Monday, July 11, 2016

McQ's Best Of 1967 Mix Collection

Ahhh, 1967.

The absolute peak of the original psychedelic era. A time of profound political turmoil and musical invention that introduced us to the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Captain Beefheart, Leonard Cohen, Moby Grape, Aretha Franklin, Sly And The Family Stone, and The Jefferson Airplane and unleashed upon the world some of the greatest rock albums ever conceived, albums like Forever Changes, Something Else By The Kinks, Buffalo Springfield Again, Are You Experienced?, The Velvet Underground & Nico, and the granddaddy of them all - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

This is something I've wanted to do for years - take my standard approach to year-end mixes, and apply it to a classic rock year of the past,...and I had no doubt that when I finally got around to doing it, I would start with 1967, the year that claims more all-time top 500 singles than any other in rock history.

Simply put, it is my favorite year in rock 'n' roll history, and I can't wait to step back in time with you to rediscover these timeless classics.

So kick back, relax, grab your favorite lysergic, and let's jump into this eight disc look back at one of rock's most momentous years.

As with our contemporary mix collections, we start with a collection of top tracks from the top albums of the year, along with a few of my very favorite singles from the period - minus, of course, whatever Nancy steals for her collection closing mix, which in this case was five songs - Respect, Let's Spend The Night Together, Brown-Eyed Girl, Happy Together, and All Along The Watchtower. But even with Nancy's pulls, this twenty-two song mix still contains 12 tracks in the all-time top 500 (as presently ranked at Includes tracks from Jimi Hendrix, The Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, The Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart, Cream, Love, Buffalo Springfield, Sly & The Family Stone, Procul Harum, The Kinks, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Spencer Davis Group, Moby Grape, The Moody Blues, and of course, The Beatles.

Led by a bevy of Motown and Stax artists and newly ascendent Aretha Franklin, 1967 was just a staggeringly great year in soul, as the twenty-eight tracks here and the additional thirteen soul numbers Nancy pulled for her mix make abundantly clear. Featuring cuts from James Carr, Aretha Franklin, The Four Tops, Joe Tex, James Brown, Brenton Wood, Albert King, Soul Brothers Six, Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, Sam & Dave, Wilson Picket, Soul Survivors, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Dells, and the great Etta James, this mix is tons of fun.

Likewise, the music scene in England was bonkers in 1967, and this mix captures a lot of the best that came forth from that very fertile scene. Features cuts by The Kinks, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Cream, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Traffic, Procol Harum, The Moody Blues, The Who, and The Small Faces.

1967 was also a year rich in exceptional bubblegum pop and charming one-hit wonders, and a lot of the most memorable of those songs are collected here, courtesy of The Beatles, P.P. Arnold, Frankie Vali, Classics IV, The Bee Gees, The Chocolate Watch Band, The Association, The Hollies, The Electric Prunes, The Tremeloes, Dusty Springfield, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, The Tremeloes, The Beach Boys, The Paragons, The Chambers Brothers, 1910 Fruitgum Company, The 5th Dimension, The Human Beinz, and everyone's favorite manufactured pop band - The Monkees.

Volume 5 - Madness Lurks:

Meanwhile, out on the fringes, strikingly unusual and original things were happening. This mix, featuring work from The Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention, 13th Floor Elevators, The Doors, Captain Beefheart, and Pink Floyd profiles the most groundbreaking works of the year, along with the one good track from possibly the worst Rolling Stones album ever.  

Here's the thing about the mythic Summer Of Love, though historically tied to San Francisco, most of the legendary San Francisco acts really hadn't yet hit their stride. The two notable exceptions to that being The Jefferson Airplane, and even more so the mostly forgotten but in some ways still legendary Moby Grape, who quietly dominate this mix (at least the non-Spotify version).  In addition to those two artists, this mix shines a light on works from The Grass Roots, The Buffalo Springfield, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Byrds, Country Joe & The Fish, The Animals, Vanilla Fudge, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Scott McKenzie, The Youngbloods, Big Brother & The Holding Company, and last but not least, that most San Francisco of San Francisco Bands, The Grateful Dead.

When it came to mellower music, 1967 was something of a transitional year, with the initial folk-rolk  surge on the wane and about to give way to the Country-Rock and Singer/Songwriter movements lying in wait just beyond the musical horizon.  This mix aims to capture that state of flux, with songs from Donovan, Scott Walker, Love, Bobbie Gentry, The Lovin' Spoonful, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Tim Hardin, Nico, Tim Buckley, Arlo Guthrie, Bob Dylan and 1967's newest, great lyricist, Leonard Cohen.

Nancy surprised me with her selections for her 1967 mix. I knew she'd gravitate towards the Beatles and Dylan, but I could never have guessed how much she would respond to the bubblegum and soul music of that year. But I shouldn't have been that surprised.  Nancy has always had a great ear for what's "fun," and this final look at 1967 through Nancy's eyes really emphasizes the fun, featuring tracks from Van Morrison, The Box Tops, Sam & Dave, Etta James, The Stoney Poneys, Tommy James & The Shondells, Cat Stevens, The Association, Albert King, James Carr, Aretha Franklin, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Young Rascals, Jimi Hendrix, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Desmond Dekker, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, and yes, even Louis Armstrong...whose ageless classic What A Wonderful World closes everything out.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

McQ's Best Of 2015 Mix Collection

Hey Friends,

Here we go once again, with my annual mix collection celebrating the best I heard in across the full spectrum of popular music in 2015.

