Favorite New Music: March 2016

  1. Into it. Over it. Standards

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Evan Weiss’ project as Into It. Over It. sounds like the best versions of emo-rock from the mid-late 2000s. There’s chord progression, and even guitar tone, that one might find on Death Cab For Cutie’s Narrow Stairs. Even Weiss’ vocals have Ben Gibbard gloss all over tracks like “Closing Arguments” and album opener “Open Casket.” The drummer, on the other hand, it let loose on the albums best tracks and the duo create some exciting indie rock tunes.

Standout Track: “Adult Contempt

2. Miike Snow iii

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Britney Spears’ pop monolith “Toxic” is my favorite pop song. It’s my go-to karaoke song. It’s one of two cover songs my band has learned. It just rocks. Turns out, two of the three members of Swedish electro-pop group Miike Snow produced that song over ten years ago! Miike Snow’s previous releases (apply titled i and ii) have both had songs on my best-of-the-year lists and this release proves to be no different. The sonic textures here remind me of Foster The People’s debut record Torches when it comes to syth tones and melodic phrasing. And just like FTP, this trio is groovy as hell on some tracks, and pulls out some great lyrical play on others. Not only to mention, the music video for “Genghis Khan” may be hard to beat as my favorite music video of 2016. We’ll see!

Standout Track: “Genghis Khan

3. The Knocks 55

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The Knocks debut album is like listening to the best party playlist your cool friend painstakingly pieced together, but without their incessant sleeve-tugging quips to distract and annoy you. This LP is all over the place, but its core is steeped in nostalgia for places (“New York City”) modernized takes on antiquated grooves (“Classic”) and coupled with like-minded artists just as eager to live in bygone eras (e.g. Carly Rae Jepsen, X Ambassadors, WALK THE MOON). A majority of these songs dip into that anti-party sound akin to Alessia Care’s work, but the party is the point on every track here.

Standout Track: “Collect My Love” (feat. Alex Newell)

4. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down A Man Alive

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Back in 2013, when I first caught wind of Thao Nguyen’s band, it ended up on my favorite albums of the year list as well as setting the benchmark for great band names. Three years later, Thao releases an album that is like a tUnE-yArDs art-rock project. As it turns out, Merrill Garbus herself produced this latest LP and it is cut from the same sonic cloth: distorted mic effects, choral vocal backup melodies, heavy drums, and endlessly interesting lyrics. A huge win here for Thao!

Standout Track: “Departure

5. M. Ward More Rain

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M. Ward has been a busy man as one half of She & Hims many releases, but he’s back for another solo record, and it is just as classic and moody as one might expect. The hollow-body guitar sounds beautiful soaking M.Ward’s usual reverb and delay effects. More of what we love here on More Rain.

Standout Track: “I’m Going Higher

More Solid Releases: Primal Scream Chaosmosis; Baauer Aa; Bent Shapes Wolves of Want; Policia United Crushers; Wussy S/T; Cub Sport This Is Our Vice;

 

 

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2015: Favorite Tracks and Albums

Favorite Tracks (outside of my favorite albums)

12. “Genghis Khan” Miike Snow

This funky disco track has been stuck in my head since it was released just one month ago. Simple and catchy: the winning combination for pop.

11. “Four Five Seconds” Rihanna feat. Kanye West, Paul McCartney

While none of the artists involved with this minimal rock tune released their own albums in 2015, they all come together on this simple, cathartic anthem to nearly losing your cool. Here’s hoping Kanye and Rihanna’s 2016 releases use this track as a reference point.

1o. “I Believe” KB feat. Mattie for Today

Take a popular cheer from a football stadium and remix it into a loud banger. Is it low hanging fruit in terms of sampling? Maybe. Is it heart-pumping and wonderful? Yes.

9. “Powerful” Major Lazar feat. Ellie Goulding, Tarrus Riley

Putting a pop song in 6/8 might not seem like a bold move, but this swinging duet made this track stand out from the rest of the songs on the radio this year. Props to Diplo and everyone in Major Lazar. What a year!

8. “You Got Spirit, Kid” Coheed and Cambria

Sometimes, we all can use a heavy dose of humble pie. Few songs provide such strong helpings, but this pop-punk song from the metal band leaves us with the succinct “Nobody gives a fuck who you are.”

7. “Ill Mind of Hopsin 7” Hopsin

Hopsin’s brief dip into Christianity nearly paralleled my own, so hearing this song on his 2015 album Pound Syndrome was such a powerful and meaningful connection. His anger comes through loud and clear to my ears.

6. “Good for You” Selena Gomez feat. A$AP Rocky

Here it is: The sexiest song of 2015. Good God.

5. “All My Friends” Snakehips feat. Chance the Rapper, Tinashe

I’m a sucker for Chance the Rapper. Anything he does I love. Here, however, he doesn’t shine quite as bright as the hook. This is modern R&B gold for a generation of delinquents.

