Best of 2019 and Singles Mix

It’s a few days late, but as promised, here’s my best-of list for 2019! I have KEXP to thank for pretty much all of my listening habits these last few years…after slipping between a few online and satellite stations, I found myself returning to a station I’d listened to briefly a few years ago, and realized just how much their playlist resonated with my musical tastes. So much so that when I moved back to the office for the Day Job, I found I truly missed listening to that station. [I’ve since found that I can stream the station on my phone, which I am doing only for a few hours a day so my phone data isn’t all screwy.]

This past year’s soundtrack and purchases also showed a significant change, in that there’s a lot more in terms of inclusivity as well as flavor. So many more albums and songs in different genres, different countries, different genders. I found myself listening less in terms of “this is a great writing soundtrack” and finally returning to “this is just a damn fine album/single” enjoyment. And I haven’t had that in a long time.

So without further ado…

TOP 15 ALBUMS
15. Hot Chip, A Bath Full of Ecstasy
14. Hatchie, Keepsake
13. Honeyblood, In Plain Sight
12. Jay Som, Anak Ko
11. American Football, American Football (LP3)
10. Lamb, The Secret of Letting Go
9. Lemolo, Swansea
8. Elbow, Giants of All Sizes
7. The Beatles, Abbey Road Anniversary Edition
6. The Cinematic Orchestra, To Believe
5. Sleater-Kinney, The Center Won’t Hold
4. White Lies, Five
3. Drab Majesty, Modern Mirror
2. Coldplay, Everyday Life
1. Haelos, Any Random Kindness

TOP 15 SONGS
15. True Damage, “GIANTS”
14. Deserta, “Hide”
13. Beck, “Saw Lightning”
12. Boy Harsher, “Face the Fire”
11. Drab Majesty, “The Other Side”
10. New Age Healers, “Satellites”
9. Hatchie, “Without a Blush”
8. Jay Som, “Superbike”
7. Toro y Moi, “Freelance”
6. Silversun Pickups, “It Doesn’t Matter Why”
5. White LIes, “Tokyo”
4. Haelos, “End of World Party”
3. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, “Life On Mars?”
2. DJ Shadow feat. De La Soul, “Rocket Fuel”
1. The Quivers, “You’re Not Always On My Mind”

**

And of course, here’s my Singles 2019 mixtape for your pleasure…

Side A
1. DJ Shadow feat De La Soul, “Rocket Fuel”
2. Beck, “Saw Lightning”
3. Toro y Moi, “Freelance”
4. Jay Som, “Superbike”
5. The Quivers, “You’re Not Always On My Mind”
6. New Age Healers, “Satellites”
7. The New Pornographers, “Falling Down the Stairs of Your Smile”
8. Coldplay, “Orphans”
9. Honeyblood, “She’s a Nightmare”
10. Sharon Van Etten, “Seventeen”
11. The Beatles, “You Never Give Me Your Money”
12. Haelos, “End of World Party”

Side B
1. Rudy Willingham, “Pool Party”
2. Charly Bliss, “Chatroom”
3. Sampa the Great, “Final Form”
4. The Chemical Brothers, “MAH”
5. Elbow, “Dexter & Sinister”
6. White Lies, “Tokyo”
7. Drab Majesty, “The Other Side”
8. Foals, “The Runner”
9. Silversun Pickups, “It Doesn’t Matter Why”
10. True Damage, “GIANTS”

Side C
1. Billie Eilish, “Bury a Friend”
2. Big Wreck, “Locomotive”
3. The Chemical Brothers, “No Geography”
4. Drab Majesty, “Long Division”
5. American Football, “Uncomfortably Numb”
6. Fontaines DC, “Boys in the Better Land”
7. DJ Shadow, “Rosie”
8. Beck, “Uneventful Days”
9. Michael Kiwanuka, “You Ain’t the Problem”
10. White Lies, “Never Alone”
11. Angel Olsen, “All Mirrors”

Side D
1. Holy Ship, “Mind Safari”
2. Tallies, “Midnight”
3. Roosevelt, “Falling Back”
4. Mercury Rev feat. Margo Price, “Sermon”
5. Lamb, “Armageddon Waits”
6. Beck, “Tarantula”
7. Boy Harsher, “Face the Fire”
8. Idles, “I Dream Guillotine”
9. The HU, “Wolf Totem”
10. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, “Life On Mars?”

