Thursday, December 30, 2010
For Ebbz and Flowzzzz, 2010 was experimental; I created this site for a job application, and didn't have many plans of expansion. Soon however, the idea of the site started becoming more clear to me, and the site started to form a mind of its own. Unfortunately, however, some of the ideas I was envisioning never quite got put down on paper. Some promises were made and broken, but bear with me in 2011, I do plan on expanding.
Apologies aside, I've had the chance to listen to some fantastic music this year and hope you have too. This post will be followed by my favorite albums of the year-- check them out, critique them,comment, buy them, and hopefully discover a new favorite album or artist.
Thanks for looking in and check back as 2011 is sure to be a great year in music (new albums from the Decemberists, Iron and Wine, the Strokes, and Cut Copy!!!!). It also should be a good year for Ebbz and Flowzzzz, I've got a lot of good ideas-- and a few new helpers. See you soon.
Girl Talk- All Day
Yeasayer- Odd Blood
Devo- Something for Everybody
Ebbz and Flowzzzz Top 50 Albums of 2010
50)Chromeo- Business Casual
49)Best Coast- Crazy for You
48)Emeralds- Does It Look Like I'm Here?
47)Los Campesinos!- Romance Is Boring
46)Owen Pallett- Heartland
45)Band of Horses- Infinite Arms
44)Avey Tare- Down There
43)Twin Shadow- Forget
42)Wild Nothing- Gemini
41)Wavves- King of the Beach
40)Tame Impala- Innerspeaker
39)Robyn- Body Talk
37)Titus Andronicus- The Monitor
35)Charlotte Gainsbourg- IRM
34)Four Tet- There Is Love In You
33)Sufjan Stevens- All Delighted People EP
32)Warpaint- The Fool
31)Wolf Parade- Expo 86
29)The Tallest Man on Earth- The Wild Hunt
28)Perfume Genius- Learning
27)Surfer Blood- Astrocoast
26)The Radio Dept.- Clinging to a Scheme
24)Broken Bells- Broken Bells
23)Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti- Before Today
22)Local Natives- Gorilla Manor
21)The Black Keys- Brothers
20)of Montreal- False Priest
19)Sufjan Stevens- Age of Adz
18)Hot Chip- One Life Stand
17)Flying Lotus- Cosmogramma
16)James Blake- The Bells Sketch EP / CMYK EP / Klavierwerke EP
15)Sleigh Bells- Treats
14)Janelle Monae- The ArchAndroid
13)Arcade Fire- The Suburbs
12)Girls- Broken Dreams Club EP
11)The Morning Benders- Big Echo
10)Joanna Newsom- Have One On Me
9)The National- High Violet
8)Big Boi- Sir Lucious Left Foot the Son of Chico Dusty
7)Beach House- Teen Dream
5)Vampire Weekend- Contra
4)Kanye West- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
3)Gorillaz- Plastic Beach
1)LCD Soundsystem- This Is Happening
Please feel free to comment, I'd like to hear about some of your favorite albums of 2010.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
You may get a bunch of interesting/cool/relevant things for Christmas, or not, but it looks like the best gift any of us will get this year will come from Damon Albarn's iPad.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Kanye West is someone you might have heard of and while you probably don't need a reminder that he just put out a new album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, well, he did. Uhhhh, it is really good and I'd like to jump on the bandwagon like everyone else to say it is really really good. It has been given almost unanimous perfect reviews. Whether you like/respect/support Ye' or not, give the album a shot, it will blow your mind. Kanye please continue to merge genres, and I think you have everyone's permission to keep making great albums.
Cut Copy has put a release date on its follow up to 2008's In Ghost Colours with Zonoscope. The band is taking a new direction with the album, let's give it a listen on Feb. 8th. First single is playing over at Pitchfork check it out over there.
The National dropped a critically acclaimed bomb this year, and an expanded edition with some new tracks, alternate recordings, and other goodies will be out next week. Pigeons and Planes is streaming one of the new tracks for the album, and after listening it is easy to understand why they left it off the album, it's fairly happy, even jaunty and might have stood out a little from the grey vibe on High Violet. Give it a listen anyway, it is a great track and a cool new turn from the consistent group.
