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The 30 Songs I Digged Most In 2016

After a two-year hiatus, here is my list of The 30 Best Songs of 2016.

Of course, this is subjective.  I only considered songs released in 2016 that were included in the 190, or so, postings on this blog.  Although I had no set "evaluation criteria," songwriting, performance, and how much I dig the tune were undoubtably considered.

Every year, I miss dozens of great songs.  If you have any recommendations, please leave a comment or shoot me a note.  I always appreciate it.

Anyhow, here is this year's list...

1.  Black Man In A White World - Michael Kiwanuka

2.  You Want It Darker - Leonard Cohen

3. I Don't Want To Be Funny Anymore - Lucy Dacus

4.  Dance Like Fire - Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals

5.  Drag - Cat's Eyes

6.  To All The Cowboys - Ariel Bui

7.  Girl In Amber - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

8.  Berlin Got Blurry - Parquet Courts

9.  Dorothy - Kevin Morby

10.  Romantic - Mannequin Pussy

11.  St. Anne's Parade - Shovels & Rope

12.  Since …

A Willie Nice Christmas - Kacey Musgrave

from the album A Very Kacey Christmas (2016)

Imagine waking up on Christmas morning, walking out to the tree, and finding Willie Nelson sitting beside the fire, strumming his six-string, singing you a holiday song.

It would be mellow and tasty, with a sweet country twang.  His road-weary voice taking you to the place where goosebumps live.  What could be better?

Well, if that isn't happening, perhaps you can give A Willie Nice Christmas, a sassy little duet by Kacey Musgrave and Willie Nelson.  I dig Kacey, particularly her song Biscuits with the clever refrain "Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy."

A Willie Nice Christmas has a laid-back Hawaiian vibe and espouses a chilled-out holiday, while you have a "really, really, really, a really, really, willie nice Christmas" while hoping that "we stay higher than the angel on top of the tree."

Merry Christmas...

Click Here to listen to A Willie Nice Christmas.

I Shoulda Left You - Jeremih & Chance

from the mixtape Merry Christmas Lil' Mama (2016)

Just in time for Christmas, Jeremih and Chance The Rapper have put out a mixtape of original tunes.  If you are looking for some hip hop & rap for your Christmas Eve, this is your ticket.

The songs are tender and loving, in a rap kinda way.  The music and the lyrics are tremendous.

One of the standout songs is I Shoulda Left You.  It is not a "holiday" song in the way that the rest of the record is, but rather an emotional outburst against a year that was pretty damn tough.  My two favorite lines are "Fuck 2016" and "Please can we get Prince back?"  I can relate.

But anyhow, the rest of the record is splendid and more appropriate for the season.

Wishing you all the best...

Click Here to listen to the mixtape Merry Christmas Lil' Mama, including I Shoulda Left You.

I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry - John Scofield

from the album Country For Old Men (2016)

This year, the great jazz-rock guitarist John Scofield released Country For Old Men, a collection of instrumental jazz interpretations of country music standards.  It is phenomenal.

Top of the list is the "cover" of Hank Williams' I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry.  This is some of the best guitar soloing (and drumming) that I have heard in recent memory.  I also really dig the organ and bass.

Click Here to listen to John Scofield's interpretation of I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry.

I Wish The Guardian Believed That I Exist - Grace Petrie

from the EP There's No Such Thing As A Protest Singer (2016)

With the song I Wish The Guardian Believed That I Exist, protest singer Grace Petrie protests a declaration by British newspaper The Guardian that there are no longer any true protest singers.  Isn't it ironic?

I particularly dig lyrics.  Try this on:

Well I know you miss the good old days
Of picket lines and flags
When The Specials and The Jam all ruled the charts
But if you're really looking for this generation's Billy Bragg
We are all here with a fire in our hearts
But we're not on the radio
Because they don't want to know
And by this point it's really pretty clear
That the mainstream music press
Well they just couldn't care less
But its The Guardian keeps shouting we're not here

Oh there's no such thing as a protest singer
We don't have none of those
There's no such thing as a protest singer
We lost them when the mines all closed

It's been far too long since I've heard a protest s…

Mississippi-Arkansas Bridge - William Bell

from the album This Is Where I Live (2016)

Someday, someone will take a retrospective look at how the Vietnam War derailed the careers of many rising soul singers and how this caused a pivot in American music.

William Bell would be one of the people I would like to interview for this would-be documentary.  A rising star at Stax Records, he was instrumental in creating the Memphis Sound as a performer and songwriter.  He even co-wrote Born Under a Bad Sign with Booker T. Jones.  His ordinal recording of To Be A Lover would later be covered by Billy Idol.

Unfortunately, the release of his debut album was delayed until he finished his tour in Vietnam.  During that time, the music market shifted and that fine record never reached the heights it might otherwise have.  Meanwhile, his contemporaries - like Otis Redding - became legends.

Still, he has had a great career and created a legacy of incredible music.

This year, at age 77, he released This Is Where I Live, a splendid traditional sou…

Working Poor - Fantastic Negrito

from the album The Last Days Of Oakland (2016)

One of my absolute favorite records of 2016, The Last Days of Oakland is relevant and diverse unlike any "blues" record this decade.

The tune I dig most is Working Poor.  In spite of all its varied elements, this song is pure vibe.  Funky and lush.  Melodic and muscular.  A pure delight...

Hope you enjoy.

Click Here to listen to Working Poor.

Aunt Peg's New Old Man - Robbie Fulks

from the album Upland Stories (2016)

Storytelling is a natural way for humans to communicate.  From the Bible to Springsteen songs, stories - with their characters and lessons - help define the fabric that connects us all.

In my mind, storytelling is what helps differentiate American song.  It is a long tradition that continues across most genres today.

Aunt Peg's New Old Man by Robbie Fulks is a great example.  As you listen to this country folk tune, you see people you may know in Aunt Peg, her new old man, and their American family.  You also get to enjoy the subtle lessons in their story.

This year, Robbie Fulks was rewarded with a Grammy nomination for Best Folk Album for Upland Stories.  I'm rooting for him.

Click Here to listen to a live rendition of Aunt Peg's New Old Man.

The World's Smiling Now - Jim James

from the album Eternally Even (2016)

I always enjoy when a musician takes risk and expands into previously unexplored genres.  I particularly dig it when the motivation in artistic (as opposed to mercenary).

Such is the case with Jim James new album, Eternally Even.  Most noted as the frontman of the rock band My Morning Jacket, he has on occasion followed Dylan down the folk rabbit hole to ultimately perform the music of Woody Guthrie.  Great stuff.

However, on this album he explores R&B and Soul vibes.  In my mind, these are dangerous waters.  Rockers can go Folk, Country, or Blues with relative ease.  Even Jazz is accessible to a well schooled musician.  But Soul music is a different kind of thing.  I believe that Soul music - particularly the vocals - come from a place deep inside and that this ability is God given.

Soul singing involves things that are simply intangible.  You "feel" it in the space between a vibratos highs and lows.  When it is right, there is nothi…

Jet To The Jungle - Autoramas

from the album O Futuro Dos Autoramas (2016)

I have a very soft spot in my heart for Autoramas.  Back in June 2012 - a few months after starting this blog - my post on their cover version of New Order's Blue Monday went relatively "viral" giving me that first taste of the power of online publishing to reach a large audience.

