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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top Albums of 2011 Part 2 (1-25)

What better way to end an intriguingly awesome, yet another status quo, year in my life with my favorite 25 albums? Along with many of you reading this, music is an emotional influence for me. Listen to the right song/album at the right time and you can be transported to an enhanced state of mind and clarity. It's funny how someone else's words, likely about something completely different, set to music can bring to life some of the most logical conclusions that you couldn't figure out on your own. Maybe you're just scared and the music gives you the courage to jump into that rabbit hole. Whatever it is, I am grateful to have it. Some of the best and most painful realizations of my life came about through a song.

Below are the top 25 albums that influenced me in 2011, one way or another:

25) The War on Drugs: Slave Ambient
24) Ryan Adams: Ashes & Fire
23) Deer Tick: Divine Providence
22) M83: Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
21) Cut Copy: Zonoscope
20) Low Roar: Low Roar
19) Girls: Father, Son, Holy Ghost
18) The Antlers: Burst Apart
17) My Morning Jacket: Circuital 
16) The Cave Singers: No Witch
15) Snowmine: Laminate Pet Animal
14) Middle Brother: Middle Brother
13) The Black Keys: El Camino
12) Holy Ghost!: Holy Ghost!
11) Beirut: The Rip Tide
10) Iron & Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean - Sam Beam and company expanded on their recent delvings into a more lively version of folk and were triumphant. Not only does this album feature the best title but also some of the best and most soothingly beautiful songs of the year. Check an awesome live and acoustic version of one of my favorite tracks "The Tree By the River" below...


9) The Decemberists: The King is Dead - One of my favorite bands released a totally different album in 2011 than we're used to. Gone were the epic stories of the days of yore. No 10+ minute songs about death or revenge or anything else we are accustomed to. With plans to take some time off the band decided they would put something out that was simpler. Colin Meloy and company crushed it with one of their best albums to date. Take a musical and visual journey with the video for "This is Why We Fight"


8) The Head & the Heart: The Head & the Heart - The Head & the Heart burst on to the scene for me early in 2011. Their debut album was released independently in 2010 and then re-released in 2011 under Sub-Pop after a supposed "feeding frenzy" of hungry labels. Who knows what "indie" even means anymore but this band has reeled in one of the most quintessential "indie pop" sounds you'll ever hear. It is a melodic folky masterpiece the likes we are used to from Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver. Also, one of the best live shows I saw in 2011. Try not to fall in love with Charity as they pull off a stellar acoustic version of "Lost in My Mind" below...


7) Real Estate: Days - After not paying attention to the buzz around Real Estate after their 2009 self-titled debut, I fell head over heals in love with their melodic mastery on Days. Could be the new indie darlings that The Shins once were depending how well their new album comes across next year. Another fantastic show I was fortunate enough to take in this year and I have no plans to let them out from under my radar ever again. This was one mistake I learned from. Scope out the very dog-friendly video below for "It's Real"


6) Yuck: Yuck - The 90's are back! We'll see where this band goes from here but based on the debut album from this British group they could become the best 90's rock band you'll ever hear. This is despite the fact they may not have hit puberty until the middle of the decade. I recommend picking up the later-released deluxe edition with a few extra songs that are some of their best. I was very fortunate to see these guys considering it was in Cleveland when I just happened to be back in town for a weekend. Feast on the gruesomely NSFW video below for "Holing Out"


A little sidebar as I get into my top 5 albums....all 5 have spent time at #1 over the last few days since I comprised this list. After going back and listening through these I think there may be a bit of an upset, part of which is likely caused by the constant battle of my #'s 2 and 3 albums for #1. They spent too much time focused on each other and let an old favorite pass them by as the former love was rekindled in a big way.

5) TV on the Radio: Nine Types of Light - 2011 was a rough year of transition for one of the best and most artistic rock bands out there, TV on the Radio. Nine Types of Light was their 5th album and was released 9 days before long-time bassist Gerard Smith died from lung cancer. They had previously stated they wanted to do more love songs and that was the theme of 'Light as the band seemed to pull back the reins a skoch from their typical funky rock. The classic elements of TVOTR are present but with a little less edge this time around. Despite not getting as much love from the blogs as previous albums I still feel it is right up there with the best they've released. The band played a masterful performance of lead single "Will Do" on the Late Show with David Letterman about a week before Smith's death which you can see below (he was not present for the performance)...


4) Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues - Fleet Foxes have officially blown up. Helplessness Blues is their sophomore album and they grew up a lot from their 2008 self-titled full-length debut and EP Sun Giant. When I first saw the band in 2008 they played around lunch-time at the Austin City Limits Festival to a sparse crowd. This year they were a 2nd-tier headliner at numerous festivals. It seems the music world has taken a much-deserved notice to the harmonies and beauty of Fleet Foxes. Helplessness Blues not only picked up where they left off but also reeled in some of the poppier elements of the band we hadn't heard since their self-titled 2006 debut EP. Another amazing live band and if you can I suggest seeing them in a smaller venue so you can get the full effect. Watch the time-lapse video for their title track below...



3) Wilco: The Whole Love - What can I say but I love Wilco? I was late to their game and just recently got into them 4 years or so ago. I know a lot of long-time fans aren't as big on this album as I am but it is hands down one of my favorites of theirs. It combines the many sounds and directions they have previously taken on into one of my most listened to albums of the year. This was extremely close to being my number #1 album, if for nothing else than every time I get to the last song, "One Sunday Morning," it feels like there is nothing else that can compare to the beauty and emotion of that song. Tweedy and company's first release on their own label showed us what they can do when not being constrained by the shackles of a major label. This is Wilco being what Wilco wants to be and they have never seemed more comfortable. The Sky (Blue Sky) is the limit. Do yourself a favor, plug your headphones in and place them over your ears. Hit play for "One Sunday Morning" below, tilt your head back, close your eyes and just see where you end up.






