13
Jul

The Best Songs of 2018 (So Far)

Tomorrow is Quatorze Juillet (Bastille Day), which for us marks the end of the first half of the year. And it provides the perfect excuse to ensnare you with our Best Songs of 2018 (so far). Check all the songs out above. You will find the list dominated by songs from Damned Devotion a career-best album from the sensational Joan As Police Woman. Damned Devotion will undoubtedly be near or at the top of our Best Albums of 2018 list at year’s end. Joining Damned Devotion will doubtlessly be this year’s albums from Australia’s nascent Middle Kids (Lost Friends) and from the always-reliable Okkervil River (In The Rainbow Rain). Each is well-represented in our Best Songs of 2018.  You will also find multiple songs from the exceptional Janelle Monae, Leon Bridges, Kendrick Lamar (via the stellar Black Panther soundtrack), the seminal Stephen Malkmus (and the Jicks), Neko Case, Car Seat Headrest, The Decemberists and the welcome return of Wye Oak. Finally, you will find phenomenal newcomers Snail Mail, Saba, Stella Donnelly, Miya Folick and Rainbow Kitten Surprise. As you will hear, it’s been a great first half of the year for songs. Let’s hope the year finishes just as strong.

22
Jun

Check Out Laura Marling’s Compelling New “LUMP” Collab with Mike Lindsay

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We were called away for a while, but are now back. While we were away, LUMP, the new collaboration between Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay ( Tunng and Throws) began emitting desirable sounds and objects, ultimately releasing their eponymous debut album on June 1st via Dead Oceans. As we’re sure you’re aware, Marling has had a deep and successful solo career and discography. But based on her earlier band roles (in particular as a member of the now-defunkt Noah and the Whale) and now in LUMP, this band structure may comprise Marling’s best mode.

What initially caught our attention was LUMP’s phenomenal first single, Curse Of The Contemporary, from the album and its mesmerizing official video. Check the official video below and then their fantastic live performance of the song on Later with Jools Holland. We are suckers for any California-centric lyrics, but coupled with the song’s musical motifs, the song is highly addictive. The song’s lyrics are at bottom. Great stuff!

Next check out two other great tracks off the album. Late To The Flight is the album’s opening track. It opens with electronic atmospherics before Marling’s finger-picked guitar joins the “crooner in crisis.” Listen below. Afterwards check out the darkly infectious May I Be The Light. We love its “new libidinal concepts” and Joni-esque bridge.

You can order or stream the album HERE.

LUMP Tracklist:
1. Late To The Flight
2. May I Be The Light
3. Rolling Thunder
4. Curse Of The Contemporary
5. Hand Hold Hero
6. Shake Your Shelter
7. LUMP is a Product (credits)

Curse of the Contemporary

“If you should be bored in California
I’m sure not the first to warn you
Don’t read in too much to all the signs and turns
Keep your wits about you
and your mind freedom

If you should be bored in California
I’m sure I’m not the last to warn ya
The natives scaled the mountains for the promise of the sea
But deemed the land unworthy of them evidently

We salute the sun because
When the day is done
We can’t believe what we’ve become
Something else to prey upon
Evidently it’s just another vanity
Another something to believe
The curse of the contemporary

We salute the sun because
When the day is done
We can’t believe what we’ve become
Something else to prey upon
Evidently it’s just another vanity
Another something to believe
The curse of the contemporary

If you should be bored in California
I’m sure not the first to warn ya
Don’t read in too much to all the signs and turns
Keep your wits about you and your mind freedom

If you should be bored in California
I’m sure I’m not the last to warn ya
The natives scaled the mountains for the promise of the sea
But deemed the land unworthy of them evidently

We salute the sun because
When the day is done
We can’t believe what we’ve become
Something else to prey upon
Evidently it’s just another vanity
Another something to believe
The curse of the contemporary

We salute the sun because
When the day is done
We can’t believe what we’ve become
Something else to prey upon
Eidently it’s just another vanity
Another something to believe
The curse of the contemporary”

18
May

Watch Courtney Barnett and Band Ragin’ on The Tonight Show

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A week ago, we caught Courtney Barnett in full flight at the intimate Pico Union Project. Last night, in advance of today’s release of her new album Tell Me How You Really Feel, Barnett and blazing band set The Tonight Show afire with their raging performance of Nameless, Faceless off the new album (lyrics at bottom). Watch below. We particularly loved the mix, with the vocals mixed way up and highlighting the band’s harmonies. And of course Courtney’s guitar playing was perfect throughout. Brava!

