December 19, 2018
Brief Editor’s Note:
For our last issue each year, we like to do something different here at Off Your Radar, shake up the normal format of everyone talking about the same record and try to have some extra fun before we sign off for the year.
Our first year, we did Secret Santa with each contributor picking a record specifically for another contributor to listen to and review. Last year, each contributor picked a guilty pleasure of theirs to talk about, even if most of us rebelled against the idea of feeling guilty over something we loved.
This year, despite our mission statement of “One outstanding album each week…,” we decided to shy away from talking about albums and focus more on songs, specifically a collection of songs tailor-made by each contributor to reference their own likes, personality, story, whatever. A mixtape if you will. Granted, we’re doing them all on Spotify so it’s not something we can fashion with fancy sharpie artwork and send to you, but the intention remains the same.
There were no guidelines to create these mixtapes, though most of us came up with some type of theme or idea to structure things around and help narrow the scope. The only caveat was, being that we are Off Your Radar, each song had to have a play count of under 150,000 on Spotify. You know, overlooked and underappreciated music. It’s not a perfect system and a lot of us had some songs cross the 150,000 threshold while creating these mixes for extra headaches, but I think it helped each of us create something uniquely personal to our own tastes. You may recognize some artists here and there, but overall, here are close to 200 songs you’ve most likely never heard of dating from the ’50s all the way up until 2018 that we think you should listen to and maybe, hopefully, include them on some of your own mixes or playlists in the future.
From us to you this holiday season, here are a dozen intriguing mixtapes for your personal enjoyment. Check them all out over the next two weeks while we’re off and we’ll see you in 2019!
“I’ll make you a tape.” Is there anything more personal for a music lover than a mixtape? I mean, I’m sure there is, but I can’t think of anything right now. I struggled to come up with a theme for this playlist, and it went through several different iterations before I decided to just make the mix I’d make for a new friend who wanted to know what I was into. It’s heavy on covers because I’m a sucker for them, and I like to use them as a sneaky way to get someone to appreciate a new-to-them band. Once I decided on what I was going to do, I wrote the majority of it out in a notebook, without even checking if the bands were on Spotify, or the songs even fit the set criteria. Luckily, only a few things didn’t work out for me, and I love this mix so much I’ve been playing it pretty constantly for the last week. Is it perfect? Probably not. As I write this, I can think of several songs I wish I’d had room for. But it’s close enough and listening to it makes me happy.
So, here. I made you a tape. ♥
50 Foot Pop Queenie
It starts rather benign. You take your place on a bar stool, the bartender greets you as she busily preps for the late night to come. Unlike you, she already knows what to expect. Your only expectation is to remain alone, have a drink or two, and set off back home to fall asleep to Air’s Premiers Symptomes gently playing out the year. Then she pours you a drink. For you, it’s merely symbolic. Your best friend’s New Year’s Eve party invitation must have gotten swallowed by your mail filter or maybe you were overlooked because of that month you dropped off Facebook. Clem Snide’s “Your Favourite Music” is playing from the speakers of the bar and it begins to feel more comfortable. Maybe you’ll stay for one more. It gets a little louder after the second and louder still, a little later — maybe you’ll have just one more.
By the time midnight strikes, any idea of going home quietly has sunken into the murky depths of a cognitive tundra over which you find yourself stumbling. The bartender, your sherpa, is smiling through every fascinating story you tell only pulling herself away begrudgingly(?) from your riveting if somewhat slurred narratives to serve other customers. The moment arrives, the countdown completes and she puckers up, leaning toward you across the bar. For a sweet moment you’re overwhelmed with excitement — the new year is really shaping up and it hasn’t even started yet. Your charms haven’t gone unnoticed. It’s then that you notice the acerbic odour of Axe body wash. There’s a presence looming just over your left shoulder. It’s her gym trainer boyfriend and he’s puckered toward a collision with her lips and your dignity.
As The Water Walk suggest you “Turn Your Face Away.” And as the party coalesces around you, you’re reminded that you came alone and it’s possible that no matter how many conversations you have or colleagues you run into, the strongest likelihood is that the plan you had when you arrived is the one you’d have been better off with. But then — the party is just getting started isn’t it?
“Lord, Stop The Bar, I Wanna Get Off!”
This story which is inspired by true events told to me by — cough — a friend of mine — cough — is the emotional territory by which the “Crushingly Depressing New Year’s Party” playlist was inspired. But more than just the sad picture of celebrating New Years alone, it’s a story of resilience and self-discovery. The playlist is introduced with some of my favourite, most thoughtful and emotionally meaningful acoustic ballads. In the middle of them is The Wedding Present’s incredible cover of the theme to Twin Peaks — a track which evokes for me the sort of dark emotional mire that associated with the holidays for some. Its sound resonates like the murk of your own self-reflection. I’ve never really looked up the lyrics and they’ve never really mattered. It’s the pacing and, in this version, the power, that get me every time. “Savior” by The Everybodyfields is an incredibly underrated song by a duo that everyone seemed to miss as they were outshined by The Avett Brothers coming to popularity around the same time. Admittedly they explored far more depressing territory than their North Carolina fellows but that’s precisely why they’re fitting here. “It seems like you’re waiting on some kind of verdict / But it’s a mistrial”.
But let’s not get stuck in folk territory. Sadness affects all of us and the antidote to it is hope. Part of self-reflection is hope and inspiration — the sort celebrated in Ancient Astronauts’ “Caravans To Mecca.” Thinly veiled gospel song? Love song? It’s unclear… but it’s about searching for something. But maybe you don’t find it. That’s ok too and what I love about Kool & Kass’ doing “Pleasance (W.D.G.A.F)” is the simplicity of its message. It could be interpreted as aggression, but I choose to look at it as audio therapy. You don’t have to mean it — sometimes it’s just fun to say you D.G.A.F.
And somewhere near the end, you have to make a choice. You either go out the way you came in or you make the best of a situation. What did I do? I went with it. I stayed for the long haul, danced my ass off to the loud techno that came later. I lost myself in music that at the time was just cheesy patio rock but a few drinks in starts to sound like something with the emotional depth of the sort of dancefloor bangers you can enter like a ritual and emerge renewed. Like any great narrative, an evening must end in some form of resolution. For me, it was a climax of bright music that was completely in contrast with how the night began. I night to forget became a night to remember.
It all passes. In the end, you look back on the experience and the journey with a certain amount of regret. But it’s never quite what you’re sorry for. Are you sorry that you made a total ass of yourself in those last fervent moments? Or are you simply sorry that it’s over?
Almost immediately, I decided I had to put together a collection of tracks from my favorite 2018 albums by Richmond-based artists. This is the season of giving, and of generosity, and I keep coming back to how generous this city’s music community has been in recent years — this year especially. And people elsewhere have taken notice; I had to exclude two of my favorite Richmond artists — Lucy Dacus and Natalie Prass — because their Spotify play counts were too high for this particular assignment. Historian. The Future And The Past. They’re the truth, y’all. Please let them into your hearts. I hear that same truth in the songs on this playlist, and I’ve even embedded a secret message in the track list. With that, I’ll sign off for 2018. Thank you to everyone who has been reading these blurbs and listening along. It truly is a gift to be part of this Off Your Radar community, from my fellow writers and our intrepid and exceptionally dedicated editor to the featured artists who have helped get the word out — and even become guest contributors (special thanks to John Calvin Abney!). Happy New Year, OYR. See you on the other side.