2) Bon Iver: Bon Iver - This was my #1 album for the midway point of the year and it deservedly could be my #1 for all of 2011. Justin Vernon's sophomore full-length album was nothing short of another phenomenal album by him. Maybe he'll be this year's Arcade Fire with all those Grammy nominations he apoparently doesn't care about. His time spent with Kanye and James Blake are apparent as he includes more auto-tuning and electronic noises to Bon Iver along with the beautiful folkiness and falsetto we are used to. Since it is up for Record of the Year, and is a fantastic song, you can check out the great video for "Holocene" below..


1) Destroyer: Kaputt - When I 1st composed this list earlier in the week I included this in my top 5 mostly because it meant so much to me earlier in the year. As I have gone back and listened to all of these albums again over the last few days I have been reminded why I fell in love with Kaputt in the 1st place. Besides, it didn't do me wrong or anything...I just moved on to others.

This is another band that I failed to listen to before their 2011 release. Daniel Bejar is the mastermind behind Destroyer when he's not busy with The New Pornographers. I hadn't ever really heard anything like this before. Nothing really stood out through my 1st listen until I heard the title track, which turned out to be a game changer. From that point on Destroyer was constantly at the top of my playlist and mind for the next few months. This was all around the time of my move so it has that connection as well. "Kaputt" is still one of my favorite songs and albums of the year and you can hear it below...


Friday, December 30, 2011

Top Albums of 2011 Part 1 (26-50)

2011 was a pretty phenomenal year for music. There were new releases by many of my favorite bands as well as a plethora of new bands I was introduced to. My move to Austin earlier in the year definitely helped facilitate this added accessibility to my ear holes. This year has been a wild ride and a tough one to judge. Trimming my list down to a mere 50 albums was exhausting and surprising! I kept finding albums I was sure would be in or around my top 10 down in the 20's and even 30's. There has been non-stop tinkering so I'm sure there will be more changes to my top 25 before I post that tomorrow.

And away we go! Let's start with the "also received votes" list of albums I really dug this year yet couldn't find room in the top 50. (and in no particular order)

Honorable Mention:
The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?
The Naked & Famous - Passive Me, Aggressive You
Childish Gambino - Camp
The Weeknd - Thursday/House of Balloons
Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde
Grouplove - Never Trust A Happy Song
Cold War Kids - Mine Is Yours
Zubatto Syndicate - Zubatto Syndicate
Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2
Givers - In Light
Young Galaxy - Shapeshifting
Justice - Audio Video Disco
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Mirror Traffic
The Cool Kids - When Fish Ride Bicycles
Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears - Scandalous
Young the Giant - Young the Giant
Radiohead - King of Limbs
The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar
Gardens & Villa - Gardens & Villa
Toro Y moi - Underneath the Pine
Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital

My Top 50 Albums of 2011 (26-50)
50) Dad Rocks! - Mount Modern
49) Cults - Cults
48) SBTRKT - SBTRKT
47) Wye Oak - Civilian
46) Other Lives - Tamer Animals
45) Anonymous - To My Long Lost Love
44) The Roots - Undun
43) St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
42) Seryn - This Is Where We Are
41) Adele - 21
40) Nerves Junior - As Bright As Your Night Light
39) Blitzen Trapper - American Goldwing
38) The Middle East - I Want That You Are Always Happy
37) Mayer Hawthorne - How Do You Do
36) Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr - It's A Corporate World
35) The Strokes - Angles
34) Kanye & Jay-Z (The Throne) - Watch the Throne
33) James Blake - James Blake
32) Dawes - Nothing Is Wrong
31) Neon Indian - Era Extrana
30) Metronomy - English Riviera
29) Atlas Sound - Parallax
28) Washed Out - Within Without
27) Hooray for Earth - True Loves
26) Death Cab for Cutie - Codes & Keys

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top EPs of 2011

So I took a bit of a break for the holidays and to focus on my year end lists. Kept coming across new albums to take in, which pushed this process back even further.

Without further adieu, I will start my year end lists with my favorite 10 EPs of 2011. Tomorrow I will post my Honorable Mention albums for 2011, followed by my top 50 albums broken up into 2 posts. Of course I am going to spread this out as much as possible!

10) James Blake: Enough Thunder



9) Year of the Tiger: Good Day for A Tiger - you can download this and 2 recently released tracks on their bandcamp site here http://yearofthetiger.bandcamp.com/album/good-day-for-a-tiger

8) The Heavenly States: Oui Camera Oui 




7) Gary Clark Jr.: The Bright Lights EP




6)Toro Y Moi: Freaking Out




5) High Highs: High Highs - The below track "Flowers Bloom" has been one of my favorites for most of the 2011. I was happy when they finally released this EP back in October so I could get more ambient chillwave tuneage from this trio out of New York. Looking forward to more from these guys in the future.


4) Of Monsters and Men: Into the Woods - Of Monsters and Men is the latest to harness the folky pop-party sound with dueling male and female singers a la Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes as well as another 2011 favorite, Grouplove. This is a band to keep an eye on in 2012.


3) The Decemberists: Long Live the King EP - 2011 was a busy year for The Decemberists between an LP, this EP, a full year of touring and the unfortunate breast cancer diagnosis for Jenny. Happy to hear she is doing better and finished the year back with the band after taking time off from their tour!


2) Phantogram: Night Life - Night Life is the follow up to the duo's fantastic 2009 debut Eyelid Moves. They pick up right where they left off and developed even more accessibility over the last 2 years. Go ahead, try and resist the infectiousness of the below track "Don't Move."


1) Black Books: An Introduction To... - I'm sure this is a shocker for anyone that follows this blog but it says something that I have listened to An Introduction To.. more than just about anything else in 2011. Looking forward to more great psych-fuzz rock from this Austin-based group as they prepare to unveil their debut full-length album on Valentine's Day in 2012. Screw flowers and chocolate! This is the perfect gift!

  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Black Books...What They Been Up To?


