My Favorite Albums, Tracks, and Gigs of 2013

As you can tell by now, I don’t post on this blog as much as I did when it first started. Living in the metropolitan NYC area has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the disadvantages is finding time to sit down and blog. I do miss it, even if my activity doesn’t show it, and I’m ever hopeful that the coming year will see a resurgence. That being said, this is my favorite time of the year and there’s really no way I could not make a Best Of post.

In respect to the music of 2013, I found 2013 to be exceptionally strong. While I personally felt it was missing that one “grab you by the balls – never forget me” record, I believe that the year on whole was great. Last year, I felt that it was a strong year for debuts, this year was more established acts regaining/maintaining footing.

Enough jibber-jabber, here’s my list(s):

ALBUMS

4d1b2902#1 Mazzy StarSeasons Of Your Day – I struggled with my #1 choice this year. By the time I published this past I wavered between the top 4 and felt strongly with each choice that it was the right one. However, when push comes to shove, I have to go with my favorite and that is this sublime album after a 17 year absence. Rarely do acts that decide to take such a long break come back with an album this strong, but Hope Sandoval and David Roback et al. did. This album has more in common with Hope’s work with the Warm Inventions than it does the Mazzy Star most know from the early 90s in that it’s more stripped down and laid back, but with tracks as great as “I’ve Gotta Stop” & “California”, it’s perfectly understandable.

artworks-000049298070-f0ntn6-t500x500#2 HeliotropesA Constant Sea – Despite my opening dribble before presenting my list, this year was not short of strong debuts. Heliotropes excel in wielding their influences as weapons. This is an album dripping with strong hooks and melodies that bring back memories of greats like Ozzy-era Sabbath and Nirvana (their fantastic cover of Nirvana’s Negative Creep here), but at the same time putting their own spin on things and doing it their way. Gorgeous frontwoman, Jessica Numsuwankijkul‘s strong vocals and awesome guitar help propel this record from top to bottom and there’s not one skippable track. The first 2/3 of the record are mostly heavier tracks with the riff heavy “Psalms” and pulsating “Quatto/Joy Unfolds” being among the highlights, but the album takes it easy on the listener at the end with more laid back tunes, basically an aural come down.  An absolutely strong first impression and a band to keep an eye/ear on.  “One of these days I’m gonna jump riiiight out of my skinnnnnnnnnn“. Damn right, Jessica.

Arctic-Monkeys-AM#3 Arctic MonkeysA.M. – Alex Turner is the greatest songwriter of his generation. There, I got that out of the way. There is simply no other way to put it. Arctic Monkeys released their 5th album in 2013 and unlike the previous two releases (2009’s Humbug & 2011’s Suck It & See) both solid listens in their own right, this one seemed to step away from their great formula and add a bit more to the stew. This was the album I debated with most in terms of its ranking. A great listen from top to bottom, this is the band’s best effort since their sophomore release, Favourite Worst Nightmare. Tracks like “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High”, lead single, “Do I Wanna Know”, and the lovely “Fireside”, all help add to an already long list of great songs. I’m still waiting for Arctic Monkeys to release their masterwork, but at the very least the wait is bearing some great fruit.

2013TheNational_TroubleWillFind600G210313#4 The NationalTrouble Will Find Me – I find a lot in common with the #3 and #4 acts on this list. While playing different styles of music, the career arcs are similar in that both bands are regularly releasing very strong albums over the last decade plus and have not had a dud yet. The National arguably saw their largest surge of popularity this year and they released this gem of a record. What I found most pleasing about this was the way the band used their guests. “Don’t Swallow The Cap” w/ Nona Marie Invie adding a backing vocal that confounded me with “WHO WAS THAT” for about five months before I found out it was her. The great St. Vincent on “Humiliation” & Sharon van Etten who appears on multiple tracks. I loved the addition of adding female vocals to The National’s glorious melancholy. Again and similarly to #3, this is a band that has found a formula and have stuck to it for the most part, but are not afraid to add to the stew and improve what they’ve already got going.

