Category Archives: Albums of the Year

Top 18 Albums of 2012: #6 Cat Power – Sun

Cat Power is Chan Marshall. Chan Marshall is Cat Power.

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Cat Power is an American singer-songwriter from Georgia.

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She put out her 9th studio album this year (Sun) on Matador Records and it’s one of the best albums she’s ever put out.

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This song is called ‘Manhattan.’ It’s my favorite one on the album. (Note the machine drum beat and keyboard work.)

Cat Power has soul…REAL Southern soul. This makes her different and it doesn’t hurt that she’s extremely talented…and did i mention beautiful?

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This song is called ‘Nothin But Time.’ It’s a brilliant track, features haunting layered vocals by Iggy Pop and it’ll make you feel really good when you’re listening to it:

Here’s a photo of Cat Power with a pie. It reminds me that she’s from Georgia and that pies are really popular in the South.

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Cat Power is one of the most well respected musicians in the business and her work on Sun is precisely why. Jump to my Best Albums of 2012 Spotify playlist and listen to the whole thing. You’re gonna love it. 

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My dream of a Cat Power post based on pictures of her is complete. My #6 Album of the year, Sun by Cat Power.

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Seriously though. This album rules. She’s simply fantastic. I’m speechless every time i put it on. Enjoy.

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Top 18 Albums of 2012: #7 The Walkmen – Heaven

Hey! Look who has a new domain name!  EverythingEcstatic.net is now the official domain of this page and that’s cool (Might take a day or two for the new domain to pop up on some browsers tho :-/). Also, if you’ve been following along with the list, take a second to Follow my blog either through WordPress (top of this page) or by e-mail (bottom of righthand column.) Thanks! Ok, enough babble, here’s today’s album:

It’s hard to believe that The Walkmen have been together for 10 years. It’s even harder to believe that Heaven marks the first time that they’ve brought in a producer to oversee the making of their album. And they didnt just get any producer, they brought in the legendary Phil Ek, who’s produced albums for Built to Spill, Fleet Foxes and The Shins to name a few. The guy’s resume speaks for itself. What ensued, is easily the band’s most mature album. This is a fine production and the essence of a timeless rock band, who are growing up. There’s no better way to understand what “growing up” means for The Walkmen than the video for the album’s title track, ‘Heaven’:

At the front of this band, is Hamilton Leithauser and what a frontman he is. The guy has serious style and stage presence. His bravado commands that you pay attention to him, but the feeling that this band is together as one is never lost. They put on a stellar performance at the Outside Lands Festival this year and there was the tall, slender Leithauser with his skinny black tie on, leading the band as they churned jam after jam off of Heaven an album that boasts so many awesome tracks…I can’t tell you how many times i’ve zoned out, listening to the melancholy ‘We Can’t Be Beat’, it’s one of the most beautiful songs i’ve ever heard.

The epic ‘Nightingales’, shows the expanse of Leithauser’s range above the bass drum kicks and woozy guitar strums, as the carefully placed tambourine clangs in the background. They pick up the energy on ‘The Love You Love’ and even though Heaven represents their most polished and mature work, this is one of the moments when you just wanna jump around, dance and lose control:

“What it is and what it should be! Baby I want everything…What it is and what it should be!”

The Walkmen made all the right moves on this album. None were bigger than bringing in Phil Ek to re-invent, but ultimately define the style that has carried this awesome band for a decade.

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Top 18 Albums of 2012: #8 Beach House – Bloom

(I’ve embedded RapGenius links in the song title hyperlinks. Right click and open in another tab to listen to the songs and read the lyrics as you follow along to fully experience the depth of #8 Bloom)

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I’ll admit, I was a skeptic when this album came out. Maybe i just couldn’t accept the idea that something from Beach House could be as good as their previous release, Teen Dream (My #5 Album of 2010). Hence, it took me a while to immerse in Bloom and all that it had to offer…

I went to sleep…and had the same dream I had in 2010. The whole time in the dream, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally’s songs kept me in my comfortably numb alternate reality. I never wanted to wake up…and i floated…and kept floating, in a momentary bliss. Beach House is truly the soundtrack to my dreams. When I listen, i feel like i’m floating….it still feels like the “warm wood and cold marble” effect of 2010. Bloom is just as spectacular as Teen Dream and this pleases me greatly.

On ‘Other People’, Victoria sings about the fleeting nature of our friendships. We do our best to stay in touch, but in the end, much like our dreams, many of those that we’re close to inevitably come and go and follow their own life paths… Once you start to understand that Bloom is an album about how you live your life, the decisions you make, the people you meet and the different roads we all walk down, it really starts to reach the inner depths of your emotions and your psyche.

