Jesse Valencia

16 Songs to Kick Off 2016

Jesse Valencia burns you a mixtape for your early 2016. Enjoy.


Jesse Valencia’s January 2016 Playlist On Spotify

Being caught up in various projects over the past couple of years, I’ve neglected my old habit of seeking new music. It’s time to change that. So, I put my feelers out and found some great songs to kick off 2016 with. Consider my new music search a 2016 “resolution in progress,” like quitting smoking or exercising more. Or eating fewer cheeseburgers. This is all shit I’ve found that I like, so if it bears any resemblance to someone else’s list then that someone better pay up because that fucker stole it from me. Also, I take back what I said about cheeseburgers.


  1. “Chasing Shadows” – Santigold

Santigold’s voice is like melted butter being poured into my ears. That sounds gross, but it’s true. The way she builds melodies and guides them around the core beat and melody in this track is impressive. When a song is enough to guide you to your own imagination, to your own daydream of how the artist looks singing it, then you know you’ve got something. Now put layers of meaning behind that. Now make it hip. That’s Santigold kicking off your 2016.

Santigold – Chasing Shadows


  1. “King of the World” – Weezer

This might be the best single Weezer has put out this decade. The guitars remind me of “Undone” or “Only In Dreams” from the Blue Album, and the bridge is more reminiscent of Pinkerton, to which most old-school Weezer fans will say “fucking finally!” They’ve been trying to recapture that energy for years and failing hard, despite somehow maintaining relevance. Their most recent output has indicated some sort of return to form, but it has fallen short until now. Perhaps the White Album, due out in the spring, will at last deliver the nerd rock gold longtime Weezer fans have heard only in dreams. (See what I did there?)

Weezer – King of the World


  1. “I Hate the Weekend” – TacoCat

Somewhere between The Ramones and The Go-Gos roars Tacocat, and Tacocat is the shit. I can’t recall hearing American pop punk this cool in years. A four-piece from Seattle. After digging a little deeper I’ve found this band has a knack for crafting anthemic melodies on a consistent basis. The perfect house party band. It’s catchy, it’s ballsy, it’s sweaty. I love how much energy is in this track.

Tacocat – I Hate the Weekend


  1. “Catman” – Yoko Ono (feat. Miike Snow)

Speaking of cats, I am quite fond of Miike Snow’s remix of Yoko Ono’s ‘Catman’, originally released in 1973 on her Approximately Infinite Universe record. The original was weird, but this one is even weirder, which is a big reason why I like it so much. The mix is a far step away from the aesthetic of the original but still works. Maybe even better. Love her or hate her, you can’t deny Yoko is an artist of her own merits.

Yoko Ono with Miike Snow – Catman


  1. “Do the R” – Skip Skip Ben Ben

From new album Mirror in Mirror, “Do the R” is the latest dreamy, funkadelic groove from Taiwan’s Skip Skip Ben Ben. East Asia has one of the most exciting music scenes right now, so do yourself a favor and check this and other artists out from that scene, namely Birdstriking, Chui Wan, and Dear Eloise. The best resource for access is Far Out Distant Sounds.

Skip Skip Ben Ben – 腦中的運動


  1. “Bad Habits” – The Last Shadow Puppets

Miles Kane and Alex Turner make as much sense as Batman and Superman. Not the shitty movie about to come out, but the idea of the team-up itself. They’re like a mod rock n’ roll Simon and Garfunkel. Or something. The grit and teeth delivered in this track gives me hope that the new TLSP record will be a bit harder than The Age of the Understatement but with as much imagination. Cheers, mates.

The Last Shadow Puppets – Bad Habits


  1. “You Are Killing Me” – The Dandy Warhols

Not unlike Weezer, my pals The Dandy Warhols have also got their mojo back. Not that they ever lost it, but new single “You Are Killing Me” proves the Portland-based rockers can still craft punchy jams (also, see last year’s “Chauncey P vs All the Girls in London”) on the level of their best known hits. The band recently signed to Dine Alone Records, who don’t fuck around when it comes to putting out great records, so expect something excellent from The Dandys in the very near future.

