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The 30 Songs I Digged Most In 2017

Well here it is, The 30 Songs I Digged Most In 2017, a quasi-annual celebration of the best songs to catch my ear and appear in this blog.

I found 2017 to be a wildly unsettling year in music. You get a sense that the landscape is shifting and that this "era" is coming to an end.  What comes next is anybody's guess.

Compiling these songs, I found that major genres - like jazz, blues, folk, reggae, rap, hip-hop, soul, and dub - are, on the surface of things, largely absent.  However, you find them captured - in a morphed kind of way - in music that is labeled "alternative."

I'm not sure that I know what alternative means anymore.  It has become so expansive, not just in terms of its underpinning influences and vibe, but in its diversity of performers and instrumentation.  Sometimes I wonder what it is an "alternative" to.

Maybe its an alternative to white guys with guitars?  In honesty, although I am a white guy with a guitar, I found this music a…

2017 In Aspic - Episode 10

So here is the tenth and final episode of 2017 In Aspic.  My goal with this series was to create a document detailing the songs that I enjoyed most this year.  All of the 140 songs included in the series appeared in my blog throughout the year.

My greatest regret is that I did not have time to include some of the other 50 songs I blogged about.

This mix is wildly eclectic.  It swings from alternative to R&B, jazz, country, and rock a bit more abruptly than the other mixes in the series, but I feel like that might just be a good thing.

This mix continues to emphasize a common theme of 2017: how artists of all ages and genres can meld together to create something cohesive and beautiful.

You will find older artists like Mavis Staples and Eddie Palmieri delivering tunes that stand up against their great works of 50 years ago.  On the flipped, you find artists like Cigarettes After Sex and Nai Palm release amazing debut records.  And when you mix it together, it sounds fantastic.

I re…

Give Me All You Got - Airling

from the album Hard To Sleep, Easy To Dream (2017)

There was was a time, centuries ago, when the world was amazingly small.  Over the course of a lifetime, most people never travelled far from their villages and their lives were remarkably similar to prior generations in terms of opportunity and technology.

In these small communities, people could stand out.  Shine.  There was the woman who baked the best pies, the woman with the most beautiful garden, the brothers who distilled the finest whiskey.  In this world, people could excel, feel important, and be proud.

Then came the railroads.  The telegraph.  Suddenly, communities were better connected and people could taste better pies, visit more beautiful gardens, drink finer whiskey.  And sadly, many of those who once shined found themselves a bit more ordinary.

Fast forward to today.  We live in the blossoming of the Informations Age.  Commerce is global.  Intercontinental travel is measured in hours.  Five billion videos are watched …

Thinking Of A Place - The War On Drugs

from the album A Deeper Understanding (2017)

With its extended length (over 11 minutes) and a modern, rambling vibe that evokes comparisons to Neil Young and Bob Dylan for its '70s FM radio sheen and its exquisite guitar and harmonica work, Thinking Of A Place is perhaps my favorite song of 2017.

My fascination with this song is driven from its lyrics.  Its use of metaphor is poetic, Homeric, and beautiful, with light serving as a metaphor for love.  Conversely, darkness represents love's absence.

The song opens with the singer laying on the banks of the Missouri River - in Little Banks, South Dakota - basking in the sunlight, which slips into darkness.  From there, the singer follows the moon across the countryside, trying endlessly to recapture the light.

Instrumental and vocal melodies serpentine, as the haunting chorus speaks to the quest for love:

I'm moving through the dark
Of a long black night
Just moving with the moon
And the light it shines
And I'm thinking of a p…

Real Death - Mount Eerie

from the album A Crow Looked At Me (2017)

Even ahead of its release this March, most of the websites, bloggers, and impresarios I respect were raving about the forthcoming Mount Eerie album, A Crow Looked At Me.  "Sad and Brilliant" seemed to be the consensus.

I gave it a spin and felt nothing.  I repeated this throughout the Spring.  Still nothing.

Then I gave it another spin over the Thanksgiving weekend.  This time, it felt more like a gift.

About three weeks earlier, one of my dearest friends - and one-time songwriting partner - died of cancer.  I found myself frozen, pen and notepad on the coffee table, acoustic guitar in my hand, expecting some inspiration to come.  That magic moment when everything I was feeling would come pouring out.  Beautiful, spontaneous art.

But it never came.  I was - and still am - processing the loss.  Grief attenuates creativity.  You just don't realize it at the time.

So on a late autumn's night, I decided to dust off Mount Eerie…

Apocalypse - Cigarettes After Sex

from the album Cigarettes After Sex (2017)

Hats off to Cigarettes After Sex !!!

This band from El Paso - later relocating to Brooklyn - has produced the absolute best debut album of 2017, as well as one of my favorite song of the year - Apocalypse.

The music is dreamy and creamy, its tempos slow, its textures rich.  If you dig sitting alone listening to late night music, a cocktail in your hand, and a heaviness in your heart, this is your record.

The imagery transcends visualization, approaching emotive.  My favorite line:

Your lips, my lips
Apocalypse

Sweet Lord, how have those words never been written before?

If you haven't heard this song, I hope you hear it now.  I hope your mind drifts back to days when you swayed with a partner - listening - as a singer sang a beautiful song, to tender kisses in a parked car on a cold night, and to all those other memories that make this life worth living.

This is truly a magnificent song.

Click Here to listen to Apocalypse.

Click Here to listen…

Don't Delete The Kisses - Wolf Alice

from the album Visions Of A Life (2017)

Merry Christmas and Peace On Earth, y'all.

