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.
1. Albert Hammond, Jr.: “Born Slippy”
For those that don’t know, Albert Hammond, Jr. made his name as the curly-haired guitarist for a little band called the Strokes. His smattering of solo material over the years has served as a showcase for his tightly-knit riffs and keen sense of melody (check out “GfC” and “Hard to Live in the City”). It’s clear that he was an important influence over the Strokes’ successfully catchy sound. “Born Slippy” is a delectable slice of guitar pop, complete with an earworm of a melody that’s guaranteed to stay in your head.
2. Tame Impala: “The Less I Know the Better”
You might be under the impression that Tame Impala is a band in the true sense of the word, with some collaboration between members in songwriting and recording. To the contrary, mastermind Kevin Parker did 100% of the songwriting and recording on Tame Impala’s brilliant third album, Currents. The album fully proves Parker’s creative genius and growth. We’ve already featured a track from it on Five Quality Tracks a few months ago — one of the best songs of the year, “Let it Happen”. A few years, you could have accurately pigeon-holed Tame Impala as simply a classic rock nostalgia act, but Currents has a completely distinctive sound, touching on multiple genres. Nothing sounds quite like this.
“The Less I Know the Better” is a full-blown funk song, with its bright bass line and keyboard licks. Often, Parker’s best melodies are contained in the bass lines, and this track is no exception. The lyrics are powerful, dealing with Parker’s unrequited love: “I was doing fine without you, till I saw your face, now I can’t erase… Is this what you want? Is this who you are? I was doing fine without you, till I saw your eyes turn away from mine.” And, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the production value Parker brings to this track (and every other Tame Impala track) is unparalleled. The sound is crystal clear and perfect.
3. Pure Bathing Culture: “Pray for Rain”
Well, these guys sure kicked it up a notch. Pure Bathing Culture released a perfectly pleasant album two years ago that never really amounted to anything more than background music. But their new single “Pray for Rain” packs a lot more “oomph.” The driving drum beat, sparkly guitar, and impassioned melody combine to create a great song and a solid predictor of more good things to come.
4. Vince Staples: “Loca”
Hip-hop is full of fresh, young forces of nature, and Vince Staples is one of the leaders of the pack (with Chance the Rapper right alongside him). I really like the singles from his new album, Summertime ’06, especially “Norf Norf” with its “I ain’t never ran from nothing but the police” refrain, but I can’t get enough of the beat on “Loca.” This snapping, popping, toe-tapping, simple beat is sinuous and addictive.
5. White Reaper: “Pills”
White Reaper does snot-nosed garage punk so well. “Pills” is like a blend between Japandroids, Blink-182, and Ty Segall, with a little dash of Van Halen (just listen to those guitar arpeggios at 1:46!). It gets me pumped. Check it out: