Monday, January 27, 2014

The Motivation Mix: The Upbeat Sounds of Alternative Rock


Continuing on a mix theme from last time, here’s a pick of songs to get you ready to rumble. Best played with the windows down, but if you’re stuck at a desk, combo with some coffee to wake you up.

Click Here for the Motivation Mix

1. Bloc Party – “Helicopter”

2. Interpol – “Not Even Jail”

3. Mutemath – “Typical”

4. Against Me! – “Because of the Shame”

5. Foals – “Inhaler”

6. Modest Mouse – “Dashboard”

7. Muse – “Hysteria”

8. The Hold Steady – “Cattle and the Creeping Things”

9. The Strokes – “Machu Picchu”

10. Foster the People – “Houdini”

11. Kings of Leon – “McFearless”

12. Surfer Blood – “Swim”

13. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Sacrilege”

14. Arctic Monkeys – “Brainstorm”

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Relaxation Mix: The Songs of Coffee, Studying, and Night Driving


For years I’ve perfected what I call the “Relaxation Mix”, a 143 song mix that has taken me through many a chill weekend morning with a cup of fresh coffee, a Master’s degree, and countless nights driving around the country. Today, I share with you a 14 song version of this mix of mellowness.

Click Here for the Relaxation Mix

1. Band of Horses – “Detlef Schrempf”

2. Paul Cardall – “Come Thou Fount”

3. Patrick Watson – “Lighthouse”

4. Fleet Foxes – “Blue Ridge Mountains”

5. Nickel Creek – “Pastures New”

6. Bon Iver – “re: Stacks”

7. Iron & Wine – “Innocent Bones”

8. Alexandre Desplat – “Coco & Boy”

9. Mimicking Birds – “The Loop”

10. Sufjan Stevens – “Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois”

11. Howard Shore – “Concerning Hobbits”

12. Great Lake Swimmers – “Everything Is Moving So Fast”

13. Dan Auerbach – “When the Night Comes”

14. Ennio Morricone – “Gabriel’s Oboe”

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Spotify Link and a Non-Messy List



The Top 50:

50. Portugal. The Man – “Atomic Man”

49. MGMT – “A Good Sadness”

48. Rogue Wave – “College”

47. Mutual Benefit – “Advanced Falconry”

46. Cub Scouts – “Told You So”

45. Grizzly Bear - ”Will Calls (Marfa Demo)”

44. Sia ft. The Weeknd & Diplo – “Elastic Heart”

43. Jimmy Eat World – “Damage”

42. Amarante – “The Despondent One”

41. Youth Lagoon – “Mute”

40. The Airborne Toxic Event – “Timeless”

39. Broken Bells – “Holding on for Life”

38. Great Good Fine OK – “You’re the One for Me”

37. Caveman – “Chances”

36. Bear’s Den – “Sahara”

35. MS MR – “Hurricane”

27. Local Natives – “Mt. Washington”

26. Kings of Leon – “Supersoaker”

25. The Head and the Heart – “Another Story”

24. Bootstraps – “Forty Five”

23. London Grammar – “Sights”

22. The National – “Demons”

21. Volcano Choir – “Alaskans”

20. Lana Del Rey – “Young & Beautiful”

34. Grizfolk – “The Struggle”

33. Iron & Wine – “Winter Prayers”

32. Pearl Jam – “Sirens”

31. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Sacrilege”

30. Smith Westerns – “Varsity”

29. The Civil Wars – “Eavesdrop”

28. Cold War Kids – “Miracle Mile”

19. Biffy Clyro – “Biblical”

18. The Arcade Fire – “Reflektor”

17. Vampire Weekend – “Step”

16. Drake – “Hold On, We’re Going Home”

15. The Boxer Rebellion – “Diamonds”

14. CHVRCHES – “The Mother We Share”

13. The Strokes – “Chances”

12. Blood Orange – “Chamakay”

11. The Arctic Monkeys – “D

10. James Blake – “Retrograde”

9. Volcano Choir – “Comrade”

8. The 1975 – “Chocolate”

7. Cold War Kids – “Miracle Mile”

6. Local Natives – “Heavy Feet”

5. Daft Punk ft. Panda Bear – “Doin’ It Right”

4. Foals – “Inhaler”

3. Phosphorescent – “Song for Zula”

2. London Grammar – “Wasting My Young Years”

1. The National – “Pink Rabbits”

Honorable Mentions:

Andrew McMahon – “Learn to Dance”

Arctic Monkeys – “R U Mine?”

