Top 30 Songs for January 1-7, 2023

Happy New Year! A new #1 song to start off the new year, as “Tonight” by French pop-rock band Phoenix, featuring added vocals by Vampire Weekend front man Ezra Koenig, takes over the top spot. For those unaware, Phoenix formed back in 1995 in Versailles, while its members were all in their teens, and still consists of the original lineup of Thomas Mars (lead vocals), Deck d’Arcy (bass/keyboards/backing vocals), Christian Mazzalai (guitar/backing vocals) and Laurent Brancowitz (guitar/keyboards/backing vocals), with Thomas Hedlund serving as their session and live drummer since 2005.

“Tonight” is from their seventh album Alpha Zulu, which was recorded at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, a studio located within the Louvre Palace in Paris. About the collaboration with Koenig, band frontman Thomas Mars told NMEThere’s always been a synchronicity with us and Vampire Weekend.” Guitarist Laurent Brancowitz added that he was initially hesitant of the format: “I was saying ‘show me one classic song that’s a duet’. I was resisting, and then Thomas came back with a list of duets that were classics and I had to admit I was wrong.” I think it’s a terrific duet, as Mars’ and Koenig’s voices harmonize together beautifully. I also love the bass and energetic drumming on the track.

Here’s a performance of the song by just Phoenix on the British TV show Later with Jools Holland, which nicely showcases Thomas Hedlund’s impressive drumming:

In other chart developments, three songs enter the top 10 this week: “Shadows in the Dark” by The Star Crumbles, “Anti-Hero” by Taylor Swift, and “Sail Away” by lovelytheband. Two songs make their debut: “Pages” by American rock band White Reaper, at #29, and “Kill Bill” by American R&B singer-songwriter SZA, at #30.

  1. TONIGHT – Phoenix featuring Ezra Koenig (3)
  2. WHITE HORSES – Art Block (1)
  3. SNAP – Rosa Linn (2)
  4. I’M IN LOVE WITH YOU – The 1975 (8)
  5. THIS IS WHY – Paramore (9)
  6. WEIRD GOODBYES – The National featuring Bon Iver (6)
  7. SHADOWS IN THE DARK – The Star Crumbles (11)
  8. OFFCUTS – Mount Famine (10)
  9. ANTI-HERO – Taylor Swift (12)
  10. SAIL AWAY – lovelytheband (13)
  11. SPIT OF YOU – Sam Fender (4)
  12. CREST OF THE WAVE – Foals (5)
  13. SEX, DRUGS, ETC. – Beach Weather (7)
  14. OUT OF MY SYSTEM – Louis Tomlinson (16)
  15. UNHOLY – Sam Smith featuring Kim Petras (15)
  16. LOVE DON’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE – Crystal Cities (18)
  17. NIGHT BUS – Caitlin Lavagna (19)
  18. TROUBLE WITH THIS BED – Beach Weather (21)
  19. DANCE FOR ME – Sam Rappaport (22)
  20. DISORDER – Columbia (23)
  21. THE LONELIEST – Måneskin (24)
  22. PARTY4ONE – dwi (14)
  23. EDGING – Blink-182 (20)
  24. BACKPATTERS AND SHOOTERS – The Zangwills (27)
  25. THESE ARE THE DAYS – Inhaler (17)
  26. THEN IT ALL GOES AWAY – Dayglow (25)
  27. WILD AS THE WIND – HULLAH (29)
  28. MAYFLY – Callum Pitt (30)
  29. PAGES – White Reaper (N)
  30. KILL BILL – SZA (N)

100 Best Songs of 2022

Though I grew up in the 1960s – arguably one of the best periods for popular (i.e. rock, pop, folk, R&B and soul) music – I’ve continued to find lots of music to my liking every year since then, and 2022 is no different. In fact, 2022 was a tremendous year for new music, and it infuriates me when people dismiss all new music as ‘crap’, ignorantly proclaiming that nothing worth listening to has been released since the 70s, 80s, or some other arbitrary date. Obviously, music tastes are very subjective, and while I cannot imagine how others cannot share my love for a particular song (I was both dismayed and incredulous when a long-time friend told me she didn’t like Sam Fender’s magnificent “Seventeen Going Under”), I also realize that not one person will agree with all my song choices or rankings.

As a music blogger, I’m exposed to a tremendous amount of new music. In addition to all the artists and bands I already follow, I receive a continuous stream of submissions from artists, PR reps and labels for possible reviews, so I listen to a lot of albums, EPs and singles from a great many artists and bands over the course of a year. Nevertheless, I realize I’ve still heard only a fraction of all the music released in 2022 (I get enough proof of this just by reading other bloggers’ year-end best-of lists, where in some cases I literally haven’t heard a single one of their song or album picks.) Consequently, my list includes only songs I know, and I’m certain there are likely many great ones that should be on this list, except that I’ve never heard them. That said, among the thousands of songs I did hear in 2022, there were many outstanding ones, and it frustrates me to have to cull my favorites down to only 100, omitting quite a few that I really like. It’s also a challenge ranking them, because a song at #40 isn’t necessarily any better than a song at #70. Perhaps I shouldn’t rank them at all, except for the fact that I love making lists!

As with every year, in 2022 we had to say goodbye to several legendary and beloved musicians. Some of the more notable ones included Ronnie Spector, Meat Loaf, Bobby Rydell, Mark Lanegan, Naomi Judd, Mickey Gilley, Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode, Olivia Newton-John, Judith Durham, Ramsey Lewis, Pharoah Sanders, Coolio, Jerry Lee Lewis, Loretta Lynn, Irene Cara, Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac, Terry Hall of British ska band The Specials, and perhaps most tragically, Foo Fighters long-time drummer Taylor Hawkins, and young artists Aaron Carter and Migos band member Takeoff. 

A final caveat I feel I must mention every year: Many bloggers and critics include songs released during the year in question on their year-end lists, whereas Billboard and many other charts generally include songs in the year they were ‘hits’ on said charts, which is what I prefer. Many of the songs on this list were released in 2022, however, a number of them were released in 2021, but didn’t ‘peak’ until 2022. And Beach Weather’s “Sex, Drugs, Etc.” was originally released in 2016, but after going viral on Tik Tok, the song began getting airplay and eventually appeared on the Billboard Alternative Charts. Also, because there are always a few songs that overlap from one year to the next, like Billboard, I include those songs on lists for both years if they spent enough time on the charts in each year. I always wrestle with how to rank them, as well as whether to list them in only one year or two. I suppose that at the end of the day it’s all silliness, but this is the way I choose to do it. The songs in this Top 100 that also appeared on my Top 100 Songs of 2021 list are indicated with an asterisk *. 

As always, I’ve created a Spotify playlist for this list, which is included at the end of the post. Hopefully you’ll find some of your own personal favorites on it. Let me know what songs were your favorites of 2022.

1. AS IT WAS – Harry Styles

Though I was not a fan of One Direction, there’s no denying the talents of its individual members. Most have gone on to enjoy success as solo artists to one degree or another, though none more so than Harry Styles, who I think is the most talented of them all. I’ve really liked a lot of his music, particularly his beautiful 2017 anthem “Sign of the Times”, but my favorite is “As It Was”, which is my top song of 2022. The lead single from Harry’s third album Harry’s House, the song was a monster hit, spending 15 non-consecutive weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and also topping the charts in 35 countries, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden and the UK.

Despite it’s upbeat melody and exuberant chorus, the song is actually quite poignant. According to an article in the webzine Stylecaster, though Styles hasn’t confirmed the song’s meaning, many believe it’s about his relationship with fame and how his life isn’t “the same as it was” since becoming a music star, expressed by the lyrics “In this world, it’s just us. You know it’s not the same as it was.” The song also alludes to his loneliness and concern from others as he isolates himself from the world, opening with a child’s voice (an actual phone recording of his goddaughter Ruby Winston) saying: “Come on, Harry, we wanna say goodnight to you,” and in the second verse Styles acknowledges “Answer the phone. ‘Harry, you’re no good alone. Why are you sitting at home on the floor? What kind of pills are you on?‘” I think it’s a perfect pop song that I never grew tired of hearing.

2. MY LOVE – Florence + the Machine

I love the music of Florence + the Machine. Fronted by English singer-songwriter Florence Welch, who I think has one of the greatest voices of any female vocalist today, their sound is a glorious blend of indie rock, baroque pop, folk, art rock and soul. Their single “My Love”, from their fifth studio album Dance Fever, is a gorgeous, sweeping anthem that covers me with chills every time I hear it. It spent three weeks at #1 on my weekly top 30, and six weeks atop the Billboard Adult Alternative Airplay chart, but shockingly, never even made the Hot 100. The song was co-written by Glass Animals vocalist Dave Bayley, with whom she collaborated on Dance Fever along with Jack Antonoff.