Looking for holiday gift ideas for the music lover? Buy a charity album. I've already plugged Dark Was the Night enough, but if you still haven't bought one or ten copies, get out and do so. Find it on Amazon, and if you want more information, check out the older posts where I have a link to a paper I wrote on it.
Other gift ideas? There are plenty of cool LP's that have come out the second half of the year. Here are a few worthy gift ideas.
Sufjan Stevens-Age of Adz
Deerhunter- Halcyon Digest
The Walkmen- Lisbon
of Montreal- False Priest
Gorillaz- Plastic Beach
Arcade Fire- The Suburbs
Friday, November 12, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Hot Chip's critics have always wondered how serious the band is. Originally seen as goofball dance-poppers, the band has with each subsequent record seemed to trade some of its cutesy,somewhat off-putting antics for sincerity. With 2010 release One Life Stand we get Hot Chip's best (arguably), most consistent record. If what you want out of the band is a banger on par with "Over and Over" or "Shake a Fist", or a single that can stand up to "Boy From School" or "Ready for the Floor", you might be disappointed, but the record is the Hot Chip record some of us have been waiting for, a combination of their affable tendencies, seriously humanizing dance tracks, and some serious love songs to boot.
Hot Chip have been touring hard behind their latest and I was able to catch them for the second time this year. Their set was identical to the one played at Lollapalooza with the addition of one song "Take It In", One Life Stand's closing track, which killed. They demonstrated a calculated spontaneity through their set that I had missed the first time, improvising just enough to keep things exciting while not straying too far from their formula. The synthesizers were big, and with Joe Goddard present (absent from Lolla with a new baby, congrats!) I got a slightly more complete spectacle. Hot Chip are live show veterans and each number of their set impresses, now if Alexis Taylor could only leave his yellow MC Hammer pants at home...
LCD Soundsystem have a routine and they know not to tamper with it. Their synths are monumental and frontman James Murphy croons, screams and improvs his way through a setlist built on one dance classic after another. With what James Murphy claims is LCD's last album, 2010'sThis Is Happening, we find Murphy rationalizing his cultural cache and feel him stumble (however, cooly) toward a breaking point. He is at the most vulnerable point in his career with this record, but at the same time he seems almost confident about it, satisfied with his unstable position. He nods again and again to his influences on the album (Bowie and Eno anyone?), carefully pointing but keeping it strictly his own with his studio work and innovation.
Opener "Dance Yrself Clean" slayed, highlighting each of the band-members skills while keeping the spotlight tightly focused on Murphy. His I-just-woke-up appearance tied in perfectly with the tunes, and when he unleashed his first scream of the night just after the synths dived, "Don't you want me to wake up? Then give me just a bit of your time", the crowd was forced into an unavoidable body rock. Song after song did oh so sweet damage to the crowds ears and before too long I found myself danced out and heading to the balcony. Looking from above put the band in perspective and for the first time I noticed how many people were there, none of them able to stand still. "Yeah (Crass Version)" was another highlight but looking back I find it hard to pick out my favorites from the set, no choice disappointed. Not meaning to speak in absolutes, but LCD Soundsystem is one of the best bands I have ever seen. Sad as it is to say it, maybe Murphy is smart calling it quits after this last album. It's hard to hold the cultural status he and his band have grasped for so long, and maybe dropping out on top isn't such a bad idea. Maybe some other bands should take cues from them, they haven't seemed to make and wrong moves yet.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Phoenix + Daft Punk!
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Local Natives official website (stream their awesome debut album Gorilla Manor here.
Itunes Exclusive video of Airplanes unplugged.
Local Native playing Wide Eyes at Bonnaroo.
Enjoy, and if you haven't picked up Gorilla Manor yet, something is wrong with you.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
While crawling across the webscape doing some research for some upcoming reviews, I happened to stumble upon this 2008 essay written by Death Cab's frontman Ben Gibbard. It comes in three parts and touches on some really relevant topics about music, relationships, criticism, idols, perpetual unhappiness, writing songs and people that aren't necessarily interesting-- just because they are in to interesting things. Check it out at the jump below and let me know what you think. I especially want to hear reactions to one of his final points, "I would rather make great records than make great relationships". Check out the essay at the jump.