Visions Of A Life by Wolf Alice is one of the best albums of the year.  It has a drive and energy that equate to intensity while still being softer, in an artsy kind of way.  I dig that.

My favorite track on the album is Don't Delete The Kisses.  Aside from being a great song, the title infers the union in the venn diagram of the physical and virtual worlds.  I dig that, too.

My mom is an octogenarian who - despite having been a computer wiz in her profession back, many decades ago - has never embraced social media or the Internet.  She easily could, but prefers to "live in the real world."

This year, the number of Christmas cards she received from family and friends were outpaced by cards from people wanting her money - or her vote - by a ratio of 8:1.  So, her creative answer was to take scores of Christmas cards she had saved from loved ones over the years and display them proudly on…

New York - St. Vincent

from the album MASSEDUCTION (2017)

New York is my ancestral home  However, like many of my friends, I departed - many moons ago - to make a new life in a new city.

As I get a bit older, I feel the pendulum swinging back.  I find myself embracing and identifying with my inner New Yorker more than ever.  Some days, this prodigal son even dreams of returning.

Of all my friends and family who never left, there is one friend who I cherish most, the one whose friendship has meant the most over my adult life.  His name is Fred.

Sadly, Fred died last month.  Cancer.

Fred and I formed our first band when we were fifteen.  When we were twenty-two, we began writing songs together, publishing over eighty of them in the years that followed.  All of that largely ended when I moved away.  In my dreams - and his - we wanted to write songs together again one day.

There is something magical about writing songs with a friend.  It is a different experience than writing alone.  There is an intimate bond f…

2017 In Aspic - Episode 9

This is an eclectic mix that leans towards alternative, ska, and synthesizer tunes.

I started off the list with Girl On Saxophone X by Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra.  I always dig kicking things off with a groovy instrumental.  From there, I simply played whatever song sounded best next, without consideration for artist or genre.

When it was all said and done, it told a story that was more varied by the ages of the artists than by the style of music.  I totally get off having sixteen year old Selena Gomez followed by ninety-two year old Chuck Berry.  It wasn't intended, it just sounded good together.

The mix also varies from mature artists (Paul Weller, The Selecter) to established artists (Beck, Charlotte Gainsbourg) to rising artists (Fever Ray, Foxygen).  I feel it speaks to an underpinning vibe that touches us all.

I hope you dig it.


Here is the playlist:

Girl On Saxophone X by Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra

Bad Liar by Selena Gomez

Big Boys by Chuck Berry

Mysteries Of Nature by

Something To Remember Me By - The Horrors

from the album V (2017)

One of the absolute best songs of 2016 was a tune called Drag by Cat's Eyes, a duo consisting of classically-trained soprano Rachel Zeffina and indie rocker Farris Badwan.

Now in 2017, Farris Badwan has struck again, this time with his main project The Horrors and the song Something To Remember Me By.

In recent years, The Horrors have been touring with great New Music bands like New Order and DePeche Mode.  you hear this in their sound, which has evolved in might over the years from a Bauhaus club style of music to a sound that can fill arenas.

I dig the pulsing bass, the intertwining synth lines, and Ferris Badwan's vocal stylings.  Listening, it is easy for your mind to drift to distant days.  This is an excellent record.

Click Here to listen to Something To Remember Me By by The Horrors.

Click Here to read my May 2016 blog post on Drag by Cat's Eyes.

To The Moon And Back - Fever Ray

from the album Plunge (2017)

The music starts with an innocent jungle vibe that transitions into something a bit more industrial and hard.  Next, synthesizers enter, offering a sense of majesty.  Our odyssey has begun.  Fever Ray is taking us To The Moon And Back.

Then the lyrics enter and we learn that this is not a trip into deep space, but rather a sexual voyage that builds to a rather explicit climax.

I dig this song for its vibe and its sense of adventurism.  It is a spirit that I find too often lacking in most of the music I come across these days.  Hats off to Fever Ray!

Click Here to watch the official music video for To The Moon And Back.

Dum Surfer - King Krule

from the album The OOZ (2017)

Swagger and groove.  Bravado and jazzy guitar licks.

Dum Surfer chronicles a woozy night of drinking in London, offering a detached and unromantic vision of the whole affair.  It attracts me in a post-punk, post-Bukowski kind of way.

Dumb surfer is giving me his cash
Won a bet for fifty and now I need a slash
Man that band that's playing, is playing fucking trash
Skunk and onion gravy, as my brain's potato mash

Kind of makes me wish that I was pub crawling with with Gareth and Sid and Non.  Staggering home, eating curry, trying to sleep, wondering who is vomiting down the hall.

I'm a step from madness as I puke on pavement slabs
Got a bit embarrassed, need to get back to the lab
In the debts of traffic, I was feeling like we crashed
With a girl from Slovak in a european cab

I dig the whole thing.  It's like a holiday card from hell.

Click Here to watch the music video for Dum Surfer.

Deadly Valentine - Charlotte Gainsbourg

from the album Rest (2017)

Sorry to gush, but just the mention of Charlotte Gainsbourg sets my mind aflutter with visions and sounds for hours on end.

Her mother, perhaps the most beautiful woman Great Britain ever produced, in a bikini, giving Bridgette Bardot a run for her money.  Her father, the Bob Marley of French Pop, defining his nation's music for the past fifty years.

And then there is Charlotte, that crazy sex scene with Willem Defoe, hands coming from beneath tree roots, in Antichrist.  Singing Lemon Incest with her father at age 14.  Her incredible album IRM, with Beck molding the magnificent soundscape.