You can order/stream the fantastic new album HERE.

Nameless, faceless

Don’t you have anything better to do
I wish that someone would hug you
Must be lonely
Being angry
Feeling over-looked.
You sit alone at home in the darkness
With all the pent-up rage that you harness
I’m real sorry
Bout whatever happened to you

I wanna walk through the park in the dark
Men are scared that women will laugh at them
I wanna walk through the park in the dark
Women are scared that men will kill them
I hold my keys
Between my fingers

He said “I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup
And spit out better words than you”
But you didn’t
Man you’re kidding yourself if you think
The world revolves around you
Yknow you got lots to give
N so many options
I’m real sorry
Bout whatever happened to you

I wanna walk through the park in the dark
Men are scared that women will laugh at them
I wanna walk through the park in the dark
Women are scared that men will kill them

I hold my keys
Between my fingers
Go on tell me
You’re just kidding
He said, she said
Nameless, faceless

16
May

Check Out Superb Songs and Videos from Wye Oak’s Outstanding New Album “The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs”

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We have once again lost track of amazing musical talent. Wye Oak has always been a bright blip on our musical radar. Like many, we first latched onto them via their breakout 2011 album Citizen before they moved from that album’s guitar-dominated sounds and shape-shifted into the synth-sounds of 2014’s fantastic Shriek. In 2016 the band’s lead singer Jenn Wasner also released (under the Flock of Dimes totem) a superb solo(ish) album entitled If You See Me, Say Yes.  All told, these albums comprise a very impressive discography. But we have a bit of the ADD, and so we lost track of the band and didn’t pay attention when their outstanding new album, The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs, was released in early April. Our bad. It’s among the Best Albums of 2018.

The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs combines the best of Citizen’s guitar-grandeur and Shriek’s synth-dominated gestalt, resulting in their best album to date. We hear great influences in the album, including Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel (It Was Not Natural), Laurie Anderson and LCD Soundsystem (the title track and Instrumental), Broken Social Scene (Lifer) and Joni Mitchell (I Know It’s Real), to name a few.  No matter the fantastic mix of influences we hear, Wassner and colleague Andy Stack always make the sounds and songs altogether their own, and to powerful effect, with Wassner’s vocals always a heady clarion call to the soul.

To get a feel, check out three great tracks off the album below. First up is the music video for It Was Not Natural, one of the album’s strongest songs. After, check out the lyric video for heart-strung Lifer, followed by the official video for the title track.  These songs’ superb, soul-baring lyrics are at bottom.

You can order The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs HERE.  Or stream it on your favorite streaming source.

Wye Oak is out on tour in support of the new album, and you find dates/tickets HERE.

IT WAS NOT NATURAL

when i am tired
unbidden
i go for a walk
i have to walk
or else
i do not recognize myself
my foot uncovers
what my heart wishes
is a treasure
seemingly foreign
but somehow still it is familiar
it could be amber
it could be animal or antler
they do resemble
they do remember one another
it was not natural
all along
only human hands
could give us
something so
unforgiving
as i expected
with time
it hasn’t gotten easier
i have to work now
at things
that used to be
like breathing
i try to focus
forgive myself
for having so much
i am too busy for it
or else i am not busy enough
when i think clearly
i know we share the same devotion
but joy is hungry
and you know i can’t promise anything
it was not natural
all along
only human hands
could give us something
so unforgiving

LIFER

you worry i have given up
have lost direction for the cause
have traded truth for confidence
went back on all my promises
i am not old but i’ve become
afraid of things i never was
and stumbling on without a pause
can only go so long
did you say that i was the lifer
did you say that life could be better
it seems to those who know me best
my luck is wild and in excess
i don’t know why some suffer so
and others never fear to go
i won’t reduce myself to air
undo myself for your affair
i’ve shown you everything i am
you choose or not to understand
there is a logic to the rule
the end is kind, the mean is cruel
i have to love the life i make
make up for all the space i take
mistaken for an oversight
the absence of my appetite
the source of all my arrogance
i left it up to chance
i believed that i was the lifer
i believed that life could be better
i want to see you rise again
to see life in your eyes again
to feel your pulse is beating strong
to prove all of us wrong
will you say that you are the lifer
do you think that life could be better
will you say that i am the lifer
do you think that life could be better

