Sunday, February 19, 2017

Click (Music): Me Not You, Felicity, Jay Som and Lettuce Wraps

"Relief" by Me Not You

When “Relief” by Little Daylight turned Me Not You members Nikki Taylor and Eric Zeiler crossed my desk, I was two week's deep in one of those gluten overload diets. It was all pasta soup and sandwiches all the time. "Relief" opened my eyes to how bad I was feeling from all that gluten. The track's crunchy, dynamic pop-rock got me thinking, how can I free myself from this painful eating rut I've created? Crunch...crunch...crunch. Then it dawned on me, the solution to all my problems was lettuce wraps.

According to Nikki Taylor, "Relief" is indeed all about a painful, yet freeing experience. Her's had nothing to do with gluten though. It was more along the lines of getting kicked out of Catholic High School. "Relief" was written to capture the "anxiety-ridden catharsis" that marked that period of her life.

"Pilot With a Fear of Heights" by Felicity

The idea behind Felicity's “Pilot With A Fear Of Heights” came from a flight into New York. She was looking out the window and realized how high the plane was. She started thinking about fears, how people have different ones and that a fear of heights is not really that uncommon. This is where her imagination took over. What if a pilot was afraid of heights? What if people are so destined for something and yet are so afraid to fulfill it? She was so tickled by this thought that she turned it into a song. When I think about this idea of not fulfilling something because of fear my mind quickly shifts to mushrooms. I know lots of people that are so scared of mushrooms because of their texture, growing style or look. This fear, at some moments, does not allow mushrooms to fulfill their destiny. It is a destiny that, when done absolutely right, should be full of pine nuts, pistachios and, of course, lettuce.

"1 Billion Dogs" by Jay Som

Thanks to an interview with Jay Som (aka Melina Duterte) on Pitchfork, I now know that cat cafe's are a thing. This, in turn, led me to the lettuce wrap of my dreams. If you are more of a dog fan, I'm sure you can just wrap a vegan hot dog in lettuce and call it a meal.

"Ego" by Milky Chance

"Ego" is a carefree, tropically-tinged track about a "distance that is impossible to overcome." This is Milky Chance's strength, their ability to display the painful realities of being human in a way that is smooth, fun and easy to bob your head to. In lettuce wrap form, "Ego" looks like this minus the chicken and cilantro (ugh, gag, gouge my tastebuds out with soap and water).

"Don't Get It" by Empty Lungs

Empty Lungs want you to know this: '"Don't Get It" is a fuck you to a culture that warps young people into thinking that self-image and selfishness are the core values of our modern society. Those kinds of attitudes create an atmosphere that alienates anyone that doesn’t fit the mold. The youth culture that we love revolves around tolerance, art, activism and social change. Unfortunately these aren’t the dreams being sold to many of us.'

A quick Google search of "art, activism and lettuce wraps" brought me to this fantastic looking wrap. It also showed me that there is a real need to continue to explore the political side of the lettuce wrap.


"Paris" by The Chainsmokers

Yes, you can find Paris inspired lettuce wraps. Unfortunately they are full of canned fish.

"Fucked Up Young" by the Dirty Nil

Hamilton rock 'n' roll trio The Dirty Nil will be releasing a number of tracks from their back catalogue on April 28 (via Fat Wreck Chords). The album, entitled, Minimum R&B is comprised of eleven tracks from a combination of 7's (including the fabulous "Guided by Vices") and the Smite EP. It will also include one new track. The compilation’s inspiration was “fuelled by broken vintage fuzz pedals, girls night out wine, smashing reverb tanks with hammers, a small lake of black coffee, general negligence, recording vocals naked, beer, blood, broken bones, broken instruments, broken ears, inescapable loudness, screaming, unresolved girl problems, exposed wiring, no shoes, making our producers drink more than they wanted to, and a dozen donuts.”

Unfortunately, for me, no one wraps donuts (or coffee) in lettuce.

 Get All of 2017's Click Tracks (when available) in One Spotify Playlist:

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Click (Music): Powers, Turn to Crime, Zuzu and Loose Buttons

"Dance" by Powers

I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard "Dance" by Powers. I was preparing to step foot in the adult ball pit at BallieBallerson in London. A drunk dude decided to run into the lady that was in line right in front of me. All of a sudden a riot broke out. Things got way out of hand. I decided to forgo the balls and just head upstairs for a bottomless batch of veggie balls and spaghetti. It was there that my bluetooth accidentally took over the restaurant's soundsystem and sent the highly energetic, nineties-style guitar driven, dancefloor call-to-arms playing for all to hear. I paid a huge fine to the band for releasing the song before it was cool to do so all those balls fly fast and furious like made it all so worth it.

