Showing posts from 2018

Christmas Time Is Here - Khruangbin

from the Christmas Time Is Here b/w Christmas Time Is Here (Version Mary) (2018)

Many moons ago, I dated an Italian girl whose large and extended family lived throughout Brooklyn.  The only exception was her Uncle Henry, who lived in Greenwich Village.

Their Christmas Eve tradition was for everyone to gather at her mother's house for an Italian feast.  It was something to behold.  The Irish never put on a holiday shindig like this.

Every year was the same.  People would cheer when Cousin Joey returned from the fish market, where his friend Dominic from Flatbush hooked him up with a cooler full of squid.  There were never less than a dozen woman serving up their finest homemade Italian delicacies.  Andrea's stuffed shells.  Angela's shrimp fra diavolo.  Mother Marie's marsala.  The wine.  The cookies.

Cousin Johnny would take you out to garage to do bumps off of the workbench.  I always tried to get out of there before some wise guy would ask, "So, when you gonna m…

Got My Name Changed Back - Pistol Annies

from the album Interstate Gospel (2018)

There is nothing more satisfying than a good honky-tonky, rocking band.  With their swampy guitar tones, thud-heavy bass, and expert beat keeping, the musicians in county-girl supergroup Pistol Annies are simply incredible to listen to.

And then, of course, there are the girls.

Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley are delicious on Got My Name Changed Back, a song about divorcing a bad fella.  I love the song's lyrics, its vocal arrangements, and the way the singers drop into a 1940s era breakdown.

It is a fun song that sounds great when you turn it up in your car and rock down the highway.

Click Here to watch the official music video for Got My Name Changed Back by Pistol Annies.

Lebroba - Andrew Cyrille

from the album Lebroba (2018)

I dropped into a Mexican joint on the way home from work tonight.  It's a quasi-regular Wednesday thing, rooted in their $8.99 chicken fajita special and the patron and grapefruit soda concoction that Dennis the Bartender specializes in.

God bless Dennis the Bartender.

Anyhow, my mind went down a wormhole this morning when my phone proclaimed that it was December 5th.  Not that there is anything personably notable about this date, other than it being a month before January 5th.

You see, January 5th (and the lead up to it) is one of the most reflective days of my year.  It is a day of incredible positivity; as cosmic nymphs enflame primordial beliefs of the rapturous day when the stars align, the angels sing, and kindred souls dance beneath a heavenly moon.

Leaving the Mexican joint, I let Waze find the best route home.  It serendipitally took me a back way through neighborhoods that I haven't frequented in a while.  At some point, I passed a parki…

79 Shiny Revolvers - Rayland Baxter

from the album Wide Awake (2018)

The other morning, I was thinking about mass shootings and wondering why there aren't more good songs discussing the topic?

I thought about the "original" school shooting and how The Boomtown Rats responded with I Don't Like Mondays.  But now that more silicon chips are being switched to overload than ever, not so much.

In that context, I applaud the song 79 Shiny Revolvers by Rayland Baxter.  I dig that they are shiny and that you need one in each hand and that they are pointing at me and that they are pointing at you.

I also dig how the song evokes memories of John Lennon.  You hear it in the song's composition and its well-crafted lyrics.

People need to be writing songs about topics like this.  I hope that more do.  I also hope that they do so with the style and substance of Rayland Baxter.

Click Here to watch the official video for 79 Shiny Revolvers by Rayland Baxter.

Where We Are - Curtis Harding

from the single Where We Are (2018)

Some of the best music being created in this decade has a retro-soul vibe.  Beyond the incredible stable of talent that has recorded for Daptone Records in Brooklyn, I am even more enraptured with those who manage to a modern sheen on that 60s should vibe.

My favorites include Michael Kiwanuka, Leon Bridges, and Curtis Harding.  Their songs stir my soul.

On Curtis Harding's latest single, Where We Are, a tight drum beat couples with a simple-yet-tension-filled bass groove to create the foundation for one of the year's best songs.

There are swirling keyboards and synthesizers, violins that give a theatrical - 70s movie soundtrack - like quality, and even a dynamite flute solo.  Above this is a commanding vocal performance by Curtis Harding.  There are times when I imagine Bill Withers singing this song.

At over seven-and-a-half minutes, this song contains an epic quality.  It is grand, stirring, and timeless.

Curtis Harding is the real deal …

Back Down - Bob Moses

from the album Battle Lines (2018)

Bob Moses is an electronic duo from the Vancouver area, not the guy who built all those roads and bridges.

When I first heard their song Back Down, I thought "wow, that it pretty solid."  A few months later and my opinion has not changed a bit.

The beat is straight, the arrangement straight-forward.  Hooks and grooves are exactly where you expect them.  So, what is it that keeps me locked in for listen after listen?

I think it has something to do with the understated 70s vibe that lurks beneath all the electronic.
Can you hear it?  Those album-oriented rock in the chorus' melody line?  It is magical.  I am infatuated.

Click Here to watch the official video for Back Down by Bob Moses.

Dancing To A Love Song - Barry&Gibbs

from the single Dancing To A Love Song (2018)

Barry&Gibbs are two guys from Lillie, France who describe themselves as "providers of disco."

Earlier this year, they released Dancing To A Love Song, an infectious disco biscuit that can't help but make you feel good.

It is not about who sampled what from where, it is about creating a vibe that resonates with the listener and creating joyful, positive experiences.

I hope this song does that for you.

Click Here to listen to Dancing To A Love Song by Barry&Gibbs.

Baby Blues - Moving Panoramas

from the single Baby Blues (2018)

A few weeks ago, a group of us were hanging out on one of my funky friend's front porch.  We were drinking wine and listening to music.

One friend played a series of records by The Go-Gos - songs like Skidmarks On My Heart and Lust To Love - while lamenting about an apparent absence of new bands like The Go-Gos.  Although I did my best to convince proper otherwise, they were having none of it.

Perhaps Baby Blues by Moving Panoramas will convince them otherwise.  This group of Austin, Texas dream poppers have got the beat, the groove, the harmonies, and the melodic sensibilities to evoke Belinda, Jane, and the girls better than just about anyone around.

I hear it in the opening guitar passage, the drumming, the bass groove, and - most importantly - the vocals performances.  You also hear it in the bridge and the breakdown, two essential elements of The Go Gos best songs.

Comparisons aside, the band has a modern vibe and a heap load of originality.

Seek The Source - Christian McBride

from the album Christian McBride's New Jawn (2018)

In western music, there are thirteen distinct notes which - over the span of several octaves - comprise the the musical spectrum.  When you consider the tens of thousands of song you will hear over a lifetime, that's not a whole lot of notes.

What I find most fascinating is what happens when musicians further limit the available notes by placing self-imposed rules on the notes they play.  Somehow, this manages to force the musicians to find expression through variations in their rhythms and feel, often creating distinct styles of music.

Latin music - like latin dance - is full of rules.  Do this and you have a tango.  Do that and you have a bossa nova.  Do something else and you have neither.  In rock music, you have heard countless lead guitarists and bassists play pentatonic (five-note) scales.

It is a paradox.  Addition by subtraction.

With his new band - New Jawn - jazz bassist Christian McBride puts together an ensemble c…

Pink Squirrel - Episode 9

Welcome to Episode 9 of Pink Squirrel!

As the clock begins to run out on 2018, there does not seem to be any let up in all get music being released.  You will find lots of tunes in this alternative mix that are only a few weeks old.

Some of my favorites include Dark Days (Revisited) by newcomer Art d'Ecco, the pro-immigration punk anthem Danny Nedelko by IDLES, the beautiful instrumental Near by Deafheaven, and Sing To Me Candy by Papercuts.

I continue to be in awe of all the great music that this year is producing.  Amazing.

Here is the playlist:

Dark Days (Revisited) by Art d'Ecco


Guerra En La Tierra by Los Pilotos

Sing To Me Candy by Papercuts

Nothing I Can Say by Tony Molina

Danny Nedelko by IDLES

What Sign (Was Frankenstein?) by Escape-ism

Near by Deafheaven

See You At The Movies by J Mascis

It Will End Here by Gary Numan

Lemon Glow by Beach House

Leap Of Faith by The Interrupters

The Truce Of Twilight by The Good, The Bad, & The Queen

C by Oh Sees

And, in…

The Newbies Lift Off - Makaya McCraven

from the album Universal Beings (2018)

I love kinetic architecture and art.

I love visiting buildings designed by master designers. like John Portman and Santiago Calatrava, and the simply sitting in - and around - them.  Glass elevators, movable sunscreens, and revolving rooftops captivate me.

I love the sculptures that you find in modern public spaces. The works are often inspired by the masters of the post-WWII kinetic art movement, like Vladimir Tatlin and Alexander Calder.  They remind me of exquisite earrings dangling from a beautiful woman made of glass and steel.

I love large, well designed airports.  They are purposeful and inspirational.  Their landscapes kinetic, under a symphony of arriving and departing airplanes; all specialized vehicles delivering fuel, baggage, and booze; and the flow of passengers moving through the buildings.

Airports are beautiful.

I love being alone in a bustling airport, noise-cancelling coconut shells on my head, listening to great music.  It see…

Problem Child - Hen Ogledd

from the album Mogic (2018)

Taking their band name from the the Welsh term for The Old North, specifically a land where the Scottish lowlands meet the north of England, Hen Ogledd are a band whose sound - although modern - conjure sounds of classic rock and roll of yesteryear.

