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My Muxtape December 30, 2009

Posted by reidmix in Best of 2008, FatCat, Ghostly International, Labels, Lists, Marriage Records, Memphis Industries, Music, SubPop, Tomlab.
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Since muxtape left and reincarnated itself for bands, I wanted to share my old 2008 reidmix.muxtape.com with you, it made for good ole-fashioned tapecraft:

  1. The Distance (lala) by Dntel
  2. Head Spins (mp3) by High Places
  3. Tane Mahuta (mp3) by The Ruby Suns
  4. Man’s Heart Complaint (mp3) by {{{SUNSET}}}
  5. Seeker of Truth by Curium
  6. New Alium (mp3) by Lucky Dragons
  7. Prospect Hummer (lala) by Animal Collective / Vashti Bunyan
  8. Lump Sum (lala) by Bon Iver
  9. Loosen This Job (lala) by No Age
  10. First by Welcome
  11. Young Shields (mp3) by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
  12. The Loving Sounds of Static [Junior Boys Remix] (lala) by Mobius Band



Top 10 Albums of 2008 March 5, 2009

Posted by reidmix in 4AD, Album Reviews, Best of 2008, Free MP3, Indie, Labels, Lists, Music, Reviews, Slender Means, SubPop, Tomlab.
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Forgive me for I am late — so so late — but here is my top 10 albums of 2008!  I really struggled with this list because I felt very confident with my top 10, but the order I rearranged over and over, struggling with what I loved in CD-R form, what I loved earlier in the year, and what I love now.

Some choices were released in 2007, which surprised me and I will start a new series: Hey You! Last Year.  Even though I keep this list within 2008, one selection (Bon Iver) was “technically” released in vinyl form in 2007.

Last year I looked forward to good things to come based on singles, EPs, and CD-Rs but I’ve never put those in my top 10.  This year I have two EPs in my top 10 and I really do believe this was the year of the EP.  In once case (High Places), I have a compilation of singles and rarities.

There are no rules to albums you really love.


10. Entanglements by Parenthetical Girls
I really looked forward to this album and anxiously trolled Zac’s site for updates.  News of a Tomlab release made me happy — one of my favorite labels as of late — and then a peek at an OMD cover had me swooning.
Entanglements is a vast, orchestral siege.  It is not the twee little confections that were the panic pop of albums past.  The glockenspiel is still there but it’s now only a single voice amongst the movements of full symphony in each song.
What make most of the songs impenetrable are the lyrics.  Gone are the dirty little vignettes that made the cast of “Love Connection” or “I Was the Dancer.”   Those lyrics took a little tinkering to get the essence and (with great glee) the perverse irony out of them.  Conversely, the words that make up the songs of Entanglements are subconscious, delivered in secret language or with dream-time meaning that are tongue in cheek and full of innuendo and rhyme: “his legs gave way like pages / from a pop-up book / and i had to look.”  In the end, you derive your own message from each song, and with each song a mood that is meticulously crafted by Pennington & Co.  On the whole, the album cannot be easily cast aside.  Much care was put into the production and its soul is too sincere.  You are left wanting more, to know more, to be entrenched more, and with any album what more can you ask?
Buy Entaglements
: Slender Means, Tomlab, Insound, Amazon, eMusic, iTunes

Chunk of Change

09. Chunk of Change by Passion Pit
The first EP of the list, Passion Pit is Bee Gees for the Indie world.  I say this with the highest regard to Michael Angelakos and his Gibb-like falsetto that graces each song on Chunk of Change.  Sure there may be room for improvement, but here is a set that is more interesting than most full length LPs I listened to in 2008.
The songs are sticky sweet, multilayered candy.  The recipe may be full of synthpop, but there is enough playfulness and exploration of melody and percussion to keep things fun and surprising. Each song is dancible with the gold lamé of disco and the pathos of every great 70s love song.  In the title track, “Live to Tell the Tale,” the poetry goes: “Whatever happens to me / I hope that I’ll fall asleep / Knowing that you’ll always be / The story with no ending”
I must talk about “Sleepyhead” which was most of our introduction to Passion Pit and recorded later than the rest of the songs on the EP.  Here’s our departure from the love note of an album and for me, shows what we can expect.  Big beats that shake through the song while holding onto its playfulness, M.I.A.-like in its worldliness, more confident in its falsetto-ness. The melody is adept and smooth and the song is just too short.  This EP has enough going for it to last until the full-length release in early 2009.
Buy Chunk of Change: Frenchkiss, Insound, Amazon, eMusic, iTunes