3. SEX, DRUGS, ETC. – Beach Weather

It’s not often I fall in love with a song the moment I hear it (it usually takes a couple of listens for most songs to grow on me, even from artists and bands I love), but I fell head over heels for the gorgeous “Sex, Drugs, Etc.” by American band Beach Weather the instant it hit my ears. I was immediately struck by the song’s enthralling melody, Nick’s captivating vocals and the guys’ stunning harmonies, which made the song one of my favorites of the year. I’ve had it on repeat ever since, and my year-end Spotify Wrapped report revealed that it was my third most-streamed song of 2022 (“As It Was” was #1).

Interestingly, the song was originally recorded in 2016, and was featured on their debut EP Chit Chat. After releasing a second EP What a Drag, the band went on hiatus as the three members – Nick Santino, Reeve Powers, and Sean Silverman – relocated to different cities and began working on their own solo projects. They reunited late last year, and began recording their forthcoming debut album Pineapple Sunrise, featuring their single “Unlovable”, which dropped August 11, their first release in five years. In the meantime, “Sex, Drugs, Etc.” went viral on TikTok, and started getting airplay on AltNation and many alternative radio stations. The song eventually went all the way to #1 on my Weekly Top 30 and the Billboard Alternative Airplay charts. “Floating on my low-key vibe” indeed!

4. BOY – The Killers

The Killers have long been one of my favorite bands, on the strength of their melodic brand of alternative rock and frontman Brandon Flowers’ beautiful tenor singing voice. I love many of their songs, including “Mr. Brightside”, “Somebody Told Me”, “When You Were Young”, “Read My Mind”, “Human”, “The Man” and “Caution”, so it was no surprise that I would also love their beautiful uplifting anthem “boy”. The song was originally intended for inclusion on their seventh album – which was to be titled TK7 but eventually renamed Pressure Machine – a concept album about life in Flowers’ hometown of Nephi, Utah, with songs told from the perspective of various townspeople that touches on everything from prescription drug abuse and poverty to crime, homophobia, and depression. However, the anthemic sound of “boy” differed from the other tracks on Pressure Machine, which had more of a folk-rock feel, so The Killers decided to not include it on that album. They instead released it as a single a year after the album’s release, in August 2022. Though it did not chart on the stupid Billboard Hot 100, it did reach #1 on several Alternative charts. It spent three weeks at #1 on my Weekly Top 30.

About the song, Flowers said: “This was the first song written after we had to cancel the ‘Imploding The Mirage’ tour due to the pandemic. I had recently moved back to Utah and started to make trips to Nephi, where I grew up. I found that the place I had wanted to get away from so desperately at 16 was now a place that I couldn’t stop returning to. I have a son approaching the age I was at that time in my life. With ‘boy’, I want to reach out and tell myself – and my sons – to not overthink it. And to look for the ‘white arrows’ in their lives. For me now, white arrows are my wife, children, my songs and the stage.”

5. UNTIL I FOUND YOU – Stephen Sanchez

One of the biggest breakout artists of 2022 has been Nashville-based singer-songwriter Stephen Sanchez, who became a sensation when his gorgeous throwback love ballad “Until I Found You” went viral on TikTok. With it’s wonderful retro 50s doo wop vibe, highlighted by Sanchez’ beautiful jangly guitar and vibrant vocals, I couldn’t get enough of it! Originally recorded when he was only 18, the song was released on September 1, 2021, but didn’t chart until early summer 2022. It was a huge hit in Southeast Asia for some reason, reaching #1 in Malaysia, #2 in Indonesia, and #3 in the Philippines, as well as on the Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart. It spent two weeks at #1 on my Weekly Top 30. The song is included on his seven-track debut EP Easy On My Eyes, which dropped August 19th.

For the marvelous official video, which came out in late June, Sanchez channels his inner Elvis, also pairing himself with a Marilyn Monroe lookalike as his love interest with whom he sings the song in a duet (although the layered vocals on the track are all his, from what I can tell). He told Rolling Stone “I was obsessed with the style of the 50s when I was growing up. The glamorous cars, movie theaters, mom & pop shops. I romanticized all of its visually stunning colors and sleekness. I wanted to implement all of that beauty into my dream of being a 1950s singer debuting his ‘hit’ song on the Ed Sullivan Show.”

6. BAD HABIT – Steve Lacy

Southern California-based singer-songwriter Steve Lacy has been making music since his teens, not only as a solo act and guitarist for alternative R&B band The Internet, but also as a producer who’s worked with such acts as Denzel Curry, Kendrick Lamar, Ravyn Lenae, Solange, Mac Miller and Vampire Weekend. But his monster hit “Bad Habit”, from his second album Gemini Rights, finally catapulted the 24-year old to stardom. Not only is it his first song as a solo artist to chart in the U.S., it went all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, also becoming the first song ever to simultaneously top the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop, Hot R&B and Hot Rock & Alternative charts. It also topped my Top 30 chart for two weeks in October.

It’s a sweet song, with lyrics directed to someone he finds attractive, but thinking he wasn’t good enough, never had to courage to make a move: “I bite my tongue, it’s a bad habit. Kinda mad that I didn’t take a stab at it. Thought you were too good for me, my dear. Never gave me time of day, my dear. It’s okay, things happen for reasons that I think are sure, yeah.” But later in the song, he calls her out for toying with his emotions: “You grabbin’ me hard ’cause you know what you found. It’s biscuits, it’s gravy, babe.” It has an irresistible lo-fi funk-pop vibe, and as someone on YouTube put it so perfectly, it’s “one of those songs that feels nostalgic even though it’s new”.

7. ABOUT DAMN TIME – Lizzo

I love a good dance song, and with its funky bass-driven groove and her wonderful, confident vocals, Lizzo’s delightful “About Damn Time” fits the bill quite nicely. From her fourth album Special, the song topped my Weekly Top 30 chart this past August, as well as the Billboard Hot 100, Adult Top 40 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop charts. I love when she sings “I’m way too fine to be this stressed, yeah.”

8. DECEPTION – Hannah Reem & Noodle Beard

One of the most arresting songs I’ve heard all year is “Deception”, a stunning collaboration between soulful-voiced British singer-songwriter Hannah Reem and producer-composer Noodle Beard. Both based in Portsmouth, Hannah is a popular personality in the local music scene, and producer and composer Noodle Beard makes trip-hop and ambient chilled music. “Deception” is Hannah’s second collaboration with Noodle Beard, and is about infidelity and the emotional complexities of making painful choices. Hannah explained her inspiration for writing the song: “I’ve felt fury and been forced to lose, I’ve been homeless and broke, felt like a joke, and cheated on by those that I choose. But I’ll get through.” 

I first learned about it as a result of being a guest moderator for the BBC Music weekly song competition Fresh On The Net. My task was to listen to all 170 songs submitted as entries for a particular week, then choose my five favorites (four of which are included on this Top 100 list: “Deception”, as well as “Chasing Trains” by HULLAH, “La Cienega” by Chief Springs, and “The Hurt Within” by Holy Coves). When I heard “Deception”, I was immediately struck by it’s breathtaking cinematic vibe, and in particular Hannah’s vibrant, captivating vocals that reminded me of Shirley Bassey. In fact, I still think this would make a fantastic theme for a James Bond movie. The song is magnificent, and even after hearing it again and again, it still has the power to cover me with chills every time. It should have been a huge worldwide hit, and I think Hannah’s powerful, sultry vocals would hold their own against many of today’s top-rated female singers. The video Hannah created for the song is somewhat disturbing, showing her being emotionally and physically dominated in an almost threatening manner by her romantic partner.

9. WILD CHILD – The Black Keys

I’ve been a long-time fan of The Black Keys, who’ve had numerous songs top my Weekly Top 30 over the years. The lead single from their 11th studio album Dropout Boogie, “Wild Child” is a rousing stomper that saw them going back to their blues rock roots, highlighted by Dan Auerbach’s gnarly guitars and Patrick Carney’s muscular drumbeats. Though the simple lyrics are directed to a woman the singer wants to love – “I just wanna hold you at the end of every day. Girl, I wanna please you, oh, I’m needing you to stay. The sun is gonna shine if you would just come out and play. Baby, won’t you show me your wild child ways” – the outrageous video portrays Auerbach and Carney as guys who show up for menial jobs at an out of control high school, then take part in the ensuing mayhem. “Wild Child” was a huge hit on the Billboard alternative rock charts, reaching #1 on the Alternative Airplay and Adult Alternative Airplay charts, also ranking as the top song of 2022 on the latter chart.

