Thursday, October 19, 2017

Elizabeth & the Catapult Shares Her Keepsakes at Le Poisson Rouge

Last night at Le Poisson Rouge, Elizabeth & the Catapult (Elizabeth Ziman) performed an intimate album release show for her fourth LP, Keepsake. The collection of songs is aptly named. It's a sophisticated pop record that travels effortlessly through styles while still packing a melodic punch. I've already listened to it multiple times, and it hasn't even come out yet.

The subterranean space was arranged in a way I hadn't seen there before, with the stage in the center, surrounded by a flotilla of tables. My view of the stage was bisected by a column, but I was able to see Elizabeth take a seat at the piano in the right half. She began with LCD Soundsystem's sombre "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down" before brightening things up by segueing into her own "Mea Culpa." With an intrusive squeal, the noisy air conditioner above the stage kicked on right after the song's final lyric, "More bad mistakes for us to make before we fuck it all up," which was actually kind of endearing in that moment. Elizabeth thanked the audience and promised, "I'm just gonna give you everything I've got tonight until until I burst into a million pieces, and then I just have to lie down." A five-piece band materialized onstage to back her on the chorus of "Magic Chaser." After a pair of tunes from her previous LP, Ziman got on her feet and moved to keyboard to her right for a breakneck "Less Than You Think." Despite a technical issue with the keyboard that required Elizabeth to switch to the piano during "Method Acting," the song was one of the evening's best performances, culminating in a beautiful vocal harmony that included Secret Someones' Hannah Winkler. Ziman conceded the keyboard to Winkler and took a handheld mic to the center of the stage. The band proceeded with Keepsake's first single/track, "We Can Pretend," with its lush, Polynesian sounds evoking imagery of Technicolor musicals. They followed it with the album's peppy second single/track "Underwater" and then the band scattered, leaving Elizabeth alone. She performed a solo vocal rendition of Greg Laswell's "Embrace Me" and then shared acoustic guitar duties with Jonno Linden on "Let's Make a Mess of Our Love," a number new enough to not even be on the record.

"So the experiment continues," Ziman said, returning to the keyboard. "I had a children's choir sing on this song on my album, but I couldn't get them in here 'cause they're children." "We'll sing! We'll sing!" offered an eager crowdmember. "Will you be my children?" Elizabeth asked with a laugh. Looping her breath as percussion, she pressed on with "Ambrosia." While it may have been a lot to ask the audience to sing along on a song that they'd never heard before, its hopeful lyrics over a plucky, staccato refrain just beg for audience participation, and I have no doubt that over time this will become an Elizabeth & the Catapult concert staple.  At its denouement, Ziman held up a paper to read a list of thank yous, as well as a political speech in which she encouraged the crowd to "keep spreading love however you know how."

Elizabeth welcomed a mustachioed Jeff Taylor to the stage for his clapper "Kadoka," which was followed by a quick round of "Happy Birthday to You" for Wiman's mom and a "Better Days" bouncier than its studio version. "I just threw the setlist out the window," Ziman announced as she invited Emily Mure and Jeff Taylor to help close out the set with "Where Were You the Night," her reaction to last year's surprising election results. The elegy crescendoed into a chaotic jam, the vocalists' haunting wails intertwining to suggest a ghostly choir of past presidents spinning in their graves.

ELIZABETH & THE CATAPULT - 10.18.17 - LE POISSON ROUGE (1 hour, 26 minutes)

SET -
New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down > Mea Culpa > New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down > Mea Culpa / Magic Chaser / Salt of the Earth / Happy Pop / Less Than You Think / Method Acting / We Can Pretend / Underwater / Embrace Me / Let's Make a Mess of Our Love / Ambrosia / Thank You for Nothing / Kadoka (feat. Jeff Taylor) / Happy Birthday to You / Better Days / Where Were You the Night (feat. Emily Mure & Jeff Taylor)

ENCORE -
Go Away My Lover (feat. Jeff Taylor)

Monday, August 28, 2017

Afropunk 2017 Sunday Setlists

Review to come.


