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.

Advertisements

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

My favorites of 2010 – Albums/EPs/Songs/Gigs!

2010 was a banner year for me. I started this damn blog, listened to more music than I probably ever have in my entire life, saw some amazing gigs, went through some fucking insanity, and moved to the big bad New York City area. Needless to say, I’m a bit tired.

That said, 2010 was a fantastic year musically. I discovered some artists that are easily near the top of my favorites lists and had a grand ole time in the 2nd half. I’m thrilled to end 2010 with this list and get myself amped for 2011.

Albums….

1. The Love Language – Libraries: I remember the day I first heard this record. June 5th, to be exact. It was the day that Merge Records made it available to stream and it just so happened to be the day I saw them live for the first time when they opened for an all-time favorite, the lush and beautiful, Camera Obscura. The album hit me in the chest like a wrecking ball taking out old Giants Stadium. Stuart McLamb and company’s vocals, lyrics, and musicianship rings with me to this day since first hearing it (I’m listening to it as I type this). It was almost fate that it achieved this spot. A truly personal album from McLamb and an album I related with immediately. Thank you guys. I am eager to hear what’s next and to see you again.

2. Rose Elinor Dougall – Without Why: An album of pop confection that only a beautifully talented English girl could produce. Fantastic lyricism, a voice that sticks with you, and the SONGS, such excellently crafted songs that you can listen to over and over. Rose sounds like Morrissey’s long-lost daughter. Tracks like “Come Away With Me” and “Carry On” have a personal tinge to them that anyone over the age of 15 can relate to. Formerly, Rosay Pipette, Rose Elinor Dougall steps out into the forefront in a major way. Tantalizingly, she’s already teased some of her upcoming material and it’s only getting better.

3. The National – High Violet: One of my favorite bands both on record and live produce arguably their most accessible record to date, but also an album of depth and poetic nuance that is in my humble opinion, the best and most complete record they’ve ever created. Matt Berninger possesses a baritone vocal that is both awesome and enviable. Songs like “Little Faith” blur the line between religion and love. This is a record that the band will be judged against going forward. It’s a testament to their already strong catalog and a fine addition to anyone’s collection. A record to be proud of.

Since my list is long, I’ve kept the write-ups minimal. Here’s the rest of my favorite albums, EPs, songs, and gigs that I attended list.

4. Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can

5. The Black Keys – Brothers

6. The Walkmen – Lisbon

7. Philip Glass- The American Four Seasons

8. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

9. The Black Angels – Phosphene Dream

10. The Coral – Butterfly House

 

11. Agent Ribbons – Chateau Crone

12. Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky

13. School of Seven Bells – Disconnect From Desire

14. The Radio Dept. – Clinging To A Scheme

15. Moon Duo – Escape

16. Foals – Total Life Forever

17. Best Coast – Crazy For You

18. Tame Impala – Innerspeaker

19. Holy Fuck – Latin

20. The Blue Angel Lounge – Narcotica

 

21. The Dig – Electric Toys

22. Avi Buffalo – Avi Buffalo

23. Bombay Bicycle Club – Flaws

24. Grinderman – Grinderman 2

25. Clinic – Bubblegum

26. Women – Public Strain

27. Christian Bland & The Revelators – The Lost Album

28. Versus – On The Ones And Threes

29. Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)

30. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening

 

31. The Morning Benders – Big Echo

32. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Beat The Devil’s Tattoo

33. Beach House – Teen Dream

34. Sharon Van Etten – Epic

35. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

36. I Am Kloot – Sky At Night

37. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

38. Janelle Monae – The Archandroid

39. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today

40. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

 

41. Marnie Stern – Marnie Stern

42. Wavves – King of The Beach

43. DJ Shadow – The DJ Shadow Remix Project

44. Jonsi – Go

45. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – I Learned The Hard Way

46. The Roots – How I Got Over

47. Exit Calm – Exit Calm

48. Mark Ronson & The Businesss Int’l – Record Collection

49. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – III/IV

50. Jenny & Johnny – I’m Having Fun Now

 

EPs

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – Horse Power

2. Richard Hawley – False Lights From The Land

3. Justin Jones – The Little Fox EP

4. Tennis – Baltimore

5. hilly eye – Fireworks

 

Tracks

1. Best Coast – Our Deal

2. Rose Elinor Dougall – Come Away With Me

3. The Love Language – This Blood Is Our Own

4. The Radio Dept. – Never Follow Suit

5. Asobi Seksu – Trails

6. The National – Little Faith

7. The Black Keys – Too Afraid To Love You

8. Mark Ronson & The Business Int’l feat. Rose Elinor Dougall – The Night Last Night

9. Kanye West – Monster

10. Foals – Blue Blood

 

Gigs

1. Kanye West – Bowery Ballroom 11/23

2. The National – The National (Theater), Richmond, VA 4/22

3. Explosions In the Sky – ATP, Monticello, NY 9/2010

4. The Love Language – The National, Richmond, VA 6/5

5. DJ Shadow – Irving Plaza, NYC 11/15

6. The Walkmen – Terminal 5, NYC 12/2

7. The National – Brooklyn Academy of Music,  Brooklyn, NY 5/15

8. Camera Obscura – The National, Richmond, VA 6/5

9. Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions – ATP Festival, Monticello, NY 9/2010

10. Grinderman – Best Buy Theatre, NYC 11/14

 

Goodbye, 2010. Thank fuck you’re (just about) over.

%d bloggers like this: