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, 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, 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.

Music update, February 2017.

Big month for new tracks, enough that I started out with 30 songs here and couldn’t cut any lower than 24 without taking out something I liked. I’ve got five metal tracks and two rap songs at the end, but before that we have returns from a bunch of my favorite artists, several appearing in new projects.

If you can’t see the Spotify widget below you can go directly to the playlist here.

WATERS – Hiccups. Friend of the dish Van Pierzalowski returns with the first new single from WATERS in almost a year and a half, and true to form it’s an upbeat indie-pop track with a big hook, definitely something to be sung by ten thousand people in an arena with the volume turned up to 11. (Because it’s one louder than 10.) WATERS’ third album, Something More!, is due out May 19th.

MisterWives – Machine. This NYC indie-pop outfit appears to be channeling Shakira with this funky, swirling, brass-heavy, stomp-along track that feels lush and intricate below the vocals. I think there’s real crossover potential here. The lyrics are a bit of a weak spot here, though, like rhymes from a teenager’s Poetry notebook: “Maybe I’m a dying breed/But I believe in individuality.” Yeah, no one else believes in that any more, it’s just you.

Johnossi – Hands. I heard this track, with lyrics about police profiling of African-Americans, and assumed Johnossi was an American singer of color … only to find out it’s a Norwegian duo singing rather well about an issue that I associated mostly with the United States. It should be a hit if for no other reason than the closing couplet “fuck them haters, we don’t care/put your hands up in the air.”

White Reaper – Judy French. White Reaper rocks your lame ass. Their second album, The World’s Best American Band, is due out April 7th.

Love Thy Brother featuring Ariel Beesley – Love Me Better. This actually came out last year, and I just whiffed on it because on first listen I couldn’t get past the singer’s weird pronunciations. The Montreal duo, actually brothers, teamed up with model/singer Beesley for a very catchy electronic track with an undeniable groove behind the verses, although I think when the music drops behind the choruses the song loses some momentum.

Ten Fé – In the Air. I think I’ve exhausted songs worth sharing from Ten Fé’s debut album, called Hit the Light, which has been my favorite new record of 2017 to date. (It’ll be surpassed shortly, with some big releases coming up this month and next.) Most of the songs I’ve liked from Ten Fé have had heavy new wave influences, but this one is just a straight pop song, something you might have heard on the radio as easily in 1980 as today.

Beach Slang – Bored Teenagers. These Philly punks supposedly broke up during a concert last year, then got back together and fired some members … I don’t know, I’m just here for the music. I do think it’s important that bands with “Beach” in their name deliver on that promise by playing punk or garage or even surf rock, as opposed to Beach House, who are basically just false advertising.

Bleached – Can You Deal?. They’ve doubled their membership over the last two years, adding a bassist and a drummer, and are about to release a new EP, with this punk-pop tune as the title track. It’s a bit of a slow starter, but when they hit the gas in around the midpoint it finally sounds more like a Bleached song.

Future Islands – Ran. I suppose they’ll never top their performance of “Seasons” on Letterman, but this is a good fascimile of that track, with the same pronounced bass line and ’70s soft-rock feel over a contemporary drum beat.

Depeche Mode – Where’s the Revolution. I’m a longtime DM fan, especially of their more goth-rock late ’80s heyday (think “Never Let Me Down Again,” not “Just Can’t Get Enough”), so any new single from them would make my list, but this felt a little soft for a lead single, like we got an album track instead of the song to make you want to run out and get the album.

Coast Modern – Comb My Hair. This LA duo reminds me a lot of WATERS and a little of Best Coast, with a dash of post-Pinkerton Weezer thrown in, which, uh, waters down the sound a bit. They could do with a little more complexity here, but from the handful of singles Coast Modern has put out to date I think it’s clear they have the ability to craft some solid hooks in the California indie vein.

Space Above – Let It Still. Space Above are a side project for The Naked & Famous keyboardist Aaron Short to do more experimental keyboard-driven songs, but there’s still a clear melody at work on this mesmerizing, textured single. The group’s debut album, Still, dropped on February 17th.

