Tag Archives: Hot Routes

Hot Routes: Conference Edition

18 Jan

NFL Playoffs: Conference Week

Even though there’s only two games this week, we didn’t want to go light on the musical offerings.  So instead of hot tracks, you get two hot albums to go with your playoff picks.  Hot cuts from today and yesterday.



AFC Conference:  Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots

The Pick:  Ravens (+9)

The Album:  Foe by Man Without Country

Man Without Country’s album Foe came out a couple of years ago, so they’re not exactly a brand-new discovery.  They are, however, building up some momentum as 2013 begins, and may very well start to follow the same gradual-then-explosive path of cultural ascension that M83 took in 2011-12.  The reference to M83 is not a casual one – MWC’s music shares a lot of sonic similarities with the French artist, and they were also an opening act on several legs of the M83 headlining tour last year.  With Foe, MWC also made one connection to M83 very clear – both groups are capable of making stirring records that find beautiful noise amongst the collisions between pop, rock, and electronic music.

Much of Foe is drenched in synthesizers, and there’s a heady electronic pulse beating throughout the album.  Many songs feature rhythms and hard-edged beats that any dancehall producer would be lucky to have, and it’s clear that MWC understands how to rock a fucking party.  That’s not the only thing they’re able to do, though, and it’s not the most striking thing about Foe.

Underneath all the shiny effects and lazerbeam synths, MWC have the immediate and dynamic sound of a well-honed rock band.  This allows them potential access to the grand-scale soundscapes that powerful bands can hit – the kind of soaring, heady, climactic moments in which the artists create, fill, and destroy entire arenas within your speakers.  In other words, they have the potential to get on some next-level shit.

On Foe, they manage to grab hold of that potential at points, and the results are excellent.  The album closes with “Inflammable Heart” and if that song is any indication of where MWC is going next, they’re going to be the ones headlining world tours sooner rather than later.  It demands to be seen live, preferably coupled with other expansive high points featured on tracks like “Puppets” and “King Complex.”

Foe is not a perfect record, and there are times when the limitations of a young band show through.  There is a lot of room to grow.  But the ceiling is incredibly high, and MWC appears ready to climb.




NFC Divisional: San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons

The Pick:  Falcons (+5)

The Album:  Tical by Method Man

Method Man was one of the most visible members of Wu-Tang from the group’s beginning; even within a hip-hop collective stacked with head-spinning singular talents like Ghostface, Raekwon and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, the laid-back, deceptively simple flow of Meth compelled an irresistible interest whenever it appeared against another RZA backdrop.  The Clan knew this as much as anyone – Meth was given one of only two solo tracks on 36 Chambers, and that gesture was underlined by naming the track simply “Method Man.”

It’s not a coincidence that “Method Man” is one of the most enjoyable tracks on that classic album, and that Tical, Meth’s solo debut, is one of the best records to come out of that heady early-Wu period.

There are some clear reasons why Method Man was a critical and fan favorite as soon as the Wu landed.  First, Method Man’s delivery and lyrics seemed uniquely suitable for the grimy and multi-layered production aesthetic of group mastermind the RZA.  The Wu beats were dirty in the best possible sense – the bass hits weren’t clean or shoved to the forefront, but they got down and hit a primal level that few other hip-hop artists could touch.  RZA’s sound had a deceptive, made-in-the-basement feel to it; the lack of polish on the production belied the multi-layered craftsmanship working swiftly just below the surface.

Meth’s flow shared these production qualities and thus ran rampant all over the beats RZA gave him – his raspy voice and delivery put words to the dark, weird, hard, and always entertaining feel of the music, and his just-relaxed-enough lyrical tempo hid a brilliantly deft lyricist who shifted signatures to his whim and crafted undeniable hooks wherever he pleased.

It was often easy to hear the wicked glee in Meth’s lyrics, as though every time he stepped into the booth he was in the midst of one big, enjoyable house party.  On all of Meth’s early collaborations with RZA, most notably Tical, it sounds as if the fun in the vocals booth was infectious – RZA couldn’t help but match the energy with some of the tightest and most darkly enjoyable productions he’s ever laid down.  When two visionary artists can get on the same level like that, classics are made.



