Wherever You Go - Dee White

from the album Southern Gentleman (2019)

Every once in a while, I find myself listening in awe to a record's production.  Such is the case with Wherever You Go, the lead track from Dee White's forthcoming debut album.

This record manages to capture the sound of 1970's sun-drenched country in a way that recalls the best of The Ozark Mountain Daredevils.  The sound firmly takes you back to a time when having the windows down and cigarettes in the ashtray was expected.

Imagine yourself driving along a backroad in Alabama, stereo turned-up loud and this song on the radio.  To complete the scene, imagine the cutie-pie sitting next to you, their long hair flowing as their head bounces to the music.

This mastery of production comes from The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and David R. Ferguson.  Ferguson's credits include a grammy award for sound engineering Johnny Cash's American Recordings.

The record's lazy day tone is perfectly suited for Dee White's vocals.  The…

He Don't Burn For Me - The Delines

from the album The Imperial (2019)

When I think of soul music, my first instincts take me to a place that is urban and Black.  It is a sensible reaction when you consider all of those iconic singers, like Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, and Curtis Mayfield.  They define soul music.

Personally, I have a thing for Southern Soul.  I've made multiple pilgrimages to Stax Studios in Memphis and to Muscle Shoals, Alabama just to breathe the air.  One is urban, the other is rural.  Yet they are both hallowed ground for pure, spine tingling Soul.  I also think about my favorite band in American music, Booker T. & The MGs.  Two guys were black, two guys were white.

Soul Music is universal.

He Don't Burn For Me is a beautifully composed, arranged, and performed song by the Portland, Oregon alternative country band, The Delines.  It is also a shimmering reminder of the magnificence that exists at the intersection of country music and soul.

This song is timeless.  I close my eyes and can …

First World Problems - Ian Brown

from the forthcoming album Ripples (2019)

Despite his six lovely solo albums, Ian Brown will always be first thought of as the lead singer for The Stone Roses.

On First World Problems, the lead single from his forthcoming solo album, you find him in top form; his distinctive voice coupled with a late 80s vibe reminiscent of The Farm, EMF, and - needless to say - The Stone Roses.

I really dig the song's bounce, created by a bright drumming and a punchy bass line.  This rhythm section perfectly underpins the Ian Brown's trademark vocals.  Keyboards and guitars fill the soundscape with beautiful restraint.

If you are looking to time warp back to the golden days of Manchester bands, this is your ticket.

Click Here to watch the official video for First World Problems by Ian Brown.

MIXTAPE - The 30 Songs I Digged Most In 2018

Here is a mixtape of The 30 Songs I Digged Most In 2018.

Although these songs are scattered across indie, alternative, country, funk, electronica, soul, and dance, they all are rooted in outstanding songwriting, performance, and vibe.  In forming this mix, I tried to frame each song so that it can be fully appreciated as a stand-alone composition, while also attempting to create a mix that is listenable and offers an overarching sense of the year in music.

It is sad and beautiful.  It also has a fair amount of groove.  I hope you dig it.

Here is the playlist (note: the numbers next to the band name indicate where each song ranked on my "best of the year" listing):

Knocking' On Your Screen Door by John Prine (5)

Soul No. 5 by Caroline Rose (8)

Evan Finds The Third Room by Khruangbin (22)

Hands On You by Ashley Monroe (9)

Where We Are by Curtis Harding (12)

Love You So Bad by Ezra Furman (7)

Make Me Feel by Janelle Monáe (15)

We Got To Celebrate by Babert (25)

The Hype by Shopping

The 30 Songs I Digged Most In 2018

From my vantage point, this decade is proving to be wildly different from its predecessors.  For starters, this decade has yet to produce any radical, new form of music.  When you consider a decade like the 1970s, that brought us punk and funk and disco, where are our new genres of music?  Similarly, how sad has this decade been for music-inspired fashion?

Making matters even more odd, is that despite these tedious, tumultuous, tortured, tattered, troubled times we find ourselves in, there is relatively little protest music being made outside of the racial protests you find in hip-hop and rap.  When you think of the music of The Civil-Rights Movement, Vietnam, Thatcher's England, or the Reagan years, there were endless defiant songs that spoke truth to power.  Today, not so much.

