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Pickled Priest Mixtape: Our Favorite New Songs of Q3 2023, Part Two

The second of two mixtapes highlighting our favorite songs of the last 90 days. What did you do to deserve this? Nothing! You did nothing! But we still hold you in the highest esteem for some reason.



SIDE A


01 "Crash Into the Weekend" | The Hives

Why We Like It

Only the Hives could pull off a line like, "I'll hit the weekend like a cake shot out of a gun," and get away with it. That's why we love them. Considering Pickled Priest's banner treats music and humor as equals, how can they not lead off one of our quarterly mixtapes? Talk about setting the tone. The Hives, dormant for too long, are back in the nick of time to save us all from our own rampant self indulgence. I didn't even know that I missed them until they were back. Nobody bashes out fun rock and roll with the conviction of this band of Swedish meatballs. I'm ashamed I'd forgotten that. But in a blaze of glory, complete with awesome matching suits I wish I could pull off but can't, they've returned to remind you that rock & roll can be a fucking blast, and not just on the weekends.



02 "Unpopular Parts of a Pig" | Mclusky


Why We Like It

There are a just a handful of lead singers who sound like they are legitimately insane. And I don’t mean method acting insane like Jack Nicholson. Plenty of singers get into the zone onstage when the band kicks in, but that authentic, uncontrollable, unhinged state of being is rare indeed. Offhand, David Yow of the Jesus Lizard comes to mind. He comes off like an escaped hyena high on crystal meth, unconcerned for his own safety, and in no way in control of his own actions. Mclusky’s Andrew Falkous is another such character, seemingly unable to premeditate his actions or manage his tangents in any way shape or form. It’s no wonder the band imploded prematurely in 2004. Conditions like this aren’t meant to last. But may wonders never cease, they’re back in 2023, still alive!, likely realizing nobody in the group has done anything quite as good since. The main question for me is an obvious one: Is Falkous still the same lead singer he was two decades later and can the band still keep up with him? The answer is a resounding YES! based on their new single “Unpopular Parts of a Pig.” Falkous, like all real nutjobs, thankfully hasn’t got his meds quite right yet, sounding every bit of his old, lunatic self, and I guarantee you won’t hear another song quite like it for the rest of the year until Mclusky drop another single, of course.



03 "Halgatron" | Tobor Experiment


Why We Like It

Presented as the soundtrack to a never-produced science fiction TV series from the 1970s, and that’s most of what you need to know about Tobor Experiment's new album. It’s a little lounge, a little jazzy, and a lot Moog synthesizer. Led by Italian electro-wizard Giorgio Sancritoforo, this is a delightful project from cover to contents via Italy, a boot that absolutely loves their soundtrack music. So, to honor Italy's Patron Saint of Movie Soundtracks, Ennio Morricone, I beam “Halgatron” into your headphones from outer space. The perfect mixtape curveball to keep the palate cleansed for what's coming next.



04 "Life Lessons" | Big Freedia

Why We Like It

The "bounce queen” of New Orleans, Big Freedia, is truth in advertising, a larger-than-life sound titan who has been bringing the bona-fide bounce since the very beginning of the genre. And this isn’t timid trap-rap that you can’t even understand. This is a big, brave, and bold sound that doesn’t hold back and demands the same from you. If you’re not going to let this pound out of your goddamned speakers, just skip it. I’d rather you do that than short the majesty of letting Big Freedia be Big Freedia. These are songs that need to live, thrive, and survive directly in your face, unabashed and gaudy, as they were meant to be. Which doesn’t mean the content isn’t just as important. Here Freedia relishes the “life lessons” that her/his (he doesn’t care what pronoun you use) mother provided during Freedia's formative years and its a sweet homage indeed.



05 "Microdosing" | African Head Charge

Why We Like It

Last year, Adrian Sherwood’s On-U Sound label gave us one of the best records of the year with Horace Andy’s modern reggae masterpiece, Midnight Rocker. In 2023, Sherwood now brings back psych-dub pioneers African Head Charge after a decade-long hiatus on A Trip to Bolgatanga. While not as revelatory as Andy’s record, nor as sonically original as the band’s masterpiece, Songs of Praise, there are still some juicy grooves to be found. Sometimes keeping it simple is the best solution and “Microdosing” does just that. The only thing that could be better would be a “Macrodose” of the same song. I’ll take this in any increment offered, however.



