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Arts & Culture

5 Songs To Discover In February

'In The Morse Code of Brake Lights" album cover by The New Pornographers, courtesy of Collected Works Records
The New Pornographers
'In The Morse Code of Brake Lights" album cover by The New Pornographers, courtesy of Collected Works Records

We're listening to new music from 18scales, The New Pornographers, Brooklyn's A Deer A Horse, Austin's Hikes and local trumpet phenom Steph Richards

Here's what we're loving right now, including local musicians with new releases, contemporary composers doing cutting edge stuff and bands coming to town that we're excited to see. This month, one of the picks is from the KPBS "Only Here" podcast's Alan Lilienthal. We want to hear from you, too. Tell us what you're listening to right now in our KPBS/Arts Facebook group. And if you'd like to contribute a guest selection of a song that's rocking your world for a future installment, send me a note.

Coming To Town: 'Falling Down the Stairs of Your Smile' by The New Pornographers

Let's start here: The whole idea of a "desert island record" is a bit contrived. Where do you get the electricity, for example? How would the record survive whatever calamity put you on a desert island in the first place? Either way, my answer was always "Anything by Neko Case." Increasingly, the more I listen to them, the more I'd toss her side gig, The New Pornographers into my desert island collection. Their latest album, "In the Morse Code of Break Lights," is more of the sincere rocking I've come to expect — nay, survive on — from the band. The New Pornographers play The Observatory on Feb. 4 with Diane Coffee. (Bonus: Watch Diane Coffee's delightful NPR Tiny Desk concert here.)

VIDEO: 'Falling Down The Stairs Of Your Smile," by The New Pornographers

Contemporary Composition: 'Time and Grime' by Steph Richards

Trumpet? I know, I know, but stay with me. The Festival of New Trumpet Music hits San Diego this weekend, and while there's plenty to discover for those particularly interested in either the trumpet or contemporary classical and jazz composers and musicians, the phenomenal Steph Richards — UC San Diego music faculty — is a don't miss. She'll bring her brand of gritty jazz-tinged composition and brassy stylings to the Whistle Stop on Feb 6th. The entire festival presents trumpet music and film at a bunch of venues across town, including UCSD's The Loft, Panama 66, Digital Gym and more, and runs from Feb. 2 through Feb. 8.

Coming To Town: 'In the Wars' by A Deer A Horse

Brooklyn's A Deer A Horse have a strong sound. Kind of wild and punkish but notably melodic and lyrical, their music is memorable, fun and striking. I get a bit of a Savages or Against Me! vibe when I listen. Currently on tour, they'll swing through the Whistle Stop when they're in town Feb. 13, and perform alongside locals Hours (I love their dark sound, with vocals from Hexa's Carrie Gillespie Feller) and Dream Burglar.

Coming To Town: 'Mahal Kita,' by Hikes

"Mahal kita" is the Tagalog phrase for "I love you," and with Filipinx songwriter and vocalist Nay Wilkins leading the Austin-based Hikes through their lush new album, it's easy to feel the love. Hikes is somewhere between folk and heavy, darker rock, but it's all tinged with a bit of nature and a lot of story. Hikes play at Soda Bar on Feb. 27 with Los Angeles/San Diego band Positioner and locals Band Argument.

Local Pick: 'Anything U Want' by 18scales ft. Devvlov & Mandi Jo

And finally, I asked Alan Lilienthal, host of the KPBS "Only Here" podcast, for a local tune on his radar. Here's Alan's pick:

"San Diego has a really dope hip hop scene that's always ready to pop. I hope it does soon so the world knows just how dope it truly is. Ric Scales might be the one to do it - he's hands down one of my favorites in the city, and this track featuring the fire talents of Devvlov and guitar goddess Mandi Jo just slaps. It's real groovy. Ric hosts a monthly showcase featuring some of SD's best called Slappin' Hands; definitely go to that ya'll." --Alan Lilienthal