In Ear Park

08. In Ear Park by Department of Eagles
I have mixed feelings about In Ear Park.  It is certainly good enough to be in my Top 10.  The songs are strong, especially in the first half of the album, and are worthy of all the praise the album has garnered.  I love the lyrics as epistles to Rossen’s recently passed father, they often hold a perspicacious view on life and how we live it.  The delivery approaches what McCartney and Lennon gave us in the late 60s, and what makes them pop gems are the repetition and variations on questions and phrases.  In “Phantom Other” the lyrics ask “What would it take? / What would it take to make you leave? / What would it take? / What would it take to make you listen? / My God, in heaven / What were we thinking?”
There are other musical nods — like on “Teenagers,” I imagine to the Dion and The Belmonts — hints of 50s AM radio doo-wop over jingly guitars.  But the Achilles heal of the album for me is how close to Grizzly Bear it sounds, and my first reaction was that it sounded half-of-that-band.  And certainly, if In Ear Park is Rossen’s farewell letter, I have rationalized that may be why what Fred Nicolaus brings to the table has taken a lesser role.  The exceptions is “Around the Bay” (my favorite song) and “Classical Records” which are full on Mothersbaugh percussive elements, bangs, clunks, doorslams, noisemakers, cello strings and blips to create a microhouse symphony standing mere inches behind Rossen’s vocal harmonies. The album is a thing of stark beauty and gothic-folk, but I still want all the cylinders roaring on that Beta Band trip-hop that fueled the first album.
Buy In Ear Park: 4AD, Insound, Amazon, eMusic, iTunes


07. Nouns by No Age
I’m a big fan of No Age and their tongue-in-cheek noise-pop sensibilities.  Last year their compilation of singles ranked #4 on my Top 10.  Their full-length debut was another album I looked forward to in the spring and was stuck on repeat in my car in the summer.   The funny thing is that Nouns didn’t stick like Weirdo Rippers did.  Perhaps the sound was too polished, the edges a little too smoothed out.  Well I don’t care, every album has a halflife, I just may have burned through Nouns a little too quickly, not the fault of No Age!
The album first catches hold on “Teen Creeps” in a guitar and fuzz-off and has lyrics that read like adolescent anthems: “I hate you more I hate this place / I know why I feel this way / Teen creeps please don’t leave me dead, dead this way.”  The elastic sounds of “Things I Did When I Was Dead” has both a intimacy and a rawness that makes me wonder if Steve Albini recorded the track in the same vein as my early 90s faves like PJ Harvey or Pixies / The Breeders.  Other times, I feel like the songs like “Cappo” and “Keechie” are a nod to their experimental progenitor, Sonic Youth, with wide open spaces full of chutzpah and guitar.  Nouns gives us something a little more laid back, having less to prove, nonetheless with a lot of care. In the instrumental “Impossible Bouquet,” you feel their sense of joy in the making of their brand of rock that is quite beautiful.
Buy Nouns: SubPop, Insound, Amazon, iTunes

