Songs for the Likeminded and Empowered: A Women’s Month Playlist

By pcsanchez7505

March is a special time for me, not just because it’s my birthday month, but also because it’s the national month to celebrate women’s history. Throughout the years, women have fought for the right to vote, the right to work and receive equal pay and the right to be treated equally in society. So, in honor of all the women who rock at what they do, here is an empowering playlist full of amazing female musicians.

15. “When We Were Young” by Adele: Adele is always classy, always radiant and always honest. In “When We Were Young” Adele pours her heart out a thousand times over and takes us along for the ride.

14. “Self Portrait Beneath Women’s Mask” by Moon Honey: Ethereal and unearthly, Moon Honey has a unique quality that’s hard to place. From retro guitar riffs to lead singer Jessica Ramsey’s intriguing vocals, the band has a grit and charm ready to sooth and unnerve all at the same time.

13. “Daddy Lessons” by Beyonce: Love or hate her (though most love), you can’t talk about contemporary music without noting Beyonce’s impact on black culture and feminism. ‘Lemonade’ won me over last year, and “Daddy Lessons” is a great testament to Beyonce’s versatility.

12. “Things We Never Say” by Bad Bad Hats: What is womanhood without a little sensitivity. The female perspective is something often overlooked in music culture. That is, sometimes we’re afraid of saying what’s on our mind because we don’t want to seem weak or emotional. Bad Bad Hats’ singer Kerry Alexander doesn’t shy away from her emotional prowess, rather she embraces it with honest songs such as “Things We Never Say.”

11. “Atomic Number by” Case/Lang/Verse: Women are unique and wonderful creatures with qualities that come together in the best of ways. We are strong, sensitive, powerful and worth every ounce of respect. “Atomic Number” by Neko Case, k.d. Lang and Laura Veirs highlights the intrinsic values that make us who we are.

10. “Play it Cool” by Feels: The world needs more women (and men) like the no holds barred members that make up Feels. Their rowdy punk sound and can-do attitude can be felt in every song and performance.

9. “Leather Jacket” by Thunderb****: What could be more hardcore than a band whose name I can’t spell in print singing about how it feels to put on a leather jacket for the first time? Probably nothing. “Leather Jacket” is a bluesy, gritty tune that will have you purchasing your first motorcycle duds in the very near future.

8. “Tu Si Sabes Quererme” by Natalia LaFourcada: Mexican singer Natalia LaFourcada just released this new single about love, and there’s so much to love about the Hispanic singer’s sultry vocals and playful guitar riffs.

7. “Tears Dry on Their Own” by Amy Winehouse: Through many scandals, questionable decisions and a tragic end, Amy Winehouse’s talent and honesty was never challenged. Though her death is a sad reminder and cautionary tale about the dangers of alcohol and untreated mental illness, her music is a beautiful testament to her charisma and raw talent.

6. “Strangers” by Lucius: Lucius is the perfect embodiment of creativity and quirkiness. Even when the band is covering a song, such as The Kinks’ “Strangers,” they find a way to do it in a new and innovative way. Their live performance of the song is captivating, and the band engages with the audience in a beautiful way. From their strange, fun and evocative music videos to their colorful dress on stage, Lucius shares their creativity in everything they do.

5. “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” by Selena Quintanilla: Over a decade ago my brother, then 4, heard “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” blasting through the speakers of Disneyworld’s Epcot amusement park. He had never heard the song before, nor did he know about Tejana music artist Selena Quintanilla. That didn’t matter though. He immediately started dancing, and in a moment, my brother had unknowingly entangled himself in a love affair with Quintanilla and her music — a love that is just as strong today. Now, there is a soft spot in my heart for Quintanilla, partly because of my baby brother and partly because of my Hispanic heritage. But, personal preference aside, there are so many reasons why Quintanilla embodies the spirit of feminism. While her music wasn’t necessarily political or controversial, Quintanilla understood the power she held as a woman and the potential to break into the world of Tejano music, a predominately male genre at the time. Quintanilla didn’t just break the glass ceiling, she twirled and twisted through it as if it weren’t even there. Quintanilla’s charisma and vocal talent led her to stardom, but she also understood the benefit of being hands on with her music career and overall image. Her music had the ability to bring people and cultures together. After cementing a strong presence in Tejano music, her crossover album made waves in America. She crossed borders and languages as if they weren’t there, and was adored by many for her bubbly and welcoming personality. And, after her untimely death, Quintanilla’s music still moves even the most unlikely souls.

