Showing posts from 2017

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


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


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


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


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


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.