Five Quality Tracks: October 2017 (+ September 2017)

 
OCTOBER

1. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile: “Over Everything”

You know that feeling that comes every so often when you’re surrounded by people you like and you feel as comfortable and content as possible? “Over Everything” gives me that same feeling. It might be partially due to my undying love for both the artists featured here. Courtney Barnett, of Melbourne, Australia, has charmed me with her music since the release of one of my favorite songs, “Avant Gardener”, as well as her amazing 2015 album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Her ability to rock hard (like on “Pedestrian at Best”) and pull back and reflect (“Depreston”), all with extremely witty lyrics to boot, is amazing. Philly-native Kurt Vile has also been a staple of my music listening, appearing on many a year-end list of mine (my favorite song of his being the quietly cathartic “Wild Imagination”). No one had any inkling that the two would make music together at all, let alone for a full album, but they formed a mutual respect of each other’s work, which led to a friendship and collaboration.

Aside from my feelings for the artists, “Over Everything” just feels like putting on a huge warm sweater. Vile and Barnett trade verses, not to mention trade both acoustic and electric guitars, as they kick back and let the groove wash over us. “Over Everything” is the pure essence of contentment, diluted into song form.

 
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Best Albums of 2015

When I was a freshman/sophomore in college, I insisted that my “best albums of the year” lists were unequivocally correct. Whichever top 25 albums I listed were, by all measures, the absolute “best” of the year, no questions asked. With a little perspective, I now know that that was completely ridiculous. The 25 albums represented here are the “best” to me, according to my limited world view. I try to keep that world view as open as possible so that all albums are welcome here. I also try to take into account an album’s importance, reach, and influence on a larger scale. But ultimately, these 25 albums are the ones I loved listening to the most. I immensely enjoyed them, and I hope you did/will too.

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Best Songs of 2015

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We were provided with an embarrassment of riches in 2015. Beloved artists returned with flawless albums (Sufjan Stevens, Sleater-Kinney), artists in their peak pushed the boundaries into completely new territory (Kendrick Lamar, Grimes, Tame Impala), and newcomers hearkened back to classics from days past (Leon Bridges, Natalie Prass, Tobias Jesso Jr.). This was my favorite year for music since 2012 — there were so many songs that would have qualified for this list if they had come out any other year, but the competition was just too much in 2015.

D-Brad’s Best Songs of 2015: Spotify Playlist
D-Brad’s Best Songs of 2015: YouTube Playlist

Also, special thanks to Taylor for the awesome cover art.

Before we get to the top 50, here are 15 honorable mentions that it killed me to exclude.

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Five Quality Tracks: March 2015

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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.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I think March was the best month for music in years. It was jam-packed. It took everything in my power to keep this post to just 5 songs.
 
1. Sufjan Stevens: “Death With Dignity”

Sufjan Stevens’ penchant for simple, clear beauty is unparalleled. On his latest album, Carrie & Lowell, Stevens bares his soul about coping with the recent death of his mother, who struggled with mental illness and abandoned him and his family when he was a year old. He ended up spending three summers with his mother (Carrie) and stepfather (Lowell) in Eugene, Oregon, which provided the only real memories that he has of Carrie. Carrie & Lowell opens with “Death With Dignity,” an incredibly pretty song that sets the stage for the emotional depth to come on the album. “Spirit of my silence, I can hear you, but I’m afraid to be near you, and I don’t know where to begin.” The song is full of lyrical gut-punches: “What is that song you sing for the dead?”, “I forgive you, mother, I can hear you, and I long to be near you, but every road leads to an end.”

As far as the music goes, Stevens does what he absolutely does best — laying his quiet, haunting voice over a finger-picking acoustic guitar (and just the right amount of piano touches). At the end, the instruments cut out, leaving a choir of Sufjans, blending their voices together mutedly from a distance. The moment is perfect, the song is perfect, the album is perfect. No hyperbole here. The album really is perfect. Check it out.

 
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Five Quality Tracks: January 2015

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.

 
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