In particular, there is a quality to Richard Dawson's voice that evokes Ozzy and Peter Gabriel,, as well as every American who ever tried to sing in a rock club with a British accent.  I can't get enough of the vocal track on the song Problem Child.

I also dig how tight the band is.  Bass, drums, and guitar in perfect step.  The synthesizers are also notable for the perfection in their tone.

I hope to be able to catch this band live some day.  It would be fun to simply rock out again.

Click Here to watch the official video for Problem Child by Hen Ogledd.

Danny Nedelko - IDLES

from the album Joy As An Act Of Resistance (2018)

There is nothing quite like a driving, socially indignant, punk tune to light a fire in your belly.  Danny Nedelko might be the essence of such a song in 2018.

The song offers a full-throated endorsement for more lenient immigration policies in general, and particularly in support of the lyricist's friend, Danny Nedelko.  Dig the opening lyrics:

My blood brother is an immigrant
A beautiful immigrant
My blood brother is Freddie Mercury
A Nigerian mother of three

He's made of bones, he's made of blood
He's made of flesh, he's made of love
He's made of you, he's made of me

Yet the lyrics keep getting better, and more on point:

Fear leads to panic, panic leads to pain
Pain leads to anger, anger leads to hate

This is protest music.  We always need more of it.

Click Here to watch the official music video for Danny Nedelko by IDLES.


from the single Too Real (2018)

On Too Real, a slamming new song from Brooklyn's FONTAINES D.C.

This song is perfectly aligned with my mindset these days.  Punk rock days.  Joe...

Listen to that bass playing.  Grooves you never expected grooving to.

Listen to the guitar work.  90s rock stylings over madass grooves.

The drumming.  The vocals.

The perfect song for today.

Click Here to watch the official video for Too Real by FONTAINES D.C.

The Truce Of Twilight - The Good, The Bad, & The Queen

from the album Merrie Land (2018)

Earlier this year, Henry Rollins was quoted as saying, "This is not a time to be dismayed, this is punk rock time.  This is what Joe Strummer trained you for."

I think of Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, and - of course - Joe, and reflect on their power as songwriters to align our inner compasses to better live our lives.

I also think about how Bob Dylan continues to do this in his late seventies.  I imagine that the same would be true for Bob Marley and Joe Strummer, had they not died so young.  It is hard to even imagine being able to go to a Bob Marley concert today.  It would be heaven.

On Merrie Land, the latest album by The Good, The Bad, & The Queen, these thoughts are in the center of my mind as I listen to the song The Truce Of Twilight.  The spirit of The Clash - and Joe Strummer - are present in every corner of this song.

Of course, that has everything to do with Paul Simonon's bass track.  He channels his former band in laying down…

Unwanted Number - Elvis Costello & The Imposters

from the album Look Now (2018)

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

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

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

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

See You At The Movies - J Mascis

from the album Elastic Days (2018)

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

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

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

You are loved.

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

It Will End Here - Gary Numan

from the EP The Fallen (2018)

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

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

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

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

I hope you enjoy...

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

Keep It Out - Half Waif

from the album Lavender (2018)

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

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

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

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

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

Can You Get To That - Frazey Ford

from the single Can You Get To That (2018)

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

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

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

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

Crafting a sound is a lot like cooking; you…

Got To Go Where The Love Is - Van Morrison

from the album The Prophet Speaks (2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click Here to listen …

8 Gods Of Harlem - Rosanne Cash

from the album She Remembers Everything (2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Moon - Steve Gunn

from the album The Unseen In Between (2018)

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

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

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

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

Click Here to listen to New Moon by Steve Gunn.

Wristbands - Galcher Lustwerk

from the album 200% Galcher (2018)

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

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

Click Here to listen to Wristbands by Galcher Lustwerk.

Dark Days (Revisited) - Art d'Ecco

from the album Trespasser (2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Animal - Elektric Voodoo

from the album Animal (2018)

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

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

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

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

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

Click Here to listen to Animal by Elektric Voodoo.

What Sign (Was Frankenstein?) - Escape-ism

from the album The Lost Record (2018)

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

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

That band is Escape-ism.

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

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

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

Kong - Neneh Cherry

from the single Kong (2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rolling With The Punches - The Blue Stones

from the album Black Holes (2018)

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

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

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

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

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

Sing To Me Candy - Papercuts

from the album Parallel Universe Blues (2018)

In recent months, I have focused hours of each day honing my songwriting chops.  It is part of a larger picture, where I am writing and performing in a band again.  Yippie!

