Cool Still Rules: Kendrick Kicks Ed in the Teeth to Take No. 1

Video: Kendrick Lamar – “HUMBLE.”

Kendrick Lamar – HUMBLE.

Ladies and gentlemen of the United States, I am pleased to announce we have a new number one record. After sitting at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart for 12 of the year’s 18 weeks, that doughy English dweeb Ed Sheeran is finally knocked out. And who better to do the deed than righteous rapper Kendrick Lamar?

Lamar’s “HUMBLE.” is only the fifth number one record of 2017. Back in February I was telling Johnny Loftus about how I’m never exposed to the Top 40 anymore unless I make a conscious effort to seek it out. And when I do, I’m often surprised by how freaky and interesting popular music has gotten. Many big hits are more “experimental” sounding than a lot of stuff being released on our beloved indie labels. We thought we should at least cover the singles that reached the top of the chart, or as Johnny called it: “the most main of mainstreams.” But then dopey old Sheeran just stayed at No. 1, week after week after week. And come on. “Shape of You” is nothing to write home about. It’s so flaccid and predictable it makes John Mayer’s “Your Body Is A Wonderland” sound substantial. So good riddance. Finally.

And “HUMBLE.” is a jam! A sparse one-finger piano riff drives the beat and Lamar’s rhyming is effortless as always. It’s great that an artist as cool as Kendrick Lamar can reach number one on the pop singles chart. Lots of grumpy old dudes dismiss current music entirely, myself included. That’s a mistake. There’s always good new stuff being released and sometimes the most popular song is also the best song. “Sit down, lil bitch. Be humble.” That’s solid advice that we should all be listening to these days. Reminds me of the great Rookie essay by Charles Aaron where he shares some tips for how not to be a jerk; it boils down to: Fall back…listen…question. That’s an important lesson that can take a lifetime to master. I’m still working on it.

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New Shout Out Louds video: Oh Oh

Video: Shout Out Louds – “Oh Oh”

Shout Out Louds – Oh Oh

In the video for their first new song since 2013, our Swedish heroes explore the joys of breaking and entering into a villa on a Spanish island. If you like crafty, jangly pop music, you’re probably already familiar with these guys. Their fifth album is due later this year on Merge Records.

“Oh Oh” in some way feels like the trigger for this album. We felt, as soon as we had completed it, that the only way we could and should do this was to focus on the energy, the feeling in everything. We wanted to get back to our roots, to our togetherness and some kind of craftsmanship. We reminded ourselves that we are a band that love each other and playing together; the rest is pretty unimportant to us. “Oh Oh” is a lot about keeping that feeling, of never letting go of a dream.

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Be Still My Beating Heart – Greta Van Fleet

I was listening to one of those new music mixes on Apple Music and catching up on work when this song popped up and I thought, ‘This new Heart sounds pretty good!” Except it wasn’t Heart, it was Frankenmuth, Michigan’s own Greta Van Fleet. More on that in a bit.

Heart is one of those bands that had a bunch of chart dominating singles, insanely talented writing, vocals and musicianship, especially in the sister duo of Ann & Nancy Wilson, but very few bands wear them on their sleeves as obvious influences. I’m not sure why that is, but I can’t think of a single band where I can say, “Oh yeah, these guys obviously love Heart.”

So when the vocals came in on Greta Van Fleet’s new single “Black Smoke Rising,” I was pleasantly surprised to hear the connection. I mean, there’s no way this vocal performance is not influenced by Ann Wilson, right?

Black Smoke Rising

It gets better. It turns out that it’s not even a modern-day Ann Wilson fronting this band. In fact, there’s isn’t a female in sight! Greta Van Fleet is a four-piece band of dudes—three brothers and a friend! So it’s not a sister act emulating the Wilsons, but a brother act. How great is that?

But wait, there’s more!

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New Tara Jane O’Neil video: Blow

I have no idea what is going on in this video from Tara Jane O’Neil but it’s vaguely cult-ish and I am fascinated by cults so…

It’s also a lovely, whispy song. From her self-titled ninth album, “Blow” is a bit of a musical meditation. I’m told she’s hypnotic live and lucky for you and me she’s on tour right now. Check her out.

Tara Jane O’Neil is out now on Gnomonsong Records.

Continue reading New Tara Jane O’Neil video: Blow

New Kendrick Lamar video: DNA.

Kendrick Lamar and Don Cheadle Go Head to head in this video for the single, “DNA” from Lamar’s new album DAMN.