As always, each mix is designed to be burnable to a standard 70 mb CD.  Click on the mix titles for additional information about the artists and albums profiled, printable track listings and year-end summaries, links to Amazon, iTunes, and Youtube, and all other sorts of good stuff.


As is now tradition, we start things off with top tracks from my favorite 2015 albums. 

Let's be clear about one thing.  Women weren't just major players in classic/alt-flavored rock this year...they owned it.  Featuring cuts by Courtney Barnett, Sleater-Kinney, Hop Along, Torres, Waxahatchee, Evans The Death, Chelsea Wolf, Screaming Females, Wolf Alice, Speedy Ortiz, Kate Temptest, Dilly Dally, Bully, and Colleen Green...there's nothing groundbreaking in this collection of hard-rocking songs from all-female or female-fronted acts, but the quality level is fantastic throughout.  An easy call for my favorite of this year's themed mixes.

2015 was also very rich in works evoking the singer/songwriter vibe of the late 60s/early-to-mid-70s. Tracks from Sufjan Stevens, Destroyer, Father John Misty, Natalie Prass, Matthew E. White, Ryley Walker, James McMurtry, Tobias Jesso, Jr., Darlingside, Joanna Newsom, and Laura Marling are featured here. 

I hope no one takes offense to this mix's title. I actually stole it in part from the linear notes of D'Angelo's 2014 comeback album Black Messiah, where he stated he couldn't abide by limiting genre labels like blues, gospel, R&B, Funk, and Hip Hop when describing his music...for him, if it's expressing the African-American experience, regardless of the details of sound or song structure, it's Black Music, and it's in this all encompassing, cross-genre, political-minded spirit that this compilation was formed.  Includes tracks from Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi Washington, Ibeyi, Young Fathers, Pusha T, A$AP Rocky, Future, Leon Bridges, Jazmine Sullivan, Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, Algiers, and Dr. Dre.

Volume 5 - Bigger In Britain:

A collection of songs from acts not necessarily from Britain, but whose 2015 efforts were, for the most part, better received overseas than in the states. Those with a taste for Indie-Rock and Brit-Pop will most likely find they like this mix best of the 2015 set.  Includes songs from Bop English, Twerps, The Charlatans, Belle And Sebastian, Blur, Ezra Furman, Algiers, The Mountain Goats, Paul Weller, EL VY, Mini Mansions, Low, Sleaford Mods, Foals, Django Django, and Zun Zun Egui.

Without question, the most shamelessly mainstream, teeny-bopper and soccer mom pleasing mix I have ever put together, structured in three short suites profiling fan favorites in mainstream R&B, Alt-Country, and Tween-Pop/Indie-Pop. Includes tracks From Mark Ronson, The Weeknd, Shamir, Miguel, Rihanna/Kanye West/Paul McCartney, Alessia Cara, Chris Stapleton, Patty Griffin, Kurt Vile, Jason Isbell, Wilco, Adele, Florence + The Machine, Andrew McMahon, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Lana Del Rey.

Representative tracks from the year's best and most interesting chill electronica, shoegaze, art rock, and dream pop efforts are blended here into an often odd but mostly relaxing tonic. Includes contributions from Julia Holter, Ghost Culture, Deerhunter, Panda Bear, Jenny Hval, Floating Points, Bob Moses, Swervedriver, Gwenno, Holly Herndon, Oneohtrix Point Never, Haiku Salut, Beach House, and Bjork.

Easily this year's most challenging and abrasive mix, this assortment of post-punk, garage, hard rock, noise rock, industrial rap, and death metal numbers is nonetheless one of the three or four strongest mixes in this entire collection - at least for those who have the stomach for it.  Includes efforts from Titus Andronicus, Royal High, Beach Slang, METZ, Dungen, Death Grips, Deafheaven, Lightning Bolt, Built To Spill, Viet Cong, Ought, and Protomartyr.

The year's best electro-pop goes here. A decent, easy-to-digest mix, definitely worth a listen, but in truth, it wasn't a stellar year in electro-pop, so overall, I consider this the weakest mix in this year's batch.  Includes tracks from New Order, Grimes, Chvrches, John Grant, Chromatics, Hot Chip, Jamie Xx, Lower Dens, Tame Impala, Hudson Mohawke, and LoneLady.

A celebration of the small font acts that made the 2015 Coachella festival memorable - not as eclectic as these mixes are, given how rock-heavy the line-up was in 2015, but still a nice assortment of youthful and veteran efforts. Include work from Sylvan Esso, St. Lucia, Kasabian, Sturgil Simpson, Alabama Shakes, George Ezra, Hozier, Tame Impala, Royal Blood, Brant Bjork, The Cribs, Joyce Manor, Desaparecidos, Jon Hopkins, The Reverend Horton Heat, Action Bronson, PHOX, The Orwells, The Allah-Las, Joyce Manor, Hozier, Jungle, Eagulls, and Saint Motel.

Everyone's favorite - year in and year out. Curated by my lovely wife Nancy, who gets first pick of all the year's material, I will willingly admit, this is one of the best she's ever put together. Includes tracks from Saint Motel, Bop English, Courtney Barnett, Sleater-Kinney, Waxahatchee, Florence + The Machine, Alabama Shakes, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Leon Bridges, Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, Kamasi Washington, Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists, Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Patty Griffin, Tobias Jesso, Jr., Adele and Miguel.