Arctic Monkeys – “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?”

Autre Ne Venu – “Play By Play”

Blackmill ft. Veela – “Let it Be”

Caveman – “In the City”

Caveman – “Where’s the Time”

CHVRCHES – “By the Throat”

CHVRCHES – “Recover”

Coldplay – “Atlas”

Daft Punk – “Within”

Drake – “Tuscan Leather”

Ellie Goulding – “Mirror”

Foals – “Mile & Black Spiders”

Foals – “Out of the Woods”

Foxygen – “No Destruction”

Grizzly Bear – “Everyone I Know (Marfa Demo)”

Grizzly Bear – “Smothering Green”

Guards – “1 & 1”

Iron & Wine – “Baby Center Stage”

James Blake – “Life Round Here”

Jars of Clay – “Love in the Hard Times”

Jars of Clay – “Skin & Bones”

Jim James – “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)”

Jimmy Eat World – “I Will Steal You Back”

Jimmy Eat World – “No, Never”

Jon Hopkins ft. Purity Ring – “Breathe this Air”

Kings of Leon – “Rock City”

Kings of Leon – “Tonight”

Kodaline – “High Hopes”

Kurt Vile – “Pure Pain”

Local Natives – “Colombia”

Local Natives – “You & I”

London Grammar – “Hey Now”

London Grammar – “Strong”

Lorde – “Royals”

Mazzy Star – “California”

MGMT – “Alien Days”

Nils Frahm – “Went Missing”

On and On – “Every Song”

Owsey & Danny Christensen – “Carry Me, Ohio”

Painted Palms – “Spinning Signs”

Pearl Jam – “Future Days”

Phoenix – “Oblique City”

Phoria – “Red”

Phosphorescent – “Terror in the Canyons (The Wounded Master)”

Phosphorescent – “The Quitodian Beasts”

Ra Ra Riot – “When I Dream”

Smith Westerns – “Fool Proof”

Smith Westerns – “Idol”

Sundara Karma – “Freshbloom”

The 1975 – “Robbers”

The 1975 – “Sex”

The Arcade Fire – “Porno”

The Boxer Rebellion – “Fragile”

The Civil Wars – “The One That Got Away”

The Editors – “Honesty”

The Hold Steady – “Criminal Fingers”

The National – “Heavenfaced”

The National – “I Should Live in Salt”

The Neighbourhood – “Sweater Weather”

The Range – “Metal Swing”

The Strokes – “One Way Trigger”

The Weeknd ft. Drake – “Live For”

TOTEM – “in & out”

Volcano Choir – “Byegone”

Washed Out – “All I know”

Washed Out – “Don’t Give Up”

Washed Out – “It All Feels Alright”

Youth Lagoon – “Dropla”

2013 Ultimate Music Megapost: Best Songs of the Year, 10-1


So here we are, the Top Ten. This year I added 866 songs to my collection, and listened to countless more as I cruised the internet all year long looking for the best. The following ten songs represent the cream of that crop.

10. James Blake – “Retrograde”

James Blake unique combination of “post-dubstep” and soul has rivaled maybe only The xx for best night driving music since he first emerged. The opening bit on “Retrograde” promises more of the same, but stick around for “suddenly I’m hit!” and watch Blake let the song explode.

9. Volcano Choir – “Comrade”

“Comrade” exists as the perfect combination of everything Justin Vernon has ever done. Justin’s trademark sound-based lyrics, the falsetto showcased in Bon Iver, and Vernon’s natural voice collide in a stunning and swarming piece of perfection. This is the song that emerges when you put together the best of Vernon, DeYarmond Edison, Bon Iver, Gayngs, and Volcano Choir into one great song.

8. The 1975 – “Chocolate”

Like Foster the People or Walk the Moon before them, The 1975 emerged with this year’s perfect indie pop crossover. “Chocolate” is downright infectious, and makes for the toe-tapping, windows down, summer jam of the year.

