The Mountain Goats

You are currently browsing articles tagged The Mountain Goats.

A little over ten years ago, Logan and I holed up in my college apartment with a Little Caesars Hot-N-Ready pizza and started rifling through my CD collection to figure out what to call our music blog. I don’t remember many details about that night (there was a lot of root beer involved), but I do remember reading lots of lyric sheets before stumbling onto Andrew Bird’s “Plasticities” and together being enamored with the line that eventually gave us our name, “This isn’t our song, this isn’t even a musical / I think life is too long to be a whale in a cubicle.”

Now, over a decade later, things have changed a bit. We wrote pretty regularly for a few years, but eventually graduate school, then careers and families started to consume more and more of our time and attention, leaving less time to tend to this place. At the same time, the shape of the internet was changing dramatically–with the rise of social media and the fall of personal blogs, it made it harder to find and keep a readership without adding more and more content constantly, so when we did write there were fewer and fewer people around to read it. Slowly we just ended up writing less, and the site would sit fallow for most of the year.

That is, until year-end list season. Each November or so Logan and I would exchange multiple calls and emails as we began hashing out what should make up our year-end list. We’d make lists, compare, whittle, compare again, divvy up writing assignments and get to work. The whole process has easily become my very favorite part of writing this blog, and honestly one of my most cherished experiences. I still find so much joy in reflecting on the things I loved each year, and then trying to articulate why I loved them so much.

But it’s still a lot of work, and the last few years have proven particularly difficult as we’ve tried (and failed) to get our lists done before the end of the year (I think it’s pretty safe to say that we’re the only people reviewing last years music in August). It seems silly, but it seems we can’t even get one good post up a year, at least not on time.

So we’ve decided to hang it up, and our tenth year-end list seemed the perfect time to sign off. For all four of you who still check in on this thing, we’ll still keep the domain so you can, you know, re-read your favorite posts or something. 😉

As always, these were our favorite records of the year – the ones we kept returning to, the ones that moved us, changed us, kept us sane. In another ten years, these are the records that will make us think of 2017 the most. We hope you enjoy.

(I want to quick give a special thanks to Logan, who’s been the best partner these past ten years. It’s been such an amazing experience to create something like this with one of my very best friends, someone who’s passion for great music is contagious. Considering I first met Logan sixteen years ago as he was feverishly scribbling down Cat Stevens lyrics on a classroom assignment, it seems fitting that the last entry in our last post is his review of Mr. Stevens’ latest record. Thanks for the fun ride my friend.) -Chris

 

Chris’s Favorite Album of 2017

 

Life Will See You Now

by Jens Lekman

[Secretly Canadian]

In the fall of 2007, I sat in my college apartment looking up NPR podcasts on iTunes for the first time. A friend of mine had suggested I listen to a podcast they produced called All Songs Considered, and although I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know what a podcast was at the time, I downloaded the most recent episode to my 160GB iPod Classic and started listening. That episode happened to be guest DJ’d by an affable Swede named Jens Lekman, who played a few songs from his latest record, including “I’m Leaving You Because I Don’t Love You” and “Your Arms Around Me”–and I was mesmerized. I went out the very next day and bought it on CD. That CD, Night Falls Over Kortedala, has since become one of my very favorite albums of all time.

Fast forward a few years. I’m married and living in Indianapolis and I get wind that Jens is doing a one-week residency in Cincinnati. He’s calling it “Ghostwriting” and he’s inviting people to submit personal stories that he’ll use to write new songs on the spot over the course of the week. I nagged my wife to submit a story, which she finally did hours before the deadline. Jens picked her story (because of course he did), and she got to go spend an afternoon with him to flesh out the story (incidentally, she reports that he is, in fact, just as charming as he comes off in song).  That week in Cincinnati yielded a clutch of charming songs pulled from several strangers’ experiences, including one about Kristin’s misadventure with a therapist and an emotional support animal (neither of which were particularly good at their jobs).

At the end of the week we went to see Jens perform a number of those new songs, along with some old classics. He opened the show with a new song called “To Know Your Mission,” which recounts the story of a teenage Jens running into a pair of Mormon missionaries twenty years earlier (in the summer of 1997) and getting into a conversation. It’s a touching account of trying to find your place in the world and wrestling with what your ultimate calling is, as Jens asks the missionaries “how (does it feel) to know your mission / to know what you’re here for / to know who you’re serving / to know what to do?” I left feeling moved by the whole show, but that song in particular.

Fast forward again to 2017, and that song now opens Jens’s latest record. At the song’s conclusion, Jens comes to an epiphany of sorts–singing “I just want to listen to people’s stories / hear what they have to say / …in a world of mouths / I want to be an ear / if there’s a purpose to all of this / then that’s why God put me here.” What follows are nine stories about nine different individuals–a man who’s 3D-printed a model of a tumor that was removed from his neck, a couple having their first fight, a bride having second thoughts at the end of the world, and Jens himself facing up to some nameless fear. Each story is beautifully told, shot through with humor and empathy and sung over disco beats and obscure samples. In other words, it’s a standard Jens Lekman record. But to me it feels like the culmination of a lot of things, an example of so much that I love about music–it’s generous and optimistic, thoughtful and playful all at once. It also feels appropriate that my very favorite record this year was created by an artist I fell in love with at the same time I started writing this blog ten years ago. -Chris

mp3: Jens Lekman – To Know Your Mission

 

Logan’s Favorite Album of 2017

 

Rocket

by (Sandy) Alex G

[Domino]

I am often wrong. Looking back on my life, it’s largely a series of mistakes and well-intended but ultimately incorrect ideas punctuated by the occasional good decision. Marrying my wife? Good. Praying for new seasons of Arrested Development? Bad.

So it is with all of our previous year-end lists. For every album included on my list that has stood the test of time and which I find myself returning to over and over, there are two albums that are, at best, rarely revisited and at worst, regretfully remembered as having included them in the first place.

One positive of preparing my 2017 list over eight months after 2017 ended (sorry Chris!) is that I have spent more time with these albums than any in the past. I’ve really had time to come to the conclusion that yes, Rocket by (Sandy) Alex G is my most beloved album of 2017.

Eight months later I’m still amazed at what Alex G has created here. He has a folksy feel in his songs but each are twisted at times by other genres like psychedelia, pop, and even screamo/metal and they work beautifully together! It isn’t for everyone but this is one of the most brilliant albums of whatever year you’re reading this. -Logan

mp3:(Sandy) Alex G – Poison Root

 

The rest of the best….

 

 

Antisocialites

by Alvvays

[Polyvinyl]

Right after we moved to Seattle we caught Alvvays opening for Courtney Barnett at the Moore Theatre—at the time they only had their full-length debut to their name, but fully half their set was made up of new songs that all sounded remarkably fully-formed, like a natural extension of everything they were already doing. Those songs, “Dreams Tonite”, “Not My Baby” and “Saved By A Waif”, finally found their way onto this record—and they sound as good on wax as they did onstage. As a whole, Antisocialites is the perfect sequel to their self-titled—a logical extension of that record without repeating it, sharpening the lines and refining the edges, shaping this thing into weapons-grade indie pop. Whereas the highs on their first record towered over the valleys, Antisocialites is consistently gorgeous throughout, offering a record-full of indie pop delights, from the woozy organ that opens “In Undertow” to the widescreen wash-out of closer “Forget About Life.” It’s a perfect little record, and a complete pleasure from start to finish. -Chris

mp3: Alvvays – Not My Baby

 

Guppy

by Charly Bliss

[Barsuk]

I was 13 when Weezer released Pinkerton in 1996. In the wake of that album’s relative critical and commercial failure, Rivers Cuomo retreated, Matt Sharp left for the Rentals, and the band went on indefinite hiatus. It would be five years before Weezer released another record—which is an eternity when you go from seventh to twelfth grade in that same span. I cannot overstate the impact of Weezer’s absence on my adolescent musical self—they became something much more than the power pop band they actually were. They became myths, legends, heroes in exile. I would listen rapt as a friend recounted every detail of seeing them on the Pinkerton tour, I’d spend hours tracking down every B-side I could find on the nascent Napster. I tracked down the Meet The Deedles soundtrack just because it had a one-off song by Homie, a Rivers side project. (Side note: that song is called “American Girls” and it rules.)

And I wasn’t the only one. About this time there were tons of bands springing up in my part of the world trying to capture the magic of those first two Weezer records—bands like Ozma or Teen Heroes or The Promise Ring or anyone on the later Hey Brother compilations. I devoured this stuff, along with anything else I could get my hands on—The Rentals of course, but also That Dog or anyone on the DGC Rarities compilation. I was tirelessly trying to fill the Weezer-shaped hole in my musical heart.

