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Showing posts from 2017

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 - …

Blackness Of The Night - Yusuf / Cat Stevens

from the album The Laughing Apple (2017)

Typically, we think of power in terms of energy, strength, and might.  Kilowatts.  Decibels.  Horsepower.

But there is a different kind of power.  A subtle power.  A power that rises above the noise by standing apart from it.  Beauty.  Message.  Purpose.  Gandhi.

Cat Stevens is a master of this type of power.  Singing - never shouting - in hushed tones.  His fingers softly working the fretboard.  In the ways that matter most, he is more powerful than nearly any current musician I know.

In his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech, he nearly moved me to tears talking about his classic song Morning Has Broken, recounting how he tried to channel his mother's voice singing to him as a child.  It's tender and intimate - and powerful.

So, as you listen to his new song Blackness Of The Night, think about subtle power and what a better world this might be if more people exuded - and followed - it.

Click Here to watch a music video for Blac…

Believe - Benjamin Booker

from the album Witness (2017)

I am really digging the song Believe by Benjamin Booker.

The tune hooks me in the opening seconds with an orchestrated introduction reminiscent of Ray Charles in his Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music era.  This gives a classic - or retro - sheen that lets the listener know something good is coming.

Then enter Benjamin Booker's voice, raspy and tender over a light R&B groove.  The arrangement has space that allows for tension to build and release throughout the composition.  The orchestration is magnificently leveraged to highlight this tension to create moments of anticipation.

Collectively, these elements form a mighty soundscape, over which the vocals and lyrics take flight, soaring above the music.  The hook phrase "I just want to believe in something, I don't care if it's right or wrong" has been echoing in my head since my first listen.  Backing vocals add an element of gospel in the closing section, taking the song…

Silver - Waxahatchee

from the album Out In The Storm (2017)

If I were vanquished to some isolated land where music could neither be played, nor heard, I like to think that I would create music in my mind.

If, on any given day, I felt compelled to imagine a great indie rock tune, my thoughts might go something like this...

It would open with a big, buoyant drum intro.  Nothing fancy.  A straight four beat with muscle and lift.  Then overdriven guitars and pulsing bass would enter, beating out an eigth-note rhythm and groove.

The vocalist would be a younger, interesting female.    Male singers are such stereotypes.  Woman are complex.  Her vocal tracks would be doubled-up, which - when coupled with the beat, groove, and fuzzed out guitars - would give off a 90's vibe reminiscent of, say, The Jesus and Mary Chain.

 The lyrics would be clever and alluring.  They would include lines like, "we kiss and my lips starts to feel unfamiliar."

The guitars would then hammer down for a forceful bridge bef…

Forgot Myself - Jen Cloher

from the album Jen Cloher (2017)

I was nearing the gruesome end of a long relationship.  It was just a matter of time before one of us had the guts to put the final dagger in the other one's heart.  Needing to hit that big, red hyperspace button, I signed up for a three-month stint on the other side of the planet.

After a month in Sydney, I was still a zombie.  Walking the streets, alone in the night.  Standing in the corner of the bar, slamming VB's, smoking cigarettes, interacting with no one.  Going back to my room.  Waking up, heading to work, coming home, and stepping back into the night.

In some ways it was cathartic.  Endlessly writing the next great American novel in a dark corner of my mind.  Henry Miller meets Arthur Nersesian.  Nostrand Avenue.  Niagara Falls.  The Velvet Elvis.

So, one night, I'm standing at a crowded bar in King's Cross, chain smoking nasty sticks and drinking Jack on the rocks.  This chick across the room is making eyes at me, but, in thi…

Drive - Mere Women

from the album Big Skies (2017)

Drive by Mere Women is one of those songs that crave to see performed live.  I imagine a well mic'd drum kit mule kicking me in the chest to the thunderous tom beats.  Even though it sounds like a "smaller" kit, those drums need to be "felt" as well as heard.

I would also like to absorb the bass groove.  Bass guitar is a new addition for Mere Women.  I dig the way the groove stays present, adding dimension and bottom, without morphing the band's signature sound.  It is a lesson in restraint.

Together the bass and drums create anxious anticipation akin to a churning winter's ocean.  Swells.  Chops.  But never that climactic crash.

Over the rhythm section the guitar and synthesizer complete the post punk soundscape.  The collective sound is very agreeable to my musical tastes.

That leaves the vocals of Amy Young.  In my mind, I imagine how she stands, holding the mic, her groovy sway.  She sounds sexy, in a discordant way.  …

Feeling Good About Feeling Good - Art Feynman

from the album Blast Off Through The Wicker (2017)

Feeling Good About Feeling Good has rapidly become one of my very favorite songs of 2017.

This globydelic groove explosion is hypnotic, hyperbolic, and parabolic.  The jams jam for over seven minutes, man.  Groove and beat.  Move your feet.  Who's guitar playin'? Riff splayin'?  Mantis prayin'?  Jane, never let them stop this groovy thing...

The brainchild of Luke Temple, this song is recorded under his alter-ego of Art Feynman.  Although I dig his work as part of Here We Go Magic, the liberation of an alter-ego suits him well.

Capture the rapture.  Call the dispatcher.  Hope I die before they put me to pasture.

Click Here to listen to Feeling Good About Feeling Good.

Puss - Party Dozen

from the album The Living Man (2017)

Party Dozen is the name given to the duo of Kirsty Tickle and Jonathan Boulet, two Sydney, Australia musicians who play the saxophone and drums, respectively.

The music is a form of primitive experimental jazz.  I find it captivating.  On Puss, the duo take full advantage of multi-track recording to create layers of dissident sax over flat tom syncopation.  The add in a little bit of organ and percussion to round out the sound, but I honestly do not know if it is necessary.

I dig people creating their own vibes, marching to their own beats.  I would love to hang out with Party Dozen.  My guess is that it would be fun, in a different kind of way.

Click Here to listen to Puss on Bandcamp.

Cryin' In The Streets - Zeshan B.

from the album Vetted (2017)

One of my favorite "freedom songs" of the Civil Rights era is Cryin' In The Streets by George Perkins and The Silver Stars.  A lesser known song from 1970, George Perkins was inspired to write this song  based by his recollections of the imagery of Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral.  It drips with raw soul that is authentic and pure.

For me, this song speaks to the power of the image each of us projects towards the world and the impact that image has on others.  When I flip the dial, I see all sorts of people carrying on, projecting images and issuing statements that make me cringe.  Do these people realize that their freedom of speech also comes with responsibilities, and that they are seriously lacking in the latter?

Then there are others - the good ones - who use their imagery and words to inspire, educate, and promote justice.

Which are you?

It is great to hear Zeshan Bagewadi covering Cryin' In The Streets.  Songs like this should…

2017 In Aspic - Episode 2

Thus far in 2017, perhaps no genre of music has shined like the singer-songwriters.  This should not come as a major surprise.  After all, great singer-songwriters write and sing great songs.

There are so many great artists, songs, and performances in this mix.  I am certain that when the Grammy nominations come out this September, artists included here will be included.

I hope that this mix does justice to these songs.  Enjoy.


Here is the playlist:

Cry Cry Darlin' by Leslie Mendelson

Night Bird And Morning Bird by Abigail Lapell

You Ain't Worth Suffering For by Kasey Chambers

Hotel Amarillo by Caroline Spence

What A Girls Gotta Do by Lindi Ortega

Have You Ever Seen Peaches Growing On A Sweet Potato Vine? by Jake Xerxes Fussell

Any Given Day by Georgia Mulligan

Astral Plane by Valerie June

Lies I Chose To Believe by John Moreland

No Good At All by Lucy Rose

Gaudy Frame by Monk Parker

Where I'll Find You by Joan Shelley

Shiver And Shake by Ryan Adams

Love Soldiers On by Tift Merritt


Clic…

No Reason - Bonobo

from the album Migration (2017)

Bonobo is the musical moniker of Simon Green, a British musician, producer, DJ who now calls Los Angeles home.  His form of electronica is noted for its inclusion of global rhythms, many from Africa and Micronesia.

On his latest release, I am digging the song No Reason.  The beats and tones are straightforward in a way that really hooks me as a listener.  Vibe and texture set the soundscape apart.  I enjoy listening to this track in headphones to maximize fidelity.

The song is also notable for its lead vocal track by Australian electronic mastermind Chet Faker, who appears under his true name of Nick Murphy. Chet (or Nick) has one of my favorite voices in music today.

Click Here to watch the official video to No Reason.  It is very innovative.

Eléctrico - Sotomayor

from the album Conquistador (2017)

Global Bass is perhaps my favorite music genre, because of its energy and inclusiveness.  In this musical form, electronic bass - laid down in a thick and heavy style - is mixed with traditional forms of music from various areas of the world, be it latin, acrobat, gypsy rhythms, you name it...

I particularly dig when it mixes with latin dance music.  Cumbia, tango, the boogaloo.  All introduce great dance rhythms with pulsing electronica to create something fresh and dramatic.  Endless musical intersections tied together by bass.

Sotomayor are a brother-sister duo from Mexico City whose brand of Global Bass draws heavily from Cumbia, but also andean rhythms - such as peruvian chichas - as well as afro-beat.

Off their latest album, I am enamored with the song Eléctrico.  For me, it all starts with the three-note patterns that form the bass groove.  They completely hook me.  From there, the layering of synths, guitar, and latin instrumentation over a d…

Funny How Time Flies - Terrace Martin Presents The Pollyseeds

from the album Sounds Of Crenshaw, Vol. 1 (2017)

As the last Uber scuttled off with straggling party guests, I settled in on the front porch with my trusted four-legged companion Karma Jean (The Dance Machine), poured some Fireball over ice, and took in the sounds of the city.