SON LITTLE - 08.27.17 - COMMODORE BARRY PARK, AFROPUNK FESTIVAL (25 minutes, 30 seconds)


SET -
Alice / Blue Magic (Waikiki) > Go Blue Blood Red / Your Love Will Blow Me Away / The River / Charging Bull


GARY CLARK, JR. - 08.27.17 - COMMODORE BARRY PARK, AFROPUNK FESTIVAL (53 minutes)

SET -
When My Train Pulls In / Next Door Neighbor Blues / Ain't Messin' 'Round / Our Love / Cold Blooded / Bright Lights / Things Are Changin' / You Saved Me

RAPHAEL SAADIQ - 08.27.17 - COMMODORE BARRY PARK, AFROPUNK FESTIVAL (1 hour, 23 minutes)

SET -
Intro > 100 Yard Dash > Heart Attack > Be Here > Will It Go Round in Circles / Movin' Down the Line > Good Man > Get Involved > I Chase You* > Dance Tonight > Don't Mess with My Man / Let's Get Down > Still Ray > Blind Man / Oph > Charlie Ray / You're the One That I Like > Never Give You Up > Just One Kiss / (Lay Your Head on My) Pillow > Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip Hop) > Anniversary / Kissin' You > It Never Rains (in Southern California) / Soul Sista (feat. Bilal) / Ask of You / Lady > Just Me & You > Cranes in the Sky > Skyy, Can You Feel Me > Outro

Friday, May 19, 2017

Nicky Francis Pete's Candy Store Setlist

Review to come.

NICKY FRANCIS - 05.18.17 - PETE'S CANDY STORE (35 minutes, 30 seconds)

SET -
Meant to Last / Don't Push Me / Crooked Path / Did Her for the Love / Tattoo / Nobody Knows / Talking / The Way That We Are

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Next Round - Episode 52: Caleb Caudle

Caleb Caudle is in a never-ending battle to improve himself, whether that means quitting alcohol to increase his productivity, or expanding his sound by exploring new musical styles on his upcoming LP, Crushed Coins. After receiving accolades last year for his seventh record, Carolina Ghost, it would be easy for someone in his position to rest on their laurels. But the battle rages on inside in Caleb. Thankfully, we get to hear it.

Stream below, download directly, or subscribe on iTunes like a decent human being.


Read a review of his Rockwood concert.
Listen to "Tuscaloosa" and more on The Next Round Companion Playlist.
Go see Caleb on tour now!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Matthew Logan Vasquez Rough Trade NYC Setlist

Review to come.

MATTHEW LOGAN VASQUEZ - 04.29.17 - ROUGH TRADE NYC (1 hour, 26 minutes)

SET -
Old Ways / Personal > Same / Fires Down in Mexico / Red Fish / Maria / Halfcolt / Crippler King > Ace of Spades (tease) > On the Road Again > Crippler King / Spanish Moss > Bushwick Blues / The Old Revolution / From Behind the Glass / Blue Eyes / Theater / Stand Up > Everything I Do is Out > Shit Luck > Little Star of Bethlehem (tease) > Everything I Do is Out

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Next Round - Episode 51: Tall Tall Trees

With a shaggy brown beard that extends down his torso, Mike Savino looks like a wizard.  And as Tall Tall Trees, he gets to become one, summoning a multitude of sounds both shambolic and ethereal from his "Banjotron 5000."  We had a beer before his "greasy dance party" at Rockwood Music Hall.  Check it out.

Subscribe on iTunes, download directly, or stream below.


Pick up a copy of Freedays.
Go see Mike live.
Hear "A Place to Call Your Own" on The Next Round Companion Playlist.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Caleb Caudle Gets Intimate at Rockwood Music Hall

"New York City. Friday night. There's a lot of things going on. Thanks for choosing this thing," Caleb Caudle addressed his audience in the subterranean Stage 3 of Rockwood Music Hall. Armed only with an acoustic guitar and his twangy mid-range, Caudle began his set by stripping down "Piedmont Sky" and "Tuscaloosa" from last year's Carolina Ghost. He followed with "Trade All the Lights," a fan favorite in which Caudle claims he'd trade all of NYC's luminance to be in New Orleans with a loved one. "No offense," he assured the crowd of New Yorkers at its conclusion. After all, the song was written in a different time in Caleb's life about a woman he's no longer with. He'd explained to me in a podcast interview before the show that even if he doesn't have the same connection to its lyrics as he once did, he realizes that his listeners might, so he has to give it his all for them.