Something that’s always fascinated me since platforms like SoundCloud, Bandcamp, and of course, Spotify came around, is that despite having access to millions of songs and albums by artists from every corner of the world, it still takes a significant amount of PR support or word of mouth for music to break through on a globally-cognizant, statistically impactful scale. Even my 15 song selections for this playlist issue, which were curated with the intention of highlighting music and artists from nations and music markets at least a few degrees separated from the U.S.’s continual top billing in the music market ranking portion of IFPI’s 2018 Global Music Report, still only fall outside the rest of the top 10 list six* out of the 15 times available. (In order of track listing, the artists featured are from: Greece*, Australia, Germany, South Africa*, Russia*, Japan, South Korea, Japan, Iceland*, The Netherlands*, England, France, England, Canada, and Ireland*. And really, this assortment doesn’t even stand at face value if one were to consider the current priority markets for two of those six non-nation ranking selections: Leon Of Athens is from Greece and indeed writes about it frequently but resides in London, England and Sulene, though very awesomely from South Africa, brought her rising career aspirations to Brooklyn, NY. That’s not to say that any of the songs listed here aren’t worth the listening time or that the associated artists behind the music aren’t driven by interesting life stories, cultural inspirations, or intriguing approaches to sonic arrangement. Heck, All Our Exes Live in Texas often playfully deceive when people find out they are neither from Texas nor anywhere in the American south.)
All of the songs in my playlist are tracks that either introduced me to an artist overall or were first songs introducing me to respective albums and, I have a fondness for listening to each of them for the individual works that they are. Past the aspiration for global expansiveness in this list, the songs and bands aren’t related in any way but that’s part of the fun. I found each of these people at different moments; when I was in the mood for different tempos, instruments, narratives, vocal styles, or genres. And yes, in case you’re wondering, from time to time I do go out of my way to go digging specifically for music from other countries — that part is intermittently deliberate. What’s lovely to remember when looking at a list like this though, is that whether or not I were to have found these intentionally or they found me, the distance of nation borders makes no difference. Sure, there are a few linguistic bumps in the road in here from tricot and Noé Talbot, but it doesn’t matter because the melodic, rhythmic, and instrumental momentum (and even to an extent, the syllabic pronunciation in different languages lending downbeats natural catchy emphasis) propelling the playlist make every tracks appealing from beginning to end. Not to mention, the instrumentally based compositional nature to much of this list — progressive rock form Moscow, chill piano electronica from Seoul, modern jazz from Reykjavik, and more — renders language a moot point anyway. So in short, I put together a collection of songs from a variety of patches around the world, across a slew of less-than-mainstream genres, and hope that this double combination of the less familiar inspires you to search for and experience the same for yourself.
P.S. And just for fun, because Christmas is right around the corner after all, I chose to make the one selection from Ireland be a traditional Irish Christmas carol — and one performed entirely a capella to boot. Unfortunately, Anúna doesn’t grace us with the original Irish lyrics but it seems like an apropos last note to end Off Your Radar on for the year.
This playlist consists of songs from some of my favorite 2018 releases that I loved and wished got a little more attention:
Objekt – “Secret Snake”
From the awesomely weird Cocoon Crush, winner for Best Album Title 2018.
Lotic – “Hunted”
Queer, black, scary dance music.
Arp – “Fluorescences”
Full of classic synth sounds, breezy percussion, and instrumentals. This is a woozy, nostalgic six minute summer jam.
felicita ft. Caroline Polachek – “Marzipan”
felicita might be making the most interesting music at PC Music right now.
Marie Davidson, Lamusa II – “La Ecstase”
A steady, meditative, hypnotic dance track, and a wonderful addendum to her great album Working Class Woman.
Anenon – “Two For C”
I’m obsessed with Anenon’s otherworldly electro-acoustic saxophone creations.
Ian William Craig – “Idea For Contradiction 1”
It sounds like you’re listening to him sing from the middle of a massive cathedral, and it’s beautiful.
Kelly Moran – “Helix”
Prepared piano and synthesizers are a perfect combination.
Mourn – “Barcelona City Tour”
Bracing Catalonian punk rock song that will wake you up and make you want to break something.
Rosali – “Lie To Me”
Easy, breezy, catchy, and cool as hell.
Odetta Hartman – “You You”
It’s just good, classic folk rock.
Nicole Dollanganger – “Heart Shaped Bed”
Dollanganger’s album is full of dark love songs like this title track, both captivating and disturbing in equal measure.
Devon Welsh – “I’ll Be Your Ladder”
I was kind of devastated when Majical Cloudz disbanded, but Devon’s equally minimal and emotional but more acoustic solo album Dream Songs has filled the hole left in my heart.
Masayoshi Fujita – “It’s Magical”
I love the vibraphone.
Midori Takada, Lafawndah – “Le Renard Bleu”
Twenty minute vocal/percussion ambient journey through time and space.
I am nothing if not a loyal listener. After all, I spent lot of my college years believing The Replacements were going to be as big as The Rolling Stones — if only I kept buying the records and telling everyone how wonderful they are. It didn’t quite work out, but I think the consensus is clear that I was absolutely correct about what a great band they were. So, what follows below is an attempt to shine a light on some recent artists, some of whom I know personally (we aim for transparency at OYR!), to compel you to follow them as closely as I do. What could have been too New York-centric is leavened by what seems to be a continuing diaspora from Brooklyn to LA, as well as some favorites from other distant points. In any case, if you live on either coast, you have a real opportunity to follow up on my musings and see these acts in person. If you hang with anybody at the merch table, just tell them AnEarful sent you – via Off Your Radar, of course!
You can either listen to songs individually as you go or click the link above for the whole playlist.
Drinker – “Sinking/Feeling”
Drinker is the project of Aaron Mendelsohn, whom I met when he was the frontman for Isadora, one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen (Ian Mellancamp is another former bandmate I’m keeping an eye on). They grew out of The Yes Way and, between the two bands, Mendelsohn has more great unheard songs than most people have in their official discographies. Drinker is a collaboration with Ariel Loh, an electronic composer, and the blend of synth textures with Mendelsohn’s tenor and sure melodic hand is moody and rich. An album is still to come, but you can put all the EPs and singles together for a perfect soundtrack to accompany the slow lowering of dusk.
Narducci – “Piano (feat. Heibert)”
Matt Silberman, a tenor sax player, producer, composer and filmmaker, is behind this piece from his Break The Silence EP. A succession of chords that add up to pure emotion, with singer Heibert emoting further wordlessly, touches me deeply every time I listen. Silberman, the cousin of a late friend of mine, also put out one of the finest jazz records of this decade with Questionable Creatures. Can someone have too much talent?!?