10. SEVENTEEN GOING UNDER – Sam Fender *

“Seventeen Going Under”, by the immensely talented English singer-songwriter Sam Fender, was a bit of a sleeper hit. First released in July 2021, the song slowly worked its way up the UK Singles Chart, finally peaking at #3 in January 2022, when it also began getting airplay in the U.S. It eventually appeared on various Alternative song charts (peaking at #10 on the Billboard Adult Alternative Airplay chart). Though I actually ranked it at #44 on my Top 100 Songs of 2021 list, I loved the song so much I added it to my Weekly Top 30 in May, where it went all the way to #1 in July. Those gorgeous jangly guitars, exuberant trumpet and sax, cracking drumbeats and Fender’s arresting tenor vocals are all magnificent. I think it’s is one of the most perfect songs I’ve heard in a long while, and this past May, it won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors.

Written by Fender and released as the lead single from his brilliant and critically acclaimed second album Seventeen Going Under, the album in general, and song in particular, chronicle his life at 17 when his mother was afflicted with fibromyalgia and depressed because she could no longer work after 40 years of service as a nurse. Though she’d never missed a day of work, the Department for Work and Pensions harassed her with letters and treated her unjustly. Fender wanted to help her financially, even considering selling drugs to earn money, but she talked him out of it. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he commented: “That’s when my rose-tinted glasses fell off. 17 is when all the challenges begin: you’re not a baby, but you’re definitely not an adult.” With his striking tenor voice, strong Geordie accent, and heartthrob good looks, it’s hard to believe Fender was bullied for being overweight and unathletic as a child.

Fun fact: Sam Fender also plays Fender guitars.

11. CRUTCH – Band of Horses

Indie/Southern rock band Band of Horses have been around for 18 years (they were originally formed in Seattle in 2004 by singer-songwriter Ben Bridwell, but are now based in Charleston, South Carolina), but I stupidly never paid much attention to them or their music until hearing their heartwarming song “Crutch” last fall. I was so smitten with both the song’s music and poignant lyrics, not to mention its charming offbeat video, that it went all the way to #1 on my Top 30 in late January. The lead single from their sixth studio album Things Are Great, “Crutch” was also their first song to ever top a Billboard chart, spending two weeks at #1 on the Adult Alternative Chart.

About the song, Bridwell told Pitchfork: “I think like a lot of my songs, ‘Crutch’ starts with something from my real life. Obviously ‘Crutch’ means some of the things that I was dependent on. My relationship for one. I think I wanted to say, ‘I’ve got a crush on you,’ and I thought it was funny how relationships also feel like crutches. I feel like everybody has had a time when nothing goes right and you still have to carry on. I think that feeling hits you in this song even if you don’t know what the specifics are.” Another of their wonderful songs from Things Are Great, “Warning Signs”, appears later on this Top 100 list.

12. THE ONLY HEARTBREAKER – Mitski

Japanese-American singer-songwriter and Mitski has been recording and releasing music since 2012, but it was her sixth studio album Laurel Hell that’s been her most successful. The exuberant dance-pop gem “The Only Heartbreaker”, the second single to be released from Laurel Hell, is also her most successful single to date in the U.S., going all the way to #1 on the Billboard Adult Alternative Airplay chart, as well as spending two weeks at #1 on my Weekly Top 30.

The brilliant track was co-written by Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson, marking the first time Mitski has ever teamed up with another songwriter. She told Apple Music that her collaboration with Wilson came about because she’d been struggling with the track for ages: “I was just sitting on it forever. I have so many iterations of it. Nothing felt right. He helped me solve so many of the problems and kind of lead me out of the labyrinth of it. And yeah, I’m really glad that I took that chance with him.” For the recording of the song, she programmed synths and keyboards and her longtime producer Patrick Hyland played guitar and percussion.

13. CHASING TRAINS – HULLAH

One of my best new finds of 2022 has been British singer-songwriter Charley Hullah, who goes by just his last name, stylized as HULLAH. As I noted earlier, I learned about the handsome and talented London-based artist as a result of being a guest moderator for the BBC Music weekly song competition Fresh On The Net, for which he’d entered his single “Chasing Trains”. I loved the beautiful song the moment I heard it, and chose it as one of my top five picks out of the 170 entries. HULLAH’s compelling lyrics, haunting melody, sparkling atmospheric synths and sultry ethereal vocals that remind me at times of the late George Michael are quite marvelous, and I couldn’t get enough of it. According to my year-end Spotify Wrapped report, “Chasing Trains” was my second most-streamed song of the year.

About the song, HULLAH wrote on Instagram: “I began writing this at uni quite a few years back. I was given a mock songwriting brief to write a 60-second track for a car advert that quite literally pictured a car chasing a train alongside a train track from the city to the suburbs. I got such great feedback that I decided to turn it into a full song. I wrote quite literally about a car chasing a train, but it became an expression of my personal experience of chasing certain things in London, as many of us who live in cities do. This song reflects my feelings to the grind and chase of city life.

14. BROKEN RECORD – NAVE

“Broken Record” is a hauntingly beautiful, cinematic little masterpiece by British artist NAVE, the solo music project of singer-songwriter, composer and producer Nathan Evans. The prolific and hyper-talented musician, who possesses a gorgeous singing voice, is also front man for alternative rock band Native Tongue. He wrote “Broken Record” to address the powerfully addicting allure of social media and its impacts on our emotional and mental health. Nathan states “‘Broken Record’ focuses on the like, follow and share society we have transitioned into over the past decade. Likes release dopamine like a drug and we become addicted to the validation, attention and acknowledgment of our successes or happiness. We hide behind filters and fake smiles to show an inaccurate reality we wish was real.

The song is stunning, with mournful, contemplative piano keys overlain with arresting percussion, swelling strings and mysterious vocal effects. I love male singing voices in the higher ranges, and Nathan’s is particularly captivating here. Not only is “Broken Record” a gorgeous song, it also resonates very strongly with me, as I too am addicted to the need for validation, attention and acknowledgment of not only my blog, but also my tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts, all of which sometimes causes me disappointment.

15. WHAT, ME WORRY? – Portugal. The Man

I love the music of Portland-based alt-rock band Portugal. The Man (who are originally from Wasilla, Alaska, not Portugal), and their deliciously exuberant single “What, Me Worry?” is one of the highlights of 2022. Co-written by the band, along with Jeff Bhasker and OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder, both of whom also produced the track, “What, Me Worry” is an antidote for overcoming the gloomy pall of the pandemic and perpetually depressing news cycle by remaining aloof so we can be “happy as a clown.” The song’s title is a nod to long-time Mad Magazine cover boy Alfred E. Newman and his iconic phrase. Highlights of the song for me are the fantastic bass line and band frontman John Gourley’s great vocals.

16. GOOD FRIEND – dwi *

One of the most fascinating artists I’ve come across over the past few years is dwi, the music project of Canadian singer-songwriter Dwight Abell (he’s also bassist for Canadian alternative/power pop band The Zolas). Though he’s a devoted husband and father of two young boys living in the suburbs of Vancouver, he lets his creativity and imagination run totally wild with his zany alter ago, making outstanding music that’s innovative, quirky and fun. In October 2021, he released his brilliant debut album Mild Fantasy Violence, which I happily reviewed.

One of the terrific singles from that album, “Good Friend”, is about discovering after the fact that a friend had been going through some hard times, and wishing you’d known more at the time so you could have helped them through it. I love the song’s infectious hard-driving melody, colorful guitar work and dwi’s expressive vocals lamenting about his shortcomings as a friend: “Had I known you were broken inside. Had I known you were empty inside. If I was a good friend, I’d a known better. If I was a good friend, I’d have done better./ I’m done with the drugs, but there’s still some left inside.” It’s a great power pop song that I loved so much, it spent 18 weeks on my Weekly Top 30 from November 2021 until early March 2022, two of them at #1. Another of dwi’s more recent singles “Party4One” also went to #1 on my chart just last month, and appears later on this Top 100.

17. TELL ME THE TRUTH – Two Feet

Brooklyn, New York-based Two Feet (the music moniker of singer-songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire Bill Dess) has been my favorite music artist for the past four years. His single “Fire” was my top song of 2021, and two of his other songs, “Don’t Bring Me Down” and “Devil” finished in the top 10 for 2021. I’ve written about him numerous times on this blog, and have seen three of his live shows. Many of his songs are sultry and sensual, but “Tell Me The Truth”, from his fourth album Shape & Form, is one of his darkest and sexiest of all. I love how it transitions from haunting interludes of restrained instrumentals and vocals in the verses, to an explosive, cinematic crescendo in the choruses, in which Two Feet’s vocals are more impassioned and raw than we’ve ever heard before. It’s also longer than most of his previous songs, and his scorching guitar solo in the final chorus is well worth the wait. He’s commented that it’s his favorite of all the songs he’s written and recorded, and I have to say that it’s certainly one of mine. It was his tenth song to top my Weekly Top 30 chart.