166444#5 TOYJoin The Dots – This is the latest album released this year that I’ve listed and I’m ranking it so highly because I’m so damn excited by this band. Not suffering from a sophomore slump, the UK’s TOY bring forward an excellent record that evokes the best feelings about shoegaze/psychedelia and has me championing this band as their career really starts to gain traction. This is an excellent effort with an absolute blinder of a title track and most of all, understand that an album is a cohesive piece of art, rather than just a hodgepodge collection of songs. Strong musicianship and another band not afraid of their influences, if there is one band out of the UK that has emerged in the last two years that I’m excited by, it’s TOY.

#6 The Love Language – Ruby Red

#7 Camera Obscura – Desire Lines

#8 Bill Ryder-Jones – A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart

#9 Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin

#10 Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe

#11 Caveman – Caveman

#12 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away

#13 Still Corners – Strange Pleasures

#14 Rose Elinor Dougall – Future Vanishes EP (technically an album teaser for 2014, but ranking it anyway)

#15 The Asteroid #4 – The Windmill of the Autumn Sky

#16 Anna Calvi – One Breath

#17 Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle

#18 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Specter At The Feast

#19 Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience Part 1

#20 Veronica Falls – Waiting For Something To Happen

TRACKS

GIGS

#1 Richard Hawley – The Troxy – London, UK  – 2/23/13

#2 The National – Mercury Lounge – NYC  – 5/21/2013

#3 Mazzy Star – Terminal 5 – NYC  – 11/10/2013

#4 Fleetwood Mac – Prudential Center, Newark, NJ – 4/24/2013

#5 Queens of the Stone Age – Brooklyn Masonic Temple – Brooklyn, NY – 6/7/2013

#6 Clinic – Le Poisson Rouge – NYC – 4/20/2013

#7 Jessica Pratt – Union Pool – Brooklyn, NY – 6/1/2013

#8 Esben & The Witch/Heliotropes – Mercury Lounge – NYC – 3/22/2013

#9 The Love Language – Glasslands – Brooklyn, NY – 8/1/2013

#10 Mikal Cronin – Bowery Ballroom – NYC – 6/20/2013

The Best of 2012 – Albums, songs, gigs!

Whoa! Do I suck at blogging or what? Oh, well. I have learned to get used to this fact as time has passed and I will at the very least post a best-of list. I find it kind of funny that my previous year’s best-of is still on this front page. I guess being busy in life is a good thing, so I will go with that as my excuse.

2012 has been a fairly lackluster year on first glance. While I’ve felt there have been some very strong debuts and good stuff from some familiar faces, it seems to have missed that one amazing release that I listen to 10000 times. I usually have my favorite records of the year decided a month in advance of this post, but this year has been remarkably different. I’ve been neglecting putting this piece together simply because I wanted to listen to more. This list is definitely shorter than years past on this blog (2010 & 2011 lists), but it’s definitely got some quality. I am most impressed by the amount of newcomers this year.

And with that, let’s get down to business…

ALBUMS

By The Sea#1 By the SeaBy The Sea – By The Sea’s debut offering is a wonderful slice of shoegazey Britpop. A band out of that somewhat famous village, Liverpool, these lads served up nine songs that cohesively form my album of the year. Strong melodies and hooks with a unique “hush” quality to the lead vocals carry the listener through a wonderful menagerie of delightful sounds. Tracks such as the title track and lead single “Dream Waters” are among the standout highlights, but it’s rare with a debut to go from top to bottom and never have a skip. An excellent first foray and arguably the album I was most looking forward to prior to its release, so in that respect, it definitely scored well.

