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2016 Favorite Albums December 30, 2016

Posted by reidmix in Album Reviews, Best of 2016, Carpark, Domino, Grand Jury, Greenway, Indie, Merge Records, Mom + Pop, Music, New Releases, Paper Bag, Sacred Bones.
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Last year was a good music year for me, there was far more albums that stuck with me than the (only!) four I picked in 2015. I must reveal now, that I have two picks for favorite album, because I’ve kept picking them back up to listen again and again throughout the year.

On that same note, when compiling the list of 2016 Favorite Songs (Pts. 1, 2, 3), I decided to add two albums back onto this list because I felt like rediscovered them and they deserved to be in my “Best Of” list.

If I had to classify my favorites this year, I’d have to say each of the albums felt bigger than any one song, that the world they painted were grander and more realized and thus transported me. Maybe I was looking for that textured, complicated place to dive within.  Or I just like the moody ones.

When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired by Mothers

When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired

The first album I re-added back to my year-end favorites.

On “Too Small for Eyes”, the sparsity of instrumentation rolls off like a music box, with Kristine Leschper‘s haunting voice making a bridge from aching and longing.  A wish for a childhood memory, that you can no longer claim.

But then Mothers can turn it out, bringing the jangly bounce of an alternative 90s sound like in “It Hurts until It Doesn’t.”  The loud-soft-loud template that made the great songs of that era.  Waxahatchee does this. Think of bands like Breeders on Pod.  Or Sonic Youth on the slower songs.

I’d also recommend finding the early demos on YouTube, the songs are even more stripped down but with the same level of emotion.

Love Yes by TEEN

Love Yes

The second album re-added.

The transition from the crunchier motorik-folk which made up TEEN‘s earlier sound — likely fueled from Kristina Lieberson‘s contribution in Here We Go Magic — to the clean R&B vocal-driven albums has been a bumpy one (for me).

What carried me through is the off-kilter instrumentation that has always been so much a part of the band’s sound and it seems to have paid off with Love Yes. The angularity is more committed here, the vocals are more integrated.  There is an ease to every song and they relate to each other.  As listener, I’m now able to let the music capture me and allow it to bring up the story it wants to tell.

Skip a Sinking Stone by Mutual Benefit

Skip a Sinking Stone

Some albums are sticky, in that they stay with me in that I return to them for a listen.  Some albums are too slick and slip pass me and that’s not a problem.  Those that are both beautiful but not sticky are the worst, they have one listen but hang around in my collection for years.  My fear is expunging them not know if I really *got them*.

Skip a Sinking Stone is one of those truly sweet albums that isn’t very sticky.  But every time I return to it, it feels so natural, so peaceful, like it has a place to beat alongside my heart, and I cannot bear to be without it.  Then a few weeks or months go by and I go through it all over again.

For the folk fans and those of C. Duncan, Fleet Foxes, and The Acorn.

“July 6” by Rachel Haden

July 6

I know that dog. more for their mythology in the 4AD cannon (Guernica, more precisely) than I’ve become actually entwined in their music. I consider that more about time spent than any conclusion made about the band.  But if band-member Rachel Haden’s “July 6” has anything to do with it, the newest that dog. in 19 years bodes well.

“July 6” has this otherworldliness, a place you go to in order to discover who you are, in which you come back forever changed.   There are songs where Haden is giving up secrets to a close, intimate friend (embarrassments maybe, honestly surely) from her life.  Not so much for me or you, but for her to find herself.

As a His Name Is Alive fan, I can’t help but notice Warren Defever‘s eerie guitar skills. Sometimes, the collaboration feels akin to Defever’s collaboration with Ian Masters on ESP Summer.  The album would have fit nicely on the timeSTEREO roster.

Not many YouTube vidoes, but her bandcamp has the full album, some of my favorites to sample are: the Red House Painters meloncholy of I’m Away, Elizabeth Frazier vocal tumbling of Get Out, and the solemn, fuzzy beauty of 12 Monkeys.

FLOTUS by Lambchop

FLOTUS

One of the idiosyncratic, “country” artists of 90s Merge Records era, Lambchop created one of my all-time favorite of all-time (Mark Robinson remixed) songs, The Militant.  Lambchop has not stopped putting out albums in 25 years, but his latest has stepped more mightily into the light.

The album is sprawling.  The opener, “In Care of 8675309” referencing Tommy Tutone‘s number,  clocks in at nearly 12 minutes and it’s not the longest song.

For the first few listens I thought Lambchop went the way of Bon Iver with autotune on every song.  I wasn’t able to figure out why it was successful until I realized it was a  vocoder (I think!) because the singing didn’t “step into” each octave.  The important difference is voice alteration vs. voice correction.  The effect is a hushing, nearly a mumbling, that exposes the underbelly of the songs that is soft, tender and inviting.

