Music update, January 2018.

My AL Central org reports and top tens went up this morning for Insiders.

January was a huge month for new music, especially the latter half, with new albums and singles coming out in a deluge from about January 19th on. As usual, I’ve pushed the heavier material to the end, although I’m starting the list with one of the most important bands in metal history. If you can’t see the widget you can access the Spotify playlist directly.

Judas Priest – Lightning Strike. Three of the current members of these New Wave of British Heavy Metal stalwarts are age 66 or older; Glenn Tipton, their lead guitarist, turned 70 in October. And this song, from their forthcoming album Firepower (their 18th), absolutely rocks.

Turbowolf, Mike Kerr – Domino. This lead single from Turbowolf’s upcoming album features Royal Blood bassist/vocalist Kerr, with a hard-driving, psychedelic, bass-heavy rhythm line that hooked me on first listen.

Black Space Riders – Another Sort of Homecoming. This song was my introduction to this German stoner-rock act, with a keyboard-driven but still moderately heavy sound that should appeal to fans of QotSA or Kyuss.

The Wombats – Cheetah Tongue. The Wombats really can’t miss with me; this is the third single from Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, their fourth album, due out on February 9th.

INHEAVEN – Sweet Dreams Baby. INHEAVEN’s debut album made my top 10 for 2017, and even though it came out in September, they’ve already produced this new single which is more of the same good stuff.

Public Access T.V. – Lost in the Game. This quartet is from New York but sounds almost comically British in their channeling of ’80s New Wave on this track.

whenyoung – Silverchair. An Irish trio that reminds me tremendously of London-based trio Daughter with their acoustic-punk, ethereal sound on this, their second single after October’s “Actor.”

Belle & Sebastian – Show Me The Sun. The songs from the first two EPs these Scottish icons have released under the How to Solve Our Human Problems moniker have been all over the place in style and tempo; this song would fit more with their 2015 album Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, which had a more electronic, pop-oriented sound that I loved but many longtime B&S fans disliked.

Van William – Cosmic Sign. Van Pierszalowski’s solo debut, Countries, dropped on January 19th, featuring this country-leaning track, “Revolution,” “Fourth of July,” and “The Country.”

Ride – Catch You Dreaming (Shorter). Ride went away for 21 years, came out with a new album last year, and since then have already released two more new singles, this track and “Pulsar,” which will appear on the EP Tomorrow’s Shore, due out 2/16.

Sunflower Bean – Crisis Fest. The New York indie darlings will finally release their second album, Twentytwo in Blue, on March 23rd, featuring this driving, politically-themed track.

Car Seat Headrest – Nervous Young Inhumans (Single Edit). Car Seat Headrest, which is really just Will Toledo’s project, has re-recorded their sixth album, 2011’s Twin Fantasy, in its entirety, with this as the lead single. The new version, retitled Twin Fantasy (Face to Face), drops on the 16th.

Cœur De Pirate – Prémonition. This Quebecois singer-songwriter sings in both French and English, with “Carry On,” from her 2015 album Roses, my favorite song to date from her; this French-language track is a bit less immediate but still has a great poppy hook.

The Crab Apples – Open Your Mind. This Catalonian quartet’s sound reminds me musically of the Cranberries – as does their name, of course – although the vocal style is very different. Their second album, A Drastic Mistake, came out last month.

Hinds – New For You. Another act from Spain, Hinds comprises four women who all look and sound like kids and produce a unique, guileless sound that doesn’t always work – sometimes it sounds amateurish, but sometimes it just hits the right balance of polish and rawness as it does here.

Preoccupations – Espionage. Formerly known as Viet Cong, this Canadian act, born of the ashes of art-rock band Women, will release an album of new material called New Material on March 23rd.

Porches – Goodbye. Aaron Maine’s third album as Porches, called The House, dropped on January 19th; this song starts slowly, but hang with it, as it picks up about a minute in.

Desperate Journalist – It Gets Better. Another band new to me, Desperate Journalist is already working on a five-song EP that will come out on March 30th, barely a year after their second album came out. The sound here reminds me of the edgier, more rock-influenced side of Britpop, similar to acts like Echobelly and Sleeper.

Pond – Fire In The Water. This new song appears as a bonus track on the psych-rockers’ 2017 album Weather; they’re inextricably linked to Tame Impala and a band you’ll probably like if you like Kevin Parker’s work.

Wye Oak – The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs. I’m lukewarm on this track, which doesn’t completely come together, but there’s enough here to make me curious about the Baltimore duo’s upcoming album of the same name, due out April 6th.

Radkey – Not Smart. This punk/post-hardcore trio of brothers just got a big boost from Mastercard, who helped fund the video for the single after this one, “Can’t Judge a Book” featuring SZA.

Dream Wife – Hey Heartbreaker. A London-based punk trio with an Icelandic lead singer, Dream Wife’s self-titled debut dropped last month; it’s uneven, but there are some great Sløtface-like punk/pop tracks like this one.

Lady Bird – Spoons. It seems like a great time to launch a band named Lady Bird, even though this group is British – very, very British – and are the first act to appear on Girl Fight Records, the new label founded by the British punk duo Slaves.

Wooden Shjips – Staring At The Sun. This experimental/art-rock band made my top albums of 2013 list with Back to Land; this seven-minute epic offers more of the same spacey, meandering, often mesmerizing music.

of Montreal – Paranoiac Intervals/Body Dysmorphia. I believe this is actually two songs smushed together, which produces a 7-minute track that is typical of Montreal weirdness.

King Buffalo – Centurion. Stoner/psychedelic rockers from upstate New York, King Buffalo just put out a new EP, Repeater, which leads with this track.

Fu Manchu – Clone of the Universe. This stoner/punk act from southern California’s twelfth album, also called Clone of the Universe, comes out on February 9th.

Weedpecker – Molecule. Stoner rockers from Poland with one of the greatest band names ever. It’s also the third seven-minute song on my playlist, and it sounds like a marriage between Sleep and late Opeth.

Cynic – Humanoid. Cynic’s Focus was a seminal record in the subgenre of progressive or technical death metal, but the 1993 album was their only official release until 2008’s Traced in Air. “Humanoid” is their first new track since 2014 and the first since founding drummer Sean Reinert left the band.

Tribulation – The World. These Swedish melodic death metallers have a very specific, classic rock vibe with death growls rather than clean vocals, increasingly eschewing other trappings of death metal like blast beats as they’ve matured. Their latest album, Down Below, feels utterly mainstream for any act that still accepts the death-metal label, with tremendous guitar riffs and lots of nods back to 1970s and 1980s metal pioneers. I’ll need a few more listens but I’m guessing it’ll end the year as one of the top three metal albums of 2018.

Music update, December 2017.

I sometimes post a monthly playlist for December after my top 100 songs of the year come out to catch singles that came out after I posted the rankings, but this year there weren’t quite enough songs for that, so this is more of a salmagundi of singles I missed from earlier in the year, new stuff that didn’t make the list, a few songs that did but are good enough to mention again, and so on. You can access the playlist here if the widget below doesn’t work.

Artificial Pleasure – Wound up Tight. This was #80 on my top 100 songs of 2017, the first song I’d heard from this London electronic-rock group, who have released a few singles but no full-length album yet. I’d say it’s like the Human League meet Wild Beasts.