Back in June I introduced many of you to Black Books and their debut EP, An Introduction To. This is my favorite band here in Austin and man have they been busy. They are close to completing their debut LP, which is slated to be released early 2012 (and you know I'll be telling you about it!). They have played all over town as well as a few dates around the state and are in the process of booking dates/venues for their 1st tour.

Somehow, with all this going on they found the time to cover a song that EVERYBODY that was alive and listened to music in the mid 90's will know. Their cover of "Lovefool" by The Cardigans is even more awesome than the fact they did the cover in the 1st place!

Give a listen and let them take you on a reverb'd trip down memory lane by clicking HERE. You can also read a little more about why they chose this cover as well as download if you like it by visiting the SYFFAL's "Pop Culture's Collide" blog feature HERE.

Black Books also recently dropped "Out the Door," an addicting track that will be featured on their upcoming album and you can hear it below. To quote my buddy Pete after I played this for him, "how are they not signed to a big label!?"


If you live in the Austin area, Black Books are playing tomorrow night (Thursday, December 15) at Frank downtown supported by The Pons and Gentlemen Rogues! Check the details out on Facebook HERE

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dad Rocks! Break Thru Radio Exclusive Acoustic Interview

I recently dropped the joyous and quirky folky tuneage of Snævar Njáll Albertsson (also known as Dad Rocks!) on your ear drums. Now, Break Thru Radio has an exclusive sit down with Albertsson where he discusses the inspiration for his debut album Mount Modern. He even does a few acoustic renditions to please your soul.

I do love where he says his daughter likes to sing along with "Pants." A song that includes lyrics such as "And then you're covered in shit. And you don't think that you are fit. To be raising a kid, that gets to suck on all the tits." If you can't tell he even mentions that it is a song "about being a dad and changing diapers." When you put it in those terms it makes perfect sense!

Check out the interview below and also be sure to check out Mount Modern as well! Speaking of, you can check out my album review HERE


Monday, December 12, 2011

Polock - Getting Down From the Trees



First of all, let me point that I am aware that this album was released 1st half of 2010 but when I recently purchased it there was a 2011 date on it. I spent about 10-15 minutes researching for re-release statements, articles, or some form of info and came out empty-handed. So I will justify this review and the potential inclusion in my top 50 for the year based on my album case saying 2011. Semantics!

Polock was brought to my attention at the recommendation of a worker at a record store I ALWAYS hut up when I'm home. His exact words were "they are like a Spanish Phoenix" and that's all I needed. The weather was dreary and nothing can spark a day like that more than the hooks of Phoenix! Plus, I was curious how a Spanish Phoenix would differ from the French Phoenix. This is no joke but about 5 minutes after putting this album in while driving home the sun came out. Not being cheeky or anything here, it happened! Besides, you just read it on the internet so it must be true.

A "Spanish Phoenix" might be the best blanket comparison for this band but there are also traces of Spoon, The Strokes, and even a smidgen of Real Estate. Throughout the album there are times where the singing style reminds me of a poppier Britt Daniel of Spoon. I'm talking more pop than their poppier-ish songs like "The Underdog." Album opener "High on Life" as well as the closer "Night Shot" bring The Strokes to mind. The instrumental jam throughout most of "Defenceless" could have been a Real Estate Days leftover (if patience isn't your thing and you want to hear what I mean skip ahead to around the 1:30 mark).  Also, the chorus of "Faster Love" somewhat reminds me of Weezer. Maybe it's just the way he says "Suzanne."

Other musical similarities aside, if you enjoy the infectious pop hooks of Phoenix then you will enjoy Getting Down From the Trees because they are aplenty. 'Trees is full of charm and warmth and will get your head bobbing. This may not be the most diverse album but why stray from what works especially when your music causes the sun to shine on a dreary day?

Check out the party-in-the-woods video for "Fireworks" below. Is the drummer trying to look like Jason Schwartzman in this video? Phantom Planet fan, maybe?


And below you can hear "Defenceless." Possibly my favorite jam on the album...


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Video: Little Tybee - Boxcar Fair



One of the best videos I've seen this year, as well as one of the most artistic, is for "Boxcar Fair" by Little Tybee. The song itself is enjoyable and whimsical in all its grandeur but the video is so well done it takes the experience to another level. Think the former HBO series Carnivale meets Wes Anderson and the puppetry of Craig Schwarz (Cusack in Being John Malkovich). Everything you know and love about those 3 mixed in a blender and you get the idea. Best part and what makes it even more spectacular is that they filmed it all in ONE TAKE!


You can check the video out for yourself on Vimeo by clicking here http://vimeo.com/32183353 


SPOILER ALERT! Kinda....I'm still trying to figure out the floating elephant, though. I get that it's scared by the mouse but is the mouse magic or radioactive or something because of the psychic?



Thursday, December 8, 2011

New Artist You Need to Know About: Low Roar


Low Roar's self-titled album is the debut solo product of Ryan Karazija, formerly of Audrye Sessions. Low Roar's sound and vibe brings to mind bands like Other Lives, Radiohead (the mellower side), and if James Blake had collaborated with Just Vernon on For Emma, Forever Ago (but James Blake was still a nobody so Vernon only took on bits and pieces of his influence). There are the occasional electronic beats and some auto-tuning but it still has a feel to it that I have not experienced since I first heard For Emma. 


Speaking of Justin Vernon and Bon Iver, Karazija embarked on a somewhat similar journey in creating this album, albeit much further geographically. While Vernon holed-up in a cabin in Wisconsin, Karazija moved from San Francisco, CA to Reykjavik, Iceland. This trek and the subsequent toll it took on his life built the foundation for the hauntingly beautiful songs of Low Roar. Opening track and current single "Give Up" sets the tone with lyrics of sadness and downright melancholia right off the bat with 'I won't wake a wealthy man someday 'cause the sun don't follow me.'

