Jesse Valencia

16 Songs for February 2016

Jesse Valencia burns you a new mixtape of 16 songs to close the month of February 2016.


As we get ready for spring, I’m feeling a little funky this February. Maybe a little weird, sad, and nostalgic too, based upon all the minor chords and ambience floating around this crop of tunes.

New finds for me in this month’s playlist include Tim Hecker, Sunflower Bean, Lake Street Dive, Globelamp, Car Seat Headrest, White Denim, and Little Scream. I have no idea how new or old most of these acts are, but I know they’re all good and talented.

We’re doing something a little different this month with videos instead of Spotify links. You can either check it all out right here or kick back and click on this link to The Big Smoke America’s February 2016 Playlist directly from YouTube. Either way, enjoy!


1.      Tim Hecker — “Castrati Stack”
I love the gravelly static that opens this ambient number. It sounds like it could have been the music those astronauts heard on the moon. For me, electronic music is at its best when it blossoms out of an atmospheric place like it does with this track.


2.      Brian Jonestown Massacre — “La Façon Dont La Machine Vers l’Arrières”
The new Brian Jonestown Massacre song reminds me of band leader Anton Newcombe’s work from My Bloody Underground and Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?, the most underrated BJM period in my opinion. Repetitive beats. Swirling drones. Signature melodica line. I’m excited to hear what else might come from Newcombe’s latest creative spell.


3.      Massive Attack, Young Fathers — “Voodoo In My Blood”
More weird electronica. The video, starring the always-great Rosamund Pike, is a trippy sci-fi “Simon Says” exercise, augmenting the track with a vibe that is equally seductive and haunting. Great stuff.


4.      Primal Scream, Sky Ferreira — “Where The Light Gets In”
This might be my favorite song in this list. The chorus is cosmic and catchy, in classic Bobby Gillepsie style, and the song as a whole moves with a sense of urgency. This is how you do a proper pop duet. The weird guitar solo might be my favorite part, but the bassline is excellent too. So is the squealing synth hook. I can’t say enough good things about this song.


5.      Sunflower Bean — “Human Ceremony”
Another trippy duet with a production aesthetic that reminds me a lot of Tame Impala’s first couple of records. Actually, it almost sounds like it could’ve been the B-side to the Primal Scream track. With the jazzy drums and the reverb-chorus combo on the guitar, it reminds me a little of Dark Side-era Pink Floyd.


6.      Lake Street Dive — “Mistakes”
Lake Street Dive lead singer Rachael Price’s vocals sound like melty chocolate dripping all over my record player. This is one of those “watch the rain with a warm cup of coffee” soul jams, if that makes any sense. I can’t get over the melancholy trumpet line.


7.      Globelamp — “Washington Moon”
This hazy psychedelic folk pop gem starts like a dream, changing tempos and overlapping harmonies, and wakes up about halfway through right before it finishes. I found the video both gorgeous and haunting. Excellent work. From Globelamp’s new album The Orange Glow, out June 10 on Wichita.


8.      Julian Casablancas — “Run Run Run”
This refreshing and excellent cover of the classic Velvet Underground song makes so much sense that I find it strange that it didn’t happen earlier, if only because Casablancas’ vocal style has been compared to Lou Reed’s since The Strokes first came out. At the same time, it reminds me why it was good for that band to get away from their early sound. For as much as everyone loves that first Strokes record, could we have really gotten on board with fifteen years worth of albums sounding like this? I don’t think so, but it is fun to think about. In a related note, Vinyl is my new favorite show.


9.      Car Seat Headrest — “Vincent”
While Casablancas was undoubtedly influenced by Reed, it is extremely difficult to find post-punk or indie rock these days not influenced by The Strokes. Car Seat Headrest falls into that category, but I’m still impressed by this song. Maybe because of the horns? I’m liking horns a lot this month.


10.  White Denim — “Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah)”
This rad jam kicks off like an old funk soul number from the ’60s or ’70s and then gets weird just as it’s about to get tired. The fuzzy riff gives way to a Santana-esque solo and my only complaint was that it wasn’t just a little longer.


11.  Deftones — “Prayers/Triangles”
I’m not a huge metal fan, and metal fans would probably balk at my calling the new Deftones single metal, but I really love this song. It reminds me of Smashing Pumpkins when they were at their peak. I find it imaginative and expansive for a band long considered darlings of the Nu Metal genre, and we all know how Nu Metal turned out.


12.  Lush — “Out of Control”
A lot of nostalgia in this list, I admit, but Lush are back and the new single is great! Hopefully all the old shoegaze groups will keep getting back together and putting out new records so they can show the kids how it’s done, just like this. Lush sound like they never left.


13.  Miranda Lee Richards — “Tokyo’s Dancing”
The cadence of this song, from Miranda’s new album Echoes of the Dreamtime, reminds me of Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street” in the best way. I love the chorus, “We go back and forth / We go round and round / I see the earth moving slowly as she turns …” which is kinda Byrds-y too. If there’s one “Psychedelic Chamber Folk Rock” record you pick up this spring, make sure it’s Miranda’s.


14.  Flying Lotus — “R2 Where R U?”
I’m on a huge Star Wars kick right now and think it’s the coolest thing in the world that Rick Rubin produced this Star Wars Headspace record with all these musician-nerds. This track by Flying Lotus samples everyone’s favorite astromech droid. If you’re into Star Wars as much as I am, I encourage you to pick this one up.


15.  Little Scream — “Love As A Weapon”
More soulful pop funk in the vein of Lake Street Dive or White Denim, I really dig this track from Little Scream which reminds me of late ’70s Prince, à la “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” It certainly doesn’t feel like it carries on for five minutes, but then again neither does most Prince songs.


16.  Teamheadkick — “Deadpool Rap”
I’m sure everyone who’s seen Deadpool remembers the part of the movie where this fun jam first comes in during one of the title character’s mass killing sprees (is it really a spoiler to say Deadpool goes on a killing spree?). Again with the funky guitar! I guess I’m just in a funky mood this month. More Prince vibes with the whole “sexy muthafuckaaa” line, but maybe it swings a little more in the direction of Rick James. Will I still feel this funky in March, I wonder?



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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