Greetings. I pose to you, presumed music enthusiast, this variation on a common query: Would you choose to inhabit an island with only a handful of records to keep you company, or would you choose to inhabit an island literally made of records -- so many records that you can't possibly get to them all?
These are each absurd and torturous scenarios, effective at demonstrating the differences between how different radio stations approach their playlists, but also spelling out the problem we as voracious consumers of music have right now. It's not a bad problem to have as they go, it just renders a monthly 35-song playlist a mere drop in the ocean is all. Qualifiers aside, let's dive right in with some of the known knowns among this month's picks.
Janelle Monáe is having a moment. I first saw her in person at SXSW back in 2009, playing a dynamic set in a tent that held around a hundred people. I thought it was one of the most incredible things I'd ever seen-- no fog, no lights, no screens, just Monáe and her band in simple black and white burning it down to the ground. There was no question in my mind that we'd be seeing fantastic things from her for years to come, and that has since expanded to label mogul (overseeing the fantastic Wondaland roster) and actor (with celebrated supporting turns in "Moonlight" and "Hidden Figures"). Someone greenlight a cinematic-musical star vehicle for her and Donald Glover, STAT!
Yet, somehow Monáe so far hasn't graduated to Pepsi Center/Super Bowl halftime status (not that I want her to). It feels like that will change with the upcoming "Dirty Computer" (out April 27) if the new songs she's unveiled are any indication. "Make Me Feel" has people drawing comparisons to forebears Prince and Michael Jackson, and for good reason. Monae continues to prove herself to be an artist of style and substance.
Also here is the first we've heard from the first record in 23 years from Belly, the band led by Tanya Donelly. "Dove" is out this spring and it's hard not to smile listening to the rolling bassline and joyful chorus of lead single "Shiny One." Speaking of bands who know a thing or two about long hiatuses, Ride recently followed up last year's return with an excellent four-song EP called "Tomorrow's Shore." You should hear all of it, but don't miss "Cold Water People."
Other names you may know in this month's mix? Yo La Tengo, PJ Harvey, David Byrne (who plays Aug. 27 and 28 at Red Rocks), The Sea & Cake, Sloan, Nightmares on Wax (who play June 2 at 1stBank Center) and Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks (Gothic Theatre, July 31) are all here with fresh new cuts.
One other name locals will certainly be familiar with (and the rest of the world has been quickly catching up) is Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. Their new record "Tearing At The Seams" is out this week and lead single "You Worry Me" is a buoyant number that's been atop the AAA charts for the past month. The band returns to Red Rocks Aug. 22 and 23.
- Related: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats perform music from "Tearing At The Seams" at CPR's OpenAir
Looking for another theme in this month's playlist? There's youth galore, including signs of life for guitar-based rock & roll with new cuts from Shame, Moaning, The Velveteers, Middle Kids and Superet. Meanwhile, Joey Dosik isn't guitar-based or rock & roll, but he comes across like a musical Will Barton on the title track to his "Game Winner" EP; and The Shacks are the young, breezy duo your springtime requires.
They're telling me to wrap it up and I haven't even had a chance to tell you what a jam this new King Tuff track is or how Futurebirds cover Til Tuesday's "Voices Carry" without irony and make the chorus soar! Needless to say, hard to go wrong here -- set that baby to shuffle and bask. New growth in another season of your waking life.
Listen to this month's Waking Life playlist below.