The Decemberists – Ben Franklin’s Song. A “Hamildrop” with lyrics courtesy of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who apparently wrote the words with the Decemberists in mind, then sent them to Colin Meloy, who produced what I think is one of the band’s best tunes to go with it. Warning: There’s some choice language within.

Kid Astray – Roads. This was #85 on my best of 2017 list, the third time this Norwegian indie-pop act has made one of my annual top 100s.

The Fratellis – Stand up Tragedy. I feel like the Fratellis’ lyrics are sort of a poor man’s version of the wordplay we get from the Wombats’ Matthew Murphy, which may in turn be a reaction to the Fratellis’ biggest hit coming from their 2006 debut. It’s a bit of a shame that “Chelsea Dagger,” a great song in its own right, has overshadowed their later work; they’ve produced plenty of solid-average tunes like this one even if they haven’t matched their first song’s peak.

The Wombats – Turn. Speak of the devils. This is a little more midtempo than my favorite Wombats songs, and didn’t make my top 100 (although “Lemon to a Knife Fight” did at #17. Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life drops on February 9th, and their US tour starts this week (with a show in Philly I can’t make, unfortunately).

HAERTS – The Way. HAERTS released this single on December 8th, their third of 2017, but there’s still no word of a new album.

Van William – Before I Found You. The WATERS lead singer’s debut solo album, Countries, is due out on January 19th, and includes this single, “Country” (#91 on my 2017 top 100), “Revolution” (#41 on my 2016 top 100), and “Fourth of July (#15 on my 2016 list). So I’m looking forward to it.

Belle & Sebastian – The Girl Doesn’t Get It. The Scottish stalwarts are releasing three Eps over three months under the collective title How to Solve Our Human Problems, with an expected 15 songs in total. It’s more of a return to their typical style, if they can even be said to have one, after their outstanding pop/dance-tinged Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance.

Sunflower Bean – I Was a Fool. “Wall Watcher” was #87 on my 2015 top 100; this is the band’s first new single since their 2016 debut album and their last single, “Easier Said.” The indie/jangle-pop trio should release their second album some time in 2018, but there’s no date or title yet.

Anteros – Love. Anteros’ “Cherry Drop” was #43 on my top 100 from last year; this December single was my second-favorite track of the four the band released last year.

The Afghan Whigs with James Hall – You Want Love. The Afghan Whigs released this song in June, a cover of a 2004 song by Pleasure Club, as a tribute to the Whigs’ late guitarist. Whigs lead singer Greg Dulli is a longtime fan of Hall, who was the founder and lead singer/guitarist of Pleasure Club and has had a lengthy underground career as a solo artist.

Buffalo Tom – All Be Gone. I assumed Buffalo Tom were on a permanent hiatus, but this single just appeared a few weeks ago ahead of a promised new album, their first since 2011. This feels like their ’90s peak in the combination of upbeat music and melancholy lyrics, although the production puts Bill Janovitz’s vocals further out front.

Ten Fé – Single, No Return. Ten Fé’s debut album, Hit the Light, was my #10 album of 2017; they’ve since become (officially) a five-piece band and released this new single in November.

Saxon – Thunderbolt. Saxon were a major part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, although they didn’t have as much success in the U.S. as they did in the U.K., never landing a top 100 album over here. They’ve continued recording and have had a modest comeback over their last few albums, with this the title track from their upcoming 22nd LP.

Legend Of The Seagullmen – Shipswreck.. The band’s own site describes them as a “genre destroying super-group,” even though they’re a prog-metal band. Featuring Brent Hinds of Mastodon, Danny Carey of Tool, and the guy who directed Horton Hears a Who!, the band played its debut show on New Year’s Eve as an opener for Primus.

Music update, November 2017.

Solid enough month for new tracks, including a bunch of early releases from albums due out in the first two months of next year (which might presage a poor December for new releases). I’ll do my annual music rankings, songs and albums, after the winter meetings, so we do get a few more weeks in for new songs to appear.

If you can’t see the Spotify widget below, you can access the playlist directly here.

The Wombats – Lemon to a Knife Fight. A new Wombats song is an automatic inclusion for me. I loved Glitterbug and am thoroughly excited for the new album.

Hatchie – Sure. Noisey called Hatchie’s music “shoegaze with a dream pop edge;” I think there’s more dream pop here, with a very strong early Cranberries vibe. She has released two singles so far, this song (my favorite of the two) and “Try.”

Shy Technology – Déjà Vu. Shy Technology made my top 100 in 2015 with “High Strung,” and this lead single from their next album provides more of what I liked from that earlier single, which has a singer-songwriter vibe with the fuller arrangement of a large band. They remind me of tons of bands I liked in the early mid-90s, including James, Ben Folds Five, Better than Ezra, and Our Lady Peace.

Django Django – In Your Beat. We have a release date – January 26th – for the Mercury Prize-nominated British act’s third album. Marble Skies.

Van William – The Country. Dodgers fan & WATERS lead singer/songwriter Van Pierszalowski – yep, still have to check that spelling every single time, because of AJ Pierzynski – will release his first solo album, Countries, on January 19th.

Gillbanks – A Walk in the Park. A new London-based quintet with just four one-off singles to their name, Gillbanks reminds me a bit of Gardens & Villa if they’d gotten stoned and listened to Disintegration on repeat.

Ride – Pulsar. Ride went 21 years between albums, released Weather Diaries in June, and now are already back with a new, non-album track, this one in a similar vein, shoegaze but with clear vocals mixed more towards the front. The lads are aging quite nicely.

Thrice – Red Telephone. Not technically a new song, “Red Telephone” is a B-side from their 2009 album Beggars and was just re-released ahead of their mini-tour with Circa Survive.

The Fratellis – The Next Time We Wed. It’s no “Chelsea Dagger,” but it’s certainly catchy in more of a pop/rock way and less of a “we’re all drunk at 1:30 am” fashion.

Black Honey – Dig. Black Honey, an indie quartet from Brighton, England, showed up twice on my top 100 last year with poppy tracks that reminded me of vintage Velocity Girl; this song is slower, almost mournful, although it sneaks up on you with a heavy guitar riff about 2/3 of the way through.

WAVVES with Culture Abuse – Up and Down. WAVVES’ Nathan Williams is one of the most prolific writers in music today; I swear he releases a new song somewhere every couple of weeks. This new track, with Bay Area punksters Culture Abuse (of whom I’d never heard of until this song appeared), sounds quite a bit like WAVVES’ most recent album, You’re Welcome.

HAERTS – No Love for the Wild. HAERTS put out a great EP in 2013, a strong album with those same four songs in 2014, and since then it’s been just random singles. This song came out in May, and there’s another one, “The Way,” due out next Friday (the 8th), so I’m hopeful we’ll get a full record some time early next year. It’s long overdue.

The Big Moon – Love in the 4th Dimension. The Big Moon’s album, of which this is the title track, was nominated for the Mercury Prize this year, but lost out to R&B/electronic singer-songwriter Sampha. I think I like the Big Moon’s sound more than their individual songs, as the album is consistent but could use some stronger hooks.

Stars – Hope Avenue. Stars had the #40 song on the first real year-end song ranking I ever posted on this site, my top 40 songs of 2012, with “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Get It.” Their latest album, There is No Love in Fluorescent Light, doesn’t have anything so catchy, but has several … um, “pleasant” sounds like a backhanded insult, but I don’t mean it that way. This was my favorite song from the record.

