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Christmas Time Is Here - Khruangbin

from the Christmas Time Is Here b/w Christmas Time Is Here (Version Mary) (2018)

Many moons ago, I dated an Italian girl whose large and extended family lived throughout Brooklyn.  The only exception was her Uncle Henry, who lived in Greenwich Village.

Their Christmas Eve tradition was for everyone to gather at her mother's house for an Italian feast.  It was something to behold.  The Irish never put on a holiday shindig like this.

Every year was the same.  People would cheer when Cousin Joey returned from the fish market, where his friend Dominic from Flatbush hooked him up with a cooler full of squid.  There were never less than a dozen woman serving up their finest homemade Italian delicacies.  Andrea's stuffed shells.  Angela's shrimp fra diavolo.  Mother Marie's marsala.  The wine.  The cookies.

Cousin Johnny would take you out to garage to do bumps off of the workbench.  I always tried to get out of there before some wise guy would ask, "So, when you gonna m…

Got My Name Changed Back - Pistol Annies

from the album Interstate Gospel (2018)

There is nothing more satisfying than a good honky-tonky, rocking band.  With their swampy guitar tones, thud-heavy bass, and expert beat keeping, the musicians in county-girl supergroup Pistol Annies are simply incredible to listen to.

And then, of course, there are the girls.

Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley are delicious on Got My Name Changed Back, a song about divorcing a bad fella.  I love the song's lyrics, its vocal arrangements, and the way the singers drop into a 1940s era breakdown.

It is a fun song that sounds great when you turn it up in your car and rock down the highway.

Click Here to watch the official music video for Got My Name Changed Back by Pistol Annies.

Lebroba - Andrew Cyrille

from the album Lebroba (2018)

I dropped into a Mexican joint on the way home from work tonight.  It's a quasi-regular Wednesday thing, rooted in their $8.99 chicken fajita special and the patron and grapefruit soda concoction that Dennis the Bartender specializes in.

God bless Dennis the Bartender.

Anyhow, my mind went down a wormhole this morning when my phone proclaimed that it was December 5th.  Not that there is anything personably notable about this date, other than it being a month before January 5th.

You see, January 5th (and the lead up to it) is one of the most reflective days of my year.  It is a day of incredible positivity; as cosmic nymphs enflame primordial beliefs of the rapturous day when the stars align, the angels sing, and kindred souls dance beneath a heavenly moon.

Leaving the Mexican joint, I let Waze find the best route home.  It serendipitally took me a back way through neighborhoods that I haven't frequented in a while.  At some point, I passed a parki…

79 Shiny Revolvers - Rayland Baxter

from the album Wide Awake (2018)

The other morning, I was thinking about mass shootings and wondering why there aren't more good songs discussing the topic?

I thought about the "original" school shooting and how The Boomtown Rats responded with I Don't Like Mondays.  But now that more silicon chips are being switched to overload than ever, not so much.

In that context, I applaud the song 79 Shiny Revolvers by Rayland Baxter.  I dig that they are shiny and that you need one in each hand and that they are pointing at me and that they are pointing at you.

I also dig how the song evokes memories of John Lennon.  You hear it in the song's composition and its well-crafted lyrics.

People need to be writing songs about topics like this.  I hope that more do.  I also hope that they do so with the style and substance of Rayland Baxter.

Click Here to watch the official video for 79 Shiny Revolvers by Rayland Baxter.

Where We Are - Curtis Harding

from the single Where We Are (2018)

Some of the best music being created in this decade has a retro-soul vibe.  Beyond the incredible stable of talent that has recorded for Daptone Records in Brooklyn, I am even more enraptured with those who manage to a modern sheen on that 60s should vibe.

My favorites include Michael Kiwanuka, Leon Bridges, and Curtis Harding.  Their songs stir my soul.

On Curtis Harding's latest single, Where We Are, a tight drum beat couples with a simple-yet-tension-filled bass groove to create the foundation for one of the year's best songs.

There are swirling keyboards and synthesizers, violins that give a theatrical - 70s movie soundtrack - like quality, and even a dynamite flute solo.  Above this is a commanding vocal performance by Curtis Harding.  There are times when I imagine Bill Withers singing this song.