There is so much more life and emotion to Low Roar, though. "Just a Habit" with its Radioheadish (think In Rainbows) acoustic guitar work. Then "Nobody Else" is where you pick up the James Blake vibe with the auto-tuned singing and overall electronicness. Album closer "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" (not to be confused with the Smashing Pumpkins song that was also involved with some melancholy as well as some sadness) is another standout track. It is an epic climax to this album that, albeit still haunting, will have you bobbing your head or tapping your feet, fingers, a pen, whatever you have access to. At times it feels like you're in a medieval movie but can hear the soundtrack...and there's a dope beat. I just hope for the sake of all our ears he isn't talking to us as he closes the album with "No, I ain't gonna be here too long....too long."

PS: I am currently in love with this album.

Check out the beautifully well-done video for "Give Up" below:


You can also check out "Just a Habit" below.  And no, that is not a picture of Ryan....



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Deer Tick - Divine Providence....Lyme Disease Not Included. Maybe Tetanus Though....

FYI: the mustachioed guy with glasses had tetanus
One thing I've heard uttered more and more frequently is that there are no good rock bands anymore. Not true. Maybe radio stations just have terrible taste. That or they believe those of us that would like to hear good rock music don't listen to the radio. I'm gonna go with a little from column A and a little from column B. Believe me, rock is not dead. There are plenty of awesome bands out there you just have to look. I'll make it a little easier on one band...you guessed it, Deer Tick! You are so smart for putting all that together.

Divine Providence is the 4th LP released by Deer Tick since 2007. The band consists of singer/guitarist John McCauley and a seemingly never-ending rotating door of accompanying band members over the years. Apparently John has more in common with Connor Oberst than just comparisons to Bright Eyes! McCauley is also involved in at least a couple of other side projects with members from other bands. There is Middle Brother (a personal favorite of 2011) with Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes and Matt Vazques of Delta Spirit. Then we have the recently formed Diamond Rugs which features members of Los Lobos, The Black Lips, Dead Confederate, and Six Finger Satellite. They just put out a sad new Christmas song to warm your soul for the holidays called "Christmas in a Chinese Restaurant." I guess it's only sad if it's you by yourself and not a take on the classic scene from A Christmas Story. "Fa ra ra ra, ra ra, ra raaaaa."

And there was my typical paragraph where I get sidetracked. Divine Providence isn't an album of music, by the way. All of their promotional work fooled us. Divine Providence is really a beer bottle thrown from across the room that smacks you in the head...and it is filled with music (sounds like a Flaming Lips promotional idea). If you haven't figured it out by the 3rd song titled "Let's All Go to the Bar," your bottle might have hit you a little harder than was intended. For me, things became as clear as the bottom of a pint with "Funny Word" Oh, and that funny word it's talking about would be love. "You ask me if I love you. Don't ask a question with such a funny word," McCauley sings/yells over driving guitar riffs and dare I say, some cowbell? We all know by now those cure fevers. Someone tell Walgreens!

Later in the album once the rowdiness calms down a skoch we come across what has become one of my favorite tracks of the year, "Make Believe." Tables seem to have turned from "Funny Word" and the trend continues through the rest of the album. It's as Deer Tick sneak attacks you and is sucking your soul out without your realizing it. Then about 3/4 of the way through it's so fat on all that was once good inside you it slows down and mellows out a little bit. I know music can affect us emotionally but is it possible for us to affect it? You know....like an ACTUAL deer tick would suck blood and get fat off that.....

Deer Tick's 4th studio release is their hardest-hitting and, to me, best to date. ...Providence is full of alt, grungy, garagy, country, folky, bluesy rock at or near its finest. McCauley's voice in itself might as well be an instrument. Every adjective I just used for the band can also be used to describe his raspy voice. Don't get too lost in this or else you might miss the "I've Been Working on the Railroad-ish" secret song at the end of infectious closer "Miss K." It's not nearly on the level as Green Day's secret song from Dookie but the song's character is named Mr. Cigarette. So it's got that goin' for it.

Check out "Main Street" live on Letterman below.



Monday, December 5, 2011

Classic Rock Re-invented: The War On Drugs - Slave Ambient


Trying to describe The War on Drugs' sound is like a rock n roll recipe....2 parts Dylan, a splash of Springsteen, and a pinch of Petty all mixed together with some 90's garage rock reverb. Slave Ambient is the follow up LP to their 2008 debut Wagonwheel Blues and is the 1st minus former guitar player Kurt Vile along with a few of the other original members. While Vile is riding a wave of praise for his recent solo album The War on Drugs haven't missed a beat and have put out one of the better rock albums of 2011.

This foursome from Philly fills (yeah, say that one ten times fast!) your ears with music that your dad would have listened to on his 8-track while wiping down the ol' Mustang before homecoming. It could also have soundtracked the life of your older brother rebelling and full of teenage angst fueled by grunge and punk and pretending he doesn't watch nor like Beverly Hills 90210 (the original....the birth of sideburns). A true throwback sound that transverses generations of musical awesomeness.

While the Dylan influence is most-prevalent throughout singer Adam Granduciel's style, you will inevitably hear some Pettyishness now and again. When his inner Boss comes out to play there are no constraints. Check out "Baby Missiles" below and see if you can get through it without imagining a video where a young Courtney Cox gets pulled on stage to dance around during the live performance. Speaking of live performance, I highly recommend seeing them, they put on a most excellent show....unlike The Shitty Beetles.



*Note - if you don't get any of the references above watch some VH1 recaps of the 80's and 90's or go rent Dazed and Confused and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. If you don't get the Shitty Beetles one I will have lost all faith in the world....

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Band/Album You Should Know: Snowmine - Laminate Pet Animal

Is the side of its face laminated? Is that what the album means? Don't tell PETA, just to be safe
As much as I claim to hate Twitter it has brought me some good fortune so don't be fooled. I have won contests here and there, found some great things to do in this awesome new city I live in and I have found some amazing music. One such amazing band that I likely still would have never heard of otherwise is Snowmine. The fivesome out of Brooklyn has put together one of the best debut albums of recent memory, as well as one of my favorites for the year in Laminate Pet Animal.

