Mikey’s Playlist Mashup

It’s funny how we learn about new music today in the digital world. I haven’t quite turned in my music journalism card yet, so I receive many pitches for new and established artists. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a music publicist–so I won’t pimp my own artists in this spot. So besides those press releases, I hear about new artists through my clients, through other taste makers like Val’s List and Bob Lefsetz and Kings of A&R. I hear about great music from trusted friends. I hear stuff from colleagues repping cool new acts. I hear songs on TV shows or in movies, or on the radio through bumper music (but almost never from the actual radio anymore). And occasionally from online radio stations. That’s it. It’s amazing how music will find its way into our ears and onto our hard drives now. And speaking of that, I had better purge my iTunes a bit before my PC explodes. Meanwhile, here are some things I’m listening to that you should check out if you feel so inclined.

“Skeleton” by The Good Natured–If you’re a fan of synth-driven ’80′s pop, this title track to the British group’s 2011 EP will take you back to those days a bit, while sounding like it could work on today’s Top 40 radio–whatever that may be. I found this group through a pitch from their publicist, who is pimping their new single, “Video Voyeur.” Now, that video will surely take you back to the early MTV days.

“Celebrate Tonight” by Allen Stone–One of my clients opened for this kid, who really came out of nowhere. He’s a scrawny Seattle-bred white kid with an old school R&B soul. Kind of like Daryl Hall, who took Stone in for a “Live from Daryl’s House” session that literally gives me goosebumps when I see and hear it. The best part is seeing the unbridled joy on Stone’s face as Daryl plays along and sings with him.

“Show and Tell” by Sugar & The Hi-Lows–Nashville singer/songwriters Trent Dabbs and Amy Stroup collaborate here for some pure magic–beautiful melody, arrangement, and a soaring yet lo-fi harmony drenched chorus. It also has a mild ’70′s vibe ala Josh Rouse’s 1972 album (sorry, I have a penchant for music from past decades!).

“Almost Blue” by Joseph Arthur–This guy’s music follows me around, and it’s sheer brilliance. And this past week he released a new double album on his website, available for free download (though there is no way I’m not hitting the “donate” button–I want Joseph Arthur to make music until he’s 80).

“Sweetheart Like You” by World Party–Their new Arkeology set (releasing next Tuesday April 10) is 70 tracks deep and features old songs, new songs, covers, live recordings and more. The World Party fan in your life just has to have this. This song is a Bob Dylan cover that singer Karl Wallinger spins his own way, and it winds up sounding like it jumped off of The New Radicals’ only (and genius) album from 1998.

“Drumming Song” by Florence + The Machine–There is something purely intoxicating about Florence + the Machine, and this song embodies that desire to get drunk with her voice and music, as well as the booming percussion. That said, you just have to check out this acoustic video from KEXP–there is no auto-tune, no slick production–mostly Florence’s positively sick vocals out front.

“Please Stay Strong” by Stolen Silver–I guess it’s okay for me to talk about a band put together with members from a former client band of mine? Well, I just did. These guys have an incredible acoustically driven, harmony-rich sound with some killer songs.

“Forget the Diamonds” by Dave McGraw and Mandy Fer–Just like Sugar & The Hi-Lows above, this duo makes magic together. It’s Americana, yet really it’s just haunting and melodic music that you will find really hard to stop listening to.

“Wine Dark Sea” by Daniel Tashian–Tashian is one of those under-the-radar Nashville cats who I’m certain writes insanely sweet melodies in his sleep. The front man for The Silver Seas steps aside with a solo project here, but it’s really an extension of his band, and something that will tide this big fan over until the next Seas release.

Okay, so I just realized that I could do this all day. But maybe I should save it and do this more often. What do you think? Hit me up here, or on Facebook or Twitter. And thanks for hanging out in my music room for a bit.

Your 2011 St. Patrick’s Day Playlist

Ah, St. Patrick’s Day, where everyone is Irish for a day. March seems to be full of days like that, since Fat Tuesday is the day where everyone is Catholic for a day.

Since we know many of you will be getting a full-fledged drink on this St. Paddy’s Day, especially since it is also the first day of the NCAA tournament, we have provided a small list of songs about drinking, the effects of drinking, and the vow that many of you will make the following morning. Think of it as the bender that you never took; we love booze as much as the next guys, but sometimes those things are better lived vicariously.

“It’s Time to Party,” Andrew W.K.

With a whopping three songs about partying on his debut album, Andrew W.K. will forever remain our master of ceremonies when it comes to partying. Until we saw the grammar-challenged lyric video, though, we didn’t know this song made a reference to a money shot. Yikes.

“Have a Drink on Me,” AC/DC

The night is young. Everyone is flush with cash and feeling generous. Try and remember this moment when 1:30 rolls around and you’re buying Natural Light pounders. For now, though, you’re living on the top shelf.

To read the rest of the St. Patrick’s Day playlist, click here.

