Thursday, January 11, 2018

WSPC'S FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2017: PART TWO

Thank you all for your patience as some of my real word responsibilities have kept me from writing and posting new material for Synesthesia. So, without any further hesitation, we now continue with the compilation of my favorite music releases of 2017, including my pick for Album Of The Year.

"AMERICAN DREAM"
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM
Released September 1, 2017
-Just as I have already written to you back in September 2017, when this album was first released, LCD Soundsystem, the musical brainchild of bandleader/songwriter/singer/producer/multi-instrumentalist James Murphy, made a spectacular return five years after their official breakup and the overall effect could not have been more timely.

"American Dream," a nearly 70 minute release starring 10 songs which return and extend the LCD aesthetic of post-punk rock, dance floor rhythms filtered through Talking Heads/David Bowie/late 1970's CBGB.'S nostalgia that simultaneously speaks to the precarious pulse of contemporary 21st century society, made for a pitch perfect representation of middle aged malaise and anxiety in our increasingly turbulent landscape. 

With a delivery that feels as earnest as it does bemused with the fact that these are indeed the times in which we are all living through, "American Dream" holds up a propulsive mirror to our dark times with a resounding D.I.Y. perfection.  
"TI AMO"
PHOENIX
Released June 9, 2017
-One of the year's most glowingly colorful albums arrived from Phoenix, who have finally eclipsed their own creative bar set so beautifully by "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" (released May 25, 2009), with the gorgeously frothy European disco fantasia of "Ti Amo." The melodies, rhythms, performance and production are as sparkling as rainbow lights bouncing off of a technicolor mirrorball making for an album, while not overtly political by any means, that fully exceeds its purpose of eliciting light in the darkness by delivering dance pop music at its most exquisite. 

Trust me, I could listen to the warmly longing of the album closer "Telefono" on repeat for days on end.
"async"
RYUICHI SAKAMOTO
Released April 28, 2017
-Sometimes, you do not need words-part one...

For his 16th solo album, ambient music pioneer and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto returned with a powerfully devastating yet oddly and warmly personal release "async," an album of avant garde instrumentals that chronicle various explorations of impending mortality, in this case, Sakamoto's. 

For some  background to the album itself, Sakamoto was diagnosed with throat cancer and underwent radiation therapy beginning in 2014, marking this album as his first foray into music since his health crisis. With "async," it feels as if we are being invited to take a deep dive into Sakamoto's personal five stages of grief, so to speak. From gentle piano chords that float off into voids of white noise, to violently cacophonous percussives, unearthly drones, ethereal strings, and hypnotically glacial dreamworld pacing, we can gather the levels of denial, anger, depression, and bargaining at work and in creation, therefore making the album in its entirety, a work of acceptance concerning the inevitability of his own eventual finality, where life itself fades into dream, leaving echoes of memories in its wake.  

Sobering and stunning.
"BAD HOMBRE"
ANTONIO SANCHEZ
Released September 29, 2017
-Sometimes you do not need words-part two...

Following up his brilliantly expressive and undeniably innovative film score to Alejandro G. Inarritu's "Birdman" (2014), drummer/composer Antonio Sanchez returns with a blistering instrumental collection that directly provides a brutal retort to a certain President of the United States who began day one of his election campaign by proclaiming all Mexicans as "rapists" and would later describe Mexicans males as "bad hombres." 

Meditative and cathartic, Sanchez utilizes his drum kit as a means to explore his heritage, the anger and frustration contained is completely palpable as we are able to hear the continuing struggle, existence and liberation of a people while also exclaiming itself as a compelling musical cycle filled with texture, moods, themes and even full stories. 

Please note that "Bad Hombre" is not solely an album of nothing but drum solos. These selections are carefully crafted and curated drum performances, augmented with some electronics, that ebb and flow, build, rise, fall, grow more intense yet recede into pain and sorrow only to blast outwards into fury as if daring that aforementioned President to say even one more disparaging word. 
"GLANCES"
SKYLINE SOUNDS
Released June 10, 2017
-One of the year's most beautiful albums arrived right here in Madison, WI from a band who richly deserves any and all positive attention they are fortunate enough to receive.

With their second album "Glances," Skyline Sounds, which is the collective of Alyssa Niemiec (bass guitar, vocals), Mike Niemiec guitar, vocals), Zach Guyette (keyboards, guitar) and Dave Zakos (drums), have superbly raised their own creative bar as "Glances" represents a conceptual work concerning shifting interpersonal and psychological perspectives that blend the cosmic and the concrete through a musical landscape of richly recorded power pop that is by turns elegant, raucous, tranquil, and transportive with guitars that glimmer and chime, keyboards that provide perfect augmentation to the rock and roll energy and drums that furnish that expertly delivered kick.

Additionally, and especially in our digital age, Skyline Sounds created a work that adheres to a more analog time in which the album in its entirety, from the music and lyrics to the overall presentation through cover artwork, liner notes and lyric booklets, was considered to be a complete work of art. 

For "Glances," the band concocted a near kaleidoscopic design with an album cover that can subtlety shift its image up to seven configurations and a lyric booklet that contains a series of symbols and corresponding code key that provides thematic links to the songs themselves. Yet, do not be fooled into thinking that what the band has delivered exists as a gimmick. Skyline Sounds has provided the listener with a fully immersive experience, where the visual presentation and the audio congeal blissfully, making the whole of "Glances" a glorious art piece. 

To solely purchase a download would be a disservice, as far as I am concerned.
"DOGMAN"
TROPHY DAD
Released May 5, 2017
-And speaking of bands who have triumphantly raised their own creative bars, I now turn to another band local to Madison, WI.

Trophy Dad, the collective of Justin Huber (drums), Abby Sherman (vocals, bass guitar, trumpet), Henry Stoehr (guitars, production) and Jordan Zamansky (vocals, guitars, keyboards, electric piano), who first grabbed my attention nearly two years ago during their terrific set during the Modern Mod farewell concert, as well as with their razor sharp debut EP "Shirtless Algebra Fridays" (released May 22, 2015), truly laid me flat on my back with the arrival of their second EP entitled "Dogman." 

What Trophy Dad has achieved this time around is the building and execution of a more cohesive sound and presentation, sonically as well as thematically, making this EP exist as far more than just five songs but more truthfully, a 23 minute suite of bruised and broken ballads that explore sexual relationships, conflicting sexual/gender roles and the uses and abuses of sexual power and finally, the inevitable, and often aching consequences.

"Dogman" opens with a nearly 12 minute one-two punch of the mesmerizing cyclical riff driven "Swig," with this "one-thing-leads-to-another" narrative and the previously released "Addison," a selection of such raw emotional and darkly romantic power that by song's end, delivered through its final, heartbreaking grace note, still leaves me weakened. The EP continues with the brief, downright cruel kiss off of a conceited girl in the ironically titled "And She Succeeded," while the teeth baring "Louis Sachar," explores sexual harassment starring the abuser, the abused and a frozen bystander. "Dogman" closes with "Purple," which feels to be a monologue of alternating periods interior loneliness and despondent rage in the romantic/sexual aftermath.

With this EP, Trophy Dad has arrived with a clearer, tighter focus, which has not only served the songwriting team of Abby Sherman and Jordan Zamansky heroically but also Stoehr's production, which is positively seamless, as there are no pauses between any of the selections, thus giving the listener no time to pause during the indie rock emotional wallop the band provides. 

