Best Tracks from Second Quarter 2016

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Warning: more country this quarter than usual. Blame Charles Kelley.

Spotify

The List

Jimmy Carter and Dallas County Green, “Travelin'”

This quarter’s list kicks off with a song I admittedly didn’t listen to much. But I like it quite a bit, so here we are. Originally released (and ignored) in 1977, then re-released as part of a compilation this winter. Seems to cross Laurel Canyon lite-rock with a stronger country-folk influence. Really enjoy the picked electric guitar, reminds me of Real Estate.

Dierks Bentley, “I Hold On”

Told you there’d be country. Dierks can sing, I like singing along, and the lyrics are just fine. Don’t need much else.

Aaron Watson, “That Look”

One more sing-a-long song from Texas. From 2015’s “The Underdog”, another solid album. Check out “Getaway Truck” for a standout track that hits all the high points: guns, freedom, “Gone With The Wind”, hands in the air, and a detailed description of his Chevy truck.

AURORA, “Running With The Wolves”

Hey! It’s AURORA from Norway! I really really like her song “Conquerer” as well. But you really can’t resist a song that mimics howling wolves every time the chorus comes around. Huge sound. Another great track for driving.

Matt Wertz, “Lemonade”

I think Matt made a K-Pop album by accident. Or maybe by shooting for peak Michael Jackson he landed somewhere in Seoul. This song bubbles along like a lost cut from “Off the Wall”. Toss in a bridge that repeatedly spells out S-W-E-E-T and I’m sold.

Lucius, “Almost Makes Me Wish For Rain”

While we’re in the 80s, lets talk about Paula Abd- I mean Lucius. While I wish their new album was as consistently solid as Matt Wertz or Charles Kelley, it couldn’t decide between folk freakouts or polished pop blowouts like this. But the hits, when they hit, really shine.

Lucie Silvas, “Smoke”

Thanks Spotify Discover Weekly! There’s a great 90s pop vibe here. Kind of like a bluesy take on The Verve. Make sure to check out her spooky, smoky cover of Roy Orbison’s “You Got It”.

Weezer, “Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori”

Weezer hasn’t really spoken to my heart since 8th grade. But I’ll gladly ride this wave of nostalgia. For a fascinating look at Rivers Cuomo’s writing process, check out the “Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori” episode of the “Song Exploder” podcast.

Bad Bad Hats, “Super America”

While we’re talking about Weezer, I feel like this track recalls the verbose heartbreak of “The Blue Album” while channeling the 3-chord sunshine pop of “The Green Album”. Not bad, Bad Bad Hats, not bad.

Haywyre, “Everchanging”

Somehow laid-back and groovy like classic R&B, but with bursts of go-hard electronica. Layer in vocals from SHINee and you’d have some solid K-Pop.

Chris Stapleton, “Parachute”

The definition of a country crossover hit. Get Kelly Clarkson to sing it. Maybe that guy from Audioslave. Bet Robert Plant would crush it.

Ray LaMontagne, “Hey, No Pressure”

Do you like Pink Floyd? Listen to the whole album in a sitting and bask in the glow of a highly successful recreation. But if you do not like sitting through a whole album and Pink Floyd drives you mad, this track is the standout. Ray’s velvet croon is a great contrast with the scorched-earth lead guitar.

Radiohead, “Present Tense”

I really, really like the new Radiohead album. It’s long, and most of the tracks are slow and contemplative. But I listened through on a long drive to Michigan and had a great time. My favorite track is “The Numbers” for its lush arrangement. But “Present Tense” is spare and gorgeous, a second-cousin to “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” from my favorite Radiohead album, “In Rainbows”.

Santigold, “Before The Fire”

To be honest, I can only take about 10 minutes of Santigold. I do not want to see her perform in concert. But I dearly love her genre-hopping albums. While I skip 3-4 songs on each, there’s generally a core of hits that each have a different sound. “Before The Fire” is a dark, spiraling screed from a jaded lover. Could have sountracked the titles to any of Daniel Craig’s “Bond” movies.

Chris Isaak, “Blue Spanish Sky”

The kind of atmospheric deep-cut tailor made to soundtrack someone’s dramatic walk home in the rain. There’s even a lonely trumpet solo in the middle of this track, like the “House of Cards” theme. Dig. Rediscovered after I finally stopped to look up more of his music after hearing “Wicked Game” on my work’s Pandora station over and over again.

 

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