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2013 Year End List

10 Dec

2013’s Year End List in random order of course

1.Iceage-You’re Nothing

Iggy Pop himself says the only band that sounds dangerous right now is Iceage. He is absolutely correct. They certainly don’t look dangerous, but their minds are in some weird plane, which leads to odd playing and fantastically dark noisy sections. Few songs were as captivating as the closing track and symbolize the dischord of modern times better than You’re Nothing.

2. Jagwar Ma-Howlin

I’ll argue Jagwar Ma is the band I have the highest hopes for on the list. They have the most potential to do such a wide variety of things. As much as I enjoy the acid-house electronic, rock feel of this album, I can’t help thinking about what cool thing the band might do next, whether it’s a new album, remixes, or even just guest appearances.  That’s a testament to how good the album is.

3.  Savages- Silence Yourself

I’ve certainly talked about them more than any other band of the year. Has a sensational balance of great songs on both sides of their record. Loud, in your face, buzzing post punk just happens to be something that I really like, so it seems a no brainer that this band and album are great.

4. Kanye West-Yeezus

No mainstream hip-hop albums have sounded like this. The only hip-hop that really sounds like it is Dalek or Death Grips. Even still they never knew how to organize, produce, overproduce, reduce like Kanye.  It’s probably the only album of the year that provoked such a varied reaction and became the one album that was defended, recommended, or reviled by music fans.

5. Speedy Ortiz-Major Arcana

I like Sadie Dupuis and her lyrics. Has as good an opening 3 songs as any album this year.  Sounds like one of the best grunge records in 1993.

6. My Bloody Valentine- MBV

There’s a new MBV album and it ADDS to their legacy? It turned out to be true and it is as listenable, deep and rock out as a shoegaze album can be.

7. Boards of Canada- Tomorrow’s Harvest

Boards of Canada made a new album…do we really have to explain why its on here? Actually since Campfire Headphase was so disappointing, I wondered if long form albums played to BOC’s strengths. Turns out they do. There’s still some magic left in those synths. In fact the moody electro scapes of this one rank amongst their best, if not their most consistent full-length album.

8. Daft Punk-Random Access Memories

I like that they made the dance record they should’ve made in 2004 in 2013.(Because realistically Human After All was the most heartbreaking follow up since Air’s 10,000 Hertz at the time.) The slow burn italo they do so well on RAM would’ve gotten them an insane amount of street AND club cred at that point, but in 2013 it is out of step with every single dance trend going. That’s a good thing and they produced the hell out of it so it sounds like a great lost time capsule we dug up from outside Danceteria.

9.Camera Obscura-Desire Lines

Their 5th great album in a row(fulfilling the great critic, Steven Hyden’s fascinating theory in the process) something even their excellent twee predecessors Belle and Sebastian haven’t done.  Maybe more of a mid 80’s sophistipop version of twee, which ends up serving as a bigger stage and production for Tracyanne Campbell’s melancholy.  As much as I like this one, it doesn’t move me as strongly as their previous recordings have.  It makes my year list, because good Camera Obscura is better than most bands’ best days.

10. Disclosure-Settle

They certainly didn’t reinvent the wheel as much as they found a spare. Grabs from the good school of dance(house, acid-house, dnb) as opposed the awful school(EDM) and includes the best survey of British singer vocals/samples(nouveau heavy hitters like Aluna Francis, Lianne La Havas, and Jessie Ware) we’ve seen since Mark Ronson put out Version a few years back.

11. Mazzy Star-Seasons of the Day- It’s the fourth Mazzy Star album you always wanted.  If you didn’t like them before it won’t sell you. If you like Beach House, but don’t own any Mazzy Star, you can just as well start with this one. Dream pop’s best band.

Favorite local record-Mirror Travel-Mexico.