"Between Brick Walls" by Loose Buttons

I know exactly where I was when I first heard "Between Brick Walls" by the Loose Buttons. Me and my girl were still knee deep in dragging out the very dead corpse of our relationship. I couldn't let go, she couldn't let go, even though we knew things weren't right. I challenged her to an animal cracker and cheez whiz eating contest (vegan of course) and she won. Right at that moment, possibly the lowest I had ever felt, the bluetooth on her phone kicked in and "Between Brick Walls" started playing. I heard frontman Eric Nizgretsky's admission of making a mistake and trying to keep a dead relationship alive just because he was "insecure about being alone" buried beneath an Arctic Monkeys-esque delivery. I decided to face that dreaded loneliness head on.

I took my vegan cheez whiz with me but left behind the animal crackers. I wasn't going to make this break anything less than amicable.

"Sand Drone" by Eat Fast

I know exactly where I was when I first heard "Sand Drone" by Eat Fast. I was having some huge fight with an old lady at the bar. She told me that young people were "lazy and out of touch with the economic reality of our times." I said that I knew a lot of "smart, creative people my age that were being brickwalled and stifled while picking up the bill of the last generation. It saddened me." All of a sudden her phone rang, it was her daughter asking to borrow some money. The old lady's ringtone?

"Sand Drone."

"Thick as Thieves" by The Menzingers

I know exactly where I was when I first heard "Thick as Thieves" by the Menzingers. I was at a local art gallery being painted by some artist. I flirted with her, she flirted with me. I planned on giving her a huge ass tip and my phone number. Turns out she was an abstract artist. She put my nose where my ears were supposed to be, made my head into a straight line and made my nude body so much less appealing than I thought it should be. I refused to pay her. She rummaged through her paint supply box and pulled out a portable stereo. "Thick as Thieves" started blasting. I guess this refusal to pay thing happened a lot.

"Chasing" by Turn to Crime

I know exactly where I was the first time I heard "Chasing" by Turn to Crime. My band, Face The Church, was having our very first practice ever. The lead guitarist started playing this song and, despite none of the rest of us having ever heard it, we covered it almost exactly like this. Who says near death experiences don't create altered senses in people? Right OA?


"What You Want" by Zuzu

Because who doesn't spend their days seeking out existential detectives?

"Wild Ones" by Crusoe

You've probably heard the new song from Crusoe, "Wild Ones." I mean it has only been on like every television show ever. It was on "The Hills," "Degrassi," "Born This Way," and Season 2 of the Netflix show "Love." I think I also remember it from a 90210 episode my sister made me watch years ago...or that could just be the trauma talking.

 Get All of 2017's Click Tracks (when available) in One Spotify Playlist:

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Food Pairing 101: What Goes Well With Blackberry Sage Kombucha?

I know what you guys are thinking. Man you've sent me so many DM's on Twitter asking me where I am and if I will ever be blogging again. I kept telling you, in time my preciousesseses (or however you would spell that). The reason for the absence? Nothing to do with fondness and hearts. It is all because making kombucha takes so much damn time.

If you've never brewed a batch of kombucha at home (your crazy!) you might not realize all the steps that go into making that fine fermented drink. Let Tender drop some knowledge on ya. If you do know how we do, well...go ahead and skip down to the Disco Fries, they are eagerly awaiting your earlobes. The first thing you have to do when making kombucha is locate a scoby. This is a sort of living jellyfish looking culture that is responsible for the ferment. I looked high and low for one of those things but couldn't find it. Finally, on a whim, I joined my local yard sale group on Facebook and...voila! Scoby at my front door. Next you brew up a gallon of tea, pour a cup of sugar in it and let it sit. Once it hits room temperature, drop the scoby (and some starter liquid from another batch of kombucha) into the tea. Let that thing fester around somewhere between 74 and 78 degrees for upwards of seven days. After seven days you can remove the scoby (and a cup of kombucha). Now it is time to flavor that baby. Find some fruit or herbs (or both) cut them up and drop them in. Let the brew sit for another four days and, finally, you've got some kombucha. Bottle it and drink at your own leisure.

My first batch was flavored with blackberries and sage. As I alluded to earlier, I would pair a brew of blackberries and sage with the Disco Fries new song "My World." While the song is actually about all the effects a lovely relationship has on a person, I could easily replace the hand holding and lip kissing with some bottle sucking and koozie caressing and make this track about kombucha. "My World" is crisp and clean. It bangs and vibes and grooves. It is astringent but warm. Wait am I still talking about "My World" or have I moved on to the kombucha? At this point, weeks deep in both, I don't know where one begins and the other ends.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Where We Eat: Hablo Taco

A really big football game came to Tampa a few weeks back. This football game brought with it a lot of fancy little popup events that took place all through our downtown. I was invited to one of those popup events, probably because the masterminds behind the event know of my blogging prowess, and I took them up on their offer. I spent a few hours mingling with others in the field of blogging, getting a massage, taking pictures of myself holding a bunch of different trophies and grabbing whatever free stuff I could find.

One thing that was severely lacking in the free realm was food. Chick-Fil-A (not much vegan happening there), soda (no thank you) and popcorn (I'll pass) were all I could track down. Needless to say, I was pretty famished when I left that event. I grabbed a couple of my other blogger friends (yes, bloggers do have friends) for a late afternoon meal. One of them suggested we check out Hablo Taco. I wasn't super keen on this, I mean gringo-centric Mexican food in a part of town where everyone is young and wears sunglassess inside with shorts and a buttoned up shirt never seems to go well. Those places are usually all about the drink with the food being a distant afterthought.