The lyrics are sung from the perspective of a man who’s tried everything to win the love of a woman he desires, to no avail. “For too long, I dream of you, All that you do. I watch you float on, float on. For too long, I contemplate, I try to be all that you need. So tell me the truth, my baby, baby. Is it me, is it you?“ The steamy video, directed by Brian Lipko and starring a finely chiseled Two Feet and sexy LA-based model and restauranteur Tina Louise, shows them experiencing the throes of unrequited sexual desire and angst, both together and alone.

18. I SEE THE SUN – Solar Eyes

Another fine band to emerge from the crowded British music scene over the past few years is Birmingham-based psychedelic pop/rock trio Solar Eyes. I love their sound, and have featured them several times on this blog. My favorite of all their terrific songs is “I See the Sun”, a gorgeous, cinematic affair, highlighted by twangy western-style guitars that would make Ennio Morricone proud. The track, which could serve as their theme song, was born from a conversation between band frontman and vocalist Glenn Smyth and mixing engineer Jeff Knowler. After Glenn mentioned to Jeff that he’d written a cool ’60s-sounding Tarantino-esque track on his newly acquired 12 string guitar, Jeff suggested that he watch Tarantino’s film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood before recording the track. Glenn took Jeff’s advice, and created the perfect song, beginning with that jolting opening guitar note to the infectious, galloping drumbeat, the swirling cinematic synths, castanet-like percussive sounds, soaring harmonies and, most of all, those fabulous spaghetti-western guitars. Then there are Glenn’s beautiful, reverb-drenched vocals as he sings of his eternal love for another: “I see the sun. The light shines on you and me. And that’s the way it’s meant to be, for eternity.

As with their previous videos, the colorful animated video for “I See the Sun” was created by Matt Watkins, a videographer, lighting and visual design producer who’s a frequent collaborator with Gorillaz.

19. UNCONDITIONAL I (LOOKOUT KID) – Arcade Fire

One of the best songs of 2022 is the lovely and poignant “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid” by Canadian art-rock band Arcade Fire. Released in late April, it was the second single from their sixth studio album WE, which was recorded during the Covid lockdown mostly in El Paso, but also New Orleans and Mount Desert Isle, Maine (I always find it fascinating how some artists and bands record their albums in such far-flung locales). About the uplifting song, band frontman Win Butler told Pitchfork “‘Lookout Kid’” is a reminder, a lullaby for the end times, sung to my son, but for everyone…. Trust your heart, trust your mind, trust your body, trust your soul. Shit is going to get worse before it gets better, but it always gets better, and no one’s perfect.” The video, produced by Ben Matheny and Nathan Harrison, and directed by Benh Zeitlin, is delightful.

20. CLOSER – The Frontier

Northern Virginia-based artist The Frontier (the music project of enormously talented, funny and gracious singer-songwriter Jake Mimikos) is no stranger to this blog, and has had several of his songs appear on my year-end best-of lists. Drawing from elements of pop, folk, rock and electronica, his music is incredibly pleasing, relentlessly catchy, and flawlessly crafted. I find that the more I hear his songs, the more I grow to love them. The prolific artist has released an impressive amount of music both as a band and a solo artist under The Frontier moniker since around 2015, and I’ve written about quite a bit of it. Several of his songs have appeared on my Weekly Top 30, with two – “Dark Places” (from 2019) and “Can We Go Back” (from 2021) – going all the way to #1. His marvelous, upbeat love song “Closer” was the third to do so this past August.

  1. SUPERMODEL – Måneskin
  2. CAVIAR – Two Feet
  3. THE HARDEST CUT – Spoon
  4. PARTY4ONE – dwi
  5. HERE TO FOREVER – Death Cab for Cutie
  6. WHITE HORSES – Art Block
  7. SNAP – Rosa Linn
  8. I DON’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE – The War on Drugs featuring Lucius *
  9. SLEEP – Gooseberry
  10. LOVE BRAND NEW – Bob Moses
  11. TWO CAR FAMILY – Apollo Junction
  12. CRACKER ISLAND – Gorillaz featuring Thundercat
  13. TIME IN DISGUISE – Kings of Leon
  14. MY BABE – Spoon
  15. STARTS WITH YOU – Shimmer Johnson *
  16. MISTAKES – Sharon Van Etten
  17. JUST LIKE ALWAYS – Oli Barton & the Movement
  18. BROKEN HEARTS – Ships Have Sailed
  19. WILD – Spoon
  20. THE FUNERAL – YUNGBLUD
  21. VIBE – Editors
  22. ONE AND THE SAME – Future Theory
  23. CHAPSTICK – COIN
  24. LOVE LOVE LOVE – My Morning Jacket *
  25. I’LL CALL YOU MINE – girl in red
  26. SPIT OF YOU – Sam Fender
  27. HEAD IN THE CLOUDS – Thunder Fox
  28. FAILURE TO COMPLY – MISSIO
  29. A LITTLE BIT OF LOVE – Weezer
  30. CREST OF THE WAVE – Foals
  31. TEK IT – Cafuné
  32. BELIEVE – Caamp
  33. BROKEN HORSES – Brandi Carlile
  34. WAKE ME UP – Foals
  35. THESE ARE THE DAYS – Inhaler
  36. WET DREAM – Wet Leg
  37. TONIGHT – Phoenix featuring Ezra Koenig
  38. I LOVE YOU – Fontaines D.C.
  39. BLACK SUMMER – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  40. VIVA LAS VENGEANCE – Panic! At the Disco
  41. THE ECHO – A.A. Williams
  42. PLEASE WRITE RESPONSIBLY – Granfalloon
  43. REDCHURCH STREET BLUES – Philip Morgan Lewis
  44. 2am – Foals
  45. BONES – Imagine Dragons
  46. SYNCHRONIZE – Milky Chance
  47. BLOODRUSH – The Amazons
  48. WEIRD GOODBYES – The National featuring Bon Iver
  49. AIN’T NO THIEF – Viagra Boys
  50. BREAK MY SOUL – Beyoncé
  51. SIDELINES – Phoebe Bridgers
  52. THE OUTSIDE – twenty øne piløts
  53. SISTERS – pMad
  54. THE TIPPING POINT – Tears For Fears
  55. LEMON TREE – Mt. Joy
  56. LA CIENEGA – Chief Springs
  57. IN THE MIRROR – The Interrupters
  58. OH MY GOD – Adele
  59. GIVE A LITTLE LOVIN’ – Jamie Alimorad
  60. VIRGINIA (WIND IN THE NIGHT) – The Head and the Heart
  61. LEFT BEHIND – a million rich daughters
  62. THE FOUNDATIONS OF DECAY – My Chemical Romance
  63. PART OF THE BAND – The 1975
  64. LIN MANUEL – Onism E
  65. WARNING SIGNS – Band of Horses
  66. ON MY KNEES – RÜFÜS DU SOL
  67. NEW ENGLAND – Kid Kapichi & Bob Vylan
  68. I LIKE YOU (A HAPPIER SONG) – Post Malone with Doja Cat
  69. SMILE – Wolf Alice
  70. CHEER UP BABY – Inhaler
  71. THAT’S WHERE I AM – Maggie Rogers
  72. OFFCUTS – Mount Famine
  73. LONELY – Sea Girls
  74. LOVE DIES YOUNG – Foo Fighters
  75. THE HURT WITHIN – Holy Coves
  76. WHAT’S THE TRICK? – Jack White
  77. B-SIDE – Khruangbin & Leon Bridges
  78. FREE – Florence + the Machine
  79. SOMETHING LOUD – Jimmy Eat World
  80. BLOOD WOLF MOON – Vulture Party

Top 30 Songs for December 25-31, 2022

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and/or Happy Holidays everyone! We’ve arrived at the final week of 2022, and I like that it’ll be a clean break, with the New Year starting on a Sunday. British artist Art Block remains at #1 for a second week with his hauntingly beautiful “White Horses”. Rosa Linn‘s “SNAP” holds at #2 for a second week after spending two weeks at #1, and the jaunty gem “Tonight” by French band Phoenix, featuring the dulcet tones of Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig, climbs two spots to #3.

Three songs enter my top 10 this week: “I’m in Love With You” by The 1975, “This is Why” by Paramore, and “Offcuts” by Mount Famine, at #8, 9 and 10 respectively. Two beautiful songs by British artists make their debut: “Wild as the Wind” by HULLAH (which I reviewed last month), and “Mayfly” by Callum Pitt (which I also reviewed in November). It’s the second appearance on my Weekly Top 30 for both artists.

