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Ill Wind - Radiohead

from the single Ill Wind (2019)

Ill Wind is a song that appeared as a B-Side on Radiohead's 2016 album A Moon Shaped Pool.  The song was little circulated and was neither included on the album nor released to any of the music streaming services, until now.

Last week, Ill Wind was released as a single.  It is a fascinating song.  I really dig how the samba vibe underpins the composition, giving it sexiness and a touch of foreign intrigue.  This offers a counterpoint to all the swirling synthesizers and harmonies.  Thom Yorke's falsetto glides beautifully through this soundscape.  It is lovely.

What inspires me about this song is its story.  This song was sitting on somebodies hard drive gathering virtual dust, when somebody said, "Hey, what do you say we release that song, Ill Wind."  They do, and now people, like us, are digging it.

The story makes me want to take some of the ideas and creations that I have on the proverbial shelf and set them free into the world.  Ma…

Don't You Know - Durand Jones & The Indications

from the album American Love Call (2019)

A lot of times, when I am sitting around with less-than-funky friends, I listen as they bemoan the current state of music for being overly-commercial crap.  I usually lack the energy to all them that they are listening to the wrong music and that, if they took the time to open their mind and their ears, they might find that quite the opposite is true.

The digital age offers musicians with the ability to explore to global lexicon of recorded music and to affordably publish their own recordings to reach their beloved audience.  What could be better than that?

A case in point is Don't You Know by Durand Jones & The Indications.  It is nearly impossible to listen to this song without believing it was recorded by veteran musicians whose heyday past long before many of us were born.

That is not a dig, but rather a compliment.   This song possesses a classic Philadelphia soul sound, full of lush instrumental arrangements and beautiful harmonie…

It Rains Love - Lee Fields & The Expressions

from the album It Rains Love (2019)

There may be no more beautiful an instrument than the human voice.

A soul singer's voice is perhaps the most precious of all.  The mellifluous range of emotions it can evoke with subtle tonal variations has an unequaled ability to reveal inner truths into the human condition.  It is simply magical.

Lee Fields is a master soul singer.  This is evident on his latest single, It Rains Love, a funky, late night soul jam that shimmers with a mid-seventies lovers vibe.

I am particularly drawn to the song's instrumentation.  Each player is laying down something tasty.  Check out how the horns take you back to the sounds of Dionne Warwick singing the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David

Also, isolate on the old school, funky bass solo that ends the song.  Nothing fancy, just bottom and groove.  I dig it!

Click Here to watch the music video for It Takes Love by Lee Fields & The Expressions.

Click Here to read my June 2014 blog post for Just Can…

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 …

After All This Time - Michael Chapman

from the forthcoming album True North (2019)

In a world where things seem to exist in increasingly brief increments of time, I find myself drawn closer to people like Michael Chapman.  This English folkster has been releasing an album per year since 1969.  In a few weeks, he will be releasing his fifty-first album.

One of the teaser singles off of this album is a song titled After All This Time, which - at first glance - seemed very appropriate for the day.

The song is as beautifully arranged and performed as any recent folk piece I can recall.  The harmonies, the lead guitar, the petal steel guitar, and Michael Chapman's finely-aged vocals are all magnificent.

The lyrics focus on a long-lasting relationship where the two have grown apart and gone their separate ways.  He sings about this with sadness, lamenting on how the feelings of love have faded away.

Personally, I find the opposite to be true.  When I think that kindred soul in my life, nothing has faded.  After all these ye…

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
Y…

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…