Monday, January 1, 2024

Choice Cuts Volume 22: Some of Our Favorite Tracks From 2023


In no particular order, I've selected the favorite tracks from 2023's playlists for my 22nd annual Choice Cuts end-of-year mix. I've been doing this annual "Best of" mix every year since 2002, but this is the first year I turned it into a radio show too. It was a lot of fun, and although perhaps not every song is for everyone, I hope you'll enjoy listening to some tracks perhaps you hadn't heard before -- while I do my best Casey Kasem impression. Here ya go:

Also, check out the Choice Cuts 2023 YouTube playlist here, or stream the full playlist on Spotify playlist here.

Or you can listen and watch each one below!

Listen and watch each one below!

1. "Back on 74" — Jungle
Jungle, the electronic music group founded in London in 2013 by producers Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland. Off their third album “Volcano,” “Back on 74” was the fourth single to come out this year from the group. This is Lydia Katto on lead vocals. What a way to kick off the album. Go ahead and groove, I dare you not to.

2. "Lil Boo Thang" — Paul Russell
I mean, how infectious is this sample of the Emotions’ 1977 classic “Best of My Love”? Updated for the TikTok generation – literally this is where “Lil Boo Thang” exploded – Paul Russell has one of the most infectious tracks of the year.

3. "Loving You" — Cannons
I’m usually not a fan of whistling on songs… and yet, Cannons wins me over from the very start of “Loving You.” The kick-off song from their latest album “Heartbeat Highway,” “Loving You” continues the trend of Cannons having perhaps the best music of this century for roller skating. Now, to be fair, maybe I was inspired by the video to “Fire for You,” which was on my 2021 Choice Cuts and filmed at Glendale’s famed Moonlight Rollerway. Whatever they’re doing with their smooth grooves, I’m happy to have more Cannons on this mix.

4. "Lipstick Lover" — Janelle Monáe
“I like lipstick on my neck.” Janelle Monáe, getting seductive on her latest album, “The Age of Pleasure,” and the track “Lipstick Lover” in particular. The video to this song, ooh, let’s just note that there are two versions, since one of them would not be safe for MTV… if there still was an MTV. “The Age of Pleasure” was nominated for album of the year and best progressive R&B album at the Grammys, and these reggae tinged sounds on “Lipstick Lover” made Monáe’s first studio album in more than five years a welcome return.

5. "No California" — Ilsey
California songs are a genre in themselves, and Ilsey added a must to those West Coast/best coast playlists this year with “No California.” Full name Ilsey Anna Juber, believe it or not her grandfather was Sherwood Schwartz. That’s right, the creator behind “The Brady Bunch” and “Gilligan’s Island.” There’s nothing more California than that. From her debut album “From the Valley,” “No California” is a worthy listen.

6. "Heaven Surrounds Us Like a Hood" — Yves Tumor
Originally from Knoxville, Tenn., Yves Tumor – born Sean Lee Bowie – came out with perhaps the most exciting song of the year to me, the beautifully experimental “Heaven Surrounds Us Like a Hood.” This epic journey sounds like it could have come out of another Bowie. Tumor’s latest album is titled “Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds).” It’s ambitious, including this song.

7. "Don't Let the Devil (feat. El-P)" — Killer Mike
We’re up to a song that technically isn’t from Run the Jewels, but it sort of is. From Killer Mike’s sixth studio album (but his first in 11 years) “Michael,” the track “Don’t Let the Devil” features El-P with Killer Mike – and even a shout out to their group Run the Jewels. Killer Mike says the latest album was influenced by gospel, soul, funk and hip-hop, and you hear it in “Don’t Let the Devil.”

8. "Pyjamas (feat. Remi Wolf)" — Benny Sings
Dutch pop musician Benny Sings has been crafting pop gem after pop gem, sticky songs that stay with you. That was especially true with his two collabs with Remi Wolf. “Young Hearts” is a bop, sure, but “Pyjamas” is irresistible. In a year where bossa nova influences are everywhere, “Pyjamas” marries those groves with some equally catchy lyrics. I mean, we all love wearing pajamas. And Havaianas.