Novelty Daughter – “Grown”
This is from Inertia, the follow up to Faith Harding’s first album, Semigoddess, which we covered in these pages a while back. I’m going to keep on pushing you to listen because she’s special, with a lush contralto voice and a lovely way of putting electronics together to sing over. And her lyrics are way more meaningful than Ariana bloody Grande!
Nancy McArthur – “Down By The Edge”
Nancy and I got to talking when we both let go of the stage after Jonathan Wilson’s mind-blowing show at Music Hall Of Williamsburg last March. She had some questions about Wilson and, as I’ve been following him since 2011, I had the answers. Then she told me she made music, which might cause some music writers to blanch. Not me — this is what I live for! But I certainly wasn’t expecting anything as great as this haunting and hypnotic folk song. “Down By The Edge” is actually from a soundtrack to a musical theater piece created by McArthur a couple of years ago called Shenandoah, described as “An experimental one-woman show featuring original folk music! A young woman embarks on a journey from the wild plains of Nebraska toward self-liberation…” She tells me more music coming — and the demos I’ve heard promise great things.
Nnux – “Tierra”
This is Mexican-born singer and composer Ana López-Reyes, who I caught opening for Summer Like The Season (see below) and was blown sideways by her intense vocal incantations and dense synth textures. The whole Distancia EP is killer — don’t stop here.
Ocean Music – “Ghost Song”
The linchpin of OM is Richard Aufrichtig, with whom I became friends at my last job after the “new hire” email from HR mentioned some of his musical accolades. I liked him right away — he’s an open, insightful person and a deep listener to both music and people — but then I saw him in concert and was blown away, both by the songs and the incandescent performance. He’s put out a lot of great music so far but I can share in all seriousness that you ain’t heard nothing yet. If he ever puts out the album he recorded in 2017, it could be a game-changer — there’s even a duet with Holly Miranda! I chose this epic remake of one of his older songs because it’s the closest I can get to the immersion of Ocean Music on stage. Just amplify times ten that moment at 5:42 when the guitars shoot into space to get an idea of what I’m talking about. Sheer bliss. Now that Aufrichtig and OM are based in LA I don’t get to see them often enough!
Summer Like The Season – “Thin Today”
One of the benefits of running my blog for almost a decade is having messages like this one come through my Facebook page: “can I submit my weird tunes to see if you might like to write about them for your blog here? If so… hi! If not… sorry!” This one came from Summer Krinsky, who leads SLTS from the drums. She also engineers live sound all over her native Detroit and casually mentioned when I met her that she’s been on the road playing bass with Anna Burch — say what?! Some might call the song weird — I call it funk-pop-prog, loving the tricky rhythms and stacked production. I also call it heavenly, especially when those harmonies kick in on the chorus. SLTS have lots of great songs and I’m sure an album is forthcoming — why wait?
Guy One – “Nongre, Nongre – Sugre, Sugre”
I was turned on to this Ghanaian singer by my buddy Duane Harriott, who conducts the Duane Train on WFMU every Wednesday from 12-3. The song he played, “Everything You Do, You Do For Yourself,” has gotten some traction, but for some reason the rest of his excellent debut, appropriately titled #1, is getting very little play. Just check out this multilayered, polyrhythmic number and tell me you don’t want to hear more. Some credit for how fabulous this sounds is due to producer Max Weissenfeldt, who updates Guy One’s Frafra with shiny German engineering, but you won’t question who the star of the show is after a listen or two.
Elsa Hewitt – “Per Astra Ad Astra”
This is another one that came over the transom and I was immediately taken with Hewitt’s handmade, bedroom electro-pop, which is dreamy, tuneful, and deeply personal. With or without vocals, each track feels like a psychic transmission filled with crucial information about how we live now. She released three albums in 2017 and another earlier this year. If you want more once you get through all that, you can dig into her past as a folkie singer-songwriter — she was good at that, too.
Historian – “Giving It Up”
Chris Karman should be a household name — at least in any household that values chamber pop. His songs as Historian often feature exquisite string arrangements, for one thing, and usually seem designed to accompany a rainswept view seen through murky glass. This is from his latest, Distant Wells, but I highly recommend traversing the full array of albums on Bandcamp. Drop him a few bucks and you’ll get a cassette or a CD — and his sincere appreciation, likely expressed in a handwritten note.
Andy Jenkins – “Curve Of Love”
Enough of what Matthew E. White touches turns to gold (see Natalie Prass, especially!) that I always take the time to listen when I see his imprimatur. Sweet Bunch, the album he produced for his old Richmond, VA high school pal Jenkins, is not only a highlight of his career, it’s also one of the best albums of the year. I’m baffled why its combo of indelible melodies, empathic lyrics, and gorgeously detailed production hasn’t caught on in a bigger way. As Jenkins sings in another song, “All I am good for is genuine heart,” so if that’s something you value look no further. He’s also a warm, wry and witty performer with a natural magnetism so catch him on tour — I think he has some dates coming up.
Jane Church – “This Here City”
Like a lot of the bands on here, this revved up rock band comes with a provenance, namely Brooklyn psych-rockers Spires, who I once saw tear the roof off of Mercury Lounge shortly before they disintegrated. I felt sorry for the headliners! I caught up with former head Spire Matthew Stevenson when his new band opened for Jenny O., also at Mercury, and was moved in body and spirit by their tight, catchy songs, filled with riffs galore, sing-along choruses, and a rhythm section that swings like a bastard. I have one version of their album and it’s fantastic — supposedly the one coming out in January on Greenway Records is even better. Either way, I have a copy on hand-poured vinyl on preorder — it’s an edition of 75 so don’t hesitate!
Eddie Dixon – “White Man Plays The Indian”
Making music with character requires some life experience and Dixon has done more than most to gain some seasoning, from working on oil rigs to driving senior citizens to their appointments. Somehow in between all of that he manages to come out with an album every few years, laying some Randy Newman-esque social commentary out with his gritty voice and smart arrangements in a style I call “cracked Americana.” This critique of Hollywood casting comes from Coinstar, his most accomplished album yet. Dixon has also grown into a fine photographer while I’ve known him, using the same gimlet eye as his lyrical persona, so find him on Instagram as well as Bandcamp.
Billy Joseph & The Army Of Love – “Holiday Song”
Billy is my first cousin so I’ve literally known him all my life. He’s also a music lifer so I’ve watched him grow from leading a gritty band at Madame Wong’s (yes, he lives in LA) to his current pinnacle as a singer-songwriter, guitarist, and bandleader. His last album, Ride On The Mystery, was a rebirth of his recording ambitions and really showed his skills in the studio with polished settings for the songs, which ranged from tender ballads to expansive rockers like the title track. He’s giving his band credit on this new one, a testament to his generosity and to what a tight unit they’ve become. The songs are even more direct than before, displaying an absorption of southern soul married to Billy’s tendency toward introspection and self-revelation. Think Robert Cray collaborating with Dylan to get the vibe. This track is a wonderful take on the “lonely at the holidays” genre and is filled with telling details and real feeling. I hope you will use this song as a key to entering the many chambers of Billy’s heart as offered on the album. While he makes an occasional east coast swing, if you live in the LA area there’s a good chance he’s playing somewhere near you this week.
