. There is a definite resemblance to the jangle pop sound that originated in from Australia/New Zealand, this is not surprising considering they have songs longer than five minutes that fly by and don’t drag for a second. As a whole this album is really solid, but the guitar work stands out and really keeps the song engaging. This is only the second EP from the band, though they sound as tight and confident as a veteran band. Hopefully we will get a full length from them sometime in the near future, but for now we’ve got these six songs to be obsessed with. 


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Valerie June The Order of Time

With an unmistakeable twang like a more soulful Joanna Newsom, Memphis singer/songwriter Valerie June blends country and gospel in a way that feels like new territory while still possessing a vintage charm. These melodies feel like old folk hymns coming through in Valerie’s smooth, sometimes almost mumbled voice. It feels as if her lyrics spill out of her mouth as if it’s like taking a breath to her. She holds back until moments where she unleashes her full vocal power. This album is steeped in country tradition, whether it’s intimate ballads outfitted with slide guitar or hand clap laden toe tappers like “Shakedown” Valerie puts her own spin on familiar country tropes. This is her fourth album, but it’s the first one I‘ve heard of her and now I’m a fan, she blends so many styles into a lovely cocktail.


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Porter Ray Watercolor

To really dig into Porter Ray's story you need to listen to this album and subscribe to Ghettoblaster Magazine to check out my artist feature on him. The guy's been through some shit, from his dad dying of MS, to his younger brother being murdered, to the mother of his child being locked up, he's endured a lot of tough times and yet is such a positive and loving person. He was mentored by former Diggable Planets member and Shabazz Palaces mastermind Ishmael Butler. This album dives deep into his life with hazy productions and insightful writing conveying all the pain and triumphs of Porter's life. This is a really unique and accomplished rap album, and not to mention the first solo rap album on the beloved Sub Pop label. Porter is one of the most powerful new voices of indie hip hop and this is an impressive introduction to the world.


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John Andrews and The Yawns Bad Posture

John Andrews has plenty of musical experience, both as a member of the fantastic band Quilt, and playing as a session musician with Woods, Widowpeak, EZTV, and Kevin Morby. Following up his debut Bit By The Fang Andrews chronicles his travels from Pennsylvania to New Hampshire where he now resides in a farmhouse, where the album was recorded, adding a rustic charm to these songs. On this album foggy folk instrumentals are cut through with sharp guitar riffs and jangly piano, walking the line between dreamy and immediate. You can hear traces of his other projects in these songs, but he incorporates them into his own folk style. I played the awesome lead single “Drivers” on Best Song Ever.


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Tennis Yours Conditionally

If you’ve ever listened to Tennis, the married musical duo of Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley you know they make super catchy dream pop. Their first album came out of their sailing trip on their boat Swift Rider, and this album is was also born out of a sailing trip. They have only refined their sound more and more with each release and it’s at it’s finest on this album with infectious guitar licks, bass lines, and synth riffs, that put a modern sheen on their 70’s influence. Alaina’s dreamy vocals express her love and examine the differences between genders in a manner, sometimes earnest and sometimes sarcastic. If you want to hear the latter of two listen to this episode of Best Song Ever where he play their song “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar” and Brian and I giggled at the mention of the duo making love (seriously we’re children).


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Damaged Bug Bunker Funk

Thee Oh Sees mastermind John Dwyer has released his fourth solo album under the moniker Damaged Bug and it’s some of his finest work yet. Where Thee Oh Sees is garage rock primarily driven by fuzzy guitar this album finds him pulling back on the guitar making more basic foundations driven by bass and drums upon which he subtly layers guitars, keys, and other elements. There is more experimentation with synths on this album which I enjoy very much, there are some really unique synth sounds. I love the title and album art for Bunker Funk because this feels like some cassette that historians would find in someone’s doomsday bunker, it feels other-worldly and weird but it’s still groovy. This album isn’t on Spotify so it didn’t not end up on the playlist but it is a release worth mentioning, I highly recommend checking out. You can find it on Castle Face Records and hear the awesome single “Bog Dash” on Best Song Ever.


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The Shins Heartworms

I think there is a point in the mind of every music lover or in the career of every musician, where they cease being a mystical musical hero and they end up just being a working stiff in the music industry. There’s nothing wrong with this it’s just the natural progression, they may not be making things that make you feel like they’re magical, maybe it’s them or maybe it’s your perception of it, but they still have to keep making music as it’s what they’re called to do. This happened for many Shins fans when they came back from their lengthy hiatus with a new lineup and an album that was solid, but paled in comparison to their first 3 albums. They are now back with their fifth album Heartworms and as you may be able to tell from the crazy (and awesome) album art, it’s a little all over the place but still pretty cool. These songs may not be “Sleeping Lessons” or “New Slang” but this album shows two things: James Me


Songs


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Frank Ocean Chanel

This week Frank Ocean delivered some of the most beautiful product placement I’ve ever heard. The chorus is “I see both sides like Chanel,” and afterwards Chanel shared mysterious ads referencing frank and the song. Later on Frank talks about Amex and Mastercards and Delta gift cards, which is not especially out of the ordinary since this whole song is kind of braggadocios, but it feels kind of weird listing brands in your song. Product placement aside this song is lovely, Frank’s vocals drive this song over a piano and drum beat as he “sees both sides” perhaps referring to bisexuality, the different worlds he’s a part of, or just seeing two sides to different situations. This is the first song we’ve gotten from Frank since last year’s Blond, and it’s nice to know that we won’t have to wait 5 years for new music from him again.


