Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Guest List: Lawrence La Raia

Sharon Van Etten at that Stone Pony thing in 2014. Van Etten turned up on several of our lists for 2019.

Top Whatevers of 2019

by Lawrence La Raia

[Lists are still rolling in. There are no rules here at CoolDad Music (other than NO SMART QUOTES, with which Lawrence complied), so we post 'em as we get 'em. Lawrence is another friend and cooldad who I've been seeing at shows for a few years now. Apparently, we were even at the same Sharon Van Etten thing on a cold February afternoon in 2014 before we ever met.

Thanks for laboring over this one, Lawrence. You reminded me of some things I forgot about like the album from Ceremony.]

FIDLAR, "Flake"

I've listened to FIDLAR before. Not a whole ton. Then that Gary Glitter swagger/stomp beat came on, and that changed. For this track anyway. I listened to this a ton when I first heard it. Then I started whistling that melody with the sheer intent of annoying those around me. (Not actually true. My fingers just keep typing sometimes while my brain tries to keep up and fact check. Multitasking is hard.) But this was an earworm, and its prominent placement in my "Your Top Songs 2019" Spotify playlist confirmed it.

The Steve Adamyk Band, "In Death"

You ever like something immediately? Like before the song is over? Like before the chorus? Like before the lyrics even come in? Like at the first note? Yeah. Happens to me all the time. And sometimes it gets better as it goes, and then the song sticks the landing. And you rewatch the instant replay (Is that what it's called? I actually forget.) But you watch it, but you don't have to wait to see the judges' scores. Because that doesn't matter. You’re already awarding the medal yourself. Yeah this was like that. I was fortunate enough to catch The Steve Adamyk Band at APYC a few years back when I heard they were playing with Sonic Avenues. Maybe you did, too. I think Night Birds might have been involved with that booking, or maybe I just found out about the gig from their social media.

Ghost King, "Slither"

Psych surf garage. That's what I call it. I thought of King Gizzard after hearing it. But, to date, I've still listened to this track more than any King Gizzard song. (To be fair, King Gizzard probably just dropped two more full lengths and an EP during the time it took me to curate this list.) Sit still during this track. Try it. You'll fail.

Dark Thoughts, "Do You Dream / It's Too Late"

Do you dream? Do you like rock n' roll? Do you like the Ramones? This is the closest my kids will get in their lifetime to seeing the Ramones. (Change my mind.) They (Dark Thoughts, not my kids) unabashedly love the Ramones, and they get their guitar sound based on a photograph of Johnny Ramone's amp settings. Yeah. They pull it off by writing songs that are catchy as fuck. Or at least catchy as a virus in a pre-school classroom. You might have seen them open for Night Birds in 2018. You might have seen them somewhere else nearby. (They're from Philly.) They'll be back this week at In The West, and they have upcoming shows in Asbury Park and Philadelphia in February. My word count is up here because I don't have as much to say about other things. But let's be real, you're looking at band names, song titles, and clicking the YouTube links. At best, you are skimming over the prose. (And yes I cheated by listing both songs of the single.)

( lettering...familiar font...yep, smells like "Rocket to Russia")

Sharon Van Etten, "No One's Easy to Love" or "Seventeen"

I agree with everybody that loved Sharon Van Etten's 2019 record and put it on year end lists. She's a talent. I'm glad she’s still making music and not just studying to be a psychologist or therapist and casting music completely aside. But if she isn't already doing that I hope she continues with it. A lot of us deal with mental health issues, and she's gonna help some people more directly and not just through song. I met her briefly after a Stone Pony performance and gave her a sand dollar I found on the beach that day. It was the first time I ever found a sand dollar. And I found at least 15. There were more, too. It was crazy. It was cold. It was February. I don't know what year. (Jim? Do you? CD: I believe it was 2014.) "No One's Easy to Love" reveals that Sharon can do what she's always done, but over more electronic sounds. Her voice pulls you in, and she sometimes holds notes longer than you thought she would. Not as a marathon thing, mind you; but you know. It's just her way, and it works. I've always thought her timing and placement of vocals was something that made her interesting. "Seventeen" is also a standout on a solid record. There's something very New Jersey about the track too. But that’s neither an excuse to get behind it nor a reason to reject it. It's just in there. I gotta go to bed. I'll finish this soon. (Wow! i just counted. I wrote about 10 songs already. That was my goal.)