Young and Old#2 TennisYoung & Old – This is one of those albums that kind of snuck up on me. When it was first released earlier this year, I did not give much time to it. I was left a bit lukewarm after seeing the band perform live and I wasn’t prepared to give the follow-up to Tennis’ excellent 2011 debut, Cape Dory, the proper listen it deserved. When I finally came around to this record around September, I was extremely glad I did. This record takes the formula that made their debut so strong and made it even better. With some genuinely fantastic pop-rock tracks like “Origins” & “Petition”, Tennis makes a statement that says they are going to be around for a bit longer. Now if only the live performance matched the studio output, this would be a band to be reckoned with. Alaina Moore possesses a unique vocal timbre that is wonderful when its fully utilized, and I’m eager to hear what they do next.

hvnlp94cdgfwt300x298#3 TOYToy – This is another debut from another excellent English band. Led by Tom Dougall (brother to darling of this blog, Rose Elinor Dougall), Toy are a band in the vein of The Cure and the New Order line of bands. Brooding new wave rock and roll with a mysterious edge to it. The release on venerated UK label, Heavenly Records (home to Doves) is a terrific album that has a mood and mystique to it typically associated with acts that have been around longer and have larger catalogues. The band were not afraid to go 7 minutes long on superb tracks like “Dead & Gone”, as well as releasing some online-only nuggets like the great “Clock Chime”. Along with the #1 on this list, TOY were one of the most exciting discoveries of 2012.

The Spyrals#4 The SpyralsThe Spyrals – Yet another debut and another self-titled one at that! This time the psychedelic offerings of San Francisco’s, The Spyrals.  This was the first release I heard in 2012 (it was released on New Years Day) and was played to about death throughout the spring and summer (still going strong). Chock full of classic psychedelic sounds, blistering lead guitar, and a fantastic lead vocal, The Spyrals have yet to make much noise outside of their own genre, but hopefully that will change soon. With thumpers like “The Rain” and the guttural and hypnotic closer, “Evil Kind”, The Spyrals are able to take a sound very familiar to just about any rock and roll fan, and create new magic.

xlpz9u#5 Tame ImpalaLonerism – Australia’s Tame Impala did something not a lot of bands do this day in age, that’s better their debut album! Lonerism is an exciting psychedelic concoction that exemplifies studio wizardry and songcraft in one fell swoop. If I was able to give an award for “Best Mixed” or “Best Produced” record, this surely would get the nod. This is the type of record that rewards multiple listens, yet the melodies are crafted so well that it has the ability to hook you right from the word go.  They also have a wonderful ability in making the live versions special yet not losing their sonic magic. Songs like “Mind Mischief” & “Feels Like We Only Going Backwards” exemplify the best in merging new sounds with the old. This is a band that has a long career ahead of them if they keep thinking forward and taking chances with their creations.

uvjvb7#6 GOATWorld Music – Goat are incredibly hard to describe, but I will do my best. Smoke a bowl of the best hash or weed you can get your hands on; turn the guitars up to 11; get some chicks to sing harmony, put in a bowl. Press puree. Do it again for good measure. Once you have done that, you might just be able to get an idea of the music of Sweden’s GOAT. Another psychedelic cocktail, this group does it their own way and by the time you finish your first listen, you’re queing it up again, just because. It’s not even worth suggesting tracks to listen to, because they all belong together. Besides, who woulda thunk “Disco Fever” following the double whammy of “Goatman” and “Goathead” would work so damn well?

uwtgk3#7 The VandellesStrange Girls Don’t Cry – The best way to sum up The Vandelles are “surf punk with 60s style pop stylings”. That’s definitely the only way to describe The Vandelles’ latest. An excellent power pop record from top to bottom, Strange Girls… features some really fuzzy guitars, excellent “gnarled” lead male vocals, and some pretty girl harmonies on the back end. Tracks like album opener “I’m Way Ahead of You” are stomped right into you from the beginning of the experience, through the fire of the title track, and right into its closer. The Vandelles take a formula and add their own twist to it very well. Like Tame Impala, a band that takes its album releases seriously, and can also deliver live as well.