Consider that in this era of endless and senseless school shootings, the definitive song calling out the violence is 1979's I Don't Like Mondays by The Boomtown Rats.

These differences are not mea…

Ugly Sweater Blues - JD McPherson

from the album Socks (2018)

Merry Christmas, everyone.

A few days ago, the very funky Richie Beans turned me on to Socks, an album of new holiday music by the Oklahoman singer-songwriter, JD McPherson.

The record is full of original, witty, warm, and melodic songs.  On of the best holiday records in years.

Here is my (current) favorite song of the record, Ugly Sweater Blues.

Thanks Richie!  Ho Ho Ho, y'all.

Click Here to listen to Ugly Sweater Blues by JD McPherson.

Neon Moon - Cigarettes After Sex

from the single Neon Moon (2018)

It seems that every December, a smattering of musical artists quietly drop singles that steal my heart.

Earlier this week, Cigarettes After Sex released a cover of the 1992 Brooks & Dunn song Neon Moon.  It is mesmerizing.

Cigarettes After Sex have a magnificent ability to slow down the tempo, turn down the volume, and strip away the superfluous; leaving behind the lasting beauty and essence of a composition.

In the case of Neon Moon, we are left with a portrait of a broken man, sitting in the back of bar room, mourning a lost love.  The story is set by a muted bass groove, locked together restrained ride cymbal and snare, that is embellished by stirring digital orchestration.

The tender lyrics, written by Ronnie Dunn, are melodiously delivered by Greg Gonzales.  They draw an ethereal, almost dreamlike, curtain across the image of the man sitting alone at a table.  It is shear magic.

Click Here to listen to Neon Moon by Cigarettes After Sex.

Click He…

Four Out Of Five - Arctic Monkeys

from the album Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2018)

The lyrics to the song Four Out Of Five by Arctic Monkeys contain the lines:

I put a taqueria on the roof
It was well reviewed
Four stars out of five

For months now, I have been thinking about those lines.  The taqueria, like any small business, represents a founder's dream.  Their vision of grandeur.  Validation that they matter.  A sense that they are more than just another face in a crowd.

Restraurateurs, like those in the arts, receive their validation in public.  It must be so demoralizing when they receive bad reviews.  Yet, the artist can always create their next piece of art, their masterpiece.  For the small businessperson, the bad review often leads to financial ruin from which they never recover.

For the rest of us, the review often lies in the mirror.  What do you see when you look into that deep, dark, truthful mirror?  Are you satisfied?

And how would you feel if your review received four stars out of five?  Woul…

Ride Before The Fall - The Reverend Horton Heat

from the album Whole New Life (2018)

Last night, I had the privilege of catching The Reverend Horton Heat's Holiday Hayride; a show that included such luminaries as Junior Brown, Big Sandy, and The Blasters.

However, the cherry on top was clearly The Reverend Horton Heat, his bass player Jimbo, and the rest of the band.  Their melodious twang is still ringing in my ears.

Along with their classics and a spattering of holiday songs (Silver Bells tops amongst them), they played songs from their new album.

Ride Before The Fall is the new song I will remember most.  It is an instrumental that fuses elements of surf, rockabilly, Duane Eddy guitar stylings, and a beat that can ride into the sunset.

God bless The Reverend Horton Heat.

Click Here to listen to Ride Before The Fall by The Reverend Horton Heat.

Gods Of The Good Shit - Facing New York

from the single Gods Of The Good Shit (2018)

When I first saw that a band named Facing New York released a song titled Gods Of The Good Shit, I assumed that a couple of dudes from Brooklyn, or New Jersey, wrote an ode to their marijuana dealer.  Instead, this song comes out of Oakland, California and is about the cosmic spirits that bring good things into your life.

More specifically, the song is about a down-on-his-luck guy, sitting in a bar, who connects with somebody he is attracted to.  Here are some lyrics:

I said to myself, "Hey man, you need some time on your own"
Get out on the road and chase the ones you couldn't get before
But then you walked in...