I could go on...

Instead, I'll shift to Deadly Valentine, the first song to win my heart on her latest album Rest.  The dark, forbiddingly groove juxtaposed with her ethereal voice.  An unapologetic love song with all the darkness you might expect.  Sonically complete.

I dig it all...

Click Here to watch the official music video to Deadly Valentine.

Wo Ist Der Soul? - Ratatouille

from the EP Greetings From Ratatouille (2017)

Ratatouille are a German ska band who hail from the northern Rhine valley. not far from The Netherlands.  I have found myself digging their tune Wo Ist Der Soul? over the past month.

It is a classic ska tune that hooks you right from its opening measures, with its beat, then bass, then horns introduction.  A few mysterioso keyboards riff later and we are treated to a melodious chorus.

The song has lots of great pieces that fit together, all the while staying true to the first rule of ska: it is fun to dance to.

I would love to catch Ratatouille live...

Click Here to listen to Wo Ist Der Soul? by Ratatouille

Bad Liar - Selena Gomez

from the single Bad Liar (2017)

I can't seem to face up to the fact that I'm blogging about a Selena Gomez song.

I'm tense and nervous and I can't relax, wondering if people are going to acuse this gigolo of losing his edge.

But I can't sleep, cause my keyboards on fire, up a 5am writing this blog post.

Don't touch me, I'm a real live wire, lost in a classic baseline that helped shape the music I have spent a lifetime devouring.

Psycho Killer by Talking Heads has reappeared - 40 years after its earthshaking release - to underpin the most interesting pop tune of the year, Bad Liar by Selena Gomez.

I totally dig it.

Click Here to watch the official video for Bad Liar.


2017 In Aspic - Episode 8

I really dig the process of putting these mixes together.

Episode 8 began a few months ago as a mix of Dub and Reggae tunes that I had written about over the year.  But over time, songs from these genres were replaced one-by-one with eclectic tunes from the worlds of Electronic, Dream Pop, Hip-Hop, and Dance.

Each new addition morphed the mix into something better, rather than devolving the vibe.  Soon I was replacing replacement songs, as new tunes - by artists like Baxter Dury and Curtis Harding - found their way into my orb.

As I listen to the finished product, I still hear the dub that weaves - sometimes subliminally - throughout.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed the journey of assembling it.


Here is the playlist:

Miami by Baxter Dury

Whoa! There's No Limit by Lord Echo

Ain't Nothing Changed by Loyle Carner

A Happy Heavy Dub by Dub Proof

Till The End by Curtis Harding

Eléctrico by Sotomayor

Time To Get Alone by Zooey

Darling by Real Estate

Papaya by Stepart

Pleasure Dome

No Distraction - Beck

from the album Colors (2017)

Colors is one of those albums that gives me fits.  In my perpetual quest for the best new songs, determining which one song to write about from this record has become something nearing a full-time obsession.

But after a few months of driving around the city with the radio turned loud, I am ready to proclaim the song No Distraction as the one I dig most.

Musically, the beat, groove, and vibe the opening evokes an early era approximation of The Police.  I dig that.

However, once the vocals kick in, it is Beck, laying down some feel-good, retro, early-80s stylings that hook me on every level.

I am particularly fond of when he sings:

Pull you to the left
Pull you to the right
Pull you in all directions

When I finally shared my selection with a Beck-loving, funky friend, she said:  "Of course you picked that song, it is the best track on the record."  That may be true, but...

Click Here to listen to No Distraction by Beck.

Crossfire / So Into You - Nai Palm

from the album Needle Paw (2017)

There is nothing that warms soul on a cold winter's morning than a sultry, acoustic, R&B tune.  That is exactly what you you get with Crossfire / So Into You a solo effort from Nai Palm, lead singer for the great Australian band Hiatus Kaiyote.

Her record has an intimacy reminiscent of Indie Arie's Acoustic Soul, which makes it a soundtrack for falling in love.

Bust open the Bailey's, sit by the fire, cuddle with the nearest special person, and enjoy !!!

Click Here to listen to Crossfire / So Into You by Nai Palm.

King Of A One Horse Town - Dan Auerbach

from the album Waiting For A Song (2017)

Back in May, Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach released an album titled Waiting On A Song.  The album title has captivated my thoughts ever since.  I instantly related with the sentiment.  As a songwriter, musician, and producer, Dan Auerbach must always be waiting on that next great song, something that enables him to demonstrate his wealth of talent, allowing him to dazzle the world.

You really don not have to be in the music business to be waiting on a song.  Metaphorically, it can apply to almost any occupation.

Similarly, I have been captivated by a track on the album, King Of A One Horse Town.  Have you ever wondered which is better: being a big fish in a little pond, or a little fish in a big pond?

In my life, I have regularly opted for the latter.  On a few rare occasions, it has worked out for me, but - more often - I have been eaten, my good parts offering nutrition for the larger fish, and the rest excreted.  Sad, but true.

The sentim…

We Go High - Mavis Staples

from the album If All I Was Was Black (2017)

In an unrelated project, I have spent much time over the past four months compiling quotations by famous people.  The objective is to use these quotes to better engage workers - ranging from 20-70 years of age - in a business environment.

As you can imagine, it is very easy to find quotes by famous men.  Particularly white men.  Finding quotes by women - particularly women of color - is more problematic.