The excellent acoustics of Rockwood's basement made it possible to hear every little nuance of the performance, with Caleb demonstrating a soul singer's keen awareness of his spatial relationship to the microphone. In the small room, remarks from the crowd were also amplified, promoting conversation between Caudle and his fans and fostering the kind of intimacy that the venue is famous for. Following "Uphill Battle," Caleb admitted that he'd only just noticed that he'd sung the first five songs with a cough drop in his mouth. He was supposedly battling springtime allergies, but you wouldn't have known it from his impassioned cover of Springsteen's "Atlantic City" that had an Asbury Park-native in the front row swooning like a young Courteney Cox. Caudle also unveiled "Stack of Tomorrows" and "Madeleine," two numbers from his upcoming record, Crushed Coins. If they're any indication of what's on the way, it's gonna be a doozy. The latter ranks among his best songs and was captivating enough that the waitress didn't dare interrupt to take orders for a second round. Caleb finished off the show with a toe-tapping "Borrowed Smiles," not a person in the room second-guessing their Friday night plans.

CALEB CAUDLE - 04.14.17 - ROCKWOOD MUSIC HALL (51 minutes)

SET -
Piedmont Sky / Tuscaloosa / Trade All the Lights / Broken Hallelujah / Uphill Battle / Stack of Tomorrows / Anne Marie / White Dove's Wing / Atlantic City / Madeleine / Carolina Ghost / Come on October / Borrowed Smiles

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Next Round - Episode 50: Reformed Whores

Fifty episodes!  For this wondrous occasion, I grabbed cocktails with Katy Frame and Marie Cecile Anderson of the country comedy duo, Reformed Whores, who're about to embark on a month-long U.S. tour.  With their songs about dicks, cunnilingus, and pooping (and empowerment if you're listening close enough), the libidinous ladies have been able to follow their dreams, from opening for "Weird Al" Yankovic to recording an album in Nashville's legendary RCA Studio A.  So have a listen to find out what Howdy Doody says when the cameras are off.

Stream below, download directly, or subscribe on iTunes.



Check out "Willy for a Day" on The Next Round Companion Playlist.

Visit the Whores online.
Buy their albums!



Sunday, February 26, 2017

Tall Tall Trees Takes His Greasy Dance Party to Rockwood Music Hall

Mike Savino has been growing a beard for five or six years.  By now, the tangled nest of brown curls extends down to the middle of his chest.  It's the first thing most people notice, but if you'd seen him on Saturday night, it would've been his toothy grin as the capacity crowd at Rockwood Music Hall sang back to him: "I was a seagull / You were an eagle."

Just three songs prior, a good portion of this choir had never heard of Tall Tall Trees, the name Savino performs under.  While it's a delight to see a musician enjoying himself so much, one of my favorite things to do at a Tall Tall Trees show is to watch people's awed expressions as they first experience the spectacle of what Savino is able to do with a banjo.  I should mention that Mike doesn't play an ordinary banjo.  His "Banjotron 5000" is a custom-rigged Swiss Army knife of an instrument that he fingerpicks, bows, pounds with a mallet, sings through, etc., effectively transforming Mike into one-man band.  In an upcoming podcast interview that we taped before the show, he explained that many of the instrument's features come as a result of him breaking it and re-breaking it.  Its latest casualty was its trademark ring of flashing lights, inexplicably stuck on red.  "I think it's out of anger," quipped Mike.  "It's gonna stay red for a few years, and then we'll have to get the Banjotron back to blue... hashtag."

Although he normally performs solo (when not improvisationally sparring onstage with Kishi Bashi), Savino was joined by Ashevillean Micah Thomas on drums.  "After four years, I got tired of driving alone," Savino admitted.  He introduced "Say Something Real!" as Micah's favorite, the bombastic march of its refrain allowing for Thomas to pound away joyously.  The duo had been playing together for less than a week, and it was exciting to watch Mike keep Micah on his toes.  During the aforementioned "Seagullxeagle," an interspecies romance that Savino described as "Romeo & Juliet for the David Attenborough set," Thomas stood up at his drum kit, spread his own wingspan, and cawed like a bird.

The singalong helped the crowd to loosen up a little in the sauna-like conditions of the small room.  "Are you guys ready to have a greasy dance party?" Mike polled the sweaty audience before plunging into the bhangra-informed "Waiting on the Day."  Mike's foot missed a pedal during the intro to "Being There," and he decided to restart the number, owning up to it with an "I effed up, bro."  The mistake was quickly forgotten as the duo veered the song into a spacey jam, with Savino utilizing a toy megaphone and a laser gun to interact with the Banjotron's electronics.  The jam segued into final number "Highwire," Savino again enlisting the crowd for accompaniment on a few takes of its falsetto chorus before Mike and Micah brought it all home with a circusy dirge.