Strand of Oaks – Radio Kids. Timothy Showalter, who records as Strand of Oaks, seems to be at his best when writing nostalgic tunes about being a kid and listening to music. This psychedelic rock track, from his newest record Hard Love. reminds me of “Goshen ’97,” the best song off his previous album.

Mew – 85 Videos. This Danish group, whose singer calls their music “indie stadium,” is about to release its seventh album in late April, with “85 Videos” the lead single. The band has dropped the progressive trappings of its early career in favor of a more dream-pop approach with immaculate production and great technical skills, but without forsaking a good melody that wouldn’t be out of place in ’85.

Sarah Chernoff – Warm Nights. This solo debut from the lead singer of Superhumanoids shows off Chernoff’s incredible voice in a different milieu, over a bass-heavy, almost jazzy groove that’s evocative of a dark club or some sort of intimate venue for a concert. I’ll list just about anything she does on these updates.

Ride – Home Is A Feeling. Shoegaze has come back around again. Slowdive is back, Ride is back, Lush is back … I’m waiting for the Swervedriver/Catherine Wheel double bill. Ride hasn’t released a proper album since 1996, but have put out two singles in the last month – this and “Charm Assault” – presaging an album due out this summer.

Aristophanes – Humans Become Machines. Aristophanes (born Pan Wei-Ju) was introduced to the west on Grimes’ Art Angels album, where the Taiwanese rapper took the lead on the track “Scream.” It’s definitely disorienting to hear a high-pitched female voice rapping in Chinese, but Grimes produced this track, which is good enough for me.

Joey Bada$$ – Victory. The lead single from Bada$$’s upcoming second album is an ode to the NBA, which doesn’t do much for me itself, but his flow really stands out to me, even above other more popular “alternative” rappers like Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole.

CyHi The Prynce – Nu Africa. I’m not trying to change the world, I’m not looking for a nu Africa … wait, that’s the wrong song. CyHi, a frequent collaborator with Kanye West, is playing wordgames here as he tries to squeeze a slew of African country names into the lyrics (I counted 22), but there’s also a very old-school Native Tongues sort of Afrocentrism here, with an argument that black Americans should do more to help develop the “motherland.”

King Woman – Shame. You don’t see many women singing on doom metal tracks, but this is Kristina Esfandiari’s band and she is the dominant presence on this song, although I wish her vocals were produced more towards the front of the mix. It’s like Diamanda Galas doing guest vocals for Pallbearer.

Sleep – The Clarity. I didn’t realize this seminal stoner-rock act, best known for the single-track 2003 album Dopesmoker, had recorded any new material since that record, but this song first appeared on a compilation in 2014 and showed up on Spotify this week. It’s a nearly ten-minute dirge of vintage stoner metal, veering towards doom.

Ignea – Petrichor. A female-fronted symphonic/folk metal band from Ukraine, formerly known as Parallax, Ignea just released their debut album under this name, although several of these songs (including this one) have appeared previously. Their sound is fascinating, and also taught me a new word: the OED defines “petrichor” as “a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.”

Havok – Intention to Deceive. Havok are an old-school thrash outfit that draws heavily on 1980s influences like Overkill and Vio-lence, the latter of whom could easily have recorded this song – which has very timely lyrics about authorities distracting the public with trivial controversies while greater ones go unreported.

Mastodon – Show Yourself. This might be the poppiest song I’ve ever heard from Mastodon, and I don’t mean that as an insult. It’s the shortest track from the band’s upcoming album, Emperor of Sand, which comes out at the end of the month, and still has progressive/technical elements but rides on a strong vocal hook that introduces the song.

Music update, November 2016.

November was very strong both for new album releases and for singles that preview albums we will see in January and February of next year, but really, this was about the Tribe, y’all. If you can’t see the embedded player below, you can click here to get directly to the Spotify playlist.

A Tribe Called Quest – We The People… The Tribe’s return this month on We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service was a welcome comeback from one of the towering lights of the Golden Age of Hip-Hop, tinged with sorrow from the March death of founding member Phife Dawg, who died near the end of the recording process. Q-Tip sounds as good as ever, and Jarobi White’s first appearance with the Tribe since the group’s debut album provides a low-register voice to balance Tip and Phife’s higher deliveries. The album is full of rage, true to the quartet’s Afro-centric roots but with an angry, cynical worldview they didn’t have or need on their earlier albums. This is the record of the year, and it is very much a document of our time.