CS464372-01A-BIG#8 Stealing SheepInto The Diamond Sun – Another Liverpool act. Another Heavenly Records act. Stealing Sheep do it a bit differently though. Comprised of 3 girls who sing close harmony, this is an indie pop act with some songwriting and composition chops. Very much in tune with other “kitschy” sounding acts like The Talking Heads, Stealing Sheep have a sound all their own and have a quality that is very easy to fall for. Single “Shut Eye” is a excellent tune with a singalong chorus and a wonderful build.

q8xp2u#9 Jake BuggJake Bugg – Well, look at this. Another debut. Another Englishman. Only this time its an 18 year old! I didn’t know what to think when I first heard of Jake Bugg. I was a bit “yeah right” that he was any good considering his age. Whoa, was I wrong. Bugg’s scoring well beyond his years with this  cracker of a debut. Evoking classic singer-songwriters from his own country like Nick Drake, Bugg has that uncanny ability to paint a picture with lyrics that make you think you’re right there with him. He’s also able to incorporate other influences, ranging from Dylan to Bowie throughout a debut that I believe will be remembered 10 years from now for starting a career that has the potential to be very special. He also is able to make the classic sound modern like fellow troubadours in this vein, i.e. Ryan Adams. Personal favorite “Simple As This” is also on my favorite tracks list, and one listen is all you need.

jessica-pratt1#10 Jessica PrattJessica Pratt – Oh? Another debut? Another self-titled? What the hell? And guess what? This is another youngin. I fell in love with this record from moment. It’s a very simple, yet evocative, folksy debut from 19 year old Pratt who like the aforementioned bug has the same gift for lyricism and storytelling in her music. The thing about Pratt that is so captivating, is her very mature sounding vocal. Bathed in mostly the sound of an acoustic guitar, Pratt’s 60’s style folk sounds echo only the very best in this style. You know, the ones who can go only by one name. Joni. Bob. This is an eye-opening debut from someone I expect very big things from. And now I’m off to listen to “Casper” for the 193rd time and cry some more.

11. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

12. Father John Misty – Fear Fun

13. Cosmonauts – If You Wanna Die, Then I Wanna Die

14. Swans – The Seer

15. The Walkmen – Heaven

16. Rose Elinor Dougall – The Distractions EP

17. Richard Hawley – Standing At The Sky’s Edge

18. Sharon van Etten – The Tramp

19. Beach House – Bloom

20. Ren Harvieu – Through The Night

SONGS

1. I Already Forgot Everything You Said – The Dig

2. The Night – Rose Elinor Dougall

3. Nancy From Now On – Father John Misty

4. The Way In – Porcelain Raft

5. Simple As This – Jake Bugg

6. I’d Rather Be Lonely – The Black Angels

7. I Wanna Go – Summer Heart

8. Adventures In Your Own Backyard – Patrick Watson

9. Dodecahedron – Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves of Destiny

10. Take Us Alive – Other Lives

GIGS

1. Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs – 12/8/12 – Union Pool, Brooklyn

2. Tame Impala – 11/7/12 – Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn

3. Other Lives – 11/28/12 – Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn

4. The Brian Jonestown Massacre – 8/25/12 – Webster Hall, NYC

5. Swans – 10/10/12 – Bowery Ballroom, NYC

6. Sigur Ros – 7/31/12 – Prospect Park, Brooklyn

7. Spiritualized – 5/7/12 – Terminal 5, NYC

8. The Vandelles/Jesus & Mary Chain – 9/13/12 – Irving Plaza, NYC

9. The Amazing – 11/7/12 – Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn

10. Chelsea Wolfe – 8/18/12 – Highline Ballroom, NYC

2012 – Halfway Favorites

As 2012 hits the halfway mark, I can’t help but think this has been an underwhelming year so far for new music. This by no means doesn’t mean “bad”, I just haven’t been grabbed as strongly as I have been the last two years of this blog’s existence.

That said, there has still been a good number of records I’ve been enjoying, and I felt it a good time to share some of these that you may or may not have heard. This is by no means comprehensive, nor is it in a specific order, but take a listen to some of these if you’ve not had the chance to.

Ren HarvieuThrough The Night – This is a delightful old-school sounding pop record with lush/big arrangements and a girl with a voice that just rips right through you. I was astonished when I first heard this record a few months ago and it’s gotten regular spinnage since that time. If you’ve read this blog at all in the past, you know I’m a sucker for English girl pop, and this is another new discovery that I am quite proud of. Sensually warm vocals and great songs go a long way with me and this girl’s got both.