Side E
1. Sleater-Kinney, “The Future Is Here”
2. Hot Chip, “Melody of Love”
3. Haelos, “Kyoto”
4. Deserta, “Hide”
5. San Fermin, “The Hunger”
6. Sault, “Don’t Waste My Time”
7. Hatchie, “Without a Blush”
8. Underworld, “Listen to Their No”
9. Moon Duo, “Lost Heads”
10. Cosima, “Close to You (Moonlighting)”

Side F
1. The Black Keys, “Lo/Hi”
2. Lo! Peninsula, “Another Divine Joke”
3. Malibu Ken, “Tuesday”
4. 311, “Don’t You Worry”
5. Lemolo, “High Tide”
6. Elbow, “Empires”
7. Coldplay, “Trouble in Town”
8. Black Pumas, “Colors”
9. Mavis Staples, “Change”
10. Lucy Dacus, “La Vie en Rose”
11. Mint Royale, “Show Me [The 2019 KEXP Super Extended Version]”

Best of 2018

Whew! This took a lot longer to compile than I thought. As I’d said previously, it was a banner year for great music and it was tough to narrow it all down to my favorite top fifteen albums and songs! This time I went with the albums and songs that (I believe) I not only listened to the most, but the ones I kept coming back to time and again because they were just that enjoyable. Many of them were also part of my writing session heavy rotation.

I’ve also added my silly side lists of releases that may not have hit the top spots but certain got notice in other ways.

TOP 15 ALBUMS
15. The Decemberists, I’ll Be Your Girl
14. Eric Bachmann, No Recover
13. The Beatles, The Beatles (Super Deluxe Edition)
12. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Wrong Creatures
11. Wye Oak, The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs
10. Metric, Art of Doubt
9. Arctic Monkeys, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
8. Shame, Songs of Praise
7. Failure, In the Future Your Body Will Be the Furthest Thing from Your Mind
6. The Neighbourhood, The Neighbourhood / Hard to Imagine the Neighbourhood Ever Changing
5. Lucy Dacus, Historian
4. Snow Patrol, Wildness
3. Johnny Marr, Call the Comet
2. GoGo Penguin, A Humdrum Star
1. Bob Moses, Battle Lines

TOP 15 SONGS
15. The Damned, “Standing On the Edge of Tomorrow”
14. Arctic Monkeys, “Four Out of Five”
13. Parquet Courts, “Wide Awake”
12. The Decemberists, “Severed”
11. Sylvan Esso, “Parad (W/M)E”
10. Johnny Marr, “Hi Hello”
9. Death Cab for Cutie, “Gold Rush”
8. Local H, “Innocents (Edited for Television)”
7. GoGo Penguin, “Raven”
6. Lucy Dacus, “Addictions”
5. K/DA & Madison Beer & (G)I-DLE, “Pop/Stars”
4. tUnE-yArDs, “Heart Attack”
3. Lucius, “Woman”
2. Bob Moses, “Heaven Only Knows”
1. Snow Patrol, “Life On Earth”

BEST NON-ALBUM SINGLES AND EPS
Sylvan Esso, “Parad(W/M)E”
Failure, In the Future EP
Failure, Your Body Will Be EP
Failure, The Furthest Thing EP
Local H, “Innocents (Edited for Television)”
Various Artists, Universal Love – Wedding Songs Reimagined EP
Prince, “Nothing Compares 2 U”
Childish Gambino, “This Is America”
Weezer, “Africa” / “Rosanna”
Matt Nathanson, Pyromattia EP
Dave Grohl, Play EP
Live, Local 717 EP
Nothing But Thieves, What Did You Think When You Made Me This Way? EP
boygenius, boygenius EP
K/DA & Madison Beer & (G)I-DLE, “Pop/Stars”
Mutemath, Voice in the Silence EP

BEST ALBUMS TO BLAST WITH HEADPHONES
Shame, Songs of Praise
Preoccupations, New Material
Pinkshinyultrablast, Miserable Miracles
Soft Science, Maps
Cloud Nothings, Last Building Standing

BEST RETURN AFTER A LONG HIATUS
The Breeders, All Nerve
Tracey Thorn, Record
Andrew WK, You’re Not Alone
Jesus Jones, Passages
Belly, Dove
Arctic Monkeys, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
The Get Up Kids, Kicker EP
The English Beat, Here We Go Love
Dubstar, One
Robyn, Honey
Dead Can Dance, Dionysus
The Good, the Bad & the Queen, Merrie Land
Art Brut, Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!