Ten Fé – Overflow. This London duo does a modernized riff on classic, synth-heavy new wave, and this single, which I believe is their fifth so far, is perfect if you like the music of White Lies.

Japandroids – Near To The Wild Heart Of Life. I did not share the industry consensus on Japandroids’ 2012 album Celebration Rock, which I thought was too much noise and not enough rock. This first single ahead of their next album’s release on January 27th shows better production values and a tighter sense of melody than anything I heard off their last record.

Sundara Karma – The Night. Sundara Karma are a quartet from Reading – the one in England, not the one near me – that seem to fit in somewhere between late Britpop and the sort of traditional American arena-rock now exemplified by Kings of Leon. “The Night,” from their debut EP Loveblood, definitely leans more toward the American half of that formula, with a blues-rock underpinning and the sort of yearning sound I associate with KoL’s slower material.

Milky Chance – Cocoon. After 2015’s “Stolen Dance,” I sort of assumed we’d never hear anything decent from Milky Chance again; between that song’s novelty sound and their awful band name, they had one-hit wonder written all over them. “Cocoon” is actually a pretty good song, though – not quite as catchy as their first hit but catchy enough to be a hit on its own.

Sleigh Bells – I Can’t Stand You Anymore. Sleigh Bells, like Japandroids, tend to be too noise-oriented for me, often reminding me of the worst sound excesses of 1990s “industrial” music. Alexis Krauss has a great voice that I’ve always thought ill-fitting for the duo’s musical style, but when they pursue a more pop-oriented direction, as here or on their first hit, “Rill Rill,” her vocal combination of power and sweetness provides the perfect contrast.

Cloves – Better Now. Cloves is an auto-inclusion after her 2015 song “Frail Love,” which made my top ten tracks of the year. “Better Now” is the first release from her forthcoming full-length debut, still raw and very dark but with some textural contrast between the chorus and the nearly a capella verses.

Grace VanderWaal – I Don’t Know My Name. I don’t know how you could have missed her, but VanderWaal just won the most recent season of America’s Got Talent and released her debut EP, Perfectly Imperfect, on December 2nd. She wrote the music and lyrics for all five songs on the record. She’s twelve years old. Simon Cowell said she’s the next Taylor Swift and I don’t think that was usual TV hyperbole.

Hey Violet – Brand New Moves. Formerly known as Cherri Bomb, this LA-based quintet has gone from opening for the defunct alt-rock band Lostprophets to opening for the awful boy-band 5SOS, neither of makes much sense if you listen to their latest EP, their first recording under their new name. This is funk/soul-tinged pop music, definitely smarter musically than you’d expect from a group touring with a boy band, with lyrics inappropriate for the tween crowds I assume they were facing.

FREAK – Nowhere. English singer Connar Ridd records as FREAK and toured with Sundara Karma earlier this year. I saw a review that compared this track to Nirvana’s Nevermind, but FREAK is more Mudhoney than Nirvana, or if you’d like a more contemporary reference, it sounds a lot like the better tracks from Drenge’s self-titled debut.

Lapcat – She’s Bad. A Swiss-American electronica trio, Lapcat just released its third album, and this title track has the same hynoptic vibe of Portishead and early trip-hop stalwarts like Massive Attack or Tricky, but with a more accessible sound than either of those latter two acts brought.

Peter Doherty – Kolly Kibber. The Libertines’ ne’er-do-well singer/guitarist is not dead yet and appears to have a solo album in the works. There’s no mistaking Doherty’s voice or his style, although he tends to pack better punches than this song delivers.

Gone Is Gone – Gift. This ‘supergroup,’ featuring members of Mastodon, QotSA, and At the Drive-In, appeared on my May playlist with their strong, stoner-rock debut track “Violescent,” part of an eight-song EP, and they’re already back with a track from their first full-length album, Echolocation, due out January 6th.