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Lorde Liability

In 2013 Lorde debuted with her album Pure Heroin, and not only was she impressive in the fact that she was a 17 year old who wrote and produced a fantastic album when most pop stars need a bevy of writers and producers to accomplish that. However, her hit single “Royals” criticized the wealth obsessed American culture and then I see her hanging out with Taylor Swift, who is basically an embodiment of that culture. Lorde’s first new single “Green Light” was solid, but underwhelming. She’s teamed up with Fun. and Bleachers’ Jack Antanoff so her songs sound great, and she premiered “Liability” on SNL while Jack played piano and she wore a wedding dress while singing. This was a beautiful and vulnerable moment, singing about how she’s “A little much” for everyone, it felt very genuine. However, with the cliche girl-being-jealous-of-guy-and-his-new-girl and this song about her eccentricities scaring people away, I fear she’s headed down a Swiftian path. Lorde was so cool because she exposed us to a pocket of New Zealand’s youth culture that didn’t give a shit about the bullshit we care about, and now I feel like she’s been seduced by that culture and is now turning into a cliche pop singer who sings about boys. Hopefully I will be proven wrong by this upcoming album. Melodrama comes out June 16th on Virgin Records. I am Lorde Ya Ya Ya.


Videos


Jams: Week of March 3rd

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Albums


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Grandaddy Last Place

This album like many this week, Last Place marks the resurgence of a cult classic indie-rock act. Grandaddy. If you listen to my podcast you may have heard me get a lot of shit for not having listened to this band. It’s rare that a band can make a comeback record that holds it’s own against their classic albums. I’m sure some hardcore Daddyheads (I’m not sure they’re called that but they should) would make the case that their old stuff’s better, but just looking at this album objectively it’s quite a piece of work. Though much of instrumentals are a blend of guitars, fuzzed out and acoustic, there is some experimentation with electronics and voice-altering techniques, adding a modern twist on a style that is steeped in 90’s nostalgia. Jason Lytle’s voice and style tows the line between the cosmic psychedelia of The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne and the rustic hospitality (D&D reference) of John K. Samson. Lytle’s soft inviting vocals tell stories of breaking down and starting over again. The music aptly captures this raw emotional feeling that so many of us know too well. This album comes off as so effortless, yet with gentle reminders of the intense thought, experience, and emotion that make up these songs. Brian played “Way We Won’t” which is an amazing song on the podcast check it out here.


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Chicano Batman Freedom Is Free

Some retro acts feel forced an unoriginal, with the musicians trying to channel vintage styles that might be fun for a couple songs, but not for a whole album or career. However, some bands nail it and tap into a seemingly endless well of retro influence that they form into their own style. That is the case with LA’s Chicano Batman, combining Brazilian Tropicalía, early ’70s psychedelic soul, and romantic pop. If you’re a fan of glorious horn arrangements, sick organ solos, and incredible dynamic guitar music, this is the band for you. They take on the pressing issues of our time with swagger and soul, wearing matching formalwear and sounding like the belong on the radio in the 70’s. Amongst it’s many merits is the guitar playing of Carlos Arévalo. This is an amazing guitar album. No matter how heave the subject matter, these guys will keep you groovin. We played my favorite song on the album “Friendship (Is A Small Boat In A Storm)” on the latest episode of the podcast check it out here. 


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WHY? Moh Lhean

This is one I’ve been waiting on for a while, I’ve been listening to this album for months and I even interviewed Yoni Wolf for Ghettoblaster. After he experienced a health scare in Costa Rica, Yoni found himself empathizing with people in a way he never did before. This lead to him questioning life’s great mysteries and looking inward to examine how to move forward. This album has such a unique feel of being both tethered to the earth and reaching for the cosmos, with earthy folk instrumentals recorded on tape machines, countered with grand cosmic arrangements and production techniques that tamper with the traditional instrument sounds. This is a beautiful and profound philosophical album, I’m glad the world can now share in this great piece of work. Check out this episode of the podcast where I played the amazing song “This Ole King” and be sure to subscribe to Ghettoblaster Magazine to read my feature on Yoni in the upcoming issue.