  1. WHITE HORSES – Art Block (1)
  2. SNAP – Rosa Linn (2)
  3. TONIGHT – Phoenix featuring Ezra Koenig (5)
  4. SPIT OF YOU – Sam Fender (3)
  5. CREST OF THE WAVE – Foals (4)
  6. WEIRD GOODBYES – The National featuring Bon Iver (8)
  7. SEX, DRUGS, ETC. – Beach Weather (6)
  8. I’M IN LOVE WITH YOU – The 1975 (11)
  9. THIS IS WHY – Paramore (12)
  10. OFFCUTS – Mount Famine (13)
  11. SHADOWS IN THE DARK – The Star Crumbles (14)
  12. ANTI-HERO – Taylor Swift (15)
  13. SAIL AWAY – lovelytheband (16)
  14. PARTY4ONE – dwi (7)
  15. UNHOLY – Sam Smith featuring Kim Petras (10)
  16. OUT OF MY SYSTEM – Louis Tomlinson (18)
  17. THESE ARE THE DAYS – Inhaler (9)
  18. LOVE DON’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE – Crystal Cities (19)
  19. NIGHT BUS – Caitlin Lavagna (20)
  20. EDGING – Blink-182 (22)
  21. TROUBLE WITH THIS BED – Beach Weather (24)
  22. DANCE FOR ME – Sam Rappaport (25)
  23. DISORDER – Columbia (26)
  24. THE LONELIEST – Måneskin (27)
  25. THEN IT ALL GOES AWAY – Dayglow (23)
  26. BAD HABIT – Steve Lacy (21)
  27. BACKPATTERS AND SHOOTERS – The Zangwills (30)
  28. I LIKE YOU (A HAPPIER SONG) – Post Malone & Doja Cat (17)
  29. WILD AS THE WIND – HULLAH (N)
  30. MAYFLY – Callum Pitt (N)

Top 30 Songs for December 18-24, 2022

I’ve been following London-based alternative folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who goes by the artistic name of Art Block for three years, and have featured him a number of times on this blog. A prolific artist who creates hauntingly beautiful music, he’s released an impressive number of singles, EPs and remixes since early 2015. His most recent work was a three-track EP White Horses, which I reviewed this past September, and the deeply moving title track “White Horses” takes over the top spot on my latest Weekly Top 30. The gorgeous piano-driven song was produced, mixed and engineered with Moog synthesizers by William Robertson aka Wheeliemix, who also played the subtle bass, Art Block played piano and sang vocals, and the gentle drums were played by Raphael Bouchara. 

In addition to beautiful melodies and captivating arrangements, a defining aspect of Art Block’s songs are his incredibly emotive vocals, which convey a deep sense of pain and sorrow. On “White Horses”, he nearly breaks our hearts. He says the song “was inspired by a beautiful place in England, but also by the attack in Mariupol Ukraine which was in the news, where I imagined I was going through the devastation there. Perhaps ‘White Horses’ is a metaphor for something else, greater, perhaps mystical or mysterious? The place I visited in England certainly had a mystical feel even though the White Horse itself etched into a hill was not ancient.” His lyrics are poetic and deep, touching on the terrifying randomness of death and suffering: “We bear our own cross. And the people may wonder why God’s left them alone? The wind is burning. There’s so much smoke cos’ you’re coughing up blood now. The poem has ceased. And the soil is all over me, I’m six feet deep.

In other chart news this week, “Unholy” by Sam Smith, featuring Kim Petras, enters the top 10 at #10, while the lone debut, entering at #30, is the beautiful “Backpatters and Shooters” by British indie rock band The Zangwills (which I featured last month in a Fresh New Tracks post).

  1. WHITE HORSES – Art Block (2)
  2. SNAP – Rosa Linn (1)
  3. SPIT OF YOU – Sam Fender (6)
  4. CREST OF THE WAVE – Foals (7)
  5. TONIGHT – Phoenix featuring Ezra Koenig (8)
  6. SEX, DRUGS, ETC. – Beach Weather (4)
  7. PARTY4ONE – dwi (3)
  8. WEIRD GOODBYES – The National featuring Bon Iver (10)
  9. THESE ARE THE DAYS – Inhaler (5)
  10. UNHOLY – Sam Smith featuring Kim Petras (11)
  11. I’M IN LOVE WITH YOU – The 1975 (12)
  12. THIS IS WHY – Paramore (13)
  13. OFFCUTS – Mount Famine (16)
  14. SHADOWS IN THE DARK – The Star Crumbles (17)
  15. ANTI-HERO – Taylor Swift (18)
  16. SAIL AWAY – lovelytheband (19)
  17. I LIKE YOU (A HAPPIER SONG) – Post Malone & Doja Cat (9)
  18. OUT OF MY SYSTEM – Louis Tomlinson (20)
  19. LOVE DON’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE – Crystal Cities (21)
  20. NIGHT BUS – Caitlin Lavagna (22)
  21. BAD HABIT – Steve Lacy (14)
  22. EDGING – Blink-182 (24)
  23. THEN IT ALL GOES AWAY – Dayglow (25)
  24. TROUBLE WITH THIS BED – Beach Weather (26)
  25. DANCE FOR ME – Sam Rappaport (27)
  26. DISORDER – Columbia (28)
  27. THE LONELIEST – Måneskin (30)
  28. CRACKER ISLAND – Gorillaz featuring Thundercat (15)
  29. SISTERS – pMad (23)
  30. BACKPATTERS AND SHOOTERS – The Zangwills (N)

Top 30 Songs for December 11-17, 2022

As the year winds down and we approach Christmas, the number of new music releases has slackened off. That said, I do have a sizable group of recently-released songs I plan to place on my Weekly Top 30 chart over the next few weeks as we transition into 2023, so stay tuned. For now, Armenian singer-songwriter Rosa Linn remains on top for a second week with her lovely song “SNAP”, while British singer-songwriter Art Block leaps six spots to #2 with his heart-wrenching “White Horses”. I just love his music. “I Like You (A Happier Song) by music superstars Post Malone and Doja Cat, and “Weird Goodbyes” by The National and Bon Iver, both enter the top 10 after a long, slow climb up my chart. The lone debut this week is “THE LONELIEST” by Italian band Måneskin.

  1. SNAP – Rosa Linn (1)
  2. WHITE HORSES – Art Block (8)
  3. PARTY4ONE – dwi (2)
  4. SEX, DRUGS, ETC. – Beach Weather (3)
  5. THESE ARE THE DAYS – Inhaler (4)
  6. SPIT OF YOU – Sam Fender (5)
  7. CREST OF THE WAVE – Foals (9)
  8. TONIGHT – Phoenix featuring Ezra Koenig (10)
  9. I LIKE YOU (A HAPPIER SONG) – Post Malone & Doja Cat (11)
  10. WEIRD GOODBYES – The National featuring Bon Iver (12)
  11. UNHOLY – Sam Smith featuring Kim Petras (13)
  12. I’M IN LOVE WITH YOU – The 1975 (14)
  13. THIS IS WHY – Paramore (15)
  14. BAD HABIT – Steve Lacy (7)
  15. CRACKER ISLAND – Gorillaz featuring Thundercat (6)
  16. OFFCUTS – Mount Famine (17)
  17. SHADOWS IN THE DARK – The Star Crumbles (18)
  18. ANTI-HERO – Taylor Swift (20)
  19. SAIL AWAY – lovelytheband (21)
  20. OUT OF MY SYSTEM – Louis Tomlinson (22)
  21. LOVE DON’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE – Crystal Cities (23)
  22. NIGHT BUS – Caitlin Lavagna (24)
  23. SISTERS – pMad (16)
  24. EDGING – Blink-182 (26)
  25. THEN IT ALL GOES AWAY – Dayglow (27)
  26. TROUBLE WITH THIS BED – Beach Weather (28)
  27. DANCE FOR ME – Sam Rappaport (29)
  28. DISORDER – Columbia (30)
  29. WET DREAM – Wet Leg (19)
  30. THE LONELIEST – Måneskin (N)

The Ocean Beneath ft. Jessica Blaise Ward – Single Review: “Fluorescent Light”

The Ocean Beneath is the electronic music project of British musician, composer and producer Matt Burnside. Drawing on influences ranging from house to disco, rock to drum and bass, the Leeds-based artist combines 80’s synthpop elements with modern recording techniques, analogue synthesis and huge melodic grooves to create music that sounds retro, yet exciting and current. Like many electronic artists, he often collaborates with other musicians and vocalists, and has released an impressive amount of outstanding music since 2019. I’ve previously written about some of his releases, and you can check out those reviews by clicking on the ‘Related’ links at the end of this post.

Also based in Leeds, Jessica Blaise Ward is a multi-faceted Renaissance woman of sorts, Not only is she a professional composer who’s written music for audiobooks, video games and soundtracks, she’s also a pianist, vocalist, and a senior songwriting lecturer at Leeds Arts University, with a special interest in pop music of the 1980s and 1990s. Her solo work has ranged from cinematic (her 2019 single “Ghost”) to synthwave (“Strangers in the Dark” also in 2019) to synthpop (“Futures Promise” in 2021). She’s also collaborated with numerous artists and musicians on multiple projects, including ghostwriting for Manchester metal band 40,000 Leagues, and co-writing albums with former punk artist Andrew Bishop. She’s currently synth player and vocalist for band The State of Georgia.