We were seated and given menus almost immediately upon entering Hablo Taco. A round of guacamole was ordered as a precursor to our meal. I was intrigued to see that the place offers three different versions of guac. There is the "house" guac made up of jalapeno, lime and tomato, the "holy" guac with peppers and beans and the "sriracha" guac that guessed it, sriracha. We opted for the less fired up house version. Despite the fact that the guac contains one alarming ingredient (cilantro) and another borderline one (jalapeno) I was pleased with the flavor. It didn't lean too far in any direction. It wasn't too spicy or limey and I couldn't even taste the cilantro. So far Hablo Taco and their gringo inspired menu was a-ok.

The House Guacamole and Basket of Chips

Hablo Taco had a few options on their menu that appeared like they could be veganized. I really only considered two. One was a salad, one was a bowl. I've been sort of on a bowl kick for the last month (ordering one recently at Chipotle and Capital Tacos) so that's what I went with at Hablo Taco. Their bowl, dubbed the Bueno Bowl, typically contains black beans, queso blanco, pico de gallo, kimchee onions, and either cilantro-lime or Mexican rice. You can add guacamole and kimchee jalapenos for no extra charge. I removed the cheese and added the kimchee jalapenos. I opted for the rice that didn't contain cilantro. Wow. This bowl was a lot better than I ever imagined. The creamy salsa and beans morphed together to form a soft, chunky sauce. The jalapenos and onions retained some of their crunch while offering a pungent, slightly sour note to the dish. They also brought just the right amount of heat. The rice, which was puffed nicely, really took on the flavor of everything else. From where I stand, Hablo Taco probably could've gotten away with adding unflavored rice to the dish.

The Bueno Bowl

Hablo Taco is as gringo as it comes. The crowd is mostly white. The workers are mainly white. Know this before you go in, otherwise you will be sorely disappointed. There is nothing "authentic" in this place. California bro...don't waste your time. I don't want to have to read your review about how this "pales in comparison to taco places in California" and "these guys don't know how to make authentic tacos". That being said, I was perfectly ok with my meal. I'm not saying I would drive out of my way to go here, because I wouldn't. What I am saying is that next time some big football game is in town and the powers that be invite me to hang out with my fellow bloggers while gifting me lots of free stuff, I wouldn't think twice about paying Hablo Taco another visit.

I'm thinking LA based newcomer Ella Vos' knows a thing or two about California tacos. I mean her stunning single "Down In Flames" seems to be all about that time when someone she knows ate food that was just too spicy and spent the evening in front of the toilet aka down in flames. You don't have to be from California to be able to relate. Ella's stellar vocals float beautifully over an expansive soundscape. She is probably the first artist I've come across who can make that fiery taco end (or any end for that matter) feel like a soothing lullabye. Check it:

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Merry Listmas 2016: The Food

Before the calendar turns to 2017, let’s reminisce about the finer things that food in 2016 had to offer (click on the picture for recipes and blog posts).

Favorite Sandwiches:

Main Attractions:


Some Other Favorites of the Year:

Favorite Place to Fill a Growler of Kombucha
Jug and Bottle. Not only can you fill their growlers with Mother Kombucha from the tap but you can also buy bottled kombucha, local ice cream, local snack foods, Seminole Heights clothing, nitro brewed coffee (also on tap) and some cheeses and salsas that are slightly harder to find. Oh, did I mention beer and wine? No? You can buy those too.

Best Vegan Lentil Soup in a Bread Bowl:
BJ's Brewhouse. I am enamored with BJ's vegan lentil soup. I've eaten it both as a bread bowl (hold the butter) and regular bowl. The soup is filling, slightly spicy and flavorful. Rare is it to find a chain restaurant in Tampa offering a vegan soup. Even rarer is the restaurant that offers a really good vegan soup. BJ's also does some beautiful Brussels Sprouts (nicely charred and crispy and tossed in oil).

Best "Fancy" Vegan Pizza:
Double Zero. From farro sausage to artisanal vegan cheese plates to sweet potato bruschetta, this place is all vegan all the time. It definitely isn't cheap but if you are in New York and looking for a fancy vegan dinner you can't get in Tampa, check this place out.

Best Artisanal Tofu in Tampa:
Thinh An Kitchen and Tofu.

Best Vegan Hot Dog:
The Holiday Dog from the Vegan Hot Dog Cart. The Holiday Dog includes Florida orange-cran chutney, Carolina BBQ mustard sauce and fried onions. It was ranked back in 2014 by PETA as the number one vegan hot dog in America. I can see why. This dog was amazing. Texture wise, it wasn't as chewy as the prepackaged versions you can get at the store. The dog (and bun) basically melted in your mouth. The orange-cran chutney, bbq mustard and fried onions flowed nicely with the dog. None of the flavors stood out, instead they morphed into one giant swirl of sweet, sour and crispy.