06 "Blue Over Blue" | The Clientele

Why We Like It

I’ve spent more than my fair share of time trying to find a way into the Clientele discography and I’ve found most of it pleasant yet underwhelming. That said, I must admit that I’m beginning to be converted thanks to a last second impulse buy during a record store binge this past summer (I make that sound like a rarity, but it is not). I Am Not There Anymore, picked up based on early returns claiming more stylistic variety and experimentation, delivers on that intriguing promise. Ever have a band like that? One you kinda like, but wish they would add something else to it to push you over the top? Well, they’ve done just that on their new record. It’s overly long, yes, but when you only put out one record every 6-8 years, that tends to happen. “Blue Over Blue” is a pastoral ballad with a superb chorus. One of those songs that might not be the record’s greatest moment (“Fables of the Silverlink”), but it is the most mixtape worthy. And it also starts my Picasso-esque “blue period” on this mix as you will soon discover.



07 "Blue" | Bloc Party

Why We Like It

I hate block parties in general. I don’t need or want to know everyone in my neighborhood. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. Let’s not force it. Unwittingly, that’s kind of how I’ve approached the catalog of 21st century Britpop favorites, Bloc Party, too. (And I realize that "bloc party" is a different thing than "block party" but work with me here.) I got their debut, Silent Alarm, in 2005, and then I never went back to them again, almost as if they drove their minibike over my lawn or something. I loved the album’s first single “Like Eating Glass” and the album still sounds pretty good almost two decades later. I suppose I’ll chalk it up to “too many bands, too little time” and forgive myself. Revisiting that lost gap is likely in my future now thanks to their new EP, High Life, that I only played because I was trying out some new music one choice afternoon. After being mildly interested in the title track (pretty good) I immediately was captivated by “Blue” a fantastic love is love song that is positively gorgeous. Like a effortless blue wave coming in from the ocean, you can get completely caught up in its majesty.


08 "Airforce Blue" | Waterbaby

Why We Like It

I always take note of new and/or unexpected Sub Pop signings and Sweden’s Waterbaby (aka Kendra Egerbladh, whose last name sounds like an Ikea product, perhaps an end table) registered immediately on my radar. As an advocate of understated, bombastless indie-pop, I was immediately lured in by her well-written press kit, which promised “rhapsodic, technopastoral crush songs.” Sold! That pretty much guaranteed her spot on my weekly list of albums to check out. Her songs more than live up to that description, too, and her EP, titled Foam, is the perfect afternoon dalliance, nothing too heavy, but full of tiny moments of reserved joy, delivered in a pleasing, effortless cadence over simple melodies that sink in immediately.



09 "My Own City" | Bethany Cosentino

Why We Like It

Best Coast, hopefully only on hiatus, is the best source for a Bethany Cosentino fix. She and co-conspirator Bobb Bruno have a organic chemistry and the music they made captured the California aesthetic perfectly—a veritable California Tourist Bureau set to music. Well, band status unknown, Bethany went off on her own this year and cut the very pleasing solo record, Natural Disaster, a fitting title for the California-based artist, especially lately unfortunately. It took me a while, but I soon realized this record mostly works because Costentino has such a warm, inviting presence, somewhere between the LA polish of Sheryl Crow and later-period Liz Phair. There’s undeniable pop charm throughout with just the right amount of playfulness (If I’m dead, then why do I feel alive? / I didn’t even cry when I left myself behind). It’s not meant to be anything more than an open-air record for driving down Highway 1. Could it use some more emotional or lyrical heft or a sharper edge? Perhaps. “My Own City” gets pretty close to satisfying that unreasonable demand.



10 "Keep It On A Burner" | Margo Cilker

Why We Like It

Speaking of California girls, Margo Cilker was born and raised in Santa Clara before moving to the Pacific Northwest later in life. So it makes sense that her brand of Americana brings a West Coast sensibility to her songs. I've grabbed a chunk of her lyrics from the great “Keep It on a Burner,” from her new album Valley of Heart’s Desire, to illustrate my point:

I got sidewalks, I got sunburned, I got books I haven’t read I got neighbors telling neighbors they’ll bе burning up when they're dеad I got wasted, I got waylaid, I got stuck in Lodi again I’ve got time now, I've got know-how, I've got only to write the end

I appreciate the clever concept, not to mention the CCR reference, and there’s all kinds of similar moments all over the record, a real-life, low-key sleeper of a record well worth seeking out.