Daniel Alexander – “We Are As Dust”
About 2009, I became obsessed with a London-based music and film collective called BretonLABS based on a song I heard on a podcast. Eventually, they narrowed their focus to concentrate on music and soon were slaying audiences at festivals across Europe with their canny collage of post-punk art funk and glitchy electro. They tried to crack the States and, even though everyone I brought to the shows was aghast at their brilliance, it proved a tough nut. After their second album, I think the economics got too stressful and they atomized. While lead singer Roman Rappak puts out the occasional vocal, Dan is the ex-Breton putting out the most music now and Traumatology One, a seven-track EP that came out recently, is the fullest expression of his simultaneously cinematic and intimate approach to electro-pop.
I look forward to watching everyone’s streaming numbers go through the roof — but just creating a few new loyal listeners for each of these artists would be an even greater reward.
Fanned across my hand-me-down bedspread lay $28. After paying bills the second month I was in Richmond, $28 was all I had, not enough to open a bank account, much less do anything else. When I came here five years ago, a runaway from a hopeless life, I had almost nothing. Unsure of how this was going to go, tired from trying to be upright every day, a friend of a friend who came to dinner, Prabir Mehta, said to me, “Richmond is a place where you can afford to fail and just keep going.” In those early months, so many of the people I met had connections to the music scene here, something I didn’t know that much about except that I could go to shows for free and drink cheap PBR without spending too much of the little I had. On my porch one night, Todd Blair brought over some beer and joked about being on stage. Sitting in my floor one night, Drew Necci, that angel from heaven, made me a list of local bands I might like while she perused my record collection. In bars and in crowds, on street corners and sweaty living room floors, so many of the people I’ve met here have woven on and off stage, taking me to shows and venues, playing me mixes in their cars. This mixtape has been building, slowly, during my years here; to this mix I’ve had laughing fits, spilled drinks on my shoes, and scrawled shit on bathroom walls. I’ve kissed a man in the Balliceaux kitchen, iced down my forehead with a PBR when I got elbowed in a mosh pit at Wonderland, and swilled down a shot of whiskey at 4 AM to stave off the inevitable. A good friend threw away a phone number I got from a lead singer, saying, “just no, honey.” My husband and I first kissed at a Spooky Cool show; my daughters swayed to Shy, Low during their first ever show, given space by the crowd at Strange Matter so they could crazy dance in those undulating waves. Hiding on my back porch with a glass of champagne, make up done but dress not on, I huddled in a robe while Dave Watkins entranced those at my wedding.
Though by no means comprehensive, thank you to each and every Richmond artist who have unknowingly contributed to soundtrack of my life here.
Laura Burroughs (@_thetwors)
Jestful Musical Erudite
Here’s how I made this mix. Starting when Doug told us about this issue and the rules involved, I kept a playlist of all the songs I listened to that were under the stipulated play count. I use a random number generator to pick what I listen to so that all the podcasts and albums I want to listen to get an equal chance of getting played. So then it was time to get this very large list down to 15 songs. So I did what anyone who knows me would expect me to do: I hit shuffle. It just so happens that, without counting, I played a list of exactly 15 songs. These are those songs. They represent a certain subsection of music that I was listening to between a couple of months ago and like this past weekend.
Hieronymus Bogs – “Sister Death”
The first couple of songs on this mix start of very dirge-like, but I think that is good. This is from an album that was at the top of the Bandcamp charts, I believe. The album is called The Plow.
Attic Abasement – “Change Machine”
I added this to my list because I thought the band’s name was really cool or funny. This is a very long, dark song with very dark lyrics.
Remember Sports – “Calling Out”
Another great band name. I think I heard of this band on a recent Warped Tour comp, possibly? Maybe a Hype Machine Stack. I love the singer’s voice and the lyrics are great.
NOFX – “Id”
This is from the very first NOFX release. They’re definitely not polished, but you can hear the bones of the band they would become. This was the closing track on that debut release, their self-titled EP from 1985.
Total Yuppies – “Best Of Me”
I think this album (CARE) was recommended by Diet Cig? I’m not entirely sure. I usually take good notes about where I heard about albums, but I didn’t for this mix, so this will have a fun element of mystery to it. I like this album. It kind of reminds me of Yuck.
Attic Abasement – “A Werewolf”
This is a much shorter, much less dark song from the still excellently names Attic Abasement.
Ivy Sole – “Rooftop”
I heard this on a Hype Machine stack and fell in love with it. I think it’s one of the highlights of this list. I like to think of this song as like the keystone of the arch of this mix.
Midtown – “To Your Savior”
This was the first of a couple tracks from Forget What You Know, a sort of post-super-pop-punk album from Midtown. This was the first full track on the album. This album was entirely eligible for the mix with the exception of one song, which surprised me.
The Sally Rose Band – “Banshee”
It was cool that a couple of songs from past issues of OYR made it on here. I just love her voice so much. Fun story: I was listening to this mix in the shower and I was certain this was from the recently released Save Ferris album. I guess they sound similar to my ears in the shower!
NOFX – “Shitting Bricks”
This is from the second NOFX EP from 1986. I find that these short early NOFX songs are a good palate cleanser for some of the more… diverse sounds on the mix.
Midtown – “The Tragedy Of The Human Condition”
This is a short instrumental from that same midtown album. It’s over quickly. Is that the tragedy of the title?
NOFX – “Hit It Hold It Back”
One more NOFX song. This is an interesting anti-straight-edge song. I believe NOFX started off straight edge (hence the name) so this song is interesting.
Giacomo Puccini, Berliner Philharmonker, Herbert von Karajan – “La Bohème/Act 4: Vecchia zimarra, senti”
At some point this year, I realized that I had not really ever listened to any opera so I looked up the “five best” ones and put them in my list. This was one of two to be eligible for this mix, but La Bohème was the only one to come up when I was making this list. This is a song where Colline is saying goodbye to the coat he’s about to pawn to get medicine for Mimi. This opera is sad.
Barry Adamson – “Round Up The Usual Suspects”
One last quick blast of cinematic weirdness to close.
This is my last piece for OYR (or at least for the foreseeable future). I’ve really enjoyed writing here and I think my writing has improved in my tenure here as well.
Take care. Happy holidays. Goodbye!
I only had one rule for making my mix: pick songs released in 2018. I usually make a playlist or three of my favorite songs of the year in December anyway, this felt like a good way to kill two birds with one stone (or is it “feed two birds with one scone” now? I don’t know anymore). I didn’t do it consciously, but after I had fifteen songs picked out, I realized just how many of them are either by new projects by established artists or by artists who have been relatively quiet for an extended period of time (and, in at least one case, kind of both). I also realized that there’s an underlying theme of change and personal growth in these songs (and, in at least one case, a song about waterboarding), which accurately reflects the type of year it’s been for me (except for the waterboarding part). It didn’t occur to me until the end of November, but 2018 was a big year for me. I’ve made a lot of progress in both my personal and professional life, and I feel like I’m in a much better place, mentally and physically, than I was a year ago. I know that there are a lot of factors that play into the changes that I’ve gone through, but I’d like to think that songs like these are a big part of how I got to be here.
After I realized the divide between these songs was almost down the middle, I decided to make two “halves” to this mix. The first half is mostly made up of artists who, for one reason or another, released music under a new name this year: side projects, solo work, new bands — that sort of thing. The second half is a little less defined, with a mix of bands who haven’t released new music in a few years and bands that have only just gotten started.
I don’t usually start my mixes with slower tunes, but I thought the 1-2 combo of Kat Hamilton’s “Bees” and Bobby Barnett’s “No Appetite” worked in this case. Both Hamilton and Barnett are coming off fresh from their respective band’s untimely dissolutions (Hamilton fronted Manic Pixi, while Barnett sang and played guitar in Captain, We’re Sinking), and both are back with solo projects that explore different sounds from their former bands. Kat’s debut EP, The Gray Area, dropped in November, and Barnett released his second album, Steady Ache, in March.
Katie Ellen isn’t exactly new but they’re a band that, to me, is the act of personal growth personified. I mentioned the end of my eight year relationship in our issue about Sayde Price, but what I didn’t mention is that the weekend that said break-up happened was the very same weekend that Katie Ellen released Cowgirl Blues and it felt like it was the only thing I listened to for at least a month. Fast forward to 2018, and Katie Ellen released a new EP, Still Life, which I mostly had forgotten about until November when I saw the band live. Coincidentally, this was just a few weeks before I came to terms with the break-up. I know I gave a lot of credit to Wilt All Rosy for that breakthrough, but I’m almost positive that Katie Ellen and Still Life played a huge influence there too.
As someone who is into modern punk, it’s probably no surprise that I included Laura Jane Grace and Brendan Kelly. Both released kinda solo albums this year, getting to stretch out into styles that aren’t necessarily what they’re known for, though I might argue that a lot of songs off Bought To Rot (Laura’s debut with her new band The Devouring Mothers) could have been released under the Against Me! name and wouldn’t have caused any more controversy than is typical whenever they release a new album. Brendan Kelly, meanwhile, surprised released a new Wandering Birds album this year, and it’s been a lot of fun to listen to. I have a very specific memory attached to “Boardin’ USA!” — the first time I listened to it a lady yelled at me for “sticking my butt in her face” on the subway after I leaned into the corner between the door and the side of the seats. I wanted to point out that it’s very common for commuters to lean against the doors on the subway, and that the side of the seat was raised high enough that my butt was nowhere near her face, but it felt like she was disproportionately angry already so I just walked away.
Justin Courtney Pierre (of Motion City Soundtrack) and Alice Bag also have new solo albums! Pierre’s In the Drink follows pretty closely to his work with Motion City Soundtrack, but as someone who really loved that band, I don’t have any complaints. And while Blueprint isn’t necessarily a “comeback” for Bag, as she’s been reactive in music for a few years now, but it’s a great album worth listening to, and “Turn It Up” is only the beginning.
Antarctigo Vespucci marks a turning point on this mix, and for the band. Even though they’re far from a new project, Love In The Time Of E-Mail feels like a revitalization. Maybe it’s because Antarctigo Vespucci wasn’t originally intended to be a full-fledged project, but this album feels like they’re aiming to take over the world. I’ve had several long conversations about the lyrics to “Breathless On DVD,” but for the sake of brevity let me just say that the repeated line “I wanted to see you to see if I still wanted to see you” has resonated with me more than any other lyric that I heard in 2018.
“Space & Time” is one of the previously unreleased songs on AJJ’s new singles compilation, Ugly Spiral. It almost didn’t make the cut, but after I realized I was making a mix mostly made up of songs about progressing toward happiness, or at least a better place, I knew I wanted to name the playlist after a lyric from this song. (I’m not the only one who does that, right?)
The next five songs are oddly similar: Weakened Friends, Kississippi, and Illuminati Hotties all released debut albums this year (Common Blah, Sunset Blush, and Kiss Yr Frenemies respectively), while Restorations and The Get Up Kids came back after a few years of silence (Restorations have been relatively quiet since 2014’s LP3, and The Get Up Kids haven’t put out new music since 2011). The other thing these songs all have in common? They all come off albums or EPs that, for one reason or another, I inadvertently ignored for most of the year even though I knew I liked them.
To end things, I felt like it was only appropriate to include the final song from the latest album by The Sidekicks. I was going to say that they’re also back from a lengthy album hiatus, but it’s only been three years since The Sidekicks put out Runners In The Nerved World, and we all know that I forget that all the time. “Happiness Hours” is the song that I listened to before I went in for my interview for the promotion I got at the end of the summer, and I consider it something of a good luck song. It has a bit of a “Here Comes A Regular” by The Replacements vibe, but lyrically more stream-of-consciousness.
I won’t say that this mix is a complete summary of my year, but I do think it hits a lot of the key moments of feelings of 2018. If even only one of these songs has an impact on anyone who reads this, I’ll feel glad to have spread some positivity.
For my playlist, I tried to be as wide-ranging as possible. There’s rap, country, electronic music, and some just plainly weird stuff. Oh, and there’s a metal(ish) tune in there as well. I like variety, is what I’m trying to say. As for the blurbs, I limited myself to 50 words apiece as both a creative exercise and a way to avoid tedium. In the spirit of brevity, I’ve kept this introduction short, too.
Cybotron | “R-9”
The first time I saw their name, I thought it was Cybertron. My reaction was, “So that’s where the Transformers creators got the idea”. Anyhow, the production is what I imagine the silver goo that covers Neo when he’s first unplugged from the Matrix sounds like.
Mike Patton | “Deep Down”
Mike Patton is a deeply strange dude, and it makes him the most versatile vocalist in rock. Only the guy from Faith No More (and 100 other projects) could’ve made a record of Italian pop standards make sense. Just for that reason, I’ll try anything he puts out.
Tom Verlaine | “Red Leaves”
Television’s Marquee Moon has been in my all-time top 10 favorite albums since college. As such, I’ve always enjoyed Verlain’s solo work as ancillary to that fact, which is probably unfair to him. This song proves his worth as a (fun) songwriter as much as anything he’s released.
Masked Intruder | “Silent Night”
I grew up on the 2000s pop-punk explosion so I’m probably biased towards stuff like this. I’m extra biased because they’re from Wisconsin. Borrowing only the melody from the Christmas staple (how timely!), it’s a silly song about being harassed by the cops after (allegedly) stealing from some rich kids.
Blacklist | “Flight of the Demoiselles”
“Flight” is goth aesthetic and the best riff U2 never wrote mixed together, and that’s enough by itself. But it has such a killer chorus, one that you wanna sing along with the first time you hear it. Oh, and there’s a rare sighting of “vainglorious” in the lyrics.
