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2017
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PlayNetwork’s Top 20 Albums of 2016

The Music Supervision team at PlayNetwork is exposed to a ton of music each year, in fact, in 2016 alone, we added 6,000+ albums, EP’s and compilations to our massive music library. Each Music Supervisor has their own unique criteria for selecting songs for a playlist, and at year’s end, we all vote for our personal favorite albums that pass the test. Here are some of our favorite tracks, featured on our Top 20 Albums of 2016, as determined by the esteemed/opinionated/obsessive music team at PlayNetwork. Enjoy!

Number 1:

Artist: Beyoncé Album: Lemonade (Columbia) Track: Sorry

Number 2: Artist: Radiohead Album: A Moon Shape Pool (XL) Track: “Burn The Witch

Number 3: Artist: Solange Album: A Seat At The Table (Columbia) Track: Cranes In The Sky

Number 4: Artist: Frank Ocean Album: Blonde (Boys Don’t Cry) Track: Pink + White”

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12 Days of Music: A Review of Kaytranada’s Album 99.9%

Artist: Kaytranada

Album: 99.9% – XL 2016

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I first heard of Kaytranada through Soundcloud with his remixes of various R&B and hip-hop songs from the 90’s and 00’s such as Janet Jackson, Amerie and The Fugees; and then hearing songs he produced for artists like The Internet and Anderson .Paak. The album 99.9% blends elements from house, soul, funk, R&B and electronic music. This is one of those albums you can play from beginning to end and not get bored and then start it from the top!

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12 Days of Music: A Review of Shura’s Album Nothing’s Real

Artist: Shura

Album: Nothing’s Real – Polydor 2016

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The alias of British artist Aleksandra Lilah Denton, Shura first emerged in 2014 with the immediately arresting song “Touch,” the first in a string of singles that confidently introduced her sultry 80s-steeped R&B/pop sound. Last year she unveiled a few more stellar singles, appeared on an excellent single from fellow up-and-coming UK talent Mura Masa, and anticipation for her debut album consequently increased to a fever pitch. Fortunately, her debut album Nothing’s Real delivers on the promise of those early singles, yielding one of my favorite pop albums of 2016. Stacked with all of her prior standout singles and seamlessly sequenced to paint a full, cinematic, and expansive sonic landscape in just under an hour, Shura’s first full-length album offers a mature yet playful spin on the nostalgic and romantic tropes of 80s pop with a slick, refreshing, contemporary R&B touch.

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2016’s Top 20 Non-Holiday Songs fit for the Holiday Season

One of the more challenging aspects of being a Music Supervisor is taking a well-worn music genre and making it new and fresh again. This is often the case with holiday playlists, that are normally filled with traditional Christmas gems by Bing Crosby or Dean Martin sandwiched with modern holiday pop by the likes of Ariana Grande, Colbie Caillat or Train.

A growing trend here at PlayNetwork, with many of our custom in-store retail playlists, is incorporating non-holiday songs into the mix, tracks that were never originally intended to be associated with Christmas, or included on holiday albums, but feature seasonal themes like: travel, home, family, winter, etc. What I like best about these non-holiday songs is that it elevates the experience and gives the playlist a bit more meaning and a human element.

Joni Mitchell’s “The River” and the Fleet Foxes “White Winter Hymnal” are tender acoustic songs evoking a snow covered landscape and an inner peace that we all search for. Madonna’s “Holiday” and Dream Academy’s “Life In A Northern Town” are timeless hits from the 80s that take on a new life surrounded by Christmas classics. Jack Johnson’s “In The Morning” is a sweet song about the peaceful time that two parents experience in the early morning hours,

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12 Days of Music: A Review of Anderson .Paak’s Album Malibu

Artist: Anderson .Paak

Album: Malibu

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Malibu was released all the way back in the second week of January, and it has yet to be surpassed by any other album that has passed through my ears in 2016. From front to back, this album is drenched in funky beats, LA soul and infectious grooves that will keep you nodding your head and tapping your toes throughout the 16-track effort. This album has staying power, and in a society where flashes-in-the-pan are all the masses are looking for, it’s easy to overlook masterpieces that don’t cater to the current model, but do your ears and your soul a favor by stopping and fully immersing yourself in this personal journey Anderson has laid out for all of us to delve into.