11 "Minefields" | The One Eighties

Why We Like It

If you stumbled into a One Eighties gig while passing through their hometown of Raleigh, NC, you'd likely be smitten enough to charge the merch table for a CD, LP, or a maybe a t-shirt. You know that feeling of discovery, I'm sure. The One Eighties are Autumn Brand and Daniel Cook and they shut down their last band during the pandemic and, you guessed it, did a 180 and went into a new direction musically. Good move. The songs on their new record, Mindfields, are really good. Autumn has a classic Americana voice, with just the right lilt at just the right moments, and the songs exceed expectations with little unexpected embellishments here and there that elevate this material enough to make you think they could be one lucky break away from some notoriety. "Minefields," which has a haunting echo added, has an entrancing vibe, which helps as you navigate a complicated relationship vicariously through her. I have been coming back to it hear the song again and again in recent months. They've completely won me over.



12 "Constant Repeat" | Kurt Vile

Why We Like It

When Kurt Vile posed with his two daughters (the fabulously-named Awilda and Delphine) on the cover of his 2022 LP, (Watch My Moves), it made me wonder what their day-to-day lives must be like growing up with such a unique father. Even at a young age, they already exhibit some charming individuality—hip thrift store outfits, a pink wig, striped knee socks, etc. It's not surprising that they would be encouraged to think outside the box, especially since their father is a guy who operates in that headspace pretty much all the time. The picture made me want to follow their future path as a curious observer to see how their lives turn out in the end. So, consider me delighted that the trio has now released a one-off single (only available on Amazon Music), a sweet cover of Charli XCX's "Constant Repeat," that is beyond endearing. I imagine it was originally made without commercial intent—just a family of Charli XCX fans goofing around in dad's studio—but their version works exactly because of that casual approach. The backing vocals are what make the whole thing work so well and I guarantee it'll make you smile every time you hear it.


13 "King of the Jews" | Low Cut Connie

Why We Like It

A direct quote from Low Cut Connie frontman and songwriter Adam Weiner: "King of the Jews" is in many ways about finding strength and power where so many see weakness in your identity.” By his own admission he has downplayed his Jewishness in the past, but now in a time of increasing occurrences of antisemitism, he's fully embracing it "loud and proud." The Warhol-esque video for great new song "King of the Jews" shows Weiner strapping tefillin onto his arm and head, a Torah-mandated ritual. It's also one of Low Cut Connie's best and most important songs to date and it a highlight of yet another excellent record from the band called Art Dealers.



SIDE B



14 "Horsebait Sabotage" | Cory Hanson

Why We Like It

We start side two with the intent to blow out any remaining cobwebs between your ears. So bear with us for a few tracks while we lay waste to some of your remaining eardrum life. First up, SoCal-based Cory Hanson's "Horsebait Sabotage" (which sounds like a Robert Pollard song title). His new crassly-titled solo album, Western Cum, is deliriously weird hybrid of loud and soft, full of tasty guitar licks and mellow passages that would make Neil Young nod with appreciation. His main gig is with the band Wand, but based on this record, the solo road might be the one to take from here on out.



15 "Electricide" | Frankie & the Witch Fingers

Why We Like It

If I told you I could set you up with wall-to-wall riffs for a very reasonable price, would you be a buyer? If so, this L.A.-based, Bloomington, Indiana-born garage band with a Bachelor's degree in the psychedelic arts is for you. No, nothing groundbreaking, but they kick out the jams with aplomb and I'm always down for a little audio ass-kicking.