4. “Die Young” by Sylvan Esso: Sometimes the most empowering thing is finding out how much you can be moved by others. Feeling independent doesn’t always mean being alone or not caring about others. Sylvan Esso’s “Die Young” tells an intriguing story in the most unconventional way, one that submits to love and humanity. Sylvan Esso itself is a band that intrigues and captivates listeners with an electronic sound that undeniably speaks to the heart.

3. “Shades” by Alexandra Savior: Now, I feel like mentioning that I should have discovered Alexandra Savior much earlier than I did. The Los Angeles based singer not only has a unique voice and point of view, but she also has some powerful backings with the likes of Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys). Turner and Savior met by happenstance, decided to throw a few songs together and have even performed together at a few small L.A. venues. The duo gained more steam when Turner called on Arctic Monkeys’ producer James Ford to get involved. The result is a gritty, dark and all too alluring project set to make waves, that is if you don’t mind swimming in choppy waters. Savior’s music seems to establish a feminist perspective with a “rambling man” sort of vibe.

2. “Gimme All Your Love” by Alabama Shakes: When Brittany Howard opens her mouth, there’s no mistaking her intent. Her vocals never beg, never question. They never waver, nor do they falter. No, Howard never questions, rather, she demands, each note delivering an unmistakable confidence. “Gimme All Your Love” is just one example of Alabama Shakes’ talent. Watching Howard on stage is like witnessing ecstasy in motion. It’s raw, powerful and truly humbling. And when you learn that Howard went from working in a mail room to fronting one of the best alternative bands this decade, you realize how determined and hard-working she and her band are.

1. “Respect” by Aretha Franklin: In a playlist about empowering female artists, no one could forget Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” The powerful, motown song struck a chord in the psyche of women everywhere 50 years ago, and its message still resonates with us today. As we celebrate National Women’s Month, we remember the wonderful, brave women who came before us and fought for a simple, yet important ideal: respect.

BONUS: A photo album of some rocking females taken by yours truly.

Source:: Songs for the Likeminded and Empowered: A Women’s Month Playlist

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Country, Pop and Rock Oh My!

By pcsanchez7505

It’s hard to contain my enthusiasm when some of my favorite bands and musicians are on the cusp of releasing new work. Willie Nelson, Cataldo and Spoon are among the many talented artists releasing music over the next few months. Preceding the new releases are toe tapping new singles.

5. “Sit Next to Me” and “Hot Thoughts” by Spoon

Austin based band Spoon will release ‘Hot Thoughts’ March 17, but preceding the album are two new singles. If the singles are any indication to the album’s sound, we’re in for one funky collection. “Can I Sit Next To You” is a fun adventure that begs its listeners to move, while “Hot Thoughts” revs up like a sidewinding locomotive pulling into an introspective station. It’s a song that moves in unusual ways and makes sense in the most unconventional way.

4. “My One and Only Love” by Bob Dylan

In his younger days, Bob Dylan was an eager, outspoken individual who wrote politically charged and socially critical folk songs that left no stone unturned. He was not afraid to reinvent himself, sometimes to the dismay of his fans, and now Dylan has found inspiration not in new work, but in classic American tunes. ‘Triplicate’ out March 31, finds Dylan rediscovering and reinventing old tunes, and “My One and Only” is the first single, a beautiful and pleasant track.

3. “Velvet Gloves and Spit” by Timber Timbre

Timber Timbre may have some unusual, if not questionable, song titles, but their smooth and easy sound is always reliable. “Velvet Gloves and Spit” sounds absolutely beautiful contrary to its title. It’s slow, wading in a steady pace, and Taylor Kirk’s vocals are downright soothing. Timber Timbre’s new album ‘Sincerely, Future Pollution’ comes out April 7.

2. “A Woman’s Love” by Willie Nelson:

Seasoned raconteur Willie Nelson continues to be one of the top singer/songwriters of the ages. His craft spans decades, and this year he will release ‘God’s Problem Child’ on April 28. “A Woman’s Love” precedes his new album, and it’s a slow and somber tune with thoughtful and careful lyrics. Nelson has always gracefully captured the male and female perspective on love and life.“A Woman’s Love” seems to capture both perspectives in one tidy tune.

