Best Tracks from 2nd Quarter 2014

I was just sitting on the balcony outside my apartment, enjoying the hum of air conditioners and the heat of my fading laptop battery, when a passing rain cloud sprinkled the whole place. Not like a downpour, but like the random shower of candy at a parade stop. Except not candy. Still delightful.

Like always, the list below’s a mix of actual new releases, lightly aged releases, and ancient wax.

The List

Neil Cowley Trio, “Couch Slouch” – Found out about this group from The Guardian’s Spotify app. I wasn’t sure what to think at first, but a comparison to Time for Three helped. Really interesting sound!

OK GO, “Writing’s on the Wall” – I swear this is New Order, maybe “Age of Consent”, with a peppier vocal. They make all the right sounds here, nailing that moment when new wave becomes rock becomes dance. Great video, of course.

Tokyo Police Club, “Hot Tonight” – Been watching them since 2007, wishing and hoping for something to take off. The new record is a total blast. They’ve copped to aping the worst parts of Weezer and The Strokes and somehow make it work.

How To Dress Well, “Repeat Pleasure” – This is one of those bands I’ve read about on Pitchfork, but didn’t click with me. This time, it did. Admittedly, the song is probably the “catchiest” of any of his, so don’t go looking for a repeat of “Repeat Pleasure”. But it’s fun for just one track. Hard to describe, but white, male, depressed grad student Whitney Houston might do it.

Andy Davis, “To Be Cruel” – Another R&B influenced croon with plenty of cornball electronics. Treat yo’ self.

Todd Terje, “Preben Goes To Acapulco” – Treat yo’ self some more with the best electronic record I’ve hear this year. Imagine a lounge lizard Daft Punk. Goofy, but perfectly recorded and seriously melodic.

Röyksopp & Robyn, “Do It Again” – They’ve guested on each others’ songs in the past, but this year brought a five-song EP revolving around this propulsive dance cut. It’s a surge of Robyn’s out-sized persona, perfect pop melodies and dark synth bloops.

Zulema, “Giving Up” – This is from 1973. It’s disco. It’s fantastic. Part of a compilation of break beat samples put together by UK DJ Mr. Thing. The compilation itself is a crazy crate-dig through this guy’s imagination.

Dr. John, “Quitters Never Win” – Bought a copy of MOJO from Luna Music with the Black Keys on the cover. They had a few words on Dr. John and I realized I had just the vaguest idea of his sound. Turns out it’s weird. But soulful and groovy.

Gary Allan, “See If I Care” – When I think about the way country-western heartbreak sounded in the 80s, as I do so often, this is sort of what comes to mind. Almost a Chris Isaak thing.

Shane & Shane, “You Loved My Heart To Death” – Man, the real stars this spring were Shane & Shane. I’d never heard of them until a friend recommended their first Worship Initiative collection, so I checked out their previous stuff. Kinda hated this song until it clicked that this was a ballad. Like, a big, theatrical ballad. Killer.

Shane & Shane, “Oceans” – The best melody I’ve heard this summer. And they sing it with such power and passion.

Strand of Oaks, “JM” – NPR’s “All Songs Considered” played this and it rocked my morning. Such heavy. This song reveals how thin the bass is on your earbuds. Maybe try your car, westbound 465 between Keystone and Meridian about 6:30pm, windows cracked because you’re “accidentally” doing 70. It’s meant to be loud, bass-heavy and cathartic. And Neil Young-ish like a lot.

The War on Drugs, “An Ocean In Between The Waves” – Speaking of Neil Young, imagine Bruce Springsteen in a dark parallel universe. There’s some incredible guitar going on here, with a propulsive 80s rock drum kit. Another windows-down jam.

That’s what rocked my Q2 in 2014. So, what’s on your list?

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