Within the bands that I have had the experience of hearing in the Madison music community there is an inexplicable tenor to Abby Sherman's singing which makes her vocals undeniably captivating--dear listeners, I could listen to her sing all day long. Jordan Zamansky's baritone vocals make for a brilliant counterpoint to Sherman's voice and the melodic blend they create together is as striking as it is surprising with its perfection. As songwriters, I deeply appreciated their candor and their willingness to travel to some deeply uncomfortable emotional territories in order to unearth some unquestionably and equally uncomfortable truths that exists within adult relationships. The rise in maturity is evident, to say the least, and their level of compassion even moreso.

Who knows what will become of the band as Sherman and Zamansky are getting set to graduate from the University Of Wisconsin-Madison. But whatever their future holds, I sincerely hope that Trophy Dad remains a priority as "Dogman" indeed points to a musically bright future. 

So...please don't stop now! 
"SONGS OF EXPERIENCE"
U2
Released December 1, 2017
-I really need to write a longer, fuller posting concerning this album and maybe I will. But for now, I guess some highlights...

I know that it is trendy to hate U2 at this point in time but in all honestly, for what reasons other than giving away an album for free? It just cannot be because of their longevity for there are bands who are still looming largely upon the Earth that have existed for even greater lengths of time (ahem...The Rolling Stones, for instance). It cannot be for the quality of their songs, for even with material that could be considered as being "weak," the U2 songbook remains one that I would gather most bands would kill for. It also cannot be for any perceived sense of shallowness as lead singer's Bono's activism is legendary, on-going and supremely well thought out. 

Who knows the reasons and believe me, I am not here to debate you but as it stands, U2 stands as one of the very few rock and roll bands who can claim to remain intact after 40 years, with absolutely not one lineup change that is still producing music that is as vital, urgent, and heartfelt as anything they released in their collective youths. But of course, there is nothing like "New Year's Day, "Gloria," "Where The Streets Have No Name," I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" to be found on their latest album "Songs Of Experience." And how could there be? 

To expect something new as if it arrived from the past would be more than foolish and all we can do is to accept (or not) the band for who they are now: middle aged men who are still passionately holding onto the flame that united them to each other and them to us in the first place. To ask for anything more would be selfish to say the least. And for my money, "Songs Of Experience" represents U2 discovering yet another grace note that for our precarious, intensely political times, and one that I  found myself embracing even tighter than I ever expected that I would. 

Opening and ending with two hymns, "Love Is All We Have Left" and "13 (There Is A Light),"  it feels as if Bono is singing to himself, as well as to all of us, as even he attempts to makes sense of the world we now all exist within, this topsy-turvy through the looking glass existence of Trump and Brexit. And if love is indeed all we have left, then why not sing love songs to the love of your life as evidenced in tracks like "You're The Best Thing About Me" and "Landlady." Or how about a love letter to the very people who placed him upon the world's stage as heard in "The Showman (Little More Better)." Or love songs that are actually veiled political statements towards the refugee crisis ('Red Flag Day," "Summer Of Love"). Or even some glimpses into one's own fears and hard looks into one's own mortality as Bono did indeed experience a couple of serious health issues and one reportedly near death event that has informed some of the lyrical content of the album--"Lights Of Home," the dark club jam of "The Blackout," and "The Little Things that Give You Away." 

U2's "Songs Of Experience" is an album that, of course, is designed to serve as the sequel/companion piece to their previous release, the surprisingly warmly interior "Songs Of Innocence" (released September 9, 2014). It is also an album that fully informs not only the previous album but the entirety of their discography, making echoes to the young men they were and how those ideals of their collective pasts have reverberated, strengthened and/or altered over time to this particular point, especially as thoughts of mortality are more prevalent than they were back during their debut album "Boy" (released October 20, 1980). 

Nine producers. A protracted recording period. A guest appearance by none other than Kendrick Lamar. The entire proceedings should be a complete mess. But on the contrary, it is a beautifully composed, arranged, performed and sequenced work, filled end to end with songs that contain glistening melodies presented earnestly, passionately and by a band that still sounds like no one else other than themselves. 
"HARMONY OF DIFFERENCE"
KAMASI WASHINGTON
Released September 29, 2017
-Sometimes you do not need words-part three...

After the audacious, dynamic three disc/three hour debut album that is more than appropriately entitled "The Epic" (released May 5, 2015), saxophonist/composer/bandleader/producer Kamasi Washington returns with a new EP release that possesses a duration that is only a fraction of his previous work but is no less complex and far reaching in its musicality and emotion.

"Harmony Of Difference" is a six-movement suite of songs lasting only a bit over 30 minutes and yet, the entire EP feels as full and as complete as an entire album. Featuring tracks which carry titles such as "Integrity," "Perspective," "Knowledge" and the 13 minute plus finale "Truth," Washington and his orchestral jazz collective of musicians and vocalists conjure up the sweep and scope of Charles Mingus and John Coltrane while extending and expanding upon the idiosyncratic musical universe that Kamasi Washington is gradually bringing into the world. 

Like "The Epic," this is music that is indeed extremely complex and sophisticated but surprisingly not arcane or unapproachable. In fact, "Harmony Of Difference," just may be one of the most empathetic releases of 2017. 
"IS THIS THE LIFE WE REALLY WANT?"
ROGER WATERS
Released June 2, 2017
-From one of rock and roll's most unrepentant humanists, a songwriter whose lyricists pen contains the most poisonous venom for those who aligns themselves with money an d power at the expense of humanity itself, former Pink Floyd band member Roger Waters returns to the rock album format after a 25 year absence with his new release, the title of which asks the very question I would not be surprised that we are all asking of ourselves these days. 

In years  past, my feeling towards Roger Waters has remained as followed once he departed Pink Floyd: his staggering lyrics are absolutely brilliant yet his music was tremendously lacking, as if he could not have been bothered to write more than one or two themes, a combination which made for more than ponderous listening. With "Is This The Life We Really Want?," Waters has teamed up with producer extraordinaire Nigel Godrich, who streamlined the complexity of Waters' latest conceptual narrative to focus more sharply upon the songs themselves, which are indeed Waters' most melodic set of song since his days with Pink Floyd. In fact, this album represents the 72 year old rock and roll veteran operating in peak form as the album represents his best solo work by a mile while also serving as one of the best extensions from the Pink Floyd universe to date.

In many ways, Waters' album was the very one I was most anxious to hear in this first year of President Trump and for my sensibilities, it more than exceeded my needs and expectations. From the album cover whose redacted imagery echoes the cover artwork of Pink Floyd's The Wall" (released November 30, 1979), I felt that the blacked out sections essentially served as societal bricks within the 21st century, a landscape where the increasingly and politically commonplace tactic of erasing words, ideas, concepts and therefore, people, that prove to be "threatening," ultimately creating a horrific post-truth universe. 

With that comes Waters' patented stupendously recorded and hallucinogenic soundscapes armed with the brutal humanism of his lyrics that suffers no fools and howls like a mad wolf at an unforgiving world filled with mounting levels of greed, avarice, ruthlessness, an utter disregard for the world which we all share and perhaps mostly, the flatulent stupidity of world leaders willing to make  humanity itself expendable. 