1. “Photograph” by Cataldo:

Probably the least known band out of the group is Seattle based Cataldo. The Indie band may be small, but they are mighty with a unique sound that captures the wistful, yet existentially prone, normalities of youth. In their new single “Photograph” lyricist and singer Eric Anderson peels back to proverbial curtains of young individuals to reveal something straightforward and concrete. From photographs capturing everyday joys to road trips across the Pacific Northwest, Cataldo paints a simple, yet profound picture, one that sticks to pastel color patterns and wispy strokes. Cataldo’s new album ‘Keepers’ is out April 28.

Source:: Country, Pop and Rock Oh My!

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Chicano Batman Dive into the Political Waters

By pcsanchez7505

East Los Angeles band Chicano Batman has long been a local favorite. The four-piece group captures the spirit of genres from the past while still having strong roots in the present. Their Hispanic background influences their musical style, and the four young men showcase the potential of the American melting pot by blending their culture and sound with multiple influences. Soul, blues, Jazz, funk and many other genres weave in and out of Chicano Batman’s music making each song a unique puzzle piece coming together to form a beautiful image.

On stage, the band moves with a confident, yet humble nature, each member dawning vintage suits that channel a 50’s moonlight crooner. Bardo Martinez (lead vocals, organ, guitar) commands the stage with powerful vocals that traverse Spanish and English lyrics. He and bandmates Eduardo Arenas (bass guitar, vocals), Carlos Arévalo (guitar) and Gabriel Villa (drums, percussion) have a knack for filling any venue with an indisputable and insatiable energy that translates well into the studio.

Their earlier work harbored more on well crafted and often times eclectic instrumentals, but with their latest release, ‘Freedom is Free,’ out March 3, the band becomes more vocal. The writing in many of their songs take on a more political stance, and Martinez seems to find his voice in a sea of political jargon.

“Passed You By,” the opening song of the album, starts off on a softer side. Lofty guitar riffs make way for an understated bass, and backing falsettos lead into more frustrated lyrics. Martinez channels a speaker witnessing the hesitation of another. While his counterpart has let life slip by, Martinez is determined not to follow suit.

Caution continues with “Friendship (Is a Small Boat in a Storm).” The song’s lyrics harbor an intuitive perspective on the notion of trust and friendship and being betrayed by someone. What the band learned is, in troubling times, it’s best to be wary of others’ motives. While the winds may be strong and seas rough, the band pushes through.

In “Angel Child” the band dusts off grandiose love songs of the past setting them ablaze with newfound funk. Falsetto choruses, slowed down interludes and jazzy bass lines work together in an unexpected and brilliant way.

The album takes a turn for the political with title track “Freedom is Free.” It’s here where the band really shines. A funky bass line ushers in powerful lyrics as Chicano Batman give social commentary on current issues. Among the critics and pessimists, Chicano Batman maintain a cautious hopefulness. They remind us that as long as nature prevails, the Earth will go on with or without us. While we are here though, there are a few universal truths one should remember including our basic rights to an open minded freedom.

“You’ve got your guns up on display, but you can’t control how I feel no way, because Freedom is free … and you can’t take that away from nobody,” Martinez sings.

In the middle of the album the band sprinkles in songs with Spanish lyrics. These songs never seem out of place, and Martinez and band have no problem blending in their cultural background. “La Jura” and “Fletcha Al Sol” showcase the band’s fluidity as a group that can write in both Spanish and English. Here, these songs take on a more rhythmic approach and Martinez’s vocals take on a different tone, although the lyrics are still politically charged. They’re well within frame of the album and one doesn’t think twice when the album’s language shifts gears.

The band’s strongest song, though, comes toward the end with “The Taker Story,” a hard hitting single that spares no ambiguity in criticizing capitalistic greed. Martinez carefully articulates every word over a subtle, yet bouncy, bass line and drum beats. Martinez sings about humanity’s greed from biblical times to present day and highlights the darker underbelly of civilization that has caused such things as war, genocides and environmental destruction. The band notes that in an attempt to separate ourselves from nature and other animals, man has enacted a rigid societal structure that often weeds out those who won’t or can’t conform.

“We decide what’s good and bad, for the entire universe … If you don’t want to die, you have to live like me,” Martinez sings.

All in all, ‘Freedom is Free’ depicts a progression for Chicano Batman. The band is as they always were — creative, innovative and thoughtful. Now, however, they’ve sailed into new waters with a clearer voice and powerful social stance. I, like many others, look forward to where they go next.

