Tag Archives: Beck

Favorite songs of 2016, the mid-year review

FAVES OF 2016

Ain’t It a Sin, Charles Bradley – The world just keeps doing Charles wrong, and it sounds like he’s ready to battle back.

All Coltrane Solos At Once, Saul Williams feat. Haleek Maul – Williams gets his Kool Keith on in a song that’s as much freak rock as it is hip-hop.

Angel, Nice As Fuck – I’d like to think this is what happens when Jenny Lewis and friends hang out and listen to Blondie albums.

The Answer, Savages – In my head, I can see Beavis and Butthead headbanging to this, fists raised to the sky. From my favorite album of the year, Adore Life.

Boys (That I Dated in High School), The Prettiots – It’s awkward, apologetic, nostalgic and funny, but never bitter.

Burn the Witch, Radiohead – Always good to have Radiohead back with new material. Like this song. Love the album.

Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven, Loretta Lynn – Ms. Lynn, 84 years old with sense of humor intact, rips it on this light-hearted bluegrass cut.

Funeral for a Great Drunken Bird, All Them Witches – Stoner rock by some guys who both know what the Misty Mountains are and can probably tell you off the top of their head that they’re also known as Hithaeglir.

In Bloom, Sturgill Simpson – I love it when a cover really changes the way you think about a song, such as when Marilyn Manson covered The Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams back in the 1990s. Nirvana’s In Bloom always felt like it was raging against the machine. Simpson’s version creates an atmosphere of melancholy, with a bit of defiance coming in toward the end of the song. And it’s goddamn beautiful.

Keep on Keepin’ On, Bleached – Fans of The Runaways and The Donnas should enjoy the driving, head-bobbing Keep on Keepin’ On from this California quartet.

I Decide, The Julie Ruin – A cool blast of hot punk.

Lyrics, Skepta feat. Novelist – Reminds me a bit of Dizzy Rascal, that off kilter, seriously syncopated rhyming over sparse, strange production that gives it an almost otherworldly feel.

Make It Right, The Coathangers – Step up and make it right, advise this all-woman punk trio from Atlanta.

My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars, Mitski – Almost sounds like a cover of a Guided By Voices’ song, with that lo-fi/DIY attitude, short and to-the-point musically and odd lyrically.

Never Hold On, King Khan – Music to soothe the soul. Never Hold On would be just as comfortable in 1966 as it is in 2016.

Pain, De La Soul feat. Snoop DoggPain is classic De La Soul, sounding like something you could have pulled off of any of their albums from the last 25 years, yet fresher than anything you’re hearing on the airwaves right now.

She Makes Me Laugh, The Monkees – I’m as surprised to see this on my list as anyone, but She Makes Me Laugh is a gorgeous nugget of shimmery summer beach pop.

Shut Up Kiss Me, Angel Olsen – Olsen’s first two singles from her upcoming album are decidedly different from what we heard from her on 2014’s awesome Burn Your Fire For No Witness. And that’s not a bad thing.

Strange Torpedo, Lucy Dacus – Not even old enough to drink legally when her album was recorded, Dacus has a bright future as a songwriter.

Swear Jar (again), Milk Teeth – A good year for female frontwomen who rock. Go ahead, put another penny in the swear jar.

Twist My Fingaz, YG – This party track rides a traditional, West-Coast funk groove like something off Doggystyle or The Chronic, which seems like a contradiction when YG muses, “I really got something to say / I’m the only one that made it out the West without Dre.”

Um Chagga Lagga, The Pixies – It’s so good to have The Pixies back together. Frank Black mixes singing and talking over a thick guitar groove.

untitled 02 | 06.23.2014., Kendrick Lamar – Hip-hop’s reigning MVP gets a little more abstract, dropping untitled unmastered. without fanfare in the spring. Lamar probably isn’t winning any Grammys for this one, but who cares? The fans should love this unexpected gem.

You Don’t Get Me High Anymore, Phantogram – I like a cut that oozes attitude. This is a song to strut to.

ON THE BUBBLE

All of Me, Dirty Dishes; Even Though Our Love is Doomed, Garbage; Kids, The Frights; Ox Blood, Plague Vendor; Under the Influence pt II, Snoh Aalegra; Wear Me Out Loud, The I Don’t Cares

HONORABLE MENTIONS

III, Maxwell; American Appetite, Harriet; Captive of the Sun, Parquet Courts; Clouds Never Get Old, Bas; Criminal, Eliza Hardy Jones; The Decay of Lying, The Melvins; Divorce Separation Blues, The Avett Brothers; Dogma, Hell Came Home; Drag Queen, The Strokes; E.V.P., Blood Orange; Feel Right, Esme Patterson; Hold Your Own Hand, Mothers; How Did I Get Through the Day?, Har Mar Superstar; I Won’t Pay, Bear Hands; A Living Human Girl, The Regrettes; Losing It, Robert Pollard; Moon, Beth Orton; Mxney, Chuuwee; Nganshe, Mbongwana Star; No Star, Greys; No Woman, Whitney; November, Kera & the Lesbians; Power Child, Night Beats; RCVR, Big Black Delta feat. Debbie Gibson; Secrets (Cellar Door), Radical Face; Sex & Drugs, A Giant Dog; Since You Been Gone, The Heavy; Six White Horses, Karl Blau; Strive, A$AP Ferg feat. Missy Elliott; We Turn Red, Red Hot Chili Peppers; White Flag, Joseph; Wow, Beck

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30 Favorite songs of 2015

Anonymous, Desaparecidos – “Freedom’s not free / Neither is apathy.” Punk rock for anyone feeling the Bern.

