Best Thing I Heard First Quarter 2020

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A new year brings fresh excitement for great new music! The first three months are also a time of music discovery and new releases from old favorites. Artists prepare for tours by sharing new singles and albums and festivals like SXSW introduce the world to all-new voices.

While SXSW is canceled this year, I still found lots of things to celebrate and share!

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“Hot Tears” by Leif Vollebekk – Please listen to his song “Elegy”, too. A soulful, low-key funky track that’s sure to be popular in coffee shops.

“Fire” by Waxahatchee – The sound is warm and honeyed, but somehow just as raw as I remember from earlier songs like “Dixie Cups and Jars”.

“Now I’m In It” by HAIM – I once read that the end of HAIM’s 2013 song “The Wire” “sounded like money”. The new tracks are slickly produced, for sure, but it sounds like money well spent.

“Golden by Cory Wong ft. Cody Fry – High-energy disco-style excitement! Kudos for a killer guitar solo and a very Moon Hooch-like breakdown at the bridge. I’m glad the world of Vulfpeck spun out careers for players like guitarist Cory Wong. His latest album includes another track called “Watercolors” that I highly recommend.

“The Main Thing” by Real Estate – While we’re talking about guitar heroes, it’s always a treat to have another breezy, light rock album from these guys. Listen to “Talking Backwards” if you haven’t already.

“Criminal Energy” by Jimmy Eat World – Time hasn’t dulled the excitement of a rocking Jimmy Eat World song. Strong “Get It Faster” vibes with this one.

“Talking Myself In Circles” by Four Year Strong – I first heard FYS on a 2008 mixtape put out by Fall Out Boy. Which now seems like a very 2008 thing to do. I think the song’s name was “Bada Bing! Wit’ A Pipe”. [insert grimacing emoji]. And yet, I’m here 12 years later hyping FYS. This album’s another satisfying tour of catchy pop melodies, heavy guitars, and crunchy breakdowns.

“You and I” by Caribou – It’s chill, but danceable. Electronic. But organic-feeling. Tame Impala released an LP, too. But of the two expansive, adventurous albums with falsetto vocals, I prefer Caribou! Listen to “Silver” from his last album, too (with nice headphones).

“You Calling My Name” by GOT7 – I like K-pop because it’s unabashedly optimistic. It’s a burst of sugar that smartly integrates rap with huge pop choruses. And I like that it brings back the multi-vocalist sound of groups like Boyz II Men and peak-era boy bands. This track happens to solidly remind me of Charlie Puth, too.

“Tender love” by Kim Jae Joong – I also like K-pop because I like big, sweeping power ballads. String sections, the works. American chart pop seems to have lost the touch for this so I always pleased to find one elsewhere!

“All Mirrors” by Angel Olsen – At one minute and 40 seconds, the glittering synths and booming bass sink below an ominous string section. Then it all crashes back in for a huge chorus. Spooky-awesome.

“Empty Promises” by Christone “Kingfish” Ingram – While we’re in Spookytown, the vibe here suggests a darkened stage and an empty bar. A brokenhearted jeremiad played after all the people have left. Kingfish spill lets it all out, setting scorching guitar licks against lush, jazzy horn charts.

“Your Favorite Colors” by Kelleigh Bannen – I love when writers pick out specific, highly personal descriptors to color their songs. Even when it’s specific to one individual if it’s done well, then everyone will still feel it.

“San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)” by Emile Mosseri, Joe Talbot, Daniel Herskedal (Featuring Mike Marshall) – What a gorgeous song, familiar to anyone who listens to oldies stations. It’s re-envisioned here for a film I haven’t seen. The singer eulogizes the way it was and seems to call today’s people to make it their own, but make it better. Sweeping, bittersweet strings and ghostly background singers complete the picture.

“Animal Spirits (Live in Madison Square Garden”) by Vulfpeck with Theo Katzman – More Vulf. Go find the full concert performance video on YouTube and treat yourself to an amazing hour and forty-three minutes and fifty-eight seconds.

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