In Ghost Colours

06. In Ghost Colours by Cut Copy
In Ghost Colours, I feel like I’m cheating you at #6, please forgive me! You are one of the ones who’ve snuck up the charts in the writing of this list (you may glare at #1, if you dare).  I’ve asked before, how can a band so young throw-back to the best of the 80s synthpop and yet sound so new?  In Ghost Colours is not a hodgepodge of the great underground dance tracks, New Order, or nods to Top 40 connundrums like Fleetwood Mac, but a neat a holistic album where each song flows naturally from one song to the next.  The movement to each song is surprising and not forced, like the intro into “Lights & Magic” where you don’t realize the switch between songs is a fade but register it as a progression, and the full movement of the song doesn’t occur until you hit the chorus.
Unlike much electronic based music, In Ghost Colours remains organic through role of fine vocals and libral use of guitars. Even in the most Big Beat moments, they are connected with a sincerety in lyrics and composition between the spaces which keeps the album real and accessible. Cut Copy is not a one-note wonder, tripping genres and ripping rifts right off bands like the Pixies’ “Break My Body” like they do in “So Haunted” all the while danceable, moshable, thrashable, whatever works to keep your body moving with each song.  To fill out their sound, plenty of sound samples, tape loops, blips and the best of glitch to keep your ears entertained.   There is so much good on this album, it’s hard to believe we’re halfway through this list!

Buy In Ghost Colours: Modular Interscope, Insound, Amazon, eMusic, iTunes

Spectrum, 14th Century05. Spectrum, 14th Century by Final Fantasy
I adore Spectrum and Final Fantasy’s EP almost took top honors for me this year.  The 5 songs about this imaginary land that lives somewhere betweeen the mind of Owen Palette and the production of Beirut’s Zach Condon make up one of the most perfect EPs.  Begin with “Oh Spectrum,” where we entranced by the chirps of outdoor creatures to a build that reminds me of the bright horns in a West Side Story showdown (Hello, I’m talking Bernstein and Sondheim here!)  Somehow this song flows into a steeldrum masterpiece “Blue Imelda” with horns and heavenly chorus betray the words of a farmer, who works both the soil and his plow.
The lyrics are priceless and crafted with anachronism that make up songs like “The Butcher”  to tell the tale of a preacher at the end of days: “Every morning I listen to confessional / Couldn’t give a shit ’bout the bulk of it / Still I keep it professional” all the while in the same song to quote the great internet meme: “All your bases belong to us!”  The music is gorgeous, full of strings, and piano, against the backdrop of the outdoor bugs and birds forever present.  The wordplay is key against the castanets we learn of the “Cocktrice” in a self-referential song about self-existentialism before entering, I believe, the finest medieval lyrics about a gay bar “But I’ve seen them in the commons with their kerchiefs and tattoos” and “They are fathers without sons or daughters” and homophobia: “And a bunch of those together / Can only do the Devil’s work, and it’s the Devil’s work they do.”  A thing of genius!
Buy Spectrum, 14th Century: Books Recording Club, Amazon, iTunes

Vampire Weekend04. Vampire Weekend by Vampire Weekend
I love me some Vampire Weekend and read on eMusic a quote that put them into context: “Third-wave ska goes prep, with enormous results.” (Would this be another wave? Who’s counting?) I’ve had love affairs with The English Beat, Madness, and saw Mighty Mighty Bosstones play the same set twice because they had so few songs.  I can say that 90s mainstream didn’t do ska much good for me.
Ok, to go “prep” means for me, those cardigans of the 80s, those thin ties, raybans and the sweet music of Ezra Koenig’s “Upper West Side Soweto.”  There isn’t much new to say about Vampire Weekend other than to thank Stereogum/KEXP for getting me in at the ground floor and scoffing up those early 45s and finding the CD-R.  The XL release is remastered, fuller in sound and quality, some of the songs got renamed, but the sequence is the same.  The lyrics are fresh and full of fun cultural references, “Cape Code Kwassa Kwassa” still being my favorite: “As a young girl, Louis Vuitton / With your mother, on the sandy lawn / As a sophomore, with reggaeton / And the linens you’re sittin’ on.” I feel fortunate I got to see the band twice, once at the Echo upstairs, certainly one of the busiest nights I’ve seen for a Monday, and full of a much more varied agéd crowd that made me conclude that I was amongst the true earlier adopters of music greats that are my peers.  Even though I may have listened to the songs off this album ad nauseum even before it debuted, I look forward to what comes next.
Buy Vampire Weekend
: Direct, XL Recordings, Insound, Amazon, eMusic, iTunes