I also have a soft spot in my heart because they hail from Brazil, home of the most beautiful land (and people) I have yet to visit on this earth. and lastly, they play a combination of punk and surf music!!!

I dream of attending a gig of theirs in a small Río club.  One day...

But for now, I find myself listening o their latest album and digging on the tune Jet To The Jungle.

This song features overdriven guitars, thrashing drums, and head banging vocals.  As the song title implies, this is the perfect tune for your post-punk excursion to the Amazon.

Click Here to watch the official music video for Jet To The Jungle.

Click Here to read my June 2012 bl…

Valdez Off Crenshaw - Terrace Martin

from the album Velvet Portraits (2016)

Although Terrace Martin's music is classified in the jazz genre - largely on account of his being a saxophonist - his music is so much more.  Hip-hop, funk, and soul abound in his music, defying labels.  I dig that.

And I particularly dig the tune Valdez Off Crenshaw. As the name implies, we are being taken on a ride through Los Angeles (always a treat).  The sax is smooth.  The synths are timeless. The beat has some funk.  Hot guitar licks leave you wanting to taste some tequila. And the groove puts a little sex in the air.  Welcome to LA.

As you listen to this song, you will be reminded that life is good.  Particularly if you act on your impulses.

Click Here to listen to Valdez Off Crenshaw.

Old Masters - Lambchop

from the album FLOTUS (2016)

Aah, the craft of making music !!!

For nearly 20 years, Lambchop has been making incredible music that is poetic, melodic, and altogether original.  On their latest record - FLOTUS - they have decided to craft an altogether new sound, one that incorporates beats, long-form musical patterns, and vocoder-heavy lyrics that allow Kurt Wagner's magnificent voice to become "another instrument" in the ensemble.

I think of the care that must have gone into creating this sound.  The hours of playing and listening.  The self-reflection.  The subtle tweaking of tone and dynamics.  It must have been a labor of love.

For me, I enjoy listening to this album in its entirety.  Loosing myself in the rhythms and melodies.  By the time I get to track six - Old Masters - I have been transported to a beautiful listening state.  It is here that the the bass guitar playing of Matt Swanson brings me to my knees.  His playing is the thread that connects the album, an…

Born Again Teen - Lucius

from the album Good Grief (2016)

Brooklyn's Lucius is a five piece band whose sophomore album - Good Grief - is largely loaded with 80's-styled synth music.  This includes songs like Born Again Teen that will lift your spirits and remind you of some really bad haircuts.

This well-assembled song commands you with its thick grooves.  It commands you to move your head.  It commands you to drive faster.  It commands you to dance.

It commands you to forget whatever is on your mind and to live in the moment.

Is there anything better than that?

Click Here to watch the official video to Born Again Teen.

White Christmas Blue - Loretta Lynn

from the album White Christmas Blue (2016)

Two of my favorite holiday tunes are White Christmas and Blue Christmas.

White Christmas, with Bing Crosby crooning of idyllic images and memories from Christmas' past while writing a Christmas card to someone he loves.   Blue Christmas, with Elvis Presley of the lonely side of Christmas we all encounter when that someone special is not there to share in the festivities.  Iconic songs with iconic singers.

My favorite new holiday tune of this year is White Christmas Blue by Loretta Lynn.  Here the themes of these two great songs are brought together magnificently by the 84-year old country gal.  Set to the warmth of a tight country band - complete with piano, mandolin, and fiddle - the great Loretta Lynn falls right into the pocket delivering a string of great images and rhymes as only she can.

My favorite line:  "I should be saying Ho Ho Ho, instead of Boo Hoo Hoo".  Loretta Lynn is simply the best.

I bet I'll play this song …

Darkness And Light - John Legend

from the album Darkness And Light (2016)

I was recently listening to Jon Peter Lewis' cover of Bob Dylan's Not Dark Yet.  I found the background singers's voice to be captivating.  With a little research, I discovered that it was Blake Mills.

Blake Mills has a curious way of unexpectedly popping up in my musical listening.  It figures since this 30-year old is one of the most sought after cats in Los Angeles these days.  This is based on his mastery as a guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, arranger, and producer. Wow.

My favorite accomplishment by Blake Mills is his production of Alabama Shakes second album, Sound & Color.  This record has been a favorite of mine since its initial release.  I equate it to a modern version of Led Zeppelin in their prime.  The production is stellar.

So, when the new John Legend record came out last week, I read that Blake Mills was the producer.  This is the big time.  He is now working at the highest level of the recording industry.  I had…

Ngo Kuivu - Bonga

from the album Recados De Fora (2016)

It is amazing to study how the relocation of humans - through exploration, colonization, immigration, and exploitation - effects the varied regions of the world.

"African music" is not ubiquitous.  The music of Nigeria differs from South Africa, Uganda, or Ethiopia.  This is largely the result of European colonization.

Consider the music of Angola.  This country is wildly influenced by the Portuguese colonization of the early 1500's.  Angolan music sounds different tun other African music.  Interestingly, it also sounds different than Portuguese colonies in other parts of the world, like Brazil.

In the west, Angolan music somehow found its way to Cuba and influenced the Cuban sound.  With the rise of Fidel Castro, this sound was transplanted into South Florida by refugees.

Take a listen to Ngo Kuivu by the Angolan music legend Bonga.  Listen to how the guitars and horns play off of African rhythms.  Think about how this sounds differ…

'Tis A Pity She Was A Whore - David Bowie

from the album Blackstar (2016)

The opening three seconds of 'Tis A Pity She Was A Whore, David Bowie inhales and exhales through his nose over some background tape jabber.  It captivates me more than almost any song introduction I can recall.

How many breaths did Bowie have left during this recording?  In the big picture, too few.

What makes these breaths more fascinating is that he is counting out the meter of the song.  Note that the drums maintain the beat to the breaths throughout the song.

Over this enters the incredible sound of Donnie McCaslin's jazz combo, as it leads into Bowie's vocals, culminating into his trademark falsetto.  It is pure magic.

As I listen, I envision music as smoke, emanating from his nose and enveloping the room, the sound creating a lush cocoon for the listener.

I could stay here forever.

Click Here to listen to 'Tis A Pity She Was A Whore.

Since You Put Me Down - Margo Price

from the album Midwest Farmer's Daughter (2016)

I often save my country music listening sessions for driving alone on the interstate.  This allows me to crank it and sing it without fear of repercussion from the anti-country snobs.  Lately, this is almost exclusively the album Midwest Farmer's Daughter by Margo Price, far and away the best country debut I have heard this decade.

My favorite track is Since You Put Me Down, a classic country tune that strikes the at your heartstrings and makes you want to spread sawdust on the dance floor.

It is everything a country song should be.  Listen to the vocals, the country piano, the fiddle, the hot guitar licks, the petal steel, and the incredible rhythm section.

Great songwriting and great vocals.  Here they are...

Click Here to listen to Since You Put Me Down.

Love As A Weapon - Little Scream

from the album Cult Following (2016)

One of my funky friends contends that The Rolling Stones' song Emotional Rescue is the prototype for many of Prince's greatest tracks.  I am not certain that I agree with her, but how I would have loved hearing Prince cover that song.

