LxListening: Back in School

While plenty of people (students and teachers alike), just went back to school, this time of year usually is a great time for music discoveries. Here are five of my favorite songs from the last couple months, as well as a Spotify playlist including plenty more.

Low Cut Connie – “Back in School”

Can we talk about Barrack Obama having the best taste of music of any president ever? Who knows what Obama’s legacy will be 10 years from now, but I certainly won’t forget that. Obama recently included rabble-rouser bar band Low Cut Connie on his Spotify Summer Playlist, and he’s certainly all the cooler for it.

Leon Bridges – “Better Man”

Leon Bridges is probably the closest thing to a second coming of Sam Cooke we’ve had in 50 years. His songs are simple, innocent, and irresistible.

Mac Demarco – “A Heart Like Hers”

I used to not care for Mac Demarco and his stoner, goofball schtick, but then I actually saw him live and truly listened to his music. Turns out that stoner, goofball is an amazing songwriter, especially around heartbreak. “A Heart Like Hers” sounds more like Damon Albarn singing mournfully for the Gorillaz than anything, but it’s an extremely moving song either way.

Dr. Dre feat. Kendrick Lamar – “Genocide”

kendrick

This is officially the year of Kendrick Lamar and Oscar Isaac. Oscar Isaac because he’s now killed it in Ex Machina, A Most Violent Year, Show Me a Hero, and will soon blow up as big as Harrison Ford when the new Star Wars hits this Christmas. Kendrick, because he’s put out the best album this year, been on the biggest summer single in T. Swift’s “Bad Blood”, and totally dominated Dr. Dre’s new album to the point it should be called a Kendrick album. “Deep Water” displays a rapper simply out of his head, a once-a-decade rap talent. (P.S. Because of Dre’s billion dollar empire, of course he doesn’t make the song available on any outlet except Apple Music.)

Thundercat – “Them Changes”

Thundercat knows how to bring dat bass. The producer and bassist is sort of the unsung hero on To Pimp a Butterfly, but has made plenty of amazing music himself these past three years. Be sure to check out his Song Exploder episode on “Them Changes”, breaking apart all the different elements in the song.

For more music from the past few months, visit my 15-song Spotify playlist.

Advertisements

LxListening: Odds and Ends ’15

LxL_LxListening_900x300

odds-and-ends

Since the day of the cassette mix tape up till today with Spotify playlists, many people’s playlists follow a mood like rainy day or exercise music or draw from a nostalgic period like songs from high school or the 90’s. This playlist is none of those things. I’m not sure why, but I’ve never been much for mood or seasonal playlists. We’ve certainly lent plenty of fuel for them, and I love stringing together complementary songs for a special event like a party or wedding, but in my regular day-to-day, my listening tends to be way more sporadic. In that spirit, here are five songs from the last couple months that have absolutely nothing to do with each other. In fact chances are you like one thing but could care less for the rest. Either way, I hope you find something you enjoy among these odds and ends.

Kamasi Washington – “Change of the Guard”

Like three-hour jazz space odysseys? Ok, saxophonist Kamasi Washington isn’t for everyone, but if you loved Kendrick Lamar’s masterful To Pimp a Butterfly which he lent his golden saxophone pipes to, in time you can find your way into Epic, sort of like if when John Coltrane died he was reincarnated on Mars.

Bully – “I Remember”

Like 30-minute punk rock albums? Well Nashville’s Bully is pretty much the opposite of Kamasi Washington: simple, punchy attitude distilled into two-minute garage rock songs.

Algiers – “Blood”

One of the most distinct bands to land on the scene in 2015 has been Algiers. The Atlanta band defines most standard rock labels, but if I was to call them anything, I’d call them industrial blues punk. “Blood” has vocalist Franklin James Fisher howling about what often feels like a losing battle, matched in the video with images from the history of Black civil rights in America.

Holly Herndon – “Morning Sun”

Following in the footsteps of avant-garde electronic female artists like Laurie Anderson and Yoko Ono, Holly Herndon is wilting both highly intricate and also highly melodic electronic quilts. Her latest, Platform, doesn’t shy from using any and every possible sound on her computer (treating Garageband like Storage Wars), but she puts them all to good use.

Django Django – “Shake and Tremble”

Let’s end on a light note. London spaghetti-western rockers Django Django are the sound you would get if the Johnny-Depp-voiced gecko Rango fronted a London dance rock band. I know that’s complete nonsense, but frankly I don’t care. Listen to Django Django.

