The leading contender so far for album of the year is without a doubt Parquet Courts’ Human Performance, and the best track of it is this, the title track. This band has always been garage meets New York post-art punk heavy, but with this album they have perfected their sound. An album that stands on its own and is so solid you get lost in it not thinking of what it reminds you of despite the familiar feelings. The swagger and tempo of this track are so warm that even the rest of the stellar album stands behind it.
2. Culture Abuse “Peace on Earth”
This track kicks your ass so fast that in 1:46 seconds later when it’s done, you forgot how it happened and have to hit play again. Indie punk with a touch of pop bliss, great hooks with enough snarl to push against it. The lyrics are sort of about growing up. No one thinks about their parents growing up, until it you are forced to accept. No one thinks about the future until you are forced to. Lots of songs about before and after that time, here’s one on the cusp. This San Francisco act goes on tour with Nothing this summer, but I don’t think it gets closer than NYC.
3. Bleached “Sour Candy”
It’s interesting seeing bands perfecting (and in some cases surpassing) genres of their masters of 10 / 20 years earlier from when they were growing up. Bands such as Wavves, Jay Reatard and Ty Segall have come through and blown away many if not all of the predecessors. LA’s Bleached have written a song that catapulted the Donnas into another hemisphere 15 years ago when they were breaking. Same themes (endless fun, drugs, boys, wasted time) and sounds as the Donnas, but Bleached have a better command of their influences like Joan Jett, Blonde and The Kinks. This song is great and the first summer song of 2016 for me.
4. Kamaiyah “How Does It Feel”
This song takes a few plays to really set in. Definitely has an ’80s / turn of the 90s hip-hop feel to it, but still seems so new and different. Most likely cause no one else is really doing it. Is that a Keytar in the chorus? Can I join the live tour?? I was born to play minimal amount of Keytar on stage. If you can play this song five times and not like it, you are much stronger a person than I. I still find myself asking “How does it feel to be rich?” walking around everywhere. I might not find out. But I must find a Keytar.
5. Anderson .Paak “Am I Wrong (Featuring Schoolboy Q)” (Anderson .Paak performs at Lupo’s)
After a slew of being featured in tracks recently (Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre, Macklemore & Lewis, Tokimonsta), Anderson .Paak is stepping into the spotlight with his second studio record Malibu. I caught Anderson down at SXSW and was impressed — lots of variety in his act. “Am I Wrong,” this track with frequent collaborator Schoolboy Q, could be an early summer jam contender, with a fun Outkast vibe going for it.
6. Hot Hot Heat “Kid Who Stays In The Picture”
Hot Hot Heat are back with their first new record in 6 years, a self-titled record. A lot of the common factors of identifying the bands are there, Steve Bays’ distinct and booming voice, radio and alt dance friendly songwriting, but what also lives in this single is a veteran maturity. Their early hits, while pop, also unabashedly went for the jugular; “Kid Who Stays In The Picture” stays more mellow within the song. This record is their last and comes out in June. Lots of good times have been had partying with these guys after shows in Providence, sorry to see them hang it up, but looking forward hearing the rest of this record.
7. Car Seat Headrest “Fill In The Blanks”
When Car Seat Headrest signed to Matador in 2015, music writers everywhere used some sort of Guided By Voices comparison. I didn’t see it despite the band’s indie ’90s songwriting leanings; vocally it’s definitely not a match. They were similar, however, in overwhelming recording output. Their latest, Teens Of Denial, is their 15th release. A comparison I made with their recent work to GBV, is that it took a while for the bands to come into their own. I don’t love the earliest Guided By Voices records, and I had a hard time jumping on board with Car Seat Headrest. What I have heard off the new record I love, and this track is my favorite of them.
8. Kyle Craft “Pentecost”
Kyle Craft is one of the slew of new talent (The Gotobeds, Kristin Kontrol) coming out of legendary label Sub Pop as of late. This song is a blast of glam and psychedelic, reminiscent of T-Rex and I guess maybe a touch of Bowie. The recording is super clean. I would love to see Kyle Craft on tour with Ty Segall, but Kyle might not be fuzzy enough for that movement. Hopefully Kyle comes to Providence soon.
9. Autolux “Change My Head”
The top 10 has taken a consecutive turn into the psychedelic here with this song from LA’s Autolux. This is a bit into the darker realm of psych than Kyle Craft brought to the table, but there’s a lot of beauty to be found in its dark and sprawling tempo. Here’s a stupid theory that has no backing or reason in regard to the lyrics (I try to do one a month). In the lyrics, “I change my head so I won’t be followed, I change my head so my friends don’t call me” could it be about his Facebook profile photo? Facebook is a huge part of everyone’s life like it or not; there has to be a Facebook song or two out there. I am sure this isn’t one, but I go off the rails sometimes.
10. Charles Bradley “Changes” (Charles Bradley performs at Boston Calling on May 29th)
I don’t think I have ever listed a cover song in my top tracks column. Cover songs can be great and or interesting live, but I have never really gotten to excited for them on records. For example, MC5’s “Back In The USA” is amazing, but for some godforsaken reason starts with a cover of “Tutti Frutti” that can’t get skipped quick enough for me. But holy shit, Charles Bradley’s cover of the Black Sabbath hit “Changes” is stunning and hits you right in the feelings. The soul and passion he brings to sing its lyrics makes it a whole different song.