9. "Weightless" — Arlo Parks
Arlo Parks somehow manages to pop up on my end of year mixes annually these days. In 2022, it was “Softly.” In 2021, it was “Green Eyes.” This year, we moved on to the British singer-songwriter’s second album, “My Soft Machine,” and the single “Weightless.” It’s bright and boppy, and I like it.

10. "Evolution" — Braids
Originally from Calgary and now based in Montreal, Braids released their latest album, “Euphoric Recall,” this year. The track “Evolution” is the kind of groove we need right now.

11. "Empty Mansions" — Local Natives
Local Natives is another band that tends to land a slot in my year-end mixes, but how can I not. The group, which I’ll never forget was the last live show I saw before the pandemic shut down concerts for a long time, continues to produce music that is the soundtrack of our lives living in Los Angeles. The group’s latest album, “Time Will Wait for No One,” features some great singles. Interestingly, “Empty Mansions” wasn’t one they they released… but to me it was their dreamiest.

12. "Circus Maximus (feat. The Weeknd)" — Travis Scott
I’ve gotten to the point now in my life where my kids have their own musical tastes and are frequently inspiring me to get into certain artists or songs. My eldest was really into Travis Scott’s “Circus Maximus” album this year, including the film of the same name. This one is a controversial choice, I know critics were mixed on it – particularly because of its similarities to Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead.” But I sometimes can’t help what I like, and the powerful drums and contrast with The Weeknd’s voice – and the synth at the end of it — just made it interesting to me. Sorry!

13. "Psychos" — Jenny Lewis
OK, let’s move back from those aggressive drums to something Joyful, y’all. Literally: Jenny Lewis’ latest album is titled “Joy’All,” and the kick off song is “Psychos.” She’s a rock and roll disciple in a video game.

14. "Pretty Girl" — Ice Spice
Out of this world like sci-fi. It’s been quite a year for Ice Spice, including an appearance on “Saturday Night Live,” where she first performed this track, along with Nigerian rapper/singer Rema. “Pretty Girl” is quite simply, pretty.

15. "No More Lies" — Thundercat & Tame Impala
Tame Impala, aka Kevin Parker, has become equally famous for his collabs alongside his own songs. In 2021, we included his “Breathe Deeper” remix with Lil Yachty. This time out, it’s “No More Lies,” his track with Thundercat that may be the funkiest thing on this year’s mix.

16. "Show Me How" — Foo Fighters
Foo Fighters returns to shoegaze for “Show Me How,” a song about loss — made all the more poignant by the inclusion of Violet Grohl on vocals with her father Dave. From their 11th studio album, “But Here We Are,” the introspective song refers to the death of Dave’s mother, and Violet’s grandmother. Where are you now, who will show me how?

17. "Headlights On" — Wild Nothing
Formed by Jack Tatum in 2009, Wild Nothing released their fifth studio album, “Hold,” this year. “Headlights On” is the first single, featuring guest vocals from Hatchie. Jack Tatum, by the way, co-wrote Japanese Breakfast’s signature song “Be Sweet,” a previous Choice Cuts selection.

18. "Nothing Left to Lose" — Everything But the Girl
It’s confusing to me how Everything But the Girl had been inactive since 2000, given that Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt have been a real-life couple for decades. But maybe working on separate projects was the secret to them staying together all this time. Nonetheless, the arrival of new Everything But the Girl music in 2023 was a welcome homecoming. Their new album is titled “Fuse,” leading off with “Nothing Left to Lose,” featuring Thorn’s rich vocals, of course.

19. "Heavenly" — Sputnik Sweetheart
Based in Canberra, Australia, Sputnik Sweetheart released the EP “Far From You” earlier this year, the heavenly “Heavenly” is a standout single.

20. "La Bachata" — Manuel Turizo
Colombian singer Manuel Turizo Zapata, who just goes by Manuel Turizo professionally, won the Global 200 Latin Song of the Year, the Airplay Song of the Year and Tropical Song of the Year at the Billboard Latin Music Awards for his single “La Bachata.” Bachata is a Dominican genre that drives this tune, which became Turizo’s biggest hit ever.

21. "Drive Me Crazy!" — Lil Yachty
I mentioned Lil Yachty earlier, and now here he is, with a track from his 2023 release “Let’s Start Here.” A bit of a departure for Lil Boat, there’s a lot of psychedelic rock and singing on this album, and I’m here for it. “Drive Me Crazy!” is an upbeat bop that he performed on “SNL” earlier this year, in his performance debut on the series.