One day, I found myself researching quotations by U.S. First Ladies.  I found that only a small handful - such as Abigail Adams, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Barbara Bush - had quotes suitable for my project.  However, the one first lady whose quotes kept coming up was Michelle Obama.

One of her most famous quotes is memorialized here in the song We Go High by Mavis Staples.

As I listen, I try to imagine how gratifying and humbling it must have been for Michelle Obama to hear the song for the first time.  The 60's freedom tones coupled with t…

Miami - Baxter Dury

from the album Prince Of Tears (2017)

No introduction, just a beat and groove.  You are hooked in the first measure.  Enter the synthesizer and guitar trill with their 80s tones.  Next the female vocalist says "Welcome to Miami now."  We are locked in, ready for Baxter Dury to dazzle us with his vocal stylings, more spoken than sung, his British accent mesmerizing.

Listen to the way he says "salamander."

Listen to the way he says "I'm the sausage man."

Listen to the way he says "I'm the vicar."

All the while the groove is maintained.  It never lets up.

The guitar gets chunky.  The synths offer the sound of orchestrated strings.  The break has a near disco lift.

I am lost in yet another great Baxter Dury song.

Click Here to watch the music video for Miami by Baxter Dury.

Till The End - Curtis Harding

from the album Face Your Fear (2017)

The Atlanta music scene is really "a tale of two cities" - black and white.

I find it sad that there is so little crossover.  In a city with so much talent, one can only imagine the possibilities...

Curtis Harding is a notable exception.  He can effortlessly transition from writing and singing back-ups with Cee Lo Green, to collaborating with psychedelic rockers Black Lips, to playing an acoustic set at Eddie's Attic.  This city (and really this planet) need more artists like him.

His new album is a fantastic.  It plays heavy to vintage R&B and soul grooves, while also keeping an air of crossover appeal that reminds me (at times) of Fine Young Cannibals.

My favorite track is Till The End.  It is a 60's go-go vibe driven by a deep bass groove and muscular horns.  Curtis Harding's vocals are a study in timeless perfection, as are the female backing vocals.

Other elements are equally stellar.  Check out the humor found in the…

2017 In Aspic - Episode 7

This is an eclectic mix, serpentining through electronica, alternative, jazz, folk, soul, gospel, and the great American songbook.  I dig the way it all flows together.  I also dig the way that some of the more established artists - like Bob Dylan, Howe Gelb, and Phosphorescent - push their musical boundaries.

I hope you enjoy.


Here is the playlist:

In The Midst by sir Was

Music Is The Answer by Joe Goddard

Keep Myself Alone Now by Fink

Only God Knows by Young Fathers

Dent Jusay by Matt Martians

B.H.S. by Sleaford Mods

Be About You by Winston Surfshirt

Show You the Way by Thundercat

Terribly So by Howe Gelb

These Foolish Things by Bob Dylan

Not Dark Yet by Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer

Count Your Blessings by The Como Mamas

Freedom Highway by Rhiannon Giddens

This Land Is Your Land by Phosphorescent


You can find all episodes of 2017 In Aspic - along with my other mixtape series - on my MixCloud site.

Girl On Saxophone X - Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra

from the album Paradise Has No Border (2017)

As their name suggests, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra are a Japanese band who specialize in ska.  what makes them extra tasty is how their music veers into other sub-genres in both rock and jazz.

I am really digging their tune Girl On Saxophone X.  This is a ska instrumental with a hard, uptempo backbeat.  Meanwhile, the guitars deliciously play with surf and sci-fi tones and riff.  the guitars are counterbalanced with a hard-driving horn section and groovy, textured organ.

A great track to kick off your next eclectic, hallucinogenic party.

Click Here to listen to Girl On Saxophone X.

2017 In Aspic - Episode 6

At first pass, this mix sounds like melodious alternative fare.  It is.  However, the more you listen, the more you realize just how fantastic the songwriting is.  Highlights include Father John Misty, Conor Oberst, and Frazey Ford.


Here is the playlist:

Over Everything by Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile

Hard Drugs by SUSTO

Preludes by Craig Finn

Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out by Conor Oberst

Gravity Rules by 5 Billion In Diamonds

Can't Hold On by Black Lips

Lacking In Your Love by Desperate Journalist

The Camp by PJ Harvey & Ramy Essam

The Last Ten Years by Mark Eitzel

When We Get By by Frazey Ford

Meat Is Murder by Tim Cohen

Ballad Of A Dying Man by Father John Misty

No. 5 Hurricane by Emily Barker

Poetry by Ray Davies


Check out my entire catalog of mixtape at MixCloud.

Sweet Dreams - Angel Olsen

from the album Phases (2017)

On her latest album - Phases - songstress Angel Olsen introduces us to a collection of highlights and rarities from her impressive five-year music career.  The songs detail an artistic evolution well-anchored in excellent songwriting and powerful vocals.

My favorite track is titled Sweet Dreams.  The tune's most memorable attribute is a falsetto vocal reminiscent of Chris Isaacs.  However, rather than Isaac's trademark "dreamabilly" sound, the music here is a form of restrained garage rock.  I've never heard this combination quite this way before.  It evokes Roy Orbison at some level, which is very high praise.

Hope you dig it.

Click Here to watch a 2012 music video for Sweet Dreams.

When We Get By - Frazey Ford

from the single When We Get By (2017)

The last two Frazey Ford albums - Obadiah and Indian Ocean - rank amongst my favorite of the decade.  The quiver of her vibrato - coupled with exceptional songwriting and instrumental performances - hits a unique place on the musical spectrum that juxtaposes desolation and warmth, detachment and desire.

