Saturday, December 20, 2014

Best Songs of 2014: #25-23

Here we go again! My favourite time of the year on In The Round - the time when I reflect back and meticulously choose the songs that I thought had the most impact on this wonderful year in music. While part of me loves pencilling in, erasing and reorganizing my song choices into my calendar each year, another part of me can't believe I do this to myself. Eleven days of (often eggnog hungover) writing... on my holidays. But, I couldn't imagine not throwing my two cents in.

So, let's get into it!

#25. "Archie, Marry Me" - Alvvays: One year ago, Alvvays were just another ambiguously pronounced Canadian indie-rock band, playing local gigs and accompanying headliners on various tours. With the release of their pristine self-titled debut, however, both Canada and the rest of the world quickly caught on to - and became obsessed with - their brand of summery fuzz-rock and real storytelling. Molly Rankin (yes, of that Rankin family) and her pure, heroine vocal will forever be the staples that walked me, and the rest of their near-cult following, through summer 2014. Side note: You can find this excellent album on both Rolling Stone and Pitchfork's "best of" lists, also.

#24. "Alexandra" - Hamilton Leithauser: Following the pain of The Walkmen's disbanding, the famed indie-rock group's veteran lead singer, Hamilton Leithauser, swooped in with the ultimate soother - news that he'd be releasing his own solo record. Hallelujah. Sure enough, the gorgeous release was filled with genre-sampling tunes that all glistened with Leithauser's coined yesteryear glaze, and this first single was the vocally and instrumentally charismatic sign that everything was going to be just fine.

#23. "Write Them Down" - The Wooden Sky: On another Canadian note, beloved Canuck folk-rockers and extensive tourers The Wooden Sky released their fourth LP this past fall to widespread acclaim. Maintaining their perfect balance of melancholy ballads and roadtrip-ready jams, the Gavin Gardner-led anthems sound more polished and heartwarming than ever.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Kanye's Newest Sign: Kacy Hill

Def Jam tweeted yesterday that Kanye West's latest G.O.O.D. Music sign is Kacy Hill, a striking L.A.-via-Phoenix artist who most recently performed as a backup dancer for the hip-hop superstar during his Yeezus tour. The 20 year-old singer, model and dancer dropped her debut single, "Experience," earlier this fall, and is expected to release more in the coming year.

In an interview with Dazed & Confused magazine, Hill said, “a lot of my music right now is about the genesis or the creation of a person.” You can hear that genesis on her ambient first effort - an impossibly (read: impressively) pitched gem that's decorated by skittering beats and a gorgeous melody.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Petite Noir feat. Yasiin Bey: "Till We Ghosts"

Here we are again! Twice in one week I've found myself talking about Petite Noir, the South African "noirwave" sensation whose musical profile seems to be budding daily.

On the newest version of "Till We Ghosts," Noir's indie-R&B has help from Yasiin Bey (the artist formerly known as Mos Def) - therefore turning this woozy, TV On The Radio-reminiscent track into an energized hip-hop trip.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Comeback Single: Modest Mouse's "Lampshades on Fire"

I was tied up with too many things to comment on this huge new track yesterday, and it pained me, because I must have listened to it 20 times - all the while with a huge smile on my face, because Modest Mouse are so, so back.

Since The Lonesome Crowded West, Modest Mouse have been a unique staple in my musical diet; adding that dose of feisty quirk into my adolescent rock rotation. As is the case with most of my favourite bands, the first time I heard Isaac Brock's theatrical growl paired with surprisingly gorgeous melodies, I remember thinking I'd never heard anything like it. And I also remember thinking I'd likely never hear anything like it again.

Over seven years (!) since their last release (they did contribute a wonderful track to the 2011 Buddy Holly tribute, however), I still haven't heard a group match their playful, yet profound and experimental, indie-rock. Yesterday, the band quenched our need for more Mouse with the comeback single, "Lampshades on Fire," and unlike some of 2007's tracks, this one is both lyrically and instrumentally classic Modest Mouse. Brock reflects hurriedly about life's progression while the funky guitars and piano waltz beneath him - and we all leave perfectly satisfied.

Watch out for the band's sixth studio album, Strangers to Ourselves, on March 3.

Friday, December 12, 2014

TGIF: Petite Noir's "Chess"

If you're like me, and feel like the winter casts a blurry daze over your brain, then this new indie-R&B single is the zone-out track for you. Like some TV on the Radio, Prince, LCD Soundsystem hybrid, South African vocalist and producer Petite Noir has quickly mastered the art of the seemingly slow motion anthem.

A mesmerizing blend of instruments and beats, "Chess" eases you in before shifting into a hurried beat that skips quickly along with that pretty melody. Throughout, Petite Noir (real name Yannick Ilunga) casts his bellowing vocal over you like a spell, and trust me, it's hard to wake from after these 6 and a half lulling minutes.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé Team Up for "Feelin' Myself"

Sometimes it's a two-post kind of day, and that's usually a day when Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj drop a hot new duet. 

Watch out for "Feelin' Myself"on Nicki's forthcoming January release, and, of course, you can expect to hear a lot more of it before then.

No further comment.

Tycho Remixes Spoon's "Inside Out"

Last week, when we were having an unusually dry December, this sunny jam was my soundtrack to happily strutting around town and soaking it all in. Today, as I trudged through piles of snow while my dog became a canine popsicle, it still added a little warmth to an otherwise terrible turn of weather events.

As you may have heard (or read) from me a number of times, Spoon's "Inside Out" was easily my favourite song of summer 2014. The timeless indie-rock ballad, off their outstanding release They Want My Soul, was a soulful slice of heaven fit for six months of straight repeats and recommendation to most people I met.

Last week, California artist/producer Tycho tried his hand at mixing the new classic with some upbeat funk and airy synths. The end product is a fresh new groove that blends the original's slow, dreaminess with his coined ambient touch. Have a listen: