Weekly New Wonders Playlist #6 of 2023

Welcome to episode 5000 of “nerds doing nerd things”. This past week saw my comrade and PuR contributor Ed Zed and I make lists of the 13 or so artists throughout musical history, alive or not, that would perform at our fantasy festivals. The criteria didn’t necessarily mean strictly picking our favorite artists ( that would be a different list) but rather, those who could offer the most perfect and personalized live experience for us plus a great day/night out for similarly wired nerds. We considered logistical issues (for one thing, no artists would perform at the same time in adjacent tents or venues across town). Mine would absolutely take place outdoors in some state of perpetual night. There’d also be lots of french fries.

Anyway, at the risk of severe mockery, I’m gonna share mine in the hope that at least one of you will cough up one of your own simply because I love reading about this beautiful, nonsense dream…and I’m sure yours is gonna be amazing and brilliantly weird.

My lineup list also cites the specific era and/or version of each participating artist I’d want to see. Some are people I wish I could have seen but wasn’t alive, old enough, or geographically able to. Others I have seen perform incendiary, crazy-wonderful shows and wish I could time-machine myself back to. I also named a host for the evening just because we’ll need one.

Here’s mine aka Hopechella:

Paul McCartney & Wings c.1976-79

The Isley Brothers c.1970-72

Otis Redding & Carla Thomas c.1967

Annie Lennox-c.1992

Donny Hathaway c.1971 

Sandy Denny c.1972

ELO c.1978 (performing entire ‘Out Of The Blue album”)

John Martyn-c.1973-1980

Françoise Hardy c.1976-77

The Blue Nile-c.1989

Sinead O’Connor-‘c.90s era

George Michael c.2000’s era

Sade c.1992-93

Hosted by Tilda Swinton: past/present/future 

Here’s Ed Zed’s aka the Zedding Festival:

The Slits

Grace Jones

X-Ray Spex

Inga Copeland




The Birthday Party

WaqWaq Kingdom 


The Knife

Arthur Russell



The Cravats

The Cramps

If you want to share your FANTASY FESTIVAL bill below, please do. Go on then, I’m all ears as always! 
Know what else? It’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have crossed our path over recent days. This week’s list is especially anthemic, melodic, and swoon-worthy. I hope you’ll fall madly in love with at least one of these beauties. Listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify.

 Listen on Soundcloud

Listen on Spotify


Weekly New Wonders Playlist #5 of 2023

That’s just one of the highlights from this year’s Outsider Art Fair in NYC, an event I love for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that it makes me feel plain old better about my own weird art. The hot painting I cannot stop staring at above is by Mark Sabin. Now check out this Valton Tyler painting below. How f*ckin’ cool is this?

My terrible iPhone photos don’t do this stuff justice. Okay, one more fab piece because as someone who draws in ink, I absolutely must include one of my brethren:

Okay, so that was the Outsider Art Fair…now it is time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the most wondrous new ( and new-ish) tunes that have crossed our path in recent days. It is full of gorgeously dirty, sludgy riffing, rock, and love. Heave yourself into the pit below on Soundcloud or Spotify.

Listen on Soundcloud

Listen on Spotify

Weekly New Wonders Playlist #4 of 2023

Time for the WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest songs we’ve heard over recent days. These 13 tracks that follow are beautifully rockin’, magnificently sad, and oozing with melody. For the record, I’m one of those weirdos who thinks 13 is not a demonic number and is actually pretty cool. Oh, I used to be superstitious, in fact up until about a year ago if my daily commute playlist totaled 13 songs I would add or subtract one so as not to tempt fate. As an aside, I make a playlist every morning the contents of which are determined by my mood and general level of optimism that day which is usually sea level or lower, though I still don’t ever, ever put The Blue Nile in the AM playlist or else I fall into instant emo-ness and start to get misty wherever I happen to be standing so no “Let’s Go Out Tonight” for me unless I’m out of the public eye. Of course, if you feel like crying/cleansing your soul, don’t let me stop you and please have at it here. So anyways, my brain chemistry has shifted in some inexplicable way over the past year and the maligned and shunned 13 has become the track number I shoot for when assembling my daily playlist.