For Emma, Forever Ago

03. For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver
This unsuspecting, spare album will arrest your velocity and place you firmly in it’s orbit.  Justin Vernon’s falsetto harmonies are startling, full of so much emotive quality, he puts most singer / songwriters in a lower class.  The creation of For Emma is equally entrancing, recorded over several winter months in Wisconsin alone in a cabin after a breakup.  And you can almost infer those origins simply by listening to it.
Even with that said, you might feel the album is cold, self-indulgent but Bon Iver provides the warmth in each song, wailing on a song like on “Skinny Love” with enough ire to not take himself too seriously: “I told you to be patient / I told you to be fine / I told you to be balanced / I told you to be kind.”  These are glorious creatures that reach upward to the sky and the sun, despite their current predicament or where the may have come from.
You can get lost in the melodies and rhythms and a subtle crescendo in several songs that sneaks up on you.  I personally love “Re: Stacks,” a sort of final resolution of the album after the title song, a way out of it’s inner depths, “It’s hard to find it when you knew it / When your money’s gone / And you’re drunk as hell” but you find that “It’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away / Your love will be safe with me.”  And with For Emma, Forever Ago you believe it’s true with a self-realization you did not possess before.
Buy For Emma, Forever Ago: 4AD, Jagjaguwar, Insound, Amazon, eMusic, iTunes

03/07 - 09/07

02. 03/07 – 09/07 by High Places
High Places makes music with so many of the elements that I love in music and have loved for many many years now.   Boy-girl vocals, music-box melodies, odd sound creations and sampling, electronic in its creation but organic in sound, sweet (twee) lyrics that are so precious you want to squish their little eyes out.  They compose songs in a way I loved most about HNIA and has so much character and psyche rock to keep it interesting over months and months of listening.
Here is an eMusic collection of rarities that some how come-off as more coherent than their full length that was released later in the year.  What binds them together is an exestentialism like in “Cosmonaut” that wonders: “And we’re all full of questions / And we would like to know just exactly where we came from /And exactly where we’ll go” and considers that “I’ve read a lot of books about the future of the sun / And how my great-great-great-great-grandfather might have been a monkey’s son.”
These songs have a joy of life, humor, and innocence about them and are the epitome of what keep me so interested in new, independent music and remind me where I’ve come from and why I spend so much time online keeping my ears wide open.
Buy 03/07 – 09/07: Thrill Jockey, Insound, Amazon, eMusic, iTunes

Skeletal Lamping01. Skeletal Lamping by of Montreal
Of Montreal has been on my music periphery for the past several years, but never landed square in the middle of it nevermind the top of it. Each release capturing my attention more and more, I believed that Hissing Fauna would come the closest. When Skeletal Lamping arrived, I read many posts about its schizophrenia, it’s lack of focus and direction, it’s cringe-worthy lyrics.  Wrong.  It’s simple, they didn’t stick around to get to the meat of this amazing album. Fuck’em if they cannot handle the ride.
I had a friend who’s defense mechanism when first meeting him was to repeat in oh-so-many ways, “I’m gay! Gay! Gay gay gay, I’m gay!” And boy was he!  But after you got used to his fey qualities and need to prove his queeritude, there was a real person kicking around in there, complex and deeply sensitive.  Skeletal Lamping is this friend and the more you listen, the more you want to hear his story.
Sure, it’s about Kevin Barnes’ Ziggy-esque alter ego. “I’m just a black she-male / And I don’t know what you people are all about” but what’s more interesting is that “I’m a motherfucking headliner, bitch you don’t even know it!” exclaims Georgie Fruit with an attitude that’s all Hedwig.  For every song that may have put off cautionary reviewers, there’s something going on under the surface.  Sure, “We can do it softcore if you want, but I take it both ways,” but later Georgie confesses, “The mutual conclusion was I’m not worth knowing because I’m probably dead.”  It’s both sad and wonderful, an album of cinematic quality, full of vignettes and unexpected turns down dirty alleyways and into backdoors of Studio 54s.
The music is exquisite, perfectly crafted, unique and with a purpose.  Because each song shifts and turns doesn’t make it erratic, it’s theatrics and the headliner may be fucking with you (“Don’t be afraid Lille Venn of violence / I’m only poisoning you, not going to stab you”), may be fucking you (“I want you to be my pleasure puss / I want to know what it’s like to be inside you”), may be getting real with you (“He’s the kind of guy who would leave you in a k-hole / To go play Halo in the other room, remember?”), may be regarding a mood (“Plotting midnight raids on the Swedish plum trees”), or may be questioning his existence (“Why am I so damaged, girl?”)
You’ve got to listen carefully because I know Skeletal Lamping will be remembered when Of Montreal raised the stakes.
Buy Skeletal Lamping: Polyvinyl, Insound, Amazon, eMusic, iTunes