16 "10'9"" | Upper Wilds

Why We Like It

When I was a kid, I'd always eagerly read the Ripley's Believe It Or Not! comic in the Sunday paper. An obsession with the Guinness Book of World Records followed. I wasn't alone, of course. There were many of us fascinated by the oddities of life, extreme performance, and knowing who on our planet could eat the most hard-boiled eggs in two minutes. But all oddities and records are not created equally. The whole thing has, for the most part, become a baggy pants farce and the "records" adjudicated these days are often ridiculously specific and asinine (most armpits sniffed, et al). But I do remember some truly amazing visuals from back then, including a photo (included below) of the world's tallest man, Robert Wadlow, who stood a towering 8' 11" tall in his bare feet (and no afro like Fletch). To this day, he holds the height record and his statue is one of the main attractions at Ripley Museums strewn around the world. Who doesn't want to pose with the world's tallest man? Which brings us to the Upper Wilds' "10' 9"" which details the custom-made size requirement for Wadlow's casket (he died at 22 years-old of an infection, unfortunately). I do appreciate a band willing to take on unconventional topics and when they're paired with a blistering Hüsker Dü-esque guitar attack as found on the entirety of the Brooklyn band's latest planet-themed record, I'm in heaven (Most Rock Albums Named After Planets: Upper Wilds, 3 —Mars, Venus, and now Jupiter).



17 "3800 Tigers" | Protomartyr

Why We Like It

I love Protomartyr songs for many reasons, but this time it's because of Joe Casey's lyrical approach on "3800 Tigers," which starts with one concept and shifts to another over the course of the song. This lack of focus is something to which I completely relate. I often start with one topic and then find myself branching off into something only tangentially related, losing my connection to the original thought in the process (resulting in the inevitable "What were we really talking about?" conundrum common to our perpetually distracted society). In this case, the eternally murky Casey notes the sad fact that that there are only 3,800 tigers left on our rapidly deteriorating planet (actual figures may vary, but not by much). Of course, if you're a die-hard Detroit Tigers fan, like Casey, is doesn't take much prodding to transition the tiger talk to the plight of the baseball Tigers next, a team that hasn't won a World Series since 1984. Soon Casey's focus shifts to that last championship team and its should-be-in-the-Hall-of-Fame second basemen, "Sweet" Lou Whitaker. From there, he laments the evolution of the current game with its rule changes and its use of advanced statistics. Then, he's back to real tigers for a bit only to swing back to a "Beat the Sox!" chant at the end (referring the Red Sox in this case). If anything benefits from ADHD, it's the rock song. It can be very flexible in that way.



18 "I Got Heaven" | Mannequin Pussy

Why We Like It

It's no secret, especially with a slogan like "Records As Religion," that I'm not religious at all. So when Mannequin Pussy singer Marisa Dabice rips off a line in the middle of "I Got Heaven" like, And what if wе stopped spinning? / And what if we're just flat? / And what if Jesus himself ate my fucking snatch? you'd think I'd delight in its irreverence. And you would be right.



19 "Resolution/Revolution" | The Linda Lindas

Why We Like It

All right, we were very amused and impressed by the story of the Linda Lindas, the LA punk band made of of super-young girls (they opened for Bikini Kill when the members' ages ranged from 9-15) who positively cranked out some pretty damn good punk songs on their debut album, including most notably the scathing takedown, "Racist, Sexist Boy." Footage of them jamming in their local library with parents looking on with pride was hard to resist. I'm not classifying them a novelty act, but it's best not to have too many expectations of a band so young. Too late. "Resolution/Revolution" shows the band (now between 13-19) ready to move onward and upward. The song is about fixing big problems a little at a time and the continued laser focus that requires, so I hope they stay together for a long time. Meanwhile, they're getting better and better at bringing the noise and attitude. This is proof.



20 "Tears Can Be So Soft" | Christine and the Queens

Why We Like It

Time is valuable, so I short-sheeted the bed on Christine and the Queen new album, Paranoïa, Angels, True Love, by buying the 41-minute "highlights" disc instead of the full 97-minute operatic opus, which by all accounts is a little bloated. Perhaps someday I'll feel the need to delve deeper into the whole thing, but I doubt it. Not that Christine and the Queens hasn't done enough to merit the effort, but I don't even love the entirety of the 41-minute version, particularly whenever Madonna shows up for a cameo. That said, the single "Tears Can Be So Soft" is an instant modern soul classic that gives Marvin Gaye a songwriting credit for a sample of his ballad "Feel All My Love Inside" (from I Want You) and amazingly ends up out-Marvin Gaye-ing Marvin Gaye himself on the track. It's got that shimmering 70's haze found on records from the era, but then brings a modern thump to keep it contemporary. It might take you a few listens to get it, but take your time and it will emerge. Another convenient tip to help you use your time more wisely, courtesy of the Pickled Priest.