Hot Routes: Divisional Edition

11 Jan


NFL Playoffs: Divisional Week

Well, the accuracy rate of the Swanky Bowl Game picks from the end of 2012 were downright embarrassing.  Things were looking good throughout the regular season, but the combination of Rumpleminz and White Elephant parties proved to be too distracting for your Swanky correspondents.  Crucial research was overlooked, important intangible factors were ignored, and by the time everything was said and done, our credibility had disappeared along with Notre Dame’s self-respect.

To make up for any hard-feelings, and in an attempt to maybe get back some of that fickle street cred, we decided to heat the Routes back up and ride it through the rest of the NFL postseason.  There’s more than enough great music out there to last through February.


AFC Divisional:  Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos

The Pick:  Ravens (+10)

The Song:  Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It by Stars

Stars use synthesizers and other electronic effects to flesh out their live-band dynamic, and what often results are earnest, propulsive songs that strike universal chords of life and love.  “Hold On When You Get Love” lets its intentions be known from the get-go by laying down a simple kick-drum stomp familiar to other anthemic slow-burners – it’s inevitable that things are going to gain momentum from there, and they’re probably going to crest in full-throated sing-a-longs.

As the momentum picks up, the vocals make sure that listeners have a stake by setting up evocative and instantly relatable scenes of getting too drunk, leaving parties at the right times, showing up bastards everywhere, and putting all of your love out there for someone else.  By the time synthesizers and guitars are combining to rattle every visible edge of the song, the listener is right there with the band, running at breakneck speed and proclaiming their love to the empty nighttime streets.


NFC Divisional: Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

The Pick:  Packers (+3)

The Song:  Minor Cause by Emancipator

Emancipator has a lot in common with Bonobo – they both use instrumental touches more common to jazz and classical music to create hypnotic, mysterious, and moody songs that hit deep, undeniable stretches of groove bliss where movement is almost impossible to resist.  When these artists get going, and they pretty much always do, it is hard to tear yourself away.  They find the common ground between jazz and electronic music, and they dance all over it.

“Minor Cause” is the latest track from Emancipator, and it offers much of the same sounds we’ve come to expect from the artist.  Mournful violin strings float over a nodding beat accented by pounding piano keys, and a swirling, mystical world of sound is summoned up out of nowhere.  Can’t ask for much more.


NFC Divisional: Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons

The Pick:  Seahawks (+2.5)

The Song:  Clair De Lune by Flight Facilities

As a lifelong Seattle sports fan, there’s no way I’m going to pick against the Seahawks as they continue this playoff run.  But with this game against the Falcons, I like the Hawks’ chances even after putting the hometown bias aside.  Atlanta’s biggest weapons on offense is their pair of stud wide receivers, and Seattle has been excellent against the pass all season behind their towering and athletic corners.  On the other side of the ball, the combination of Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch has been overpowering lately, and there hasn’t been much from the Falcons D to inspire much confidence that they’ll be able to shut those two down.

Not all of the good feelings behind this Seahawks team is confined to on-paper matchups.  There’s a confident and playful edge to this team that makes them incredibly fun to root for.  From Pete Carroll on down, you can see the enjoyment that the entire team finds in playing with each other, and you can see how hard they are competing on every play of every game.  It’s hard to watch a team like this for very long without getting sucked into their energy and competitive fire; after a recent trip back to Seattle, I can safely say that the city hasn’t been this fired up about a sports team since the glory days of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp ran into the heyday of Ken Griffey, Jr.  So no matter what happens this week, the future is bright for the Seachickens.


AFC Divisional: Houston Texans at New England Patriots

The Pick:  Patriots (-9.5)

The Song:  Say That by Toro Y Moi

Toro Y Moi is getting set to release his new album Anything In Return on January 22, and based on the sound of some initial track releases, it’s going to be an exciting next step for the artist.  Over his last couple of releases as Toro, Chaz Bundick has put out some deeply laid-back funk that doesn’t hesitate to explore any sonic tangents that may present themselves.  The result has been some very solid records that succeed in creating a very pleasant listening experience, but ones that were not without down-key moments in which the musical meandering felt more self-indulgent than purposeful.  That looks to be changing with Anything.

With tracks like “Say That,” it appears that Toro Y Moi are beginning to beef up their sound – adding an edge to the synth hits, and making the low end hit a little bit harder, amongst other things – while also bringing a focus and relative structure to the songs.  These tracks are strong when standing alone by themselves, and they have the feel of an artist becoming more confident and self-assured as he matures with his craft.  The album has the potential to break Toro to a whole new audience, and that’s a great thing to see.