Better Man, Leon Bridges – I’m hoping to catch this guy live in Indy early in 2016. Beautiful soul music.

Blueberry Island, Julie Ruin – The keyboard really holds this song together, mesmerizing without being overwhelming. The fuller sound of the chorus is striking, as well.

Can’t Keep Checking My Phone, Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Such an easy, seductive groove. I find myself bobbing my head every time.

Diamonds, Tunde Olaniran feat. iRawniQ and Passalacqua – My favorite hip-hop song of the year and one of my faves of 2015, period. Love the chorus: “No ice on my hands / No diamonds on my grill / Don’t drive a Mercedes / I’m a keep it real / Nothing in my pocket but a $5 bill / Guess I’ll go to Taco Bell / And get a combo meal.”

Dreams, Beck – I wasn’t thrilled with 2014’s Morning Phase. Wait years for new Beck, and the reward is limp and sleepy? Dreams is Beck getting his groove back.

Gwan, The Suffers – Kim Franklin’s voice powers this track. Those beautiful funk horns really fill it out.

Handsome, The Vaccines – Snotty, up-tempo pop punk.

Hate Street Dialogue, The Avener feat. Rodriguez – A delicious groove mixed with more high-minded lyrics.

Holy Ghost, A$AP Rocky feat. Joe Fox – What happens when the church appears to be just as corrupt and morally bankrupt as the rest of society? If you’re A$AP Rocky, you cut one hell of a hip-hop track laying out your concerns.

I Don’t Think She Cares, White Reaper – Garage punkers White Reaper and roots rockers Houndmouth = Kentucky had a pretty good year in music in 2015.

I Feel Love (Every Million Miles), The Dead Weather – Of all of Jack White’s projects, The Dead Weather always seemed like the most undercooked. Never bad, mind you, just not all that great compared to his other work. Dodge and Burn may be the album that changes my opinion.

In My Mouth, Jeff the Brotherhood – A song in the tradition of AC/DC’s Big Balls.

Institutionalized, Kendrick Lamar feat. Bilal, Anna Wise and Snoop Dogg – I love I, and that may be Kendrick’s best song of the year. I certainly wouldn’t argue against it. But I’ll take this hip-hop diatribe on fiscal and racial inequity every day of the week, and twice on Tuesday.

Kocaine Karolina, Elle King – King is interesting. Ex’s and Oh’s is a helluva pop song, and it’s not the only nugget worth listening to from King’s first full-length, Love Stuff.

Lawman, Girl Band – Girl Band brings the noise, walls of fuzz and discordant tones.

Out of the Woods, Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams’ top-to-bottom cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989 album is worth the listen. This was my favorite.

Paper Girl, July Talk – Love these Canadians, and I’m hoping they’ll swing through Indy again soon. Their live show is where it’s at.

Pedestrian at Best, Courtney Barnett – What if Bob Dylan sounded like a half-assed stoner chick from down under? I’m not sure Barnett belongs in that rarefied air just yet, but I wouldn’t surprise if she ends up there.

Rage, Le1f – The closest I can get to a comparison is Dizzy Rascal. While Le1f has the unrestrained energy about him, he’s a little further off the beaten path than Diz.

Smarter Than I Was, Buddy Guy – Dude still has it.

Stalker, Kasey Chambers – I’ve liked Chambers since the first time I heard Last Hard Bible. Stalker has the same sort of desperation and humor in it.

Strange Hellos, TorresStrange Hellos has a PJ Harvey quality to it, loud screechy guitars and a powerful feminine voice.

Tease, Pale Honey – I’ve managed to run across quite a few young women really rocking out in 2015. Tease is one of the best.

T.I.W.Y.G., Savages – Yes! Yes! Yes! Can’t wait for the new album.

Trustful Hands, The Do – Smooth, subtle and easy. Shake, Shook, Shaken is one of my favorite albums of the year.

Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars – I usually connect with one or two pop songs a year. I don’t know about “uptown,” but Ronson and Mars totally find the funk.

Victory or Die, Motorhead – Lemmy and Co. continue to do what they do, which is make kick-ass metal music.

Wicked Game (Spotify Sessions), Wolf Alice – I’ve always loved Chris Isaac’s sexy, whispering original. Wolf Alice and singer Ellie Roswell strip away that seductive sheen and add some brutal despair to take Wicked Game to a new place.

