Top Dance Tracks of 2014 (So Far): Jack White, Sharon Jones and More

On the air Friday night on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle. Photo by Eve Cooke.

On the air Friday night on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle. Photo by Eve Cooke.

Every Friday I spend all day looking through new releases to find uptempo, dance-worthy songs for my show on KEXP.

There are lots of emo (slow, sad) songs in alternative radio, and though many are good, I’m looking for propulsive tracks. My favorite have soulful vocalists or lyrics.

I play every show as if it might be my last. Never saving the best music for later.

Although it’s an art to put the different music styles together, it’s really the artists that are coming through with circulatory, smart or melodic tracks that are magnetic and strong.

Whether you’re jumping around your living room like a fool (I do this every Saturday when I re-listen to the show), partying with friends or sailing under the moonlight, this music brings us all together.

Here are some of my favorites of 2014.

I’ve also listed classic or alternative songs that go well with these new tracks in sets. Can’t give you all my secrets, but try these new songs with an open ear. I believe you’ll find them satisfying.

1. Jack White – “Lazaretto”

Say what you will about Jack White’s personality, he is undeniably one of the great artists of our time. This rock song is the climactic point (and the title track) to his new full-length Lazaretto.

Jack doesn’t fill his music with solos or layers, it’s retained a raw, spacious quality that invites you in.

Play with hard-hitting rock: The Black Keys – “10am Automatic” or Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Zero.”

2. Karol Conka – “Vo La”

We don’t see many masterful female rappers. I’m not sure why, since girl singers  and writers seem to be everywhere.

Brazilian artist Karol Conka brings in the heavy guns with a warm, rhythmic voice and a mix of world-savvy styles that lean hard into hip-hop.

Play with international dance beats: Manu Chau – “Me Gustas Tu” or Alt-J – “Fitzpleasure.”

3. Bloc Party – “Ratchet”

Suggested by a Twitter friend from London, this song by Bloc Party is their most catchy to date. The interesting thing about this band is that they ride the line between club beats and new wave like no one else.

Play with club beats: Chemical Brothers’ “Song to the Siren” or Underworld’s “Dirty Epic.”

4. Trust – “Icabod”

If I had a quarter for every neo-80s band that comes into the station, I’d be a rich DJ.

Most of seem to be copying the great new wave groups. But once in a while a group comes through with melodies that impress and lyrics that are truly personal.

Trust’s Joyland record is easily my favorite of 2014 so far. This song “Icabod” haunts my dreams in a good way. No, they’re not quite as good as Joy Division, and don’t do Ian Curtis’s trapped butterfly dance, but Trust has their own style going on.

Play with brilliant new wave classics: Joy Division “Love Will Tear Us Apart” or The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.”

5.Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings – “Stranger To My Happiness”

Daptone Records in Brooklyn is bringing out some of the best soul artists of the decade: Lee Fields, Charles Bradley and my girl Sharon Jones.

Their concert at Seattle’s Showbox Theater was the best of the year so far.

The new record Give The People What They Want has many great dance tracks.

My favorite of the bunch is “Stranger To My Happiness.” Oh, those horns!

Play with classic or newer soul: Al Green’s “Here I Am” or Jamie Lidell’s “Multiply.”

Tune in to DJ Michele Myers Friday nights at 9pm on KEXP 90.3FM Seattle,

Music historian and producer, Michele’s made over 200 radio stories for KEXP Documentaries. As a party DJ she’s performed at Seattle Space Needle’s New Year’s Eve, Bumbershoot and private events. This year she’ll spin dance sets at Doe Bay Fest and The Black Cat Halloween Bash. Michele runs Soulful Alternative Marketing and has written scripts, lesson plans and features for The SmithsonianExperience Music Projectthe University of Washington and NPR.

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Categories: alternative rock, dance, electronic, electronic dance, hip-hop, indie rock, music, new bands, new releases, soul, videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Be a Radio DJ: 7 Steps for On-Air Success

On the air at KEXP. Picture by Evie Cooke.