Cole Porter had been bouncing around my brain all night. Tell me which is dreamier, Arcadia or Bohemia?  I started opening gifts.  Mostly booze and music.  Next, I unwrapped a book by Allen Ginsburg, collecting his lectures on the Beats.  I held the answer.

Winding down, I threw on Sounds Of Crenshaw, Vol. 1, the latest record by LA's Terrace Martin that introduces his new band: The Pollyseeds.  The vibe was perfect for my late night urban chill.  Rooted in jazz with hip-hop and R&B undertones, the grooves were deep and hypnotic.  His sax solos magnificently understated.

Saxophones and cities...

Throughout the party, people kept asking how old I was.  I am never one to retreat from saying the number, but…

King Tide And The Sunny Day Flood - Billy Bragg

from the single King Tide And The Sunny Day Flood (2017)

What better way to start your morning than with a tweet announcing a new Billy Bragg single?

That is how I woke up.  Now, I am bouncing between my computer and the espresso machine, listening, as my favorite protest singer croons for Mother Earth.

Here are the lyrics:

Wouldn't it be wonderful
If we could save the world and all
Simply by collecting up
Tin cans and empty bottles

We all want to believe it's true
But it don't matter what you do
So long as we continue to
Burn our way through fossils

Now it should come as no surprise
To learn about the ocean's rise
Polar caps are melting
With every year that the planet warms

Now people have to understand
We're gonna feel it far inland
It's gonna shift the seasons
And super charge the storms

King Tide is a coming
King Tide is a coming
King Tide is a coming
Bringing flooding on a sunny day

King Tide is a coming
Can't you hear the melt waters running
King Tide is a coming
Gonna sweep…

Paper Cowboy - Margo Price

from the EP Weakness (2017)

From a business perspective, Nashville is an amazing product enterprise.  It has built an enduring brand that connects with its customers, earning a loyalty that spans generations, while driving insane revenues and profits for those at the top of the heap.  They are the Johnson & Johnson of music.

Like Coca-Cola, Nashville has a secret recipe that works.  Unlike Coca-Cola (think New Coke), they have been prudent enough not to mess with success.

Nashville is a product factory.  Songwriters who understand the winning framework, endlessly working within it, gently pulling levers looking for something that connects and sells.  Musicians who are masters of their tone and technique, who get into the studio - or up on a stage - and knock it out every time.  Producers and Engineers who are expert in what a hit record "sounds" like and in how to capture that sound.  Lastly, the vocalists.  They are the stars.  The face of the brand.  They are sweet.  T…

Count Your Blessings - The Como Mamas

from the album Move Upstairs (2017)

When Thomas Edison first introduced electric light to the world, its power plants could only illuminate over short distances.  As a result, populated urban centers - like New York and Paris - became electrified while more rural locations remained in darkness.

Imagine the awe and excitement of seeing the lights of a city for the first time.

Radio provided a similar experience.  Early transmitters provided coverage of a relatively small radius, limiting their deployments to more densely populated urban centers.  However, as the technology matured, the transmitters expanded their range to include rural communities.

Imagine the awe and excitement of having music broadcast into your home for the first time.

The Como Mamas take their name from their small hometown of Como, Mississippi.  As girls, they were introduced to great music by the booming radio transmitter of WDIA in Memphis.  It was here that they absorbed the music of icons, like Elvis and Areth…

Gigolo A Go Go - Episode 7

Is there anything sexier than French Pop?  Mini-Skirts and Go-Go Boots.  Imagine yourself back in the 60's, jet setting with a Tom Collins in your hand.  Smiling at the flight attendants in those fabulous uniforms.  Aaaah.  What happened?  Damn hippies.

This mix takes a look at fifty years of French Pop.  Of course, you will find later grooves from Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg - along with a classic by Bridgette Bardot - but you will also find newer bands like La Femme, Stereolab, and The Limiñanas, the Bryan Ferry-esque stylings of Françios Veléry, the 70's pronto-punk of Plastic Bertrand, and a slew of other goodies.

Hope you dig it.


Here is the playlist:

It's Time To Wake Up 2023 by La Femme

J'aime Regarder Les Filles by Patrick Coutin

Pour Un Flirt Avec Toi by Jane Birkin & Christophe Miossec

Don Quichotte (No Están Aqui) by Magazine 60

Paris Latino by Bandolero

Margerine Melodie by Stereolab

Donne Donne by Nanette Workman

The Train Creep A-Loopin' by The Limi…

Shiver And Shake - Ryan Adams

from there album Prisoner (2017)

She sat across the table, a glass of wine in her hand.  Behind her, streams of taxi cabs created a kinetic backdrop, yet all I saw were those eyes, that smile.  As she spoke, time melted, and my head finally caught up with my heart.  "I love you."

As we left the restaurant, I never felt closer.  She asked me to kiss her.  Soon after, she got in her car and drove off.  I stood on the street a while, hoping she would return, but this was her goodbye.