On ‘Lazuli’, Legrand compares the uniqueness of her subject to the qualities of a mystical, sapphire-like stone. You can’t pull this off without her beautiful siren song…her voice is what truly sets this band apart. It’s one of a kind…it’s angelic…it’s…well…it’s just about perfect…much like the collection of tracks on Bloom together encompass a near perfect follow-up to a perfect record; Both of which will surely stand the test of time.

I choose to end this post with ‘Irene’…the last song on the album and the first one that grabbed me:

“It’s a strange paradise” Legrand sings…..and i’m back in my dream. And i’m in an incarnation of paradise… But maybe it’s not a dream at all…Maybe the relationships that we forge with each other are the beauty of our reality….Are we living in our dreams? [puts headphones on]

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Top 18 Albums of 2012: #9 Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory

Dylan Baldi is a musical genius. He dropped his 3rd Cloud Nothings studio album by the time he was 20. I’m not talking burned CD’s sold at shows for $5 here. These are good, well-produced fucking records. The 3rd of which is today’s topic, the brilliant Attack on Memory engineered by the legendary Steve Albini (don’t dare call him a producer, he’s an audio engineer).

Attack on Memory is a powerful rock album, with shades of grunge and post-punk themes throughout. This is Baldi’s first album recorded with a full band and the depth of sound is markedly different from previous efforts. The kid absolutely shreds on guitar. His soft gravelly voice always complementing the star, hanging on his neck. I struggle with where to start you on this band, because all 8 tracks on this LP have their own identity. But it seems only appropriate to show you this beautifully crafted homage to the days of Busby Berkeley in the video for ‘Fall In’:

They waste no time hitting you right from the get go. Albini beautifully engineers the layered vocals with Jayson Gerycz’s memorable fills on the drums and then it’s Baldi’s guitar. It’s always about Baldi’s guitar, as it damn well should be. Tell me you don’t wanna hear more after that?

On Stay Useless,’ we get Baldi’s youthful plea and understanding where’s he’s at in his life…and he sees himself moving up in the ranks, but is still just a kid inside and needs to kick back and chill on the regular…Surely we can all relate? Here’s the really cool video that looks like it came right outta Spike & Mike’s Sick and Twisted Animation show:

This might be the best guitar album of the year and no other band has as much promise and forceful delivery as these guys right now. What scares me/hypes me up, is the thought of what Baldi & Co. are capable of after this album? I leave you with ‘Wasted Days’, the spectacularly arranged 9-minute opus that’s just a big fucking show off act in my opinion, cause these guys are unreal:

Is Baldi gonna one day just morph into Albini and turn into this alterna-rock God? It’s certainly looking that way.

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Top 18 Albums of 2012 – #10 Alt-J – An Awesome Wave

What makes you biased? Are you unbiased in your opinions? Can you pass judgment on a band in a vacuum without knowing what you’ve already read or heard about them? I’ll admit, its incredibly hard for me to shut off and just listen to a band without knowing anything about them going into it and I doubt it’s easy for you too. And yes, i realize the irony of me, biasing your opinion about what albums that i deem to be the best 18 of 2012…But here we are.

Can you separate the fact that a band won the 2012 Mercury Music Prize (The UK’s highest yearly musical honor) from what you think about their album? Can you remain unbiased when some radio DJ tells you he’s about to drop a track from “the next Radiohead“? Fuck that. If you go into ANY band expecting to hear “the next Radiohead,” you’re gonna be pretty fucking disappointed. Every time. This is why i seek to beat Pitchfork to the punch with this list, cause when it comes critical bias, they take the cake.

So let’s throw everything away for once and I challenge you… to listen to Alt-J’s album start to finish and to not want to hear what comes next after the haunting ‘Intro’ into ‘Interlude 1’ and first track ‘Tesselate’. We’ll consider this a little experiment. I don’t want to bias your opinion, besides the meager information i already gave you and the number ’10’ arbitrarily placed in the title of this post. Or is it? You decide and then let me know what you think. Cause i wanna know. Drop me a comment, or shoot me a message, or whatever. Ok…..? Go!

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Lastly, if you like what you hear. Pre-sale tickets for their April show at the Fillmore are up today: http://tixx1.artistarena.com/Alt-J/ Thanks for reading.

Top 18 Albums of 2012 – #11 Disclosure – The Face EP

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Yea that’s right, it says EP after The Face. This is the first EP to ever make the list.