Run The Jewels featuring BOOTS – 2100. I’m also on record as being something less than a fan of Run the Jewels’ profane lyrics, most of which are boasting about what great rappers they are (they’re not) or about their guns. If you haven’t heard RtJ before, you’ve at least heard one half of the duo, Killer Mike, who delivered the middle and by far the worst verse on Outkast’s 2002 hit “The Whole World.” RtJ’s third album is due out soon and I can at least say that this is the best song I’ve heard from the group, boosted by the presence of producer/singer BOOTS, who helped produced the group’s last album and whose track “I Run Roulette” appeared on one of my monthly playlists in 2015.

Black Map – Run Rabbit Run. Wikipedia identifies Black Map as “post-hardcore,” and what in the fuck is post-hardcore music? This isn’t hardcore, or anything like it; it’s hard rock, just this side of metal. It would fit on Octane, and it wouldn’t be out of place on Liquid Metal. There’s a bass-and-drum riff in the chorus here that feels derived from more extreme genres, but there’s an actual harmony in the vocals in the bridge, and a better sense of melody than you’d get from most post-whatever bands right now.

Pissed Jeans – The Bar Is Low. So, this is a bad name for a band, and I don’t love a lot of their songs because the lead singer often sounds like he’s gargling a pack of razor blades. You can actually understand what he’s saying and tolerate his voice on this track, though.

Sumerlands – The Seventh Seal. A reader recommended this group, which brings the big guitar sounds of NWOBHM and early ’80s metal but doesn’t have the same strong melodies of classic Maiden or Priest. This track was my favorite off their self-titled debut album, thanks to the memorable opening guitar riff.

Animals As Leaders – Backpfeifengesicht. More instrumental metal wizardry from Tosin Abasi & friends.

Hammerfall – Bring It!. Hammerfall hail from Gothenburg, home of a specific type of melodic death metal known, but they’re a throwback speed-metal band that just released its tenth album, Built to Last, at the start of November. If you remember the first two albums by German speed-metal titans Helloween, this song could easily be a leftover track from those recording sessions.

Kreator – Gods of Violence. I tweeted about this song a few weeks ago – Kreator’s core members are all nearing or just over 50, and they dropped one of the year’s best metal tracks. Kreator was probably the first extreme-metal band to which I was ever exposed, thanks to MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball, which would play the psychedelic videos for their early songs “Betrayer” and “Toxic Trace;” I also remember hearing “Some Pain Will Last” in college but lost track of the band after their 1990 album Coma of Souls as they evolved away from classic thrash metal. It appears that they’ve gone back to their classic sound, but better production values and some real songcraft make “Gods of Violence,” which incorporates some death-metal elements but is still undeniably thrash, as compelling as any of their 1980s tracks.

Stick to baseball, 11/20/16.

I spent the last week on vacation with my family, in the Bahamas, which was lovely due to the weather, the friendly people, and the rum. Before I left, I filed four offseason buyers’ guides, to the markets for starting pitchers, relief pitchers, infielders & catchers, and outfielders. I also participated in a ’roundtable’ piece with Dan Szymborski where we discussed our NL ROY ballots.

I reviewed the family boardgame Legendary Inventors for Paste; it’s cute but feels a bit unfinished given the imbalance across the various scoring methods. Earlier this month, I updated my all-time favorite boardgame rankings, which now runs to 100 titles.

You can preorder my upcoming book, Smart Baseball, on amazon. Also, please sign up for my more-or-less weekly email newsletter.

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Stick to baseball, 10/29/16.

I wrote one Insider piece this week, a World Series preview, although I also spent some time working on the upcoming free agents ranking. I also held my regular Klawchat on Thursday.

For Paste, my latest boardgame review covers Arcane Academy, a wizard-themed game that isn’t aimed at kids specifically but that I think is a much better game for young players than for adults.

You can preorder my upcoming book, Smart Baseball, on amazon, which now shows the correct cover. Also, please sign up for my more-or-less weekly email newsletter.

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Stick to baseball, 9/24/16.

I named Houston’s Alex Bregman as our 2016 Prospect of the Year, and listed a bunch of other worthy candidates and the 2016 draftees who had the top debuts as well, all for Insiders. I also held a Klawchat on Thursday.

My latest boardgame review for Paste covers the cute, fast-playing game New Bedford, where players build the town and send ships out on whaling expeditions to rack up points. I really loved everything about that game – it looks great, the play is simple, Within that review is a paragraph on its two-player spinoff, Nantucket.

You can pre-order my book, Smart Baseball, on amazon already; it’s due out in April. Also, sign up for my email newsletter to stay up to date on all the stuff I write in various places.

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Music update, August 2016.

First, some non-music links – my thoughts on the Yoan Moncada promotion for Insiders, and my review of the coop murder-mystery boardgame Mysterium for Paste.

August was pretty fertile for new releases – I ended up cutting a few songs from the list this time around – with a number of singles out previewing albums due to drop in the next six weeks. I feel like overall this is the worst year for strong albums in a while, but it’s at least a solid-average year for great tracks. We still have time for something to grab me as the clear album of the year, though, so I’m trying to keep a positive attitude and take it one playlist at a time. Spotify users can use this direct link to the playlist if the widget doesn’t show up.

Swet Shop Boys – Tiger Hologram. If the voice with the British accent sounds familiar, that’s Riz Ahmed, the actor who played Naz on HBO’s The Night Of, paired here with Heems (ex-Das Racist) over a beat that was the best bit of new music I heard all month. The New Yorker profiled the duo ahead of the release of their debut album, Cashmere, in October.

Dinosaur Jr. – Goin Down. This is my favorite track right now from their new album, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, mostly because it just rocks and that’s when I’ve tended to like their music and not find myself bothered by J Mascis’s vocals.

Dawes – When The Tequila Runs Out. This song is just goofy-fun, more upbeat than stuff I’ve heard before from the brothers Goldsmith, who’ve also been working with Van Pierszalowski on his new project under the name Van William.

Atomic Tom – Someone to Love. Atomic Tom is new to me, even though they’ve been around for a decade and released albums in 2010 and 2015, with the latter, ERA, including this incredibly infectious 1980s-style pop gem.

The Naked And Famous – Laid Low. Never has this New Zealand quintet sounded more like CHVRCHES than they do here – and that’s a compliment. Now I’m going to ruin the song for you by pointing out that the two notes in the chorus where she sings “Taaaaake me” are the same two notes of “Tell me” from the chorus of “Always on My Mind.”

Christine and the Queens – Tilted (Live From Spotify London). I don’t think I’ve ever included a live track on one of these playlists, but I didn’t highlight “Tilted” when it came out last year and the song has grown on me, especially with this strong live performance. I still don’t think the French language is well-suited for rapping, though.

Kate Nash – Good Summer. I’ve got mixed feelings on this pop song from Nash, who peaked commercially and critically with her debut album and UK hit “Foundations;” I still love her voice and her ear for melody, but these lyrics are such a step down, as if she’s dumbing it down for the sake of sales.

Tall Heights – Spirit Cold. This song was first released as a single last summer, with a video out over the winter, but there’s a new push behind it with their August release of a new album, Neptune; I’ve seen them called “prog folk” but I think that’s misleading. This song is more atmospheric, driven by the two singers’ harmonies and Paul Wright’s cello, with some influence from the late ’90s quietcore movement evident as well.

Jagwar Ma – Give Me a Reason (Radio Edit). This Australian outfit, now based in the UK, go full-Madchester with this second single from their album Every Now and Then, due out October 14th. I hear Soup Dragons, Charlatans UK, even a little Happy Mondays here, so needless to say it’s my favorite song by Jagwar Ma yet.

Coast Modern – The Way It Was. I’m not a big Cage the Elephant fan, so saying this sounds just like a CtE – boy, that’s an unfortunate acronym – track doesn’t explain its inclusion, but in this case I found the chorus stuck in my head for a while after my first listen.

Midnight Faces – Heavenly Bodies. Another not-new artist I hadn’t heard before, this trio started out in Grand Rapids where one of its members was in a band (Saxon Shore) with Father John Misty. “Heavenly Bodies” is dream-pop with a better tempo and that moaning guitar riff earworm that was enough to land it on my playlist.

American Football – I’ve Been So Lost for So Long. Apparently this is a big deal; I don’t remember American Football from their late-1990s activity, after which they were on hiatus for sixteen years. Nothing says “emo” like “If you find me/Please remind me/Why I woke up today.”

