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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
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

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 

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 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 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,,

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...