The Meaning of Life: Ben Gibbard
Photo of Ben Gibbard taken from flickr.com and submitted by Jeremy M. Farmer.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Follow the jump below to an official video for Haclyon Digest's track "Helicopter".
Thursday, September 2, 2010
With classes starting again, moving into a new house, hosting an Italian and adjusting to the general vibe of my college town once again, it has been hard to keep up here. My apologies :).
I'm going to skip the heavy detailed recap that I gave of Saturday and Sunday settling instead for a basic recap. More and different themed posts are on they way shortly.
My day started off a little late and I had to rush to catch the last bit of the Antlers too early 12 am set. I was emotionally overpowered by their last "Wake", and the rain that accompanied it was a perfect match.
They played late and the Dodos started right on time at the stage opposite. This was the first time all weekend I heard two bands play opposite each other at the same time.
There were a lot of bands I wanted to see that day, but I made a decision to put all of my efforts into getting front row for the Arcade Fire, Sunday night's co-closers with Soundgarden. This is what I sacrificed... The Cribs, Minus the Bear, Company of Theives, Erykah Badu, Wolfmother, Soungarden.. and... The National. Cardinal sin? Maybe, but the payoff was great.
So during the Dodo's I started to prepare myself, I ate, pissed, filled up my water bottles, chugged them, pissed, filled up my water bottles, pissed again and then stuck myself in the crowd already building in front of the Budweiser stage.
It wasn't such a bad draw. Blitzen Trapper played at 2 and with them came the sunshine. It was fitting. The southern-tinged Portland based sextet impressed with solid genre-hopping songs, one after another.
4 o'clock rolled around, and I pushed further into the crowd for Yeasayer. I would have rather experienced them in a smaller, darker venue, but I had seen them before and knew what to expect. Yeasayer are an art-pop group from Brooklyn that play tribal sounding music with three part harmonies that other groups can't seem to nail. They hide pop music in worldly sounds that are at the same times accessible to the masses but interesting enough to enthrall the hipster kids. Their latest album and 2010 release has its share of gems but I had been unaware of how popular they had gotten. When I saw a girl near tears during an especially funky rendition of second single from Odd Blood "O.N.E.", I had to reconsider nearly everything I thought about the band. Despite their new found popularity, half of the way overpopulated crowd, without question, was squatting for MGMT. Whether they knew why the crowd was so big or not Yeasayer brought their best, ran through their gems (which are hits now, kind of?), and left the crowd wanting more.
I really like MGMT. I still like "Electric Feel", "Time to Pretend" and "Kids", despite the near exhaustion the three tracks have received on every bro's car stereo throughout the world. Contrary to some, I also dig the back half, the weird tracks. I think they play really interesting music that has rare staying value. Their 2010 record Congratulations, although not making the cut onto my top 10 of the first 3/4 of the year, is a great record, front to back. I caught MGMT the Summer before at Bonnaroo and was a little disappointed. I still can't decide if it was from the performance or from the general unpleasantness of the fans. I am okay with rowdy crowds but fans that like MGMT-- really really like MGMT. At Lolla 2010 MGMT put on a great show, mixing the setlist perfectly for fans like me and bros alike. I actually got to give Ben Goldwasser a high five during "Kids". I wasn't unhappy, but upon reflection, I really just hate MGMT fans.
The gap between me hearing the last chords fade out of MGMT's 2010 album closer and title song "Congratulations" and hearing the Arcade Fire open with "Ready to Start" was filled mostly with sobs as a good portion of the crowd turned around and strained their ears to hear a bit of the National's set.
I had fought through MGMT bro's, dehydration, discomfort among other unpleasant sensations for my one hand on the fence -almost- front row spot, and I wouldn't trade anything for what I saw.
The Arcade Fire are a live band. Their grand statements ring most powerfully when their stage presence can be seen and felt. Every song revealed the band jumping from instrument to instrument, all members emotionally invested in every song they played, never cutting corners, always shooting for the stars. But maybe that is what makes Arcade Fire such a popular band and one the masses aren't afraid to get behind. I got goosebumps more than one time when I found myself lost and screaming with everyone else along to all of the "Neighborhood" numbers and found myself pleasantly surprised how many people knew the words to their new record The Suburbs that was released just days before.