On the air at KEXP. Picture by Evie Cooke.

Recently a close friend started her career as a radio DJ.  I was happy to pass on to her some basic principles for being on the microphone and preparing a quality radio show.


1. Talk to one person. While you are practicing reading out loud (and you should, a lot) imagine you are talking to one person. Choose a friend that you know well, who you’re comfortable with and who’d be genuinely interested in what you’re saying.


The radio is an intimate medium when handled this way and much, much more powerful than the “I’m talking to a group” tone.


2. Go slowly. Think in phrases and pause between them, giving the listener time to absorb.


Ira Glass is the master of this. Listen to him religiously.


Most people are doing other things while you’re on the radio. Make sure your words are basic enough for them to understand while they’re: driving, doing the laundry or sitting in a cafe.


3. Be yourself. Nature is always interesting. You’re really passionate about these artists and sharing the music. Show that. Authenticity is the key to good art.


You’re creating sound experiences for people. Act as their guide. Tell them things you think they will find interesting, fun or inspiring.


4. STAY CLOSE TO THE MIC. This is the best advice I can give you. Get used to getting all up in that thing and make it work for you.  Don’t be more than a baseball’s width away from it.


5. Take a deep breath. Before you speak, every time you get a chance. This deepens your voice and keeps you from developing “answering machine syndrome” where things sound tinny and flat.


Being a radio DJ is kind of like singing. That lung capacity will help a lot with your flexibility to talk well.


6. Vary your tone. Especially with any kind of list (of which there are many), you need to go from high to low register without sounding as if you’re trying to. Once you practice this, you’ll hit different tones normally and this will make your mic breaks interesting to the ear.


7. BE PREPARED. I’m an epic preparer. At least that way if anything goes wrong you know you did your very best.


Make long lists of new music to play and write down which songs from the library these best new tracks go with.


Use bullet point lists in Sharpie to map out the three basic stages of each mic break: back announce, station business, forward announce.


Forward announcing is the mark of the prepared DJ. When you mention who’s coming up next, use mostly names people will recognize and a few new things they shouldn’t miss.


I keep a list of favorite and new artists that are coming up on a big sheet called PROMO and mark them off as they’re played. Try to hit a variety of genres in your upcoming teaser mentions.

2014 from Phone 127

When you have your music and mic break content together it will probably go very well.


If anything goes awry (you misfire a song, play the wrong track or mispronounce) consider it a part of live radio and move on.

As long as you keep the music playing, everything will be A-OK.


Tune in to DJ Michele Myers Friday nights at 9pm on KEXP 90.3FM Seattle, worldwide.


Michele has been a radio DJ and producer for over two decades. She’s spun for KALX in Berkeley, WNYE in New York City and KEXP in Seattle. As a producer she made over 200 radio stories for KEXP Documentaries. A live party DJ, Michele’s performed at Seattle Space Needle, Seattle Art Museum, Bumbershoot, numerous clubs and select events. She’s written scripts, lesson plans and features for The Smithsonian InstituteExperience Music Projectthe University of Washington and NPR.
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Getting Airplay: The Top Ten Mistakes That Bands Make


Hundreds of musical artists send me their work each year.

Every band wants to be played on the radio.

As a fellow musician, it’s easy for me to remember that each MP3 or CD is a piece of art, beloved by its creator. Each song is a part of someone’s dream.

As a DJ having to choose from the horde, I’m seeing that many groups and artists make recurring mistakes that stop them from getting radio play.

In the interest of getting your music into the right hands and making it shine, here are some helpful points…

Eliminating these common roadblocks can step up your professional game.

1. Bad Band Name

Sure, there are famous groups with less-than-great names, but unless you’re Led Zeppelin or the Butthole Surfers in talent quality it will likely hurt you.