This proposition really comes to light when I listen to Love As A Weapon, a delightfully infectious tune by Little Scream (a.k.a. Laurel Sprengelmeyer).

It is really all about tone - in particularly the tone of the rhythm guitar, coupled with the falsetto vocals - and the groove.  I really dig how the bass lays back in the track: fat and confident, not needing to be out front, while still commanding the listener to dance.

The song is also well structured and crafted.  I dig how it follows the structure of all great dance tunes (particularly the chill down) without being too obvious about it.  Good stuff.

Hope this song makes you dance...

Click Here to watch the official video to Love As A Weapon.

I Don't Wanna Be Funny Anymore - Lucy Dacus

from the album No Burden (2016)

As readers of this blog may remember, I have a mild obsession with Track One on an artist's debut album.  This is their declarative statement.  Their artistic manifesto.  Blitzkreig Bop by The Ramones.  Foxy Lady by Jimi Hendrix.  Break On Through by The Doors.  The list is long.

I also believe that women represent the future of rock and roll.  For men, most conceivable archetypes have been explored.  Very little room is left for anything but retreads.  However, that is not the case with women.  They are more nuanced, offering more possibilities than the bad girl, or the party girls that we typically find.  The future is theirs.

I Don't Wanna Be Funny Anymore is the Track One on Lucy Dacus' debut album, No Burden.  Here, in the wrapper of a singer-songwriter, she presents herself as a master of many domains.  Raw & Powerful.  Melodic & Orchestral.  Yearning & Intelligent.

The lyrics and driving with-note rhythm are what initially …

Know Your Rights - Lynval Golding & The Contra Group

from the EP Know Your Rights (2016)

I've been thinking a bit about Joe Strummer lately.  Thinking about his music and voice as instruments of social justice.  Thinking about how much he would dig other people covering these songs.

One song that has been on my mind is Know Your Rights, the lead track on Combat Rock.  I remember the day the album came out and racing to the record store to pick it up.  The opening guitars followed by Joe proclaiming "This is a public service announcement... with GUITARS" seemed so brilliant that day, as did other lines from the tune like:

You have the right, not to be killed
Murder is a crime
Unless it is done by a policeman
Or an aristocrat

Why has this song not earned its due in the long list of great Clash tunes.  I don't get it.

Well, apparently neither does Lynval Golding.  The great MC for The Specials has recorded an EP with the Austin, Texas' The Contra Group that features a stirring cover of this favorite tune.

The song lends i…

Hate To See You Go - The Rolling Stones

from the album Blue & Lonesome (2016)

At their core, The Rolling Stones are rooted in the blues.  From their 1964 tribute to Chess Records - 2120 South Michigan Avenue - to taking their band name from a Muddy Waters song, the Stones and the blues are inseparable.

Check out the moment in the concert film Shine A Light when Buddy Guy joins them on stage for Champagne & Reefer, you see the joy in the bands faces and hear the heightened intensity in their sound.

This week, the band releases Blue & Lonesome, a record comprised of covers of old blues songs.  The record further stakes their claim as a great blues band.

Of the pre-released songs, my favorite is Hate To See You Go.  This Little Walter cover is highlighted by Mick Jagger's harmonica playing.  I dig sitting back and thinking "that cat can blow like Little Walter."  High praise.

Willie Dixon famously said "The blues are the roots, the rest are the fruits."  It is nice to see the fruits giving b…

Où Va Le Monde - La Femme

from the album Mystère (2016)

La Femme is a French band that create trippy vibes.  Check out the western mysterioso stylings going on in Où Va Le Monde.

Coupled with the vocals, this song takes my on a groovy psychedelic journey that makes me smile.

Click Here to watch the video for Où Va Le Monde.

Muscles - Sport

from the album Slow (2016)

I am excited to be bouncing around France for a few days.

Paris is quite different than I imagined it.  More gritty, less magical.  Maybe that makes it more magical?

Anyhow, the vibe here really calls for some strong alternative rock and punk bands.  In my search, I came across Sport, an indie band from Lyon that I am really digging.  There music has a Replacements sensibility that I cannot get enough of.

Check out the tune Muscles.  It is melodic with a driving sense of purpose.  This is what I want on my headphones when I ride the Metro.

Click Here to listen to Muscles.

Mr. Babylon - Bi.ba

from the album Massavana (2016)

With Dancehall and Dub styles in season, great new roots reggae is sometimes hard to uncover.  Look no further than Bi.ba.

On their latest album, this Bingy Band throw down a chain of grooves that soothes the soul and puts joy in your heart.

Check out the tune Mr. Babylon.  Listen to the tightness of the rhythm section.  Feel how everything blossoms from there.

Click Here to listen to a live version of Mr. Babylon.

Soma Gone Slapstick - Kristin Hersh

from the book Wyatt At The Coyote Palace (2016)

Last night, I caught a Kristin Hersh show at Saint John on Bethnal Green in London.  There is something about this city that makes every musical performance a cherished event.

She is on tour promoting her new book Wyatt At The Coyote Palace and the double CD that accompanies it.  I quite dig this type of packaging.  So many of the singer/songwriters I admire also write excellent prose.  Combining the two seems too natural.

One of the new songs that stood out most is Soma Gone Slapstick, the lead single.  Although the lyrics are expectedly out front on this tune, it is the underpinning stomp and pulse that create the necessary tension to highlight the might of the lyric.

The world needs more thoughtful, high-quality writing in all forms.  Artists like Kristin Hersh have a special gift allowing them to contribute across the literary spectrum.

Click Here to listen to Soma Gone Slapstick.

B-Cuz - Bettie Serveert

from the album Damaged Goods (2016)

One of my funky recently texted me with an urgent message to check out the Dutch Indie band Bettie Serveert.  He saw them opening for Squeeze in Boston and became enthralled.

So I downloaded their most recent release - Damaged Goods - and boarded a transatlantic flight where I would give them a spin.  Eight hours later, I was landing at Heathrow after a good dozen listens.  It is something of an indie tour de force ranging from epic rockers to Dusty Springfield inspired grooves.

The song I digged most was track one, B-Cuz.  The tone of this record takes me back to early Who songs from albums like My Generation.  In fact, the song almost seems to give a tip of the hat to the song The Kids Are Alright.

I really enjoy how that 50-something year old sound is updated into something fresh and current.

Do yourself a favor and check out the full record.  There are lots of gems here.

Click Here to watch Bettie Serveert perform B-Cuz live.

I Trusted U - Balkan Beat Box

from the album Shout It Out (2016)

Balkan Beat Box is an Israeli band whose music is stands at the intersection of gypsy punk, electonica, and reggae in a style that incorporates Jewish, Middle-Eastern, and Eastern European traditions.

I first became aware of them a decade, or so, ago through their song Bulgarian Chicks.

The single of their latest record is titled I Trusted You.   The song contains a dizzying mix of beats, horns, rhythms, and catchy vocals.  I dig it.

Click Here to watch the official video to I Trusted U.

Hey Lucinda - Tindersticks

from the album The Waiting Room (2016)

Lhasa de Sela has collaborated with Tindersticks before, her voice offering a perfect counterpoint to frontman Stuart A. Samples' iconic vocals.  The two have even recorded together on Mr. Samples' solo efforts.

What makes this year's release of the song Hey Lucinda particularly poignant, is that Lhasa de Sela sadly died of breast cancer in 2010.

In a Vogue interview earlier this year, Staples said of Hey Lucinda:

"When I first wrote the song, I was very excited because I broke a kind of stricture.  From Islands In The Stream to Lee (Hazlewood) & Nancy (Sinatra), duets have been written the same way.  The man sings a bit, the woman sings a bit, they sing the chorus together.  In Hey Lucinda, the music follows the conversation rather than the conversation being fitted to the song structure."

"I went to Montreal, where Lhasa lived, and sang it with her, and it sounded great, but I was struggling - it was too linear, a…

I Know Who - Ash.

from the EP The Please Like Me (2016)

How about some auto-tone laden, R&B driven, synth-pop to roll into the weekend?

Last night, I heard the tune I Know Who by Ash. on SCAD Atlanta radio.  It was catchy and hooky in a way I did not expect.  I even turned up the volume (a lot).

Sometimes we all need some mindless goodness to cleanse our spirits and souls.  For those times we go there, it is best to choose really, really god mindless goodness.

I dig this tune.

Click Here to watch the official video to I Know Who.

Felicidade - Dom La Nena

from the EP Cantando (2016)

I am on a beautiful, moonlit beach.  Just me and the Land Ro.  A few hundred yards to my left are some sailors, boisterous and drunk, speaking Portuguese.  A bit apprehensive, I walk in the opposite direction.  The Land Ro follows me.

As the sound of the sailors fades beneath the soft surf, the sky becomes electric.  The stars begin to dance on their indigo backdrop. I walk in wonder.

Maybe half an hour later, I reach a perfectly rounded cove and decide to rest on a well-placed piece of driftwood.  I sit there, secluded, wondering if this is where my magical journey ends.

Music starts to play.  A beautiful, soft Brazilian voice over plucked strings.  Bowed strings come in adding to the magic.  The shazam in my mind has heard this voice before.  It is Dom La Nena.  Hers is the sweetest voice I know.

I lay in the sand, looking towards the heavens.  The Land Ro morphs into a giant snowy egret and flies away.  The music plays.

Do do do...

Click Here to listen to

Motivation - Babyfather

from the album "BBF" Hosted By DJ Escrow (2016)

I'm on the floor of a Brixton pub.  You know, the one with the rottweiler on the roof.  I can't move and there is this Hackney brother hovering over me.  As grateful as I am that he is not belting out a rendition of Singing In the Rain, I am a bit alarmed by the rapping and all the talk of "niggas."

It's an understated, monotone, do it on the bathroom floor kind of rap.  It is a song called Motivation.  The brother is Dean Blunt.  DJ Escrow is somewhere in the background, shouting out to all his tugs.

Shorty fell in love with a hustler
Shorty fell in love with a G
Hunny wanna hang with the brothers
And she's always down for the tease

I don't know Hunny.  I don't know Shorty.  I don't even know where my Land Ro is?

But you know what, Motivation is a pretty cool tune.  Now, get me out of here...

Click Here to listen to Motivation.

Plaisirs Américains - Bernardino Femminielli

from the album Plaisirs Américains (2016)

Maybe it was the super moon.  Maybe it was the shots of Salmaikki in that Helsinki bar.  But how the hell did I wind up in Paris?  And how did the trusted, rusted Land Rover get here?

Anyhow, I'm laying on the hood of the Land Ro - under my sleeping bag - eating baguette and stinky cheese trying to get that salty licorice taste of those shots out of my mouth.  It's working.  So is the Côtes du Rhône.

Bernardino Femminielli is also working.  I'm jamming the little track of his latest record - Plaisirs Américains - on my Land Ro stereo.  Seven minutes of ecstasy.  The hushed french vocals.  The percussive piano chords.

I'm diggin' this trip...

Click Here to listen to Plaisirs Américains.

Synnyin Syksyllä - Jukka Noisiainen

from the album Jukka Noisiainen (2016)

So I'm still behind the wheel of that old Land Rover.  Having cruised along the rough roads of Nigeria, I decided to hyperspace to some new scenery.  Welcome to Finland.

Some locals suggested I drive north from Oulu to Hammerfest, but I opted against it.  Good name for a puffy pants festival, bad name for a podiatrist convention.  Instead, I am cruising south along the Gulf of Bothnia towards Pori.  Good times.  Hope the skies clear so I can see the super moon.

For this leg of the journey, I am listening to Jukka Noisianinen,  I really dig this Finnish guitarist, particularly his tune Synnyin Syksyllä.

Warm analog tones, highlighted by a country twang and harmonies, create a familiar vibe.  However, the Finnish vocals give it an erie unsettled excitement.  Kind of like Tennessee in an alternative universe...

Anyhow, it is perfect for this ride.  Ooh.  Look.  It's the super moon.

Click Here to listen to Synnyin Syksyllä.

Win In the Flat World - Lorenzo Senni

from the album Persona (2016)

When I first started listening to the song Win In The Flat Room by Lorenza Senni, I had a similar feeling to when you come across an old photograph of someone from your past who - although dear to you - you have not thought about in decades.

The reason is the style of music, particularly the high-velocity riffing on the keyboard.

Once upon a time, I hung out in cars and dorm rooms listening to keyboardists like Keith Emerson and Rick Wakefield as they dazzled with hard-driven rocking riffs with near Mozart-like precision.  In the music circles I've been swimming in these days, the fellas just don't play that way.

I did not realize how much I missed it.

Click Here to listen to Win In A Flat World.

Finlin Ho - Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou

from the album Madjafalao (2016)

After this endless election cycle - and all the gloating and whining that has followed - wouldn't you just like to get away from it all?

In my mind, I am driving an old Land Rover across some remote stretch of West Africa.  The sun is warmly shining as I bounce along a dirt road in the open air.  The stereo is cranked up blasting the happy, free-spirited music of Orcrcheste Poly-Rythmo Cotonou.

Finlin Ho is tune that I keep coming back to.  The band grooving to polyrhythms and sweet, sweet melodies in a language I do not need to understand.  Just feeling the vibe, basking in the sunshine.

I wish this road could stretch forever...

Click Here to listen to Finlin Ho.

You Want It Darker - Leonard Cohen

from the album You Want It Darker (2016)

Leonard Cohen died today.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the song "If I Didn't Have Your Love."  I thought that it was altogether fitting to choses a love song from the final album of such a master songwriter.

I was urged by readers of this blog to also write about the album's title track, "You Want It Darker."  I agree with them that it is an incredible song, but I held back.  Not certain why.

Well, tonight I find myself listening to this song - over and over - wondering if he know of his impending death when crafting the lyrics and music.  Maybe...

Take a listen to a master songwriter at the end of his days.

God bless Leonard Cohen.

Click Here to listen to You Want It Darker.

Click Here to read my post on If I Didn't Have Your Love.

Out Of This World - Floating Pyramids

from the single Out Of This World (2016)

Once upon a time, I played in a band of highly talented musicians.  We were not a "band of equals" as the singer and guitar player were prima donnas, soaking up the glory while the rest of us played second fiddle.  Kind of like how the Beatles largely allowed George Harrison to contribute only one song per album (think of all the music this denied the world).  In our band, if it wasn't their song or idea, they poo-poo'd it.