Chicano Batman will play at the Pomona Glasshouse April 29. For more information on tickets or where to buy their music, visit their website at chicanobatman.com.

Source:: Chicano Batman Dive into the Political Waters

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Brace Yourself … Music Is Coming

By pcsanchez7505

Music fans and ‘Game of Thrones’ fans rejoice — there is something new and exciting coming your way. While winter is well over in Southern California, you’ll still want to brace yourself for an exciting and one of a kind musical experience.

Thanks to Live Nation and HBO, the ‘Game of Thrones’ world will come to life in an immersive concert experience featuring an orchestra, choir and musical soloists performing scores from the popular television show based off of “A Song of Fire and Ice” book series by George R.R. Martin. Live music, sound effects and complex visuals collide to depict battles and key elements of the show’s many realms.

Each performance uses state of the art technology to bring the fantastical seven kingdoms to life in a breathtaking visual spectacle. From dragon screeches, to fiery scenes and popular quotes from the show, the ‘Game of Thrones’ Concert Series cuts no corners when it comes to constructing an all inclusive performance.

Through production effects and video technology, the concert recreates kingdoms seen in the show from Westerns to Essos.

The show is three years in the making, bringing together audio and visual elements to depict a grand and accurate portrayal of the show, scored by composer Ramin Djawdi.

Djawdi’s music is an important part of what makes the show so unique. Each of his scores adds texture and depth to an already riveting show. Djawdi was recently a guest on NPR’s morning segment where he discussed inspiration and excitement for the upcoming tour. The segment revealed details about Djawdi’s process creating the ‘Game of Thrones’ theme song, an odd “no flute rule” and Djawdi’s inspiration for composing and scoring.

The show is produced exclusively by Live Nation with HBO Global Licensing. The tour starts in late February and will continue through May. On its way across the states, Game of Thrones’ Concert Series will stop in Los Angeles (the only Southern California date) on March 23 at The Forum. Tickets can be purchased at livenation.com and range from $40 to $125 plus service fees.

‘Game Of Thrones’ will go into its seventh and final season sometime this year. Anticipation for the show’s wrap up and musical score is huge.

Source:: Brace Yourself … Music Is Coming

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Starting the Conversation One Song at a Time

By pcsanchez7505

beigeflowers

Photo Courtesy of Olden Yolk/Pitch Perfect

I often say music is a powerful tool. It’s a catalyst to change and promotes healing, empowerment, happiness and so much more. It helps us cope with daily struggles and cherish beautiful moments. The power music carries is often on an intangible level, though, affecting us on an emotional level. There are some cases, however, where listening to or supporting music makes an immediate impact on society. Such is the case for the band Olden Yolk, spearheaded by musician Shane Butler.

Butler, also associated with psychedelic band Quilt, started Olden Yolk as another platform to explore and experiment with music as a means to express himself. His music has roots in traditional folk, but Butler expands on the classic features of this genre to push the limits of its characteristics to create something truly unique.

There is a lot of ambition in Butler’s work, and undoubtedly a lot of trial and error. In addition to creating new and interesting music, Butler also uses music to support better treatment of mental illness.

In his song “Beige Flowers,” released Feb. 9, Butler talks about his mother’s experience with mental illness. The song, he notes, was written in 2013 after an odd remark by his mother about her future death. Shortly after recording the song, Butler’s mother ended her own life after several months of depression, anxiety and hospitalization.

Butler admitted that he never imagined his mother would take her own life. He wrote that she was a strong and calm person who persevered through many struggles. But, like many in her position, she did not divulge the extent of her depression to others for fear of seeming weak.

In a personal statement on his Bandcamp page, Butler spoke about the stigmas surrounding mental illness. More often than not, we as a society don’t realize how detrimental mental illness can be until it’s too late. Those with mental illnesses aren’t told to be wary of symptoms such as individuals with physical diseases are, and the stigmas surrounding mental illness often portray those who suffer from it as weak or unable to deal with reality. Real progress for supporting mental health is often shrouded by secrecy and shame.

After his mother’s death, Butler shelved “Beige Flowers,” stating that it felt “too real” to release.

“But conversation is where real change can begin,” Butler wrote.

After four years, Butler has released his song with a powerful message and an even more powerful call to action. All proceeds from “Beige Flowers” will benefit the nonprofit organization Bring Change 2 Mind. This organization not only helps those with mental illness, but it also tackles the stigmas surrounding it.