Kendrick Lamar – DNA.

I ran into Don Cheadle once on Michigan Ave. in Chicago. It was cold but sunny and we were walking toward each other when he recognized that I had recognized him. We both played it cool though. He flashed that Cheadle smile as an acknowledgement that yes, it was indeed him. I nodded and we kept walking.

Lamar’s new album is streaming now and will be available on vinyl this summer with limited edition autographed copies are up for pre-order on his website.

Kendrick Lamar: web, twitter, fb, amazon, wiki.

New Lillie Mae video: Over The Hill and Through The Woods

Video: Lillie Mae – “Over The Hill and Through The Woods”

Lillie Mae – “Over The Hill and Through The Woods” (Official Video)

From Forever and Then Some, out now on Third Man Records.

Lillie Mae Rische has been performing on stage since she was 3 years old, according to Jack White, who recently signed her to Third Man and produced her new album. Her family band Jypsi was signed to Arista Nashville and released a digital-only album in 2008 and a few singles that went nowhere. The label dropped them.

She released a Third Man Blue Series single (“Nobody”) in 2014 and has played fiddle and mandolin in Jack White’s band. Now she’s ditched her last name and got a haircut like King Cyrus from “The Royals” and is ready to start fresh.

This song sounds good and shares a similar vibe with other White-produced countryish stuff like the more acoustic moments on his solo stuff, especially Lazaretto‘s “Temporary Ground” to which Rische contributed vocals and fiddle. She also sang on “Alone In My Home” and played fiddle and mandolin all over the album.

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New Son Volt video: Back Against the Wall

Video: Son Volt – “Back Against The Wall”

Son Volt "Back Against The Wall" – Official Video

From Notes of Blue, out now on their own Transmit Sound label.

The best thing about this video besides the gnarly Dustbowl-era footage is Jay Farrar’s badass sideburns. I can’t think of a more overtly political Son Volt song. Then again, it’s easy to hear everything as a topical statement these days…

All the signs say pick up the pieces
All the signs say make a stand as one
What survives the long cold winter
Will be stronger and can’t be undone

I still love this band. It’s always reassuring to hear Farrar’s voice. I wonder why he hasn’t played lead guitar since the Uncle Tupelo days? Do you think he misses it? He had a unique style. Oh well. People change. So it goes.

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New Feist video: Pleasure

Video: Feist – “Pleasure”

Feist – Pleasure

From Pleasure, out April 28 on Interscope. Since we last heard from Leslie Feist she grew out her bangs and stripped her sound down even further. “Pleasure” is a funky song with kooky, Yoko-inspired vocals. “I make sense of a mysterious thing,” she says and goes on to describe the evolutionary basis of pleasure in regards to the continuation of our species:

That is how we evolved
We became our needs
Ages up inside
Escaping similar pain
Dreaming safe and secure
Generations in line
Old and then the youth
Come to meet or fade
A chromosomal raid
Built by what we got built for

Not super romantic, but hey: whatever gets you through the night. It’s alright.

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New Spoon video: Hot Thoughts

Video: Spoon – “Hot Thoughts”

Spoon – Hot Thoughts

They got around to making a video for the title track of their new album, Hot Thoughts, out now on Matador. Lots of footage from SXSW. “If you missed it you may now see it. If you were there you may now relive it.”

Britt Daniel talked to Esquire about the inspiration for the song:

Daniel got the idea from a Japanese kid in Shibuya who hit on his girlfriend. “He was smoking a cigarette, and couldn’t really speak English, but was pointing to her teeth and saying her teeth were so sexy and bright,” Daniel says. “And I thought that was a pretty far out, maybe desperate but funny way of hitting on her.” So, Hot Thoughts are thoughts about sex, which is a topic Spoon has never really overtly covered so overtly in a song before.

“Your teeth shining so white / Light up this side street in Shibuya tonight.”

That interview also reveals that Spoon considered packing it in after “the rare misstep Transference in 2010.” I didn’t realize that album was considered a failure. I dug it.

Spoon: web, twitter, fb, amazon, wiki.

New Diet Cig video: Maid of the Mist

Video: Diet Cig – “Maid of the Mist”

Diet Cig – Maid of the Mist (Official Music Video)

I heard these guys on the radio this weekend and really liked their sound. Sassy punk rock with vulnerable lyrics is right up my alley.

Diet Cig’s new album, Swear I’m Good At This, is out now on Frenchkiss Records.

Continue reading New Diet Cig video: Maid of the Mist