THE LOUDER I CALL, THE FASTER IT RUNS

and we were jubilant
willing to pretend
we were not losing time
time wasted
like any other day
we will make the bed
thinking it is dead
it is finally dead
the louder i call, the faster it runs
the louder i call, the faster it runs
the quiet is ours, the work has begun
the louder i call, the faster it runs
i search for patterns
sense that isn’t there
you can have everything
and still you have nothing
so i take them all apart
and then i put them back
sometimes it takes a long
long, long time
the louder i call, the faster it runs
the louder i call, the faster it runs
the longer the day, the nearer the sun
the louder i call, the faster it runs
the louder i call, the faster it runs
the louder i call, the faster it runs
the quiet is ours, the work has begun
the louder i call, the faster it runs

11
May

Review: Courtney Barnett At Peak of Powers at Pico Union Project

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After waiting 4-1/2 years to finally catch the brilliant musical force that is Courtney Barnett, we were treated last night to an intimate, but raucous, show by Barnett and her brilliant band at the sold-out and febrile Pico Union Project.  Yes, we had caught a show of Barnett’s and Kurt Vile’s joint tour last year in support of their fine album, but we craved unadulterated Courtney. And last night gave us the uncut Courtney we needed, and it was pure delight. In addition to her melodies and incisive lyrics, Barnett’s unorthodox claw-hammer, finger-pick guitar-playing continues to wow and particularly live while in full-flow.

The obviously confident and commanding Barnett hit the PUP stage with a sweet swagger, letting the crowd know she meant business by throwing down song after song and riff after riff of furious abandon. She performed her fantastic-sounding new album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, from front to back in sequence. Our album review in short: the world is in for fistfuls of smashing new songs. Live highlights from the album included Hopefulness, the rollicking, groove-riddled City Looks Pretty, Charity, Need A Little Time, Walking On Eggshells, and Sunday Roast.

After knocking out the new album, Barnett shifted into the “hits” half of the night (see setlist below). Thankfully she played the all-time word-play great Avant Gardener and a revved-up version of the heart-strung Depreston, but also reached back for fan-faves Anonymous Club, History Eraser and Pedestrian At Best. The crowd knew every word and, despite the heat, pitched around the PUP in joyful abandon. It was a musical night to remember that set the bar very high for other artists seeking to claim the coveted Best Concert of 2018 award.

The Bay’s Jay Som opened with an impressive set of jazz-prog inflected songs that spotlighted the band’s superb ensemble playing. We look forward to seeing them again.

Photos by LA Music Scene.

5
May

Watch Middle Kids Light Up CBS This Morning

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This morning the top-flight Middle Kids showed up on CBS This Morning and built upon the buzz of Friday’s Lost Friends album release (full review imminent). Watch below as the Sydney band (Hannah Joy, guitarist/bassist/producerist Tim Fitz, drummer Harry Day and a guitar-player-to-be-named- later) performed three resounding songs from their magnificent and deft debut album: Edge of Town, Mistakes and On My Knees. This is easily our favorite TV performance by the band to date.

You can order Lost Friends HERE.  The band will open their world tour in Australia before returning to the U.S. on June 1st (late June in Cali).  Go HERE for tickets.

27
Apr

Check Out New Song “Bought It” from Middle Kids

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After performing Mistake and On My Knees on Jimmy Kimmel on Wednesday, Middle Kids have now released new song Bought It from their outstanding impending Lost Friends album. Bought It is yet another powerful, crunchy singalong. The song is, however, replete with angst (taking a line for its chorus from the seminal Tears for Fears’ song) and regrets and allusions to longings for something beyond the here-and-now. Word. Check it out below, followed by the song’s lyrics at bottom.

Bought It:

“My friend, I need a little help
To fend the darkness at the end of all this
I thought that I had fought it
But like clockwork it seems to keep on coming

Oh dear, you saw me on a night
When I was pissed but I tried to act alright
Smooth talking, I’m not sure you bought it
So I’m crawling to the nearest exit

Shout, let it out
I need a little something but I can’t seem to get it now
Oh, help me now
I’ve got a lot of questions but I can’t seem to get them out

Let’s pretend that we had never met
So then it’s fair when we are getting it
On Sunday, I know that that’s a fun day
To remember til I see you next year

This must be the memory
Where you took that photograph of me
Don’t act so embarrassed
We all do dumb things when we’re lonely
You know my heart deeply
But we don’t talk about that do we
Hold your white flag of silence

Shout, let it out
I need a little something but I can’t seem to get it now
Oh, help me now
I’ve got a lot of questions but I can’t seem to get them out”

26
Apr

Watch Middle Kids Perform on Jimmy Kimmel Live

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In what will seem at some point like us clanging a bell, we are here yet again to sing the praises of Australia’s Middle Kids. Having last year whetted appetites with their superb debut EP, the band will provide a feast for the cognoscenti on May 4th when they release their debut album Lost Friends on Domino. We are confident that at year’s end the album will appear at the very top of the Best Albums of 2018 lists. As of now, Lost Friends is at numero uno at Chez Lefort (full, rave review soon come). Watch below as the band performed their simmering single Mistake to an all-in crowd on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Afterwards watch them rave through the rapturous On My Knees.

