Monday, December 30, 2013

'Shipwreck' : Thom Donovan ft. Ruby Amanfu

Just a quick dispatch today. While driving to work the other day, I caught the end of a song I knew I'd want to hear again. Luckily, I'm a ninja with Shazam and managed to get an ID just after I'd parked. It was "Shipwreck" by Thom Donovan ft. Ruby Amanfu, off his 2013 album Love Out Loud. Amanfu lives in Nashville, so it seems the song is getting some decent local play on Lightning 100.

The way the song starts reminds me of a sparser version of "Holland" by Sufjan Stevens, but that's really not the song's main vibe– it's a lot hooky-ier. If you're low on patience, scrub about a 1:30 forward. Take it for a spin.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Musically Inclined's Top 10 Finds of 2013

As you find yourself inundated with year-end lists, you’ll no doubt be ready to swear off every little bit of music that came out this year in favor of whatever shiny, new bands and albums 2014 will offer. I sympathize. However, this isn’t your average “Best Of” list. Whereas you might find the likes of Kanye and Arcade Fire elsewhere, you won’t find them here. That, folks, is my gift to you.

The premise of The Musically Inclined’s Top 10 Finds of 2013, as it’s been running for the past six years, is the following:

1. Any artist or band TMI hadn't listened to before January '13.
2. Songs have to have a stick factor to survive the year. Catchy? Bouncy? Quirky? Sure, but mostly they just have to be solid. Doesn't hurt to be fun and mildly screwy, either.

Somewhere on this list is a song you hopefully haven’t heard yet. And as for the ones you have? I can guarantee you haven’t burned through them the way you have “Get Lucky.”

And speaking of listening to these tracks, the Spotify playlist is right here. Anyway, that’s all I’ve got. Enjoy the rest of 2013 and scroll on at your leisure.

1. Sonsick : San Fermin

I have to give the top spot to San Fermin’s “Sonsick” for a few reasons, the first being that when that song hits the chorus, I still get a chill from the enveloping sound of horns and harmonies. When the album (San Fermin) came out, I joked that if you’ve always wanted a few more X chromosomes in The National, this is the band for you. That stands, but San Fermin is a lot more than The National with girls (from Lucius, no less). The album is dynamic, and most impressive in the way it tackles both sonic bombast and delicately built layers. If you haven’t already heard it, let “Sonsick” be your entry point.

2. I Love You : Said the Whale

In truth, the Said the Whale song that really belongs on this list is “Camilo (The Magician),” but since it came out in 2009, “I Love You” serves as a very apt surrogate. Coming off their September album hawaiii, “I Love You” was at the top of the Canadian alternative music charts this year. The punchy rock tribute to family ("You're kind of rough but I love you!"), didn’t quite make it stateside, but it should have– hawaiii was one of the most enjoyable albums of the year for the fact that it followed its own whim style-wise, promising something fresh with every track change. “I Love You” is one of the strongest examples of that on the record. Check out my interview with STW’s Tyler Bancroft.

3. Rouse Yourself : JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound

The music video for this song stars Aubrey Plaza from Parks and Recreation, and Jake Johnson from New Girl. That could be reason enough to give it a chance, but beyond some sure-fire casting, “Rouse Yourself” is an infectious bit of neo-soul (which also happens to include that “poc” sound you probably heard this year on Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie”). I digress. One of the song’s best features is the simplicity of the words in the chorus: “If we are forever, I hope we just get better.”

4. Shout it Out : Mikal Cronin

Some of the best West Coast garage rock that came out this year, came courtesy of Mikal Cronin. While that particular genre can come off a little one-dimensional at times, Cronin’s music is fuller with better developed melodies and arrangements than anyone has the right to ask of a style that’s supposed to sound somewhat half-assed. “Shout it Out” shows off Cronin’s strong tendencies for songs upbeat and summery. It might be the dead of winter where you are, but it’s still warm on the coast.