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Bombadil Fences

When I went to see Kishi Bashi in 2013, the opening band took to the stage donning matching grey suits and they proceeded to give a passionate performance of what is now my favorite song of theirs “Honeymoon” This modest folk setup; piano, standup bass, and drums, made such a big sound and the three members all shared vocal duties and created beautiful harmonies. That band was Bombadil. I talked to the guys after the show and bought their album and I became a fan. Last year they released their album, Hold On, and while their folk style was still present they added in electronic drum beats and horns that felt a little out of place. Following the release of the album, founding member Stuart Robinson left the band. While he was an integral part of the band, they’ve lost members before and they pushed on. Their new album Fences finds them returning to their folk roots, these songs are scaled down based around guitar and vocals with pianos and percussion rounding out the compositions. Daniel Michilak has such a distinct, friendly voice that is supplemented with heavenly harmonies. This record is produced by one of my favorite indie-rock producers John Vanderslice, so this album sounds flawless. I’m happy to see this band that I love embracing what makes them great.


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Ibibio Sound Machine Uyai

Sound Machine is right, there is no limit to the diversity of sounds produced on this album. These song feel dense with layers of instrumentation and electronics that it can be almost overwhelming at times, but it always delivers a cool groove. Mastermind Eno Williams lived most of her life in Nigeria, giving her the sensibilities of Nigerian funk (a genre I love) which she combines with dance music elements. Though it’s sung largely in the Nigerian language Ibibio, you don’t have to be multi-lingual to dance to these groovy tunes or pick up on the emotional vibe the songs. While it has it’s darker more emotional moments, overall this album feels like celebration music. I dare you to try not to tap your foot when listening to this album.


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Sondre Lerche Pleasure

My first though was this sounds like Jens Lekman with synths and drum machines. Sondre Lerche is a Norwegian singer/songwriter who has been making music for over a decade, and over the years his style has varied and evolved. Pleasure finds him crooning songs about love and pleasure backed by innovative and engaging electronic compositions, erupting into 80’s pop influenced choruses. I feel like these songs have the bones of just great indie-pop songs, but this big at times intrusive electronic percussion and sounds add a whole other element that make these song as catchy as they are experimental. To quote my cousin and co-host Brian, I would describe this album with one word “bonkers."


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Jordan Klassen Curses EP

Last year, Canadian singer/songwriter Jordan Klassen released his fantastic album Javelin, which found him expanding his “Fairy Folk” sound into well constructed tunes with grand compositions with epic crescendos. While he continues the gorgeous orchestration on the Curses EP he pulls back a bit, at times returning to the intimate folk style heard on his earlier albums. Klassen’s airy voice sometimes falls a little flat, though he does have a lovely falsetto that he often implements. However, the flashiness his voice lacks is supplemented by some really beautiful instrumentals. Every song on this album is expertly executed. Jordan opens up about his “curses” of anxiety and depression relating to relationships, aging, and fear. Lastly, I am obligated to give my girlfriend Kyle credit for introducing me to Jordan’s music, so there you go. It’s been cool to see Jordan grow as a musician over the past couple albums and this EP gives us another glimpse at that growth.


Jams: Week of February 24th

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Albums


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Oddisee The Iceberg

Last year New York MC Oddisee put out two albums and now he’s back with the best rap album of the year so far. The Iceberg is a plea for unity and understanding. The black and white dual tones on the album cover represent race, or the duality of the human mind, or the dark and light moments in life, and like a Venn diagram Oddisee’s visage appears in the middle, bridging the two sides. In these turbulent times the power of music is highly debated, but there is no denying the power of these songs. No matter what the subject matter; political, personal, or both, Oddisee attacks it with his “calm collected flow.” This album doesn’t fly off the handle, it stays smooth and even with subtle swells and crescendos. Oddisee’s elaborate writing and confident flow are impressive, but his production shines as well, with beats combining funk and jazz that can go from smooth and moody to danceable grooves. This is a rapper and producer at the peak of his power and rather than come out swinging he comes with arms open, trying to connect with humanity through shared experiences. I played my favorite song "Like Really" on the podcast check it out here.