“Fluorescent Light” was co-written and produced by The Ocean Beneath and Jessica Blaise Ward, and mastered by Stephen Kerrsion. The beautiful artwork was designed by kiki_and_elvis_create. About the song, Burnside says its “a synthwave nostalgia trip touching on our courage, inner strength and determination. It’s about showing the world what you’ve got and taking ownership of your own story. Do it with your head held high and your intentions strong. ‘Fluorescent Light’ is an anthem for empowerment, positive action and making the world in your own design.

The song opens with gauzy atmospheric synths that slowly build with added percussion as Jessica emphatically sings in her clear, arresting voice: “With a soul so bright, in the name of fight or flight, I made a promise to never let the world take my hand. And I made a deal in fluorescent lights, that I would make the world in my own design.” As the song progresses, the powerful beats and swirling darkwave synths ebb and flow in the verses and choruses, ultimately erupting into a gorgeous sweeping cinematic soundscape in the final chorus, Jessica’s vocals soaring to an impassioned crescendo that raises goosebumps. It’s a magnificent song!

Here’s the song on Soundcloud:

And on Bandcamp:

Connect with The Ocean Beneath: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp

Connect with Jessica: TwitterInstagram

Stream her music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud

BURN THE LOUVRE – Album Review: “Silhouettes”

Burn The Louvre are a Canadian indie rock duo based in Hamilton, Ontario, and consisting of Jordan Speare (vocals, guitar, ukulele, drums & percussion) and Sean Cooper (guitar/vocals). I first featured them on this blog this past April, when I included one of their songs “Driving in the Rain” in a Fresh New Tracks post. I provided some background about how the act began as a duo consisting of Jordan and his brother Dylan, and released two EPs in 2014 and 2017, But by 2018, Burn the Louvre became Jordan’s solo project, at which time he began work on a full-length album Silhouettes with the help of his friend Andrew Billone, of indie rock band Silvertone Hills, on lead guitar and bass. The album was recorded, mixed & mastered by engineer/producer Mickey Ellsworth, who also played synthesizers and additional percussion, and sang backing vocals.

Rather serendipitously, after he and Mickey finished recording Silhouettes in late 2018, Jordan received an email from guitarist Sean Cooper, in response to an old “musicians wanted” ad he’d forgotten to take down. The two immediately hit it off, and began jamming together on the already-recorded songs. Jordan recalls “The way he was able to come up with his own unique leads to songs that were already recorded, giving them different nuances while maintaining the vibe of each song…I mean, I don’t think we’ve ever had a bad practice. I felt this was a perfect opportunity to re-imagine Burn The Louvre as a duo and I am very happy he wanted to be a part of this.”

Photo of Jordan and Sean by iamnenkan

In early 2022, they decided to finally release Silhouettes, initially as 11 separate singles at the rate of one song per month over a period of 11 months, beginning in January with “Wish We Were”. They ended with “Honolulu”, which dropped simultaneously with the full album on November 29th. The songs, all of which were written by Jordan, explore the emotional minefield of young romantic love and relationships with extensive, relatable lyrics, delivered in his laid-back conversational singing style, and accompanied by catchy melodies and fine guitar work. Burn the Louvre’s music style is hard to classify, but can best be described as a pleasing and eclectic blend of punk, pop, rock’n’roll, singer-songwriter and folk.

The title track “Silhouettes” is one of more melodically interesting, starting off with an energetically-strummed folk guitar that’s soon joined by a tasty bass groove. The song seems to end at around 1:46 minutes, then starts up again and continues for 30 seconds until it seems to end yet again, only to start back up at a slightly slower pace. Jordan has an interesting sing-song vocal style, with an offbeat sensual drawl that’s quite endearing. Here he emphatically croons the lyrics about a doomed love affair: “Silhouettes in the yellow moon. Fell a little too hard and they split in two. Raw, a little out of tune. Beautiful and broken, but try not to swoon. Oh you…was disinterested until I heard her say ‘So nice to finally meet you’. Autumn eyes and sweet perfume. My heart might’ve skipped just a beat or two. That little black dress and those ruby shoes. Okay…was all that I could say. I sense there’s heartache on the way.

On “Wish We Were“, Jordan wistfully sings of a simpler, more innocent time when he was younger and things didn’t seem so heavy and problematic: “Well sometimes, I wish that we were younger. Turn nineteen in the early summer, with nothing but blue skies and moonshine spilling outside on a Wednesday night. Alone in the dark, such a beautiful sight. If only sometimes. But if we’d met before. Would you still be knocking on my door if you lived down the street? Would you just want to be friends with me? I’m wishing I could have the time back that I borrowed. Yesterdays are overrated, show me the tomorrows.” I love the song’s upbeat bouncy groove and jangly guitars.

On the lovely ballad “Driving In The Rain”, Jordan sings of driving through a rainstorm to see his girlfriend, with whom he has a troubled relationship: “I’m 15 minutes out, the sky is darker than her hair. And all Beck’s “Modern Guilt” has got me way too self-aware. The weather’s getting worse, man it’s really coming down. It’s just the second verse, but I think I’m gunna drown. Conventional conversation is ringing in my ears. I want to kiss her in the rain, so I can’t see the tears.” And “Lost With You” has a retro early 60s “malt shop” vibe, with a fun rockabilly quality in the guitars.

One of my favorites is “Nice Guy“, a lively post-punk rocker that has Jordan lamenting about how his good manners seem to go unappreciated by a girl he likes: “Really think that you don’t like me. Well, I’m sorry if I’m just too polite. Really wish that I could be an asshole. Blame my Mum, she’s the one who raised me right. But I’m sick of being the nice guy. I’ll give you my coat when it’s cold outside. Yeah, I’m so sick of always being the nice guy. It’s a phase I still haven’t got over, I’ll try, yeah I’ll try.”

His clever songwriting is strongly evident on “Easy“, a song about how love and relationships could be easy and stress-free, but we often have a way of over-complicating things: “Well, it could all just be so easy. Uncomplicated, apparent, simple too. It could all just be so easy. I’m so easy, yeah but so are you. Open my mouth, make a fool of myself. Could almost hear her falling back in love with someone else. You’re my last cigarette, it’s too bad for my health. Your love is cancerous and I’m just trying to kill myself.” The jangly and shimmery guitar work is terrific, accompanied by nice bass groove and subtle keyboards and percussion.

Dumb” is a rousing rock’n’roll gem, with twangy guitars and a catchy, toe-tapping beat. The tongue-in-cheek lyrics speak of wishing his ex-girlfriend ill: “I’d rather see you under the sea than see those big green eyes staring back at me. I’ll give your best to your new boyfriend, and let him know that he won’t ever see your face again“, but then admitting his threats were meant in jest: “I’d never hurt you, honestly. I’d never hurt you purposely, You’re lucky I’m not as dumb as I thought I was.” And on the sweet jangle pop song “Hey Stacey“, he sings of how he loves and misses her: “Hey Stacey, is there something wrong? You know I’d do my very best to make it right. I really thought that you might like this song. It’s kinda dumb, but it’s the best I’ve got tonight./ Trying so hard not to blow it. But has anybody ever told you you’re beautiful, but you don’t even know it?

Alison” is another sweet tune, this time with a bit of a doo wop vibe and featuring added vocals by Stephanie Deshane. The poignant lyrics speak of two wounded souls, seeking a bit of love and solace in each other’s arms, even if only for a night: “And Alison, you know I’ve been struggling trying to put my life together. She laughs and says, ‘mine’s not much better’. But Alison, I want to thank you for listening. Now, she’s not likely to stay, but I know I won’t soon forget her.

The final track “Honolulu” is a deeply personal one for Jordan. He explains: “‘Honolulu” is a song I wrote for my first girlfriend Gillian for her birthday. We’d always joked about running away to Honolulu one day, so I wrote this song about the idea of doing just that. To be honest, I really wasn’t the best boyfriend, but I did some things right and this song is definitely one of them. After opening the album with ‘Silhouettes’, which is a song about the aftermath of our relationship from my perspective, I felt it was fitting to close the album with ‘Honolulu’, a song about when times were great.” Appropriately, the song opens with a Hawaiian ukulele riff, accompanied by subtle bass notes. Halfway into the track, the tempo ramps up to a jaunty, head-bopping groove, with a strummed guitar joining the ukulele and bass while Jordan croons “Well I can’t say, I’ve felt this way before. My heart is on fire, yeah. It’s not a holiday, this is a getaway. Gill, hop on the plane and we’ll leave right now for Honolulu… feels so far away.”

Silhouettes is an enjoyable album from start to finish, filled with charming songs dealing with the ins and outs of love in a lighthearted, realistic way. Jordan and Andrew’s guitar work is terrific throughout, and the songs are all expertly-crafted and engineered, giving the album an outstanding quality of sound. Nice work guys!