From the opening guitar flicks of “The Bird” to the ode for the not-so-blessed, “The Dreamer”, Brandon Paak Anderson has crafted a truly unique album that is not to be missed. Personal favs can be found at tracks 4 – “The Season/Carry Me”; 10 – “Room In Here” feat. The Game &

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12 Days of Music: A Review of Kamaiyah’s Album A Good Night in the Ghetto

Artist: Kamaiyah

Album: A Good Night in the Ghetto – Self Released 2016

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2016 was a tough one. Luckily, in swoops Oakland, CA’s 21 year old rap superhero Kamaiyah and drops her debut mixtape, “A Good Night in the the Ghetto” to save the day/year. “AGNITG” is a fonkay feel good record about being young (I’m not), having fun (I’m allergic), and partying West Coast style (allll day) over vintage Bay Area styled blaps of 80’s and 90’s R&B. On the mic, Kamaiyah is a natural spitter brimming with confidence and honesty whether rapping or singing or somewhere in-between. Hoochie Hoooo!

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12 Days of Music: A Review of Santigold’s Album 99 Cents

Artist: Santigold

Album: 99 Cents – Atlantic Records 2016

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I chose to write about Santigold’s 99 Cents as my pick of 2016 because it was an album that caught my attention from the very first time I heard the lead single “Can’t Get Enough Of Myself”. The song was catchy, fun, and unique enough to be memorable. I kept coming back to it, and then discovered that several songs off the album were getting stuck in my head: “Banshee”, “All I Got”, “Who I Thought You Were”, and “Chasing Shadows” all checked the “hey, that’s actually a pretty good song!” box for me. Individually, the tracks have their own sonic elements that really differentiate them from each other. The album as a whole has this not-your-average-pop vibe to it, which is what made it stick with me.

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12 Days of Music: A Review of Chance the Rapper’s Album Coloring Book

Artist: Chance the Rapper

Album: Coloring Book – Self Released 2016

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Chancellor Bennett a.k.a Chano a.k.a Lil’ Chano from 79th or better known as Chance The Rapper took 2016 by storm with his 3rd mixtape “Coloring Book” which was filled with an abundant amount of features to compliment the colorful soundscape that is created within the 14 tracks of this masterpiece. From the Hip-Hop bass heavy sounds of “No Problem” to the lush and intimate sounds of “Summer Friends” to entrancing love songs like “Juke Jam” to dancing in the club on “All Night” and more importantly the gospel inspired tracks like “Blessings” that drives the overall message of the project. 

I loved this album because of its overall sound, subject matter, and tactic to put in religious connotations throughout and in between songs that listeners are used to hearing from Chance. Enhancing that with amazing production from Brasstracks, The Social Experiment, Lido, & Kaytranada and you pretty much have a project that’s difficult to pass up. I’m pleased, or should I say “blessed”, that Chance gave a refreshing album to Hip-Hop listeners and music lovers throughout.

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12 Days of Music: A Review of Kate Tempest’s Album Let them Eat Chaos

Artist: Kate Tempest

Album: Let them Eat Chaos – Lex Records 2016

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Many would agree that our current world climate is one of an anxiety and simultaneously hopefulness, where technology and consumerism move at record speeds but things in many ways stay the same. A world in which war has shifted from man to computers and in which the world is at our finger tips even if we can’t grab it. In this world artists like Kate Tempest are needed more than ever. No one in music is able to dissect our current social climate, our hopes and struggles, to show us both the beautiful and tragic results better than Kate Tempest.

If anything, this album is a “state of the world address”, in which no corner of society is left unturned. This album is a perfect although at times tragically perfect examination of the world today, as seen through Kate’s eyes and more specifically the eyes of those around her. As Kate said in a 2015 interview, “When you’re writing, it’s not about you”. Which is to say,

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12 Days of Music: A Review of Wilder Adkins’ Album Hope & Sorrow

Artist: Wilder Adkins

Album: Hope & Sorrow – Wilder Adkins 2016

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I live for this kind of experience in the sharing of music.  This is the story of bringing you an artist I discovered on vacation with my family in Birmingham, Alabama.  We were at a venue called Moonlight on the Mountain for an in-the-round show with four acoustic artists.  The first three musicians were fairly pedestrian but when it was Wilder Adkins’ turn, we all turned to each other and eyebrows went up.  And each time Wilder had his turn, we became bigger fans.  His voice is so warm, sincere and dripping with honesty.  His lyrics simple but true and make that instant connection that we long for. 

From the song, When I’m Married, “There’s a love that grows between us like a gently creeping vine.” I can’t get that out of my head.  His finger picking is so good, the compositions are perfect and he is so humble with a wicked, dry sense of humor.  More than anything he so easily and effortlessly reaches in and grabs your heart. 

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12 Days of Music: A Review of Bon Iver’s Album 22, A Million

Artist: Bon Iver

Album: 22, A Million – Jagjagwar 2016

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Almost 10 years ago, Justin Vernon spent a long winter in his father’s cabin in Wisconsin; recovering from mono, binge watching Northern Exposure and writing a groundbreaking album under his new persona. Bon Iver, loosely translated, means “good winter” in French, which is the optimal time to listen to his latest album, 22, A Million.

I picked this album as one of my personal favorites of 2016 for a variety of reasons; it’s personal, experimental and it’s a gorgeous example of an artist continuing to evolve and push musical boundaries. The intimacy and tone of “22 (Over Soon)” is accompanied by angelic voices, then interrupted briefly with quivering glitches that cause one to stop, breathe and pay attention. The slight use of saxophone and slow-building keyboards give “8 (Circle)” an almost ambient blues kind of vibe, that grows on you after repeated plays. Bon Iver’s 22, A Million is a gift, one of the year’s most complexing albums, one that reveals itself slowly, with new discoveries with each listen.

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12 Days of Music: A Review of Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals Call It What It Is

Artist: Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals

Album: Call It What It Is – Concord/Stax Records 2016

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I love how Ben Harper write songs which epitomize so much that is going today. This album dances around a multitude of genres. He figures a way to balance soul with rebellious attitude which harkens back to the days of Stax Records and powerful songwriting. The songs are full of depth, and go from the joys of life to unapologetically challenging the establishment with vivid descriptions of the actions we do not want to talk about.

I enjoy the songs which do not just follow what is normal. Music is supposed to be the message which others just can’t vocalize. With this album, life is defined if every song, every phrase, every simple beat. It’s harder to find artists who challenge the establishment yet find a way to respond with grace. It is one the best albums because it displays why music is so vital, especially during the times of searching for hope.

My favorite track is “Deeper and Deeper.” With a chorus,

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12 Days of Music: Review of Trentemøller’s Album Fixion

Artist: Trentemoller

Album: Fixion – In My Room 2016

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Ten years after his 2006 debut landed Trentemoller the international spotlight, the Danish producer has blessed us with his darkest hour, fine-tuning the concept album to reflect his new shadowy aesthetic. Meta-critics of Fixion haven’t given this album justice; reminiscing on his 2006 debut “The Last Resort” which sounded like a hybrid of Massive Attack and Flying Lotus, this material is a total departure – undeniably postpunk at its finest. Jehnny Beth from Savages pays the album its dues, making an appearance on the cut “River In Me.” Grainy textures and classic science-fiction synth lines make this post-synth-punk album to be an IRL fan-tasy.  Recommended for fans of Soft Moon, Lust For Youth, Tropic of Cancer, and Black Marble. 

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12 Days of Music: An Overview & Review of Radiohead’s A Moon Shape Pool

As we inch closer to the new year, we reflect on everything that has happened in the music industry in 2016.

This year has been marked with many heartaches, with the passing of some of our legendary musicians like David Bowie, Prince, Sharon Jones and Leonard Cohen to name a few. But, there have also been some bright spots in the music world with so many amazing releases and new artists emerging.