TALL TALL TREES - 02.25.17 - ROCKWOOD MUSIC HALL (56 minutes)

SET -
Picture Picture / Backroads / Say Something Real! / Seagullxeagle / Waiting on the Day / Being There > Jam > Highwire

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Monthly Mix #24: January 2017

January 2017:
January is a month to further investigate the previous year's releases, while simultaneously looking forward to this year's crop.

 

1. Vitamin String Quartet - "As the World Falls Down"
When I posted this on Spotify last month (Follow theonlydustin to get these mixes the moment I finalize them.), it was a tongue-in-cheek way to address Bowie's deathiversary and the new administration.  Now that we actually seem to be teetering on the brink of WWIII, it doesn't feel quite the same. 

2. Blitzen Trapper - "All Across This Land"
I wasn't the biggest fan of Blitzen Trapper's eighth album when I first heard it, but the title track deserves a spot in their greatest hits.

3. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - "Nuclear Fusion"
Australia's most prolific psych-rock ambassadors are back with another offering of groovy weirdness.

4. Kris Kristofferson - "Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)"
While I'll always know Kristofferson as Mace Montana, the ringmaster in Big Top Pee-Wee, I hear he's also a pretty good songwriter.

5. Vindata feat. Anderson Paak - "Own Life"
Vindata provides the chaotic, bombastic production for Paak to do his thing.

6. St. Paul & the Broken Bones - "Flow with It (You Got Me Feeling Like)"
Dig the old-school soul vibe. 

7. Robert Ellis - "California"
This powerful tune nearly made it onto the Top 40 Songs of 2016.

8. Morgan Heritage - "Strictly Roots"
When the weather gets cold, I like to listen to reggae in an attempt to trick myself into thinking it's warmer outside than it is.  Here's a new banger from Denroy Morgan's children, Morgan Heritage.

9. Day Wave - "Stuck"
This was another leftover from last year's list.  Jackson Phillips (Day Wave) will be releasing his debut full-length in May as well, so keep your ears open.

10. The Flaming Lips - "Nigdy Nie (Never No)" 
Gotta love that fuzzy bass squelch.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Top 40 Songs of 2016

So here we are, one year after David Bowie's passing and ten days away from Donald Trump's inauguration.  It's easy to view 2016 as a total wreck, the country divided, coupled with a seemingly endless flow of influential artists' deaths.  And I'll admit that 2016 was the roughest year of my life personally as well.  But to discount 2016 as simply "The Year the Music Died" belies that fact that a lot of excellent music came out.  I've made it a habit to create a playlist of my top 40 songs each year, and I'm not going to stop just because it feels like the world is falling apart.  Now that we're ten days into 2017, hopefully we can look back on 2016 and say, "Well, at least there were some good tunes."

Now you may be asking, "Speaking of Bowie, why isn't he on this list?"  Well, I have very strict rules for eligibility.  While Blackstar remains an important album and one that I enjoy, its best tracks were all released prior to 2016.  "Killing a Little Time" from the Lazarus recordings almost made it, however.  Anyway, don't let that stop you from opening up Spotify and enjoying 2.5 hours of 2016 jams.

Top 40 Songs of 2016



40. A Giant Dog - "Sleep When Dead"
This snagged the opening spot in the final week of December while I was returning to NY via the Lincoln Tunnel on a Chinatown bus.  The aggression of the music mixed with the determination in the lyrics makes it the perfect soundtrack to kick those New Year's resolutions into gear. 

39. Animal Liberation Orchestra - "Summer Dream (We Got the Time)"
I wasn't aware ALO had released this sunkissed single exclusively through Amazon until I saw them play it live at Brooklyn Bowl in August.  It's not on Spotify, so you can check out an acoustic version performed by Zach and Steve below.

38. Frightened Rabbit - "Get Out"
I think most of us can relate to this shimmery rock number, wherein lead singer Scott Hutchison compares his love interest to an "uncut drug" that he can't quit and doesn't want to.