Inexplicably to me and paradoxically, the album shyness transforms it to be more available to the listener, more open to dig into the words, more curious to lean-in and hear its message and nostalgia.  The country sheen is wiped away with drum machines, soft patters, motorik and humble horns.  A micro-electronica Björk and Psapp would be proud of.  You can hear this best on 18 minutes of The Hustle, which in fact makes you want to do the hustle.

Songs from the Haunted South by Old Fire

Songs from the Haunted South

Oh the great collaborator-producer musicians.  In league with my favorites, those being This Mortal Coil (Ivo Watts-Russell), Parenthetical Girls (Zac Pennington), His Name Is Alive (Warren Defever), Piano Magic (Glen Johnson),  and now Old Fire (John Mark Latham).   Thus finally realizing the decade-long dream that was born out of early works under the moniker The Late Cord.  And it makes sense this is how the album was made, with a long cast of characters, each with their own full catalog as artists, some suggested by Ivo.

At first blush you may want to conclude its a continuation to This Mortal Coil’s trilogy, but I think that’s does a disservice to both bands.  The bridge between them isn’t so solid as perhaps the blueprints on making an album like Songs from the Haunted South may indicate.  They are different beasts, with different hearts charging within them.

The album can be summed up with “Bloodchild”.  A delicate filigree is an ode to a dear friend’s death.  It’s that moment you want to share an thought, a thing, an experience with a family member or friend, but realize they’re no longer with you.  The hopes and dreams you have for them are now carried within you because you’re now the sole keeper of them. I cannot listen to this song without thinking about the passing of my mom and I think that’s what takes it from a personal connection to a universal one.

Here’s a song-by-song commentary of the album.

Says You by The Luyas

Says You

The only EP on my list, my hope is these ideas and soundscapes transport to a full album.

“Engineers” was the first single off Says You, and its the jewel of the release.   Not only for yowling of the guitar and the fun bleeps and bloops that bedazzle the song, but for the strong love for the human ingenuity, existing absent the belief for God.

“I’m a creator / and also I don’t believe in God / But Engineers had more respect”  who build “By our hands / By our meaning / By our methods”

It’s matter-of-fact statement, delivered in that confident and understated ways.  Something you wouldn’t expect for someone who understands there’s no life-after-death when thinking of their legacy.

“And we thought that we knew / but we didn’t know shit / I thought I’ll be something enduring / Hell, no!”

The whole EP unfolds in this way, subtle and irreverent, confident in its demise, irresistible in its sweetness and earnestness.

Summer Is Gone by Bill Baird

Summer Is Gone

This is Bill Baird‘s strongest, most captivating work to date.  He is at his high-water mark. Like The Luyas, it’s subtlety delivered.  Where it differs is the lushness, the varied instruments (plinking piano, swelling strings, electronics and synthetic voices) striding their way through every song.

It’s astonishing that Baird is not endeared by a much wider audience over his decade-long career — but I believe his reverence growing release by release.

There’s plenty of instrumentals, 3 songs are revisited from earlier work.  This is common of Baird, who’s last release earlier in the year were more polished versions of his earlier songs.

What adds an extra layer is the 250 remixes that was made for this release.   They are bundled together in the ever-changing album at http://www.summerisgone.live which regenerates the 10 songs using the remixes based on time and location. It creates “An album that’s about memory that’s unique for every listener

Blood Bitch by Jenny Hval

Blood Bitch

Jenny Hval was my exciting discovery of the year.  She’s got that Ann Magnuson truth in sexuality.  She’s got that Laurie Anderson flair for performance.  Her songs are Witch House, imperfect, electronic, uncomfortable as Xiu Xiu, gothic, terrorpop, gorgeous and so fully realized as a skillfully constructed woman’s work.

She could be play with Zola Jesus.  She could have been at the founding of Warpaint.

Listening to “Conceptual Romance,” it’s as if she’s crouching in to talk you at a club, she’s telling you a story, drunk off her rockers, shouting her truth because all filters are off.   And it sounds so good, she does this song after song.

As I do with new-to-me artists, I travel back or forwards through their catalog.  Hval’s work spans a decade back to when she called herself Rockettothesky, strong performances as far back as 2006.  If I could I’d also put Apocalypse, Girl on this list (or last year’s list) simply for the twin songs “Take Care of Yourself” and “The Battle Is Over.”

Cult Following by Little Scream

Cult Following

My first #1 album of the year.

I think this is a concept album.

I know that happens at the end of a relationship or perhaps it just an ending.  I know that she goes looking for a lover.   I know there’s a man as captivating as a cult leader.

