Favorite New Music: December 2017

  1. Chris Thile Thanks For Listening


What’s a master mandolin player to do after collaborating with your childhood friends, musical mentors and heros, and building the dopest bluegrass band ever? The answer for Chris Thile is host the program formerly know as “Prairie Home Companion.” During his first year as host, Thile penned and performed orginal songs that have been compiled onto this album. The variety of guest musicians and vocalists helps this album stand out from Thile’s previous work, and the songwriting is just as strong as one would expect from the life-long composer.

Standout Track: “Thank You New York (feat. Gaby Moreno)

2. Jeremih & Chance the Rapper Merry Christmas Lil Mama Re-wrapped


The duo’s holiday mixtape from 2016 gets a re-release with ten new tracks, so one download gets you two mixtapes in one! It’s a bargain (if we pretend it wasn’t free both now and last year) and Chance makes the songs snappy and fun.

Standout Track: “Down Wit That


3. The Macks Camp Poppa

the macks camp poppa

Oregon-based psych/blues rock band The Macks have released their debut album, and it’s got all of the trimming of a DIY-ish take on the genre. The lead vocals have the sass of Jagger, the guitar licks have a classic rock vibe, and the drums blast through the mix with power and attitude. An honor to have played with these musicians last year.

Standout Track: “Problems for Me



The rap-clique fad of the 2010s once had all kinds of camps to which to vow allegiance: GOOD Music, Maybach Music Group, Odd Future, A$AP Mob, Cash Money, Bruiser Brigade, Doomtree, and the list goes on. BROCKHAPTON is more akin to Odd Future; they are a California-based posse of young rappers, singers, and producers who air on the side of communicating levity and high energy in their music rather than a tough-as-nails facade. The abundance of vocal performances keeps the album flying by, and this is, amazingly, the third full-length project released this calendar year, which maybe justifies the groups lengthy roster of members. The project is bouncy, and here and there are gems of couplets surely to find longer life online.

Standout Track: “ZIPPER


Favorite Music of 2017

Favorite Songs Outside of My Top 10 Favorite Albums:

15. Father John Misty “Leaving LA” – best song that encapsulates my current feelings about my current state of residence

14. Sundara Karma “Flame” – best song that’s sure to be on some car commercial soon

13. Porn Bloopers “I Don’t Give a Fuck”  – best steak-and-potato punk

12. Dirty Projectors “Keep Your Name” – Best pitch-correction for sad people

11. Foo Fighters “The Sky is a Neighborhood” – Best rock anthem for 15 years ago

10. Big K.R.I.T. “Keep the Devil off” – best sample of a southern preacher

9. T-Pain with Mr. Talkbox “May I” – best keyboard solo

8. Small Leak Sinks Ships “Dancing Devil” – best song I found from someone else’s top 10 list

7. Weezer “Mexican Fender” – best new song heard live

6. Leikeli47 “Miss Me” – Best female rap song (sorry Cardi B, I guess)

5. The Mynabirds “Golden Age” – Best “nazi-punching” lyric for 2017’s political climate

4. Jesca Hoop “Memories are Now” – Best singer-songwriter tune

3. Kendrick Lamar “Humble” – best song played at the Prom I had to chaperone last May

2. SOPHIE “Ponyboy” – best song that makes me feel like I’ve been shot with a 12-gauge

1.Bleachers “Everybody Lost Somebody” – best use of Jack Antonoff this year, and saxophones

My Top 10 Favorite Albums of the Year:

10. The National Sleep Well Beast

the national sleep well beast

The National’s formula of using simple, repetitive chord progressions worked for so  long for one obvious reason: Matt Berninger’s vocal performance. His baritone melodies combined with fictitious narratives of love and woe made 2013’s Trouble Will Find Me worth multiple listens. In 2017, the reason to turn back to The National is due to the four other band members who create songs with electronic drum machines and electric guitar solos: instrumentation that never before characterized the traditional National-esque sound. With the new band sound, and with the shoot-from-the-hip feel of the recording sessions, Sleep Well Beast is an exciting listen, especially to fans of the band.