By starting his own conversation about mental illness, Butler’s song highlights the tragedy of loss and the necessity to reach out to loved ones.

For more information about Butler, his mother or to listen to or purchase “Beige Flowers” visit Olden Yolk’s Bandcamp page at beigeflowers.bandcamp.com/releases.

Source:: Starting the Conversation One Song at a Time

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Five New Songs to Freedom

By pcsanchez7505

As we move into February we already have new music and the promise of several new albums to come out in the next few months. While some artists are using their music to make social commentary about current events, others are bringing us a much needed distraction. Both are equally as important, though. Here are five new songs from the past two months you many have missed, many of which are singles to upcoming new albums, and all of which come from Los Angeles bands.

5. “Lucid Dreams” by Cherry Glazerr:

What started four years ago with 15-year-old Clementine Creevy quickly turned into a force to be reckoned with. Creevy and her band Cherry Glazerr astounded critics with their high energy and tenacious spirit. “Lucid Dreams” is off their Jan. 20 album ‘Apocalipstick,’ a cheek-in-tongue album full of ferocious howls and self awareness.

4. “Pure Comedy” by Father John Misty:

Indulgent, sarcastic and lofty are adequate descriptions for singer/songwriter Father John Misty (AKA Josh Tillman), but with his new song “Pure Comedy” Misty gets a little more serious. He still manages to get carried away, ending the song with an over-the-top soulfulness. The majority of the song, though, is filled with modest chord changes and brutally honest remarks on politics, religion and societal norms. It’s not a song for everyone, and Misty will no doubt offend some people, but one has to commend him for speaking his mind all while making one hell of a song. His new album of the same title drops April 7.

3. “Show You the Way” by Thundercat:

Funk meets Motown in Thundercat’s modern sound, and “Show You the Way” is the newest example of it. Featuring the legendary Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald, “Show You the Way” turns heads with its smooth and soulful sound, delighting and surprising fans. The new song is a single for Thundercat’s upcoming album, ‘Drunk,’ out Feb. 24.

2. “Orange Color Queen” by Ty Segall:

Punk rocker Ty Segall takes on a softer side with “Orange Color Queen,” a song written by Segall for his girlfriend. They psychedelic new tune is sweet, creative and heartfelt. It’s definitely a quieter and calmer sound than Segall’s debut album, but it resonates with fans nevertheless. “Orange Color Queen” precedes Segall’s sophomore album, which dropped Jan 27.

1. “Freedom is Free” by Chicano Batman:

On March 3, Chicano Batman will release ‘Freedom is Free,’ a politically charged album for the modern era. Their single of the same title is out now, and if this song is any indication to what the album will sound like, everyone should be very excited for March 3. Bringing R&B sound to the forefront of their music, the East LA band merges their unique style with a rich and soulful style adding to their already brilliant collection of work. “Freedom is Free” is smart, sharp and uplifting to say the least. It reigns as a punctuation mark for the band’s progression and commitment to stay in the moment and reflect on the lift around them. The band itself is full of young crooners who dress like a 50s do-op band (funky suit and bowtie combination). Their music is anything but old, though, and the band has a knack for innovating and mixing older genres to make them new again. Recently, the band even released their own version of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” reinventing the song and adding Spanish lyrics to extend a friendly hand to all who have made America their home. In a time like this, their honesty and cautious hopefulness is much appreciated.

Source:: Five New Songs to Freedom

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‘Migration’ Marks a New Chapter for Bonobo’s Simon Green

By pcsanchez7505

bonobo_migration

Photo via Ninja Tune

UK producer Simon Green, better known by his stage name Bonobo, makes remarkable strides in his music with the release of ‘Migration.’ The 12-track album is proof of Green’s maturation in sound and concept, as he turns the dizzy and often incomplete feeling tunes of his past into full-fledged ideas.

That’s not to say Green’s past albums were bad. His 2013 album ‘The North Borders” had the potential to be something great had it not been for its lack of direction.

Consequently, Green’s previous ambitions of welding together slower electronica with more upbeat, experimental sounds didn’t quite stick. This time, however, all the pieces fit together to form his best work yet.

The album starts out with its title track. “Migration” is slow and haunting, with sparse vocals that hang above an interlacing melody.

