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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…

Unwanted Number - Elvis Costello & The Imposters

from the album Look Now (2018)

One of the central tenets of this blog is that there are two essential elements of a great popular song:  songwriting and vocal performance.

Listening to Look Now, the latest album by Elvis Costello & The Imposters, I am reminded that there is more to the equation than those two attributes.  Otherwise, I would consider every song Costello song over the past four decades to be "great"; after all, his songwriting and vocals are consistently that good.

Putting my finger on that extra "something" is not as easy as it might seem.  It is intangible, dealing in  currencies such as relevance, resonance, and vibe.  What is it that connects a listener to one great song over another?

 The song I am digging most on the album is Unwanted Number.  Stellarly written and performed, there is something in the R&B vibe that connects me.  A magic in the soul hooks and groove.  A ghostly haunt in the backing vocals.  An affinity for Steve Nieve…

See You At The Movies - J Mascis

from the album Elastic Days (2018)

Yesterday, I spent some time talking on the phone with a dear friend.  He, like too many of us, has been navigating some pretty tough stuff over the past few years.  I wish I could wash his problems away, but that is - unfortunately - not in the cards.

I tried to speak with him about music,  New songs.  Concerts.  He shared that he is not listening to music much anymore.  We talked about not wanting to associate good songs with bad times.

Well, here is a song for my friend.  It is by J Mascis, the former lead guitarist from Dinosaur Jr.  The song is titled See You At The Movies, which I take as a metaphor for escaping reality.  I hope this song takes you back to happier times, when you were listening to all those New England bands and lighting the world up with your wit, your creativity, and your decency.

You are loved.

Click Here to listen to See You At The Movies by J. Mascis.

It Will End Here - Gary Numan

from the EP The Fallen (2018)

Of all the comeback stories in recent music history, there may be none more satisfying than Gary Numan's.  The young man who set the music world on fire, with songs like Cars and Are Friends Electric?, had largely faded away before being "rediscovered" by Nine Inch Nails and introduced to a new and younger audience.

This helped earn him his richly deserved props for being a pioneer of electronic music.  It also set the stage for some great new music.

I caught him in concert earlier this year.  It was one of the best shows of my year.  If you ever have the opportunity, check him out live...

On his latest EP, I am really digging the song It Will End Here.  As I listen to the static and industrial stylings, I imagine myself soaring a hundred feet above the ground through Himalayan valleys and gorges.  The song offers freedom and red in a way that curiously captives me.

I hope you enjoy...

Click Here to listen to It Will End Here by Gary Numan.

Keep It Out - Half Waif

from the album Lavender (2018)

At the beginning of each year, I create a playlist in iTunes and start filling it with new music from that year.

I am continually adding to that list and positioning the songs I dig most towards the top.  When I blog about a song, I give it a four-star rating and move it to a different playlist.  Currently, there are slightly under a hundred songs in the playlist.  I will probably add forty more before the end of the year and publish about as many posts.

Those remaining hundred songs will largely be left behind as my focus shifts to 2019.  That always makes me a little sad; but, hey, there are only so many days in a year.

The song Keep It Out has been sitting towards the top of my playlist for the majority of this year.  Yet, somehow, I had never got around to writing about it.  I suppose that is a testament to all the great new music released in 2018.

I adore this synth-pop tune.  Early on, the space in the music allows you to fully absorb the tones and…

Can You Get To That - Frazey Ford

from the single Can You Get To That (2018)

Frazey Ford is one of my favorite artists of this millennium.  I have been following her closely since she first emerged as a member of The Be Good Tanyas nearly twenty years ago.

Her 2010 album Obadiah, remains - in my opinion - one of the landmark records of this decade.

On recent records, Ms. Ford has continually downplayed her folksy, alternative country roots by infusing elements of classic R&B into her vernacular.  On her 2014 album, Indian Ocean, she even brought members of Al Green's 1970s band into the studio with her.  That too its a great album.

Earlier this year, she released the single Can You Get To That.  As I listen to this Funkadelic cover, I hear a musician on a journey to find an elusive sound.  It is a great composition with a cool arrangement and vibe.  The R&B influence is in the forefront, with lots of side influences from the delta weaving their way into the tune.

Crafting a sound is a lot like cooking; you…

Got To Go Where The Love Is - Van Morrison

from the album The Prophet Speaks (2018)

Have you ever wondered why there is no act in the musicsphere that sounds quite like Van Morrison?

I've been dissecting his new song Got To Go Where The Love Is, trying to figure out what makes it tick.

The song opens with an upright bass plucking out a groove, followed by the horn section with its four-note hook.  I am only nine seconds into the song and I know it is Van Morrison; and he hasn't even sang yet!  Is it tone, is it vibe?

Once the vocals enter, there is no mistaking the magnificence of that voice; even at seventy-three.

Then there are the bright keys, the jazzy guitar break, and the confident-yet-tasty drumming.  All are signatures of a master of musical arrangement and excellence.

You might be able to assemble some great musicians, find an extraordinary vocalist, and lay down music in this style.  However, it still would not sound quite like Van Morrison.  I believe that has something to do with magic.

Click Here to listen …

8 Gods Of Harlem - Rosanne Cash

from the album She Remembers Everything (2018)

There are few artists who consistently put out high-quality melodic music like Rosanne Cash.  Quietly, over the decades, she has amassed a catalogue that rivals any artist in country music.

On her latest release, the song I keep coming two is 8 Gods Of Harlem.  This well-written composition features two incredible guest vocalists:  Kris Kristofferson and Elvis Costello.