On the bubble: All My Heart, The Mynabirds; And I Love Her, Kurt Cobain; City Boy Blues, Action Bronson; Drum Machine, Big Grams feat. Skrillex; Foreign Object, Mountain Goats; Go Head, Awreeoh; Milkman, Bully; Rap Zealot, K-OS; Vices, Slayer

Honorable mentions: 15 Years, Houndmouth; Anyways, The Prettiots; Ashes to Ashes, Warpaint; Awake, Snoop Dogg; Baby Britain, Seth Avett & Jessica Lee Mayfield; Bleeder, Ceremony; Blud, SOAK; Bunker Buster, Viet Cong; Chalk Snake, No Joy; CHERRY BOMB, Tyler, the Creator; Don’t Wanna Fight, Alabama Shakes; Falling, Here We Go Magic; Feel Right, Mark Ronson feat. Mystikal; figure 8, FKA twigs; How Could You Babe, Tobias Jesso Jr.; I’m Callin’, Tennis; I’m Gonna Teach You, Daniel Romano; Impossible, Angel Haze; Johnny Delusional, FFS; Man Plans God Laughs, Public Enemy; Melt Me, Hanni El-Khatib; My Own Fantasy, Royal Headache; Only You (Live), Anderson East; Pageant Material, Kacey Musgraves; Rain or Shine, Young Fathers, Romance Dawn, Radkey; Run, Rainbow Kitten Surprise; Shake It Off, Ryan Adams; Solid Gold, Turbowolf; Son of God, Will Butler; Vital Signs, Gang of Youths; the valley, Miguel; What We Don’t See, A Place to Bury Strangers; Which Side Are You On, Talib Kweli feat. Tef Poe and Kendra Ross; Woodland Rock, Ty Seagall; Young Girls in Space, The Unwed Teenage Mothers

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Favorite songs of 2015: The 3rd Q review

Anonymous, Desaparecidos – Probably has my favorite lyrics of the year: “Freedom’s not free / Neither is apathy.”

Better Man, Leon Bridges – Soul music, smooth and clean, that has an Otis Redding feel to it.

Can’t Keep Checking My Phone, Unknown Mortal Orchestra – A slow beginning evolves into an absolutely addictive track.

Dreams, Beck – Beck dumps the doldrums of his previous album and gets to work making music to shake ya ass to.

Drum Machine, Big Grams feat. Skrillex – Big Boi with Phantogram and Skrillex? Count me in.

Gwan, The Suffers – Kim Franklin’s gorgeous voice pushes everything forward.

Go Head, Awreeoh – A tasty hip-hop nugget from the film Dope.

Handsome, The Vaccines –  Brash, cheecky pop punk.

Hate Street Dialogue, The Avener feat. Rodriguez – The lyrics are much darker than the music backing it would imply.

Holy Ghost, A$AP Rocky feat. Joe Fox – What do you do when the church offers no solace? If you’re A$AP Rocky, you write one helluva song about it.

I Don’t Think She Cares, White Reaper – Had the pleasure of seeing these Louisville rockers at their hometown Forecastle Festival this summer. Best show I saw that day. White Reaper rules!

In My Mouth, Jeff the Brotherhood – Drudgy, cocky and hilarious. I’d love to see these guys live.

Institutionalized, Kendrick Lamar feat. Bilal, Anna Wise and Snoop Dogg – Kendrick and Co. get their Bernie Sanders on and attack income inequality.

Lawman, Girl Band – I love bands that aren’t afraid to make noise. The bass makes this particular track.

Out of the Woods, Ryan Adams – I’ve never really doubted Taylor Swift as a songwriter, I’m just not much into Swift the performer. Adams makes the entirety of 1989 work.

Paper Girl, July Talk – See July Talk live. Please. Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay will make sure it’s a show you never forget.

Pedestrian at Best, Courtney Barnett – Courtney’s smart, funny, melancholy, endearing, stream-of-consciousness lyrics are all her own.

Rap Zealot, K-OS – Short and to the point. Love the production.

Smarter Than I Was, Buddy Guy – While B.B.’s always kind of been the super-ego of blues, Guy is pure Id.

Stalker, Kasey Chambers – Smart, funny lyrics and Chambers’ unique voice are a winning combination.

Strange Hellos, Torres – I love how Strange Hellos builds, and the PJ Harvey-like strength from Mackenzie Scott’s voice.

Tease, Pale Honey – I don’t know if this is a trend, or if I’ve just been lucky in finding them, but there seem to be a lot more female-led bands making big, fuzzy, loud guitar rock in 2015. Pale Honey kicks out the jam here with Tease.

Trustful Hands, The Do – There’s just something warm and familiar about this track that gets me every time.

Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars – I love the horns, I love Bruno, I love the funk.

Victory or Die, Motorhead – It’s not rocket science. Lemmy = Awesome.

