September 2016 Music Picks Pt. 2

Saint Motel “Move”

I’m a sucker for both retro-flair and prominently placed horns in pop tunes, so California-based pop rockers Saint Motel are a band that basically ‘had me at Hello’. I adored the “Voyeur” album, and the debut single from their new album “Saintmotelevision” in no way disappoints.  Counting down the days to the album’s release on October 21!  Meanwhile, here’s Saint Motel’s new video for “Move”!

Kungs feat. Cookin’ On 3 Burners “This Girl”

“This Girl” features French DJ/producer Kungs (aka Valentin Brunel) mixing his electronic hooks with the soulful vocals of Australian funk trio Cooking’ on 3 Burners (featuring vocalist Kylie Auldist) in a remix of their original song. The catchy 60’s flavoured deep-funk groove conquered charts all across Europe earlier this year, reaching #1 in France, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Scotland, Slovakia and more) and is now poised to do the same in North America.

Fitz and the Tantrums “Roll Up”

Fitz and the Tantrums keep the high-energy beats going in “Roll Up”, the second single from their 3rd (self-titled) album. While the CD’s shift from retro-soul to dance pop drew some grumbles from fans of the LA band’s indie neo-soul roots, unabashed lovers of 80’s pop music (that would include me) are still digging the addictively high-spirited new tunes. While the band may be exhibiting business savvy in carving out a toehold for themselves in the mainstream at present, my impression is that they have the requisite talent to continue moving in unexpected directions as they progress. Right now I’m just enjoying the feel-good singalong danceable beat.

Two Door Cinema Club “Bad Decisions”

The new track “Bad Decisions” by Irish indie rockers Two Door Cinema Club has been compared to offerings from the Bee Gees and the Scissor Sisters, which may go a long way towards explaining why I can’t get it out of my head. Today’s music seems thoroughly infused with the funk-disco sounds of the 70s and I don’t care how cheesy that may sound, I’m lovin’ every minute of it! Everything old is new again…. This fun song is from the band’s 3rd album “Gameshow” due for release on October 14.

The Shelters “Rebel Heart”

Fans of the Beatles and Tom Petty should be flocking to this one – that intro in particular immediately evokes those popular Liverpudlian lads. The Shelters hail from Southern California, and their eponymous album — featuring the single “Rebel Heart” — was released this past June. The album is produced by Tom Petty, whose fingerprints are clearly all over this song as well. Enjoy!

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September 2016 Music Picks Pt. 1

Miike Snow “My Trigger”

 The Swedish electropop trio known as Miike Snow know their way around a hit, having written and produced for some of the biggest names in pop (Britney Spears, Bruno Mars, Madonna, and more). Their third album, titled iii, is a fusion of genres, blending EDM with hip hop, pop melodies and funky soul, drawing occasional comparisons to bands like The Gorillaz and Daft Punk. I figured their previous fun hit (“Genghis Khan”) would be a tough act to follow. But the adventurous new single “My Trigger” has a highly infectious vintage soul/funk 70s feel (one reviewers comment: “Gnarls Barkley doing ELO”) and just might be my favourite track yet. I recently snagged tickets to see Miike Snow live this fall – really looking forward to it!


Green Day “Bang Bang”

California’s venerable punk-rock superstars Green Day sail into their 4th decade with new single “Bang Bang” –already sitting at the top of the Rock charts (and not far behind on Alternative) only a handful of weeks after its release. The coming new album “Revolution Radio” is said to feature “a blitz of angst-ridden anthems that address the complexities and uncertainties of modern day existence.” This first single tackles social and politically charged topics from gun violence to internet fame, and is being hailed as a reconnection with the band’s early punk rock roots. Green Day has matured quite nicely over the decades — my favorite review quote notwithstanding, i.e. “Billie Joe Armstrong pulls off snot-nosed teenage angst like he’s still 14.” The new album drops October 7th.



Elle King “Good Girls”

Yay, she’s back! With another rollicking and sassy tune from the new Ghostbusters soundtrack. Yeah I know I’m a little late on this – a convention swallowed me whole this month. Gotta rave on this tho ’cause I love me some Elle King!! “Hey hey hey, since I’m gonna go to hell anyway, I’ll go out with a bang bang bang, crashing, burning all the way….I do what the good girls don’t…” – and nobody does it better than Ms. King!



