2015 in Music Playlist

This year, I approached listening to music in a completely different way. I wanted to make sure I was keeping up with listening to newly released music, so I sat down and created a list of artists that were releasing new music in 2015 that peaked my interests. I started with wikipedia and then I looked for recommendations and jotted those down too. Then I got to listening, checking off the albums as I went and making notes of albums and songs I enjoyed. In the end, I managed to listen to over 40 full albums of new music. I think next year I will try for at least 52 albums for the year.

So without further ado, here is my playlist of my favorite songs of 2015. There are a few artists that I squeezed onto the list that I never got around to listening to their full albums. But that’s life, plus I will get around to them eventually.

Ben Folds, “Capable of Anything”
Anya Marina, “Give Me Resurrection
Courtney Barnett, “Pedestrian at Best”
Sleater-Kinney, “Price Tag”
Veruca Salt, “Laughing in the Sugar Bowl”
Madonna, “Ghosttown”
“Cold War Kids, “First”
Patrick Dennis, “Kissing the Beast”
Oh Spirit, “Mothers Only Daughter”
Dead Rock West, “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)”
Julianna Hatfield Three, “I Don’t Know What to Do with My Hands”
Brian Wilson (with Kacey Musgraves), “Guess You Had to Be There”
Modest Mouse, “Coyotes”
X Ambassadors, “Renegades”
Rhett Miller, “Wanderlust”
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, “S.O.B”
Steve Martin & Edie Brickell, “Another Round”

Note: You must have a Spotify account to listen. If you want an actual CD copy, send me an email, text, or direct message and I will get on that.


New Year Mix

I love making mixtapes. Since I was a angsty teen I recorded tapes, then CDs, for unsuspecting friends and lovers. It was to my delight that in June of 2012, some friends started the San Diego Mixtape Society as a way to create and share mixtapes based on predetermined themes. Every other month, the group meets at a place with good drinks and conversation. At the end of the “meeting” you walk away with a mixtape of another member. The requirement is to bring a CD, USB or actual tape of your 1-hour mix based on the theme. I have always meant to share the mixes on a broader basis, but until now I never made the time.

The theme for the December 2015 San Diego Mixtape Society was “Holiday”. Since there is a ton of Christmas albums out there, I decided to create a holiday album for a holiday that I have no albums for. I wanted a mix that was timeless, to be listened to year after year. And now that Christmas is over, it is time to ring in the new year with this New Year Mix.

Death Cab for Cutie, “The New Year”
The Breeders, “New Year”
Nina Gordon, “New Year’s Eve”
Tom Waits, “New Year’s Eve”
The Walkman, “In the New Year”
Violent Femmes, “Happy New Year Next Year”
Lightnin’ Hopkins, “Happy New Year”
NOFX, “New Year’s Revolution”
Foo Fighters, “Next Year”
Counting Crows, “A Long December”
U2, “New Year’s Day”
Jeff Buckley, “New Year’s Prayer”
Tori Amos “Our New Year”
The Head and the Heart, “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”
First Aid Kit, “New Year’s Eve”
Bright Eyes, “First Day of My Life”
Andrew Bird, “Auld Lang Syne”

Note: You must have a Spotify account to listen. If you want an actual CD copy, send me an email, text, or direct message and I will get on that.

The Polyphonic Spree: cult, crazy or genius

Ever since The Polyphonic Spree performed last week at House of Blues: San Diego, I haven’t been able to get enough of the band. I had never seen them live before this performance and one can argue that I still haven’t seen them as circumstances allowed us only to take in the first three songs of their set. While leaving the venue, I mused with Roger regarding the band’s make up. My brain churned up a number of questions: Is Tim DeLaughter truly a genius (like Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips) or a drug-induced crazy man (like Jason Russell of Invisible Children) or a cult leader (like the man headed for another parole hearing, Charles Manson)? Did he have kids and if so, how many? What is the creative process behind the songs  – was it more like that of a composer or a regular band? Does he do all of the organizing for recording and touring? How does the whole thing work?