At PlayNetwork, our music supervision team stays on top of the current trends in music, and work to program these new releases and artists in our branded playlists. As our holiday gift to you, we present our 12 Days of Music, a collection of album reviews from our music supervisors highlighting their favorite albums of 2016.  You may not find many of these on year end charts, but these albums are earworms that you should discover sooner rather than later.

 

To kick it off, I would like to share with you my favorite album of the year.

Artist: Radiohead

Album: A Moon Shape Pool – XL 2016

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Music Discovery: December 2016

Although the music industry slows downs during the Winter, it definitely never stops. Great new music is being released every day! The new music below from Childish Gambino, Xiu Xiu, and Kero Kero Bonito are all hot off the press. And the album “Air Guitar” from Sat. Nite Duets, is one of those that I’ve had on repeat since September. The good music just never stops. Plus our entire music team has hand selected a mixture of new music discoveries to keep your playlists current through the winter month of December.

 

 

 

Artist: Childish Gambino

Facebook: @donaldglover

Track: Redbone

If you heard this song in passing you’d be hard pressed to guess the artist; after all Childish Gambino is known exclusively in the music scene for Hip Hop. This new track and Donald’s other new single “Me and Your Mama” are a complete departure from his previous releases. A great departure that resulted in his best album to date! The new album from Childish Gambino Awaken, My Love! was just released on Glassnote Records.

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Featured Artist: Cass.

Artist: Cass.

Facebook: Casswheel

Album: Youth Sessions

Emotional Response records released this hauntingly beautiful 9 track LP from German Ambient producer Niklas Rehme-Schluter AKA Cass. Following on from his amazing collaboration with Wolf Muller “The Sound Of The Glades” on International Feel. Youth Sessions, moves seamlessly between beat-less ambient soundscapes and otherworldly pensive slo-mo electronic house grooves. Soothing and evocative in equal measures, truly a work of art.

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Music Discovery: November 2016

Our Music Supervisor, Mark Campbell, shares with you an artist he feels is one of the best of 2016. And along with his pick, our entire music team has hand selected a mixture of new music discoveries to keep your playlists current through the fall days of November.

 

 

 

Artist: The Head and The Heart

Twitter: @headandtheheart

Album: Signs of Light

Midway through their third LP, the song “Library Magic” features the refrain, “There will always be better days.” The lyric is a perfect summation of the overall optimistic direction of one of the best records of 2016. Producer Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Cage The Elephant) makes the most out of the well-crafted songs – bringing them to a polished and unexpected level. At times, the Indie Folk band from Seattle sounds like the latest and greatest in the world of Pop music – in the best and most-welcome sense. Tempos and arrangements vary throughout the record. From the driving beat of “City of Angles” to the down-tempo groove of “Colors” the songs are all successfully delivered,

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Music Discovery: October 2016

The best season of the year is finally here! Despite what many people think, the weather in Seattle isn’t mild year-round (it doesn’t rain 365 days a year), and we actually do have a summer season–with weather in the high 80’s and even low 90’s! Those “highs” are laughable to most but once you are acclimatized, the struggle is real. So when it gets back down to the 60’s it’s a beautiful thing. Especially if you love the overcast days. Blake Kirpes has picked four tracks that he’ll be spinning though what he considers to be the best season of the year, fall.

 

Artist: Amber Coffman

Twitter: @Amber_Coffman

Track: All To Myself

I’m absolutely loving the brand new single from Amber Coffman (of Dirty Projectors). It’s hands down my favorite song at the moment. This is her first single from her upcoming album on Columbia Records called City Of No Reply.

Artist: Angel Olsen

Twitter: @AngelOlsen

Track: Never Be Mine

The new Angel Olsen album My Woman is beautifully fantastic from beginning to end!

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Music Discovery: September 2016

With the summer months coming to an end and fall just around the corner, we’ve created a list of songs that our talented group of Music Supervisors have been listening to lately, be it spinning these tunes DJ’ing at clubs, relaxing at home while finding that next un-discovered artist, or curating these selections for the many clients we program for around the globe. One of our seasoned music supervisors, Alex Espinosa, has selected a few of his favorites below that will take you on a journey where the sun starts to fade and the cold nights get longer.