Monday, February 22, 2016

McQ's Favorite Songs Of 2015

The 2015 year-end mixes are still a few months off, but Nancy and I have begun working to identify her selections, and two things have become crystal clear - we love a lot of the same tracks this year, and she is going to absolutely decimate my preliminary version of Vol. 1 - Best Of The Best.

So before she sticks her claws in and claims most of these tracks as her own, and as a taste of great things to come, thought I'd post my original version here!

Barring a couple of omissions, and mix closer Times Square by Destroyer which isn't available right now on Spotify, these are without question the songs that impressed me most in 2015. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

McQ's Favorite Albums Of The 2010s So Far (Top 152)

So decided to take a first stab at my favorites from the decade to date, here's what I got.

A lot of great music so far!

Highest Recommends
1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - Kanye West
2. The Seer - Swans
3. Benji - Sun Kil Moon
4. Let England Shake - PJ Harvey
5. To Be Kind - Swans
6. High Violet - The National
7. The ArchAndroid - Janelle Monae
8. This Is Happening - LCD Soundsystem
9. Kaputt - Destroyer
10. Trouble Will Find Me - The National
11. Singles - Future Islands
12. Whokill - tUnE-yArDs
13. Lost In The Dream - The War On Drugs
14. No Cities To Love - Sleater-Kinney
15. Sometimes I Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit - Courtney Barnett
16. Push The Sky Away - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
17. Light Up Gold - Parquet Courts
18. The Suburbs - Arcade Fire
19. Hadestown - Anais Mitchell
20. I Love You, Honeybear - Father John Misty
21. Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City - Kendrick Lamar
22. The Epic - Kamasi Washington
23. To Pimp A Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar

Strong Recommends
24. Europe - Allo' Darlin
25. Scandalous - Black Joe Lewis And The Honeybears
26. El Camino - The Black Keys
27. WIXIW - Liars
28. Southeastern - Jason Isbell
29. Past Life Martyred Saints - EMA
30. Hurry Up,We're Dreaming - M83
31. Locked Down - Dr. John
32. Poison Season - Destroyer
33. St. Vincent
34. Young Man In America - Anais Mitchell
35. The Money Store - Death Grips
36. Channel Orange - Frank Ocean
37. Carrie And Lowell - Sufjan Stevens
38. Modern Vampires Of The City - Vampire Weekend
39. Sunbather - Deafheaven
40. Celebration Rock - Japandroids
41. The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas - Courtney Barnett
42. Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything - Thee Silver Mount Zion Orchestra
43. Heal - Stand Of Oaks
44. In Colour - Jamie Xx
45. Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son Of Chico Dusty - Big Boi
46. There Is Love In You - Four Tet
47. The Monitor - Titus Andronicus
48. I'm New Here - Gil Scott Heron
49. Open Your Heart - The Men
50. 21 - Adele
51. Build A Rocket, Boys! - Elbow
52. Mirror Traffic - Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
53. Odd Blood - Yeasayer
54. Public Strain - Women
55. Halcyon Digest - Deerhunter
56. Body Talk - Robyn
57. Zonoscope - Cut//Copy
58. Smother - Wild Beasts
59. Viet Cong
60. Yuck
61. Burst Apart - The Antlers
62. Cosmogramma - Flying Lotus
63. Total Life Forever - Foals
64. Carrion Crawler/The Dream Double EP - Thee Oh Sees
65. Cancer For Cure - El-P
66. Kill For Love - The Chromatics
67. An Awesome Wave - Alt-J
68. The Future's Void - EMA
69. Wounded Rhymes - Lykke Li
70. Visions - Grimes
71. Ravedeath, 1972 - Tim Hecker
72. Present Tense - Wild Beasts
73. The Idler Wheel... - Fiona Apple
74. They Want My Soul - Spoon
75. Run The Jewels II
76. Vulnicura - Bjork
77. Grinderman II
78. Treats - Sleigh Bells
79. House Of Balloons - The Weeknd
80. Making Mirrors - Gotye
81. True Love Cast Out All Evil - Roky Erickson And Okkervil River
82. Wild Flag
83. The Wild Hunt - The Tallest Man On Earth
84. Helplessness Blues - Fleet Foxes
85. Are We There? - Sharon Van Etten
86. Crystal Castles (2010)

