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:
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.
‘A Thing called Divine Fits’ has been added to the Best Albums of 2012 Spotify playlist, check it out. #14 out tomorrow…….
NEW FEATURE: I’ve linked up with my ol’ buddy Maboo at RapGenius.com and some of the track hyperlinks now lead to the RG page with YouTube clips of the song, spotify links, lyrics and explanations…You can decipher em yourself too! Seriously cool stuff. Ok…back to the program:
I’ll admit…i’m an extrovert (surprise). But everyone needs time to reflect… zone out… and work…or think…. For me, i need an album i can throw on start to finish that’s gonna harness my concentration while providing the original score for whatever the hell i gotta get done. Interludes After Midnight is one of those albums…and a damn fine one at that.
Blockhead is a hip-hop producer from New York. Most notably, he’s produced what seems like every good track Aesop Rock has ever put out, like this one and this one. Interludes (on famed trip-hop label Ninja Tune), is a collection of beats with samples layered over and over to create a sonata of sorts. The most ear-catching track on the album is the below, ‘Hungover Like Woah’, which describes how i feel more often than i’d like to admit…The 25-second spoken sample fades out, and the beat drops:
It puts me in a trance, where the relief from my brain’s woes lie squarely inside of itself. And i float away…..and keep floating… into this:
And i begin to rise out of my funk…and my brain starts to work and my head starts to bob up and down to the beat. The string samples and the distorted electronic horn sounds are mesmerizing and loop into the tracks whimsical closing track ‘The Robin Byrd Era’:
The samples blare: “Tic toc and ya don’t stop…tic toc and ya dont stop!”….”lips. and tongue. and cheeks. and eyes…” as the drum beat drops…and i’m smiling. Moving, doing…..and the interludes conclude…..and i just keep rolling onto the next Blockhead album on the discography.
Can you feel it? # 16, Blockhead’s Interludes After Midnight:
I remember the first time i heard ‘Lofticries’ on SiriusXMU, the finest indie rock satellite radio station in all of the land. It was such a compelling sound…distorted vocals in the background, with this gorgeous female singer on the hooks over a memorable electronic beat. I slapped it on my Top 9 Obscure Indie Tracks of 2011 post at #7 in January. But what was this band capable of? Honestly, i thought they’d just be some one-hit wonder…didnt have it in em to put out something complete…But when the LP dropped, what we heard was a start to finish collection of tracks that picked up right where Lofticries left off.
Purity Ring’s Megan James, is so fucking cute and girlie in the way she sings. Referring to her “little belly” in ‘Belispeak’ and her “little ribs” in ‘Fineshrine.’ At first i was like: “What’s up with all the little body parts?” But then the tracks just flowed and poured out laments and reconciliations over Corin Reddick’s trippy beats…That shit is just plain cute and awesome. Here’s the ‘Fineshrine’ video:
No…it’s not the 1960’s..I can assure you we’re in 2012. Tame Impala is a psych rock band at its very core. I cant say i’ve heard a band that reminds me of The Beatles as much as they do, at least not in the last decade. It’s surprising how much these dudes look like classic Aussie alt-rockers Silverchair, but their sound couldn’t be more different. When listening to the above ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’, i just wanna collapse on a bean bag chair and daydream. Then when i throw on ‘Mind Mischief’, i just wanna wiggle around the room and space out like a hippie. (But not a smelly one, even though i notoriously wear Birkenstocks).
The band is the brain child of 26-year old front man Kevin Parker and are on the Aus-based Modular Recordings label. Their sound is so different from the lovely Australian synth-pop we hear from bands like Cut Copy and Van She (both also on Modular), that its no surprise how they set themselves apart and won the J Award for Australian Album of the Year. The single off the album, ‘Elephant’ has another cool video with psychedelic colors in the background and jams off into space:
These colorful videos do their sound justice. It’s like they’re playing inside of a lava lamp. A lava lamp that I now want for Christmas. Really cool stuff and Lonerism is truly a complete work. I just added it to my Spotify playlist: “Best Albums of 2012” Subscribe to it. Also, check yesterday’s post for a rundown of how this year’s list will be released if you missed it. Check the blog again tomorrow for the next album!