The album opener "Beast in Air, Beast in Water" starts things off with some tribal beats and a lyrical flow reminiscent of some Grizzly Bear clone. Then, right about 3:30 mark of the song the tone changes and you get bombarded with this infectious pop hookhorus of 'Tell me that you came for me, cause I've been waiting for you...' and there's no saving you. Not that you'd want to be saved at this point but you're in this musical quicksand (a good quicksand tho, that you don't want to get out of). Back to tribalness....then back to infectious hookhorus....then finally their lovechild joins the party and both sides fight for custody....culminated by the infectious hookhorus. A sign of things to come.

Laminate Pet Animal was just getting started. I already mention Grizzly Bear who then meets some sort of concoction of a Vampire Weekend/Ra Ra Riot musical vibe with a splash of Beirut and you might be on the right track....on a couple of the songs. I hear a lot of complaints about bands putting out albums that sound very similar throughout. This is not the case with ...Animal, Snowmine must have been paying attention. There isn't much about this album that is repetitive, other than it's lack of repetitiveness. Did I just blow your mind?

Again, I will reiterate that this is a very well-done album, especiallyy for a debut. You can download a couple of other tracks not present on the album through their bandcamp site, http://snowmine.bandcamp.com/,

Check out "Let Me In" below for one of the best songs of 2011, especially under the indie pop umbrella.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Real Estate - Days

Days is the recent follow up by the New Jersey five-some Real Estate to their highly acclaimed 2008 debut self-titled LP. I was aware of this band and their recognition amongst the bloggers and music publications but hadn't ever given much of a listen. At the urging of a friend when NPR streamed Days prior to its release things changed. I had been in a bit of a music funk and with traveling a lot for work had taken a minor sabbatical from it all. I needed something fresh to break me out of this slump and by the time I got to the 2nd song "Green Aisles" it was like the beam of light from the heavens you see in cartoons shone down on me. The healing and rejuvinization (aware that's not a word, deal with it) process had started.

I have since seen their stellar live performance and have gone back and listened to the debut album and I can see where and why all the love for this band has come from. This is a collection of 10 easy-flowing, wistful, indie pop songs that could easily soundtrack a drive along the countryside, with some possible beach scene passer-byes, in a convertible on a sunny and breezy day. It brings this warm feeling of living in a moment at it's utmost simplest and fully appreciating the now of it all.

I guess it may depend on where you live but this album is perfect spring/summer/fall tuneage. If it is already cold and nasty where you are you might want to check this out for a reprieve from the winter terrors. No matter what your Days are like though, Real Estate's will make them a little bit better.

Check out the video for their current single "It's Real" below. Dog lovers rejoice!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Childish Gambino - Camp


Childish Gambino, the alternate personality of the very talented and hilarious comedy actor/writer Donald Glover. You may know him as Troy on the NBC show Community, that is apparently and unfortunately in danger of being cancelled, as well as a writer for 30 Rock. TV Donald Glover is funny, quirky, laid-back, and seemingly humble. Other than the funny part Childish Gambino can be the complete opposite of Mr. Glover. Gambino tells tales of tortured times in his younger life along with a very intelligently done variation of juvenile dick and fart jokes with Lil Wayneish style and flow.

If you are a fan of or are even faintly aware of Donald Glover, the key to listening to Childish Gambino is keeping them separate or else it can be like the Seinfeld episode where the George worlds collide. What happens then? George gets very upset! That's what could happen to your perception of Troy in Community and Gambino's debut label LP Camp. You have to keep them separate!

I actually saw Donald Gambino (that was on purpose btw) when he came through Austin back in May for the "I Am Donald" tour. It was half standup and half hip hop. Both were just as impressive and hard to believe it was the same person. When walking into the venue Donald walked into the side door from his tour bus a few feet in front of us. We peered in the door to see him standing there watching a video of his that was playing inside before the show. He seemed almost nervous and self-conscious about watching himself. As talented as he is, it was as if he didn't believe it. I had heard a few songs he released himself online through various Eps/Lps. As good as those songs were he was better live than recorded, which can be rare in the hip hop world.

This dude is extremely talented and this area of his abilities should not be taken lightly. I don't listen to a ton of hip hop these days but this album is well-written, funny, sad, and creative all with a flow many in the industry could only dream of.

Check the current single "Heartbeat" below. He recently played it on Conan and tell me when it kicks in that the music doesn't remind you at least a little of "Thriller" by MJ? I feel like there should be some zombies doin' that shoulder drop move from the video...


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Album Prevaluation: The Black Keys - El Camino



I can't necessarily say this album was on my list of most anticipated for 2011 considering I didn't think it was coming out until 2012. Then a few weeks ago I read the album was finished and being prepped for a late year release. Following my unnatural love for last year's Brothers, which was my #1 album for the year and one of my favorites of the last decade, I was a tad bit giddy (and that description is playing it cool).

Not gonna lie but had it not been for my 5+ years living in Cleveland, OH I most likely would have been late to the party for this band. Luckily my close friends brought them to my attention since they are from Akron. Yes, that is the same place that LeBron is from. The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are the TRUE native sons of Akron! Yet somehow, the 1st time I saw their amazing live show was here in Austin at the Austin City Limits music festival in 2008. I walked up right before they played and was able to get about 15 feet from the stage, as opposed to 2010 when I couldn't get closer than 50 yards. Anyway, a couple of guys next to me were talking about how sweet they are which obviously was followed by "yeah man, I think they are from New York." Luckily I was there to correct them and blow their collective mind that music that good came from Ohio!

Back to reviewing the album.....

Considering the new Keys album that goes by El Camino features an old mini-van should be the 1st clue that this album is not exactly going to be what you expect from them. In previous interviews I read where Dan and/or Patrick mentioned this album was going to be heavier than previous albums and completely different from Brothers, which really opened the world's eyes (finally) to the brilliance of this duo. The 2nd clue would be that Danger Mouse produced the entire album this time around. The album seems to pick up where "Tighten Up" left off from Brothers, which Danger Mouse also produced and really jump started the rise of The Black Keys.