Hot Routes: Week Sixteen

15 Dec

Editor’s Note:  This is the Swanky roundup of our top picks and songs of the week, running every week of the 2012 Year of Football.  For a primer, check out the Introduction.

Week Sixteen

This will be the final regular-season Hot Routes for 2012.  The routes were mostly crisp and on-time this year, and hopefully we were able to keep feet tapping and tickets winning.  Things were a little rough in the first couple weeks of the season, but the ship was righted, and if you followed along (and if gambling was legal) there would be money in your pockets.  Things will close with a bang next week, with a Swanky Bowl Preview + Hottest 2012 Albums extravaganza, so get ready.  This week, we’ll help you prep for your holiday party by tossing out some Swanky-approved Xmas jams.


Tampa Bay (6-7) at New Orleans (5-8)

The pick: Tampa Bay (+3.5)

The track:  Christmas Eve/Sarajevo by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Based on their name, music, and seemingly deep affection for Christmas, I always imagine the Trans-Siberian Orchestra as a group of heavily-bearded Russians whose eyes are wild with vodka and the patriotic fervor of a pre-fall Soviet Union.  I’m assuming these guys honed their skills in the wild tundras of Siberia while concurrently nurturing a deep-felt love for Father Christmas and whatever ancient rituals that part of the world partakes in around this time of year.  Then, one fateful day, a traveling musician stumbled into the Orchestra’s hut/cave, and introduced the gentlemen to the wonders of the electric guitar.  The musical fires were lit, and we have the charged-up wonders of “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo” to power our holidays.


Green Bay (9-4) at Chicago (8-5)

The pick:  Green Bay (-2.5)

The track:  Wonderful Christmastime by The Shins

The Bears seem like they peaked early on in the year, and this week isn’t doing them any favors.  The Packers under Rodgers always play the Bears tough, and Jay Cutler’s got a neck injury now to add to the long list of injury gifts his O-line has given him this year.  The Packers should be giving at least a field goal.


Denver (10-3) at Baltimore (9-4)

The pick:  Denver (-3)

The track:  Hey Guys! It’s Christmastime! by Sufjan Stevens

Another prolific producer of Christmas music is Sufjan Stevens.  The talented singer, musician, composer, etc. dropped a FIVE DISC holiday release this year, and the all-encompassing weirdness and earnestness of the project is an awesome thing to behold.  There are covers of holiday standards, done every which way imaginable, and then there are Xmas originals with names like “Christmas Unicorn.”  “Hey Guys!” is a tightly produced, stirring alternative carol from this mad holiday genius.  It’s ready to soundtrack the climactic scene of Wes Anderson’s future holiday movie.


Detroit (4-9) at Arizona (4-9)

The pick:  Detroit (-6.5)

The track:  White Christmas by The Drifters

The Cards clearly aren’t going to lose by 58 points every week.  But after several days of watching last game’s embarrassments on tape, and then having to see John Skelton’s Damaged Psyche still at quarterback, the team’s motivations coming into the last games of the season are highly questionable at best.  The only reason this line isn’t higher against a still-dangerous Lions team is that it’s at home.  That will just make the boos louder.


Seattle (8-5) at Buffalo (5-8)

The pick:  Seattle (-5)

The track:  Christmas In Harlem by Kanye West


New York (8-5) at Atlanta (11-2)

The pick:  New York (+1.5)

The track:  Xmas Time Is Here Again by My Morning Jacket


Last Week’s Record:  6-0

Overall Record:  45-31

Hot Routes: Week Fifteen

8 Dec

Editor’s Note:  This is the Swanky roundup of our top picks and songs of the week, running every week of the 2012 Year of Football.  For a primer, check out the Introduction.

Week Fifteen

The college football regular season is officially concluded, so Hot Routes will be strictly professional for the next couple of weekends.  Watch out for the official Swanky Bowl Preview, dropping soon and ready to take care of all your Holiday football and music needs.


Atlanta (11-1) at Carolina (3-9)

The pick: Carolina (+3.5)

The track:  Neighborhood Watch by Memory Tapes

On the new release Grace/Confusion, Davye Hawke continues the dreamy power-pop aesthetic of earlier Memory Tapes songs while also adding some heftier and edgier beats.  The ethereal vocals are still there, often matched by yearning instrumentals, but things don’t often stay lightweight for long.  Songs like “Neighborhood Watch” begin quietly, almost meditatively, before things heat up with grinding guitars, dirty synth breakdowns, and pounding rhythms.


