Top 10 records of 2010

December 26, 2010 at 11:08 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

My annual tradition of writing up my favorite albums of the year continues with this list.  Before we begin, I know that I will have more to gain from people who read this since I have not been digging up music as much as I have in years gone by.  Still, this is a solid list and filled with good music.

Without further stuffs, here are my top 10 favorite albums of the year :

#1

LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening

Not only does this album have my favorite track of the year (Track 1 – “Dance Yrself Clean”), but it is a classic from beginning to end.  I have listened to the opening track on loop on several occasions, sometimes totalling 10 consecutive listens.  Genius.

#2

Tobacco – Maniac Meat

One of the more interesting albums I have ever heard.  An incredible trip from Black Moth Super Rainbow frontman Tom Fec featuring work from Beck (Mr. Beck Hansen will indeed make another appearance in this list. Hold tight).  A short record, but such a mind-bender that I probably could not handle much more.

#3

The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards

An open letter to Jack White-

Dear Mr. White,

I hope this holiday season finds you well.  Let me get right to the point.  Knock it off.  Slow down.  You’re making everyone else in music look bad.  No one should be able to release so many records year after year in so many bands and expect them all to be good.  The fact that they are all good makes everyone else look bad.  Rock and roll should be about kicking back and receiving royalties, not working hard and loving what you do.  If you do continue working this hard, please don’t die, because this record is golden.

An open letter to Ms. Alison Mosshart-

Dear Ms. Alison Mosshart,

I hope holiday season finds you well.  Let me get right to the point.  Never stop being so sexy.  That is all.

#4

Autolux – Transit Transit

Good lord!  It happened!  I can’t tell you how long I have been waiting for this record since their first release because I lost track of the years.  I have been waiting for news on their mailing list for the ACTUAL release of this record and finally it is here and does not disappoint.  Such a wonderful mix of catchy songs and dissonant structures.  Let’s hope the next one happens in the next 10 years and they do not go the way of My Bloody Valentine.  By the way, if anyone reading this had not enjoyed their first release “Future Perfect“, go get it right now by clicking this linkNow.

#5

School of Seven Bells – Disconnect from Desire

I’ve written about them before in my list for 2008, and this record continues in new an exciting territory.  The soundscape is a churning sea of guitars crashing under the voices of tempting sirens.  I saw them play when I was in Seattle and it was the best show I saw all year.

#6

Charlotte Gainsbourg – IRM

This record is a brilliant collection of very personal songs from Charlotte Gainsbourg following a water skiiing accident which threatened her life and resulted in her undergoing an M.R.I. (IRM in French, y’all)  Joining Gainsbourg as Producer and co-writer on the tracks is Mr. Beck Hansen.  I echo the words of another review which call this a return to Beck’s songwriting style on “Sea Change” with a very unique feel given Gainsbourg at the helm.

#7

Kylesa – Spiral Shadow

I like the word choice of another review who calls this record a mosaic of metal.  It is certainly true that the elements of this record interlock in fascinating ways to generate an impressive whole.  The opening track is a great introduction to this band and will continue to impress throughout.

#8

Tame Impala – Innerspeaker

While still remaining unique, Tame Impala manage to weave together strands of many of my favorite artists : Stone Roses, The Beatles, Flaming Lips, Rolling Stones, Cream… And that’s just naming a few.  These guitar tones are some my absolute favorites over the last several years.

#9

Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record

It’s been a long time since their last official release as a band (2005), but this musical collective continues to work well together to create quality music which gets better and better with each.  The track “World Sick” is a great example of this where you can hear so many musicians working together that to me sound like a meticulously arranged (and democratically managed) rock orchestra.

#10

Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night

This album is huge.  The soundscape created is painted with guitars that at larger than life and seem to fill the sky above.  Listening to this one driving through Arches National Park this year was quite an experience.

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Top 10 albums of 2009

December 11, 2009 at 5:34 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Once again, I am excited to share my list of my favorite albums that I enjoyed this year.  It was hard to whittle this down to the list we have here, but I hope that some of you might enjoy some of these on your gramaphones at home.  I do intend to listen to other people’s lists to generate a “follow up” list as well as a list of singles I loved during 2009 which are not here.