4. “Honey I’m Good” Andy Grammar

Who says ‘good guys finish last?’ Andy Grammar’s foot-stomping ode to a far-off lover serves as a palate cleaner to some of the seedier messages of many of 2015’s pop and rap hits.

3. “The Hills” The Weeknd

The Weeknd’s two biggest hits, “The Hills” and “I Can’t Feel My Face,” sound like polar opposites one first listen. One is dark and moody and the latter is poppy and groovy. As it turns out, the first is about sex and the second is about cocaine. “The Hills” wins it out for me by a hair because the scary instrumental and booming 808 bass hits are too awesome to ignore.

2.“Where are U Now” Jack U feat Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber’s resurgence into pop music has nothing to do with his abilities as a singer. It has everything to do with his public self-deprecation and his choice of producers. Songs like “Sorry” and “What Do You Mean” are held up solely, but strongly, by the instrumentals. The same goes for the group Jack U (Diplo and Skrillex) who cut and paste the daylights out of Bieber to create a song well out of the singer’s natural abilities.

1. “Downtown” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Taking the number 1 spot for both favorite track and favorite music video is the Pacific Northwest’s own Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. This song serves as a sonic response to Bruno Mars’ and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” (technically a 2014 release) and does more with the funk themes and vocal hooks. The chorus is nothing sort of epic, the humor is fun, the best-producer award should be ripped from Pharell’s hands and placed as Ryan Lewis’ feet. BONUS: The music video is filmed in Ryan Lewis and I’s hometown, Spokane!

Favorite Albums

10. Dawes All Your Favorite Bands

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Part dream pop, part folk rock, and all good for the soul, Dawes’ latest album is such a great project that is focused on supporting the lyrics. There are some great Americana lines in this LP: “Let’s raise a glass to all the people you’re not speaking to”; “I hope all your favorite bands stay together” and the like. Simple, beautiful writing.

Favorite Tracks: “Things Happen”, “All Your Favorite Bands”

9. Melanie Martinez Crybaby

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Dark yet poppy. Eerie yet fun. Melanie Martinez’s full-length album carries this juxtaposition throughout and unleashes some of 2015’s best pop songs.

Favorite Tracks: “Alphabet Boy” “Sippy Cup” “Cry baby” “Carousel

8. A$AP Rocky At.Long.Last.A$AP

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Following up Long.Live. A$AP should have been much harder than this. The dark and moody sophomore LP from one of the more popular rappers today soars above the other early releases from his cohort (Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler, Vince Staples, Joey, Action Bronson, et al).

Holy Ghost” feat. Joe Fox “L$D

7. The Wombats The Wombats

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2015 was a year that made it clear Passion Pit’s steam is fading. Who will be ready to carry the torch of electro-pop synth euphoria? Well, there’s quite a few. The Wombats are my favorite contender in that race and this album delivers on happy anthems and thudding downbeats to dance to. We’re going to be okay.

Favorite Tracks: “Give Me A Try” “Your Body Is A Weapon

6. Miguel WILDHEART 

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I never got into Kaleidoscope Dream. R&B and I had not yet been properly introduced. After the R&B gateway drugs of James Blake and Frank Ocean, Miguel’s second album was welcomed into my earholes and brainwaves. And there he stayed.

Favorite Tracks: “Coffee” “what’s normal anyway” “NWA

5. Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly  

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There is no denying the obvious truth: This is the best rap album of 2015. It might be the best rap album of this decade. Too important to be relegated into obscure music circles, too banging to be boring, too dense to be short-changed as pop-rap. Kendrick outdoes and outgrows his former self from Good Kid M.a.a.D City and has given us a project to reflect on and use as a rap touchstone.

Favorite Tracks: “Alright” “i” “Momma” “Hood Politics

4. Jeff Rosenstock We Cool?

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This is a pop-punk hail-marry. Simple and brash and unapologetic with its heavy dose of feels, We Cool? somehow epitomizes what I lived through as a young adult thus far. Not to mention, the video for “Nausea” is fantastic.

Favorite Tracks: “Nausea” “Get Old Forever” “You, In Weird Cities

3. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment Surf

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We didn’t get an official Change the Rapper follow-up to his magnificent mixtape Acid Rap. What we did get in 2015 was an unexpected left turn: Chance used his fame to promote his group of friends called “The Social Experiment.” Their first project was fronted (although oddly not prominently featuring) Donnie Trumpet. The group still packs a punch with its soulful arrangements and there are a half-dozen uncredited cameos from today’s best rappers.