San Diego (4-8) at Pittsburgh (7-5)

The pick:  Pittsburgh (-8)

The track:  There There by Radiohead

The Chargers have had an awful season so far, and with the firing of the coach and the GM pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point, things are probably going to get uglier.  Pittsburgh will have Big Ben back, and will be fired up to get a win and help their playoff positioning.  There won’t be much resistance from an opposing team wondering how to quit on things without seeming too obvious about it.


Miami (5-7) at San Francisco (8-3)

The pick:  Miami (+11)

The track:  Sway by The Rolling Stones

Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life, is written in such a conversational way, and filled with such vivid anecdotes, that you can almost feel like you were right there with him, pushing the debauchery to the limit and pushing rock and roll to a whole different level.  Hearing him talk about honing his craft and writing classic songs, you realize how easy it is to take the Stones’ music and legacy for granted.  Their famous work is still omnipresent in today’s culture, and when you’re hearing “Satisfaction” on classic rock radio for the umpteenth time, you don’t usually pay attention to how singular and searingly effective the guitar work is.  Underneath all the urban legends and towering image, Keith Richards is an amazing guitar player who lays down the blues as well as anyone, living or dead.


New Orleans at New York Giants

The pick:  New York (-4.5)

The track:  Nancy From Now On (Live) by Father John Misty


Tennessee (4-8) at Indianapolis (8-4)

The pick:  Indianapolis (-5.5)

The track:  Watch The Show by M. Ward


Houston (11-1) at New England (9-3)

The pick:  Houston (+3.5)

The track:  Hey Guys! It’s Christmas Time!



Last Week’s Record:  6-0

Overall Record:  45-31

Hot Routes: Week Fourteen

30 Nov


Editor’s Note:  This is the Swanky roundup of our top picks and songs of the week, running every week of the 2012 Year of Football.  For a primer, check out the Introduction.

Week Fourteen


Oklahoma (9-2) at TCU (7-4)

The pick: Oklahoma (-6)

The track:  Come To The City by The War On Drugs

Many of tracks by The War on Drugs are akin to the feeling of walking into a smoke-choked room during a packed and noisy house party.  There’s a haze in the air, resulting from both the literal smoke and the much more figurative effects of drinking in a humid house with hormonally-charged strangers.  Everything kind of swirls around, feeling vaguely compelling, so that you are moved to stick around for a while.  And the more you stick around, beginning to get adjusted to the haze, you start to catch on to something in the room – a cohering thread that you can grab on to, and which eventually delivers in an emotional and consistent payoff that made the trip upstairs worth it.  “Whoo-hoo.”


Alabama (11-1) at Georgia (11-1)

The pick:  Georgia (+7.5)

The track:  Twenty Eight (Ianborg & Bronze Whale Bootleg) by The Weeknd

In the game that will decide who gets to beat the wildly overrated team from South Bend, Alabama is the better team.  They’ve got line advantages on both sides of the ball, and Alabama’s D in particular will be poised to take advantage of any and all Georgia mistakes.  Georgia is going to come correct though, and in a game that will be played in their backyard, they should be able to ride some charged motivation on the way to getting within a touchdown.  They just may not get farther than that.


Texas (8-3) at Kansas State (10-1)

The pick:  Kansas State (-10.5)

The track:  No Fun by The Stooges

Kansas State got embarrassed by Baylor in their last game, and as a result, they were kicked to the curb in the National Title race.  The Wildcats will have a pretty big chip on their shoulder coming into this regular season finale, and when that’s paired with Texas’ often porous defense having to matchup with a volatile offense, things do not look good for Mack Brown & Co.


San Francisco (8-2) at St. Louis (4-6)

The pick:  St. Louis (+7.5)

The track:  Take, Take, Take by The White Stripes

One of the many great things about Jack White as a songwriter is that he consistently refuses to take himself too seriously.  Amongst his various bands and solo efforts, there are plenty of straightforward tunes in which the emotions are just as deep as the blues licks being laid down.  Amongst these ‘serious’ songs, however, Mr. White will sprinkle tunes imbued with a sly, winking sense of humor, often relating surreal and esoteric little stories whose meanings, if those exist, are not readily available.  “Take, Take, Take” is such track, from The White Stripes’ Get Behind Me Satan, and it concerns an excellent re-telling of what seems like an actual dream dreamt by Jack himself.  Jack White could, and should, release an album in which he just puts all of his dream recollections to music.