Here are qualities of good band names:

- Easily heard in a nightclub. Should be able to understand the name when said over a mic in a crowded bar.

- Must be memorable! You should be able to say the handle once and have it make an impression. Test it. A scientific principle or misspelled book title might be clever, but can they remember it?

- Gives an indication of the music you’ll hear from the band. A name is a brand. If you’re a soul group with the word “metal” in your name, or a metal band with a cheery title, it creates a promise of art the listener will not hear. Inside jokes don’t work in promo. Please make good on what your name sounds like.

Bad Band Names:

-Anything you thought of with a bong in your hand. The words “spaceship”, “dude” or “excellent” are probably a mistake.

-Sexual or genital innuendos are not very original. These are the most common bad names and make you look like a tool.  Think of something arty or musical instead, unless you sing only songs about doing it.

-Names that are hard to say or spell are going to hinder you. Please keep it simple and short.

2. Low-Quality Players in Band

The most common musicians in bands who can’t play seem to be drummers and singers.  If there is anyone in your band that can’t do their job competently, it’s essential to replace them.

Drummers – You must lead the band. Following the singer or guitarist will throw the beat off. Play to a click-track if you must but please do not follow the other players.

Singers – This one is surprisingly the most common. How does this happen? If you couldn’t play guitar most groups would throw you out, but somehow people who can’t sing are still fronting bands. If your singer is pitchy, off-time or you find yourself turning them down in the mix, please get a new vocalist.

3. Lack of Good Hooks

Think of a famous song. Odds are it has a memorable phrase and/or melody that sticks in your head.

Songwriters must provide catchy, interesting hooks in order for a song to be great. Every song you want played on the radio needs one.

Bill Withers used to listen to other people’s conversation to find writing material. Granddaddy keeps long lists of ideas from his travels.

However you find your hook make it just a few words long and keep the melody basic unless you’re a master. Sing it to someone once and see if they can repeat it. If not, try again.

4. Needs Some Mystery

Music, like all art, is partially created by the spectator.

Leave a little mystery in your lyrics so that the listener can add their own meaning.

The above song “Use Me” by Bill Withers is a good example. We know he’s being used, but our mind starts to imagine how he was used. This is good art.

Straightforward lyrics are fine when mixed in as part of a puzzle or when telling a story. Otherwise, please leave something to the imagination.

A great example is Bob Dylan’s masterpiece Highway 61 Revisited. Dylan is the master of  strong lyrical enigma.

5. Copying/Lack of Originality

Putting out music means making yourself vulnerable, sharing your inner self and doing something original.

Nature is always interesting. I’d much rather see one person with a guitar singing an honest ballad about their experience on earth than a full band fronting about girls and cars.

Having technical skills is key, but if there’s no personal story or unique emotion in your songs they’ll likely be dull. Real music needs passion and risk-taking. Continue reading

Categories: alternative rock, hip-hop, indie rock, music, new bands, new releases | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Soul of Rock: David Bowie


There are some musicians who keep you from feeling alone in the universe. David Bowie is one of those.

Bowie’s voice and majestic stage presence earned him the name the Thin White Duke.

He’s songwriting royalty. So many of his songs have brilliant hooks and poetic rhythm. Just listen to the lyrics to “Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide.”

Oh no love! you’re not alone
Youre watching yourself but you’re too unfair
You got your head all tangled up but if I could only
Make you care
Oh no love! you’re not alone
No matter what or who youve been
No matter when or where youve seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
Ive had my share, I’ll help you with the pain
Youre not alone

Born David Jones in 1947 in Brixton, London, Bowie started on the saxophone at age 13.

Three years later he was playing in local mod bands. In 1966 he took the name David Bowie because his given name was being used by the Monkees’ Davy Jones.

In 1969 the first full-length Man of Words, Man of Music came out. It included “Space Oddity”, one of rock’s greatest ballads.