"Picture a leader with no fucking brains," Waters snarls as the final three words of that phrase echo into oblivion. Unfortunately, we don't need to picture it. We are here. Thankfully, so is Roger Waters to help us see this through.    
"A KIND REVOLUTION"
PAUL WELLER
Released May 12, 2017
-Another musical legend released an enormously vital, vibrant, vivacious work in 2017 and it came from journeyman Paul Weller, he of The Jam and The Style Council. For "A Kind Revolution," his thirteenth solo album, Weller again gleefully mixes genres of rock, pop, post-punk, rock, funk, R&B, and 21st century psychedelia yet what effortlessly bridges the variety of styles so cleanly and is the superb expressiveness contained in the grit and soul of his extraordinary voice.

Out of all of the songs that I have heard this year, I would be hard pressed to find another sung moment than the one heard in Weller's "Long, Long Road," during which he finds the Gospel in hsi singing, unearthing the spirit of Marvin Gaye to me when he sings the passage, "And I know it's a long long road that we walk together but as one/There's no longer two oh, me and you/When the road gets rough, we gotta pull together," and then concludes it with a soaring "wooo-oooo-ooooh!" I am getting chills just writing about this!!

I really wish to believe that we have long reached the time when music listeners can find much to be appreciated in not only all kinds of genres but in all ages of performers no matter in which decade they exist in. All that matters is that the artist in question is still finding inspiration to create new works at their absolute best and Paul Weller has again shown beautifully that he is not in any fear of growing remotely uninspired. 

And now...

ALBUM OF THE YEAR
"DAMN."
KENDRICK LAMAR
Released April 14, 2017
-Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

From the title, to the stark cover image, to the music contained therein, Kendrick Lamar's downright brilliantly titled "Damn." is the work of a furiously, ferociously gifted artist in a state of extreme stress, palpable spiritual turmoil, and unquestionable anxiety in a world that seemingly wants everything from him except the messages of what he has to offer. At least, that is what is feels like in the album's opening when Lamar is shot dead as he selflessly assists a blind woman searching for...well, what?

This is the world of "Damn.," a world where the spiritual decay is paramount to multi-level, multi-faceted degrees from entrenched institutionalized racism against African-Americans to the labyrinthine frictions and fatalities within the Black community that work to hold ourselves backwards instead of pushing ourselves even further forwards, to Lamar's own increased sense of purpose and paranoia which has arrived with greater fame, greater knowledge, and a greater sense of self via a larger worldview yet all of which is pungently tinged with a menacing Survivor's Guilt and fear that what he has learned and can use to enlighten and elevate will all fall on deaf ears.

This album showcases the mighty King Kunta still operating at the fullest of his powers as his work as a rapper and lyricist remains untouchable in their agility, dexterity and Shakespearian heft, depth and complexity--the album's final three selections of  "FEAR," "GOD" and the absolute masterpiece of coincidence or fate narrative that is "DUCKWORTH" are MASTER CLASSES in storytelling, perspectives, psychology and therefore, human empathy. Now knowing that Lamar designed his album to be experienced in front or reverse order, essentially creating a double album in one single disc where the full narrative is able to house different meanings, is a testament to his supreme conceptual powers, to which he again proves that he is never to be underestimated...that is if he ever has been!

Musically, Lamar has drastically altered his sound from the free jazz theatrics of his staggering previous effort "To Pimp A Butterfly" (released March 15, 2015), to embrace a more classic boom-bap sound in force but one that is woozy in atmospherics, fully suggesting the societal haze and political daze we are all experiencing at this point in time, as we evaluate and re-evaluate our surroundings and ourselves in order to determine just how we can move forwards. 

And this is only, album #4!

So, there you have it. My personal favorite albums of 2017, works to embrace for the year and forever more. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

WSPC'S SESSION NOTES JANUARY 2018

FROM THE DJ'S STUDIO DESK:

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you ad while the world remains precarious, where would we be without any stitch of hope that 2018 might be better than 2017...or at least, let's hope that things will not grow irrevocably worse!

Yet, for now, my words to you will be brief as I just wish for us to allow the hangover of the holiday season and certainly the on-going bed spins of the state of the world to be pushed into your respective backgrounds to just take a minute, or even a few seconds, to just embrace whatever you may have in your lives that makes your lives worth living, what makes every day that you are able to wake up a gift.

Be it family, parents, or children. Be it lovers or friends. Be it the unquestionable and unconditional bonds we may share with an animal companion.  Be it a location, ether physical or spiritual and for that matter, we can apply that concept to that of travel, if voyaging brings you peacefulness. Be it your career or your days in the school hallways. Be it anything, anyplace, anywhere. Just take those seconds, if that is all you can spare and think about what makes you feel complete in the world.

For me, what gives me solace is the sanctuary of home, where my family and cats provide me with the proverbial shelter from the storm. While my occupation in the real world does indeed create some of that storm that I do need to take shelter from, I can only imagine not having an occupation to grow weary of...and then, where would I be? I have my family, my cats, my parents, my friends and of course, my writing and my radio show, which of course leads me to the universe of music itself, the gift that I could not imagine my life without.

Take your seconds to think and once you have finished, take a deep breath to give yourself to this new year, grab your favorite music and...PLAY LOUD!!!!!!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

WSPC PLAYLIST DECEMBER 2017

December 1, 2017
"My Little Drum" performed by The Vince Guaraldi Trio

"Just One Victory" performed by Todd Rundgren
"Domino" performed by Genesis
"Witness 4 The Prosecution" (unreleased) performed by Prince
"Funky Judge" performed by J Geils Band
"Good Morning Judge' performed by 10cc

"Beautiful Strange" (live) performed by Prince

December 3, 2017
"Hey Bulldog" performed by The Beatles
"Lights Of Home" performed by U2-WSPC PREMIERE
"Happy Hour" performed by Weezer-WSPC PREMIERE
"Telefono" performed by Phoenix-WSPC PREMIERE
"Ladybird" performed by XTC

December 4, 2017
"Tables Will Turn" performed by Todd Rundgren
"You've Got It Bad Girl" performed by Stevie Wonder
"Together (Having A Ball)" performed by The Partridge Family
"As We Go Along" performed by The Monkees
"Canard Du Jour" performed by Frank Zappa with Jean-Luc Ponty

December 5, 2017
"Band On The Run" performed by Paul McCartney and Wings
"Stay" performed by Pink Floyd
"Shoot High Aim Low" performed by Yes
"The English Roses" performed by Pretenders
"Flash" performed by Queen

December 7, 2017
"Are You Awake?" performed by Kevin Shields
"Trap Feeling" performed by Tangerine Dream
"Weapon Of Choice" performed by Fatboy Slim

December 8, 2017
37TH ANNIVERSARY OF JOHN LENNON'S ASSASSINATION
"Watching The Wheels"
"Mind Games"
"Tight A$"
"I'm Stepping Out"
"I Don't Wanna Face It"
"Instant Karma"
"Revolution" performed by The Beatles

"Bring On The Lucie (Freda People)"
"Hold On"
"Look At Me" (acoustic)
"Nobody Loves You (When You're  Down And Out)"
"Well Well Well"
"Cleanup Time"
"Imagine"

