In this very special edition of Heavy Rotation, you not only get a through-the-keyhole view of our musical proclivities, but you also get a few words from us on our top pick of the week. Keep reading to find out what Mark Sanders considers musical comfort food, why Kelsey Whipple can't think of Spacehog without recalling Joaquin Phoenix, get Antonio Valenzuela's take on Tity Boi's mutation into 2 Chainz, witness Josiah M Hesse marveling on Dr. Dre's anti-weed days and Noah Hubbell on the wonder of Jay Electronica's film samples, and how everything changed for Samantha Alviani after seeing Kishi Bashi at Larimer Lounge and more.
See also: - The five most listened-to songs and albums, week of September 10-17 - The five most listened-to songs and albums, week of September 3 - The five most listened-to songs and albums, week of August 27
Kishi Bashi - "Atticus in the Desert"
I always liked Kishi Bashi -- but it changed for me when I saw him at Larimer Lounge two weeks ago. Until then, I hadn't realized how much work went into every song during his live performances. On top of playing violin, he was constantly looping his instrumentation and vocals -- the result was other-worldly. There wasn't a closed mouth in the room. I love "Atticus in the Desert," and after I heard him perform it live, I didn't stop listening to it for the next week.
Tones on Tail - Everything!
Tones on Tail is the relatively unknown bridge between Bauhaus and Love and Rockets, but for my money, it's probably the best of the three bands. This compilation is, as the title says, everything they ever did, or damn close to it (I've heard there's a handful of other tracks that didn't make it). It's basically a double album of the very best Brian Eno-esque pop ever made without the help of Brian Eno. I dig it out once a year or so and dive back into it and imagine how cool it would have been if the band had ever had a chance to work with Eno for real, and just because it's an amazing work of post-punk art pop.
Eazy-E - Eazy Duz It
Eazy-E and his catalog served as my introduction to rap as an adolescent, and no doubt shaped my personality (be that good or bad). Hip-hop is a battle of skill vs. style, in my opinion, and I tend to prefer a stylistic and charismatic rapper to one who is simply technically talented. Eazy made up for what he lacked in writing skills by oozing raw street style, and his leadership ability ushered in the gangsta rap movement. His music has, and will, remain in my heavy rotation forever.
Kasey Musgraves - "Merry Go 'Round"
My favorite song of the moment is "Merry Go 'Round," Kacey Musgraves's debut single. Musgraves's resembles Miranda Lambert (whom she's co-written for previously) on the track. The melody, plus her tone, texture and phrasing recalls "The House That Built Me." But the comparisons end there. Whereas Lambert's ode is a steady handed, heartrending ballad in which she retraces the steps of her childhood, trying to reconnect with her roots and heal herself, Musgraves's song deals with the mundane moments of a middle class existence. Musgraves sings with tenderness and conviction, but also maintains an observational detachment that tempers the resignation. The song, co-written by Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally, contains some great lines: "Momma's hooked on Mary Kay/Brother's hooked on Mary Jane/And daddy's hooked on Mary, two doors down/Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary/We get bored so we get married/Just like dust, we settle in this town." Terrific tune. Move over, Taylor.
JOSIAH M HESSE
N.W.A - "Express Yourself"
One of the more uplifting tracks in N.W.A's catalogue of violence and misogyny, "Express Yourself," samples Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band's 1971 single of same name. Though the act's darker, more nihilistic tunes are memorable for their societal provocation, "Express Yourself," is a lighter side from the godfathers of gangsta rap. Containing a baffling anti-drug message from Dr. Dre ("I don't smoke weed ... it's known to give a brother brain damage"), the statement was largely overlooked by fans of Dre's THC inspired, The Chronic, in 1992.
Jay Electronica - "The Pledge"
At nine minutes, with four distinct sections, each with its own focus and tone, "The Pledge" is almost more of an essay than an ordinary song. In fact, this is almost certainly the most ambitious track in all of hip-hop. The samples from "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" and eventually "The Prestige" are simultaneously sublime and heartbreaking, and absolutely perfect with the progression of the production and the lyrics. It's not an easy message to decipher, and I'm not sure it's one that can really be fully understood, but the way it moves from a sort of everyday sorrow, to a primitive mysticism, to an almost alien ascension, is nothing short of otherworldly, and it gives me chills every time.