My first actual listening experience off of El Camino was for the lead single "Lonely Boy" with the amazing video of nothing more than a guy dancing and lip-synching. The flow and fuzziness behind Dan's driving guitar got me really excited. Once I finally got my ears around El Camino it was apparent there was more of an R&B groove to the album along with the bluesiness fans are accustomed to. It also has a more produced sound as opposed to the lo-fi, garagey, dinginess of earlier albums. This was to be expected with Danger Mouse at the helm and he has a great chemistry with the Keys. He also produced their 2008 album Attack and Release.

I won't have the same kind of time to completely understand and digest El Camino as I did with Brothers before I finalize my year end album list. Not sure how noticeable it will be that I listened to the album a couple more times while typing this up but from the 1st to last sentences my love has grown exponentially.  It is different from previous Black Keys albums and shows a lot of growth but it really is the next logical step after Brothers. This is still the soul of The Black Keys you're hearing, just with a little extra polish.

Besides the aforementioned catchiness of Lonely Boy my favorite tracks are Sister, Gold on the Ceiling,  and Nova Baby. Call me crazy but during "Little Black Submarines" when Dan sings "..they got lost and out of time" it really sounds like Led Zeppelin!

View the video for "Lonely Boy" below

Lucky for all of us this was not a love that kept us waiting any longer.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Album Review: Dad Rocks! - Mount Modern


This may sound odd but the 1st time I heard Dad Rocks! I pictured the music being played by Modest Mouse in the "Float On" video. Maybe just because Isaac Brock has a mustache? Mind you I hadn't seen that video in years so it was all from memory. I stick by it though. Even after multiple listens when I hear Snaevar Njall Albertsson sing I instantaneously think of this. Can we talk about that name!? Just about as impressive as the debut solo LP Mount Modern by the Icelandic native.

I quickly move past the whole image as I take in the light-hearted and possibly tongue-in-cheek lyrics Albertsson uniquely sings. How can the below lines from "Downaging" not throw you off whatever course your brain is on as they are sung over horns, drums, and other instruments devoid from the rest of the song other than accompanying some humming near the end?

And I became a boy when I received 
my first happy meal toy
And I noticed a pair of breasts
and I did what I could
I did my very own best
To get this girl undressed
but I sadly failed the test

Not gonna lie but I have never seen a smoother and faster transition from "happy meal toy" to "breasts." Takes some talent.

There's an interesting (and very short) song called "Major Labels" that basically says the best musicians out there are the kids uploading their original works onto youtube. They do not care about labels, producers, people buying albums or anything else and are just making something they created and love. You said it Snaevar!

I like this album and it is very unique, especially compared to everything else I have heard this year. A lot of it has to do with Albertsson's singing (sometimes almost talking in rhythm) and combine that with the folk elements, quirky lyrics and larger-than-expected arrangements. Sometimes it feels like early Coldplay attempts at arena rock are combined with the sensibility and stylings of Cake....in a good way. One thing is for sure, it is virtually impossible to be in a bad mood while and after listening to Mount Modern.

Check the video for the song "Weapons" below. Basically describes the majority of us music lovers out there that like to get a taste of an album before buying it.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

New Video Review: Destroyer - Savage Night At The Opera


Kaputt, the latest release from Dan Bejar's Destroyer project has been one of my favorite albums throughout 2011. Other than in my mid-year top 20 list I haven't mentioned it much since the album came out very early in the year and I just started posting a couple of months ago. When I came across the new video for the standout track "Savage Night At The Opera" I figured I might as well give some mention to this stellar album.

One thing I will say about the album is that it seems to be rather polarizing with most I have talked to. Although my sample isn't necessarily a huge one most either love it or despise it without any middle ground. It is a little different and didn't do much for me the 1st few songs until I got to the title track about halfway through and something snapped and I fell in love with it.

So back to the video....it's a pretty simple one with nothing more than 1st person view from a motorcycle cruising through a downtown city. That's literally all it is until the destination at the end but it jives well with the mellowness of Bejar's voice and overall chilledness of the song.

Take a gander below for the video.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bon Iver and James Blake...new version of the Postal Service?

As we found out a week ago via James Blake on twitter he has been working on something with Bon Iver with today's date attached along with "Fall Creek Boys Choir." Staying true to said tweet the song was premiered today on BBC Radio 1 and is now pretty much available anywhere on the interweb (including in this post).

They collaborated on the track via email (hence the Postal Service mention if ya didn't pick up on that one). It is a very pretty song and does mesh their styles well. I might have been expecting a little too much out of it though considering I am a little disappointed. Maybe I was paying too much attention to that odd straw vs plastic lid noise that occurs throughout. Granted, I have only listened once but wanted to share since I do love me some Bon Iver and enjoy James Blake as well. It appears there are more tracks on the way so we'll see what else they have up their collective sleeve but this is enough to at least wet my appetite.

2 posts in a row involving the same band....is that legal?

Here is "Fall Creek Boys Choir"

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bon Iver - Holocene Video

The video for "Holocene," the latest single from Bon Iver's sophomore effort Bon Iver, was recently released and just brought to my attention. As you may recall from my review of the album and ranking it as my top album of 2011 so far I kinda dig this LP. "Holocene" is one of my favorites from the album and also one of the most beautiful in recent memory.

How do you match the beauty of the song? By not including Justin Vernon (the man behind Bon Iver)? Just kiddin, Justin! No, you have a young boy named Hilke (got that nugget of info from Stereogum, btw) wandering around and exploring the gorgeous landscapes of Iceland. Justin seems to have a love for this area between this video and his recent live covers of Iceland's own Bjork.