Was Shiver And Shake written from me to her, or her to me?  I am never quite sure.

I first heard this song while driving along an interstate, my head full of wine, in the blue light before dawn.  I must have hit repeat four dozen times.  Is this really our song?  Our destiny?

The next day, I put the record away, but dusted it off today.  It is quite a tune.

As I listen, so many tender memories circle around my head.  Yet in the final scene, she still rides off into the night, as I stand - wanting -…

If We Were Vampires - Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit

from the album The Nashville Sound (2017)

I have always been an optimist.  It serves me well.  But lately, I realize that time will likely run out before I realize some closely held dreams and desires.  The regret haunts me.

Jason Isbell is one of a few artists whose music regularly hits me where I am most vulnerable.  I love and hate him for it.

On his latest record, the song If We Were Vampires strikes a raw nerve.  It is a love song about life being too short.  In the chorus, he sings:

Its knowing that this can't go on forever
Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone
Maybe we'll get forty years together
But one day I'll be gone
Or one day you'll be gone

In the final verse, he offers the payoff:

If we were vampires and death were a joke
We'd go out on the sidewalk and smoke

If only we were...

Click Here to listen to If We Were Vampires.

Lay Down For Free - Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie

from the album Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie (2017)

A central postulate of this blog is that the two critical elements of all great songs are superior songwriting and vocal performances.  Within this framework, one can clearly understand why the music of Fleetwood Mac endures.

As songwriters and vocalists, the trio of Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, and Christine McVie are as formidable as any group in popular music.  Add to them Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, a rhythm section for the ages, and they become nearly impossible to match.

It is fun listening to the new, self-titled record by Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie.  It offers us a glimpse into how two pieces of the puzzle interlock, into the common language they have developed, and into how great musicians apply their craft in the latter stages of their careers.

The song I am digging most is Lay Down For Free.  A Lindsey Buckingham composition, the song has all of his familiar elements.  Relaxed tempo and groov…

Big Boys - Chuck Berry

from the album Chuck (2017)

This week, I had the privilege to take a road trip with an eighty-one year old woman.

When I was a kid, I did not know any octogenarians.  People were "old" in their sixties.  Surviving your seventies was virtually unheard of.

But there I was, covering two thousand miles with a fully-engaged woman.  She was laughing, telling stories, singing to the radio, giving advise.  As we were about to pass the exit for the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, she said, "Let's go.  This will be fun and we might learn something."  She was right on all accounts.

Big Boys is a new song by Chuck Berry.  Released posthumously, he completed this track at the age of ninety.  I am in total awe.  The guitar playing and vocals are as vital as his music of sixty years prior.  The signature riffs.  The passages sung in french.  The energy and drive.  The realization that this is the work of a ninety year old man is beyond amazing.

Please take a listen.  In a…

2017 In Aspic - Episode 1

Welcome to Episode 1 of 2017 In Aspic.  This series is a collection of songs that have appeared in this blog over the current year.  It will conclude with a "best of" episode in late December.  My hope is that this will afford readers an opportunity to listen these songs in a steady, curated stream.

The title "2017 In Aspic" is taken from a song titled 1970 In Aspic that was released by Robyn Hitchcock earlier this year.  I really dig the visual imagery of time being trapped in a pork-based gelatin.  Very British.

This first mix is largely upbeat indie and alternative tunes, with a detour into a bit of blues and jazz.

I hope you enjoy the series.  Here is the playlist:


Baby Teeth, Wolfy Teeth by Mick Harvey

Grease by Flo Morrissey and Mathew E. White

You're In Love With A Psycho by Kasabian

French Press by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back To Leeds by The Mountain Goats

Let The Chalice Blaze by Thievery Corporation

Andromeda by Gorillaz

Ca…

For The Lovers - Tenelle

from the album For The Lovers (2017)

There is something timeless about a sweet-swaying love song.

Tenelle delivers this on the title track from her debut album, For The Lovers.  The song deftly combines elements of Soul and R&B over a reggae groove to create something beautifully unique.  This is not a surprise, as her prior two singles - Flava and Tell Me - were breakthrough hits.

This song contains the two critical elements of a great record - superior songwriting and vocal performance - creating a most memorable song.  I can't wait to hear more.

Tennele's list of musical influences include Lauryn Hill, Betty Wright, and Joss Stone.  I hear elements of all these women on this delightful track.  I dig it.

Click Hereto watch the official music video of For The Lovers.

This Land Is Your Land - Phosphorescent

from the single This Land Is Your Land (2017)

Released on the Forth of July, Phosphorescent has delivered an inspired cover of Woodie Guthrie's This Land Is Your Land.

This rendition feels fresh and vital, breathing a sense of immediacy into the lyrics.

Take a moment and give it a listen.  Feel the power of the lyrics and think about the America in your heart.

Click Here to listen to This Land Is Your Land.