Kris Kristofferson voice is sounding a bit weathered.  Rightfully so.  The vocal tones are magnificently aged, adding authenticy and grit.

Elvis Costello's voice is in top form.  I particularly dig hearing him sing the backing vocal line in the chorus.  It reminds me of his backing vocals on Squeeze's Tempted and Black Coffee In Bed.

But despite these tremendous guests, this song belongs to Rosanne Cash who modestly delivers another great performance.  She is incredible.

Click Here to listen to 8 Gods Of Harlem by Rosanne Cash.

New Moon - Steve Gunn

from the album The Unseen In Between (2018)

Steve Gunn is alternative folk rocker based in Brooklyn.  He is best known as a guitarist for Kurt Vile's band, The Violators.

In New Moon, a pre-release from his forthcoming album, he manages to create a soundscape that mashes up the 60s of folk sounds of Donovan with the early psychedelia of Jefferson Airplane, while still maintaining a sense of modern.

The warmth of the acoustic guitar track, the clarion clarity of the bass, and an especially well-crafted arrangement set the stage for an outstanding vocal performance.

I also dig the songs visual imagery centered around a trip outside of the city that swirls with surreal mentions of grinning ghosts and a place that no one seems to know.

Click Here to listen to New Moon by Steve Gunn.

Wristbands - Galcher Lustwerk

from the album 200% Galcher (2018)

Imagine yourself as a Kung Fu Master, walking into a roadside bar filled with truck drivers and fornicators.  Imagine yourself with the knowledge that you could take out every person in the place with your kicks and chops and cat-like reflexes.

That is how I feel when I am wearing a wristband.  I am old enough.  I am a very important person.  I belong.

Click Here to listen to Wristbands by Galcher Lustwerk.

Dark Days (Revisited) - Art d'Ecco

from the album Trespasser (2018)

One of the absolutely best debut albums of 2018 is Trespasser by neo-glam rocker Art d'Ecco.

After two weeks of intense listening, I have concluded that Dark Days (Revisited) is the track I dig most.  There were so many t come from...

I suppose what does it for me in this song is testosterone-laced muscle of the bass and drums.  It reminds me a bit of T Rex, which seems to be appealing to my rock and roll sensibilities these days.

Over this throbbing rhythm, is an inspired vocal performance.  Each section of the arrangement finds Art d'Ecco delivering the perfectly appropriate vocal.  Listen to the different stylings he uses throughout the song.  It is a command performance.

Hats off to Art d'Ecco for one of the truly great debut records in recent years.  I hope you buy it and lose yourself in it.

Click Here to listen to Dark Days (Revisited) by Art d'Ecco.

Animal - Elektric Voodoo

from the album Animal (2018)

Electric Voodoo are a seven-piece band from San Diego, California.  They are led by Scott Tourney, one of the founders of Grace Potter & The Nocturnals.

What I really dig about this band is their remarkable ability to produce high-quality songs across a wide and diverse range of genres; while also exploring the intersections between these genres.

A perfect example is Animal, the title track off of their latest album.

On this song, you will hear Fela inspired Afrobeat mixed with a mid-eighties new wave sensibility.  I am not sure if I ever heard a song that sounds quite like this one.  I dig that!

So, if you happen to be enjoying a cocktail, raise your glass with me and offer a toast to Elektric Voodoo.  Here is to the innovators!

Click Here to listen to Animal by Elektric Voodoo.

What Sign (Was Frankenstein?) - Escape-ism

from the album The Lost Record (2018)

The other night, I caught a concert by The Oh Sees at a recently renovated venue.  They put on an excellent show, as always.

What made the night special was the opening band.  I was previously unfamiliar with them.  Still, they blew me away with their eccentric style of rock and roll; a distorted kind of rockabilly meets vampire movie soundtrack.

That band is Escape-ism.

One of my favorite songs in their set was What Sign (Was Frankenstein?), four minutes of guitars over childlike keyboards with throwback vocals.

It is great to stumble onto new music this way.  Get out of your domicile and find a great new band!

Click Here to listen to What Sign (Was Frankenstein?).

Kong - Neneh Cherry

from the single Kong (2018)

Sometimes there is something small that endears a song to me.  Such is the case with Kong, the new single by Neneh Cherry.

There is a nine-note bass groove that begins the song, strategically reemerging at select intervals, that I can't listen to enough.

The first thing that grabs me about it is the smoothness of how the bassist moves from one sound to another.  I also dig how "round" the sound is and how it locks in with the beat.  After a few dozen listens, I am also digging how the groove vaguely reminds me of Rock On by Davis Essex.

On top of that, this song features the vocal talents of Neneh Cherry.  Her voice is fantastic on this song.  A seemingly effortless high-wire act.

This song is going to make a great edition to my next late night music mix.

Click Here to watch the official music video for Kong by Neneh Cherry.

Rolling With The Punches - The Blue Stones

from the album Black Holes (2018)

One of my favorite elements in a good rock band's arsenal is the backing vocal.  Great backing vocals can make both a band and a song.

I suppose that if you held a proverbial gun to my head and asked my favorite backing vocal in rock history, I would choose Sympathy For The Devil by The Rolling Stones.  The woo-hoos are priceless.

Backing vocals are what I dig most in the song Rolling with The Punches by The Blue Stones.  Check out how the ooos and the oo-ooos take the song to a completely different level.  They are a universal hook.  So are the heys.

The groove, the drumming, the vocals, and the guitar are pretty good too.

Click Here to listen to Rolling With The Punches by The Blue Stones.