Best Seaweed Salad Served in a Martini Glass:
Samurai Blue Ybor

Best Vegan Cupcake Caught on Camera:
Georgetown Cupcakes. This place does live up to the hype, although I don't recommend checking out the cupcake camera. You don't want to lose too many hours of your life...

Best Veggie Burger:
Chickpea & Olive. A beet burger topped with vegan cheese and avocado and served on thick toasted bread. That's the kind of food porn my wife catches me watching late at night. Sometimes, if I'm lucky, I can even get her to join in. It really keeps the relationship fresh.

But seriously, if you go to Smorgasburg and are a vegan, eat this burger!

Best Vegan Banana Bread (aside from my own, of course):
Buttermilk Provisions

Best Bagels:
Bagel Pub. I rolled around my tiny little high school with the hottest girl on my arm. I thought I was something special. Then I went off to college in the city and I realized that there wasn't anything special about high school me. That girl on my arm, she was small potatoes compared to the city girls. I broke up with her via AOL instant messenger and never looked back.

So what does this have to do with Bagel Pub? Well, in similar fashion, I rolled around Tampa thinking that I knew what a good bagel was. It took me four hours in New York to realize that those "bagels" I was eating were nothing more than tiny little crust rocks. They were small grains of wheat compared to the Bagel Pub bagels.

Vegan Dessert of the Year:
Vegan Donuts. From Buttermilk Provisions to Alevri Marketplace to Valhalla Bakery to Dun-Well Doughnuts, I had my fair share of vegan donuts this year. Moreso than any other vegan dessert. That's why I am proclaiming that the Chinese calendar makers make 2016 forever known as the year of the vegan donut. I know it isn't an animal and all, but if I bite a doughnut in just the right places, I can easily shape it into a squirrel. That's good enough right?

Best Place to Purchase my Vegan Dessert of the Year:
Dun-Well Doughnuts. Dun-Well doesn't play the whole regular donuts with one vegan option game. Everything at Dun-Well is vegan. This includes the lattes, ice cream, milkshakes, sundaes, donuts, horchata and egg type things. Tough choices. During my first visit, I went with the most recommended doughnut according to Yelp, the Peanut Butter and Jelly doughnut. As I mentioned here, the peanutty glaze of the donut was not super sugary, like I feared it would. It had a strong peanut taste. The doughnut was fluffy, sort of like a dough pillow for the rich peanut topping to rest it's weary head. The jelly inside the doughnut was a nice sweet contrast to the rich peanut glaze and doughy doughnut. Later in the year I returned and ordered a doughnut sundae. The ice cream, courtesy of 3 Little Birds, was creamy and amazing. The doughy donut underneath matched nicely.

Best Vegan Ice Cream Not in My Grocer's Freezer:
3 Little Birds

Best Vegan Ice Cream From My Grocer's Freezer:
Ben and Jerry's PB & Cookies. More than twice the calories of my former go to vegan ice cream, probably because it is oh-so-good!

Vegan Restaurant of the Year
Champs Diner. While I ate better dishes this year, Champs takes the cake because it is a completely vegan diner that offers a ton of different options to choose from. While I liked Dun-Well Donuts more, they are limited by being a bakery. And while the burger I ate at Chickpea & Olive was hands down the best thing I ate this year, they suffer from a lack of options. I guess I am defining a restaurant as having multiple options and not just desserts.

I had only one shot at Champs Diner. Because of that, I wanted to eat everything on the menu. I wanted the mozzarella sticks and the buffalo wings and the seitan asada fries and a grinder and reuben and Philly Cheesesteak. Eventually I settled on a buffalo chick'n hero for me. J-Fur ordered an Awesome Bowl and Z-Bot the mac and cheese.

The Buffalo Chick'n Hero, which was made up of spicy buffalo chick'n, greens, tomatoes, sautéed onions and ranch dressing, was slightly salty. I loved the creamy, spicy combo. What made Champs stand out to me was the mac and cheese. This dish was perfection. It was cheesy and creamy without the weird texture that a lot of vegan cheeses seem to suffer from. The Awesome Bowl has quinoa, tofu scramble, bell peppers, garlic sautéed kale, home fries and hollandaise sauce. With that list of ingredients, it sounds like it should be one of the greatest things I've ever tasted. It pretty much was.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Listmas 2016: The Music

My twenty favorite tracks of 2016 included a song about space, a church baptism and apple pie. There was a song about the out-of-control past careening wildly towards the present and future, one that featured critiques of those that cut their faces up in order to be beautiful and a track detailing a rebound sexual romp after your man left you in some cheap warm gin. At the top of it all is a track that, despite the dark days ahead, kept me firmly planted in the brightness of the here and now.

