This week’s Phoenix Picks include music from up-and-coming artists including Great Caesar and Canyon Spells, more established independent artists such as Chicago’s own Andrew Bird and legends of the music industry such as Eric Clapton and the late Leonard Cohen. Primarily a blend of folk-rock and indie-alternative, this week’s playlist varies from high-energy tunes such as “Dream Lover,” to some softer and lyrically driven songs such as “Chemical Switches.” Great Caesar, the up-and-coming Brooklyn-based band, kicks off the playlist with “Hey Mama.”
- “Hey Mama” — Great Caesar
One of the best young bands right now, Great Caesar gives listeners a taste of its indie style with “Hey Mama.” The song blends influences from alternative rock, jazz and soul music in a way that feels new and modern through raspy vocals and a tight rhythm section.
- “Take Me Down” — Gary Clark Jr.
Gary Clark Jr. set down his electric guitar and opted for a softer, acoustic approach with “Take Me Down.” The modern blues revival artist’s soulful vocals shine in his most recent single.
- “Little Man, You’ve Had a Busy Day” — Eric Clapton
Legendary blues guitarist Eric Clapton goes acoustic for a soft lullaby from his new album, “I Still Do.” He does not abandon his blues roots here and keeps lyrics at the forefront. Great for a rainy fall day, this track is as relaxing as they come.
- “Holy War” — Alicia Keys
Easily the most popular modern artist on the list, Alicia Keys is known for her blending of pop and soul. With the closing track of her new record, “HERE,” Keys continues this style. The repetitive acoustic guitar, sincere vocals and sparse use of electronics gives fans what they want and expect from her, and it’s a great high note to close the album.
- “WALLS” — Kings of Leon
The title track from the group’s new album, “WALLS,” is a steady, quiet pulse of acoustic guitar, piano and Caleb Followill’s signature, powerful vocals.
- “Forever” — Canyon Spells
Wisconsin-based band Canyon Spells is a great young group led by vocalist and lead guitarist Jimmie Linville. With traces of early 2000s alternative rock, “Forever” feels both old and new, emerging as its own sub-genre.
- “Chemical Switches” — Andrew Bird
Next up, we turn Andrew Bird for a quiet, meditative tune filled with wonderful lyrics, gentle acoustic guitar and some well-placed whistling that makes a blistering cold day in the city just a bit better.
- “Dream Lover” — Henry Hall
New York singer-songwriter Henry Hall’s newest single, “Dream Lover,” hits listeners with high-energy from the start. The song is infectious and unrelentingly catchy for its short runtime. You’ll be humming this one for a long time.
- “In Winter” — Matt Pond PA
This is the perfect song to welcome winter. It’s steady guitar picking and subtle violins mix together beautifully to a create a rich atmosphere reminiscent of its title.
- “The Rains” — Henry Jamison
A great marriage of modern pop and traditional folk, “The Rains” by singer-songwriter Henry Jamison begins as something familiar and predictable, but evolves into a something much more stylish and sleek. Its smooth guitar and odd time signature give the tune its own feel — something Jamison has regularly achieved throughout his career.
- “Animal Spirits” — Vulfpeck
Vulfpeck is known for its bass-slapping, funky grooves. With “Animal Spirits,” the group continues its heavy funk style but uses light, airy vocals and a bright piano to give the tune a happy, foot-tapping feel that’s tough to dislike.
- “Treaty” — Leonard Cohen
Finally, we pay tribute to one of the greatest songwriters of all time, Leonard Cohen. The baritone singer passed on Nov. 7, leaving behind an impressive collection of folk records, including his last musical effort, “You Want It Darker.” Slightly haunting in light of his recent death, the album deals almost strictly with coming to terms with one’s mortality. This is as evident as ever in the second track, “Treaty.” A quiet, heartbreaking reflection on love and loss, “Treaty” is a great way to celebrate the man’s legacy and cap off this week’s Phoenix Picks.