I really liked them when they were Follow That Bird. I could never understand why the name change until I actually heard this. They sound like a very different band.  Still kinda surfey, still kinda noisey, but with more maturity and occasional wisfulness.  They remind me of a moodier version of Bleached.

Most disappointing album of the year- Those Darlins-Blur The Line

I love Those Darlins, I don’t love this album. It certainly is an ok release. However, they took away all the cool things that made them sound like a Southern version of The Runaways!  Jessie Zazu still reminds me of Joan Jett’s adorable brattier Southern cousin and she definitely brings the sass and charm. But, where are the cool sneering glam rock guitars? Where are the big Southern power riffs? Where’s all the rhythm and swagger? I have no idea where all the things that worked so well on Screws Get Loose, went on this album…Even worse it strips away much of the witty countrified romps that made their first self titled album a good listen. This band still has me as a fan, but this one left me as disappointed as any record this year.

Most unnecessary album of the year(tie)- Fall Out Boy/Black Flag

Fallout Boy-Save Rock and Roll

If you ever claim a Fallout Boy album is good or on your top 10 list as a critic, your critic card must be revoked.

Black Flag-What the

I don’t need to listen to it. “Black Flag” without Morris/Rollins/Robo/Dukowski involved at all isn’t really Black Flag.  Just go listen to Off’s newest record instead.

Best live gig-Savages- The Parish

They played so well live that is has actually affected my view on the record. And makes me wonder why there isn’t just a really awesome live version of it out. It was a masterclass in an hour of post-punk rock and roll.

Random songs I liked this year(from bands who don’t have albums on the list)-

Haim-Falling(only because Don’t Save Me was on my list last year)-Great bass line, those super produced drums, and hopefully a replacement for the array of bad pop jams clogging the airwaves. Don’t Save Me is still probably their best song though.

A$AP Ferg-Shabba- 8 gold Chainz like I’m Sha Shabba Ranks is as memorable a chorus as there has been this year.(The video = even better)

Chelsea Light Moving-Lip-Thurston Moore making what essentially a great noisy skate video jam.

Quadron-Favorite Star-Did R&B better than anything Weeknd/Janelle Monae did.

The Knife-Full of Fire-The whole album is uneven, but this song is brilliant and unhinged. Karin Dreijer hasn’t been this passionate vocally since her days in Honey is Cool. The beat and progression of it all is just totally jank as well. That’s probably why it made for great dance music.

Awkwafina NYC Bitches-No one’s keepin it more real than Awk. Someone’s gotta give voice to native New Yorkers, why not an Asian rapper from Queens who is developing a pretty good flow.

Diana-Strange Attraction-I tend to be fairly bored with 80s revivalism(because seriously bands have been making those records longer than the original decade). I do like the heavier Depeche Mode esque of production of this song though which mixes well with the Canadian new wave melody.

Wild Belle- Shine- I feel like Wild Belle’s whole album does have great songs that I probably won’t play very often, but every time it will sneak up on me and I will remember “This band is really good, why don’t I listen to them more.” Which makes them 2013’s answer to Love is All.

J.Cole-Let Nas Down-I like his album simply because it hits a frenzied horn loop that makes for a really good 90s East Coast vibe that = really listenable. This is still probably the best song on probably the pop-rap record of the year.

Major Lazer-Bubblebutt/Get Free-The video gets it a mention…the song is kind of terrible. However if Get Free doesn’t count on last year’s songs then downloading the reggae greatness of that one is a must. Get Free is a brilliant song.

And here is a twitter link to the spotify playlist with some of these great songs.(since it’s a pain to link to spotify via a direct link.)


People say they like Best of Lists…2012 version

16 Dec

PJ Harvey-Let England Shake
This is the first PJ album that did not make me wish she would return to the power-trio Rid of Me, angry Ms. Harvey I love so. Adventurous sampling and instrumentation, hypnotic songs, and thematic lyrics made it the album of the year.