Sadly, along the way, a had a crisis of sorts; my songs failed to resonate.  I could not understand why.  The structure, the lyrics, the hooks, the melodies; they all seemed so spot on to me.  Yet, when I played them for others, all I got were phony grins.

At first, I blamed them.  They are mutant zombie bastards, after all.  Don't they know a well constructed song when they hear it?

I was starting to come undone.  Then I asked myself, what could I do differently to change the outcome?  I made a list of potential reasons and began conducting a series of tiny little tests.

I concluded that my songwriting style is a little too Nick Lowe for the post-punk, dreamy, slow core crowd that I'm running with.  If I want to sell in this market, I need to adapt.

So, I took …

Pink Squirrel - Episode 8

Throughout the first half of this decade, I was regularly in NYC, where my benefactor conducted business in a tall glass and steel building a few blocks south of Central Park.  I loved that I could get tuna on a roll anytime, day or night.  I also loved that my hotel was only a few hundred yards from MOMA.

I never failed to visit.

Over the past year, I have obsessed with an exhibition of Henri Matisse's Cut Outs that I attended.  The color, the contrast, the life-force in the composition.  It was beyond magnificent.

Yet the thing that has captivated me most about the show was that this was how Matisse chose to spend the final years of his life; making art with paper and scissors, when his body could no longer sustain canvas and paint.

I also think about the many other artists - painters, writers, and musicians - who did not produce art while they aged.  How could so many stop?

I've concluded that it was rarely a conscious decision.  I believe that they temporarily put it asid…

Thinkin' On A Woman - Colter Wall

from the album Songs Of The Plains (2018)

In baseball, there has been a long-standing and unfortunate tradition of labelling the latest prospective superstar as "the next Mickey Mantle."  This label tends to put undue scrutiny and pressure on the young ballplayer and, in many cases, derails their career.

The same is true of country music, where record labels and the media cannot resit labelling a promising new artist as the next Johnny, Dolly, or Hank.

Such is the case with Colter Wall, a twenty-three year old singer-songwriter from Saskatchewan whose gifts as both a singer and a songwriter are chilling.

On his sophomore album, my favorite track is Thinking' On A Woman; a simple song in the classic country tradition.  Sparse instrumentation and a slow shuffle beat set the stage for beautiful vocals framed by a tasteful steel guitar track.

As you listen, please try to avoid the comparisons and rather appreciate Colter Wall for the talented musician from the Canadian Plain…

You're Not Like Anybody Else - Escondido

from the album Warning Bells (2018)

Over the past few months, I have challenged myself to write a new song each week.  I have written sixteen songs to dat.

The tend to fall into four categories: rock songs, groovin' songs, jangly songs, and pretty songs.  I find that, of the four, pretty songs are the most difficult.  The demand to be well-written, with an elegance and a simplicity in the arrangement and the melody line.  The lyrics are a challenge as well; trying to be sweet yet not flowery, tender yet tough.

These are the most honest of songs.

When I listen to You're Not Like Anybody Else by Escondido,  I think "now that is a pretty song I wish I wrote."  The acoustic guitar with the little electric poppings layered behind it create the perfect vibe.  The beauty in the vocals and their melody.  A love song that never uses the word "love."

As simple as this song may sound, writing such a song is artistry and craft that are uncommon.

Click Here to listen to

Some Birds - Jeff Tweedy

from the album WARM (2018)

Jeff Tweedy is an artists with that rare ability to make me instantly happy by the sound of his music.  Within the opening measures of his songs, I recognize who it is, fall immediately into the groove, and smile.  Overtime.

Such is the case with Some Birds from his forthcoming album.  The tones, the vibe, it is all right there.  Just like it is supposed to be.

But wait, there is more.  My affection for most Jeff Tweedy songs seems to grow over time.  I am always finding some new nuisance, or catching the thought behind a lyric that is endearing.

He is special.

Click Here to watch the official video for Some Birds by Jeff Tweedy.

Click Here to read my September 2016 blog post for We Aren't The World (Safety Girl) by Wilco.

Click Here to read my July 2015 blog post for Taste The Ceiling by Wilco.

Click Here to read my October 2013 blog post for Ballad Of The Opening Band by Jeff Tweedy.

Click Here to read my May 2012 blog post for One Sunday Morning (Song For …

Boom Boom - Tony Joe White

from the album Bad Mouthin' (2018)

Perhaps more than any other artist, Tony Joe White is synonymous with "swamp music."  Everything in his gravel voice, guitar and harmonica tones, and songwriting acumen defines "swamp."

On his latest album, Tony Joe White releases his first "blues" album of his fifty year career.  Sure the blues have been ever present throughout, but this time it is intentionally "the blues."

