My favorite music of 2016

Jim James performing live at The Orpheum Theatre | 12.9.2016

Yes, I realize it's already February. But I never actually got around to listing my favorite music from 2016 by the end of last year, so better late than never, right? I had a tough time narrowing these lists down because there was a huge amount of great music released this past year. These are listed in no specific order, but if I had to pick my favorite album it has to be "Eternally Even" by Jim James. So relevant in many different ways, James managed to touch a nerve with me both lyrically and instrumentally. And yes, I have a soft spot for The Weeknd. Deal with it. 

Top 10 Songs of 2016: 

  1. "Starboy" The Weeknd 
  2. "She's American" The 1975
  3. "Youth" Glass Animals
  4. "Here In Spirit" Jim James
  5. "We The People" A Tribe Called Quest
  6. "Zombies" Childish Gambino 
  7. "Titus Was Born" Young the Giant
  8. "Because I'm Me" The Avalanches
  9. "Am I Wrong" Anderson .Paak 
  10. "Secrets" The Weeknd

Top 10 Albums of 2016:

  1. Young the Giant "Home of the Strange"
  2. Jim James "Eternally Even"
  3. Childish Gambino "Awaken, My Love!"
  4. A Tribe Called Quest "We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service"
  5. Anderson .Paak "Malibu"
  6. Glass Animals "How To Be A Human Being"
  7. Amos Lee "Spirit"
  8. Dawes "We're All Gonna Die" 
  9. Local Natives "Sunlit Youth"
  10. Red Hot Chili Peppers "The Getaway"

 

Album review: White Denim, 'Stiff'

White Denim has been around for a while, 10 years to be exact, but their latest full-length release entitled Stiff  sounds like a group of friends having the time of their lives. At just 35 minutes total, Stiff is jam-packed with nine tracks that will really kick your ass and get you moving. It also marks White Denim’s first release with two new members: Jeffery Olson on drums and Jonathan Horne on guitar. The record was produced by Ethan Johns (Paul McCartney, Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon). You can hear some rejuvenation in the music, these guys sound like they’re champing at the bit to get on stage and rock these songs in front of a live crowd. Personally, I’ve never been to a White Demin show, but I’d imagine it’s one hell of a time. 

The album kicks off with a few super high-energy tracks that would get you through your cardio routine at the gym or would serve as awesome party tunes. “Be yourself, and try to have a good time” sings lead vocalist James Petralli over frenetic drumming and catchy guitar riffs on the second song “Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah)”. The energy keeps on into the third track, “Holda You (I’m Psycho)” which is driven by a distorted bass line and includes an interesting bridge of flourishing guitars and a kick drum that builds up to a huge instrumental coda. 

The second half of the record sees a few lyrically driven tunes that let Petralli showcase his vocal versatility. The energy is high throughout though, and the technical work of this group of musicians is impressive.

The members of White Denim are masters at what they do. Stiff is a great example of the great music amazing artists can produce when the time is right and there is no pressure to do anything but have fun. The band has accomplished that and then some.

RIP Phife Dawg: What A Tribe Called Quest means to me

We learned on Wednesday morning the sad news that founding member of A Tribe Called Quest, Malik Taylor aka ‘Phife Dawg’ had passed away at the young age of 45. Now, I personally don’t have a long history of listening to Tribe, and I understand that the group influenced an entire generation of hip-hop artists and means so much to so many people. I was actually shocked to see my Facebook news feed filled with people I’d never have pinned to have been so into Tribe with their tributes to Phife, which is a testament to just how universally influential the group was for music fans of all kinds. 

For what it’s worth, this is what A Tribe Called Quest means to me:

I was introduced to the group by my best friend in college. The year we spent listening to Anthology every night while me and my roommates practiced our beer pong skills were some of my best and most vivid memories of that time. We’d put on Tribe every night, and then when we had friends over for tournaments, we’d play the same tunes and it almost felt like a home field advantage. The music was so original, simple and easy to listen to and vibe to. Those songs spread out a sort of security blanket in our house, like everything was right in the world. When we had a case of Keystone open and Tribe was on the stereo, we were winning. And I plan to continue winning to the sounds of Phife and the rest of A Tribe Called Quest for years to come. Please, if you haven’t yet, indulge in some of my favorite Tribe tracks on the playlist here. You won’t regret it. 

Everything (not) in its right place: Scoring Radiohead tickets an impossible task

Honestly, I had forgotten that tickets were going on sale on Friday morning. I had jumped on Twitter and saw that Radiohead was trending, but wasn’t sure why. I soon found out that the UK on-sale was a few hours ahead of the West Coast, those shows had already sold out, and fans were complaining about outrageous ticket prices on third-party sites. So I figured I’d give it my best shot to try and score a pair of tickets at face value ($75 plus fees) to one of the two shows the band is playing at The Shrine in Los Angeles in August. 

This stupid screen gave me hope for some reason

This stupid screen gave me hope for some reason

The on-sale was via the AXS site, and I was able to get into a “waiting room” for each of the respective gigs. The text in the “waiting room” told me that ‘my turn was coming soon’ which did give me some hope. Unfortunately, section by section became sold out, and ‘my turn’ hadn’t come yet. I saw a few tweets from some lucky fans who did manage to lock in tickets at face value through the same site I was still waiting on. Alas, my turn never came and I was rudely kicked out of each waiting room with a prompt that read something along the lines of “Tickets for this event are unavailable”. I’m not sure if that’s verbatim and I really didn’t care at that point. All I knew is that I didn’t get the tickets.

Cool. Awesome. Terrific. Grand.

I had just spent over an hour watching this little “waiting room” loading graphic keep refreshing itself and never even had a shot at the worst seats in the house. Since The Shrine only holds approximately 6,500 people, I knew it was a long shot but the “waiting room” screen promising that my turn would come soon led me on and made me think I really was going to get those coveted tickets.

Now, the least expensive tickets to either of the two shows at The Shrine are running about $600 a pop. I’m not going to pay that obviously, but it’s more reasonable than the $1,500 I saw on some other sites the morning they went on sale. I’ll probably have to settle for seeing the band in an arena or outdoor amphitheater at some point, but the folks who did manage to score tickets to The Shrine shows will likely have a great experience in such a small room. Enjoy the show, kids. 

 

 

 

 

Portugal. the Man is coming to L.A. in June!

One of my favorite indie rock bands is coming back to Los Angeles, and needless to say I’m extremely excited about it. Portugal. the Man is playing at The Shrine on June 21st as a co-headliner with Cage The Elephant.

P. the Man is definitely due for another full-length album too. Their last record, Evil Friends came out in 2013 and was produced by DangerMouse. It’s a gem from start to finish. If I had to pick a favorite track from that album, I’d go with “Purple Yellow Red and Blue”.

I’ve only seen P. the Man live once while they were touring in support of Evil Friends, and it was up there with some of the best live shows I’ve ever seen. The band went on some psych-rock tangents throughout the show but always came back around to straight-forward rock. If I remember right, they covered a Beatles song or two near the end of the show (“Helter Skelter” I think). It was an awesome night.

I’m glad they’re coming back to L.A. for a proper show in a theater and I can’t wait for news on (hopefully) a new album. Stay tuned!

Album of the week

I'd recommend My Morning Jacket to everyone. I can't stop listening to the group's most recent record The Waterfall. More on this album soon ... 

My Morning Jacket  The Waterfall

My Morning Jacket The Waterfall

Playlist: What I'm listening to now

Here's a quick look at some of my favorite songs right now. Pete Yorn's record just dropped on March 11th, and it's a recommended listen for fans of modern folk. Let me know what you think in the comments below!