Solid Recommends
87. New Moon - The Men
88. Mines - Menomena
89. Psychic - DARKSIDE
90. Woman - Rhye
91. Holy Fire - Foals
92. The Silver Gymnasium - Okkervil River
93. Blank Project - Neneh Cherry
94. Moms - Menomena
95. The Lion's Roar - First Aid Kit
96. In Evening Air - Future Islands
97. Attack On Memory - Cloud Nothings
98. Howlin' - Jagwar Ma
99. Silence Yourselves - Savages
100. Mess - Liars
101. Familiars - Antlers
102. Nine Types Of Light - TV On The Radio
103. Blood Pressures - The Kills
104. Avi Buffalo
105. The Whole Love - Wilco
106. Teen Dream - Beach House
107. End Of Daze EP - Dum Dum Girls
108. The Sea - Corrine Bailey Rae
109. Plastic Beach - Gorillaz
110. Brothers - The Black Keys
111. Once I Was An Eagle - Laura Marling
112. Dream River - Bill Callahan
113. Black Messiah - D'Angelo
114. American Kid - Patty Griffin
115. Lonerism - Tame Impala
116. Goon - Tobias Jesso, Jr.
117. Skying - The Horrors
118. David Comes To Life - Fucked Up
119. IRM - Charlotte Gainsbourg
120. Painted Shut - Hop Along
121. Pearl Mystic - Hookworms
122. The Bright Lights EP - Gary Clark Jr.
123. Ones And Sixes - Low
124. Rips - Ex-Hex
125. The Way Out - The Books
126. Forgiveness Rock Record - Broken Social Scene
127. Ghostory - Schooll Of Seven Bells
128. Excavation - The Haxan Cloak
129. The Hum - Hookworms
130. Space Is Only Noise - Nicholas Jarr
131. Bon Iver
132. Random Access Memories - Daft Punk
133. Immunity - Jon Hopkins
134. Kiss Each Other Clean - Iron & Wine
135. The Most Lamentable Tragedy - Titus Andronicus
136. The Magic Whip - Blur
137. Bad As Me - Tom Waits
138. Within And Without -Washed Out
139. Shields - Grizzy Bear
140. Allelujah! Don't Bend...Ascend! - Godspeed You! Black Emperor
141. Bisch Bosch - Scott Walker
142. Too True - The Dum Dum Girls
143. R.A.P. Music - Killer Mike
144. MCII - Mikal Cronin
145. The Worse Things Get... - Neko Case
146. The Bones Of What You Believe - Chvrches
147. Shaking The Habitual - The Knife
148. Atlas - Real Estate
149. Yeezus - Kanye West
150. Reflektor - Arcade Fire
151. Natalie Prass
152. More Than Any Other Day - Ought

Sunday, October 25, 2015

McQ's Favorite Albums Of 2015

2015 has been an interesting year so far, top heavy in quality albums but boasting very little depth, and dynamite in a few specific niches - excellent for jazz inflected hip-hop, female fronted rock, retro-singer-songwriter fair, and intensely thematic concept albums - but offering far less stylistic variety than one has become accustomed to seeing each year in this post-aughts era.

Updated 03.10.16

Highest Recommends
1. Sometimes I Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit - Courtney Barnett
2. No Cities To Love - Sleater-Kinney
3. I Love You, Honeybear - Father John Misty
4. The Epic - Kamasi Washington
5. To Pimp A Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar

Strong Recommends
6. Carrie And Lowell - Sufjan Stevens
7. In Colour - Jamie Xx
8. Poison Season - Destroyer
9. Viet Cong
10. Vulnicura - Bjork

Solid Recommends
11. Goon - Tobias Jesso, Jr.
12. Painted Shut - Hop Along
13. High - Royal Headache
14. Art Angels - Grimes
15. Have You In My Wilderness - Julia Holter
16. Days Gone By - Bob Moses
17. Ones And Sixes - Low
18. Music Complete - New Order
19. Natalie Prass
20. Something More Than Free - Jason Isbell
21. Rachet - Shamir
22. Algiers
23. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful - Florence + The Machine
24. Ivy Trip - Waxahatchee
25. What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World - The Decemberists
26. New Bermuda - Deafheaven
27. From Kinisha - Mbongwana Star
28. Constant Bop - Bop English
29. Platform - Holly Herndon
30. White Men Are Black Men Too - Young Fathers
31. The Most Lamentable Tragedy - Titus Andronicus
32. Elaenia - Floating Points
33. Hinterland - LoneLady
34. The Powers That B - Death Grips
35. Summertime '06 - Vince Staples
36. Perpetual Motion People - Ezra Furman
37. The Magic Whip - Blur
38. Surf - Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment
39. Wildheart - Miguel
40. Rose Mountain - Screaming Females
41. Sound & Color - Alabama Shakes
42. The Agent Intellect - Protomartyr
43. Reality Show - Jazmine Sullivan
44. Divers - Joanna Newsom
45. Fading Frontier - Deerhunter
46. Primrose Green - Ryley Walker
47. Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress - Godspeed You! Black Emperor
48. Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper
49. Garden Of Delete - Oneohtrix Point Never

Mild Recommends
50. Sprinter - Torres
51. Y Dydd Olaf - Gwenno
52. 25 - Adele
53. Believe I'm Going Down - Kurt Vile
54. Return To The Moon - El Vy
55. What Went Down - Foals
56. Star Wars - Wilco
57. Feels Like - Bully
58. Apocalypse Girl - Jenny Hval
59. Every Eye Open - Chvrches
60. Multi-Love - Unknown Mortal Orchestra
61. Compton - Dr. Dre
62. Darlingside
63. Sun Coming Down - Ought
64. King Push-Darkest Before Dawn:The Prelude - Pusha T
65. I Wasn't Born To Lose You - Swervedriver
66. Foil Deer - Speedy Ortiz
67. Escape From Evil - Lower Dens
68. Key Markets - Sleaford Mods
69. Things We Do To Find People - Beach Slang
70. Servent Of Love - Patty Griffin
71. Currents - Tame Impala
72. Range Anxiety - Twerps
73. Honeymoon - Lana Del Rey
74. Shackles Gift - Zun Zun Egul
75. Choose Your Weapon - Hiatus Kayote
76. Dirty Sprite 2 - Future
77. Holding Hands With Jamie - Girl Band

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Uncle Steve's All Time Favs!