 

LxListening: Sprinting to the Summer

LxL_LxListening_900x300

sprint

This year, we’ve talked plenty about this year’s three best releases (at least in my mind): Courtney Barnett’s lively Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit, Kendrick Lamar’s magnum opus To Pimp a Butterfly, and Sufjan Stevens’ delicate memoir Carrie & Lowell. However, we haven’t written nearly enough of all the other solid-to-great releases that have sprouted up the last few months. This by all means is panning out to be a better music year than last, thanks to surprising sophomore efforts (Alabama Shakes, Torres, Purity Ring) and some welcome returns (Sleater-Kinney, Blur, Sufjan Stevens). Here are some of my favorite songs of the past few months.
Continue reading “LxListening: Sprinting to the Summer”

LxListening: Dancing through the Winter

LxL_LxListening_900x300

Winter is usually a time for quiet reflection and hybernation. Not for me in 2015. My way of kicking the winter blues has been listening to dance music, old and new. So here are five songs to help you shake the snow off your boots.
Continue reading “LxListening: Dancing through the Winter”

LxListening: Q4 Finds

LxL_LxListening_900x300

Musical Treasure Finds

Every year, I devote the first half of December to catching up on any music I may have missed this year before we put together our end-of-year lists, a favorite exercise for any music fan. So I scour other publications lists (which always come out crazy early and sometimes miss out on a great release like Beyonce’s late surprise last year), ask friends for recommendations, and try to get a hold of any album that been on my to-listen list. Thus, here are five of my favorite song discoveries in that period, all which could find their way onto our end-of-year lists in a few weeks.

The Preatures – “Cruel”

Love the feverishly catchy sound of HAIM but could do without so much cheesy 80’s production? Give these Aussies a try. There is still the catchy 80’s pop sound, but the Preatures favor funk and disco production and just won’t slow down until you are thoroughly entertained. “Cruel” is a great example of this, certainly invoking a little Prince crossed with the Hives.

Luluc – “Small Window”

The Aussies are really come up strong this year, as Luluc is yet another late year discovery for me from Down Under. This comes appropriately from the world of NPR, which couldn’t promote the Aussie folk duo’s new album more in the last month with two of NPR’s finest critics citing Passerby as their favorite album of the year. I haven’t heard it enough to go anywhere near that far, but the still, calm beauty of songs like “Small Window” are undeniable.

King Tuff – “Black Moon Spell”

Who said rock is dead? T. Rex disciple Kyle Thomas released his third album under the moniker King Tuff called Black Moon Spell, and it’s full of full-blooded rock songs to bash in your head to. The title track has a Monster guitar riff with a capital M, a tour-de-force rock performance you rarely hear these days.

Allah-Las – “Follow You Down”

You can find L.A. rockers Allah-Las at the intersection of early 60’s surf rock and late 60’s psych rock. Their sophomore effort, “Follow the Sun” has the laid back vibe you would expect from that combination, but plenty of pop heft to make it worth your while.

Parkay Quarts – “Pretty Machines”

So this isn’t a discovery as much as an excuse to talk about Parquet Courts’s new album Content Nausea, released under the alter-ego Parkay Quarts. This song to me shows why Parquet Courts are sort of the heirs to the Strokes throne of coolest indie rock band around. While Parquet Courts don’t have the leather jacket cool of the Strokes, they do have the “no skin off my back” aloofness of the Strokes and make up for the lack of style with whip smart and irreverent humor both lyrically and musically. “Pretty Machines” even sounds like a Strokes song with its super melodic lead guitar riff and laid-back vocal.

 

LxListening: Body and Soul

LxL_LxListening_900x300bod-soul

My fall has been filled listening to two seemingly very different types of music: electronic music and soulful R&B. While on the surface this seems very much like a war between human and machine, the two find themselves in each others’ worlds quite often. So this is a mix of body (danceable electronic music) and soul (soul and R&B), and some that is both body and soul. While this has nothing in common with what I usually listen to in the fall, this is inevitably where I find myself, even though I am one of the least soulful and rhythmic people you will ever meet.
Continue reading “LxListening: Body and Soul”

LxListening: Fall’s Finest ’14

fall-music

With November and December usually being a dead period for new music releases, fall is really the last part of the year for big music releases, and it looks like there will be plenty worth talking about this fall. So as a quick look at some of the best stuff to come out thus far this fall and yet to come, here are five hand-selected songs for your cool and colorful fall.

Continue reading “LxListening: Fall’s Finest ’14”