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20 Great Songs of 2016

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2016 pressed delete on way too many musicians. Folks like Prince, Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones, Leon Russell, Merle Haggard, Phife Dawg, Maurice White, Mose Allison and plenty more are now in the recycle bin. Their music lives on in the ears of those who remember, and thankfully new musicians get born every day. The list of 20 Great Songs of 2016 below is chock full of new faces and a few old friends.


Rugged Country – Japanese Breakfast
I could have picked any track off Japanese Breakfast’s excellent EP Psychopomp, but this one has the kind of chorus that just screams road-trip. Read our review

 


Two Dead Cops – Parquet Courts 
I drink negronis on occasion in an attempt to acquire a taste for them, same reason I buy Parquet Courts records. This time it stuck.

 


Your American Girl – Mitski
Sometimes videos do everything to distract you from a really great song. 

 


Shut Up Kiss Me – Angel Olsen
Angel Olsen has a little fun on this track and so will you.

 


You Want it Darker – Leonard Cohen 
Cohen released this one shortly before his death this year. What an attention whore!

 


Heathens – 21 Pilots 
My friends give me shit for digging this track, but beauty is in the ear of the beholder, Jon.

 


Starboy – The Weeknd  ft. Daft Punk
“I’m a motherfuckin’ starboy.

 

 

Miles East – The Hard Part
Saw Miles do this live a few times this year. Killer song. Read our interview


Dickie Betts – The Dean Ween Group
Borrowing more than just the title from the Allman Bros.

 

 

24K Magic – Bruno Mars
Mars channels some Gap Band and the occasional Kendrick Lamar delivery on this ginormous hit.

Cricket and The Genie – The Claypool Lennon Delirium
“Cricket and The Genie plays with Sean’s childhood memories of meeting Michael Jackson’s famous monkey-friend Bubbles while on the set of 1988’s Moonwalker.” Read our review


Ray LaMontagne – Hey, No Pressure
“Anything you want your life to mean, it can mean.”

 


Masterpiece – Big Thief
The best song Lucinda Williams didn’t write this year.

 


Capsized – Andrew Bird
Plenty to love on Andrew Bird’s latest record.

 


Dark Necessities – Red Hot Chili Peppers
I think I listened to this on repeat for a week when I first heard it. Fucking Flea, man. Read our review

 


Easier Said – Sunflower Bean 
I’ll admit it. I’m hypnotized by Julia Cumming. You wanna fight about it? Meet me near the flagpole after school and we’ll see what’s what.

 


We the People… – A Tribe Called Quest 
This track is bouncy AF, with lyrics ripped from our unfortunate headlines. Peace out, Phife.

 


Proof of Love – Paul Simon
“Even when Simon references his own catalog, he takes it a step or two beyond his comfort zone and then safely back again.” Read our review

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcQrteED6XA


All I Think About Now – Pixies
An ode to ex-bassist Kim sung by current bassist Paz that re-purposes the classic hook from “Where Is My Mind?” Read our review

 


The Numbers – Radiohead 

I love the latest Radiohead record “A Moon Shaped Pool,” but the stripped down live versions have a purity missing from those recordings. Read our review

 

 

Brooklyn's own MC Krispy E has an opinion about most things you can put in your ear, eye, and mouth holes.

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Pixies Straighten Up and Fly Right

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The Pixies demoed over 20 originals and some covers in their upstate NY sessions with producer Tom Dalgety last year, whittling them down to 12 tracks for the new gothic record Beneath the Eyrie. Much of the warts-and-all recording process was captured in the excellent 12-part lead-up It’s a Pixies Podcast. You’ll find no other iconic band pulling the curtain back on their process with the same amount of honesty.

Dalgety has a way of smoothing over Pixies’ rough edges to sometimes exquisite effect. Other times you may miss the rust and crunch of producers Steve Albini and Gil Norton. But it’s not 1988, and this is an older, wiser band with adult aches and pains – and a sudden interest in being less obtuse. Some fans may not be ready to hear Black Francis sing straight-forward lines like “I’m ready for love” and “Last night I was driving around, nothing to do, thinking of you.” Fans of Frank Black, however, may be better prepared. Personas are a bitch. So are rigid expectations.

Folks like to talk about a Pixies “sound,” and there is something certainly recognizable as that, but the sonic arcs between albums only extend a record or two. Surfa Rosa and Doolittle share a sound, but there’s less in common between Doolittle and Bossanova, or between Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde. Indie Cindy (made 23 years later) does pick up where Trompe left off, but the next two records, Head Carrier and Beneath the Eyrie, find the band moving beyond that entirely, even though the DNA is most assuredly Pixies.