“Break Apart” keeps the listener in a suspended stupor. There is a trance-like element, and Green rarely breaks apart from his slow wheeling concoction. He does however, transition into a more up tempo creation with “Outlier.” The lengthy song introduces new peaks in the album, waxing and waning from spurts of energy to relaxing lulls.

“Grains,” probably my favorite song off the track,” marks an interesting interlude in the album. It begins almost in a meditative chant. There are quivering instrumentals and transfixing vocals that cry out in the most subtle deviations. The song never wavers from its modern tantra, adding interesting texture to its counterparts.

The whole album comes together in fragments, like stained glass tiles making up a beautiful mosaic. Perhaps one of the album’s best features is its ability to transition from song to song. There are definite distinctions between each song, but the ending of one song fits perfectly with the beginning of the next. Even if the two songs are completely different in pace, it always seems like a natural transition.

Green’s use of vocals sprinkled throughout the album also makes it feel more complete. “No Reasons” is the best example of this venture. Guest vocalist Nick Murphy adds a new layer to the song bringing it out of electronica into a full blown pop song.

The album on a whole marks a crowning achievement in Green’s 15-year career. It draws upon the downtempo subgenera of electronica while still remaining open to the casual listener. It’s a beautiful piece that evokes a unique emotional response.

Bonobo is set to play Coachella this April, and though there are no confirmations on extra gigs, one can usually assume he will add more dates in smaller venues in between the desert festival’s two-weekend dates.

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New Shins Singles Bring More Anticipation Over Upcoming Album

By pcsanchez7505

It’s been a long, long road for the Shins so far. The American indie band has gone through a multitude of musicians to make up a talented, yet often changing line up. Through it all though, the band’s front man James Mercer continues to push on. Mercer, the group’s founding member, comes into the new year hoping to accomplish a goal he set for himself when he went into production of the Shins’ fourth studio album. While the album won’t be released until mid-March, the band premiered two singles last year and will perform at the Fox Theater in Pomona and the Observatory North Park in San Diego.

The music released last year marks the first singles in four years. The Shins’ last album, ‘Port of Morrow,’ came out in 2012. The band’s new album is gaining interest from fans and critics alike. Known for their dark sound, the new tracks still embody the cryptic allure of their older music. There is a new presence in the tracks however, a more experimental mood that expands on what the Shins are known for.

Inside the recording studio, Mercer noted that he and bandmates had a lot of room to not only try new things in their musical style, but experiment with the sound of each individual track. In the process of creating an album, the band recorded alternate versions of the same song.

“Name For You,” off the yet to be released album, is not as dark as their previous work. In fact, it’s a little pop-inspired with an upbeat tempo and a kooky music video to match.

“Dead Alive” on the other hand is more experimental than anything, with a beginning that sounds something like the beginning of an old horror movie.

The Shins will perform March 4 at the Fox Theater and March 6 and 7 at the Observatory North Park. You can hear both new tracks and find out about the band’s appearances in Southern California at theshins.com.

Source:: New Shins Singles Bring More Anticipation Over Upcoming Album

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Top 10 Albums of 2016

By pcsanchez7505

As we head into 2017, there is a lot to reflect on. Throughout 2016, we saw the passing of many talented, iconic and unique musicians. David Bowie, Merle Haggard, Glen Frey (The Eagles), Prince and Leonard Cohen were just a few of the wonderful voices we lost. We also saw a large collection of new records from new artists and experienced musicians. Before going into my top 10 for the year, I’d like to highlight a few artists who released an album this year that are worth checking out: ‘Heatherfield’ by Silver Torches; ‘Hey Marseilles’ by Hey Marseilles; ‘Home of the Brave’ by Young the Giant; ‘City Club’ by The Growlers; and ‘Do Hollywood’ by The Lemon Twigs.

Now, on to the top 10.

10. ‘Skeleton Tree’ by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: I can’t express enough how raw this album is. Nick Cave takes the pain of losing his son in a freak accident and turns it into something tangible and relatable. While the band had already started working on the album before the death of Cave’s son, ‘Skeleton Tree’ grew into a completely different entity after the tragic event. In the album, the lyrics hang over a somber melody like spoken word set to new live. Cave seems to submit to his intense emotions, and his often cryptic lyrics are given more meaning.