You can pre-order Lost Friends HERE.  The band will head out on a U.S. tour on June 1st.  Check out the dates below and go HERE for tickets.

Tour:
June 01 | Nelsonville, OH @ Nelsonville Music Festival
June 02 | Toronto, ON @ Field Trip Festival
June 03 | New York, NY @ Governors Ball
June 05 | Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall
June 07 | Buffalo, NY @ Mohawk Place
June 08 | Pontiac, MI @ Crofoot Ballroom – Pike Room
June 09 | Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
June 11 | Kansas City, MO @ recordBar
June 12 | St. Louis, MO @ The Ready Room
June 13 | Nashville, TN @ The High Watt
June 15 | Washington, DC @ Rock & Roll Hotel
June 16 | Dover, DE @ Firefly Music Festival
June 18 | Raleigh, NC @ The Pour House Music Hall
June 19 | Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade – Purgatory
June 21 | Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall (Upstairs)
June 22 | Austin, TX @ Antone’s Nightclub
June 23 | Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
June 26 | Los Angeles, CA @ Lodge Room
June 27 | San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
June 29 | Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
June 30 | Seattle, WA @ Tractor Tavern
25
Apr

Watch Sufjan Stevens Debut “Tonya Harding” and “Visions of Gideon” Live and More on “Live From Here” with Chris Thile

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Imagine Sufjan Stevens’ crystalline songs put through Chris Thile‘s deft Live From Here music-blender. This actually happened last Saturday in New York City. As good as your imagination is, the performances more than live up to it.  Watch below as Stevens, meshed sympathetically with the mandolin and vocals of Thile, and augmented  by the show’s stellar backing ensemble (Gaby Moreno, Rich Dworsky, Billy Contreras, Josh Dion, Chris Eldridge, and Mike Elizondo), performed recent Record Day single Tonya Harding, Heirloom (off Stevens’ 2010’s All Delighted People), Visions of Gideon and Mystery of Love, the latter two off the Academy Award-nominated Call Me By Your Name film soundtrack (and Stevens’ Mystery of Love EP). There will be beauty among all the humanity. The songs’ lyrics follow at bottom.

Tonya Harding:

“Tonya Harding, my star
Well this world is a cold one
But it takes one to know one
And God only knows what you are

Just some Portland white trash
You confronted your sorrow
Like there was no tomorrow
While the rest of the world only laughed

Triple axel on high
A delightful disaster
You jumped farther and faster
You were always so full of surprises

Are your laces untied?
What’s the frown on your face for?
And just what are the skates for now?
Tell me which is your good side?

Are you lonely at night?
Do you miss all the glory
And the mythical story
Of the Olympian life?

Yamaguchi in red
She had high rise and roses
And red-carpet poses
And her outfit was splendid

Nancy Kerrigan’s charm
Well she took quite a beating
So you’re not above cheating
Can you blame her for crying?

Tonya, you were the brightest
Yeah you rose from the ashes
And survived all the crashes
Wiping the blood from your white tights

Has the world had its fun?
Yeah they’ll make such a hassle
And they’ll build you a castle
Then destroy it when they’re done

Tonya Harding, my friend
Well this world is a bitch, girl
Don’t end up in a ditch, girl
I’ll be watching you close to the end

So fight on as you are
My American princess
May God bless you with incense
You’re my shining American star

Shining American star
Shining American star
Shining American star
Shining American star”

Heirloom:

“When your heirloom’s wilted brown
When the devil’s pushing down
When your mourning has a sound
And you hesitate to laugh
How quickly will your joy pass
How quickly will your joy pass

And when you walk inside I feel the door
I’ll never let it push your arms no more
And when your legs give out just lie right down
And I will kiss you till your breath is found
And when you walk inside I feel the door
I’ll never let it push your arms no more

So do you think I came to fight?
And do I always think I’m right?
Oh no I never meant to be a pest to anyone this time
Oh no I only meant to be a friend to everyone this time

And when you walk inside I feel the door
I’ll never let it push your arms no more
And when your legs give out just lie right down
And I will kiss you till your breath is found
And when you walk inside I feel the door
I’ll never let it push your arms no more”

Visions of Gideon:

“I have loved you for the last time
Is it a video? Is it a video?
I have touched you for the last time
Is it a video? Is it a video?