December 10, 2017
50TH ANNIVERSARY OF OTIS REDDING'S DEATH
"That's How Strong My Love Is"
"Cigarettes And Coffee"
"Try A Little Tenderness" (live 1967 Monterey Pop Festival
"A Change Is Gonna Come"
"These Arms Of Mine"
"I've Been Loving You Too Long"

December 11, 2017
"The Trap" performed by Johnny Marr
"Reptile" performed by The Church
"On The Beach" performed by Neil Young
"I'll Play The Blues For You (parts 1 & 2)" performed by Albert King

"Finding Peace Of Mind" performed by Kainalu-WSPC PREMIERE 
"Flowers In December" performed by Mazzy Star
"Anything I Say To You Now" performed by Ryan Adams
"Ain't Nothin' Like Whiskey" performed by Lightnin' Hopkins
"All Day Sucker" performed by Stevie Wonder

December 13, 2017

HAPPY 54TH BIRTHDAY to JON BRION
"So Now Then"
"Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind Theme"
"Over Our Heads"
"Piano Two"
"Knock Yourself Out"

"Last Christmas" performed by Gwen Stefani
"Silver Bells" performed by Wilson Pickett
"I'll Make Everyday Christmas (For My Woman)" performed by Joe Tex
"The First Noel" performed by Tony Carey
"Christmas At The Airport" performed by Nick Lowe

"Too Much Passion" performed by The Smithereens

December 17, 2017
"Everlong/Christmas Medley" (live 12-16-17 on SNL) performed by Foo Fighters

"Nothing Is Good Enough" performed by Aimee Mann
"Dumb" (live MTV Unplugged) performed by Nirvana
"Isolation" performed by John Lennon
"A Man I'll Never Be" performed by Boston
"Slit Skirts" performed by Pete Townshend

"E-Bow The Letter" performed by R.E.M.
"When I Needed You" performed by Supergrass
"Little Dark Age" performed by MGMT-WSPC PREMIERE

December 18, 2017
"The Christmas Song" performed by The Jackson 5
"Thank God For Christmas" performed by Queen
"2000 Miles" performed by Pretenders
"River" performed by Joni Mitchell
"Someday At Christmas" performed by Pearl Jam

December 19, 2017
"Thanks For Christmas" performed by XTC as The Three Wise Men
"Christmas Day" performed by Squeeze
"Jesus Christ" performed by R.E.M.

December 20, 2017
"Fairytale Of New York" performed by The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl
"Christmas" performed by The Who
"Christmas In Hollis" performed by RUN-DMC
"This Christmas" performed by Donny Hathaway
"Frosty The Snowman" performed by Cocteau Twins

"Get Down Santa" performed by The Jive Turkeys
"Xmas Done Got Funky" performed by Jimmy Jules and the Nuclear Soul System
"Getting Down F or Xmas" performed by Milly & Silly
"Soul Santa" performed by Funk Machine
"Just A Sad Xmas" performed by The Soul Duo

December 21, 2017
"White Christmas" performed by Iggy Pop
"Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight Tonight)" performed by The Ramones
"Father Christmas" performed by The Kinks
"Christmas Wrapping" performed by The Waitresses
"The Santaland Diaries" performed by David Sedaris

December 24, 2017
"Silent Night" performed by The Temptations

"Hallelujah" performed by Anna Wang-WSPC PREMIERE
"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" performed by Lisa  Hannigan
"Deck The Halls" performed by Pomplamoose
"Spirit Of Christmas" performed by Ray Charles
"Midnight Mass" performed by Sloan

December 25, 2017
"Let's Make Christmas Mean Something This Year" performed by JAMES BROWN
"Merry Christmas Baby" performed by Otis Redding
"Someday At Christmas" performed by Stevie Wonder
"I Want To Come Home For Christmas" performed by Marvin Gaye
"Christmas Just Ain't Christmas Without The One You Love" performed by The O'Jays
"Merry Christmas Baby" performed by B.B. King

December 26, 2017
"Chemistry" performed by Arcade Fire-WSPC PREMIERE
"fullmoon" performed by Ryuichi Sakamoto-WSPC PREMIERE
"Momentum" performed by Antonio Sanchez-WSPC PREMIERE
"In Twenty Years Or So" performed by Father John Misty-WSPC PREMIERE
"One Tear" performed by Paul Weller-WSPC PREMIERE

December 28, 2017
"Electric Relaxation" performed by A Tribe Called Quest
"Purple" performed by Shuggie Otis
"Into The Black" performed by The Chromatics
"The Chain" performed by  Fleetwood Mac
"Do It Again" performed by Anna Wang-WSPC PREMIERE

December 29, 2017
"Just The Time Of Year" performed by Peter Frampton
"The Ballad Of El Goodo" performed by Big Star
"I Don't Wanna Die Anymore" performed by New Radicals
"Leaving L.A." performed by Father John Misty-WSPC PREMIERE
"Revelation" performed by Prince

 December 30, 2017
"It Don't Come Easy" performed by Ringo Starr
"De do Do Do, De Daa Daa Daa" performed by The Police
"Two Hearts Beat As One" performed by U2
"Cold" performed by Tears For Fears
"Stone Cold" performed by Rainbow

"State Of The Union" performed by James McMurtry-WSPC PREMIERE

"Someday Man" performed by The Monkees
"I Know What I Know" performed by The Monkees

December 31, 2017
"Woodstock" performed by Matthew's Southern Comfort
"Say We'll Meet Again" performed by Lindsey Buckingham
"Hanging On To Hope" performed by Ryan Adams-WSPC PREMIERE
"Voices" performed by Jon Brion
"Fading Lights" performed by Genesis

"Rave Un2 The Year 2000"-full concert performed by PRINCE

SAVAGE RADIO PLAYLISTS DECEMBER 2017 WVMO 98.7 FM-THE VOICE OF MONONA

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #103: "REMEMBERING JOHN LENNON AND MORE..."-DECEMBER 6, 2017
1. "Nobody Told Me" performed by John Lennon
2. "Coma Girl" performed by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
3. "Black Napkins" performed by Frank Zappa
4. "Blow Away (For Bill)" performed by Kate Bush
5. "Strawberry Fields Forever" performed by Andy Partridge with Dave Gregory
6. "Baby You're A Rich Man" performed by The Beatles
7. "Curse Of The Mummy's Tomb" performed by World Party
8. "Spectacle" performed by Sean Lennon
9. "Across The Universe" performed by David Bowie
10."God, Part II" performed by U2
11."One Day (At A Time)" performed by John Lennon

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #104 "THE MUSIC OF 2017"-DECEMBER 13, 2017
1. "We All Need Somethin'" performed by Andre Cymone
2. "Halfway Home" performed by Broken Social Scene
3. "Everything Now" performed by Arcade Fire
4. "Moon Dust" performed by Cherry Glazerr
5. "Charger" performed by Gorillaz with Grace Jones
6. "Happy Hour" performed by Weezer
7. "Sleep" performed by Todd Rundgren with Joe Walsh
8. "Processional" performed by William Patrick Corgan
9. "Woo Se Mama" performed by Paul Weller
10."The Line" performed by Foo Fighters
11."Make A Better Man" performed by Cody ChesnuTT
12."Telefono" performed by Phoenix