37. A Tribe Called Quest - "Movin Backwards"
Phife Dawg's death wasn't a complete surprise to anyone familiar with his battle with diabetes, but what was unexpected was the release of a new Tribe album eight months later.  This song addresses police brutality and the confusions and frustrations of being black in a society where racism has returned to the forefront.  It also features Anderson Paak, who we'll hear from later on down the list.

36. Daniel Romano - "Maybe Remember Me"
Romano expands upon his country sound with this poppy folk ditty stuffed with vivid imagery like the orange bird that rests upon his shoulder.  As if that weren't enough of a stylistic jump, the song's conclusion segues into what feels like an early Red Hot Chili Peppers demo.

35. Billie Marten - "Teeth"
Speaking of birds, you'll hear them chirping in the background of this beautiful performance by Billie Marten.  It's so raw, you can hear the clunks of the piano's foot pedals.

34. The Invisible - "Save You"
I hate to resort to a TV on the Radio comparison, but it's the best TVOTR song they never wrote.

33. Tokyo Police Club - "Not My Girl"
After going solo with last year's All Signs Point to Yes (and talking to me about it on The Next Round), Dave Monks returns with another excellent power-pop number from the first of two 2016 EPs by Tokyo Police Club.

32. My Morning Jacket - "Magic Bullet"
MMJ released this funky plea for peace the Sunday after a particularly brutal week of gun violence in July.

31. Busman's Holiday - "What We Need We Know"
The Rogers brothers hired a 21-piece orchestra to flesh out their DIY acoustic sound on their sophomore record, Popular Cycles.  The result is powerful and organic.

30. Leonard Cohen - "You Want It Darker"
Another legend gone.  Crazily enough, I actually didn't start listening to Cohen until the beginning of 2016.  While I prefer his early folk material, the organ and choir make this song absolutely chilling. 

29. Sturgill Simpson - "Brace for Impact (Live a Little)"
A Sailor's Guide to Earth, Simpson's 2016 major label debut, was conceived as an instruction manual for his son.  Here, he encourages his son to "live a little" before his impending death.  The chugging groove prevents it from being too morbid.

28. The Heavy - "Not the One"
There's some nice, funky guitarwork here, reminiscent of John Frusciante.  I guess it's obvious I was extremely let down by The Getaway and had to get my jollies elsewhere.

27. Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals - "Shine"
If I were to call Ben Harper's 13th studio album, and first with the Innocent Criminals since 2007's Lifeline, what it is, I'd call it a disappointment.  "Shine" is a definite keeper though.

26. Matthew Logan Vasquez - "Personal"
Delta Spirit's frontman may have "struck out on his own," but fortunately, he didn't strike out, as evidenced by this energetic rocker.

25. Beyoncé - "All Night"
So much of Lemonade is about vengeance, but it's on "All Night" that Beyoncé forgives her husband for his infidelities, choosing to salvage their marriage instead of ending it.  As a result, it's the most fearless song on the record.  Obviously not on Spotify.


24. Radiohead - "Identikit"
I don't consider "True Love Waits" eligible for 2016 consideration.  While it would easily be included in the top ten if I did, I feel that having a live version officially released as far back as 2001 disqualifies it.  I say this knowing full well that "Identikit" was performed live in 2012, albeit unreleased.  Ed O'Brien's frenetic guitar solo is a welcome return to what was sorely missing from The King of Limbs.

23. White Denim - "Holda You (I'm Psycho)"
The Austin band went through some lineup changes for Stiff, reigniting that freewheeling energy that seemed in shorter supply on Corsicana Lemonade for this balls-out rocker.
 
22. D.D Dumbo - "Walrus"
It took me up until the final week of December to decide between four of the tracks on D.D Dumbo's debut LP, Utopia Defeated, which song should be represented here.  I went with the persistent opener that exemplifies Oliver Hugh Perry's multilayered production.

21. The Stray Birds - "Third Day in a Row"
I saw more sunrises last year than any year in my life.  Honestly, I probably saw the majority of the 366, so this one speaks to me.

20. Caleb Caudle - "Tuscaloosa"
One of my good friends used to work with this guy at a pizzeria in North Carolina, which is funny because you'd never a expect pizza guy to be capable of writing a line as moving as "Well, I'm not lookin' to be fixed / Just understand that parts are broken."

19. Aloha - "Faraway Eyes"
I'd heard of Aloha before 2016, but they didn't really demand my attention until Little Windows Cut Right Through, which would surely be on my albums of the year list if I made one.  It was hard selecting just one track, but the lyric "I know you're scared / I'm scared too" resonated with me, even if it was mainly due to a Rory Scovel joke.