Her new single - When We Get By - a cover of a D'Angelo song that picks up right where Indian Ocean left off.  It is evident from the delta horns that lead us into song's central mantra of "When we get by" which trades off splendidly with falsetto-laced verses.  I also really dig the swirling keyboard and the guitar tone during the instrumental break.

This is a "late night" song, perfect for quiet self-reflection and a stiff drink.  Full of texture and substance.

Click Here to listen to Frazey Ford's cover of D'Angelo's Where We Get By.

Click Here to read my November 2014 blog post on Frazey Ford's song Ind…

2017 In Aspic - Episode 5

One of my funky friends calls his favorite month of the year Roctober, because this is the month when all the best bands seem to come to town and some of the best new music gets released.  At first, I thought it was a bit goofy, but after years of observing I get his point.

In the spirit of Roctober, here is a mix of some of my favorite rock tunes of the year.

I dig the way classic artists blend with new artists in this mix.  Robert Plant (singing a duet with Chrissie Hynde), The Jesus And Mary Chain, and Trent Reznor share this mix with Big Thief, Pissed Jeans, and Alexander F.

Hope you enjoy !


Here is the playlist:

Amputation by The Jesus And Mary Chain

Post-War Cinematic Dead Man Blues by Chuck Prophet

Get Out by Sallie Ford

Shark Smile by Big Thief

They Put A Body In The Bayou by The Orwells

The Bar Is Low by Pissed Jeans

Call Me Pretty by Alexander F.

Bluebirds Over The Mountain by Robert Plant

What Comes Back by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

Alabaster by All Them Witches

Gone, Gone, Gon…

Fat's Left Hand

As a bass guitarist, I developed my personal playing style by studying the left hands of great blues and New Orleans pianists.  Men like Memphis Slim, Professor Longhair, and Johnnie Johnson.

They taught me how to sit in a groove, how to boogie, and how to jump.

A good friend recently posted some of our old recordings.  Listening to my bass lines, I found myself thinking "That's Pinetop Perkins.  That's Champion Jack Dupree."

But of all these pianists, my favorite to emulate is Fats Domino.  His left hand was all about the groove.  Compared with others, his touch was softer, playing fewer notes, sitting a little bit further back in the groove, allowing his tone to ring truer.

It is beautiful to listen to.  Check out the bass line on Blueberry Hill.  Everything you need to know about playing bass guitar is in Fat's left hand.

God Bless Fats Domino.




Bluebirds Over The Mountain - Robert Plant

from the album Carry Fire (2017)

One of the things I dig most about Robert Plant is the way he has managed to subtly recast himself throughout his post-Zeppelin career.  It started in the 80s with songs like Big Log and In The Mood. This is allowed by his collaborations with female Americana and Folk artist, with my favorites including his remake of Killing The Blues with Alison Krauss and Ohio with Patty Griffin.

His rendition of Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down with his Band of Joy is the cherry on top.

On his latest album, it is a duet with a rock and roll lady that has caught my fancy.  On Bluebirds Over The Mountain, he sings with none other than Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, the smoky velvet and confidence of her voice casting a new angle on Robert Plant's master vocals.

I really dig how he hangs back in the song, never overshadowing the other singers or musicians, and then in the outro he lets loose with some Zeppelin-inspired moans.

I am also excited to hear a resurre…

Vacation - Dirty Heads

from the album Swim Team (2017)

What a better way to start your work week than with a tune that proclaims:

Eh eh aye
I'm on vacation
Every single day
'Cause I love my occupation

I dig Dirty Heads.  Their vibe is fresh and fun.  Their songs contain humor, wit, and substance.  Whenever I listen, the songs stick in my head all day.  It is uncommon for a songwriter to consistently achieve catchiness.

Vacation will be in my head all day.

Click Here to watch the official music video to Vacation.

Click Here to read my November 2013 post on the Dirty Heads song Crazy Bitches.

The Light Of Day - Kacy & Clayton

from the album The Siren's Song (2017)

I really dig the place on the musical spectrum that Kacy Anderson and Clayton Lithicum have carved out for themselves.  It is a stripped down, psychedelic folk music, full of tightly-balanced juxtaposition.  Vintage and fresh.  Macabre and uplifting.  Otherworldly and raw.  This brand of folk defies time and place.

Arriving at this delicious musical spot comes - in part - from their broad range of musical influences.  Leadbelly.  Bob Wills.  Shirley Collins.  Fairport Convention.  Mississippi John Hurt.  The Deep Dark Woods.

Another part likely comes from their upbringing in the relatively remote Wood Mountain Uplands of Saskatchewan.  I imagine that being raised there gives you an interesting perspective on music and how it relates to your immediate universe.  I also imagine it is a supportive community, perfect for learning a lexicon and honing your craft.

The first track on their latest album is called The Light Of Day.  It is a throwback …

Gigolo A Go Go - Episode 8

This mixtape is a funky affair.

It represents the type of mix I would want to play at the perfect big city party.  Something that gets people loose and groovy.

I dig funk.  It sits at the intersection of R&B, Soul, Rock, Jazz, & Disco.  That lets the DJ vary the vibe, giving something to everyone.  Especially my funky friends.

So, grab a cocktail and give this mix a spin.  Hope it blows your head.