At over seven-and-a-half minutes, this song contains an epic quality.  It is grand, stirring, and timeless.

Curtis Harding is the real deal …

Back Down - Bob Moses

from the album Battle Lines (2018)

Bob Moses is an electronic duo from the Vancouver area, not the guy who built all those roads and bridges.

When I first heard their song Back Down, I thought "wow, that it pretty solid."  A few months later and my opinion has not changed a bit.

The beat is straight, the arrangement straight-forward.  Hooks and grooves are exactly where you expect them.  So, what is it that keeps me locked in for listen after listen?

I think it has something to do with the understated 70s vibe that lurks beneath all the electronic.
Can you hear it?  Those album-oriented rock in the chorus' melody line?  It is magical.  I am infatuated.

Click Here to watch the official video for Back Down by Bob Moses.

Dancing To A Love Song - Barry&Gibbs

from the single Dancing To A Love Song (2018)

Barry&Gibbs are two guys from Lillie, France who describe themselves as "providers of disco."

Earlier this year, they released Dancing To A Love Song, an infectious disco biscuit that can't help but make you feel good.

It is not about who sampled what from where, it is about creating a vibe that resonates with the listener and creating joyful, positive experiences.

I hope this song does that for you.

Click Here to listen to Dancing To A Love Song by Barry&Gibbs.

Baby Blues - Moving Panoramas

from the single Baby Blues (2018)

A few weeks ago, a group of us were hanging out on one of my funky friend's front porch.  We were drinking wine and listening to music.

One friend played a series of records by The Go-Gos - songs like Skidmarks On My Heart and Lust To Love - while lamenting about an apparent absence of new bands like The Go-Gos.  Although I did my best to convince proper otherwise, they were having none of it.

Perhaps Baby Blues by Moving Panoramas will convince them otherwise.  This group of Austin, Texas dream poppers have got the beat, the groove, the harmonies, and the melodic sensibilities to evoke Belinda, Jane, and the girls better than just about anyone around.

I hear it in the opening guitar passage, the drumming, the bass groove, and - most importantly - the vocals performances.  You also hear it in the bridge and the breakdown, two essential elements of The Go Gos best songs.

Comparisons aside, the band has a modern vibe and a heap load of originality.

Seek The Source - Christian McBride

from the album Christian McBride's New Jawn (2018)

In western music, there are thirteen distinct notes which - over the span of several octaves - comprise the the musical spectrum.  When you consider the tens of thousands of song you will hear over a lifetime, that's not a whole lot of notes.

What I find most fascinating is what happens when musicians further limit the available notes by placing self-imposed rules on the notes they play.  Somehow, this manages to force the musicians to find expression through variations in their rhythms and feel, often creating distinct styles of music.

Latin music - like latin dance - is full of rules.  Do this and you have a tango.  Do that and you have a bossa nova.  Do something else and you have neither.  In rock music, you have heard countless lead guitarists and bassists play pentatonic (five-note) scales.

It is a paradox.  Addition by subtraction.

With his new band - New Jawn - jazz bassist Christian McBride puts together an ensemble c…

Pink Squirrel - Episode 9

Welcome to Episode 9 of Pink Squirrel!

As the clock begins to run out on 2018, there does not seem to be any let up in all get music being released.  You will find lots of tunes in this alternative mix that are only a few weeks old.

Some of my favorites include Dark Days (Revisited) by newcomer Art d'Ecco, the pro-immigration punk anthem Danny Nedelko by IDLES, the beautiful instrumental Near by Deafheaven, and Sing To Me Candy by Papercuts.

I continue to be in awe of all the great music that this year is producing.  Amazing.


Here is the playlist:

Dark Days (Revisited) by Art d'Ecco

Too Real by FONTAINES DC

Guerra En La Tierra by Los Pilotos

Sing To Me Candy by Papercuts

Nothing I Can Say by Tony Molina

Danny Nedelko by IDLES

What Sign (Was Frankenstein?) by Escape-ism

Near by Deafheaven

See You At The Movies by J Mascis

It Will End Here by Gary Numan

Lemon Glow by Beach House

Leap Of Faith by The Interrupters

The Truce Of Twilight by The Good, The Bad, & The Queen

C by Oh Sees


And, in…

The Newbies Lift Off - Makaya McCraven

from the album Universal Beings (2018)

I love kinetic architecture and art.