David Bowie’s landmark rock record The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars made him a global phenomenon in 1972.

Bowie’s androgynous stage style and echoing pop songs redefined glam rock. This full-length is still his greatest masterpiece.

Bowie plaque unveiled

An art student by nature, Bowie recognized the cult of the rock star when he decided to create a character called “Ziggy Stardust.”

Ziggy is a glamorous concert guru from another planet.

The corresponding movie has him in outfits not far from what Space Cher would wear.

A male-female vision in white knee-high boots. Ziggy and his music resonated with the U.S. fans and made Bowie an international sensation.

In 1976 Bowie released Station to Station. A fine record in its own right.

At the end of the 70s he moved to Berlin and worked with Brian Eno on a series of records where they experimented with electronic music. Our team at KEXP Documentaries produced a KEXP Documentary on Bowie for the series Pop Goes Electronic.

“Heroes” was a song written by Bowie after he relocated to Germany. He saw a couple in love meeting up next to the Berlin Wall.

 ”I thought, of all the places to meet in Berlin,

why pick a bench underneath a guard turret on the Wall?” – Bowie

David Bowie has released a stunning amount of pop, rock and electronic work.

He’s influenced great electronic and rock acts: Radiohead, the Pixies, Moby, Bauhaus, Bloc Party, Iggy Pop and the Cure.

Other amazing songs from the Thin White Duke are: “Queen Bitch”, “Be My Wife”, “Fashion”, “Fame”, “Golden Years”, “Suffragette City”, “Modern Love” and “Quicksand.”

He’s starred in many movies including The Hunger and Labyrinth.  His magnetism on film makes it hard to take your eyes off of him.

In 2013 he appeared in the opening ceremony for the Olympics in London and is getting a plaque dedicated to him in the city of Westminster for the 40th anniversary of Ziggy Stardust.

David Bowie’s 2013 release The Next Day had one of Bowie’s best song in years “The Stars Are Out Tonight.”

An exhibit of Bowie’s visual works starts running in Berlin this May. Find tickets and the latest news at David Bowie’s official site.

Tune in to DJ Michele Myers Friday nights at 9pm on KEXP 90.3FM Seattle, Music historian and producer, Michele’s made over 200 radio stories for KEXP Documentaries. She’s also written scripts, lesson plans and features for The SmithsonianExperience Music Projectthe University of Washington and NPR.


Categories: alternative rock, biographies, music, music history, videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best New Band: Temples: UK Psychedelic Rock


Stepping into the colored psychedelic light, UK band Temples are tuned in.

You can hear the influence of 60s psychedelic rock innovators the Byrds and the Beatles in the band’s first full-length Sun Structures.

There’s a different texture in Temples’ music that you’d never find in landmark vintage bands. A closeness in sound never technologically possible during the British Invasion.

In November of 2012 James Bagshaw, who had some strong skills on vocals and guitar, formed a duo with bass player Tom Warmsley.

Their first single “Shelter Song” dropped soon after.

The track earned Temples a label contract with Heavenly, gigs with some touring big bands, and an opening slot for the Rolling Stones. The duo added Adam Smith on the keys and Sam Toms on drums.

Now based in Kettering, England, Temples as a band sports a look inspired by the 60s, with modern elements of lushness and contemporary functionality.  They are dynamic onstage,

Temples seem to pull inspiration from legendary 60s band Marc Bolan and T Rex in this video for the song “Keep In The Dark.”  Adding, as always, their own twists to the light.

Click on the album cover below to get Temples new full-length or visit their official site.

Tune in to DJ Michele Myers Friday nights at 9pm on KEXP 90.3FM Seattle, Music historian and producer, Michele’s made over 200 radio stories for KEXP Documentaries. She’s also written scripts, lesson plans and features forThe SmithsonianExperience Music Projectthe University of Washington and NPR.

Categories: alternative rock, indie rock, music, new bands, new releases, videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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