The Top 10 Songs of 2015….so far

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best songs of 2015

2015 has been a solid year in music so far as we examined last week with our list of best albums up to this point.  This week, we take a look at some of the best tracks 2015 has had to offer.  I think we have a very nice diverse list, although many of the songs have some sort of electronic element, but that’s just been the trend in the music industry the past few years.  Enjoy the list, and please let us know your favorite tracks from 2015.

10.  Viet Cong – “Silhouettes”

We all like post-punk with some teeth, and Viet Cong is currently hearkening back to some of our favorite artists of the early 80’s.  “Silhouettes” is a great example of what Viet Cong has burst onto the scene with, not just settling into the genre, but expanding on it.
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The 10 Best Albums of 2015 So Far

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I just have to say, the first half of 2015 has been a monster. It’s rare in a year you get an album you will come back to constantly for years to come and so far in 2015, we have three of those. We’ll get to those with our top three thus far, but first, seven more albums to visit.
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The 10 Best Bonnaroo Performances of 2015

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Another summer, another June, another great festival of music, arts, and debauchery. As always, Bonnaroo proves to be one of my favorite weekends of the year, as well as a one of my favorite music festivals in the country. And what to do now? Compile a list of course. Of course, when compiling this list, problems arise. Mainly because I was the only member of LxL to attend Roo this year, and as one man, I cannot make it to every show. No matter how badly I would like to have seen Tears for Fears, scheduling conflicts are real conflicts. So the following is a list of my favorites acts out of all the ones in which I was able to attend. Let me know if any of you saw something better:

10. Billy Joel
billy joel bonnaroo
Forever an entertainer. No matter how old this man gets, and no matter how much he looks like Pat Johnson (our friend’s dad), he will forever have that spark of a 23-year-old boy from the Bronx. Having a song like “Piano Man” for +80,000 people to scream back to you has to be one helluva feeling too.
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Unknown Mortal Orchestra Review: Multi-Love

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Multi-Love

Unknown Mortal Orchestra Multi-Love album cover art

For some reason, over 40 years after the fact, some of the best psychedelic rock ever has come from the land down under and their little brother, New Zealand. As guitar rock has largely disappeared from the airwaves, the far-out sounds of Tame Impala have continued to permeate, as three albums in, they now stand as one of the best rock bands on the planet. The Kiwis ain’t no chumps neither. New Zealand-born Ruban Nielson has helmed one of the most fun psych-rock projects going today in Unknown Mortal Orchestra, a band whose playful sounds are nearly impossible to shake.

The self-titled debut turned 60’s era psychedelic pop into catchy, hip-hop infused ear candy. The second album, (aptly titled II) turned inward pointing at the darkness brewing just under those sunny, psychedelic grooves. Now, Multi-Love, takes the first two and extrapolates it out into the corners of soul, jazz, and funk.

The album title, unsurprisingly, is speaking about an ended polyamorous relationship between Ruban, his wife, and another woman who lived with them the two for a time; certainly strange material to cover in music, but probably not that unusual for a psychedelic rocker. What isn’t weird is the music that the relationship produced: with Nielson exploring his fragile state that emerged from this situation.

Rather than using the studio and money provided to him by the record label, Nielson chose to create a home studio (pictured on the album cover), where he would record in the middle of the night (remnants of the insomnia he was diagnosed with years ago). With this decision comes an intimacy in the music that is apparent from the lone keyboard that springs out of the opening track. Playing his guitar like a sitar, “Multi-Love” sounds like one of those Indian-influenced George Harrison tracks from the last few Beatles albums, except if you added in a dose of shake and shimmy. “Like Acid Rain” returns the celebratory pop of their first album, if only for two minutes and one second. “Ur Life One Night” releases a funky new side to the band, sort of channeling Sly Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On with its distorted funk and catchy soul.

“Can’t Keep Checking My Phone”, Multi-Love’s lead single, is probably the biggest outlier in all their catalog to this point, but a worthwhile change. It pure disco dance pop that would have been right at home on the new Hot Chip record, led by one big and relatable hook, “I can’t keep checking my phone.” It’s a song that will likely alienate those that came to UMO for their big psychedelic guitar riffs, but it’s hard to deny its infectiousness.

