Favorite Albums: Duncan Sheik

Just before i started my job at HMV in late 1996, a new record popped up that hit the airwaves of both alternative rock and pop stations; even though it was primarily filtered down to Adult Alternative for its easy and melodic sound, the songwriting was so unexpectedly tight and adventurous that it got picked up everywhere. It was not the bombast of Collective Soul’s self-titled record, or the earnestness of Live’s Throwing Copper; it was simply a lovely album to listen to.

But that lightness is betrayed by darker, gloomier lyrics. James Hunter of Rolling Stone likened Sheik’s music to Talk Talk and The Smiths, perhaps for that reason: the musicianship is top notch from start to finish, the melodies are wonderfully creative but not overly complex, and the songs definitely get stuck in your head.

If you’ve only heard “Barely Breathing”, I suggest you check out the rest of the album — it’s definitely worth it.

Bonus Track: A year and a half later he popped up on the Great Expectations soundtrack from early 1998 with another fabulous track, “Wishful Thinking”, which got a lot of airplay at the time.

His later albums unfortunately did not get the attention they should have — partly due to changing tastes and partly due to the late 90s industry shake-ups — but they too are well worth looking for. He’s also kept busy since the mid-00s by writing and scoring music for multiple stage plays and musicals, his best known being Spring Awakening.

Twenty Years On: Spring 1999

I’d have to say 1999 was kind of a weird time for me, as it had some smashing highs and some really frustrating lows for me. While I still loved my record store job at HMV, things had changed there, and not necessarily for the better. The new manager and I often butted heads, and I also found my shifts often being pushed to weird hours to cover someone else’s plans. I’d gotten frustrated with the fact that my sci-fi novel (The Phoenix Effect) was getting no bites from publishers and its sequel was soon to be aborted when I instead chose to completely rewrite the whole damn thing.

Radio was also getting more frustrating to listen to, the more melodic sounds of 90s alt-rock getting replaced by what I’d call ‘meathead alt-metal’, with the drop-tuning and growling (and sometimes unfortunate white-boy-rapping) of Korn, Limp Bizkit and Marilyn Manson. I started listening to less radio and more of my own collection, which of course had already grown considerably in the last couple of years. On the plus side there, I’d discover a lot more imports and obscurities that became some of my favorite records of the time.

The Supernaturals, A Tune a Day, released 8 February 1999. I was pretty heavy into the imports at this time. I would read the British music mags religiously, checking out the news and reviews and following up accordingly, ordering a copy or two for the store. A lot of it was hit or miss, and most of the time I’d be ordering a copy simply for my own collection. The Supernaturals are one band that got some minor reviews in Mojo and elsewhere but kind of vanished soon after. I really dug the alternapop of this record, though.

Annie Christian, Twilight, released 8 February 1999. The same goes with Annie Christian…they were part of a newer British wave of guitar groups that wrote some really nifty tunes that unfortunately got ignored by pretty much everyone.

Tin Star, The Thrill Kisser, released 9 February 1999. Now THIS record is groovy and quirky as hell and more people need to know about it. The “Head” single got some minor airplay on the alt-rock stations, and every now and again I’m pleasantly surprised when it resurfaces. This record got a hell of a lot of play during my writing sessions. Well worth searching for and checking out.

Lit, A Place in the Sun, released 23 February 1999. These guys could easily be filed away in that same meathead alt-metal gang, considering their biggest hit is about being an alcoholic loser…but they do it in style with catchy riffs and fun tunes. Bonus points for providing a nude cameo of Blink-182 (following up their “What’s My Age Again” streak) in their video for “Zip-Lock”, another radio favorite.

Jimmy Eat World, Clarity, released 23 February 1999. Before the enormous success of 2001’s Bleed American, this band was a favorite of the emo crowd, and “Lucky Denver Mint” was a minor hit on a lot of alt-rock stations. Their early records are definitely worth checking out as well.