So let’s get started…

Sleigh Bells – 2HELLWU CD-R
I will confess right now that you cannot walk into your record shop and buy this today but I had to list this anyway.  This is a release that Sleigh Bells released over the tubes of the electric internets earlier this year and although this is more of a “demo”, I cannot stop listening to it.  I love the crunching rhythms and edgy guitars.  The vocals from Alexis Krauss are a welcome mix somewhere between the innocence of the 50’s and rawness of modern day hip hop.  The guitars are mean and creative while the beat production makes me want to shake my culo.  By the time you read this I will probably have already bought a convertible in which I can properly listen to “Ring Ring”.  It’s the most perfect sunny day hip hop \ rock song that needs the top down to be appreciated.  Even if it’s below zero here in SLC, I still think I’ve gotta have this convertible as soon as possible.

Dethklok – Dethalbum II
I was disappointed when I attended a DETHKLOK concert earlier this year that was not brutally killed in some grisly, hilarious and completely metal fashion.  While I did take a serious beating “in the bit” by a bunch of doods more brutal than myself, I survived and lived to tell the tale of witnessing in the flesh the greatest people (and metal band) on God’s Green Earth Satan’s Dark Earth.  After meeting Brendan Small earlier this year at NAMM I remarked that he is serious about what he does and his performance with Dethklok was no exception.  Brendan was no comedian and made no apologies for punishing and pummeling us with the greatest metal ever forged.  Musically I submit that DETHKLOK are hitting their stride and that by 2012 (coincidence???) they will have already achieved global domination.  Do yourself a favor and listen to “Black Fire Upon Us”.  As loud as you can.  Buy new speakers Marshall stacks if it doesn’t go loud enough.

Screaming Females – Power Move
Christmas came early this year when I heard the opening track “Bell” from this record.  Less than two measures has been emitted from the car speakers when I yelped and asked “Who is this?!?!?!”  Instantly I was hooked with the fuzzed-out guitars, machine gun drumming and voice-on-fire sound of the Screaming Females.  After listening to the first track (and shaking my fists like a hyperactive child… something I mentioned on a recent podcast I’ve been doing with Jared) I found that the album continued to be what I needed to listen to but didn’t know until it entered my ears.  It sounds as if some of the best parts of Black Sabbath and Sleater-Kinney heard my unspoken wishes and re-formed into these 2 males and one screaming female.  Sometimes I get sad when bands like Sleater-Kinney are no longer making music, but it’s artists like Screaming Females that make me smile again knowing that there is an army of newcomers to continue carrying the torch.

Malajube – Labyrinthes
A quote has crossed my mind more than a few times over the last year.  That quote was one that I read in Entertainment Weekly back in 1992.  That quote read “if Primus could write a hit ballad they would rule the world”.  Certainly that quote is not true.  Primus sucks.  However, I have adapted this quote to Malajube thinking “If Malajube sang in English they would rule the world”.  I think it’s possible.  Tracks like “Porté disparu” lead me to believe that the statement above might be true.  I love the instrumentation on this record and I defy guitar players out there to come up with voicings as interesting as those we hear from Julien Mineau.  If you find yourself wondering what the lyrical might hold in store for a francophone, I have translated the best song on the record right here on this site.


The Dead Weather – Horehound
I am usually skeptical of “supergroups” since it often seems that who receive this label exhibit a loss of chemistry that made each member’s former group so great.  This is not the case at all with The Dead Weather.  I love the chemistry between Jack White and (be still my heart) Allison Mosshart.  This album drips with sexual tension and musicianship.  If you read my top 10 list for 2009 you already know how highly I think of Allison Mosshart.  This year I gained a new appreciation for Jack White.  Part of this was attributed to the album we are currently speaking of.  For example, check out “I Cut Like a Buffalo” which I think might be the most interesting invention I’ve heard this year in terms of genres. Another part of my appreciation for Mr. White is due to the documentary “It Might Get Loud“.  This film convinced me that Jack White truly is one of the hardest working people in music and he was recast in my eyes as a fully inspiring musician.  His comments and philosophies in the film made me run home and pick up my guitar for the first in a long time.  Chapeau, Mr. White.  Chapeau…


Fever Ray – Fever Ray
It took me a long time to get into The Knife after reading the acclaim of their 2006 album “Silent Shout”.  I just didn’t get it.  I listened to it a few times and then dismissed it.  3 years later I have become a fan of The Knife and consequently this side project from Karin Dreijer.  While I initially was turned off by the frozen aural landscape of The Knife, over time I developed a love of the musical ideas they were crafting.  While the outer layer may appear cold there is a core of passionate warmth and rhythms which invoke an island-like atmosphere.  I have fallen in love with Karin’s voice and the wide array of textures used on this record.

