Sunday, December 28, 2008

Favorite Albums of 2008

Well 2008 is just about over and there was a lot of great music that was released this year. I only wish that I had more time (and money ha) to give more releases a listen but these are my favorite albums that were released this year out of the stuff I've heard.

17. Times New Viking - Rip It Off/Stay Awake EP


This trio plays loud. Really loud. Whenever this comes on in shuffle I immediately have to turn the volume down a bit. That isn't to say that they play a heavy type of music, more like an abrasive pop. The melodies are buried underneath the overly-distorted guitar, cymbal-splashing drums, and rad keyboard/organ riffs. Girl/boy shouting vocals also attribute to the catchy noiseyness that their sound retains. Rip It Off also contains one of my favorite lyrics of the year: "I need more money because I need more drugs"



16. White Denim - Exposion


One of my new favorite bands from Austin, TX, this threesome has the heart of pure "I don't give a fuck" rock and roll. Their songs are soulful and majestically crafted with intricate guitar melodies interweaving along punchy bass lines and intense rhythmical drumming. The mix is also crisp and clear allowing for each instrument to skillfully shine. Bonus points for using Top Spin to distribute their album.


15. M83 - Saturdays = Youth


I have a soft spot for the cheesiness of the 80's. French group M83, known for their electronic-heavy synth-layered epic compositions, try to focus on taking us back to those days (we'll I was born in 89' so I don't remember shit) and they succeed more than ever. "Kim and Jessie" is one of the best songs of 2008 and I imagine if it was released in the time period that was intended, people would have gone nuts.


14. Ratatat - LP3


On Ratatat's third album they decide to hold off a bit on making dance party anthems and try to reinvent themselves. The elements of Ratatat are still here, crunchy electric guitar riffs, lush synth pads, melodies that jump in and out, but they add a bit of new ideas, particularly some influence from world/tribal music. The result is a soundtrack to companion you on your journey through the futuristic sonic landscapes of the Western world. You can tell Ratatat spent a lot more time with production on this album than previous efforts and it definitely pays off.


13. Beach House - Devotion


Devotion follows the same enchanting, dream pop of their debut but feels much more focused and confident in its sound. The beauty lies in the simplicity of the duo's music. A combination of just organ and guitar smothered with reverb. Victoria Legrand's deep vocals emote like a blissful lullaby. This album provides a fuzzy warmth during those cold, winter nights.


12. Deerhoof - Offend Maggie


In the past couple of years, Deerhoof have been consistently shaping the experimental, raw sound from their early records into more accessible pop songs. With this came a more produced sound. On Offend Maggie the band shoots back to their roots with a more rough, low-key production while still retaining an optimal level of catchyness. The result is a jovial, ecletic mix of straight up hard rock and experimentation that aims to please both old and new fans. You really have to see this band live though to fully appreciate them.


11. King Tuff - Was Dead


1970's power-pop rock and roll. Sounds best when cruising down the highway at fast speeds.


10. Air France - No Way Down EP


I'm a big fan of The Avalanches - Since I Left You and since they haven't released another album since then I've been looking for something to come along and replace it. This Swedish group came out of nowhere with this album and it is spectacular. Sample-fused and hypnotically tropical sounding, No Way Down is infectiously playful in sound. It reminds me the thrill of being a child again.



9. Frightened Rabbit - Midnight Organ Fight


Frightened Rabbit is primarily the focus of songwriter Scott Hutchinson. His lyrics are sad but self-deprecating, adding a sense of humor to his pain. While the music is dark at times, it mostly wants to feel uplifted. Midnight Organ Fight showcases a disoriented sense of pop music soaked in a raw, emotional intensity that puts those so-called "emo" bands of today to shame.


8. Fleet Foxes - S/T & Sun Giant EP


What more really needs to be said about these guys? They're a group of talented musicians whom 4 of the 5 carry excellent voices. Both their debut and EP have top-notch pop songwriting laced with nature-inspired folk. Well worth the hype and quite the jokesters live.