Quicksand – Fire this Time. Is this the fifth straight playlist with a Quicksand song on it? Their comeback album Interiors feels like a lock to make my ranking of my favorite albums of 2017, however long I choose to make the list this year.

Corrosion of Conformity – Cast the First Stone. Legit thought these guys had broken up a decade ago … which they did, and then came back with a different lineup for albums in 2012 and 2014 that I missed entirely. I really remember CoC mostly from their earliest work, which had a stronger hardcore influence, while this is more of an aggressive stoner-metal track, like QotSA with a hint of Pantera.

Joe Satriani – Thunder High on the Mountain. I admit to being a guitar geek back in the day; I absolutely wore out Steve Vai’s Passion and Warfare. Satriani had his moments too, including “Summer Song,” but that whole subgenre of music fell out of favor pretty quickly with the expansion of extreme metal on one side and of garbage rap-metal demon spawn on the other. This song, which features two distinct movements of great guitar hooks, is a nice throwback to the heyday of instrumental shredder albums, with a nice nod to the heavier style more in vogue today.

Godflesh – Post Self. I have a strong memory of seeing a capsule review of Godflesh’s seminal 1989 debut album, Streetcleaner, that borrowed a line from Poltergeist: “Godflesh knows what scares you.” Often lumped erroneously in with the contemporaneous grindcore movement, Godflesh is a founder of the subgenre of industrial metal, and if their music brings “teh fear” it’s because of their repetition of droning phrases and harsh percussive sounds. This is the first song and title track from their latest album, released on November 17th.

Tribulation – The Lament. This Swedish melodic death-metal band’s 2015 album Children of the Night took the group out of the generic extreme-metal sounds of their first two albums and brought far more of a classic-rock vibe, with obvious influences from Judas Priest and Black Sabbath, as well as some thrash riffing and a generally stronger sense of musical proficiency. This song rocks in a way that even a lot of truly melodic songs in this area don’t; it’s like a great driving song that happens to have death growls instead of the high-wire vocals of a Halford or a Dickinson. It’s a good sign for their upcoming fourth album, Down Below, due out on January 26th.

Music update, October 2017.

Happy Halloween! Lots of great new tracks and albums this month, including a few totally unexpected returns from artists who’ve appeared on my playlists before, plus one metal act I haven’t really bothered with since I was in high school. If the widget below doesn’t appear you can access the Spotify playlist directly.

Django Django – Tic Tac Toe. Huge comeback single for the Mercury Prize-nominated act after the mild disappointment of their 2015 album Born Under Saturn, which had a few good tracks (notably “Shake and Tremble”) but no breakout hits like “Default” or “Hail Bop.” This song is a promising tease of their third album, especially the swirling, textured chorus where the song’s structure is turned inside out.

Wolf Parade – You’re Dreaming. Cry Cry Cry, their first record since the band reunited, came out on October 6th, but I found it overall a bit weak – but I was never a huge WP fan the first time around. This was the best track to my ears.

DMA’S – Dawning. Compared to Oasis after their first record, this Australian band goes more Britpop on this lead single from their upcoming second album. I admit to a bit of nostalgic affection for the song, given how much it reminds me of that late-90s movement that by and large never caught on in the U.S.

Quicksand – Cosmonauts. Their first album since 1995, Interiors, is due out on November 10th. They’re still touring, but without guitarist Tom Capone, who was arrested and charged with trying to steal over 40 items from a Phoenix-area CVS and then resisting arrest. Song’s good, though.

Bully – Kills to Be Resistant. Bully is fronted by Alicia Bognanno, who seems way too young to be producing music that is so reminiscent of the less-polished side of 1990s grunge. Their first record earned quite a bit of positive press, but I found it lacking in actual musical interest – not enough hooks, not much connection between vocals and music, etc. This track, from the band’s just-released second album Losing, is my favorite from Bully so far.

Beck – Colors. The title track from Beck’s latest album is one of a half-dozen bangers on the record (which includes my #1 song of 2015, “Dreams,” in two versions), which is a complete departure from the sound on his Grammy-winning last album Morning Phase. This is the Beck material I love – inventive, layered, genre-crossing.

Blushes – To the Bone. I’ve seen reviews comparing Blushes to Foals … okay, yeah, this sounds a lot like Foals, or at least like Foals’ best stuff, so we’re good here.

Porches – Find Me. Porches is led by singer/multi-instrumentalist Aaron Maine, and they’re weird – that’s mostly a compliment, although it sometimes doesn’t work very well (like on “Country,” another single off their upcoming third album). “Find Me” is more in line with their haunting 2016 single “Hour,” a nicely creepy track for Halloween.

Gulp – Morning Velvet Sky. Gulp is Scottish vocalist Lindsey Levin and bassist Guto Pryce, who’s better known as the bass player for Welsh rock icons Super Furry Animals. This track is less rock, more synth and bass, with a hypnotic, driving bassline throughout the ethereal song.

Sampha – Blood on Me. Sampha Sisay just won this year’s Mercury Prize for his debut album, Process, which gives us an unsteady marriage of classic R&B sounds, especially in the vocals, and current electronic/drum-and-bass sounds. This song, my favorite from the album, actually first appeared as a single in August of 2016 in the UK; it’s more uptempo and I think more intense than the rest of the album.

MisterWives – Never Give Up On Me. This was a surprise, given that MisterWives just released their second album in May, without this track on it. This might be their poppiest song yet, but it’s also a great showcase of what Mandy Lee can do with her voice when she lets it rip.

Prides – A Wilder Heart. Prides’ “The Seeds You Sow” was my #8 song of 2014, but it didn’t even appear on their disappointing debut album the following year. Their seven-song EP A Mind Like the Tide, Part 1, just dropped on Friday, including the single “Let’s Stay in Bed All Day,” which I included on my September playlist, and this slow builder with a strong finish.

Tune-Yards – Look at Your Hands. Tune-Yards are probably best known for the alternative hit “Water Fountain,” which has a fantastic chorus and some great drumwork, but which loses me in the verse. I still don’t love Merrill Garbus’s singing voice, but this track is more evenly mixed between vocals and music, and her musical inventiveness gets higher billing as a result. It doesn’t quite have the huge hook of “Water Fountain,” though.

Alice Merton – No Roots. I’ve been remiss with this track, which I had earmarked for my September playlist and forgot to include, so I’m putting it here for completeness’ sake even though you’ve probably heard it. It’s already hit the top ten in several countries in Europe and is #14 on the next Billboard Alternative Songs chart, still trending up.

Sleigh Bells – Rainmaker. Yep, that’s the drum loop from “Paid in Full.” That’s all I’ve got here.

Liam Gallagher – I Get By. I’ve seen more praise for the Oasis singer’s solo album As You Were than I could possibly muster; it is long, and it certainly tries to recapture the peak Oasis sound, but it only barely scrapes the bottom of what his former band was able to do over its first three albums. Lead single “Wall of Glass,” which made my June playlist, is solid, as is this song, but the rest feels like filler, like an artist who wants to mimic a specific sound rather than write compelling singles.

Versing – Body Chamber. If you listened to just this song, and I asked you their home city, you’d probably guess it on one try. Their debut album, Nirvana (we’re not even pretending, are we), just came out at the very end of September.

