Drops 2016: January Mix

Graham LeBron
01 30, 2016

And, just like that, January is over. One twelfth of 2016 gone. If this month is any indication, it will be another year of DJing and discovery for old Golden Gram. I've already DJed 18 times this year...

So here's a mix of what has been doing it for me musically so far.

I'm looking forward to new albums from some of my favorites, like Dr. Dog, The Donkeys, and Luke Top, who've all been teasing songs over the last month or so. Some of you might know Luke from the LA based world pop collective, Fool's Gold, but before that he released his own great material and worked on excellent albums by Cass McCombs, Bart Davenport, and more. His solo release, Suspect Highs, is out in March. Have a listen to the first single, Lucky Penny.

I'm particularly excited about The Psychedelic Swamp, the new concept album from Dr. Dog, one of my all time favorite bands. It's their 9th full length and, technically, The Psychedelic Swamp was the name of the first album that Toby and Scott of Dr. Dog made together, kind of the inception point. The original is a charming mess of songs, noise effects, and spoken word pieces from another world. From what I've heard so far, I'm glad to hear they've decided to revisit "A half-baked idea back in 2001, it has been reborn in 2016, fully baked." I'll drink to that, Doctor!

I've been into Spanish indie group, Hinds, since I started noticing their various singles popping up every few months last year. They've finally released a full album this month, Leave Me Alone, featuring some of those singles and some new tunes, like the raucously sweet Garden. Sometimes they sound like a more messed up version of The Shangri-Las, and that's a good thing.

Also out this month is the debut album from the leaderless trio, NevermenWhen I first heard from a mutual friend that fellow Oakland musician/rapper/beatmaker Adam Drucker (Doseone, Go Dark, Anticon) was teaming up with TV on the Radio frontman Tunde Adebimpe, and Faith No More’s iconic Mike Patton, my first thought was "how cool!" My second thought was "wait, what the hell is that gonna sound like?" I will say it is a bit hard to describe, but each of these powerful musicians talents are apparent. It is brash and inspiring, and soft and sweet in places too, it moves effortlessly from hip hop to harsh electronics to ambient textures. The vocal interplay between these three is probably the most engaging element to me, whether exchanging verses or stacking harmonies, the creativity and execution are out of this world. Elements of so many musical forms exist in altered states here, but the sound is still cohesive. It is the sound of a few kindred spirited musicians, inspired by each other to push to new heights. And they sure have. Now I can't wait to see how they can do this stuff live. It is pretty intense in places! There are a variety of interviews about how this collaboration came together over the last several years, but I think my favorite is the one with Tunde where he talks about randomly finding one of Adam's CDs and connecting the fateful dots years later. Definitely worth a read, and a listen.

I stumbled onto this new song recently, Your Version Of Me, by Steady Holiday from Los Angeles. Where did she come from? I can't seem to stay away from these mysterious chanteuse types. Must be my long time love of groups like Broadcast, Stereolab, and Melody's Echo Chamber. I am always intrigued when I can't find out much about a new artist. It reminds me of being younger, back when your best bet was a knowledgeable friend or record store employee. Anyhow, apparently Steady Holiday is Dre Babinski, and she will release a debut album, Under The Influence, some time this year. I found a few more videos of her playing here and here. And here she is doing a version for an NPR Tiny Desk submission.

Dirty Ghosts, lead by San Francisco singer/songwriter/guitarist, Allyson Baker, have been rocking they Bay Area and beyond since around for several years now. I don't know how I missed out on them, but I sure am glad I know now. Their latest record from October 2015, Let it Pretend, is a rocking good time filled with strong songs, deft guitar work, and awesome synths floating in and out where necessary. Produced by Phil Manley (Trans Am, Once and Future Band) so I'm not surprised it sounds this good. It grooves! 

Another rockin' groove this month comes from Sunflower Bean, three young folks from Brooklyn that are releasing their debut, Human Ceremony, in February. Easier Said is a jam. Check them out!

On a more soulful tip, I found Solo Woods after Leon Bridges recommended him to his fans a while back. Sounds like he has more new stuff coming shortly, but for now, Lightwalk will have to do.

I've also been impressed this month by Pillar Point's new album on Polyvinyl, Marble Mouth. Scott Reitherman was planning to record his 2nd full length at home, but when Pillar Point opened for Of Montreal and main dude Kevin Barnes offered to record it at his home in Athens, he did not say no. The result is a bouyant, bouncing album of well crafted dance tunes featuring guest musicians from Washed Out and Kishi Bashi and of course, Kevin Barnes. It definitely satisfies my childhood synth pop craving and will be getting some serious dancefloor spins from me this year. Part Time Love even has a bit of a "Safety Dance" feel to it. Which I am all for.

Speaking of synth pop, can you believe it has been 30 years since Depeche Mode released See You? I must say their "dark synth pop" doesn't sound nearly as subversive these days. I still love it. As usual, there are also a few sweet electronic dance type tracks closing out this mix by Maribou State, Persona La Ave x Baraka, U.S Girls, Choral Reefr, HAELOS, and Teen. All good stuff. 

OK, that's it for this month. Be good to each other!

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