Fireworks - First Aid Kit

from the album Ruins (2018)

Listening to sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg harmonize sets my mind afire with remembrances of all the great vocal groups that came before them.  In doing so, I've become struck be the different approaches these incredible artists apply in their harmonizing craft.

I think about The Eagles, in particular the song Take It Easy. It is a straight-forward approach where each singer hits a note and those notes collectively form chords.  The beauty is that this is a four part harmony, with the forth tone adds color that takes the listener on an emotional ride.  It is very powerful and nobody does it better.

Then there are the harmonies of The Mamas & the Papas.  Here each of the four voices is like a rocket ship, soaring through the sky and leaving magnificent contrails in its wake.  Think of California Dreamin'.  There are times when teams of two singers play "call and response" with the other two - "and the sky is grey" - with…

After Hours - The Sufis

from the album After Hours (2018)

I first stumbled across The Sufis during the summer of 2013.  I instantly fell for the craftsmanship in their low-fi, psychedelic stylings.  I also dug the fact that they were from Nashville; a city one does not typically associate with psychedelia.

I thought they were gonna be the next big deal.  They even made list of The 25 Songs I Digged Most In 2013.

But then they fell off my radar and - over time - became lost in some dusty alcove of my hard drive.

Then, a few days ago, I went to the Burger Records website and WHAM there it was, a banner ad announcing a brand new album by The Sufis.  It made my day.

For those who don't know - I adore Burger Records.  Their ever evolving stable of artists represent the best in low-fi music that matters (to me).  No big label nonsense, just talented people making their way in this world.  It also doesn't hurt that they have been known to read this blog and gave me a sweet swag bag at SXSW a few years ago!

Gigolo A Go Go - Episode 9

I really dig how funk music touches so many other genres, like R&B, Soul, Disco, Jazz, Rock, and increasingly Electronic.

This is a mix that dances on that magical thread that stitches funk and disco together.  It has deep '70s funk tunes, like Get The Funk Out Of Ma Face by The Brothers Johnson mixed with dance classics from Larry Levan's Paradise Garage that include Don't Make Me Wait by NYC Peech Boys.

It also jumps into the '90s with tunes like Hot Thing by Prince and Freaks Of The Industry by Digital Underground.

Jam to this the next time your funky friends pay a visit.  I'm sure they'll dig it.

Here is the playlist:

Love The Life You Live by Black Heat

Booty Ooty by Johnny "Guitar" Watson

Get The Funk Out Of Ma Face by The Brothers Johnson

Don't Make Me Wait by NYC Peech Boys

Shack Up by Banbarra

Seven Minutes Of Funk by The Whole Darn Family

Freaks Of The Industry by Digital Underground

You Gotta Case by The Love Unlimited Orchestra

Psych-Out b…

Love & Sacrifice - Sylvan LaCue

from the album Apologies In Advance (2018)

Can we talk about rap?

I usually avoid the subject, not wanting to be "that" guy; the Archie Bunker sounding mother-fucker talking trash about something he doesn't understand.  But you know what, I am NOT that guy.  I am a guy who absolutely loves music.  I am a guy who takes the time to appreciate and understand an artist's point of view.  I'm a guy who has spent a lifetime listening to hundreds of thousands of songs, dissecting them, and soul searching about what it is that I like - or dislike - about each of them, based on their merits.

And sadly, I have also been a guy who avoids the subject of rap.  Shame on me.

I first began listening to rap nearly four decades ago, smokin' dope in the basement of Mikey Mel's mother's house on Long Island.  We'd play twelve-inchers by Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow, and Spoonie Gee.  I could rap every word to every song.  These guys were included in my early mixtape…

I Love LA - Starcrawler

from the album Starcrawler (2018)

So, when I think about he spirit of rock and roll, I imagine a band of young adults going into a studio and playing their hearts out.  It is lo-fi.  It is raw.  It is full of energy and enthusiasm.  Then some DJ, somewhere, starts playing the tune and it catches wildfire, propelling the young band into stardom.

That is it.  The rock and roll fantasy.

This runs through my mind as I listen to Starcrawler, a four-piece unit out of Los Angeles whose charismatic, eighteen year-old front woman Arrow de Wilde has a curious obsession with the music of Ozzy.  It is everything you want in a debut album.

My favorite track (thus far) is I Love LA.  Overdriven guitars, manic drumming, and pulsing bass coupled with a captivating singer.  Straight from the garage to your living room.