The Dear Hunter – The Right Wrong. This song is the lead single from the prog-rock act’s new six-song EP, All Is As All Should Be (which, by the way, is definitely NOT true), with some clear nods to progressive icons like King Crimson and Marillion but within a manageable running time.

Catholic Action – Propaganda. The Glaswegian quartet just released In Memory Of, its first album of punk-tinged jangle-pop, on Friday; it’s hit-and-miss, with short, quick bursts of guitar-driven melodies that don’t always click, with this song the best track on the record.

Sleater-Kinney – Here We Come. They’re back, and they’re still angry, and why wouldn’t they be?

Helloween – Pumpkins United. I admit to a certain fondness for Helloween’s two late-80s underground classics, parts one and two of the Keeper of the Seven Keys series, which contained a number of surprisingly catchy power-metal tracks that seemed to bridge the gap between Iron Maiden and other NWOBHM acts that still brought big hooks and the less melodic thrash bands that were coming out of California at the time. This new track is the first song to feature original guitarist Kai Hansen since he left the band after the second Keeper album.

Moonspell – Evento. Moonspell is a Portuguese gothic/melodic death metal act who are consistently big sellers in their home country, with four different #1 albums in Portugal, but little recognition outside it. Their 11th album, 1755, drops on Friday; it’s a concept album about the Great Lisbon Earthquake of that year (which also inspired a new boardgame, Lisboa, that just came out this summer), sung entirely in Portuguese, with symphonic elements along with the expected death growls. Stuff just sounds more menacing when it’s not in English.

Music update, September 2017.

A whole raft of anticipated releases hit stores in September, including new records from Wolf Alice, Daughter, Hundred Waters, Cut Copy, Torres, The Killers, Death From Above, LCD Soundsystem, and the National, some of which lived up to expectations, some of which didn’t, and some of which were as bad as I expected. (I really couldn’t have any less interest in or respect for The Killers at this point, since they licensed a song and recorded an extra video to help promote the fight involving serial domestic abuser Floyd Mayweather.) Here’s my highly edited list of the best new songs of the month, with a half-dozen metal tracks at the end, increasing in heaviness as it progresses. You can access the Spotify playlist here if the widget below doesn’t appear.

Hundred Waters – Wave to Anchor. Hundred Waters had my #1 album of 2014 with The Moon Rang Like a Bell, an unconventional, experimental record of atmospheric electronica with breathy, acrobatic vocals by Nicole Miglis. The band’s second album, Communicating, came out on September 14th, and pushes even further into experimental territory, but with bigger sounds and more dramatic flourishes, very much in evidence here and on “Particle,” “Prison Guard,” and “Blanket Me.”

Daughter – Glass. Daughter’s Music from Before the Storm is the soundtrack to the new video game Life is Strange: Before the Storm, but works as a standalone album as well, with indie-folk trio Daughter using the game’s script as inspiration for a record that fits well in their own discography. It’s actually more cohesive than their last album, 2016’s Not to Disappear, even with instrumental tracks like this one, and I think stronger start to finish, buoyed by songs like this one, “Burn It Down,” “Voices,” and closer “A Hole in the Earth.”

Wild Beasts – Punk Drunk & Trembling. Wild Beasts are breaking up, with 2016’s magnum opus Boy King, a mesmerizing record of tremendous hooks built around a theme of toxic masculinity, their swan song. This track is one of the leftovers from the recording of that record and part of a forthcoming EP to close out their career.

Hippo Campus – Baseball. How could I omit a song called “Baseball?” Actually, that didn’t matter except that I pushed it further up the playlist – I wouldn’t include a song that wasn’t good, and this song has a great little guitar hook and catchy chorus to drive it. It’s on their newest EP, warm glow, which comes out just a few months after their debut album Landmark dropped.

Sløtface – Backyard. Try Not to Freak Out, the debut full-length from these Norwegian punk-pop purveyors, is uneven, but with a few standout tracks built around big hooks and fun lyrics, including this one and “Nancy Drew.”

Wolf Alice – Heavenward. I’ve been a little disappointed by Wolf Alice’s second album, Visions of a Life, released on Friday, as it doesn’t show any growth from their debut, My Love is Cool, and in some ways feels even less mature.

Death From Above – Holy Books. Their third album, Outrage is Now!, came out on September 8th, and it’s almost as if they’ve merged with Royal Blood, producing an album of huge, guitar-driven hooks that’s my favorite album of their three so far.

Portugal. The Man – Don’t Look Back In Anger. I don’t include many covers and almost never include live tracks, so you know this one, recorded in-studio for Spotify, must be pretty good.

Mourn – The Fire. These Barcelona punks put out a five-song EP, Over the Wall, on September 8th, with two standout tracks, this one and “Whatever.” They have a sort of anarchic, college-rock vibe to their best songs, as if the entire thing is going to fall apart at any second but the band just manages to keep it together until the song ends.

Van William – Never Had Enough Of You. Van Pierszalowski, lead singer of WATERS, put out a few singles on his own under the nom de chanson Van William (understandably so) earlier this year, and has now collected them with this new track and one demo on a four-song EP called The Revolution. This ballad is a definite shift in tone and feel for VW compared to the first two singles and to his work with WATERS, but you’ll recognize his signature sound in the shuffling guitar riff behind the lyrics.

Prides – Lets Stay In Bed All Day. I had Prides’ first single, “The Seeds You Sow,” as my #8 song of 2014,, but their debut album ended up a big disappointment, lacking any big hooks and really downshifting their overall sound. This song seems to get them back on track, with a big Wombats feel to both music and lyrics.

Tricky with Mina Rose – Running Wild. It only took me twenty years, but I have finally realized that I like Tricky’s music a lot more when he’s not the vocalist.

Von Grey – 6 A.M. I’m not sure about the “sexy goth sisters” marketing around this trio, but the sound on this track is a compelling, more vocal-driven descendant of the ’90s novelty act Rasputina.

Cut Copy – Black Rainbows. Cut Copy have produced so much music – 21 singles, five albums (including their latest, Haiku from Zero), a few EPs – since their 2001 debut, but despite a general sound that’s right in my wheelhouse, I’ve rarely found their songs even a little bit memorable because they haven’t had good pop hooks in what is otherwise very poppy music. This breaks that trend, the best song I’ve heard from them since 2010’s “Where I’m Going.”

The Riff – Weekend Schemes. I mean, if your band is named The Riff, you’d better bring the guitar licks … and they do, at least on this song, which is like a harder post-Oasis Britpop vibe with a dash of The Hold Steady in the vocals.

INHEAVEN – Bitter Town. Big, ballsy hard rock from their eponymous debut album, which also features the muscular “World on Fire” (on my August playlist). This song is more wistful, a little introspective even, with strong lyrical contrast to the heavy percussion and distortion that drives the music.

Mastodon – Toe to Toes. Mastodon have always been inventive musicians, frequently breaking out of traditional song structures, and often succumbing to melodic urges as if they couldn’t help but make a heavy song a little catchier. This song seems to split the baby; there’s a heavy, jazz-metal component, reminiscent of the work of ’90s metal acts Cynic and Atheist, and the song suddenly downshifts into AOR territory – but the juxtaposition works to the song’s benefit, providing a respite from the relentless riffs of the heavier sequences.