Badly Drawn Boy, It Came from the Ground EP, released 1 March 1999. This one remains one of my favorite import finds from the HMV years, and it’s one of BDB’s best songs, and really should have gotten a hell of a lot more attention than it did. I always play this one loud because it’s just that awesome.

3 Colours Red, Revolt, released 2 March 1999. Yet another fantastic alt-rock album criminally obscured by alt-metal radio and record distributor shenanigans of the day. “Beautiful Day” is a gorgeous tune that has the epic quality of Bends-era Radiohead. Had this come out a few years earlier or later, it may have been a much bigger hit.

Blur, 13, released 15 March 1999. Blur, on the other hand, was the Britpop band that survived the late 90s fallout of their scene by way of changing up their sound considerably. Their 1997 self-titled record introduced a much heavier and more experimental sound, while this record exposed their more emotional (and emotionally fraught) side.

Various Artists, The Matrix OST, released 30 March 1999. Say what you will about the trilogy, the first movie definitely changed the entire game of American science fiction movies by being fiercely original, relentlessly creative, refusing to rely on tired tropes, and introducing some of the best jaw-dropping special effects ever made up to that point. And it had one hell of a great soundtrack that just had to be played as loud as possible.

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The last year and a half of my HMV tenure may have been fraught with irritations and stress, but it also provided me with a ton of excellent music that would keep me busy and entertained. This was the peak era of my weekend road trips to comic stores, book stores and Boston, and it was also an extremely creative time for me as well, even if my current project was about to be completely restarted from scratch. My social life was nil, but that was the least of my worries, as I was doing exactly what I wanted to do, and I was actually getting paid enough to be able to afford it to some extent. I’d dug myself out of an extremely deep depressive funk, and despite managerial frustration, I refused to fall back into that trap again.

Thirty Years On: Spring 1989

Over the course of the last few months, I’ve been thinking of whether or not to follow up on this series. It’s hard to follow up on what I personally consider one of the best years for alternative rock in the 80s in terms of musicianship, quality, consistency and creativity. On a more personal note, it’s also hard to follow up having a positive and stellar year when nearly your entire circle of friends has left for greener college pastures. Regardless, I did my damnedest to remain as positive as I could; I still had the other friends in my year and younger.

In retrospect this makes me sound rather shallow, and I suppose it does in a way. My connection to the just-graduated gang had been a deep and close one that I hadn’t had previously, and I suppose their moving on affected me more than I’d expected. I suddenly found myself going from ‘part of the gang’ to flying solo (or almost solo), and it took me a long time to get used to that.

Regardless, I still had college radio and 120 Minutes to fall back on. Plus, I was on the final circuit towards the end of my high school career, and it was time for me to find myself and shine somehow.

The Darling Buds, Pop Said…, released January 1989. If there’s anything I noticed about 1989, is that it seemed to have a more pop sheen to it. Not in the ridiculous plastic way that permeated the mid-80s pop scene, but in a fun, free-for-all way. This was thanks to multiple scenes in the UK kicking off the party culture that soon became known as Britpop. The Buds, coming from South Wales, brought in a sparkly indie-pop sound that caught the ears of many a fan.

Love and Rockets, “Motorcycle”/”I Feel Speed” single, released 3 January 1989. Meanwhile, the trio once known for its dreamy psychedelic indie rock over the last four years suddenly changed pace and delivered a growling punch of raucous surf rock about singer Daniel Ash’s love of motorcycles. The b-side “I Feel Speed” is a gorgeous dreamlike interpretation of the song done almost entirely on David J’s bass.

Throwing Muses, Hunkpapa, released 23 January 1989. The last album featuring bassist Leslie Langston, this outing was much more pop-oriented than their previous records, providing a college radio favorite with “Dizzy”.

New Order, Technique, released 30 January 1989. While not as brilliant as Low Life or Brotherhood, it’s nonetheless a solid album featuring some of their best hybrid sound of synth and guitar. It’s also quite melodic compared to some of their earlier records.

Morrissey, “The Last of the Famous International Playboys” single, released 31 January 1989. An absurd yet catchy ode to the Reggie and Ronnie Kray, London’s most famous (and infamous) mobsters of current history. It was the first of numerous non-album songs Morrissey would drop over the course of the next decade. Also a song and video that surprised many: it features three other ex-Smiths (Andy Rourke on bass, Mike Joyce on drums, and tour guitarist Craig Gannon), briefly firing up rumors of a sort-of Smiths reunion.

The Replacements, Don’t Tell a Soul, released 7 February 1989. Paul Westerberg and Co followed up 1987’s fantastic Pleased to Meet Me with an album that sounds like maybe they sobered up a titch and started writing more solidly and melodically. They’re older and perhaps a bit wiser at this point.

Fine Young Cannibals, The Raw and the Cooked, released 20 February 1989. The trio’s second (and so far final) album was a big hit across the board, both on pop and modern rock charts, thanks to its lead-off single “She Drives Me Crazy”. It also had quite a memorable video (choreographed and directed by Phillippe Decouflé, whose only other music video was the equally memorable “True Faith” for New Order).

XTC, Oranges and Lemons, released 27 February 1989. Perhaps partly inspired by their side project The Dukes of Stratosphear, whose records were a straight-up 60s psychedelic rock pastiche, this record blended those psych tendencies with lovely pastoral sounds and catchy pop tunes.

Indigo Girls, Indigo Girls, released 28 February 1989. Their second album (and first for a major label) was a stellar folk-rock record that gained them a huge following, and major airplay on both college and commercial stations with their hit “Closer to Fine.” It’s an amazing album from start to finish and a must for anyone’s collection.

Robyn Hitchcock, Queen Elvis, released March 1989. His follow-up to the fan favorite Globe of Frogs — and named after one of his songs that would appear on 1990’s solo record Eye — is full of beautiful and introspective songs, yet still peppered with his trademark eclectic wit. It’s my personal favorite of his 80s output.

De La Soul, Three Feet High and Rising, released 3 March 1989. Goofy, fun, and relentlessly creative, it’s a blast to listen to with its positivity and humor. Thirty years later and they’re still going strong with new records and high-profile appearances, including Gorillaz’s ace track “Feel Good Inc.”

Depeche Mode, 101, released 11 March 1989. Their first live album is a two-record sprawl of their biggest recorded at the Pasadena Rose Bowl (the 101st and last show on a their Music for the Masses Tour with Erasure and Wire). While the songs may not be all that different from their studio versions, they deliver a great show nonetheless.

The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses, released 13 March 1989. Meanwhile, the long-simmering sound of Manchester — brought to the fore previously by The Smiths and New Order, among numerous others — finally exploded internationally with a guitar-heavy rock dance beat that blew everyone away and inspired and influenced so many others for years to come and laid the ground for the classic 90s Britpop sound.

Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Dress for Excess, released 31 March 1989 (US). Okay, so perhaps this record didn’t inspire or influence anyone at all, but it’s still a fun album. It’s not as blissfully chaotic as 1986’s Flaunt It, but in the process they sound so much more professional, perhaps a bit more serious as a band. Lead single “Success” was a deliberate plan in that direction, hiring hit UK producers Stock Aitken Waterman to make their sound as slick as possible. Bonus points for writing and recording an absolutely gorgeous album closer in the form of the dystopian ballad “Is This the Future?”, still one of my all-time favorite tracks of theirs.

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More to come soon!

Walk in Silence Returns…

…finally! My hiatus is over and I’ve decided to return to the fold with my continued obsession with all things music. In the end it wasn’t all that hard a decision, as I’d come to miss blogging about my latest listening habits. I like sharing the new (and old!) things I find on the intertubes and elsewhere. The one thing I’d wanted to ease back on, however, was the amount of content I was forcing myself to come up with on a weekly basis. Two entries a week isn’t all that bad for me, but two entries a week for each blog was definitely exhausting, especially near the end there!

