Barrettbites Top Ten Records of 2015

 

  1. Alvvays – eponymous

alvvayscover

Chalked full of stories about the complexities of relationships, Alvvays have constructed an album that is able to seem both introspective and dynamic. Using nonchalance and humour simultaneously, they set the scenes of emotional distress to an indie soundtrack and let the barbs fly. Go back and take another listen to “Marry Me, Archie” if you need proof of the power struggle within a relationship.

  1. Metric – Pagans In Vegas

metric pagans

Metric has never hidden their overwhelming desire to headline a fan-filled stadium show, and Pagans In Vegas has become the vehicle that drives them there. More than mere hyperbole, they seem to have found the perfect mix of Cure-like synth, 90’s indie guitar, and electro/dance rhythm. The tunes are catchy enough to get the casual fan singing along and the loyal fan seeking deeper meaning from the lyrics and, dare I say, inspiration.

  1. Best Coast – California Nights

bestcoast1

Gone is the warm washing fuzz of reverb on everything that had the words lo-fi and surf rock attached to their records, and in is a more ‘nineties-esqe’ alt-rock tone that could be slipped into a mix between the Lemonheads and Garbage. Thematically, this is also the case as Bethany Cosentino has switched gears and presented herself in a more realistic position as lyrics deal with insomnia, heartbreak and happiness in pill. The triumph of this record is that it doesn’t live in a world of manufactured dreams come true, eternal sun, and beaches. The emotions behind it are universal and hence you can relate to it. California Nights is proof positive that beauty can be found in the balanced mix of power-pop and introspection, and that’s a sunny thought all by itself.

  1. Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People

efurmanpmp

Like early Bowie, Furman seems to relish changes in identity, except rather than do it from album to album Perpetual Motion People is a record that does it from song to song, and sometimes, within a single song. “Haunted Head” deals with one’s own self inflicted torment. “Can I Sleep In Your Brain” seeks respite from torment with a wish to become co-dependent. In turn, “Lousy Connection” hides themes of emotional distance behind old sounds of Doo-Wop and killer saxophone leads. To a certain extent, Furman makes being screwed up sound fun in his unique version of a poetic stream of consciousness.

  1. City & Colour – If I Should Go Before You

city&colourif i should

Dallas Green may have started City and Colour as a means to introduce his ‘rootsy’ brand of song craft, but those days are now more of an ‘origin story’ than the reality of where he is. Much like Wilco, who turned from alt-country to sonic experimenters, Green took his acoustic-based leanings and is now creating expansive tunes that, at times, owe more to blues, soul and even psychedelia than the modern ‘folk rock’ he was labeled with on earlier City and Colour records.

  1. Leon Bridges – Coming Home

leon bridges

His peer group may include contemporaries like Nick Waterhouse and Raphael Saadiq, but Bridges’ ups the game of capturing old-school R&B by pulling in music that could’ve been created by the Blues Brothers Band. He’s got the brass sounding like the legendary Memphis Horns, a deep groove reminiscent of Duck Dunn and the minimalist guitar leads that you might swear were coming off Steve Cropper. Then you mix in a style that slides in a suave 60’s Bacharach martini dance party and you get a glimpse of the power possessed in Coming Home.

  1. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats – eponymous

nrns

It takes a special kind of musician to evoke a slew of soul greats and retain an energy and sound that is still their own. Springsteen did this by mixing Dylan, a preacher style intensity towards rock ‘n’ roll, a few soul influences, and concocted a sound all his own. Nathaniel Rateliff has taken the ’69 comeback version of Elvis, added southern rock themes and walked into a STAX studio to create a record that is instantly relatable. Of course, you would never have caught “the King” singing “son of a bitch / give me a drink” as Rateliff does on “S.O.B”. It just wouldn’t have been very, um… regal.

  1. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

sound&color

If Alabama Shakes debut Boys & Girls was a first shot across the bow against musical mediocrity, then Sound & Color is a full on declaration of war. Not content to merely ride the wave of being the best rock ‘n’ soul or Southern rock band to currently grace the planet, they expand and grow. It’s the kind of growth and experimentation one got from Radiohead when they leapt from The Bends to OK Computer; or in other words – WOW!

  1. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

cb1

Sarcastic and playful in the most observational of ways, Courtney Barnett makes stinging shots sound like a musical sit-com. Characters inhabit a ‘Seinfeld-esqe’ place where nothing seems larger than life and decisions don’t necessarily lead to conclusions. However, the journey is one hell of an adventure. Barnett makes music that is fun, thought provoking, and really damn catchy. It’s a really weird moment to hear your children singing “all I want to be is an elevator operator, can you help me please.”