Eyrie kicks off with the bubbling “In the Arms of Mrs. Mark of Cain,” a track with no real precedent in their catalog, but another that proves drummer David Lovering is the skeleton holding the body up. Things get a little more traditionally Pixies with “On Graveyard Hill,” even if the lyrics are less esoteric than fans have grown to expect. This rolls into “Catfish Kate,” a downright story song with Black playing narrator Blackjack Hooligan. The track is one of the few on Eyrie to employ that tried-and-true loud/quiet/loud aesthetic.

Guitarist Joey Santiago lets it rip on “Ready for Love,” bringing his new-found sobriety into focus. Perhaps in deference to Joey, the band’s upcoming tour will be dry – no drugs or alcohol. I know it’s not as simple as that, and perhaps Black’s marital woes have something to do with cleaning up for the tour. But wine is all over this record (and the podcast), especially in the tipsy chorus of the Tom Waits-ish “This Is My Fate” and in the poetic refrain of “Silver Bullet.”

“The shade is drawn with stem and vine
Burned in the flame of a man condemned
With venom wine and golden dawn
A silver bullet in the chamber turning”

Bassist extraordinaire Paz Lenchantin gets writing credit on the ’90s-sounding “Long Rider” and sister track “Los Surfers Muertos,” which pay homage to a fellow surfer that lost her life carving the waves. “St. Nazaire” throws a raucous bone to fans, with a story steeped in the type of seaweed-covered mythology Pixies die-hards know well. It’s not as delightfully unhinged as “Planet of Sound” or “Blue Eyed Hexe,” but it’s a welcome bit of aggro.

Inspired by Black nearly driving into a deer on the way to the studio, the sprawling “Daniel Boone” slowly swells into a version of Pixies that fans have yet to meet. There’s a slow beauty to the track that resembles some of the quieter moments on Indie Cindy, but not hardly as compressed.

Eyrie ends with another ‘tranquilizing drink,’ “Death Horizon,” a mid-tempo ditty that puts the finishing touches on what may very well be a break-up record for Black Francis. In that way, it feels like Black has shed his personas and fronted the band as his true self, Charles Thompson, for the first time. It’s who he was all along.

Using a host of pen names, Eric Curran has been blogging in one form or another for well over 10 years. He's a partner at One Track Mine, and also runs the blog Jealous Foodies.

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RAPSODY – EVE

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Eve must’ve bit into an apple off of the LYRICAL tree with the type of seeds Rapsody is spitting on this album! Each of the 16 branches from this sequoia is worth your time and attention. She’s praising, reflective, educating and entertaining at the same damn time!

The words that constantly sprout from the soil of her nurturing production team lets us know the work has been put in. The fruits of her labor are abundantly clear when you grasp the content of her art musically and visually. A perfect example of this combination is on full display in Ibithaj feat. D’Angelo and GZA.

But her cameos don’t end there! The features in this forest make sense and keeps the proper balance within this ecosystem. The biggest challenge you’ll find when camping out in these woods will be choosing the best collaboration.

Oprah feat Leikeili47 is the type of the track that will keep your necks nodding from beginning to end. But I can easily say the same thing about Maya feat K. Roosevelt which is also a certified banger!

There’s more than a handful to mention here, but I want you to do yourself a favor and find those other gems after you cop the album. Here’s a hint…Rapsody also trades bars upon bars on a couple of other standout tracks with J. Cole and the Queen herself…Latifah!

Despite Rapsody’s last outing (Laila’s Wisdom) being great in itself, she managed to raise the bar yet again with Eve. Her words are inspiring, refreshing and unapologetically poignant. EXACTLY what we need to hear right now!

Keep your ears and eyes open for BIG KRIT’s “From The South With Love Tour” with special guests Rapsody & Domani Harris. It’s sure to be as memorable as the first offering below from her gift basket of treats.

HB aka The World Traveler is fully committed to exploring and sharing with you what the world has to offer in travel and music. Get on board and enjoy the ride!

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New Music: Sleater-Kinney’s The Center Won’t Hold

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Fans of post-punk icons Sleater-Kinney have had a lot to react to since they got back together in 2014 after an eight year hiatus. They released a boxed set, and two studio and one live record since then, while singer/songwriter Carrie Brownstein made a splash in Portandia and via her memoir Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl.

The three-piece return with the divisive The Center Won’t Hold produced by St. Vincent, which traipses across a very different sonic landscape than previous records. It’s more electronic than Riot-Grrl, but Sleater-Kinney are more about finding a sound than perfecting one. With St. Vincent at the knobs, things get decidedly Big 80’s, to the delight of critics and the dismay of hardcore “fans” who’d rather hear the first few records replicated ad infinitum. That drummer Janet Weiss left the band right before the tour due to creative differences thickens the plot, but give it a listen and decide for yourself.

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Using a host of pen names, Eric Curran has been blogging in one form or another for well over 10 years. He's a partner at One Track Mine, and also runs the blog Jealous Foodies.

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