While you certainly didn’t have to experience all that to enjoy Guppy, the insanely good debut album from Charly Bliss, knowing I did might give you a small glimpse into why I adore this record so much. This is the record I was looking for during all those years in the Weezer wilderness—with it’s unrelenting hooks and chiming riffs, with it’s wall-of-crunch rhythm guitar, with it’s songs named after women with no romantic connection (no way “Ruby” and “Julia” aren’t direct nods to “Jamie” and “Suzanne”). Guppy sounds like some lost masterpiece from 1997, something I would have stumbled on in a used CD bin at Warehouse Music and bought on a whim, then played incessantly in my blue Ford Explorer and burned to CD-R for any friend who’d let me with hand-drawn sharpie swirls and a title like THIS RULES. While most of the things in that sentence no longer exist, this album does, and well, IT RULES. -Chris

mp3: Charly Bliss – Black Hole

 

Lotta Sea Lice

by Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile

[Matador]

On paper, these two slacker guitar idols should make pretty awesome music together. In practice, they actually do! Sometimes things just work out! 🙂 -Chris

 

 

 

 

mp3: Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Over Everything

 

Crack-up

by Fleet Foxes

[Nonesuch]

The first two Fleet Foxes records mean a whole lot to me. They each came along at just the right time for me and became the soundtrack to some pretty crucial times in my life. Now, almost ten years after their debut, their third LP has arrived—but into a very different world; a fractured and uncertain cultural moment, where the significance of an indie-folk record is easily questionable. What’s the purpose of a record like this when there are so many people suffering and afraid? What’s the purpose of art in a time where sacred institutions seem less certain than ever? It seems that Fleet Foxes’ chief songwriter, Robin Pecknold, has grappled with those same questions. With this record he said he wanted to use his “particular set of cultivated talents to make a Use Object, something useful, a balm, something experientially or aesthetically moving, a reprieve.”

Crack-up only sounds tangentially linked to the records that precede it. It’s uniformly gorgeous, but the song structures are loose, if they exist at all. The music exists in movements and themes more than distinct songs with verses or choruses. Motifs rise and fall, harmonies swell then grind to a halt, songs bleed into one another with very little to ground them. It’s difficult to parse, but taken as a whole, it’s not difficult to enjoy. That’s because every recorded sound is so lush, so full, so obviously loved into existence. I’ve listened to this record less like my other indie or folk records, and much more like my classical or jazz records – I’ve just let it play on repeat for long stretches at a time, letting the music just fill the house. In that sense, I’ve found it’s more than met Robin’s hopes- Crack-up has indeed been a reprieve and a balm. A place to retreat to in the best possible way. -Chris

mp3: Fleet Foxes – If You Need To, Keep Time On Me

 

The Far Field

by Future Islands

[4AD]

I’m tempted to discuss lead singer Samuel Herring’s dancing on David Letterman. It would be a fine intro and it was my first exposure to Future Islands, but that was over four years ago and gosh darn it, they deserve to be and are more than some electric moves. The bright pop of their last album, Singles, largely remains and though it’s familiar it’s still as delightful and peppy as it ever was, but the tone of the album is darker, moodier, and almost desperate at times. I’ve been drawn to this dynamic in the past. Music that sweeps you along with its poppy rhythms and a leading man pouring his heart out. At the time of The Far Field’s release, a lot of attention was given to the track “Through the Roses”. Rightly so. It’s a powerful song that delves into loneliness and the all-too-frequent and private terror we feel when we don’t believe we’re strong enough to continue. However, the track ends with a repeated statement that, although scared, “we can pull throughtogether.” The next entry I’m writing is largely concerned with butts and farts (see the Bob’s Burgers soundtrack below), so I thought it was okay to get a little serious and even us out. -Logan

mp3: Future Islands – Through the Roses

 

Everybody Works

by Jay Som

[Polyvinyl]

Melina Duterte’s first official album as Jay Som is a masterclass in name-that-influence indie rock. But she isn’t satisfied just pillaging the established indie-rock canon—instead she pulls from a wide array of influences, expanding the idea of what a bedroom pop record can sound like—pulling gleefully from dream-pop to punk, from lo-fi ambient to straight-up ‘80s throwback jams. It’s especially telling that in interviews Duterte cites everything from Carly Rae Jepsen to Phil Elverum to Yo La Tengo as influences, and Everybody Works could only have been made by such a pop omnivore.

The album’s highlight comes early and emphatically in “The Bus Song,” the single best encapsulation of what’s so special about Duterte—what starts out as a lo-fi exercise in indie rock guitar explodes into twinkling piano, multitracked harmonies and exultant brass figures, stretching into a bonified jam, complete with a fake-out ending and blissed out coda. Elsewhere her ideas shine just as bright but sometimes burn up a little too quickly (both “Lipstick Stains” and “Remain” are gorgeous but don’t stick around long enough to go much of anywhere). This renders the record more like a sketchbook than a finished piece, but that ultimately adds to its charm. Duterte sounds more interested in exploring than actually arriving anywhere specific, and Everybody Works explores some pretty breathtaking places. -Chris

mp3: Jay Som – The Bus Song

 

Harmony of Difference

by Kamasi Washington

[Young Turks]

My knowledge of jazz is neither deep nor broad — I can’t intelligently parse bop from hard bop, and I’m not totally sure what separates free jazz from jazz fusion. But the jazz records I love I really love. Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Davis’s Kind of Blue, Jobim’s Wave, plus a couple minor works from Dave Brubeck and Wes Montgomerythese have all become bulwarks of my musical taste, and I return to them often. Though I haven’t lived with it long, Kamasi Washington’s Harmony of Difference seems to have already joined that small but illustrious group of records. In the short time it’s been in my life I’ve listened to it almost exclusively, letting it wash over me every chance I get. It somehow sounds like everything I needed this year—a missive against the noise and a balm for the bludgeoned soul. Though it’s not overtly political, its track titles (like “Humility,” “Knowledge” and “Integrity”) seem practically insurgent in today’s political climate—this reaches its climax in the final song, the 13-minute odyssey “Truth,” wherein Washington returns to the themes and motifs from earlier songs, this time joined by angelic choirs to drive home the messages contained in the melodies. Like I said earlier, I’m not nearly qualified to detail what makes a jazz record great, but like those other records I mentioned, I can tell this is one I’ll live inside for some time. -Chris

mp3: Kamasi Washington – Knowledge

 

Wonderful Wonderful

by The Killers

[Island]

Brandon Flowers is, in my opinion, the greatest living rock vocalist (if Freddie Mercury were still alive, Flowers would be the second-greatest living rock vocalist). I came to this conclusion in a conversation I had over 5 years ago with a friend who was trying to ‘frankenstein’ the world’s most perfect band. Flowers on vocal, Prince on guitar, etc. It was an interesting thought experiment and made a 3-hour road trip disappear but ultimately, a supergroup composed of Flowers, Prince, Dave Grohl, and Vinnie Paul would sound TERRIBLE.

But Wonderful Wonderful is far from terrible and having Flowers back at the helm of The Killers is fantastic. I’ve always been able to count on The Killers to provide intimate arena rock music. Big sounds, catchy hooks, and deeply personal and oftentimes sad music. This is best exemplified in the lead single, ‘The Man’. Flowers struts and swaggers through this bombastic song with obvious self-consciousness and such insecurity that it’s humorous and unbelievably enjoyable. We still have moments to see the mature and overtly introspective Flowers beautifully bear his feelings in songs like “Rut” and “Some Kind of Love” but the greatness of this album comes during the swelling choruses of hits like “Tyson Vs. Douglas” and “Run for Cover”.

With all that said, how much better would this album have been with Tom Morello on guitar and Max Weinberg on drums? (A: Not better. Probably terrible.) -Logan

mp3: The Killers – The Man

 

American Dream

by LCD Soundsystem

[Columbia/DFA]

As far as I’m concerned, “Call The Police” single-handedly justifies the resurrection of LCD Soundsystem. If it were the only good song on American Dream—LCD’s first record since their supposed-swan-song seven years ago—I’d be disappointed, but I’d still be grateful. It’s just incredible—taking all of James Murphy’s swing-for-the-fences moves and channeling them through Another Green World-era Eno and using that to light a fuse that takes a full seven minutes to combust. When I finally saw them last summer they played it alongside classics like “Someone Great” and “Dance Yrself Clean” and it absolutely sounded like it belonged in that rarefied air. But “Call The Police” is not the only good song on American Dream, not by any stretch of the imagination. It’s co-single “American Dream” is just as stunning, if a touch less grand; “Tonite” is the best pop single to ever dissect what it means to be a pop single; “Emotional Haircut” is the best song title of the year (and also a great track), and “Oh Baby” is, almost certainly, one of the absolute best songs Murphy has ever put to tape. Maybe even better than “Call The Police.” Maybe. -Chris

mp3: LCD Soundsystem – Call The Police

 

Melodrama

by Lorde

[Republic/Lava]

If you want to get me feeling melodramatic, have my wife and kids leave for a week while I stay home to work. This is what usually happens: Day 1 is fun, I spend way too many hours in record stores, get Chinese take-out, order too much, watch some music documentary that my wife probably wouldn’t be interested in, and fall asleep on the couch in my jeans. This seems fun until like Day 4 when I’m still eating that same Chinese take-out, but now I’m re-watching The Wonder Years on Netflix, choking up at every grown-up Kevin platitude and trying not to lose it before the week is out.

This year, Lorde happened to release her sophomore record, Melodrama, on the very same week my wife happened to be out of town, and boy did this thing mess me up. I bought it primarily on the promise of “Green Light” (which is basically perfect), but songs like “The Louvre” and “Hard Feelings/Loveless” and “Writer In The Dark” absolutely floored me with their beautiful idiosyncrasy, both musically and lyrically. Nobody’s making pop music like this right now, and although most of these songs will probably never be hits, they strike that perfect alchemy in pop music, sounding both melancholy and exultant at the same time, making every moment feel so much bigger than it actually is. It’s, well, a bit melodramatic. Which is exactly what I need sometimes. -Chris

mp3: Lorde – The Louvre

 

Goths

by The Mountain Goats

[Merge]

John Darnielle’s gifts as a lyricist are profound and profoundly needed. His ability to empathize with the sidelined and the forgotten, to give eloquent voice to those usually ignored in particular, is more needed than ever. In the past his narrators have ranged from young heroin addicts to doomed pop stars, from professional wrestlers to the poor guy in Super Mario who waits in a dungeon just to relay that he’s not the princess the hero is looking for. Darnielle not only treats these characters with compassion and respect, but draws us so fully into their world that their tragedies become our own, compelling and painfully relatable.