Kurt Vile-Smoke Ring For My Halo
Vile is the new Tom Petty according to some, but in reality he’s just continuing the absurd roll he started with Constant Hitmaker. There’s just so many great lazy slurred Americana songs on this album, that it’s almost a greatest hits collection.

Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi-Rome
Ennio Morricone meets Air meets the earnestness of Norah Jones. Oh and it’s also Danger Mouse soundtracking an imaginary 70s Italo film, which makes for a great listening experience.

Jessica Lea Mayfield-Tell Me
Very young, absurdly talented, and came out with an album that reminded me of an electro-sexual version of Lucinda Williams.

The Go Team-Rolling Blackouts
There are few albums I listened to more than this oddly enough. The saccharine explosion, scrappy raps and punchy horns are every thing you expect from this band, the long-lasting appeal of the songs are still a surprise though.

Yes you like Galaxie 500, yes you like Yuck. Like the album, a couple of super-memorable songs mixed with some perfectly ok, that sounded far better live, which helped me understand the greatness far more.

Cloud Nothings-Cloud Nothings
It was consistent, indie pop goodness, which made for an album that didn’t have a single song I didn’t like on it. And new Albini-esque single No Future/No Past only enhances its power.(Yes this song is on the next album, but still I’m rating and I’m allowing it to boost the score.)

Regina-Soita Mulle
I don’t know Finnish, but the wistfulness and smoothness of this album just works so well. A welcome surprise.

Girls-Father, Son, Holy Ghost
I didn’t like this when I first heard it, but once I realized that the band isn’t so shoegaze and more from The La’s school of jangle pop I got it. It’s a bit top heavy, but also has one of the best first sides in a long time.

Kanye West and Jay Z-Watch The Throne
Finally a hip hop album that you can roll out to! Enough shitty rappers, backpackers, and skaters/rappers. I want something that embodies the arena-rock era of hip-hop in the same way Toys in The Attic by Aerosmith does. And like Eli they deed it.

Wild Flag-Wild Flag
Carrie Brownstein is the lead on everything(no one stops her rock moves, seriously), the players are all pros, and it’s a great big 70’s rock out. That’s more than enough to get on this list. Something Came Over Me, could be my favorite song of the year as well.(It’s top 5 at least)

Biosphere- N-Plants
Strange coincidence and context aside(the album is about Japanese nuclear plants pre earthquakes), this was a really great ambient album in a landscape where those albums don’t come along that often. Fits beautifully with great IDM and ambient records of the past, so it must be good.

Those Darlins-Screws Get Loose
I just like how they sound like The Runaways sloppier more drugged Southern cousins. This album continued the great tongue in cheek madness of the last album, just with more rock and less country which always=win.

Laura Marling- A Creature I Don’t Know
She is a folk star, on her way to being a folk icon. Why don’t you have this album? Oh because you’re American, and we don’t respect her like we should. At least this album sounds like she’s having some fun finally.

Kurt Vile:American Genius?

21 Jun

I’ve been trying to figure out if Kurt Vile is a genius all week, because while I certainly liked Childish Prodigy, finally taking time to sit down with Smoke Ring From My Halo has told me that he very well might be one. Critical comparisons with Tom Petty didn’t seem so apt until I heard this release. Part of the greatness of this album comes in the form of a production and tone that resembles Full Moon Fever and Learning to Fly era Petty, but his lazy slurred vocals and assured swagger keep the album rocking even at it’s most mellow. There’s none of that indie “we’re oh so deep and epic” attitude that has spread like a plague through a multitude of “rock” releases. These are just random thoughts I felt like mentioning, I’m not doing a full review.

But, since some of you like a good review here it is.

Check this album out, it is one of the best of the year thus far. Easily. Kurt Vile is an American genius who might be able to finally kill synthesizers dead with austerity and acoustic guitars.

There review over.