Here's a treat, a guest playlist of all time favorites from one of my all time favorite people, my fantastic brother-in-law Steve! Encompassing a killer mix of classic rock standards and contemporary gems, there's hours of listening pleasure to be found in this wonderfully curated collection.

Thanks Steve!

Saturday, May 9, 2015


The Mobile Butterfly: Coachella 2015's most enduring art exhibit!
Let’s start with a truism – all reviews are subjective - and with a mega-fest like Coachella, that subjectivity is further limited by the fact that at best, any one individual can only witness about one-fourth of the total musical experience.  

But out of multiple reviews, hopefully a more complete picture grows, so here are my down and dirty thoughts on what I caught Week 2 of Coachella 2015, my 8th consecutive year in attendance.


1. AC/DC - An unexpected but in retrospect perfect old-timer headlining choice - the band couldn't have sounded better, brought out all of their arena show production tricks, and while Brian Johnson may have lost a step (though he's lost nothing with his voice), Angus remains a spry little elf whose gymnastic grounds crossing solos proved endlessly entertaining. Possibly the greatest big dumb rock band of all time did not disappoint.  Nigel Tufnel would have been nothing but proud!

2. STEELY DAN - Sure, there's a reason these guys came up as studio musicians...Walter Becker may look like a nerdy Pixar animator, and watching Donald Fagen live at the piano is like watching a troubling Randy Newman/Ray Charles lab experiment gone wrong - but damn, can these guys play, and their hour long set included almost all of their biggest songs. At a festival renown for it's great sound, this was the best sounding set of all.

3. SWANS - Fifty-five minutes is for too short for a proper Swans set, arguably the best live band in the world at the moment...but the post rock legends still brought their A+ game, thrilling with thirty minute opener Frankie M, the opening moments of To Be Kind's Bring The Sun, and an astounding rendition of another new track Black Hole Man.

4. ST. VINCENT - Annie Clark's transformation over the years from compelling Heroin-chic indie belle to Bowie caliber freakazoid has been amazing to watch, and she was in absolute command for this electric, whacked-out fifty minute set drawing heavily from latest and best album, the self-titled St. Vincent

5. LYKKE LI - Always an intense, riveting performer, this swedish indie-pop goddess probably delivered the best orchestrated front-to-back set of the weekend, starting with latest album I Never Learn's quieter songs of heartbreak before crescendoing with massive performances of previous album Wound Rhyme's garage-y rockers Rich Kid Blues and Get Some.

Honorable Mentions: Brant Bjork And The Low Desert Punk Band, The War On Drugs, Caribou, Parquet Courts, St. Paul And The Broken Bones, Royal Blood, Kasabian, Sloan, Saint Motel, Florence + the Machine.


1. SUN - CARIBOU - The single most massive moment I've experienced a Coachella since Sigur Ros ' Saturday night closer two years back in 2013.  Always an elite master of volume manipulation - words just do not do justice to how explosive this simple, repetitive closing number played.

2. CLUB FOOT - KASABIAN - Talk about raising the roof - best crowd energy at any moment of the festival.

3. BLACK HOLE MAN - SWANS - already mentioned. Amazing song.

4. LET THERE BE ROCK - AC/DC - The Angus guitar solo that wouldn't end and crossed the grounds.  Solo started with Angus on stage, continued as he moved over to a levitating platform 200 feet deep in the audience, then kept going as he ran back stage then continued soloing from the roof of their set as fire cannons burst all around him - the jam had to have gone on for 12-15 minutes and never wavered. The type of literal and figurative live fireworks you just don't get from today's younger musicians.

5. GET SOME - LYKKE LI - Another track that just swelled to epic portions before it concluded.  Fabulous set closer.

Honorable Mentions: Low Desert Punk - Brant Bjork, Fergus Gallery - Allah-Las, Seagull/Vapour Trail - Ride, Eyes To The Wind - The War On Drugs, I Never Learn - Lykke Li, Aja/Reelin' In The Years - Steely Dan, Back In Black - AC/DC, Borrowed Time - Parquet Courts, Figure It Out - Royal Blood, Busy Earnin'/Time - Jungle, Doorbell - Jack White, Type - Saint Motel, Carry The Zero - Built To Spill, Wrecking Ball - Ryan Adams, Huey Newton/Your Lips Are Red - St. Vincent, Cosmic Love - Florence + The Machine.

And now for the each day's action in a little more detail!

Steely Dan delivers a bucket list performance Friday Night on the Outdoor!

Friday got off to a satisfying but unspectacular start.  Only the sparsely attended 12:55 pm Outdoor Theatre set from former Kyuss drummer Brandt Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band delivered A+ fireworks.  And unfortunately after seeing just his two incendiary opening songs, I left to catch a bit of the slightly disappointing Eagulls, who let the drone in their drone heavy post-punk songs  overpower their otherwise solid set.

Earlier that day, Los Rakas kicked things off to a spirited start with their energetic, Latin hip hop, and the Sean Lennon-fronted The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger delivered some tasty Revolver/Tame Impala flavored psychedelia.  Britian’s Ruen Brothers were less effective, with their Elvis impersonator-like vocals marring an otherwise well performed set.