Chelsea Wolfe – Offering. Highly atmospheric, ethereal, gothic … something. It’s not really metal, although bits of metal creep into her latest album, Hiss Spun, and she employs a number of major names from the metal and hard-rock worlds on the record. There are doom and stoner elements here, but it’s all in service of building a dark, funereal edifice for Wolfe’s wide-ranging vocals. I thought the album as a whole dragged, but this track is a standout.

Myrkur – De Tre Piker. Myrkur is Amalie Brunn, a Danish vocalist who just released her second metal album under this moniker; her music is generally described as “black metal,” but that wildly undersells what she’s doing here. This music defies traditional categorization, borrowing from diverse genres and shifting tempos, themes, and styles multiple times within tracks, incorporating folk and classical elements along with extreme metal aspects, including screamed vocals that alternate with her own clean singing. It doesn’t always work, and she struggles sometimes with the lack of cohesion within tracks, but I’d put her in a very small group of artists who are trying to change the definitions of contemporary rock music.

Arch Enemy – My Shadow and I. I think I just don’t care for Alissa White-Gluz’s guttural vocal style – but I think the guitar riffs on Will to Power, their new album, are a big step forward from the slightly disappointing War Eternal (2014), still true to their melodic death-metal roots. (Founding guitarist Michael Amott was a member of seminal death-metal act Carcass for their breakthrough album Heartwork, which remains one of the founding records of the melodic death-metal subgenre.)

Satyricon – Deep calleth upon Deep. The vocals are bad – they just are, always have been for Satyricon – but they’re an unapologetic doom band now, a transition that, as many of you argued on Twitter, started somewhere around Rebel Extravaganza or Volcano. It’s not what original Satyricon fans want, but if you can stand the silly death growls there’s a good Pallbearer/Crypt Sermon vibe here.

Akercocke – Unbound by Sin. This is probably the most extreme metal song I’ve ever included on one of these playlists, which is why I left it till the end, but this song – and the entire album, Renaissance in Extremis – is a tour de force of progressive, technically proficient metal that incorporates elements of jazz and classical along with the standard death-metal trappings like blast beats (yawn) and growled vocals (mixed relatively low here, so the fretwork stands out). I used to think Akercocke was something of a joke, a so-called “blackened” death metal band that used controversial lyrics and album covers to grab attention, but this album, their first in ten years, just floored me with its complexity and textures. If you like extreme metal at all, it’s the best album of that niche this year and I think the best since Carcass’ Surgical Steel.

New music update, August 2017.

Big month for new music in multiple genres, with new music from a number of artists I didn’t think were still recording and a slew of brand-new artists working towards their first album or EP releases. I lead off with one of my favorite bands of the last few years and bounce around between familiar and new names, finishing up with a trio of metal tracks at the very end. If you can’t see the widget below you can click here to access the Spotify playlist directly.

Everything Everything – Can’t Do. E2 are part of a small movement of British art/indie acts, along with alt-J (who seem to have gone full commercial this year) and Wild Beasts, who engage in a sort of hysterical version of indie-pop, with lots of falsetto vocals, strange arrangements, weird tempos, and other things you wouldn’t expect to find in a four-minute song on the radio … but with compelling melodies that tie their best songs together. Everything Everything’s fourth album, A Fever Dream, dropped last Friday and I think it’s their best overall LP yet, although it doesn’t quite have a huge single like “Cough Cough,” “Kemosabe,” or “I Believe It Now.” “Can’t Do” is my favorite track from the album and the most likely to creep on to American radio.

Confidence Man – Boyfriend (Repeat). Speaking of weird, artsy acts, Confidence Man is an Australian quartet whose music is just … peculiar. Actually, the music is great; the lyrics and vocals are the peculiar part. I don’t love the flat affect the singer uses here, although it’s of a piece with the subject matter – and damn that’s a catchy beat.

Queens of the Stone Age – The Evil Has Landed. Villains is QotSA’s seventh album, their first working with producer Mark Ronson of “Uptown Funk” fame, and the influence is immediately obvious, as this is the funkiest output of Josh Homme’s career, although I think there’s been a soulful, groove element to lots of his work in the past.

Daughter – Burn It Down. Singer Elena Tonra gets angrier on this darker-than-usual track from the folk/electronic trio, which comes from their forthcoming album, Music from Before the Storm, the score to the brand-new episodic video game Life is Strange: Before The Storm, released today from Square Enix.

Birdtalker – Looking for Love. Birdtalker is a little bit country, and a little bit folk, and I guess there’s a little rock and roll in here, but I’m as drawn to the group’s lyrics as their music; I’m still waiting for a release date on their debut album One, the title track of which appeared on my June playlist.

The Pale White – Downer. A trio from Newcastle-upon-Tyne – that doesn’t matter, I just like saying it – the Pale White do guitar-heavy alt-rock, along the lines of other recent British acts with big guitar sounds like Drenge, the Amazons, and early Muse. Their debut EP is out later this month.

Death From Above 1979 – Never Swim Alone. If the White Stripes covered a Sleigh Bells track, it would sound something like this.

Wu-Tang Clan featuring Redman – People Say. Every time I think the Wu-Tang Clan is done, they pop back up, although I also couldn’t tell you exactly who’s in the Clan and who just keeps showing up on their tracks like Redman. (Does he need to go through some sort of initiation? Give them all his worldly possessions?)

Beck – Dear Life. It’s not “Dreams” – my #1 song of 2015, and probably my favorite song of his prolific career – but it’s a lot better than last year’s dismal “Wow,” too.

The War On Drugs – Nothing To Find. It’s a little long, as all their songs are wont to be, and I find it hard to listen to any of their songs without picturing Richard Belzer doing his Bob Dylan impression, but I like their uptempo stuff more and the new album A Deeper Understanding, which came out last Friday.

Starsailor – All This Life. I wasn’t aware this Britpop (or “post-Britpop,” as Wikipedia calls them, which I think is a question of time rather than genre) act had reunited until last week; their comeback album, All This Life, comes out on Friday, their first new material since 2009.

Maisie Peters – Place We Were Made. Just 17 years old, Peters built up a following on Youtube and has now released her “first proper single,” this worldly paean to home that feels like it should have been written by someone many years her senior. I’m projecting big things for young Ms. Peters, not least because of the evocative nature of the imagery in her lyrics.

Sarah Chernoff – Markings on You. Chernoff is (was?) the singer of the Superhumanoids, whose last album, Do You Feel OK?, was my #5 album of 2015, thanks to their combination of her powerful, multi-octave vocals and intricate electronic tracks. Chernoff just released her debut solo album, Warm Nights, which showcases her incredible voice – never more than on this track – in a new milieu, soft rock that wouldn’t be out of place on 1970s radio between 10cc and …

Anna Of The North – Fire. Anna Lotterud’s first album, Lovers, comes out on September 8th, featuring her electronic-infused indie pop reminiscent of The Naked & Famous.

Wolf Alice – Beautifully Unconventional. If you just heard the first few measures, you might think this was a lost Blur track from their Britpop heyday – at least until Ellie Roswell’s distinctive vocals kick in. By the way, the London quartet – whose second album, Visions of a Life, comes out on 9/29 – says they got their name from an Angela Carter short story, but really, it’s because their name is pronounced “wool phallus,” right?

Kate Nash – Agenda. Kate Nash looked like she was going to be a superstar after “Foundations,” from her debut album, hit #2 in the UK and won her great critical acclaim, but she never quite produced a hit to follow it up and has been releasing music on her own the last five years. She’s a clever lyricist, at least most of the time, and I can’t decide if this song is a parody of people who wear their activism on their sleeves … or just something very silly.