Let's get on with Tender Branson’s Top 20 Songs This Year:

20. Sara Hartman - "Satellite"

What I said: I recently watched a Charlie Sheen movie about satellite communications and aliens wearing human skin as they infiltrated NASA. I found the movie hollow and meek, like a flavorless hummus. Sara Hartman's "Satellite" resides on the complete opposite pole from this movie. It is big, bold and filling. Everyone else will have you think it is the song of the summer. I tell you it is the song of right now.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

19. Gryffin/Bipolar Sunshine – “Whole Heart”

What I said: Aside from being a fabulous dance track, "Whole Heart" has actually performed quite a service for society. Before hearing the song I was a somewhat reluctant organ donor. I was totally cool with passing on my lungs, liver, kidneys and even my stomach. When it came to the heart, I was cool giving up my aorta, left ventricle and left atrium but I insisted on holding on to the right ventricle and atrium (I considered them my "lucky" heart parts). But hearing Bipolar Sunshine say over and over "you've got to got to got to go whole heart" convinced me that I was being selfish holding on to my "lucky" heart parts. So how exactly can this be labelled "quite a service for society?" Well, considering I have heard from upwards of a hundred people who have said they "want a piece of me" I've now fully committed to their having just that.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

18. Rafferty – “Apple Pie”

What I said: When I think of Apple Pies, I think of a mouthwatering blend of sweet, tart and crisp apples swirled superbly with cinnamon, brown sugar and, perhaps, a slight sprinkling of nutmeg or lemon (if I want to get a little funky). All of that is then blanketed and baked in a golden, flakey crust. Are you picturing what I'm describing? If so, I did my job. If not, I need to head back to my local writer's guild and tell them that their crappy (and free) descriptive writing class did not work. Maybe I'll even write up a bill and charge them for my time.

Back to that picture you had. Was the setting a church bake sale? Inquiring minds and s**t. Okay, take a gigantic brain eraser and get rid of everything you just imagined, except for the church. Because Rafferty's debut single, "Apple Pie," ain't sweet. It ain't the kind of thing that you'll want to dip your finger in and taste. You won't be clamoring to lick the empty bowl. A lemon? That's child's play. "Apple Pie" is grimy and sinfully fun. It is smokey and boozy and feels like a striptease at church. The music resembles something that your garage might house after you move that old organ that your grandfather's church just sold. There's blasting guitars that start and stop on a dime while the organ, oh that organ, pulsates in the distance. Rafferty brings the fun by incorporating a series of clap tracks, belting out an "Ahhhhh, ahhh, ahhh" chorus and taking a page from the preacher's book with an intense call and response. If he brought the fire and brimstone instead of just begging for some of that apple pie, it would seem right at home.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

17. The Menzingers - "Lookers"

What I said: "Lookers" depresses me. Don't get me wrong, it is a hell of a song (especially with pizza) but there is something about getting nostalgic about how good you used to look in the old days that makes me feel sad inside. I had trouble placing my finger on exactly what it was until my therapist gave it to me point blank. He said "Tender, you're ugly. You've always been ugly. This song speaks of a time when the characters looked good. You've never experienced that." To add insult to injury, he followed this up by telling me insurance hasn't covered our last few visits and I owe him $3,976.15. Broke and ugly. I'm getting drunk on wildflower kombucha tonight.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

16. Sleigh Bells – “Baptism by Fire”

What I say now: I really meant to review Sleigh Bells new album. I liked it that much. Unfortunately I never got around to it. But that doesn't mean I can't let you in on a squeaky clean little tidbit about the album. The best track on it, in my humble opinion, comes near the end in the form of "Baptism by Fire." For three albums I've listened to Sleigh Bells with reactions ranging from violent kick whirls to mild amusement to complete disinterest. "Baptism by Fire" was the first one that had me falling in love all over again with that special someone. Unlike other bands that have to sell their sound in order to write a love song, Sleigh Bells was able to meld their world with matters of the heart. The jittery starts and stops serve to put your focus on the band's beautiful pleading, "I wanna listen to your heart" and their constant suggesting that "when you love something so much, almost nothing can go wrong."

Listen: Spotify

15. Hazel English – “I'm Fine”

What I said: "I'm Fine" is a beautifully blurry indie-pop track powered by transcendent melodies and caked in layers of Californian sunshine and redolent reverb.
-Hazel English Press Release

Did someone say cake? No? I swear I heard someone mention cake. Right now, while I was just sitting here listening to the new Hazel English single, "I'm Fine." "I'm Fine," like most of Hazel English's tracks, can best be described as sun drenched indie pop with a little bit of lo-fi on the side. Listening to her, I'm reminded a lot of Day Wave. The 25-year-old Oakland-based artist recently announced her debut 12-inch vinyl EP, Never Going Home, on House Anxiety/Marathon Artists. You'll be able to get your hands on it October 7th.

I'd pair this stunning track with some sort of sunshiney vegan cake. A vegan lemon sunshine layer cake seems like it would do just the trick.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

 14. Follin  – “Roxy"

What I said: Sticking with the whole sibling thing, Follin is what happens when Madeline Follin (of Cults) and Richie Follin (of Guards) take time out of their busy schedules to make some music together. Wanting to make it a truly family event, the two even got mom involved by doing some of the recording for their first batch of songs in her living room.