Knowing that I had fair writing and marketing chops, I wanted to be the one who promoted our records and gigs.  However, I knew that this would be a non-starter with our ego-maniac singer.  My solution was to tell the band about a Public Relations specialist I knew named Elmore Bassett (cleverly named after my trusted Bassett Hound, Elmore James) who agreed to do me a favor and help us out.

It worked.  Over the next few years, our records were played in seven states and copy written by Elmore Bassett appear…

Boyish - Hippo Campus

from the single Boyish (2016)

Hippo Campus is a very clever band name derived from a play on one of the most important components of the human brain.  I dig that.

The hippocampus is thought to play a role in emotions like fear and anger, as well as the "slam on the brakes" reflex you may experience while driving.

It also plays a role in feelings of joy and pleasure, which is what I experience when listening to Boyish, the latest single from this Minnesota band.

From the opening notes, my heart is rushing with anticipation and joy.  The eighth notes of the drum are really effective, as are the synth tracks.  The high pitched vocals and occasional background mantra of "I'll save the earth" further add to the vibe.

When this song ends, you can't help but feel a let down.  It is cool when a song's energy evokes this.

Click Here to watch the official music video to Boyish.

Learning To Fly - Deep Sea Arcade

from the single Learning To Fly (2016)

Once upon a time, I saw A Flock Of Seagulls perform in a small NYC club.  While most of the crowd wanted to hear I Ran, which was all the rage at the time, I was there to hear Space Age Love Song.  For me, the song had something magical in the vibe that seemed to lift me off floor allowing me to float a few inches in the air.

When I first heard the single Learning To Fly by the psychedelic Sydney band Deep Sea Arcade, I had a similar sensation.

What is it that causes this?  Is it the way the synths bounce over the beat?  Is it the melodic vocal line?  Is there something in the subliminal bass groove?  The spaced out guitars?  All of the above?

And I wonder if the band understood that they were creating this sensation when naming the song.  I like to think so.

Anyhow, gives this tune a spin and give me a hand in figuring this one out.  Thanks.

Click Here to listen to Learning To Fly.

Smash Hit - Potty Mouth

from the single Smash Hit (2016)

Are you looking for something "super extra ultra special fantastic" in your life?  Something that gives you the fame and notoriety that has been eluding you for too long?  That best selling novel?  That hit record? Your Oscar speech?

Well, take a minute to dream with Potty Mouth, a garage pop band from Northampton, Massachusetts.

And while your listening, please remember that we believe in you, we are rooting for you, and we will be in that roaring crowd when your dream comes true !!!

Click Here to watch the official video to Smash Hit.

Dancing On Glass - St. Lucia

from the album Matter (2016)

Once upon a time, a drunken armada set sail for Sag Harbor, New York to see the Thompson Twins perform at a club called Bay Street.  It was good pirate fun.

Fast forward to today and one of those buccaneers has turned me on to St. Lucia, a Brooklyn-based synth-pop band whose mastermind hails from South Africa.

Of all the songs I've sampled, Dancing On Glass is the one that resonates most.  The title's visual imagery coupled with the recklessness it explicates puts a smile on my face.  We all dance on glass in one form or another and "we'renever gonna stop until we break it."

Now to the music, the synths, the beats, the groove are all fun; all have retro 80s with a modern sensibility.  It evokes an underlying spirit of the time that we could dance our problems away.

Thanks to my funky pirate friend for turning me on to this.

Click Here to listen to Dancing On Glass.

Sirens Of Jupiter - The Olympians

from the album The Olympians (2016)

Brooklyn's Daptone Records is - in my opinion - the best record label on earth today.  As someone who spends their time seeking out the labels that consistently release great, original music, Daptone simply stands unmatched.

What makes Daptone special is their clarity of purpose in creating product (music) of the absolute highest quality and putting quality ahead of all other considerations.  In any business, this is the mark of greatness.

Two of their soul artists that I covet are Charles Bradley and Lee Fields, both middle aged cats whose voices evoke inner truths about all the things that soul music stands for.  Each of them - along with fellow Daptone artist Sharon Jones - has a killer band behind them that bring to life retro soul vibes in thoroughly modern contexts.

The Olympians are an instrumental soul band comprised of members of Charles Bradley and Lee Fields bands.  The lead song on their eponymous debut album is Sirens Of Jupiter.  T…

Romantic - Mannequin Pussy

from the album Romantic (2016)

I really dig the song Romantic, off of Mannequin Pussy's album of the same name.

Here is why:
  -->  The dynamics, bouncing from chill to grinding post-punk, take me on a journey.
  -->  The burnt overdrive of the opening guitars.
  -->  The emotion in the vocals.
  -->  The lush vibe of the chill segments.
  -->  The drumming throughout the song, particularly in the transitions.
  -->  The brief pause in the rhythm during the aggressive segments.  This hang provides a fantastic hook.
  --> The way the band plays together as a unit.

Click Here to listen to Romantic.  One of this year's best tunes.

To All The Cowboys - Ariel Bui

from the album Ariel Bui (2016)

It is rare that I stumble across an artist's debut record and become thoroughly captivated, spending days on end listening to her record, as it leads me to inner truths I might not otherwise uncover.

Ariel Bui's self titled record hits this mark.

Immigrating with her parents from Vietnam as a young girl, Ariel spent most of her youth bouncing around the southern United States.  Ultimately, she found herself in Nashville, a classically trained composer experimenting with music she describes as "ranging from Fiona Apple and Angel Olsen to Bjork and Radiohead."

Describing her album she says, "Many of the songs are meditations on death.  How you can feel as though you are dying of a broken heart, how the loss of loved ones sends ripples through our lives, the inevitability that all things pass, how we often live our lives in denial or fear of ugly truths and how facing and accepting the ultimate truth allows us to truly live."

Bu…

Hate I Don't Love You - Hopetoun Brown

from the album Look So Good (2016)

Since the turn of the millennium, I have increasingly become a connoisseur of music from New Zealand and Australia.  It started for me way before that, when I first heard Split Enz, but really picked up steam after having the opportunity to live and work in Sydney for three months in 2000.

During that time, I was on a live music tear, checking out bands most every night, always thinking "they sound familiar in an odd sort of way."

Today, I spend a fair amount of time going back and trying to discover great New Zealand and Australia bands from the past that never made it to my little corner of the world.

One such band was Supergroove, a '90s Auckland band that underpinned their modern rock sensibilities with a tinge of infectious R&B.

Hopetoun Brown consists of Tim Stewart and Nick Atkinson, the two horn players from Supergroove.  20 years later, they are laying down a funky vibe that I totally dig.

 I am particularly into the tune H…

Manipulator - Elephant Stone

from the album Ship Of Fools (2016)

20th century Indie Rock from Montreal.  This song should strike a chord with those who once dared to be different, or at least listened to alternative 90's radio.  You know who you are.

The straight four beat.  The chorus, complete with a "come on" thrown in.  The guitar hook.  The celebratory background vocal interlude followed by a stuttering pulse that leads into a breakdown.  Then return of the steady four, followed by another "come on."