Liam Gallagher – For What It’s Worth. Liam keeps releasing these faux-Oasis songs and I fall for it every time.

The Horrors – Something To Remember Me By. “Sheena Is a Parasite” is a distant memory, and now they’re a sort of hazy, neo-psychedelic band, supporting whatever is left of Depeche Mode on the latter’s tour this year.

Bad Nerves – Radio Punk. An anthemic punk-pop track from this Essex quartet on their third single to date.

Mourn – Color Me Impressed. These Catalonian punks are prepping to release their third album, having appeared a few times on my lists before (“Gertrudis, Get Through This!” was #66 on my top songs of 2015); Hinds gets all the love among Barcelona indie bands, but Mourn is much further along in both songcraft and pure playing skill.

Quicksand – Illuminant. This incredibly influential post-hardcore band just released its first new song in 23 years, which is weird because…

Less Art – Wandering Ghost. The three members of Puig Destroyer are all in this new post-hardcore quintet, whose debut album Strangled Light reminded me a ton of Quicksand’s first two LPs from the mid-1990s.

INHEAVEN – World On Fire. This south London quartet have released a bunch of singles but no album yet; this was the first of their tracks to hit my ears and I like the hard-rock leanings (the main guitar riff has a great hook) and ’90s college-radio feel.

Ensiferum – Way of the Warrior. Folk or Viking metal kind of cracks me up – it seems like such a strange mashup, these heavy riffs and loud percussion merged with what sound like Irish dance songs. This Finnish band just changed keyboard players, replacing Emmi Silvennoinen with accordionist Netta Skog, whose instrument is front and center on this track.

Mendel – Descending Upon Hades. Instrumental, progressive/classical metal from the Dutch guitarist Mendel bij de Leij, who is also the guitarist for the Belgian extreme death metal band Aborted, whose “music” doesn’t even deserve that moniker. It turns out Mendel is a technical wizard, however, and this track shows off his shredding skills and his creativity.

The Haunted – Preachers of Death. The Haunted were born from the ashes of At the Gates when that band broke up in 1996, although they later reformed and released a new (very good) album in 2014. The Haunted are similar musically to AtG, melodic death metal with a little less emphasis on melodic elements and heavier riffing … but this sounds for all the world to me like an At the Gates song. And that’s a good thing if you like extreme metal.

Arch Enemy – The Eagle Flies Alone. I really like the guitar work in this track … but if it weren’t for the death-growl vocals, this would barely qualify as metal, let alone as death metal, right? It’d be a better song with clean vocals given the disconnect, although the lyrics are so trite that perhaps it’s better if listeners can’t understand them. After “The World Is Yours,” I was optimistic about these Swedish stalwarts returning to form on this album; now I’m concerned they’re going the path of In Flames towards metal irrelevance.

Music update, July 2017.

I’m going dark for a week, but I’ll tide you over with a new playlist, which you can access directly in Spotify or via the widget below.

Arcade Fire – Signs of Life. I’ve listened to their new album, Everything Now, and I can certainly understand why some people hate it. The lyrics are beyond pretentious; the too-clever-by-half songwriting we saw on Reflektor appears to be a feature rather than a bug. Social commentary and criticism by anecdote worked beautifully on The Suburbs, one of the best albums of the century so far, but their frontal attempt to ridicule their targets only leaves them looking ridiculous (“Infinite Content” comes to mind). But this song is good, “Creature Comforts” is solid, and the album’s title track is definitely the best thing ABBA has done in forty years.

Sløtface – Pitted. This Norwegian punk-pop act, definitely among my favorite finds of the last year or so, does what Arcade Fire used to do – they tell fun stories that seem frivolous but abound with meaningful details, and every song they’ve released has had a catchy hook.

Atomic Tom – Burn the Witch. Atomic Tom covered my #1 song of 2016, and managed to make it newly sinister via a different arrangement and the introduction of a heavy guitar line in the second chorus.

Allie X – Vintage. Almost too poppy for my tastes, but the chorus and the keyboard riff both stuck in my head after one listen.

Hundred Waters – Blanket Me. Hundred Waters had my top album of 2015, and this single is very much in the same vein of experimental, airy, voice-as-instrument music.

Foster The People – Lotus Eater. Didn’t love their new album, which dispenses with the stuff that worked (for me) on Supermodel, but this track does recall that album’s more rock-oriented moments.

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – The Punishment of Luxury. I can’t believe it’s 2017 and I put an OMD track on a best new music playlist.

Dan Croll – Bad Boy. I wasn’t familiar with this English singer-songwriter, who just released his second album, Emerging Adulthood. This seems like it has a good chance to be a big crossover pop hit if US radio gives it a chance.

The War On Drugs – Strangest Thing. I wish their songs were shorter, and maybe that the singer would stop wth the Dylan impersonations, but they’ve reeled off a bunch of compelling songs in a row now.

Wolf Parade – Valley Boy. I didn’t think these guys were ever getting back together.

Little Cub – Too Much Love. I felt like some of the vocals on this London trio’s debut album, Still Life, are just too precious, but the soulful electronica behind the words is simultaneously sophisticated and rapturous.

Nine Inch Nails – Not Anymore. I didn’t think much of NIN’s new EP; this was the best track of the five.

YONAKA – Wouldn’t Wanna Be Ya. Strong riot grrrl vibe here with a perfect putdown in the hooky chorus. This is the kind of track Mister Wives keeps trying to make.

The Night Café – Felicity. This Liverpudlian quartet is touring with Sundara Karma and sounds a lot like Sundara Karma.

Prong – Divide And Conquer. I’ve mentioned before how Prong’s Beg to Differ is both one of my favorite metal albums ever and a seminal record in defining my taste in music. New Prong kind of makes me sad, since they’ve long since morphed into any-metal act with only occasional hints of their former glory, like on this track, still angry if overproduced.

Arch Enemy – The World Is Yours. I thought Arch Enemy’s last album, its first with the band’s new lead singer, was formulaic and cliched, a far cry from the band’s heights as one of the most important bands in the Gothenburg school of death metal. This song, from their upcoming album Will to Power, is easily better than anything from that last record.

Music update, June 2017.

Huge month for new music – 31 songs on this playlist is a new record for me, but this is after I cut a few tracks just to try to limit it to the best songs I’ve heard since June 1st. You can access the Spotify playlist below or via this direct link.

Oh Wonder – High On Humans. I know a few of you are big Oh Wonder fans, but they’re pretty new to me, and so far I’m a fan – this is good, smart, alternative pop.

Portugal. The Man – Rich Friends. Their latest album Woodstock dropped two weeks ago and is really strong, their usual mix of bombastic, melodic rock, with more R&B influences than I’ve heard on previous records.

The Amazons – Black Magic. Fairly new English band from Reading who’ve gotten a ton of hype in the British music and mainstream press; I’m a fan of the huge guitar riff driving this song.

Sløtface – Nancy Drew. The Norwegian punk-popsters who gave us “Empire Records” last year are back with another subtly poppy track with slightly twisted lyrics.

Waxahatchee – Never Been Wrong. Katie Crutchfield’s next album, Out in the Storm, comes out on July 14th, and this track is more in the folk-rock vein of 2015’s “Under a Rock.”