The band that makes invincible songs looked anything but invincible on stage, showing humility even in their most epic moments. When frontman Win Butler addressed the crowd directly explaining how scary it is to face a crowd this size playing new numbers for the first time it showed exactly why Arcade Fire are where they are today. They are a now a mainstream rock band but they come equipped with sincerity and tact absent from most other "maintstream" acts. Moreover, they instill a sense of hope in the listener, even if it is temporary. Live music for me has always been moving, but this had to be one of the most moving shows I have seen. I was so sure walking away from the show that the world was going to change for the better, just like they told me on stage. But the hope was fleeting, my pessimism sat in once again looking at the trash on the ground and feeling the rude people all around me. My largely varied emotions stabilized as the crowd in unison performed a second encore for the band, again singing their Wooooooooahhhhh.. woaaahhhhhhhh wordless chorus from hit "Wake Up" as they all in turn marched to their respective Chicago suburb.
Photo of Win Butler of the Arcade Fire was taken on Aug. 8th 2010 and borrowed by me from MaxBlau from flickr.com. Thank you very much.
Monday, August 16, 2010
The truth is... I did attend Lollapalooza for the whole weekend, contrary to my lack of updates. Here's a recap of Saturday.
Saturday was a test of endurance and without question the busiest day of the Lollapalooza weekend. Waking up early with the Morning Benders and seeing Phoenix headline against the Chicago skyline alone would be enough, but in between were some of the shows I was most excited for all weekend.
The Morning Benders
The Morning Benders took the near impossible to find Sony Bloggie stage promptly at noon to take full advantage of their 30 min time slot. Despite the disadvantages of the early set and time limit there were plenty of fans to support. The Bender's are riding the acclaim and buzz of their album Big Echoes(#6 on my top 10 albums of the year so far),and pleased the crowd as such by playing songs only from that album. They opened with a rendition of "Stitches" that built in tension throughout, growing to an unstable and unsustainable finale and then kicked it down a notch with their following tracks only to build with the last three. They changed up a lot of their songs from the album and seemed to be holding back some, especially in the middle of the set. Along with "Stitches", the sing along finale to "Excuses" was the highlight with the entire crown in unison mimicking the La's and Da's of the band. With killer harmonies reminiscent of the Beatles and Beach Boys, the Morning Benders are sure to be a band that consistently gets later and longer festival time slots each Summer.
Asleep at Heaven's Gate, Rogue Wave's 2007 release has become one of my favorite albums, and their 2003 and 2005 releases are never far from my stereo, but since the end of 2007 nothing but bad luck has come their way. They have experienced lineup changes, the death of a bassist, near fatal kidney disease of a founding member Pat Spurgeon and two slipped discs in the neck of front man Zach Rogue rendering him paralyzed for months. With his creative juices flowing once more Rogue and crew have but together their most ambitious release yet with 2010's Permalight. Regardless of how ambitious it is, I can't seem to enjoy it in the same way as their previous albums. Partly due to thin production and partly due to a new, somewhat forced direction, the record comes off as tinny and forced. I checked their 45 minute set out and suffered the burning sun eager to hear some classics and hoping that the new tracks live would change my mind about the album. The first 4 tracks of the set came straight from Permalight and did nothing to change my mind about the record. I held out to be rewarded with the final 5 songs coming from previous releases, each one sounding more confident, louder, and grander than anything from the first four.
The crowd was packed tight for the xx's 3'oclock Saturday set. This indie buzz band has a sound more fitting for a church or a personal show than an afternoon festival slot but despite their minimalist sound they held up well in the sunshine and open space. With xx super fans clinging to every whispered word, the band played almost straight through their debut album, xx. Like their album, the live show was all minimalism and careful consideration of space, and for playing out of their comfort zone, a very worthwhile set.