7. Okkervil River - The Stand Ins


A sequel to last year's The Stage Names, The Stand Ins continues to prove that Will Sheff is one of the best songwriters out there right now. The way he spits out words seamlessly along each chord change as if he's going to run out of space. Not enough artists can pull it off like he does and nonetheless do it to great folk-rock with enough hooks to have the melody be stuck in your head for days.


6. Delta Spirit - Ode To Sunshine


The word passionate best sums up this album. Sure, it's one of the best straight up pop-rock and roll albums to come out in a while but the amount of energy and soul they put into it is what really makes the music shine.


5. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago


Recorded in an old log cabin out in the woods, For Emma, Forever Ago captures the feeling of isolation and devastation from the outside world. It's a record that is therapeutic in its lonely beauty. Frontman Justin Vernon needs to be rehabilitated and the only way is through singing these songs so he can let go of his past and move on. The swirl of ambiance from his backing band flesh out his fragile guitar and lovely falsetto voice that artist Lykke Li put it best, "kills me."


4. The Dutchess & The Duke - She's The Dutchess, He's The Duke


From the first moment I heard "Resevoir Park" I knew this would be a very special album. A resurrection of 1960's lo-fi American folk, The Dutchess and The Duke are Kimberly Morrison and Jesse Lortz. Broke and beaten from past bands they've been in that just didn't work out, the two come together to form a record that's brutally honest, painting both the ugly and beautiful sides of life.


3. Department of Eagles - In Ear Park


This album completely took me in with it's interesting instrumentation and haunting cathartic beauty. Obviously, Daniel Rosen carries a bit of Grizzly Bear's sound in this album yet In Ear Park feels far more personal and overall focused than any of GB's previous efforts. An album that takes a bit of patience but ultimately pays off.


2. Thomas Function - Celebration


I've already written about how much I love these guys and their album. If there's any band/album I encourage you to seek out then it is this one. To reiterate: Celebration combines the perfect mix of raw garage punk and catchy pop melodies. Their sound is all about having a good time. Singer/Guitarist Joshua Macero carries a voice that would lend itself greatly to drunken sing-alongs. Keyboardist Zack Jeffries provides soulful organ touches that blend in well with Travis Thompson's driving basslines. Their sound of course wouldn't be complete without music's finest instruments, the tambourine and shaker. They're the band that you wish were always playing the house party you're attending. There's no big message, simply to just have fun. Life is short.


1. The Dodos - Visiter


Upon first listens of this album I really didn't think too much of it. Everything sounded fine but it didn't leave any impression on me. Well during the summer I left it in my car for about two months and grew to enjoy every aspect of this album. The non-traditional drumming, the frantic acoustic guitar strumming, singer Meric Long's impulsive shouts. The little bits of instrumentation that come in for just a little bit to tease you. It's all grand, perfectly put together songs that work so well in an album context. Long's lyrics are also quite effective in the way they say a lot in such a simple way. Many artists try to doll up their lyrics in order to sound sophisticated, poetic, un-cliche but too often the result comes across as pretentious and uninspired. Long reassures us that less is most definitely more.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hopping aboard the Wavves train


Wavves is Nathan Williams, one bored dude from San Diego. I say bored because his self-titled sounds like it came from the frustrations of someone with nothing to do. He also has a song titled "So Bored." Anyways, the music is a mix of overly-distorted lo-fi garage rock with bits of experimental pop thrown in. His vocals usually carry some kind of effect on them to mesh in with the guitars but don't worry it's none of that Kanye auto-tune bullshit so crank it up.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Two of my favorite artists covering each other


Jagjaguwar recently released a 7" featuring Will Sheff of Okkervil River and Charles Bissell of The Wrens covering each others songs. For The Wrens fan this is new material to hold you over until they release a followup to the masterpiece The Meadowlands (Get this if you don't have it!)

Sheff does a stripped-down acoustic version of "Ex-Girl Collection" with his vocals up center in the mix, allowing for the magnificent lyrics to be heard loud and clear. Bissell tackles the pop of "It Ends With A Fall," but goes in the opposite direction, building the melodies through dense layers of ambient guitar delay and soft-whispering vocals. This is a must for any big fan of both of these bands.

