Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 2 of 2020 !

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January 19 marked what would have been the legendary, they only made one of her, Janis Joplin’s 77th birthday & it’s already the 20th as I write this so I’m technically “late” in mentioning it. And main reason I’m bringing it up is so I can recommend this completely freakin’ amazing new book about her life, “Janis: Her Life and Music” by Holly George-Warren. You don’t need to be a hardcore fan of her music to get into it, the  story alone is at once fascinating, frustrating, triumphant & tragic ( and who knows maybe reading it will pique your interest about her music). As a nerd who reads loads of music related books, believe me when I tell you they are not created equal & this is a good one. Okay, have to go off on a tangent for a second to talk about one of the key music book sub-genres, the rock star memoir. Unfortunately most follow the same formula which is basically 100 pages of debauchery followed by 200 pages about taking the twins to school, cooking vegan feasts & daily one on one martial arts training sessions with an esteemed master guru. Plus some stuff about how the new music the author is making is the best they’ve ever done. And yeah it’s awesome that everything’s worked out but it generally makes for a terrible read. Sorry about that, just had to get it out of my system. Anyway, the Janis book is obviously something else & it’s awesome & so please check it out !

And now back to our regular programming ! Please head to the blog (link in bio) for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the FINEST NEW MUSIC we’ve heard in recent days. Here’s hoping you’ll find a song or band that warms your heart, ignites grand emotional epiphanies, becomes a shoulder to lean on, inspires you to kick ass in your daily endeavors & gets you through the night.

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Weekly New Wonders Playlist # 1 of 2020 !

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Rush were one of those bands where while we  weren’t exactly friends, we would still acknowledge each other when we passed in the hall. We moved in the same circles ( I liked prog but mostly in it’s female friendly form which was Phil Collins-era Genesis). They had a song I genuinely loved upon release & still do to this day (“Subdivisions“). I thought their 2010 documentary “Beyond the Lighted Stage” was ridiculously fun, watched it multiple times & still regularly recommend to people, especially those that are wont to say, “I don’t know, I’m not really into Rush” ( by the way, please watch it if you haven’t). I loved how Jason Segal’s character on “Freaks and Geeksworshipped Rush’s virtuosic drummer Neil Peart & spoke of him with a love bordering on obsession. And speaking of Neil, I really dug his 2002 book “Ghost Rider” for it’s sadness & serenity.  Most recently, in early 2019 to be exact, we went through a major Rush phase at work, listening to playlists that lasted the full 8 hour shift for several weeks & resulted in our using the word “Narpets” on a regular basis from that point on. Neil Peart’s death last week was both sad & shocking but what I’m getting at here is that even if you don’t love every Rush song, they are worth getting to know, Neil is worth getting to know. Check out the doc, read one of his books, listen to the wonderful “Subdivisions”, hey even watch some “Freaks and Geeks” because something in there will assuredly penetrate your heart, it definitely did mine.

And with that WELCOME TO OUR FIRST WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST of 2020, featuring the best songs we’ve heard over recent days: they are all BEAUTIFUL ! Listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify:

Listen on Soundcloud:

Listen on Spotify:

 

Weekly New Wonders Playlist !

That legendary scene encapsulates how I feel every time I’m on Soundcloud. The chocolate never seems to stop and it feels utterly impossible to keep up with the number of songs being kicked out on a daily basis. I always think things will ease up in December, with everyone seemingly preoccupied with travel, the looming holidays, and the challenge of staying emotionally functional. But the song train never stops and so here we are, open 24 hours, with a shiny WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring some extraordinarily handsome and beautiful songs that don’t care what time of year it is. Let her roll…

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PuR’s Top 50 Songs of 2019 !

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The mission of Picking Up Rocks has always been the same, to shine a light on the best pop music regardless of label affiliation or level of fame or social media presence or perceived coolness…because who cares. A great song is a great song. And whenever we stumble upon a great song ( and there were a lot in 2019) we want to share it with you no matter if it was born in a garage, someone’s bedroom, a state of the art studio or a freakin’ treehouse !

Did that sound angry ? I swear it’s unintentional, guess I’m just weary of seeing the same songs mentioned on every year end list. Look, I genuinely like Lil Nas X, Lizzo and Billie Eilish. But know who released songs as good as theirs this year ? Kingsbury, Whitelands and The Hails. It’s okay if you haven’t heard all of them because that’s why we’re here, to both celebrate them and maybe introduce you if you haven’t.

I have listened to thousands upon thousands of songs this year because I am a crazy person who is always looking for a song to alter and upend the daily grind. Culling the master list down to the 50 best has been both nightmarish ( because there were lots of goods) and revelatory ( had forgotten just how good certain songs were) but we did it ! And so here they are, PuR’s TOP 50 SONGS OF 2019 ! 50 awesomely wonderful tracks by some equally wonderful artists all neatly arranged for you to listen on Soundcloud or Spotify ( links below). It’s my sincerest hope that you’ll discover something or someone within in who rocks your life and makes you swoon or at least say fuck yeah repeatedly.

THANKS TO ALL THE ARTISTS FOR THESE AWESOME SONGS, YOU ARE THE SUN.

Ready ? Okay then, here we go :

Soundcloud:

Spotify:

 

Weekly New Wonders Playlist !