I prayed to the gods, "You know, I owe you each a jack and coke"
You led me to her, but now I'm scared that I'm gonna mess it up
Trying to sound smarter than I am, let this spinning wheel get out of hand
I don't want to tell you
You make comets collide in my chest
And I way overthink how I'm dressed

Girassóis de Van Gogh - Baco Exu do Blues

from the album Bluesman (2018)

I am in a dark place tonight; not "call the authorities" dark, but still somewhere between grim and morose on the metaphorical luminance scale.

Earlier, I arrived late to the company holiday "party" after cleaning up a client issue.  My coworkers were sitting around a fire pit, drinking wine and eating flat bread.  Nobody bothered to say "hello."  I helped myself to a glass of wine and stood there.  Nobody acknowledged me.

Soon after, my phone started going off with a string of texts containing personal rebukes and reprimands from a variety of people; each reminding me that I had failed at this, or that.  Then, as if by divine intervention, the battery died.

I stood there - staring into the black glass - as a darkness fell over me.  I looked at my coworkers and thought, "I don't belong here."  I put my half-empty wine glass on a table and walked away.  Nobody said "goodbye."

I proceeded to spend the n…

Don't Beat The Girl Out Of My Boy - Anna Calvi

from the album Hunter (2018)

British guitar virtuoso, Anna Calvi, writes songs that seem to resonate with me long after I've finished listening to them.

Such is the case with her summer single Don't Beat The Girl Out Of My Boy.  This song has become my ear worm for the past three months, largely due to the do-do-do-do vocal line, the screech at the end of the breakdown, and the the song's title line.

I am also a big fan of the stripped down (yet roughed up) guitar tones. Most people who can play guitar like her go for grander tones, but why bother when you have a Telecaster and a Vox?

Hope you dig it.

Click Here to watch the official music video for Don't Beat The Girl Out Of My Boy by Anna Calvi.

Pink Squirrel - Episode 10

Welcome to Episode 10 of Pink Squirrel.

This mixtape series is dedicated to sharing some of the great music released in 2018.

This final episode has a distinct vibe that - while sitting at the intersection of soul, rhythm & blues, and jazz - is as diverse as any mix in the series, in that you will also hear country, alternative, and disco in the mix.

Its cohesiveness is a testament to the direction that music has headed this decade, with genre lines blurred and people consuming broader spectrums of tunes.

I also dig how, in a mix that sounds fresh and new, you have musical icons - like Willie Nelson, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Neneh Cherry, and Miranda Lambert - all doing their thing.

I am particularly fond of the closing track, Love Having You Around, where the Late Nite Tuff Guy reworks First Choice's late 70s cover of the Stevie Wonder track.

Au revoir, Pink Squirrel.  It has been a fun year.

Here is the playlist:

Where We Are by Curtis Harding

Seek The Source by Christia…

Bombs Away - Charlotte Gainsbourg

from the EP Take 2 (2018)

Charlotte Gainsbourg records always entice me with their vibe and groove.  I am also enamored with the hushed sexiness of her vocal delivery.

These attributes are all front and center on Bombs Away, a sleek dance song that you can dance or bop to.

The vibe is Paris, with a touch of Tom Tom Club's New York.

It is a sound I can't stop listening to..

Click Here to listen to Bombs Away by Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Click Here to read my December 2017 blog post for Deadly Valentine by Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Click Here to read my January 2014 blog post for Charlotte Gainbourg's cover version of Jimi Hendrix's Hey Joe.

When Is The Future? - VNV Nation

from the album Noire (2018)

A guiding principle of the Hamburg-based group, VNV Nation, is that, "one should strive to achieve, not sit in bitter regret".  I dig that.

I also dig that VNV is shorthand for Victory Not Vengeance.

It is common for those attempting to disrupt the status quo, or those aiming to achieve personal distinction, to be confronted by naysayers, detractors, and adversaries.  Perhaps you've encountered it?  The best course of action is typically the one prescribed by VNV Nation.

It doesn't matter what they say: it matters what you do.  So, keep doing it; better and better each day.

In a similar vein, I dig the title of VNV Nation's song, When Is The Future?  This is a topic that I think about more often than most.  You see, the aspiring writer in me has always tried to frame my life in the context of a larger story.  Until about a dozen years ago, I thought that my life was a subplot to the story of the Irish in America, like you might find i…