This was a feature that I used to do for the Daily Californian’s Arts & Entertainment blog. I decided to give it life again here. At the end of each month, I’ll post a feature highlighting five quality tracks released during that month.
Time to shake off the doldrums of 2014 and celebrate how good 2015 will be. January was a really solid month, so let’s get right to it.
1. Natalie Prass: “Bird of Prey”
Natalie Prass is a singer-songwriter from Nashville who spent the majority of last year singing backup for Jenny Lewis (formerly of Rilo Kiley). Natalie Prass gives her songs a Dusty Springfield-style wash of luxurious, comforting production, full of strings, muted brass, and a lot of soul. This song has perpetually been stuck in my head for the last week.
2. Mark Ronson feat. Kevin Parker: “Daffodils”
Most of you will know Mark Ronson from his gigantic #1 hit this winter, the excellent, Bruno Mars-fronted “Uptown Funk”, but he released a full album in January and it was chock full of jams (including some tunes with Stevie Wonder on his classic harmonica). On “Daffodils”, Ronson teams up with Kevin Parker, whose day job is singing and writing for Tame Impala. Naturally, he’s the perfect collaborator if you want to inject your funk with some spaced-out psychedelia.
3. Courtney Barnett: “Pedestrian at Best”
Barnett broke onto the scene about a year ago with her brilliant, idiosyncratic lyrics and stoned guitar rock (Check out “Avant Gardener” one of the best songs of last year). Her new single, “Pedestrian at Best”, turns the amps all the way up and perfectly captures the 90’s slacker, alternative vibe. Basically, it rocks hard.
4. Purity Ring: “begin again”
5. Rihanna and Kanye West and Paul McCartney: “FourFiveSeconds”
First of all, let’s state the obvious: the fact that these three people are on the same track is mind-blowing. I’ve heard a lot of negative reactions to both this song specifically, and the whole “Kanye and Paul collaborating” thing in general. Yeah, it’s a little weird, but I love it. I think Rihanna’s vocal performance is outstanding (especially the bridge, when Paul’s organ comes in and she sings “And I KNOW that you’re up tonight, thinking how could I be so selfish”). I think Paul’s restrained musical additions provide a minimalist sort of sweetness. And I think Kanye’s continuing innovation is inspiring. Plus, the song itself is just extremely catchy!
P.S. This didn’t even include any songs from my three favorite January albums. That’s how good this month was.
For modern guitar rock goddesses, check out “Surface Envy” by Sleater-Kinney
For sludgy, post-punk, heavy, frenetic rock with great melodies, check out “Continental Shelf” by Viet Cong.
For folky, introspective, classic indie stalwarts, check out “Make You Better” by the Decemberists.