The 51 Best Songs to Come out of the 51st State in the past 369 Days
One of the downsides of dedicating months of one’s time to a Jerry Maguire-centric mission statement on the future of the media industry is that one gets sinfully behind when it comes to writing about one’s local music scene.
So, four days into 2019, let me make up for my cloven-footed truancy by sharing a playlist I made of the 51 best songs to come out of the (eventual) 51st state in the past 369 days.
In some particular order…
Now, clocking in at just over three hours, this otic tome is obviously too immense for me to individually laud every single track that composes it. However, let me repent for my journalistc transgressions by extolling some of its more reverence-worthy entries.
And, as always, praise be to Listen Local First, Hometown Sounds, DCDIT, DCist, Washington City Paper, a majority of the area’s venues, and the various DC music Facebook groups who let me leech off their good taste.
“Change Your Mind” by Bad Moves
I had the amazing luck of stumbling upon Bad Moves the very same night they were having their album release show at Black Cat, so maybe it was just the intoxicating feeling of good fortune clouding my judgement. Regardless, I was so immediately besotted by their throwback brand of pull-no-punches rock and roll I haven’t been able to go a week without playing Tell No One straight through.
There’s just something about that opening bass riff that sucks you in.
Thus, its position as leadoff track on the playlist.
“Vernacular (Blue)” by Dior Ashley Brown
With “Vernacular (Blue),” the Washington Post-dubbed “hip-hop polymath” Dior Ashley Brown has constructed an earworm of a protest anthem that dexterously speaks to the current political climate and unapologetically demands to be reckoned with. And kirked out to.
If you dig it, check out its sister song, “Vernacular (Red),” which was released in conjunction with it.
As dAb herself told DC Music Download (RIP): “I wanted the dual track to create its own semantics with two different but similar vibes, raising questions and conversation over synthesized sounds versus live instrumentation. A blue feel versus a red feel, creating its own language. Vernacular.”
“Material” by Flasher
It was actually Flasher’s song “Pressure,” not “Material,” that made the playlist (as it’s an objectively better song), but the mind-melting music video they and director Nick Roney created for Constant Image’s first single is such an eerily astute encapsulation of our digital lives in 2018 it would be a crime not to share it.
If it weren’t for “This is America”#, I’d say this thing deserves every moon man the MTV Video Music Awards could throw at it.
Do yourself a favor and watch it in Full Screen Mode.
“Berlin” by Lavender
To be honest, until a few months ago, I only knew Alli Vega as booker and producer at Songbyrd Music House and as a guest on one of our podcasts. And I only knew Trent Burns from our overlapping time at Brightest Young Things. From now on though, I will only be able to see them as one third of the six-person Lavender, whose debut album You Are in the Right Place is one of my most treasured 2018 discoveries.
Its Joy Formidable-esque opener, “Dangerous Game,” is certainly due a spin — if only to show the group’s range — however, it’s the album’s second track, “Berlin,” that’ll floor you.
One of my resolutions for 2019 is to see this band live.
“Everything At Once” by Will Eastman
Will Eastman is a legend, and “Everything At Once” is his best song since “Limitless.” I don’t really know what else there is to say.
Here’s an engrossing profile on him by WCP’s Casey Embert to peruse as you listen?
“Get Down Wit It” by Mustafa Akbar
By the fourth quarter of every Wizards game, right after I fling my Bullets hat across the room in frustration, I begin thinking about what I would rename the Washington Results-of-a-Fan-Votes if given the opportunity.
At the moment, nothing I’ve come up with beats the name of their new G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, though I think I’ve got some decent runners-up:
- the D.C. Dukes (as in Duke Ellington)
- the D.C. Rhythm
- and, my personal favorite, the D.C. Funkadelics
If, somehow, either of the latter two happened, I would insist Mustafa Akbar be hired as the in-house band leader.
“God’s Gift” by Jake Vicious and Jen Miller
No offense to Jake Vicious and Jen Miller, but I’m not sure I even like this song. That being said, if I told you “God’s Gift” was already some big radio hit by an Adele protégé who got Raury# to produce her album, wouldn’t it take you until at least halfway through the first verse to realize I was lying?
Someone get this in the hands of the right people; it could be deadly.
Where you at Sofar Sounds?!?!
“Century Won” by Raw Poetic
For those unfamiliar with Raw Poetic, write a note to yourself to check out his 2017 collaboration album with D.C. native Damu the Fudgemunk, The Reflecting Sea (Welcome to a New Philosophy). With good headphones on.
In the meantime, enjoy “Century Won,” the standout from his latest solo album Hemlock.
“Els Segadors (The Reapers)” by A Sound of Thunder
I had no idea who D.C. metal band A Sound of Thunder were before Paul and Tony of Hometown Sounds featured them in one of their “Don’t Stay Home This Week” posts last June.
Since then, mostly thanks to Wikipedia, I have learned…
- they went through several lineup changes early on
- they “decided to go in a different direction” for their second album
- they’ve successfully Kickstarted all their albums since
- they raised $66,246 to make last year’s It Was Metal (twice their goal of $30,000)
- the music video for their most recent single, “Lifebringer,” features an animated dragon voiced by comedian Brian Posehn#
So there you go.
“Jane” by American Television
I grew up on pop punk, I will never renounce my allegiance towards it, and in 2018 nothing scratched that particular itch quite like “Jane.”
No it didn’t change the way I thought about the form, and I swear there’s an awfully similar song from the early to mid aughts. Nevertheless, with this track, American Television checked off all the necessary melodic punk boxes with an earnest integrity and unabashed heart that reminds me why I’ll never quit the genre.
“Old Rockhounds” by Odetta Hartman
Allow me to pinch the opening lines of Ms. Hartman’s album-commencing bay to wrap this thing up:
“Old rockhounds never die, they just slowly petrify.
Old rockhounds never die alone.”
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