Yearly Phat Jam

Jams

This is less a Daily Phat Jam and more a Yearly Phat Jam in that I’ve decided to compile my favorite albums of the year. Not all of these are “prestigious” or necessarily “better than Smash Mouth” but thankfully I’m not a music critic and my opinion only matters to me and like nine other people (at best). They’re listed alphabetically by artist name.

I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It – The 1975

Much like the title of the record itself, this album is a bit too long and a bit too intentionally odd, but the best parts of it (“The Sound,” “Love Me,” “She’s American”) outweigh the tedious bits.

Malibu – Anderson .Paak

This dude blew up in 2016 and for good reason. If you’re in search of an album that masterfully blends rap, hip-hop, pop, and funk (and the artist isn’t Chance the Rapper), this is your jam.

22, A Million – Bon Iver

Bon Iver got big when I was still in my “I don’t like slow music” phase. I still haven’t been able to truly connect with the group’s previous albums, but man did this one scratch my itch. Take Justin Vernon’s haunting, emotional vocals and distort it nearly beyond recognition and you’ve got a striking, memorable album.

Blonde – Frank Ocean

I got Apple Music just to listen to this album. That should tell you enough. (In full disclosure: I never deleted my Spotify account and ended my subscription with Apple Music.)

How To Be A Human Being – Glass Animals

I was blown away when I heard “Life Itself.” Already a big fan of Glass Animals, I was a little nervous to see how they’d return with a sophomore effort, but the band managed to advance their sound without losing what people loved about ZABA. Maybe my favorite album this year.

The Life Of Pablo – Kanye West

Not a masterpiece as it stands but I’m willing to bet there’s a masterpiece in there. This album has so many incredible moments (when the choir kicks in on “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”, all of “Waves,” etc.) that keep it afloat when other tracks fall flat.

A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead

I’ve had difficulty getting into more recent Radiohead. I love The Bends and OK Computer and just this year developed a love for Kid A. Call me a poser but regardless, I immediately fell in love with this album, partly due to its accessibility, and especially its first track, “Burn the Witch.”

A Sailor’s Guide to Earth – Sturgill Simpson

Sweeping, heartbreaking and twangy in all the right ways, this is the best possible version of modern country music. Simpson’s “In Bloom” cover got a lot of playtime from me this year. It alone is worth checking out.

Birds In The Trap Sing McNight – Travi$ Scott

He may not be the most, er, inspired lyricist, but Scott sure can make a dope-ass album. Not to mention the feature from The Weeknd on “Wonderful” that nearly steals the show.

We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service – A Tribe Called Quest

I didn’t grow up listening to rap music, so I really have no history at all with ATCQ. No matter, because this album (the group’s first since 1998) is fresh, amazingly produced, and more relevant than ever. Also: Busta Rhymes has the coolest voice in rap.

Weezer (White Album) – Weezer

Weezer was my all-time favorite band growing up. I fell in love with Weezer (Blue Album) and Pinkerton at the best possible times (in high school, with a healthy dose of raging hormones) and in a year fraught with nostalgia overload, this is about as close to those albums as Weezer will get. And that’s okay for me.

Light Upon the Lake – Whitney

My brother got me onto these guys. This album is so easy to listen to, and hits all the right notes (especially the horns on “Polly”) that it was hard for me not to include them.

Still Brazy – YG

YG made a West Coast ‘90s album in 2016 and took on the now-president-elect with the best diss track of the year (“FDT,” which stands for exactly what you think it does). He’s got my vote.

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“American Money” – BØRNS

Jams

I’ll be the first to admit that I thought BØRNS would be a one-hit wonder after “Electric Love.” The song had all of the ingredient for a typical one-hit wonder: a virtually unknown artist, infectious pop melodies and an androgynous vocalist all packaged neatly into a 3:38 song performed by a band with a crazy foreign letter in its name. Seriously, look at the top charts for indie/alternative and you’ll find a surprising amount of artists with foreign letters in their names, including Låpsley, MØ, LÉON, etc. Who do these people think they’re fooling with their fancy foreign letters?