Standout Tracks: “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” “Turtleneck” “Nobody Else Will Be There

9. The Orwells Terrible Human Beings


The torch of American Rock n Roll remains lit, and Illinois’ The Orwells hoist it high and proud. The psych-rock doesn’t get bogged down in effects, and punk rock doesn’t get overblown with shitty mixing, and rock doesn’t get boring. This is the new Cage the Elephant.

Standout Tracks: “They Put a Body in the Bayou” “Creatures” “Black Francis

8. Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed Andy Mineo & Wordsplayed Present Magic & Bird


Far from the serious, murderous rap from mumble rappers and their more lyrical role models, Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed use the trendy trap sound to create a 1980s-themed mixtape that’s fresh and fun, chock-full of basketball puns to justify the loose Larry Bird and Magic Johnson concept. Shockingly, the skits are funny, and as expected the rapping is top-notch from the two heads of the Minor League musical collective.

Standout Tracks: “Dance (You See It)” “KIDZ” “Judo (feat. Tree Giants)

7. Grandaddy Last Place


A sonic blend of all the emotions with which I am most familiar.

Standout Tracks: “That’s What You Get for Getting Outta Bed” “Way We Won’t” “Brush with the Wild

6. Kesha Rainbow

kesha rainbow

I vehemently disliked Ke$ha at her 2010 debut; both her balls-to-the-wall lyrics and her brash, bratty vocal style rubbed me the wrong way. On top of my initial distaste, I worked at a college cafeteria that would only play the Top 40 playlist, so Ke$ha would often great, accompany, and dismiss me from my shifts. Rainbow is, however, a significant departure in both sonic tone and sentiment. The auto-tune is gone and the live horn section of The Dap-Kings are in. The self-indulgence is out and the self-affirmations are in. The trite party imagery is out and the more quaint and introspective Kesha (with no $) is in.

Standout Tracks: “Woman” “Godzilla” “Bastards

5. Deerhoof Mountain Moves

deerhoof mountain moves

There always seems to be room on my end-of-year lists for the art-rock/garage artists who catch my ears: Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, Tune-yards, St. Vincent, and their ilk. 2017’s seat was filled by Deerhoof, a band with whom I was unfamiliar until I listened to The Wandering Wolf podcast episode featuring Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier. The album itself is bouncy and Matsuzaki’s vocals are intriguing as she uses different effects to create different vocal personas inside her songs. The fuzzy, DIY attitude makes this record from the veteran band seem like an underdog, but this group is finely tuned and as talented as their peers.

Standout Tracks: “I Will Spite Survive” “Your Dystopic Creation Doesn’t Fear You (ft. Awkwafina)

4. Run the Jewels RTJ3


I played this album on the day of President Trump’s inauguration, and it seems now that much of the word feels the same way as El-P and Killer Mike 11 months ago: angry at the bald-faced lies and ineptitude that plagues this administration, and capitalistic values in general. While the 1% are only directly addressed in a few tracks tucked inside RTJ3, the bravado of the hustler plays as the righteous indignation of the oppressed in this new political context. The two vocal Bernie supporters have only venom for the nation’s 2016 Presidential winner, and the chaotic production that defines the work of El-P’s instrumentals works as its own protest, thumping hard and boiling over with thick keyboards, horns, and 808s.

Standout Tracks: “Legend Has It” “Hey Kids (feat. Danny Brown)” “A Report to the Shareholders / Kill Your Masters

3. WHY? Moh Lean


Yoni Wolf pens his best songs and crafts his best melodies since the band’s breakthrough masterpiece Alopecia. The acoustic piano helps keep the sound grounded and solemn, and the record’s high points of bliss are lightly gilded with Wolf’s melancholy: the sweet spot for WHY? the band.