With that said, Disclosure is loosely classified as “garage-house”, but it’s much more than that. Disclosure is the first group to successfully (key word) capitalize on the groundwork that SBTRKT (My #1 Album of 2011) laid last year. I spoke about how SBTRKT foreshadowed what was to come in music, that THIS was the future….and here comes Disclosure, bursting onto the UK electronic scene, preaching the same gospel and finding more ears in the UK than we could ever imagine in America.

To understand the phenomenon that is electronica in UK, its important to know the inherent differences between the music scenes across the Atlantic ocean from each other. While we’ve got this niche EDM scene blowing up in massive form, electronica is the standard at most clubs in the UK. The underground bass-heavy electronica and garage/dub house scene is alive and well and is an essential seam in the nightlife fabric. Tracks like Disclosure’s ‘Latch’ frequently reach the top UK singles list (#11).

Damn it if that video doesn’t embody how money this shit is. ‘Latch,’ which doesn’t appear on The Face is by far their biggest track and alas, this is where i’ve fooled you. Because The Face’s prowess as a marvelous 4-track collection, simply stands as the most complete work that one of the UK’s most important electronica acts of 2012 put out among other short-form releases this year. The unforgettable ‘What’s in Your Head?’ (at the top of this post), has the staying power of any good dance track. On ‘Boiling,’ Disclosure  incorporates my soft spot for the “girly voice” with Sinead Hartnett’s lush, soulful serenade. The bass is perfect and the effects take a page right out of SBTRKT’s new bible for garage beats.

Disclosure paid close attention to SBTRKT, not just from a musical standpoint, but they even found their own version of the masks, with the digital face outlines you see in the ‘Latch’ video above, as well as on the album cover below; Adding to their marketability and cryptic nature of the tunes. They’ve toured with SBTRKT and Hot Chip this year and gotta be put on your radar, stat.

Peep the 4-track EP, which i’ve embedded with my new favorite Spotify playlist plug-in below) along with the Tenderly/Flow single plus B-side. The ‘Latch’ video is above and your Disclosure crash course is complete! THIS is the positive trend in UK electronica i wanted to see. I hope you like it and I hope there’s more to share down the line…

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Top 18 Albums of 2012 – #12 Tanlines – Mixed Emotions

So this is the album that everyone’s gonna rip off. Cause it was THAT infectious. At the surface, this feels like a standard indie rock record, but as you get into it and discover 80’s inspired tracks like ‘Rain Delay’ and ‘Nonesuch’, mixed in with dancier tunes like ‘Yes Way’ and the tribal ‘Real Life’ (check the fantastic live clip from their set at the Seattle-based KEXP station below), you start to understand what a unique LP this was:

I love how many different sounds this Brooklyn-based duo create in just this one track. Eric Emm, of Don Caballero fame is the singer/guitarist on the clip and Jesse Cohen is making the seemingly hundreds of crazy sounds beside him. Mixed Emotions (On True Panther Sounds) just has a certain energy that sets it apart…an energy that they’re able to temper on slower tracks like the beautifully melancholy ‘Abby’, thus showing the versatility of this project.

My Tanlines moment of the year was at the tiny Brick and Mortar Music Hall in the Mission district of SF.The good people at Popscene SF booked this show and these guys absolutely killed the venue. It helped that 15-20 of my closest friends were taking up the 100 or so person house just not giving a shit and having a ball. Rocking out to the single ‘All of Me’ or the aptly-named “bro” anthem ‘Brothers’. The small stage appearing larger than life with the energy emanating from the on-stage duo.

Spin this alum, i dare you to not have a good time listening to it and want to go out and dance with your friends like the folks in the ‘All of Me’ video:

And lastly, big ups to Large Hearted Boy for listing me on his 2012 year end online music lists database. Click the link and check out his site. I’ve gotten a ton of readers from this. Thanks!

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Top 18 Albums of 2012 – #13 Shigeto – Lineage

Lucky #13. I want to take a second to talk about how artists can stand out based on the label they’re on. I try my best to tell you what labels that the artists on the list come from, in hopes that you check out other talent on their lineup and perhaps discover a particular musical niche that you’re into.

I remember hearing about Ghostly International in URB Magazine a looong time ago…hadn’t really started listening to their stuff besides Dabrye and some scattered Matthew Dear tracks, until last year my eyes were opened to the world of Ghostly. SF’s own Tycho (#5 on last year’s list) is on Ghostly, as is the fantastic Matthew Dear. Ghostly was forged in Ann Arbor, MI and still has their roots firmly implanted in the Detroit neighbor. Gold Panda signed on to the Ghostly label and has been putting music out for them since 2010. Other artists include Com Truise, School of Seven Bells and the focus of this post, the magnificent Shigeto.