Listen to Ren’s track “Tonight” here.

 

The SpyralsThe Spyrals – A band from San Francisco that wield a great psychedelic sound in the vein of some of my favorites like The Black Angels. Excellent guitar work, killer vocals, and a classic sound frame 9 tracks of just damn good rock and roll. This is another discovery that has been getting a lot of play out of me and I am eagerly anticipating getting to see these guys in person. I am a bit shocked they’re still under the radar at this point (the record came out in January), but hopefully in due time they’ll start getting a bit more props. This is a record that sounds timeless to me.

Listen to the entire album here.

 

 The Walkmen – Heaven – The Walkmen are one of my favorite bands, so it’s no surprise that I’m really enjoying their newest LP, Heaven. It’s hard to really describe this record if you’re unfamiliar with the band’s music, but it perfectly fits the band’s already excellent catalogue. I am also eagerly anticipating hearing a lot of these tracks live, which is where this band truly excel. From the quaint strains of opener “We Can’t Be Beat”, straight through to the closer, this record stays with you after first listen and demands a return. A fitting follow up to 2010’s wonderful, Lisbon.

 

 

 Rose Elinor DougallThe Distractions EP –  Oh Rose, how I love thee? Let me count the ways.  Just by looking at this page you can tell that I am a big fan of Rose, who is a fantastic singer, and yes, another English girl. This is Rose’s first release since her excellent 2010 debut, Without Why, and although only 3 songs, it delivers. The reasoning given for this release is that her follow up album will be drastically different from this EP’s particular sound, and she “didn’t want the tracks to go to waste.” This is definitely a gift. All three tracks are scintillating and give Rose a perfect platform to blast off from.  I have and could gush about Rose even more.

Listen to the EP in full here.

 

 The Brian Jonestown MassacreAufheben – In recent times, I’ve been a bit wary about a Jonestown release. I’ve felt that Anton Newcombe has made some mistakes in album creation and his vision has been a bit hard to grasp. This is completely erased with this newest record, which may go down as one of the band’s best efforts. It’s quite obvious that Anton’s genius was missing the creativity brought to the group by Matt Hollywood, who returns for this effort. A smashing record from start to finish, this may be the most streamlined and most complete Jonestown effort to date. It’s a varied record that goes to a variety of different places and gives you something new with every listen. Love it.

Listen to “I Wanna Hold Your Other Hand” here.

 

That’s only five, but its a decent start. Some others that I’ve been digging include:

Tennis – Young & Old

Eternal Summers – The Dawn of Eternal Summers

Marissa Nadler – The Sister

Half Moon Run – Dark Eyes

Summer Heart – About A Feeling

Here’s hoping the 2nd half delivers some more good stuff. This isn’t all I’ve dug on so far this year, but these are the ones getting the most out of my ears at this point. With new records from The Love Language and possibly Rose Elinor Dougall releasing her second full-length, I’m anticipating the summer and fall greatly.

Bring It On.

The June Mixtape – Sleepy Time

I was sitting up a bit late, not tired, and debating on what to do and I decided to put together a bedtime mix. This is the type of stuff I like to listen to this time of night. Very mellow. Some instrumentals, some not, some newer, some old. It’s all good though, at least I think so. If you’re having trouble sleeping, why not give it a shot? 🙂 Can be listened below via the widget or the little arrow to download.

A Mixtape For May

I decided to compile a mixtape for the month of May. It’s just a selection of tracks I’ve been digging on. Press play to jump right in, or go to the Soundcloud page to download and check out the track list.

My favorites of 2011 – Albums/Songs/Gigs!

Another year is almost in the books and its time again for best of lists and xmas lists and all types of lists imaginable. For the last few months, I’ve been writing with other blogs and have neglected my own. I hope to change that (again) in 2012. For now though, here’s my favorites of 2011. Last year’s list is here.

Albums….