Thanks for hanging in to the end, please let me know what you think.

Top 10 Tracks I Listened to in 2008 (According to Last.fm) January 25, 2009

Posted by reidmix in 4AD, Best of 2008, FatCat, Free MP3, Indie, K Records, Labels, Lists, Marriage Records, Memphis Industries, Music, Reviews, Slender Means, Song Reviews, States Rights, SubPop, Tomlab.
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Continuing in the info-porn that is my stats-madness of play-counts of last year’s 2007 Top Tracks, here is my top 10 songs of the past year according to last.fm.  What I like about this list is that the songs don’t need to stay within the confines of the year, I just needed to have listened to them on a device that scobbled them in the past 12 months.

01. A Song for Ellie Greenwich by Parenthetical Girls
Clearly one of the stars of Entanglements, the oompa of wind instruments and oboes polka over the percussion and wind-up of the ever-present glockenspiel.  The chorus hearkens back to The Carpenters (yeah, but somehow more perverse): “Just like me / They long to see you / On your knees” and presumably is a nod to Spector singer-songwriter mentioned in the title.  Her story reminds me of the faux-Carole King biopic Grace of My Heart, and is as big and sweeping as Illeana Douglas’s eyes.  Still, the song lyrics remain impenetrable, winding rhymes that are hard to shake, orchestral in their presentation leaving you wishing you were in on the secret, and loving them more for all the mystery.
[mp3][vimeo] Buy:[Tomlab]

02. Fire by Valet
A surprise that this song topped my list, I discovered Valet on the 2nd Marriage Records comp.  Sounding like a mix of psychedelia of Mazzy Star, the quirk of Silje Nes, and twang of the Cowboy Junkies, “Fire” is epic even against Honey Owen’s whispered delivery.  The space between the words and the notes of the guitar are as wide as the Grand Canyon and the two lay on top of one another in sedimentary layers until the end: “Fire, keep me room.” The rest of Owen’s album, Naked Acid, is slow and deliberate as the Colorado river and takes you on a journey that is outside of the mainstream.
[mp3] Buy:[Marriage][States Rights]

03. In Ear Park by Department of Eagles
The wait for Department of Eagles latest album left me listening to “In Ear Park” quite a few times.  A labyrinth of acoustic guitars intertwining over Rossen’s voice create the atmosphere that will forever be linked to the cover-art dark forest lit by strange lights on the album by the same name.  “If you listen / You’d hear the waves.”  The request is somber and beautiful and the harmony is crisp in its refrains, like another favorite of mine, Herring Bone [Live on Daytrotter], the songs feel out of time, remembering things long gone and in stowed forever in the past. In Ear Park’s “We all forgot him / We can’t forget him” vs. Herring Bone’s “When you’re gone / You are gone / Those nights you wandered all night / You won’t get to relive them.”
Listen:[mp3] Buy:[4AD]

04. Wrong Side by French Kicks
I discovered French Kicks this year with their latest album Swimming.  Unlike most reviewers of the album, I was more receptive to it than their previous releases, the album is shiney and clear in its conception and execution.  Clear like a spring day that is shaking off the nostalgia of winter.  To my surprise, the 1st song off the 1st album and the 2nd song of the 2nd album, Also Ran, were at the top of my last.fm.  Both share a post-punk approach, graffitied with stripped down guitars and flourishes that pull you into Matt Stinchcomb’s vocals giving fair warning “I got you on the wrong side of me / Went and had my mind made up so suddenly”  Truer words were never uttered.
Listen:[last.fm] Buy:[Vagrant]