BEST ACOUSTIC/REWORKINGS ALBUM
Lucius, Nudes
The Naked and Famous, A Still Heart
Beach Slang, Everything Matters But No One Is Listening (Quiet Slang)
Alt-J, Reduxer
St Vincent, MassEducation

BEST BOX SETS AND REISSUES
Wire, Nine Sevens
Bow Wow Wow, Your Box Set Pet: The Complete Recordings 1980-1984
Black Box Recorder, Life Is Unfair
The Cure, Mixed Up (Deluxe Edition)
Guns n’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction (Super Deluxe Edition)
Public Image Ltd, The Public Image Is Rotten (Songs from the Heart)
Various Artists, C89
Prince, Anthology: 1995-2010
Various Artists, Live Aid
Phil Collins, Plays Well with Others
John Lennon, Imagine (The Ultimate Collection)
Semisonic, Feeling Strangely Fine (20th Anniversary Edition)
The Beatles, The Beatles (Super Deluxe Edition)

…and that’s it! Hope everyone has a wonderful, fun-filled and rockin’ 2019!

END NOTE! I’ll be taking a bit of time off from blogging, starting in January, for personal reasons. I’m not sure how long this hiatus will last, but I’m not going to be making any scheduled posts for a while. I will try to post here every now and again, though I most likely won’t have them on any strict schedule. As always, thank you for following, and I hope 2019 treats you well!

See ya on the flip side!

2018 In Review, Part I: January – March

Originally I was going to go with a favorites-of-2018 post and follow it up with my end of year mixtape list, but while I was going over the releases this past year I found I just could not do it justice with only one post.  Yes there were that many excellent albums out this year!

So instead, I’m doing a four-part post for the last four posts of the year with an overview of all the albums, singles, and EPs (and there were surprisingly many of the latter two!), focusing on each quarter.  I’ll then follow up with my mixtape post on the 31st.  Each post is going to be pretty long, so these should keep you entertained!

Starting with Q1, January to March…

BØRNS, Blue Madonna, released 12 January.  Quirky alternapop that’s fun to listen to without being precious or cloying.

Sylvan Esso, “PARAD(w/m)E” single, released 12 January.  A single-only follow up to 2017’s fantastic What Now, it’s light and fluffy fun.

Shame, Songs of Praise, released 12 January.  Amazing and melodic punk similar to the really cool stuff you’d hear on 120 Minutes back in the late 80s   I absolutely love this album.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Wrong Creatures, released 12 January.  Their best record yet — full of power and emotion and finely tuned into great songs.

tUnE-YaRdS, I can feel you creep into my private life, released 19 January.  “Heart Attack” is up there as one of my favorite tracks of the year.  Merrill Garbus is so much fun to listen to.

Django Django, Marble Skies, released 26 January.  A strange band with an irresistibly catchy sound.

GoGo Penguin, A Humdrum Star, released 9 February.  Rarely does an album blow me away this completely.  Inventive jazz that infuses all different kinds of genres.  One of my favorite albums of the year.

Lucy Dacus, Historian, released 2 March.  A fantastic songwriter, I keep coming back to this album again and again.  One of my favorites of the year.

Lucius, Nudes, released 2 March.  “Woman” has to be my favorite song of the year; it’s so delicate and sparse, yet it wields so much power and emotion and the dual vocal melody is so perfect that it continues to give me shivers.

The Naked and Famous, A Still Heart, released 9 March.  A stripped-down collection of their singles and album cuts, it’s a lovely and relaxing record.  This one got some major play during my writing sessions.

The Neighbourhood, The Neighbourhood, released 9 March.  They’ve gotten bolder and more experimental with each album, and this one nails it.  

Editors, Violence, released 9 March.  One of my “I will buy anything they release” bands, they didn’t let me down.  

The Decemberists, I’ll Be Your Girl, released 16 March.  One of their most heartfelt albums and one of their best.  So many great tracks on this one.

Meshell Ndegeocello, Ventriloquism, released 16 March.  She takes her favorite 80s soul and pop songs and brilliantly makes them her own.

Jack White, Boarding House Reach, released 23 March.  I was surprised at how great this album was!  I’m a passive fan, but this one is one of his best.

Preoccupations, New Material, released 23 March. This band gets better and better with each release.  They can switch from Slowdive-y shoegaze to Wire-y punk seamlessly.

Failure, In the Future EP, released 30 March. An unconventional release, in which four parts of a full album drop each quarter, and they pulled it off perfectly.

**

Coming Thursday: 2018, Q2!

Jonc’s Best of 2017 List!

cosima to build a house

from Cosima’s “To Build a House” video

As always, it was tricky to figure out which albums to put on these lists, because I listened to a hell of a lot of music.  I decided this time out it wasn’t just about repeated listenings, but albums that made me stop and notice.  The list is quite varied this time out, featuring electronic sounds, punk, a heartbreaking soul ballad, a greatest hits album and a live album, quirky alternative pop, and more.  And yes, I do suggest you check them out if you haven’t already.