Doesn't this take you back to Lido Boulevard?

Doesn't this scream for the mirror ball to return to your rear view mirror?

Come on...

Click Here to listen to Manipulator.

Roadie Man - The Pretenders

from the album Alone (2016)

Chrissie Hynde and company are back with Alone, their first album in eight years.

Thus far, the song I am digging is Roadie Man.  This song (about roadies) in centered around a bouncing, soulful groove that easily hooks the listener.  Over this, Chrissie Hynde delivers her vocals against the counterpoint of a Farfisa organ.  These two instruments play marvelously off of one another.

Add some groovy guitar, tight drumming, and a delightfully simple bass line and you've really got something.  Lines like "What happens on the bus, stays on the bus" don't hurt either.

Click Here to listen to Roadie Man.

Shine On Rainy Day - Brett Cobb

from the album Shine On Rainy Day (2016)

Once upon a time, my father and I took a drive down the backroads of Georgia, visiting historic towns like Plains and Andersonville.  At the time, I thought trips like this would continue forever.  Little did I know this was the last one.

One of the places we rolled through was Ellaville, a one street light town of less than 2,000 people.  I think of how happy my dad was to be riding with his son, and how somehow this old man from Brooklyn knew more about these tiny southern towns than you could ever learn in a book.  He was amazing.

Well, Brett Cobb comes from Ellaville.  He writes beautiful country songs that strike a very tender, very real place in my heart.  It is hard to listen to them without thinking about my dad.  I wish he was still here.

Ain't it funny how a little thunder
Make a man start to wonder
Should he swim or just go under

Ain't it funny how you learn to pray
When your blue skies all turn grey
When there's nothing left t…

Are You Lost In The World Like Me? - Moby & The Void Pacific Choir

from the album These Systems Are Failing (2016)

Moby's latest album - with the Void Pacific Choir - is one of the most unexpected musical joys of 2016.  These Systems Are Failing is a collection of twelve amped-up, synched-up tracks that take the listener back to the best of the 1980s, while still delivering a modern, relevant edge.

Are You Lost In The World Like Me? is the most accessible of these tracks.  Brooding baritone verses couple with choruses of soaring harmonies all laid out over pulsing synth grooves.  Meanwhile the lyrics contain social commentary on these strange times.

Do yourself a favor and check out the entire record.

Click Here to watch the official video to Are You Lost In The World Like Me?  I really dig it.

If I Didn't Have Your Love - Leonard Cohen

from the album You Want It Darker (2016)

With the release of You Want It Darker, his splendid new album, the 82 year-old singer songwriter advised that this would be his last recording.  At first, I was profoundly sad and felt as though I had lost a part of my own soul.  Then I thought of the timelessness of some of his songs and felt magnificently uplifted.

His song Hallelujah will still be sung long after everyone now living is dead.

There is one song on this final album that has particularly grabbed me.  It is a love song titled If I Didn't Have Your Love.  After a lifetime of loving, what does a master say when he closes the book?  He is sweet.  He is pure.  And he makes a point that nothing really matters without love.

Here is the closing verse:

If the sun would lose its light
And we lived in endless night
And there was nothing left that you could feel
If the sea were sand alone
And the flowers made of stone
And noone that you hurt could ever heal
Well that's how broken I would …

Chuck Berry's 90th Birthday Gift...

A New Album Coming In 2017

This Tuesday marked Chuck Berry's 90th birthday.  On this occasion, the rock and roll legend announced that he will be releasing a record of new, original material on Dualtone Records in 2017.

This will be his first release in 38 years.  In a message to his wife, Toddy, he said "I'm growing old.  I've worked on this record a long time.  Now I can hang up my shoes."

According to is son, the album will consist of a wide spectrum of hard-driving rockers to soulful songs.

I dig this beyond words.

Click Here to listen to Chuck Berry's greatest hits.

Sonicology - The Laurels

from the album Sonicology (2016)

Psychedelic Shoegaze from Sydney, The Laurels lay down a great vibe of layered vocals, funky guitars, grooving base, and a steady beat.

On their latest album, I am digging the title track, Sonicology.  Thick in sounds and textures, this song is underpinned with a beat and groove that form a foundation for the sonic journey.  Dig the background tones, recalling far away places, like Manchester.

But it keeps coming back to that bass line.  That groove.  Mighty.

Click Here to watch the official video to Sonicology.

Click Here to stream the entire album.

Putin - Randy Newman

from the single Putin (2016)

Here is a fun song to start your weak.  The great Randy Newman sings about Vladimir Putin with all the same wit and wonder that he once sang about Short People.

Hmmm.  Maybe this is a sequel.

Click Here to listen to Putin.

Saro - The Westerlies

from the album The Westerlies (2016)

The Westerlies are a brass quartet from NYC consisting of two trumpets and two trombones.  They are also childhood friends from the Seattle area.

Their music is thoughtful and inspiring, stirring the spirit and raising the bar on great American Music.

Take a listen to Saro, an incredible track from their self-titled album.

this is excellent stuff.

Click Here to listen to Saro.

I Can't Believe I Found You In That Town - Mike Doughty

from the album The Heart Watches While The Brain Burns (2016)

What is it about the country vibe that attracts artists from diverse genres to dive in, often with great results?

I think of Ray Charles singing Hank Williams tunes and The Beatles singing songs like What Goes On.  The British artists I cut my teeth on all wrote and recorded country songs.  Elvis Costello's Almost Blue album, Squeeze singing Labelled With Love, and countless Nick Lowe songs that would ultimately be covered Johnny Cash.  Hell, even Jethro Tull covered Ghost Riders.

Now, Mike Doughty has jumped into the fray.  After rising to prominence in NYC - he was the doorman at The Knitting Factory before founding the band Soul Coughing - he moved to Nashville in 2015, releasing last year's record Stellar Motel.

This year, on The Heart Watches While The Brain Burns, he delivers a magnificent and varied collection of songs that stay true to his big city sensibility.  My current favorite though is the country-ting…

Home I Left - Sean Hayes

from the album Low Light (2016)

Those more astute readers of this blog know that I have great appreciation for California singer-songwriter Sean Hayes.  I find his songs to be magnificently crafted and his performance to strike a nerve.  I share them whenever possible.

This morning, I stumbled across this home video of him playing the song Home I Left up in the Sonoma Mountains north of San Francisco.  Something about it keeps me watching.

This autobiographical song details his moving from North Carolina to San Francisco, at the age of 20, and then to Sonoma County to raise a family at age 40.  It is about home and family.  I dig that.

The song is also now appearing on a TV Spot for HomeGoods.

Click Here to watch the low-fi video of Sean Hayes singing Home I Left in the Sonoma Mountains.

Click Here to listen to the version of Home I Left from his latest album, Low Light.

Got To Give It Up - Brian Culbertson

from the album Funk! (2016)

Put the goats in their pens and get funky!!!

The his Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for his album Funk!, Los Angeles-based smooth jazzer Brian Culbertson wrote, "If you love funk like I do, you know there's no other music like it.  It makes you feel good, makes you laugh, dance, sing along and pretty much get down!  I am creating a throwback, old-school funkadelic record in the style of P-Funk meets Prince."