I saw Grizzly Bear play at the Blue Note in Columbia, Missouri last fall and was blown away. It took me a while to get into their latest Veckatimest, and I still can't get into some of their older material, but once I finally reached that point with their 2009 release, it really spoke to me. I was excited to see them again, but their epic sound just doesn't translate very well to festival setting. They played 11 tracks all of which were picked for outdoor play, but some of the more subtle intricacies heard on their record or in a more personal setting were lost in the open air. The crowd responded well to most of the songs from "Veckatimest" and were especially warm to "Two Weeks". The harmonies were on and they built tension and emotion just like on the their latest but were really missing some indoor acoustics.
Veteran indie-rockers Spoon have become festival mainstays and rarely disappoint. Reeling off of this years release and my #2 record of the year,
Transference, Britt Daniel and crew proved immediately why their were so many people waiting for the show to start. Daniel opened solo with an acoustic rendering of "Me and the Bean" before the rest of the band and supporting brass musicians entered for "Nobody Gets Me But You". The brass section gave the band some extra muscle under the quickly sinking sun, really adding emphasis to select tracks fromGa Ga Ga Ga Ga but also to older classics such as "Jonathon Fisk". Daniel as always was punchy and emotional on the guitar but his real power comes from his lungs, crooning one second, switching to falsetto on the fly, screaming and bellowing only to arrive at a sweet serenade of a finish. Daniel was dressed all in white for the show, but even without the flash he stuck out. I was lucky enough to catch them twice on this tour seeing them at the 80/35 festival in Des Moines on the 3rd of July, and was rewarded both times. Because of this, I didn't feel too bad leaving a second early to make some serious ground for the next band on my list, Cut Copy.
Everyone's feet were busy during perhaps the danciest show I have ever been too. Cut Copy played a couple of new songs to positive response but mostly stuck to their trumping hits from their last and near perfect In Ghost Colours. "Lights and Music", "Hearts on Fire", and "Out There On the Ice" were the hits but the rest of their catalog was almost as moving. If the show had a fault it was that the mix was a little off at the beginning with the vocals started too high and then vastly over-corrected. Before the first two songs finished the problems were fixed and the band got better and better with each passing track.
When I read the lineup for Lollapalooza I could hardly believe that Phoenix would be one of the six headliners. It has only been a year since the French group gifted the earth with Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix but by this time it's a sure bet that indie kids and dentist dads alike have heard either "Lisztomania" or "1901". Phoenixmania has definitely infected the musical world, however they're not a new band as their surge of popularity might suggest. In fact they've been crafting perfectionist pop anthems since 1999 and have a strong catalog of four full-lengths and a live album but also having spending some time backing another little French band called Air. The show itself was good, like the music they perform it was well scripted and super precise. The setlist didn't change and the songs are played mostly like they are on the studio albums. However the band cruised and Thomas Mars is a showman if there ever was one. Phoenix played a memorable show and it was a nice cap on a great year, I just wanted a breakthrough performance to go with it.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
After a month's spell in Europe I was ready to land stateside. Primary reason-- Lollapalooza. This year's Lolla came prepackaged with a lineup carrying a serious punch. Mainstream enough to sell a mass amount of tickets, indie enough to maintain hipster credibility and Canadian enough to Include the Arcade Fire, Stars, the New Pornographers and Metric.
I landed in the late afternoon August 5th, one day before the start of the festival. Jet lag didn't creep up on me like usual, it greeted me the second I stepped off of the airplane with a concussed blow to the skull. I staggered through the airport to find my friends who (bless their hearts) were still waiting to pick me up in the airport 4 hours after scheduled time. We had planned on going to the city, and they were not going to let my disorientation throw off their game, so I threw my bags in the boot and we metro'd it downtown. In the two days prior to Chicago I took stops in Florence and London, two decent spots to hang out, but I had forgotten just how striking the city of Chicago is. A couple dizzying hours of shopping and dining later, we headed to the suburbs where I was staying with a friend and her parents. They were great and made the weekend comfortable and inexpensive.