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #105: "SAVAGE RADIO'S CHRISTMAS JAMS 3"-DECEMBER 20, 2017
1. "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" performed by The Jackson 5
2. "Fat Daddy" performed by Fat Daddy
3. "Shake Hands With Santa Claus" performed by Louis Prima
4. "It's A Wonderful Life (Gonna Have A Good Time)" performed by Fishbone
5. "Father Christmas" performed by Cheap Trick
6. "Christmas Is The Time To Say 'I Love You'" performed by Billy Squier
7. "Santa Claus, Santa Claus" performed by JAMES BROWN
8. "Whatever Happened To Christmas?" performed by Aimee Mann
9. "Another Lonely Christmas" performed by Prince
10."My Little Drum" performed by The Vince Guaraldi Trio
11."Mr. & Mrs. Santa Claus" performed by George Jones and Tammy Wynette
12."The Christmas Song" performed by Weezer
13."Last Christmas" performed by Gwen Stefani

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #106-"GOODBYE 2017/HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018"-DECEMBER 27, 2017
1. "1999" performed by Prince
2. "Making Flippy Floppy" performed by Talking Heads
3. "Clap Hands" performed by Beck
4. "Let Forever Be" performed by The Chemical Brothers featuring Noel Gallagher
5. "In The Black" performed by Lenny Kravitz
6. "Wet Your Lips" performed by Terence Trent D'Arby
7. "Losing My Edge" performed by LCD Soundsystem
8. "Stalag 123" performed by Big Audio Dynamite
9. "Blackout" performed by David Bowie
10."Show Me" performed by Garbage

Saturday, December 30, 2017

WSPC'S FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2017: PART ONE

What a year...what a year...

Without delving into the specifics of which we all know so very well, 2017 was certainly a period of turbulence, uncertainty, painfulness, and all manner of sufferings that continuously led us into our extended state of societal anxiety. Honestly, there is simply no way to turn away from it all, and as for myself, I often found my spirit deflating and descending into alternating periods of despair, anger, resignation, and just points where I wish that I could find a real world "Wayback Machine," as we all saw in episodes of "Mr. Peabody," and just return to a simpler time...at least, a simpler time in my mind. For right now, I am often feeling just like the lyric in Todd Rundgren's 1973 classic "Sometimes I Don't Know What To Feel," in which he sings, "Someone said the world's gonna end and I think it's true..."   

Yes, I feel like that and I would not be surprised if you did as well.

But there was much else in the world that served to provide the proper solace. Family and like minded friends, most certainly, as their presence assisted greatly in helping me feel less alone in the universe. Yet, for the purposes of this blogsite, you know that I am focusing on the music of 2017, which was bountiful in totality and overall quality. Years ago, I wrote an entry for this blogsite that questioned whatever has happened to the protest song. For 2017, we received a powerfully effective amount of compelling music that spoke directly to the times, holding up dark mirrors to the goings-ons as well as to our emotional states, as we often danced ourselves to exhaustion.

At this time, I am so happy to share with you the first half of my favorite releases of 2017, all of which are presented in alphabetical order.
RYAN ADAMS
"PRISONER"
Released  February 17, 2017
-The ever prolific Ryan Adams returned with one of the best albums he has released to date, the collection of post-romance torch songs entitled "Prisoner." Exquisitely written, warmly produced, and expertly sung and performed (with Adams on the lion's share of the instruments), "Prisoner" combines power ballads, country tinged heartache, interior monologues, and English rain drenched meditations into a wrenching song cycle that suggests the marriage of Bruce Springsteen and The Smiths while continuing to carve out new roads in Ryan Adams' exceedingly impressive and idiosyncratic artistic paths. For some one who has written as many ballads and odes to a broken heart as Adams has, I honestly do not know how he keeps everything so fresh, so naked, so exposed to the nerve endings as he does. To that end, "Prisoner" also showcases Adams' diligent attention to quality control as he also released a double album's worth of B-sides (from a reportedly 80 songs recorded for the album) as an addendum to the main event and as terrific as those songs are, he truly picked the very best and most devastating of the batch.   
ARCADE FIRE
"EVERYTHING NOW"
Released July 28, 2017
-My list begins with an album that was surprisingly controversial as well as surprisingly maligned, and as far as I am concerned unfairly so. Now, truth be told, I have harbored a certain prickly affection for Arcade Fire over the years, as their status as critical darlings and a certain self-conscious/self-congratulatory streak of art for art's sake from the band that kept me a tad resistant at times. Yet, with their previous double album "Reflektor" (released October 28, 2013)--and despite those endless minutes upon minutes of barely audible ambient sounds that close that album's second disc--Arcade Fire enraptured me in ways that they quite hadn't accomplished for me since their rightly celebrated debut "Funeral" (released September 14, 2004).

With the arrival of their fifth album "Everything Now," the band has decided to continue exploring their music via the cocaine 70s dance floor rhythms they began on "Reflektor" but this time, have channeled them into an equal parts ironic and impassioned examination of our current emotional and spiritual landscape and yes indeed, what a dark and bumpy ride the experience is, even with the propulsive rhythms and melodies of the album's title track, "Creature Comfort," "Signs Of Life," "Electric Blue," the sinister suicide funk of "Good God Damn," and the clever wordplay contained within the two-part punk rock/country hybrid "Infinite Content"/"Infinite_Content."

Like U2's unfairly maligned album "Pop" (released March 3, 1997), Arcade Fire's "Everything Now" confronts our era of extremism and instant gratification with an approach that dials down the self-conscious earnestness of their past albums in favor of the aforementioned sense of irony and perhaps that was oft-putting to critics and fans as the band presented a landscape in which every listener is fully complicit in our societal ills that have left us entitled and spiritually empty. I found this album to be an eclectic, electric work that served as a commentary as well as a dire warning.
"APOCALIPSTICK"
CHERRY GLAZERR
Released January 20, 2017
-Out of all of the opening acts that I have seen throughout my life, one of the finest was easily the band Cherry Glazerr who I happened to see opening for The Flaming Lips this past April. The band performed a pile driving set that often reminded me of the psychedelic alt-rock fury of The Smashing Pumpkins during their "Gish" era. They impressed me so very much that I went scouring for their album over the weekend after the show and I can only gather that they impressed quite a number of concert attendees because every record store in town was sold out of their 2017 release, entitled "Apocalipstick."  By the time my copy of the album finally arrived at B-Side Records, I was excited to hear that the album itself was more than worth the wait.

Led by 19 year old singer/songwriter/guitarist Clementine Creevy, Cherry Glazerr's "Apocalipstick" polishes up the band's garage rock aesthetics without losing any of the sharpness of their musical teeth. Where "Told You I'd Be With The Guys" showcases Creevy's  unapologetic feminism, she and her bandmates also are more than ready to embrace the silliness with the pungent "Trash People," glam rock stomps and roars with "Moon Dust," "Humble Pro," "Nurse Ratched" and "Sip O' Poison," melodic melancholia via "Only Kid On The Block" and prog rock fantasia on "Lucid Dreams" and the behemoth title track. 