Barns Courtney “Fire”

Been grooving on this foot-stomper from British-born/Seattle-based artist Barns Courtney for a while now. The folksy, blues-infused rousing rock tune “Fire” began turning heads when it was added to the soundtrack for the movie “Burnt”– just as Barns was contemplating hanging up his guitar for good. The artist previously fronted indie rock bands Sleeper Cell and Dive Bella Dive, and has toured with Ed Sheeran. He’s now hard at work on his debut solo album. “Fire” is currently climbing the Alt Rock charts and is also being featured in promo ads for Showtime and Starz. If you haven’t heard it yet, you likely will soon. Do yourself a favor and beat the crowd.



The Struts “Put Your Money On Me”

The Struts latest single “Put Your Money On Me” is a delightful pop-rock tune infused with SO many classic 70’s influences it’s hard to know where to begin (let’s kick it off with 10cc, Todd Rundgren, Elton John and obviously Queen just for starters…how many others can you catch?) while still being exactly what we’ve come to expect and love from The Struts. Kick back for the next almost-four minutes and revel in this tasty little ear confection:


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August 2016 Music Picks

Beck “Wow”  

As a longtime admirer of Beck’s creative originality, I confess this one had me scratching my head a bit at first.  (Even Beck himself expressed surprise that it was chosen as a single).  “Wow” is an apt moniker for this tune about “the moments in life that leave you in awe of the world.”  Still, the more I hear this innovative bit of “wild funk hip-pop”, the more I come to love it – the deep bass beats and brittle snare mingled with sugary synth and backing vocals is a cool, fun, contemporary tune.  Giddy-up!



Young The Giant “Something To Believe In”

Young the Giant’s new track “Something To Believe In” isn’t a song that plays quietly in the background.  It demands your attention and mesmerizes you with its dark, haunting melody and emotive vocals.  This California-based rock band that debuted in 2010 continues to improve with each new album.  Young The Giant has had three previous Top 5 Alternative hits to date; this may be their best one yet.  From the eagerly anticipated new album “Home of the Strange” that comes out this week (August 12).



Hozier “Better Love”

I was delighted to see one of my 2014 faves return with a new song written for the Legend of Tarzan movie.  With a quiet piano intro that slowly builds into an orchestral crescendo, “Better Love” is classic Hozier, from his soulful voice to the finely crafted lyrics: “I once kneeled in shaking thrill, I chase the memory of it still….chided by that silence of a hush sublime, blind to the purpose of the brute divine…I have never loved a darker blue, than the darkness I have known in you.”



888 – “Critical Mistakes”

Denver based alternative-electro band 888 includes several former members of the metalcore band Drop Dead Gorgeous (a band highly recommended by locals during the time I lived in Denver, and last heard from in 2013).  The 888 debut EP “The Decades” (now re-titled “Critical Mistakes EP”) unveils a softer melodic pop-synth sound that is catching on at several alternative stations around the nation, and has been receiving rave reviews and prediction of a bright musical future for this reincarnated band.  The lead track “Critical Mistakes” is accompanied by an emotional video about forgiveness.



21 Pilots “Heathens”

If it’s possible for 21 Pilots to release a sub-par song, I have yet to hear it.  Their latest track “Heathens” is a moody, edgy tune that continues the band’s penchant for philosophical, introspective lyrics and metaphors. We’re all “broken weirdos with issues” in one way or another.  The song is a perfect fit for the “Suicide Squad” soundtrack – a DC comics fantasy/crime anti-hero film– on which it is featured.



Moth and the Flame “Red Flag”

Originally hailing from Provo, Utah and now based in LA, Moth and the Flame is an alt-rock quartet with a liberal splash of pop/synth tossed in the mix.  The band made their debut in 2011, showcased at SXSW in 2013, and have toured with Imagine Dragons, Neon Trees, Naked & Famous and Big Data.  The inevitable comparisons place them somewhere between Soundgarden and Walk The Moon, with shades of U2 and Echo & the Bunnymen –the latter no doubt due to the compelling vocal delivery of singer Brandon Robbins.  Their latest single “Red Flag”, from the 2015 album “Young and Unafraid”, is a driving, upbeat anthem of excess vs. moderation, tinged with melancholy lyrics (“Love is a one-way street headed away from me…”) and an instantaneous appeal.


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July 2016 Music Picks Pt. 2

Paper Route “Laugh About It”

Paper Route is an alt-indie rock band from Nashville formed in 2004, with two previous albums and an EP under their belt. The  band has toured extensively with other groups like Paramore, Imagine Dragons, and Passion Pit and had their music featured on TV shows such as Vampire Diaries.  Their new single “Laugh About It”, which attempts to brightly shrug off the dreary realities of everyday life, has an immediate appeal in its original, refreshing yet somehow familiar sound.  You’ll quickly find yourself singing along to this irresistible toe-tapping melody.