You can check out the video below and this all but confirms what I'll be listening to next time I am adventuring my way through a gorgeous landscape.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Random Artist/Album/Song Rant: Radiohead/King of Limbs/Codex


Radiohead's most recent LP King of Limbs seems to be, at the least, a polarizing album. I have heard people speak of it as the greatest album in the history of the world (paraphrasing an actual conversation). And also that Radiohead has lost it with Limbs as well as 2008's In Rainbows being far less than the standard that Radiohead has set for themselves. Granted, neither of these albums are OK Computer or Kid A but neither of those albums were Pablo Honey or The Bends. Radiohead IS Radiohead because of this. They don't have a definitive sound. You cannot lump them into a specific genre of music, they created their own. Every album is different from every other album.

I am not the biggest Radiohead fan out there by any stretch of the imagination but I thoroughly enjoy their music and their creativity. In Rainbows was one of my favorites from 2008. I really liked it at first and then it slipped into the background only to be re-discovered and fell in love with all over again with a rejuvenated level of respect. It has been similar for me with Limbs. Really liked it after I listened to it about 3 times in a row. The 1st couple of listens nothing overly stood out besides the beauty of it. The 3rd listen was similar but it started to feel like different layers in a dream. Then, going previously unnoticed and like the climax of the dream that turns it from ordinary into one that sticks with you, "Codex" happened.

At the very beginning when I heard the split second of his voice it felt as if it would go into this epic song of twists and turns and beats like something from Kid A. It abruptly stops before a keyboard comes in softly like it walked into a room it had never been to before but has always belonged there.

The lyrics are just as haunting as the music, which you can read below.

Sleight of hand
                                             Jump off the end
Into a clear lake
No one around

Just dragonflies
Fantasize
No one gets hurt
You’ve done nothing wrong

Slide your hand
Jump off the end
The water's clear and innocent
The water's clear and innocent 

Is it about guilt? Is it about trying to make the wrong things right? Is it about suicide? Maybe that's why it's called "Codex."

Check out, this, one of my favorite songs of the year below.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cults - Cults

Just to be safe, there's no Kool-Aid at their concerts
Cults are a duo from Manhattan (New York incase you really don't know) that specialize in the throwback rock/pop sound of the 50's and 60's. I started getting into this genre last year with Best Coast but I feel Cults are more accessible, which is saying something. As I mentioned in my first post, I grew up listening to "oldies" so I relate well to this style of music.

Just about everyone has heard the single "Go Outisde" and it's hard not to fall for its catchiness. It's when you really pay attention to the rest of the album do you realize the throwbackedness of their music. From the guitar strums in "Most Wanted" that could have been pulled straight out of an unreleased Herman's Hermits song to the hooks throughout the album, sometimes it feels like Doc Brown was just shot by the Lybians and you took off in the Delorean and now find yourself trying to avoid a younger version of your mom getting fresh with you while attempting to set her up with your peeping tom dad and causing Biff to crash into a truck of manure. That sounds heavy...

Basically, if you like the throwback sounds of 50's and 60's pop then I say check out Cults. They are another of those bands I kept reading about and putting off and when I finally broke down and listened I wondered why I never did before. Weird, that's what a lot of people say shortly after joining a cult....

Check out "Go Outside" below. (by the way I was going to post the video for the song since it looks like it's from 50-60 years ago but I think it might have taken away from the music, seems a little politcal. just a sidebar there for ya)

    

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Barry Brothers - Yawnin' in the Dawnin'


From the start of the short opening title track to The Barry Brothers debut EP Yawnin' in the Dawnin' you can tell these guys like to have a good time. There is a lightheartedness and fun element to the song that is hard to resist. "For Your Own Good" follows and gives an idea of what this band is made of...bar rock with strong folk and classic rock elements. I say "bar rock" in a very good way, as in the likes of The Hold Steady. It's the kind of music you hope to hear on any given night when you go to a bar because that means it's gonna be a good night. It's doesn't take long to realize there's no way you can attend their live show and not have a good time.

The Barry Brothers band consists of 3 brothers from Western New York, all with the last name Barry (like The Shitty Beetles, it's not just a clever name). Ben, who plays bass, and Pat, who handles the guitar/harmonica along with lead vocals, were previously in the alt-rock-country band NAVAR. The band split so they picked up Bradford, their drumming younger brother, earlier this year. While Pat's voice is the most featured all 3 brothers have a voice throughout the album, especially on "Drink One More." If you close your eyes while listening you'll find yourself at a bar full of people singing along with drinks in the air as the song closes out the night. Just better hope the bar isn't closed so we can all do one more shot of whiskey!

Check out the video for their 1st single "Carnival(e)" below.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Band I Hate to See Break Up: The Middle East - I Want That You Are Always Happy

When Awesome and Creepy Collide
Well, I had to change the title of this post because I was doing a little research and read that they split 2 days ago. They announced this mid-set playing at Splendor In The Grass in Queensland, Australia, which is from where the band hails. I have had this album for a couple of weeks now and planned to do a regular review talking about how much I dig it so this was quite an unpleasant surprise.

I Want That You Are Always Happy, the debut LP from The Middle East, was released on July 12 of this year. It is the follow up to their debut EP Recordings of The Middle East which was originally released in 2008 prior to their 1st breakup. It was released in 2009 and started to garner more attention in the US. That is about the time they stepped away from playing mostly Christian festivals and started hitting more mainstream ones and opened some shows for Grizzly Bear.

When I put 'Always Happy on for the 1st time and heard the opening track "Black Death 1349" my initial thought was they reminded me of Fleet Foxes pre Helplessness Bues. The 2nd song started a trend of songs that brought to mind the aforementioned Grizzly Bear. You've got the weirder darker GB side on the 2nd track "My Grandma Was Pearl Hall." Then you have the poppier side of GB on "As I Go To See Janey." I listened a little more and started to notice an old school pop-folk flavor in there as well, especially in "Jesus Came To My Birthday Party." Obviously, the religious element is still present in some of their lyrics and song titles.

I am sad to read of this band's demise. Would have been interesting to see if they would have gotten lost in the shuffle with the likes of Grizzly Bear, Deerhunter and the folksters out there popping out of the woodworks. Or maybe they would have done so much more.