2015 Albums
15. Lydia Ainsworth, Darling of the Afterglow
14. The Jesus and Mary Chain, Damage and Joy
13. Minus the Bear, VOIDS
12. UNKLE, The Road: Part 1
11. Liam Gallagher, As You Were
10. Rainer Maria, S/T
9. Spoon, Hot Thoughts
8. Elbow, Little Fictions
7. Sylvan Esso, What Now
6. Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Wembley Or Bust
5. LCD Soundsystem, American Dream
4. Elbow, The Best of
3. U2, Sounds of Experience
2. The Sound of Arrows, Stay Free
1. The New Pornographers, Whiteout Conditions

2015 Singles
15. Rainer Maria, “Lower Worlds”
14. Alice Merton, “No Roots”
13. UNKLE, “The Road”
12. Lydia Ainsworth, “Ricochet”
11. Sylvan Esso, “Die Young”
10. Elbow, “Magnificent (She Says)”
9. Spoon, “Hot Thoughts”
8. U2, “You’re the Best Thing About Me”
7. Portugal. The Man, “Feel It Still”
6. Gang of Youths, “What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?”
5. The Sound of Arrows, “Stay Free”
4. The New Pornographers, “High Ticket Attractions”
3. LCD Soundsystem, “Tonite”
2. Japandroids, “Near to the Wild Heart of Life”
1. Cosima, “To Build a House”

Many Welcome Returns: New Releases from Classic Bands
Chuck Berry, Chuck
Paul Draper, Spooky Action
Dishwalla, Juniper Road
Living Colour, Shade
Rainer Maria, S/T
Ride, Weather Diaries
Slowdive, Slowdive
The Darling Buds, Evergreen EP
Roger Waters, Is This the Life We Really Want?

Best Reissues and Box Sets
The Beatles, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Deluxe Edition
Lloyd Cole, In New York (Collected Recordings 1988-1996)
Curve, Doppelganger and Cuckoo
Golden Earring, Complete Studio Recordings
George Michael, Listen Without Prejudice/MTV Unplugged
Yoko Ono, Fly, Approximately Infinite Universe and Feeling the Space
Prince & the Revolution, Purple Rain Deluxe Expanded Edition
Radiohead, OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017
The Smiths, The Queen Is Dead [Deluxe Edition]
The The, Radio Cinéola Trilogy
U2, The Joshua Tree Super Deluxe Edition
The Who, Maximum A’s & B’s

The Singles 2017

Entry #1…the 2017 best-of compilation! Same mix rules apply as per the last few years.

Tape 1, Side 1
1. Spoon, “Hot Thoughts”
2. The New Pornographers, “High Ticket Attractions”
3. Japandroids, “Near to the Wild Heart of Life”
4. Elbow, “Magnificent (She Says)”
5. Cosima, “To Build a House”
6. Arcade Fire, “Everything Now”
7. Grizzly Bear, “Mourning Sound”
8. Portugal. The Man, “Feel It Still”
9. St Vincent, “Los Ageless”
10. LCD Soundsystem, “Tonite”

Tape 1, Side 2
1. Minus the Bear, “Last Kiss”
2. Radwimps, “Zenzenzense [Movie Version]”
3. Beck, “Up All Night”
4. U2, “You’re the Best Thing About Me”
5. Nothing But Thieves, “Sorry”
6. Sylvan Esso, “Just Dancing”
7. UNKLE, “The Road”
8. Rainer Maria, “Lower Worlds”
9. Alvvays, “Plimsoll Punks”
10. The Sound of Arrows, “Stay Free”
11. Decomposure, “Cordillera: Let’s Go Back to the TV Screen”

Tape 2, Side 1
1. The Districts, “If Before I Wake”
2. Cold War Kids, “Love Is Mystical”
3. The Jesus and Mary Chain, “Amputation”
4. Spoon, “Can I Sit Next to You”
5. Dishwalla, “Give Me a Sign”
6. The Charlatans UK, “The Same House”
7. Depeche Mode, “Where’s the Revolution”
8. Slowdive, “Star Roving”
9. Gorillaz, “Saturnz Barz”
10. Future Islands, “Ran”
11. Weezer, “Feels Like Summer”
12. Arcade Fire feat. Mavis Staples, “I Give You Power”

Tape 2, Side 2
1. Lydia Ainsworth, “Ricochet”
2. Radiohead, “Lift”
3. Wire, “Short Elevated Period”
4. Sylvan Esso, “Die Young”
5. Broken Social Scene, “Halfway Home”
6. Alt-J, “In Cold Blood”
7. The War on Drugs, “Pain”
8. Grandaddy, “Way We Won’t”
9. Maxïmo Park, “Get High (No, I Don’t)”
10. The The, “We Can’t Stop What’s Coming”
11. The New Pornographers, “Whiteout Conditions”