21 "S.C.C. (Surge Cell Continuum) / Hox D" | Black Market Brass

Why We Like It

While the title wouldn't look out of place on side two of Rush's Hemispheres album, I assure you this is the same first-class afrobeat that has made Black Market Brass one of my favorite bands on the planet right now. Most great bands are intent on evolving and the sci-fi feel of some of this music indicates that settling for just this planet might not be enough for this Minneapolis band. This music is universal.



22 "Hot Ghee" | Night Beats

Why We Like It

While we're tracking great beats with an otherworldly scope, let's move on to Night Beats, the vehicle for Texan Danny Lee Blackwell (Rajan Billingsley) and his band, named after one of my favorite Sam Cooke albums. A good start. This is instrumental-driven psych-groove music and "Hot Ghee" adds flavoring from India into the mix for a little extra spice on "Hot Ghee." There's enough dry-heat shimmer on Night Beats' new album, Rajan, to fuel a drug-fueled overnight campout in the desert (as long as it doesn't rain and flood the place), but it'll also add an exotic ambience to a late-night drive wherever you are. Immerse and repeat.



23 "Ahisma" | The Antlers

Why We Like It

The Antlers have created some of the most fragile and breathtaking pop songs of the last fifteen years. From "I Don't Want Love" (2011) to last year's brilliant "Solstice," and many spots prior and in between, I save a special place for their songs that I'll keep to myself, thank you. Peter Silberman (songwriter and singer) and Michael Lerner (drums) make these chest-tightening songs soar with understated beauty and open-hearted vulnerability. It's enough to carry you away.



24 "Portrait of a Clear Day" | Julie Byrne

Why We Like It

The final line of Julie Byrne's poem set to music, "Portrait of a Clear Day," from her grief-stricken new LP, The Greater Wings, is why this song gets this spot at this moment. I won't quote it here, because out of context it sheds its meaning, but it is a beautifully sad moment. A moment that sounds like something should follow— another verse, another chorus—but that she wisely just leaves to hover in the air for a few moments. Perhaps she just couldn't go on. The record was completed after the death of a friend and collaborator and you can feel that emotional heaviness in the air despite the quiet grace the permeates the rest of the album. This is one to settle in with when you have the time to really listen. It's equally captivating and heartbreaking.



25 "Sundown" | Eddie Chacon

Why We Like It

Eddie Chacon was part of a duo that had a one-hit wonder in the early 90s, but the less said about that song the better—it's nothing special. So, in normal situations, that's all he wrote. But sometimes the fates have other plans for people and in 2020 he returned to record a solo album and he gained some serious second-act critical acclaim in the process. This year, he made a follow up album of laid-back R&B and it's laced with some subtle grooves perfect for a hammock chill-out session. "Sundown" sounds like it was recorded in an exotic location like Ibiza because it was. It has a percolating island rhythm running throughout as Eddie contemplates how many sundowns he has left. Many of his friends and peers have already gone, after all. And he knows it's probably his turn next. Not a bad idea to appreciate the time you have left, but someone should tell him he's only 60—statistically he's got a decent amount of time left unless he's not telling us something. This is cool little story and the music is refreshingly relaxed and timeless.



26 "Perfect Day" | Al Green

Why We Like It

As we wind down tape two, there's absolutely no better person to send us on our way with a blessing than Rev. Al Green, the divine minister of love and happiness and one of the finest living examples we have for appreciating every single God-given (or so he thinks) moment of every day. His cover of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" was bestowed on us unworthy souls this year, his first new song release in five years no less, and it turns was is generally known as a blissful heroin-influenced song into a vehicle for pure, clear-minded joy. Take me to church!



Outro: "Them Bugs" | Graham Parker & the Goldtops

Why We Like It

With summer coming to an end, one thing is always satisfying as the days get colder and that's the death of millions of annoying bugs. I celebrate this time of mass extinction and lament their inevitable return next Spring. Apparently, so does Graham Parker. No wonder I've always felt such a strong connection to him! So let's allow him to usher us out of Q3 2023 with his only real novelty songs ever, taken from his new (and damn strong) album, Last Chance to Learn the Twist. The song has a cool little reggae throb and some killer backing vocals to make the celebration/funeral that much more enjoyable. Thanks to my old friend GP for putting a smile on my face once again.


____________________________


That's all folks. Play and repeat at your leisure. See you soon. To go back to Q2 2033, Part One, just click.


Cheers,


The Priest

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