The Head and the Heart “All We Ever Knew”

Seattle indie folk band “The Head and the Heart” have dropped a new single called “All We Ever Knew” that is rapidly climbing up the charts in several genres, including alternative and rock.   “All We Ever Knew” pulls you quickly in with its beautiful melodies and gorgeous vocal harmonization highlighted with piano, guitar and violin.  The song’s sunny “la la la’s” and happy uptempo beat stand in contrast to the more wistful and somber lyrics.  The new album “Signs of Light” is scheduled for release on September 9th.



The Kills “Doing It To Death”

The Kills are an indie rock band formed by American singer Alison Mosshart (aka “VV”) and British guitarist Jamie Hince (aka “Hotel”).  These long-time industry veterans released their 5th album “Ash & Ice” on June 3rd after a 5-year absence during which Mosshart collaborated with Jack White in the band The Dead Weather.  The album’s hypnotic lead track “Doing It To Death” is a brooding, sultry blues rock delight that “pulsates along with thumping bass and bubbling mellotron notes”.  You don’t want to miss hearing this one!



Nothing But Thieves “Wake Up Call”

Technically “Wake Up Call” was the first single from UK alt-rock quintet Nothing But Thieves back in 2014, but it didn’t start getting serious airplay on the Alternative charts here until after their track “Trip Switch” hit #1 on the US alternative charts (and #6 on the rock charts) last year.  Since then the band has garnered much acclaim for its “dynamic combination of sharp songwriting, moody atmosphere and masterful production” along with singer Connor Mason’s “emotionally raw, angelic” vocals. Their self-titled debut album, which was just released this past February in the U.S., also inspired a host of glowing adjectives from reviewers, from “atmospheric, hypnotic and evocative” to “unexpected, powerful, and majestic”.



Holy White Hounds “Switchblade” 

Hailing from Des Moines, Iowa, the Holy White Hounds conjure up shades of 90s rock, most notably Beck and Queens of the Stone Age.  Their debut single “Switchblade” features an interesting song structure that takes it beyond the standard “rock” category (they describe their sound as “feral alt-rock”).  Lead vocalist/guitarist Brenton Dean delivers a laid-back vocal drawl punctuated by pulsing electronics and bursts of guitar, while the song is driven by an infectious and captivating bass line.   The band’s debut album “Sparkle Sparkle” was released in early May 2016.



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July 2016 Music Picks Pt. 1

Bastille “Good Grief”

Good news! UK alt-pop band Bastille, who broke through in 2013 with hits like “Pompeii” and “Flaws”, is back with a wistful yet upbeat 80s-influenced ‘summer anthem’ that was an instant ear-catcher for me. Singer Dan Smith describes “Good Grief” as a song about the ups and down of moving on after loss. The transcendental tune is accompanied by a surreal and slightly NSFW video that has caused a bit of chatter. The new album, “Wild World” is due out in September.



Coin “Talk Too Much”

The latest offering from Nashville quartet “Coin” is being called “infectious” and “insanely catchy” and I couldn’t agree more! I loved their 2015 song “Run” and this first taste of their upcoming new full-length album takes things up to the next level. “Talk Too Much” – about the inability to leave things unsaid (a problem many of us seem to have lately) — has been described by one reviewer as the “kind of single that deserves a stadium filled sing-along with its truly catchy hooks and effervescent guitar lines.” Don’t miss this one!


Glass Animals “Life Itself”

Two years on from their excellent debut album “Zaba”, Oxford’s psychedelic indie-pop band Glass Animals is back on the scene with a funky, percussion-driven song from their upcoming 2nd album “How To Be A Human Being”. An ode to the outsiders of society, “Life Itself” features a pop-retro groove and instantly familiar sounding chorus that will “slip and slide through your ears with ease”.


M83 feat. Mai-Lan “Go”

Catching up on a few tunes I’ve been enjoying this summer: “Go” is the 3rd (and best so far IMHO) single from French EDM band M83’s new (7th) album “Junk”, released in April. The moody electro-pop song features breathy guest vocals by French singer Mai Lan and a solo by guitar virtuoso Steve Vai. Described by some DJs as the “quintessential summer track”, the song begins with a “synth-dipped, R&B flavor and then surges into controlled mayhem with an infectious bass groove and a killer Vai ‘space’ solo that carries the song to its crescendo.”


Top 30 Russian Songs of 2016

Here’s something a little different….a look at the top hits on the Russian charts this year. Some pretty interesting stuff here. Several of these really had me wishing I could understand Russian!

