So I have slight aspirations to be a DJ (I even have my DJ name: Punchy Panda). Not so much making my own music, yet. Rather more along the lines of Gregg Gillis (the maestro of Girl Talk). If one were to look at my iPod and the rest of my music library that has yet to make it onto my iPod, they’d probably see an eclectic range of music. It stems from my friends cluing me into different genres of music and my Pops influence on me. Generally my favorite genres of music are classic rock, 90’s rap (that was really the only era of real rap), 90’s rock (grunge and alternative) and punk music from the 90’s and early 2000’s (slightly verging on pop punk, but not quite). I’m also constantly look for new music through various websites and 90.3 KEXP “Where music matters.” So here is some new music that I’ve stumbled upon this year…
Mumford & Sons, album: “Sigh No More”. This band hails from the U.K. an infusion of wicked banjo and acoustic guitars. It definitely is a folk-rock act. But don’t be fooled. Guided by the acoustic strings, these guys can definitely rock. Interestingly, Mumford & Sons runs an online book club. Folky and well-read… my type of dudes. I just picked up this album, and am currently listening to it as I type this blog… Songs of note are “White Blank Page” (could be my favorite song on the album) and “Little Lion Man” which was performed on Letterman. But I’d have to say my favorite song so far lyrically and jam wise is “Roll Away Your Stone”. Actually I’m gonna post “White Blank Page” also, the song definitely fits my mood from the past year. It’s a tough call, between Broken Bells and Sigh No More as my favorite album of 2010 so far. Beginning to end it’s an authoritative album.
Broken Bells, album: “Broken Bells”. James Mercer (lead singer of The Shins) + Danger Mouse (Brian Joseph Burton) = goodness. This album is laced with awesome production from Danger Mouse, who rose to fame with his Jay-Z and The Beatles White Album mash-up titled “The Grey Album”. James Mercer all but disbanded The Shins last year, though he says he’s still going to make music under the band name. Danger Mouse has been looking for a steady companion to make music with and hoped that Gnarls Barkley (teamed with Cee-Lo Green) would be that. Unfortunately, or fortunately for the sake of Broken Bells, it was not the case. After bumpin this album with my windows down and sunroof open on a crisp February day in Washington, I hope Mercer and Danger Mouse stick it out and make more music. Apparently Mercer has his own kickin it room at Burton’s pad. This entire album is dope based on the onomatopoeia of an album title Broken Bells alone. The first single was “The High Road” followed by “Vaporize”. I’m also a big fan of “The Ghost Inside”, a beat that I can see sliding into top 20 charts eventually (not to mention the lyrics are straight silk). My current favorite track is “October”, definitely Shins inspired but made awesome with Danger Mouse’s influence. It’s a live version… but you can get the gist.
Dan Black, album: “Un”. This album gets me jammin. It’s along the lines of MGMT, but I seriously groove every time I listen to it. There are a number of songs on that album that I enjoy. One of which is “Symphonies”. My boy KiD CuDi was also on a remix version of Symphonies, which in my opinion is a better version. “U + Me =” and “Pump My Pumps” also gets me groovin, if not nostalgic for last summer. But the lyrics in “Cigarette Pack” are my favorite.
Free Energy, album: “Stuck on Nothing”. I just got this album, and have only listened to it once through. But it rocks… seriously it rocks. Stuck on Nothing is a combination of AC/DC jams with a dosage of Thin Lizzy and Cheap Trick. I’m a fan of bands that play their instruments well. It’s not a strange concept, but surprisingly a hard thing to ask for in new music. A group that does that well is Monsters of Folk, more aligned with the folk genre of Mumford & Sons discussed above. Free Energy definitely plays their instruments well, and it comes out melodically in the track “Hope Child” (below, and another live version). Another noteworthy track is “Wild Winds”.
Bonus song! I know the album was from last year. But since I mentioned Monsters of Folk, a powerhouse band consisting of Jim James (aka Yim Yames) from My Morning Jacket, Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis from Bright Eyes and M. Ward who jams with many artists one of which She and Him (with Zooey Deschanel), I felt that I should drop my favorite song from their self-titled album, “Ahead of the Curve”. The lyrics on “Ahead of the Curve” pretty much exemplifies my time in LA, definitely resonates in the Panda’s soul. These guys fucking JAM. I had the privilege of seeing them live in the outdoor ampitheater setting of The Greek Theater in LA. This album as well as Phoenix’s “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” and KiD CuDi’s “Man on the Moon: The End of Day” were my three favorite albums of 2009. Looking forward to the next jams from all three groups. KiD CuDi is set to release an album this year. No rumblings from Phoenix yet. Monsters of Folk claim they won’t release another album, it would be a damn shame if they didn’t.
Daniel Merriweather, album: “Love & War”. Hailing from Australia, Merriweather’s debut is a good one. He carries his raspy voice well. A mix of funk, rock, and soul sort of in the ilk of Maroon 5. Definitely an album to groove to. Some sites compare him to Stevie Wonder. It’s a stretch, but you can certainly hear the hints of the influence. He’s not Stevie Wonder, so I’m just going to put that out there. But not to take away from Merriweather, like I said I definitely can get my groove on to some of the tracks. He’s got a good tone in his voice. Of note are “Change” and “You Don’t Know What Love Is”. I definitely can gig to “Could You”, and would even sing it on American Idol if I were to venture that route. You should note the play on the lyrics of The Temptations’ “My Girl”. And how can you not get down with “My Girl”?
Local Natives, album: “Gorilla Manor”. This is the debut album from the LA group Local Natives. The album title actually comes from the studio where they recorded the album. Pitchfork actually describes this album pretty well it, “features rustic and yearning vocals, three-party harmonies, clattering percussion, wiggly guitar leads, euphoric chanting and a Talking Heads cover.” That’s why people at Pitchfork get paid for their reviews, while I’m merely a fan with an opinion. The album has a Beach Boys feel to it, and I mean that in a good way (but don’t compare them to the Beach Boys by any means). Songs of note are “Camera Talk”, “World News”, and “Airplanes.” My favorite song lyrically and vibe wise on the album is “Sun Hands” I can’t help but to sing along loudly after the buildup “And when I can’t feel with my sun hands, I promise not to lose her again!”
The Smashing Pumpkins (really Billy Corgan is the only original member of the Pumpkins on this album), album: “Teargarden by Kaleidyscope”. In Corgan’s newest attempt to reach the levels of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, he’s releasing songs in bunches of 3-4 over the Internet. Once he’s done with the album which will end up being a 44 song collection, he’ll release it in CD/record form. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was one of those epic albums, that I listened to endlessly. Will Corgan ever reach that level? I don’t really think so, but he’s definitely going for it. Corgan is also penning a book that should be released this summer based on his outlook on spirituality and everything he’s faced since being in the industry. I’m 50/50 on the songs so far released, but do like this jam… “A Stitch in Time”.