He can read her mind, he can see the future.

What’s not clear is which relationship is abusive.  It’s not clear if she’s experiencing each song for the first time or if she’s just remembering.   Its not clear how it all falls apart and into rolling shambles.

Sometimes Little Scream’s Laurel Sprengelmeyer is channeling Prince or Micheal Jackson.  She has pulled in great voices to sing with her like Sharon Van EttonMary Margaret O’Hara (!!!), Kyp Malone (TV on the Radio).  She’s has pulled in great musicians to play with her as Owen Pallett (Final Fantasy), the Dresser bothers (The National), The Barr Brothers.  It’s the kind of productions we see in documentaries about bands from the 60’s and 70’s.  More akin to filmmaking/theatermaking than a band recording a song.

The songs are danceable, shoutable, swoonable, rock’n’rollable, reflective, self-inflicted, wasted and floating.  You know, the gamut of emotions.  All tied up in this tight little album.  The non-album performancesnon-album performances are pretty amazing too.

On a personal note, this album jogged several ideas I’ve been having for a story and acted as catalyst to bind them all together.  One of which is that I’ve been wanting to write a book called Cult Hero after The Cure‘s side-project/song.  One of my favorite lyrics on Cult Following is “what if my best memories are dreams” and two of my ideas are exactly that, they come from dreams I’ve never forgotten.  So here is my hat-tip and thanks to Sprengelmeyer’s inspiration.

Gumption by Your Friend

Gumption

My next #1 album of the year.

I’ve known for over a year now that I’ve sported a deep and unyielding love for Gumption.  I had discovered Your Friend‘s earlier Jekyll/Hyde EP and live sets right before its release.

On the surface,Taryn Miller’s voice is a Patsy Kline‘s aching croon.  She sings over looped textures and melodies that are signature production techniques of Owen Pallett and tUne-YarDs.  Sometimes a jangly guitar, always a brooding drum.

The weight of her songs is her finding her place in the world.  Sometimes she’s just rhythmically asking “How did I get back here?” or “Who will I be in the morning?” or”Is that how I see you / you see me?”  It’s a meditation, each one.

For me sometimes, Gumption feels like His Name Is Alive‘s Livonia.  That is if she had arrived first, bringing her midwest (Kansas) sensibilities and sussed out a country drawl that can be found on the title track.  If I could put Warren Defever and Taryn Miller together for collaboration, I would.

“Come Back  from It” has the same persistent knocking present in “Some and I”, “To Live With” has the sloshing atmospherics of “How Ghosts Affect Relationships” and robotic mechanics of “Fossil”.  Gumption has little sounds hiding everywhere, they are bugs under rocks and moths in the closet.   It could even be brought more broadly into the 4ad cannon where I could argue that her enigmatic, sometimes indecipherable lyrics are like that of Elizabeth Frazier (Cocteau Twins).

Yet Gumption is a distinct work, certainly a singular vision of Miller’s — and maybe that’s what I’m responding to.  As much as I want to fit this work in context of those I most love, her voice, her sound, her approach is like no other.

“Nothing Moved” sits in the middle like a pearlescent treasure.  Shimmering and spinning with electronic and flute vibrations.  (Even now I want to compare it to the best Yo La Tengo song on And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out.)  Inside this sulky anthem, Miller draws out a little laughter “We would die laughing / shallow as a bathroom sink.” The song continues to crescendo, amplifying the little screams of guitar effects, raising your hackles along the way.

The album is best listened on wintery, nighttime car-rides, flying over dark roads etched into empty, desert hills.

Here is a Spotify playlist, which currently does not include the Rachel Haden songs.

2013 Top Albums February 9, 2014

Posted by reidmix in Album Reviews, Arbutus, Best of 2013, Don Giovanni, Fat Possum, Joyful Noise, Labels, Lists, Lovely Sorts of Death, Matador Records, Merge Records, Morr Music, Music, Mythryl, Pau Wau, Reviews, Videos, XL Recordings.
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In my tradition of February sharing my favorite and most earwormy albums of the prior year, I give you the 2013 list.

partygoing

10. Party Going by Future Bible Heroes

Stephin Merritt et. al. at his finest.  Underrated but pure pop.

“John Waters soirée we spun the Warhol” and “At Mink Stole’s birthday in gay Provincetown I came to DJ and left with the clown”

How can you go wrong?

Along with this release there was a vinyl release of all the Future Bible Heroes releases that was a joy to revisit.

Blue-Hawaii-Untogether9. Untogether by Blue Hawaii

Something was lost in the last Braids album, I don’t know what it was, but it just didn’t stick like their debut did.

The good news is that Raphaelle Standell-Preston put all her genius in her duo with Alexander Cowan on the Blue Hawaii release.