The Len Price 3 | “After You’re Gone”
I love The Who and The Kinks, so naturally I was drawn to TLP3. The record it’s from, Pictures (to be covered in Issue #148 in 2019), is a pitch perfect impression of ‘60s mod power pop. Bright hooks and tight songwriting make this as easy to love as “I Can’t Explain” or “You Really Got Me.”
Pariah | “Railroad”
I suppose my attraction to this stems from how Pariah weaves the spectral vocals into the song. They float inside of the production instead of on top. I picture Whac-A-Mole when I hear this. In that metaphor, I guess the beat is the hammer and the voices are the moles.
Son Volt | “No Turning Back”
In 2009, I told a friend I was reviewing this album. He asked me if I was gonna mention Jeff Tweedy or Wilco. I asked what either had to do with Son Volt. And that’s how I learned that Son Volt and Wilco are both offshoots of Uncle Tupelo.
The Bug | “Bloodfire”
What fascinates me about this song, even more so than the infinitely hypnotic echo of the vocal, is just how now this song feels. “Bloodfire” is from an ‘05 compilation but it sounds like it could’ve come out last week. Lucky guess or prophetic knowledge? Does it matter?
Club Smith | “Lament”
You know how a chorus just seems to make time stop? That’s what happens here for me. That sky-high chorus is just… wow. Bonus points for the song’s ending which features one of my favorite lines of the 2010s: “With pointed eyes and baited breath, I wait for her”.
DJ Quik & Kurupt | “9X’s Outta 10”
My favorite song from the pair’s collaborative effort, BlaQKout. The hook from Kurupt is as labyrinthian as it is catchy, which is pretty goddamn hard to do. The mechanical bounce of Quik’s production allows Kurupt to chase whatever thoughts come to him in a light speed round of word association.
Shara Nelson | “Down That Road”
Simply put, Massive Attack led me to Shara Nelson. She matches her stunning performances on MA’s Blue Lines here. The New Jack Swing vibe fits her voice as well as anything from Bristol. Why this wasn’t a hit in the States mystifies me. That doesn’t make it not great, though.
Gangstagrass | “Dollar Boss (feat. Dead Prez and Kamara Thomas)”
Gangstagrass is best known for “Long Hard Times To Come,” the theme for Justified, and I woulda picked that were it not for its 1.8 million plays. Oh well. I’m OK with settling for anything that gets their name out there. I picked this for the Dead Prez feature.
Funeral Chic | “Ugly”
I gave this band a chance because of the name. Their brand of Entombed-core isn’t original, but it is aggressive and pissed off. If the music didn’t make that clear, their lyrics do: “My language does not represent a lack of proper form, but an abundance of anger”. Sounds right.
Drive-By Truckers | “(It’s Gonna Be) I Told You So”
Of their deep catalogue, this is one of their most overtly pop-oriented songs. Written by former bassist Shonna Tucker, it’s a bouncy country/soul number. I wish she would’ve had more chances to sing with DBT. Her voice has a honkey-tonk swagger that Patterson Hood’s and Mike Cooley’s don’t.
While I love just putting my headphones in and escaping the world for a while, my favourite musical memories have always been of live music. At first the task of creating a playlist that could be anything I wanted seemed a bit daunting, considering most of my personal playlists consist of 500+ songs that encompass a variety of moods and genres.
There is no particular order that this playlist should be listened in because the majority of the time, I listen to absolutely everything on shuffle and that is how this playlist is meant to be listened to as well. A festival usually always has a variety of different artists and genres and no artist plays their songs in album order at a concert.
I can’t really place when music — live music in particular — became such a huge part of my life and my personality, but without sounding too cliche, any time I am at a show, it just makes me feel alive. It gives me a rush that I can’t ever explain, and a feeling that I always want to hold on to. What this playlist represents, I suppose, is that feeling, or rather the memories of that feeling.
Each song and artist (aside from Majical Cloudz) is someone I had seen live in the at either a festival or concert while I was living in England, so that holds another special piece of why I put these specific tracks on the playlist. On that note, living in England has shaped so much of who I am as a person today, and definitely added so much to my musical education as well. Each festival I went to had a different vibe, and each concert had a different venue. From small underground stages that fit 100 people to a sold out festival at Hyde Park, the feeling for me remains the same. The music just gives me a feeling of invincibility — in that moment, nothing else matters but me and the music. And there are also all the other people there for that one thing: to all feel connected as well. It’s an amazing thing really, to feel that.
I am a person that feels things very deeply, whether it is good or bad, and while that sometimes means a song can bring me to tears in a matter of seconds, it also means that many songs have happy memories attached to them and listening to a particular song or artist can bring that back to me in an instant, and that’s what this playlist is to me. Somewhat of a musical time capsule if you will. I hope that you take the time to listen to it and maybe even discover a couple new favourite artists of your own!
Thanks so much to all of our readers/subscribers here on OYR. We hope we’ve provided you with some unexpected new fav’s, and maybe expanded your musical palette. One thing I realized while creating my playlist — I listen to a hell of a lot of underground hip hop. Most of which is not even on Spotify. However, once I decided to simply go into shuffle mode on my iTunes “Favorites” playlist, I found some gems that I think you’ll enjoy. I also tried to sprinkle in a little 757 Virginia flavor too (shouts to Sic Mic, Dicap and Amir Driver). Here’s a little explanation as to why I picked each track:
“Live N Virginia” by Dicap The Emcee (Feat. F.O.U.R. & Ghagged)
I have to represent my home town. I’ve loved this song for nearly 15 years, and this was the first album that I produced on. I did not produce this particular track though.
“#Allaboutthat” by Skyzoo & Illmind
This is one of my favorite “girl” records ever. Plus, the beat is incredible, and it’s one of the easier Skyzoo records to follow lyrically.
“Bring It Back” by Cormega
One of my favorite Mega records ever. Self explanatory on the subject matter here.
“One Hunned” by Sic Mic
Sic Mic is one of the absolute illest rappers alive, and he happens to be from the 757. I produced several songs on this album (not this one), and it’s one of my favorite recent releases. Straight hard core bars right here. This is what I love most.
“Yowzers” by Maffew Ragazino
This is what Brooklyn sounds like. That is all.
“Back Up Off The Wall” by Brand Nubian (Feat. Loon)
A super random selection here from all the way back in 1998. I always loved this beat, because it’s so dark, but you can’t help but to move to it. This song is so un-Brand Nubian it’s not even funny.
“Bosses” by DJ Skizz (Feat. Roc Marciano & Conway The Machine)
To me, hip hop does not get any better than this. This is the type of music that I fell in love with when I was a kid. This sound will never get old. Raw beats. Raw rhymes. No weirdos allowed.
“Stop It” by Halo (Feat. Problem & Bad Lucc)
I just love this beat so much. Plus there’s something about west coast artists spitting over hardcore east coast beats that just sounds so good. More of this.
“Revolver” by Sic Mic
I mean, seriously, is there any question about this one? VA all day.