This time around Darnielle’s unlikely muse is the Southern California goth scene in the 80s. He uses its brief cultural moment and those who participated in it to poignantly explore themes of mortality and the passage of time, of coming to terms with loss—not just of people and things, but of identity and place. Ultimately it’s a record about being a part of something—a music scene, sure, but just as easily a community, a class, a family—and coming to terms when that something ends. People grow up, move on, die. Neighborhoods morph and change, buildings get torn down, miles separate you and those you were once closest to. Things that once seemed immutable eventually fade away and the world keeps spinning. Take this short bit from “Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back To Leeds:”

“There’s a rusted fog machine

In a concrete storage space,

Letter-number combinations

With no meaning on its face,

They won’t make these anymore

It’s a wooden coach-n-four,

No-one will even steal it

If you leave it by the door,

No sign to mark it’s going

No tombstone for its grave,

There will be goodbyes by dozens

So practice being brave,

No-one anticipates the rush

The breezy feeling of the faceless crush,

At the end of things, where the salvage bleeds,

Andrew Eldritch is moving back to Leeds.”

Like most of the best art, Goths is simply about being mortal—it’s just wrapped up in studs and eyeliner and platform shoes. We all hope we’re part of something special, but like Darnielle sings over a beautiful brass section on the last song, “however big that chorused bass may throb, you and me and all of us are gonna have to find a job.” -Chris

mp3: Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back to Leeds

 

Sleep Well Beast

by The National

[4AD]

If you follow any members of the National on Instagram, you’ve likely witnessed the building of Aaron Dessner’s new studio in upstate New York—a pretty and understated little structure overlooking a wooded pond. The building is fairly classic and looks a bit rustic in the pastoral context, but there are some little details like its asymmetric window that give it a more angular, modern feel. It reminds me a bit of the music that was recorded within its walls, the songs that eventually found their way onto Sleep Well Beast (and not just because the studio came to grace the records cover). In general, these songs sound fairly natural and intuitive, like they’ve always existed, but each has some subtle details that set it apart from anything else in the National’s catalog. A great example is “The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness” which sounds just like a classic National anthem while at the same time sounding nothing like any National song before it (it even has a bonafide guitar solo!). My personal favorite is “I’ll Still Destroy You”—a glitchy slow burn that winds between Berninger’s evocative non-sequiturs and these euphoric melodic lifts before descending into noisy mayhem for the last minute or so. It’s a mess but it’s completely perfect, and it’s got my favorite line on the whole album (“I’m just trying to stay in touch with anything I’m still in touch with”). In some other iteration these songs would have slotted nicely onto other National records… but just the way they are, they could only ever belong right here. -Chris

mp3: The National – I’ll Still Destroy You

 

Moonshine Freeze

by This Is The Kit

[Rough Trade]

Bashed Out was my favorite record of 2015 by a good margin — so I had high expectations for Kate Stables’ next go-round as This Is The Kit. I’m happy to say that Moonshine Freeze  is at least on par with that amazing record, and in some ways surpasses it.

For one, the music is more buoyant. For example, on the Aaron Dessner-produced Bashed Out there were plenty of horns, but it was primarily used for texture and shading (much like Dessner’s full-time band)—here the brass takes a more central role, sometimes calling back and forth with Stables’ purr of a voice, other times stealing the show entirely (as in “Hotter Colder” or “Two Pence Piece”). And let’s talk about the rhythms on here—Stables’ music has always been deceptively rhythmic (she has more in common with krautrock than straight-up folk music in my opinion), but the stuff here is entirely different—some of these songs, like “Moonshine Freeze”, legitimately swing, and it’s a treat to hear her cut loose like that.

In other places, the instrumentation might have fit on any of Stables’ earlier releases, but her lyricism has never been sharper—as on opener “Bullet Proof” or “Easy On The Thieves”. I had the privilege of seeing her perform twice this year, and both times the thing that struck me most (aside from how tight her band sounds), was how perfectly written these new songs are. Each one is a gem, and I’m grateful she blessed us with 11 new ones this year. -Chris

mp3: This Is The Kit – Bullet Proof

 

The Bob’s Burgers Music Album

by Various Artists

[Sub Pop]

If you don’t smile just a little bit at butt jokes, you probably won’t find much to love about Bob’s Burgers.

Now approaching its eighth season (eighth!), Bob’s Burgers is still just as quick and hilarious as it was when its first episode premiered, but it really wasn’t until this album was released that I realized how perfectly the showrunners incorporated music into Bob’s Burgers. Other television shows have included original songs with varying degrees of success; however, no television show has so frequently and reliably created songs that only ever add to the humor and heart of the show. The tracks that will get the most attention are those sung by the Belchers and the other members of Bob’s Burgers weird and wonderful cast of characters. Linda’s Thanksgiving carols, Gene’s ode to farts, the fictional boy band Boyz 4 Now, and of course the transcendent “Electric Love”. But the songs that serve as an accompaniment to the myriad of antics we find the characters getting up to are perfectly implemented. “Lifting Up the Skirt of the Night” and “Groping for Glory”, can almost be missed since they’re played during montages but they compliment the scene and take funny situations to another level. Other artists have discovered the brilliance of Bob’s Burgers and lent their talents to the show and this album through some covers (The National, St. Vincent, Cyndi Lauper are just a few).

I’ve always held the position that in order to create a great parody song, you’ve got to thoroughly understand the genre your parodying and the writers of Bob’s Burgers have nailed it every time. -Logan

mp3: Bob’s Burgers – Electric Love

 

A Deeper Understanding

by The War On Drugs

[Atlantic]

If you read only one thing about this album, don’t waste your time here. Go read Michael Nelson’s review on Stereogum. Trust me. It’s great.

Alright, did you read it? And you’re back here? For more? That’s crazy, because that thing was a Master’s thesis or something (but with more YouTube links)…. so I’ll just keep this short. I’d never really gotten into TWOD’s 2014 hit Lost In The Dream–every time I’d listen to it I’d think “wow, I don’t remember this being so good,” but afterward I’d barely be able to recall what impressed me so much. I considered this a weakness and ended up not returning to it often. But something in Nelson’s review flipped a switch for me. It was this: “These songs (are) like recurring dreams. I know what’s going to happen, and yet (even after listening about 4,000 times in the last three years) I have no idea what’s going to happen. Every time, they sound new.” That same ambient ambiguity that had turned me off was what imbued these songs with durability for Nelson. I’ve since returned to Lost In The Dream and had a totally different experience. That record might be a masterpiece. And A Deeper Understanding definitely is.

It’s evident right in the opener, “Up All Night,” when it takes a Hornsby-ish piano line and somehow spins it into a fuzzed-out krautrock jam. It’s evident on the second track, “Pain,” when the guitar solo that closes it out stacks up over and over and over like a ridiculous jenga game that should topple but somehow never does, until it circles back to the main lick, now oozing with some kind of chorus effect and sending shivers down my spine every time. It’s evident on “Strangest Thing” when every last element of that song builds so inevitably to the its climax at 4:28 that when it finally hits it feels like the entire world just clicked into place. It’s evident in the alternating bass and glockenspiel arpeggios that wind their way beneath the chorus of “Clean Living,” like the beating heart under its beautiful melody (fwiw: the bass playing on this record is uniformly excellent, which certainly warms this latent bass player’s heart). Basically every second of recorded music on A Deeper Understanding is evidence of some kind of genius. So don’t make the same mistake I did. Don’t write it off. -Chris

mp3: The War On Drugs – Pain

 

The Laughing Apple

by Yusuf/Cat Stevens

[Cat-O-Log Records/Decca]

Cat Stevens fans, as you may already know, are a passionate and belligerent group, so I’m about to ruffle some feathers when I make the bold proclamation that The Laughing Apple is the greatest Yusuf/Cat Stevens album since Teaser and Firecat was released in 1971.

Now, as my fellow Yusuf-ians are sharpening their pitchforks, let me defend myself. Many fans will recognize that about half of the tracks on this album are actually some of Cat’s earliest work. Back when, for every two songs about love, loneliness, and isolation, he wrote a song about an archaeologist digging up moonstones or anthropomorphic smiling fruit. I understand the exclusion of those tracks back then (they range from the simple to the silly) but now, on an album written by a grandfather, they make perfect bedtime lullabies to be sung to a beloved little one. There are plenty of musicians and rock stars that become grandfathers but few embody that mantle quite like Yusuf, and it’s the heart and soul of this album. His devotion to that sacred role is evident throughout The Laughing Apple.

There are warnings, there is advice, but weaved throughout every song is love, which is the most grandfatherly thing ever. Cat Stevens has lived the life of a rock star but we find him at his happiest as a grandfather (and c’mon, the man is still a rock star). -Logan

mp3: Yusuf / Cat Stevens – Mary and the Little Lamb

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2015 header

So here we are, a whole month into 2016, and we’re finally putting up our favorite records of 2015. I’m sure you’ve all been checking in daily since mid-December, waiting with bated breath to hear what we’ve been listening to all year. I say “you,” as if there are still people who read this thing–don’t worry, we know full well the only “people” still reading this are the robots who keep posting comments about working from home and erectile dysfunction. Honestly, those spam-bots write more on this blog than we do. It’s the future, and the future is weird.

As always, we’ve highlighted our favorite records of the year–the ones we love the very most and think everyone should hear. One big difference, though–we decided to completely forgo ranking the albums this year. At the top you’ll find each of our respective picks for album of the year, but after that each record will be listed in alphabetical order by artist. So read on, erectile dysfunction robots! This one’s for you!