No Good At All - Lucy Rose

from the album Something's Changing (2017)

Lucy Rose's music is filled with a somber melancholy reminiscent of some of the great singer-songwriters of the 70s.  Her vocal performances are dynamic without shouting.  When intertwined with her music's clever arrangements, the song drip with quality.

I am really digging the tune No Good At All.  Listen to the varied instruments as they step into the forefront, shine, then slip into the shadows, reemerging at precisely the right times.  They come in combinations.  Piano and drums.  Organ and bass.  Strings and vocal overlays.  Through it all, Lucy Rose laying down her vibe.  Never rushing.  Feeling the groove and singing.  Her range and clarity shining like the blue light of a vacuum tube.

This is a beautiful, well-crafted song.

Click Here to watch Lucy Rose perform No Good At All.

Gaudy Frame - Monk Parker

from the forthcoming album Crown Of Sparrows (2017)

Monk Parker is a musical outlier, recording his first album at forty years of age.  More remarkable is the originality and beauty in his music.

I have been incessantly listening to his latest song - Gaudy Frame - turning it ever louder, trying to feel the energy between the notes.  This is Texas songwriting at its finest, bringing together lap steel guitar with fanfare trumpets and mournful vocals.  The results are otherworldly.  Almost like Pink Floyd cruising I-35 on a late winter's night.

The lyrics are magnificent:

How could you miss me
Sitting here with this pale girl
And my clear-as-gin halo
Don't you know
My whole drunken world
Is a gaudy frame
For a picture-perfect girl

How could I miss you
Passing by with those bright girls and boys
How could I miss you
Passing by in that golden horde
How could I miss you
Sitting there with a pale bright boy
Looking like there's no tomorrow
Don't you know, don't you know
My whole drunken…

Snow - Angus & Julia Stone

from the forthcoming album Snow (2017)

I dig Simon.  I dig Garfunkel.  I adore Simon & Garfunkel.  The same applies to Angus & Julia Stone.

As splendid as Angus' Bird On A Buffalo or Julia's Justine are, there is something magical that occurs when they record together.  Past releases, like Mango Tree, Big Jet Plane, and Grizzly Bear dazzle with their laid-back, warm vibes, enchanting listeners with each successive track.

Snow - the title track from their forthcoming album - is the latest addition to this body of work.  It is a simple song featuring dreamy guitar and bass over a vintage drum track, adding a tasty synth during the interlude.  The lyrics are about being with someone while wishing you were with someone else.

I really dig the lyrics and vocals.  Initially, the song consists of Julia singing a line with Angus repeating it.  However, as their relationship devolves, Angus' responses veer in a different direction.  The lyrics craftily reference "smiling…

You Got It Going On - Cheap Trick

from the album We're All Alright! (2017)

After hitting the music scene with four essential albums, The Ramones had begun to devolve into a pop-punk caricature of themselves.  Then, on the album Too Tough To Die, The Ramones roared back, reclaiming their relevance with emphatic, hardcore punk wrapped in heavy metal tones.  The record makes an amazing statement.  It is one of my all-time favorites.

Similarly, Cheap Trick hit the music scene with four essential albums before their pop own devolution.  And now, forty years after their first release, we find them reasserting themselves with inspired hard rock and punk playfulness.

Their eighteenth studio album opens with the song You Got It Going On.  The song opens with a menacing guitar riff, followed by Robin Zander's trademark vocals.  Thunderous drums and booming bass follow.  With several stops in the song and a blistering guitar solo, you are left with your jaw hanging, saying "Damn, Cheap Trick can rock."

Hats off…

The Camp - PJ Harvey & Ramy Essam

from the single The Camp (2017)

Sometimes I sit in disbelief, wondering why, in a world so fucked up, there are so few protest singers.  Shouldn't young and old people be grabbing acoustic guitars the way angry peasants grab pitchforks?  This complacency, what the fuck?

That said, I really dig the direction PJ Harvey has taken her music and her platform, collaborating with musicians in oppressed and war-torn regions of the world, creating awareness, making art.  It is beautiful.

On her latest single - The Camp - she collaborates with Egyptian protest signer, Ramy Essam, to produce a world-folk song about Syrian refugees living in Lebanon.

Ramy Essam is notable for playing protest music in Tahrir Square in Cairo in the lead up to his country's 2011 revolution.  One of his songs - Irhal - became a rallying cry in the movement, calling for the ouster of Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak.  This resulted in his imprisonment and torture.  Today, he lives in exile in Malmö, Sweden…

It Gets More Blue - girlpool

from the album Powerplant (2017)

I dig it when bands try new things, evolving their sound.

On the song It Gets More Blue, girlpool open with a tom-tom beat similar to something off The Cars debut album.  This is remarkable in that girlpool had - until this album - existed as a guitar and bass only duo.

Despite the three-piece newness, the beauty of Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker's vocals are ever present, offering a high-wire act in California harmony.  Together they create something a bit dreamy, a bit folky, a bit dirty.

The beat and dreaminess juxtapose the song's sombre theme of building up - and putting faith in - an unworthy lover.  I particularly dig the line "I faked global warming just to get close to you."