Minnesota (6-5) at Green Bay (7-4)

The pick:  Green Bay (-8)

The track:  And I Say (Xinobi Edit) by Nicolas Jaar

Green Bay and the moustachioed Aaron Rodgers got their shit handed to them by the Giants last week, so they’ve got something to prove on their return home.  The potential return of Greg Jennings could add another dangerous weapon to Rodgers’ arsenal, and they’ll come out swinging against their division rival.


New England (8-3) at Miami (5-6)

The pick:  Miami (+9)

The track:  Bad Girls (Verdine Version) by Solange

Solange, aka Little Beyonce, dropped a short album this week, True, that solidifies her rep as the cool indie sister of the family.  The album feels somewhat lightweight on the surface, populated with spare beats seemingly culled from vintage Madonna outtakes providing a stark background for Solange’s powerful voice.  As the songs go on, however, the simplicity of the production shines through as a unique strength.  The open air between the drum beats, laid-back bass lines and keyboard flourishes is a perfect complement to Solange’s vocals; the singer explores the open spaces with her twisting vocal runs, wrapping her voice around the melodies with a sense of enjoyment that’s contagious.



Last Week’s Record:  4-2

Overall Record:  39-31

Hot Routes: Week Twelve

16 Nov


Editor’s Note:  This is the Swanky roundup of our top picks and songs of the week, running every week of the 2012 Year of Football.  For a primer, check out the Introduction.

Week Twelve

USC (7-3) at UCLA (8-2)

The pick: USC (-4)

The track:  Know Til Now by Jim James

The awesomely weird and incredibly talented Jim James is taking a break from blowing minds with My Morning Jacket, and is set to release a solo album in February.  That release date can’t come soon enough.  “Know Til Know” features some of James’ musical loves – wide-eyed soul and some irresistible funk.


Ole Miss (5-5) at LSU (8-2)

The pick:  LSU (-18.5)

The track:  Promises (Plastic Plates Remix) by The Presets

Ole Miss will be coming into this game with the motivation a long-held rivarly can bring, but they’ll be running up against an LSU team that has finally started to look competent offensively.  In the noisy confines of Death Valley, LSU should roll.


Texas Tech (7-3) at Oklahoma State (6-3)

The pick:  OK State (-9.5)

The track:  Big Trouble in Little China (feat. Action Bronson) by DJ Yoda

Beat mastermind DJ Yoda relies heavily on Asian musical touches to craft a seductive and laid-back beat that Action Bronson promptly jumps on and works to his lyrical will.


Cincinnati (4-5) at Kansas City (1-8)

The pick:  Cincinnati (-3.5)

The track:  Randy The Musical by Action Bronson

Things were already going quite badly for Kansas City this year, and now they’re coming off a demoralizing loss on a short week, with uncertainty still hanging over the QB position.  Cincinnati needs the win, and they’ll take advantage.


Green Bay (6-3) at Detroit (4-5)

The pick:  Green Bay (-3.5)

The track:  Walk On By by El Perro Del Mar

Swedish songstress El Perro Del Mar dropped her new album this week, and it features some solid electronic grooves to go with her strong voice.  “Walk On By” hearkens back to some mid-90s chilled out jams, in the best possible way.  You could almost swear you heard it first on The Beach soundtrack.


Tampa Bay (5-4) at Carolina (2-7)

The pick:  Tampa Bay (-1.5)

The track:  Today Is Our Life by Memory Tapes

“Today” takes its sweet time getting to a musical payoff, but when it gets there, the result is some of the most blissed-out musical goodness you’ll hear this week.  Follow the airy voice, the furious guitar lines, the bedroom drum beat and the keyboards as they shift and change until finally hitting the spot.  ‘Sup synthesizers.



Last Week’s Record:  3-3

Overall Record:  35-29

Hot Routes: Week Eleven

9 Nov

Editor’s Note:  This is the Swanky roundup of our top picks and songs of the week, running every week of the 2012 Year of Football.  For a primer, check out the Introduction.

Week Eleven


Texas A&M (7-2) at Alabama (9-0)

The pick:  Texas A&M (+13.5)

The track:  December 4th (Sourface Remix) by Jay-Z

Sourfacetakes Jay’s Black Album track on a triumphant journey back to the 70s, with a warm old-school beat marked by swelling strings and defiant trumpet bursts.  The production of the remix mirrors the themes and tonal shifts of the lyrics, pushing this release above most of the over hip-hop remixes constantly being released.  Warm, soulful vibes are paired with Jay’s retrospective rhymes, and the result is a mix that sounds polished and natural – as if Jay’s original release was actually just a modern take on an old-school cut.


Kansas State (9-0) at TCU (6-3)

The pick:  TCU (+7.5)

The track:  Take A Walk (Classixx Remix) by Passion Pit

Both of these teams are coming into their Week 11 matchup with meaningful questions surrounding the quarterback position.  Collin-with-two-Ls- Klein got rocked in last week’s game against Oklahoma State, and wasn’t allowed to re-enter the game after the hit.  He pretty clearly had some form of a concussion, so his status and capabilities for this week are up in the air.  If he can’t go or can’t play at his customary level, then TCU’s defense could take advantage in front of a lively home crowd.  TCU, meanwhile, has been starting a redshirt QB for the past month, and while he’s been serviceable, he’s also an inexperienced freshman going up against the No. 2 team in the country.  A lot of things could go wrong – but I think the homefield advantage keeps TCU within a TD.


Utah (4-5) at Washington (5-4)

The pick:  UW (+1)

The track:  Mouthful of Diamonds by Phantogram

I’m well behind on the Phantogram tip, but later is still better than never, especially when it comes to dynamic and seductive songs like “Mouthful of Diamonds.”  Like many of Phantogram’s tracks, “Diamonds” melds together aspects of hip-hop, electronic beats, and polished indie-rock to create a sound that is both propulsive and brooding.  It sounds as if the Postal Service got drunk at a hip-hop show and found some swagger to replace some of the tears.


Denver (5-3) at Carolina (2-6)

The pick:  Carolina (+4.5)

The track:  I Will Dare by The Replacements

The Replacements were one of those hallowed, ‘underground pioneer’ bands that I ended up reading quite a bit about before ever actually hearing their music.  Whether it was through perusing indie-rock retrospectives or interviews in which current bands cited them as a huge influence, The Replacements were slowly built up in my mind as a raw, bruising rock band that could be called a ‘punk band’ over any other classification.  Imagine my surprise, then, when I cued up Let It Be and the first thing I hear is this shimmery, buoyant-sounding song called “I Will Dare.”  Since it is the Replacements, “Dare” pairs pop elements with a welcome edge; the result is a great song that captures a drunken and defiant rock energy.


Atlanta (8-0) at New Orleans (3-5)

The pick:  Atlanta (-2.5)

The track:  Glawio by Com Truise

It’s been said many times over the last few weeks, but it bears repeating for this game at least: Atlanta is getting very little respect as an undefeated team.  There’s no other way to describe the line on this game being under 3 right now.  Sure, it’s a home game for the Saints, but they play in a dome just like the Falcons do.  And while the Saints looked good against a catastrophic Eagles team last week, their defense remains highly suspect, and they’re now going up against the high-powered ground-and-air attack of Matty Ice and the Falcons.  Even if Drew Brees manages to put up some points, the Saints and their D have an uphill battle.  They won’t make it within 3.


New York Jets (3-5) at Seattle (5-4)

The pick: Seattle (-6)

The track:  The Party & The After Party by The Weeknd

As The Weeknd prepares to release his major-label debut this month, why not take the chance to look back at how this soft-spoken artist built up white-hot online buzz over the last two years.  Some of his early notoriety had to do with the mysterious persona he initially cultivated, but all it takes is a listen to some of his tracks from House of Balloons and you know exactly why he took the music world by storm.  On songs like “The Party,” the crooner crafts tales of drugs, sex, and models that sound dangerous, seductive, and weirdly nasty.  These are meant for rainy nights and early mornings, and they won’t leave your head.

Last Week’s Record:  4-2

Overall Record:  32-26

Hot Routes: Week Ten

3 Nov


Editor’s Note:  This is the Swanky roundup of our top picks and songs of the week, running every week of the 2012 Year of Football.  For a primer, check out the Introduction.

Week Ten


Texas A&M (6-2) at Mississippi State (7-1)

The pick:  Miss. State (+7)

The track:  Bonafied’ Lovin (RAC Mix) by Chromeo

Among Chromeo’s many irresistibly funky dance tracks, “Bonafied’ Lovin” has always stood out as being particularly hard to get out of your head long after you’re too tired to keep dancing to it.  There’s something bordering on dancefloor perfection behind the combination of those “oh oh oh oh” refrains, the slinky synth jump-off, and the promise of lovin’.  It’s no surprise at all that RAC’s take on this jam finds a hot groove of its own – the RAC guys are no stranger to the kind of funky, new-disco party vibe that Chromeo loves to do.  Put it on and step back.


Alabama (8-0) at LSU (7-1)

The pick:  LSU (+8.5)

The track:  One by Ghostface Killah

I’m still holding a grudge against both of these teams for last year’s National Championship “game” – although Alabama wasn’t the one that took a dump on the field (LSU) they both contributed to a performance that was an affront to anyone who enjoys the concept of exciting football, and that was most likely responsible for some number of potential football fans turning their back on the game forever.  I know that both of these teams are very fearsome opponents to play, and that Alabama is probably the best team in the country.  That said, let’s hope this is the only time this year that we have to see this slugfest.  In this particular matchup, LSU is too good at home to be giving up more than a touchdown, even to ‘Bama.


Texas (6-2) at Texas Tech (6-2)

The pick:  Texas Tech (-6.5)

The track:  Bright Lights by Gary Clark Jr.

Gary Clark Jr. is undoubtedly a powerful and exciting talent when it comes to the blues.  This man plays the blues with a fury that at times seems like it was inherited directly from the Delta swamps in Robert Johnson’s neighborhood.  His live shows are already approaching a must-see status at this relatively early point in his career.  One of the things that has afflicted other talented guitarists in the past is translating their live energy to studio records.  Clark’s new album Blak and Blu displays some of that difficulty in its diverse genre-hopping, but the good thing for Clark is that there are some songs that bring his searing blues-rock attitude to the forefront.  “Bright Lights” is one of them.


Denver (4-3) at Cincinnati (3-4)

The pick:  Broncos (-6)

The track:  Danse Caribe by Andrew Bird


Tampa Bay (3-4) at Oakland (3-4)

The pick:  Tampa Bay (+1)

The track:  Secret Days by School of Seven Bells


Minnesota (5-3) at Seattle (4-4)

The pick: Seattle (-4)

The track:  The Ballad of El Goodo by Big Star





Last Week’s Record:  3-3

Overall Record:  28-24

Hot Routes: Week Nine

26 Oct

Editor’s Note:  This is the Swanky roundup of our top picks and songs of the week, running every week of the 2012 Year of Football.  For a primer, check out the Introduction.

Week Nine

Due to some extracurricular activities going on this week at Dan Swanky’s, this version of Hot Routes will be a bit shorter than usual.  There’s no need to worry – you’re still getting the hot tunes that can soundtrack the victory parties you’ll throw after these picks work themselves out.

A couple of quick notes for this week:

Kendrick Lamar’s new album good kid, m.A.A.d city is represented in these track selections for good reason.  It’s one of the best hip-hop albums of the past several years, and is both an excellent homage to classic West Coast gangsta rap, and a crazily unique foray into new sonic territory.  Don’t just listen to one track here and there – go all in.

This is a proving weekend for a few teams that could be competing for the National Championship in a couple of months.  Alabama gets its first semi-test, and while I think they’ll win, I don’t think they’ll smash Miss. State as they have other teams.  USC is coming in at only -6.5 in Arizona, and I expect them to continue the improvement they’ve shown in recent games.  They’re getting a lot better, and Arizona is not.  Lastly, Florida seems to be riding a bit too high right now, and while I didn’t pick their game below, I think there’s a sneaky potential for Georgia to pull off an upset.  But don’t hold me to it.