Friday morning came too early and my body was still a little shaky. I boarded the train in the late afternoon, but not in time to catch some of the early shows I had planned on. B.o.B, Wavves, and the Walkmen were sacrificed for some sleep. This is what I saw Friday--
The Big Pink
My Lollapalooza virginity was stolen by the Big Pink and their giant wall of sound. A maelstrom of noise shook the crowd from the opening seconds, and I found myself envying those around me with ear plugs. Without question the show was one of the loudest of the festival chalk full of reverb, static and plenty of feedback. The crowd responded to singles "Velvet", "Tonight", and "Dominoes" with fervor, but also responded well to other songs from their debut A Brief History of Love. Regardless of how much raw sound they were able to feed the audience, the Big Pink suffered from their festival placement. Under the 3'oclock sun many in the crowd were more worried about re-applying sunscreen than the music. Not that they could completely ignore it. Put the Big Pink into a church, night slot or a more intimate venue and without question the audience would be more impressed and not veering off for good spots at Devo or the New Pornographers.
The New Pornographers
I was able to catch about 12 of the New Pornographers 15 song pop run through. Super group is always a label thrown around while discussing the New Pornographers, but onstage they do a good job of staying humble and passing the torch amongst themselves. It is amazing what this band can do with simple catchy chords and lyrics, and harmonies that when on could make any band at the festival envious. The band needed a few songs to really catch on, maybe it was the bright sun on their faces or general nervousness, but for a while in the beginning their harmonies were almost uniformly off-key. This was fixed quick enough and by the time the fourth track "Jackie, Dressed in Cobras" rung, the band was in full swing.
The Dirty Projectors
The New Pornographers mentioned the crowd turning around for the Dirty Projectors set at the opposite stage. They also mentioned they were big fans, a trend that cool bands seem to be following. The Dirty Projector's make music made for musicians. It's complicated, mathematical, and contains enough key changes and time signature shifts to keep anyone who hasn't heard them before guessing. At the same time it is semi-poppy and fairly accessible. Not quite as populated as I thought, the Dirty Projectors played one of my favorite sets of the weekend. With a comfortable slot on the shady Playstation stage the Dirty Projectors played mostly songs from their latest Bitte Orca with a few others thrown in including "Knotty Pine" their song off of the Dark Was the Night charity album (hmmm familiar?). Rumor had it that many of the festival's other musicians were at the show as well as some other celebrities. The three female singers that accompany Dave Longstreth's experimental indie rock band each have platinum-coated jaw flooring scream pipes that harmonize unlike anything I've ever heard. Hearing them recreate the latest Projector's record was something I felt fortunate to see. However, this also turned into annoyance as the people around me tried to replicate the voices and sing along. The Dirty Projector's are not a sing along band.
The second the Dirty Projector's finished, I strapped my dancing boots on and high-tailed it to Hot Chip at the Parkways stage. Hot Chip was missing one of its founding members Joe Goddard, absent on account of his near bursting pregnant wife (thank god for musical babies). I forgave Joe quickly, but could quickly tell that the band wasn't fully functioning. Goddard is a frequent harmonizer, percussionist and he fumbles around with some synthesizers as well and with his absence, the set sounded a little hollow. Given the circumstances, Hot Chip played a fantastic show feeding the crowd mostly bangers such as "Over and Over" and "Ready for the Floor" that were all received well. Hot Chip benefited from being the last on the Parkways stage before Lady Gaga and found themselves playing to a sea of fans, one of the biggest non-headlining shows of the weekend. The Gaga fans were ready to dance and Hot Chip served up synthy-dance rock with a touch of humanism that many dance groups are missing these days.
Part of the job description for being in the Strokes is being cool. If I could be in a band it would be the Strokes. If I had kids in a band, I would want it to be exactly like the Strokes. Singer and enviable rock-god Julian Casablancas wore sunglasses at night, a studded leather jacket with a sweatshirt underneath (Dude, it is like 90 degrees out!)and can scream and sing exactly like he used to. In their first show in the states in four years the Strokes picked up exactly where they left off. They played a tight set that lasted the better part of an hour running through all the hits and classics of the first two albums while largely ignoring their third. They played a set nearly identical to the one they always have, they didn't change or jam on any of the songs. It was a no frills rock show, exactly what I had expected it to be, and exactly what the fans wanted. What enables the Strokes to act in such a way? Partly because their image is a part of their appeal, but mostly because no one else can quite do it like they can. Just an opinion but the Strokes are a rock band set apart, and they know it. As long as they keep delivering, I'll keep listening, and I won't get too frustrated when they only play an hour when given an hour and a half.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Ireland is in the past, Italy for now and then Chicago for Lollapalooza. I won't be posting for a few days but will come back with some Lolla news, a review of the new Arcade Fire album, a piece I did a while back about nudity in indie music videos and plenty of travel stories. Ciao.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
The list continues. I hope you enjoy these albums as much as I do.