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June 2016 Music Picks

Fitz and the Tantrums “Hand Clap”

Always delighted to see a new tune from Fitz and the Tantrums!  Hard to believe it’s been six years already since this six-piece neo-soul indie band from Los Angeles debuted with the breakout hit “Moneygrabber”.  Their latest tune “Hand Clap” has been growing on me steadily since its release in March.  New self-titled album comes out June 10th and will coincide with a three-month North American tour.


Cage The Elephant “Trouble”

“Tell Me I’m Pretty” is the fourth full-length release from the Kentucky alt-rock band Cage The Elephant, and the follow-up to their 2014 Grammy-nominated album “Melophobia”.  The new album, which dropped in late 2015, was produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach.  His influence/signature sound was prominent on the first single “Mess Around”, which hit #1 on the Alternative charts.  The second single “Trouble” with its ‘sparkly twang’ is a return to the band’s smoother, signature retro-vibe sound.



Blink 182 “Bored To Death”   

Not at all surprised to find this song sitting at the top of the Alternative Charts so soon after its release.  Although Blink 182 isn’t my usual fare of choice (though I do like the band), the song “Bored To Death” sounds like an instant classic, one you’ve heard – and are destined to continue hearing – for decades.  This latest track easily stands as one of their best, a significant accomplishment for a band that’s been around for well over 20 years now.  



Kurt Vile “Pretty Pimpin”

Philadelphian guitarist/songwriter Kurt Vile’s 6th studio album “b’lieve I’m goin down” was released late last year and was heralded in some quarters as one of the best albums of 2015.   The single “Pretty Pimpin” is finally getting some love on the alternative charts.  With a country-folk flavoured fingerpicked guitar melody (is that a banjo I hear?) the song is a compelling and highly relatable story of existential confusion. “I woke up one morning and didn’t recognize the man in the mirror…”



Kongos “Take It From Me”

“Take It From Me” is the first single from the eagerly anticipated sophomore album from Arizona-based (but South African born) sibling quartet The Kongos.  The song may sound familiar to the band’s longtime fans – it’s been a popular staple of their live show for some time now.  Re-worked in the studio for the new album “Egomaniac” – due out on June 10th — the song features the driving beat and groove that that characterizes the Kongos sound.



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May 2016 Music Picks

Bob Moses “Tearing Me Up”

Loved this one on first listen and now I can’t get enough! Bob Moses is an electronic duo from Vancouver, Canada (now residing in New York) that released their debut EP in 2012. Two other EPs preceded their first full-length album, released this year. “Days Gone By” is a lush, moody offering that straddles the line between rock/pop and EDM/house. The single “Tearing Me Up” pairs a groovy bass line with sultry, atmospheric vocals that pull you in and leave you wanting more. The band has been booked at several major festivals this year, including Coachella, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo.


The Struts “Kiss This” (Live on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert)

Had these guys (and this song) on my Best of 2015 list last year..but couldn’t resist sharing this anyway. Top of my current “want to see live” list: The Struts!


Wild Belle “Throw Down Your Guns”

 Wild Belle is a Chicago-based band known for its incorporation of reggae and ska grooves into a psychedelic pop sound. The band is comprised of Elliot and Natalie Bergman, siblings born into a musical family. Their debut album “Isles” was released in 2013. The follow up, “Dreamland”, features “a set of moody, groove-oriented songs with a deeper emotional impact”. The single “Throw Down Your Guns” started as a love song that morphed into a compelling yet peaceful protest against gun violence. In keeping with the band’s signature mixing of influences, the song incorporates elements of hip-hop with backing vocals by the Chicago Children’s Choir.


Temper Trap “Fall Together”

One of my latest faves: Australian band Temper Trap is back on the scene with their third album due to be released on June 10th. Best known in the U.S. for their 2009 hit “Sweet Disposition” (from their debut album “Conditions”), the band has won numerous awards in their native Australia, including Best Group and Best Rock Album in 2010. Their eponymous 2nd album in 2012 was an experimental diversion, but “Thick as Thieves” sees the band returning to their traditional rock roots. The gorgeous new single “Fall Together” speaks of a tangled love-hate relationship, and has been described by critics as a “triumphant electronic rock opus”.


Weezer “King of the World”

I’m quite fond of the band Weezer, but their last couple of offerings haven’t particularly resonated with me. So I’m thrilled to say that their newest single “King of the World” was a pretty instant ‘hit’ in my book (and on the charts) with its feel good pop sing-a-long chorus, and that instantaneously memorable classic Weezer sound. From their tenth LP “The White Album” (no, not that one) which hit stores on April 1. No fooling.

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