jump to navigation

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.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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 Albums of 2007 January 31, 2008

Posted by reidmix in Album Reviews, Beggars Banquet, Best of 2007, FatCat, Free MP3, Ghostly International, Indie, Labels, Lists, Music, PawTracks, Reviews, SubPop, Warp.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Year end top 10 lists are so arbitrary and so opinionated. I think that’s what I like about them. What puts those last 10 albums among the echelon of other albums we listened to in 2007? How they can be both similar and completely different from listeners within a field of music?

It will probably be no surprise as to my #1 and the journey that leads me there — I know some of these will be obvious — but my wish is that there are some surprises. Albums that have not come up in the top 10 lists elsewhere, those albums that both captivated me completely and are somehow underrated or overlooked.

With all the lists that lead up to my top 10, last.fm and iTunes sometimes just can’t measure my picks (but they come pretty darn close!) I’d like to start with two honorable mentions:

Friend by Grizzly BearFriend EP by Grizzly Bear
How do you acknowledge a fantastic album of oddities, remixes, rarities and alternate versions of songs on your Top 10 albums of the year? I suppose I did it last year with Sufjan’s “The Avalanche”. But as a collection of songs that look back on their second album, “Yellow House” and earlier, I couldn’t seem to jostle one of the Top 10 off to make room for this wonderful EP — so I decided on Honorable Mentions. “Friend” includes amazing covers by CSS and Band of Horses, electrified versions of songs that previously appeared acoustically, remixes by Atlas Sound, and alternate versions of songs like Alligator featuring collaborations with Beirut and Dirty Projectors (with guitar melodies that I swear sound like The Smiths). I’ve been playing this album on full rotation since it was delivered by Amazon and made it’s way to my car’s CD player. There are some original tracks like Granny Diner with the precious lyrics “Why don’t you do any dishes / Why / I always clean up the kitchen / Fine” and sonic masterpieces like He Hit Me (and It Felt Like a Kiss). Is it too early to ask for the next full-length?

[ Buy: Direct | Insound | Emusic | Amazon ]

Vampire Weekend EPVampire Weekend EP by Vampire Weekend
Constant readers may know about my excitement over Vampire Weekend. But on the same note, I just couldn’t put a 3-song EP on my Top 10 albums of the year, especially looking forward to the impending drop of their debut album which has already taken the indie-blogger community by storm. Yet, I wanted to give props, I somehow got my durdy grubby hands on their CD-R and I can say with certainty that every song off their new album is as good as every song on this EP, the Mansard Roof 7″, the remixes I’ve come across and any songs they’ve only played live (and of course off the new album if you’ve heard it by now). They’re that fun and they are that good. So in dedication to my 2008 list, please find out about Vampire Weekend, now, at the start. The songs are sexual and fashion/pop conscious (Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa), coarse and literate (Oxford Comma), New England centric and beautiful. Vampire Weekend makes ska like you always wanted it to sound like, fuck all the rest.

[ Buy: Direct | Insound | Emusic | Amazon ]

Now for the countdown:

Shocking Pinks10. Shocking Pinks by Shocking Pinks
Perhaps the first surprise on my list, this eponymous album is their first release on DFA records. A surprise perhaps because it is essentially a combination of Shocking Pink’s prior two albums released on Flying Nun records both released in 2005, “Mathematical Warfare” and “Infinity Land.” Yet somehow, the combination of these two, perhaps meandering, albums seems to work coherently as a whole, and as clearly as their wonderful and now rare “dance-punk” debut, Dance the Dance Electric. Yet diving headlong into a world of reverb and guitars, this album is more between to folk of The Oh Sees (perhaps less esoteric) and the greatness of Yo La Tengo (perhaps less guitar-centric). Yet, main-man Nick Hart — on his own, while setting himself apart — is able to conjure these pop gems with brooding lyrics underneath that never is needy. And to his roots, he continues to dance and dabble on that electronic fence with addictive little melodies. Pun intended.