Essential Tracks: “Skeleton Tree” and “Rings of Saturn”

9. ‘Darkness and Light’ by John Legend: This album was nearly a homerun for John Legend. His mix of Gospel, Jazz and R&B sets him apart from other similar musicians, and the inclusion of guest singers such as Brittney Howard (Alabama Shakes) takes his music to new heights. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the dynamic between him and Howard on the title track, and the rest of the album marks a pivotal turn in Legend’s career. It’s not groundbreaking per say, but it’s damn good.

Essential Tracks: “Darkness and Light” and “Surefire”

8. ‘Good Grief’ by Lucius: This album came out in early March, and at the time I absolutely loved it. I still do. While it at first didn’t seem to compare to other albums that were technically better, I can’t deny the energy and special feeling I get when I listen to this album. It’s both everything and nothing at the same time and can jump from intense moments to calm reflections. The band itself wasn’t even on my radar until a love interest at the time made me a playlist with them on it. While that particular love interest fizzled, Lucius’ music stayed. Lead singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig have powerful vocals that intertwine and challenge each other in a beautiful way.

Essential Tracks: “Gone Insane” and “Dusty Trails”

7. ‘Everything You’ve Come to Expect’ by The Last Shadow Puppets: The more I listen to this album the more I love it. Each listen brings new layers and new things to fawn over. The B-sides released over the past few months have made the album even more enjoyable. Alex Turner and Miles Kane don’t take themselves too seriously with this album, especially when performing it live, but the cool and collective feeling you get when you listen to ‘Everything You’ve Come to Expect’ is undeniable.

Essential Tracks: “Sweet Dreams, TN” and “Aviation”

6. ‘Post Pop Depression’ by Iggy Pop: When your front man is legendary rock star Iggy Pop and you’re backed by three outstanding musicians from the last decade, you’re sure to hit gold. Pop, Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age) and Matt Helders (Arctic Monkeys) deliver a youthful and high energy album that is undeniably great. The band melts into a hot, liquid substance that oozes into your soul and takes over your mind. The results of which are pure bliss for the listener.

Essential Tracks: “Gardenia” and “Chocolate Drops”

5. ‘Freetown Sound’ by Blood Orange: It’s a little risky to make a long album, but artists are doing it more and more with great reception. Blood Orange’s ‘Freetown Sound’ is a 17-track album that doesn’t feel long at all. That is in part due to lead singer Dev Hynes’ social commentary in the album. ‘Freetown Sound’ is a record with purpose, a record with layers and a record that incorporates Hip Hop, Jazz, Blues and spoken word poetry. All elements came together in an organic way.

Essential Tracks: “By Ourselves” and “Best to You”

4. ‘You Want It Darker’ by Leonard Cohen: Leonard Cohen was just one of many artists who passed away this year. The 82-year-old singer/songwriter always had a knack for poetry and lyrics. His enigmatic personality was almost stifled by his stage fright, but Cohen was able to pull from his love of words to create a beautiful and long lasting career. ‘You Want it Darker’ is a swan song of an album that completes Cohen’s mountain of work. It’s honest, as Cohen always was, and isn’t a last attempt to create something great. Rather, it’s the final breath of a man who had so much to say.

Essential Tracks: “You Want it Darker” and “If I Didn’t Have Your Love”

3. ‘We Got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service’ by A Tribe Called Quest: After the death of member Phife Dawg, A Tribe Called Quest pulled through their loss to release an album that was truly sensational. The band retained all the uniqueness it had when it first started, and added to it contemporary commentary. ‘We Got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service’ is an outstanding piece of work that meshes together Hip Hop, Rap and some unlikely guests and samples.

Essential Tracks: “Solid Wall of Sound” and “We The People….”

2. ‘A Sailor’s Guide to Earth’ by Sturgill Simpson: Psychedelia and country aren’t two genres I would usually use to describe the same band, but Sturgill Simpson isn’t an ordinary musical collaboration. Simpson’s twist on country adds a psychedelic layer to the classic country storytelling of Willie Nelson or Waylon Jennings – the latter of which he is often compared to. He does so in an effortless way, and uses personal experiences as the inspiration for his new album, which also includes a cover song of 90s Grunge band Nirvana. Simpson’s music is eclectic for sure, but it’s not inaccessible. ‘A Sailor’s Guide to Earth’ is witty, heartfelt and breathtaking.