Throughout Powerplant, you hear talent evolving.  Can anything be better?

Click Hereto watch the official video for It Gets More Blue.

Shark Smile - Big Thief

from the album Capacity (2017)

With its discordant opening, Shark Smile is a song that might get overlooked by someone clicking for gold.  However, forty-two seconds into the chaos the song takes a hard pivot into warm rhythm guitar, pulsing bass, and a straight-four beat.  Within no time at all, you realize that you have found your newest favorite song.

The simple and straightforward instrumentation speaks directly to my rock and roll sensibilities.  Layer on top Adrianne Lenker's magnificently understated vocals and I am in love.  This band of Brooklynites pins my dig meter on ten.

Further accolades go to the lyrics and subject matter.  This song is about a car crash that leaves your partner dying.  Dark stuff, that - when juxtaposed against the melody and vibe - becomes macabre art.

I can't stop listening.

Click Here to listen to Shark Smile.  Note that this version edits out the aforementioned opening.

Cannonball - ZZ Ward

from the album The Storm (2017)

ZZ Ward is a terrific, LA-based singer-songwriter with a great feel for deep blues grooves.  Her sophomore album - The Storm - is chock full of excellent music.

The song I am digging most is Cannonball.  With a deep groove and stellar vocals, this is one of the best songs I've come across this year.  On the song she is joined by Fantastic Negrito, and together their raw energy gives buoyancy and life to a 1-4-5 blues progression.

I particularly dig the guitar work, harmonica solo, and ZZ Ward's vocal intonations that give off a near Amy Winehouse vibe.

Undoubtably, this song will be on my "best songs of 2017" list later this year.

Click Here to listen to Cannonball.

You Ain't Worth Suffering For - Kasey Chambers

from the album Dragonfly (2017)

Back in 2001, I reconnected with my long-time songwriting partner - Fred - to write a dozen, or so, songs.  It had been seven years since we had last written together, making it necessary for us to "sync-up" on what we'd been listening to and where our musical heads were at.

I burned a CD of roughly fifteen songs by new artists whose songwriting skills impressed me, and mailed it off to him.

When we finally sat down face to face, he couldn't stop talking about one of the songs: Not Pretty Enough by Kasey Chambers.  He played it on his guitar, talking about chord changes, technique, and lyrics.  Few songs have ever connected with Fred this way.

Fast forward sixteen years, and I find myself listening to You Ain't Worth Suffering For, a new song by Kasey Chambers.  She has grown up, her voice a bit deeper and more mature.  Her vocal chops and songwriting are better than ever, belting out this well-crafted tune like few can.  Wow.

I ke…

The Underside Of Power - Algiers

from the album The Underside Of Power (2017)

This holiday weekend is really expanding my party lexicon.

One of my funky friends introduced me to the term alcohnox, meaning the time of day when you transition from caffeine to alcohol.  How didn't I know that?

The other network is vibender, meaning a song whose vibe shifts between genres in mid-song.

The Underside Of Power is a vibender.  From the opening  pulses, suggesting a Jesus and Mary Chain, to deep, big-beat, booty-shakin' soul, to fuzzed-out interludes, this son is a vibending tour de force.  Certainly a contender my "summer single."

Click Here to watch the official video for The Underside Of Power.

Gigolo A Go Go - Episode 6

The other night, I was sitting outside, drinking Palomas, daydreaming in the darkness.  I imagined that I was on a beach in Guyana, with my funky friends, at one of Joe Strummer's bonfires.  At some point, Joe shouts over to me, "Hey, Mr. Gigolo, play us some lovers rock."
Well, here is the mix.  Lovers Rock, that sweet, romantic reggae style that was born in London in the early 70s.  Combining Philadelphia Soul with a rocksteady beat, it is timeless in its swaying groove and tenderness.
I've also sprinkled in a little ska, dub, and roots reggae to spice things up.
I'd like to think Joe would approve.

Here is the playlist:
Lovers Mood by Augustus Pablo
Groovy Situation by Keith Rowe
Dancing Mood by Delroy Wilson
Permanent Lover by Gregory Isaacs
My Conversation by Slim Smith & The Uniques
Everything I Own by Ken Boothe
Stick By Me (And I'll Stick By You) by John Holt
I'm Not Crazy by Don Carlos
In The Midnight Hour / Ya Ya by George Faith
Can't Get You Out…

La Chancha - Eddie Palmieri

from the album Sabiduría (2017)

Growing up in the South Bronx, Eddie Palmieri leaned how to play piano in the NYC Public Schools.  To say he was good is an understatement.  When he was eleven years old, he performed at Carnegie Hall.  Soon after, he was playing in bands, riffing on Thelonious Monk.

Now eighty years old, he has released Sabiduría, an album of mind-bending latin jazz that would be the envy of men half his age.