[ Buy: Direct | Insound | Amazon (also available for mp3 Download) ]

Asa Breed 09. Asa Breed by Matthew Dear
What? Don and Sherri was featured in a Hummer commercial? How’d that happen? All I can say is someone in GM marketing listens to good music since they picked up The Books too. I say hate the SUV, not the band, we want these guys to get money to come up with more great music! If you were hoping that Mr. Dear would take Dog Days from his non-Audion debut, “Leave Luck to Heaven”, and create a whole album in that vein, but, you know, darker, like Jesus and Mary Chain darker, then you got it. This is not to say that there aren’t great electronic beats and new aural territory to dance to like Neighborhoods, but the magic also lurks in the sparser songs like Deserter. And I love anything glockenspiel-esque, like the music box Death to Feelers which is only heightened with lyrics that state simply “I was supposed to make grand observations / but I lost my train of thought.” Yep, me too.

[ Buy: Direct | Insound | Amazon | Emusic | iTunes ]

Drums and Guns 08. Drums and Guns by Low
I came across Low years ago (as I previously admitted) when I was all about Red House Painters, but they didn’t stick back then, as it goes. And so it goes I read this fascinating review of their new album on boomkat, which explained that the vocals on the whole album was hard-panned to the right. Well, you gotta give a listen, right? Always Fade was my re-introduction to Low, a type-writter-istic backed song with boy-girl vocals singing in harmony. But Belarus sent me searching at Best Buy in hopes for an indie purchase. Now exploring their back catalog is not always fruitful, many of their releases are rare or out of print, and when listening to a new album it takes awhile to find the key-song to unlock it. But this album is truly an amazing (re-)introduction to Low and you should pick it up. A syncopated epic about death: of murder, of a country, of bad blood, of a relationship — the theme really works.

[ Buy: Direct | Insound | Amazon | iTunes ]

Pop Levi07. The Return to Form Black Magick Party by Pop Levi
How is this debut by strangely (stage-)named front-man not on everyone’s Top 10 list? Seriously? I had to go check that this came out in 2007 (January 29th). When first listening to “The Return to Form Black Magick Party”, you may unwisely think T-Rex knock-off; then you may consider Pop Levi is Mark Bolan reincarnated. But when this album gets under your skin — it was recorded and produced on a 8-track in his bedroom in his second try, the first is in the bin — you realize any relation to the aforementioned influence is only evolutionary. The rules may be similar: like bringing home a chorus with repetition (Pick-Me-Up Uppercut and Dollar Bill Rock), the crisp guitars and clapping (Blue Honey), and the similar word choice and phrasing (From the Day That You Were Born, Flirting, and Skip Ghetto). But his debut is brand spankin’ new and inventive, super fresh and fun.

[ Buy: Insound | Amazon | Emusic | iTunes ]

Transparent Things 06. Transparent Things by Fujiya & Miyagi
If you ever listened to Neu! or Kraftwerk or Can on a summer day, wrapped it in a j-pop, with a sweet British center, you’d get “Transparent Things” by Fujiya & Miyagi. This trio from Brighton, England share their love of the Karate Kid and a brand of record player and they admit “Yeah, we were just pretending to be Japanese”. Despite the kitch, there is a real joy in these 10 songs. A playfulness that begins with the first song, Ankle Injuries, where their name is a signature into the album, through the childhood anatomy lesson “back bone connected to the Collarbone” to the last track which asks “Do you wear Reeboks in Heaven?” There is no mis-step on this album and leaves you proverbially wanting more.

[ Buy: Insound | Amazon | Emusic | iTunes ]

And then there were 5:

St. Vincent05. Marry Me by St. Vincent
Secondly, how is this not on everyone’s Top 10 list? This album is a perfect debut from little Texan Annie Clark previously of Polyphonic Spree / Sufjan Stevens fame. This album transcends time while individual songs sound as if they harken from different eras and different genres. It’s as good a debut as Tori Amos’ “Little Earthquakes”. Even her label proclaims:

Best irresponsible call to arms for human breeding lyric of 2007…
“Oh, John c’mon we’ll do what married people do,
Oh, John c’mon let’s do what Mary & Joesph did
without the kid.”

St. Vincent is best experienced, not explained. With that I also want to share the most romantic, french apartment-based serenade and introduce you to Annie Clark at La Blogothèque.