So what did I do during the hiatus? I mean, aside from checking out new releases and revisiting older catalogs? I had a good long think about what I wanted to do with my blogs here. I eventually decided that I really did want to return to what I’d been posting for the last few years, though I felt it was time for me to scale it back a bit to give myself more time for other projects I wanted to work on. SO! What does this mean, anyway? Well, this means that I am back from here on in, but I’ll only be posting once a week on Mondays. Why Monday? Basically because that’ll give me time to give Friday’s new releases a good repeated listen over the weekend, when I have more time to write them out.

That said…let me catch you up on some of the tunage I’ve been listening to since January!

Toro Y Moi, Outer Peace, released 18 January. “Freelance” is one of those tunes that gets stuck in your head for DAYS, which isn’t really all that bad a thing, considering that it’s funky as hell and reminds me of all the best Daft Punk songs. The rest of the album is just as fun.

Weezer, Weezer (the teal album), released 24 January. Okay, so this was essentially a silly throwaway album of 80s covers, but they managed to pull it off! Taken at face value, these are solid interpretations that are faithful to the originals without a hint of irony. These are songs they (and I) grew up with, so why the hell not, right?

Skunk Anansie, 25Live@25, released 25 January. One of my favorite 90s bands that never got their due here in the States, they released a 2-cd collection of a recent 25th anniversary tour and it’s a solid selection of their entire catalog and well worth checking out. And Skin is a freaking amazing vocalist.

Boy Harsher, Careful, released 1 February. One of numerous songs and bands I’ve discovered through KEXP online in the last six months, I fell in love with this album purely because it reminds me of that late-80s darkwave sound I loved so much. Specifically, they reminded me so much of Clan of Xymox (especially the Twist of Shadows album) that I went and downloaded it on the strength of one song.

The Specials, Encore, released 1 February. The Specials have been here and there over the years, but this particular album sees the return of singer Terry Hall, who hadn’t been with them for ages. The new record returns to their classic Two-Tone sound as well. Well worth checking out.

White Lies, Five, released 1 February. I’d almost forgotten about this band (I have an album of theirs from quite a few years back) but thanks to AllMusic’s suggestion, I’m glad I checked out the record because it’s fantastic. Similar to Boy Harsher it’s got that late 80s darkwave sound, though with a more melodic sound similar to Camouflage.

Mercury Rev, Bobbie Gentry’s The Delta Sweete Revisited, released 8 February. I did not expect to love this album as much as I do, as I don’t know too many Bobbie Gentry songs other than ‘Ode to Billie Joe’. This is definitely an album recorded for a serious music fan, by same; it’s the band handing you Bobbie Gentry’s music and saying ‘you HAVE to listen to this, it’s amazing.’

Beck’s cover of “Tarantula” from Music Inspired by the film Roma, released 8 February. It’s really a cover of a cover; he’s doing the This Mortal Coil interpretation of the Colourbox track. It’s extremely close to that version, but he makes it his own by brightening the reverb and using a choir. This could easily fit on his Morning Phase album.

Bis, Slight Disconnects, released 15 February. YAY! New Bis album!! Poppy, bouncy and punky, and a hell of a lot of fun. They still sound like a cartoon after all these years, and that’s exactly what makes them so great.

Big Wreck “Locomotive” single, released 22 February. I’ve loved this band since “The Oaf” way back in 1997, and they’re still a great hard rock band with hints of blues, country and maybe even a bit of that jam-prog sound as well. Glad to hear them still going strong.

Chasms, The Mirage, released 22 February. Oh, this one is TOTALLY my wheelhouse. It’s full of shoegazey echo and slides easily between 80s darkwave (there we go again), Love and Rockets’ early psychedelic sound, and the gorgeousness of Slowdive. A lovely album to listen to, especially during my writing sessions.