My favorite track is a cover of John Lee Hooker's classic, Boom Boom.  The dull thud of the snare, the hint of reverb in the guitar, the ancient-sounding harmonica, and the baritone vocal.  The delta meets the swamp.

I really dig how this song subtly derives its intensity from the hypnotic effect of the bass, drums, and guitar.

I can't get enough of this vibe.

Click Here to listen to Boom Boom by Tony Joe White.

Click Here to read my October 2013 blog post for Gypsy Epilogue by Tony Joe White.

Go On Baby Break Down - Darren Jessee

from the album The Jane, Room 217 (2018)

It is a grey and foggy Sunday morning in this little corner of the world.

That makes it the perfect time for some quiet, acoustic music of the singer-songwriter variety.  Top of the list is Go On Baby Break Down by Darren Jessee.  Despite being best known as the drummer for Ben Folds Five, it is Darren Jessee's deftness as a songwriter that I dig most.

I find myself closing my eyes and daydreaming to this sparse and beautiful composition.  Every chord evokes an emotion.  Every visual image takes my mind on an intimate journey.  It is lovely.

Click Here to listen to Go On Baby Break Down by Darren Jessee.

I Don't Know - Paul McCartney

from the album Egypt Station (2018)

Once upon a time, in my ancestral hometown, there was a small music shop on Main Street called Jamm Music.  In the summer between ninth and tenth grades, I began taking lessons there from a bearded hippie-looking man named John.

John was a most accomplished bass payer, whose main gig was as a session man in NYC.  He worked on cartoons, movies, television, and with some of the finest singers of that time.

The lessons he taught me still resonate.  I was very fortunate to have him as a teacher.

After a year, or so, of lessons, he told me that I was ready to join a band and hooked me up with a guitarist and a singer.  The focus of his lessons then changed from how to play the bass to how to play in a band.

One day, he asked me what bass player I imagined myself as?

"John Entwistle," I replied.

He frowned.  "Everybody wants to be a flashy bassist, like Entwistle.  You don't want to be that.  You want to be like Paul McCartney.  You lik…

Baby Where You Are - Mountain Man

from the album Magic Ship (2018)

Bigger.  Badder.  Louder.  Faster.

None of these terms apply to Mountain Man, a vocal trio - consisting of Amelia Meath, Molly Sarlé, and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig - who play an intimate variety of Appalachian Folk.

Their songs are simple and beautiful, as are their voices.

Their new song Baby Where You Are is an incredible record.  It is tender and romantic, quiet and sparse; allowing every tone and texture to melt in your mind.

I am rapidly falling in love with this song.

Click Here to listen to Baby Where You Are by Mountain Man.

What Would He Say? - Paul Weller

from the album True Meanings (2018)

I really dig listening to the more mature artists of my youth.  It seems to me that the few who endure are the ones with the greatest affection and mastery of their craft.

I find that these artists focus on writing and performing quality songs rather than perpetually chasing this year's sound.

Paul Weller's new album is full of such songs.  My favorite of the bunch is What Would He Say?  It is a soft and simple song, exquisitely written and highlighting the wonderful tones of his aging voice.  Songwriting and vocals...

I get chills when his voice kicks into the chorus.  I also get a kick out of the trumpet track.

Lean back and enjoy.

Click Here to listen to What Would I Say? by Paul Weller.

Click Here to read my May 2017 blog post on Woo Sé Mama by Paul Weller.

The Right Time - Ural Thomas & The Pain

from the album The Right Time (2018)

Whenever I hear a funky, new, and muscular rhythm and blues song, the kind that reminds me of James Brown, I ask myself, "Why don't more bands play this type of music?"

The answer is lies in the level of difficulty.

Power funk is difficult act to pull off.  It requires a cadre of excellent musicians, including a groove-minded bassist, a rock-steady drummer, funky guitar, a dynamite horn section, soulful keys, and - most importantly - an incredible vocal talent.  It is enough to drive you to rapping over loops.

Ural Thomas & The Pain are funksters of the first order.  Ural Thomas has been shouting soul for over forty years, playing with artists from Stevie Wonder to Otis Redding to Mary Wells.  The title track from his forthcoming album - The Right Time - will take you back to that sweaty, funky bar in your dreams.

This is what is possible when talented, like-minded musicians dedicate themselves to conquering the difficult world of…

Shaking The Gates - Richard Thompson

from the album 13 Rivers (2018)

Have you ever thought about the gates to heaven?

If there is a gate, does that mean there is a wall or a fence?  If so, is its purpose to keep souls in, or to keep them out?  I mean, does heaven need a wall?

And what is the experience at the gates like?  Is it like the TSA line at the airport?  Is it like the lines at Ellis Island a hundred years ago?  Or, is it like the line to get into Studio 54, with Saint Peter in a white leisure suit, hand selecting those who are allowed in?

