Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Listmas 2014: The Music

I’ve heard it breathed rather tritely so many times that I almost began believing it: “Punk’s dead, you know.” Maybe they are right. Maybe the punk of the 80’s is long dead and gone. Maybe even 90’s punk, despite the fact that a few bands continue to tour and record and pretend that nothing has changed since they first hit the scene, needs to recognize that a funeral is in order. But if 2014 proved one thing to me it is that the punk of the new millennium, if I choose to embrace it, is just getting started. Sure I had some filthy stuff tear through my inbox that I couldn’t delete fast enough but my favorite album this year was a punk one. My favorite song came from a punk band. In fact, three of my top five were from band’s that I would consider to be punk like. So I’m embracing this punk. As long as its catchy, makes me howl with delight and defiantly spits dinner back in my face, I will continue to enjoy this little run like its 1994. Or 1984.

Aside from the punk stuff, the music that I enjoyed most during 2014 included chords of female vocals, German dragons, French explorers, Italian art, facing gunfire in the early morning and cigarette breaks taken at inopportune times by escalators. As in previous years, all of these songs may not necessarily be from 2014, but that is when I came across them.

Tender Branson’s Top 20 Songs This Year:

20. Jack Garratt – “Worry”

What I said: A neat little electro-pop gem that is both heady and hairy. It comes from Garratt’s upcoming debut four track EP Remnants (July 14th street date).

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

19. WASI – “And the World”

First there was We Are/ She Is. Then that morphed and shape shifted (anything but swagged) into WASI. This LA based female duo makes catchy riot pop (think Matt & Kim getting high with the Ting Tings). They have a new Double Sided Single scheduled to be released on February 12th. Take my word, both sides are excellent.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

18. My Woshin Machine – “Dragon”

Its weird, German techno-electro that comes from Outer Space by way of a dead end street in Central Berlin. Some video game needs to adopt this song as its theme ASAP.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

17. Buchanan – “The Few”

I know a thing or two about Buchanan. First, growing up in Pennsylvania our claim to President fame was the one and only James Buchanan. Second, I almost ended my lackluster high school basketball career with a game winning shot against Buchanan. Unfortunately one of my teammates jumped over my back and tipped the ball in. F***ing ball hog. But we aren’t here to talk about those Buchanans. We are much more interested in the here and now. That would be the UK via Australia indie rock band who has taken Buchanan as its name. These guys have made their name the hard way. After relocating to England, frontman Josh Simons began showcasing the band’s material at open mic nights. Now, with a new LP on the way (Human Spring) their ready to take their music to the internationals. That includes those living in the small town of Mercersburg (where Buchanan is located).

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

 16. Nadia Nair – “Beautiful Poetry

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

15. SirenXX – “I Think I Like You”

This female duo crafts tunes that blend pop with bits of hip hop and then finish it off with some evocative lyrics that share their unique perspective.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

14. Verite – “Weekend”

VÉRITÉ’s is “Weekend” has been circulating the blogosphere for a while. It was lost in my email for about as long. Oh well, sometimes it is better late getting somewhere than not at all. Just ask Ashley and all the biker bar bros. Had she not gotten lost, that experience never would’ve happened.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

13. Boxed Wine – “Quiver”

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

12. Seinabo Sey – “Pistols at Dawn”

Swedish pop/soul artist Seinabo Sey’s “Pistols at Dawn” is one of those songs that just causes a person to pause and listen. I’m talking the world stops type of deal. This is in large part to the stunning vocal display that Seinabo puts on. Her voice is an instrument itself which ranges from the powerful howl that backs the chorus to the full fledged echo haunt of the chorus itself to the slow simmering sexy of the verses. Add in a bit of a beat, some clicks and fires of a pistol and you’ve got a track that should easily follow its predecessors to number one on the Hype Machine Chart.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

11. Creo – “Afterglow”

Your new track “Afterglow” pairs nicely with the hot dogs because the dogs are basted in a thick, dark, teriyaki sauce and then covered with a spicy grilled pineapple salsa. I find that this mimics “Afterglow” perfectly. The guitars in the song play through thick and muddy while the rhythm section is completely dynamic and spirited (like the salsa).

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

10. Wonderful Humans – “Edge of the Night”

A trio of Wonderful Humans who hail from New York City. They make pretty catchy, electro fabulous tunes. Wonderful Humans is an offshoot, as the three members are also part of three other “successful bands” of different genres. That’s about all I can tell you about them as, in this world of selfie obsessed look at me-ism, these three prefer to remain nameless. Check out “Edge of the Night”:

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

9. Redbeard – “Fox Tale”

Take a minute to look at Red Beard’s picture. The dark clothing and black and white photo lead me to think heavy metal/ screeching rock/crappy nu-metal band. Words like “amazing”, “techno”, “party”, “I want to dance my f***ing soul away” are the farthest thing from my mind. But when you actually listen to Red Beard, they will surprise you in the best way possible. Hell, they will blow your mind. And there is more on the way as the band has just announced plans for their second album. The band will be heading to the studio in March to start laying that down. In the meantime, let’s entertain us with what has come before. Experience “Fox Tales”:

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

8. Black Honey – “Sleep Forever”

Numerous university articles, none of which I plan on finding and citing, show that the darker the honey the higher the concentration of antioxidants. It truly is the sweet taste of darkness. What does that mean about “Sleep Forever”, the new single from English band Black Honey? It means that after just a few listens your body will begin to delay cell damage. I should know. I recently went on a “Sleep Forever” bender. I followed that up with spending many, many, many hours lying in the sun and drinking Black Honey drinks (I’ve got an addictive personality). Not a single cell was damaged thanks to Black Honey. You too can save your cells. Make it happen!