On the bubble: All My Heart, The Mynabirds; Blud, SOAK; City Boy Blues, Action Bronson; Foreign Object, Mountain Goats; Johnny Delusional, FFS; Milkman, Bully; This World is Not My Home, Robert Earl Keen; Vices, Slayer; Wicked Game, Wolf Alice

Honorable mentions: 15 Years, Houndmouth; Ashes to Ashes, Warpaint; Awake, Snoop Dogg; Baby Britain, Seth Avett & Jessica Lee Mayfield; Bleeder, Ceremony; Bunker Buster, Viet Cong; Chalk Snake, No Joy; Carrion Flowers, Chelsea Wolfe; CHERRY BOMB, Tyler, the Creator; Don’t Wanna Fight, Alabama Shakes; Feel Right, Mark Ronson feat. Mystikal; figure 8, FKA twigs; How Could You Babe, Tobias Jesso Jr.; I’m Callin’, Tennis; I Feel Love, The Dead Weather; I’m Gonna Teach You, Daniel Romano; 100 Watt Horse; Kokaine Karolina, Elle King; Melt Me, Hanni El-Khatib; My Own Fantasy, Royal Headache; Only You (Live), Anderson East; Pageant Material, Kacey Musgraves; Rain or Shine, Young Fathers, Romance Dawn, Radkey; Run, Rainbow Kitten Surprise; Solid Gold, Turbowolf; Son of God, Will Butler; Vital Signs, Gang of Youths; the valley, Miguel; Young Girls in Space, The Unwed Teenage Mothers

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Favorite songs of 2015: The mid-point review

Anonymous, Desaparecidos – My favorite lyric of the year: “Freedom’s not free / Neither is apathy.” Payola is one of the better political albums I’ve heard in a few years.

Better Man, Leon Bridges – Cool, smooth, classic-sounding soul music.

Can’t Keep Checking My Phone, Unknown Mortal Orchestra – This disco funk track is addictive, the chorus easily embedded into your head so you’ll be singing it to yourself the rest of the day.

Chalk Snake, No Joy – No Joy turns up the distortion and pays little mind to traditional rock songwriting expectations. Chalk Snake twists and contorts, fading away in a trail of feedback.

Cherry Bomb, Tyler, the Creator – I have yet to be convinced of his ability as a lyricist, but Tyler’s ear for production is unlike anyone anywhere near the mainstream of hip-hop and few are as daring as he is willing to be.

Dirty Harry, Grace – The dragging tempo and the wavy synth sound that appears-disappears-reappears helps make it, but what really is the cherry on top is Grace’s ability to work over the top of the minimal musical backing.

Dreams, Beck – Aah. Now I feel better. Instead of dreary Beck making numbing, down-tempo tunes that don’t compare with similar offerings such as Mutations or Sea Change, we get Beck getting his groove on. The world is right again.

Gwan, The Suffers – Sounds like it could have been a Tina Turner B-side in 1972. The tempo is relentless, and Kim Franklin’s powerful voice drives the band.

Go Head, Awreeoh – I’ve been looking forward to the film Dope. This song, from the soundtrack, only heightens the anticipation.

Handsome, The Vaccines –  Cheeky, fun pop punk. The video captures the spirit of the track.

Hate Street Dialogue, The Avener feat. Rodriguez – The song has a real bounce to it, but the lyrics are much darker than the music backing it would imply.

Holy Ghost, A$AP Rocky feat. Joe Fox – Combination prayer and cry of rage, A$AP attacks the ignorance and corruption he sees everywhere, including those foul acts committed in the name of Jesus.

How Could You Babe, Tobias Jesso Jr. – A simple, gorgeous, heartfelt piano ballad.

I’m Callin’, Tennis – Smooth and low-key, I’m Callin’ works for the party or for the comedown after the party.

Institutionalized, Kendrick Lamar feat. Bilal, Anna Wise and Snoop Dogg – Kendrick drops knowledge about income inequality.

Johnny Delusional, FFS – I’ve never been big on Franz Ferdinand, but the child of the 1980’s hiding deep down inside me loves the new wavieness of this track.

Lawman, Girl Band – I love bands that aren’t afraid to make noise. Lawman is about as good as noise gets. That big, fat, fuzzy, drony bass sound holds it down while everything else swirls around it until the sound explodes all over the place.

Milkman, Bully – This song probably has as much in common with the catalogues of Sebadoh and L7 as it does anything in the modern rock scene.

Paper Girl, July Talk – The bluesy, raw sound of July Talk comes off even better live, as do the antics of Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay.

Pedestrian at Best, Courtney Barnett – There’s just no one quite like Ms. Barnett and her smart, goofy, melancholy, endearing, stream-of-consciousness lyrics.

Rain or Shine, Young Fathers – I’ve fallen in the love with these guys the past few years. They’re most definitely not content to follow the hip-hop crowd. Rain or Shine is just one piece of evidence supporting that claim.

Strange Hellos, Torres – There’s a PJ Harvey-ness to this track that attracts me. I love how Strange Hellos builds and how the song draws its strength from Mackenzie Scott’s growling voice.

This World is Not My Home, Robert Earl Keen – Keen’s voice is perfect for this nugget of bluegrass gospel.

Trustful Hands, The Do – There are three or four tracks off Shake, Shook, Shaken that I could have chosen for this list. There’s just something warm, familiar about this track that gets me every time.

Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars – This track would work just as well in 1975 as it does in 2015. Bruno was the perfect choice to sing Uptown Funk, and the horns are spot on.

Honorable mentions: 15 Years, Houndmouth; Awake, Snoop Dogg; Baby Britain, Seth Avett & Jessica Lee Mayfield; Bleeder, Ceremony; Blud, SOAK; Blueberry Island, Julie Ruin; Bunker Buster, Viet Cong; City Boy Blues, Action Bronson; Damn Baby, Alpine; Don’t Wanna Fight, Alabama Shakes; Feel Right, Mark Ronson feat. Mystikal; First Choice, Oddisee; Foreign Object, Mountain Goats; For You, Genevieve; Julie, 100 Watt Horse; Kokaine Karolina, Elle King; Man Up, Nikki Lane; Melt Me, Hanni El-Khatib; Only You (Live), Anderson East; Power Man, Camp Lo; Prince of Slackers, Turn to Crime; Railroad, Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn; Roll Up, The Struts; Solid Gold, Turbowolf; Son of God, Will Butler; Too Much, The Steeldrivers; Vital Signs, Gang of Youths

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Fave songs from 2014, so far: The 3Q wrap-up

Avant Gardner, Courtney Barnett – Smart, jangley, singer-songwriter cut. It’s worth it just to hear her use “emphysema” as a verb.

Change My Ways, Tony Molina – If you’re into the whole brevity thing, as well as enjoying melodic punk, Tony Molina is your man.

China, BRONCHO – I’m guessing, but these guys probably own The Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine albums. Broody, distortion heavy rock.

Come Back Home, Trampled By Turtles – I love me some light-speed Turtles, and Come Back Home is that musical comfort food.

Don’t Mess With Me, Brody Dalle – The former Distillers frontwoman and wife of QOTSA chief Josh Homme unleashes a blast of mad girl rawk.

Doses & Mimosas, Cherub – A cheeky and hedonistic electro-funk, kiss-off, come-down jam that my brother mistook for an Andre 3000 joint. If pressed to pick my favorite song of 2014 so far, this would be in the running.

D.R.E.A.M., Pharoahe Monch feat. Talib Kweli – Hip-hop vets crank out a cut that, if you don’t bob your head when you listen to it, just proves you have no soul.

Eye to Eye, Lee Bains & The Expressions – This might be my favorite song of 2014. I think this because I keep periodically singing the chorus to myself as I go about my daily business.

High & Wild, Angel Olsen – A swirling haze of distorted guitars wrapped around Angel’s easy, unique voice. From one of my favorite albums of the year, Burn Your Fire.

I Don’t Want to Go Home, Curtis Harding – My one big regret about Forecastle Fest this year was not catching Harding, who has gallons of boogie to go with pounds of woogie.

I Just Don’t Understand, Spoon – The grooviest band of the past decade releases what will likely be remembered as one of their finest albums. I Just Don’t Understand is the tip of the aural iceberg.

I Wanna Be a Yank, Fucked Up – Sometimes, being punk as fuck is enough.

Indie Cindy, The Pixies – The title track of the Pixies latest album nails their classic sound, which just never gets old.

Just Another Bullet, Young Fathers – Some of the eeriest production since the Geto Boys’ Mind Playing Tricks on Me. The sound of organized madness.

Legs, Chuck Inglish feat. Chromeo – Sexy, cool and not nearly as misogynistic as Blurred Lines.

Like a Mighty River, St. Paul & The Broken Bones – A sweet, smooth slice of soul music.

Little Monster, Royal Blood – To steal from Ron Burgundy, Royal Blood is “the balls.” Melodic, heavy rock with plenty of brains to go with the cajones.

Lonely Sunday, Reignwolf – Speaking of the balls … My greatest hope for 2015 is a full-length from these metalheads. Until then, this will have to do.

Longer Than You’ve Been Alive, Old 97’s – The ballad of the rock band that’s been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale.

Lost Boys, Sir Michael Rocks feat. Mac Miller and Trinidad Jam – I’ve heard a lot of good production from underground hip-hop acts this year, and Sir Michael Rocks and crew benefit from this here. Lyrically, young hoodlums try to figure out how to grow up.

Love You Forever, Jenny Lewis – Aaah, Jenny’s back and all is well. Articulate, funny and heartfelt pop rock by one of my favorite lyricists.

Mama Said Be Careful Where You Lay Your Head, The Wind and the Wave – I don’t love the album, but there’s a few fine tracks on From the Wreckage. This is the standout.

My Resignation, Besserbitch – Dedicated to anyone who has walked off the job with a middle finger flying high. High-energy punk pop with plenty of “screw you” built into it.

People Don’t Get What They Deserve, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – The title says it all.

Raw Milk, Parquet Courts – These guys are growing on me … in a good way, not in a “I have this fungus I can’t get rid of” way. When I hear them, I think of a lot of good ’90’s bands: Pavement, Sonic Youth, Slint, etc.