  1. Terra Lightfoot – Every Time My Mind Runs Wild

terralightfoot

Every so often something comes along that just smacks you in the head with something so freaking unexpected you look for a house number on the cave you’ve been sleeping in. Perhaps it’s a debut album, an opening act you had never heard of before, or, as is the case for me, you just quite plainly arrived late to the party. Whatever the case, Terra Lightfoot has just lit the light bulb above my cranium and I’m hitting my forehead with that big “a-ha” moment.

What seems most remarkable is just how many influences pop out all at once. A foot in the Chicago blues, another in Memphis soul, and then she puts a third one in Nashville. The result is a combustible and full out gritty rock ‘n’ roll album.

Advertisements

Five Great Albums From 2015 (so far!)

So the mid way part of the year has passed and with a bit of time to reflect, here are my top 5 of 2015 so far. It is hard to rank, as so many great records have been spinning their way into my psyche. So I reserve the right to change my mind later.

5) Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

wolfalicecool

Built around strong guitar work and soaring vocals, Wolf Alice bridges the gap between the 90’s alt-rock revival and the more modern Brit-Rock led by the Arctic Monkeys and their recent disciples Royal Blood. It would have been fun to play Guitar Hero to their tunes.

4) Best Coast – California Nights

bestcoast1

Gone is the warm washing fuzz of reverb on everything that had the words lo-fi and surf rock attached to their records, and in is a more ‘nineties-esqe’ alt-rock tone that could be slipped into a mix between the Lemonheads and Garbage. California Nights has a way of sinking under your skin and making you want to play them over and over again.

3) Leon Bridges – Coming Home

leon bridges

He’s got the brass sounding like the legendary Memphis Horns, a deep groove reminiscent of Duck Dunn and the minimalist guitar leads that you might swear were coming off Steve Cropper. Then you mix in a style that slides in a suave 60’s Bacharach martini dance party and you get a glimpse of the power possessed in Coming Home. In essence, Bridges is the ‘new old soul.’

2) Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

cb1

Sarcastic and playful in the most observational of ways, Courtney Barnett makes stinging shots sound like a musical sit-com. Characters inhabit a ‘Seinfeld-esqe’ place where nothing seems larger than life and decisions don’t necessarily lead to conclusions. However, the journey is one hell of an adventure.

1) Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

sound&color

If Alabama Shakes debut Boys & Girls was a first shot across the bow against musical mediocrity, then Sound & Color is a full on declaration of war. Not content to merely ride the wave of being the best rock ‘n’ soul or Southern rock band to currently grace the planet, they expand and grow. It’s the kind of growth and experimentation one got from Radiohead when they leapt from The Bends to OK Computer; or in other words – WOW!

The Beauty Found In Power-Pop & Introspection or Best Coast – California Nights

bestcoast1

The early days of Best Coast were filled with simplistic images of happy places and troubles no bigger than a rival for someone’s affection or a need for the sun. Not that there is anything wrong with that; after all Best Coast was providing the kind of indie-pop, garage, lo-fi, reggae influenced tunes that kept us northerners warm all winter.  It was a return to the myth that California is the place of adolescent dreams come true, and no one will argue that once wrapped in a sonic blanket watching a fire burn.

Still it has been five years since the Best Coast debut Crazy For You and one can only live in dreams for so long? Eventually there is a reckoning…

Right?

The answer is California Nights. Gone is the warm washing fuzz of reverb on everything that had the words lo-fi and surf rock attached to their records, and in is a more ‘nineties-esqe’ alt-rock tone that could be slipped into a mix between the Lemonheads and Garbage. Thematically, this is also the case as Bethany Cosentino has switched gears and presented herself in a more realistic position as lyrics deal with insomnia, heartbreak and happiness in pill bottles. Actually, dare I say it, it seems Cosentino has grown introspective and the guitar work of multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno has risen to match. No longer are songs restricted to the quick “pop” length of two three minutes, but now the sound sometimes goes all ‘shoegaze’ and rides a guitar riff for all its worth. To some extent, the title track itself conjures more images of brit-pop than anything that could come out of a California night.

It isn’t all happy smiles as the sun sets to the west, there is anger and melancholia in the air as opener “Feeling OK” rightfully has you questioning the validity of such a statement. The song at its heart reveals that “OK” isn’t a satisfactory resolution to any question worth asking – especially one as loaded “how are you.” Even if one is asking it of themselves.

The triumph of this record is that it doesn’t live in a world of manufactured dreams come true, eternal sun, and beaches. The emotions behind it are universal and hence you can relate to it more. California Nights is proof positive that beauty can be found in the balanced mix of power-pop and introspection, and that’s a sunny thought all by itself. It’s worth every cent spent and more.

You can pick this album up at your local record stores or get some special packages from the band site – here.

Playlist March 15/15

Here it is… A Playlist out on the Day I planned for…

Playlist #3 – March 15/15

Enjoy!

  1. “FOH” – Superchunk

I wrote about them and this song a couple weeks back. It’s the kind of tune that has such a good ‘riff’ that the lyrics cease to matter, which isn’t a bad thing considering it is a bit of an inside nod to music techs (roadies) and crews. Still, you just gotta love that fan made video.