Ceremony, "In the Spirit World Now"

Don't know much about Ceremony. (Don't know much biology. Sorry. It happens.) But I get that they started out as a hardcore band. And evolved into what you hear now. Currently, their sound has more of a darkwave vibe. I'm not super-versed in either genre. But the interplay between the guitar and the dark synths in here kept me coming back in 2019. 

Ekulu, "Emulation"

Ok. Gonna preface this with this being the year I took my kid to see Iron Maiden and saw them for the first time myself. And this was a year after taking him to see Metallica. Metal has returned to my life. And, with it, other heavier sounds and some delving into hardcore. This Ekulu track hit me like the time I was running an obstacle race on a decommissioned airforce runway and lost my balance descending a ramp, with my fall cushioned by a face full of asphalt. There was shock. There was awe. There was blood. But I also had a huge surge of adrenaline and finished the second half of the race. And hung out a bit in Gravesend afterward (That neighborhood name is so metal. Like this track.). This track is drenched in the sweat and fury of early Metallica. And, by the end, I caught some Motörhead feels. (Apologies for the race recap, and for any overdone wording that may have seeped in from reading reviews. Hopefully you checked out the track by now.)

Charles Bradley, "Lonely As You Are"

Charles Bradley was not on my radar until about two years ago, and now sadly he is gone. Bradley was deep into chemotherapy for stomach cancer when he recorded this. I was going to use the word posthumously somewhere in one of these sentences. But it seemed forced. Maybe because you still hear the life in Bradley even though this was released after his death. I suppose he knew what was coming and I'm sure put everything into his final recordings. His vocal performance is everything here. If you've ever been lonely, you'll feel it here. Go talk to someone after listening. Visit a friend. Connect somewhere. Look out for each other.

Also, no one ever really dies if they've been captured on vinyl.

Vacation, "Capitol Drive"

Ugh. I really don't want to write anymore. It's lazy, I realize. And it's really not the time for me to get into personal frustrations about not finishing things. Sure, I could give myself credit for at least starting stuff. Is this LiveJournal or is this someone's blog? I forget. Oh shit! It's for CoolDad's site. Something Something Vacation. Something something Capitol Drive.Vacation deserve better than this. And I am going to move on to writing about some other song (Fun fact: I didn't write this in the order the songs are listed.) But listen to this track. I know I listened to it a bunch of times. At least one listen won't kill you. It's loud, noisy, catchy, melodic. It's got one of those melodic guitar riffs it returns to that you welcome possibly more than a chorus. What more do you want?

IDLES, "Danny Nedelko (Live at Le Bataclan)"

I don't care if I'm cheating. This album wasn't released until December of 2019. So it's game even if the performance was in 2018. It's here so I remind myself that I missed the recent IDLES U.S. tour. And clearly that was a mistake. I mean you could even watch their tiny desk NPR concert and tell. "1049 Gotho" blew me away, and "Mother" made sure I paid attention. Then "Danny Nedelko" came out later, and I eventually rose from the sonic assault that knocked me on my ass and realized they had things to say. This live record was an excuse to add them to this list. Though I see they did float a couple new singles online in 2019. I just haven't spent any time yet with "Mercedes Marxist" and "I Dream Guillotine".

IDLES NPR Tiny Desk Concert

Honorable Mention (a.k.a. I wrote less):

Zig Zags, "Killer of Killers" or "Punk Fucking Metal" or "They'll Never Take Us Alive"

C'mon. Do I need to write anything if "Punk Fucking Metal" is a song title? Like Ekulu, Zig Zags also vibe on early Metallica. It was only last year that I heard their earlier song "Magic" for the first time and kept an ear in their direction.

Makthaverskan, "Demands"

Swedish band. I've seen them described as indie-pop or post-punk. So use a genre with a hyphen to describe them I guess. They're a bit jangly, a bit dreamy, at times a tad dark. I think Cool Dad will dig this one.

 School Drugs, "Nothing Grows" or "Joyless" or "Destined Days"

I wanted to say more but I already wrote more about 10 songs. See them live. They do not disappoint. So I guess they totally do appoint. Funny how language doesn't always work both ways. Say hi to Josh.

Control Top, "Covert Contracts"

Everything everyone said about this band that liked them means I don't need to write more, besides telling you I missed their local shows, and that makes me a little sad.

Mal Blum, "I Don't Want To" or "Things Still Left to Say"

Opened for the live "Welcome to Nightvale" show at NJPAC. (It’s a podcast, and a good one, sort of like if Twin Peaks had its own personal NPR station.) I kept listening afterward. Plus banter for days. Like good banter. Entertaining banter. But don't worry that's not in the songs.

Mannequin Pussy, "Who You Are"

This is a very late addition, as it was an early omission. Good album, too, with a variety of sounds. They can go from kinda dreamy to definitively snarly (and all points between). This one leans closer to the former.

girl in red, "bad idea!"

Despite the song title I think this song is a good idea. And this is a bad dad joke.

American Trappist, "Other Other Reasons"

Second local act in the short stack recap section (See School Drugs above for the first). Could have chosen some other tracks probs. Could have probably wrote out probs as probably.

beabadoobee, "I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus"

With an artist name like that you would be expecting to find this track under "beats to relax/study to", but no anime image here. This was not on a Chilled Cow playlist. Had me at the title.

Better Oblivion Community Center, "Little Trouble"

Writing is hard.

Mike Krol, "Little Drama"

Writing takes time.

Skull Cult, "Who Are You"

Writers need to go to sleep.

So sleepy. Oh Monday, why can't you wait? What's the rush?

Oh yeah, just adding these.

Thee Oh Sees, "The Daily Heavy"

If you are going to build a song around a squeaky toy, anything less than an honorable mention is an insult.

Tryer, "Hunter S. Nixon"

Ok, this Finnish band had to be listened to once I saw that they took the logo from the 80's Christian hair metal band, Stryper, and got rid of the "S" and the "P", squeezed it together and made a brand new logo. Kind of like sampling maybe. (No they don't sing in English.) Don't ask how I found them, I don't remember. Also they are not hair metal. Melodic hardcore punk metal maybe?

Not included: Any modern classical stuff from the last year. None of the meditation music I've listened to lately. Ambient stuff left off, including Marconi Union. Video game soundtracks not included. Was Persona 5 in 2019? I can't get over those bass lines. Amiright? And Amon Tobin released a few game soundtracks in 2019. It was the year for Lizzo. I realize this. And the scores from The Mandalorian episodes are quite good, but left that off too. I skipped those re-releases and remasters from Bowie and The Kinks that kept cropping up on Spotify. And I left off any of those Screaming Females tracks that were on "Singles Too" because I wasn't sure when those songs appeared on singles previously. None of those lo-fi study jams are on here. And though there were plenty of covers that came up, none of those are on here. So let me just say there are clearly omissions of very deserving tracks. And I need to stop listening to those as I write this, because now I just feel bad. And obviously no place here for all the 1960s rock steady that I streamed a lot of in October. 

I put this together by haphazardly going through my monthly Spotify playlists and checked what was released in 2019 that passed through my ears. That left me with a list of 754 songs. Some filter huh? Not sure if it was a labor of love or a labor of self-loathing to go through this. Then, I just scrolled through and hoped for the best. Because I didn't have the time to relisten to all of it. But I am sure, over the next month, I will find 10 more songs I wished I'd have mentioned. Also it's not 10 albums because I don't believe I connected with 10 albums. I could blame streaming for that as much as I could blame the ever-eroding attention spans of modern living.

Also not included: Dustin singing "Never Ending Story" from the Stranger Things Season 3 soundtrack. (CD: Oh, it's included)

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