For the love, for laughter, I flew up to your arms
Is it a video? Is it a video?
For the love, for laughter, I flew up to your arms
Is it a video? Is it a video?
Is it a video?

I have loved you for the last time
Visions of Gideon, visions of Gideon
And I have kissed you for the last time
Visions of Gideon, visions of Gideon

For the love, for laughter, I flew up to your arms
Is it a video? (Is it a video?) Is it a video? (Is it a video?)
For the love, for laughter, I flew up to your arms
Is it a video? (Is it a video?) Is it a video? (Is it a video?)
For the love, for laughter, I flew up to your arms
Visions of Gideon, (visions of Gideon), visions of Gideon, (visions of Gideon)
For the love, for laughter, I flew up to your arms
Visions of Gideon, (visions of Gideon), visions of Gideon, (visions of Gideon), Visions of Gideon

Visions of Gideon, visions of Gideon, visions of Gideon
Visions of Gideon, visions of Gideon, visions of Gideon
Visions of Gideon, (Is it a video?), visions of Gideon, (Is it a video?), visions of Gideon
Visions of Gideon, (Is it a video?), visions of Gideon, (Is it a video?), visions of Gideon
(Is it a video?) (Is it a video?) (Is it a video?)”

Mystery of Love:

Oh, to see without my eyes
The first time that you kissed me
Boundless by the time I cried
I built your walls around me
White noise, what an awful sound
Fumbling by Rogue River
Feel my feet above the ground
Hand of God, deliver me

Oh, oh woe-oh-woah is me
The first time that you touched me
Oh, will wonders ever cease?
Blessed be the mystery of love

Lord, I no longer believe
Drowned in living waters
Cursed by the love that I received
From my brother’s daughter
Like Hephaestion, who died
Alexander’s lover
Now my riverbed has dried
Shall I find no other?

Oh, oh woe-oh-woah is me
I’m running like a plover
Now I’m prone to misery
The birthmark on your shoulder reminds me

How much sorrow can I take?
Blackbird on my shoulder
And what difference does it make
When this love is over?
Shall I sleep within your bed
River of unhappiness
Hold your hands upon my head
Till I breathe my last breath

Oh, oh woe-oh-woah is me
The last time that you touched me
Oh, will wonders ever cease?
Blessed be the mystery of love”

12
Apr

Watch Hop Along’s Charming Video For New Song “How Simple” Off Beguiling “Bark Your Head Off, Dog” Album

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We’ve been fans of Philly’s Hop Along since we first laid ears on Frances Quinlan’s gifted, nonpareil vocals that imbue her riveting lyrics. Three years since their last album’s release, the band is back with their outstanding new album, Bark Your Head Off, Dog. To get a feel for the new sounds, check out the new video for lead-off single How Simple (lyrics at bottom). Quinlan is charming and beguiling throughout the video as she meanders through throw-back sets and escapee lighting. About the video, Quinlan has said: “This is my first time appearing in a music video; in which case I decided to do something that felt risky to me. I told myself that I’ve danced through my own house solo enough times to do an alright job of it in front of a camera.”

We love the song (and video), with its softened edges and intentions [sic] to detail.  You can pick up Bark Your Head Off, Dog HERE.

How Simple:

“I suppose one, one, one who hasn’t seen
The earlier frames
Could say I am advancing up this road
I am advancing

Pale as a banshee sun
Think I should stop checking myself out
In the windows of cars
When I could see my future in her pictures of relatives

How simple my heart can be
How simple my heart can be
Frightens me

Don’t worry we will both find out
Just not together
Don’t worry we will both find out
Just not together

Your hand was on me
It seemed like you were being sweet
Here I am again
At the reserve to drink

It’s not that I thought
Like all of a sudden you change
We were covered in each other’s snot
In my childhood bed
Well it seemed like we were being sweet
Her pictures of relatives
How simple my heart can be
Frightens me

Don’t worry we will both find out
Just not together
Don’t worry we will both find out
Just not together
Don’t worry we will both find out
Just not together
Don’t worry we will both find out
Just not together
Don’t worry we will both find out
Just not together
Don’t worry we will both find out
Just not together

We will find out
Here I am again
At the reserve to drink”