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Dirty Projectors Dirty Projectors

This new Dirty Projectors album is insane (insanely good) both are true in fact. In addition to being lovely, catchy, and heart-wrenching it’s also super experimental and innovative. Dirty Projectors began in 2002 as the musical project of Dave Longstreth, but they gained notoriety with the addition of the amazing Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian. Since their fantastic 2012 album Swing Lo Magellan both Amber and Angel left the band, and Dave and Amber, who also had a romantic relationship, broke up. Though Dave has somewhat moved on and him and Amber have still maintained a working relationship, Dave felt like he needed to tell these stories and the result is this solo self-titled album, returning the band to it’s original incarnation. This album is not for everyone. It mirror’s ones mind while in the midst of the “death spiral” of the relationship. It flys off the handle then has moments of despair before reaching a sort of bittersweet serenity. The album follows this same trajectory, with horns that feel fake and over the top at times, smooth piano trills and samples, and dave’s voice that can have any number of effects on it. You can hear the influence of hip hop and r&b on this album so it’s no surprise that Dave worked on Kanye and Solange’s albums last year, while working on these songs. Dave even mentions listening to Kanye on “Up In Hudson” and this feels like his 808’s and Heartbreaks, and auto-tune laden breakup album. This album has been getting reviews essentially calling Dave a cry baby, but I hear a lot of joy on this album. While he does lament their love he also celebrates the fact that it existed at all and expresses his understanding of the harsh reality that sometimes people have to go their separate ways. If you wanna hear me and my cousin debate about this album vs. Ryan Adam’s Prisoner check out the latest episode of the podcast here.


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Vagabon Infinite Worlds

This is the debut of New York singer/songwriter Laetitia Tamko under the moniker Vagabon. This album is filled with vulnerable, heart-wrenching tales of loss, regret, and “feeling small” that bloom from bare intimate confessions into crunchy punk crescendos. Laetitia's casual lyrics and heart-breaking howls make this album feel so personal and authentic, with specific names and locations that round out the stories she’s telling. She immediately reminded me of classic female singer/songwriters like Nico from The Velvet Undeground and Tracy Chapman, but then you hear her go more into the direction of bands like Pinegrove and Eskimeaux, then she takes that style to a place that both feels familiar and brand new. The production of this album is essential to it’s emotional impact and it’s even more impressive when you find out that Laetitia played all the instruments. You couldn’t ask for a more affecting debut album than this. We played my favorite song on the album “Fear and Force” on the latest episode of the podcast check it out here. 


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The Feelies In Between

Jangle pop pioneers The Feelies return with the fourth album of their multi-decade-spanning career. On this album we see them honing their skill for making super catchy folk-rock tunes that have such a unique simplicity, repetition with subtle changes make for a unique experience. Many songs consist of just a few chords but with ear worm melodies and emotional lyrics sang very softly these songs seem to hold more weight than they did on their first album. This is a great return for a band I love very much, a great guitar-based pop-rock album. We played their song "Gone, Gone, Gone," on Best Song Ever check it out here.


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Dear Reader Day Fever

The new album from South African musician Cherilyn MacNeil under the name Dear Reader, is her finest work yet. At first Dear Reader appears to be in the vein of Fiona Apple and Jesca Hoop, with bare experimental compositions and a lovely voice over top, but what MacNeil adds is astounding choral swells and powerful string and horn compositions. She masterfully mixes electronic and orchestral elements with folk structures. Every sound on this album is flawless, which makes sense as it was produced by indie-rock production titan John Vanderslice. MacNeil’s writing in excentuated with amazing instrumentals and heavenly harmonies. This band was not on my radar before this album and I've had this album sitting in my iTunes and I totally slept on it. Now I finally listened to it and I am now in awe of what Cherilyn can do. 


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Peter Silberman Impermanence

If you were to liken all the albums that came out this week to television shows; many would be half hour comedies, moving quick and keeping you engaged; where as Peter Silberman’s debut solo effort would be an hour long drama, sitting on shots for a minute and giving every scene a chance to breathe. This record in fact will have substantial pauses where all you hear is silence before Peter begins to sing and play again. Anchored only by Silberman’s voice and an echoey electric guitar. This album feels like a distant cousin to Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah, where gentle guitar and vocals fill and seemingly endless void. Silberman pontificates on topics of love, life, and death with a slow and steady hand. His voice can go from a mumbled hum to piercing falsetto. As the album cover, shows this is a blurry and moody album, but if you fight through the urge to get bored these are some really profound and beautifully constructed songs. Throw this on when you want to hear someone let their fear, hope, and worry drift off to the edges of the universe.


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Thundercat Drunk

Under the name Thundercat, bassist and singer Stephen Bruner has made some really interesting music and some really interesting friends. He contributed on Kendrik Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, worked extensively with Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington, and he’s worked with so many others from Miguel to Herbie Hancock. His new album is no exception, not only does he showcase his INSANE bass skills, but he features an all star cast of collaborators including the aforementioned Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Kamasi Washington plus 80’s soft rock titans Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins, not to mention Pharrell Williams and Wiz Khalifa. Those features are crazy and they make for and eclectic blend of styles appearing all under the swirling and canopy of thunzdercat’s belching bass, jazzy compositions, and floaty voice. Thundercat always finds a way to subvert convention yet keep the music super interesting and engaging.


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Wild Pink Wild Pink

The Brooklyn based band's debut is a deep and powerful indie-rock album. This album is a person "Trying hard to understand the culture." Frontman John Ross examines his personal relationships and relates them to the world around him trying to make sense of it all. Combining folk, early aughts power pop, and emo this album is deeply affecting. Brian played their song "Great Apes" on the podcast check it out here.