 

Chris’s Favorite Album of 2015

 

this is the kit

Bashed Out

by This Is The Kit

[Brassland]

On “We Are In”, the penultimate track on This Is The Kit’s exquisite Bashed Out, Kate Stables sings “Today we are the same age / we have both been far away / but today we’re in the same place.” I’ve listened to this song many times this past year, my first full year as a new father, and for me it’s come to describe the miracle of new life–of welcoming an eternal being into mortality to share this brief span of history together, of how in the grand scheme of things, the 31 years that separate my son and I are pretty insignificant. From a widescreen perspective, we really are the same age, just like we really are in the same place. Of course I have no idea what Stables is actually singing about, but that song has become so entwined with new fatherhood for me that I’ll never untangle it. A similar thing happened with “Spores All Settling,” a beautiful banjo-laden track that felt like a balm when our cat of several years passed away in the spring (”so open out and let the clean air in / you wash away, let’s get some weather in”). In fact, I’ve had moments like this with every song on Bashed Out–whether it’s looking out at the Gulf of Mexico and singing “all we need is the sea / because the sea sorts you right out” to myself, or adopting “get up off your rusty dusty” into my personal positive self-talk (as in “Come on Tobler! Get up off your rusty dusty! You got this!”). It seems Stables’ impressionistic folk music makes the perfect canvas for me to project whatever I happen to be feeling at the time, making each song more personal and precious with each new listen. Every song is a gem, hewn out by Stables, but then buffed and polished by the attention I’ve given it until it shines with a soft, warm glow–reflecting back whatever I face toward it. Bashed Out has become more of a companion than a record for me this year–and as Stables repeats in the closing refrain of “Magic Spell”, it really is “rare and remarkable.” –Chris

mp3: This Is The Kit – We Are In

 

 

Logan’s Favorite Album of 2015

 

sorority noiseJoy, Departed

by Sorority Noise

[Topshelf Records]

I just said to Chris, “I’m on my 4th iteration of the Sorority Noise write-up. I’m ready to just say, ‘It’s an awesome album.’” It’s not like I haven’t gotten kind of sappy with other entries, that seems to be my go-to, but I just think this is a very powerful album. It isn’t your usual ‘emo’ nonsense. It’s ‘emo with a message.’ I will admit that I originally gave Sorority Noise’s Joy, Departed a chance because I thought my wife might be interested. Like many of us, Brooke went through a phase in high school that was defined by punk, emo, and ska; however, unlike most of us, she is still sort of in that phase (fortunately she hasn’t asked me to bleach my tips or wear a puka shell necklace). When it came out, articles about Joy, Departed were describing it as “post-emo” and “what happens when an emo band grows up”. I’ll repeat that it’s a powerful album, both musically and thematically. Joy, Departed is a mature treatment and approach to mental illness and the struggle not only to live personally with it but to live with people who don’t understand the true nature of mental illness. I think the highlight comes in the second to last track “Mononokay” where the lead singer, who has admitted to suffering from serious depression, sings, “Call me depressed and tell me to get over it. It’s not in my head and it’s in my blood.” -Logan

mp3: Sorority Noise – Using

 

 

 

brandon flowersThe Desired Effect

by Brandon Flowers

[Island]

I think the text conversation between my brother Ty and I concerning Brandon Flower’s The Desired Effect is better than anything I would write (emojis will be included):

Ty: If the vast majority of the money in the world exists as nothing more than computer data and money represents human labor and we spend an enormous amount of time and energy maintaining computers and their networks….do we live in The Matrix? Are we giving ourselves to money so we can buy an inferior digital version of ourselves? The answer is yes. That’s just a crack-pot theory “rider” I added on to this message that is just to say, I think Brandon Flower’s album is as good as you say ☺.  It’s amazing. I love it. An active Mormon who makes good art…..I have to reevaluate all my experience now that everything I thought I knew was wrong!

Logan: I’m so glad you’re loving Brandon Flowers’ new album. So good. And now that you are having to see the world anew, Brooke and I will save a place for you next Sunday during Sacrament meeting

Ty: Maybe I’ll send an inferior digital version of myself to sac meeting.

(Rant about socialism, conservatism, and Ty moving into our guest room.)

Ty: My favorite line (among many) from the Desired Effect “All my life I’ve been told to follow your dreams but the trail grew cold.” Springsteen wishes he came up with that one.

Logan: Now now. Springsteen would have said ‘road’ instead of ‘trail’ and The Boss would have said something about his dream breaking down on the side of Hwy 9…just as a saxophone comes in.

Logan: Dang. I would listen to that song.

(Long discussion on the new Star Wars movie)

Ty:  I keep BFlowers playing in my car always. That album’s AMAZING. Like a sunny summer pop album but with a dark underside like Springsteens Tunnel of Love maybe. I’m curious what album you found that’s better. Keith Richards?  -Logan

mp3: Brandon Flowers – Between Me And You

 

 

carly rae jepsenE•MO•TION

by Carly Rae Jepsen

[Interscope/School Boy]

If you had told me in 2011 that Carly Rae Jepsen, a pop-singer that rose to fame with the help of fellow Canadian Justin Bieber, would have one of the best albums of 2015, I would have totally believed you. “Call Me Maybe” is the jam. EMOTION (or rather E•MO•TION, because life is difficult and typing should reflect the struggle) seemed to enter my radar amidst hushed whispers of, “Hey, have you heard CRJ has a new album coming out? Well it is supposed to be kind of amazing.” And it is. It really is. E•MO•TION is a Frankenstein’s Monster of pop-perfection. The star-studded production team took the best parts of pop music from just about every era (with some extra special attention on the 80s), mashed it all together with Carly Rae’s young and airy vocals, and added just a dash of saxophone to create something wonderful and endlessly playable (I am in the process of confirming this claim). -Logan

mp3: Carly Rae Jepsen – Run Away with Me

 

 

chvrchesEvery Open Eye

by CHVRCHES

[Universal]

I recently had the chance to watch 1996’s Space Jam in a rented out theater. I walked away from that saying two things over and over again, “Watching basketball players act is rough,” and “Whoa. Do you remember Jock Jams!?” Jock Jams was a compilation CD put out by ESPN that featured pump-up songs like “Get Ready for This” and “Whoomp! (There It Is).” They were everywhere. You’ve heard these played at every sporting event you’ve ever been to. Terrible songs. Absolutely terrible songs, even if they weren’t forever associated with the briny stench of my high school gymnasium. These songs were meant to fire you up and they just didn’t do it. Chvrches Every Eye Open succeeds where those songs failed miserably. This record is beyond upbeat–the music and the lyrics seem to be competing with each other on every track to see which can get you to attack life with renewed vigor. I’m waiting for the day when my friends’ mothers begin sharing inspiring photos on Facebook with Chvrches quotes like, “we will take the best parts of ourselves and make them gold’ (this quote will be attributed to Abraham Lincoln and a Minion will be saying it). Every Eye Open doesn’t let up until the final track “Afterglow,” which is a perfect and gradual closer for what is an exciting album. -Logan

mp3: CHVRCHES – Make Them Gold

 

 

dmm_jacketGolden Age

by Daniel Martin Moore

[OK Recordings/Sofaburn]

Sometimes a record comes along at just the right time–your defenses are down and it’s able to penetrate far deeper than if it had entered your life at any other time. Somehow, Daniel Martin Moore has managed to do this to me more than once (first with 2010’s Appalachian-set lost-masterpiece Dear Companion, then in 2012 with In The Cool Of The Day, an ostensible “minor work,” wherein Moore revisits traditional southern hymns from his childhood)–and now he’s gone and done it again with Golden Age. I wasn’t particularly anticipating any of these three records, but all of them have burrowed down deep into my musical soil, sprouting the kind of love and dedication usually reserved for sacred things. DMM writes fairly straight-forward folk songs, delivering them in a clear-eyed tenor that betrays no guile, here usually accompanied by simple piano accompaniment. Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) often has a hand in DMM’s records–and his wild-eyed cinematic vision broadens the scope of Golden Age just enough to catch a glimpse of something grand in the periphery (he shows up in a more corporeal sense with a fuzzed-out guitar solo on “Our Hearts Will Hover” that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Let It Be). Sonically, this record is the perfect soundtrack for the slow descent from autumn into winter, the cold slow exhale that takes all the leaves with it, leaving a gentle stillness behind. It’s not sad (in fact the overall tone of the record is optimistic–“our Golden Age is here” after all), it’s just content to be still, and to find some beauty and wonder in the stillness. -Chris

mp3: Daniel Martin Moore – Golden Age

 

 

father john mistyI Love You, Honeybear

by Father John Misty

[Sub Pop]

I don’t think Father John Misty (real name Joshua Tillman) and I would get along. I am basing this on next to nothing. He’s probably a fun and pleasant guy. Heck, who knows, maybe if I did get to know him I’d think we got along splendidly and he’d be the one saying about me, “Nah, not my style. He’s a bit much for my tastes.” The only thing I am basing this on is his music, and his music is exhausting (we all judge the personality of the artist off the music they produce right?). I Love You, Honeybear is tough–J. Tillman comes across as self-involved and cynical throughout the album. “Bored in the USA” is the prime example, and his apathetic swagger while performing the song on David Letterman was this album come to life. So… that sounded pretty negative for a “favorite album” post. I mean, I don’t do this whole blogging thing much anymore so I’m probably off my game (most would argue I had no game to begin with). But the thing is, while I Love You, Honeybear is all of those things I said earlier, it is also tender, beautiful, and, perhaps most importantly, genuine. There might be some cringe-causing moments but above it all, Tillman’s sincerity and the beauty of the music comes through. -Logan

mp3: Father John Misty – Bored In The USA

 

 

four tetMorning/Evening

by Four Tet

[Domino]

Kieren Hebden (as Four Tet) makes exactly the kind of electronic music that moves me most–it’s inventive and surprising, often warm and inviting, and it sounds like a human being made it. Morning/Evening especially fits this bill–it consists of two 20-minute tracks, each one representing one of the titular times of day, much like the ragas of Hebden’s Indian heritage. “Morning Side” is particularly enchanting, riding its rhythm like a small boat bobbing slowly on an ocean swell, while the voice of beloved Indian playback singer Lata Mangeshkar loops over the top, adding a celestial sheen to the whole thing. “Evening Side” is predictably more sedate, but not to a fault–it manages to be a thoughtful, if slightly less memorable, representation of the waning hours of the day. The earlier comparison to ragas is especially apt on Morning/Evening–not just in theme, but in execution–this is electronic music not for dancing or clubbing so much as for contemplation and reflection–music made to soundtrack time spent outside, walking alone, instead of inside, dancing with sweaty strangers. And if it sounds like I prefer one of those to the other, it’s because I do. -Chris

youtube: Four Tet – Morning Side

 

hop alongPainted Shut

by Hop Along

[Saddle Creek]

In a Stereogum article earlier this year, the writer said she didn’t like a particular band because they “never (look) like they’ll die if they stop… there’s no bloodlust.” While that’s a pretty dumb reason to write off a musician, I can at least relate to wanting that kind of urgency from your music. I only bring it up here because no one will ever level that same criticism at Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan–when this woman sings it sounds like you’re listening to every last nerve ending fry in her body. It actually does sound like she’ll die if she stops. And Quinlan’s voice is only part of what makes this band so amazing–they’re dynamic and ingenuitive, at turns crunchy and jangly, hurtling each song toward its inevitable climax and catharsis. All of this, though, just lays the groundwork for Quinlan’s real gift–her exquisite songwriting. Each of Painted Shut’s ten songs are knotty and poetic, painting vivid scenes with a shrewdness and empathy that feels earned–some are pulled from her own life, like the unpleasant encounter with a restaurant patron in “Waitress,” or witnessing a man beat a child but staying silent afterward in “Powerful Man”–others are pulled from the tragic lives of others, like Charles “Buddy” Bolden’s public nervous breakdown in “Buddy In The Parade,” or Jackson C. Frank’s private one in “Horseshoe Crabs.” Relying less on verse/chorus structure and more on the push/pull of the narrative, she ends almost every song with some sort of lyrical gut-punch, which the band then wrings for all it’s worth. All of this adds up to one amazing album, one you urgently need to hear. -Chris

mp3: Hop Along – Waitress

 

 

jamie xxIn Colour

by Jamie xx

[Young Turks]

This record has changed how I say the phrase “Oh my gosh.” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then it’s time to get on that. -Chris

 

 

 

 

 

mp3: Jamie xx – Gosh

 

 

joan shelleyOver and Even

by Joan Shelley

[No Quarter]

Joan Shelley is from Louisville, Kentucky, one of America’s true hidden gems. Ever since I moved to the Midwest nearly seven years ago, Louisville (which is a short two hours south of where I live) has managed to become one of my very favorite cities in the whole world. Depending on who you ask, Louisville is either the southernmost Northern city, or the northernmost Southern one–the state it sits atop is often dismissed as backwards at best, but this beautiful city on the Ohio River has a vibrant culture and thrumming artistic community that provides a convincing counterpoint to the presumed bible-thumping toothless hillbilly. I don’t know if Joan Shelley shares my romantic impression of her hometown (distance, even just a couple hours, is the most sure way to romanticize anything, to be sure)–but I can’t help but hear some of what I love about Louisville in her songs. Shelley herself contains similar contradictions–for all intents and purposes she writes fairly straight-forward folk songs, but wraps them up in ways that gently nudge them into dronier, more ambient territory, giving them room to breathe and a life beyond the ghettoized tenements of so much contemporary folk music. On this record, those layers are provided by several other Louisville natives–like the wonderful Daniel Martin Moore, who produced–Nathan Salsburg, who contributed his unparalleled guitar work–and Will Oldham, whose voice flits in and out of the edges of these elegiac ditties. Even with these talented collaborators, the record still feels uncommonly intimate, like every sound is just there to provide context for Shelley’s bell-clear voice–a voice that stands out like a bright bold thread in the lush tapestry around it. That thread winds through an unbelievable first half, from “Brighter Than The Blues” through “Easy Now”–some of the downright most beautiful songs I’ve heard all year–and into a mistier second half, illustrated by the short, daydream-like “Lure and Line” and “My Only Trouble.” All together, Over And Even sounds ancient, like it’s always existed–or perhaps more accurately, like it’s never fully existed, except maybe in the twilight between the trees of a Kentucky river bank. Or okay, I might just be romanticizing again. -Chris

mp3: Joan Shelley – Easy Now

 

 

jose gonzalezVestiges and Claws

by José González

[Mute Records]

Like a lot of people, I first heard José González in 2005 when his extraordinary cover of The Knife’s “Heartbeats” hit the US (specifically in this rather gorgeous commercial). Since then, I’ve stayed a casual fan of Gonzalez’s, but over the years I’ve noticed that most of my favorite Gonzalez tracks tend to be his takes on other people’s songs – Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” Nick Drake’s “Cello Song,” Arthur Russell’s “This Is How We Walk On The Moon”–while the rest of his oeuvre just sort of languished in my “like/don’t love” category. All that changed last winter when I picked up Vestiges and Claws— which is, in my mind, the absolute most stunning thing González has ever done. Like all his records, it’s hypnotic and enchanting–with his motorik guitar work providing the skeleton upon which the meat of the songs are hung. What’s different here, at least to my ear, is that his distinctively percussive guitar playing seems to be purely in service to these well-crafted songs, and not the other way around (I think this is how you could generally describe his cover songs – which is probably why I love them so much). The songs themselves are breathtaking–they sound lush and full, friendlier and less jagged than most of González’s past work. Songs like “Let It Carry You” and “Leaf Off/The Cave” are stunning in their simplicity and grace, only to reveal their complexities over time. Other songs, like “Every Age” or closing track “Open Book,” are the closest González has ever hewn to traditional songwriting, simple and straightforward in both sentiment and execution, and they’re better for it. This record soundtracked most of last winter for me, and has stayed a constant companion all year. -Chris

mp3: José González – Let It Carry You

 

 

josh ritterSermon On The Rocks

by Josh Ritter

[Pytheas Recordings]

It’s really no secret how much I love Josh Ritter–the man is responsible for some of my most sacred musical experiences, both live and recorded. But even with that history, Sermon On The Rocks initially left me a bit cold. “Getting Ready To Get Down” was the first time one of Josh’s lead singles didn’t completely bowl me over (for reference, that list includes “Joy To You Baby,” “Change of Time,” “The Temptation of Adam,” and “Wolves”–all unimpeachable masterpieces in my mind), and even though I’ve since come around to love “Get Down,” I originally approached Sermon On The Rocks with some trepidation. And being totally honest, it still didn’t win me over my first few times through. It had its high points: “Where The Night Goes” is some first-rate Boss-worship, “Henrietta, Indiana” is another notch on the belt of one of our generation’s best folk-song storytellers, and “Homecoming” is completely and ethereally incredible. But the piece as a whole didn’t quite win me over. That is, until I realized how much my ten-month-old (at the time) loved it. And I mean, LOVED IT. He still does. Every time I turn this record on, when those first few organ punches on “Birds of the Meadow” hit,  he immediately grabs whatever’s closest and sturdiest, because he needs some serious support when he’s rocking out (his go-to dance is a good-ol-fashioned headbang while holding onto something, anything, sturdy enough to support his little 24 lbs of dancing fury). It didn’t take long for me to realize that the more I played this record, the more I got to hang out with this tiny head-banging version of my son–and  you know what, after about 50 times through it, this Sermon has me converted. -Chris

mp3: Josh Ritter – Homecoming

 

 

LOW_OnesSixes_coverOnes and Sixes

by Low

[Sub Pop]

I loved Low’s 2013 album, The Invisible Way. That record was maybe one of the “warmest” they’d ever made–recorded with Jeff Tweedy at the Wilco loft, it sounded lived in and comfortable, like warm autumn light falling in from a window. I bring it up because Ones And Sixes does not sound like that. It is not warm and it certainly does not sound comfortable. If The Invisible Way was fall–painted in shades of orange and yellow–then Ones And Sixes is winter–icy, barren, bleak. Everything about this record is wintry, right down to the album sleeve. The drums are ultra-compressed, the keyboards sound like they’re coming up from under a frozen lake, and the abundant reverb gives everything a glassy, reflective sheen. All this makes a pretty stark canvas to paint on, but if there’s anything a group from Duluth, Minnesota, know how to do, it’s how to make something this cold and barren beautiful–and my gosh, are these songs beautiful. Aside from the indelible melodies and celestial harmonies you expect from Sparhawk and Parker, the beauty in these songs comes from their little details, like tiny prisms in the ice–like when everything drops out at the end of “Spanish Translation,” leaving just piano and the ghost of Parker’s voice hanging in the air, or when the palm-muted guitar rises up from the sludge in “Innocents” and slowly unravels into something vast and gorgeous, or the oscillating effect that spins the tightly-wound “Kid In A Corner” off its axis and out into space. The album climaxes in the nearly ten-minute-long “Landslide”, when what starts out as a cacophonous rage of guitar and feedback crumbles into a sublime Parker melody that continues for minutes on end–it feels like breaking through some sort of storm and coming out upon a beautiful frozen vista–cold and ominous, a little intimidating, but breathtaking all at the same time–kind of like this whole record. -Chris

mp3: Low – Spanish Translation

 

 

the mountain goatsBeat The Champ

by The Mountain Goats

[Merge]

I spent a summer in northern Wyoming with my cousins when I was about 14 or 15 years old. Wyoming is a great place for a boy that age because, as far as I could tell, there are no laws in that state. I grew to love fireworks and distrust firearms that summer but most of all, I watched wrestling. This was at the height of wrestling’s popularity when the WCW and WWF went head to head every Monday night. Not in the ring, but in ratings. This ratings war was brutal and surprisingly, very real. Stars bounced between the two organizations for bigger and bigger paychecks, spoilers on the results of WWF’s matches (taped a few hours ahead of their airing) were broadcast live by the WCW, and wrestlers from WCW/WWF got into actual fights. Because of this highly competitive environment both companies had to constantly shock and surprise the audience and I ate it all up. I had my favorites and I hated their nemeses. I recreated the best wrestling moves and takedowns on my cousins and I had a vivid nightmare of The Undertaker locking me in a coffin. So with this background you can understand my excitement upon hearing that The Mountain Goat’s next album would be based around John Darnielle’s childhood love of pro wrestling. I find myself getting caught up in the drama of the album as though I were watching those old matches between Diamond Dallas Page and Eddie Guerrero (brother to Chavo Guerrero who is featured in his own song on Beat the Champ). Behind the ringside drama of “Foreign Object”, “Animal Mask” and “Choked Out” (which are fantastic!) are the reminders that pro wrestlers are killing themselves in order to entertain, literally. Murders and accidents occur (“Stabbed to Death Outside San Juan”) but more often than not, pro wrestlers die young from the tremendous toll they inflict on their bodies. It turns out jumping off of a ladder and crashing onto a table 5 nights a week can have some lasting effects.  So although I put aside pro wrestling ages ago and in no way does this album elicit any sort of renewed desire to get back into the… sport, I get swept away each time I hear it. -Logan

mp3: The Mountain Goats – The Ballad of Bull Ramos

 

 

nathaniel russellSunlight

by Nathaniel Russell

[Warm Ratio]

As a resident of Indianapolis for almost seven (!) years now, I feel I have a responsibility to stump for all things Nathaniel Russell. I was a late-comer to his work as Birds Of America–but now it’s been a few years since he’s done anything under that moniker (if you, like me until recently, haven’t heard any BOA yet–do yourself a favor and give a listen to Current Carry or What Was Birds: 2000-2011they’re both quiet treasures). As far as I know, Sunlight is the first (musical) project Russell’s put his name on in several years–and it’s a good one. A reflection on fatherhood and aging, it’s slow and contemplative and bathed in ambient tape-hiss throughout–imbuing these gorgeous melodies with a sense of candidness–as if they weren’t so much recorded as captured, plucked straight from the air, like fireflies in a jar. They feel precious. A friend of mine described the record as “responsibly melancholy,” and while it made me laugh at the time, I’ve come to think that’s a rather perfect description. In fact, you could probably classify a lot of my favorite music that way–and I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. We could all stand to be responsibly melancholy every now and then. -Chris

mp3: Nathaniel Russell – Lay Low Like The Iceberg

 

 

olafur arnalds and nils frahmCollaborative Works

by Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm

[Erased Tapes]

It’s hard for me to express what I love so much about Nils Frahm. At first blush it’s easy to slot the pianist/composer’s work as ambient, and I often listen to him that way–but there’s so much more to engage with in his work that sometimes it feels silly to treat it like background music. It’s curious and thoughtful, inventive and sometimes even funny, as he takes a melody or chord, then stretches and kneads it in strange directions until it becomes something else entirely. He’s known for his dramatic live improvisations, but I’m most impressed with how his composed work already sounds so improvised, so natural. I also love Ólafur Arnalds, who’s responsible for some truly gorgeous music of his own, though his tends to sound more deliberate and cinematic. Frahm and Arnalds are labelmates and good friends, and after releasing some 7-inches and EPs together over the last couple years, this fall they decided to finally release it all together as the 2-disc Collaborative Works. The pieces on disc one range from droney synth experiments to piano duets and are, almost without exception, completely beautiful. But the real treat here is the second disc, which contains the soundtrack to Trance Frendz, a film chronicling their all-night jam session last July at Frahm’s Berlin studio. What was originally supposed to be a quick film for fans soon became something else entirely–in their words, “…instead of ending the session after the first take we continued to improvise throughout the night, ending up with several new pieces written and recorded in 8 hours with no overdubs and no edits.” I sincerely believe music is a sort of magic we’ve somehow been blessed to wield, and to hear two wizards conjure something so beautiful together in real time is a treasure. Collaborative Works may not be a true album per se, but it’s still one of my absolute favorite recordings of this or, frankly, any year. -Chris

mp3: Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm – Life Story

 

 

Kindred

Kindred

by Passion Pit

[Columbia]

For those of you keeping track, Passion Pit and Sufjan Stevens are the only artists on my personal year-end favorite’s list that have previously appeared. I know this probably doesn’t mean much to you, but it’s actually quite meaningful to me. Each year, I start an entry about how I’m afraid I’m not picking my favorite albums of the year but rather the albums released this year by my favorite artists (Portugal. The Man always seem to be the artist I connect this to). A lot of my favorite artists released an album in one way or another this year, and for whatever reason, they didn’t make the cut–Josh Ritter, Foals, The National’s Matt Berninger (as EL VY). I will never say I’m hip or current but at least I’m still finding new music to fall in love with and that will join the pantheon of performers I adore. But then there’s Passion Pit. I can’t escape it. Sonically, Kindred isn’t that big of a departure from Gossamer (Passion Pit’s 2012 release), and that isn’t a bad thing, but I think what really draws me to this record is the sense that Michael Angelakos, who is Passion Pit, is happier and stronger. Manners and Gossamer are beautiful records, and if you only superficially listened to those albums you might be shocked to discover that underneath that sugary pop perfection, were some dark lyrics that gave us a real glimpse into the artist’s personal pains and struggles. Kindred allows us to see that Angelakos is finding strength, support, and security. In my mind, it’s somewhat of a callback to Roky Erickson’s True Love Cast Out All Evil–he album itself is beautiful but with an understanding of where the artist was and, because of this record, where they are now, it is heavier and more meaningful. -Logan

mp3: Passion Pit – Until We Can’t (Let’s Go)

 

 

ryan adams1989

by Ryan Adams

[Pax Am]

I am so incredibly happy to live in a world where this mad Willy Wonka version of Ryan Adams exists–a version of Ryan Adams who, after all these years, has finally established an enclave in the neon haze of Los Angeles where he and some like-minded compatriots can churn out whatever the heck they want, whenever the heck they want, in between playing pinball and posting Star Wars memes, of course. It’s only this version of Adams that, in the wake of his recent divorce, would re-work every song on Taylor Swift’s blockbuster 1989 in an act of genuine catharsis, share bits of it on Instagram, and then, allegedly because of Swift’s positive response, decide to release it as a full-fledged follow up to last years’ self-titled record. Honestly, Adams has always been a strange, prolific auteur (see his laundry list of “lost albums”)–but I love the fact that he’s in a place where he can just own it, without concern for genre tags like “alt-country” or marketing BS like “a return to Heartbreaker.” My hunch is, you already know if this is for you or not–but listen: not only is this a beautiful collection of music, it’s a beautiful testament to the weird and frankly wonderful pop music landscape of the 21st century. And with all due respect to Ms. Swift’s original record (which I loved), the fact that Adams elevated “Welcome To New York” from a pandering cringe-fest to a legitimate jam deserves some kind of mention. -Chris

mp3: Ryan Adams – Welcome To New York

 

 

sufjan stevensCarrie & Lowell

by Sufjan Stevens

[Asthmatic Kitty]

I’m not going to attempt to write much about Carrie & Lowell, except to say that it might be an actual big-M Masterpiece. That word gets thrown around with lots of Sufjan’s work, and for good reason–he works on a scale and with a talent that warrants that kind of hyperbole. But with Carrie & Lowell, he’s done something completely different. Borne out of the grief and confusion after losing his estranged mother to cancer, it’s a stark reflection on death and love and family and faith, and it feels messy and open-ended, raw and without precedent. It’s naked and spartan in a way that belies the complexity of expressing this kind of personal anguish–and I honestly don’t know how you do that, not on this level, not in a way that feels this universal, not without sacrificing what makes it ache in the middle of your chest. The truth is, only Sufjan Stevens, with his talent and experience to this point, could make something this perfect, this perfectly imperfect. -Chris

mp3: Sufjan Stevens – Blue Bucket Of Gold

 

 

waxahatcheeIvy Tripp

by Waxahatchee

[Wichita Recordings]

Last February I was in Chicago for a few days–my wife and I and our infant son stayed in an Airbnb in Lincoln Park and I took the ‘L’ downtown for classes. It was freezing and there was snow in mounds as bundled up strangers huddled on curbs and train platforms. Waxahatchee’s Ivy Tripp had recently leaked, and I listened to it incessantly on my iPod as I walked around the city (that’s right! I still have an iPod! How very 2006 right?).  I fell in love with this record quickly over those few days–as far as I’m concerned, it was the perfect way to experience Katie Crutchfield’s odes to communal loneliness–in the crisp and vibrant Chicago midwinter, surrounded by perfect strangers. I’ve listened to Ivy Tripp a lot in the intervening months–and every time I do, the impression it left on that weekend comes drifting back, kind of like a silhouette on the back of your eyelids–the organ drones of opener “Breathless” forever assuming the wispy shape of exhaled breath on a cold ‘L’ train platform in February. -Chris

mp3: Waxahatchee – Breathless

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

There’s that old adage: if a tree falls on the internet and no one’s around to hear it, will anyone read its year-end list? Well, let’s find out! Even though we haven’t written a single post all year, rest assured that we’ve been listening to all kinds of great music, and some of it was even released this very year! And even though we’re a bit rusty, we’ve got some records we want you to know about.