Slip Slide” “Wanna Be Cool” “Familiar” “Sunday Candy

2. Marian Hill Sway

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I don’t know who Marian Hill is. I don’t know because, somehow, no one on the internet is talking about this album. WHY THE HELL NOT?! Hill’s style falls into the minimalist electronic field a la Sylvan Esso or even Lorde. The tracks are light but groovy and each track just adds to the mood.

Favorite Tracks: “Got It” “One Time” “Lips

 

And #1… FIDLAR  Too 

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2015 was the year by band became a top priority. We’ve been recording our first album, we won a battle of the bands competition this summer, we’ve played a handful of fun shows. This album (not my band) has captured what I hope to accomplish when our record is all said and done. These guys are having tons of fun and its evident from track #1. It’s loud and obnoxious at times and punky as hell. I guess this was the year for sophomore albums…so…”sophomore slump” my ass.

Favorite Tracks: “40 oz on Repeat” “West Coast” “Why Generation” “Sober

Favorite Music from 2012

My methods of music consumption have been sporadic at best this year. From obsessively using Spotify to discount CD sales to whatever happens to come on the radio to whatever pitchfork says a savvy cool kid should be listening to. There is too much music out there to say this is the best music, but I know from all that I have listened to that this is my favorite music of 2012.

Top 10 Favorite Songs (Outside my favorite albums):

10. “The Wave” Miike Snow

9. “Take a Walk” Passion Pit

8. “The Motto” Drake feat. Lil Wayne

7. “Manny Pacquiao” Kool A.D.

6. “I Will Wait” Mumford and Sons

5. “Swimming Pools (Drank)” Kendrick Lamar

4. “Triftshop” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

3. “Laura” Bat For Lashes

2. “One Sixteen” Trip Lee feat. KB, Andy Mineo

1. “Thinkin Bout You” Frank Ocean

Top Six (Cause I couldn’t think of four more) Favorite Albums of 2012:

6. Out of Frequency – The Asteroids Galaxy Tour

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Big horns and a lead vocal that rides that fine line between unique and grating. The whole album is like an Austin Powers movie score. Listen to: “Dollars in the Night” “Major”

5. Church Clothes Mixtape – LeCrae

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While I wasn’t super pumped about LeCrae’s 5th studio album Gravity, his mixtape hosted by Cannon had more than enough bangers to get me through many weekends of yard work under the hot Boise sun. Listen to: “APB” “Church Clothes” “Black Rose”

4. Halcyon – Ellie Goulding

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Easily my favorite dance record of the year, Halcyon’s production wins over Ellie’s vocals to where it seems like Ellie is being sampled on her own LP. Goulding turns in her best Florance Welch impersonation in “My Blood” to great success and “Figure 8” is up there with whatever the rave kids are tripping to these days. The ballads cannot compete with fellow British pop star Adele, but no one really expects that from another human being. Listen to: “Anything Could Happen” “Figure 8” “My Blood”

3. Everything Else Fades Mixtape – The Intervention

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With what might seem like a very biased number three spot having spent the summer with the members of The Intervention this mixtape deserves this spot because…well, it’s one of my favorites. That’s how this works, right? The collection ranges from songs that sound like their previous work (“Answer the Call”, “Strong Enough”) to some crazy growth in production value from songs featuring all three members to the solo tracks. Can’t wait for their projects in 2013. Listen to: “Houdini” “Iron Shirt” “Dear Lord”

2. Instrumental Mixtape 2 – Clams Casino

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Clams has been producing for the up and coming generation of rappers and released a second set (hence the name) of instrumental tracks (again, the name). What the listeners find is that adding to a Clams Casino track only makes it less beautiful. No surprise that the worst offender is Lil B, but even A$AP Rocky doesn’t seem to find a way to add to his tracks without me wishing he was muted. Now I don’t have to worry, thanks Clams! Listen to: “Kissing on my Syrup” “I’m God” “Bass”

1. Who’s Feeling Young Now? – Punch Brothers

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I have almost been following Chris Thile since someone in Montana showed me Nickel Creek about five years ago. But who does that anymore? Anyway, his last project, The Goat Rodeo Sessions, featuring none other than the only cello player I know Yo Yo Ma, was a great album. This year, however, Chris nails down his progressive blue grass style again with the band he’s been with since 2008. This album is filled with catchy, dance-able tunes that I’m pretty confident no one will hate…which is impressive in our cynical world of music snobs. Every single member of this group really owns their instrument and becomes overwhelmingly apparent on “Flippen (The Flip)”. Not to mention, there’s a cover of “Kid A” and who doesn’t love Radiohead? Punch Brothers is to Mumford as an electric guitar is to a Guitar Hero controller. Listen to: “This Girl” “Flippen (the Flip)” “Kid A” “Don’t Get Married Without Me”

So there ya go. I’m sure this list will be all flipped around three months from now when I catch up with the world, but as for now 2012 shall be celebrated as seen above. Happy 2013