Couldn't find any of these online so here's the originals. Use your imagination:




[Buy Will Sheff/Charles Bissell 7"]

Friday, December 19, 2008

Phaseone


Through GvsB, I've been learning about a beatmaker from St. Louis named Phaseone. He's done some excellent remixes of beloved indie songs such as Panda Bear's I'm Not, Burial's Archangel, and recently Grouper's Heavywater/I'd Rather Be Sleeping. We'll after hearing the Grouper track I looked up his Myspace and found that he's released a free album of 48 sampled-based chilled out instrumental tracks titled Mad Weight. As his Myspace points out, he's a huge fan of J Dilla and there's no doubt that this album would make a great companion next to Donuts.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Free Music



For all of you punk/ska/hardcore lovers, today the crazy cool people at Community Records are offering a bunch of full albums to be downloaded legally for free. Check it out here and here's the official word:

DOWNLOAD DAY PART TWO

Thursday Dec. 18th

THE FLAMING TSUNAMIS - Fear Everything

STUCK LUCKY/ ARM THE POOR - We Never Sleep Split

TUSKER -Collection

MATT WIXSON - KEASBEY NIGHTS (best of matt collection)

THE MAD CONDUCTOR - Ejemplo (4 song collection)

THE GHOSTWOOD - Development (new orleans favorites)

SUPAFLIES - Rambarded (new orleans favorites)

Please tell everyone you know to come download more free music. These tunes will go up on 18th of December and from then on will be up for FREE DOWNLOAD from this site.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Miroir Noir: Arcade Fire Neon Bible Archives Doc

The video crew behind the excellent La Blogotheque, have released a film that documents Arcade Fire and their album Neon Bible. Though a bit too artsy at times, the film gives a good glimpse into the band recording the album, their tour, telephone marketing campaign, and other behind the scenes footage.

I'm not a huge fan of Neon Bible but watching the film there's no mistaking that you get the idea that the record does none of the justice of their live show. In fact, even moments where the band is stripped away and it's just Win and Regine playing the songs sound much more engaging than the record itself. It makes me wish that they would release an album of live acoustic sessions. Anyways, for those looking for a glimpse into the band the documentary comes highly recommended but don't expect a focused narrative. Like the title says it's archives of video taken before, during, and after the release of Neon Bible.

Trailer for Miroir Noir:



[Miroir Noir site]
[Arcade Fire site]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Attn Dallas: New Animal Collective Listening Party

Thanks to the fine people over at the Gorilla vs. Bear blog and Radio UTD for sponsoring a listening party on January 5th at The Cavern for Animal Collective's upcoming LP, Merriweather Post Pavilion. You can find more details over here. I really like this idea of early release listening parties. I mean I know it's not a new concept. I just don't see it happening enough.

Here's a list of other listening parties for the album, officially coming out January 6th on vinyl and January 20th on CD.

Anchorage, AK - Mammoth Music & KRUA Present*
Atlanta, GA - Criminal Records - Jan. 1st @ 4PM
Austin, TX - End Of And Ear Records & KVRX - Jan. 3 @ 4PM
Boston, MA - WZBC presents*
Chicago, IL - WHPK presents*
Cleveland, OH - Music Saves Present - Jan 3. @ 7PM
Dallas, TX - Gorilla Vs. Bear & Radio UTD Present - Jan. 5th @ The Cavern - 7PM
Eugene, OR - KWVA Presents*
Lawrence, KS - Love Garden Sounds & KJHK - Jan. 6th
Los Angeles, CA - Fingerprints Records & KXLU - Jan. 6th @ 7PM
Miami, FL - WRGP Presents*
Minneapolis, MN - Electric Fetus & KUOM Present*
New York, NY - Other Music Presents - Jan. 5th
Philadelphia, PA - WXPN & Repo Records Present*
Portland, OR - Music Millennium Presents - Jan. 3 @ 6PM
Raleigh, NC - WKNC & School Kids Presents - Midnight Jan. 5th @ Pour House Music Hall
Sacramento, CA - KSSU Presents - Jan. 6th 2PM @ Butch N Nellie's Coffee Companay
San Francisco, CA - Terrorbird, Amoeba & KALX Present @ The Knockout - Jan. 6th, 7-10pm**
Santa Cruz, CA - KZSC Presents*
Seattle, WA - Easy Street & KUPS Present*
St. Louis, MO - Vintage Vinyl & KDHX - Jan. 6th
Victoria, BC [Canada] - CFUV presents*