Welcome! Have a seat and get comfortable, as my Top 18 Albums of the Year List has arrived. This year, we’re gonna do things a little bit differently… Rather than putting out the entire list all at once, i’m gonna drop an album a day, so subscribe and check back often (sometimes twice a day, to make sure i get my whole list out before Pitchfork publishes theirs).Also, I’m going to look to tag the artists on Twitter/FB with my posts to see what kind of responses and traffic spikes i see on the blog. Why? Cause it sounds really cool and I’m kinda bored/damn curious. This year’s list will have links to tracks as always. Some of the links will go straight to RapGenius.com where you can play the track on YouTube/Spotify, check the lyrics & explanations and even decipher ’em yourself…(Shout out to RG and my boy Maboo that i grew up with) So make sure to click on EVERYTHING. Hyperlinks galore.
2012 was a badass year in music. From where i’m standing, indie rock made impressive strides and the electronica influence kept steadily permeating through its veins. Boundaries are being broken, sounds are evolving and while there’s still a lot of crap that sounds the same, the evolutionary cycle of independent rock and roll is still very much in motion. THIS is what i value in music. Is it different? Is it fresh? Does it sound like something i haven’t heard before? Is the artist truly being expressive, or is it just mindless babble? Innovation and originality appeal to me.
Even hip-hop saw some faces stick out in the crowd, crossing the mainstream line, but still remaining conscious and dropping some seriously quality stuff. Two albums stood out in particular, which i’ll delve into in this list, but it felt like there was hope for hip-hop again; that maybe we’re starting to witness a resurgence of conscious hip-hop. Weaving a tale from start to finish on an album. Be it about where you’re from, or what you’ve been through, rather than ignoring the path you took simply to stroke the life you lead. “Da Art of Storytellin'” (c. OutKast/Slick Rick) if you will, is what i miss the most in hip-hop, but found it this year a couple of times….
What the 2011 List predicted as far as electronica and electronic fusions being the future, came alive in some artists and unsurprisingly, most of them were from the UK.
Anyways…before i get started, i want to use this first post to tout the albums that were on the outside looking in on this list. Narrowing the list down to 18 albums is tough and ultimately this entry might be the most fun of them all, since it focuses on a range of different artists, rather than the singular focus i’ll give to an album on each post. But enough babble…Here are the VERY worthy casualties that sat JUST outside of the Top 18.
Japandroids – Celebration Rock – Canadian post-punk rockers. So. Much. Energy. One of my favorite shows of the year too, complete with A FUCKING MOSH PIT. Made me feel like a kid again. Highlights: ‘Fire’s Highway’, ‘Continuous Thunder’ Also, here’s a really rad photo i took at the show:
Grimes – Visions – Unique beyond words. This tiny little Canadian girl makes some of the most intriguing electronic beats. Her videos are a wild interpretive masterpiece, like this one for ‘Genesis’:
Wild Nothing – Nocturne – Coastal, synthy vibes. Last year’s ‘Gemini’ also worth checking out. Highlights: ‘Disappear Always’, ‘Shadow’
Sharon Van Etten – Tramp – Probably the last one to go from the list. Great effort from this Jersey-born singer. Highlights: ‘Give Out’, ‘Serpents’
Poolside – Pacific Standard Time – Great chill out album. Highlights: ‘Next to You’
Sinkane – Mars – Sudanese musician on James Murphy’s DFA Label. A testament to how versatile DFA’s artist lineup is. Highlights: ‘Jeeper Creeper’
Father John Misty – Fear Fun – Not gonna lie…this one really hurt to cut out. Holy cow what an artist. His stage presence is remarkable and you might know FJM as J.Tillman of Fleet Foxes fame. I love how ‘LA’ this album is and his set at Outside lands 2012 was the best surprise of the weekend. The single off this album, ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetary Sings’ was quite possibly the single of the year, with a must watch video featuring Aubrey Plaza:
Matthew Dear – Beams – Oh how I love the Ghostly International label. Dear represents one of their flagship artists and while ‘Beams’ ultimately didn’t make the cut, Ghostly is stil represented. here’s a badass video for ‘Her Fantasy’:
Gary Clark Jr. – Blak and Blu – We might have the second coming of Jimi Hendrix on our hands with this one. This guys absolutely shreds on the guitar. Here’s Gary performing ‘You Saved Me’ (God I love this song) on my very favorite radio show on the entire planet, KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic:
Welp…those are the outsiders. And as you’ve seen, I’ll feature all sorts of links to tracks, videos, sites, articles, etc… to make every post super interactive so you can experience the music and not only who the artists are, but also where they’re from and what goes into their projects. I’ll keep a running playlist of each album on Spotify and only add the albums as the posts come up, for maximum suspense! Hit ‘subscribe’ when you find the list on my Spotify page an you’ll get an alert when the album gets added.
