Lots of great music in 2015

And I’ve got a handy-dandy YouTube playlist to help you hear some! As always it tends towards indie pop and alternative rock, but I like to sprinkle in influential songs from hip hop, country, metal, and top 40 pop music. It’s good to know what’s going in in the culture around us after all, even if not all of it’s gonna be quite your cuppa. In any case, let me know if you enjoy it.

Hop Along, “Painted Shut”

Hop Along band

Hop Along, a Philadelphia rock band

Let’s talk about Frances Quinlan’s voice first. Best to get that out of the way because it demand and requires our attention: a yearning like Janis Joplin, a bold surety like Patti Smith, a gravel like Lucinda Williams. Quinlan’s voice–both the physical instrument and the lyrical perspective–is all about American aspiration. But for my money what puts Hop Along over the top is guitarist Joe Reinhart. He (along with bassist Tyler Long and drummer Mark Quinlan) have stepped up to collaborate on songwriting duties for the new album and the results are intriguing. Painted Shut rewards close attention; it’s made for sitting down and, you know, listening to a whole album like we did back in the day. That way you’ll hear the little unexpected guitar licks and rhythm flourishes that were obviously never part of the song’s original idea. In lesser hands it would disjointed or muddy, but here it’s accomplished. “Waitress” looks uncompromisingly at the singer’s own failure; “Sister Cities” invites you in to the dangerous lives of drifters on the edge; “Texas Funeral” is simply the car song of the year. The band is going down the East Coast for a few weeks before heading off for a European tour; the album Painted Shut can be listened to on Spotify or purchased wherever fine music is sold.

Review: Pleasure Leftists

Album cover for The Woods of Heaven

Album cover for The Woods of Heaven

All right, post-punk band, jangly guitars, 80s retro sound, dark goth vocals. I KNOW you’ve heard it before, but here’s why you should listen to Pleasure Leftists: they rock HARD. The band comes out of the Rust Belt hardcore scene and their rock and roll shines through in every song. The drumming in particular is some of the strongest, most engaging rhythm I’ve heard all year. I am always, always a sucker for a good janglepop guitar line, and this album has them in abundance–it’s like the Mighty Lemon Drops were asked to help out at a punk show. The singer . . . Haley Morris has a great voice. Not just raw talent, but real control and passion, throwing herself into every song. However, I think that after this VERY solid album (The Woods of Heaven on Deranged Records) she should work on finding her on voice. We’ve heard Siouxsie, Ian Curtis, Wayne Hussey: what can the new century of post-punk sound like?

The Woods of Heaven can be heard on Stereogum’s website. Looks like a brief summer tour is ended, but I hope they make it up to the Northeast sometime soon.

I want my . . . I want my . . .

All right, as usual I’ve been listening to a ton of new music over the past few months. Some folks I know rightly bemoan the lack of 120 Minutes, etc. where you can just tune in and hope to hear some cool new music. Well a curated YouTube list makes that process EVEN BETTER in the 21st century. Don’t like a song? Hit next! More good songs, fewer commercials, everybody’s happy. Enjoy!

Music for a Fairy Fest

I can’t take any credit for this one. An old friend DJ’d an event hosted by Crone’s Hollow, an occult store in Salt Lake City. There was a day-long event culminating in a dance party called the Fairy Rade. I have an unashamed weakness for all things tribalgoth and dark pagan, including this sort of great music. They weren’t able to record directly off the board so I threw together a YouTube playlist of the music played that evening.

d j. d r o w n’s playlist, Fairy Rade 2015

  1. Irfan – Star of the Winds
  2. Dead Can Dance – the Host of Seraphim
  3. Faith and the Muse – Elyria
  4. Miranda Sex Garden – Ardera Sempre
  5. Wendy Rule – Creator Destroyer
  6. Cruxshadows – Sophia
  7. The Mission – Severina
  8. Faith and the Muse – Vervain
  9. Die Form – Cantique 1
  10. Lorena McKennitt – To the fairies, they draw near
  11. Rasputina – Hunters Kiss
  12. Siouxsie – Trust in Me
  13. This Ascension – mysterium
  14. Sting – Desert Rose
  15. Front Line Assembly – Providence
  16. E nomine – Mittenacht
  17. Nosferatu – the Wiccaman
  18. Kate Bush – Running Up that Hill
  19. Lorena McKennitt – mummers dance
  20. Razor Skyline – Queen of heaven
  21. Emilie Autumn – Across the Sky
  22. Trobar de Morte – natural dance
  23. Regan High Priestess – Airetaina
  24. Priscilla Hernandez – I steal the leaves
  25. The Gathering – In power we entrust the love advocated
  26. enya – the celts

Review: Cold Mailman – “Everything Aflutter”

Scandinavian music can get really stark: nihilistic black metal, lonely folk tunes, epic Sibelius symphonies. But so often, especially these days, they turn out some of the sweetest pop music you’ve ever heard. “I KNOW we live in a tree-bound land of wintry dark, but let’s drink some gløgg and hold hands!” For my money Norway’s Cold Mailman is one of the most exciting acts in European music. The synths here run intricate and deep, complementing the thought-provoking (if heavily accented) lyrics from Ivar Borwitz. It’s all laid over a solid modern rock backbone that keeps your head bobbing; the effect is happily reminiscent of mid-era Beatles and ambitious-yet-accessible 70s arena rock. They don’t seem to have made much of a splash yet here in the States, but with singles like this that should soon change. Fans of Maia Hirasawa, the Field Mice, Kings of Convenience, or Mates of State should check these guys out. Everything Aflutter is out now on Beyond Music records.

Best of 1994

[edited]: So for a long time I used the streaming service Grooveshark to build playlists. I gradually realized that the nature of their engine–scouring the web for streamable music in different places–was prone to DMCA takedown notices, especially since they wouldn’t pay royalties. Fortunately I keep my favorite lists in text form anyway–even if something gets taken down, we can rebuild it. :) Having said that, I’ve been spending the last couple of days deep within the world of 1994. This is mostly the kind of music you would have heard on college radio or seen on 120 Minutes, and it’s interesting to look at this with historical perspective. This is the year that the music that used to mark me as an outsider stormed up the charts, when “alternative” became a recognized radio format and ironically became mainstream. There’s a smattering of some other stuff too–great hip hop, a few guilty-pleasure pop hits, and a smattering of metal. Enjoy some of the best music of 1994!