05. Spark by The Breeders
All of you waiting for another Last Splash, well, too bad. Mountain Battles was a Tanya Donelley-era Breeders in the fashion of Albini-produced Pod, the one which ole Pixies-fucks like me fell in love with and waited for since we first set ears on Gigantic.  Of all the songs on Mountain Battles, I thought the reggae-punk of Bang On would rank highest, but Spark stands strong. It has the same sound as “Iris” (When Iris sleeps over) and a lyric symmetry on par with “Oh,” “I am chewing on power lines / Spraying the yard in spark / Clouds were bruised when the day broke”.  Thank you Kim Deal for drawing on your roots and giving us an amazing album and fuck you to all the Cannonballers.
Listen:[YouTube] Buy:[4AD]

06. Drown by Silje Nes
Alas the albums that come out in December, 2007 that is.  The only reason Silje Nes didn’t sit at the top of this list was because she played in my car for the first half of the year.  Ames Room, her debut album and title song, is filled with the bend of melody and clank of glass-marbles, water features and wind through the chimes and oh glorious static and bright-noise of percussive delights.  The darkness of “Drown” only features her wispy child-like vocals against the pluck of electric guitars, but where Icelandic contemporaries like Múm are precocious and cold as stratus, Silje performance is organic, rooted in dischord, creating off-kilter harmonies and warm loops.
Listen:[last.fm] Buy:[FatCat]

07. What Do You Think Will Happen Next? by Final Fantasy
I have two confessions.  The completist in me cannot bear to buy any of Tomlab‘s Alphabet Series (note the evil Sold Out, below.) If I were to buy any, it would have been Final Fantasy’s appearance on the letter X.  Second, the b-side is my ringtone, it’s genius. The YouTube is a great example of how Owen Pallett layers on each voice of a song, playing an orchestra of a one-man-band. The crux of the song is simple, “If you let the heirarchy tax your sex / What do you think will happen next?” Palette’s build up of violin melodies, plucking, and castanets reach a crescendo of anger-sex.  He sings, quite well now, “Turn your scream to a shout / Yes I can / Yes I can can can can can!”
Listen:[YouTube] Sold Out:[Tomlab]

08. Scuby by Little Wings
A friend of mine has cursed me with the idea of the single, I’m an album man.  But on Soft Pow’r, Scuby is the only song I love. Its a common curse of Little Wings, gems of song strewn about compilations and albums (see: Next Time on K Records’ Invisible Sheild, a Kimya Dawson inspired dream, for sure).  Scuby is a soft rattle of piano and footpedals, accoustic strumming and double vocals, one whispered and ambient, and one longing for seashells and lighting pumpkins. “Scuby of the canyon / Once you find again the coast is clear / At door you you went but hesitated / So his name is ringing in my ear / Scuby’s gone again.” This is the only song you need to come back to.
[mp3] Buy:[Marriage]

09. Sleepyhead by Passion Pit
Not much more I need to say about Sleepyhead that I didn’t say in my last post.  I don’t think Passion Pit needs much to get some cred. My god, it was featured on the last Best Week Ever with Paul F. Thomkins on VH1.  Maybe I can link to some remixes.  I could go on about “Cuddle Fuddle,” my fave song from the EP, which makes a nursery rhyme sound dancable, “Let down your hair / Let down your hair / Rapunzel, Rapunzel / Let down your hair.”  Go buy the album.
Listen:[mp3][YouTube] Buy:[Frenchkiss]

10. Look Out SOS! by The Ruby Suns
If I didn’t hate Microsoft enough, they’re using The Ruby Sun’s “Oh, Mojave” as their newest marketing campaign. I suppose the upside is that the Auckland, New Zealand based band is probably making bank.  Each of their albums sound like a world tour, covering parts of Polynesia and Africa (listen to Tane Mahuta) without loosing any of it’s indie appeal.  Folksy and popsy, “Look Out SOS!” has all the musicbox qualities that I love so much in music. Layer in some xylophone/mirimba, some Flaming Lips sound effects, some prettyboy vocals to the indie guitars and you’ve got the magic.  Oh, hello, static noises and banjo, glad you could join the party.  (Stop saying Beach Boys! We’ve evolved past them. Sorry, Brian Wilson.)  The Ruby Sun’s 2008 album, Sea Lion, was definitely a star in my sky and soared beyond much of the other indie/folk/pop acts out there today.
Listen:[last.fm] Buy:[SubPop][Memphis Industries]

Next a look (back!) on my last.fm bands of 2008.