Those lofty goals were accomplished with a fabulous record.  I've heard nothing quite like it this year.

The song I'm digging is Got To Give It Up, a cover of the classic Marvin Gaye tune.  It is all about the groove, with plenty of musical embellishments overlaid, including some incredible keyboards, guitars, and saxophone.

This album is full of great jams, for your car or you next funky dance party!

Click Here to listen to Brian Culbertson cover Marvin Gay's Got To Give It Up.

Scum - Goat Girl

front the single Scum (2016)

The website Northern Transmissions describes this newcomer group of four South London young women as "The Pixies meets Courtney Barnett meets The Fall meets The Raincoats."  I get that.

I dig the song Scum for the way the barbed-out vocal line lays over the guitar riff.  I also dig he simple vibe created by the rhythm section.

I always enjoy a band's first statement to the world.  Can't wait to hear where they take it from here...

Click Here to listen to Scum.

Alarms - Goat

front the album Requiem (2016)

Following up from yesterday's post, here is another song from Goat's new album.

On Alarms, we are treated to sounds that were not included on Try My Robe.  The male and female voices in the verses recall The Mama's and The Papas.  The intertwining of the percussion (savor the vibra-slap) with the eastern guitar stylings takes me on a psychedelic journey.  The electric guitar lead is equally enjoying.

Goat.  Dig 'em.

Click Here to listen to Alarms.

Try My Robe - Goat

from the album Requiem (2016)

That mysterious collective of psychedelic, ritual-worshiping troubadours from Korpilombolo, Sweden are back with another round of wildly satisfying sounds.  Think of it as World Music and Rock mashed into a wild acid trip.

This is best listened to as an entire album, but the song I currently hooked on is Try My Robe, featuring eastern tones over afro-beat rhythms with a western pop sensibility sung by Kate and Cindy equivalents on a hashish high after being released from a turkish prison.

If you dig it, dig deeper.  It is intoxicating.

Click Here to listen to Try My Robe.

Click Here to read my 2012 blog post of Run To Your Mama, the most viewed blog post in 40 Watt history.

De Verdad - Matamoska!

from the album M Is For Murder (2016)

For the past few months, I have been collecting fallen branches and countless prunings into a massive pile.  This weekend, I plan to light them into the mother of all bonfires.  For such a primeval event, I wish I could share it with a select group of my funky friends - the ones who really appreciate Joe Strummer.

This has given rise to endless listening to Joe's music: before, during, and after The Clash.  It is amazing now to dissect all the influences that run through his music.

While I was adding to my pile, the outdoor speakers played a triplet of Clash tunes: Janie Jones, Bankrobber, and Should I Stay Or Should I Go.  It was the perfect mix of punk, dub, and spanish (as in Joe's backing vocals on Should I Stay...).

This led me down a path of listening to bands that were influenced by The Clash, like Rancid and Desorden Público.  That - in turn - led me to M Is For Murder, a new compilation by Matamoska!, a great underground band from…

Fields & Fences - Yellowcard

from the album Yellowcard (2016)

One upon a time, I was watching a televised Mets game on WOR.  The game was slow and Lindsey Nelson filled the time by asking Ralph Kiner about memorable home runs he had hit.  I was amazed at how he recalled his first home run.  He remembered everything about it, not just the pitcher and the type of pitch, but the weather, the crowd size, and even what he had for breakfast that day.

Lindsey Nelson then asked him about the final home run of his storied career.  Ralph Kiner said he did not really remember much about it.  When asked why he replied "Well, at the time, I didn't realize it was going to be my last home run."

Such is not the case with Yellowcard.  On this their tenth - and final - album, they know this is the end of their journey and that Fields & Fences is their final recorded song.

I find the lyrics to be touching with inferences of returning to Tennessee, surrounded by fields and fences to keep them safe.  And then there …

Rayguns - The Peep Tempel

from the album Joy (2016)

The Peep Tempel are a three piece band from Melboourne, Australia who make music with social indignation and punk sensibilities.  They are keen witted, funny, and they play music loud and fast (but not too loud or fast).

I dig their new song Rayguns, which offers a slap in the face to right-wingers everywhere.

Hello there dainty fascists
The call's out to serve your writ
Clouded Christian neo pig
Simple Simon right wing tit
We can see you bigots
Picket lines of suburban household tyrants
We can see you looking sick
Know your fear and smell your shit
You are nobody and not the symphony we seek

Lay that over a thudding drum beat, pulsing bass, and distorted guitar and you've won my heart.

Check it out...

Click Here to watch the official video to Rayguns.

Lead Light - Julia Jacklin

from the album Don't Let The Kids Win (2016)

I spent much of this past weekend at the Candler Park Fall Fest in ATL.  The music line-up for Saturday had a pretty novel theme: Tribute Bands.  This included great acts playing the hits of Devo, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, The Clash, Nirvana, David Bowie, and many more.  It was totally enjoyable.

Of course, this led to a discussion of which other tribute bands we might like to see.  This led to a discussion on the need for more diversity.  How great would it have been to have Prince or Bob Marley tributes, or girl bands, like The Go Gos.

One of my suggestions was The Pretenders.  Chrissie Hynde and company have so many great tunes. How fun would it be to see their tribute band?

This sent my mind on a tangent, searching for a modern artist whose sound might remind me a little of Chrissie Hynde.  This journey took me to the Blue Mountains of New South Wales and the delightful sounds of Julia Jacklin.

This Friday, here debut album - Don&…

I'm Still Believing - Toy

from the album Clear Shot (2016)

Here is a nice way to start your Monday.

I'm Still Believe is an 80's styled alternative song with great melodic sensibility.  Jangling guitars, psychedelic tones, garage drumming, and skinny tie vocals.  Who could ask for more?

Click Here to watch the official video to I'm Still Believe.

Gun Clap Hero - Hanni El Khatib

from the single Savage Times, Vol. 4 (2016)

San Francisco's Hanni El Khatib seems like a pretty cool fella.  I dig that prior to becoming a musician, he worked as a creative designer for ad agencies and street fashion labels.

I was slow to accept his early work, as the ascetic rocked a bit to hard for my liking.  However, with time, I've grown to enjoy his music and come back often.

More recently, he has begun to release a series of singles under the Savage Times banner.  Each of these records moves from harder rocking to more eclectic, with the production value increasing along the way.

His most recent single - Gun Clap Hero - is a total delight with its infectious groove, string production reminiscent of the Electric Light Orchestra, and the hook line "He did it all for the bang-bang."

This is fantastic stuff.  Can't wait to hear where it goes from here.

Click Here to listen to Gun Clap Hero.

My Happiness - John Prine

from the album For Better, Or Worse (2016)

Way back in 1993, Fiona Whelan was working on a recording in a studio in Dublin, Ireland when she met the great singer-songwriter John Prine.  Soon after, they were married and moved to Nashville, USA.  The marriage is still going strong.

Yesterday, a few days short of his 70th birthday, John Prine released yet another album of the finest American treasures you can find on either side of the Mississippi.  Track 14 is a song called My Happiness, a duet recorded with his wife, Fiona.

It is as sweet and American a song as you will find.

Evening shadows make me blue
When each weary day is through
How I long to be with you
My Happiness

Every day I reminisce
Dreaming of your tender kiss
Always thinking how I miss
My Happiness

How wonderful it must be to make beautiful music with the one you love.

Click Here to listen to My Happiness.

Beautiful Birds - Passenger

from the album Young As The Morning, Old As The Sea (2016)

A common thread running through my 500+ blog entries is that there are the two essential elements to most great records:  high-quality songwriting and an outstanding vocal performance.

On the "deluxe edition" of his latest album - Young As The Morning, Old As The Sea - Mike Rosenberg (aka Passenger) includes acoustic versions of many of the songs contained on the album.  This offers us a chance to hear the these two key elements in their purest sense.

The rendition I dig the most is the acoustic version of Beautiful Birds.  I will let the songwriting and vocals speak for themselves.

Click Here to listen to the acoustic version of Beautiful Birds.

Healer - Resonators

from the album Imaginary People (2016)

When determining the merits of a dub/reggae song, my process is remarkably similar to that of a sound engineer in a club.

It starts with the drum kit.  The thud of the bass drum, the crack of the snare, getting the equalization right by adding some echo and reverb.  Once set, it is all about the bass.  The big, fat heavy groove that is going to carry the show.  From there you move to the rhythm guitar, making sure the accents on 2 & 4 cut through the rhythm section adding just the right counterbalance and buoyancy.

Keyboards and horns follow.  Then come the vocals.  They need to be clean and crisp, sailing above the band and lifting the listener's spirit.  Finally, it is playing with the overall tone and levels, locking in the band's "sound."

If you ever listen to a band like UB40, it is amazing how that sound is always so pure, so perfect, so unmistakably their own.  That is the mark of a great dub/reggae band.

When I liste…

Blue Inside - On Dead Waves

from the album On Dead Waves (2016)

I have surrendered to my musical distractions today.  To hell with work.  To hell with poverty.  I am losing myself in a playlist of songs that mix well with New Order and daydreaming of cruising the beach towns of Southern California.

One perfect song for both the playlist and my imaginary drive is Blue Inside.  It is lush, dark, poetic Dream Pop.  A little bit London, a little bit Encinitas.

Fish Tacos and Patron, please.

Click Here to listen to Blue Inside.

Gentle On My Mind - Billy Bragg & Joe Henry

from the album Shine A Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad (2016)

John Hartford was a Nashville singer/songwriter who started his music career in the mid-1960's.  Although he may seem obscure to many, his impact on American music was profound.  In particular, his 1971 album Aereo-Plain infused a new generational vibe into bluegrass music (they called it new-grass), seeding the soil in which today's Americana music scene flourishes.

However, John Hartford is best known for writing and recording the song Gentle On My Mind, which soon after was covered by Glen Campbell and won him two 1968 Grammy Awards for his songwriting.  That same year, he played alongside Gram Parsons on The Byrds classic album Sweethearts Of The Rodeo.

I dig how some songs live on long after their writers are dead and gone.  Thank you to Billy Bragg and Joe Henry for shining a light and helping to preserve the memory of the great John Hartford.

Click Here to listen to Billy Bragg and Joe…

Punks In A Disco Bar - Beach Slang

from the album A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings (2016)

Just as the world spins on an axis around a star in the revolving Milky Way, and how that galaxy - like all others - expands from - and circles around - the center of our universe, as a music listener, I sometimes need to reacquaint myself with my musical core to better understand this wild, remarkable journey.

At my core is a two-and-a-half minute song that probably starts with Dee Dee Ramone yelling "1-2-3-4."

When I listen to the song Punks In A Disco Bar, I am taken on a trip back towards the center of my universe.  A place where music is loud, raunchy, and fast but also has a melodic sensibility.  It has rage, angst, and virtue.  It offers promise and possibility.

So, if your core has three chords and an attitude - if you ever thrashed around a room to REM playing Pretty Persuasion or driven to work singing The Replacements' Alex Chilton, or cracked a beer to Add It Up by the Violent Femmes - then you will probab…

Fig In Leather - Devendra Banhart

from the album Ape In Pink Marble (2016)

It is a very funky morning in the Gigolo domicile.

I am grooving to an eclectic mix that has a very special new member, Fig In Leather by Devendra Banhart.  Give it a spin, it will brighten your day.

While you are listening, try to pick out all the diverse tones.  I dig the Japanese vibe, the disco orchestration, the Falco meet Pet Shop Boys spoken segments, that funky guitar and bass, the rhythm sticks, and the stylistic harmonies.

Time to turn up the volume and hit "repeat."

Click Here to listen to Fig In Leather.

Heard It From A Friend - LOLO

from the album In Loving Memory Of When I Gave A Shit (2016)

There are some up and coming artists who I really pull for.  LOLA is one of those artists.

At sixteen, she left her home in Jackson, Tennessee to moved to Los Angeles, where she joined a reggae band and lived with Lisa Marie Presley.  From there, she found her way into musical theatre, followed by stints living in London and NYC.  At the end of 2014, she left NYC to return to Jackson and "hit the reset button."

She is now 29 years old and has released the glorious album In Loving Memory Of When I Gave A Shit, a record that is even better than its title.

I really dig the opening track Heard It From A Friend.  Although this is not an REO Speedwagon cover, it shares the same sentiment: hearing of a lover's betrayal through the grapevine.

The songs vibe and underlying groove conjure elements of Adele and Carol King, but its the raw honesty in how she tells her story that drives her individuality and authenticity.  …

St. Anne's Parade - Shovels & Rope

from the album Little Seeds (2016)

Shovels & Rope (Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent) are one of my favorite Americana duos.  Having seen them perform in many small venues, I get a strong sense for who they are and am confident they would make a great addition to my collection of funky friends.

I think of one night after a show at The Earl in ATL.  I was hanging out with some friends in the parking lot and watched Michael quietly load his equipment in their camper while Cary Anne sat in the passenger seat with her eyes shut.  Something about that moment captured my heart.

I also find something in their songs that rings of honesty, hard work, and faded american truths that endear them to me all the more.

On their forthcoming record - Little Seeds - I have been digging the song St. Anne's Parade.  This sweet folk tune shares many of their familiar themes of the vagabond life told with tenderness and outstanding visual imagery.  One of my favorite couplets is:

And it never feels l…

Sing Me Your Love Song - Sean Hayes

from the album Low Light (2016)

Many restaurants promote pairings of wine and food.  However, what if we paired music with alcohol and drugs?  Last weekend, I saw The Specials in NYC and it offered a perfect pairing of classic Ska with Red Bull & Vodka.  If you play around with this idea a bit, you can have some fun...

As summer turns to fall, my inclination to unwind with a bottle of fine red wine intensifies and tends not to subside until sometime around Kentucky Derby Day.  This protracted season is ambrosia for my aural palate.

I am particularly fond of pairing Sean Hayes with a bottle of Cote du Rhone.  The typical Southern Rhone blend of 80% grenache and 20% syrah creates a vivid fruit taste that is best enjoyed over a slower, downtempo, more-melodic vibe.  If possible, find a 2012 vintage that is aged in oak.  You will find that this brings out the expressiveness in the vocals and highlights the delightfully warm tones of the guitar's rosewood neck.

Sean Hayes' late…