Softer Still – Bliss. A quartet from Surrey whose sound reminds me a ton of Real Estate and a little bit of the Sundays (without Harriet, though, so it’s not quite the same).

The Head And The Heart – Rhythm & Blues. This Seattle folk-rock act’s third album, Signs of Light, drops next Friday. I think “Shake” is still my favorite song of theirs, but this would be a strong second; they’re better when they rock a little more like Okkervil River.

Bloods – Bring My Walls Down. Modern punk with sweet, layered female vocals. It works.

Dinosaur Pile-Up – Nothing Personal. This British rock act put out their third album, Eleven Eleven, last October outside of the U.S., but it’s just appearing here for the first time. I know they don’t call themselves a metal band, but the dropped tuning and riffing here are strongly reminiscent of classic (pre-thrash) metal.

Prophets Of Rage – The Party’s Over. As with their previous single, Prophets of Rage’s riffs are stronger than their rhymes. I get the political motivation behind the group, especially in light of the upcoming election, but I wish we were getting more vintage work from Chuck D and B Real.

Sabaton – Shiroyama. This song is such an unabashed throwback to 1980s thrash that I love it in spite of all of its anachronisms – or perhaps because of them.

Metallica – Hardwired. Obligatory. The lyrics are dumb, the drum work is amateurish, but I do like the early 1980s speed-metal riffing.

Stick to baseball, 5/21/16.

My first attempt to project this year’s first-round picks went up on Wednesday; I’ll do this again three times before the draft, with the next one coming after Memorial Day. Earlier in the week, I did my annual ten-year lookback pieces, one on redrafting the 2006 first round and the other on the first-rounders from that year who didn’t work out.

I held my regular Klawchat on Thursday, and have a new game review up at Paste on the light family-friendly card game Zany Penguins.

Thanks to all of you who’ve signed up for my newsletter. I send a note more or less whenever I post new content somewhere, and usually add a little story or extra content too.

And now, the links…

  • A longtime reader of mine, Travis, has an unfortunate story that he shared with me: His newborn daughter is already in hospice care after a bout of meningitis that hit after she was born at 27 weeks. The full story is on their GoFundMe page; I donated and encourage you to do the same.
  • Amazing longread from the Atlantic on the false certainty we get from DNA results in criminal cases.
  • Great blog post on the challenges of fighting vaccine-denial propaganda. I guess the good news is that the film Vaxxed has gained no traction outside of its core, cult-like audience.
  • This piece on dating from a woman who does not want children has one really infuriating passage, about men who tried to impregnate her against her wishes. In the UK, that’s considered rape, but in the U.S. I don’t believe it is.
  • As yet another sports … uh, figure? … used the term “pansy” this week to describe baseball without broken limbs and bloody faces, I thought I’d link to The Pansy Project, in which a gay artist plants a single pansy at the sites of homophobic comments or attacks, joining with the recipient in a sort of show of strength. “Pansy,” by the way, has referred to either a gay man or an overly effeminate one for over a hundred years.
  • The Washington Post‘s oral history of the making of Run-DMC’s “Walk This Way” is a must read for anyone who remembers the impact that song had on the musical culture of the day. It’s surprising and disturbing for me to hear cries of racism at MTV; I grew up in about as white a town as you’ll find on the eastern seaboard, and when MTV aired anything by black artists that wasn’t adult contemporary crap, I devoured it. Rap, Prince and his various protegées, Living Colour, it didn’t matter. If it was novel, I was interested.
  • Also from WaPo, from March, the story of a violin prodigy who stole a Stradivarius.
  • An ethics professor at Yale and major figure in the social justice movement in academia stands credibly accused of sexual harassment. And Yale hasn’t done much to stop him.
  • The New Yorker takes a serious look at the buffoon James O’Keefe, and what his brand of negative campaigning means for both sides in the 2016 Presidential election. (Hint: Nothing good for democracy.)
  • Yes, it’s about a colleague, but I still enjoyed Josh Levin’s piece on why Zach Lowe is the best sportswriter in America.
  • A rare bit of positive news in the fight against antibiotic resistance, thanks to a five-year experiment in building such molecules from scratch rather than modifying existing ones.