Here is the playlist:

Grits And Gravy by The Fame Gang

Ain't It Funky Now by James Brown

When Love Comes Home by Chet Ivey & His Fabulous Avengers

Blow Your Head by Fred Wesley & The J.B.'s

Gimme The Boots by Mo' Blow

Katchi by Nick Waterhouse

Outa-Space by Billy Preston

Sexy M.F. by Prince

What'd I Say - Parts I & II by Ray Charles

Don't Lay Your Funky Trip On Me by Señor Soul

Son Of Slide by Slave

Stripped by Soul Department

I'm Not Gonna Cry by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

Take It As It Comes by Sugarman 3

Baby, I Don't Know You by Vicki Anderson

Momma…

Frontine - The Selecter

from the album Daylight (2017)

The Selecter are one of the great ska bands that recorded for 2 Tone Records back in the 1970s.  Their only industrial name is actually the term used by Jamaicans to describe disc jockey.

The band has always been noted for their beat and groove, coupled with the vocals of Neol Davies and Pauline Black.  For me, Pauline Black has always been the critical member.  She is the original "rude girl," the prototype for all future female ska singers.  I dig her.

Nearly forty years later, they are still recording and releasing great music.  Their latest single - Frontline - has become one of my most listened to songs this year.  I dig the tight rhythm section, the dueling vocals, and the variations in the arrangement.  It is a modernized ska vibe with nods to other musical styles, all delivered with a bouncing beat.

I also dig the message to the song.  It stands as advise to millennial to get off the couch, put down the video games, and engage live head…

I Am A Slave - The Roots

from the television program Black-ish (2017)

For those old enough to remember, just the mention of Schoolhouse Rock puts a smile on your face.

Songs like "Conjunction Junction" and "Three Is A Magic Number" appeared on the ABC network's Saturday morning cartoon programming as cute, little, animated educational segments.  They wound up becoming pop culture sensations, pillars of that generation's childhood experience.

The king daddy of all these songs was "I'm Just a Bill."

Fast forward forty-one years, and the legendary band The Roots have created their own rendition of the song - entitled "I Am A Slave" - detailing the experience of those who endured human bondage.

Dig the second verse;

I am a slave in the home of the brave
A product of the triangular trade
Please pardon my ways
If I'm nervous or the slightest bit skittish
In the presence of the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, or British
They kept me in colonial chains
Tell me how to persu…

Town Called Malice - Rude Boy George

from the forthcoming album Gifted: A Tribute To The Jam (2017)

The Specialized Project is a group of UK-based music folk who raise money to help those stricken with teenage cancer, and other dreadful afflictions.  The fundraising largely focuses on the release of multi-CD tribute albums that feature dozens of great bands.  Their forthcoming release - Gifted: A Tribute To The Jam - is a four-CD affair containing 65 ska and reggae artists covering tunes by The Jam.

I can't wait to taste the whole enchilada.

The first track I have stumbled across for this record is by Rude Boy George (great band name) taking on the classic tune Town Called Malice.  They are an NYC band that specializes in ska remakes of 80s New Wave songs.  I dig it.

The primary differences between this version and the original are the ska backbeat, a slightly slower tempo, and the dual vocals of Megg Howe and Roger Apollon Jr.  The ska vibe and groove combine nicely with the sentiment of the original, making this a…

Over Everything - Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile

from the album Lotta Sea Lice (2017)

Lotta Sea Lice, a forthcoming release by Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, is one of the most pleasant surprises of the year.

Individually, each represents the best that new music has to offer.  They are gifted songwriters, vocalists, and guitarists.  Triple threats.

Over Everything is a pre-released single from the album.  It succeeds in capturing the essential qualities of each artist.  Where it exceeds is in the interplay between them, both vocally and instrumentally.

I'm listening to a Kurt Vile song.
I'm listening to a Courtney Barnett song.
I'm listening to a Kurt Vile song.
I'm listening to a Courtney Barnett song.
I'm listening to a Kurt Vile song.
I'm listening to a Courtney Barnett song. I'm listening to a Kurt Vile song.
I'm listening to a Courtney Barnett song.
You get the point...
Click Here to watch the official video to Over Everything by Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile.

If All I Was Was Black - Mavis Staples

from the album If All I Was Was Black (2017)

If all I was was black
Don't you want to know me better than that?

Mavis Staples is an American treasure.

Combining incredible vocals with iconic songwriting, her music resonates like no other artist today.  There is no musician who speaks more elegantly on race, freedom, or individuality.

At age 78, she is in one of her most fertile and prolific periods of her career.  On this record, she is once again teamed with Wilco frontman, Jeff Tweedy.  The results are spectacular.

There is so much to admire in her.  Is there anyone I dig more?

Click Here to listen to If All I Was Was Black.

Isotype - Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

from the album The Punishment Of Luxury (2017)

Back when I was younger, I always assumed that I would be famous one day.  I often daydreamed about stepping onto the set of a late-night talk show to the thunderous applause of an adoring public.

In these Walter Mitty moments, I could easily imagine the band playing the perfect theme song as I took the stage.  In my mind, it always alternated between the same two songs:  Meet Dr. Foo by Coleman Hawkins and Dreaming by Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark.  Both are fine selections.

These memories come flashing back at me as I listen to Isotype, a new song from my old aural companions, OMD.

The familiar vocals.  The stirring synthesizers.  The early electronic marching beat.  Collectively, this sound defines a very special place in a private corner of my soul, where we could be together.  Now and forever.

Join me there...

Click Here to watch the official music video to Isotype.