Hozier, Wasteland, Baby!, released 1 March. I was never the biggest fan, but his new album has totally sold me on him. I didn’t expect it to be so dark and haunting yet so beautiful and moving.

Foals, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Part 1, released 8 March. Yet another band taking the route of releasing multiple shorter albums or EPs over the course of an extended time, but I do so love those because they’re often more cohesive and stronger. This is a darker album for them (which is saying something) but it’s also a stronger and more melodic one for them as well.

The Cinematic Orchestra, To Believe, released 15 March. My favorite find from last Friday, this is a fascinating record that kind of reminds me of my favorite Unkle albums; dark and brooding yet beautiful in their own way. Definitely on my writing session playlist already.

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…so yeah, it’s good to be back here on the internets. See you next Monday!

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 IV: October – December

Last review entry, kids, and it’s another long one! A lot of great albums and singles squeaked in during the last couple of months of the year, and they’re all pretty damn cool if you ask me.

Kikagaku Moyo, Masana Temples, released 5 October. Another band I discovered via KEXP. Not quite prog, not quite indie, always mesmerising.

Kristin Hersh, Possible Dust Clouds, released 5 October. A wonderful, boisterous album from one of my favorite indie songwriters.

Matthew Dear, Bunny, released 12 October. I thought this was an Editors record at first, but it’s so much weirder and darker, and I love it.

St Vincent, MassEducation, released 12 October. An amazing acoustic reworking of her 2017 record MassEduction.

Dubstar, One, released 12 October. WAIT, DUBSTAR IS BACK??? SWEET! I loved this band back in the 90s (go find their album Goodbye if you don’t have it already), so happy to see them again!

Cloud Nothings, Last Building Burning, released 19 October. This album just punches you in the face and doesn’t relent. Powerful and brutal.

Robyn, Honey, released 26 October. A welcome return after an extended hiatus, an extremely enjoyable pop record.

Steven Wilson, Home Invasion: In Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, released 2 November. A wonderful live record featuring some of his best tracks from both his solo career and his Porcupine Tree catalog.

K-DA & Madison Beer & (G)I-DLE, “POP/STARS” single, released 3 November. The only reason it dropped on my radar was hearing all the artists I follow on Twitter gushing about the amazing rendering for this game-related video. The track is ridiculously catchy and sounds amazing in headphones.

The Beatles, The Beatles (Super Deluxe Edition), released 9 November. Giles Martin did a fine job remixing his dad’s work here. It sounds updated, beefier, and more energetic. Dare I say, it makes them sound like an indie garage band…?

Failure, In the Future Your Body Will Be the Furthest Thing from Your Mind, released 16 November. The year-long project is complete, and it’s a winner with its spooky sci-fi themes an sounds.

Hooverphonic, Looking for Stars, released 16 November. A new singer (their fourth, I think?) but still an amazing band.

The Smashing Pumpkins, Shiny and Oh So Bright, vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun., released 16 November. Overblown title aside, this is actually a tight, fun and positive record from the band.

Art Brut, Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!, released 23 November. Hooray! New Art Brut! Eddie Argos & Co bring back their distinctive brand of off-kilter punk rock.

MuteMath, Voice in the Silence EP, released 5 December. Essentially a Paul Meany solo project at this point, but he’s still providing some fantastic grooves and sounds.

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Whew! That was one hell of a fine year in music. So many great albums, singles, and EPs that came out, many of which I actually didn’t share here due to space! I’m going to be listening to a lot of stuff from this year for a long time running, I think.

Despite the ups and downs and excitements and frustrations of the past year (both personal and otherwise, of course), I have to say it was an overwhelmingly positive one on multiple levels, and I’m glad that I had such a soundtrack for it all.

Coming up next Monday: the 2018 Best-Of Lists!

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.

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Coming Thursday: 2018, Q2!