I’ll post on FB/twitter every day when a new post is out, but count on somethin every day for the next couple of weeks. Feel free to subscribe to this blog as well. Ok…..
Let me start by defining what I mean by “obscure”… I tried to pick tracks that weren’t as well known as some other 2011 favorites or maybe a track was “obscured” by another single or two on a great or well publicized album. So please consider this as an explanation of the spirit of this list. Also, as much as I’d love to talk about tracks like Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ (My fave track of 2011), or tell you about how infectious the beat is on Neon Indian’s ‘Polish Girl’, these tracks don’t belong on THIS list. I’ve already enlightened you to Ki:Theory’s ‘I Wanna Run’ on a previous post and I won’t include any tracks that were linked in my Top 18 Albums of 2011 entry either. Finally, if one of these tracks doesn’t seem particularly ‘obscure’ to you, then we probably hang out a lot or you’re up on your music and should keep in mind that most people have more important shit on their minds than Me or You do 🙂 Enough babble, here’s the list:
9. King Krule – The Noose of Jah City – Apparently this English kid is 17. Pretty intelligent “wavy” track…
8. Givers – Meantime – I’m hard pressed to think of a show I had more fun at this year. Great young band from Louisiana.
7. Purity Ring – Lofticries – Super electronic. Took to this track the minute I heard it.
6. Washed Out – Before – My favorite track off of his 2011 release ‘Within and Without’
5. Hooray for Earth – True Loves – Very cool, organic sound.
4. Gardens & Villa – Black Hills – This Santa Barbara based band put out a killer self-titled album. Check it out.
3. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Senator – Former Pavement front man Stephen Malkmus might be my favorite guitarist. His project with the Jicks Mirror Traffic was great. Check out this RIDICULOUS video for ‘Senator’ with Jack Black and Lumburg from Office Space.
2. Yuck – Get Away – I absolutely love the guitar in this song. It reminds me of some of my favorite 90’s alterna-rock tracks from bands like the Screaming Trees and EMF (that’s right “Unbelievable…Ohhh!” See you at the karaoke bar.
1. Tune-Yards – Powa – I posted a live video of this track because the way Oakland’s Merrill Garbus makes her music is a sight to behold. Looping drum stations. Wacky ukelele pedals and a voice that’ll make you jump. ‘Powa’ was hidden on Tune-Yards’ 2011 release W H O KILL amongst singles like the fantastic ‘Bizness’ and ‘Gangsta’. A certain 7×7 writer had the foresight to call ‘Powa’ out as the track of the night from her November performance at The Regency Ballroom in SF (Don’t be confused by the Top 9 format, look at the byline). At any rate, i think i yelled at how awesome Garbus’ vocal range is like 3 times while watching this video. With that, my #1 “obscure” indie track of the year:
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Keeping with my yearly tradition, I’m kicking off the new blog with a list of my favorite albums of 2011. I think I fell further into my addiction with sound than i ever have. Constantly consuming music at random and then downloading with a purpose. I discover my music from a few different sources: 1) KCRW – An LA based public radio station. DJ Jason Bentley hosts ‘Morning Becomes Eclectic every weekday morning from 9-12. I use the iphone app, but you can also listen online at KCRW.com 2)Siriusxmu – Sirius/XM’s indie rock station 3) Pandora – It’s still relevant 4)My friends – extra super duper big ups to peeps who’ve put me up on a lot of music this year, you know who you are.