1. WU LYF – Go Tell Fire To The Mountain [L Y F Recordings] – Once in a while a band comes around and releases a debut LP that truly stands above anything and everything that year. It’s rare, but when it does it is typically memorable. This year, a debut album did that. Manchester band WU LYF (World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation) do not read on paper like they would be able to pull this off (i.e. growling & sometimes undecipherable vocals), but they do in spades. Go Tell Fire To The Mountain is an album full of exuberance and musical maturity that you do not normally find in a debut. With tracks like “Cave Song” and the epic “We Bros”, WU LYF exceed in presenting their brand of “heavy pop” to the masses.

 2. Wye Oak – Civilian [Merge Records] – Blending genres such as folk and shoegaze is something that has been done numerous times before. Bands like Mazzy Star made a career out of this. Baltimore’s Wye Oak, on their third full length, have added another record that can stand aside classics in either of those genres or completely on its own. With deft melodies, great vocal work, and a commitment to strong songwriting, Wye Oak have created an album that all future recordings they create will be judged against.

3. Arctic Monkeys – Suck It And See [Domino] – On their fourth full length effort, Arctic Monkeys again create a record full of timeless alternative rock hooks and excellent lyricism from “The Songwriter of His Generation”, Alex Turner. Tracks like “The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala” evoke classics like The Smiths and The Beatles, parading alongside crunchy numbers like “Library Pictures” that evoke some of punk’s better moments. Consistency seems to be the name of the game when discussing Arctic Monkeys. Their debut is a classic in its own right, but they (and Turner) are still seeking their masterpiece.

4. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues [Sub-Pop] – Robin Pecknold is quickly becoming one of popular music’s most interesting characters. He’s regularly engaged on discussion boards, Twitter, and other avenues on the net and comes across as a very accessible artist. Such is the rarity not only when discussing him as a person in his position, but also when discussing his band’s exquisite sophomore effort, Helplessness Blues. This album is a perfect compliment to the band’s full length self-titled 2009 debut with pastoral imagery, the best harmonies in music today, and an album that only has to be played once to realize its scope and beauty. This is a band that is coming into its own very quickly with a frontman who possesses arguably the best lead vocal today. It’s all on display here. On an aside, this is also the year’s best album artwork!

5. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds [Sour Mash Records] – Noel Gallagher. The Chief. Wonderwall. Knebworth. There are very few artists putting out their debut records these days that match the caliber of pedigree that Noel Gallagher does. While  it’s arguable that the first two Oasis albums could be considered Noel solo albums for writing alone, this is not the case as brother Liam’s starpower on those essential classics (1994’s Definitely Maybe & 1995’s What’s The Story, Morning Glory?) makes it easy to forget who was the scribe behind them and the band would not have achieved 1/4 of what they did without the younger Gallagher.  For the first time, Noel steps into the spotlight as a frontman, on vocals for an entire record. This album is a great success which retains Noel’s ability to turn a simple melody into something special along with bringing different flavors into his dish. While the two best songs in this period of Noel’s career have been relegated to “bonus track” status (“Alone On The Rope” & “A Simple Game of Genius”), the LP is rock solid from start to finish and Noel should be proud to place this alongside his best work with the legendary Oasis.

6. The Rosebuds – Loud Planes Fly Low [Merge Records] – Being in a band as a couple seems like it’s hard to handle. With the soap opera-like personal lives of 1970s megaband, Fleetwood Mac springing to mind,  North Carolina’s The Rosebuds, while not coming close to that level of personal strife, managed to create a cohesive and introspective fifth record. Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp both shine on this very personal record with the common themes of love and loss on display. Reminiscent of last year’s #1 album on this blog, this record hits home and allows you to feel like you’re in the room with them. With tracks like “Woods”, and Crisp’s fantastic vocal on “Come Visit Me”, this is another top-to-bottom nugget that will be getting spins for years to come.

7. Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi [Domino] – Being a protege of Brian Eno cannot be a bad thing.  Anna Calvi has been getting noticed for the last two years as an up and comer and only this year released her fantastic self-titled debut album. An excellent guitarist and amazing vocalist to boot, Anna’s debut is a romantic and swirling rock record that has the ability to captivate upon first pressing play. Showing off her chops on the opening “Rider to the Sea” to the  lyrical nuances of “The Devil”, Calvi’s talent is in your face and greatly admirable. Immediately conjuring up comparisons to other chanteuses such as P.J. Harvey and St. Vincent is easy and immediate, but Anna’s ax-work sets her apart. This is merely the beginning for her, and the excitement is palpable.

8. North Highlands – Wild One [Self released] – Another indie pop band with a girl up front! However, this is no mere girl. This is Brenda Malvini, the highlight of listening to the music of North Highlands. Combining old school pop stylings along with the new, North Highlands unique musical diversity sets up a scene with one of the best new voices to emerge in Maldini, and you have a recipe for future success. With an assured sense of arrangement and melody fully displayed on tracks like opener, “Bruce”, North Highlands follow up their debut EP with a strong first effort out of the gates.

9. Wooden Shijps – West [Thrill Jockey Records] – Taking their name from a classic ’60s anthem (although spelled differently) may lead you to think that San Francisco’s Wooden Shijps may play a certain “style”.  They certainly do make no mistake, but they wield the weapons of rock very well. A modern day psychedelic band with a shoegaze slant, Wooden Shijps play music that parents wouldn’t let you listen to, straightforward, distorted, dirty rock and roll. These guys have been around the block for a little while and have created their best record to date with this effort that echoes the best of Spacemen 3 and classic rock acts like The 13th Floor Elevators. From the opening snarl of “Black Smoke Rise” to the all out distorted noise of “Rising” to close, this is a record that does it exactly what it sets out to do and leaves you wanting it all over again…and again.

10. Marissa Nadler – Marissa Nadler [Box of Cedar Records] – Marissa Nadler is an artist you cannot help but to admire. She has an immense talent and works very hard to get her music out there for people to hear. Most striking about Marissa is her vocal, which is reminiscent of Joanna Newsom in respects, but there’s something more to it. A lilt that seems to hover and stay with you long after she’s stopped singing to you her stories of love and despair. On her latest, she delivers on a set of songs that conjure the best of folk, Americana, and dream pop in one swoop. “In Your Lair, Bear” sets the stage for a darkly enlightening ride in the moonlight.

The rest of my list…

11. P.J. Harvey – Let England Shake

12. Other Lives – Tamer Animals

13. Charlene Soraia – Moonchild

14. Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

15. Asobi Seksu – Flourescence

16. Cults – Cults

17. Explosions In The Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

18. Alex Turner – Submarine EP

19. Night Beats – Night Beats

20. Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know

21. Tennis – Cape Dory

22. Radiohead – The King of Limbs

23. Snowmine – Laminate Pet Animal

24. Real Estate – Days

25. Yuck – Yuck

26. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

27. The Sand Band – All Through the Night

28. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

29. Fruit Bats – Tripper

30. Raphael Saadiq – Stone Rollin’

31. Megafaun – Megafaun

32. Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire

33. The Raveonettes – Raven In The Grave

34. The Edgar Jones Free Peace Project – Stormy Weather

35. Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee #2

36. Alexander – Alexander

37. Shapes Have Fangs – Dinner In The Dark

38. The Pierces – You & I

39. Dirty Beaches – Badlands

40. Miles Kane – Colour Of The Trap

Songs…

1. Radiohead – Lotus Flower

2. Wye Oak – We Were Wealth

3. Noel Gallagher – Alone On The Rope

4. WU LYF – We Bros

5. Other Lives – Tamer Animals

6. Asobi Seksu – Little House of Savages (Cover of The Walkmen)

7. Dirty Beaches – Lord Knows Best

8. Alex Turner – Hiding Tonight

9. She Keeps Bees  – Vulture

10. Miles Kane – Rearrange

Gigs…

NYC unless noted otherwise. Top 12 because I wanted to.