Hey You What’s That Sound: Foster The People-Torches

20 Jun

Let’s keep it real, sooooooooo many people are talking about Foster The People(women primarily) and I’m not sure why.In fact they are playing here in Austin and I believe they’ve already sold out Emo’s way in advance, which is certainly an achievement. The hype about this band is so insane that I’m going to cut through it in the interest of fairness and giving the music an actual chance.

First, all of the big three songs from their EP are here, Helena Beat, Houdini, and Pumped Up Kicks. I think that’s a good thing, I always get frustrated with bands who make me track down another release when realistically they could just place those tracks on their debut.

And those three songs aren’t bad, but they aren’t necessarily good either. In fact much of the overtly unmuscular, clear production strips the guitars of any personality and leaves the dance moves far too stiff away from the icy coolness that the ace dance tracks have. The lyrics all fade together with pitchy vocals that reminded me of Mew or Passion Pit, without any of the occasional genius of either band mind you.

Honestly, I don’t really dislike any of the songs on this album, in fact if they came on the radio it would provide a relief from the epic fail array of Arcade Fire singles. But, you also know it’s pretty bad when you hear the beat to Houdini and instantly wish you were listening to a Billy Squire song that has the exact same beat.(Because we all know Billy Squire was in fact pretty much shit.)

The whole Foster the People album and phenomenon reminds me of Phoenix, except that Phoenix had at least paid their dues by releasing a few albums that werent that well received and played with Air for a few years.(They also had released “If I Only Feel Better” early in their career, which was unstoppable.) Maybe another apt comparison is Supertramp, another band who specialized in pitchy vocals and doing everything their peers had already done in a perfectly ok way.

Anyway that’s beside the point, the album is so safe and semi-catchy, there’s little for me to really pick out as noteworthy or something you must here. But, if this band isn’t headlining fairly large tours of their own or opening for Maroon 5 in the next two or three years I will be shocked at how the world has wised up against such mediocrity. Anyway, the band is better than I figured, but again that also doesnt mean they are particularly good either.

Hey You What’s That Sound?: Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi – Rome

17 Jun

Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi “Rome” (2011)

There are a few facts that I want to lay down about this album before getting into the details.

1. Norah Jones is a truly brilliant singer who is defined by an earnest wistfulness that commands even songs that she hasnt written.(check out the excellently compiled Featuring…Norah Jones album for an array of examples)

2. Danger Mouse has segued from unknown Atlanta producer into respected industry veteran beautifully.

3. Post White Stripes and supermodels Jack White does whatever he wants because he’s a musician’s musician, who always puts it down.

All that being said the new Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi album is a spaghetti western influenced soundtrack to a seventies European film called “Rome” that doesn’t exist. Over 5 years of work and star turns from the aforementioned Ms. Jones and Mr. White have resulted in one of the best releases of the year.

While pages from the Lalo Schiffrin and Ennio Morricone playbook are certainly visible, there are moments on this record such as “Black” that resemble the muted melancholy of the excellent and underrated Danger Mouse production “The Good, The Bad, & The Queen.”(which is arguably the best Gorillaz album, even though it doesn’t have their name on the cover.)

The best way I can describe this album to you the reader in a way that will make you want to get it is that it sounds like an Air album. In fact the instrumentation and mixing sounds reminiscent of their recent release “Love 2,” however I do want to say that the overall feel of the album reminds of that far too brief era when Air was one of the best bands in the world. While this record may not hit the heights of Moon Safari, it does match some of the grandeur created by Air’s own Virgin Suicides score. To me “Rome” harkens back to that recent era of lounge influenced music that could create a certain ambiance around your daily life. You could put on albums by artists like Air, St. Germain, or Thievery Corporation in the background of a chill party or while driving around in your car and every time the retro vibes and the pan-cultural magic they created made the world seem instantly more electric. Honestly this album hit me that way. So while I could easily go into full breakdowns of excellent songs like “Season’s Tree” or “Two Against One,” I would instead recommend just checking this fantastic album out.