Flaming Lips – Embryonic
Remember last year how I reviewed the Flaming Lips soundtrack for Christmas on Mars waving as a banner for a return to form?  Even I did not expect the magnitude of this return to form.  This album is particularly interesting because on one hand when I hear it, it sounds so new and different that it does not sound the Flaming Lips.  On the other hand however, this is a drugged out exploration in the vein of the early Flaming Lips.  When I listen to this, I experience the same feelings and excitement as “In a Priest Driven Ambulance” (1990) and “Hit to Death in the Future Head” (1992).  Someone tell me.  Someone enlighten me.  Does anyone know how artists can sound so new and still recall to memory their recording history of 19 years ago?  I can’t think of any examples in recorded history like this.  My only explanation is that all current and past members of the Flaming Lips actually did arrive here on Earth from another planet where time travel is possible.  As is often with the case with my favorite Lips albums, they close the recording (two discs!!!) with an amazing track with “Watching the Planets” which is immediately added to the Flaming Lips canon.

Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport
Was it really just last year that I listed Fuck Buttons as my #1 album of the year.  Yes sir it was.  I asked myself a question last week as I was gearing up to write my top 10 list of 2009.  Did my #1 choice hold up?  Do I still think that “Street Horrrsing” was the best album of 2009?  Absolutely.  Here we stand exactly one year later and these two gentlemen have once again constructed a recording which excites my imagination and in my opinion signals the “arrival” of noise music as a genre.  As a band they are still recognizable but this disc does cover new musical territory.  Other than the opening track on “Street Horrrsing”, I think that all the music on this album surpasses the former.

Pelican – What We All Come To Need
I was not a huge fan of Pelican’s 2007 release “City of Echoes” since it was a departure from heavy interesting song forms in favor of a trajectory towards being a heavier and less interesting of the Cure or U2.  This year’s release finds itself more in the middle of their earlier work and this 2007 effort of being more accessible.  This may not appeal to all, but this record really appeals to me.  I recently had a good chuckle in reading a review on this record which panned it with this sentence : “Divest the Smashing Pumpkins or Hum of their singers, give the bands room to jam, and this album might have ensued.”  What?!?!?!  This is a bad thing?  I simply do not understand.  Though there are no vocals on this record, I fail to see how this diminishes its quality as a creative recording of huge guitars and interesting structure.

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Generating music in 140 characters of code

December 10, 2009 at 7:05 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Back in 2004 I was involved with a group at the University of Utah working in SuperCollider to generate audio (and sometimes music!) in code.  I was just reading on Create Digital Music when I read about a very interesting project where people collaborated a la Twitter by creating sounds in under 140 characters.

To listen to these creations (and see the code snippets) go here :

http://www.batuhanbozkurt.com/links/sctwitting

To read more about each artist, there are short bios here :

http://thewire.co.uk/articles/3177/

Now I want to go dig up some of the creations we worked on with Dr. Cottle and see if I have anything interesting to share in under 140 characters…

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My new podcast : Gentlemen, Scotch and Song

December 4, 2009 at 8:42 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

I just started a new podcast with my good friend Jared Gallardo who I also worked with on Jellyfish 12000 project.  The show is called “Gentlemen, Scotch and Song”.  We talk about music, wear smoking jackets and generally behave like fine gentlemen while sharing music that we have dug up.

Go listen and let me know what you think :

http://www.gentlemenscotchandsong.com

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Top albums of 2008 (that I learned about during 2009)

March 6, 2009 at 6:45 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

As I mentioned in my previous top 10 list of 2008, I love end of year lists to help me expand and also filter through my experience of the limitless amount of music there is out there to enjoy.  I spent time reading a lot of lists.  I learned about a lot of records I never heard about during 2008 proper.  I started digging like a small child and got lost in the wrapping paper.

So now that the wrapping paper has cleared, I got out a pick axe and pried open the large box labeled “2008”.  I poked my head inside to see what all stuck with me going through those lists.

