1. King Khan & The Shrines – “Luckiest Man”
I was a little late to the party with King Khan & the Shrines, and only started listening to them within the last year. But lately, I’ve been binge-listening to their music, as well as that of Arish Ahmad Khan’s other projects. They strike a nice balance between groovy orchestration and retro-garage rock, making music ideal for lifting spirits.
2. Will Butler – “Anna”
The announcement of Will Butler’s upcoming solo album came as a little bit of a surprise, mostly since I have always thought of him as the utility player of Arcade Fire. He certainly has a lot to live up to, considering how well connected he is in a community of successful and immensely talented rockers. If this song is any indication of how the rest of the album will sound, then we can expect a pleasantly chaotic and clever debut effort.
3.Dory Previn – “Twenty-mile Zone” (Live at Carnegie Hall)
Previn’s career has been immortalized for several reasons in recent years, following her death in 2012. Her history of mental health issues is often mentioned in relation to the tragedy of her career’s decline, but she is also known for her piercing, disarmingly honest lyrics. “Twenty-mile Zone” is, I think, a fabulous example of her ability to turn hardship and frustration into art.
4. Ex Hex – “Beast”
I’ve already publicly professed my love for Ex Hex on several occasions, but months of listening to their debut album on repeat has done nothing to diminish my appreciation for their talent and catchiness. This song is well worth a listen, even for people who don’t typically like female punky up-tempo rock.
5. Panda Bear – “Mr. Noah”
Here’s one of my favorite songs from Panda Bear’s recent Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper. It highlights Panda Bear’s strengths, with its simple but throbbing rhythm, airy vocals, and intermittent distortion. He proves with this song that he is not just a tech savvy guy messing around with a computer, but has a real ability to orchestrate layers upon layers of sound.
6. D’Angelo – “Ain’t That Easy”
Back in December, people freaked out about the sudden release of Black Messiah, D’Angelo’s long-awaited third album. Though I enjoyed his first two albums, all the hype made me skeptical going into this one. How could he possibly top Voodoo? “Ain’t That Easy” is the first track on this new album, and it instantly dismantled my fears of disappointment. D’Angelo proves that he is as smooth and creative as ever. I haven’t yet decided it Black Messiah was worth the fourteen year wait, but I think it lives up to most of the hype.
7. TV On The Radio – “Lazerray”
This song is just one of the many kickass songs from TVOTR’s Seeds, marking their triumphant return. As is especially clear on “Lazerray,” the band seems to have been refreshed by the passage of the last few years, and have found a way to preserve their rich sound in the absence or their bassist, the late Gerard Smith.
8. Aesop Rock – “None Shall Pass”
I always feel out of the loop with hip hop news and releases, so I probably seem way behind the times in endorsing Aesop Rock. Nonetheless, this song shows his talent for throwing punchy, intelligent, and justifiably bitter lyrics. It’s also, I think, a good introduction to his work (and one of his most popular tracks).
9. Grateful Dead – “Cumberland Blues”
I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I like to listen to jam bands when doing homework. Since there is such an enormous supply of Dead albums out in the world, I have no problem filling many hours of work time with their music. One day, this song totally pulled me away from my work, and I could not go back to what I was doing until the playlist moved past it. People can tease me all they want for diggin’ the Dead, but this song is undeniably catchy.
10. Marisa Anderson – “Hard Times Come Again No More”
This song comes from Anderson’s most recent release, Traditional and Public Domain Songs. While that album title might sound a little dry, I cannot emphasize enough how rewarding of an experience it is to listen to the whole thing. Anderson takes, as the title suggests, older songs that have aesthetic roots in America. Some of the songs have been recorded hundreds of times, while others are a little more obscure, but she treats them all with impressive care. Listening to the album was the first time (that I can recall) when the words “lullaby” and “distortion” came into my head at the same time.