5. Royals : Lorde

The ability of a 16-year-old New Zealander to seemingly appear out of the primordial sludge and dominate the pop scene made us gawk this year, but the mystery thins out when you consider a song like “Royals." There’s something very internal about the song– the realization and acceptance of a stunted social station could be cold if not for the sparse heartbeat-like drums. Not only did Lorde acknowledge the gap between “us,” the un-moneyed and un-glamorous, and those of a certain lifestyle who make a lot of the music and media that we consume, but she torched the idea that aspiration is what necessarily connects us to our iPods.

6. Q.U.E.E.N. : Janelle Monáe

I’ve learned that Janelle Monáe is almost always worth paying attention to, whether it’s catching her RIDICULOUS performance on David Letterman or spending some time unpacking her continuing tale of android revolution. There were more than a few songs on The Electric Lady that could have made this list, including “Dance Apocalyptic,” but “Q.U.E.E.N.” wins out for its sheer groove. Then, there’s that one part in the song that sounds like “Cloud Nine” by The Temptations. Done deal, folks.

7. Hey, Doreen : Lucius

In a way, this is Lucius’ second appearance on this year’s list (see San Fermin), but it’s really not surprising. The ladies from Lucius are powerful and precise. “Hey, Doreen” is a knock-out– hooky and energetic– and let’s not forget it’s high about time someone wrote a lyric about mis-buttoning your shirt.

8. Nakamarra : Hiatus Kaiyote

If you’re looking to stick a toe outside of alternative pop and rock, Hiatus Kaiyote is a solid way to go. You’ll find them in the spaces between jazz, R&B, and hip-hop. “Nakamarra” is all the explanation you’ll need for why the Melbourne band is up for the Best R&B Performance Grammy.

9. The Wire : Haim

Haim could win an award for most-hyped band of the year. Luckily, there’s something behind all the chatter. “The Wire” is my favorite track on Days are Gone. There aren’t enough girls with guitars out there, so I get particular satisfaction out of how gritty some of the playing on this song is. Plus, it is friggin' catchy.

10. San Francisco : The Mowgli’s

Rounding out the list is this rollicking sing along by The Mowgli’s. It’s all out good vibes. If you’re not the type who’s “in love with love,” the song will at least make you a believer in large groups of people (they’re an 8-piece band) having a really good time together. And that's really the only reason they can get away with a line like "Do you feel the love? I feel the love," without coming off like total cheese balls. Yes, Mowgli's, we feel the love. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Review : 'Nashville' : 'Tomorrow Never Comes'

I bet you spent all week in knots over who wasn't going to make it out of the mid season finale. Turns out we might have a two-for on our hands. Here's what happened.

The episode centers around the Music City Music Festival. As everything gets underway, the story about Juliette and Charlie that that little weasel Layla spilled breaks and you can't swing a cat without hitting the paparazzi. Juliette gets increasingly wound up about figuring out who leaked the story, and what to do about it.

But then she kind of realizes it was Layla… like, really. Who else would it be? But in confronting the life-size Bratz Doll, Layla is too bitchy for even Juliette. Evil Boss Man Jeff overhears that Juliette thinks it might be Layla and I just stopped caring mid sentence. Dear reader, it's like we're in homeroom  and I'm catching you up on what went down in study hall while you were out with mono. Whatevs. There's no proof so far, but Jeff puts Layla on notice. Charlie pops up a couple times. Nothing interesting happens. When Juliette finally takes the stage, however, the crowd is… vocal? A smidgen hostile? Sure. Juliette sees a GIANT banner that says "Homewrecker" and partially melts down, slinking over to Avery who picks up the slack on the vocals and does the equivalent of a mountain climbing guide telling you not to look down. KEEP YOUR EYES ON ME JULIETTE.

