Pod Picks for June 27, 2013

June 24, 2013 

Turn up the heat on your summer playlist with the following new tracks we recommend for downloading (legally, of course) or streaming to you iPod, iPad, iPhone or other personal media device.

"Soul of a Man" by Tom Jones

Let’s face it, Tom Jones had become a parody of himself – a Vegas has-been living off his past hits and conquests. At 73, Jones has done it all and should be retired, sipping daiquiris beside a pool in a Vegas suburb. But then he met producer Ethan Johns, son of legendary record producer Glyn Johns. Johns has made his own name, harnessing the energy of bands including Kings of Leon and the soul of Ray LaMontagne. He takes the Rick Rubin approach here, rejuvenating Jones’ career by putting together a diverse set of covers to highlight his strengths. This 80-year-old blues tune wraps Jones’ baritone in haunting guitars and dark atmospherics. There’s no glitz or pomposity, the Welsh crooner has control, but allows the song to dictate the mood.

"Whispers in the Dark" by Mumford and Sons

This band was one of the leaders in a wave of young bands bringing mandolins into the mainstream. The question is why? What makes these guys special? It could have something to do with the honest, self-effacing, confessional lyrics. It could be the ability of the folk wall of sound – these guys balance the mix by pouring the strings around the percussion and the vocals. It could be the dramatics of their music. Whatever the reason, Mumford has people’s attention. And these multi-instrumentalists from Britain continue to pound out great songs from the group’s sophomore album, “Babel.” The music is a quiet storm with lightning in the distance. Let’s hope this band keeps bringing the thunder in the future.

"Ashes in the Air" by Flaming Lips

“The Terror” is the band’s thirteenth album, and as close to conventional songs as this Oklahoma band ever gets. This is the Lips’ latest offering to its ongoing cosmic opera about mankind’s condition (or something like that). This song features the band Phantogram, a trance-rock duo that fit into the swirl of this track nicely. Wayne Coyne’s vocals meander and orbit the digital landscape, poking around, searching for something to cling to before realizing that he’s lost and alone, at least until the next orbit cycles around.

Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge

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