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Before delving into Lineage and what makes it such a crowning accomplishment of a record, i’ll try and explain what i love about Ghostly: It stems from their ability to transcend music and art, bring both together the way they bring the sounds together of all of their artists. The Ghostly sound is about fuzing sonic influences; With a heavy focus on electronica, drawn from the legendary Detroit techno scene and motown Jazz, but welcoming ambient sounds and other electronic schools like atmospheric drum and bass, chill out and downtempo. It’s all so carefully crafted and complex and they’ve done their homework in choosing what artists sounds to welcome into their family and add to the constantly evolving, yet uncompromising direction of their music.

Becoming a part of that family is where Shigeto comes in. He’s said before that he’s been influenced by the early label artists and in my eyes, this record is quite possibly the most “Ghostly” of them all. It’s exactly what i want from my favorite label. It’s a cosmic journey into some tripped out world from beginning to end. It’s jazzy electronica that’s as mellow as a trio playing in a dark jazz club on a somber Wednesday night. It’s rhythmic ambient with just the right touch of everything. It’s the son of Ann Arbor playing on the label that’s defining the new, progressive sound of the area. It’s the evidence of the culture and progress that lives on in Detroit. And I could sit here and post a few tracks and tell you about each one individually, but you need to listen to this album and experience the magnificent journey that Shigeto takes you on:

#13 Shigeto – Lineage on Ghostly International

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Top 18 Albums of 2012 – #14 Grizzly Bear – Shields

On Shields, Grizzly Bear seemingly picks up where they left off on the brilliant Veckatimest (My #1 Album of 2009). Like it’s predecessor, Shields is a beautifully written record that lends itself to a relaxing evening at home. This band masters group harmonies, always performing with force while remaining tastefully subtle.

The heavy arrangements on the opening ‘Sleeping Ute’, suck you in from the get go. This track was released as a single and had us pining for what was to come on the record. ‘Speak in Rounds’ sounds eerily similar to ‘Southern Point’ off of Veckatimest and both are beautiful tracks.

Now…where GB really wrapped me in, was on the release of the 2nd single, ‘Yet Again’, which proved to be one of the best tracks of the year. Here’s the mesmerizing video Directed by Emily Kai Brock:

On ‘What’s Wrong’, the track crescendos into a Miles Davis Bitches Brew-esque instrumental finale, complete with haunting strings and all, overshadowed only by the peaceful ‘gun-shy,’ where lead singer Daniel Rosson’s voice stars alongside dreamy guitar effects.

Any way you chop it up, this is a spectacular start-to-finish album. Well produced, well executed and a worthy follow-up to one of the best contemporary rock albums of the last decade. Bravo.

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Lastly, here’s a parting easter egg. If you know me well enough, you know that I FUCKING LOVE MICHAEL MCDONALD. Here’s a version of the classic ‘While You Wait For the Other’s’ by Grizzly Bear, featuring none other, than the man himself… MICHAEL FUCKING MCDONALD!

Top 18 Albums of 2012 – #15 Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits

aaaaaaannnnnd…..Press Play:

Yes, that is Dan Boeckener of Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs fame…..and why, yes…that IS Britt Daniel from Spoon too! Make no mistake about it, Divine Fits is a supergroup, built to rock. Heavy fucking hitter style. The unfortunately titled A Thing Called Divine Fits sounds just like what you’d expect from the next Spoon record, but the infusion of Boeckner ensures that this is a different project. Daniel does everything well and is a confident frontman in every sense of the role. Boeckner adds pizzazz where there’s already a shit ton and what ensues is one of the most fun albums of the year.

“Caaan’t you see me wavin I’m flaggin a ride” belts Daniel on ‘Flaggin A Ride’, a beautifully simple song. This is what Daniel does best..keeps it simple. Never taking as many chances as the flamboyant Boeckner, but that’s what we’ve grown to love about Daniel: He’s effortlessly perfect. Merged with Boeckner, Divine Fits is a wet dream for indie rock fans. Two of indie’s seminal figures joining forces like they’ve done this before.

Their early evening set at the Treasure Island festival had the most beautiful backdrop of the entire weekend. Picture listening to the enchanting ‘For Your Heart’  as the sun sets in the background, giving rise to an amber horizon beyond San Francisco’s skyline. Ok…now stop imagining. It looked like this:

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Pretty fucking surreal. And as perfect as just about everything they do.  Whether its the dark infatuation in ‘Shivers’  or the boyish love in ‘Like Ice Cream’  Boeckner and Daniel take us through the Divine comedy (or fits as they like to call it) that love can be, while sitting at the big kids table of indie rock.

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‘A Thing called Divine Fits’ has been added to the Best Albums of 2012 Spotify playlist, check it out. #14 out tomorrow…….