I love visiting buildings designed by master designers. like John Portman and Santiago Calatrava, and the simply sitting in - and around - them.  Glass elevators, movable sunscreens, and revolving rooftops captivate me.

I love the sculptures that you find in modern public spaces. The works are often inspired by the masters of the post-WWII kinetic art movement, like Vladimir Tatlin and Alexander Calder.  They remind me of exquisite earrings dangling from a beautiful woman made of glass and steel.

I love large, well designed airports.  They are purposeful and inspirational.  Their landscapes kinetic, under a symphony of arriving and departing airplanes; all specialized vehicles delivering fuel, baggage, and booze; and the flow of passengers moving through the buildings.

Airports are beautiful.

I love being alone in a bustling airport, noise-cancelling coconut shells on my head, listening to great music.  It see…

Problem Child - Hen Ogledd

from the album Mogic (2018)

Taking their band name from the the Welsh term for The Old North, specifically a land where the Scottish lowlands meet the north of England, Hen Ogledd are a band whose sound - although modern - conjure sounds of classic rock and roll of yesteryear.

In particular, there is a quality to Richard Dawson's voice that evokes Ozzy and Peter Gabriel,, as well as every American who ever tried to sing in a rock club with a British accent.  I can't get enough of the vocal track on the song Problem Child.

I also dig how tight the band is.  Bass, drums, and guitar in perfect step.  The synthesizers are also notable for the perfection in their tone.

I hope to be able to catch this band live some day.  It would be fun to simply rock out again.

Click Here to watch the official video for Problem Child by Hen Ogledd.

Danny Nedelko - IDLES

from the album Joy As An Act Of Resistance (2018)

There is nothing quite like a driving, socially indignant, punk tune to light a fire in your belly.  Danny Nedelko might be the essence of such a song in 2018.

The song offers a full-throated endorsement for more lenient immigration policies in general, and particularly in support of the lyricist's friend, Danny Nedelko.  Dig the opening lyrics:

My blood brother is an immigrant
A beautiful immigrant
My blood brother is Freddie Mercury
A Nigerian mother of three

He's made of bones, he's made of blood
He's made of flesh, he's made of love
He's made of you, he's made of me
Unity

Yet the lyrics keep getting better, and more on point:

Fear leads to panic, panic leads to pain
Pain leads to anger, anger leads to hate

This is protest music.  We always need more of it.

Click Here to watch the official music video for Danny Nedelko by IDLES.

Too Real - FONTAINES D.C.

from the single Too Real (2018)

On Too Real, a slamming new song from Brooklyn's FONTAINES D.C.

This song is perfectly aligned with my mindset these days.  Punk rock days.  Joe...

Listen to that bass playing.  Grooves you never expected grooving to.

Listen to the guitar work.  90s rock stylings over madass grooves.

The drumming.  The vocals.

The perfect song for today.

Click Here to watch the official video for Too Real by FONTAINES D.C.

The Truce Of Twilight - The Good, The Bad, & The Queen

from the album Merrie Land (2018)

Earlier this year, Henry Rollins was quoted as saying, "This is not a time to be dismayed, this is punk rock time.  This is what Joe Strummer trained you for."

I think of Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, and - of course - Joe, and reflect on their power as songwriters to align our inner compasses to better live our lives.

I also think about how Bob Dylan continues to do this in his late seventies.  I imagine that the same would be true for Bob Marley and Joe Strummer, had they not died so young.  It is hard to even imagine being able to go to a Bob Marley concert today.  It would be heaven.

On Merrie Land, the latest album by The Good, The Bad, & The Queen, these thoughts are in the center of my mind as I listen to the song The Truce Of Twilight.  The spirit of The Clash - and Joe Strummer - are present in every corner of this song.

Of course, that has everything to do with Paul Simonon's bass track.  He channels his former band in laying down…