Essential Tracks: “Sea Stories” and “Brace for Impact”

1. ‘Case/Lang/Veirs’ by Neko Case, k.d. Lang and Laura Veirs: In November I took a road trip to Oregon. As my partner and I were driving down Interstate Five through Oregon, the song “I-5” came on. I immediately knew that stretch of highway was what Neko Case, k.d. Lang and Laura Veirs were singing about. It was beautiful and complex, breathtaking and mysterious, much like ‘Case/Lang/Veirs.’ When I first heard this album, I was astounded by how pristine it sounded. The vocals of three talented female artists melted together into something rich, warm and inviting. Lang’s crooning voice hung over the chipper and spritely voices of Case and Veirs, and the lyrics were a work of art. It is a subtle album, but it’s powerful and breathtaking.

Essential Tracks: “Honey and Smoke” and “Song for Judee”

Source:: Top 10 Albums of 2016

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The Year’s Best Albums: Part two

By pcsanchez7505

January through March had some pretty great albums, and the streak continued into the second quarter of the year, particularly in April, where four of my favorite albums from that quarter were released. Now, it’s interesting to note the way we find music or new artists. Sometimes new discoveries are stumbled upon, while others take root from other bands we like. The best way, I think, is when you meet someone new who introduces you to something you really fall in love with. Whether the relationship or encounter was fleeting, the music stays.

5. ‘Lemonade’ by Beyoncé: Now, I’ve never been a huge fan of Beyoncé. I’ve admired her talent and acknowledge her strong presence in music, but I was never part of her diehard fans, though I do remember owning a HitClip of “Survivor” (you remember the mini boomboxes that came with little 30-second clips of popular songs) when I was younger . When ‘Lemonade’ dropped on April 23, it caught my attention more than any of her other albums, however. It was diverse, lyrically diverse and completely unapologetic. “What’s worse looking jealous or crazy? Jealous or Crazy? Or like, being walked all over lately, walked all over lately. I’d rather be crazy.” She spoke her mind and brushed off any and every stereotype about women she could think of.

4. ‘Stranger to Stranger’ by Paul Simon: One half of Simon and Garfunkel, Paul Simon that is, released an album June 3, and what an album it was. ‘Stranger to Stranger’ is a hodgepodge of sounds and tones. From his always prevailing maturity to a newfound humor, Simon crafts an aloof and interesting album hard to describe and even harder to pinpoint, both of which are a compliment to Simon. Although Simon has had some blundering albums in the past, ‘Stranger to Stranger’ does not fall into that category.

3. ‘Everything You’ve Come to Expect’ by The Last Shadow Puppets: A side project of Arctic Monkeys front man Alex Turner and British musician Miles Kane, The Last Shadow Puppets are an allusive duo releasing albums on a whim and caring little for how people receive it, although, their two albums have been pretty well received. Almost eight years after their first release, Turner and Kane returned this year to release an album on April 1, a James Bond, strings infused nymph of an album. The duo makes it clear that they’re rock stars who lead sexy, unexpected lives full of excitement, and yes, sex. They pull it off though and make the listener feel just as cavalier.

2. ‘A Sailor’s Guide to Earth’ by Sturgill Simpson: There are many reasons why ‘A Sailor’s Guide to Earth,’ released April 15, is one of my favorite albums of the year. Truthfully though, I almost never heard of Simpson. My discovery came after a plane ride from Portland to LAX where I had a surprising conversation with a fellow passenger. It was a beautiful discovery, and ‘A Sailor’s Guide to Earth’ came out just a month after that plane ride. The album itself is a wonderful journey. It’s personal, drawing from Simpson’s time abroad in the navy, and wonderfully crafted, Simpson’s unique voice layers over a multitude of instruments that span the sound of many genres. This album blew me away, and still does.

1. ‘Case/Lang/Veirs’ by Neko Case, k.d. Lang and Laura Veirs: “Wow, this is beautiful. What is it?” “It’s music, my dear.”Jokes aside, this was the response my partner gave me when I showed him the debut collaborative album by musicians Neko Case, k.d. Lang and Laura Veirs. ‘Case/Lang/Veirs,’ released in June is perhaps one of the most beautiful pieces of music this year. The three lovely singers lend their smooth vocals to songs that are sweet, coy and heartfelt. It’s an album that shines with experience, pulling from Lang’s long-lasting career, while still maintaining a quirky and innocent aura to it. While “Best Kept Secret” lightens the mood, “Honey and Smoke” exudes a beautiful and graceful demeanor. The album is a perfect concoction of grace, sincerity and wonder.

Source:: The Year’s Best Albums: Part two

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