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Clap You Hands Say Yeah The Tourist

On his fifth album, veteran indie rocker Alec Ounsworth finds a way to push his sound further and take new risks. This album is tough to classify sometimes it’s folky, sometimes it’s electronic, sometimes it resembles echoey 80’s pop and sometimes it’s reminiscent of polished 90’s rock. This album will have sound or a style that I think will ruin the song, but then as I listen it ends up working. I’ve had this album for a while and I wasn’t in love with it, but when I gave it another listen I was super impressed with how Ounsworth throws you off the scent of what he has planned. If nothing else this demonstrates that he’s not yet out of ways to surprise and delight us with his creativity. I played the song “Fireproof” on Best Song Ever check it out here.


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Hippo Campus Landmark

The debut full length of the Minnesota indie-rock band is for the most part what you’d expect from their EPs, but they’ve got some new tricks up their sleeve this time. These songs are still smooth, danceable pop-rock tunes, but they’ve got some new production techniques they’re messing with: whether it’s vocal effects or interesting electronic drum fills it adds another element to music that would otherwise fall a little flat. Certain songs begin super catchy and then get a little boring as the song goes on, but on standout tracks they will grab your attention right before you start to zone out. This really is a fantastically produced album, it sounds great from guitar to piano to vocals, soup to nuts, tip to taint, this is a very pleasant sounding record, I just feel like it’s a few songs too long. Overall this is a well put together debut, for how new this band is they’ve got their sound nailed down.

Jams: Week of February 17th


Albums


Jens Lekman Life Will See You Now

Jens Lekman is veteran indie-rocker from Sweden, for so long I had heard of him but just started paying attention with this new album. The first single we got was “What’s The Perfume That You Wear” where dark pulsing guitar erupts into a poppy eastern-influenced chorus, telling the story of a smell triggering the memory of his long lost love. Next Jens appeared on All Songs Considered and discussed “Evening Prayer” the fictional story of a man who makes a replica of his tumor that was removed, told from the point of view of a casual friend who joins him for a beer and shows that he cares. On this album Jens tells rich stories full of love, fear, friendship, and folly all done through the vehicle of bright uplifting European pop tunes. Though his influences are multi-cultural and geographically diverse this album does feel disntinctly European, with the casual aplomb of Serge Gainsbourg. On the surface these songs are fun and catchy but if you pay attention to the human stories within they gain more value. I’m now a die hard Jens fan after this album, his penchant for pop storytelling is unmatched.


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Tall Tall Trees Freedays

Mike Savino has played under the name Tall Tall Trees for a while but he makes his label debut with Freedays. I’ve seen him play solo and as a member of Kishi Bashi’s band and his signature is using the banjo in interesting ways, whether it’s flashing lights or ripping off crazy solos or using it’s body for percussion. He wrote this album while taking care of an abandoned medical facility in the woods, which sounds creepy but clearly it helped with the earthy feel of this album. He transfers his banjo innovations to these songs with thunderous percussion, backing up flawless instrumentation and bold vocals that make for soaring crescendos. Savino melds folk, rock, country, and soul together into an explosive and emotive concoction. His banjo talent is really astounding, apparent on “SeagullxEagle” where he picks beneath cute lyrics and string arrangements that burst into a pop groove. K. Ishibashi was definitely involved and you can hear his influence on that song in particular. Mike’s years of innovation and experience have made for an impressive and astonishing label debut. I played the opening track “Backroads” on my podcast, check it out here.


Jidenna The Chief

The classic man himself Jidenna released his debut album, The Chief, this week. I have an interesting relationship with this guy’s music, I COULD NOT STAAAAAAND "Classic Man” and I still don’t like it, the beat is cheesy and his melody in just simply not enjoyable. From the image that song gave me Jidenna claimed to be this “Old Fashioned Man” with his 3 piece suit and slick hair, he seemed to be the Michael Buble of Hip Hop (I would even hesitate to label him as hip hop more like r&b or just pop). So naturally when this album came out and was well received, even given the Album of the Week honor by Stereogum, I decided to give him another chance. I came in with some skepticism and my mind was changed immediately. I love this album and I’ve been addicted to it. From the start he spits some hard hitting verses, with a charming braggadocio so his brags don’t come off as douchy because he’s the hero of the story and you root for him. These gangsta verses are countered with the songs for the ladies, like “Trampoline” where he croons an important message about female sexuality, “The lady ain’t a tramp just cuz she bounce it up and down like a trampoline.” The production on this album is dynamic, switching from driving sample based songs in the style of Kanye and Pusha-T and updated big band instrumentals fitting for the hip hop Sinatra. This album is proof that first impressions can be deceiving and you really should never fully write someone off because chances are they have something to offer.