The vocal + electronic manipulations are mind-bendy, especially at high-volumes.   She’s channels Karin Oliver dreamy-ness to the n-th degree.

altthumb8. Flowers by Sin Fang

Mr. Seabear returns with another album as Sin Fang (shortened from Sin Fang Bous).

An intricate melding between organic and electronic sounds that the Icelanders are so well-known.

Along with the Half Dreams EP from the year prior — the two seem like a pair — they secure a footing in the woodsy-spacy-folksy orchestral pop.

Bonus from Half Dreams:

ole-1034-majical-cloudz-impersonator-537x537-13687140697. Impersonator by Majical Cloudz

I am reminded of Branden Perry’s The Carnival Is Over.

Sometimes when I hear Delvon Welsh sing, he’s like a ghost from a great band’s past.

The sparsity of his loops and the grandness of his song played over it is imbued with an assertive significance.

The first three songs alone are difficult from keeping on a tight repeat.

“If this is all that I have / If this song is the last thing I do I feel so good / That I sang it”

a3548728279_106. Lanterns by Son Lux

After being challenged by NPR to produce a full album in the 4-weeks of February, when he spent 4 years on his debut album, it could have been an impossible task.

One that he was ultimately successful, built with a patchwork of lyrics that upon repeating gain a undeniable spirituality.

Bonus:  His beats have an almost trip-hop effect.

“Easy, easy / Pull out your heart / To make the being alone”

Bill Baird - Spring Break of the Soul5. Spring Break of the Soul by Bill Baird

I’m happy to say that Bill Baird, out from behind his {{{SUNSET}}} moniker, still makes just plain good music.

He’s so prolific, never sacrificing quality or cheek.  Don’t let his esthetic in the videos trick you, he’s not lofi.

The songs are fun + clever pop, experimental, surfy (in fact each side of this album spells S-U-R-F), have moody marimbas, properly executed feedback, and understated vocals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjfZz1iUM-8

Bonus: Chris Christopherson sad covers FTW.

vw-13666577354. Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend

It doesn’t surprise me this album won best Alternative Album of the Year, it surprises me that the Grammy’s and I agree on anything.  Only a matter of time before the reached critical mass appeal.

Despite them, after VW’s meh Contra rested on their laurels from their debut and the worst use of autotune since Bon Iver, with their 3rd album they didn’t fall in the same trap.

Inevitably, their words and their sound is Vampire Weekend, diplomats and currency and communist revolution from the Upper East Side.

“A gardener told me some plants move / But I could not believe it / Til me and Hannah Hunt / Saw crawling vines and weeping willows”

Waxahatchee_cerulean_salt_cover3. Cerulean Salt by Waxahatchee

Channelling the best parts of Kim Deal and Liz Phair, Katie Crutchfield lands into my top three easily on her own two feet.

Messy and ethereal and, like all clouds must be, lonely:

“The atmosphere is fucking tired it brings us nothing / If you think that I’ll stay forever you are right and,
I’ll give you everything you wanted when I can”

Bonus: Pod-love

1386331137_cover-32. The Time Has Come to Shoot You Down…What a Sound by The Flaming Lips and Various Artists

A late entry into my top-10, one that is so perfect in its reconception of The Stone Roses eponymous debut I’m forced to go back to the original and reconsider the bright sun-shine psychodelia.

Part of what makes this album so great is HOTT MT’s presence on several tracks including the divine jewel that is Waterfall.  My only complaint was how great Fool’s Gold was the first time around, it just doesn’t hold up here.

One of those 500 super-extra-limited edition RSD releases (if you have one to sell that is much less than $300, let me know), you can hear the full album on Soundcloud.

I Wanna Be Adored:

Waterfall:

e62eaf251. Wondrous Bughouse by Youth Lagoon

This album came out early in the year, I felt I’ve had to hold on to it, returning to it, listening to the greatness of it, to make sure it didn’t get overshadowed by novelty.

A carnival-ride, with so many layers and back alleys, this album represents the fruition of Youth Lagoons debut.  Like looking through a lens, if given the production time and equipment, it makes you wonder what what the fragility of The Year of Hibernations may have transformed into.

Who knew this 4-track wonder would become so psychedelic and anthemic.

“You’ll never die / You’ll never die”

Bonus:  Through the Mind and Back / Mute

I Coulda Been a Contender 2008 March 8, 2009

Posted by reidmix in Album Reviews, Best of 2008, Free MP3, I Coulda Been a Contender, Indie, K Records, Kill Rock Stars, Labels, Lists, Merge Records, Music, Reviews, Series, SubPop, Warp.
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Well after 9 months since I first started this post, I decided I should finish it before the year is out.  As I’m wrapping up the 2009 songs in my queue, I look back to the coulda-beens of 2008 and how much happiness each band / album gave me.