Anyhow, I’ve kept this year’s post interactive. Every album listed has a pic of the album cover, links to notable tracks just below the entry and some scattered hyperlinks throughout. If something is underlined, it’s a hyperlink, so click it, or you can right click and open the link in another tab, so you can keep reading while listening. Enjoy!
18. Wilco – The Whole Love – Wilco proved there was still gas in the tank after last year’s ‘Wilco The Album’ fell short of expectations.
17. Phonte – Charity Starts At Home – If anyone from Little Brother puts anything out, I’m all over it. Here, Phonte re-unites with producer 9th Wonder on his first solo effort. Still one of the last real rappers out there.
The Life of Kings – Evidence and Big K.R.I.T. lend a hand on this epic 9th Wonder beat
16. The Rapture – In The Grace of Your Love – The LCD Soundsystem breakup has me seeking solace in anything that James Murphy’s DFA label puts out. This was a pleasant surprise and will definitely get you moving.
15. Pure X – Pleasure – Shoegaze lives! I dont know if an exclamation point is appropriate when talking about shoegaze (and ‘Post-Shoegaze’ c. Spinelli), but its fun to get excited about a glimmer of the genres existence. This is a very cool album to work, read or space out to.
Easy -This track sent me way back to the early alterna-rock days..
14. Future Islands – On The Water – One of my favorite discoveries of the year. ‘On the Water’ is a great release, with some fantastic moments (amazing ones at that, see below), but if Future Islands’ 2010 release ‘In Evening Air’ (which i also, only discovered this year) came out out in 2011, it’d be #1 on this list, bar none. Put this band on your radar and check all their shit out.
Balance – This track kills it. The best on the album and one of the best of the year.
13. Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver – What Justin Vernon does seems so simple, until you put your headphones on and embrace the complexity of this soft and melancholy sound. This album is a complete work and perhaps Vernon’s best to date.
Holocene – If you saw Bon Iver at The Greek in Berkeley, you’ll never forget this performance.
12. Cut Copy – Zonoscope – Ah Cut Copy… My favorite thing to come out of Australia since Paul Hogan. Zonoscope was their much anticipated 3rd LP. Their US tour absolutely destroyed the dance floor and they’ve cemented themselves as a big name act.
11. Atlas Sound – Parallax – Bradford Cox can do no wrong. What a strange motherfucker…an evil genius of sorts. ‘Parallax’ is great company on a lazy Sunday, or a weeknight in; Totally A loner album and this needs to be embraced.
9. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming – When I think of M83, I think about boundaries. Pushing boundaries is what draws me to music. It’s whats shaped the evolution of what I’ve listened to for the last 15-20 years. If its fresh, I dig it. Once it starts to get old and people start replicating an innovators style, i get over it (sorry, its the truth). Anthony Gonzalez’s M83 project really crossed a lot of barriers within electronica and indie rock. Widely accepted in both formats, Gonzalez found a way to make music that was new to fans of both. From a groundbreaking perspective, this album probably belongs higher up on this list. This was one of the freshest products of the year.
8. Katy B – On A Mission – Ok, this was my favorite straight dance album of the year. Katy B accomplishes commercially with dubstep, what Jenna G couldn’t with drum&bass. Growing up with drum&bass, the dubstep phenomenon was hard for me to pin down at first. What is it about dubstep that appeals to audiences on a mass scale that drum&bass couldn’t achieve? Maybe the sheer grime and grit of d&b is only suitable for English ears? What this album accomplished, was getting me to warm up to dubstep. A friend of mine always called the female MC in d&b tracks the ‘girly voice’ and Katy B is the embodiment of it. It takes a special kind of female voice to hang with dubstep/d&b. Katy B kills it.
Katy On A Mission – Ok, before you play this track, turn your speakers all the way up or put your headphones a little louder than usual. Remove all breakable objects from the vicinity. Now press play. Youre welcome.
7. Toro Y Moi – Underneath The Pine – Speaking of nostalgia. Shit, as if we weren’t vibing on 2010’s ‘Causers of This’ enough, Toro y Moi built on that momentum (which he still has by the way after releasing his late 2011 EP ‘Freaking Out’), with another quality release. ‘New Beat‘ was one of the best tracks of the year, and Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bundick continued to build on the chill wave sound he’s been at the forefront of.