Listen: Spotify

13. John Joseph Brill – “False Names”

What I said: I have to admit that when I first read the email that accompanied John Joseph Brill's new release “"False Names" I very nearly deleted it. There is something about musicians with three names that turns me off. I think it is because they don't make good music. I can't think of one three named artist that I really liked. On top of that, John and Joseph are pretty normal names. This is also a huge strike because I find people with normal names also don't usually make good music. For some reason, I went against all my gut instincts and gave John Joseph a chance. I have to admit, I am really glad I did. It is John Joseph's warm baritone, the lines "We'll go spinning through the neon, winning new friends" and the his description of the track that won me over. About "False Names" he says "it's a song about a best mate, a tremendous, beautiful, flawed best mate who I wouldn't change for the world and how a mate like that can take you rampaging around a town and make all the darkness and nonsense disappear.”"

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

12. PSSY PWR – “Cocaine Girls”

What I said:  I ordered a batch of Buffalo Cauliflower while I was out celebrating a coworker's birthday on Thursday night. The texture was just right. The heat came with a warning, be careful, this stuff burns. It may cause permanent damage to your tastebuds. Also sent with a warning? PSSY PWR's new track "Cocaine Girls." +++ WARNING +++ Clunky, unpolished and unapologetic, PSSY PWR’s tongue in cheek lyrics and detonating sound must be played LOUD AF or your device will explode.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

11. Eat Fast – “Byker Drone”

What I said: I sat down tonight at my really old flip top desk to try and figure out what to make for dinner. With each dip of my pen into an inkwell, I found it more difficult to concentrate. It wasn't the coffee I drank this morning, that had long since worn off. It wasn't the preservatives my mom packed in my lunch because, well, there weren't any. The problem here is worms. More specifically, that damn little ear worm that Rick from Whiteboard PR snuck into my body. The ear worm has this scuzzy feel, it reminds me a bit of last year's darlings Black Honey. In real terms, because I only deal in things that are real, I'd say the worm is like a runaway train that hits one end of a tunnel at about the same moment that a family of five driving an SUV with a screaming teenager in back comes through the other. The two are on a collision course with no way around it. That's the music. The lyrics persuade you to "Take some time, be sure about it. Think it thru, be sure about it. Stay a while, make sure about it." There's some other lyrics intended to slow you down and get your mind right, still scuzzy, and then all of a sudden things turn sweet like carrots (or about as sweet as the aforementioned SUV and runaway train on a collision course can be). "She's just a little girl" they say, over and over and over. Try rolling that in some spicy sauce.

This worm has a name, "Byker Drone" by Eat Fast. It is the type of song that stays with you long after you quit listening. It is the type of song that suggests pulled bbq carrots need to be on the menu. It is the type of song that says don't forget Eat Fast. Of course it is also the type of song that says how could you.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

10. The Khanz – “Magazine Perfection”

What I said: Sometimes perfect beauty is just a photoshop or two away. Sometimes it is so much farther. And still, people go for it. That's what the fabulous "Magazine Perfection" is about. My favorite line, "I wanna change my face (so chop it off)." Take it from the guy whose therapist called him "ugly as f***," these changes, in the long run, are so not worth it.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

9. Gang of Youths  – “Strange Diseases”

What I said: When I Google searched strange disease and ketchup I came across an interesting question that I'm sure everyone has pondered at some time or another: Can I get AIDS from eating ketchup immediately after it has been injected by HIV?

What I say now: Gang of Youth's "Strange Diseases" continues to make me Google "the world's strangest diseases" months after I originally heard it. What makes the song so itchingly great: the kick drum that pulsates through every fiber in your body, the backing strings that come in and out of prominence and David Leaupepe's powerful pipes. This is one strange disease I'm glad I was unable to discover a cure for.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

8. Freedom Fry – “Shaky Ground”

What I said: Near the end of the year, one of the girls in my class told me that her summer plans included learning a new language. Seeing as she was already bilingual (English and Spanish) I expected her newest language to be French. That seems to be the play in America. Learn Spanish or French, maybe both. When she announced that her newest language would be Cantonese, I was definitely caught a bit off guard. Her explanation, business reasons, seemed to make sense but really, what third grader says that they want to spend their summer months learning Cantonese?

So what does this have to with Freedom Fry's "Shaky Ground"? Well, the video for "Shaky Ground" is one of the more unique ones I've seen in recent years. This uniqueness has nothing to do with the singing coconuts that periodically show up throughout, although the two foodie-music bloggers in the world certainly rejoiced about that one. What really drives me to call this video unique is that it is presented bilingually. Within the video, the actual single for "Shaky Ground" plays through twice. The first go round finds Bruce and Marie singing in English and dancing with friends at a US style house party. Their is a momentary pause and then the single starts up again. This time through a French version of Bruce and Marie make their way to the states and put on an empty pool concert/dance party. The verses are presented in French during this second go round.