Top 10 Tracks I Listened to in 2008 (According to iTunes) January 10, 2009

Posted by reidmix in Best of 2008, Free MP3, Indie, Lists, Music, Reviews, Slender Means, Song Reviews, States Rights, Tomlab.
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So I’ve consolidated my iTunes onto one computer this year, but as it is with the nature of music, my listening mode has changed.  I’ve begun digging into the past for history and inspiration, and expanded on favorites with re-issues and deluxe editions from the 60s through the 90s.  Despite that, most of my top tracks over the year remained in 2008 territory.  3 tracks that weren’t came from 2007.

Compare with my top 10 albums of 2008 and, for many, this is not a surprise! Since I pretty consistently blog these end of year lists and they are the most popular, I’m giving them a little more meat, especially since this is the one time of year I bring up some of these bands, I want to be able to give them more of their due and love.

01. Blue Imelda by Final Fantasy
Love. Love. Love. A dream of steel drums shared with Beirut in the imagined land of Spectrum.  The song is filled with chirps and lush beats that introduce us to “Blue Imelda / She is the saddest bitch of Spectrum.” This song comes on high from a West Side Story rumble “Oh Spectrum” and the switch to the Caribbean flavor is seamless.  The song sets the mood for the whole EP which is counter-point to Plays to Please (see below), another Final Fantasy EP released at the same time.  Every song on the EP is a winner, but Blue Imelda gets you in the door.
Listen:[YouTubeBuy:[Blocks Recording Club / Blue House]

02. Man’s Heart Complaint by {{{ SUNSET }}}
I believe Bill Baird’s {{{SUNSET}}} may be one of the most underrated bands to come out of 2008.  This song is a great introduction to the layers and whispers of his surf psychedelia, but certainly is not the limit of it.  He also goes into that steel drum territory on Bright Blue Dream, along with more esoteric experiments like “Mobius” which can play indefinitely looped upon itself.  Here is another artist who released two albums, the second This Glowing City, in the same year along with a slew of limited edition tapes (Eternally Dead, Pink Clouds), I look forward to hearing more from Baird.
[mp3] Buy: [Autobus]

03. Head Spins by High Places
Coming in multiple versions and remixes, the original is my favorite because it is direct and cuts to the core of their take on tribal electronica and musicbox rhythms. Yes, steal drums make another appearance in this self proclaimed “Hawaiian / Hardcore / Chinese pop,” I like this moniker because it hints at the bands eccleticism.  The lyrics have a UFO-like sageness while constrast has a childlike-wonder: “The words he spoke that night / They struck a chord / He struck a chord / We talked about all kinds of things / Like dinosaurs and seagull wings / And where the ocean meets the forest.”  Certainly all the songs from this eMusic EP are cast in the mold and are full of joyful whimsy, addictive pop-hooks and static.
Listen:[mp3] Buy:[Thrill Jockey]

04. Sleepyhead by Passion Pit
Unless you were in the Bostonian inner-circle (of CD-Rs), this was most of our introduction to Michael Angelakos’ Beegees-esque gem (read: Castrati vocals) and certainly this track stands apart from the others in it’s ethnic beats, but as an addendum on the Frenchkiss release, it finishes of the EP strongly.  The songs were originally composed as a valentine to his sweetheart, you can get an understanding of that from the syrupy lyrics and dance beats that feel like a warm hug. Sleepyhead begins to trek away from the intimacy of those first songs but makes such a strong statement in its 8-bit glory.
[mp3][YouTube] Buy:[Frenchkiss]