And with that, come now enjoy this devilishly seductive group of new wonders…and all hail the mighty 13.

Listen on Soundcloud

Listen on Spotify

Weekly New Wonders Playlist #3 of 2023

Last week I went to Strand Bookstore to buy their one copy of The Richard Burton Diaries. Why? Well, I’m going through a bit of an Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton phase. In fact, it’s best not to mention them to me right now unless you want an earful of my questionable “insights” regarding their relationship and careers. Anyway, as it was very cold in NYC that day, I had to dress warmly to go get the book. So of course, that meant I was sporting my favorite piece of winter headwear: a 27-year-old black Jamiroquai beanie ( that’s it in the accompanying picture). 

The enormously-hatted, slick, clubby soul funkster Jamiroquai was a big f-ing deal in the ’90s and the beanie was meant to be given away in a contest Sony was having in the HMV record store where I was working back then. The thing is, once I had it in my hands, I fell in love with it (because I’m weird) and didn’t want to give it away. The Sony rep saw how enamored I was with this silly thing and proceeded to cancel the contest on the spot and let me keep it (FOREVER).

When I went to pay for my Burton book, the woman at the counter, who couldn’t have been more than 25 years old, quite literally lit up and broke into a huge smile. No, it wasn’t that she too was going through a simultaneous Burton and Taylor phase and was excited to find a comrade. It was all about the hat. “OH MY GOD, IS THAT JAMIROQUAI?! I LOVE JAMIROQUAI!”. This never happens. Seriously. Never ever ever. I’ve worn this hat a kabillion times and the last time anyone recognized the logo on the hat was in the actual ’90s when the J-man was still a huge star. I was flabbergasted and praised her recognition accordingly. My hat was older than she was. We talked about him a little and before I left she ecstatically told me again “I LOVE JAMIROQUAI!”

It doesn’t matter when you meet a song or artist, if you’ve discovered them in real-time or decades after they came to be. You and the song/artist tend to find each other when the universe decides you’re ready to meet and connect. Simple as that. It’s a beautiful thing. It means the possibility of discovery is never ending which is one of the coolest f-ing things in the world I think. I know all this sounds kind of silly but that’s what I was thinking about after that whole bookstore exchange. It was cosmic (girl).

Speaking of discovery, it’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have crossed our path in recent days. It features a couple of weeks’ worth so it’s a bit stuffed but as every one is a heart-squeezing, lustrous anthem hopefully you won’t mind too much 😉 Listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify.

Listen on Soundcloud

Listen on Spotify

Weekly New Wonders Playlist #2 of 2023

There were a lot of words spilled about David Crosby after his recent passing. So many that even though I’m a fan, I decided not to write anything about him as the worldwide remembrance pile was already overflowing. But here we are, weeks later and I’m officially caving in. I confess that I didn’t fully appreciate ornery, angel-voiced Croz until a decade into the 21st century. At that point, for reasons I cannot recollect, I became maniacally obsessed with his discography, in all its iterations, especially the solo stuff. I then did what crazy music nerds do and embarked on some relentless collecting, buying dozens of live bootleg cds from one of those predictably weird online blokes who sold rare, unreleased stuff. My favored illegal entrepreneur would also include bizarre, overly-friendly notes on post-its inside the CDS I ordered. The CDS themselves were nerdily-titled things that only demented hardcore nuts would be remotely interested in, shit with titles like “Rarities Volume 1” and “Live at Rockefeller’s ’87” (all wondrous though, I’m tellin’ you). He’d also throw in stuff I hadn’t asked for, which is how I ended up with a lot of odd Neil Young compilations that sounded as if they were recorded from the inside of a knapsack. I remain grateful to weird-bootleg cd-bloke (whoever he was/wherever he is), my musical drug supplier for feeding my then insatiable need. The songs and sounds of Croz emanating from these goofy CDs singlehandedly roped me in and calmed my soul at a time when I was feeling pretty damn crazy ( and they still do, when I’m in need). Croz = Genius.