Summer Dress, July Talk – Blues rock with a pop hook with a terrific one-two punch at lead singer.

Violent Shivers, Benjamin Booker – A track that falls somewhere between classic Chuck Berry and the Kings of Leon’s debut, Youth and Young Manhood. Unrestrained blues rock.

Watch You Change, Drowners – A Strokes-ian breakup song with one of my favorite lines of the year: “There’s not a shoulder cold enough for me to give her.”

Welcome to America, Lacrae – The perfect hip-hop track for the Michael Brown era, a look at what America is for those who can’t rely on white privelege.

Honorable mentions: 27, Passenger; Ain’t So Simple, Protomartyr; American Horror, Speedy Ortiz; Black and White, Parquet Courts; Blue Moon, Beck; Bobby Reid, Lucette; Brand New, Pharrell feat. Justin Timberlake; Brooklyn Baby, Lana Del Rey; Cedar Lane, First Aid Kit; Chaghaybou, Tinariwen; Creepin’ Jenny, The Pack a.d.; Different Days, The Men; Dog Bumped (Live), Tim Barry; Don’t Leave Me Dry, Spanish Gold; Down With the Monster, White Lung; Emerald Tuesday, Cibo Matto; Fall In Love, Phantogram; Frequencies, Katie Herzig; The Ghost of a Sabertooth Tiger, The Coast; God & Nature, Loudon Wainwright III; Guns + Ammunition, July Talk; I’ll Go To Sleep, BLUFFING; I’m Only Joking, Kongos; Interference Fits, Perfect Pussy; Jerk Ribs, Kelis; Life of Sin, Sturgill Simpson; The Littlest League Possible, Guided By Voices; Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, The Flaming Lips feat. Miley Cyrus and Moby; Native Korean Rock, Karen O; Never, The Roots feat. Patty Crash; Now Here In, Cloud Nothings; Other Lovers, Devan DuBois; Parade of Choosers, Centro-matic; Place Names, Cymbals Eat Guitars; Rollercoaster, Bleachers; Run Rabbit Run, Black Pistol Fire; Runners, Lacrae; Sexy Socialite, Chromeo; Sisters, The Raveonettes; Supernova, Ray LaMontagne; Take Away These Early Grave Blues, Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra; Tongues, Joywave feat. KOPPS; Top Notch, Manchester Orchestra; Uno, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib

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Forecastle 2014, in review

The fellas from Reignwolf flat out shred.

The fellas from Reignwolf flat out shred.

Before I get to the music, I just want to say how much I appreciated the free valet bike parking the festival offered. Really enjoyed not having to get into my car or worrying about my bike being stolen while I took in the tunes. Thanks to the folks at Forecastle and MailChimp.

DAY 1

The Black Lips – They were fun to watch live and are good at what they do – a 1950s rockabilly-punk hybrid. Also the first time I’ve ever seen a member of a band periodically try to spit and catch it in his mouth.

Gary Clark Jr. – Please, Gary, don’t slow it down. The three slow songs really dragged the energy down. When Gary and his crew would kick it into high gear, and the intensity and energy would soar. Bright Lights, Big City, my favorite, got a makeover, with some heavy syncopation on the chorus that was a nice live change.

Spoon – These guys find a groove and ride it. I’ve enjoyed them on disc, particularly Kill the Moonlight and Gimme Fiction, but live they’re much more than the sum of their parts. Probably the first time I’ve seen a few thousand people simultaneously bob their heads for an hour.

OutKast – They’re not a rap group. They’re a damn funk band, and a fine one at that. They also played my favorite OutKast joint, Da Art of Storytellin’. My only issue was that they front-loaded all of the highest-energy tracks – B.O.B., etc. One or two of those toward the end would have been nice. Still, awesome to see Andre and Big Boi together. Record an album, please!

DAY 2

The Wans – Tight, young guitar rock crew. I’d see them again in a club or as an opener.

Jill Andrews – I saw her open for The Avett Brothers in early 2013 and absolutely loved her. Just her on acoustic guitar, with another guitarist in tow. However, I find her to be way too polished on disc, and that’s what I felt like when I saw her at Forecastle with a full band. Good for those of you into a more mainstream country sound, but just not my thing.

Spanish Gold – My biggest disappointment of the festival. I really, really like their latest release, South of Nowhere, and I was looking forward to the live show to see how they filled out their sound. And they pretty much sounded like they do on disc. They weren’t bad, but I was expecting some Santana-esque next level shit, and there was none.

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Sharon Jones is a badass. No further commentary necessary.

Johnnyswim – I went outside my comfort zone for this lovey-dovey duo. Solid performers, but a little soft for me. That said, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a prettier couple in person than Abner Ramirez and wife Amanda Sudano.

Slint – Hells yeah. I was hoping for sludgy 1990s punk metal, and Slint served it up. Also the first time I’ve ever seen a show underneath an interstate highway.

Jack White – White and his crew put on a clinic, blazing through country, punk, garage rock, rockabilly, metal and so on. They even threw in a theremin solo for good measure, as well as earning points for playing Blue Moon of Kentucky. It would have been the best performance of the weekend, except they got upstaged on Day 3 (see Reignwolf).