Standout Tracks: “Proactive Evolution” “One Mississippi” “George Washington

2. Beck Colors


Genre-hopping Beck lands on pop-electro-funk in 2017 with Colors. It’s primary objective: to make you dance and accept the more euphoric moments of life. It’s a carefree, but carefully constructed album, and Beck wears the genre well; it reminds me of my other favorite phase of Beck’s in the late 2000’s when he ended up on MTV and VH1 again with radio hits like “Girl.” Tucked in the middle of this album is the club hip-hop song “WOW” which is extra silly and has Beck back to his white guy rap mode.

Standout Tracks: “I’m So Free” “Colors” “Wow” “Up All Night

  1. Julia Michaels Nervous System EP

julia michaels

Pop music, the kind that’s likely to show up on the radio, can become washed with the echo chamber of the Billboard 100 list. I have strayed from the radio dial, and their online streaming playlist cousins, and wait for audiophiles to recommend pop projects. Turns out, some of my favorite songs into the zeitgeist are from the pen of Julia Michaels, and Michaels now has her own hit with “Issues.” The EP from which it comes delivers six other solid pop tunes that bends the expectations without falling into the more experimental-leaning pop records. “Uh huh” may be my favorite song of 2017, Michaels sells the simple tune with subtly in the verses and full spunk in the chorus. The same can be said for the innuendo (or not) filled “Pink.” On the whole EP, the production is open enough to let the singer’s frail delivery float like pedals on water.

Standout Tracks: “Uh Huh” “Make It Up To You” “Just Do It



Best New Music: October

Beck Colors


Beck has been playing with genre projects since his 1990’s debut into indie white-dude rap a la sitar beat. My favorite Beck projects are the more poppy albums, like Guerro, and in 2017 Beck takes a full, healthy bite out of modern pop-rock on Colors. There’s the piano bounce of “Dear Life,” the dancy funk guitar that drives “Up All Night,” and, as luck would have it, another foray into goofy rap with “WOW.” It’s a sweet and delicious bite that’s too fun to deny.

Standout Track: “Dear Life

Big K.R.I.T. 4Eva Is A Long Time


Mississippi Rapper/Producer Big K.R.I.T.’s double-disc project isn’t just long to make up for his few years of absence, but the duality of the performer/persona manifests itself from one disc to the other. K.R.I.T. gives himself time to explore both the bravado of a rap artist and the frailties of a man hoisting that facade for so long. The religious themes permeate the two discs, as any fan would expect, and the 808 truck-thumping still defines the production, and keeps K.R.I.T. in the top tier of Southern Rap producers.

Standout Track: “Keep The devil Off

Weezer Pacific Daydream


I finally got the chance to see Weezer live in concert, and it was one of the finest live music experiences for one simple reason: River Cuomo is a song-writing genius, and has 20+ years of songs to prove it. This latest batch of pop tunes is produced like a Maroon 5 record, but still has a few guitar-heavy tracks sprinkled in. The pop hit “Feels Like Summer” works tons better than previous pop anthem attempts like “I Can’t Stop Partying” and the B-sides explore acoustic guitar arrangements and chord progressions ripped from the 1950s. There are a few low points, as any Weezer album may have nowadays, but Pacific Daydream still confirms a positive outlook on the band that was reignited by Everything Will Be Alright In The End. Bravo!

Standout Track: “Beach Boys

The Front Bottoms Going Grey


The Front Bottoms were in need of a sonic shift after their 2015 full-length seemed to have fully explored the acoustic emo rock well. Here, the synths come out and create some pop melodies that help balance the rawness of the lead singer’s lyrics and performance, his usual heart-on-sleeve m.o. still characterizing the crux of the band.