And do people really get turned away at the gates to heaven?  That seems like a shitty way to treat a newly departed soul.

On the closing track to his new album, Richard Thompson finds himself Shaking The Gates to hell.  Hell, of course, seems like a place more likely to have a gate.  Kind of like a prison gate.

The song title is likely derived by the John Wesley quote, "Give me a hundred preachers ... who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I will shake t…

Make Time 4 Love - The Goon Sax

from the album We're Not Talking (2018)

The Goon Sax are a three piece indie band from Brisbane, Australia.

I am really digging their new album, particularly the song Make Time 4 Love.

The opening measures evoke a Modern Lovers vibe, before turning to their own melodic sensibilities.  Cowbell lovers will rejoice.  They also manage to add some synthetic orchestration.  Yet, at their core, they are a tightly integrated three piece indie band.  What could be better?

I also dig the song's sentiment, urging us to Make Time 4 Love.

Click Here to watch the official music video for Make Time 4 Love.

Young At Heart - Willie Nelson

from the album My Way (2018)

Once upon a time, there was a young man who immersed himself in many passions.  This included the party life, women, and traveling to exotic parts of the world.  Still he wanted more; fancying himself as both a successful musician and a dot-com millionaire.

He fervently pursued both ambitions with zeal and vigor.  He joined a band of cracker-jack musicians, winning awards and having his songs played on the radio.  He also started a technology company, earning the business of some of the world's most recognized brands.

As each of these endeavors prospered, they increasingly demanded more - and more - of his time.  Sometimes, he found himself devoting over ninety hour a weeks to these dual quests.

Something had to give.

His decision felt rational.  He would put aside the music career to focus on his seemingly more attainable goals in the business world.  He felt confident that he was on a path the make enough money - over a four, or five, year run - to t…

Let's Dance - Spiritualized

from the album And Nothing Hurt (2018)

Sometimes, I fall in love with a song at first listen.  Such is the case with Let's Dance by Spiritualized.

The thing that really resonates with me is the song's childish beauty, that evokes memories of Everyday by Buddy Holly.  The song also has a magnificent psychedelic quality reminiscent of some later Beatles tunes.

I am also drawn to the sentiment of pleading “Come on darling, let’s dance.”  In a world with so much stress and strain, we could all do well to dance a bit more often.

Click Here to listen to Let's Dance by Spiritualized.

Pink Squirrel - Episode 7

Welcome to Episode 7 of Pink Squirrel !!!

This episode offers an eclectic mix of songs rooted in electronica, but also including blues, jazz, singer-songwriters, world, and dance.

Some of my favorite songs come from long established artists, like Chaka Kahn and The Last Poets.  I am also digging the Brazilian artists, Bixiga 70 and Gilberto Gil, as well as great songs by Alena Diane and Caitlyn Smith.

You will almost certainly find something in this mix that quenches an ignored corner of your musical palate.

Here is the playlist:

Quebra Cabeça by Bixiga 70

Understand What Black Is by The Last Poets

Like Sugar by Chaka Kahn

Sereno by Gilberto Gil

I Don't Wanna Be Without You by The James Hunter Six

Ether & Wood - Alena Diane

12:51AM by Self Tape

Max Lush Carlos by Godriguez

Pick Up by DJ Koze

Feel Good by Maribou State

Got Me Coming Back Rite Now by Moodymann

Cheap Date by Caitlyn Smith

Boogaloo by Paul Brown

Make It Rain by Shoshana Bean

And in case that isn't enough, here are all the …

Moonlight - Disclosure

from the single Moonlight (2018)

Alcohol and I have had an ongoing relationship since my adolescence.  In the early days, it was about  extreme consumption and getting wild.  Then, around the time domestication kicked in, I found my self casually drinking wine and reveling in that mellow glow.

More recently, I seem to seek out the perfect cocktail.  It is something to be savored; the reward for all that hard work that we gigolos excel in, day after day.

And, as a reward, it is about the quality and the experience.  The right mixture of the right ingredients, served in the right glass in the right setting with the right presentation.  A bartender who can deliver my reward becomes a friend for life; the pimple-faced nephew who thinks he knows the perfect manhattan better than I, not so much.

One of my favorite settings is the lobby bar in a hip, big city hotel.  I love to lean back in a comfortable chair, smell the cocktail, and let the drink slowly trickle down my throat.

Having the ri…

I Feel A Change - Charles Bradley

from the album Black Velvet (2018)

When Charles Bradley died last September, the world lost a truly great soul singer.

Fortunately, we are about to be treated to a posthumous release of new material by this iconic singer.  I Feel A Change is the first single from that record.

Listen to his voice.  It was truly special.

Click Here to watch the official video for I Feel A Change by Charles Bradley.

Click Here to read my April 2013 blog post for Hurricane by Charles Bradley.

Click Here to read my April 2016 blog post for Changes by Charles Bradley.

Ride - Lenny Kravitz

from the album Raise Vibration (2018)

One proven philosophy for a self-starting a business is to "find a niche where you can be successful, and exploit the hell out of it."

Think of Frank Zamboni, a son of Italian immigrants who developed and ultimately cornered the market ice resurfacing machines.  Aside from "The Zamboni," can you name another?  (I didn't think so).  The Zamboni family clears a few million dollars a year with their machine, and have for decades.

In music, Lenny Kravitz has done the same thing.  For decades, he has owned a unique space between mellow, sun drenched California rock, muscular guitar-god rock, and a vintage soulful rhythm & blues vibe.

Nobody but Lenny Kravitz can sit at that intersection.  Others try, but this is Lenny's place.

On his new record, I am most enamored with the song Ride.  It is laid back, highlighting the sun drenched and soulful elements of his magnificent sound.

Kick back, listen, and ask yourself "wh…

Guerra En The Tierra - Los Pilotos

from the single Guerra En The Tierra (2018)

So, in this band I am putting together, one of the next objectives is to create a musical "group think" within the group.

This is not as easy as you might think.  We are four people with strong opinions on music and musical styles.  It is a formula for friction.

To overcome this, I am taking a lesson out of the art school playbook.  An artist friend of mine explained to me that one of her teachers encouraged her to identify a "master" whose style she would most like to emulate.  She was then asked to do the same for a current/emerging artist.  The professor explained that if she evoked these artists in her work, that her own style would emerge and that it would be grounded in a well-considered foundation.

In that spirit, I have asked my bandmates to identify the classic and current bands they would most like our outfit evoke.  We will be meeting in a bar to discuss sometime later this month.

My "classic" sound i…

Hands On You - Ashley Monroe

from the album Sparrow (2018)

Have you ever had a meal that, although the recipe and ingredients were commonplace, simply tasted delicious?

Hands On You is a musical equivalent to that meal.  This straightforward tune by songstress Ashley Monroe has quickly become one of my favorite songs of 2018.

Of course, it is the songwriting and vocal performance (it always is), but there is much more.  I find the musicianship to strike a remarkable balance of being muscular and restrained at the same time; creating a tension that helps grip the listener.  The tone of the bass guitar is phenomenal, perfectly setting up the twang of the guitar's reverb on the stops.

Beneath it all, you find some tasty drumming with a great sense of dynamics.

Take a listen.  This is nourishment for a music lover's soul.

Click Here to watch the official video for Hands on You by Ashley Monroe.

Marvin Kaplan - Damien Jurado

from the album The Horizon Just Laughed (2018)

We are all children of the culture we were raised in, more so than our ancestral cultures.  For all the Irish blood that's in me, you will be hard pressed to ever find me with a shillelagh under my arm and a twinkle in my eye, as I head off to Tipperary in the morning.  Toora loora lie.

And for many Americans of my generation, that culture means television.

On his most recent album, The Horizon Just Laughed, Damien Jurado summons fragmented remembrances of his youth, creating a musical mosaic that anyone who grew up in front of the tube can warmly embrace without necessarily having shared those exact experiences.

My favorite song on the record is Marvin Kaplan, named for a C-list actor who is best known for his voiceover role as Choo-Choo on the early 1960s series Top Cat, as phone lineman Henry Beesmeyer on the 1970s TV series Alice, and as many of the voices on the various Garfield series.

Admittedly, I had to google Marvin's na…

Quebra Cabeça - Bixiga 70

from the album Quebra Cabeça (2018)

My friend Gerry is a process server in NYC.  Each day, he drives around the city, knocking on doors, and giving people unwanted news.  Some people try to avoid Gerry, others cry, yell at him, and occasionally get violent.  It is a curious way to make a living.

Yet, Gerry loves his job.  He has no office, no schedule, no boss.  He meets with attorneys who give him the papers and off he goes.

One of the things that Gerry loves most about his job is that it affords him the opportunity to drive through every nook and cranny of the city while listening to music.  He crafts his musical selections to serve as a soundtrack for cruising NYC.

Gerry argues that his favorite artist to listen to is the 70s Nigerian acrobat pioneer Fela Kuti. No doubt he is right.  I imagine Gerry slow rolling down Atlantic Avenue in his beat-up Corolla, sunglasses on, and Fela cranking out the windows.  I'd go along for that ride.

I can't wait to introduce Gerry to the s…

Lonesome Love - Mitski

from the album Be The Cowboy (2018)

Lately, The Doors song Summer's Almost Gone has been creeping around my brain.  It seems logical in both a literal and figurative sense.

As this summer began, I made a conscious effort to shift my efforts and energies from my technical profession towards my creative impulses.  The rationale was simple: follow your passion, what are you waiting for?

This started with music.  At the start of this millennium, I hit the pause button on a musical journey with the belief that I would reembrace it "in four or five years."  It was the worst type of lie, the lie we tell ourselves.

I began playing with local musicians, while seeking out the players I most wanted to form a band with.  Singer, check.  Guitarist, check.  Drummer, we'll see.  We debut the band in two weeks.  Begin performing live again, check.

This milestone is an opportunity to critically assess the band's sound.  To be honest, I am disappointed.  Our sound listens backward…

Boogaloo - Paul Brown

from the album Uptown Blues (2018) For musicians, there are magical moments when a band finds its pocket; with everyone playing together with uncanny ease and fluidity.  These are the moments you live for, play for.  They are sometimes fleeting and, other times, evasive.

On the song Boogaloo, Paul Brown and his band have captured one of these moments in a recording. As I listen, I imagine the hair standing up on players arms.  I imagine that sensation that the music is somehow playing itself.  I feel the magic and get excited.

Listen to how tight this band is and imagine the joy that the musicians while they were in this moment.

Click Here to listen to Boogaloo by Paul Brown.

Album 1 Track 1 - Episode 7

This episode features rock music released between the years 1966 and 1970.  It is remarkable how many great bands emerged during that time, especially in 1968.

In this mix, you will hear iconic bands - like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Jimi Hendrix - San Francisco psychedelia from Jefferson Airplane and Santana, and even some Foghat.

Two things that I find striking in the mix: how powerful and musical Chicago sounds against these other bands and how much the vocals in Spirit's Fresh-Garbage foretells the vocals of Pearl Jam's Eddie Vetter.

Hope you dig it.

Here is the playlist:

Good Times Bad Times by Led Zeppelin

Foxy Lady by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

For Your Love by The Yardbirds

All Strung Out Over You by The Chambers Brothers

Shakin' All Over by The Guess Who

Introduction by Chicago

I Just Want To Make Love To You by Foghat

Waiting by Santana

Pride Of Man by Quicksilver Messenger Service

I Put A Spell On You by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Fresh-Garbage by Spirit

Astronomy Do…

Serano - Gilberto Gil

from the album OK OK OK (2018)

Many moons ago, I was on a six week work assignment in Brasília.  It proved to be a most enchanting adventure; filled with joyous people, the architecture of Oscar Niemeyer, and the incredible sounds of Brazilian music.

At the time, I was deep into an exploration of Bossa Nova and could not get enough of the late night jazz clubs filled with beautiful women and the compositions of Jobim.  I was a fascination for local patrons, an american with a deep knowledge and love for their musical heritage.  It led to people buying me lots of drinks, inviting me to parties, and even a night when I was invited on stage to play bass guitar.

I also sought out music that was, at the time, unknown to me.  Friendly people turned me on to magnificent artists, like Ed Motta and Gilberto Gil.  I ultimately flew home with a treasure trove of their compact discs.

In the years that followed, the Gilberto Gil albums became a staple for late nights when I would be drinking wine …

Smoked Ham And Peaches - Shemekia Copeland

from the album America's Child (2018)

Shemekia Copeland - along with Ruthie Foster - represent the finest female singers in contemporary blues today.  Shemekia's voice, in particular, is so large and booming that I often consider her akin to the Queen of the Blues, Koko Taylor.  Just take a listen to Who Stole My Radio? to fully get my just.

Perhaps that is why I am digging the song Smoked Ham And Peaches so much.  This is a slower, more acoustic blues track.  I have never heard Shemekia Copeland sing quite like this before.  The softer dynamics allow you listen to her intonation and articulation more closely.  It is a beautiful listen.

There are also the lyrics.   I like the line "when the whole world seems fake, give me something real." That thing is smoked ham and peaches.  What could be more real?

Of course, this speaks to the importance of the little things.  The things like Al Bente's pasta, and so much more.

Click Here to listen to Smoked Ham And Peaches by…

C - Oh Sees

from the album Smote Reverser (2018)

Oh Sees (or Thee Oh Sees) are one of my favorite bands to catch live.  Extended psychedelic jams that are tasty and grounded in a classic rock sensibility.  My buddy Brett introduced me to the band and has stood next to me at all of their performances.

To me, their new song - C - magnificently captures the vibe of their live shows.

This is perfect for dancing around the house with a cocktail in your hand.

Click Here to listen to C by Oh Sees.

Click Here to read my August 2016 blog post for The Axis by Thee Oh Sees.