Listen: Spotify

7. Mitski – “Your Best American Girl”

What I say now: In “Your Best American Girl,” Mitski makes peace with the fact that she won't live up to other's expectations, that she is exactly who she is. Throughout the track, which musically moves from an acoustic one, to a twinkling dream pop number with momentary blasts of Kyla La Grange style feedback, Mitski ponders whether the right choice is to keep on going with a relationship featuring two very different people or she should just let it all go.

It was Mitski's very real musical photograph of one of life's most chaotic dilemmas that first attracted me to "Your Best American Girl". It was her rational dissection of motherly approval that kept me coming back, over and over again. I know this, I can relate, although maybe not so rationally. Mitski speaks in as calm and profound a manner as any artist I've heard this year.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

6. The Dirty Nil – “Wrestle Yu to Husker Du”

What I said: When "Wrestle Yu to Husker Du" (it appears the umlauts are gone on Higher Power), kicks into gear I find myself again thinking of Rivers Cuomo. This time around I see the Weezer leader drunk on cheap gin while lamenting previous love losses. While this is going on, his current girl snuggles up next to someone else. Next thing I know it is all romps in the hay and playing doctor in the reeds. But, as the Dirty Nil points out, there is no moral conflict taking place while stealing another man's girl because "I don't care about your man, oh ya, f*** him, he left you in a glass of cheap warm gin." This track is reminiscent of the sweet potato based "nacho" cheese that is slathered overtop of the burger. Think about it. You've got a party going on. In the corner, milk, rennet and the cultures are all smoking weed and getting drunk. While they aren't paying attention along comes sweet potato, nutritional yeast and coconut milk. They don't give a f*** about what those other three are doing, tradition or unspoken rules. All they know is that there is one hot, bulgogi covered burger needing some cheese on top. They work their magic and the rest is history.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

5. Dreamers – “Never too Late to Dance”

What I said: "Never Too Late To Dance" is another in a long line of songs about dancing that actually make me want to leave the kitchen and turn some ballroom full of fussy bottoms on its head. This track is catchy as hell thanks to the rhythmic background, pulsating drum beats, the grouped out oh oh ohs and the "can we chase the fire from a lost romance, it's never too late to dance" chorus.

Playing the same catchy as hell, fiery, stay drunk on your kiss role in the Po' Boy is the cauliflower. Dredged in corn meal, spices, soy milk and hot sauce, and then baked in the oven, the cauliflower is hot, carby and difficult to resist. Sometimes I plan to make three or four sandwiches but only wind up with two because of my sneaking cauliflower pieces between sandwich construction. My favorite part of the sandwich, my favorite song on the album.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

4. Japandroids – “Near to the Wild Heart of Life”

What I said: When I was a child, I ate like a child. My mac and cheese came powdered or in a squeezable foil packet. Now that I am a man, I eat like a man. My mac and cheese comes from cashews, contains Brussels Sprouts and is spicy as hell. This manly version of mac and cheese cooks up so well with "Near to the Wild Heart of Life" by Japandroids. First, there's the constant reference to fire in the song (including the repeated "and it got me all fired up"). That's the same fire that bites my tongue and stabs at my cheek with each bite I take. Then there's the ever present "I used to be good but now I'm bad." Despite the fact that the powdered and foil wrapped processed version of mac and cheese is full of dyes and junk and nothing nice, my friends and family continue to try and convince me just how "good" these versions are. They refuse to even give the time of day to my cashew laden, protein packed, veggie filled version. Fine, you continue to be "good." I'll put that life in the rearview and hang out here on the "bad" side of the dining room table.

What I say now: Like a fine vegan mac and cheese, this track just keeps getting better with age. I get more excited about the Japandroids upcoming album with each passing day. To all those people I work with that ask if the Japandroids are my personal band I say: I wish I could sing/play music/write lyrics like this. If I could, I probably wouldn't be hanging out with third graders all day.

Listen: Spotify

3. Car Seat Headrest – “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”

What I say now: If "Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales" was a cake, it would quickly find its way to the garbage can. You would rub the upper and lower sections of your mouth together a few times just trying to get the denseness to go away. When it doesn't disappear, you'd have no choice but to grab a cup of your favorite plant based milk and wash that sh** away. As an indie rock track that denseness is magical...if you let it be. What is so brilliant about "Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales" is the self-awareness that lead singer Will Toledo imparts into it. He sings about putting on an act as a negative person and how easily that facade can be stripped away. That's a level of thinking that few people reach. You think I'm joking? Right now I'm hanging out in a house full of humans and I can count on one finger the number of people that currently reside at that level of awareness (*hey, leave the three year olds at this birthday party out of it*).

Car Seat Headrest likens drunk drivers to killer whales. They are both forces that are unpredictable and unstoppable. At some point, possibly the not so distant future, another indie rock band will come along and attempt to craft a comparison of unpredictable and unstoppable forces. They will start with hurricanes, struggle to find another comparison, before remembering "Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales". At that point they will pen their comparison of hurricanes and Car Seat Headrest. These guys, if they let themselves be, can be unstoppable.