Like the song in the iPad commercial? Check these out…

The song is called “There Goes My Love” by The Blue Van, a Danish blues-rock van. The commercial has been all over the airwaves lately, but if you’ve been living under a rock (or are just really good with the 30-second skip button on your DVR remote), take a listen:

The song is from the band’s third album, Man Up. I reviewed their first two efforts, The Art of Rolling and Dear Independence and enjoyed them both. Here are a few highlights from their first two releases:

Read the rest of this entry »

21st Century Breakdown: David Medsker’s Songs of the 2000s

I used to have a thing about my musical tastes. I so desperately wanted them to be cool, or at the very least be something that only a handful of people were privy to. (I was tempted to say ‘hip’ instead of ‘privy,’ but you can’t spell ‘hipster’ without ‘hip,’ and God knows I’m not hip enough to be a hipster.) My friend Kathi, she has obscenely cool taste in music. I’m surprised she’s friends with me, since I surely bring her cool factor down by a good 20 points.

Then a couple of years ago, I realized – who the hell cares? A great song is a great song, and it doesn’t really matter how popular – or unpopular – it is. I can’t tell you how freeing that was, and I have a very well-known blogger to thank for it. When she admitted to me in private how much she enjoyed a band at Lollapalooza, only to dismiss them a few days later in her column, I realized that it was completely pointless to pander to hipster elitism. You’re being dishonest with yourself, and the hipsters are only going to turn on you in the end, anyway.

So I turned a blind eye to what was a pop song versus what was a “pop” song, as it were, and realizing that there was no distinction between the two made everything soooooo much easier. So here we are in 2009, and as part of our recap of the best music the decade had to offer, I have to try to apply this whole revisionist history viewpoint to the entire decade, which is no mean feat, to say the least. It therefore makes sense that assembling one big-ass list of songs will look like the work of someone with multiple personalities, so instead they are cut up into bite-sized lists for easier consumption, with YouTube links for the uninitiated.

Top 10 Modern Rock Songs of the 2000s
10. “Do You Want To,” Franz Ferdinand
“Take Me Out” was the bigger hit, but this song swings like Austin Powers in the jungle. Nice riff on “My Sharona” in the break, too.

9. “Galvanize,” Chemical Brothers
Push the button; shake that booty.

8. “The Bleeding Heart Show,” The New Pornographers
What the world needs now, is more hey la, hey la’s.

New_Pornographers_015

7. “Sometime Around Midnight,” Airborne Toxic Event
Suck it, Pitchfork. These guys are good. You’re just too far up your own asses to admit it.

6. “American Idiot,” Green Day
The only sad thing about this song is that Joey Ramone didn’t live long enough to hear it.

5. “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor,” Arctic Monkeys
I love the way these guys riff on Duran Duran lyrics, and then act as if they made it all up themselves. As the old adage says, talent borrows, but genius steals. And for the record, we don’t care for sand, either.

4. “Chelsea Dagger,” The Fratellis
Best drunken barroom chorus since “Tubthumping.”

3. “Laura,” Scissor Sisters
For all the progress that was made this decade in terms of hip hop and black culture becoming more accepted on pop radio, it appears that the gays still have a long road ahead of them. Pity.

2. “Never Miss a Beat,” Kaiser Chiefs
They opened their set at Lollapalooza with this. The only other band to grab me by the throat like that with their opening song is, well, My #1…

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1. “Knights of Cydonia,” Muse
September 11, 2006, Columbus, Ohio. Muse opens their set with this song, blows the roof off the place.

Top 10 Pop Songs of the 2000s
10. “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” Kylie Minogue
Proof that even the most alt of alt rockers love Kylie: The Flaming Lips covered this song.

9. “Drops of Jupiter,” Train
They did a great job recreating the Elton John sound. Too bad they didn’t have Bernie Taupin write the lyrics. Fried chicken? Ugh.

8. “Music,” Madonna
I watched this song take one of those sports bars that has basketball courts and bowling alleys, and turn every one of its patrons into dancing fools.

7. “Is It Any Wonder?,” Keane
Dogged by some for its similarity to U2, but when was the last time U2 wrote something this bouncy?

6. “Shut Up and Let Me Go,” The Ting Tings
I’ll shut up, Katie, but there’s no way I’m letting you go.

5. “Chasing Pavements,” Adele
It took two Grammy wins for this song to finally crack the Top 40. (*shakes head in disbelief*)

4. “Hey Ya,” Outkast
Andre 3000 finally picks up a guitar to write a song, and this, THIS, is the first thing that comes out. Mother, fucker.

3. “Crazy,” Gnarls Barkley
When my mom comes home from a trip to see my brother on the east coast and tells me about a song she heard by a band whose name is similar to some celebrity or other, I know that said celebrity knockoff band has struck a chord.

2. “99 Problems,” Jay-Z
“You crazy for this one, Rick!” Actually, Jay-Z, you have it the other way around. You crazy if you make this song with anyone other than Rick Rubin.

1. “Umbrella,” Rihanna
It was at least a year before I made the effort to find out what the hubub was about this damn “Umbrella” song. And then I heard it. Holy shit, this song pisses genius.

Big in the UK
7. “LDN,” Lily Allen
No guy wants to hear his ex tell the world what a lousy lover he is, but is there a man alive that doesn’t want a shot at Lily Allen?