“Flight 69” by Masspike Miles (Feat. Gunplay)
Had to at least have one R&B track on here. To me, this song is so sick becasue of what Illmind does with the beat. It’s part trap, part boom bap, part Jetsons-level futuristic. Hard.
“Always Into Somthing” by Stalley (Feat. Ty Dolla $ign)
This is what Dr. Dre’s Compton should have sounded like. Amazing production. Rhymes for the street. G’d out R&B hook. It’s not rocket science.
“Goat Talk” by Amir Driver (Feat. Young Crazy & Yung Money Yawn)
Produced by me. Featuring three of the hottest young artists in VA. These guys are getting serious attention nationally, both online and being featured on national tours with major label artists. I’m honored to say I worked with all of them before they truly blew up. The 757 is nothing to play with.
“Sugar Ray And Hearns” by Cormega (Feat. Large Professor)
You can never have enough Cormega.
“Devotion (Get It)” by Tree
When this song came out I listened to it for hours on end. The slow, gospel bounce makes it almost sound demonic.
“Let Me Know”by Sic Mic (Feat. 450Sixx & Boogie)
What a perfect way to close out the year, and the list. I love this song because Sic is maybe the hardest rapper out, but he still manages to address some serious social issues without sounding preachy or compromising his skills. VA for the win!
My mix is a tribute to my radio show/podcast Sound Gaze that aired from June, 2014 until January, 2017, but really, it’s more of a fond remembrance of that period in my life.
I spent much of my time back then living in my headphones, just searching for great songs. Each and every day, I’d open my overloaded Excel spreadsheet and begin compiling a list of songs to listen to. I’d get the songs from a variety of ways: the hundred press e-mails I got each day, links I found on a dozen-plus subreddits I hounded, recommendations friends would give me, or songs mentioned on any number of blogs, publications, or articles I’d happen to read. There was also random Spotify sleuthing I would do, finding long and diverse playlists other people had made or travelling down the “Related Artists” rabbit hole until I found something truly obscure and remarkable.
I’d compile the list throughout the day, trying to listen to as much as I can before the sun went down, and then really tackling it late at night. Anything I didn’t get to in a day carried over onto the next, which happened often but not too much considering each day’s links could be anywhere between 100 and 1,000 so I didn’t really want to add on any extra work for the following day. I’m not saying I listened intently to every single link I snagged — that would be insanity. A good chunk of those daily lists contained songs that were quick “No”‘s from me for whatever reason, and were turned off within 10-20 seconds of hitting play. But for the most part, I listened to thousands of songs a week in hope of finding 32 great ones to use in my two-hour show.
This all came to a head on Friday nights where I’d stay up until 3, 4, sometimes even 5 AM to finalize the show that was set to go live at noon on Saturday. The initial hang-up I encountered most weeks came from wanting to cover each style every week, so making sure I had solid songs from hip-hop, pop, punk, R&B, electronica, et cetera. But the big obstacle each week, the one that gave me stress headaches, were the timing issues. I wanted 32 songs in two hours every week, unless I was having a guest on or a live band, and that meant 4 songs per each quarter hour. It sounds doable on the surface until you come across a fantastic 8 minute song you want to make sure you play that week, before realizing that means you have 4-5 minutes left over for three other songs, an ad break, and some quick talking points. So there were a lot of moving pieces here, trying to fit everything in and then making it flow in a way that people would ideally want to listen to. An Excel formula was utilized as well as a rolling playlist on iTunes and my phone called “SG Ideas” that I could pull from. Of course, there was the last minute searching too, trying to find something to fit the exact need I wanted, which was more often than not a punk song that was 90 seconds long… mostly because I could rely on finding a good punk song around that length.
Honestly, I’m getting stressed just thinking back to that time, hunched over a keyboard cursing myself because I was 30 seconds over in the 4th quarter hour of the show. But I can’t lie — I miss that time, no matter how maddening it really was. I just learned so much about music back then, and found so many great bands I’d never come across otherwise. This newsletter practically grew out of some conversations I had at the radio station, and come to think of it, pretty much every contributor here, past or present, that lives near me has been on the show, some even two or three times.
Why did it end? Well, because it had to really. The schedule I was following to do it was just not sustainable, and I also had no interest in scaling back at all. All or nothing, basically. I was slowing down in the latter part of 2016 anyway, mentally preparing to be a father the following year and also trying to make sense out of the crazy events of that election year. Luckily, I did end the show on some high notes, putting together two separate batches of female-artist episodes entitled “I’m With Her.” (Named this before the band came out, in case you were wondering.) The first batch was just a couple of two hour episodes released in a gut reaction the Saturday after the election. One episode was songs I loved by female artists, the other episode was female artists I knew picking songs they loved by female artists. It was very cathartic and went over pretty well so I tried to do it again… and bigger.
The result was the second batch of “I’m With Her” episodes released a day before misogyny and racism were officially inaugurated into the American landscape. 10 episodes curated by 100 female artists who picked a song by another female artist they loved and admired. Some of the artists who contributed to those episodes have ended up contributing here — Kay Hanley from Letters To Cleo, Nicole Yun from Eternal Summers, Courtney Swain from Bent Knee, and Angelica Garcia. Others I would go onto cover in this newsletter (The Roches and Sam Phillips) or plan to in the future (For Everest, A.W.). All in all, it was a great way to end the show, championing diversity, smaller/obscure artists, and your own influences with the help of 100 amazing female musicians. Nothing’s going to top that, even if I do have the urge from time to time to bring the show back, so much that I still add to that “SG Ideas” playlist from time to time.
So this mix is my tribute to that time period and the music I found during it. I tried to structure it as I would a typical show with a variety of genres being represented and a nice flow taking you through the highs and lows. (I don’t ascribe to the Barney Stinson method of making a mix.) Hopefully you’ll find something new in here you love, and if so, I’d recommend you make your own rabbit hole of “Related Artists” off of that so you can find something all on your own that’s interesting and great. Enjoy!
“Baby, Baby (I Still Love You)” by The Cinderellas
I just adore doo-wop. The gorgeous harmonies, the simple melodies, the genuine words. It’s all just spectacular, even half a century later, and I made it a point to include it in nearly every episode I put together. Some might consider this song, released in 1964 as a B-Side to “Please Don’t Wake Me,” to fall out of the purvey of the classic doo-wop scope, but, like The Shirelles and early Supremes, I’d strongly argue that it still fits in sonically with the classic doo-wop sound, still being driven by a robust vocal engine despite having then-modern production swirling around the singers. Whatever. It’s doo-wop to me just like “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” and “Maybe” are doo-wop. Not only is this a great song, regardless of style, but it’s also an interesting story regarding line-ups and offshots. This band is called The Cinderellas, which is the name The Cookies recorded under when doing a different line-up. The Cookies also made up various incarnations of Ray Charles’ backing group, The Raelettes, though the whole timeline is muddy because I’m fairly certain this song was recorded well before 1964 when it was physically released. So maybe some of these singers sang with Ray Charles, maybe they didn’t. Either way, killer song that would still be great if released today, specifically with that sax bridge.
