I did a quick survey this week of musical tracks that, in my opinion, have been standouts for the year thus far. These tracks vary in genre and instrumentation, which is quite typical for my eclectic collection.
Mudcrutch’s ‘I Forgive it All’ from ‘Mudcrutch 2’
This is Tom Petty with his pre-Heartbreaker group back for a second album. For me, there is a deep level of introspection in Petty’s vocal and a release of emotion in every strum of the acoustic guitar here. We don’t talk much about music videos anymore, but the video for this song starring Sir Anthony Hopkins dealing with the issue of homelessness in America feels like a punch in the gut. We only get brief reminders of homelessness in our city and it’s sometimes easy to look away. This song and the video remind us that there are thousands that will sleep on concrete and cardboard tonight. It’s also a reminder of a distant time when music videos helped define how a song could be interpreted.
Norah Jones’ ‘Carry On’ from ‘Day Breaks’
Norah’s new album will be released in early October and will be her first since 2012’s “Little Broken Hearts.” Jones is back on the piano for this album, which includes a cover version of “Peace” by Horace Silver and “Fleurette Africaine (African Flower)” by Duke Ellington. This new single unfolds like velvet fog. It is simply stunning.
Little Big Town’s ‘One of Those Days’ from ‘Wanderlust’
Let’s just call this track a remedy for a bad day. While some of LBT’s die-hard fans are nervous that these bona fide members of the Grand Ole Opry are abandoning their country roots (see Shania Twain-Taylor Swift-Country-Pop Playbook), you can credit it all to producer, Pharrell Williams, who pushed Little Big Town towards a more mainstream pop sound. This one will get you grooving for sure.
Snarky Puppy’s ‘Liquid Love’ featuring Chris Turner from ‘Family Dinner Volume II’
Don’t let the name throw you -- Grammy award winning (and Brooklyn based) instrumental band, Snarky Puppy, recorded this track live in New Orleans with Oakland’s Chris Turner providing vocals. The results are magically delicious. This is a funky, gospel-infused, electric groove that hits all the right notes. You’ll want to find the best quality speakers you can, listen at a decent volume, and check out the video for this one as well. Trust me when I say that this song is “in the pocket.”
Tedeschi Trucks Band’s ‘Anyhow’ from ‘Let Me Get By’
If you are unfamiliar with this band, just know that Derek Trucks was a child guitar prodigy who was playing alongside the likes of Buddy Guy and the Allman Brothers before he was old enough to drive a car. Paired with his wife, Susan Tedeschi, who handles vocals splendidly, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, based out of Jacksonville, Florida, has been going strong since 2010. This song builds to a satisfying crescendo as Trucks unleashes a skillful slide solo on his cherry red Gibson SG. For a good gauge on the talent level of this band check out their “Tiny Desk Concert” on NPR.org. Note the solo that begins around the 15 minute mark of their multi-song performance. Mercy!
Radiohead’s ‘Burn the Witch’ from ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’
This is Radiohead blowing out 30 candles on a musical birthday cake. This particular track could almost be a running commentary for your titillating Twitter trending topics -- “Stay in the shadows, cheer at the gallows, this is a round up... “
There are many honorable mentions -- unfortunately, too many to list. I would love to hear your suggestions as well.
Paul Crutcher is the broadcast specialist and XLR Radio general manager at Lander University. He serves on the national governing board for College Broadcasters Inc., the largest representation of college radio and television stations in the country. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @PaulCrutcher.