6. “Nearer Than Heaven,” Delays
My favorite new musical expression of the decade: skyscraper, used to describe a song with soaring melodies. And this puppy’s the Empire State Building.

5. “Boyfriend,” Alphabeat
That this album didn’t even see the light of day in the States shows just how myopic our views of pop music have become.

4. “Digital Love,” Daft Punk
Keytar!

3. “Plug It In,” Basement Jaxx featuring J.C. Chasez
Come on, bang that head in the chorus. You know you want to.

2. “Never Be Lonely,” The Feeling
B-b-b-baby, this song is c-c-c-crazy catchy.

1. “Kids,” Robbie Williams & Kylie Minogue
Another song I thought had a shot at cracking the US charts. Funky verses, slammin’ choruses, what’s not to love? Robbie Williams, apparently. He never gained the traction here that other UK singers did. Strange.

Best Pop Songs You Never Heard
Of course, you probably have heard most of these songs, but I didn’t have another category to place them in, so they’re going here instead.

“Nice,” Duran Duran
Easily the band’s best song since “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone.” Anyone who likes Rio but has since given up on the band, go listen to this at once.

“I Believe She’s Lying,” Jon Brion
Los Angeles’ resident mad genius of pop finally gets his 1997 album Meaningless released in early 2001. Power pop fans proceed to lose their minds. And can you blame them? Listen to that drum track. It’s like the piano solo to “In My Life,” gone drum ‘n bass.

“Mine and Yours,” David Mead
If the video I linked to is any indicator, this was a big hit with the Japanese karaoke crowd. Go figure.

“She’s Got My Number,” Semisonic
Where an otherwise straightforward pop band goes off the deep end into delicious, melancholy strangeness. One of my bigger interview thrills was getting to tell Dan Wilson how much I loved this song.

“My Name Is Love,” Rob Dickinson
Catherine Wheel singer turns down the distortion, ramps up the harmonies. Again, the word ‘skyscraper’ comes to mind.

“Can We Still Be Friends?,” Mandy Moore
Dan Wilson reference #2: he sings backing vocals on this shockingly good Todd Rundgren cover. People have scoffed at the notion of Ryan Adams marrying someone like Mandy. Not me.

“io (This Time Around),” Helen Stellar
Let it not be said that nothing good came from “Elizabethtown,” as it introduced me to this beautifully spacey song.

“Buildings and Mountains,” Republic Tigers
Truly a band out of time, which is exactly why I love them. I wonder if the reason A-ha is breaking up is because they heard this song and thought, “Damn, they do us better than we do.”

“The End of the World,” Gin Blossoms
Most bands that take 11 years between albums come back as a pale imitation of their former selves, but the Gin Blossoms’ 2006 album Major Lodge Victory was a damn fine little record. This one appeals to my not-so-inner Beatlemaniac.

“Fragile,” Kerli
This Estonian princess is an odd little bird, but that’s what I like about her. This ballad closes her debut album with quite the quiet storm.

“Road to Recovery,” Midnight Juggernauts
Another band whose lack of success has me scratching my head. It’s the best dance album Peter Murphy never made, or the best rock album Daft Punk never made, one of the two. Or both.

My sincere apologies to the following bands, who also deserve mention:
Divine Comedy, Noisettes, Pet Shop Boys, Doves, Rialto, Beck, White Stripes, Rufus Wainwright, Kenna, Mylo, Pete Yorn, Apples in Stereo, Hard-Fi, The Thorns, Rock Kills Kid, The Hours, Derek Webb, Glen Hansard, Aimee Mann, Kirsty MacColl, Gorillaz, Air, Charlotte Sometimes, Mika, Def Leppard, Coldplay, Chicane, Elastica, XTC, and about 50 others.

iTunes Tips & Tricks: “Neglected Favorites”

If you’re like me and feel sometimes that your music collection is a little too vast, here’s a little trick that I learned not too long ago. I have 4000+ 4- and 5-star rated songs, and I realized that there were some personal favorites that I wasn’t hearing on a regular basis. (For all it’s features, iTunes doesn’t do the greatest job of shuffling through big playlists.)

Using iTunes’ “Smart Playlist” feature, I was able to create playlists of songs that I haven’t heard in some time (six months, a year, whatever).

1. Go to File > New Smart Playlist
2. In the first two drop-down boxes, choose “Rating” and “in the range.”
3. Choose 4 to 5 stars (or 3 to 5, if you like).
4. Hit the plus sign to the right to add a criterion.
5. Choose “Last Played” and “is not in the last” 6 “months” (or 9 months or whatever span you like).
6. Hit OK
7. Rename playlist “Neglected Favorites” (or whatever you like)

You can also add other criteria, like genre, artist or whatever.

So now you have a playlist of all of your top rated songs that you haven’t heard in the last six months. Once you start this playlist, songs will start to disappear when they’re played. As time wears on, new songs (that haven’t been played on your iTunes or iPod in the last six months) will begin to appear.

iTunes won’t let you forget a song!

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