“Rumble” by Brooke Waggoner
I’m a sucker for a good melody structure that relies on a contrast of soft and loud moments, and this might be one of the best I’ve ever heard. Here, the loud and soft work in conjunction to carry along the song, as opposed to existing in two different spaces like you would hear in a typical alt-rock song. I just how the loud section inflates the simple melody, letting it soar into a cinematic space that’s worth relistening and reliving time after time. Waggoner went on to contribute to that “I’m With Her” series of episodes, picking a great song by Beth Gibbons called “Mysteries” that I also recommend you check out.
“Ghouls” by Vaudeville Smash
This is the best Halloween song you’ve never heard, not to mention the best Halloween music video you’ve ever seen. Seriously, watch that video and you’ll know it should be required viewing each and every October 31st. I actually don’t think I saw the video first though — I’m pretty sure the song just ended up in my daily spreadsheet list and when I went to find out more about the band, I discovered the video and my love of the song increased exponentially. Either way, this is a great song that relives the silly, but classic heday of spooky cinema. Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite “finds” from the Sound Gaze period.
“Dim Star Of The Palisades” by Birds Of Chicago
I think this song was actually a recommendation from a friend (Sean, if you’re reading?). This is a fantastic modern day gospel song with a really moving sound that still seems comfortable with modern day Americana and R&B music. I recommend the whole record, as well as the song “Where The Darkness Goes” by Awna Teixeira which Birds Of Chicago singer Allison Russell picked as her contribution to the “I’m With Her” project.
“Kill ‘Em With Kindness” by Sløtface
I used to think this song was making fun of Selena Gomez’s 2016 single — mostly for the caustically great lyric “Kill ’em with kindess wins worst lyric of the year” — but I guess this predates that single? So then I don’t really know what this song is in reference too, but I still love it regardless with its fun guitar melody and razor-sharp lyrics. Light it up, light it up, indeed.
“Bitches” by I Am Strikes
This foreboding track comes to us from Kelly Rosenthal, a Sacramento musician that really, really knows how to channel her anger into a great song. “You fucked me up / Let that sink in / You fucked me up / Let that sink in” goes the pre-chorus, an arresting moment that only leads to more accusations and shade like the glorious lyric the song takes its name from: “Shooting stars and four leaf clovers / Don’t grant their wishes to bitches who live on excuses.” Hip-hop beefs live for years off of lines like that, but even outside of the lyrics, this is just a great thundering track full of gutsy vocals and piercing guitars.
“There Is A Boy That Never Goes Out” by The Lucksmiths
Everything about this is a reference to The Smiths: the band name, song title, and music that mixes sharp tones, jaunty rhythm, and forlorn vocals. But I absolutely love it. it’s a perfect two minute rock song with an engaging, relatable story and an endlessly satisfying melody. If Morrisey and Marr heard it, they’d probably kick themselves that they never wrote it.
“Bettie-Jane” by Drew Gibson
Not only did I come across Drew Gibson’s music in this time period, but I also had him on the show to perform and chat. The record this song is off, 2015’s 1532, has a deeply personal story to it and is pulled off with a remarkable level of musical precision that speak not just to Gibson’s talent, but his own cognizance of personal identity. I was always shocked at how little of an impact this made, but I was also more shocked by the profound impact it had on me, something only enhanced by talking to Gibson about the story behind it and seeing him perform these songs as part of a robust trio on stage and by himself in a small studio for my humble radio show.
“Mic Check” by Aceyalone
Most of the rap music I “discovered” during this time was just by following threads from one artist to another. I came to Aceyalone by following the thread of Haiku D’Etat, who put a self-titled record in 1999 that I just love. Aceyalone was a member of that group, though by that point, he had already put out several records under his own name and as part of Freestyle Fellowship, another thread I followed after stopping here which led me to Myka 9 and a dozen other rappers from there. If you dig this, I highly suggest you start following the threads too, hopefully so you can find something on your own that’s great.
“This Is The Day” by Ivy
This is just a gorgeous pop song with a solid rock foundation and orchestral ambitions. It reminds me a lot of The Raveonette’s song “Heart Of Stone,” but in a very contrasted way. If “Heart Of Stone” is the shifty dark, “This Is The Day” is the gleaming light, and both have endless enjoyment waiting if you seek them out.
“Another Myself” by Sugarplastic
Idiosyncratic to its core, this is almost alternative alt-rock (alt^2) with odd melodies and divergent sections that really work against and in spite of each other. Despite its catchy melodies, it’s wildly experimental, so much that you think it came out in the late 2000s instead of mid-’90s. If you dig the errant path this song tracks, make sure to check out the rest of their music, specifically 1996’s Bang, The Earth Is Round, which this song proudly opens up.
“What Goes Around” by The Anchoress
If Florence Welch decided to make an opera, she might have to call on The Anchoress to write the music. This sweeping song is off of The Anchoress’ rousing 2016 record Confessions Of A Romance Novelist which was one of my favorite discoveries that year. It’s progressive pop music made by an artist fully in control of her musical vision, and making sure to include everything she possibly can within her sound while still sounding unified and clear. I go back and forth over what the best song from that record is, but there’s no doubt this is the best introduction into the sensational music of The Anchoress.
“One By One” by Deep Sea Diver
This was probably one of my first big finds from doing the radio show, and as such, holds a dear place in my heart. Even without that sentiment though, it’s a killer track with a chorus that is absolutely brilliant. I believe I came across this song on an electronica blog and spent an hour trying to figure out if the chorus melody is from a guitar or synthesizer. I’m pretty sure it’s the latter, but even then, the song barely meets the cusp of the EDM that blog was championing at the time, and more fits in with the picture-perfect representation of indie rock and all of its stylistic amalgamations.
“Letsagetabitarockin” by The 101ers
This was a pub rock band fronted by Joe Strummer before Joe Strummer joined The Clash. I know I read about The 101ers before my radio show, but I don’t think I ever heard anything until this song showed on a random Spotify playlist I was following from a guy in France. It was the opening track to the 1981 retrospective record Eight Avenue Breakdown, which featured songs the band had recorded in 1975 and 1976. On this track, you can hear the same type of manic gusto Strummer would later bring to songs like “Brand New Cadillac,” and throughout the record, you can just hear how incredible of a frontman Joe Strummer was even before The Clash was a thought in Bernard Rhodes’ mind.
“Apocalypse” by Moon King
I always wanted to end each episode on a big note so in that regard, here is a slow burner that turns into one of the most cathartic rock songs of the last decade. You get hints of something big coming around the corner as the song starts to gradually speed up, but nothing prepares you for that moment at 2:12 where the tension and emotion is finally released. More importantly, nothing prepares you for how cleansing and purifying the remaining two minutes of music are. This is music worth staying up until 5 AM to discover — I know because that’s exactly the time I discovered it and the energy it gave me made it impossible for me to even get an ounce of sleep that night/morning. But who needs sleep when you have musical adrenaline like this to sustain you?
Frosting On The Beater by The Posies
Chosen By Drew Necci