The song I'm digging most is La Chancha.  This composition is a classic mambo with a twist: the addition of a violin track, masterfully played by Alfredo de la Fe.  The combination of violin and vibraphone (Joe Locke) solos adds a new spark to this mambo, making it a most exciting listen.  The congas (Johnny Rivero) are also magnificent.  Underpinning it all is the incredible timing and mastery of Eddie Palmieri on the piano.

This song is an example of how this grammy-award winning legend continues to innovate at eighty.  The quality, energy, and classic beaut…

Across The Multiverse - Dent May

from the forthcoming album Across The Multiverse (2017)

As the seasons change, so do my drink and song preferences.  In winter, I fancy a glass of Côte Du Rhone, or perhaps a stiff Manhattan.  In the summer, I am all about Polomas, a refreshing mix of Cuervo Tradicíonal and grapefruit soda garnished with a ruby red grapefruit wedge.  They are yummy.  In fact, I am drinking one now.

In regard to music, my summertime music mixes are all about feeling good and happy.  No moody folk or hard rock (why is it that the harder the rock, the less sense of humor?), but rather reggae, ska, retro pop and soul.  You can also throw in some of those early 80s artists that help me feel young.

Across The Multiverse is a retro pop tune by Dent May.  With a hint of bouncing disco in its groove and horns inspired by Burt Bacharach, this is the perfect summer tune.  Sung as a duet with folkster Frankie Cosmos, this song sounds like it jumped off the soundtrack to a future Guardians Of The Galaxy movie.

Rath…

(Satis) Faction - The Danish Radio Big Band & Charlie Watts

from the album Charlie Watts Meets The Danish Radio Big Band (2017)

The only time I ever saw The Rolling Stones live was at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, during the band's Voodoo Lounge tour.  Most of my 70,000 closest friends had better seats, causing me to watch much of the concert on the large screen displays.

The opening act was Bryan Adams.  Despite not being too far the pinnacle of his career, he seemed small on stage.  Neither his performance nor his sound could fill such a large setting.  It was a disappointment.

Shortly after, The Stones took the stage.  Everything was large.  The pyrotechnics.  The sound.  Big stuff.  Mick Jagger commanded the large stage, while Keith Richards and Ron Woods stalked about the stage like sharks readying for a feeding frenzy.

But the thing that captivated me most was Charlie Watts.  His beat filled the dome.  It was steady and strong, creating the foundation for the frontmen to dazzle the crowd.

In the years that followed, every time I hear …

Superstar - Hollie Cook

from the single Superstar b/w Superdub (2017)

Hollie Cook's brand of slightly downtempo, London-centric reggae and dub has consistently produced some of my favorite music of the decade.  Her songs are central to the soundtrack of my summers.

Add to that playlist Superstar, a cover of classic Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell song made most popular by The Carpenters in 1971.  That version has always stood out to me with Richard Carpenter choice of an oboe in the opening measures, Karen Carpenter's voice, and the tightness of the Wrecking Crew.  Truth told, I really dig the oboe.

Hollie Cook's version opens with heavy organ replacing the oboe, followed by the introduction of reggae instruments segueing into a delicious, bouncing vibe.  By the time the vocals enter, you are swept into the hooks, singing:

Don't you remember you told me you loved me baby?

This is the stuff summer dreams are made of.

Click Here to listen to Hollie Cook's cover of Superstar.

Click Here to rea…

Get Lost - Washed Out

from the single Get Lost (2017)

Washed Out is the stage name for Ernest Greene, a Georgia boy known for creating stirring dance music that melds classic vibes with eclectic instrumentation and innovation with great result.

Get Lost is a pre-release from a forthcoming album, Mister Mellow.  The heavy groove makes this song perfect for the club and the serpentine synthesizers make it perfect for the poolside.  Either way, this song will be bouncing in lots of heads this summer.

Click Here to watch the official video for Get Lost.

Trouble - Zkeletonz

from the single Trouble (2017)

My world surrounds me with with artists, technology wizards, and small business people, all embracing a Do It Yourself approach to making a living.  They make art, music, websites, corn dogs, manage AirBNB properties, and a host of other bootstrapped goodies.  The common threads they share are endless supplies of work hard and passion.  I dig that.

Zkeletonz are a group of likeminded music lovers based in London.  They "play music and throw parties firmly fixed in the sonic space between traditional bands and DJ sets."  In addition, they run a local rehearsal and recording studio - Kafri - in London.  They also host a recurring show on Boogaloo Radio (available on MixCloud).

Everything is interlocked and cross promoting.  Clever.  They are Do It Yourselfers of the first order.  I am certain that if we ever met, we would become fast friends.

On January 1st, they released Trouble, the first in an ambitious string of releases planned for this year…

Had To Let Me Go - Nite Jewel

from the album Real High (2017)

Nite Jewel is the stage name for Ramona Gonzalez, a singer-songwriter from Los Angeles.  She is part of a growing breed of singer-songwriters who embrace grooves and electronica over acoustic guitars.  She is most widely known for her song Nowhere To Go, which appears on the Grand Theft Auto 5 soundtrack.