Making this record even more curious is its producer, Ryan Adams.  You can hear his touch, but more his attitude.  I imagine him guiding the band with advice like, "Just fucking be…

Friction - Shame

from the album Songs Of Praise (2018)

Shame is a London-based quintet who sound recalls the glory of great Manchester bands, like The Fall and The Stone Roses.

My favorite track on their debut album is Friction.  I like the way it bounces, the vocal delivery, the guitar riffing, and all its post-punk vigor.  I also dig the social righteousness of the lyrics.  It is not too in your face, but rather offering a nudge to the listener, as the opening lines of Friction demonstrate:

Do you ever help the helpless?
Do you give them any time?
Do you ever bully you conscience and detach from your mind?
Well, do you ever need the needy?
Do they ever tug on your heart?
Or do you determine the person in question is simply worlds apart?

When I rapid click through all the new indie and alternative songs, this band - and this song - explode from the speakers.  They are a superior force that cannot be ignored.

Click Here to listen to Friction by Shame.

Saving Grace - Tinsley Elis

from the album Winning Hand (2018)

Once upon a nasty, rainy night, maybe twenty years ago, Jack Yoder and I were looking to drink cheap beer and listen to the blues.  Soon after, we were at the bar at the Northside Tavern. The crowd consisted of a well-chosen few.  Frank Edwards - Mr. Frank - was sitting on his usual stool between the side of the stage and the rest room.  As always, we bought him a drink.

A few other Atlanta blues luminaries were floating in and out.

I don't recall who the band was, but Tinsley Ellis joined them on stage.  His tone and technique on the guitar left us raw.  I still get goosebumps thinking about it.

After he finished, we drove back to my place - Jack was living on my couch at the time - in silence.  No words were necessary.

I took my trusty basset hound - Elmore James - out for a quick squirt.  When we came back, Jack was in the kitchen - fixing a Jack & Coke and shaking his head - "Holy mother-fuckin' shit," he said.

I lit a bong …

Pink Squirrel - Creep Show

from the album Mr. Dynamite (2018)

If you are unfamiliar with John Grant, I recommend that you check him out.

A fantastic singer and songwriter, his music is connects with listeners through a strong sense of melody and groove coupled with very human and thoughtful lyrics.  His first band, The Czars, released six albums beginning around 2006.  The music was a brand of alternative folk that managed to take listeners to unexpected places.  Over the years, I have come to adore songs like Killjoy and Paint The Moon.

Subsequently, he has embarked on a solo career and a series of collaborations that have replaced the folk vibe with electronica.  I urge you to check out his 2013 song GMF, or his performance on Hercules and Love Affair's I Try To Talk To You.

His latest project is Creep Show, a collaboration with the electronic dance trio Wrangler.  I've been listening to the first single - Pink Squirrel - an interesting synth song comprised of of post-punk order edged riffing juxtapos…

Shadow People - The Limiñanas

from the album Shadow People (2018)

As I start my seventh year of writing this blog, I find myself reflecting on many of the talented emerging artists whose songs I've written about.  Kinda my own version of "Where Are They Now?"

Sadly, too many artists lose their way, falling into any of four categories:

     --> Artists who become distracted, change their focus, and lose their essence.
     --> Artists who cannot sustain quality in their songwriting and performances.
     --> Artists who cannot sustain a regular cadence in releasing new material, causing their audience to lose interest.
     --> Artists who simply disappear.

Less common are the artists who repeatedly release excellent material, evolving their artistry and craftsmanship along the way.

The Limiñanas are one such band.

Shadow People is a pre-released song from their forthcoming album of the same name.  I dig it on many levels.

In the introduction, listen as the acoustic guitar, drums, and keybo…

I Don't Wanna Be Without You - The James Hunter Six

from the album Whatever It Takes (2018)

The world lost the great soul singer Sharon Jones in November 2016.  This was followed by the death of another iconic sol singer, Charles Bradley, in September 2017.  These losses were particularly profound for Daptone Records, the small Brooklyn-based record label that called both of these artists home.

There was never really any doubt that Daptone would soldier on, making some of the finest music on the planet.  After all, they have such a great collection of frontmen and session artists.  However, on wondered if their glory would wane.

In Don't Wanna Be Without You is a new song from The James Hunter Six.  It has all of the earmarks of a Daptone record; a vintage soul vibe, stellar musicianship, impeccable production, and vocals that give you goose bumps.

Take a listen.  Is it from another time, or simply timeless?  Soul music that comes from the soul.

Long live Daptone Records!

Click Here to listen I Don't Wanna Be Without You by The J…

Count To Five - Rhye

from the album Blood (2018)

If you dig a great vibe, then you dig Rhye.

