The month of October has came and went, and just like that we’re faced with the onset of 2020. What a wacky year it’s going to be.
But it’s another chance to offer up some good music, perhaps something you hadn’t heard of or hadn’t listened to enough. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a chronic Shazam-er. I Shazam everything.
And then I go back and listen to what caught my ear and pass the most interesting along to you.
My first selection is a song from Cincinnati band The National. It’s called Rylan, and it first caught my attention because that’s the name of the daughter of a friend of mine. It’s such a unique name that I had to listen to it — and it’s quite an odd song.
But it draws me in. I’m not sure that I get it. But I think I have to acknowledge that I quite like it.
This second song is one of the most depressing I’ve ever heard, and it’s a brilliant example of the power of storytelling. It’s The Unifics, a late-60s band from Washington, D.C., and this is “Beginning Of My End,” a tune that peaked at No. 36 in 1968.
I’ve got SiriusXM Soul Town, Ch. 49, locked in on my car stereo, and I find that it’s an education on a bevy of lower-charting tracks from the 60s and 70s. The lyrics are desperately mournful, and the music fits it like a glove.
Heretofore, I had thought the saddest song ever was Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again,” but Lord-have-mercy does this tune take you to a sad place. This is some lyrical mastery right here.
Sufjan Stevens is hit-or-miss for me, but on 2005’s “The Man Of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts,” he’s sounding like a hipster Dan Fogelberg, and I’m here for it.
This next one is from St. Paul & The Broken Bones, one of the best bands on the planet right now. Paul Janeway’s vocals and the horns from Allen Branstetter (trumpet), Amari Ansari (saxophone), and Chad Fisher (trombone) have this Birmingham, Ala., octet at the top of their blue-eyed soul game.
Speaking of musicians who turn my head every time they come on the radio, there’s Maryland’s own Maggie Rogers. Discovered by Pharrell Williams as part of a class at NYU, Rogers has leap-frogged into critical acclaim if not worldwide popularity. Anytime I hear one of her songs, I’m walloped by how much talent she has. Great ear. Great production. She’s like a modern-day Nicolette Larson, a reference that totally confirms my age. #Olds Yeah.
Sometimes when I see songs pop up on the SiriusXM, I don’t know which is the title and which is the artist. Such was the case with “Sofia” by Clairo. The artist is Claire Cottrill, the daughter of a marketing exec from Boston. I like to read the stories behind artists and musicians mostly to find out what base they were born on.
But I think this is groovy as heck, so there.
California trio Sir Sly shows off their funky stylings and Beck-styled sensibilities in the 2017 track, “High.” Needs to go onto my running playlist. BTW, this dude totally listens to Beck. I’m sure of it.
I’m a sucker for an awesome music video. Hey, I’m a child of the 80s. I remember when MTV was born! And this 2015 tune from British band Nothing But Thieves doesn’t strike me until the chorus, but it’s an earworm after that. And an eyeworm.
It seems like a lot of the tunes on this list are from 2015. I’m late to the party, but even with a blog post like this, you don’t know when somebody will hear or see something. “Postcard” is a 2015 track from Washington, D.C., trio Jukebox The Ghost. I don’t know that I love this one, but it’s catchyAF and I’m not sure why they’re not huge. As a musician, I sense that this one is a fun one to play live, too.
And now I save the best for last from The Avett Brothers. It took me so long to come onboard their groove, but “High Steppin’,” I think is sheer brilliance. Listen to the lyrics. Watch the video. This is fantastic songwriting, and I think they’re one of the most interesting bands on the planet.