And with that, it’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new tracks we’ve heard over recent days. Again, as it is so early in the year, and releases are only just getting rolling, the playlist is pretty short. That is no reflection on the selection i.e. these songs are all lethally beautiful-handsome and would’ve made the cut any time of year. You can listen on Soundcloud or Spotify below.

Also want to shout out Permanent Damage, the latest album by Joesef (two songs of which are featured in the playlist). It is melodic, lush, and endlessly lovely, and has already won January as far as albums go (for me at least). You can check that out here.

Listen on Soundcloud

Listen on Spotify

Weekly New Wonders Playlist #1 of 2023

I think we can all agree, Peanuts is life. And with that, welcome to the first WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST of 2023⚡️! As it’s only the second week of January, there isn’t a ton of new stuff happening, so it is exceptionally short (4 songs!). It is “why even make a playlist? ” short. But it seemed disrespectful to the songs to hold them back. Plus among them lives a supremely magnificent cover of “Pure Imagination” (from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory) by Storefront Church and Circuit des Yeux that I’ve grown rapidly, disturbingly obsessed with over the past 24 hours. I’ve played it at least 50 times and it’s definitely starting to screw with my brain chemistry. I’m suffering from that “looking straight ahead but not being able see anything because your eyeballs are turned inside out and are instead looking at the weird daydreamy visions in your brain that have been stirred up by the song”…which is probably a sign that I should give it a rest. But you don’t have to. You can hear that stunner and more beautiful January friends on Soundcloud or Spotify below. And may all of us have a muthaf*ckin’ Lucy year 😉

Listen on Soundcloud

Listen on Spotify

Yearly New Wonders: Best Songs ‘n’ Albums of 2022!

I’m keeping things simple this year. No mile-long list of the best tunes or long-winded explanations as to why they sound so good and shone above all others in 2022. Because even though I love a passionate list, like most of you, at this point, I am officially suffering from “online end-of-year list fatigue”, the figurative flu that all music, film, and book nerds become afflicted with every December. That said, I do have a treat I hope will fire you up enough to check out these last couple of lists! In addition to a way more succinct PuR’s Best/Favorite/Most Sublime Songs of 2022 playlist (a consumable 30 tracks!), I am privileged to share PuR pal and contributor Ed Zed’s list of his Favorite Albums of 2022!

It used to concern me that my year-end list of the best songs bore zero resemblance to those posted by Pitchfork, the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and the big places. I’d think I wasn’t doing what I was “supposed to” and that I should be more concerned with the work of the big names and more drawn to the big hits (even on this piddly little blog) for my list to be “credible”. But screw all that. It’s way more fun to follow your arrow and get dirty and head down the road less traveled when it comes to finding new music. I’m an introvert who avoids the bright lights and TikToks and just prefers stepping off the main road, heading into the woods, and picking up rocks I’ve chosen myself ( like how I did that?)…all of which is my way of saying, these lists are highly idiosyncratic and born from pure love (promise). And I respect you as a fellow weirdo connoisseur and know you don’t want to hear about the same old shiz everyone else is talking about.

And so friends, I now present to you TWO (!) eccentric, heartfelt lists which I hope you still have a little room for in your best-music-playlists-to-listen-to-over-the-next-weekmaybe schedule. Both were handmade for nerdy, romantic weirdos (you) by nerdy, romantic weirdos (us). We get you. Thank you for looking at Picking Up Rocks this year. I promise some seriously mad essays and beautiful music in 2023 so, please follow us if that interests you. And THANK YOU to all of you wonderful nuts who have spent time on PuR this year. You f*cking ROCK and I f*cking mean that ;)! Big love to you all!

PuR’s 30 Best Beautiful Bastard Songs of 2022 Playlist!

Melody remains my own personal Jesus and is the foundation of how the yearly PuR Best Songs list is “computed”. And with that, please enjoy these weird, endlessly wonderful songs made by gorgeously inspired humans. Hope they make you swoon.