The album standout comes in “Extreme Wealth and Casual Cruelty”, a song that strangely conjures the genuine-hearted jazz spirit of Louis Armstrong. Nielson husks up his voice like Armstrong’s and has his father, a professional horn player back in New Zealand, play the soaring sax solo that takes the song to another plain. The song explores the sort of escapism we have all probably felt: what would it be like if we just left the baggage of our lives behind to start a new life happily together on an island somewhere, “abandoning extreme wealth and casual cruelty.” It’s an intriguing sentiment, one that feels instantly possibly and ecstatic from the sounds and mood that Nielson conjures up on the song.

The next track, “The World Is Crowded”, continues the spirit of escapism, in a highly romantic and funky slow groove, with Nielson channeling that slippery Prince falsetto. “Necessary Evil” keeps the groove going, with Nielson’s father playing a light trumpet hook to lift out of the murk of the rambling, anxious organ.

Multi-Love closes with guitars blazing on “Puzzles”, which certainly provides some visceral release after the strange haze of the rest of the album, but feels the least at home here. Still, at nine tracks, Nielson wisely keeps his albums nice and tight, even if the songs explore all corners of the known musical universe. Multi-Love is yet another colorful and stimulating album from one of the best voices in rock going today.

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Can’t Miss: “Extreme Wealth and Casual Cruelty”, “Ur Life One Night”, “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone”

Can’t Hit: “Puzzles”

The 10 Best Band Names

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Editor’s note: It’s a slow week in music, so we figured we would revisit one of our favorite lists we have done, our very favorite band names.

Band names are a highly subjective topic for a top ten list.  Some people are more partial to goofy names (Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. anybody).  Some people dig simplicity (Cream).  And some people even have a penchant for alliteration (Modest Mouse).  We try to give every type of name its due on our list, but alas, a list of ten is far too short to honor all of the creative, funny, and bold names the creative geniuses throughout time have come up with.  Enjoy our list for what it is, and we’d love to hear your favorites in the comments.  Godspeed.
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Unknown Mortal Orchestra with Foxygen Show Review

Unknown Mortal Orchestra
with special guests Foxygen
3/7/2012
Lincoln Hall
Chicago, IL

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, live, 3/7/2012, Lincoln Hall

Lincoln Hall! Wow! Hats off to venues that can dovetail a bar, a restaurant,
and concert venue in such an incredibly seamless fashion. This place is
one of the best small venues I’ve been too, sound-wise, environment-wise,
and price-wise. Not only that, but they are also home to one of the better
tacos (pork belly mind you) and beer selections I’ve ever seen at a music
venue. If you’re looking to catch a cheap show in Chicago, I’d start here.
Last night fellow LxL’er Wes and myself were treated to quite the show
in this wonderful hall of sound and music. The lineup: Wampire, Foxygen, and
Unknown Mortal Orchestra. All psychedelic throwbacks, each equipped with
their own unique sounds and quirks. If you follow us at LxL, I know you’ve
heard me gush over two of these three bands a lot lately. Well put on your
raincoat because I’m about to gush all over the place once again.
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Unknown Mortal Orchestra Review: II

Unknown Mortal Orchestra
II
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Last week, Foxygen was the name of my game. This week, I have decided to review another sophomore album release from yet another independent low-fi psych-rock group. The main difference between the two is that Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s debut release was much more exceptional than Foxygen’s. However, the differences don’t quite end there. In fact, for two bands that share so many similar characteristics, they actually sound a great deal different. UMO didn’t reinvent themselves by any means for the follow-up to their still too often underrated self-titled debut. They did however take a slightly different approach to constructing the psychedelic sounds they so brilliantly fuse with poppy and even somewhat hip hop-esque beats. On this album, they slowed things down just a bit while maintaining the occasional upbeat, fun-fest edge that drew everyone in the first time around. The result is an extremely balanced and lovable album; one you just want to plug-in, play, and cruise around to on a slow, sunny drive to anywhere. Or even appropriately play in the background at a party. Or really just anytime you’re in the mood to chill out. In essence,this album is a multi-purpose guide to fun and relaxation.
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