Afterward, she yells at Glen. DAMMIT GLEN. ALL YOU HAD TO DO WAS BRING ME THE HEAD OF THE TRAITOR ON A PIKE. Once again, Avery talks her off the ledge. He should really charge a retainer for emergency psych support. After one last chat with Charlie, similar to last week's where she and Will talked about how the person you're with should make you the best version of yourself, Juliette turns up in a STATE at Avery's front door, ready to confess her love, only to see that Scarlett's there because she lost her pants and friggin cannot find them.

Speaking of Scarlett, let's just get that out of the way real quick. She's mad at Gunnar and Zoe.

Okie. Whilst talking to Luke, Rayna finds out that Jeff is still planning on releasing that awful greatest hits album that basically should be titled Buy My Record Because I Almost Died. Talks with Tandy reveal that there is a way to come up with that $20 million if Tandy kicks in $3 mil to be a business partner, and Rayna sells everything except her hair products.

She relays this back to Luke who "doesn't get it" and my family has decided he's definitely dirty– the Wormtongue to Jeff's Saruman, if you will. SORRY. The Hobbit comes out Friday. Anyway, Jeff presents Rayna with some market research saying that focus groups of her fans aren't totes digging the new material, plus there's not really a single on the album (What about that one song about hitting ground? Remember that?). Oh. But all that's after Rayna shows up at Jeff's place to confront him and he happens to be naked in his pool with a girl. Awkward. Also awkward is how Luke gives her the old "I'll see you when I see you" after realizing they won't be touring together to promote that duet from last week.

All this brings us to Deacon and (sort of) Gunnar. When Deacon finds out that he's been taken off the lineup, and Gunnar finds out that the showcase Jeff promised him is next to a line of portable toilets, they team up. Deacon, being the suave, well-connected, urbane gentleman he is, knows a guy who owns a nearby parking lot, and they decide to play a show there. Deacon makes the arrangements, Gunnar tweets about it. Teddy is pissed. Maddie is stoked. Rayna is back to giving Deacon longing looks.

After the show, Rayna talks to Teddy for a second about her upcoming departure from Edgehill and they have another weirdly amicable moment together… right before some guy walks up to Teddy and tries to shoot him. There's a struggle, the gun goes off, and when everyone checks to see if his bathroom buddy is still there, the camera shows Peggy dead on the ground. I'm battling some serious schadenfreude here.

But that's not the craziest thing that happened. The fact is, we know Peggy's dead, and I honestly can't imagine anyone is too hung up about it. But what about a more likable character, a big-hearted but sexually confused puppy dog of a person, perhaps? This episode, Will struggles with staying in the closet. Brent finds out the guys Will beat up were the guys harassing him and his then-boyfriend. Will spends his performance looking between Layla and Brent. After, he actually winds up in bed with Brent. But when Layla comes home, she finds nothing but rumpled sheets because Will's somewhere out there about to step in front of a train. We hope he changes his mind before the season starts back up Jan. 15.

Stray Observations:
+ Deacon should sing more.
+ I don't like Peggy, but offing her in a parking lot is a pretty lazy way to get rid of a character who is clearly not going anywhere… but that seems to be show policy.
+ So, does this mean Teddy is going to be back in play? Because Rayna has stuff partially started with him, Deacon, Luke, and Liam. #Playa

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

'Christmas in L.A.' : The Killers ft. Dawes

Last year I complied a list of the most depressing Christmas songs of all time. The Killers' 2013 Christmas single benefiting (RED), could easily make that list. "Christmas in L.A." features Owen Wilson as a struggling actor, wondering how mush longer he can stay in a city that seems just about impossible to call home. Dawes co-wrote the tune and also play on it.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Review : 'Nashville' : 'I'm Tired of Pretending'

I think I've seen this scene before...
On tonight's episode of Nashville, Rayna sported the worst hat ever. And then a bunch of other stuff happened. Let's get to it.