Standout Track: “Vacation Town

Other Solid Releases: Wolf Parade Cry Cry Cry; Shigeto The New Monday ; Julien Baker Turn Out The Lights


Favorite New Music: September

The National Sleep Well Beast

the national sleep well beast

It’s been five years since The National’s previous album, Trouble Will Find Me, was released: a subdued yet anthemic work that placed the band at the top of indie rock’s best-of lists. Sleep Well Beast takes vocalist Matt Berninger to its traditional baritone melodies all the way to the shouts and cracks of the barn-burning rock tune “Turtlenecked.” The Dessner brothers open up their guitar licks to catchy heights instead of the simple chords of the previous album. Percussionist Bryan Devendorf even tries new methods on this outing, using synthesized drum machine sounds and loops instead of his usual dampened acoustic sound.

With these changes, the album is infused with songs that are equal parts depressing and dance-inducing, a dichotomy worth investing in with this band.

Standout Track: “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness

Death From Above Outrage! is Now


The bass-and-drums duo have created an album of catchy tunes that transcend the confines of their previous mix of blues rock and heavy rock sound. The duo nail the prog-stadium rock of Muse, the hard rock riffs of Royal Blood, and the distorted vocal screeches of Jack White.

Standout Track: “Never Swim Alone”

Deerhoof Mountain Moves

deerhoof mountain moves

If you need an album this year that really keeps the listener guessing from track to track, look no further than Deerhoof’s newest project. The genres come and go like a radio music library playlist on the fritz: indie pop, hip hop, funk, blues rock, jazz, opera(!). Along with the obscure pallet from which the band pulls, the time signatures are played with to create more interesting guitar-led tunes that might otherwise be too tame for this body of work.

Standout Track: “I Will Spite Survive

Foo Fighters Concrete and Gold

concrete and gold

A great Foo Fighters album hasn’t hit the shelves since 2011’s Wasting Light where the band recorded the album in Dave Grohl’s house. Since then, Grohl has been spending his efforts on curating a documentary, playing drums for whomever, and releasing the overproduced yet underwhelming Sonic Highways. 2017’s Concrete and Gold isn’t a home run, but the songs are catchier and more concise, a format the band hinted at in their underrated Saint Cecilia EP. The best songs take the band’s guitar-centered aesthetics and somehow amplify them even more on tracks like “Run,” and the crowd anthem “The Sky is a Neighborhood” will find its way into the Foo Fighter’s 3+ hour live sets from now until the band’s official retirement.

Standout Track: “The Sky is a Neighborhood

Other Solid Releases: Rapsody Laila’s Wisdom; Metz Strange Peace; The Killers Wonderful Wonderful; Prophets of Rage S/T



Favorite New Music: August 2017

Andy Mineo & wordsplayed Magic & Bird


Christian hip hop has suffered from tardiness in the musical world. Lecrae put out his first real trap song in his 2015 album, for example, and popular hip hop vernacular gets a spiritual twist long after the term is on the tongues of the teens (e.g. Tedashii’s “Jumped out the Whip” or Trip Lee’s “Idk”). Andy Mineo and label-mate wordsplayed ditch the bad tropes of CHH and deliver a funny, quirky, skill-filled mixtape of 90s era rap music. It’s light and breezy, and the chemistry between these two talents should not be overlooked because of their genre.

Standout Track: “DANCE (You See It)

Action Bronson Blue Chips 7000


Queens’ Action Bronson is now more of a internet channel TV host than a rapper, but the shift in focus over the last few years since his debut Mr. Wonderful has not dampened Bronson’s skill, sense of humor, or song topics. Blue Chips 7000 delivers some excellent production from a slew of Bronson’s go-to producers, all somehow dipping into old 70s era film scores (or their sonic equivalents) to create unique but thematically linked instrumentals. Then there’s “Let Me Breathe.” Completely out-of-place, the club pop-rap beat is extremely catchy, and Bronson sounds completely inauthentic rapping over it…until the song stops in its tracks, and the Queen’s native calls out the song for what it is: a cheap excuse for booty-shaking.