“Electric Love” was one of those singles that became exhausting to me because it was so omnipresent on the radio and streaming, its popularity lasting the duration of the summer. I needed a detox, and as a result, avoided listening to the rest of “Candy” (BØRNS’ EP) and completely overlooked the first album, “Dopamine,” which dropped in the middle of October.

Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist came through for me once again with yet another W. The first song on my playlist this week was “American Money” by my now-favorite artist who spells his name with a crazy foreign letter. It’s a song that contains similar elements to the more well-known and radio-friendly “Electric Love,” while diverging from the formula to give listeners something more to chew on.

It’s clear from the beginning that “American Money” isn’t going to be as airy or bubbly as “Electric Love.” While the latter begins with a burst of pure light, reminiscent of the energy brought with regularity by The Mowgli’s or The Polyphonic Spree, “American Money” brings a different vibe. Thumping and initially paired down, lead singer Garrett Borns delivers lyrics that wrap the listener up, bracing you for impact just as the synth and lustrous vocal arrangements hit.

It’s a totally different experience than listening to “Electric Love.” “American Money” has more complicated depth in its production, making the uber-popular “Electric Love” seem simple and superficial. While a basic love song at its core, “American Money” really delivers with its sound, finding that sweet, sultry spot somewhere between the bright soundscape of “Electric Love” and the darker, brooding synth melodies predominant among artists like Broods and Banks.

One-hit wonder BØRNS is not. “Dopamine” reached 24 in the US charts while the band’s top four songs on Spotify (other than “Electric Love”) combine for more than 40 million listens. “American Money” is the kind of pop music that I can get down to. I’ll even look the other way at the silly “Ø” character, which at this point just seems like a band name gimmick, albeit one that works. With that in mind, please consider attending a show on Friday night in Kansas City, where I’ll be playing with my new band, MØRNĭŅĜ ŜØŊ.

“Every Night You’ve Got to Save Me” – Mass Gothic

Jams

I filter music in my head into various categories depending on its sound, tone and applicability to a given situation. To put it less robotically, I like the idea that the music I listen to acts as a soundtrack to my life. I’m sure plenty of people also feel this way. Kid Cudi has a song about it, and if he’s rapped about it before, you can be certain that plenty of white people are at least familiar with the subject matter.

Following this thinking, I’ve noticed that there’s a long list of endlessly upbeat songs that are the perfect accompaniments to optimistic montages in movies. “Light & Day” by The Polyphonic Spree is a prime example. So too is “Home” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes. Both make you want to sway back and forth like a flower child on their cloud (or, if you’re on something a little more psychedelic, gyrate like one of those inflatable things used to attract people to used car lots).

“Every Night You’ve Got to Save Me” by Mass Gothic fits right in with this imaginary list of upbeat montage movie songs. It’s also a song that you know sounds good live. Big, bright and jangly, “Every Night You’ve Got to Save Me” belongs at an outdoor music festival, the kind where the performers jump off the stage and walk through the crowd without missing a note.

It’s a simple song with simple lyrics. But when paired with thumping drums, raucous tambourining and harmonious backing vocals, the tune sticks with you (and make you feel good). Just to illustrate how cheerful “Every Night You’ve Got to Save Me” is: I’ve already exhausted my list of appropriate synonyms for the words “happy” and “cheery” (because, let’s be real here, nobody would believe that I didn’t look up “buoyant” if I’d used to describe this song).

“Every Night You’ve Got to Save Me” is the kind of song that almost convinces you to quit your job to pursue your true passion of joining a theater group that travels around the country, playing free shows for underprivileged youth, eventually falling in love with a person named Flower and naming your children after horoscope signs. It’s that optimistic.

I can’t seem to shake the image in my head of a joyous Jesus Christ Revival Band performing this song. Everyone is wearing white robes (think The Polyphonic Spree again) and they’re led by a charismatic, dubiously handsome granolaman (Edward Sharpe). I know it’s unfair to pigeonhole this group based on what one of their songs sounds like, because now that I’ve watched the video, it’s clear that they don’t look or act anything like those other two bands, so you should instead ignore me and listen to this song. The band has less than 1,100 likes on their Facebook page, and if you tell all your friends about Mass Gothic before they blow up, you’ll look really cool. And then I’ll look really cool and take credit for them blowing up.