Listen: Soundcloud

7. Walk the Moon – “Shut Up and Dance”

I can’t take credit for this. This song was all J-Fur. But once I heard it, I immediately recognized the magic in it. Its about love. Its about not ruining the moment. Its about letting your body do the talking. Most importantly, it is about putting yourself out there with the chance that you will be made a fool of. The band captured this feeling perfectly in their version of the video that featured crazy fans doing their best dance moves.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

6. Y Luv – “Jacques Cousteau”

What do you pair Beet Bourguignon with? My motto is when cooking French, listen French. While Y Luv reside pretty far from France (California) their new single does celebrate the life of (or at least the namedrop of) a famous French underwater explorer named Jacques Cousteau. This song has quickly vaulted to the top of my best of 2014 list. There is just something about the vocals of Freddy Janney that stick with me.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

5. The Dirty Nil – “Guided by Vices”

A week ago The Dirty Nil sent their new 7 inch into the world via Fat Wreck Chords. The album features the previously paired “Cinnamon” (listen to that one with a pile of Fried Apple Pancake Rings) and its B-Side “Guided by Vices.” B-Side? Shit…if this is a B-Side then the Dirty Nil hasn’t gotten the message that a B-Side is supposed to be a throw away, inferior track. “Guided by Vices” stares “Cinnamon” down with some haughty looking eyes before stepping out of the way and saying “Ladies first sweet cheeks.” That’s the only way that “Guided by Vices” takes a back seat. These two are like Side A and Side A again. Anyways, you get my point. “Guided by Vices” is the Dirty Nil at its sloppy, feedback infested finest. The track is all raw and in your face and stuff, at least during the verses. The chorus slows things down a bit so the band can send out wavering vibes about alone time. I mean when is it just gonna be you and I all alone?

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

4. Little Daylight – “Mona Lisa”

The track sounds like it came straight from the 80’s because of the synth arrangement. The synths are then paired with a stellar baseline to create the perfect pedestal to place Nikki Taylor’s vocals on. She pretty much shirks the pedestal during the verses but the music keeps building and winding her tighter and when that chorus finally hits she takes her place on said pedestal. “Mona Lisa” is fun, its catchy and it is probably destined for Alt-Nation appeal when the symptoms of “Overdose” wear off. Sometimes when I ponder life and art I’m left with a few questions I can’t answer. The last time I checked out the Mona Lisa, the question that just kept milking my mind was can Little Daylight make a song that isn’t awesome? Me thinks not.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

3. Baby Baby – “Short Little Summer Love Song”

Baby Baby’s “Short Little Summer Love Song” asks the question everyone ponders at one moment or another. “Will you love me now forever?” The answer is pretty simple…will you always taste this good? If so, I will. I will love you until my last breathe escapes my lips (circa 2192).

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

2. Milky Chance – “Flashed Junk Mind”

Its Bob Dylan at times, Frank Black at others. Mix in a little of the kid whispering in the back of the detention hall and the man wearing a drab overcoat who leaves the bar speaking in slurred verses and you’ve got most of the lyrics nailed down. Do they make sense? Sometimes. And sometimes it feels like Clemens palled around with my former college roommate and practiced writing couplets with a dictionary of words by his side.

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

1. The Menzingers – “In Remission”

I sang this song as loud as I possibly could all summer long. The whole of Tampa, had they not had their windows closed and air conditioners cranked up, would’ve heard me tell it like it is. Some of the gems include:
“I’ll chew up my dinner and spit it in your face.”
“Oh 1918, you’ve yet to see the worst of humans acting.”
“I hate how I get nervous every time I try to speak, in front of a big crowd, a pretty girl, or the police.
“If everyone needs a crutch, then I need a wheelchair, I need a reason to reason with you.”

Listen: Spotify | Soundcloud

Band of the 2014: The Menzingers. First up, these guys released a pretty good album with a few top notch tracks that I couldn’t stop listening to (until summer faded to fall and fall to winter). Long after the initial luster wore off I could still be found, huddled in the corner of the bathroom, discovering some new hidden gem that I hadn’t heard before. Throw in the fact that they made a pretty raucous local appearance and came ’round for a second visit within the span of twelve months (with a third come up in April), sold out shows across the globe, brought tapes back into style and successfully taught Jason Voorhees to be a little more like Lloyd Dobler and I’d have to say these guys take it without much competition.

Hear it all (except Black Honey) in one swoop:

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