7. Cold War Kids – “Miracle Mile”

Rarely has a first listen made me so happy. After a poor album, one of my favorite and one of the most underappreciated bands in music bursts back onto the scene with resounding piano and that declarative first line: “I was supposed to do great things!!”. The song is a lyrical representation and acknowledgement of everything I was saying after they abandoned their sound on their last album. “If you start from scratch you have to sing,” he belts, “just for the fun of it”. Cold War Kids is back, they’re having fun, and we’re all winners because of it.

6. Daft Punk ft. Panda Bear – “Doin’ It Right”

I went from not really understanding the Daft Punk craze to having a song in my top five thanks to the addition of Noah Lennox’s Beach Boys-ish namesake Panda Bear. Infusing Panda Bear’s style with Daft Punk’s electronic music was a move of genius that will get stuck in your head for weeks.

5. Local Natives – “Heavy Feet”

It was way too long a wait for the new Local Natives record, but songs like “Heavy Feet” made it worth it. Musically, the song features a sneaky array of guitars and sounds, and a west coast/Northwest vibe. Local Natives maintain their stellar harmonies, but add a pensive vibe.

4. Foals – “Inhaler”

“Inhaler” caught me at the right time. In the midst of lamenting the preponderance of bedroom experimental electronica sweeping the web, here came an alternative rock song that plain ROCKED. This is Muse before they went bizarre. This is power. This is tension winding up and then exploding with the lyric “and I can’t get enough…..SPACE”. When paired with the prelude on Foals’ outstanding album, “Inhaler” makes for an eight minute rock ‘n roll healing process.

3. Phosphorescent – “Song for Zula”

The last time we heard from Phosphorescent, I was giving solid praise to a single track on an okay album. That song, “The Mermaid Parade” placed 44th in 2010. So I’m as surprised as anyone to be smacked in the face with “Song for Zula”, the most painful, bruised song since The Antlers gave the world a whole album of them with Hospice. Borrowing its opening line from Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”, Matthew Houck and Phosphorescent narrate a journey down the darkest side of heartbreak. “See, honey, I saw love. You see, it came to me. It put its face up to my face so I could see. Yeah then I saw love disfigure me…….Into something I am not recognizing……”.

2. London Grammar – “Wasting My Young Years”

Fun fact: I finally have a female vocal as a five-star song. And boy did Hannah Reid and London Grammar earn it. “Wasting My Young Years”, apart from being an impactful lyrical masterpiece centered up that frightening line between youth and old age, is also a musical tour de force, with swelling synths, soft piano, and a soulful single guitar fronting an outstanding intro. The song alternates between fear (“maybe I’m wasting my young years”) and encouragement (“I wouldn't worry, you have all your life. I've heard it takes some time to get it right.”), while sounding perfect at the same time.

1. The National – “Pink Rabbits”

From an Army training in the swamps of Louisiana, back home to Arizona, and across the world to Afghanistan, “Pink Rabbits” has joined me for the whole journey. And like most #1 songs, my relationship with it goes beyond the simple song and starts to develop into personal meaning. So while I’ve seen “Pink Rabbits” appear on some other internet lists and can confidently say that it’s not just me who loves it, to explain why the song grabs #1 is to get personal. Of course, to begin with, the song is outstanding. Full of typical soul-baring self-doubt that we’re used to from The National and played over stellar instrumentation of piano, subtle horns, guitars, and a sweeping bridge, the song is pure ear candy. But to me, there’s more.

“You didn’t see me, I was falling apart.”

Such a simple lyric from Matt Berninger, but such an impactful one to someone whose outer appearance gives off a constant vibe of confidence, masking anything going on underneath it all. This year I sat in the emergency room and watched a close coworker die a sudden death. Soon after, I left my wife for an Army training that challenged me more than I care to admit. I traveled to Afghanistan and mentally processed living in a combat zone. All the while, I keep smiling, because that’s what I do and who I am. But sitting in my bed at night listening to “I couldn't find quiet, I went out in the rain, I was just soakin' my head to unrattle my brain” provided a little bit of comfort. The thing about “Pink Rabbits”, though, is its redemptive quality. Executing a 180 degree turn from typical National gloom, “Pink Rabbits” turns positive: “I'm so surprised you want to dance with me now/I was just getting used to living life without you around”. I’m looking forward to going home and starting over. But throughout 2013’s challenges, along with my friends, my family, and my faith, “Pink Rabbits” was always there too.