Filled with shrieks and fury, ear candy melodies, and propelled by Sashami Ashworth's warm keyboards and synths and the dry, 1970's wallop of Tabor Allen's drums, Cherry Glazerr delivered one of the very best rock albums of the year without question. 
"MY LOVE DIVINE DEGREE"
CODY CHESNUTT
Released June 9, 2017
-It always amazes me how artists that happen to not possess a high public profile or release terribly much material are indeed able to sustain themselves between projects. In the case of singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer Mr. Cody ChesnuTT (yes, he of the inexplicable two capital T's in his last name), I have pondered this very question considerably as his artistry is indeed revered highly within sectors of the so-called "neo soul" movement as evidenced through his connections with the likes of Macy Gray, The Roots and Yaslin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) as well as the initial splash he received with his often startling, often juvenile debut double album "The Headphone Masterpiece" (released September 24, 2002)--an album, I ridiculously thought was called "The Chocolate Mixtape" on a recent episode of my radio show...Savage Retraction indeed!

Now, fifteen years later and with only one full length album released in the interim, ChesnuTT arrives with his most mature, fully realized vision to date in "My Love Divine Degree," an exploration of ever evolving manhood, purpose and positivity within the Black community and the continuing ascension of the spirit in these turbulent times through communal means of uplift. ChesnuTT's aesthetic remains as authentic and as pure as ever as he blends musical genres of soul, hip-hop, rock, D.I.Y. punk rock, funk and gospel into a vibrant music stew held together by the think, gritty soulfulness of his voice.

And trust me, if the addictive "Make A Better Man" is not riveted to your brain after the first listen, then I just cannot deal wit cha!!! 
"1969"
ANDRE CYMONE
Released April 7, 2017
-The veritable mirror to ourselves was held upright with dynamic flash, fervent zeal and  unapologetic urgency with Andre Cymone's muscular "1969," an album that evokes and updates the socio-political struggles and music of the past into a propulsive collection of soul music for the 21st century. 

Eschewing with any traces of what could be remotely described as the "Minneapolis sound," of which Cymone was a pioneer alongside the likes of childhood friends and classmates Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Dez Dickerson, Morris Day, Jesse Johnson and most definitely, the artist forever known as Prince, in favor of a sonic delivery that echoes the music that inspired him, Andre Cymone's "1969" musically feels like a trip up and down the radio dial of days long gone as rock, soul, funk, folk and traces of late '60s psychedelia are weaved into the album's songs that display an evocative narrative of life as it is lived in 2017 America...especially if you happen to be a Black man.

With a punchy production that will make your speakers vibrate and a vocal style that at times becomes quite Dylan-esque in its cadence, tracks like "We All Need Somethin',""Money," "Breathin' Out, Breathin' In," and the provocative and impassioned double shot of "Black Man In America" and "Black Lives Matter" and more, Cymone's musical vision expertly merges the nostalgia with a palpable political urgency that is as up-to-the-minute as the nightly news. 
"PURE COMEDY"
FATHER JOHN MISTY
Released April 7, 2017
-As with some of you, there are times that I long to toss Josh Tillman, otherwise known as Father John Misty over a cliff.  His snarky, overly self-congratulatory sense of hipster irony and superiority over other musicians is so terribly oft putting that it does tend to showcase social media at its worst, so much so that I have even questioned precisely why I ever fell for his music in the first place, most notably, "I Love You, Honeybear" (released February 9, 2015), the still extraordinary manifesto primarily detailing the origin and continuation of his marriage.  But wouldn't you know it. Just at the point when I was truly more than ready to pass Father John Misty by, solely out of sheer annoyance for everything other than his music, he goes ahead and releases a new album that is even better.

While the sweeping orchestrations of the previous album have been dialed down a tad in favor of more ornate strings and orchestrations, Father John Misty's "Pure Comedy" is an atheist's view of existence, from the beginning of time to our inevitable extinction in perhaps the next 20 years with fame, the environment, technology, success, failure, compassion, brutality and seemingly all other subject matter contained in life and the universe all shoved dead in the center. 

It is an album of stunning hopelessness in which Misty finds the act of existing to be the ultimate cosmic joke in an unforgiving, unrepentant cosmos. Even so, and as bleak as it is, "Pure Comedy" is an album of stunning, binding beauty (as well as one shattering one-liner after another--I mean, honestly...how does he write like this?!) as Misty evokes early '70s Elton John/ Bernie Taupin at their most caustic for this collection of extended ruminations, the most remarkable being the album's 13 minute centerpiece "Leaving L.A."  

I also loved tremendously how Father John Misty again approached the entirety of the album presentation itself as being essential pieces of the work of art as a whole. From the intensely detailed and subtlety grotesque Hieronymus Bosch styled album artwork, to Misty's interior (and brilliantly written) essay as well as the thick lyric booklet, a enormous amount of time, patience and care went into every element of this lavishly presented work that I do not believe for even one minute that this is an artist cavalier or nihilistic enough about the nature of existence or that he is above basic humanity. On the contrary, I think an album of this nature, concept and detail fully describes just precisely how passionate of a humanist and how deeply afraid of extinction he actually is. 

Father John Misty's "Pure Comedy" is a work of tremendous empathy as this artist stares with incredulity at our own madness and also one where the greatest lacerations are self-inflicted.
"CONCRETE AND GOLD"
FOO FIGHTERS
Released September 15, 2017
-This was my favorite rock and roll album of the year hands down and it is also the album that I had long hoped for the band to create (yes, I am still holding out for them to make that one-of-a-kind freaky album, but even so...). 

Building upon the previous few releases, which found Foo Fighters exploring analog recordings, collaborations with a variety of different musical artists, recording in various cities and states across the country and now returning to the confines of a recording studio, "Concrete And Gold" is a rainbow colored celebration of all of the musical lessons learned over these past several years and executed with an even larger musical paintbox featuring the colors contained within stacked harmony vocals, band musical chairs and surprising guest appearances (Sir Paul McCartney on drums while drummer Taylor Hawkins handles lead vocals in "Sunday Rain" is an album highlight). I do believe that it is easy to take a band like this for  granted as they have remained so present, so dependable, so constant in their approach and aesthetic. But, I also believe that it is rare to find a rock band of their status and history who continue to not only sound so committed to their craft, but remain so inspired to keep pushing ahead, determined to make music that can possibly scorch the sky. 
"4:44"
JAY-Z
Released June 30, 2017
-For one who has really never been a Jay-Z fan, this album unquestionably sits within the top three releases of the year, in my opinion, as this album is a staggeringly brilliant work. 

Merging the searing self-examination of John Lennon with the socio-political lessons of African-American self-preservation courtesy of James Brown, Jay-Z's "4:44," opens in turbulence, pain and brutal self-lacerations and revelations and concludes with redemption, renewal and a palpable sense of devotion and ascension. Jay-Z's 13th studio album is a masterpiece of re-invention, showcasing that a newfound vulnerability proves to be more powerfully raw than the tired, cliched swagger and bravado of old. 

Where album opener "Kill Jay Z," destroys the persona, therefore the ego, "The Story Of O.J.," confronts the ways White America views Black Americans regardless of status and how Black Americans view ourselves and in ways, hold ourselves down. The astounding "Legacy" finds Jay-Z speaking to his children, informing them of his plans and hopes for their lives once he passes on, "Smile" celebrates his Mother and her life as a lesbian while confronting the double lives we all experience with our personal private and public personas, and of course, there is the album's centerpiece, the dark-night-of-the soul title track, a wrenching apology that is startling in its blunt candor and exposed nerve ending emotion, considering the source, an artists who truly kept his cards clenched to his chest.