The Preatures – Girlhood. This Australian quintet is about to release its first album since 2014, with a similar ’60s British pop/rock vibe. Also, I couldn’t figure out what the repeated line was in the verse, but according to my Internet it’s “a morning girl.”

Beach Fossils – Tangerine. Brooklyn indie-rockers Beach Fossils just released their latest album, Somersault, of stoner/surfer/lo-fi tracks, with this track offering the best hook on the album.

The Districts – If Before I Wake. I didn’t love the Districts’ acclaimed 2015 album, A Flourish and a Spoil, but this song is absolutely anthemic.

No Win – You’ll Be Fine. Apparently No Win is a side project of a member of FIDLAR, although I’m not a big fan of FIDLAR’s music so I was totally unaware of this, but hey, this song rocks.

Ride – Lannoy Point. The shoegazers’ first album in 21 years, Weather Diaries, starts out very strong and has probably four songs that would fit in very well with their vintage output, but I felt like it tapered off towards more maudlin lyrics and less inventive music.

Radiohead – I Promise. Radiohead has reissued OK Computer for the seminal album’s 20th anniversary in a two-disc set called OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017, including three previously unreleased tracks from the recording sessions, including this melancholy acoustic track, which would have fit very well on The Bends.

Manchester Orchestra – The Alien. Speaking of melancholy acoustic tracks, one of two new singles from Manchester Orchestra off their upcoming album A Black Mile to the Surface, is a surprisingly melodic, gentle song from a band I typically associate with huge, crunching guitars and with Andy Hull screaming himself hoarse.

Birdtalker – One. Another acoustic track, this one more like vintage folk with some smart and incisive lyrics, from a new Nashville band founded by the wife-and-husband duo of Dani and Zack Green.

The War On Drugs – Holding On. At least this time, the boys kept the song under six minutes! The Bob Dylan overtones can still be a bit much but this song has a driving, memorable hook that really powers the track even when Adam Granduciel starts to sound more like Richard Belzer doing a Dylan impression.

Liam Gallagher – Wall Of Glass. Yep, that’s the former Oasis singer, with what sounds like a solid post-Be Here Now sort of Oasis track.

Death From Above (1979) – Freeze Me. They’ve dropped the ‘1979’ from their name, although it still appears on Spotify. After a decade-long hiatus, they’re about to release their second album in three years, with this lead single probably my favorite track from them yet.

Washed Out – Get Lost. To borrow a malaprop from my daughter, I’m just so-and-so on Washed Out, the nom de chill of Ernest Greene, whose latest album Mister Mellow drops on Friday. This song encapsulates what I like about Washed Out – a melodic, upbeat, highly layered track that brings more complexity than just calling it a dance song would indicate.

Sparks – What The Hell Is It This Time?. Sparks have been around since the early 1970s, although if you know them at all, it’s probably from their one-off collaboration with Jane Wiedlin, “Cool Places,” which reached #49 on the Billboard 100 and became a staple of new-wave compilations. Now aged 71 and 68, the brothers Mael are about to release their 22nd album, Hippopotamus, and this very catchy lead single finds them just as weird as ever.

Floating Points – Kelso Dunes (Edit). Experimental music is an acquired taste and I won’t pretend to be an expert, but I’ve liked some of Sam Shepherd’s stuff so far, and not just because he’s a neuroscientist who happens to make music.

Phoenix – Ti Amo. The title track from the Grammy winners’ latest record is a throwback to the two-step/garage era of the early ’90s on top of the new wave stylings they usually bring.

Arcade Fire – Creature Comfort. I liked “Everything Now” more, but that’s a top five track of the year for me, so that’s not exactly a slight to this second single from their upcoming fifth album.

Queens of the Stone Age – The Way You Used To Do. Anything from QotSA is an automatic inclusion. Their upcoming album Villains comes out August 25th.

Royal Blood – Hole In Your Heart. The duo’s second album, ?How Did We Get So Dark? , came out earlier this month and it really rocks – it’s a step ahead of their debut – with this, “Lights Out,” “Hook, Line, & Sinker,” “I Only Lie When I Love You,” and “Where Are You Now?” my favorites.

Wolf Alice – Yuk Foo. The first single from the British quartet’s upcoming sophomore album, Visions of a Life, is harder and harsher than anything I remember from their debut album, which had a great balance of hard, fast, driving rock and mellower passages that showcased singer/guitarist Ellie Rowsell’s vocal range.

A Giant Dog – Bendover. It’s so loud and obnoxious it’s almost shtick, but it works on this track.

Superchunk – Up Against the Wall. Not only have Superchunk not changed their sound in their nearly 30 years of recording, they don’t even sound like they’ve aged on their new two-track release (the other song, “I Got Cut,” is more of the same).

Jason Loewenstein – Superstitious. Hard rock from one of the guitarists in Lou Barlow’s Sebadoh and the Fiery Furnaces.

Big Boi with Troze – Chocolate. Big Boi’s album Boomiverse is … fine, I guess. I like his vocal style, but I think the album suffers from too many guest spots and from some mediocre beats. Highlights include this track and “Kill Jill” (with Killer Mike and Jeezy).

Ice Cube – Good Cop Bad Cop. A bonus track on the 25th anniversary reissue of Death Certificate, this new song has Ice Cube actually sounding a bit like his old self on a very angry track about police shootings of unarmed black victims and the blue wall of silence that protects the perpetrators.

Less Art – Pessimism as Denial. The new band featuring Ian Miller (Kowloon Walled City) and Riley Breckenridge (Thrice) of the old Productive Outs podcast and of the, uh, grindcore (?) band Puig Destroyer strongly reminds me of early ’90s post-hardcore acts like Quicksand. This first single is off their first album, Strangled Light, due July 28th.

Danzig – Skulls & Daisies. Here primarily for its novelty, as Glenn Danzig is now 62 and sounds it throughout his namesake band’s latest album, salvaged on this track by the guitar work of Tommy Victor, whose main band, Prong, also has a new album due next month.

Music update, May 2017.

My ranking of the top 100 prospects for Monday’s MLB Rule 4 draft is now up for Insiders.

If I don’t hurry up and post this, it’ll be a two-month update that has about 50 songs on it, so rather than wait for the time I’d need to do a full writeup, here’s my latest playlist of new music.

Tracks:

  1. alt-J – Adeline.
  2. Arcade Fire – Everything Now.
  3. The Afghan Whigs – Toy Automatic.
  4. Royal Blood – Hook, Line & Sinker.
  5. Portugal. The Man – So Young.
  6. Wavves – No Shade.
  7. The New Pornographers – Darling Shade.
  8. Japanese Breakfast – Machinist.
  9. machineheart – Shelter.
  10. Hoops – On Letting Go.
  11. Sløtface – Magazine.
  12. Sheer Mag – Just Can’t Get Enough.
  13. Fictionist – Lazarus.
  14. MisterWives – Coloring Outside The Lines.
  15. Are We Static – Heartbreaker.
  16. The Chain Gang Of 1974 – Looking For Love.
  17. WATERS – Something More.
  18. Cloves – California Numb.
  19. Courtney Barnett – How to Boil an Egg.
  20. Sundara Karma – Explore.
  21. Swet Shop Boys – Zombie.
  22. Danger Mouse, Run The Jewels, Big Boi – Chase Me.