Check out "As I Go To See Janey" below (and you get to look at the cover again! bonus)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Album Review: SBTRKT - Sbtrkt

Trying to do that with my beard actually
SBTRKT = London musician/producer Aaron Jerome. Jerome is mostly known for remixes of artists such as M.I.A. and Basement Jaxx, amongst others. He has also released a few singles as well as last year's EP Step In Shadows all under the moniker of SBTRKT. If you ever see someone cruising around in a mask such as the one shown above from the album cover for his self-titled debut LP SBTRKT there is a chance it may be Jerome. He prefers to live in anonymity through these modern interpretations of traditional ceremonial masks and by not using his name.

The album is full of funky UK dubstep beats that keep your head bobbing throughout. My 1st listen through I had thoughts of this crazy mixture of Phantogram, the XX, and TV on the Radio. The TVOTR part is a little more of a stretch after multiple listens but it was more about their artistic funkiness as opposed to the sound.

Check out the strange yet kinda cool video for single "Wildfire" below along with the audio for my favorite track "Hold On."

Wildfire

Hold On

Friday, July 29, 2011

Band You Should Know: The Cave Singers - No Witch

I think that's my buddy's dad...
So I had read here and there about The Cave Singers in various blogs, sites, and magazines around the time their latest LP No Witch was released back in February. I should have taken it as a sign to check them out based on the praise and that it was released 2 days after my birthday but as usual I did not. C'est la vie.

My first real run-in with this trio from Seattle, WA was a couple months back when they opened for the Fleet Foxes as Stubb's here in Austin. I was instantly intrigued by the funky folk music and raspiness of singer Pete Quirk. On top of that it didn't hurt that we had a storm blow through near the end of the set that caused euphoria as we hadn't seen a drop in weeks (Texas is in a massively insane drought right now if you weren't aware). It's funny how rain can have that effect and enhance the emotions involved in the current happenings. 

Ever since the concert they have been on my wishlist and I finally purchased No Witch this past weekend when I made a trip to Waterloo records after some "Sunday fun day" at Lucy's and Dirty Bill's off W. 6th downtown. Happy with that purchase but don't really get some of the others I bought but oh well, I'm sure this is the least of things you (the reader) care about.

Back to the music! The album has an overall feeling, but one that is most prevalent, on the opening track "Gifts and the Raft" that it could serve (in parts or as a whole) as the soundtrack to just about any Coen Brothers film. Being a HUGE fan of these filmmakers this revelation might have something to do with my new found love for this band. You can check out "Gifts and the Raft" below.


Can't you see H.I. and Ed involved in some sort of shenanigans with Nathan Jr while this is playing? Maybe even a B side from the Soggy Bottom Boys! And don't tell me I'm out of my element!


Monday, July 25, 2011

Finally! A New Review! Washed Out - Within and Without

I wonder what they're doing....
After multiple singles and EPs Ernest Greene delivers a solid debut LP full of synthpop whispiness under the moniker Washed Out. Within and Without brings a sort of airy fresh feeling that is perfect for a drive through the country or along the ocean with the windows down.

We are in a new era of "do-it-yourself" musicians that can layer complicated musical pieces together through computer programs. Greene is of this era and does it very well. He has had hints of greatness before with songs like "Feel It All Around" but ...Without is an album you can really lose yourself in. It's relaxing like a kiddie roller-coaster; it has its ups and downs with a few rickety bumps here and there but it's fun nonetheless. I feel like that analogy is kind of under-selling the album but read that knowing that I enjoy listening to it and would recommend it and I hope you get where I was going with it....

Below you can check out my favorite track (so far after a few listens), "Amor Fati." It has a little more of the 80's synth influence but it is one of the more accessible tracks on the album. I'll be intrigued to see Washed Out live as it's always interesting to see how "bands" like this play out live.


Bonus track action for your audio pleasurement:

While this isn't on Within and Without you can check out Washed Out covering the classic Chris Isaak gem "Wicked Game" over at Stereogum by clicking HERE.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lack of Posts

I just wanted to let everyone know that I have been traveling the last week which is why I haven't posted anything. I will be back in a couple days so more reviews are coming soon!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Highly NSFW Review: Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital

Disclaimer: Along with the title this is your warning seeing as there is plenty of nudity in the album cover, which I usually begin my album reviews with but in this case I have at the very bottom so nobody gets fired over one of my posts. I will also mention again when I post the link to the video for their lead single "What About Us," but the video is also highly NSFW so you won't want to watch that in your cubicle either.

A few days ago I posted my top 20 for the year, so far. Handsome Furs latest treat Sound Kapital came in at 18 as I had only listened to it a couple of times. Part of the reason I don't post my reviews right when an album comes out is that I can't really judge the music until listen at least a few times. I hate reading reviews when you can tell the reviewer didn't listen to the album more than once if even all the way through and just wanted to beat a deadline. That's the worst.

Handsome Furs are made up of Montreal's own Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade and his wife Alexei Perry. Sound Kapital is the Furs' 3rd album since signing with Sub Pop in 2006. To be completely honest, this is my first rodeo with them but I may have to check out the back catalog now. It's obvious the duo are making music the way they want to make it and that they have a great chemistry. I hear this chemistry is on full display during their epic live performances. I'll confirm this on August 26.

Sound Kapital is full of electronic beats you'd expect if Dave Sitek (of TV On The Radio) went back about 25 years and combined his flare with some 80's new wave rock. A lot of the songs lead you in different directions before realizing 4 minutes in that you're listening to the same song. You can hear what I mean on the lead single "What About Us." Furs just released the video for it this week and you can read an interesting interview with director Scott Coffey on Stereogum where he discusses tying in the video with the theme of the album art including the cover. Click HERE to check it out and you can see the highly NSFW video as well.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Sound Kapital is going to climb out of the upper teens by the end of the year but we have a long way to go.