Music can be like the weather, at times there are droughts, but then out of nowhere the airwaves are flooded with so much incredible new music that it’s hard to keep up. Here are some of the albums that have been providing the soundtrack to my life lately – if you have any recommendations please share in the comments, I’m always looking for new tunes!
Foxygen, …And Star Power
I fell hard for Foxygen the second I heard the song “Shuggie” off of 2013’s We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, and I’ve been anticipating new music from them ever since. I’m always struck by the feeling that Sam France and Jonathan Rado are old souls. Every chord, every morphed background noise, every perfectly keyed vocal rings with life experience – pain, sadness, joy, celebration, fear… it’s as if their music seeps out from past lives, the ones that speak to you in dreams. You awake with their voices echoing off the walls of your brain, they haunt your thoughts night and day. What may initially sound like musical chaos suddenly makes sense when listened to through the kaleidoscopic speaker of time, as nuances of classic rock, blues, and soul combine to form a sonic masterpiece. This is one of those albums best listened to all the way through – go into it with an open mind and let it take you on a whirlwind journey. Standouts for me are “Could’ve Been My Love,” “Cosmic Vibrations,” “You and I,” “I Don’t Have Anything/The Gate,” and “Can’t Contextualize My Mind,” clearly inspired by Link Wray’s epic surf rock riff in “Rumble.”
FYI, they are playing two shows at the Warfield in San Francisco, one of which is on New Year’s Eve – sure to be a wild show.
Can music actually sound like sunshine? If it is possible, then that’s exactly what this album sounds like. Vacationer is based in Philadelphia, which was actually shocking to me solely because of the sunniness of their music – no, it is not always sunny in Philadelphia… the first word I often use to describe my hometown is gritty. I was introduced to Vacationer by a friend while driving around sunny California, so perhaps that affected my disbelief. Either way, this music is pure happiness, and a great sonic escape as we enter the cold months of winter. Don’t worry – “There’s paradise waiting for us in summertime.” My favorites are “Stay,” “Paradise Waiting” and “The Wild Life.”
You lucky Philadelphians can catch them at Union Transfer next week!
This LA based band is one of my favorites – not only because their music is amazing, but because I feel like they genuinely love and respect what music is all about. Three of the band members met while working at Amoeba Records, a place that has introduced me to countless new bands. If you’ve never been to Amoeba in LA or San Francisco, believe me when I say that the people who work there know their music. They released their first single, “Catamaran,” on vinyl in 2011. For a band that has only been around for a little over five years, their sensibilities and sound speak to a band that’s been around since the ’60s. I own both of their albums on vinyl, firstly because I love them, and secondly, because it feels like such a treat – the artwork is beautiful (Worship the Sun is the orange and white album above, and their self-titled album from 2012 is below). With Worship the Sun they stay true to the type of music they are best at – California garage-meets-psych-meets-surf rock – but it never gets stale. I can’t get enough of “De Vida Voz,” “Artifact,” “Buffalo Nickel,” and “Better Than Mine.”
Alejandro Rose-Garcia, AKA Shakey Graves, has been a fixture in the Austin scene for a while now, but it wasn’t until I heard the song “Dearly Departed” back in August that I (and probably everyone else in the world) became aware of him, and subsequently fell in love. He started out as a one-man band, learning about music and how to captivate a crowd through hard work and perseverance in the Austin music scene. I think I listened to his album, And The War Came, nonstop for about two weeks straight (and it is still in steady rotation). For some reason I couldn’t stop – it’s rare for me to literally listen to something on repeat for hours on end, but something about it kept me hooked. There’s such a variety to his music, from the songs themselves, to his shifts in vocal range and tempo. It keeps you interested, and it keeps you wanting more. Check out “If Not For You,” “The Perfect Parts,” “Family and Genius,” and “Pansy Waltz.”
TV on the Radio just released the album Seeds yesterday, and I’m already hooked. This band has a rare ability. Their music has an urgency, it gets you to listen from the edge of your seat, sometimes with a sense of foreboding doom that makes the hair on your arms stand up straight (just listen to some of their best work, “Wolf Like Me” off of 2006’s incredible Return to Cookie Mountain, and “DLZ” off of 2008’s Dear Science). Singer Tunde Adebimpe has one of those voices that doesn’t just ask for your attention – it demands it, and you gladly give it. While Seeds might not have quite the same fire as past albums, it has the soul, and it goes down easy. My favorites so far are “Quartz,” “Careful You,” and “Test Pilot.”