The Killers - Battle Born
Last week saw the release of The Killers' fourth studio album, Battle Born. Being a devoted Killers fan and loving the lead single from the set, "Runaways," I had high hopes for the album. It didn't quite click right away. Initially I was fairly worried for the band because there wasn't a second song that sounded like single material. I gave Battle Born another few chances, though, and now I love it. I guess you could say Brandon Flowers is a grower, not a shower. Once the album clicks, it's great; Flowers's voice is stronger here than on any previous set. Be sure to check out "Flesh And Born," "Deadlines & Commitments" and, on the deluxe edition, "Prize Fighter." It's a little bit Bruce, a little bit Hot Fuss-era Killers -- and it doesn't sound anything like the band's previous album, Day & Age.
My Bloody Valentine - Isn't Anything
MBV's 1991 shoegaze/dream-pop/noise-rock masterpiece, Loveless, is an immaculate set of sonic dissonance -- but this one is really good, too, and it's one of my top twenty or so favorite albums of all time. Highly recommended, especially if you've only listened to Loveless. Favorite track: "(When You Wake) You're Still in a Dream"
Codeine - "Frigid Stars"
Codeine is the rare band that can sound so spacious yet emotionally stirring at the same time. Introspective but expansive. Though not name-checked as often as more obvious "alternative" music touchstones, you hear the fingerprints of Codeine on a lot of music these days. Chris Brokaw's drumming on this record is phenomenal and incredibly expressive -- just as important as the guitar work and Stephen Immerwarh's haunting but comforting vocals. There are a lot of sonic paradoxes reconciled on this record. I listened to this more than any other album the last time I went on tour and it never got old because it really is just a goldmine of not just great songs but also sound ideas, experiments and personal insight.
Beach House - "Bloom" Joanna Newsom - "The Sprout and the Bean" Boards of Canada - The Campfire Headphase Jesu - Jesu
The War on Drugs - "Comin' Through"
Like any good comfort food (personal preference: heavily buttered toast), "Comin' Through" by Philadelphia rock group The War on Drugs simply never gets old. It's a deceptive song. Something a stoned monkey could be taught to play. Or Jandek. But therein lies the beauty of "Comin' Through," a chugging mid-tempo alt-country tune that is a dogpile of acoustic guitars and spacey flourishes. When singer Adam Granduciel intones in a nasal whine, "I've been tryin' to pull it through/this ramblin' road," you're transported to his denim-colored world. Blame it on the fact that I drive a beat-up old truck, or that my peripatetic lifestyle has caused more than one friend to joke that I'm probably running either from the feds or an angry baby-mama. Songs about loss and aimless travel are an easy sell for these ears.
Firewater - International Orange
Recorded last year in Istanbul and mixed in Tel Aviv during the Arab Spring, Firewater's new album, International Orange, has a bit of fiery punk vigor as well as worldly flavors, from bhangra to Turkish rhythms to ska, dub and mambo. While 2008s The Golden Hour was outstanding in its own right, Tod A and company have stepped things up quite a few notches with International Orange.
Playa Circle feat Lil Wayne - "Duffle Bag Boy"
This week my selection includes 2 Chainz as Tity Boi. I found out 2 Chainz reinvented himself after being known as Tity Boi with DTP, a feat many have failed to do with a new moniker. Also Scarface for touching down in Denver performing his classic material.
Tech N9ne feat Mystikal, Brian Angel and Trae da Truth - "All That I Know" Scarface feat 2pac - "Smile" Hustle Man feat Il Capo & Mac Veli - "#GTM Get The Money" Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth - "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)"
Spacehog - "In the Meantime"
I rediscovered "In the Meantime," that glorious '90s jam, because of Anthony Langdon's appearance in Joaquin Phoenix's strange mockumentary I'm Still Here a couple years ago. The immediate nostalgia hit me in the gut: "In the Meantime" might be lost to history, but thanks to its falsetto-filled intro and care-free melody, it will never lose its ability to make me grin while I attempt to match its high notes.