Ten Songs from 2015 that you should be listening to: #1 The Internet’s For The World

theinternetband-640x360[1]I keep saying that I want to make a list of the best intro verses in Hip-hop and R&B; verses that grab you from the jump1. Whenever I get to that list, Syd tha Kyd’s first bars on ‘For the World” will definitely be on it: “Cigarettes and sex on your breath, I guess/It’s cool, I’m the same, the way we kiss.” Syd, Matt Martians, and the rest of the band don’t waste time getting into the groove of this song – there’s no wasted intros or spoken verse.

Ego Death is The Internet’s most complete album yet. On this LP, The Internet is now a full band, giving the album a full and complete sound. The new additions don’t take away from the quirkiness of their first releases, instead, it makes most of the tracks feel structured and fully thought out. Syd’s also gone another level as a writer and singer. She’s still as transparent and intimate, but has more confidence in her vocal abilities.

I love just about every track on this album (it’s my favorite album of 2015); the James Fauntleroy-assisted “For The World” barely beats out “Gabby” as my favorite track. I’m still not sure what “For The World” is about: it’s part love song, part Natural Born Killers, part protest song, and all groove (and a great groove at that).

The Internet’s For The World (featuring James Fauntleroy)

Ten Songs from 2015 that you should be listening to: #2 Kendrick Lamar’s For Sale? (Interlude)

kendrick-lamar[1]What’s been said about Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly has most assuredly already been said: Complex. Ambitious. Avant-garde. There are days when I can listen to it on end; other days, the weight of it makes me turn to something else.

There is one track, however, that I can ALWAYS listen to: Kendrick’s “For Sale? (Interlude)”.

Lucy is all the [things] that I was thinking of that I know can be detrimental to not only me but the people around me, and still be tempted by them. That’s some scary s–t. It’s like looking at a bullet inside of a gun, knowing you can kill yourself with it, but you’re still picking it up and playing with it.
– Kendrick Lamar, as quoted in the Guardian

When I was in college, I struggled to make it to Sunday service. Part laziness, part distance – it just wasn’t a priority for me. That being said, there were days that I needed a word from God. When I was in those moods, I didn’t turn to typical gospel or Christian hymns – I put on John Coltrane’s Love Supreme. His ode to his higher power spoke to me (and still does) in a way that no gospel recording ever has.

Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly isn’t a Love Supreme, but “For Sale?”, speaks to me in a similar way. A morality play in verse, “For Sale?” tells of the temptations of “Lucy” (short for Lucifer) and the promises of material things and the fight to stay true to yourself. Its a struggle I believe we all face and I love Kendrick for being so transparent about it.

“Alright” and “These Walls” rightly get called out as great cuts on To Pimp a Butterfly; I just want “For Sale?” to get it’s requisite shine too.

Kendrick Lamar – For Sale? (Interlude)

Ten Songs from 2015 that you should be listening to: #3 Grip and #4 Grip (Interlude) from Creed

CRD205_000084.tifFull disclosure – as of this writing, I have not seen Creed. But, my brother has. In fact, as soon as he saw it, he bought the soundtrack AND the score – for these two tracks specifically.

I don’t know where in the movie these songs show up. I don’t know why they are called “Grip”. I don’t even know if Creed aka Johnny Storm aka Wallace wins his fight. All I know is that I can power through an extra two or three reps when these songs pop up in my workout playlist.

Both versions were written by Ludwig Göransson. The R&B version, with vocals by Tessa Thompson1, starts out with a great lyric (“I might give a little / But you can take it all / I might try to run / But just to make you follow“) over a driving beat. Göransson’s euro-smooth-soul-pop-electronic sound is perfect here (and is great for Tessa’s voice). The track almost sounds like something from Zero 7’s Simple Things.

The second track, taken from the Creed Original Motion Picture Score, keeps the driving beat, but replaces Tessa’s lyrics with a humming and synthesizer take on the lyrics.

Tessa Thompson – Grip

Ludwig Göransson – Grip (Interlude)

Ten Songs from 2015 that you should be listening to: #5 Seal’s The Big Love Has Died

91DceG5od3L._SY355_[1]“The Big Love Has Died” is a BIG ballad. Sweeping strings. Hopeless lyrics. A chorus that crescendos to a high, before an unexpected drop.

If anyone could sing this song, it’s Seal. His partnership with producer Trevor Horn gave pop some of its best ballads of the 90s. In fact, I’m not sure anyone except Seal could pull off an epic ballad like this – especially given his very public break with model Heidi Klum. Seal was never one for providing a lot of detail in his music (he doesn’t even put song lyrics in his liner notes1). Still, he did admit to some influence from his personal life on “Big Love…”:

You try to be adult about [a breakup], be mature and objective and positive about it, but unfortunately that’s not the reality at the time. When that wound is still fresh your immediate reaction is to be damning and final, to want closure, to forget, to move on. To live in denial. That is the immediate emotional survival mechanism. I wanted that song to capture that in a way that people could relate to it.

-Seal, as interviewed in the Daily Telegraph

Trevor Horn gave a more succinct answer: “Over the past few years, Seal has been through the tumble dryer of love. He gets sad on the record. You can hear him being sad, but you can’t hear him being bitter.”

I love the honesty that Seal sings with in this song. Whether it’s about his divorce or a break-up with his high-school sweetheart, it’s a truthful, yet tasteful, take on the sadness and hopelessness that comes from a failed relationship.

Seal – The Big Love Has Died

Ten Songs from 2015 that you should be listening to: #6 Mocky’s Tomorrow Maker

Mocky-by-Vice_Cooler-15_04_29_1[1]The whole reason I’m writing these post about by favorites from 2015 is because of Mocky’s Key Change. I was mousing around online a few weeks ago, and, by chance, came across Mocky’s 2015 release in iTunes. I’m not new to his music: Saskamodie’s “Music To My Ears” has been part of my iTunes library since 2009. So given than, I should have been on the lookout for his new album.

Key Change is a gorgeous, gentle blend of songcraft that recalls classic pop and soul records but still feels decidedly modern.

Well, I missed it, and many of the online blogs I read missed it as well. So, I’m making up for lost time by telling the world how great this album is. There are a number of stand-out tracks: “When Paulie Gets Mad” sounds like it could be the main theme in a Woody Allen film1; “Soulful Beat” makes me long to zip around town on a hot summer night with the car windows down; the sparseness of “Weather Any Storm” is beautifully haunting.

My favorite track is the three-minute “Tomorrow Maker”. Mocky starts out with a slow, burning groove that’s custom-made for a blaxpoitation flick. He then flips the script at the 1:58 mark, turning the late-night jam into a funky, bass-thumping, hand-clapping, piano-scatting romp

Mocky – Tomorrow Maker