This list is shorter than in years past, but we also feel stronger about each individual record than we have on any previous list, making it that much more fun to compile this thing. Also, this is the first time in 5 years that we both had the exact same record at #1 – so that’s pretty neat.

As always, we don’t pretend to be some great arbiters of fine musical taste. We don’t proclaim that these are the absolute best records released all year. These are just the records we absolutely loved the most. They’re the ones we kept coming back to, the ones that really moved us. They’re the ones we’ll remember when we look back on the last year of human civilization.

 

13. My Head Is An Animal

by Of Monsters And Men

[Universal Republic]

Sometimes it’s enough to just say that I like an album. The ‘why’ hasn’t been very important to me this year. Who’s to say what I find so enjoyable about My Head is an Animal? Male and female lead vocals? The la-la-las of “From Finner”? The hey-heys of “From Finner”? Just the simple fact that they’re Icelandic? Probably all-of-the-above, but I’m not thinking about that. What has mattered to me this year is the staying power of the songs and Of Monsters and Men has been my companion through countless hours of work, driving, cleaning the bathroom, lying aimlessly on the couch, etc. etc. -Logan

mp3: Of Monsters And Men – From Finner

12. The Only Place

by Best Coast

[Mexican Summer]

The Only Place takes all the things I enjoyed about BC’s debut, and improved on them just a bit – making an overall cleaner and crisper record. Not too clean or crisp, mind. That would ruin her… but it’s just enough to make this one a little less niche, while keeping all the hooks and humor that reeled me in to begin with. Per the (adorable) album art, she spends a fair amount of time lauding the Golden State – and being a California ex-patriot myself, I’m pretty much doomed to love her stuff no matter what (most of her rhapsodizing about her home state lines up so seamlessly with my own high-school nostalgia, right down to her covering Blink-182’s “Dammit” in concert – I mean, you can’t get any closer to my 1998 SoCal self than that song). And while the record is ostensibly a love letter to the Golden State, it comes wrapped in the kind of wide-eyed and sincere love of place that can be applied to anywhere you happen to call home, wherever it might be. –Chris

mp3: Best Coast – The Only Place

11. America

by Dan Deacon

[Domino]

Back in August Dan Deacon guest DJ’d on NPR’s All Songs Considered, and I’ll be honest: after listening to that show I was going to love America no matter what it sounded like. The guy is just so infinitely likeable, and for someone who graduated in ‘Electro-acoustic and Computer Music Composition’, he’s remarkably earnest, and refreshingly UN-pretentious. Deacon makes artsy electronic music but with a populace appeal – it’s complex and dense and referential, but it’s also insanely danceable and sometimes arrestingly beautiful (for proof watch THIS). By Deacon’s own admission, America is meant to be listened to in the LP format, with two distinct sides: Side-A contains the kind of noisy/cathartic electro-jams that are Deacon’s bread and butter, while Side B unfolds into a 20-minute symphonic suite employing electronic tools alongside a full orchestras-worth of wood, wind ‘n brass to bring to life Deacon’s expansive panorama of the American landscape. It’s evocative and gorgeous and challenging and it puts Dan Deacon solidly on the short list of artists who are meaningfully fuzzing the line between electronic pop-music and fine art. -Chris

mp3: Dan Deacon – True Thrush

10. Babel

by Mumford & Sons

[Glass Note]

Continuing my list of albums that you can purchase at Target is Mumford & Sons’ Babel. If I had to sum up my love of this album it would be in two hyphenated words: scream-sing. 2012 has been the year of the scream-sing for me. (Need proof? You’ll see those conjoined words again in just a few posts!) My favorite tracks from Babel are also the tracks that, when you sing along, you find the veins in your neck popping out: “Hopeless Wanderer”, “Below My Feet”, and the unbeatable “Ghosts That We Knew.” -Logan

mp3: Mumford & Sons – Hopeless Wanderer

9. Be The Void

by Dr. Dog

[ANTI-]

Right from the foot-stomping sing-a-long of the opening track, it’s clear that on Be The Void, Dr. Dog’s moved back to a more homespun sound than their last few albums, and the result is their most garage-sounding record ever. Be The Void sounds like a bunch of friends who love bands like Pavement and Three Dog Night equally, who got together for a weekend and banged out 11 of the absolute funnest songs they could come up with. These songs have that breathless live quality that make you want to sing loud and hard right along with them, especially on tracks like “Lonesome”, “Heavy Light”, and “Get Away”. I’ve said over and over if I could be in any rock band, it would be Dr. Dog. These guys just make the kind of music that makes the music-maker happy! Say that ten times fast. Then go listen to Be The Void. -Chris

mp3: Dr. Dog – Lonesome

8. There’s No Leaving Now

by The Tallest Man On Earth

[Dead Oceans]

Kristian Matsson’s latest record as The Tallest Man On Earth is my September record – it’s warm and cozy and it’s my relief from the long, hot summer. It sounds like autumn, with its clear, colorful days and crisp, cozy nights. It makes me think of riding bikes on leaf-littered trails and sitting out on high-school bleachers in sweatshirts. It’s not quite as wild and blustery as October yet, or as somber as November will be, but it’s also not without its own kind of tension – Matsson’s reedy voice has always had an inherent drama built into it, like the first harbinger that things are winding down, that this is the beginning of the end. The songs are gorgeous and flighty, and filled with the kind of evocative turns of phrase that made me first fall in love with this man. This is my September record, but I’ll be listening to it all year. -Chris

mp3: The Tallest Man On Earth – Revelation Blues

7. Gossamer

by Passion Pit

[Columbia]

Gossamer is just the most fun you will have listening to an album… until you actually start paying attention to the lyrics. That moment hit me sometime during my umpteenth time listening to “Constant Conversations”. That song is DEVASTATING! However, you know how I love a devastating song (See: The Antlers; entire discography of…). That said, some moments made me laugh. The reference in “Carried Away” to all of the subject’s money being in copper, I don’t think we’re dealing with a commodity trader, we’re dealing with a poor sad-sack graduate student who had to use pennies to buy a can of refried beans. (I may be filling in some of the specifics from personal experience.) -Logan

mp3: Passion Pit – Carried Away

6. Transcendental Youth

by The Mountain Goats

[Merge]

John Darnielle has few peers in the world of music-making – in terms of both talent and sheer volume (that’s volume as in quantity of work, not necessarily decibels) – he is in a league all his own. He explores characters and place with a thoroughness and compassion usually reserved for the world of literature, but then somehow packages them into little 3-4 minute songs with desperately strummed guitar chords and heart-swelling choruses that demand to be listened to over and over again. In Transcendental Youth Darnielle returns to the world he inhabited in 2004’s We Shall All Be Healed, this time populated by a semi-fictionalized cast of characters all tied together by their various struggles with mental illness – and through his empathetic exploration of their demons he proceeds to exorcise some of our own. Woven through the record is Matthew E. White’s gorgeous horn arrangements, acting as the perfect counterpoint to Darnielle’s raggedy voice, possibly providing the transcendence referred to in the record’s title for the fallen youth of these songs. I can’t adequately express how much I’ve loved this record this year – “Cry For Judas” is as triumphant as anything Darnielle’s ever produced, “White Cedar” may be the most beautiful Mountain Goats song ever, etc. etc. – the only thing I can do is tell you to go listen to it – over and over and over until you feel the same way I do. That is, that John Darnielle is a national treasure. -Chris

mp3: The Mountain Goats – Cry for Judas

5. From The Top of Willamette Mountain

by Joshua James

[Intelligent Noise]

What would WiAC be without our usual fanboy enthusiasm for Joshua James? Well guys he’s back and better than ever. It almost seems unfair. The velvety smooth “Ghost in the Town” and “Sister” which just demands you clench your fists and scream-sing along with Joshua… it doesn’t seem fair to so many other musicians. Sorry guys, you want to write a thematic album that explores a man’s sincere search for spirituality? You can’t, it’s already been done. (Go ahead, count the ‘hallelujahs’ in From the Top… only the best can pull that off without me feeling like I’ve strayed uncomfortably into contemporary Christian music.) In the track “Willamette Mountain” Joshua sings, “I got a million more stories.” Let’s hope so. -Logan

mp3: Joshua James – Mystic

4. Tramp

by Sharon Van Etten

[Jagjaguwar]

This record has absolutely ruled my world all year. Since February it’s been on near constant rotation at our house, and its relatively low position on this list is simply a testament to how much great music we’ve listened to this year. Tramp profoundly delivers on the promise of Van Etten’s 2010 album, Epic, helped in no small part by Bryce Dessner’s brilliant production – expertly fleshing out the songs while never distracting from their real treasure: Van Etten’s way with words. The word “poet” is thrown around way too often when discussing songwriters, but in this case I can’t think of a better descriptor –her economy of word is breathtaking, somehow packing so much into so little, like the couplet from “Give Out” – “You’re the reason why I’ll move to the city / or why I’ll need to leave”. Tramp is full of moments like that: simple, straight-forward gut-checks that are at once profoundly personal, while also heartbreakingly relatable. -Chris

mp3: Sharon Van Etten – Give Out

3. I Know What Love Isn’t

by Jens Lekman

[Secretly Canadian]

