Nicole Atkins – Girl You Look Amazing
With that funky, propulsive baseline and Nicole Atkins’ sultry vocals, this song has an air of 70s-era Fleetwood Mac, though it still feels thoroughly modern in all the best ways. Atkins has been putting out impressive albums ever since her debut, Neptune City. She has the vocal, lyrical and musical ability to set her apart from the vast majority of pop artists, but her hooks never suffer for it. She’s like a less-Asperger-y St. Vincent (no offense). Plus, watch the video, she clearly has a sense of humor. If you like this song, check out the rest of her work, including her new album Slow Phaser.
Beck – Blue Moon
Remember Beck? He’s back… In Sea Change form. Beck is an institution. Ever since his 90s hit song “Loser,” he’s established himself as a talented, eclectic smartass. But, besides for being everyone’s favorite Scientologist (probably the only favorite Scientologist), his 2002 heartbreak of an album, Sea Change, revealed a quieter, deeper yet no less melodic side of the songwriter. Saying that Morning Phase is the spiritual successor of that album has gotten cliché, and it’s a bit misleading. Whereas Sea Change felt like a throwback to classic singer/songwriter break-up albums of the 70s and 80s, Morning Phase expresses it’s melancholy with a mixture of old-school instrumentation and electronic ambiance. If you’re a fan of the former album, you’ll love this, but if you found Sea Change to be too sad sack for your tastes, the new album, with standout track “Blue Moon,” offers some surprises that make it worth your time.
Trevor Hall – Unity
On the surface, this song should annoy me. It’s white boy reggae (not that you would know it by the voice) about God or god and how all religions lead to the same truth; oh so New Age-y. I’d like to just dismiss this song, but damn if it isn’t one hell of an earworm. It sticks in your head the way all the best reggae songs can, and it does so without sounding completely derivative. I’ve honestly not listened to anything else by this guy, mostly because it isn’t a genre of music I spend much time listening to. But if he had an album of songs as good as this, I could definitely see myself blasting it on a hot summer’s day. And, as far as spiritual messages go, I guess I can appreciate one that says ‘Stop fighting about God, all belief is the same.’ I’d just go a bit further and say, ‘So you don’t need any of it.’
Mansions – Two Suits
My buddy John drums for this group, which sounds like I’m just foisting a friend on you. But I mean it when I say this band is damn good, both on record and in their powerful live show. They fall into that hard to define genre known as “Math Rock,” and on Twitter they’re self-described as complaint-rock, but who needs labels? “Two Suits” was the first song on their excellent Doom Loop album to grab my attention with its slow build towards an eruption and the closing male/female vocal call-and-response that feels downright menacing even if I don’t have a clue what the hell “It’s 80 fucking dollars” is all about. When a song is this explosive, does it really matter?
Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now
What am I going to say? It’s Queen. Freddie Mercury has never and will never be replaced. Adam Lambert and fun. can try their best, but every rock singer will always live in the shadow of this man. I don’t consider myself a ‘rock’ guy all that much, as the genre tends to lack subtlety, but if you put on some Queen I will air guitar with the best of them (and have well into the night). The music of Queen is the Platonic Ideal of Rock Music. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t have at least one favorite Queen song? I didn’t think so. I’m not sure I’d say “Don’t Stop Me Now” is my favorite, but it’s the one I’ve been listening to a lot lately. And that’s the whole point of these posts. Now then, where is my spandex?