Tape 3, Side 1
1. Gord Downie, “Introduce Yerself”
2. Colony House, “You & I”
3. Alice Merton, “No Roots”
4. Hollerado, “Born Yesterday”
5. The Beatles, “Penny Lane [Stereo Mix 2017]”
6. Minus the Bear, “Robotic Heart”
7. The National, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness”
8. Temples, “Certainty”
9. The Sound of Arrows, “Beautiful Life”
10. The New Pornographers, “Avalanche Alley”
11. LCD Soundsystem, “American Dream”

Tape 3, Side 2
1. Gang of Youths, “What Can I Do if the Fire Goes Out”
2. HAIM, “Want You Back”
3. Royal Blood, “Lights Out”
4. Wolf Alice, “Yuk Foo”
5. Tricky, “New Stole”
6. Jeff Lynne’s ELO, “Twilight [Live]”
7. Liam Gallagher, “Wall of Glass”
8. Death from Above, “Freeze Me”
9. Ride, “All I Want”
10. Slowdive, “Falling Ashes”
11. Gorillaz, “We Got the Power”

Coming up: Entry #2, the end-of-year favorites lists!

Coming Soon: The Best of 2017

radiohead lift

Thom Yorke is waiting anxiously for my end of year lists

Yep, it’s that time of the year again, where I’m juggling the Day Job, Christmas present purchasing (and wrapping, and mailing), whatever writing project I happen to be working on, posting my year-end review at the writing blog, creating my Best of Year compilation, and posting my Best of Year lists here.

As usual, I’ll hold up until the last week or so of this month before I post those last two, because I like giving December releases a chance at impressing me.  (Like the new U2 album, for instance.)  I will say 2017 has been quite an interesting year musically; it seemed like Nearly Every Single Band Jonc Loves put out an album this year!  And lots of solid career retrospectives.  There were also a lot of new finds that blew my mind as well.  I’m not sure if I can call it a banner year, but it certainly was quite enjoyable tunage-wise.

If anything, listening to music was definitely a highly-welcomed and much-needed escape from the ups and downs of Real Life.  And I’m pretty sure you know what my biggest headache was; the Day Job was the least of my stresses.  I won’t say I’m a pessimist in general, though I know all too often I let myself fall down that rabbit hole.  I kept a distant eye on what was going on, and I had my tunes to keep me sane and slightly distracted so I could stay positive.  And for that I’m eternally grateful.

More to come!

The Singles 2015

…and as promised, here’s my 2015 Best of compilation!  A quirky mix to be sure.  Alternative, indie, pop, techno, and even alt-metal this time out.  I stayed with the format I’ve been using for the past couple of years: playlists of roughly ninety minutes which can be split into two forty-five minute ‘sides’, just like the end of year compilations I used to make back in the day.

Hope you enjoy!

TAPE ONE, Side 1:
1. Big Data, “The Business of Emotion”
2. The Decemberists, “Make You Better”
3. Guster, “Simple Machine”
4. Beck, “Dreams”
5. Best Coast, “California Nights”
6. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, “In the Heat of the Moment”
7. Public Service Broadcasting, “Go!”
8. Frank Turner, “Get Better”
9. The Vaccines, “Handsome”
10. Jamie xx, “Loud Places”
11. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone”

TAPE ONE, Side 2:
1. Failure, “Hot Traveler”
2. Wire, “Joust & Jostle”
3. MS MR, “Painted”
4. Wolf Alice, “Moaning Lisa Smile”
5. Death Cab for Cutie, “Black Sun”
6. Young Empires, “The Gates”
7. The Arcs, “Outta My Mind”
8. Stereophonics, “I Wanna Get Lost with You”
9. Robert DeLong, “Don’t Wait Up”
10. Editors, “Marching Orders”
11. The King Khan & BBQ Show, “Alone Again”

TAPE TWO, Side 1:
1. Foals, “What Went Down”
2. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, “Ballad of the Mighty I”
3. Blur, “Go Out”
4. Dog Party, “Peanut Butter Dream”
5. The Helio Sequence, “Stoic Resemblance”
6. Wolf Alice, “Bros”
7. Courtney Barnett, “Pedestrian at Best”
8. Alabama Shakes, “Don’t Wanna Fight”
9. Silversun Pickups, “Nightflight”
10. Best Coast, “Heaven Sent”
11. Editors, “No Harm”