Connect with Burn the Louvre:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloudYouTube

Purchase on Bandcamp

RUSTY SHIPP – Album Review: “Dark Side of the Ocean”

One of the more uniquely interesting acts I’ve featured on this blog is Nashville rock band Rusty Shipp. The brain child of front man Russ T. Shipp (his actual birth name is Russell Thomas Shipp), Rusty Shipp is a self-described “Nautical Rock’n’Roll” band, with a sound influenced by, in their own words, “the melodic chord progressions of The Beatles, the surf guitar of Dick Dale, the grunge rock of Nirvana, and the heavy metal of Led Zeppelin“. As their name would suggest, their music is characterized by a dark, immersive sound, unforgettable melodies, electrifying guitar work, and Shipp’s vibrant tenor vocals. Like many a band, they’ve experienced numerous changes in lineup since forming in 2014, and now consist of the aforementioned Russ Shipp on guitar and vocals, AJ Newton on drums, Dave Gajda on lead guitar, and Doug Webster on bass.

Photo by Chad Fenner

Rusty Shipp released an EP Hold Fast to Hope in 2014, then followed in 2017 with their highly-acclaimed debut album Mortal Ghost. They dropped several singles throughout 2019, which culminated in the release that November of their phenomenal second album Liquid Exorcist, which I reviewed. In keeping with their nautical theme, the album is a concept work built around the subject of sea mine terrorism. This past January, starting with “Bottom of the Barrel”, they began releasing what would become a series of nine singles at the rate of one per month. All of those songs and more are featured on their latest album Dark Side of the Ocean, which dropped October 28th.

An ambitious work, Dark Side of the Ocean (its official title is Cosmic Innuendo, Vol 1: Dark Side of the Ocean), is another nautically-themed concept album, this time exploring the balance between dark and light, descent and ascent, and men and angels. About the album, Shipp explains: “While it was written and recorded during the pandemic, instead of following the natural response of the world to react to the crisis with fear by retreating into our comfortable “Us and Them” sects and blaming “Them” as the problem and the bad guys, this album tried very hard (as challenging as it was at the time) to focus on the commonalities and good that still exist in all people and the hope that still exists for our world to bring us all together and get all our needs met.

Shipp wrote the lyrics, co-wrote the music with band drummer Newton, and did the arrangements. The album was produced by Stephen Leiweke at Yackland Studio in Nashville, and mastered by Alex McCollough. The gorgeous artwork was created by Hein Zaayman.

With a few nods to Pink Floyd, including its title, the album is divided into two parts: The first half (consisting of 21 ½ minutes), called “DESCENT”, follows the descent of a drowned sailor, sinking past undiscovered creatures and mysteries to the bottom of the ocean, where his soul is intercepted by a group of sea angels and taken to their underwater kingdom. The 2nd half of the album (also 21 ½ minutes long) is called “ASCENT”, and explores this angelic kingdom, ruled by Poseidon, the king archangel of the ocean. After debating the danger involved, the angels decide to ascend and discover why men’s souls are sinking from the ocean’s surface with increased frequency, with feelings of duty to help these men in the world above the waves, which the angels ironically call “Heaven.” Read the full story here.

The album opens with the title track, a 33-second-long spoken word introductory piece accompanied by eerie underwater sounds and a building guitar riff, informing us that the ocean contains 99% of Earth’s living space, yet 80% of it has never been mapped, much less explored. We have better maps of the surface of the moon than of the ocean floor, and with scientists estimating that there are as many as 90% of ocean species still undiscovered, one has to wonder what else could be down there at the bottom of our planet…the dark side of the ocean.

Those grungy, jagged riffs are quickly joined by a torrent of aggressive drumbeats as we’re launched headlong into “Living Waters“. Shipp passionately sings of the life-giving power of water, despite the fact that it’s also taken the life of many a sailor: “Let the living waters flow and bring the world to life. Trickle down the darkest cracks that never get the light. Weaving in and out of every creature on the Earth. Pull us all into the harmony that we’re created for.

This immediately segues into the 49-second-long interlude “What Blows Up (Must Come Down)“, a fantastic barrage of raging surf guitars. Like their previous album Liquid Exorcist, Dark Side of the Ocean contains several instrumental interludes that serve to connect the tracks and move the narrative forward. That interlude then becomes “Bottom of the Barrel“, a gnarly but melodic track sung from the perspective of the drowning sailor, whose soul is reborn into a magical undersea world: “Down at the bottom of the barrel. Still your love is bottomless. The weight of the world is crushing me to a pulp, but it brings my soul to the surface. If I make my bed in Mariana Trench, I’m welcomed to a city that’s lit. Bioluminescence.” The cool video was directed by Shipp’s wife Joy Soleil.

Though Rusty Shipp is not a Christian band per se, Shipp is up-front about his faith, as is evident in many of his lyrics. The 36-second-long track “The Bloop“, which serves as an introductory piece for “Tanninim“, a song about undiscovered sea monsters, includes spoken lines of scripture from Genesis, interspersed with Shipp’s own lyrics: “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life. And God created great Tanninim and every living creature that moveth. Which the waters brought forth abundantly after their kind. And God saw that it was good, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas’.” “Tanninim” has a wonderfully eerie vibe, highlighted by a bold reggae beat driven by Newton’s brilliant drumming, and accompanied by Shipp’s spooky vocals that sound like he’s singing while underwater.

On the hard-driving grungy rocker “What’s Kracken?“, Shipp uses the mythical sea monster Kracken as a metaphor for the truth in a divided political environment where what constitutes the truth is often elusive and up for debate: “A tentacle washed up on shore. The TV says there’s something more ‘Was it just a giant squid or evidence of Leviathan?’ Can anybody out there say ‘What’s Kraken?‘” 

One of the many things I love about this album is how every track sounds uniquely different, with a wide variety of music styles and genres represented. “Fish in the Sea” is in the style of a sea shanty, a traditional work song once commonly sung aboard large merchant sailing ships, while “Angel Aquarium” fuses ska with frantic guitar-driven rock. “DESCENT” ends with “Bioluminescence“, a brief hauntingly beautiful piano ballad reprising the chorus from “Bottom of the Barrel”.

Opening the “ASCENT” half of the album is “King of the Deep“, a funereal-sounding sea shanty that’s one of the most powerful tracks on the album, and also one of my favorites. With verses alternately sung by sailors, angels and Poseidon, the song seems to be an ode to Poseidon himself. I like how the vocals and instrumentals are presented differently for each: the sailors’ are delivered with deep, baritone vocals accompanied by pounding drumbeats and fuzz-coated gnarly guitars, while the angels sound…well, angelic, with Shipp’s near-falsetto front and center, accompanied by lovely synths and delicate guitar notes. And as Poseidon, Shipp’s vocals are more commanding, of course. The song ends in a dramatic chorus of all three entities singing in glorious harmony.

Man Myth Legend” is a roiling punk rock gem fueled by marvelous psychedelia-tinged surf guitars. Man, this band knows how to rock! The lyrics speak to looking beyond our pre-conceived notions about people, keeping us locked in eternal conflict, and instead try to see them as humans not all that different from ourselves: “Tradition tries to demonize what we don’t understand. We need to see them through the love that covers all our skins. Until we’re dining in their homes, these men will be as good as myths and legends. They say the issue’s black and white, but aren’t we all just different shades of gray? If it makes us black and blue, then we’re going the wrong way. But we could bring in an age of peace, joining both our worlds into one. We could be the heroes that make a new end to the legend.

Each of Rusty Shipp’s three albums includes a cover of a classic rock song by a famous band. Their first album Mortal Ghost featured the Beatles song “Helter Skelter”, Liquid Exorcist featured Audioslave’s “Show Me How to Live”, and now Dark Side of the Ocean includes Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them“, from their 1973 masterpiece Dark Side of the Moon. While honoring the song’s compelling melody, Rusty Shipp’s version shaves a little over four minutes off the original, and gives it a harder rock treatment, with a bold mix of jangly and gnarly guitars and more emphatic vocals. The lyrics speak to the stupidity of war: “Us and them. And after all we’re all just ordinary men. Me and you. God only knows, it’s not what we would choose to do. Forward he cried from the rear. And the front rank died. The general sat and the lines on the map moved side to side. Black and blue. And who knows which is which and who is who? Up and down. And in the end we’re spinning round ‘n round.

The darkly beautiful instrumental interlude “Waking Braves” is a playful reimagining of their song “Breaking Waves” from Liquid Exorcist. This is followed by the grungy “Untouchable“, a terrific Nirvana-esque song about a soul with eternal life, free from earthly worries: “I am untouchable ‘cause nothing in this world can touch my soul. I am unconditionally loved, more than my heart could ever hold. I am a part of a plan where I am taken care of forever. I have eternal life, so tell me what is left to fear?” The grungy rock vibes continue on the raucous minute and a half long instrumental interlude “Up the Waterspout“.