DAY 3

Sharon Van Etten – There’s something a bit mesmerizing about Van Etten. It was blazing hot, and she was cooler than the other side of the pillow, playing reserved, heartfelt, country-tinged cuts that kept the crowd’s attention. Her between song patter was a hoot, as well. Liked her enough that I’ll be re-visiting her new album, Are We There.

Trampled by Turtles

Dear Trampled By Turtles,

Have you ever noticed that when you play fast – sometimes even light-speed fast on tracks such as Wait So Long – the crowd is rowdy, energetic, dancing, yelling and loving every minute of it? And have you noticed that, when you start playing down-tempo songs that make up at least half the show, the crowd claps politely? I’ve seen you twice, and I’ve noticed it both times. Just something to think about.

Sincerely,

Adam

Jenny Lewis – Jenny was gorgeous (vocally and visually), the stage was awash in bright colors and the band – with some help from the Watson Twins – were dead on. I had to leave early to get to Reignwolf, but I will be seeing Ms. Lewis again at the end of July in Indianapolis, and I can’t wait.

Reignwolf – Oh. My. God. This trio, led by axman and singer Jordan Cook, are the balls (thank you, Ron Burgundy). Seriously, Cook was force of freakin’ nature, breaking string after string, taking the mic off the stand to sing and throwing it over his shoulder during solos, jumping all over while playing 95% of the set without a guitar strap and just flat-out shredding some amazing blues metal. As much as I loved headliners OutKast, Beck and Jack White and shows by other acts such as Spoon and Jenny Lewis, there’s no doubt in my mind that Reignwolf put on the best show of the weekend. I can’t wait to see them in action again.

Tune-Yards – I’ve listened to them on disc, and while they are unique and interesting, they’re not my thing. That said, I really enjoyed the live show and would definitely be interested in seeing them again. I hesitate to say much more because I only caught their last 2-3 songs after the Reignwolf set.

Ray LaMontagne – I’m not huge on LaMontagne, but I enjoy the new album, Supernova, quite a bit and was looking forward to his set. But live … snooze. Maybe it was just too hot for music that mellow, I don’t know. But I left early to get up close for Beck.

Beck – What can I say? This guy puts on a show, working Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean and Busta Rhymes’ Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See seamlessly into the middle of his own songs. The high point: Debra. My favorite slow jam, and he milked it for all it was worth. Maybe not as good as the time I saw him at Bonnaroo in 2006, but still terrific.

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That’s My Jam #15: Beck double-shot Tuesday

(Read the That’s My Jam manifesto here.)

I seem to be one of the few Beck fans that finds his latest offering, Morning Phase, to be disappointing. There’s a lot of “Ooh, it’s Mutations II” kind of comments out there. Love Mutations. Love it. But I’m not sure why I needed a second one.

To me, Beck’s at his most interesting when I’m hearing something I’ve never heard before. When Loser hit, it was crazy. There was nothing – and still pretty much is nothing – that sounded like it. The acoustic guitar kick off, rolling quickly into a hip-hop beat. Beck’s slightly nasal, stream-of-consciousness lyrical madness. “In the time of chimpanzees I was a monkey.” As a whole, Mellow Gold is really a heavier, guitar freak-out disc, Loser being the “soft” track. But all of it is unique, a treat for the ear.

Then Beck does it again with Odelay, an album that throws everything at the wall to see what sticks, then finds out that pretty much everything sticks. Devil’s Haircut might be one of the unlikeliest hits of all times, an easier-going Loser II that devolves into chaos, feedback and screaming. Not content to make the same thing twice, Beck pulls the rope-a-dope, lulling you with the familiar until he unleashes a sonic haymaker to blow your damn mind.

So you can have your middle-age, “the return of the singer-songwriter” Beck. I’ll take the Beck who looked at the music industry, laughed and then danced of the graves of genres he put to sleep.

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Favorite songs of 2014, so far

My favorite cuts from 2014 (check out my favorite albums here).

American Horror, Speedy Ortiz – I was first attracted to them because they sounded a bit like The Breeders. I’m now attracted to them because they don’t sound much like The Breeders. Growth is good.

Bad News, Sleeper Agent – “I just want to stay in love with you” is the bad news. The good news is that you’ll be singing along with this glammy, pop gem by the time you hit the last chorus.

Blue Moon, Beck – The best tune from one of Beck’s most milquetoast albums.

Brand New, Pharrell Williams feat. Justin Timberlake – A natural pairing. A funky track.

Can’t Be Broken, Twin Forks – A mellow, rootsy song.

Change My Ways, Tony Molina – Molina gets his Rivers Cuomo on during this brief, melodic punk cut.

Cut the Grass, Cheatahs – Let it all disintegrate, then bring it back together.

Different Days, The Men – I like 2012’s Open Your Heart better than the disc Tomorrow’s Hits is from. That said, The Men still craft solid rock tunes, and this is one of them.