TAPE TWO, Side 2:
1. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, “Ur Life One Night”
2. Kurt Vile, “Pretty Pimpin”
3. Sleater-Kinney, “Surface Envy”
4. A Silent Film, “Paralysed”
5. Steven Wilson, “Perfect Life”
6. AWOLNATION, “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)”
7. Nothing But Thieves, “Trip Switch”
8. Cayucas, “Hella”
9. Failure, “Mulholland Dr.”
10. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, “S.O.B.”
11. Mikal Cronin, “Ready”

TAPE THREE, Side 1:
1. Public Service Broadcasting, “Gagarin”
2. Veruca Salt, “The Sound of Leaving”
3. Belle and Sebastian, “Perfect Couples”
4. Motion City Soundtrack, “Lose Control”
5. Caspian, “Arcs of Command”
6. The Verve Pipe, “If I Could Make You Feel”
7. Django Django, “Giant”
8. FFS, “Johnny Delusional”
9. Brandi Carlile, “Alibi”
10. Low, “No Comprende”

TAPE THREE, Side 2:
1. Mark Ronson, “Uptown Funk”
2. Toro y Moi, “Empty Nesters”
3. Panda Bear, “Boys Latin”
4. Blur, “There Are Too Many of Us”
5. Chvrches, “Never Ending Circles”
6. American Wrestlers, “Kelly”
7. New Order, “Restless”
8. Wire, “Harpooned”
9. Hot Chip, “Dancing in the Dark”

*EDIT: The Spotify playlists didn’t seem to be working, so I took them away.  Sorry about that.  The YouTube video links are now up and ready to go!

 

Jonc’s Best of 2015 List!

Hey Kids!  Check it out:  My favorite albums, tracks and other musical whatnot from 2015.  This year’s grouping came radio stations in multiple corners of the country, terrestrial and digital, from RadioBDC to Sirius XM to KUSP to KSCU.  And one band (Unknown Mortal Orchestra) discovered while in London!  In the process, the list is all over the place, from obscure indie to commercial alternative.   Enjoy!

2015 Songs

20: The King Khan & BBQ Show, “Alone Again”
19: Mikal Cronin, “Ready”
18: A Silent Film, “Paralysed”
17: Caspian, “Arcs of Command”
16: The Helio Sequence, “Stoic Remembrance”
15: Cayucas, “Hella”
14: Steven Wilson, “Perfect Life”
13: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, “In the Heat of the Moment”
12: Blur, “Go Out”
11: Public Service Broadcasting, “Go!”
10: Foals, “What Went Down”
9: Young Empires, “The Gates”
8: Jamie XX, “Loud Places”
7: Wolf Alice, “Moaning Lisa Smile”
6: Editors, “No Harm”
5: Failure, “Hot Traveler”
4: The Vaccines, “Handsome”
3: Beck, “Dreams”
2: Mark Ronson, “Uptown Funk”
1: Best Coast, “California Nights

2015 Albums

20: Death Cab for Cutie, Kintsugi
19: JR Richards, Honore et Amore
18: The Helio Sequence, The Helio Sequence
17: Foals, What Went Down
16: Public Service Broadcasting, The Race for Space
15: Wire, Wire
14: New Order, Music Complete
13: Veruca Salt, Ghost Notes
12: Dog Party, Vol 4
11: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Chasing Yesterday
10: The Decemberists, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
9: Chvrches, Every Open Eye
8: Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love
7: Editors, In Dream
6: Low, Ones and Sixes
5: Best Coast, California Nights
4: Failure, The Heart Is a Monster
3: Wolf Alice, My Love Is Cool
2: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Multi-Love
1: Blur, The Magic Whip

Favorite Earworms:  Songs most stuck in my head in 2015
The Vaccines, “Handsome”
The King Khan & BBQ Show, “Alone Again”
Jamie XX, “Loud Places”
The Arcs, “Outta My Mind”

Unexpected Delights: Albums I enjoyed a hell of a lot more than I expected to:
Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color
Mark Ronson, Uptown Special
Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love
Best Coast, California Nights
Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Multi-Love

Many Welcome Returns: Great releases from bands we haven’t seen in quite some time
Failure, The Heart Is a Monster
Jeff Lynne’s ELO: Alone in the Universe
Swervedriver, I Wasn’t Born to Lose You
New Order, Music Complete
The Chills, Silver Bullets

Best Reissues:  I have them already, but did I go and buy them again?  Maaaaybe?
The Beatles, 1+
Garbage, Garbage (20th Anniversary Reissue)
The Specials, Specials/More Specials/In the Studio
Catatonia, Way Beyond Blue/International Velvet/Equally Cursed and Blessed/Paper Scissors Stone
The Comsat Angels, Waiting for a Miracle/Sleep No More/Fiction/Chasing Shadows/Fire On the Moon
Jellyfish, Bellybutton/Spilt Milk
Lush, Chorus