I was happy to find with just a little on Wikipedia and some Googling, that Tim is a sober man and really quite normal, just a busy creative with lots of projects (to this I can relate). The formation of The Polyphonic Spree in 2000 was a reaction to the guitarist, Wes Berggren, of his previous band, Tripping Daisy, dying of a drug overdose. So, no running naked in the streets for Tim, unless he really just feels like it.

Also in my searches, I found a documentary created by his wife (and singer in The Polyphonic Spree), Julie Doyle that was included as part of the 2007 album, The Fragile Army. The film, Raise Your Ears and Hold on to Your Heart, goes through the making of The Fragile Army in about 51 minutes. In that short time, I found that the creative process is not unlike that of a 3-piece band, just with more time recording. YouTube has the whole film in eight parts. Here is part one to kick it off.

I believe my favorite part is in the last seven minutes of the film where you can catch small glimpses of his family, with his four kids.

Overall, in this mini-research/deep-soak in the world of The Polyphonic Spree, I discovered the inspiration of Tim DeLaughter and the whirlwind he has created of good vibes that make me ecstatic to consider myself a fan of his projects.

For those who have never heard of The Polyphonic Spree, perhaps you really have. You will find one of my favorite songs, “Light and Day/Reach for the Sun” on The Lorax soundtrack (and trailer).

The Magnetic Fields, The Orpheum: 3/23/12

It has been a  long time since I have written about music. Not to say that I haven’t been going to shows. It’s just I haven’t spent time writing about them or taking photos. But considering the rareness of The Magnetic Fields actually playing for an audience, let alone going on tour, I think it warranted at least a few words.

Needless to say, if they rarely go on tour and seeing as the tour has/had only a few American stops (16 total), they certainly weren’t stopping in San Diego (but somehow Iowa City made the cut). So, Roger and I made the Friday rush hour trek up to the City of Angels’ theatre district for this must-see-at-some-point-in-your-life band.

The Magnetic Fields have a long history and one that is so interesting to some that a documentary was made called Strange Powers. This incredible film was release last spring and I think we manged to get around to watching it in the fall. It takes you through the song writing genius of Stephin Merritt and his support system, including his life-long friend and fellow bandmate, Claudia Gonson. In the film you find that the band operates in a sort of box, filtering out the outside influences of media and fans. They play to play because they need the release. They could care less if you actually enjoy it.

Perhaps this is only partly true, or else they would never tour, never step in front of a crowd. The film follows the making of Distortion, a sort of abstract  album full of experiments. It didn’t fail, but many fans will say it didn’t necessarily fly. Fast forward four years and recently released, Love at the Bottom of the Sea harks back to the reasons why many people fell in love with The Magnetic Fields in the first place. Witty, charming love songs or even the ever so fun anti-love variety. A favorite that hit my ears first by Paste Magazine, “Andrew in Drag”, will no doubt be stuck in your head too after taking a listen.

As for the concert, it fully lived up to my limited expectations. The opener, Bachelorette didn’t grab me as it probably grabbed Stephin, but good on him for touring with a musician he loves. Full of loops and mixes over lapped by vocals, this solo artist who is part of the trend to call herself by a band name, nearly put me to sleep after days of jet lag, hours of driving and a hearty meal. Too bad, so sad because I’m sure the music is good, just not as a live performance.

When The Magnetic Fields sauntered on stage, I felt that the audience were guests to their tea party as they entertained us with polite banter and parlor tricks.  Cellist Sam Davol, guitarist John Woo and vocalist/ukulele player Shirley Simms didn’t add much to the conversation, but were integral to the music (I could have used “instrumental” instead of “integral” but I didn’t want to go there). The set list was perfect with highlights including “Reno Dakota,” “The Book of Love” (that Stephin confessed he needed a lyric sheet to remember by telling a long story about Matthew Broderick in a Broadway performance of The Producers), “Come Back from San Francisco,” “A Chicken with Its Head Cut Off” and of course, my new favorite, “Andrew in Drag.” A short encore wrapped the set up with a bow and sent us on our merry way down the I-5 with a new CD and a new shirt that Stephin had put a bird on.