I love this series as it gives me the off the path list of great bands that you may not have heard of from year-end lists.  This list is in no particular order and each album occupied my focus for some time during 2008.

Bright Blue Dream

This Glowing City

Bright Blue Dream / The Glowing City by {{{SUNSET}}}
I’m a big fan of Bill Baird’s moustache-y named {{{SUNSET}}} and I feel he produces pop gems that are smart and clearly underrated.  Plus, who can’t deny the magic of weaving steel drums with wailing guitars and jaunty piano into an indie song. Autobus is generous and gives us many samples from the two albums that they produced in 2008.  It’s a little bit country, a little bit folk, throw in some noise and it takes up lots of space.  Baird sings with an intimacy and conviction of an addict. Enjoy.
Buy Bright Blue Dream AutobusInsound
Buy The Glowing City AutobusInsound

Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles by Crystal Castles
In retrospect, I had no idea the kids were crazy over Crystal Castles, and Crystal Castles are just plain crazy.  You can see me taking pix on SPINs website (I’m the one over 30 in red).  But when they hit their first song of ROM-core based electronica (like Space Invaders in Air War), the acid musta hit cuz the boys and girls went fucking nuts and Alice Glass leaned into the crowd.  Despite the terror I felt during the show, the album is hard hitting, screaming, surprising (Tell Me What To Swallow sounds like HIIYH HNIA), and if produced in the 70s or 80s I know Crystal Castles woulda been a big metal-hair band.  This is not your mopey goth synths, it’s full of rock and pop, and catchy hooks and ambience.
Buy Crystal Castle
s Last Gang, Insound

Microcastle

Weird Era Cont.

Microcastle / Weird Era Cont. by Deerhunter
Another album that is wonderful in retrospect considering Bradford Cox’s solo effort Atlas Sound’s album this year.  Granted I know this “double” album was on the top 10 of many indie boys and girls last year. It clearly improved upon the potential of Cryptograms pushing the shoegaze-y envelope. Deerhunter are experts at fuzzing the line between indie guitar pop and electronica. Sometimes unstructured and sometimes the poppiest of pop, the album runs the whole gamut.  There’s strangely not a lot of mp3s to find off the album to share but plenty of music can be found on the prolific Deerhunter blog.
Buy
Deerhunter 4AD, Insound

Mountain Battles

Mountain Battles by The Breeders
I’m happy to say The Breeders are still rocking.  After a few duds, I feel like Mountain Battles put them back on the map and they are reaching back to their roots. Sure it’s no Pod or Safari, but it’s approximating those albums.  The title track has that raggaeton rock push that The Breeders like to toy with, you can hear it on “Bang On”.  Kim’s beautiful vox is again the starring role nestled with some fun guitar licks and melodies.  Most songs have the space in between notes that make me most think of songs like “Doe” and “Iris”, the only thing missing may be Tonya Donneley.  But The Breeders persevere, and I think this album may have been greatly underated last year and has a lot to offer if you give it a many listens.
Buy The Breeders Beggars Group / 4AD, Insound

Alegranza

Alegranza by El Guincho
You may have heard “Spanish Animal Collective” and labels are quick to wear and fall off even faster.  El Guincho has a psychedelic samba that keeps you rolling through his songs.  If the album cover, a party-parrot with spiderlike 8-irises, give you any indication, each song is a romp of Spanish whispers and South American electronics from el barrio.  There are plenty of samples to wonder at and regardless of the language or the roots that comprise this album, the songs are fresh and exciting, transcending genres just as their labels may maintain.  Discos Compulsivos made his first CDr, Folías, available for free.
Buy El Guincho Beggars Group / XL, Insound

We Brave Bee Stings and All

We Brave Bee Stings and All by Thao
I’m very excited for Thao Nguyen, this years album put her smartly on XMU. Who knew that her and the Get Down Stay Down’s second album would elevate their status in the indiesphere? But last year, I could not stop listening to the strange phrasings of “Beat (Health, Life, and Fire)” and her slight accent shining through the “Bag of Hammers.”  What makes Thao special is what sets her music apart, it sounds different, like nothing on the radio, surely folk and punk influences are there, but they are incorporated into her song structures and smart lyrics full of lush imagery and experience.  And who doesn’t love a banjo?
Buy Thao
Kill Rock Stars, Insound