Their sound intertwines electronic, funk, lounge, and dance to create a sultry, blue, haze of smoke.  The vocals are gender-bending, sexy, and magnificent.  No other band sounds like this.  It is the sound of ecstasy, whether experienced in a hip, big city lounge or in a private bedroom.

Funny thing about ecstasy, it comes in many forms.  Sometimes, more than one.

Of the pre-released songs on Rhye's forthcoming album, Blood, my favorite track is Count To Five.  This confession of desire has a grove that drived me wild.  The bass line and drum beat are locked incredibly tight, accented by tasty, funky-disco rhythm guitar.  The arrangement breaks down and builds back up in precisely the perfect moments.  A hint of orchestration, in spots, takes you back to 70's AM radio; while the harder synths, firmly plant the song in the now.

Milosh's vocals are simply out of this world.

I think we could all use some …

The Priest - Johnny Marr & Maxine Peake

from the single The Priest (2017)

Just before Christmas, Johnny Marr & Maxine Peake released The Priest, a song intended to tease ahead of a forthcoming Johnny Marr solo album, due out in Spring 2018.

This song is spoken word over a musical soundscape.  The words were written by Joe Gallagher, who lived homeless on the streets of Edinburgh, Scotland from May 2015 thru March 2016.  During this time he documented the characters he met and published them in The Big Issue under the pseudonym of James Campbell.  The Priest is one of those characters.

Maxine Peake performs these words exquisitely.  Rather than the theatrical stylings we often associate with spoken word, we are treated to a conversational tone in a lower-income British dialect. I dig the meter, tone, and inflection of the words.

The musical backdrop represents Johnny Marr at his best.  Guitars with swirling reverb and fuzz, a steady, muscular beat, and a subliminal bass groove that holds the entire affair together.  I co…

Every 1's A Winner - Ty Segall

from the album Freedom's Goblin (2018)

I really dig the brisk cadence that Ty Segall has established in releasing new material.

It seems that every three or four months we are treated to a new creation.  Sometimes it is an album, other times an EP or a single.  Sometimes it is with a full band, sometimes a collaboration, sometimes a lo-fi home recording.

This practice of continually releasing, continually promoting, continually evolving is well suited for modern times.  It is a mantra each of us should adopt.  Scores of software weenies have made countless millions with this technique.

On his forthcoming 19-song album Freedom Goblins, I am really digging the tune Every 1's A Winner.  This is a cover song by the great British soul-funk-disco band Hot Chocolate, whose classic You Sexy Thing made the Top Ten music charts in three decades.

Every 1's A Winner is the perfect choice for Ty Segall.  He is able to take the hard rockin' guitars and punched up funk groove of the o…

Love You So Bad - Ezra Furman

from the album Transangelic Exodus (2018)

If you could be in my workspace, you would find - in one corner - an iMac sitting on a desk with a MIDI interface beside it.  The desk is further adorned with a microphone, an eight channel Mackie board, Genelec speakers, and studio headphones.

In another corner, there is a comfy, black leather chair and ottoman.  On the drink table beside it, you would find a drink along with a notebook filled with lyrics and ideas for lyrics.

The third corner is a shrine, containing that beautiful Fender Jazz bass I bought - many moons ago - with the proceeds from a favorable "black market" exchange rate in Paramaribo.  The Jazz has brand new strings, a new strap, and a vintage-looking cord that plugs handsomely into a Fender Rumble 500 amplifier.

In the final corner, lays a sweet rottweiler named Cupcake.

This gear is helping to produce the best bass tone I've ever created; deep bass that sounds round without sounding bright.  When you strike …

Everybody Wants To Be Famous - Superorganism

from the single Everybody Wants To Be Famous (2018)

Everybody wants and nobody's ashamed
Everybody wants you to know their name

Count me in.  I want to be famous; the star of the show, the big kahuna.  Don't you?

I suppose that only leaves one question:  What's your plan?

For Superorganism, the plan is to march to their own drum, creating a world of music that breaks rules and resonates with folks around the world.  They are an eight-person collective of music and film Do-It Yourselfers living in a London terrace apartment.  Here they use commonly available tools - like Garageband - to create their art with all the grandeur of a giant record label, although they are just a group of likeminded people with laptops and synthesizers.

I dig their story and their vibe.

I also dig their song Everybody Wants To Be Famous.  It is an infectious sing-along that juxtaposes its pop sensibility with a tongue firmly panted in their cheek.  It reminds me of early new wave bands, like The Wa…