05. In Ear Park by Department of Eagles
Was it a Grizzly Bear spinoff with Daniel Rossen in the band?  This song certainly sounded like it with spare Beatles-esque harmonies and acoustic guitars.  But after waiting months (without any knowledge of their prior releases as Whitey on the Moon UK’s “The Cold Nose”), this song gave to something not quite Grizzly Bear, half of Grizzly Bear.  The jangly folk and percussive freakouts that make their appearence on the sometimes sparse songs following In Ear Park infer Fred Nicolaus’ glee that is easily heard on the first album, and perhaps he is the missing part of the equation that make Department of Eagles work so well and stand apart from it’s counterpart.
Listen:[mp3] Buy:[4AD]

06. Four Words by Parenthetical Girls
I have a fanboy crush on the Parenthetical Girls.  “Four Words” opens the latest installment and first Tomlab release, Entaglements, which I refuse to believe is “The most disappointing album of 2008,” as posted on the (((GIRLS))) website.  The song is rich, layered, textured, symphonic, joyful, a Gordian knot of rhymes and meanings that are as impossible to unwind as are the best Kate Bush songs.  And that’s what the “Four Words” reminds me of, the most complex and revered songs like “Sat in Your Lap” and “Get Out of My House” which express themselves as smart, bizarre and difficult to put down.
[YouTube] Buy:[Tomlab]

07. The Onliest Thing by Idol Fodder
“The Onliest Thing” snuck onto my charts from last year via Tomlab’s Alphabet Series and later on Bäbytalk, from the wonderful Pregnancy Series.  Heavy cellos on a deep loop open up this EP to the evolving refrain, “When your lonely / I will hold you / I guess you are only / Little baby.”  Only to be met with harmonized response of “But the onliest thing is that is that you need me / And the onliest thing is that I love you too,” matched with scratchy guitars and echos from any ole CBGBs friday night. The EP continues this formula of repetitive lyrics on the backdrop of looped world-instruments , giggles and post-punk guitars.
Listen:[mp3] Buy:[States Rights][Slender Means Society]

08. Touched Something’s Hollow by Of Montreal
Although, there are 15 songs on Skeletal Lamping each song modulates through many moods, it feels like 70 songs from start to finish to create a composite of shiny little mirrored squares that it could be a disco ball.  I don’t know how “Touched Something Hollow” snuck onto the scene, a torchsong that asks, “Why am I so damaged, girl / Why I’m so much poison, girl / I don’t know how long I can hold on / If it’s going to be like this forever.” It’s the closest that Georgie Fruit (Kevin Barnes’ alterego) comes to meeting Ziggy Stardust and is a ballad untouched by any modulation, underscored only by essential piano that’d make Hedwig swoon.
Listen:[last.fm][YouTube] Buy:[Polyvinyl]

09. Skinny Love by Bon Iver
I feel lucky to have seen Justin Vernon aka Bon Iver perform, even on his worst day (he had a cold!) and probably the only reason this song ranked so low is that it played on repeat in my car for months at a time.  There are so many jewels on For Emma, Forever Ago, it doesn’t seem fair that this song gets the spotlight, but it does for good reason.  The song is so rich and full-sounding, it’s hard to believe the instrumentation comes down to a few guitars and light percussion. Vernon can sing the high and low parts, “Now all your love is wasted? / Then who the hell was I?” It’s the emotion of the song make “Skinny Love” so good.
Listen:[mp3] Buy:[4AD][Jagjaguwar]

10. Ultimatum by Final Fantasy
I typically remove songs from the same album from these lists, but Owen Palette produced two different EPs this year, including this Pregnancy Series EP, Plays to Please, full of covers from Deep Dark United.  “Ultimatum” features the whistling magic of Andrew Bird while it gallops with piano and string instrumentation as if running along the Santa Anita racetrack.  And the Alex Lukashevsky’s lyrics are wicked, “You want him ’till I tap your tits / He’s gonna caution your clits” and they couple nicely with the next amazing song, “Moodring Band,” like: “Penis pokes pussy.”
Listen:[mp3] Buy:[Slender Means Society]

I’ll leave you on that note.  Next: my last.fm song stats for 2008.

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.