6. Real Estate – Days – What a sweet album. These jersey rockers evoke nostalgia reminiscent of the days of Ben E. King (#respect). Real Estate embodies the lighter side of the musical spectrum that i gravitated to this year. Gentle guitar strum and trippy solos that make you think you’re on the cold Atlantic shore with your feet in the sand and the waves crashing in.
5. Tycho – Dive – If I died and went to heaven, this would be playing in the background. Heard some of the San Francisco based Tycho’s tracks on KCRW and was hooked. A minimalist spin on old drum & bass and nuskool electronica. Tycho doubles as a visual artist and his live set brings out elements of this. ‘Dive’ has been on HEAVY rotation since i got it and I’m getting my feet wet on his older stuff, which is likewise amazing. Tycho is on the Ghostly International label, who is putting out some really intelligent shit that’s worth discovering.
4. Holy Ghost! – Holy Ghost! – Ahhhh…another DFA artist. I blame my infatuation with this album, much like The Rapture, on what we’ll call the LCD backlash… James Murphy will tell you he stopped the LCD Soundsystem project because he wanted to focus on his label, DFA. What gets lost in this decision is what ‘focusing on his label’ actually means: Namely furthering the careers of its artists, many of which have drawn much of their style and been inspired by what LCD Soundsystem did. Holy Ghost! fits this mold. Alex Frankel and Nick Millhiser are James Murphy’s two young disciples, whom he took under his wing and said “try this, see if works for you. Now work with it and make your own sound” What ensued on HG’s first LP was a VERY DFA (new adjective alert!) brand of electro, and who doesn’t like that?
3. White Denim – D – Along with Future Islands, White Denim was my favorite band discovery of 2011. Their sound fuses psych rock with folk rock, evoking shades of bands like Wilco and Tame Impala. They jam like its going out of style. Every track has a different theme from the last and delving further into their discography is the only way to truly see how this band is growing. ‘D’ was a timely masterpiece and feels like some shit I would bump if I was sitting in the back seat of Randall “Pink” Floyd’s Chevy from ‘Dazed and Confused.’
2. James Blake – James Blake – One of the most versatile productions I’ve heard in years. There is no occasion that this album isn’t suitable for. JB’s sound borrows heavy influence from the UK DnB scene, but calms itself down with an R&B twist. Its strength lies in the perfect production and mastery of rolling bass throughout. The marriage of hard bass and soul.
Unluck – Beautiful…intricate bass levels throughout
1. SBTRKT – SBTRKT – Everything I’ve ever wanted in music. SBTRKT (pronounced ‘subtract’) came up as an electronic music producer who was on the cusp of the d&b to dubstep evolution. On his self-titled release, he teamed up with singer Sampha to create a sound unlike anything i’ve ever heard before. The beats are perfect, never fully claiming to skew towards one definition, but always maintaining a certain rhythm to know that this is ultimately a dance album. This is the album you dance to while at the club, and also the one you come down to at the after party. Sampha’s soothing voice claims a uniqueness that sets this production apart. Every track is vastly different from its predecessor, but each has its own appeal. Sbtrkt speaks to you through beats that always keep your head moving and Sampha speaks to our cognitive rationalizations with lines like “is it better to let you go? or is it better, to let you know?” on Something Goes Right. Pardon me if i’m swooning, but alas, ‘SBTRKT’ is that moment when all of the music that i love and everything that i love about it comes together and fuses into one artist’s sound. For me, this was the definitive album of 2011. It poked through the dubstep inundation to create something different, something that made this drum&bass head think and ponder about the direction of electronic music. This album explains why the digital sound is the future… it shows us how far the scope of possibility reaches… it foreshadows a musical peak that perhaps has yet to be reached and this excites me for what lies ahead in 2012…..
Damn if those tiki masks aren’t cool as fuck! I gotta admit, getting this post done was a big monkey off my back. I’m really stoked to get this blog up and running again. More music lists and lists of all sorts (in Top 9 format of course) are still to come. There are travels to be completed and documented. In the meantime, got any albums you really liked this year? Drop me a line, let me know your thoughts! Cheers to a kick-ass year in music. Happy 2012!