18. Bruno Mars - "24K Magic"
While not as infectious as his Mark Ronson collaboration "Uptown Funk," Mr. Mars has returned with another slice of retro R&B to get your ass (and your ugly-ass friends) on the dance floor.

17. Kevin Morby - "I Have Been to the Mountain"
My favorite guitar solo of the year.

16. Bear Hands - "Marathon Man"
I actually discovered this song on Spotify.  It was the first Bear Hands tune I heard, and it inspired me to promptly order their back catalog on vinyl.  Their latest effort, You'll Pay for This, was a bit underwhelming, so my rabid fandom has tapered off, but I still enjoy it.

15. Dawes - "Roll with the Punches"
Its theme of persistence is characterized by the galvanic organ.

14. Will Joseph Cook - "Girls Like Me"
You can definitely hear the Talking Heads influence, but at only 18, Cook has plenty of time to grow.  If he's writing songs this catchy now, just wait until he gets some patina on him.

13. Catfish & the Bottlemen - "Soundcheck"
You could teach a songwriting class with this one, which merges its big pop chorus with esoteric verses, even going as far as to use the term "fag break."  The details paint a fuller picture, allowing the listener to relate.

12. Pop Etc - "Please, Don't Forget Me"
Chris Chu didn't forget the '80s when he crafted the lively lead-off track to SouvenirHear him discuss how the band whittled down literally hundreds of ideas to the album's ten tunes on The Next Round.

11. Honne feat. Izzy Bizu - "Someone That Loves You"
British songbird Izzy Bizu assists electronic soul duo Honne to create the most danceable number on Warm on a Cold Night.

10. Nico Yaryan - "Witch Love"
Yaryan wrote What a Tease while working at a cannabis farm in Humboldt County and spending time with a romantic interest in AmsterdamThe laid-back influence of the weed can be heard in the music.  It's not groundbreaking by any means, but it's refreshing to hear someone crooning so genuinely.

9. Emily King - "Focus"
In July, Emily King released a deluxe edition of last year's The Switch, adding this among the bonus tracks and proving it worth the upgrade.  She discussed the album's expansion on my podcast.

8. Bon Iver - "33 God"
Electronic artists and lo-fi balladeers have been experimenting with sound quality for years, so it wasn't exactly a new idea when Justin Vernon did it on 22, A Million.  In fact, it's often frustrating to have the songs obscured as such.  Be that as it may, it forced the studious listener to question its purpose.  Could it be part of some puzzle to unlock, or is it all just pretentious hipsterism If it weren't so damn melodic, I'd strongly consider it the latter.

7. Eric Krasno - "Waiting on Your Love"
Soulive's guitarist steps solidly into the spotlight on this bluesy funk cut.

6. Esmé Patterson - "Feel Right"
Esmé's hiccups and howls coalesced into my favorite individual vocal performance of the year.

5. Cris Jacobs - "Jack the Whistle & the Hammer"
If you can listen to this without bobbing your head or tapping your foot, stay the fuck away from me.  If you'd like to hear more about the genesis of the titular characters, check out my podcast interview with Cris.

4. Kishi Bashi - "Honeybody"
K. Ishibashi was having quite the slump when he sat down to write for record #3, feeling like he was going through the motions while simultaneously watching his marriage suffer, so it's amazing that such a joyous nugget came out of it.

3. Hero the Band - "Expectations"
I'm not sure why this is no longer available on Spotify, but it was in constant rotation on my iPod in the early months of the year, providing a 4-minute serotonin boost whenever I needed.

2. Francis & the Lights feat. Bon Iver - "Friends"
For this song, Francis invented a special audio codec, dubbed the Prismizer.  The result is similar to Auto-Tune, yet it retains the brightness of the human voiceIt's especially effective when combined with a call for friendship in these rough, divisive times.

1. Anderson Paak - "Come Down"
We may have lost a lot of legends this past year, but hip-hop/R&B artist Anderson Paak has been staking his claim as a star of the future.  I could've picked several of the songs from Paak's fantastic Malibu album to include in this list, but my limit is one per act.  I decided to go with "Come Down" because it's supremely funky and fun despite the complexity of its syncopation and production.  He's nominated for two Grammys, including Best New Artist, so you'd do well to hop in the Paak seat now.