Once again, there are links wherever possible so you can click away and start listening to this stuff at the speed of thought.  Also, since this is about finding things through other people’s lists, where I can recall I have given credit to who introduced me to the music.

portugal_the_man

Portugal.  The Man – Censored Colors

Introduced by : Carmen

This record to me is a continuation in the tradition of well-crafted songs from The Beatles.  There are a few tracks on here which are so well crafted and I believe have a universal appeal that they sound to me like a modern version of “Hey Jude” (check out “And I”).  So even though there is a substrate of The Beatles going on here, there is a lot of complexity to the music.  There are elements which are angular, disjointed, and fractured which remind me of Mars Volta.  There is a lot of soul and expression in these songs and it’s hard not to sing along with John Gourley on these tracks.

everest

Everest – Ghost Notes

Introduced by : Taylor

A great enjoyable collection of classic songs which will draw comparisons to bands like Wilco and Calexico.  There is a lot of alt-country essence here and it’s a great record to listen to while driving.  There are also some spacy exploration in the latter half of the record as well but it’s not out of place.  I could recommend this record and the Portugal The Man record mentioned above to nearly anyone I know.

high_places

High Places – High Places

Introduced by : Carmen

This record is a great little surprise.  It took a few ambient listens before it grabbed me and I really started paying attention.  It is a beautiful formula of the beautiful voice of Mary Pearson, sweet melodies and the tribal percussion which dance around her.  Given this formula, one might guess that it could be similar in sound to School of Seven Bells which I had on my top 10 list for 2008, but the end result is very different.  I’m curious to see if this one grabs people right off the bat or if it takes a few listens like it did for me.

russian_circles

Russian Circles – Station

Introduced by : Corinne

Immediately upon listening to this I had an image pop into my head.  I just spent the last 20 minutes trying to find the image and I can’t.  If anyone can send it my way, they get a high five.  The image is a drawing from Igor Stravinsky in which he drew 2D figures which represented the music of several composers. Included are Bach, Schoenberg and others.  The figure her drew for Richard Wagner consisted of spirals.  This record from Russian Circles creates the same image and feeling as I listen to it.  Their instrumental heavy guitar driven forms are like a gigantic whirlpool.  It makes me wonder if Wagner would enjoy it.

diplo_santogold

Diplo and Santogold – Top Ranking

Introduced by : Matt at work??? Can’t remember???

I listened to this a lot in 2008 but for some reason I didn’t include it in my other top 10 list.  This record is a fun experience.  It travels all over through the spaces of Reggae, Dub, Hip Hop, Baile Funk and more.  There are a lot of tracks here so felt like I needed to fold down the corners of the MP3s as a crude bookmark.  For a few beginning bookmarks, I recommend these tracks : “Creator”, “Get It Up”, and “Light’s Out”.  (what?  Panda Bear mixed in here?  it works…)

black_angels

The Black Angels – Directions To See A Ghost

Introduced by : Taylor

Dark, brooding, and full of swagger.  This record instantly reminds me of Darker My Love, Jesus and Mary Chain, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Velvet Underground all at once.  If you like any of these then go pick this up yesterday.  There are some incredible trips in this record which leave Earth’s atmosphere far behind.  My little roommate bunny Radar loves this record.  If it gets the approval of a selective and sometimes disapproving stoner bunny then it’s a pretty good pick.

grails_censored

Wow. WordPress seemed to censor this. It said "crunching..." for a bit and then the image never appeared. I threw it into MS-PAINT and then wordpress was happy. I guess it doesn't want me to post breasts???

Grails –  Doomsdayer’s Holiday

Introduced by : http://www.last.fm (thanks statistically-based recommendations!  you work!!!)

Way to go, last.fm.  Another great record I did not know about without your help.  Last.fm, I feel a bit embarrassed here.  You give me so much and I do little in return besides filling your servers with loads and loads of data about what I listen to.  Does that bother you?  Does it get heavy carrying all the music that I love?  I appreciate your hard work and especially your talent in recommending good music to me.  Thanks for giving me Grails.  This is great music.  Most people who read this probably will not like it, but I like it.  It’s loud and mean and last.fm, you know what I needed.  I will be sure to send you a Christmas ham this year.  I promise this time.

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