The album closes with “The Other Side“, where so many of the elements that make Dark Side of the Ocean such a great album come together into a grand finale. The songs starts off as a slow acoustic ballad, then erupts into a celebratory feast of rousing surf guitars and frenetic ska grooves. The lyrics speak to what I think of as my own definition of Heaven, which is not some magical ‘perfect’ place in the clouds, but rather a sense of happiness and contentment that exists as a state of mind: “People always look for Heaven in the wrong places as if it’s just somewhere you go on retirement vacation. But a wise man once said that the Kingdom of Heaven is within; try looking there and let me know when you find it. We’re going on a search for the real Heaven. A Heaven we don’t have to wait for till our lives are through. We’re finding out the real meaning of salvation, and finding out it’s better than anything we thought we knew.”

I’m not sure what more I can say about Dark Side of the Ocean, other than to reiterate how marvelous it is. Not only are its concept and storyline brilliantly executed, it’s sounds damn good too! The musicians and sound engineers involved in the album’s recording and production did a masterful job, and the result is a work that’s flawlessly arranged and beautifully crafted on every level. Finally, a great deal of credit must go to Russ Shipp’s incredible vision, imagination and talents, both as a songwriter and vocalist.

Connect with Rusty Shipp: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: SpotifyApple Music / SoundclouddeezerYouTube
Purchase on Bandcamp 

Top 30 Songs for December 4-10, 2022

This is my first post in a week, as I’ve lost all enthusiasm or motivation for writing music reviews. But I can’t not post my Weekly Top 30. The beautiful poignant ballad “SNAP”, by Armenian singer-songwriter Rosa Linn (aka Roza Kostandyan), is my new #1 song. Rosa represented Armenia with the song at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, finishing in 20th place. “SNAP” subsequently went viral on TikTok, reaching the top of the charts in Belgium, and the top ten in several European countries. In the U.S., the song also reached #1 on the Billboard Adult Alternative Airplay chart, where it recently spent seven weeks on top, but peaked at only #82 on the dismal Hot 100 chart.

“SNAP” was co-written by Rosa with Larzz Principato, Courtney Harrell, Allie Crystal and Tamar Kaprelian, with writing sessions taking place in both Los Angeles and Yerevan, Armenia. In an interview for Wiwibloggs, Rosa stated that the song is a personal story everyone can relate to: “I think we’ve all been at a snapping point, where it felt like there’s no way out and that the entire world is just crumbling down around you. You start questioning everything, including yourself. I have been there. And what I realized was that I had the strength to shape my reality – it just took getting out of my own way and finding inner-peace. It’s all about self-love and accepting that you are enough. Writing ‘SNAP’ was a form of therapy for me and I hope that it can be that for others who are also going through hard times.

In other chart developments, “Crest of the Wave” by British band Foals, and “Tonight” by French alt-rock band Phoenix, with guest vocals by Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig, enter the top 10. Five songs make their debut this week: “EDGING” by Blink-182, entering my chart at #26. Though the song has spent the last five weeks and counting at #1 on the Billboard Alternative Airplay chart (Billboard has far too many charts, which to me dilutes the importance of most of them, but I digress…), it’s only now starting to grow on me, as I’ve never been much of a Blink-182 fan. The sweet “Then It All Goes Away” by Dayglow enters at #27; “Trouble With This Bed” by Beach Weather debuts at #28, giving them two songs on this chart; “Dance for Me” by Brooklyn singer-songwriter and blog favorite Sam Rappaport enters at #29; and “Disorder” by Welsh rock band Columbia enters at #30.

  1. SNAP – Rosa Linn (3)
  2. PARTY4ONE – dwi (1)
  3. SEX, DRUGS, ETC. – Beach Weather (2)
  4. THESE ARE THE DAYS – Inhaler (6)
  5. SPIT OF YOU – Sam Fender (7)
  6. CRACKER ISLAND – Gorillaz featuring Thundercat (4)
  7. BAD HABIT – Steve Lacy (5)
  8. WHITE HORSES – Art Block (10)
  9. CREST OF THE WAVE – Foals (11)
  10. TONIGHT – Phoenix featuring Ezra Koenig (14)
  11. I LIKE YOU (A HAPPIER SONG) – Post Malone & Doja Cat (12)
  12. WEIRD GOODBYES – The National featuring Bon Iver (13)
  13. UNHOLY – Sam Smith featuring Kim Petras (15)
  14. I’M IN LOVE WITH YOU – The 1975 (16)
  15. THIS IS WHY – Paramore (18)
  16. SISTERS – pMad (8)
  17. OFFCUTS – Mount Famine (17)
  18. SHADOWS IN THE DARK – The Star Crumbles (19)
  19. WET DREAM – Wet Leg (10)
  20. ANTI-HERO – Taylor Swift (22)
  21. SAIL AWAY – lovelytheband (23)
  22. OUT OF MY SYSTEM – Louis Tomlinson (25)
  23. LOVE DON’T LIVE HERE ANYORE – Crystal Cities (24)
  24. NIGHT BUS – Caitlin Lavagna (27)
  25. I.N.V.U. – Kid Kapichi (20)
  26. EDGING – Blink-182 (N)
  27. THEN IT ALL GOES AWAY – Dayglow (N)
  28. TROUBLE WITH THIS BED – Beach Weather (N)
  29. DANCE FOR ME – Sam Rappaport (N)
  30. DISORDER – Columbia (N)

DOM THOMAS – Single Review: “Everything I Own”

I recently learned about Welsh singer-songwriter and musician Dom Thomas when he followed me on Instagram. A talented and busy guy, he works as a librarian at Cardiff University, is founder and editor of VAINE Magazine (a Welsh literary and arts magazine for emerging artists and writers), and a poet who’s had one of his works published. He’s been writing and recording songs for his forthcoming EP, and released his wonderful debut single “Everything I Own” on November 11th. I liked it the instant I heard it, so much so that I want to both share it with my readers and give Dom a bit of press.

A deeply personal song, Dom explained in an Instagram post how he came to write “Everything I Own”: “I wrote the song in July 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. I was staying at home with my mum at the time, and I remember having all of my stuff packed up in the middle of the bedroom. And I was there playing this guitar which a friend lent me a few years ago. I remember thinking about how all of my stuff in the world was in that room, and how one of the main things I had (the guitar) wasn’t even mine. I just started thinking about that strange feeling you have sometimes in your 20s when you’re kind of sifting for your purpose in life, and trying to find out who you are. So, this song was the first one I wrote for the EP, and it gave me this idea to write some songs that were really personal.”

For the recording of the track, Dom sang vocals and played acoustic and electric guitars, bass and keyboards, Alec Rees played drums, and Mike Winters played viola. Jordan Roberts and Mark Lowe produced the track, with additional arrangements by Toni Madrid and Jacob Davies, and Eddie Al Shakarchi handled the mixing and mastering. Together, they’ve created a really lovely and melodic song. Dom’s layered guitar work is sublime, nicely accompanied by Alec’s relaxed drumbeats. As the song progresses, the music expands with the addition of Dom’s bold piano keys and Mike’s stirring viola, Dom’s comforting vocals turning more emphatic and emotional as well. Though the song has a rather melancholy undercurrent, Dom’s lighthearted “doo doo doos” in the choruses add glimmers of optimism, giving the song an overall pleasing vibe.

The poignant lyrics speak to feelings of impermanence, sadness, and dreams unfulfilled, whether they be material, artistic or romantic.

Everything I own
Feels like its borrowed
And I can’t give it back
My heart, my dreams, my love and my soul

Everything I feel
Feels a bit too real
And I can’t turn away
My heart, my dreams, my love and my soul

And these are the things that I’m searching for
But I, can’t get in the door

Everywhere I go,
it feels like I’m followed
And I can’t get away
My heart, my dreams, my love and my soul

And everything I touch,
Feels a bit too much
Like it’s turning to stone
My heart, my dreams, my love and my soul

And these are the things that I’m searching for
But I, can’t get in the door

Everything I know
Fills me with sorrow
And I can’t switch it off
My heart my dreams my love and my soul

And everything I do,
Makes me think of you
And I just can’t forget,
My heart, my dreams, my love and my soul

And these are the things that I’m searching for
But I, can’t get in the door

The endearing video, directed by Daniel Evans and filmed by Alex David, who also did the editing along with Dan Cuddihy, shows scenes of Dom playing his guitar and singing the song while walking through the streets of Cardiff and the surrounding countryside, alternating with scenes of him setting up and performing at a small auditorium.

Connect with Dom on Instagram

Stream “Everything I Own” on SpotifyApple Music

Purchase on Bandcamp