Listen: Spotify

2. Rubblebucket – “If U C My Enemies”

What I said: Rubblebucket is many things and nothing at all; it’s a mindset, a legend, a feeling, a mystery; a mischievous, playful, boundary-smashing blast of sound that you can sit still and wonder at, or turn off your mind and dance wildly to. Or both at the same time. As Kalmia (Traver) said, when she handed me one of her now-famous peanut butter, cheddar cheese, cabbage, honey tacos, “This is the weirdest, most delicious thing you will ever taste.”

After a few vegan exchanges, I'm eating those tacos like wildfire.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

1. Will Joseph Cook – “Take Me Dancing”

What I said:There is this annoying loudmouth at my work that has a desk right beside mine. For years I've tried my best to ignore her. I've done everything from noise canceling headphones to putting in a formal request to have me moved. Last week I had enough. I grabbed a stapler and shoot some staples in her general direction. Because of my excellent placement, they severed her vocal cords and I've experienced nothing but peace and quiet since.

There is this redhead at work, a real looker. She always wears these Marilyn Monroe style dresses. For weeks I've encouraged her to place a fan on the floor, step over top of it and do her best Seven Year Itch impression. Yesterday, she finally did. I used a hole punch to pretend I was paparazzi.

One of my co-workers owns a penny farthing. Every Wednesday she rides it to work. I dress up like a bike messenger and transport my mountain bike on top of my car. The two of us ride through the office halls.

So, unfortunately, my office space is nowhere near cool enough for this kind of stuff to take place. These were all dreams I've had throughout the years dozing in the cafeteria. Will Joseph Cook's video for "Take Me Dancing" has brought all my dreams to life. In the video Will and his "co-worker" do all of the things I mentioned above (minus the penny farthing). They also karaoke into a vacuum, complete numerous synchronized dance numbers, play a shortened version of hide-n-seek, drink fancy drinks, race on wheelie chairs, hold a budget meeting where the more dancing that takes place the higher the profit goes and eat a bagel, banana and apple with a fork and knife. The track itself is a hugely addictive slice of indie pop. It features an intense melody and massive hook, which is reminiscent to a lot of Will's other work.

What I say now: Will Joseph Cook's "Take Me Dancing" is the lightest and brightest in a dark, dark year. When I think back to 2016, I don't want to dwell on all those things that went wrong, all those terrible, terrible decisions that others made that will forever effect me. There's a time and place in the future that I will have no choice but to face that head on. For 2016, I choose to embrace the light. I choose to remember that somewhere, sometime, I was the answer to someone else's prayers. I was also part of a process that brought others to dance. I was Will Joseph Cook's "Take Me Dancing." Look, this isn't a conceited thing. If you think about your 2016 long enough, you will realize that at some point, you did those things too. At some point, you too were Will Joseph Cook's "Take Me Dancing." At some point, you were my favorite song of the year.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

Hear all twenty tracks in one playlist:

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Listen: Fishy Takes from Sundara Karma, Mushy Callahan and Everywhere

We've got swimming vegetables pretending to be fish up in here. A soiree of this type requires a spot on soundtrack. Might I suggest:

When I was a kid, anytime my mom wanted to worm her way into my heart she broke out the fish sticks. This would've been perfectly fine with me if a) she didn't also break out the fish sticks when my brother, sister and father needed a little bit of mom's love and b) I actually enjoyed fish sticks. As it was, we ate fish sticks four nights a week because mom figured this was the blueprint for a happy family. Since we are talking happy families, let's talk Sundara Karma and their new single "Happy Family." The song feels like it is actually two songs in one. The first half is an ode to Americana choral music. With its breezy, flowing feel, I could totally see getting lost alone in the fields of yesteryear. But then the handclaps and boot stomping bass take over. No longer are you lost in the fields of yesteryear by yourself, now there is a bad ass bull looking to poke a few holes in your torso. Sundara Karma is prepping for their early 2017 album debut. Based on the handful of tracks that have previously hit the internet, I have no idea what to expect from it. Will the album be all indie dance floor like "She Said?" Snake charming glory like "Flame"? Or boot stomper like "Happy Family"? I guess we'll find out shortly.

Another early 2017 release is the sophomore full length album from Mushy Callahan. The band consists of four brothers Noah, Joel, Jacob and Lucas. These guys have a penchant for holding on when they've been beaten down, clinging to blind faith when there is nothing else left and turning zucchini into crabs. That's what their track "End of My Rope" is all about. Ok, maybe not the third one so much.

"We f**k and fight, how good it feels, I'm high, I'm high your ecstasy." favorite thing about "Heroine" by Everywhere, especially this particular line, is the feeling that it gives me. I'm both relaxed and euphoric. All the pain that is floating around in my life is quickly stripped away and blocked. My shoelaces and silver spoons begin disappearing. All my straws are served with a side of burn marks. My aunt has remarked on numerous occasions how strange it is that Everywhere's version of "Heroine" induces the exact same symptoms in me as shooting actual heroin would. The only difference? Track lines appear in your ears instead of on your arms. I've repeatedly told her to stop looking for stories where there aren't any.