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What’s up guys & gals! I know we’ve been quiet in the band for a little bit, but that’s mostly because we are working on brand new music for you all.

With the new year upon us I decided to go ahead and look back over 2016 and take an inventory of my top 10 most inspiring songs of 2016. Below is the run down, as well as why or how each song inspired me. While I was at it, I created a Spotify playlist for you to enjoy as you see fit.
Skip to the playlist below here.

So, in no particular order…

1.) Same Old Blues – Phantogram

I have always liked Phantogram since I discovered them about 3-4 years ago. What I find most intriguing about this track is how everything has it’s place. Especially the gospel styled choir throughout the entire song. As I continued to listen, it inspired me to want to write a song where I could have pre-recorded voices (my own or a group) that I play on a sample pad or keyboard when I am not singing, similar to how I would play a guitar while performing.

2.) I Still Wonder – The Chain Gang of 1974

This has probably been the most listened to song on my rotation for the past 2-3 months. When you check it out then hopefully you will understand why. This song’s entire vibe & groove is so great, and leaves me with such a sense of happiness. Kinda like when you discover something exciting for the very first time. I have had a song written now for the past 2 1/2 years or so, and was never in the right head space for where to take it without it sounding like something Coldplay would have written. After listening to this one, it inspired a solid direction for me to experiment with for it. Who knows, maybe it’ll make it on the next record.

3.) Best Of Intentions – Mutemath

If you don’t know, I LOVE MUTEMATH. Just go listen. With this song and album, Mutemath did such a great job in creating a feeling of joy while still relating to those contrasting emotions of pain and apathy that we all experience during hard times. Some of the songs are so bittersweet and beautiful, and Paul Meany’s melodies really challenged me to write more interesting vocal parts that arpeggiate throughout a scale.

4.) If I Believe You – The 1975

This was a song that I just kept coming back to. The feeling I get of Matt Healy’s brokenness and vulnerability is what seems to keep calling me back. Furthermore, like Phantogram’s Same Old Blues, the gospel choir seemed to establish a sense of someone crying out for help. Overall, the song gives me the sense that I just had church.

5.) Elsewhere – Young The Giant

Young The Giant’s Elsewhere is probably one my favorite songs off their newest record. It may be overlooked by others since it isn’t one of their singles, but from the moment I heard it in my car while going to get my tires rotated I was hooked. The piano, coupled with Sameer’s vocal melody, and the bass groove is such a great melding of R&B, Jazz, and a fusion of their own indie rock sound. I also admire how minimal it feels with just the right amount of instrumentation going on.

6.) Just Like A Woman – Jeff Buckley

Though this song was recorded 30’ish years ago, before Jeff’s death, it was released in March 2016. This song is proof that even though someone is dead their legacy and art can live on to speak and move someone. That is exactly what this song does for me. It is such an intimate encounter, like you are sitting in a room with only him to perform for you. Jeff Buckley’s voice is impeccable and eerily ethereal throughout the entire track producing an interesting, phantom like experience as if his voice is calling from the grave. He always makes me “feel.” That feeling is a constant reminder for me to keep the main thing the main thing, to create a feeling with my art.

7.) Daydreaming – Radiohead

The title of this song says it all. It is hauntingly dreamy, and puts me into a daze. Thinking back, I remember watching the music video for this song the day it came out, which happened to land on my own wedding day. I sat there for all six and a half minutes, listening, watching, and though I didn’t move physically I was moved emotionally. The first lyric isn’t until 1:20, which is unheard of in this age of pop music. Thom Yorke opens with, “Dreamers, they never learn.” I identify heavily with that lyric because I consider myself a dreamer, and sometimes things don’t always work out as you hope but as Thom says later, “This goes beyond me, beyond you,” speaking to me to keep going, not get down about my failures, and to keep dreaming.

8.) Thank You – All Tvvins

I heard this song on a playlist that popped up while I was working out. It wasn’t until a few days later when it came back on that I realized that I liked it . There was something familiar about it. As I listened, the bass groove mirroring the vocal melody and ambience of the lead guitar just took me back to some early U2. Again, with this song, there is just the right amount of instrumentation without it being too tough to listen to. It rocks while still being easy listening.

9.) Need You Still – RVRB

Released right before the end of the year, it may be on the list since it’s so fresh on my mind but I won’t apologize for it’s ability to inspire. The groove, and use of vocal samples are just freakin’ gold to me. The low-end bass lines, lead synth sounds and space that RVRB creates reminds me of something you would hear on a record by The 1975, yet they still manage to stay true to themselves. Okay, Cameron Mitchell, I want to do pitch shifting on my own voice for future songs I write.

10.) Stranger Things – Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein

So the first song on Vol. 1 is the what I’m referring to most, because if you watched this past summer’s “80’s throwback to sci-fi” known as Stranger Things, then you were probably most enamored by the score. Do yourself a favor, just listen to the whole soundtrack, Vol.1 and Vol.2. Our whole band is digging on the 80’s retro synth sounds so much right now, expect to hear some references on our next project.

Well, there it is. Hope you enjoyed hearing from me. I plan to keep doing more posts along these lines at least every month to let you into my life a bit more. So, let me know your thoughts in the comment section below, or don’t…whatever.

-Ashkan

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