For those who haven’t spent time with The Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs, do yourself a favor and spend at least 69 hours with the 3-disc album. Your significant other (or future other) will appreciate it.

Best Sounds of 2011

I dropped the ball. Music this year managed to escape my ears. I look at the top whatever music lists for 2011 and I have heard of only a fraction of what is out there. I guess I am where the masses are. No… I know I’m better than that. I have heard some stuff this year through my old reliables: Slacker, Paste Magazine (with their new m-player) and radio. But from all I’ve heard, even through the new album streaming resource, Spotify, it is not enough to compile a top ten albums list.

Perhaps I need to preface, I really feel let down by music this year. Things that have been exciting most of my lovely music freaks, did not ring my bell this year. I’m not sure why. Have I narrowed my musical preferences? I surely hope not. Is this what happens when you get old? I know instinctively that can’t be true. I guess I have to chalk it up to a bad year for my ears, and that’s more true than told. I have been living with ringing in my ears for almost two months now. Tinnitus settling in. Sigh, best just to distract myself and  move on to the good stuff… the good music I did listen to this year. No list, some songs, some albums, all stuff I loved.

Rachael Yamagata: “Starlight”

I heard this song a few months back on Paste Magazine’s m-player. Her voice reminding me of Johnette Napalitano had me rushing out to by the CD and checking out when she played next. After listening to her album a few times, it didn’t catch me like I had hoped. When she came to the Casbah, I decided to pass and I’m still ok with that decision.

The Head and the Heart: “Lost in My Mind”

I really wish I took the time to see these guys when they were in town.  This song tugs at my own heart, reminding me of the hard work my grandfather did to get my family where it is today. Perfect song to truly get “Lost in your Mind.”

Maren Parusel: Artificial Gardens

I had the chance to catch Maren at several venues this year and was pleasantly surprised when I heard her album, as I always am when an album lives up to or surpasses a live performance. I feel her music is somewhere between The Sundays and Metric. She is local so go see her perform or hit up M-Theory for her record.

The Beach Boys: Smile Sessions

I’m a sucker for Brian Wilson. This is one more open door into his psyche. Comparing Brian Wilson’s Smile versus The Beach Boys’ Smile will now be one of those music geek convos similar to movie nerds’ comparing the various directors’ takes on Batman.  BTW… Love this animated video. Even though it was made recently, you could totally see it being made in 1967, when the Smile album was originally intended for release.

The Belle Brigade: “Losers”

This song is super catchy and made me by the album, but only last night so I haven’t given the album a good listen.  This music video doesn’t give me the same empowerment as I feel just listening the the song, but maybe it will for you… just imagine the dogs don’t stop running after the car and have a better life abandoned in the middle of nowhere. Sorry, still not doing it.

Foo Fighters: “The Rope”

I’m glad that this song was the radio hit. The drums hitting at off times and the song broken into distinct sections just rub me the right way every time. We have the album and I like most of what I hear, but this song feels miles above the rest. P.S. from this point on I will never, ever miss a Foo Fighter’s show. I have such a great time and endless energy when they hit the stage. Their live concerts are up there with The Rolling Stones and Rush: timeless and I can totally imagine David Grohl and Pat Smear in their 70’s rocking out.

After taking a recent listen to some of the Paste top 50, I have some listening to do in 2012.  I’m especially intrigued by Beirut, Seryn and Tom Waits new album (I just bought the Tom Waits and Beirut albums last night at M-Theory). Next up, tackling Pitchfork‘s top songs and albums released this week. There is hope for me yet finding the needles in the haystack of sound.