Local Color:  Favorite 2015 songs about and/or by locals
Best Coast, “California Nights”
Cayucas, “Hella”
Geographer, “Age of Consent”

Jonc’s Best of 2014 Lists

This has been quite the interesting year musically. As mentioned in the previous post, I chose to branch out with where I got my music. I listened to Santa Clara University’s radio station KSCU for a good while, but I also listened to Boston’s Radio BDC, the various stations on our Sirius XM setup, and even used the good ol’ car radio to listen to KFOG, Live 105 and other terrestrial stations. I also kept up on the new releases being pushed by the various music blogs and magazines, and checked out the occasional streamed preview as well. It turned out to be quite an eclectic year in the process, with all kinds of genres seeping into my playlist over the course of the year.

JONC’S TOP MUSIC OF 2014

Old Bands, Awesome Releases: Still Going Strong After All These Years
U2, Songs of Innocence. This album received mounds of grief when it came out because of its original iTunes release. The most vocal hated it purely out of spite, having been “forced” to add it to their collection without their say-so. Regardless…I still say this is one hell of a tight album. The songwriting is solid, the production is crisp and lively, and the band sounds reinvigorated here.
Big Wreck, Ghosts. A band from my HMV years, having released an album in 1998 and 2001, they vanished for over a decade before returning with 2012’s Albatross. A lot of bands with that much of a stretch between releases don’t often have a follow up soon after, but these guys pulled it off with an even crunchier, heavier album. Well worth picking up.
Failure, “Come Crashing” and “The Focus” singles. HOLY CRAP FAILURE GOT BACK TOGETHER?? SWEET! Love this band, and I was so happy to hear Ken, Kellii and Greg returned with not one but two solid new singles (both available on their Bandcamp site), a tour, and a possible new album in the works. I’m totally looking forward to hearing what they have in store.
The Verve Pipe, Overboard. These guys have been under the radar the last few years, taking alternate routes in music. Singer Brian Vander Ark led an interesting solo career, balancing album releases with self-managed house concerts, and gathering the band back together a few years back for a few children’s albums. This album was a very welcome return to their more alternative rock sound.

Old Albums, Awesome Reissues and Remasters
The Beatles, The US Albums box set. Yeah, I know…don’t I already own everything this band released in triplicate already? Well, when the band officially releases the CD versions of their US discography, especially on my birthday, I can’t help but jump at it. [And besides, I pretty much paid for it all via multiple B&N gift cards and a 20% off coupon I happened to have on hand.] The music source is the 2009 remasters, but the packaging was exquisite, including the original butcher sleeve for Yesterday and Today. It was like starting my collection all over again, thirty-plus years later!
George Harrison, The Apple Years 1968-75 box set. Same could be said here, but it was well worth it for some new remasterings, great liner notes and packaging, and some of his best solo tracks.
Tears for Fears, Songs from the Big Chair Reissue/Remaster. Oh man, I LOVED this album back when it came out in 1985, so much so that it’s one of the few tapes I had that wore out. It’s great to hear this album again with such great sound, especially since the remaster was done by Steven Wilson, who seems to have turned into a remaster god as of late. Totally worth picking up, even just for the original album!
Pink Floyd, The Endless Sea. Say what you will about this album, given that it’s leftover jam material from sessions for 1994’s The Division Bell, it’s a lovely ambient collection nonetheless, full of signature later Floyd soundscapes. David Gilmour’s somber “Louder Than Words” is a nice ending chapter to the band’s epic history.

Best Opening Tracks
Beck, “Cycle”/”Morning”. When I listened to the streaming preview of his Morning Phase album on the NPR website, I knew right away that I would absolutely LOVE this album, even before I heard any other tracks. The string-laden “Cycle” and the drowsy “Morning” manage to capture the sound of an early rising sun and turn it into aural poetry, evoking the feeling that a new day and a fresh start had just begun.
Interpol, “All the Rage Back Home”. This track does double duty–first, it opens up El Pintor suggesting a newer, more melodic sound from the band. It’s almost summery, dreamy in a Beach Boys sort of way, something they captured perfectly in the video.
TV On the Radio, “Quartz”. Like Beck’s “Cycle”, it’s more of an overture than a song proper, and it sets the mood for the rest of the album, which ends up being poppier, catchier and more emotional than previous releases.

Best Closing Tracks
Alt-J, “Lovely Day”. A bonus track at the end of the album, it’s a lovely song that’s a perfect coda to the band’s moodier, darker second album.
The Black Keys, “Gotta Get Away”. Sure, it’s a throwaway song that shouldn’t be taken that seriously at all. My favorite description of this song by a music blog suggested it sounds like one of those goofy music montages in the middle of a Scooby Doo or an Archies cartoon. It’s pure fun, just like the rest of the album.
U2 feat. Lykke Li, “The Troubles”. U2 has often ended their albums on a somber note–“Wake Up Dead Man”, “Exit”, and “40” come to mind–and this track follows the lead to quiet yet chilling effect.

