Category Archives: Music

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!

Alt-J

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

Press play:

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…

Disclosure

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.

ghostly

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

SHIGETO-LINEAGE

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.

Divine-Fits1

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

Top 18 Albums of 2012 – #16 Blockhead – Interludes After Midnight

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:

Blockhead

Top 18 Albums of 2012 – #17 Purity Ring – Shrines

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:

And quite frankly…Megan James is “little”…and Canadian…and nerdy….and cute as hell. She reminds me  fellow Montreal native, Regine from Arcade Fire….and it just adds to the appeal of a solid first LP from a young, up and coming band, whom i’m sure can only hope to follow in the footsteps of a band like Arcade Fire (although they might need like 6 more band members).

PURITYRINGSHRINES

Diggin’ this list? Hit the ‘Follow’ by e-mail button to your right and get pinged via e-mail as soon as the next albums are posted! One love.

Spinelli

Top 18 Albums of 2012: #18 Tame Impala – Lonerism

Ready? Press play on this now:

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!

Spinelli

The Top 18 Albums of 2012: A Viral Experiment and The Final Cut

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’

Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls – I defer all descriptions, videos, links, etc… to my April blog post on the Shakes.

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…..

Here we go!

Spinelli