What Comes Back - Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

original score to the soundtrack for The Vietnam War (2017)

What a challenge it must have been to compose the soundtrack for Ken Burn's extended documentary on The Vietnam War.  I am not sure that many artists would take on this project, let alone deliver such an outstanding product.  Hats off to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross !!!

For the past week, I have been playing this soundtrack in my headphones as I ride a crowded rail to work.  In this context, I become both detached - and highly tuned into - my surroundings.  I imagine this is what it must have felt like to be on patrol in a Vietnamese village.

The men I know who actually had that experience prefer not to talk about it.  As much as I respect their silence, I wish they would share their experiences.

My favorite song on the soundtrack is What Comes Back.  I really dig its craft.  The song has a menacing quality.  One part of it is the deliberate tempo and the dull thud of the snare.  The other part are the two guitar voices,…

Not Dark Yet - Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer

from the album Not Dark Yet (2017)

For me, listening to Bob Dylan is a little like a journey through the fun house. with mirrors distorting reality at every turn.  The genius of Dylan is that in these abstractions, the listener realizes truths and feelings that would not have otherwise synthesized.

Then in 1997, Dylan released Time Out Of Mind, an incredible album where he removes the mirrors and bares himself for a brief moment.  By his next record, Love & Theft, the distorting mirrors had returned.

Not Dark Yet is the centerpiece of Time Out Of Mind.  Here, Dylan looks at his life and acknowledges that he may not live long enough to experience all he desires.

Shadows are falling and I been here all day
It's too hot to sleep and time is running away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I've still got the scars that the sun didn't let me heal
There's not enough room enough to be anywhere
It's not dark yet, but its getting there

Well my sense of humanity is going dow…

No. 5 Hurricane - Emily Barker

from the album Sweet Kind Of Blue (2017)

No. 5 Hurricane is a song that I intended to write about a few weeks ago.  However, in the build-up and wake of Harvey - and then Irma - it seemed obvious and inappropriate.  I try to avoid being obvious.

A lesson from these storms is just how beautiful my friends in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, and Georgia are.  I've witnessed them offering their homes to neighbors, rescuing animals, keeping an eye on the elderly, and being warm, decent human beings.  Hooray !!!

No. 5 Hurricane is a song from Emily Barker, a singer-songwriter from Western Australia whose music blends Americana and Folk with a sixties pop sensibility.  The song is sparse and tender.  Its lyrics inform a former lover that - despite being in someone else's arms - their memory is on her mind.

The visual imagery of the opening line mesmerizes me:

I remember when the shadows moved across your skin

As the song evolves, other lyrical imagery strikes me, evoking beautiful memories. …

2017 In Aspic - Episode 4

Episode 4 chronicles some of the great new music I discovered over the Summer of 2017.  It is unlike any summer mix I have ever created.  In some ways, it doesn't sound summery at all.

But this is certainly the soundtrack of the last few months.  Indie, alternative, folk, rhythm & blues, experimental, soul, shoegaze.  Australia, New Zealand, South America, North America, Europe.  Eclectic particles from lesser known artists spanning the globe, all coming together, forming an unexpectedly cohesive vibe.

And there is even a new Cat Stevens song in the mix !!!

Hope you dig it.


Here is the playlist:

Puss by Party Dozen

Feeling Good About Feeling Good by Art Feynman

Drive by Mere Women

Forgot Myself by Jen Cloher

Silver by Waxahatchee

Believe by Benjamin Booker

Blackness Of The Night by Yusef / Cat Stevens

Let It Melt by Danxia

Tuyo (Tema De Narcos) by Bïa & Mamselle Ruiz

Kowabunga by Jono Das

Every Part (For Linda) by Moonchild

Indigo Children by Deafcult

Violet by See Through Dresses

Hor…

Horizon - Aldous Harding

from the album Party (2017)

Regardless of whether it is a gift from God or a validation of Mendel, there is no musical instrument more stirring than a gifted human voice.  Think of a great Irish tenor or an operatic star, like Pavarotti.  Their voices can touch you at your core and inspire you like few others things I know.

In terms of popular music, great care needs to be given to the musical accompaniment of a gifted voice.  It must be complimentary, never stealing the spotlight.  This is certainly a situation where less is more.

Aldous Harding is an incredible vocalist from Lyttelton, New Zealand.  She considers her style of music to be gothic folk, a perfectly accurate and unique categorization.  I could hear her singing in either a grand European cathedral, or a Greenwich Village café.

On Horizon, one of many fantastic tunes on her sophomore release, the twenty-seven year old singer is accompanied by a simple piano playing whole-notes and an orchestration track of slowly drawn st…

Violet - See Through Dresses

from the album Horse Of The Other World (2017)

I dig the shoegaze vibe.  Songs drenched in reverb with heavy synths, predictable grooves, and pleasant vocals.  It makes for perfect listening when my head is stuck in a burnt-out fog and I am trying to find structure in the chaos of the day.  Having a buzz on also helps.

My frustration with the genre is that I always find myself hearing the influences of other artists inside a song's framework.  This sometimes distracts my ear from appreciating the music at hand, instead I'm racking my brain, trying to identify the musical influence.

Such is the case with the song Violet from the Nebraska-based shoe gaze outfit, See Through Dresses.  The song grabs me from its opening measure with overdriven synths and pulsing bass.  The drums are tight without being busy, fitting right in with the vibe.  Guitars are present, but subliminal.

Then there are the vocals of Mathew Carroll, tender and thoughtful, slightly hushed, more about the vibe …

Indigo Children - Deafcult

from the album Auras (2017)

Deafcult are a shoegaze band from Brisbane, Australia.  I always dig listening to them, not simply for the shoegaze, but for all the cool variations from other genres that they weave inside the framework.