I am really digging her new song Had To Let Me Go.  With a chilled down vibe and slinky groove, this song is perfect for both burnt-out afternoons and moonlit cocktails.

The melody, groove, and vibe set the stage for her splendid vocal abilities.  She seamlessly alternates between a laid back songbird in the verses to a soaring chartreuse in the chorus.

It is hard not to get lost in this song.

Click Here to listen to Had To Let Me Go.

Music Is The Answer - Joe Goddard

from the album Electric Lines (2017)

Music is the answer, to your problems
Keep on moving, then you can solve them
Music is the answer, to your problems
Keep on moving, then you can solve them

If only it were that easy.  Over the past few years, I have had to deal with death, disease, heartbreak, job loss, and a boatload of other drama despite endlessly listening to music and playing bass guitar for nearly an hour a day.

However, music is a fantastic coping tool.  I honestly do not know how I would have survived the last paragraph without music (and my dogs).

Music Is The Answer by Joe Goddard has been part of the mix for the past few months.  I really dig the song's soothing vibe and downtempo feel.  It is like diving deep into a cool lake on warm summer day.  The intertwining microgrooves that underpin the arrangement are wonderful, as are the vocals.

When the song is over, I find myself repeating the central mantra:  Music is the answer, to your problems.

Perhaps Joe Goddard is righ…

Gravity Rules - 5 Billion In Diamonds

from the single Gravity Rules (2017)

Butch Vig is a celebrated producer and musician.  His production credits include Nirvana's Nevermind and the albums Gish and Siamese Dream for The Smashing Pumpkins.  He has also served as a member of the band Garbage, co-writing the songs Stupid Girl and Only Happy When It Rains.

This August, he launches his latest project, a band named 5 Billion In Diamonds.  Their debut single Gravity Rules has become a playlist favorite of mine over the past couple of months.

With its acoustic guitar and floating production, the song gives off a seventies vibe reminiscent of fuzzed out nights smoking dope in your friend's mother's Camaro.

What is amazing though is how that vibe slides right in with other modern songs.  I believe that part of it is the tune's impeccable production.  I find myself listening ti this song over and over, repeatedly picking out the beauty in its craftsmanship.

Can't wait to hear the rest...

Click Here to watch the …

Beautiful Gun - Alison Moyet

from the album Other (2017)

If I could travel back in time on musical journeys, one of my destinations would certainly be E.C. Ratcliffe's London studio in 1982.  It was there that Vince Clarke returned - after recording Depeche Mode's debut album, Speak & Spell, the previous year- to lay down a new dance song he had written for his new act.

That song - Only You - would become a global dance sensation.  To capitalize on their unforeseen success, the band rushed back into the studio and haphazardly recorded additional material.  The result was the Yazoo album Upstairs At Eric's (named for the studio), perhaps the most important synth pop album ever recorded.

One of the amazing things about this record is how it connects with listeners.  Many of the people I know - including myself - who cherished this album back in 1982, still do today.  Beyond that, Upstair's At Eric's has managed to remain fresh, attracting new generations of listeners thirty-five years after …

Maskindans - Todd Terje

from the single Maskindans (2017)

Do you remember when we were younger, going to a dank, dark club and hearing hard synths and industrial clatter for the first time?  This wasn't the world our parents raised us in.  Still, there was something alluringly ominous in the sound.  Who are these pale, emaciated people?  Is this what music sounds like in East Berlin?  Do their women wear shiny boots and carry whips?  Should I be taking a different drug?

Now we stand in the future.  A new age of artificial intelligence and robotics emerges, its shadow looming larger as it steps into the light.  This is more than driverless cars, on-line shopping, and drones.  What will it mean to share the planet with machines?  When the singularity comes, are we master or servant?

Earlier this week, I was in an ultramodern office, with full-length glass opening to idyllic woods.  At long tables, young people of every race and gender sat expressionless at computers, programming the future.  Their leader h…

Gigolo A Go Go - Episode 5

Welcome to Episode 5, featuring some Alt Country, Americana type songs (I'm never really quite sure what to call them) that I've been digging and writing about over the past few years.  This mix has a different vibe from the first four episodes, but damn, these songs are beautiful and the groove holds up.

I really enjoyed kicking the mix off with a twelve minute Lucinda Williams tune.  The extended length gives the song time to breath, like a good wine (or bourbon).

This mix also includes one of my favorite songs of the decade (Cigarettes & Truckstops), the best cover of the decade (The Promise), and a song that brings back a memory so beautiful that I can actually listen to it without getting sad.

Anyhow, here is the playlist:

Faith And Grace by Lucinda Williams

Gypsy Epilogue by Tony Joe White

Deeper Well by Emmylou Harris

Calling Cards by Neko Case

Cigarettes & Truckstops by Lindi Ortega

Since You Put Me Down by Margo Price

Iuka by The Secret Sisters

Where The Whippoorwill…