Amoeba records product the Allah-Las were second best of the early daytime acts.  Their 60s garage rock isn’t exactly high energy, but they have that early Stones/Animals sound down cold, and actually have a some very accomplished songs too boot.  Enjoyed their set quite a bit.  The Reverend Horton Heat did his thing a touch earlier in the Mojave, but can’t say I was blown away…it was a well rendered pyschobilly set – nothing more, nothing less. Rounding out Saturday was an absolutely dreadful Ab-Soul (worst rap beats I’ve ever heard live), and a  slightly disappointing Charles Bradley – who while solid didn’t quite deliver the ecstatic soul highlights of previous Coachella soul acts like Vintage Trouble, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, and Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings.  Still, it was great to see this lifer whose career finally broke for him so late in the game get his moment in the spotlight.

After a break for dinner, Friday picked up big time, and ended up being one of my favorite eight hour stretches of any year of the festival. 

English shoe gazers Ride starter things off with a fine late afternoon Gobi set that got a little flat in the middle but was marvelously bookended by Nowhere tracks Seagull and Vapour TrailsThe War On Drugs took things to the next level with their 6:05 mainstage set, with Lost In A Dream cut Eyes Against The Wind's long instrumental wind down just the perfect accompaniment to the sun setting behind the mountains.  From there, Friday night only got better…after a couple of tasty songs from blues rockers Alabama Shakes, it was off to the Mojave, where Lykke Li delivered what I've already mentioned as the 2015 fest's best sequence set…her singer-songwriter cuts from latest album I Never Learn played much larger and more dynamic live than on record, then gave way to the increasingly awesome garage rockers that dominate her second and best release Wounded Rhymes. She’s been scaling back on performances this year…but after this show, I would see her again in a heart beat.

Things got better still as we moved to the aforementioned Outdoor Theatre set by Steely Dan. All I can say is what a treat, from a band I never thought I'd see in my lifetime…No Rikki or Do It Again, but they played just about everything else I most wanted to hear, and their take on the full ten minute version of Aja was to die for.

After that, things got electronic.  First, the end of Caribou…only caught one song, Sun, but as I already said, the best single song performance of the entire festival.  An unforgettable performance.  Todd Terje followed with a funky rendition of his playful debut It’s Album Time, performed with live accompaniment almost straight in sequence.  No Bryan Ferry guest appearance for Frankie and Johnny as in Week 1, but still a fine dance/electronic set.

Finally, it was time for AC/DC, who acquitted themselves like the absolute veteran pros they are…delivering crystal clear, spot on performances of all their biggest hits.  It’s funny, I was a teenager when they broke out in the 80s, and I thought they were just a dumb hard rock band at the time.  I still think that, but the years have been very kind to their music, and in retrospect, thought formulaic, it’s a formula that just works. Angus in particular was in fine form (see my Let There Be Rock comments above)…Probably one of the 10-15 sets I’ve ever seen at Coachella, and the best headlining set since the Stone Roses/Blur double bill back in 2013.  A great way to end the night.


Swans kills in Saturday's finest set!
Prior to arrival, Saturday, the most rock heavy day on the lineup, seemed a sure bet to be my favorite,  but due to a number of slightly disappointing sets and a comparable lack of stylistic variety (much the result of my own set choices, admittedly), it ended up being my least favorite day of the 2015.

That said, teenage African-American sibling punk trio Radkey got things off to a fun start with a enthusiastic and impressively polished (given the band’s age) Ramones-like set.

Until The Ribbon Breaks, an up-and-coming electro-soul act provided no such thrills. This is the market dominant/overplayed genre of the moment, and this band showed no advancement on the form, instead they just seemed like another act jumping on the "what sells today" bandwagon. To their defense, I only stayed for about ten minutes, but those ten minutes I did see were among the dullest ten minutes I caught all day.

PHOX on the other hand, was wonderful.  It’s funny how as the years pass and different genres come to dominate the lineup, one gets sick of them at their peak as they overpopulate the schedule, but as they drift out of vogue, and make up a smaller portion of the bill, as richly instrumented indie and hard rock do now, they begin to sound absolutely essential. Wisconsin's  PHOX was one of just a few pure indie-sounding acts, and I found myself loving the density of their instrumentation and lead singer Monica Martin's voice.  UK Synth-rock anthem-ers COASTS brought things back to more familiar 2015 territory.  Their set was well performed, but I can't say I found their music to be anything more than guilty pleasure generic.  Ditto for Americana act Jamestown Revival

Then it was time for the day’s first high-priority act, Brooklyn’s highly adventurous art-punkers  Parquet Courts. This was one of my favorite sets of the day, but it should have been better. Not through any fault of the band, but because Goldenvoice was a year late to this party.  When a young band delivers a Top 50 of decade caliber album as Parquet Courts did in late 2013 with Light Up Gold…you don’t wait for the next release,  you book them on the spot.  But Coachella did wait, and two decent but lesser releases later, when the band finally shows up, it’s with a significantly diminished set list. Which is a shame, because while Ducking and Dodging, Pretty Machines, Bodies Made of and a few of their more recent other songs are all solid, they were no match live for the one two punch of Light Up Gold openers Master Of My Craft and Borrowed Time – two of the days best single song performances – to think if they had been booked the previous year that set list would have also included Stoned And Starving, Donuts Only, North Dakota and Tears O’Plenty only brings frustration over how great it could have been.  Regardless, this was still one of the day’s best sets.