USC (6-1) at Arizona (4-3)

The pick:  USC (-6.5)

The track:  Thriller (DiscoTech Remix) by Michael Jackson

Notre Dame (7-0) at Oklahoma (5-1)

The pick:  Oklahoma (-12)

The track:  So Good To Me by Chris Malinchak

Mississippi State (7-0) at Alabama (7-0)

The pick:  Mississippi State (+24)

The track:  Money Trees by Kendrick Lamar

Seattle (4-3) at Detroit (2-4)

The pick:  Seattle (+2.5)

The track:  Don’t You Evah by Spoon

New York Giants (5-2) at Dallas (3-3)

The pick:  New York (-2.5)

The track:  The Keeper (Banks Remix) by Bonobo

New Orleans (2-4) at Denver (3-3)

The pick: Denver (-6)

The track:  Graveyard Girl by M83

Last Week’s Record:  4-2

Overall Record:  25-21

Hot Routes: Week Eight

20 Oct


Editor’s Note:  This is the Swanky roundup of our top picks and songs of the week, running every week of the 2012 Year of Football.  For a primer, check out the Introduction.


Week Eight


Baylor (3-2) at Texas (4-2)

The pick:  Baylor (+8.5)

The track:  Fucking Problems by A$AP Rocky, 2 Chainz, Drake & Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar was all over the interwebs this week, and his new album doesn’t even drop until next Tuesday.  This isn’t anything to complain about, however – his wordy, fluid rhymes and eccentric musical tastes are an energizing new force in hip-hop.  Kendrick started building buzz based on his affiliation with Dr. Dre, but the strength of his last album and the early buzz on his new one is pointing towards a big breakout in his own right.  With that breakout comes a recognized acceptance into the ‘young elite’ club of today’s hip-hop world, and “Fucking Problem” is a showcase for some prominent members of said club.  While fellow breakout star A$AP Rocky gets the top billing on the song, Kendrick, Drake and elder statesman 2 Chainz all get their chance to shine over a beat that draws out some of their top-drawer efforts.


South Carolina (6-1) at Florida (6-0)

The pick:  South Carolina (+3.5)

The track:  Me and My Shadow by M. Ward

A potentially major issue in this game is Marcus Lattimore’s health – if he can’t go, then the Gamecocks might be starting at a disadvantage.  If he can go though, I think this is going to be a hard-fought game that stays within 3 points.  The Ball Coach will have his team ready for a fight in The Swamp, and even though they just lost to LSU, I think S.C. will play Florida tougher than LSU did.


Kansas State (6-0) at West Virginia (5-1)

The pick:  Kansas State (+2.5)

The track:  The Page by Chromatics

It was surprising to see this line come out in favor of West Virginia after the embarrassment laid on them last week at Texas Tech.  Sure, the Mountaineers  are now at home, where they can draw upon the lusty, booze-fueled rage of the Mountaineer faithful.  But some home-field momentum can’t fix a defense that hasn’t stopped anyone all season, and Kansas State’s defense most likely picked up some valuable tips from Texas Tech on how to slow down WVU’s vaunted offense.  Kansas State has the edge here, and should send the Holgorsen Mullets to their second straight defeat.


Arizona (4-2) at Minnesota (4-2)

The pick:  Minnesota (-6.5)

The track:  So Many Details by Toro y Moi

On his new track, Toro Y Moi maintains some of his signature sound – laid-back funky electro and spacey croon – while also pushing things in an expansive, moody and interesting new direction.  Electronic squiggles and guitar loops float in and out of a beat that takes its sweet time building up to an emotional climax in step with the brooding lyrics.  When everything winds down in a swirl of drum beats, you’re left wondering what it was you just listened to – and why it sounded so strangely compelling.


Green Bay (3-3) at St. Louis (3-3)

The pick:  Green Bay (-5)

The track:  Poetic Justice by Kendrick Lamar feat. Drake

Aaron Rodgers submitted the “Fuck You” game that many expected last week, and it succeeded in putting a reeling Packers team back on track after a rough start.  The Pack looked great last week, and while the excitement from that fired-up win should be tempered going into this Sunday, the newfound confidence of Rodgers’ offense should be feared by the Rams.  St. Louis has played decently at home this year, but if Green Bay is anywhere close to the level they were at against the Texans (which they should be) this game is not going to be within a touchdown.


Pittsburgh (2-3) at Cincinnati (3-3)

The pick: Cincinnati (+1)

The track:  It Gets Dark by Holy Ghost!

I’m not sure if it was intentional, but it’s suitable that Holy Ghost! released their newest single around Halloween.  This track features the same energetic, expansive new disco sound that made HG!’s debut album so compelling, while also adding in a dark, menacing tone that lends a great edge to everything.  It’s a little bit of Thriller by way of LCD Soundsystem.




Last Week’s Record:  4-2

Overall Record:  21-19