Listen on Soundcloud:

Listen on Spotify

Ed Zed’s 10 Best Brilliantly Bitchin’ Albums of 2023!

Note from Ed: There are two in the top slot, as the depth, beauty, and unmitigated splendor of Lucrecia Dalt’s ¡Ay! and Carla dal Forno’s Come Around were truly impossible to choose between. The other eight are in no real order, because they’re all equally spectacular to me:

1.Lucrecia Dalt – ¡Ay! (listen here)
2.(but technically tied for first) –Carla dal Forno – Come Around (listen here)
3.700 Bliss – Nothing To Declare (listen here)
4.Kakuhan – Metal Zone (listen here)
5.Lea Bertucci & Ben Vida – Murmurations (listen here)
6.Anzahlung – What You Think Is All You’ve Got (listen here)
7.L4b – L4b (listen here)
8.StinkyJim – Spacial Awareness (listen here)
9.Jennifer Vanilla – Castle In The Sky (listen here)
10.Cosey Fanni Tutti – Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and the Legendary
Tapes (listen here)

Weekly New Wonders Playlist #31 of 2022

The first Fleetwood Mac record I ever bought was the 45 of “Say You Love Me”. It was 1976 and I was still in grade school and could only afford albums when I’d had some kind of financial windfall i.e. birthday money. And so my main focus was on singles. Since my tiny weekly allowance of $3 (!) could only score me maybe two new singles at most ($1.07 each with tax), I was very precise about the ones I chose to buy. In other words, if I was gonna fork over any of my sparse savings on a song, I had to really, really LOVE it. “Say You Love Me” was one of the songs I deemed worthy enough to make the monetary sacrifice for.

The fact is, my first favorite Mac songs were not by Lindsey or Stevie. They were by Christine McVie. “You Make Loving Fun”. “Don’t Stop”. Her songs were the ones I latched onto as a kid. They were the reason “Rumours” was glued to my turntable through my endlessly nightmarish seventh-grade days. They were why I plastered a Mac poster on the wall of my tragically royal blue shag-carpeted bedroom. It was Christine McVie that set the foundation for over 45 years of Mac fandom for me.

I know I’m not alone in this experience.

While we celebrate all the brilliant songs Christine composed over the course of her career, it should be noted that the Mac songs she wrote and sang on were not the only ones on which she truly shone. Her piano lines in Stevie’s seminal and spectacular “Sara”, literally make the song; Her playing is gorgeous beyond reason. It is one of the band’s three greatest songs ever, and Christine’s contribution was the stardust that made it transcendent. And she did that on a multitude of Mac tracks.

And so a big heartfelt thank you to magical, beautiful genius Christine McVie. Love you Songbird.

Okay, I feel kind of emotional now but we’ve gotta soldier on. I now offer you the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have crossed our path over recent days. It’s pocket-size and positively made for rainswept, repeat listening. Atmospheric-melodic-heavenly stuff awaits you. Hear ’em all below on Soundcloud or Spotify.

Listen on Soundcloud

Listen on Spotify

Weekly New Wonders Playlist #30 of 2022

Part of my routine for finding new music involves doing a weekly scroll through Bandcamp. And while I like getting recommendations from their writers and contributors, I generally prefer to explore the wilds on my own. The amount of stuff uploaded there daily is pretty overwhelming and even if you are only looking through the offerings of a specific genre, it can be hard to know where to start. As for me, I use the most basic human algorithm there is to determine what I’m gonna press play on; the album cover. More often than not, that’s the determining factor over whether I give something a spin.

I am an old-school-album-art lover and my childhood dream was to draw (literally) album covers for a living. And so, I’m kinda partial to actual art. When I see a childhood photograph of the artist opening Xmas presents or wearing a Halloween costume being used as a cover or to represent an album or song, I feel angry. I recoil at the overt attempt to illicit cheap “awwws”. I shudder at the self-absorption. I rage at the laziness. Fuck those album covers. Give me something weirdly beautiful (this). Give me something cheap and disgusting (this). Give me anything but a 5-year-old on vacation in neon-framed sunglasses or wearing a batman outfit. 