Standout Track: “Let Me Breathe

Myke Bogan Pool Party

myke bogan

Portland native Myke Bogan releases a laid-back project with moody and down-to-earth narratives akin to J Cole’s last two releases, but the instrumentals still have the trappings of pop rap that would make many of these songs fit well into the night club scene.
Standout Track: “Sailor Jerry’s

Other Solid Releases: The Cribs 24/7 Rock Star Shit ; The Districts Popular Manipulation ; So Much Light Oh, Yuck ; Amy O Elastic




Favorite New Music: June 2017

Cool American Infinite Hiatus

infinite hiatus

Self-proclaimed “dorito pop” Portland four-piece Cool American released Infinite Hiatus on bandcamp at the beginning of June, but might best be played at the beginning of December: the melancholic delivery of the vocal performance tint each song with a wistful energy, and in the case of the title track, paint a solemn picture ideal for lonely dark months. Long live guitar bands!

Standout Track: “Great at Parties

Bleachers Gone Now


Bleachers’ sophomore album is another case of more-of-the-same syndrome, but when the debut album is as good as Strange Desire, it’s not such a terrible ailment from which to suffer. The choruses are still big, the vocals have the same filters, the 80s vibe is still loud and clear…but every touch is welcomed back for Bleachers fans.

Standout Track: “Everybody Lost Somebody

Calvin Harris Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1

calvin harris

It’s hard not to like, at least a little, an album that’s just a pile of dancable pop tunes from recognizable names…and this one trumps the new DJ Kalid project Grateful. As a disclaimer, however, the Nikki Minaj track is complete garbage and should not be bothered with for any reason.

Standout Track: “Heatstroke” ft. Young Thug, Pharrell Williams, Ariana Grande

Tigers of Youth Rapture and Gravity EP

tigers of youth

Portland’s TOY have released their debut EP and it captures the band’s excellent songwriting and lyrical compositions by frontman Dave Wentz. The smooth vocals and equally smooth guitar tones seduce the ears and make the EP feel like a full experience. Here’s to hoping they get some attention soon.

Standout Track: “Simple Treason

Other Solid Releases: Lorde Melodrama ; Vince Staples Big Fish Theory





Favorite New Music: May 2017

Wavves You’re Welcome


I couldn’t stand Wavves’ debut album, nor their more popular sophomore King of the Beach: the overblown guitars and vocals proved more grating than punk rock. Here on You’re Welcome, the band writes some melodic tunes, slows the pace a little to leave room for a little empty space between distorted down beats. The fuzz shows up in full on many tracks, but the mixing and mastering make this my favorite Wavves project.

Standout Track: “Come to the Valley

Perfume Genius No Shape

perfume genius

Mike Hadreas performs as Perfume Genius, and his fourth album delivers on beautiful vocal arrangements from haunting to sullen to gleeful. Some of the songwriting reminds me of Ra Ra Riot, but the styles don’t stick through the album, and No Shape‘s title begins to describe the album itself.

Standout Track: “Slip Away

(Sandy) Alex G Rocket

alex g

Speaking of having no shape, Alex G has released Rocket this month, and the singer-songwriter has collected tracks in whatever genre suits his fancy. There’s quiet, folky tunes all the way to the noisy “Brick,” which is an industrial…rap…tune?

Standout Track: “Brick

Swet Shop Boys Sufi La

swet shop boys

Even the B-sides of MC Riz and Heems’ debut album Cashmere from 2016 stand out as forward-thinking rap music in a saturated trap scene. The southeast Asian samples do lots of the heavy lifting on this EP, and Heems gets into his most goofy on “Birds,” but the tracks continue a much-needed political heaviness for a 2017 world.

Need Moor

Other Solid Releases: Mountain Goats Goths, Jlin Black Origami , Daddy Issues Deep , Pet Symmetry Dream





New Music: April 2017

  1. Sylvan Esso What Now


The pop duo Sylvan Esso has produced the best tunes you’d likely hear at a Starbucks over the last few years, and the group’s new project incorporates more samples and drums, but keeps the songs tight and catchy.