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A black squirrel scurried across my path in Central Park today in the cold rain and while I’m not going to attach any deeper meaning to it ( apart from the fact I rarely see them there), I wanted to acknowledge that it was cool just to run into him or her being all unusual and shiz. Jeezus I’m rambling already. Welcome to the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST ! I haven’t done this for a couple of weeks because there’s some bigger piles of words on the horizon that are taking my attention, one being the Top 50 SONGS OF THE YEAR as well as a lengthy, maniacal article on some ’80s popsters who are going to remain nameless for a minute. Anyway, that’s all coming in the next week or so and hope you dig it all ! On the off chance you actually miss my hyperbolic scribbling, please head over to covermesongs.com to read my weekly contributions to the world’s best cover songs blog Cover Me ! It’s not my blog as there is some serious quality control employed and awesomely awesome writing by a whole lotta amazing contributors but I am honored to be a small cog. Please go check it out ! Believe me when I tell you the cover version world is an endlessly fascinating, bottomless well of discovery.

Okay, so here are some of the finest pop songs and instrumental interludes (for emo moments) we’ve heard over recent days. Hopefully they will warm your heart and inspire you to kick ass in your daily endeavors. You can listen on Soundcloud or Spotify.

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Opeongo “Port Boys”

“Port Boys” sounds as if it has randomly landed on earth inside a glittery spaceship full of runny mascara from some far off universe where it is currently 1972. It’s a glam ballad that could sit comfortably next to David Bowie’s “Lady Stardust” or, coincidentally enough, a ballad by the guy that very song was actually written about, Marc Bolan. The sound ghosts don’t stop there as there are touches of Nick Cave and Placebo lurking in it’s DNA as well. Yes, that’s a lot of stuff to absorb but want to encourage the wonderful context it should be considered in. Theatrical, mournful and gloriously peculiar.

 

Weekly New Wonders Playlist

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This latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring our favorite new songs from recent days is kind of small. 2019 has been a crazy good music year, with inevitably more to come so we can just put this down the universe taking a breather. And hey, this is in no way a reflection on the beauty and finery of the songs included this week. In fact we are going to take the half full approach because it so happens there was a brilliantly wonderful album released this week to fatten up your listening schedule.

Michael Kiwanuka’s third album titled Kiwanuka was released this week and it is too, too beautiful. As in every song. Now while The Guardian review of the album this week described it as “one of the greatest albums of the decade”, I’m not going to go there just yet. That’s because I’m currently in throes of complete irrational infatuation with this thing. And so I think it would be best to wait until the emotional smoke clears before I’m saying crazy, over the top shiz about how I want to spend the rest of my life with it or start comparing it to my favorite album of all time, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”BUT it is without question one of the absolute best things I’ve heard this year, managing somehow to be both tear inducing and life affirming.

It sounds like the past distilled through the lens of the future. It’s ROCK AND SOUL united. Like The Isley Brothers in 1971 disassembling and transforming “Fire And Rain” and “Ohio” into profound, powerful soul. Like the haunting psychedelia of Minnie Riperton on “Les Fleurs”. Like Gil Scott-Heron preaching about how hard it is to be alive while embedded in the sweetest melody. Like the mournful majesty of Friends of Distinction’s “Going In Circles”. “Kiwanuka” just glows with all of this and more. It feels both eerie and like the sun warming your face. It’s instantly memorable and endlessly tuneful.

I know I sound like a nerd saying all that in such a flowery over the top way but I just want to drive home that this thing is really kind of beautiful. Check both that and the wonderful new stuff out below !

Listen on Soundcloud:

Listen to the Playlist AND Michael Kiwanuka on Spotify:

Weekly New Wonders Playlist !

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Sometimes a song will be so good, so perfect, that I will actually get misty. It doesn’t happen that often but whenever it does, it feels like being gifted with some brilliant, mystical prize. I’ll always remember hearing Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” for the very first time in my teenage bedroom & dissolving into floods of tears because…I don’t know. It wasn’t just the words, it was the sound of it. I mean, it was everything. It forcefully hit every nerve in ways I’ll probably never understand. I definitely didn’t then. All I knew is that I wanted to play it over & over & over again. Anyway the night sky is crying in NYC as I write this, plus it’s a little chilly which means conditions are ideal for putting on the headphones & cranking up the best new music from recent days. It’s all right here for you. WELCOME TO THE LATEST WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST ! You can listen on Soundcloud or Spotify below.

Soundcloud:

Spotify:

 

Kingsbury “Breaking Apart”

Caroline Kingsbury makes pop records so good they’ll get you misty. “In My Brain”, her first single release of 2019, was a beauteous, fist pumping pop anthem of the highest order. That was followed by “U Take It Back” , a glorious bit of neon tinged heartbreak that you could still dance to. Her latest “Breaking Apart” is anchored by a fat foggy drumbeat, shiny synth and may be even more perfect than the 2 aforementioned perfect tracks. It has the same emotional, widescreen feeling as Cyndi Lauper’s superb synth pop cover of “What’s Going On”, as well as some New Order-esque flourishes and soul crushing Robert Smith style lyrical heartache. It’s for driving away in tears but still feeling strong as fuck. All 3 tracks appear on Kingsbury’s new EP, also titled “Breaking Apart” and yes, it is very special.

School of X “Destiny”

Don’t be fooled by the delicacy on display in “Destiny”, for underneath the fluttery acoustic guitar, wandering flute and Rasmus Littauer’s (aka School of X) Jonsi-esque falsetto, exists a sentiment of genuine bitterness and frustration. It’s just delivered in the sweetest way imaginable and is ineffably pretty…and who doesn’t love a little iron fist in a velvet glove in their pop songs ?