Jem! Is Back And Other Delights: It’s The April 29th New Release Mixtape

Click play to hear all nine songs. There’s a menu in the top left of the player. Track listing below.

Kyle Craft, Dolls of Highland on Sub Pop (The Head & The Heart)

Rogue Wave, Delusions of Grand Fur on Easy Sound (Fruit Bats)

Plants and Animals, Waltzed in From The Rumbling on Secret City (Basia Bulat)

Cave States, True Life on Undertow Music Collective (David Bazan)

Lera Lynn, Resistor on Resistor Music

The Jayhawks, Paging Mr. Proust on SHAM

Britta Phillips (the voice of Jem!), Luck or Magic on Double Feature Records

Travis, Everything At Once on Red Telephone Box via Caroline International

John Doe, The Westerner on Yep Roc Records (Chuck Prophet)

Here Is Your SoundCloud Mixtape for April 28th

I found eight songs to share on SoundCloud this week. Click the player to hear them.

“Into The Wild” by Wilder Lee on The A&R Department

“Repeat” by Jess Mac Cormac on Secret City Records

“Judas Said To Be A Man” by Trevor Sensor on Jagjaguwar Records

“A Love Song” by Ladyhawke on Polyvinyl Records

“Cold Blood” by Josiah & The Bonnevilles on Vagrant Records

“Nautical Things” by Katmaz on Obscure Sound (not a label)

“Barricade (Matter of Fact) by Yumi Zouma on Cascine

“Soldier And The Lady” by Anna & Elizabeth on Free Dirt Records

Barsuk Is Russian for Badger

David Bazan. Laura Gibson. Death Cab for Cutie. Nada Surf. Phantogram. Maps and Atlases.

What do these creators of some of my favorite music from the past five years have in common? Badger, man.

Rather, Barsuk, which is the Russian word for “Badger” and also the Seattle-based record label that produces all these acts and many more. It’s hard to pin down the Barsuk sound; Gibson is a folk singer and Phantogram is an electronic outfit while Nada Surf is a long-haired rock band. I like all of it, but that it belongs to the same label feels weird.

Barsuk has been around since 1994. Click the playlist below for some of my favorite songs on their label.

Merge Records: ClapTrack’s First Label Spotlight

Cataloging labels is as much fun for me as cataloging artists and albums. It’s why I tag every post with the labels responsible for the song or album featured. It’s also why my SoundCloud profile mostly follows labels and why my YouTube subscription feed is crammed with them.

In an artistic landscape where the barriers to entry are so low and where so much content is available, labels perhaps aren’t as critical to artists; this is the age of “indie” music, isn’t it?

But to music consumers, I think labels are more valuable than ever, primarily as curators of talent. There are some artists I check out for no reason other than that they are on a label that represents other artists I like. The label adds value to me, the consumer, by finding and developing artists who are working in the styles and with the conventions that push my musical buttons.

So this week I’m featuring some of my favorite labels. I’m putting together short playlists to highlight their talent and also linking informational stuff for the curious.

We start with Merge Records. Here’s a link to the Merge tag on ClapTrack. 

Merge represents dozens of artists. I found them through M. Ward, who is a very good sample of what Merge does: folkish rock music. You gotta rock a guitar if you’re signed to Merge (see also Richard Buckner, Spoon, and The Mountain Goats).

But there’s an experimental pop edge to what Merge releases too. Destroyer is more synthesizer than guitar. Arcade Fire is a pop sensation.

The playlist below features things Merge has both issued and reissued. I credit curators who rework and re-release work someone else published first. The reissues of All Hail West Texas and Telekenisis! are brilliant moves.

The label’s Wikipedia page explains how Merge is based in Durham and was founded in 1989 by members of Superchunk. There’s also a book about the label’s history.

Google actually did a video celebrating Merge’s 25th anniversary. It’s embedded below the playlist.


We Are Scientists Is The Best April 22nd Release

Click play to hear eight tracks from LP’s released today. Find the track list below the video.

“No Star” by The Greys from Outer Heaven on Carpark Records

“Please Be Honesty” by Guided by Voices from Please Be Honest on GBV Inc.

“Buckle” by We Are Scientists from Helter Seltzer on 100% Records

“Take All My Loves (Sonnet 40)” by Rufus Wainwright from Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets on Deutsche Grammophon

“Either Way” by Sorority Noise from It Kindly Stopped for Me on Top Shelf Records

“Real Good Day” by Cellars from Phases on Manifesto Records

“Temple” by Matthew & The Atlas from Temple on Communion Music

“Internal Exile” by Wire from Nocturnal Koreans on Pink Flag Records

Me And Mike Snow on The Plane

Airplane rides are great for taking in an album through some high quality headphones without interruption. The flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia that introduced me to Chvrches The Bones of What You Believe is the reason I now target two or three albums for download on my Google Play Music app before every trip.

Flying from Los Angeles to Chicago on Tuesday I listened to the new Mike Snow album, iii. I posted about it when it came out on March 4th, and a couple of its tracks have made my 2016 Radio playlist already, but this was my first chance to take in the whole thing through my noise canceling earphones start to finish.

It’s over before it even starts. That’s how quick the album feels. The production, the vocals, the lyrics even (which you don’t automatically expect from an electronic album)–they march right through you and then they’re gone. You miss so much of what’s good about this kind of music when you listen to it in snatches, the way I do, through tinny computer speakers.

Here are three tracks that you must plug in and listen to right now. Then treat yourself to the whole album.

“Genghis Khan”

“Heart Is Full” (Feat. Run The Jewels)

“I Feel The Weight”


Sturgill Simpson’s “Keep It Between The Lines” is Horn-Driven Fun

Jeff and I were pretty dismissive of the two A Sailor’s Guide To Earth singles that were released before the album last Friday, but “Keep It Between The Lines” is redeeming the project for me. Jeff was particularly irritated by the apparent aping of Townes Van Zandt implied by the guitar and the drawl.

But there’s more to this album than self-loathing twang. There’s almost a Van Morrison vibe, what with all the horns.

It’s a win for me.

New Sturgill Simpson Tops Your April 15th New Release Mixtape (But Don’t Miss That Gallant Track)

Happy New Release Day (taxes be damned). To celebrate, we’re featuring nine songs from albums released today, April 15th.


Click the three horizontal lines in the top left corner of the player to see the song list

Sturgill Simpson, “Brace for Impact (Live A Little)” from A Sailor’s Guide To Earth on Atlantic

Kevin Morby, “Dorothy,” from Singing Saw on Dead Oceans

Sam Beam and Jessica Hoop, Soft Place To Land,” from Love Letter For Fire on Sub Pop

PJ Harvey, “Community of Hope,” from The Hope Six Demolition Project on Island Records

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetiz Zeros, Hot Coals,” from PersonA on Community Music

Graham Nash, “This Path Tonight,” from This Path Tonight on Blue Castle

Willie Sugarcapps, “Dreamer’s Sky,” from Paradise Right Here on Baldwin County Public Records

Eskimeaux, “Bulldog,” from Year of The Rabbit on Double Whammy Whammy

Gallant, “Bone + Tissue,” from Ology on Mind of A Genius