[Pre-order Merriweather Post Pavilion]
[AC Myspace]

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Soundtrack & Film Recommendation:


"I know how to do it now. There are nearly thirteen million people in the world. None of those people is an extra. They're all the leads of their own stories. They have to be given their due. "


Charlie Kaufman is one of my favorite screenwriters. He's constantly trying to create something original while maintaining an honest and insightful look at the human emotion. Synecdoche, NY, which is the first film he's both writer and director for, is Kaufman at his most abstract and at the same time ambitiously brilliant. In Adaptation, he wrote himself into the screenplay, illustrating his struggle to write a movie simply about flowers. If this seemed a bit meta then Synecdoche, NY is this times a hundred. The film is about playwright Caden Cotard, a lonely man with strange health problems who is masterfully played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, struggling to do something in his life so he decides to recreate a ginormous theater piece of New York. While doing this he's trying to maintain relationships with loved ones and at the same time implement their stories into his piece. This creates a conflict in Caden that is both heartbreaking and darkly humorous. The movie starts off normal and gets bizarre pretty fast. It's something that I find much more enjoyable if you don't try to make sense of everything because some things in it just aren't suppose to make sense. Such is life. They are just there.

By the time the credits roll there's a strange overwhelming feeling that I got. I didn't really know what to think or to say. Everyone in the theater sat in silence, trying to comprehend or make sense of it all. It's something that probably drove a lot of people angry, hating the film, but it gave me the feeling of something special. A masterpiece perhaps. Also, it seems to be one of those movies where in repeated viewings you find out more and more new things. I've seen it twice, but there still seems like a lot of little details that I've missed.

Anyways, the score of the movie was done by Jon Brion and the quality of it is no less than other past work he's done: Hard Eight, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, Aimee Man, Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, etc. Light piano and mesmerizing string arrangements. The soundtrack provides a great sense of pondering, self-exploration. It captures the essence of the film perfectly. The standout song of the film "Little Person", sung by a jazz vocalist Deanne Storey depicts the story of everyday people in life. How there are no extras, we are all just leads in our own story, trying to find a connection, whatever that may be.

[Synecdoche, NY Webpage]
[IMDB]

Saturday, December 13, 2008

On The Lookout: Caddywhompus


Caddywhompus is drummer Sean Hart and vocalist/guitarist Chris Rehm, two music industry students at Loyola University New Orleans that are originally from Houston, TX. Dubbing themselves as noise-pop, the band has an experimental sound with progressive rock time-changes galore. Their songs shift multiple genres and moods, but never come to the point of being excessive. "This Is Where We Blaze The Nuggz" has moments of soft ambiance, aggressive wall-of-sound guitar, dancey rhythm, and ends with lovely chanting vocals. Their influences seem to have a wide range as well. Short and sweet "Absinthesizer" is a pop gem with guitar-work that is reminiscent of the indie-rock group Deerhoof. "Untitled #7408" begins with a smooth, steady-uprising beat equivalent to New Order - Ceremony that transcends into a climatic post-rock ending. Think Explosions In The Sky without the overly-long buildups.

Caddywhompus are a new force in the New Orleans indie-rock scene who are pushing the envelope in terms of creating a unique blend of pop music. The free EP they've released so far shows great promise in both their originality and diverseness. Look out for them as they have quite a few shows coming up if you are in the area:

--------------------------------------------------
Dec 13 - Insomkneeacks - Baton Rouge, LA
Dec 14 - Dragon's Den - New Orleans, LA
Dec 27 - Commerce St Wharehouse - Houston, TX
Jan 3 - Notsuoh - Houston, TX
Jan 17 - Alabamba Music Box - Mobile, AL
Jan 23 - Howlin' Wolf - New Orleans, LA
Feb 27 - Dragon's Den - New Orleans, LA

Video for Absinthesizer created by Stephen MacDonald of Antenna Inn/Big Rock Candy Mountain/Fay Wray/Kanahele fame:


[Myspace]