Here we go with the first edition of Chris’ Pick Six for 2016. Read about this Six records then go listen to the music. Hopefully you will dig some or all of these pieces of music.
The Black Watch – Highs and Lows
Adding another album to their already impressive catalog of music the Black Watch’s Highs and Lows is another example as to why you should be listening to their music. John Andrew Frederick’s artful lyrics weave effortlessly through the band’s rich soundscape full of pop melodies, brooding rhythms and fuzz drenched noise. Frederick’s deep vocals on “Quondam Redhead” and “Beautiful Sleeper” possess an alluring somberness that listeners will get lost in. “She’s a Mess” and “There’s No Fucking Way” drip with disillusionment and displeasure without being abrasive. A track that encompasses everything good about the Black Watch’s music is “He Must Needs Go That the Devil Drives”. The guitar driven tune surrounds Frederick’s vocals with thick melodies before exploding into a chaotic assemblage of spacy sounds and chunky noise. Falling somewhere between the Cure and Joy Division the Black Watch continue to make significant music during a time when flair is valued over substance.
The Yawpers – American Man
Delivering music full of energy that rivals an 8 year old jacked up on Red Bull and Pixie Sticks the Yawpers crank out a massive wall of sound utilizing the bare minimum. Their blues infused rock music is equal parts punk and Southern rock but all bad ass. Nasty guitar riffs dominate each track as tenacious percussion crashes the party fighting for the right to be there. “Doing it Right” and “9 to 5” explode from the speakers showcasing the band’s ability to push things to the limit while “American Man” and “The Desert” let listeners know they can switch gears. As the music assaults listener’s ear holes the brilliance of their lyrics sometimes gets lost and that should never be the case. American Man is a complete record from start to finish so crank it loud and let it all soak in.
Nigel Hall – Ladies and Gentlemen…’
‘From an early age Nigel Hall’s life has been about music. As his family immersed Hall into a wide range of musical flavors his tastes were more inclined to favor classic soul, jazz and r&b than whatever was popular at the time. Through the years Hall honed his skills becoming one of the most sought out keyboardists in music. After years of playing with a who’s who list of musician’s Nigel Hall has stepped out on his own to deliver Ladies & Gentlemen…Nigel Hall a brilliant demonstration in his musical prowess. Possessing the smoothness of Al Green and the funkiness of Curtis Mayfield Ladies & Gentlemen turns back the clock to the 60’s and 70’s with songs like “Never Gonna Let You Go” and “Let’s Straighten It Out”. The funk gets kicked up a few levels on “Try, Try, Try” as the horn section takes over and music doesn’t get much better than the tune “Lay Away”. Listening to Nigel Hall sing never gets old, but don’t take my word on it go listen for yourself.
The I Don’t Cares – Wild Stab
Paul Westerberg and Juliana Hatfield are quite similar in that both have mastered writing songs full of sardonic lyrics, pop infused melodies and chunky guitar riffs. With this being said it makes total sense for the two to join forces on an album of songs that brings out the brilliance in both of them. Calling themselves the I Don’t Cares the duo quietly assembled an album and unbeknownst to many slipped it into the musical universe. Foraging through a wealth of Westerberg material that had been unreleased or unrecorded Hatfield put together a list of songs for the two to re-work and record. For most of the 16 songs on Wild Stab Hatfield secludes herself in the shadows providing vocal harmonies and guitars letting Westerberg take the lead. The rocking “Wear me Out Loud” is why Westerberg is so easy to love and the blast of harmonica really makes the song. The vocal harmonies on the pop heavy “1/2 2P” showcases how well these two sound together and “Just a Phase” with Hatfield on lead is pure candy for the ears. The album closes with “Hands Together”, the 6+ minute mellow track about death, love and loss is one of the most beautiful songs Westerberg has ever released. Westerberg and Hatfield have delivered a record that is not only evidence of the duo’s talents but is a joy to listen to.
Animal Daydream – Citrus EP
Dabbling in classic psychedelic pop sounds the West coast band Animal Daydream (by way of Sweden) have released one of the more sonically pleasing EP’s of 2016. Jangly guitars echo through listener’s ears as the haunting vocal melodies ride the mellow sound waves throughout the album. Once the guitars kick in on the opening track “Citrus” the only choice to make is to let it play to the end, and you will be glad you made that choice. The upbeat “Sun (Turn Around)” complements the laid back “All That You Can Give” creating a yin/yang vibe. The EP closes out with the smooth “In My Room” a tune loaded with spacey melodies that are anchored by driving percussion. Animal Daydream takes music that sounds like the Association or the Grass Roots and makes it their own. If you want something that is comfortably familiar yet originally fresh then this is the record you need to listen to.
DearDarkHead – Strange Weather
The upcoming record – Strange Weather – is a six song melodious journey down DearDarkHead’s sonic highway. After their lead singer departed in 2009 they reinvented themselves as an instrumental band creating a sound that needed no lyrical input. The band precisely incorporates jangly guitars, pop infused melodies and vociferous rhythms that hook listener’s much in that way a catchy chorus does. The songs have a classic feel, reminiscent of the 80’s which helps with the likability of DeadDarkHead’s music. The jangly guitars on “Falling Upward”, the brooding undertones of “March Hares” and the spacey melodies on “Thinking Back” anchor this record and will keep listeners returning to submerge themselves into DearDarkHead’s soundscape.