With no offense to Beyonce or to the legion of listeners who beloved "Lemonade" (released April 23, 2016), I have to say that I couldn't quite trust it as  I just have issues with an army of writers, musicians, producers and even filmmakers all jumping at the beck and call of an individual to write even one song. To me, it just felt like a factory rather than inspiration at work, regardless of the results. For me, Jay-Z's "4:44," in which the participants were essentially down to himself and one producer in No I.D. , the overall purity of the art rather than the full pop machine felt to be at the forefront and it was the absence of the machine that seemed to produce the eventual rawness necessary to bring his hard earned lessons of the nurturing and growth of the self, the Black family, the Black community and the Black nation into blinding focus. 

Yet in full credit to Beyonce, there possibly would not have been a "4:44" without her "Lemonade," perhaps making the two albums hip-hop/R&B's answer to John Lennon and Yoko Ono's "Double Fantasy" (released November 17, 1980).
"BLUME LAGOON"
KAINALU
Released June 20, 2017
-I do not care what any music critics or publications say or have already said, Kainalu's interstellar funk dream entitled "Love Nebula" was THE song of the summer of 2017!! Hell, for me, it just may have been the song of the entire year!!!

"Blume Lagoon," the six song debut EP from Madison, WI's very own Kainalu, is the brainchild of singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist Trent Prall, and he, without question, created the most addictive release I heard all year long. 

With its devotion to its wall of analog synths, suggesting that Prall fully raided Stevie Wonder's closets and an aesthetic that adheres strongly to Prall's Hawaiian heritage, Kainalu's "Blume Lagoon" evokes a psychedelic tranquility that simultaneously inspires your hips to sway luxuriously to the crystal rhythms found in the Barry White groove of "Older Than I Am," the crush drenched dreamworld of "Girls," the Tame Impala styled introspection of EP closer "Wasting Away" and believe me, I am just unable to express words effective enough to convey the musical miracle that is "Love Nebula."

"Blume Lagoon" is one incredible calling card and not just for the exceedingly fruitful music community of Madison, WI. Kainalu is the real deal, the arrival of an artist who is truly just getting started and has already birthed an immense amount of excitement from me as I anxiously await what will arrive next.

Stay tuned for the remainder of the list including, my #1 favorite album of 2017!!! 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

CANDYFLOSS CONFESSIONALS: "IN YOUR HEAD" ANNA WANG

"IN YOUR HEAD"
ANNA WANG

Written, Recorded, Performed and Produced by Anna Wang
Released November 3, 2017

I do not believe that I could have asked for a more sparkling Christmas gift.

I have said it many times before and I am so, so compelled to say it once again: Music chooses YOU! The inexplicable beauty that occurs when unfamiliar music enters your life is nothing short of magical, especially when it arrives as a complete surprise. And at this time, I am excited to share with you an album that entered into my life a mere few days ago and already has become one that is a fixture within my CD player as I drive around my fair city. Furthermore, this album is from an artist who has only continued to broaden my knowledge of the happenings within the music community of Madison, WI, which I contend remains a well kept secret but truly should not be due to the fruitfulness of the artistry at work and at play.

Please allow me to introduce you to Anna Wang, a local artist I had not heard of until perhaps a week or so before this posting. I was simply thumbing through the latest issue of the local free newspaper The Isthmus, hopefully attempting to locate some movie listings, when I happened upon a small photo and advertisement of a show occurring at the tiny bar/club establishment The Frequency, a show in which Ms. Wang was listed as the headliner and performing in promotion of her recently release debut solo album. The notice's descriptions of her "fully realized electropop solo album" piqued my curiosity, so much so, that once I had returned home for the evening, I visited her Bandcamp page to give her music a quick listen. After hearing three songs, I was not quite yet hooked but definitely more than intrigued with Wang's voice and overall bubblegum quality of her sound that I was inspired to try and reach out to her via social media.

Looking her up upon Facebook and seeing that she was friends with Alivia Kleinfeldt, former Modern Mod bassist, current Dash Hounds songwriter/singer/guitarist as well as bassist for Squarewave, I felt confident enough to send a friend request, a request which she quickly granted and just as quickly after that, a conversation began as did my purchase of her complete album. Our first official meeting in person arrived a few days later at the WVMO studios, where I was about to host my next Savage Radio show. Also, and as requested, Anna Wang arrived with a physical copy of her album in hand and ready for me and  I can only say that in person, she is beguiling! All smiles, infectious energy and a bubbly conversationalist, we seemed to strike an instant rapport which made me even more anxious to hear her albumin full (and truth be told, I was already thinking of inviting her to be an on-air interview guest for a future show in those moments).

But enough preamble as I really just need to get us to the main event, which is as follows:

"In Your Head" is an absolutely perfect title for Anna Wang's collection of 10 tracks as they are completely irresistible and insistently memorable pop song confections that completely demonstrate the glory of  pop music as a genre when it is handled with as much care and skill as Wang achieves with her album. The synthetic sheen and glossy nightclub rhythms provides the album with more than enough ear candyfloss to glue itself to your brains as your bodies compulsively move to her subtle yet enveloping beats. Yet, what makes the album resonate to its fullest is the clarity in Wang's vocals combined with the dark intimacy of her lyrics and interior storytelling.

"In Your Head" opens with the sonic sun rays of "Ashes" which juxtaposes its glistening musicality with strikingly direct lyrics depicting a relationship run off the rails.

"Another fight
Another night we've hurt each other
You're emptying our your drawer and
You're heading for the door and
You're giving me your key, yeah
Saying you're through with me, yeah
But I just can't believe it
I know that you don't mean it
Oh, we light up our matches
Oh, the fire comes in flashes
Oh no, the damage is tragic
But every kiss is magic
Let it burn to ashes"

While the music maintains its steady melody and beat, Wang's lyrics grow more intense, illustrating moments that just may cut close to the bone of many listeners due to the romantic familiarity. Yet, and in addition to the aforementioned musical juxtapositions, Wang's delivery of how the kisses retain a certain magic gives the song a storytelling unpredictability, for is the relationship over and done or are we witness to a precarious cycle engaged in yet another revolution? This mystery not only makes for a provocative opening statement, but one that indeed sets the stage for the album as a whole.

With its sinister hopscotch groove soundscapes, the album's standout second track "When The Fever Breaks" brings a carnality to the proceedings which deepens the emotional narrative while containing an unapologetic eroticism. "You don't know much about me, you don't gotta," Wang sings. "I don't know much about you, I don't have to/You won't be in my orbit long enough to matter." Wang effortlessly pulls you in closer with the warmth of her voice only to slice you apart with the dismissiveness of her cavalier kiss off before the relationship has really begun. For in this selection, recklessness is the aphrodisiac, the brutal come down is an inevitability and apparently, that is just the way she wants it.

After probing questions of the heart in the aptly titled and appropriately rhythmic "Heartbeat" and the sultry, lusty waltz of "Rain Down" (which itself contains some especially inventive drum programming), we reach the album's terrific title track, which more than lives up to the promises of its title through its increasingly energetic nightclub mirrorball aesthetics. And trust me, when Wang's alluring vocals express to her latest conquest, "You don't gotta call, but I bet you'll remember me," you will believe every word and if your temperature begins to rise as well, then so be it.