Verbs

Verbs by Au
Oh Au (pronounced “Aye-You”) is the symbol for gold. Verbs is this years’ Ruby Suns. A worldly folk (yes, the freaky kind, if you must) that goes from one song to the next without missing a beat or a pause to distinguish them.  “Are Animals” is lush, full of whoops and yowls and somehow hook-y and addicting by the time the fast-paced bass kicks in below the synth-y saxes.  I have to say I listened to this album over and over on my way home on the Metro and barely became wary of it.  Sweet vocals and boy-girl harmonies both can take second place to the sound-scape and also be elemental to the structure itself.  The songs have epic Act I, II, and III structures that keep things interesting, weird and circus-like, and wonderful.
Buy Au Aagoo and on cool vinylInsound

Swimming

Swimming by French Kicks
Anthemic, one of the my favorite words to describe a band, album, song.  Abandon is an anthem in its approach.  I remember reading posts where everyone was whining about how Swimming wasn’t like French Kick’s first punk-inspired album. I say, “That’s progress, they become better musicians, they grow up, they produce something wonderful, why not go along for the ride?”  I could listen to Abandon without abandon and the songs that follow with melodic guitars, soft drums, hushed lyrics.  Their approach is more subtle now, but all the more captivating and, yes, they can crank out a good effin anthem.
Buy French Kicks Vagrant, Insound

The Rhumb Line

The Rhumb Line by Ra Ra Riot
Typically I love covers, but Kate Bush covers typically suck.  Ra Ra Riot’s deeply sacred cover of “Suspended in Gaffa” either makes me want to listen to more of The Rhumb Line or break out The Dreaming depending on my mood.  Both are good outcomes.  I’ve read that Ra Ra Riot were contemporaries of Vampire Weekend until the unfortunate death of their drummer put their debut on hold.  To me their songs remind me more of Spent than Vampire Weekend, and that is a pretty good thing too.  They are softer, have rich strings and sweet vocals, deeply sad and introspective lyrics: “And if you were here, winter would not pass so slow.”  I couldn’t agree more.
Buy Ra Ra Riot Barsuk, Insound

Kontpab

Kontpab by Mahjongg
Mahjongg makes electronic music that breathes.  Kontpab is organic, dark, fun.  Over their discography, each album builds upon the last and this last one hits the mark.  I love how they are on krecs, proving the record label should not be categorized easily — granted much great music in the great northwest has come from K.  Kontpab easily crosses the line back and forth between sparkly electronic music and punk-revival, each song an independent statement in sound and often was my dishwashing music to keep me moving-moving and dancing-washing.
Buy Mahjongg K Records, Insound

Drippers

Drippers by Black Moth Super Rainbow
I have a soft spot for Black Moth Super Rainbow.  Their vocoder and cloyingly-sweet music-box sound doesn’t bother me one bit and is certainly the charm of the band.  The Drippers EP is a collection of rarities, remixes and unreleased tracks from pre-BMSR 1999 on thru to the present.  The songs are uniquely unified and construct a great expression of what the band is and what kind of music they create.  “Zodiac Girls” starts off right where the kaleidoscopic works of Dandelion Gum left off, deep synths, girl vox and Tabacco’s vocoder. My favorite is the Mark E. Smith inspired “I Saw Brown” repeating “I open my eyes / was that brown?” over and over in different variations.
Buy Black Moth Super Rainbow Graveface, Insound

Red Yellow & Blue

Red Yellow & Blue by Born Ruffians
Ever since “This Sentence Will Ruin / Save Your Life” came out I’ve been a nascent Born Ruffians fan waiting for their debut LP.  Red Yellow & Blue is an excellent start with great songs like “Hummingbird”, “Foxes Mate for Life”, and “Little Garçon”.  Not to mention the best Grizzly Bear cover on Stereogum during the same era.  Born Ruffians create lovely indie tunes and harmonies without becoming too twee or straying from their punk underpinnings.  They may be compared to the 3rd wave prepped-up ska ala Vampire Weekend, I’d say they have more akin to the Clash in their song structure and sound.
Buy Born Ruffians Warp, Insound

That sums up my 12 contenders for 2008, a day before I begin working on my 2009 list!

I Coulda Been a Contender 2007 June 11, 2008

Posted by reidmix in Album Reviews, Arts & Crafts, Best of 2007, Carpark, Domino, Free MP3, I Coulda Been a Contender, Indie, Labels, Lists, Merge Records, Music, PawTracks, Reviews, Series, SubPop, Tomlab.
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My final 2007 wrap-up in June, oh my! One of my most visited blog entries was my prior I Coulda Been a Contender 2006 which listed great, wonderful albums that for one reason or another did not make my Top 10. Alas, why should these albums be put out to pasture just because there were 10 other albums ahead in line?

I think another thing that makes this post so joyful is its sheer eclecticism — the strange sitting alongside with the obvious, the rare with the (indie) popular. The major condition to be on this list is that I listened to these albums. Alot. Or, I enjoyed them. Alot. These are ordered (sorta) alphabetically and that’s it! I hope that you find something new, too.