“The Sound” – The 1975

Jams

The rules of radio control in the car are simple and universal. The Driver is allotted complete, omniscient authority over the music selection for the duration of their tenure as Driver. Disputing this fact puts the arguer on the wrong side of history, much like claiming that 9/11 wasn’t an inside job or that the pyramids weren’t built to store grain.

My girlfriend finds herself in this same camp, as she seems to think that the passenger gets to choose the music. This is an egregious error on her part, because her initial inclination upon hearing an unfamiliar song of my choosing is to skip it and continue on to the Pop2K SiriusXM radio station (which, for some unknown reason, plays an unusually large amount of Nelly and Ludacris). However, I’m convinced that “The Sound” by The 1975 is a song that she would skip immediately, and I would like to convince her otherwise.

“The Sound” starts with a muted choir of children chirping the chorus before the lead bursts through 25 seconds later. For many this Children’s Crusade of an intro might be a skippable offense. I plead these individuals to push past the opening seconds, because while simple and a tad repetitive, “The Sound” is another excellent pop song by an excellent pop band. The song is reminiscent of the brightest and liveliest hits from the 1980s thanks to its cheery beat, funky guitar and infectious piano that punctuates the syrupy lyrics with multitudes of exclamation points.

I haven’t fallen completely in love with The 1975’s other new singles quite the same way as I have with “The Sound.” (If I had to rank them, it would be 1. “The Sound” 2. “Love Me” and 3. “UGH!”.) However, all three songs have a familiar yet refreshing sound, as if the entire band were hipster time travelers: too cool to play 80s music in the 80s, so they jumped ahead three decades for the 80s revival.

If you’re still unconvinced about the authenticity of the music, let this statement ease your mind: I have no idea whether The 1975 have a keytarist. It’s really impressive to be so obviously influenced by a particular sound from decades ago and somehow manage to feel new, albeit a bit familiar.

But there really isn’t anything wrong with that. Hollywood has found success in the last few years with rebooting and refreshing decades-old source material for modern audiences. Why not The 1975 too? Listening to “The Sound” does just what I want this kind of music to do – it scratches my 80s Music Itch in just the right spot, inspiring me to listen to classic 80s pop music, including New Order and INXS (the bands I’m immediately reminded of when listening to The 1975), among others.

So how do I convince my girlfriend to listen? Not so simple. I’ve pretty much accepted that it’s easier to listen to music we both like while riding together than music that just I like. However, I have found a loophole: she proofed this whole article, which means that she listened to the song. And once it starts playing on SiriusXM (after Twenty One Pilots hopefully disappear), she’ll jam along with me.

“Peace Keeper” – Bear Hands

Jams

           A friend of mine really likes this band, Bear Hands, and hasn’t shut up about them the past few months. I mean that in the nicest way possible, because I can definitely understand bugging people about a band you love until they finally give in and admit you were right.

“She Only Loves Me When I’m There”-Ball Park Music

Jams

            In contributing to a blog dedicated to showcasing cool music, there’s an inherent impulse to find really great music nobody has ever heard of, which is damn near impossible. There’s a fine line between posting about an on-the-rise band and “Hey check out this Green Day song from 2005.” But Daily Phat Jam isn’t necessarily about discovering new music and proving to the few people that’ll read it that we found it first. It’s just about whatever cool shit you’re currently playing.

“Kid Charlemagne” -Steely Dan

Jams

There are songs I listen to because of the way they sound, their rhythms, their musicality, there is something about them that is satisfying on a sonic level. Then there are the songs I listen to because of the lyrics, a compelling story, turns of phrase that make you stop and think.

This Steely Dan song is both.  Even without background knowledge of the song, the words themselves weave a tale that is timeless and grand. You get a sense of danger, from the music and the recalled panic in lyrics.

“Is there gas in car?/Yes there’s gas in caaaaar/I think the people down the hall know who you are”