Top Albums (5-1).
5. Big Boi- Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
With Sir Lucious, Big Boi drops his first proper solo album and fills it with everything except disappointment. There is so much going on in each of the individual tracks, that even the laziest beat is laced with excitement and inventiveness. As half of Outkast, Big Boi has been commended, but also been left in the shadow of counterpart and visionary André Benjamin. SLLF will without question, change that assumption. Big Boi has given us the most electrifying hip-hop album in a long time, and to this point, the best of the year.
4. Sleigh Bells- Treats
Sleigh Bells’ Treats is 32 minutes of aggressively glitchy dance-synths, harrowing punk and metal guitar riffs, and syrupy sweet girl-pop melodies mixed so loudly that your speakers are in serious danger. Not since Pixies' Doolittle have I enjoyed losing my hearing more. Sleigh Bells have influences, but are beyond categorization. At any given moment the beyond heavy reverb and panicky distortion keep the album teetering on the edge of collapse.. Satisfying, urgent, and wildly entertaining, Treats is a great welcoming party for Sleigh Bells, a band we’re sure to hear more from.
3. Janelle Monáe- The ArchAndroid
Janelle Monáe toys with musical concepts like a 12 year old boy with ADHD. Her first full length The ArchAndroid is an 18 song genre hopping, mammoth of a debut. It carefully incorporates R&B, funk, hip-hop, folk, psychedelic rock, dancehall, and whatever else she happens to be feeling. Janelle Monáe is a force to be reckoned with and if you haven’t heard of her yet you will. As a debut album The ArchAndroid is unparalleled, already reminiscent of someone like Prince, Madonna, or Michael Jackson in their prime.
2. Spoon- Transference
Spoon scrapped its studio-slicked production as an instrument sound of 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga choosing instead to strip down their sound. What remains on Transference are consistently tight-knit 3 to 5 minute grooves equipped with the unmatched pipes of Britt Daniels, excellently restrained studio work, impeccable mixing and a never before seen magnestism and intimate vulnerability. Transference gives us a peek at the Spoon we’re not supposed to see. If Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is Spoon performing as indie superstars, live on their biggest stage yet, Transference is Spoon drunkenly leaving their studio door open and accidently pressing record during a late night jam session. The result doesn't disappoint.
1, LCD Soundsystem- This Is Happening
James Murphy is cool because he doesn’t care to be. He makes dance music that isn’t. Simultaneously he can break your heart while making you shake your ass. This Is Happening is LCD Soundsytem’s best and most personal album. The subject matter is darker and heavier, but the synths have never sounded better. On his previous full-lengths we were allowed to look but not touch. With This Is Happening, the insanely self-aware hipster dance messiah dares to allow the listener to visit his brain, and even gives them some space to poke and prod around. James Murphy knows not to outwear his welcome and has made it very clear that this is the last LCD Soundsystem record. Knowing that this may be the best move for Murphy's career doesn’t sway my opinion; I'm not ready for it to end.
Top Tracks (5-1).
These may teleport their way to your next mixtape. Careful.
5. Pantha Du Prince- Stick To My Side
4. The Radio Dept.- Heaven's On Fire
3. Spoon- Who Makes Your Money
2. The Morning Benders- Excuses
1. LCD Soundsystem All I Want & Dance Yrself Clean (Tie)
(All pictures derived from Flickr.com. Photo of Janelle Monae is credited to jcbehm-- photo of James Murphy credited to Ryan Muir-- photo of Britt Daniel credited to Eric J Hermann-- photo of Sleigh Bells credited to Deadly Viper Photo Squad. Thank you all.)
For some not so light reading, click below.