22. "Wretched" — Bartees Strange
Bartees Strange kicked off last year’s Choice Cuts, and he’s back again with “Wretched,” off the album “Farm to Table.” Technically from 2022, but I was still listening a lot to Bartees this year, and this song is just too moving not to include. ““This song is about the people who’ve always stood by me, even when I was wretched. When I was trying to be something other than myself—they saw me even through that and held me down,” Strange said in releasing this track.

23. "All I Want" — Lane 8
Daniel Goldstein is the Denver-based producer and DJ better known as Lane 8. His latest album “Reviver” was also released in 2022, so it took a while for it to hit my ears. Apparently it shows up on the FIFA 23 soundtrack, which is perhaps how it spread wide this year. “All I Want” features Arctic Lake on vocals, filled with need and desire. Just wait for that drop.

24. "Not Strong Enough" — Boygenius
You hear “supergroup” bandied about a lot when people bring up Boygenius, the “supergroup” made up of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus. We finally got a full record from them this year, called of course “The Record.” Since then they played Coachella, toured the world and performed on “SNL.” (Wow, a lot of SNL musical guests on this year’s mix!) And they ended the year with seven Grammy nominations, including album of the year and record of the year. “Not Strong Enough” was strong enough to receive three of those nods.

25. "Lovesick" — Laufey
Remember when I said it’s the kids who are now inspiring some of my music choices? Never has that been more clear that Laufey, the pop/jazz artist that both my sons absolutely adore. So much that I believe I was nominated for dad of the year because I managed to get them tickets to see her at the Ace Hotel this fall. From her album “Bewitched,” Laufey’s “Lovesick” feels like the perfect way to wrap up 2023’s Choice Cuts.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

The Great Los Angeles Walk 2023 Recap: 15 Miles, From Griffith Park to Griffith Park, Conquered!


A crowd of several hundred people weren't afraid of the forecasted rain (which turned out to be barely an issue -- a few minutes at most, a few hours into the walk!) and joined us on Saturday morning, Nov. 18, for the 18th annual Great Los Angeles Walk. This year, we started and finished in the same spot — the California bear statue at Griffith Park — for the first time ever. And we explored two major north/south avenues — Fairfax and Western — in addition to sections of Franklin Avenue and Pico Boulevard.

After a few words, I introduced Diana Nyad (who brings her EverWalk group every year) and also brought up Cat and Steve Whalen, the now-married couple who first met a few years ago on the walk

From Griffith Park, we passed by the Fern Dell Western stairs and Immaculate Heart, and then headed down Franklin, by classic apartment buildings like the Hollywood Tower and the Montecito. Then we turned south briefly on Highland, before rejoining Franklin at the Hollywood United Methodist Church. From there, we passed by the Magic Castle and the entrance to Runyon Canyon, before stopping to check out the historic Wattles Mansion and Gardens Park.

Then it was south to Hollywood Blvd., which we walked to Fairfax. Heading south on Fairfax, we passed by landmark eatries like Canter's and enjoyed an exclusive discount at Diamond Bakery. (Shappy pretzels and lots of cookies!) We saw Television City and the Grove, and many stopped for lunch at Farmers Market.

Then it was museum time, passing by the LACMA, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and the Petersen Automotive Museum — where walkers could check out some classic cars in the lobby. We headed east on Pico, and some Walkers ate at Rosemary and Thyme (which offered a free soft serve!) and others visited some of the boutique shops along the way.

We then headed back north on Western — and many Walkers took a pit stop at El Cholo, the legendary LA restaurant celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The management gave Walkers an early happy hour menu, and many margaritas were had. The walk continued up Koreatown, past the Wiltern Theatre and all the way back up to the start point.

Thanks to everyone who made all of the trek, some of it, or even just helped give rides to their friends. Check out The Great Los Angeles Walk's Instagram feed for more pics, and the hashtags #glaw and #greatlawalk for more as well. Also you can find pics in which we were tagged here or here.

But here are just a few highlights from the day:

See you all next year! Don't forget, the Great Los Angeles Walk is always on the Saturday before Thanksgiving!