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Sam Patch Yeah You, and I

Tim Kingsbury is a multi-instrumentalist in one of the biggest, and one of my favorite, indie-rock bands Arcade Fire. Last year Arcade Fire’s Will Butler released his fabulous solo debut Policy and now Tim has released his solo debut under the moniker Sam Patch (named after the evil kenevil of the 1800’s). Listening to both Policy and Yeah, You and I and considering that immense talents of musical power couple Win Bulter and Regine Chassange it’s no wonder Arcade Fire is one of the finest bands around, as it is the confluence of so many skilled musicians. This album is insanely catchy and well produced, whether it’s crunchy guitar, glorious harmonies, or bouncy synth-pop hooks these songs will burrow into your brain and set up shop. It’s hard to even choose a favorite because they are all amazing in their own way. Tim combines folk rock, alternative county, and electro-pop into a polished uplifting indie-rock sound that takes on a life of it’s own. It’s cool hearing members do their own thing and being able to trace back their contributions to what I now view as a supergroup, Arcade Fire. Like I said they are one of my favorite bands of all time, I was already loving this Sam Patch album and then I found out it was a member of AF and it was done. This is a super promising debut from Kingsbury and hopefully he’ll deliver some more fantastic albums like this in his time between Arcade Fire albums.


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Animal Collective The Painters

Last week Animal Collective released a song that summed up the tone of the life right now, “Kinda Bonkers” which we played on the podcast listen here. With this subtly political song they announced the follow up to last year’s Painting With a sort of epilogue, The Painters. Where the first two tracks follow a similar trajectory of the previous album, Animal Collective is never done surprising it’s listeners. The last two tracks a very big and bouncy and a lot of fun, including the final track “Jimmy Mack” a cover of Martha and The Vandells 1967 song. This ep seems to have more energy and life than Painting With, which had it’s standouts but also moments of chaotic dissonance as well. These songs find that balance of innovative and experimental and interestingly infectious that is really Animal Collective at their finest. To quote a friend of mine, “They could like take a shit on me and I’d love it,” while that is true that i will love and appreciate anything they put out, like 2008’s Fall Be Kind this ep really stands out.


Ryan Adams Prisoner

Veteran Canadian singer/songwriter Ryan Adam released his album Heartbreaker 17 years ago and it is regarded as one of the best breakup albums of the 21st century. Well now it has competition as his new album Prisoner chronicles the erosion of love and the eventual divorce from his wife Mandy Moore. While this subject matter is pretty dark and heavy, these songs a bright and weightless, with swirling guitars and echo-y 80’s-eqsue drums. These songs are beautiful examinations of love, we see Ryan fight relentlessly for his love ultimately to no avail and he's haunted by the memories. We walk with Ryan on the road to recovery as he paints vivid pictures of staring into the abyss of late nights, loneliness, and grief. Each lyric hits so hard as you can feel the pain and experience that informs it. The only glimmer of hope comes from the instrumentation, if these songs weren't so bright this album would be too depressing as the lyrics are unapologetically grim. Ryan Adams is the Springsteen of our time, which is a good and bad thing, his voice and style are so steeped in 80's influence that it feels kind of played out. I know everyone has a boner for this album and it is beautifully written I just feel like this style bores me. However, Ryan Adams is a brilliant and emotionally insightful guy who I greatly respect, check out his awesome appearance on All Songs Considered. 


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The Courtneys The Courtneys II

Canadian pop-punk trio The Courtneys make what they describe as “Flying Nun” inspired pop punk. They were big fans of the Flying Nun record label and now they’re singed to it. Under the aliases Crazy Courtney, Classic Courtney, and Cute Courtney who plays drums and leads the vocals, flanked by her compatriots who provide lovely girl group harmonies. This album is full of effortlessly catchy, hazy, sun-soaked pop punk tunes. Cute Courtney’s voice is perfectly suited for the swelling pop choruses found on this album. They take elements of classic hard-hitting punk and cloak them in a curtain of echo and fuzz. This a pleasant pop-punk album that is easy to sink in to and slide through. We played their awesome song "Tour" on my podcast check it out here.


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Strand of Oaks Hard Love

Under the moniker Strand of Oaks, singer/songwriter Timothy Showalter made earthy folk rock, but as of late his sound has evolved. On his new album Hard Love his sound gets much bigger, and transitions from folk to blurry rock, with arena-rock drum fills and Showalter’s leveling voice countered with hazy guitars and synths. In Springsteen-esque tells evocative stories about love, drugs, nostalgia, pain, and the search for meaning in this life. This marks a new chapter for Strand of Oaks and he’s headed in an effective new direction. Brian played the nostalgic single “Radio Kids” on the podcast check it out here.