Fall In Love, Phantogram – Phantogram reminds me some of Portishead, although a bit more accessible to the average listener.

Grandma Looks, Desert Noises – A fun, buzzy, high-energy rock tune.

High & Wild, Angel Olsen – This song sounds like it could have landed on Mazzy Star’s So Tonight That I Might See or The Velvet Underground & Nico.

I’m Only Joking, KONGOS – If I said throbbing bass and atmospheric vocals, you’re probably thinking of some sort of EDM. Instead, the KONGOS build a strong rock track around those elements.

Just Another Bullet, Young Fathers – Lyrically solid and interesting stylistically, this song is put over the top by the oft mesmerizing and occasionally bizarre production.

Legs, Chuck Inglish feat. Chromeo – My favorite song out of all of my favorite songs of 2014. It’s got a Pharrell-meets-early-1980s-Prince-and-the-Revolution vibe to it. Too cool for school.

Like a Mighty River, St. Paul & The Broken Bones – A strong, natural, easy soul track.

Little Monster, Royal Blood – Melodic voices and loud, distorted guitars don’t always work together. Royal Blood has no such issues.

My Resignation, Besserbitch – A scream-along, pop-punk sliver of defiant fun.

Nights on the Strand and We Get Out, Battleme – These rockers work the loud-quiet-loud formula with some serious mastery.

Now Hear In, Cloud NothingsHere and Nowhere Else would’ve made my first quarter fave albums list if it had been released a week earlier. I still get to sneak them in here.

People Don’t Get What They Deserve, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Sharon states the obvious in this track that harkens back to Motown Era socially conscious soul.

Red Water, Diamond Youth – A lost Foo Fighters track, with less personality and more interesting musicianship.

Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes, Sun Kil Moon – A dark, brooding and creepy stream-of-consciousness acoustic track that might just make you shiver.

Take Away These Early Grave Blues, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – Be loud, be bold, be listening to these guys. Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything is an album to be cherished.

Tongues, Joywave feat. KOPPS – This is the direction I always thought/hoped the Killers would go: A bit more mix of the electronic and live instruments, a bit dancier but with a rock and roll base.

Uno, Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Freddie and Madlib drop easy, smart rhymes over production that really elevates the collaboration.

Watch You Change, The Drowners – “There’s not a shoulder / cold enough for me / to give her.” Maybe my favorite lyric of the year to date.

Work Song, Hozier – Love conquers death in this slow burning acoustic track. The percussion really is a perfect touch, and fading to just that toward the end is the cherry on top.

Honorable mention: A Bird Is Not a Feather, Roseanne Cash; Blackland Farmer, Hard Working Americans; Digital Witness, St. Vincent; Gangsta, Schoolboy Q; Husdonsville, MI 1956, La Dispute; Interference Fits, Perfect Pussy; Likely To Use Something, The Belle Brigade; Lorena, Sleeper Agent; Make You Mine, Black Lips; Perfect Storm, The Strypes; Recess, Skrillex; Stayin’ Alive, Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang; Throw Your Hands Up, The So So Glos; Wool, Big Ups;

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Happily exiled in Guyville

Spin has a great oral history of Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. Now, the idea of a straightforward sonic narrative led by a brilliant, talented, beautiful woman seems fairly commonplace. In 1993, that seemed about as likely to happen as Flava Flav becoming the next president of the United States.

At the time, I was in college during my peak dating years. The boys and I would sit around over cards, bitching and moaning about how you could never get a straight answer from a woman, how we never seemed to be able to find out what they wanted or expected, let alone being able to do anything to competently and sensitively fill that void, and then being chastised and punished for lacking the ability to read those inscrutable feminine minds.

And then came Exile in Guyville. This was a chick around our age who liked to drink, fuck and expected our typical young guy bullshit, but was very upfront about her expectations and desires and how she in no way intended to put up with that stupid boy crap. Liz was sexy and girly, yet one of the boys. We all had hard-ons for her, but we could all see ourselves just hanging out with her for hours, slamming shots of Southern Comfort while sipping Keystone and talking bands, sex and whatever random topics floated into the discussion. Nirvana, the Pixies, Butthole Surfers, Soundgarden, Beck and bunch of the heavy rocking sausage fest that was standard in the early 1990s had their CDs set aside so that Liz could be our card-playing soundtrack.

Musically, it was something all of us heavy rock-loving boys were completely unprepared for, but instantly drawn to. This wasn’t the overrated punk rock of, say, 7 Year Bitch, the soft, unrelatable sounds of female artists our parents had grown up with (Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Carol King, etc.) or pop bullshit (TLC, SWV, Mariah Carey or Madonna, who’d pretty much jumped the shark at the point for anyone other than hardcore fans or her gay base). This album rocked in a way us XY’s could relate to, but in a way unique to the XX who created it.

And now, as an old guy, I look forward to the next couple of years, as my daughter approaches the age when she will be ready to listen to Exile in Guyville. My daughter’s already strong, smart, beautiful and refuses to put up with the boys’ stupid shenanigans. I just want her to listen to Liz and know she isn’t alone.

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