St. Paul And The Broken Bones were even better– a white soul act fronted by a pudgy, bespectacled Harry Carry look-alike who is nonetheless a wowzer of a front man, armed with a voice to rival Otis Redding or Al Green.  Just a great tear down the roof soul set – exactly what I had hoped Charles Bradley would be the day before.

British drums and bass due Royal Blood kept the fireworks going with an overpowering, Zeppish set – hits Figure It Out and Little Monster were fantastic – and the rest of their tracks played equally huge.  These guys feel destined, along with St. Paul and Sunday’s Saint Motel, to be placing their names much higher on the poster in upcoming years.

After that it was punk legends Bad Religion,  quite good in the 30 minutes I caught (though a little of their always the same sounding catalog goes a long way), and Jack White protege, African-American garage rocker Benjamin Booker, who was solid, but underwhelming when compared to what Parquet Courts, St. Paul, Royal Blood, and Bad Religion had laid down the previous two hours.

U.K.  electro-soul act Jungle closed out the daytime hours in fine fashion.  They’ve got an interesting take on the genre, driven by group harmonies rather than a dynamic front person, and for the first two-thirds of their set, this was a slight issue.  Staged with their four vocalists side-by-side up front, there was little room for the band members to move around, making for a fairly static set, but towards the end, when they hit their best songs, especially the closing double whammy of Busy Earnin’ into Time, none of that mattered. The vibe in the tent became electric.  One of the day’s best moments.

Following Jungle, I caught a couple of minutes of Belle & Sebastian on the Outdoor (whom I had seen in a full a few days earlier in a delightful set at the Fox Theatre, Pomona, California, performance), then it was off for sudden rap superstars Run The Jewels in the Mojave. I’ve been tracking on this act since their inception, and after seeing act member Jamie Meline play Coachella twice before to near empty tents, once with his ground breaking 90s act Company Flow, and again under his solo moniker El-P in 2013, it was great to see him playing in front of a packed, enthusiastic tent.  But I can’t say I loved the show.  Jamie and Killer Mike had great energy, and their rapping was first rate, but the mix in the tent was way too heavily weighted towards the vocals…to the point where the beats were all but non-existent, a shame since their beats are fantastic.  Still a solid performance, and the fans seemed to love it.

I only caught about 20 minutes of Alt-J, a middle portion of the set that started with their latest album’s best track Left Hand Free, and ended for me with their first album’s best track Tessellate.  Bathed in neon green lights, the band was hard to see, but no matter…Alt-J is an "all about the sound" type of band, and though a very interesting act to put on the mainstage at this time of night, given how quiet much of their music is, their sound was fantastic in that way only the Coachella Mainstage on a calm desert night can deliver.

British dance-rock superstars Kasabian were up next, delivering their propulsive update on the Stone Roses’ classic paisley Madchester sound, and they were freakin' fantastic…one of the weekends true peaks. A Glastonbury-caliber headliner back in the U.K., their ability to overwhelm a crowd was blatantly apparent, and by the time they hit their all-time best track Club Foot midway through their set, the crowd was ecstatic.  Not sure why they haven’t caught on in the states, other than that they are a rock act in an era where America’s youth doesn’t listen to rock acts, but if you get a chance to see them at a festival this year…do not skip their set. This band just knows how to thrill on stage.

From a 2015 peak to one of the weekend’s biggest disappointments: Jack White’s Saturday night headlining set. 

To his credit, Jack came out gun’s blazing,, opening with a hard rocking cover of Elvis Presley’s Power Of My Love then segueing into the jammy instrumental High Ball Stepper.  But the fitful, stuttering, stop-and-start nature of High Ball Stepper would prove to be the defining characteristic of the entire show. Until main set closer My Doorbell, it felt like no song was allowed to just play, every song had to break off every minute into some instrumental detour. Many people I spoke to afterwards loved it, but for myself and my friends, the show never developed any sort of momentum, and the endless instrumental breakdowns grew increasingly tedious as the show went on despite the abundant talent of the players on stage. Things got more streamlined during the encore, which included Fell In Love With A Girl, Steady As She Goes, Sixteen Saltines, Ball and Biscuit, and Seven Nation Army, and it was easily the best part of the show, just not enough to fully overcome the negative impressions that had been forged over the eighty minutes prior.

Following Jack White, I closed the night with the back-to-back extremism of 90s hardcore legends Drive Like Jehu and overpowering post-rock gods Swans. Both shows were sparsely attended…just a few hundred at each.  Jehu was decent but unspectacular.  Swans were staggeringly good, despite some withering, Whiplash-style nastiness band leader/crazy person Michael Gira was throwing at pedal steel guitarist Christoph Hahn after Hahn ran off stage early to grab the stool the roadies had forgot to put out for him.  Only time for two and a half songs – Frankie M, the opening few moments of Bring The Sun, and then an amazing Black Hole Man, but it was without question the best set of the day and a riveting way to end the night.

St. Vincent's Annie Clark takes weird to new heights in Sunday's best set!

Despite being arguably the lest impressive day on paper, Sunday 2015 proved to be quite a winner, particularly during the early hours, which delivered a number of excellent performances with a wonderful eclectic flow.

Canadian veteran power poppers Sloan jump started the day with the best opening set of the weekend. I’m not that familiar with their music, so don’t remember the song titles, but there was a three song stretch smack dab in the middle of their forty minute set that just killed.  Bottom line, as I’ve said in years past, never sleep on the old timers – experience counts.