“You don’t get over a broken heart / you just learn to carry it gracefully” sings Jens on “The World Moves On”, and in that simple phrase, Jens sums up the whole gist of this, his third album. It’s the break-up album that only Jens Lekman could have written – sad and beautiful and poignant, delivered with his wry sense of humor and acute self-awareness – never willing to give in to its own sadness or self-pity. It’s the kind of break-up album that acknowledges and affirms the heartbreak but is far more interested in trying to teach that heart how to “carry it gracefully”. In the song that bookends the record Jens searches for what that means in practical terms: “I started working out when we broke up / I can do one hundred push-ups / I could probably do two if I was bored” before he admits that “every little hair (still) knows your name”. But talking only about Jens’ lyrics is missing the whole point – because what makes Jens Lekman Jens Lekman is his ability to take sad songs and make them into something so ridiculous and beautiful that you can’t help but smile. In the past he’s done this masterfully for single songs at a time – probably the best example being “The Opposite of Hallelujah” from 2007’s Night Falls Over Kortedala, where Jens turns a conversation about debilitating depression into a heaven-reaching sing-a-long disco-anthem. Now take that and spread it over an entire album’s worth of heartbreak, and you’ll begin to understand how amazing this record is, and what it means to Jens Lekman to “carry it gracefully.” -Chris

mp3: Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn’t

2. 151a

by Kishi Bashi

[Joyful Noise]

I’ve been a Kishi Bashi missionary for the better part of the year now. As much as (SPOILER ALERT) Japandroids deserve the top spot, and for me it was perhaps the clearest choice for number one ever, Kishi Bashi was my go-to when someone asked about new music.  Share, share, share. “Manchester” this and “I Am the Antichrist to You” that. I never stopped talking about him (‘Him’ being Kaoru Ishibashi, aka Kishi Bashi). Did I feel betrayed when I heard “Bright Whites” on a commercial? Did I bemoan yet another gem of an artist having their beautiful work reduced to a ten second sound bite to sell HP printers? Heck no, just thrilled that perhaps Kishi Bashi is reaching more and more hearts.  So here I am again, sharing the most beautiful music of the year from a platform that reaches literally tens of people. -Logan

mp3: Kishi Bashi – Manchester

1. Celebration Rock

by Japandroids

[Polyvinyl]

Celebration Rock is an unbearably nostalgic record. Each track has a story and each story feels like it contains splinters of my own life. To explain, listening to “Younger Us” I had one story continually pop into my mind: It was 1 AM and it had been snowing all evening. I opened my sleeping roommate’s door and said, “Klompers, we’re all going sledding. Wanna come?” He sat up and still half-asleep said, “Let me get my coat and boots. I can dress in the car.” Hell ya Klompers, hell ya. Every track brings something back for me. They range from breakups to car rides to past introspective solitary moments (“Continuous Thunder”, “For the Love of Ivy”, and “Evil’s Sway” respectively) but each song resonates with me on a very individual level. I was reluctant to do this write up for that reason. My love of this album is very personal and I don’t think anything I’ve said translates to any of you. However, if you’re anything like me, you read the first sentence and the last sentence of these write ups and move on, so here goes. Hell ya Japandroids, hell ya. -Logan

mp3: Japandroids – Continuous Thunder

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m kind of ridiculously anxious for The Mountain Goats forth-coming record, All Eternals Deck (out March 29th on Merge Records).  I’m not the biggest MG’s fan in the world (it’d be a full-time job to be a fanboy for someone this prolific), but every few years one of John Darnielle’s records just hits exactly the right chord for me – The Sunset Tree did it in 2005, and Heretic Pride did it again in 2008. Those records were just exactly what I needed right then and I played them pretty much into the ground. Well I’m feeling the stars align once again, and I’m ready for another Mountain Goat fix. Just hook’em right into my veins, thank you very much.

Besides it having been a long winter, I’m not sure what exactly spurred my yearning for Darnielle’s brand of confessional jagged-edge poetry set to music, but it certainly hasn’t hurt that the first taste from the record is the excellent “Damn These Vampires” – it’s just vintage Mountain Goats, and I’ve been playing it a lot lately. March 29th can’t come soon enough. (Also, this is kind of awesome.)

mp3: The Mountain Goats – Damn These Vampires
from the album All Eternals Deck (pre-order it here)

Tags:

Last week (AKA: The Best Week Ever!), Kristin and I got ourselves a new little kitten, and per Logan’s suggestion, I’ve put together a short playlist to celebrate.

It’s made up of a songs about cats, some explicitly, and others not so much. Like the Mountain Goats song, for example, is pretty impressionistic in its suggestion of a feline, with lines like “in your arms, I am a wild creature” and “white carpet thick with pet hair”; while both The Weakerthans tracks actually follow the heartbreaking story of Virtute the cat, one of the single saddest tales ever told in song. Jason Collett’s “Little Tiger” is pretty specific for our little runt (see picture above), while Karen O’s song from Where the Wild Things Are is pretty universal in its evocation of kittens playing. And I couldn’t not include a Best Coast song (duh), much less the one with the infamous line, “I wish my cat could talk.” The other songs are just great and happen to have “cat” or “tiger” in the title. Enjoy!

mp3: The Head And The Heart – Cats and Dogs

mp3: The Weakerthans – Plea From A Cat Named Virtute

mp3: Jason Collett – Little Tiger

mp3: Rogue Wave – Catform

mp3: Karen O and the Kids – Rumpus

mp3: ARMS – Tiger Tamer

mp3: Best Coast – Goodbye

mp3: The Cure – The Lovecats

mp3: The Mountain Goats – Broom People

mp3: The Weakerthans – Virtute The Cat Explains Her Departure

[BONUS] And since we’re about 99.99% sure we’re naming the little guy “Elliot”, here’s a bonus track of Elliott Smith covering a Cat Stevens song:

mp3: Elliott Smith – Trouble (Cat Stevens cover)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

First things first: we posted our Top 21 Albums of 2010 on Monday, but apparently it hasn’t shown up in some Readers -  so if you haven’t seen that yet, go ahead and do it now!

Second things second: Whale in a Cubicle is now SHUFFLABLE! That’s right. You might remember that we’re fans of shuffler.fm, well now we’re linked up so you can listen to WiAC’s own blog-station via shuffler.fm. To get there, just scroll down this page and click on the link below in the left sidebar:

Banner_black

And third things thirdly: recently, John Darnielle (of The Mountain Goats) reached 5,000 followers on Twitter (whatever that is), and to celebrate he released a new song which will not be on his forth-coming album, All Eternals Deck. It’s great! Enjoy!

mp3: The Mountain Goats – Tyler Lambert’s Grave
from the album Twitter Reward Bonus!

Tags:

mountaingoats

This is one of those pages you somehow stumble across and can’t for  the life of you remember the myriad of links you clicked to discover it. (Like how you start reading on Wikipedia about Reaganomics and end up on a page about notable bow tie wearers.)

However I found it, I’m glad I did cause I needed a laugh.

The Mountain Goats Will Cure Your Bieber Fever

mp3: The Mountain Goats – No Children
from the album Tallahassee (buy it here)

Tags: ,

SONG: San Bernardino

san_bernardino

I’ve only now just returned to San Bernardino from a month long winter break. Hopefully this means more frequent postings.

Although I was reluctant to leave my home in Utah (with all the comforts a loving mother can give) and start a new and more difficult semester, being greeted by 75 degree weather smoothed my transition considerably.

San Bernardino and the Inland Empire are some of the most unjustly maligned areas of California. I’ll agree with arguments that there are better places (Chris’ parent’s house in RSM being up there) but things could be worse. Drive through Baker or Perris if you don’t believe me.

I like San Bernardino. And so should you, if for no other reason than inspiring two fantastic songs.

mp3: The Mountain Goats – San Bernardino
from the album Heretic Pride (Amazon/iTunes)

mp3: Eagles of Death Metal – San Berdoo Sunburn
from the album Peace Love Death Metal (Amazon/iTunes)

Tags: ,

2009 Top 25Well it’s that time again. It’s been a good year in music for sure – so much so that we’ve bumped our list up to 25 albums this time around, and even then we were having to painfully cut out some clearly great records.

Remember, this list represents our favorite albums of the year, not necessarily the best albums of the year. If we had to pick what we thought were the very best albums critically, this would probably be a very different list. But we’re no critics, so that’s not what we’re going to do. These are simply our very favorite albums of the year – the ones that made us laugh, cry, dance, smile, press repeat, wet our pants, etc. This is what we’ll remember when we look back on 2009.

Here we go:

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monthly Mixtape_0009_OCTOBER

So it’s a couple weeks late, and it covers some stuff we’ve been listening to over the last 3-4 months. But we’re still counting it for October, and I’m sure you’ll still like it! I swear!

mp3: Dirty Projectors – Cannibal Resource

mp3: Le Loup – Grow

mp3: The xx – vcr

mp3: The Swell Season – In These Arms

mp3: The Blow – Parentheses

mp3: Neon Indian – Psychic Chasms

mp3: The Mountain Goats – Genesis 3:23

mp3: DM Stith – Thanksgiving Moon

Tags: , , , , , , ,