[ Buy: Insound | Amazon | Emusic | iTunes ]

Weirdo Rippers 04. Weirdo Rippers by No Age
Dear reader, you already know I’m ga-ga over No Age. Often sited as a art rock, what is art rock? They call Deerhoof art rock. Also punk rock, experimental rock, progrock, noisepop, what’s in a label? All I know is No Age has instantly appealing pop hooks but stays slippery, hard to lock down, yet every song, um, rocks. Maybe that’s the commonality: rock. Earlier this year they released 5 EPs on vinyl (A collectors nightmare: I’m missing “G” from the series, I had ordered it direct from Youth Attack and never got one — they sold out — if you could help a guy out, gimme a shout), it’s hard to believe that “Weirdo Rippers” is the compilation of these discs with their debut to come out in 2008 on SubPop. Another side note, the cover of the album is the music venue, The Smell, about a block from my work in downtown LA, where they often play along with many other great bands for only $5.

[ Buy: Direct from 5 record labels | Insound | Amazon | Emusic | iTunes ]

CocoRosie 03. The Adventures of Ghosthorse & Stillborn by CocoRosie
Perhaps this is my last surprise and I say one last time: why isn’t this album on everybody’s Top 10 list? Portishead fans, you’ll find the latest trip-hop here; Billie Holiday was reincarnated here while Björk was kidnapped here (at least her producer, Valgeir Sigurðsson). Was the title was something that too precocious to get by? Or the their last Freaky-Folk album, “Noah’s Ark”, set you away from them in 2005? Certainly, it wasn’t Pitchfork approved (certainly not my angle, I agree with their #1, see below). The album is widely panned, but I think if you give it a listen and let it do it’s thing, you’ll find great strength laying in the beats and lyrics that the cynic cannot quite get beyond. Like it or not, it’s the new goth, it’s a dreamworld both frightening and childlike that reminds me of reaction to Pan’s Labyrinth: either you love it or hate it.

[ Buy: Insound | Amazon | Emusic | iTunes ]

Dntel 02. Dumb Luck by Dntel
Before there was the Postal Service, there was the Jimmy Tamborello’s collaboration with Ben Gibbard on Dntel’s (This is) The Dream of Evan and Chan. Since then we’ve had a little Figurine and solo James Figurine to tide us over. Then AIM Records released with the Rock My Boat / Everything’s Tricks 7″ Jukebox series last year to whet our appetite. At #2, Dumb Luck is everything that’s good about the Postal Service collaboration but played out on a song level. Each song, with the exception of the title track which is all Jimmy, was created by a different collaboration including his regular stalwarts Lali Puna, Grizzly Bear, and Mia Doi Todd. How wonderful the new pairings such as Jenny Lewis (of Rilo Kiley) on Roll On, Conner Oberst (Bright Eyes) on Breakfast in Bed are — like fine wine, smooth, they got legs, and easy to consume — easily the highlights of the album. The songs loosely gather around the (dumb) luck theme without being to contrived or forced. But perhaps, because of this, Dumb Luck is not a compilation of songs, but a tight album, with a clear voice and sound. This is the apex of turntablism, hurrah!

[ Buy: Direct | Insound | Amazon | iTunes ]

And the winner is (obvious, isn’t it):

Person Pitch 01. Person Pitch by Panda Bear
I’ll give it a try but words cannot describe the greatness of this album — even the artwork is epic.Okay, maybe Pitchfork (among others) can say a word or two. Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) thanks his influences and we should too. You may want to compare it to Brian Wilson on a good day, but honestly, I don’t think he could have come up with the songs featured on this album on a bad day.What I love is the song Bro’s, when I’ve tranced out and am listening to all the percussion, and ambient sounds, the muffled lyrics, the samples, the shifts in tempo, the other drums, the other samples, the sunshine and some melodies that I cannot decide if they are imagined or composites — I realize that I’m listening to all these layers work their harmonies together yet playing distinctly as if I’ve been turned into an 8-track recorder and the song is playing me. As the song folds back on itself in an aural mobius strip, a modern-day cannon, it’s a mind flip and it takes me with it. This album is both spiritual, bright and genius and will be referred to far into the future.

Like all songs strive for, and really, all albums, it reaches it’s own perfection.

[ Buy: Direct | Insound | Amazon | Emusic | iTunes ]

Tuesdays with Vampire Weekend January 29, 2008

Posted by reidmix in Free MP3, Indie, Labels, Music, New Releases.
Tags: , , , , ,
1 comment so far

Vampire Weekend

I’m wearing my A-Punk tee-shirt today in honor of Vampire Weekend‘s debut album on XL Recordings. I’m so excited for these guys, I hope that they will make a big commotion in the music industry this year. The first song I heard was by way of KEXP song of the day for Walcott (Insane Mix #2). If you haven’t already done so you can buy their record at Insound, Amazon, iTunes, and Direct.