Sometimes - next up was Blake Sennett of Rilo Kiley’s latest project Night Terrors of 1927, another anthem-y, slightly 80s leaning act like Coasts the day before.  Also like Coasts, the performances were impressive, but in service of songs that didn’t wow. After catching a few tracks, I moved on…to much better things.

Chicano Batman, a hard to pin down Mexican act that combines elements of Mariachi, garage, psychedelia, jazz, and folk were loose and chill – a great way to kill a few minutes in the early outdoor sun, and then Chapman College’s young Saint Motel were nothing short of awesome.  Blending a Franz Ferdinand-ish approach with old time Cuban/Caribbean/Tropicalia accents, the performed their joyous music with the assistance of six costumed dancers.  The entire set was just loads of fun, and by the time the band closed with their massive single Type, the small but enthusiastic crowd was ecstatic.  Another one of the week's best shows.

Following that – I scrambled over to catch what was left of Angel Olsen’s set. The answer, not much, and her closing with White Fire, my least favorite track off of her breakthrough LP Burn Your Fire For No Witness, was a slight disappointment. But her voice was amazing, probably the finest to grace the fields this year…so still a very solid set.

Two very young (just out of their teens) impressive punk/garage acts were up next – Torrance California’s Joyce Manor on the Outdoor, and suburban Chicago act The Orwells on the Main Stage. The Orwells, with their Black Lips bad-boy vibe and devil-may-care front man Mario Cuomo, seem to have the higher commercial upside, and were a lot of fun in their best moments,  but Joyce was the better of the two acts on this day…tighter, more consistent…in truth it was a very a strong performance for an act this young. Maybe the fact they were playing in front of a huge contingent of their neighborhood friends had something to do with it.

Panda Bear was a nice chill-out alternative following.  I’ve never been a huge fan of his or Animal Collective’s noodle-y electro-pychedelia, and watching a non-emotive singer standing like a statue at a sequencer for forty minutes is hardly my idea of live performance fun, but I have to admit, on this day, I found his set pleasant and relaxing, and really got into the trippy videos he had playing behind him.

Emerging country-superstar Sturgil Simpson was Coachella’s one country crossover act.  Hope he drew a much larger crowd the following week at Stagecoach…because while his Coachella crowd was meager, he was quite good, showing a versatile command of a number of country/bluegrass styles.  His uptempo numbers in particular played strong.

Built To Spill was my first of only two must sees Sunday. Always a fan of their recorded output, I’d never seen them before…but I can’t say they wowed.   Carry The Zero was awesome, it's ending jam pure bliss, and a few other killer instrumental breaks peppered the set…but overall, this one felt a little sleepy and uninspired, an effect that was amplified when they chose to close this weekend with Randy Describes Eternity instead of my all time BTS favorite Goin’ Against My Mind, which they had played the week before.

Jon Talabot justified my one foray into this year’s version of the Yuma tent. I'm a fan of him on record, but he was playing purely for the dance crowd here...just grooves, not songs…so only stuck it out for about fifteen minutes.

Jenny Lewis proved to be a pleasant enough set as the sun started to fade, working a cross of material from her solo and Rilo Kiley output. Then England's The Cribs proved to be one punk act too many for me – wasn’t in the mood for any more straight ahead bar chord rock. I stuck around for about 25 minutes, but couldn’t get into it.

Ryan Adams on the Outdoor under the last wisps of daylight proved to be the perfect antidote – one of my favorite sets of the day – especially on new ballad Wrecking Ball, which was just gorgeously rendered.  Had a fun call out to the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir also, who was watching from the sound booth.  (A move Adam’s apologized for a few minutes later after half the crowd turned around and started snapping pictures).

Following Ryan it was off for one of the weekend’s weakest sets, courtesy of Radiohead drummer Philip Selway, making a rare trip to the front of the stage.  Gotta think this booking was 90% about retaining good will with the band to secure a third Radiohead headlining slot in next year or two…cause as a front man, Philip makes a very good drummer. Would have been perfectly fine at a local coffee house, but by Coachella standards....

Sunday closed with a fine pair of female-fronted acts – St. Vincent, and the recently hobbled Florence + the Machine (Flo had broken her foot jumping from the main stage the week before.) St. Vincent killed it.  I’ve seen her all three times she’s come to Coachella, and her transformation from intriguing, strong voiced ingenue to the commanding, guitar shredding, Bowie-esque freak that took the stage this night is astonishing.  Working primarily from latest, fourth, and best LP, the self-titled St. Vincent, St. V was a tiny-stepping joy to watch start to finish. Easily the day’s best set.

Florence followed with a modified acoustic set to play more to her immobile status, and right away, I could tell this was going to be a much better show than her Outdoor closing set of 2012. I think being made to sit forced the super energetic performer to focus on her singing…prone to pitchiness, I’ve never heard her in better voice.  Though scheduled for only 30 minutes, she ended up going a full forty-five, including a duet of Gram Parsons Love Hurts with guest Father John Misty.  All in all a fitting end for my 2015 version of the the festival.

Actually, I stuck around for Drake, but he was so dreadful I refuse to consider him as the festival's final act.  In all seriousness…in my eight years of attending, there has never been a worse headlining performance.  As mailed in as mailed in gets.

And that's it for 2015 - if you were there, and have anything to add...please feel free to comment below.
Coachella 2015 nears the end! Another fine edition to the festivals legendary history!