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January 05, 2015

Playlist for a new year: 10 songs from local bands to see you through

Old becomes new again.

Congratulations. You've crossed the threshold into a different calendar year, and a totally new you. 

Okay, maybe you're pretty much the same. But you now have one advantage over 2014, and it's perspective. There's nothing's more satisfying than observing the usual merry-go-round of emotions with a slightly skeptical eye, thinking of how far you've come since all those months ago. 

You deserve it! And now, here's your chance. 

Wordsworth once said poetry comes from "emotion recollected in tranquility." In that spirit, may listening to these songs  from Philly musicians remind you of the lyrical highs and lows of the last year, felt with a measure of good-natured derision and hope for the blank slate ahead.

1. War on Drugs, "Red Eyes" 

Too obvious? Too bad. The hit song from WOD's "Lost in a Dream" (Secretly Canadian) hits the right spot. That yelp in the middle says it all: It's the sound of a traveller into the abyss of the self letting loose a barbaric yawp of reckless, joyous, freedom, knowing they're surely on the road to somewhere better. 

2. Amanda X, "Low and Mean" 

Sweet girl pop with an edge. From the trio's album "Amnesia" debuting on Philly's Siltbreeze Records, this nostalgic track reads like a storybook with background oohs and aahs in all the right places.

3. Creepoid, "Yellow Wallpaper" 

Marked by the same head-boppingly confident vibes of early Radiohead, this song off Creepoid's self-titled LP (No Idea) expands from jangly, minor-key cool to noisy chaos. A driving drumbeat plays against bassist Anna Troxell's ethereal vocals to provide something like a glimpse inside a dreamer’s mind.

4. A Sunny Day in Glasgow, "Bye Bye Big Ocean (The End)" 

Echoing vocals and pretty noise weave a big, impressionistic blanket from a trippy cascade of textures. A band stretched out over continents, from Philly to Sydney, Australia, still works together to produce a cohesive, albeit dreamy, sound pop installation. 

5. qqq, "The Ebullient" Dark and shimmery, the track from electronic artist qqq's four-song release, "After Party Collection," revels in mystery. There are moments of skies parting and light pouring forth. Loops of synth-warped spoken mantras frame a mad scientist's definition of god. Good for underground nightclubs, probably.

6.  Nothing, "Dig" 

The second track on metal-tinged "Guilty of Everything" (Relapse) luxuriates in hard and soft layers. A plaintive, beseeching need beckons across a soundscape of full-on noise and gorgeous harmony.

7. Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler, "The White Balloon

The song from harpist Lattimore and synth master Zeigler's collaboration, "Slant of Light" (Thrill Jockey) extends into a three and a half minute reverie so complete, you’d forget there are real - and heavy - instruments at work.  What they create sounds perpetually like a song in a movie coming in at the moment of a tender reveal.

8. The Districts, "4th and Roebling" 

On the heels of their self-titled EP and headlining gigs at the Unitarian Church and Union Transfer, the Lilitz, Pa. outfit of 19-to-20-year olds released a rollicking ode to growing apart in America. But it's only a teaser. Half-anchored in the new year, the song is part of a full-length release due out in February. A Flourish and a Spoil will debut on Fat Possum Records.

9.  Proexhibitors, "Disalarmed" 

For the longest time, Proexhibitors only had a basement tape-sounding live recording of this song up on SoundCloud. But just as Joy Division led to New Order, the band moved from distorted laissez-faire to the minimalist tones of New Age with the release of "Plutonian Oysters," getting a new drummer along the way. 

10.  Northern Arms"Below the Pines" 

What happens when two guys fall in love with the same woman, according to XPN's The Keyand discover each other as “the other man?” From the sound of this track on Northern Arms’ self-titled LP, they vent their heartbreak into a deep-souled bellow. Vocals soar, roll and quake in patterns that follow an anthemic, maybe even "epic,"  melody.