When I think about how unlikeable Juliette was once upon a time when she was the teen tart flavor of the month, it's ridiculous how much I rooting for her to put Layla in her place. When Layla gives herself  an encore on night, it starts a tic for tac mini war between the two that involves flipping sets, scheduling revenge duets, and then cutting in on that duet. Point, set, match, Juliette. Still, JB can't seem to win since she comes off like she's picking on a child. Juliette also tries to sort out what the heck to do with Charlie, who shows up around EVERY FRIGGIN' CORNER. She wonders if he's serious. He divorces his wife. So, there's that. But here's the thing, Juliette hasn't been persuaded. When the tour breaks and Juliette et al. go back to Nashville, she has a serious talk with Charlie, telling him that he doesn't really love her. He loves the challenge of her. He should get back together with Olivia. Probably true. Of course, if you think that's the last of it all, you're wrong. Layla calls TMZ and tells them that Juliette is the reason why "Charlivia" split. Crazy child.

Meanwhile on the Bluebird side of the tour, a super weird 4-way phone scene where Scarlett is talking to Avery while she's standing near Gunnar, who is talking to Zoe, who is standing near Avery back in Nashville, results in Avery and Zoe road tripping it to St. Louis to see Scarlett. Scarlett spends the whole visit picking up weird vibes and feeling like she's lost her place in the group. The best part is the conversation between Gunnar and Avery that goes like this, "So, you and Scarlett…" Yup. Long story short, Scarlett catches Zoe and Gunnar smooching and then holds her breath until she passes out whilst clutching her rag doll.

Will's best moment this episode is where he gets super drunk at a bar and stage dives onto the floor.

That's basically all you need to know on that front, other than something is bound to happen with Brent. Whether it's a hook up or back stabbing, I do not know.

 Speaking of hook ups and back stabbings, let's talk about Rayna and the Jaymes/Conrad clan. Most of the tension this week surrounds Maddie wanting to spend more time with Deacon (like taking guitar lessons from him) and Teddy getting prickly about it. Maddie invites Deacon to her kiddie open mic show thing performance at Two Old Hippies, and Teddy is all WHY IS HE HERE, even if Rayna could be saying that about Peggy, who insists on hugging her like they're BFFS. Maddie calls Deacon up on stage to sing with her, and Teddy gets WAY pissed and confronts him on the street.

Rayna has to sit the boys down and instruct them to share. Deacon looks remorseful, Teddy just goes back to the office and removes his rival from the lineup at the Music City Music Festival. Mature, Teddy. Real mature. Even Peggy was all WTF was that squabble about? When Peggy is not the least rational person in the room, you've got BIG problems.

Since we're on the topic of big problems, Lamar is still in jail, in case you forgot. When Tandy fails to show up and testify on his behalf that he wouldn't flee the country if they allowed him to go on house arrest, Rayna ends up taking the stand… to no avail. It does feel like Rayna's going to find out about Tandy, though, and soon.

Stray Observations:
+ Re: Mid-season finale. "SOMEONE WILL DIE."

+ I had my first Nashville cast member sighting this week. Avery ventured into the Brent'hood and for about five seconds, I tried to remember which class I had with him at Belmont. OH WAIT. Not former classmates.
+ I am so Team Juliette lately, it's dumb.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Get to Know the 'Charm' of Brazos

Brazos' Martin Crane. Photo: Ben Sklar; Dead Oceans
It's not too late to discover one last album to love as 2013 winds down. I recently came across one such record called Saltwater by Brooklyn band Brazos, released this summer. If you're local and have been keeping up with things here at the blog, you'll know what I mean when I say Brazos could be cousins with Nashville's Casa Castile– if you're into warm tones and dreamy pop with plenty of soundscapes to wander, you'll dig this.

To get an idea of Brazos' range, which can tip the scale from Mikal Cronin to Andrew Bird, check out the two videos below. "Longshot" is a tune both serene and honeyed with finer guitar and piano work.

For something a bit bolder, there's "Charm."

What really sold me, though, was the ebbing, shimmering melancholy of "Deeper Feelings." By the end of the track, it's ceased being a song and grown into a mood you won't want to shake.

Brazos will be performing at The End here in Nashville on Dec. 8 at 8 p.m. Check 'em out if you can.