  1. “Have Love Will Travel” – The Sonics

Was reading Paste (I think) a while back, and there was this playlist for the 50 Best Garage Rock Songs ever. This was the number one song on the list and they put forth a really damn good argument for this being the first punk band ever. Regardless, I’m looking to by this stuff on vinyl now.

  1. “Happy Ways” – Joe Walsh

While this song appears on a Joe Walsh record, it is actually the band Barnstorm and doesn’t feature Walsh on vocals at all. It also stands way outside his usual work in terms of song construction. Each piece of the band has stand out moments in this tune that was said to be influenced by music coming north from Mexico to California.  To my ears, this song stands out as rather timeless and I always imagine it being covered by an eight or ten piece band with horns.

  1. “Evangeline” – Matthew Sweet

Like everything on Girlfriend there is a sense of playful desperation hidden within this quest for love. Sweet’s characters never quite get it right, but remain optimistic somehow. Perhaps it is naivety that keeps things light, or just the nature of this record, but a couple decades after its release it still seems to hold its youthful soul.

  1. “Rhiannon” – Best Coast

Somehow Best Coast manages to sweep away the entire ethereal mystic evening nature of this song and turn it into a Sunday stroll on the beach. Weird thing is, it actually works. Rather than ‘Rhiannon drifting into the sunset, she seems to skip away to play in the waves. It’s a different interpretation unlike anything I would have expected. Very Cool!

  1. “Over at the Frankenstein Place” – Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick & Richard O’Brien

Despite being an important part of a large picture, I love this song as a standalone piece. It captures my imagination and just makes me all warm inside. Buy vinyl here.

  1. “Fade Into You” – J. Mascis

A most amazing cover of the Mazzy Star classic, it was the single that got away last Black Friday/Record Store Day.  Having never given up on it, it may make it into my collection at some point… soon.

  1. “Hannah & Gabi” – The Lemonheads

The first cover song I learned how to play on my beaten up old 12 string a few years back. Just a simple little song about loves lost and the confusion found as relationships end. Honest in that it really finds no resolution.

  1. “Brill Bruisers” – The New Pornographers

Saw these guys do a quick set down at Sugar Beach in September. They did an awesome cover of ELO’s “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” along with the title track from their amazing record Brill Bruisers.

  1. “California Sun” – The Ramones

What can I say, my kids were Watching Curious George (sequel) the other day and this song was a big part. Besides, I’ll use any excuse to include the Ramones on every mix I do.

  1. “Baby Six String” – Dressy Bessy

Dressy Bessy is on my bucket list of bands to see before I go the way of the Dodo. All it took was one listen to their debut Pink Hearts, Yellow Moons back in 1999 to make me a forever fan. “Baby Six String” is from their 2003 eponymous record, and rumour is, a new album and tour will be happening soon. Check them out.

  1. “The Root” – Kim Deal, Morgan Nagler

Something about Kim Deal has always screamed “coolest person on the planet” to me. Doesn’t matter if it’s the Pixies, the Breeders or her solo stuff, there is always an element of some twisted riff that makes you want to pogo all over the dance floor. Love that she’s selling vinyl singles from her own web site.

  1. “Hailing A Cab In Hell” – Viva Viva

Couldn’t resist putting these guys on after Kim Deal… I mean come on, they have an ep called What’s The Kim Deal?, how could I resist? Besides, they’re heavy garage ‘riff-age’ gets me throwing my hair around every time.

  1. “Whenever You See Me” – Kitty, Daisy & Lewis

When three young brits sound both out of time and modern at the same time, you have a pretty awesome combination. Style jumping and instrument swapping can make them a little hard to pin down, but it sure is fun to try.

  1. “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” – Johnny Cash

My dad and I didn’t agree on much… pretty much nothing… except that Johnny Cash was frickin fantastic.

  1. “10 Million” – Gina Villalobos

Another artist on my bucket list, I became a fan the first time I heard her play this song. Ever since I’ve been ordering stuff direct from her sight – here.

  1. “I’d Run Away” – The Jayhawks

‘Alt-country’ before the term went both in and out of style, this song is from their best album Tomorrow The Green Grass. Oddly they were Minneapolis peers of Husker Du, Soul Asylum and the Replacements.

  1. “Skyway” – The Replacements

Just a beautiful song for a cloudy day, by a band that helped create the whole ‘alt-rock’ movement of the 90’s. Legendary!

  1. “Committed” – Jenny & Jonny

A fun album of duets by the boyfriend/girlfriend combo… it doesn’t feel like duets at all, but rather a bunch of great songs with two individual vocalists having a great time doing harmony together.

  1. “Thorn In Her Pride” – King Khan and the Shrines

As far as I’m concerned, this would be the band I’d want to play at a very large party. They rock, they swing, and they make you want to dance.