Music is not always just about the music; the way it’s presented is part of the experience. I admit my feelings are rooted in the fact that I grew up listening to vinyl albums so that cliched ritual of putting a record on and then analyzing the cover as it played was a foundational experience for me. That experience was even better if the album came with a poster or stickers. These “gifts” never ceased to thrill me. Sliding out a cool poster ( which I ALWAYS hung up) or stickers (which I ALWAYS slapped on my school notebooks and then regretted because they were then “gone forever”) was genuinely exciting to me. It got to a point where I felt cheated if there wasn’t a “present” inside an album ( “what, there’s no poster? Fuck you fill in artist name here“). 

So for me, the outside of an album has always set the table for the music inside. When I see a drawing, painting, sculpture, or cool photo on a Bandcamp page, I’ll usually give the song or album it represents a listen.

Back in 2018, during one of my Bandcamp hikes, I stumbled upon a weirdly magnetic album cover featuring the torso of a reclining Barbie doll with a brain in place of her head. The image was so striking compared to what surrounded it that I instantly wanted to hear the album it represented. The record was called Surgery and it was by Cherophobiac (aka Alexandra Sullivan). 

I couldn’t believe my luck. Surgery was amazing. Sonically, it sat somewhere between the balladic tracks on Radiohead’s exceptional opus Moon Shaped Pool and Laura Nyro at her saddest. Four years have passed since its initial release and its dark, melodic piano-based balladry still sounds freakin’ amazing.

This past week saw the release of an extended video for two songs from Surgery; the title track and “Prayer Hands”. It was created by Olivia Rotante and emanates a gloriously sinister seventies vibe, where the decor is brown, the wives are Stepford-ian and the food is toxically terrifying in its banality. It’s like looking through a blood-stained copy of a Family CircleRedbook, or McCall’s magazine from 1973.  

You can check out the video right here. Come feel the creepy contradiction!

And now please join me in welcoming the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the BEST new songs that have crossed our path in recent weeks. It features two holy-jeezus-are-these-good covers of songs originally done by Paula Cole and The Long Winters as well as lustrous offerings by some sweetly familiar names. Yup, it was just one of those homecoming-type weeks. You can listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify. 

Listen on Soundcloud

Listen on Spotify

Weekly New Wonders Playlist #29 of 2022

Don’t be scared. I’m not about to preach to you. That’s just a ballpoint drawing I did for my Mom recently, featuring what’s probably the millionth sheep I’ve drawn in my life. This is not the first time I’ve drawn J.C. About five years ago I did a pic of him (Him) by request for a friend that featured the actual crucifixion scene. As I don’t know anything about the nuances of the bible, it was a weird depiction. His torso had an enormous tattoo of a tree for one thing. Anyway, I emailed a pic of that one to my Mom and she went nuts. So much so that she had a bunch of photocopies made and started selling them for $10 a pop at her table at the southern flea market where she sells her flipped wares each week. She didn’t tell me she was doing this until after she’d been hawking them for a few weeks. I was disturbed by this. Not because I wanted a cut of the meager profits (FYI: she did pop me a $20 bill once) but because people actually wanted such a cartoony, pseudo-religious, amateurish thing in their homes for maybe prayer purposes. And so here I am gifting-trusting my Mom with her own J.C. to manipulate at her will. Only God (or J.C.) knows what she’s gonna do with it though I wouldn’t mind another $20. Thanks in advance Mom.

Hey, it’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the best new songs that have been launched into the world this week. They are lustrous, smokey, and embraceable in every way and you can hear ’em below on Soundcloud or Spotify.

P.S. I wrote some stuff in honor of Eurythmics induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame this week over at Cover Me. If you love Annie and Dave, and wanna hear some crazy beautiful covers of “Here Comes The Rain Again”, I invite you to check it out here!

Listen on Soundcloud

Listen on Spotify