Some quick thoughts: I didn’t love alt-J’s new album, Relaxer, as they’ve continued to move away from the minimalist approach of their debut album, but thought the new WAVVES record was strong, and liked the new records from Afghan Whigs (more than their comeback LP) and WATERS. I’ve listed to the New Pornographers’ Whiteout Conditions, released in April a few times; I think it’s solid but not as good throughout as Brill Bruisers. I’m looking forward to the upcoming releases from Royal Blood, Arcade Fire, and Cloves. The Courtney Barnett song is a one-off single, a song she said she wrote when she was much younger but had never recorded. I’ve ended with two hip-hop songs – the Swet Shop Boys (Riz Ahmed & Heems) returned with a six-track EP, while the last song is from the 30-song soundtrack to the upcoming film Baby Driver.

Music update, April 2017.

I wrote a book, Smart Baseball. You should buy it.

This month’s playlist has 24 songs, and started out over 30 before I started cutting back; I have usually tried to keep them under 20 songs or under 90 minutes but I reached a point where I didn’t have anything left I felt good about removing. A few songs are here because of who’s singing, but most are here just because they’re good songs (Brent … I need to stop using that line). If the embedded widget below doesn’t work you can access the Spotify playlist here.

Royal Blood – Lights Out. This British duo had my #1 song of 2014 with “Out of the Black,” and this new single from their upcoming sophomore album does not disappoint – it’s heavy, dark, and menacing, just like their biggest hit.

DJ Shadow, Nas – Systematic. Nas sounds as good as ever here on this track from the soundtrack to the HBO series Silicon Valley. I particularly like the part where Nas gives us a recipe, complete with directions on how long to cook the cranberries.

The Afghan Whigs – Demon in Profile. Afghan Whigs’ comeback album in 2014? didn’t do as much for me as their upcoming record In Spades, which I heard early thanks to the band’s publicist. Gregg Dulli still sounds great for 52 (!) and the album brings a strong mix of hard rockers and more midtempo tracks like this one.

Ride – All I Want. Another big comeback, as Ride’s first new album in 21 years, Weather Diaries, comes out on June 16th. I believe this is the third single from the new album and they all sound like classic Ride, who were among the most important bands in the first shoegaze era.

Anteros – Cherry Drop. This London quartet sound straight out of the 1979 London new wave/post-punk scene; you can hear Debbie Harry’s influence in the vocals.

Tigers Jaw – June. This punk-pop act from Scranton has apparently had some drama in the last few years over whether they’d actually broken up. This single from their album spin, due out May 19th, marries sweet, high-register vocals with distorted guitar work that sounds like math-rock acts (such as Polvo) for a power-pop result.

The Night Game – The Outfield. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, or some trick of the mind, but this song reminds me strongly of the band The Outfield, both in the style of music and lead singer’s voice. Anyway, this is a strong pop track with background vocals from Gotye. And I’m not the only one to notice the similarity to the band behind perennial walkup song “Your Love.”

The Aces – Physical. The Aces, an all-girl quartet from Utah who made my top 100 last year with their single “Stuck,” return with their second release, “Physical,” another solid pop song that just doesn’t quite have the same hook as their first track.

Splashh – Closer. This Australian indie-rock act’s second album, Waiting a Lifetime, came out on April 14th, more evidence of that country’s tremendous music scene right now, producing great rock and electronic music. The production has a real shoegaze quality, with the vocals mixed somewhat towards the back (but not incomprehensible like on My Bloody Valentine’s work).

WATERS – Molly Is A Babe. Van Pierzalowski’s main band will release its new album, Something More, on May 19th, with this track the second single and “Stand By You,” which just appeared in the last few days, the third. Good luck getting this song’s whining guitar lick out of your head any time soon.

Panama – Hope For Something. Here’s another Aussie act, one I first found with their single “Always,” which I put at #51 on my 2013 year-end list. “Hope for Something” is more layered, with ornate instrumentation and a slower build to the hook, but it’s still a big one.

Feist – Century (feat. Jarvis Cocker). I have mixed feelings on this song, but Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker makes an appearance, so here you go.

Joseph of Mercury – Find You Inside. This was the first song I’d heard by Joseph of Mercury, a Toronto-based singer-songwriter who debuted in 2015 with the song “Lips.” This song, his second single this year, combines a less-poppy sort of ’80s new wave with brooding baritone vocals, enunciated like Morrissey does. The result feels soulful without any evident R&B influences.

Sundara Karma – She Said. This may not be new to Sirius XM listeners, as Alt Nation has it in heavy rotation because Sundara Karma is on some XM-sponsored tour.

Black Asteroid – Howl (feat. Zola Jesus). I’m not a big Zola Jesus fan – her incredibly pretentious stage name doesn’t help matters – but her voice’s hollow quality and the stark production here perfectly match the sci-fi horror feel of the electronic music.

Foster The People – S.H.C. Foster the People just put out a three-song teaser EP ahead of their third album, which they’re promising for June or July. “S.H.C.” is the most recognizably FTP of the three songs, with a ’70s guitar riff and vague Latin influences in the percussion.

Portugal. The Man – Number One (feat. Richie Havens & Son Little). Their first single from their upcoming album, “Feel It Still,” might be my favorite song of 2017 so far. This song, though … I don’t even know what I think of it and I’ve listened to it at least a half a dozen times. It’s way out there even for P.TM, with samples from the late folk singer Richie Havens’ song “Freedom” and a collaboration from singer Son Little. The new album, Woodstock, is out June 16th, and they have my full attention.

Pond – Paint Me Silver. Spacey psychedelic rock from Australia. Recommended if you like Tame Impala. Recommended even if you think Tame Impala could stand to keep their songs under four minutes.

Sylvan Esso – The Glow. I am truly not a fan of Sylvan Esso, neither their music nor Amelia Meath’s overly precious vocal style, so it says something about this track that I included it anyway. Saying I think it’s the best thing they’ve done doesn’t tell you much, but there’s a great chorus here if you can get past the track’s opening sound of a digital file skipping.

Miami Horror – Sign of the Times. This Aussie trio has a little bit of a Foster the People vibe, mixing electronic and funk, but more decidedly out of the mainstream, especially with the spoken-word section towards the end of the track. Their latest EP, The Shapes, just came out last week.

Sepultura – Iceberg Dances. I understand people have strong feelings on post-Max Sepultura, but their newest album, Machine Messiah, features some progressive and technically impressive fretwork, most notable for me on this instrumental track.

SikTh – Vivid. I’ve read in a few places how important or influential SikTh have been since their 2003 debut album, but I find it hard to believe given how little I’ve come across their music or how infrequently they’ve recorded anything. Their forthcoming The Future in Whose Eyes? will be just their third album in fifteen years. This frenetic track seems to veer in style from progressive death metal to aggro groove metal and back again.

DragonForce – Judgement Day. DragonForce cracks me up, although I don’t know that this is intended to be funny. They’re just such an unrepetant throwback to the earliest days of thrash, where soaring vocals reminiscent of Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson were common, and fantasy and mythology themes were king. If you remember vintage Helloween with Kai Hansen, that gives you some idea of what DragonForce is about, maybe with a few shakes of Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Rising Force.

Memoriam – Memoriam. This is some heavy, sludgy, old-school death metal, with the band and song a tribute to a deceased member of the seminal ’90s British death metal band Bolt Thrower.