1. L.C.D. Soundsystem – Madison Square Garden 4/2

2. The Black Angels – Bowery Ballroom 4/8

3. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Beacon Theater 11/15

4. Arctic Monkeys – House of Blues, Atlantic City NJ 10/14

5. Karkwa & The Blue Angel Lounge (separate sets) – Pianos 4/22

6. British Sea Power – Maxwells, Hoboken NJ 3/21

7. Asobi Seksu – Mercury Lounge 2/17

8. Richard Ashcroft – Bowery Ballroom 3/23

9. The Black Angels – Music Hall of Williamsburg 4/9

10. Fleet Foxes – United Palace Theater 5/18

11. Anna Calvi – Bowery Ballroom 5/25

12. Arctic Monkeys – Central Park 5/24

Hear! Listen! Know! Rose Elinor Dougall @rosedougall

I’ve decided to start a new feature highlighting artists that you may or may not know. If you do know, I applaud thee and you’re probably a friend of mine. If you don’t know, try, and then be my friend anyway.

For the first entry, I’m picking an artist that I’ve ran my mouth constantly about, but whose music is still moving me after hundreds of hours.

Describing Rose Elinor Dougall‘s music is easy, describing what it makes you feel is another thing entirely. I discovered Rose before I had heard any of her previous work with her old band, The Pipettes. I had heard of this band, but I had never given them a proper go until I heard this lady’s solo work which came upon the UK music scene wide in early-mid 2010. I found her by chance, when her debut record was mentioned on an internet forum and the description (pretty English girl pop) sounded tantalizing. Immediately, I was hooked on her voice and the only way I have come to describe it is a “female Morrissey”.  Her southern English lilt and knack for coming up with the words to paint a picture in the listener’s mind is engrossing. Combined with her vocal prowess, it’s a recipe for musical sustenance that should last a very long time.

When I discover an act that I enjoy, I immediately start digging for more. I want to know how that artist came to where they are now, when they’re coming to my town, and what’s next. All three of these questions can be answered in respect to Rose Elinor Dougall, at least in regards to me.

Where: Rose is 24 years old and a quintessentially modern English girl. Born in London, raised in Brighton, Rose comes from a musical background. Her father and brother are both accomplished in their own rights, and this backbone is evident the moment you come into contact with her work. Unlike a lot of pop stars that are pushed down your throat, this is a young lady with taste and chops.

Whilst doing my digging on initial discovery, the first thing that jumped out was that she was a member of The Pipettes. Back around 2006, they were hyped up the wazoo, by both friends and UK music press. For some reason which boggles my mind, I didn’t give them a pass despite them wholly embracing big sounding 60’s era pop with 3 very talented and beautiful females at the forefront. Mental? Yea, I am a bit, thanks.

This is the first Pipettes song that jumped out at me which is soaring ballad with all 3 of the girls putting their best foot forward and Rose carrying the opening verse. According to my Last.FM, I have definitely been enjoying this song over the last 12 months. The Pipettes (who are still together with a different lineup), released one album, a couple of EPs, and a variety of one-offs, which are all excellent listening. Notably, The Pipettes appear on a track on Brakes‘ debut album. I mentioned this while speaking with Eamon Hamilton (lead singer/guitarist of Brakes)  prior to his opening slot for British Sea Power a few months ago and how fond I was of the track. In 2008, Rose (as Rosay Pipette) left the group to pursue her own interests.

Finally, Rose begun to work on her own material. Her debut 7″, Another Version of Pop Song was released in December 2008, with more singles released in 2009. The debut record, Without Why, was released in August 2010 following appearances at SXSW and has received acclaim from various outlets.  Since the release of her album, Rose has done some touring solo, as well as joining up with Mark Ronson with his band, Mark Ronson & The Business Int’l and has toured extensively. She is prominently featured on the LP Record Collection.

The male singer in this track is Alex Greenwald of Phantom Planet.

According to various outlets including herself, she is currently working on her follow-up LP with her band The Distractions, which will hopefully see light this year. I personally am very hopeful for a visit to New York City, as she is easily one of the top 3 on my list right now that I’d love to see headlining.

Some of her non-released yet material has been played live, if these tracks are any indication, we’re in for a blinder.

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