The heated eroticism that emerges with a growing restlessness, whether emotional, sexual or both, returns with "Unless We're Going Home Together," a grand, almost 1980's styled ballad yet one that is propelled with skittering electronic percussion and those lyrical juxtapositions that paint a most evocative picture of our narrator's nervous, lustful, electric energy. At one point, she claims to not "need drugs to have a good time" but also certainly would not mind getting herself "fucked up." She wishes to have "a night we can remember" but she also plainly states to the object of her affection that "I don't want a true love." 

Yet, what was most telling within this song for me was how Wang deftly circles back to the combined sexual intensity and emotional red lights of "When The Fever Breaks" when she sings the following, "Make the most of all the time we've borrowed/And tonight, we'll forget about tomorrow." Again, Wang displays that unapologetic recklessness that intentionally eclipses the inevitable regret of the morning after and when merged with the swoon of the music, the effect is refreshingly murky and even a tad dangerous.

The grim "Break You" finds Wang caught in an interior rage against a former lover as she is aided by dirge-like synths and those percolating drum programs that feel like the rapid succession of ferocious thoughts and an accelerated heartbeat made irregular courtesy of post-romantic ache, possibly signifying a return to the album's opening aftermath of  "Ashes," a smoldering element that continues to fall downwards over the course of the album's final three songs. 

The remarkable "Do It Again," featuring a jazzy, sassy neck-snap in her vocals, we find Anna Wang lost in blissful memory, present pain and what feels to be a determined sense of resignation to her insatiable desires.

"Remember when it all began
It felt so easy
Now you hurt me 'cause you can
Toss me around and 
Play me like a toy you've got 
In the palm of your hand
But if I had the choice, I'd do it all again..."  

"if I had the choice..." hmmm...

What just gets to me within this song is perhaps that one brief admission because in all actuality, she does have the choice to be involved or not with her now former lover. But, what if she exists within a psychological state where she feels unable, unwilling or maybe even unwanting to exert some sense of control over her own desires? What Wang achieves so brilliantly is to capture that emotional state when relationships do become devastatingly messy, when whatever rational sides we possess completely fall apart leaving us slaves to our own feelings regardless of any potential outcomes. Who wishes to bid farewell to once was, especially when it satisfied emotionally and sexually? Could one blame Wang for wishing fr a rewind even if the result is the same? I doubt you could once you hear her sing her song.

The startling "Break Your Heart" arrives next and features a synthetic and emotional palate that for me suggested a song like Prince's erotic, moody and even disturbing "Something In The Water (Does Not Compute)" tinged with the mournful resolve of Pete Townshend's "I Like It The Way It Is." Wang's song is a deeply felt bout of dark self-reflection in which she asks of herself a probing question that we just may have also been asking of her throughout the album: "Maybe I'm a masochist."

The album closes with a track of open hearted fragility, the baroque acoustic guitar driven "Circles." As rendered by the song's title, Wang brings all of the album's themes and narrative, not to a close or resolution, but to a point of saddening revelation.

"My body is on fire but your touch feels so cold
Love is a battle and it's taking its toll
I try to cut the cord you tie up in bows
And we spin round and round in circles...
...you pull me back every time..."

Anna Wang's "In Your Head" on the surface may feel to be a slick, slice of richly rendered candyfloss and in many ways it is as Wang's pop sensibilities are firmly in the front seat, so to speak, providing her music with its ear candy energy and engine. After only a couple of listens (and possibly not even that many), Wang's songs are firmly locked into your mental jukeboxes, inviting you to sing along almost instantaneously. Her musical bedrock is also deceptively simple as the songs are driven by an assortment of keyboards, synthesizers and drum machines yet not presented within any bombastic fashion. As this album was recorded entirely within her home studio, we are given a stripped down quality that allows the songs themselves to be showcased freely and without being interrupted by any production overkill. In fact, the sparseness increases the album's sense of intimacy. In fact, it almost feels as if Wang is in the room with you sharing her thought, fears, desires and confessions, which would maybe make some listeners feel uncomfortable if not for the warmth of her voice.

In this age of "The Voice," where so-called singers practically invent syllables to go with their multi-octave ranges and yet convey not one shred of honest emotion, Anna Wang's singing is truly refreshing. She certainly has the chops, that is more than evident throughout. But again, she allows the songs and lyrics to do the work as she never allows herself to oversell a word, a moment, an emotion or the overall impact. She is wise enough to know that any showboating for these songs is wholly unnecessary and I deeply appreciated the restraint as the songs are powerful (and even malleable) enough on their own.

It may sound strange but I could easily picture this entire album being re-worked as a series of club jam anthems, or campfire/coffeehouse folk songs or mournful R&B slow jams or even prickly indie rock songs. This is not to suggest that Wang actually alter her work. This is just to illustrate just how strong of a songwriter Anna Wang actually is as the music feels adaptable enough to bridge genres effortlessly. Even so, "In Your Head," just as it is, achieves a rich status as her fully idiosyncratic gatherings of bedroom pop that are truly fearless in their display while also enveloping her music with a alluring sense of mystery.

Furthermore, I deeply appreciated Anna Wang's nimble balance when creating songs that are overtly sexual while not ever being salacious, vulgar or possessing moments that arrive out of mere shock value. The album feels as if Wang is using the arena of sex as a catalyst to explore the nature of relationships, how they work and fail, and what those relationship actually do to our own sense of self-perception, therefore making her album deeply existential. Am I doomed to certain behaviors, certain people, certain desires? Should I try to make a change or it is even possible because is this just who I am? That is the mark of one hell of a songwriter and to do so with a clear, direct economy of words, cleanly expressed without anything superfluous, makes Wang a force to not only watch but one to be reckoned with.

And of course, there is that aforementioned sense of mystery I expressed earlier. I find it very interesting that Anna Wang has chosen to release this music under her own name rather than through the mask of a band or a pseudonym. In doing so, we are indeed invited to ponder if she is indeed singing about herself and her own exploits and demons. Frankly, is this who Anna Wang really is? Or is what we're hearing is a persona projected into reality through daydreams and diary entries or via friends and acquaintances in her real life when she is not writing, recording or performing.  I can say that I was intrigued and in a later correspondence, I even asked her, to which she coyly replied, "Hmmm...what do you think?"

While I will tell you that our discussion continued and she did indeed give me a definitive answer, I will not share that answer with you as I wish for you to seek and receive her album just as she may be intending, for I strongly feel that Anna Wang is more than worth any effort that you are willing to exert in order to hear new music that is fresh, vital, original, un-jaded and despite the painfulness of the material itself, "In Your Head" is fueled from the joy of creation.

Anna Wang's "In Your Head" contains an intimacy so frank and passionate, it feels as if her nerve endings are exposed. And you know, as I write, I am truly amazed with how perfect an album title this actually is. For as we get into her head, Anna Wang's music will tenaciously burrow its way into ours.

ANNA WANG'S MUSIC:
via SOUNDCLOUD: https://soundcloud.com/annawang1
via BANDCAMP: https://annawang.bandcamp.com/releases