Tag Archives: best of 2012

Top 18 Albums of 2012: #2 Hot Chip – In Our Heads

In Our Heads represents the moment when everything i want in music comes together in one package. The sublime confluence of rock and electronica. The English techno sound done right. Keyboard mastery and an epic beat. The nerdy singer who rocks like he belongs in a different body and is just plain cool as hell. The sound that pays homage to the 80’s, 90’s and beyond. It’s a band demonstrating that they haven’t fallen off on their 5th studio album. This was the sound i expected from Hot Chip on this go around and they delivered in a major way.

I remember when i first heard this album, i was sitting at my kitchen table and the sheer epicness of In Our Heads’ opening track, ‘Motion Sickness’ was fucking gripping:

What a way to start an album… What a way to come back from your first release in two years. I was hooked. I still am. This is the band that changed the dance rock game with the unforgettable ‘Over and Over’ …flipped it upside down and made it really fucking clear that this shit doesn’t need to be pop. They haven’t dropped off A SINGLE BIT.

There’s a certain pattern to a Hot Chip album that i’ve come to love and they executed it to a tee on In Our Heads. The slow jams you can’t quite shake, like ‘Look At Where We Are’, with the trippy re-verb droplet sound in the background….it’s the song that breaks you down early on the record and takes you away from their infectious dance beats..makes you wanna bring that someone closer…before resuming regularly scheduled dancing; With a classic upbeat love song in ‘These Chains,’ that borrows dubstep, old drum and bass beats and the signature Casio keys subtly placed in the background.

While Hot Chip warms you up with ‘These Chains,’ you’re violently eased (how that’s possible, i don’t know, but they pull it off) into the albums signature dance floor track, ‘Night and Day’:

LOVE the Reggie Watts cameo singing the very 80’s deep robot-o-tronic voice:

Let’s sweat, let’s sweat
Let’s sweat, let’s sweat
Let’s sweat, let’s sweat
Let’s sweat, let’s sweat
(You know I’m thinking about you) — Watts
Night & day & night
(You got me working) — Watts
Night & day & night
(You got me working) — Watts
Night & day & night
(You got me working) — Watts
Night & day & night

But the most spectacular moment on In Our Heads is ‘Flutes’. The most perfectly repetitive track i’ve ever heard. You gotta know your shit to pull this off. It’s flawlessly progressive as Alexis Taylor’s sultry voice guides us through the beat into the impeccable grand finale…..“One day you might realize…………That you will need to open your eyes!”:

After seeing the video, i always feel like the room is spinning around me when i hear this song…and i love that feeling. Of getting lost in a song and just surrendering to the beat for a moment.

Can you tell that i LOVE this band? Full disclosure, i’m a huge fucking fan. (Almost as big of a fan as this girl is.) Largely because they never disappoint me. In fact, they’ve been not disappointing me since The Warning changed the game in 2006. They’re one of the best damn bands on the planet, bar none…and they just put out my 2nd favorite album of 2012.

Hot Chip

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Top 18 Albums of 2012: #5 Liars – WIXIW

I had to walk outside to reflect on this album. I had to put my headphones on and go for a walk. I had to be by myself and let this album seep into my core… WIXIW (pronounced wish-you) is a loner album. For me, it’s the best loner album of the year. It’s an album about complexity of sound. It’s an album about being a loner and about the difficulties and nuances that human beings experience in communicating and coexisting with each other. Make no mistake about, this is some dark shit.

On, ‘Who is the Hunter,’ singer Angus Andrews presents us with power struggles in relationships. “I never meant to run…I only blew my gun to watch which beast still runs”:

He speaks of the beast within. And the beast that we all have inside of us. Man or woman. Again, its dark…but there’s nothing else like it. The sounds are incredibly haunting and Andrews’ spooky voice only adds to the haunt. The progression on ‘Who is the Hunter’ sees new sounds being introduced on top of other sounds and again and again, until we’re left with an extravagant opus.

And now, i’ll go out on the proverbial fucking limb and compare how this band makes music to what Radiohead does. Whew….im sweating…this is hard… i know i’m contradicting what i’ve said in the past, but i mean this….Stay with me…. They’re industrial synth reminisces of Jonny Greenwood’s cryptic melodies. Like Thom Yorke, Andrews has a similar “eyes be closed, my mind is somewhere else besides here” style of singing, but his voice is deeper, like Nick Cave…. In fact, Liars previously opened for Radiohead. They push boundaries of sound, often venturing into the unknown….But i’ll stop it right there…and not go any further with the comparison, because Liars aren’t as accessible as Yorke and Co….And i’m ok with that. This is what makes them unique.

On the flipside though, the most accessible track on the album, is ‘No. 1 Against the Rush’…Here’s a live peek at them performing the song on KEXP:

The last effects push at the 4:23 mark into the songs closing crescendo just kills me.

The albums title track ‘WIXIW’ starts with spiraling stringed sounds and a drum beat, as Andrews sings into the distance:

“and now i see it’s not enough…..i wish you were here with me…..I can’t no longer take it all… Wish you would not come back to me.”

Lyrically, everything about WIXIW is as complex as the music that accompanies it. This is one of the most haunting albums i’ve ever heard. Intense themes and a defining style that refuses to be categorized. It’s a weird album, made by weird people, but i love that….It’s a work of art and keeps me guessing from start to finish. WIXIW breaks me down and that’s a mind altering feeling with music. No album did this in 2012 quite like WIXIW and the next four that you’ll read about from me in the coming days. With that:

#5 Album of 2012: Liars – WIXIW

Liars-WIXIW1

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.

The-Walkmen

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)

[Press Play]

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]

beachhouse

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.

cloudnothings

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 – #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!

tanlines-mixed-emotions