A great example is the song Indigo Children.  The tune begins with a bit of pop punch, reminiscent of The Cranberries, before settling into the gaze.  But as the song evolves, just listen to the guitar playing.  It is outstanding how it weaves between gaze, pop, and classic rock.  Same for the drumming.

If you have high-quality headphones, I recommend them for your listen.  All of the parts are clear, true, and play well together.  Delightful.

Click Here to listen to Indigo Children by Deafcult on Bandcamp.

Every Part (For Linda) - Moonchild

from the album Voyager (2017)

I tend to perpetually groove across a variety of musical genres, twisting that kaleidoscope of vibes back and forth, tuning in curious intersections of multi-dimensional soundscapes, and dancing in their ever-changing light.

So why the fuck have I not been listening to any Neo Soul this year?  Somehow, its groove simply isn't aligning with my mood.  What does that say about me?  Too much tequila?  Not enough Drambuie?  Too uptight to chill?  I must be out of whack.

For me, Neo Soul lives somewhere in the space between sex - and sexy - music.  Bossa Nova is romantic.  Lovers Rock quenches the late-night groove.  Neo Soul is different.  It is less pure, with a stanky whiff of decadence

I guess I haven't found myself in that kind of place lately.  Too bad.

I'm hoping Every Part (For Linda) by Moonchild gets me back on that path.  The beat.  The groove.  The high-register serpentine vocals.  Darken the room.  Light the candle.  Turn up the bass.  …

2017 In Aspic - Episode 3

Episode 3 of 2017 In Aspic mixes two complementary types of records I've been stumbling across this year.

The first are newer artists who play electronic music reminiscent of the industrial music of the 1980s. This includes artists like Shed, ADULT., and Todd Terje.  The counterpoint comes from popular artists of the 1980s - Alison Moyet, Erasure, and Blondie - who continue to make vibrant music the sounds new and fresh.  Even Fab Five Freddie lends his rap to a Vex Ruffin song.

Also joining the mix are a host of great songs from artists like Tennis, Muse, and Jens Lekman.  The mix closes with This Cities Undone by The Moonlandingz, featuring extended screaming from the great Yoko Ono.

Lots of fun stuff here.  Hope you enjoy.


Here is the playlist:

Call 32075! by Shed

The Balance by Vex Ruffin

Ladies Don't Play Guitar by Tennis

Beautiful Gun by Alison Moyet

Stop (And Start Again) by ADULT.

Love You To The Sky by Erasure

Fun (Eric Kupper Disco Remix) by Blondie

Dig Down by Muse

Maskinda…

Kowabunga - Jono Das

from the album Fiction (2017)

When you go to Jono Das' website, it proclaims in big red letters: "I'm Jono.  I make beats and sometimes I do other stuff."

He is an artist.  When you look at his photography and design, you get a feel for how his mind treats texture, positive and negative space, and composition.  This directly translates into his music, with beats and rhythms creating the audio companion to his visual art.  It is humanity framed in darkness, light, and energy.

Although his new record is best enjoyed as a complete work, I am very drawn to the song Kowabunga.  It is a bouncing bass groove over a crisp high-hat beat.  Synthesized orchestration offers the counter voice to the bass.  Lush female vocals are injected at just the right place, along with his MC styled "yeah".

And suddenly, after 2 minutes and 23 seconds the song ends.  That is the way it goes with an excerpt from a complete work, but - dang - I wish it could go on forever.

Click Here t…

Tuyo (Tema de Narcos) - Bïa & Mamselle Ruiz

from the album Bandidas (2017)

Bandidas brings together two amazing latina chanteuses: Bïa, a Brazilian singer-songwriter known for her beautiful voice and sweet melodies, and Mamselle Ruiz, a fantastic Quebec-based Mexican singer, known - not only for her solo work - but for her stints performing with Cirque du Soleil.

I am wildly enamored with their song Tuyo (Tema de Narcos).  It is timeless, emanating from a distant place, where romance rules the day.  The women's vocals intertwine like two high-wire acrobats, dazzling the crowd, as they perform over a magnificent latin beat and groove.  Soul-stirring guitar and cello complete the soundscape.

At times, I am not certain what to listen to: The bass line, the cello, or those soaring vocals.

This song is sexy, sultry, and romantic.  A classic.

Click Here to listen to Tuyo (Temo de Narcos) performed by Bïa & Mamselle Ruiz on Bïa JKeieger's SoundCloud site.

Click Here to watch a promotional video of Bïa & Mamselle Ruiz perf…

Let It Melt - Danxia

from the EP Learn To Swim (2017)

A recent obsession of mine is checking out the Bandcamp and Facebook pages of newer, unsigned bands.  I have become fascinated with how they package and present their products.  I am equally interested in the relationships they strike with their audiences.

The trait that attracts me most to a band is honesty.  How accurate do they describe and present themselves?  Is the bond with their audience authentic?  Are they assholes?

Danxia is a four piece band from Warrington, UK - a medium-sized municipality along the Mersey River, midway between the behemoth music destinations of Liverpool and Manchester.  They describe their music as "swirly, psych-inspired guitars, melodic bass lines, and haunting vocals laced with reverb."  Their Facebook page shows them gigging and recording.  Eating lentils and hummus.  I dig them.

I also dig their tune Let It Melt.  It envelops the listener in a late night soundscape - lush in texture, dynamics, and space - …