Standout Track: “Radio”

2. Bishop Briggs S/T


Airy folk vocals placed atop simple electronic backing tracks. This project is very much like Marian Hill, or even some Sylvan Esso work, but the lead vocals  here are much more powerful and soulful.

Standout Track: “Wild Horses”

3. Kendrick Lamar DAMN.


This is the worst Kendrick Lamar album, sure, but the worst of the best, in this case, is still worthy of some praise. The through-line on this project comes much less intelligible than Lamar’s last two full-length projects, both in its narrative and its sonic palate. Tracks like “DNA” and “HUMBLE” are unavoidable bangers, the best of the year, and the lengthy and contemplative “FEAR” is something more akin to what I loved in Lamar’s previous work…but then there’s “GOD” and “LOVE” : terrible tracks for any artist.

Standout Track: “DNA”

4. Father John Misty Pure Comedy

fjm pure comedy

A continuation of the approach to I Love You, Honeybear, Father John Misty creates lush songs tackling the aches and pains of living as a critic of/participant in western pop culture. Some of the instrumental choices have changed, but the melodies here could’ve winded up on either album. The humor is thick and black and paired with 70’s pop…it’s a formula that’ll work until Father John Misty himself becomes the next Taylor Swift.

Standout Track: “Total Entertainment Forever”

Other Solid Releases: The New Pornographers, Whiteout Conditions ; Future Islands, The Far Field ; Feist, Pleasure




Favorite New Music: March

1.Grandaddy Last Place


This new Grandaddy sounds like what Sparklehorse might have released had he won his battle with depression and created a record of victory and positivity. The tunes are catchy and pleasantly upbeat. The tone of the singer’s voice gives the songs depth to what might otherwise go down as saccharine pop rock tunes.

Standout Track: “Brush with the Wild

2.WHY? Moh Lhean


In Yoni Wolf’s podcast, Wandering Wolf, the front man of WHY? often communicates his continual fight to stay positive despite perpetual health issues. In this new album, Yoni continues that theme to create the band’s best album since 2008’s Alopecia–a very different album in tone, but similar in song structure complexity. The rapping is takes a back seat to Wolf’s unusual voice, but the performance on these tracks is more solid than his recent efforts. I’m so happy this album is as solid as it is…and re-listenable as well!

Standout Track: “One Mississippi

3. Kool AD Sky Ladder

sky ladder

It’s more of what you’d expect from the Bay Area stream-of-consciousness rapper, but with a new sound palate when it comes to his choice of instrumentals.

Standout Track: “FUCK THAT (Feat. Killer Mike)


Other Solid Releases: Sondre Lerche Pleasure ; Methyl Ethel Everything is Forgotten ; Clap Your Hands Say Yeah The Tourist ; Sorority Noise Not As ___________ As You Think


Favorite New Music: February

1.The Orwells Terrible Human Beings


No special tricks or gimmicks here, just catchy 4/4 pop punk tunes from The Orwells.

Standout Track: “Black Francis

2.Surfer Blood Snowdonia


From simple indie pop tunes to elaborate 7+ minute sonic journeys, Snowdonia surprises me on every listen. The vocal harmonies help carry the album through the less impressive moments, and the melodies cement John Paul Pitts as a formidable pop songwriter.

Standout Track: “Snowdonia

3.Jesca Hoop Memories Are Now


Memories Are Now mishmashes Celtic, indie folk, and Americana into a unique record, and one that I would normally regard as “boring.” What makes this project interesting, however, are Hoop’s repeating hooks and unique instrumentation.

Standout Track: “Memories Are Now

4.Dirty Projectors S/T


Break-up albums come at a great cost, but the power impact of many a somber works of art are my favorite. While this self-titled release is tragic in subject matter, the sonic palate is all over the place: there are indie pop tunes, alt r&b, and electronic dance songs. They meld well in this collection of tunes, and never have I been more invested in a Dirty Projectors album.

Standout Track: “Keep Your Name

Other Solid Releases : Mother Mother No Culture ; Thundercat Drunk ; Mozzy Fake Famous