The Dandy Warhols – You Are Killing Me


  1. “Lazarus” – David Bowie

No “Best Music of 2016” list would be complete without mentioning recently deceased demigod David Bowie. He wrote his own eulogy with this track, also evidenced by the video, but don’t let it get you down. The sounds Bowie mined on this and the rest of the Blackstar record will have far-reaching influence. Just listen to that saxophone. Bowie is forever.

David Bowie – Lazarus


  1. “Gypsy Caravan” – Wolfmother

A bit of a ripoff of “Helter Skelter” in the verses, but pumping nonetheless. Definite head-bobber. Fuzzy overdrive. Rolling drums. Stoner metal riffs. Spliff-powered solo. Wolfmother are on track to make 2016 their bitch.

Wolfmother – Gypsy Caravan


  1. “Everything it Takes” – Loretta Lynn and Elvis Costello

Loretta Lynn is still sexy as hell at 83 and Full Circle, her first record since 2004’s Van Lear Rose, is going to take the whole contemporary shitty twang-pop “country” music of the modern era to school. I’m happy to hear Jack White had nothing to do with this one, or I hope that’s the case, though I appreciate his hand in revamping Ms. Lynn’s career over a decade ago. The record purportedly features an appearance by another country legend, Willie Nelson, and as a big Willie fan I’m looking forward to that. This song features Elvis Costello, some effective but subtle slapback on the bass, and gorgeous slide guitar.

Loretta Lynn – Everything it Takes


  1. “Memory” – Violent Femmes

The fucking Violent Femmes are back! More than that, they sound like they haven’t aged a day. Their new record We Can Do Anything is out in March, their first since 2000’s Freak Magnet. This jam sounds like a good old-fashioned three-chord pub rocker. Raise a glass and sing.

Violent Femmes – Memory


  1. “Gardenia” – Iggy Pop

I love the chorus and delay on the guitar and, being a huge Arctic Monkeys fan as always, I love Matt Helders’ drumming. The stutter effect during the chorus is trippy, as expected from Josh Homme’s production. Pop’s vocal stylings on “Gardenia” remind me something of Bowie’s, which is kind of a bummer, but this team of musicians will undoubtedly deliver once Post-Pop Depression drops in March.

Iggy Pop – Gardenia


  1. “The Wheel” – PJ Harvey

PJ Harvey is out to blow minds once again with new record Hope Six Demolition Project, her first since 2011’s award-winning Let England Shake. I love how this track’s percussion drives the verses, which fuse poetry and politics with the kind of finesse only Harvey could pull off. Excellent.

PJ Harvey – The Wheel


  1. “Is the Is Are” – DIIV

I’ve never heard of DIIV until I found this track. The weird title and shoegaze vibe of this track are obvious nods to My Bloody Valentine, which isn’t a complaint. Cool reverse modulation and reverb swells over a consistent beat keep me invested in the overall tonality, and I don’t understand most of what the singer is saying, other than the repeated “you ain’t the first,” but who cares? Lo-fi forever.

DIIV – Is The Is Are


  1. “Cool Out” – Matthew E. White, Natalie Prass

Another discovery. This song kinda reminds me of “Home” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, with less acid and more dark alleyway jazz. I love the beeps panned right. Natalie Prass’s voice is silk to Matthew E. White’s milk. Not necessarily babymakin’ music, but a good foreplay jam.

Matthew E. White, Natalie Prass – Cool Out


  1. “Garden” – Hinds

Hailing from Spain, Hinds are cool in the way Tacocat is cool, though I’d say Hinds inhabit more sonic space than Tacocat. Solid garage pop. After one listen I instantly had the hugest crush on all four of them; and their first record just came out, so go grab a vinyl of it, lay down on the floor, smoke a bowl, and say hello to 2016.

Hinds – Garden


Jesse Valencia

Jesse Valencia is an actor, musician, writer, and filmmaker from Northern Arizona whose writing has appeared in Phoenix New Times, Flagstaff Live!, and The Big Smoke. He first appeared onscreen opposite Tom Sizemore in the indie crime drama Durant’s Never Closes, and is currently studying screenwriting at the David Lynch Graduate School for Cinematic Arts at the Maharishi University of Management. He plays music with the band, Gorky, who've put out the records The Gork…And How To Get It!, More Electric Music, and Mathemagician. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in Literature from Northern Arizona University, is a veteran of the U.S. Army, and is currently at work on his first feature film.

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