David Bazan is back as Pedro The Lion with a new album titled Phoenix – his first PTL release in nearly 15 years. Bazan’s writing is as personal and introspective as ever as he conjures up memories both old and new thanks to a tour stop in his hometown and a detour past his childhood home.
(Sequenced for flow – not ranking – purposes.)
Tyvek “Choose Once” (In the Red)
My single of the year, from my album of the year. So raw, so good.
Mass Gothic “Every Night You’ve Got to Save Me” (Sub Pop)
Family Sing-Along Song of the Year honors go to this raucous doo-wop jam.
DIIV “Under the Sun” (Captured Tracks)
Shining down from a shimmering crack in the clouds that hung over 2016.
A Tribe Called Quest “We the People…” (Epic)
I could have chosen any of a half dozen tracks off this album but this here’s the anthem, get your damn hands up.
Francis and the Lights w/ Bon Iver “Friends” (KTTF)
Alan Parsons meets auto-tuned R&B meets, well, Bon Iver.
KAYTRANADA “LITE SPOTS” (XL)
Half this song is impossible to dance to; the other half is impossible not to dance to.
De La Soul “Royalty Capes” (AOI)
I wish this album had been more fulfilling than my anticipation of it, but there are some real gems amidst the scattershot experiments. This one’s about why a guy can’t find vintage De La on any of the streaming services.
Beach Slang “Spin the Dial” (Polyvinyl)
“I was born at the bottom
But I never belonged
I’m hardly ever right
But I’ve never been wrong”
Could’ve been ripped straight from Paul Westerberg’s notebook.
The Men “Dreamer” (We Are the Men)
What you’d imagine to be playing anytime a parent pounds on their teen’s bedroom door and yells, “Turn it down!”
The Radio Dept. “Committed to the Cause” (Labrador)
A slinky statement of a song with hints of Prefab Sprout and St. Etienne.
Parquet Courts “Steady on My Mind” (Rough Trade)
Grandaddy “A Lost Machine” (Sony)
Man, this album can’t come soon enough…
James Blake “Love Me in Whatever Way” (Polydor)
That laugh track makes this even more heartbreaking than your average James Blake song.
ot to, not to w/ Noah Smith “Regretta I” (Other People)
Listen very closely.
The xx “On Hold” (Young Turks)
I know their 15 minutes of fame should be long gone, but that Hall & Oates sample…
Sonny & the Sunsets “Needs” (Polyvinyl)
The album where Sonny fell in love with a drum machine and made some goofy babies like this one.
Sunflower Bean “I Was Home” (Fat Possum)
Critics fawned over their debut but I found most of the album kinda boring. That said, this single is some transcendent psych rock amazingness.
Terry Malts “Used to Be” (Slumberland)
Terry Malts has been to me in the early 20-teens what The Wedding Present was to me in the early 1990s – completely durable and indispensible.
The Intended “Don’t Wait Too Long” (In the Red)
Rollicking goodness from Detroit’s garage (or basement, as the case may be) scene.
Leonard Cohen “It Seemed the Better Way” (Sony)
I’m a man of faith but after a year like this one, I get it. I really do.
David Bowie “Lazarus” (ISO/Columbia)
As my grandmother was bedridden and dying of cancer she’d ask my mom to open the curtains so she could watch the birds in the tree outside her window. When I first heard the bluebird line, I crumbled into a sobbing mess. Bowie gave until the very end…ain’t that just like him?
New Zealander Pip Brown, AKA Ladyhawke, has made some changes in her life over the three years since her last album’s release. She gave up drinking and focused on getting healthy. This new found health is clearly evident on her newest sunny, electro-pop release Wild Things.
Album opener ‘A Love Song” (below) is packed with bright tones and throbbing synths – a real pop gem that’s sure to get a dance party started, even if it’s only a dance party for one.
Wild Things is out now and available from Polyvinyl Records. Check it out.
Ladyhawke – A Love Song from Wild Things (2016)
15 tasty tracks perfect for your backyard BBQs?
1. Japandroids – Continuous Thunder
2. The Rentals – Friends of P.
3. Fourth of July – Surfer Dude
4. Fascinations Grand Chorus – I Don’t Wanna Fall In Love
5. The Up! Up! Ups! – Love Tuck And Roll
6. Primitive Programme – Modern World
7. Foster Body – Touching & Moving
8. The Read – Yr Garbage
9. bellwire – Time Out
10. bed. – Wayward
11. The Light Footwork – Coastlines And Landmines
12. Betty & Oswald – Schmuck
13. The Scrap Dealers – She Doesn’t Wanna Leave Your Mind
14. Leggy – July
15. Devin Davis – The Choir Invisible
Portland-based Radiation City recently dropped their third LP and first with Polyvinyl Records. Synesthetica is a hook-driven, electro-pop gold mine – the deeper you dig into the album the more rich stuff you find. Check out one of many standout tracks “Milky White” (below) for a taste.
Synesthetica is out now and available in all formats from Polyvinyl.
Radiation City – Milky White from Synesthetica (2016)
Scott Reitherman is back with his second album as Pillar Point, Marble Mouth. Recorded at Kevin Barnes’ (of Montreal) home studio, Marble Mouth is an electro-pop masterpiece with of enough throbbing bass and synths to make any fan of 80’s electro drool. Check out the sun-soaked “Dove” below for a taste.
Marble Mouth is out on January 22 through Polyvinyl Records, it’s a must have for your record collection.
Pillar Point – Dove from Marble Mouth (2016)
Sonny and the Sunsets’ newest release Talent Night at the Ashram is equal parts chill, groove and pop mixed together to create 10 songs of toe tapping, head bobbing goodness. Talent Night at the Ashram is available now from Polyvinyl Records. You should buy it.
Sonny and the Sunsets – Cheap Extensions from Talent Night at the Ashram (2015)
Canada’s Alvvays (pronounced “Always”) bring a fuzzy, sugar-coated brand of indie pop that is almost impossible to stop consuming.
My favorite track from their self-titled debut (and one of my favorite tracks of the year) “Archie, Marry Me” (below) is a perfect example of their sweetness. I obsess over this song almost as much as Sean obsesses over Veronica Falls.
Alvvays self-titled LP is available now from Polyvinyl. I highly recommend it.
Alvvays – Archie, Marry Me from S/T (2014)
Louisville, Kentucky’s trio of face melters, White Reaper, are about to drop their debut EP with Polyvinyl Records (out on June 24). This self-titled EP is 6 songs of rowdy punk rock sure to make any fans of Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees sit up and take notice. Check out burner “Funn” below then head over to Polyvinyl’s site and click “buy”. Who knows you may even get a delicious Airheads® in your package.
White Reaper – Funn from S/T (2014)
Japandroids are singer/guitarist Brian King and drummer/singer David Prowse of Vancouver, BC. We all know how big a drum kit and guitar can sound (thanks to godheadSilo and some duo from Detroit). So I won’t belabor that aspect of the Japandroids story. What I will say is that their songs burst with youth – all earnest, raw, wistful – and just the right dose of self-deprecation. In fact, if “Younger Us” doesn’t get you screaming along at the top of your lungs and drumming on your steering wheel you may want to check your pulse.