 

Artist: Rob Crow

Twitter: @rob5d4

Track: Business Interruptus

Besides being from my hometown of San Diego and seeing his previous band, Pinkback, numerous times, Rob Crow’s solo efforts never seems to amaze me with how current he tends to be with his indie sounds of using heavy bass and amazing melodies. With his current band called, Gloomy Place, and the single “Business Interruptus” this trend still exist. Local San Diego club, The Casbah, which was my home away from home in the early 90s makes an appearance in the accompanied video below as well.

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Featured Artist: Lou Rhodes

Best known as half of Manchester electronica duo Lamb, Lou Rhodes has been quietly fashioning a concurrent solo career in atmospheric, gently pastoral folk for some years. Her fourth album sees love balladry and witchy woodland acoustica collide. Cellos, plucked harps and electronic textures augment a sound that emerges somewhere between Nick Drake, Carole King’s Tapestry and the Wicker Man soundtrack. Out now on Nude Records.

Artist: Lou Rhodes

Twitter: @lou_rhodes

Track: All I Need

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Music Discovery: August 2016

With summer still going in full force, we’ve pulled together a list of some of our favorite summer jams and summer related songs from 2016. Check out the playlist for the soundtrack for your summer, whether you plan to spend it on the beach, or on a road trip. Plus, one of our music supervisors, Blake Kirpes, has selected a few of his favorites to share below and they are definitely worth checking out!

 

Artist: Whitney

Twitter: @whitneytheband

Track: No Matter Where We Go

If you get a chance to see this band live, do it! I saw them live last week at the Sunset Tavern in Seattle, and they were amazing! This is my favorite summer song for hanging around the house or taking a drive. This is a timeless track that sounds as if was written 30 years ago or 10 years from today.

 

Artist: Avalanches

Twitter: @TheAvalanches

Track: Subways

The thought of “subways” doesn’t necessarily make me think of summer,

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Featured Artist: Whyte Horses

As the founder of Finders Keepers and Twisted Nerve, Dom Thomas knows a thing or two about psychedelia. A renowned crate-digger, Dom has also been stockpiling a few left field gems of his own. New project Whyte Horses is the result. Fragrant psychedelia which steers clear of standard tropes, there’s a shade of Go! Team exuberance matched by the chiming guitars of, say, the Paisley Underground. Out now on CRC Music.

Artist: Whyte Horses

Twitter: @whytehorses

Track: Promise I Do

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Featured Artist: Pumarosa

Pumarosa have been together for just over a year, developing from the core of Isabel Munoz-Newsome and drummer, Nicholas Owen, to the five-piece who released “Priestess” on Chess Club records. One seven-minute, epic song about freedom and dancing set to propulsive bass, spaced-out guitar, more than a hint of dance music, saxophone and hypnotic vocals. What’s not to like?

Artist: Pumarosa

Twitter: @pumarosamusic

Track: Priestess

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Featured Artist: D.D Dumbo

Signed to the mighty 4AD record label, D.D Dumbo’s reverb-soaked songs erupt in thunderous rhythm and euphoric drone. Minimal in structure and complemented by Perry’s astonishing voice, they subtly reference traditional stylings from around the globe such as African desert blues, Tanzanian ilimba and transcendental Tuvan melody.

Artist: D.D Dumbo

Twitter: @DDDumbo

Track: Satan

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Featured Artist: Audioglider

Section Records released Subaquamarine – the 2nd LP by Roberto Sodano AKA Audioglider. “Aerial View” is just one of 11 beautifully crafted electronic soundscapes on this stunning new album. This collection of electronica gems mixes influences from the dance floor to the ambient sunset feel of classic Balearica.

Artist: Audioglider

Twitter: @AUDIOGLIDER

Track: Aerial View

 

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Music Discovery: July 2016

When it comes to bright, sunny songs for your summer soundtrack, we’ve got you covered. Nothing resonates with listeners more than a classic hit being re-imagined into a new favorite. In the past few months, there have been some great covers released by artists like Panama Wedding, Campsite Dream, Filous and Betty Who. You can check them out as well as many other new releases (both covers and originals), selected by our Music Supervisors, using the Brand Radio player below. Discover new favorites, sing along and get nostalgic!

 

Artists: Panama Wedding & Great Good Fine OK

Twitter: @PanamaWedding, @GreatGoodFineOk

Track: Easy Lover

This is a fun, cheerful cover of the 80’s smash by Phil Collins and Philip Bailey. It was released with perfect timing, given the fact that the Genesis legend recently announced he’ll be coming out of retirement and hitting the studio!

 

Artist: Campsite Dream

Twitter: @CampsiteDream

Track: Try Again

Tropical house duo Campsite Dream have released a steady stream of sun-drenched covers over the past year including versions of 90’s hits “Crush” by Jennifer Paige,

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Music Discovery: June 2016

During the day-to-day process of matching bands with brands, our Music Supervisors are obliged to listen to an eclectic spectrum of music. From high-fashion retailers to fast-casual restaurants, the search for needed content exposes our team to a wide range of emerging talent and overlooked classics.

One of our Music Supervisors, Tom Killorin, has featured three songs from Charlie Musselwhite, Bubble Puppy, and Peter Wolf which reflect the diverse scope of songs our team utilizes on a daily basis. You can check out these songs, as well as many other new releases chosen by our Music Supervisor team, using the BrandRadio player below.

 

Artist: Charlie Musselwhite

Twitter: @musselwhiteharp Track: Good Blues Tonight There are blues harmonica players and then there is the master-class tone and verve of Charlie Musselwhite. That Musselwhite smile is genuine and he is one of the friendliest down to-earth musicians you will ever meet. The American Blues ambassador has over 50 years on the road. The mere opening of his harmonica case is cause for applause.

 

Artist: Bubble Puppy

Twitter: @TheBubblePuppy

Track: Hot Smoke &

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Featured Artist: Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys is no stranger – this Girl on Fire has been a household name for well over a decade. However, her style takes a new turn with “In Common,” her first single in four years. Keys has stepped away from her signature piano anthems and instead released a song that’s breezy, stylish and sun-drenched. “In Common” is in line with the growing tropical house movement and features breathy, understated vocals. Keys is not only evolving her sound and staying relevant, but she’s knocking it out of the park. This track is mesmerizing and addictive – you’re sure to have it on repeat all summer long!

Artist: Alicia Keys

Twitter: @aliciakeys

Track: In Common

 

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Featured Artist: Metroplane

Two giants of the underground dance scene join forces to produce a sure fire future Ibiza classic. Alex Metric & Aeroplane are Metroplane. The simple formula of this track works wonders on the more discerning dance floors. Loped vocal sample filtering in and out, disco stabs ghosting over a chunky house groove. Everything you need for a heads down slice of basement house.

Artist: Metroplane

Facebook: Metroplane

Twitter: @Alexmetric@VitoAeroplane

Track: Over Me

 

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Music Discovery: May 2016

During the day-to-day process of matching bands with brands, our Music Supervisors are obliged to listen to an eclectic spectrum of music. From high-fashion retailers to fast-casual restaurants, the search for needed content exposes our team to a wide range of emerging talent and overlooked classics.

One of our Music Supervisors, Mark Campbell, has featured four songs from Band of Horses, Postiljonen, Tiga, and Blitzen Trapper which reflect the diverse scope of songs our team utilizes on a daily basis. You can check out these songs, as well as many other new releases chosen by our Music Supervisor team, using the Brand Radio player below.

 

 

Artist: Band of Horses

Twitter: @bandofhorses

Track: Casual Party

From their forthcoming album Why Are You OK (due out this June), the Seattle rockers share their new single – a peppy, indie rock gem that indicates a slight departure from their previous sound. If this song is any indication, this album should be a standout for 2016. Having Rick Rubin as executive producer on the LP will certainly help in the publicity department.

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