1. Poinciana performed by Vulfpeck
New Vulf is coming, and this is my favorite single so far. I should note for the true Vulfpeck fans that I am aware this song was originally released on their YouTube channel in 2015 but never on any studio albums. This song is originally by Nat Simon but has been covered by many artists including, in no particular order: The Four Freshman, The Manhattan Transfer, Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker, and now Vulfpeck. The talk box vibe really fits the song, and it is always exciting to hear Joe Dart sing.
2. How Deep is Your Love performed by PJ Morton and Yebba
Another cover! I would apologize, but I am really not sorry: I don’t care for the Bee Gees. This cover really transforms the song to fit the soul of the band. It is crazy how much of a difference 10 bpm makes. I could, and probably will, write an entire blog post about YEBBA. She is my favorite artist I have discovered in 2020. I highly recommend watching all of PJ Morton’s “Gumbo Unplugged” live session on YouTube here. Everyone is MOVING, always a good sign.
3. Dionne by The Japanese House, feat. Justin Vernon
Similar to what I mentioned about YEBBA, I could dedicate an entire blog to Justin Vernon, creator of Bon Iver. Regarding this song, however, there was no way I wasn’t going to be obsessed with this collaboration. Amber Bain, the genius behind The Japanese House, reminds me of early solo Justin Vernon. Two synth lovers who also love some good vocoder, what could go wrong? Nothing, that’s why the song is on the list.
4. Wind Parade performed by Jordan Rakei
This song is part of a greater project, Blue Note Reimagined, but it is the only one I’ve been listening to on repeat. Written by Donald Byrd, Rakei added some of his own lyrics and, my personal favorite, some of his sheep vibrato. If you don’t know what sheep vibrato is, just listen to some more Jordan Rakei. There is a bit of auxiliary percussion, but it’s not too auxiliary-y, ya know what I mean?
5. (flake) by Jameszoo, Jules Buckley, along with the Metropole Orkest
I was first introduced to the Metropole Orkest on Snarky Puppy’s album, Sylva and then again with Jacob Collier’s DJESSE Vol. 1. Their range is incredible and definitely displayed in this piece. It starts out a little video game-y or soundtrack like, but the shift at minute mark 2:43 is the whole reason I listen over and over again. Definitely listen to it on kick ass speakers or kick ass headphones, up to you.
6. Sunblind by Fleet Foxes
This song is a massive tribute to many including Richard Swift, John Prine, Jude Sill, Elliott Smith, David Berman, Curtis Mayfield, Jeff Buckley, Otis Redding, and more. The first line Robin Pecknold sings on the entire album is “For Richard Swift.” This line and the rest of the song sets the tone and intention for the pieces to come. Pecknold expresses the influence these artists have had on his life and how he carries them with him throughout his creative process. Pretty much every lyric holds a beloved musical allusion.
7. Big Green Suitcase by Louis Cole
There is not much to say about this song, it reminds me of the feeling of menial tasks in the best way possible. Listening to this song puts me in my routine headspace, my favorite headspace. Louis Cole’s lyrics always crack me up. There’s no absurdity, but they’re quite weird. No one writes like him.
8. Mariposa by the Peach Tree Rascals
With songs or artists I listen to a lot, I typically know a good amount about them. But to be quite honest, I have no idea who the Peach Tree Rascals are, and I don’t know much about this song. In my opinion, this is the most pop-y item on the list, and I listen to it because my brain likes it.
9. Paper Thin by Lianne La Havas
Everything about this song is exposed and vulnerable. Lianne herself said “I dare say that this is the closest I’ve gotten to a pure expression so far.” I could listen to Lianne’s voice all day long. With the repetitive nature of the guitar and the stripped background, this is my favorite way to hear it. This song is a great shower listen. That being said, I have no control over how you choose to listen to these selections.
10. My Heart Declares A Holiday by Bill Bruford, Django Bates, and Iain Ballamy
I put this song on the list for a few reasons. The first being I adore it, the second being my mom doesn’t like it. We go back and forth over a category of solos, typically found in jazz, that she describes as “cracky.” To me, the sax solo in this fits perfectly with the range of energy in this piece, chaotic and driving. I enjoy all of Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, but this piece gets me the most excited about music.