BEST ALBUMS OF 2014
[No particular order, top favorite in bold]

Alt-J, This is All Yours
AnaDaenia, Digital Scars
Beck, Morning Phase
Big Wreck, Ghosts
Deathmøle, Permanence
Elbow, The Take Off and Landing of Everything
The History of Apple Pie, Feel Something
The Horrors, Luminous
Interpol, El Pintor
Johnny Marr, Playland
Kaiser Chiefs, Education, Education, Education & War
Lamb, Backspace Unwind
Mono, The Last Dawn/Rays of Darkness
OK Go, Hungry Ghosts
Phantogram, Voices
Phish, Fuego
Sloan, Commonwealth
TV On the Radio, Seeds
U2, Songs of Innocence
Warpaint, Warpaint

BEST SONGS OF 2014
[No particular order, top favorite in bold]

Alt-J, “Left Hand Free”
Beck, “Blue Moon”
Big Data, “Dangerous”
Black Rivers, “Voyager 1”
Elbow, “New York Morning”
Failure, “Come Crashing”
Future Islands, “Seasons (Waiting On You)”
The Horrors, “I Feel You”
Interpol, “All the Rage Back Home”
Jungle, “Busy Earnin’”
My Goodness, “Cold Feet Killer”
Night Terrors of 1927, “When You Were Mine”
OK Go, “The Writing’s On the Wall”
Phantogram, “Black Out Days”
Robert DeLong, “Long Way Down”
Spoon, “Do You”
Temples, “Shelter Song”
tUnE-yArDs, “Water Fountain”
TV On the Radio, “Careful You”
U2, “Raised By Wolves”

Christmastime Is Here Again

…which means it’s time for me to share some of my favorite Christmas tunage!  I’ll admit I’m a big softie when it comes to yuletide soundtracks.  It rarely ever bothers me to hear this kind of music, even if it is repetitive and I hear the same songs in every store I walk into.  I may question the oddness of the production, like that weird version of “Winter Wonderland” I heard at JC Penney a few weeks ago that sounded like someone took the vocal line of a Johnny Mathis track and stuck it on top of a generic Casio keyboard riff, but most of the time I just let it play and enjoy it for the short time it’s aired.  Here’s some of my favorite Christmas tracks for your listening/viewing pleasure!

Vince Guaraldi Trio, “Linus and Lucy” – Come on, who doesn’t hear this and start doing one of the Peanuts dances?  Still puts a smile on my face after all these years!

The Beatles, “Pantomime (Everywhere It’s Christmas)” – The Beatles’ 1966 seasonal fan club disc is probably my favorite theirs, considering how ridiculous and goofy it is.  It was one of the few where they chose to record slapstick silliness instead of the usual bland ‘hi there, thanks for a great year’ reading.

Simon & Garfunkel, “Silent Night/7 O’clock News” – …and that very same year we had one of the most chilling renditions I’ve ever heard of a traditional carol.  The peaceful hymnal delivery of the duo is offset by some of the most harrowing news that came out of that decade.

Henry Rollins, “The Night Before Christmas” – Chilling in an altogether different way, Hank delivers one of the weirdest versions of the classic poem for an excellent 1991 compilation called, fittingly, A Lump of Coal.

Chris Cornell & Eleven, “Ave Maria” – The Soundgarden/Audioslave singer knocks it out of the park with an excellent version of this choral piece, found on Volume 3 of A Very Special Christmas.

Low, “Just Like Christmas” – I love how lo-fi this song is, as it really adds to the feel of a small band driving in a cold van heading from one show to the next.  Life in a touring band could definitely suck, but caught moments like this are what make it worthwhile.

Dropkick Murphys, “The Season’s Upon Us” – Heh.  I don’t think my family was nearly as bad as this guy’s, but the overall collective family spirit I definitely get.  And this is such a distinctively Masshole setting, too.

Harvey Danger, “Sometimes You Have to Work on Christmas (Sometimes)” – This one goes out to all the retail workers and the others who work the holiday schedule.  I knew this well at the record store, the candle warehouse, the movie theater, the book store, and elsewhere.  I’m not in retail, but working for a bank, I still have to sit around just in case.

*Raises a glass of eggnog*
Happy Holidays, y’all!  Hope Santa gives you all sorts of neat stuff, and I hope your 2015 turns out to be one hell of an excellent year!