Walcott (Insane Mix #2):


Amazon Purchase 9/12 September 13, 2007

Posted by reidmix in Domino, FatCat, Free MP3, Indie, Labels, Purchases, SubPop.
Tags: , ,
1 comment so far

My first shipment from purchases made with my birthday gift certificate came from amazon today:

Arthur & Yu - In Camera I discovered Arthur & Yu on their amazing Dntel collaboration on Dumb Luck. Here’s that track and my currently favorite track off of their full-length In Camera:

Aimal Collective - Peacebone EP The first single starts off Animal Collective’s newest album Strawberry Jam with a bang. This is their first release on Domino, away from their own Paw Tracks label or NYC’s wonderful Fat Cat label.

No Age - Weirdo Rippers When writing this post I discovered that No Age has been signed to SubPop, completing this post’s label roundabout from SubPop to Domino to FatCat! I have so much more to say about Weirdo Rippers that I’ll push off ’til a later post:

Top 10 Albums of 2006 January 22, 2007

Posted by reidmix in Album Reviews, Asthmatic Kitty, Best of 2006, Free MP3, Labels, Lists, Marriage Records, Matador Records, Music, Reviews, Silver Mountain, States Rights, Tomlab, Warp.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Enough with the lead in posts, January is coming to a close and I need to commit to my top 10, already! 🙂

This task is always difficult, to quantitize and qualify all those albums that were released over the prior year. And you know you missed some good ones (Annuals!), cuz no matter how much you listen to new releases, you can’t listen to ’em all and you’re always playing catch up.

The great thing about personalized lists is that they suit the individual — they aren’t based on statistics (Amazon we love you) or music snobs (Pitchfork we love you too!) — but are as acute and offbeat as the listener is adventurous to try new sounds and play them over and over and over.

These 10 albums gave me great joy throughout the year, and anytime during they year they could have been rearranged in any order. But alas, I’ve decided on a final order, and here they are:

Parenthetical Girls - Safe As Houses10. Safe As Houses by Parenthetical Girls

I had trouble placing this 10th place position and even though I discovered Parenthetical Girl’s panic-pop in the last week of the year, I love both this album and their first (((GRRRLS))). The standout songs on this album are the angry I Was the Dancer and The Weight She Fell Under. I love Zac Pennington’s (vocal) androgyny, the damaged women who are the subject of the songs, the glockenspiel, and clearly the funniest Pitchfork review I’ve ever read. Pennington’s own label, Slender Means Society, offers us these gems:

Sol Seppy - The Bells of 1 209. The Bells of 1 2 by Sol Seppy

Sparklehorse collaborator Sophie Michalitsianos as Sol Seppy offers us this dark and sincere The Bells of 1 2. The album came to me through eMusic’s Obscure Gems, a list I’m still mining. Human‘s “I am Human and I come from love” lyric has an honesty about it but Move is my favorite with its haunting notes rising from the depths before going into jangly guitar before going back down into the dark again. Every song is a jewel with electric beats, indie guitars, and roots that may have come from Mazzy Star — but don’t be fooled — Sol Seppy has certainly grown into something much more. Grönland doesn’t offer much outside of videos:

His Name Is Alive - Detrola08. Detrola by His Name Is Alive

HNIA holds a special place in my heart and with mastermind, Warren Defever’s, first release on his own label Silver Mountain Media, Detrola finds its way right along other amazing albums like Ft. Lake and Livonia. This album was actually released in several series which included the Raindrops Rainbow and Summer Bird EPs both which we got the first look of my favorite song off the album Here Forever Always. The song revives the amazing electronic manipulation of guitars and voices (both?) to create a remarkable pop song. Among other releases, the UFO Catcher LP offered us a more academic view into the construction of the songs off the album with their jazzy roots and muted beats.

Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche07. The Avalanche by Sufjan Stevens

I don’t care that these are outtakes and off-casts from its mother album Illinois. The secondary nature of these songs still do not belittle the fact that they are still more consistent and polished than most Top 40 albums. Three versions of Chicago? I like the Multiple Personality Disorder version. I named my Abyssinian kitty after Adlai Stevenson — the song not the person. And you know which song I listened to most. The complexity of this album does not reveal itself until several listens, the instrumentals are essentials and each song a story within a story which only enhance the prior release. Although none of these songs from Sufjan’s own Asthmatic Kitty are on the album they are still such a joy. C’mon, drink the kool-aid:

Belle & Sebastian - The Life Pursuit06. The Life Pursuit by Belle & Sebastian

The best thing to come along since their debut Tigermilk and follow up If You’re Feeling Sinister. Those other albums were just growing pains, really. This album was such a joy to listen to with the pop stylings of We are the Sleepyheads, the sweet synths on and Sukie in the Graveyard, and the happy funk of Song for Sunshine — all the songs are good. Sure, it may not have the pathos found on their first album but it gives enough twee for us fanboys to go on until their next album. Matador doesn’t like the deeplink (clever engineers!), but you can get the first song off the band’s page.

The final 5 bands were all new to me as of 2006, there was so much good music I’m glad I could add new favorites to my old stalwarts!Lucky Dragons - Widows05.Widows by Lucky Dragons

Buy this album! I’m currently obsessed with it. It’s another December discovery and I can’t put it down. Its like heroine to me. Each song have a personality living within them. My favorites include the epic The Sound of Waves and anthemic tones of Snowing Circle (also, a possible joke on the name of his compilation album A Sewing Circle). And it’s just that kind of humor that these beautiful “sound poems” don’t take themselves too seriously. Sheep and Sneezes is just that. V Pattern honks the familiar geese pattern onto your imagination. Parenthetical Girl Zac Pennington said it best on his links page:

Luke [Fischbeck] makes music that sounds like computers have feelings.

They sure do, enjoy these from Luke’s site, Marriage Records, and the very cool States Rights Records:

Grizzly Bear - Yellow House04. Yellow House by Grizzly Bear

I love this album, my introduction to the Grizzly Bear boys. Amazing in concert, the Beach Boys induced Easier still gives me chills. These songs are epic and size and say so much with so few words, such as Colorado, where the title of the song is repeated over the course of the full tune. The album feels both fresh and moody and begs for greater things to come. Okay, my dirty little secret, I adore the remix album of their debut, Horns of Plenty, more than this album. Simon Bookish, Dntel, Phiiliip and Final Fantasy rock my dub-world. Whichever album you buy, you cannot go wrong.

The Flaming Lips - At War with the Mystics 03. At War with The Mystics by The Flaming Lips

I think this album really resonated with me this year. You know the first song, The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song played with every Little Miss Sunshine preview — it’s a tongue in cheek ditty about limits of (political) power and the lack of altruism. Another of my favorites, Vein of Stars, proposes “Maybe there ain’t no heaven / There’s just you and me” and “If there ain’t no heaven / Maybe there ain’t no hell.” And you can really get going with the groove of Haven’t Got a Clue which goes something like: “And every time you state your case / The more I want to punch your face.” Yeah, I voted.

Ms. John Soda - The Notes and the Like02. The Notes and the Like by Ms. John Soda

I la-la-love Ms. John Soda. I love this album (I mean, if you can get past the first song, A Nod on Hold, which I couldn’t for like 3 weeks, it’s that good). I’m sure I was searching for something Lali Puna when somehow, unimaginably I came across this album at Tower Records near the release date.

The next song is great too and the next one, Scan the Ways, is the ultimate in German avant-garde lyrics. And this is before you even get to the indie-rockin’ No. One; knob-twiddler, puh-lease! I played this album the whole summer even when my mom came to visit and when I saw her this Christmas, she specifically asked me if I brought this album. Mother approved! Listen to tunes off their website, Morr is stingy with MP3s.

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - Etiquette01. Etiquette by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone

This album is one of those perfect, raw albums. I may be alone in this (heh), but each song on this album reflects the 7th track, Scattered Pearls: each song a jewel, lost, rolling about on a dance floor, and sad because of their loss and sentimental value. Every song is a story, every story is a character analysis. Even the album cover is fascinating.

New Years Kiss follows the Jan 1 journey to recover what happened the night before and ends in pancake mix. Young Sheilds reminds us of those penniless and shallow college days. Nashville Parthenon is looking to recapture love that has moved on and out of Tennessee. And Love Connection ends us where we started: with a cover of the Parenthetical Girls and lyrics “find me quoting Pennington.” MP3 reposted, enjoy!