Bright Lights in a Dark Place
Three-fourths of the way through 2010 and we’ve already been exposed to some jaw-dropping records. Big name indie veterans Broken Social Scene, The National, and dance aficionados LCD Soundsystem haven’t disappointed, treating us to some serious ear candy. Several other big name groups chose 2010 as the year to fight the sophomore record slump including Vampire Weekend and Joanna Newsom. 2010 has also seen impressive debut records from relative newcomers Local Natives, Surfer Blood, Janelle Monae and more, many of which have been released to critical acclaim. From Big Boi to Sleigh Bells to the Morning Benders, here is part one of the top 10 albums and tracks of 2010(So far). Cheers to your new favorite record.
10. Flying Lotus- Cosmogramma
Producer-extraordinaire Steven Ellison oozes talent, and with Cosmogramma he formulates a sound entirely of his own. Cosmogramma is a complete album, one that combines Ellison's love of electronica, jazz, hip- hop, and others for a unique feel. The tracks melt into each other, and elements of each reoccur at different points during the record. This album is a grower; store it in your wine cellar.
9. Beach House- Teen Dream
Beach House utilize a simple formula-- piano, guitar, cheap sounding drumbeats, and the commanding voice of Victoria Legrand to create hazy summer day, coma-inducing pop ballads. With Teen Dream, the band has expanded upon the formula and opened itself to more complicated, more varied and more accessible sounds. This record is brighter and poppier than their previous two full-lengths, but still aims straight to break your heart.
8. The National- High Violet
The National meticulously pieces together serious and meaningful rock songs evoking images of big city isolation. On High Violet, the band continues it’s every shade of black and grey indie rock that in turn conjures nervousness, paranoia, nostalgia, uncomfortable laughter and seclusion. The National had plenty of time and creative space to try to vary their sound, but instead chose to refine it on High Violet. Although not as much of a landmark as their last, High Violet has the National sounding exactly like themselves, not a bad thing considering that they consistently craft remarkable records.
7. Vampire Weekend- Contra
Vampire Weekend’s highly divisive self-titled debut danced politely from one idea to another, combining African percussion, clean guitars, a pop sensibility that James Mercer would be proud of, all with a subject matter dealing with the privileged life of college-going Northeasterners. With Contra, VW extend a giant middle finger to all of their detractors. They employ the same tactic of combining genres, further embrace their eccentricities, pile more excitement and diversity into the individual tracks, and grow tighter as a band. The lyrics are smarter, the songs more imaginative and the melody, just as infectious.
6. The Morning Benders- Big Echo
In a SXSW interview with Billboard.com Chris Chu of the Morning Benders speaks about Big Echo, “When we started making this album, Big Echo… we wanted to free ourselves of any kind of expectations or concepts or anything… we wanted to go explore the studio and the space and use everything that we had. I think the result is something that sounds a lot more diverse… more special, it’s more unique to me.” The bands willingness to embrace the studio as an instrument and to release a little bit of hold on the reigns to production and space manipulating studio-wizard Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear has set Big Echo a notch above most of their indie pop cohorts. With excellent use of pacing, emotive production value, captivating and consistently enthralling melody, and woozy sunset/ sunrise beach- pop vibes, the Morning Benders have given us an album sure to wear out your speakers.
Top Tracks (10-6).
These tracks are sure to find a home on your next mixtape (if they aren't on one already!)
10. Broken Social Scene- Sweetest Kill
9. Gorillaz- Superfast Jellyfish
8. Vampire Weekend- Giving Up The Gun
7. Joanna Newsom- Good Intentions Paving Company
6. Sleigh Bells- Tell 'Em
Photographs adapted from flickr- uploaded by from bottom left spinning clockwise-- alestria, the extinction blues, nonnon_non. Bottom right image adapted from darkwasthenight.com/artists -Thanks to all.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
I am hoping this site takes a life of its own, growing and maturing with time. I'm going to publish reviews, write commentaries, upload videos and photos, add links, publish interviews, have guest bloggers, and and try to point you in the right direction to other interesting things on the web. So check back sometime soon, leave me your opinions, give suggestions, and let's see how far we can take this.
After all there are never too many words or opinions out there about music, culture and the other fine things in life. Let's add a few more.