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Electric Guest Plural

In 2012, Cali-based synth-pop duo Electric Guest released their debut album Mondo, which fit perfectly into the indie-pop lanscape with the likes of Empire of the Sun and Metronomy. I loved this band back then because they made songs that were just so catchy and smooth that it’s impossible not to love them. Now they’ve returned with their sophomore album Plural and they continue this trend. This album is full of subdued yet moving pop production with soft synths and Asa Taccone (brother of the Lonely Island’s Jorma Taccone) has the voice of angel, and insane range. I listened to this as I sat in traffic after a Run The Jewels show with my low fuel light on and this album soothed my bubbling anger and anxiety. These guys appeared on my favorite podcast Comedy Bang! Bang! and they have an awesome video for “Dear To Me” where Asa does some sick Hotline Bling-esque dance moves, and the ladies from HAIM make an appearance, watch here. This is a great sophomore effort for a band who has a knack for making heart-felt pop songs.


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Future FUTURE

Another artist that I’ve had a bit of a contentious relationship with is Future. I think part of the reason I didn’t like Future is because he did so many songs and an album with Drake, and his uber auto-tuned mumble rap style bored me. It’s no secret I haven’t been a fan of trap music in the past, but I’ve been enjoying Migos and Lil Yachty as of late, and I recently watched the Noisy doc about Atlanta’s rap scene, and it helped me appreciate the genre more and understand the motivations of the artists more. This album is the best one I’ve heard from Future, there is an energy in his flow that was previously not present. Although, there are many droning mumble moments where I lose interest, but for the most part this album is pretty engaging and catchy. The production is more engaging as well, though it is still pretty hazy and dark, elements are added that make songs interesting and “Draco” is the closest thing to a Future song in a major key. Overall, I would say this is his most accessible album yet, but it’s still about 10 songs too long. Considering that he’s released 4 albums in the past two years and appeared on an insane amount of songs, I know he’s about making money but there’s something be said about quality over quantity.


Jams: Week of February 3rd

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Albums


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Sampha Process

In 2013, British singer, producer, and pianist Sampha put out his fantastic ep Dual. Over the next few years he went on to make many guest appearances, on Kanye’s Life Of Pablo and Solange’s A Seat At The Table to name a couple. Now he brings us a subtle juggernaut of a debut full length. This record truly is a process or a journey, and just like Sampha said he’s, “had a lot to process these past couple of years,” there is a lot of ground covered and a lot to unpack with this album. The first couple tracks deal with fame, anxiety, and pain. The highest energy track “Blood On Me” finds Sampha running from hooded figures who try to uncover his hidden pain and insecurities. The next few songs transition into talking about his mother, who died in 2015 of cancer. The powerful heart-felt ballad “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano,” sees him after he’s returned home to care for his mother. The rest of the album deals with love and relationships, yet weaving in these issues of insecurity, regret, family and hope. While his voice is completely distinct and his compositions innovative, you can occasionally hear notes of fellow brits James Blake and Radiohead. Throughout the album he works to create the mood, whether it’s his frantic out of breath singing on “Blood On Me” (which he achieved by running in the booth) or the gentle serenity of the album closer “What Shouldn’t I Be." This is an addictive and subtly overpowering debut from one of pop’s most promising young voices.


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Surfer Blood Snowdonia

Florida band Surfer Blood return with their fourth album, their first since the tragic death of their guitarist Thomas Fekete. Frontman JP Pitts and drummer Tyler Schwarz are joined by high school friends Lindsey Mills and Mike McClearly and this new lineup alters their style slightly, breathing new life into their surf punk sound. JP said he wrote vocal parts to include the new members and their guitar tone still retains some of it's crunchiness with some more treble tones. This album is surprisingly bright and upbeat and references to Fekete are subtle yet still apparent. Everything you would expect from Surfer Blood, with super catchy pop punk riffs, and JP's gentle voice. However, there is some venturing into different punk styles like on the crunchy and dissonant verse of "Taking Care Of Eddy" I've always loved this band and I stuck with them when some fans didn't. I got their last record signed by the band and they were super cool and nice guys. I'm really excited about this new lineup, though it's forming comes out of tragedy, it delivered their best album since their 2010 debut Astro Coast. I played their song "Six Flags In F or G" on my podcast check it out here.


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Big Sean I Decided

Hip hop superstar and Detroit native Big Sean, or as I call him "Better Drake" has dropped his fourth album and it's some of his best work yet. SInce he does a similar style to Drake I've been tuning out his shit and I could not stand, "I Don't Fuck with U"  but when I recently saw Sean play on SNL it was apparent that he is still a super talented lyricist. While much of the production on this album is pretty lackluster and basic, Sean is at his best. He effortlessly weaves personal anecdotes, braggadocio, and political and social commentary into a complex yet easily accessible vocal tapestry. The list of features is all-star with Migos, Eminem, The-Dream, Jhene Aiko, and The Flint Chozen Choir. Sean has been a huge part of the support for the people of Flint. He talked about why he feels the responsibility to help people in his hometown on The Daily Show watch here. I had tuned this guys music out for a few years and this album has me back on board, he's a hometown hero and his talent is undeniable.


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The Bats The Deep Set

We are living in the age of the reboot and the reunion. 90's shows like Twin Peaks and Full House have been rebooted and so many cult classic indie-bands from the 80's and 90's have come back together to deliver new music. First, Neutral Milk Hotel reunited in 2014 then Modest Mouse made a comeback in 2015, and 2016 saw the return of Nada Surf and Teenage Fanclub. Jangle pop titans The Bats now join the ranks of all these bands. However, this New Zealand rock quartet has pretty consistently released music since the 80's this is their first album in 5 years and it's fantastic. This album is just what you would hope it would be, catchy sentimental rock tunes with hazy rhythm guitar with sharp lead hooks. I love band's like this because they deliver a bit of 90's nostalgia, but in a way that feels current. I just develop a ferocious love for jangle pop this year so I was really glad to see some of the founding fathers put out a new record.


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Ron Gallo Heavy Meta

Pitchfork recently put out a video about the making of The White Stripes' breakout album White Blood Cells. It was the first album they didn't record in White's living room and he wanted it to be "raw but better than living room quality" and that's exactly how I would describe Ron Gallo's debut Heavy Meta. This is slightly too polished to be considered lo-fi and too raw and crunchy to be considered straight up rock. He combines crunchy punk and classic 70's rock to make a product that is adjacent to blues rock acts like Jack White and The Black Keys, but with his own original flare. This album rocks so hard and is a showcase of Gallo's insane guitar skills, meandering storytelling ability, and distinct voice that falls somewhere between Television's Tom Verlaine and Jack White. I'm gonna play Ron's song "Young Lady, You're Scaring Me" on the podcast in a week or two so watch out for that.


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HOMESHAKE Fresh Air

HOMESHAKE is the musical project of Canadian singer and producer Peter Sagar. This is Peter's third album as HOMESHAKE and it's the one that really put him on the map. Looking at Peter's photo he reminds me of a Mac Demarco or Porches' Aaron Maine, a goofy looking uber-nerd (no offense guys) making casettes at home, and their musical ability is miles beyond what you'd expect from "bedroom rock" This album is as eerie and dissonant as it is smooth and sexy. My cousin and podcast co-host Brian recently complained on the podcast about these white dudes trying to do R&B and while I'm not crazy about the style Peter pulls it off. Songs shift from airy experiments, mixing jazzy instrumentals with electronic elements and goofy audio clips and sound effects, to gentle yet infectious jams. This is a good album to zone out and get lost in. 


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Louise Burns Young Mopes

The third album from Canadian singer/songwriter Louise Burns, is inspired by her groups of friends who she describes as Young Mopes. Burns blends reverb-y guitar and shimmering synths with her echo-y harmonies, evoking the spirit of Fleetwood Mac. This album is full of dreamy, rock jams everything here is polished and pulled back. This is a nice chill, relaxing album nothing to outlandish or offensive just even, effervescent pop-rock. Brian played her song "Who's The Madman" on the podcast check it out here.


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Syd Fin

Odd Future and The Internet alum Sydney "Syd Tha Kid" Bennett makes her solo debut. I always enjoy seeing a female infiltrate a male scene and do what they do even better. Since Syd like's the ladies too there's rap staples like talking bout bitches and money. Whether she's partaking in rap braggadocio or smooth 90's influenced R&B, Syd delivers the lyrics with a calm yet confident voice. This album is the only one that beats HOMESHAKE for smoothest and sexiest album of the week. As you can tell from the cover the production is kind of dark and minimal, yet still pretty elaborate and engaging. Syd's soft spoken swagger really makes her stand out and it's cool to see her doing her own thing.


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The Menzingers After The Party

For the last decade Philadelphia punk band have been playing, touring, and partying. Now as they mature and enter adulthood they consider what's next, hence the title After The Party. Founder of Ghettoblaster Magazine called this album a "pop punk masterpiece" and I would agree with that. This band feels like a less Irish Dropkick Murphys. Everything is high-energy and in your face, telling Springsteen-eqsue stories of the fun and follies of a rock band. This band is a decade old but I just now heard them and it seems like this album really sees them reaching a whole other level.


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Elbow Little Fictions

This veteran British rock band delivers a deep, dynamic album full of Little Fictions as the album title promises. You can just tell this is a band who's been at it since the 90's, they remind me of a mix between Lambchop and Future Islands. These songs are elaborate stories that slowly build and develop over 4-5 minutes. Every song has a different style and vibe, thought they are connected with the theme of love. It's always good to see a veteran band doing something new and interesting.