QTomlab Alphabet Series: Q by Alig Fodder
Tomlab has this wonderful series of 7″ records that has been coming out over the past several years, each one for each letter. Alig Fodder from Family Fodder fame shows up on letter ‘Q’ and later as an Idol Fodder EP. Addictive elements both aboriginal and electronic, and looping laughs.

Strawberry JamStrawberry Jam by Animal Collective
First album released on Domino, hailed as their most pop-oriented yet. For me, this album was eclipsed by drummer, Panda Bear’s, solo album, and Sung Tongs and Feels are still landmark albums in my mind. Nonetheless, Fireworks (and the live blending with Essplode) and For Reverend Green do stand out as the best Animal Collective songs ever made.

Neon Bible by Arcade Fire
The slow leak that was their sophomoric album on Merge could not contain the raw excitement over their debut, Funeral. Any band that starts with a landmark album automatically sets themselves up for failure, no matter how good the follow-up. I’m happy that they received KROQ love, but their listeners only knew Intervention at the amazing Greek performance. Take another listen to the following layered, dark gems and lookup my favorite, (Antichrist Television Blues).

In Camera by Arthur & Yu
I became so captivated by the first Hardly Art (a SubPop sublabel) release that I have the promo disc as well! The finest folk this side of the Mississippi, as many readers know I discovered them on the 5th track of Dntel’s Dumb Luck. They remind me of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood, like OP8 featuring Lisa Germano, and everything good about Peter, Paul and Mary.

Load Blown by Black Dice
I’ve known about Eric Copeland by proxy on other Paw Tracks releases, most notably from The Sailor by Terrestrial Tones, although I didn’t start listening to Black Dice until Mr. Copeland opened for the Animal Collective show at the Henry Fonda. It was very LOUD but it perked my interest enough to buy their latest album, full of quirks, beats, and other transporting soundscapes.

Spiderman of the Rings by Dan Deacon
Another great artist on Carpark, and his video is the cheesiest. I saw Dan Deacon at Coachella this year and I have to say it was the best show at the festival, the best show I’ve ever gone to and I need to posted pics and movies later. Dan Deacon is interactive, he’s a fun sing-along, with electronic cannons made with casiotone sugar. Also get all of Dan Deacon’s old MP3s

The Enemy Chorus by The Earlies
I think I love this Secretly Canadian release if only for the song When the Wind Blows. This Austin based band plays it with syncopated electronic beats, power chords on what sounds like a baby grand, and softened with melodic strings. Yet when I hear this bluesy proggy, and ambitious album, there is so much that is good with it, it simply takes its time to sneak-up and arrest you.

We Don’t Just Disappear by Future Conditional
I read a pan of this album somewhere and I conject you are not ready for Piano Magic‘s side project or the 80s electropop seems to slippery to grasp. Both of these of which I fell victim. Still, for the sheer hotness of The Switchboard Girl should give you enough pause before moving on. Below the surface of this album are 80s drum machine references to New Order (Substance Fear) and other musical nods I’ve yet to place (Typos).

Panic Prevention by Jamie T
My only major label (Virgin), I love these hyper-masculine, boyish rhymes, (rap, um, not so much) from Jamie Treays debut. I listened to these tracks intensely for about a month and even won a Flavorpill trivia contest to see him at the Troubadour but alas I had (writing) class. Still, almost a year later songs like Calm Down Dearest and So Lonely Was the Ballad are emotional charged and poignant. I hope for good things to come.

Broken Social Scene Presents: Spirit If… by Kevin Drew
Arts & Crafts is certainly becoming one of my favorite labels, steered in part by Broken Social Scene founder, Kevin Drew. His first solo album in what will be a Broken Social Scene Presents series featuring each member, it is both a departure from the mega-group’s broad arrangements, and also an amplification of the intimate chamber pop that makes it so good. My only regret is how little I’ve listened to this album.

Loney, Noir by Loney, Dear
SubPop has been pushing all their releases into my life this past year, and this swede is no exception. With almost english titles, I previously proclaimed that I bought the title track, I Am John, within 30 seconds of hearing it. Along with the cutest video, and a 7″, his prior releases (anything before Sologne) are difficult to find. Have a listen to this multilayered, pop-stylist. It’s addictive and sweet as Swedish Fish:

Sticking Fingers into Sockets by Los Campesinos!
I had the pleasure of seeing this this Wales band from Arts & Crafts at the Troubadour last Saturday with the Parenthetical Girls and they are Twee as Fuck. They have a firm understanding of the C-86 bands: not to say they’re only as sweet as Sarah Records, they firmly put their own little punk spin on their collection of songs. Plus, I think they’re a little fey — makes me go all smiley inside.

Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? by Of Montreal
Their latest release on Polyvinyl is both the band’s darkest and best release to date. I find it rare that a band gets better with each release, but when that happens, it’s a joy to hear how the album becomes more refined while pushing its own limits. Hateful dance hippy intellectual glamrock. It’s ABBA’s evil twin, but better. How can you go wrong?

Book of Bad Breaks by Thee More Shallows
Here is a case where anticipating a bands latest release, their first on Anticon, I fall in love with their prior albums. And that’s what happened, I listened to More Deep Cuts to a dirty grave (ironically, Ave Grave being my favorite song on the album) and then Monkey vs. Shark. I still intend to wrap my head around the Book of Bad Breaks, but I still am charmed by earlier moody releases. Alas!

Our Ill Wills by Shout Out Louds
I’m not sure I did the right thing by not having their first Merge album in my top 10. Another case where I happened upon their first album Howl Howl Gaff Gaff first which stuck to me like Swedish Superglue (Re: Loney, Dear). It took a little while to warm up to Our Ill Wills, the maritime flagship of a follow-up album. “Yeah, but they sound like The Cure!” Um, hush now and and have a good listen.

Tromatic Reflexxions by Von Südenfed
Two parts Krautrock inspired Mouse on Mars and one part Mark E. Smith, the punk pioneer and The Fall‘s repetitious frontman, their Domino debut proves (against all odds) to be amazingly harmonious, integrated, and awesome. The deep beats of the DJs fully support the rhyming rhythms that play within that structure to make for some unique and playful songs that together raises the stakes on the sum of its parts.

Top 15 Tracks I Listened to in 2007 (According to iTunes) January 6, 2008

Posted by reidmix in Arts & Crafts, Beggars Banquet, Best of 2007, Carpark, FatCat, Free MP3, Indie, Labels, Lists, Merge Records, Music, PawTracks, Reviews, Song Reviews, SubPop.
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I had a strange situation with my iTunes this year.

I listened to many tracks both on my desktop computer at work AND a laptop computer my work supplied me at home or away from the office. All my iPod listens get synced to my work computer. The strange thing that happened was that I moved to a new company this year, and only have partial information for my iTunes tracks because I only brought along my work catalog from work — which is the most authoritative for me.

So even though, I cannot get my iPod numbers to relay to last.fm, my last.fm tracks are probably more accurate this year. Nonetheless, I love that I get different lists from both of these sources. I’m always surprised by the songs I end up listening to over and over, many of which are tied for the same place. I want to share some great songs all of which came out in 2007.

01. To a Fault by Dntel
What a wonderful collaberation with Grizzly Bear, a truly beautiful song. Hear it on [myspace].

02. Shunpoudoh by radicalfashion
Oh this sweet piece of japanese electronica, it reminds me of “Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell” by The Flaming Lips. Take a listen at their [myspace] page.

03. Bro’s by Panda Bear
iTunes is a little off, I have listens from the single, the live version, and the album version which would put it at #1 — not to mention the car. Listen to an edited version on [myspace].

04. Now, Now by St. Vincent
First song off her amazing debut, starts off with a kick and steals your heart away. [mp3]

05. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa by Vampire Weekend
How much fun is this song, with the music and fashion references (and well placed swears)! Can’t wait for their debut album this month. [mp3 reposted]

06. I Wanna Sleep by No Age
Reminds me of the best “King of Sweet” by HNIA — from a perfect album that is compiled from single releases. Wow. [mp3]

07. Sorry About the Delay by [Blank]
Also similar in spirit to Shunpoudoh above from this folksy, electronica band. [indeefeed podcast]

08. Ankle Injuries by Fujiya & Miyagi
One of my favorite songs off this impeccable album from this British trio. [mp3]

09. Heretics by Andrew Bird
I felt this song rose above to another level than any other on this album with the exception of “Plasticities”. Two amazing songs. [mp3]

10. Black Mirror by Arcade Fire
The first preview of Arcade Fire’s sophomoric effort, oh the anticipation! [mp3]

11. We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives by Los Campesinos!
How much fun is this Welsh band, another band I cannot wait for their debut. [mp3]

12. Wham City by Dan Deacon
Oh the wack of Dan Deacon, the videos are just as precious. Here’s an edited [mp3].

13. I Am John by Loney, Dear
I bought this album within the first 30 seconds of hearing this song. [mp3]

14. Forever Heavy by Black Moth Super Rainbow
All the elements I love and it’s super sweet psychedelia. [mp3]

15. Werewolf by CocoRosie
One of my favorites from this awesome album (more later). [mp3]

Next, 15 more according to Last.fm!