Tuesday, March 04, 2014

My Favorites of 2013

Yet again, due to a lack of time or attentiveness or the fact that there is just so much new music out there, I really cannot put together a Top 10 list of my favorite albums / songs for 2013.  So I'll just list a lot of the new stuff and old favorites that I've been listening to this year:

Flight Facilities' "I Didn't Believe" - possibly my favorite new song from 2013.  The perfect modern disco track!

Rudimental's Home - great album all around - love Sinead Harnett's and MNEK's contributions ("Baby" and "Spoons," respectively); "Home," "More Than Anything," and "Powerless" are great as well.

Disclosure's Settle - up there with Rudimental for overall solidness - slightly garage-ier though.  Sinead's contribution here is fantastic as well ("Boiling").  And how can one not like "When a Fire Starts to Burn"?

Johnny Marr's new album The Messenger - particularly "New Town Velocity" and "The Right Thing Right."  Some classic Marr guitar here.

Suede's Bloodsports (their first new album in a while) is good, although not great.  The music is there, but Brett's voice is really straining now.  "Sabotage" is the best of the bunch.

Cut Copy's Free Your Mind is also quite good, but not their greatest work.  An improvement from Zonoscope though.  And a total throwback to 1989-1991 acid house - as if Technique was mixed with Screamadelica, Pills, Thrills, and Bellyaches, and an Australian accent.  (I also listened to In Ghost Colours a lot this year.)

Warpaint's "Love Is To Die" (can't wait for their new album to drop in 2014)

CHVCHES - "Lies"

Arcade Fire's "Reflektor" (the song moreso than the album)

Phoenix - "Trying to Be Cool" (the album is so-so, but this song is excellent)

Beacon - "Bring You Back"

RAC - "Let Go" (with Kele)

Haerts - "All the Days"

Great Good Fine OK - "You're The One For Me"

Still Corners' "Strange Pleasures"

And I've really enjoyed and/or have gotten back into the following stuff from my archives:

Doves' Lost Souls, The Last Broadcast, and their related B-sides (such as Rise, Sea Song, and Blue Water).  I forgot how great Doves are and how much I love them.

Fluke's "Kitten Moon," "Atom Bomb," and "Reeferendrum" from Risotto (great tunes, particularly the contribution to the The Saint soundtrack, one of my fave soundtracks of all time)

Volta Bureau's "Hot," "Hope," and "Love Cubed"

The Karminsky Experience's "Departures" (what a great, loungey travel song)

Electronic's "Second Nature," "Disappointed," "Getting Away With It," and "Vivid."

The Charlatans' Tellin' Stories and Us and Us Only.

The Libertines' and Babyshambles' singles - such great stuff, in such a short period of time.

Ned's Atomic Dustbin's "Capital Letters" and really anything from God Fodder.

New Sense's "Ready To Leave" (my dream job is to be a music supervisor and the first thing I'd do if I had such job would be to include this song into the post-breakup, introspective montage of a film/tv show.  Separately, how did this song not take off - it's amazing!)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Britpop - 20 years old and still kickin'

There are differing opinions on when "Britpop" (the genre, movement, and/or way of life) started.  Some go with 1991, following the releases of Primal Scream's Screamadelica and Saint Etienne's Foxbase Alpha.  Others go with 1993, after the release and subsequent Mercury Music Prize win for Suede's self-titled debut. (I think everyone agrees that Britpop's demise was the release and backlash against Oasis' Be Here Now.)

For our purpose, we'll go with the latter.  I'm noting this anniversary because NPR recently reminded me of it - they have a great discussion of the origin and life of Britpop and its associated acts.  And a fantastic stream too - all the usual suspects (Blur, Oasis, Suede, Stone Roses, Pulp, Elastica), but some other more obscure acts (Echobelly, Gene, Bluetones, Dodgy).  Nice work with the tracks selected - not just the hits, but items like Suede's "Whipsnade" (possibly my favorite Suede track), The Verve's "Weeping Willow," Echobelly's "Dark Therapy," Elastica's "Hold Me Now," and Lush's "Outside World" (still amazes me that Lush, my favorite "shoegaze" act, is lumped in with Britpop acts).  Basically, NPR put my iPod (and music collection) on "random" and just started playing.  Love it.


Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Finally, My Favorites from 2012

The one thing I would reliably do was post an annual "Top 10" or "favorites."  I was even slower this year than ever before, but even worse, I'm not sure I listened to enough new material for a full "Top 10" list.  Instead, I'll just list 2012 tracks/albums that I enjoyed in no particular (well, ok, alphabetical, order):

Paul Banks' Banks - definitely hearkens back to his Interpol stuff much more so than the Julian Plenti material.  "The Base" is one of my favorite songs from 2012.

Saint Etienne's Words and Music - a nice job by my favorite indie-dance group.  This is their best effort since Finnistere.  Loaded with catchy, dance-floor tunes and crafty lyrics.  "I've Got Your Music," "Tonight," "DJ," and "Headed For The Fair" are fantastic.

School of Seven Bells' Ghostory - they keep impressing me.  Even with the loss of Claudia Deheza, SSB puts out a great album, filled with the same ethereal vocals and shoe-gazey, slightly dancey sounds (in that head down and shaking kind of way) of their past releases.  "Show Me Love," a really dark track that sounds like it could be off of Lush's Split, is the best of the album.  "The Night," "Lafaye," "Love Game," and "Scavenger" are also great.

Teen Daze's All of Us, Together - really nice chillout music (although quite uplifting) and I guess this is indeed aptly described as "chillwave."  "The New Balearic" is especially good.

The XX's Coexist - all of the trademarks of The XX are here, slow-tempo, chill sounds, crescendo guitar licks, downer lyrics, and a consistent rhythm.  Not as many standout tracks as their debut, but  "Chained," "Sunset," and "Reunion" are excellent.

As for individual tracks, I liked Cat Power's "Ruin," That Work's "Secret Lover," The Temper Trap's "Need Your Love (Fort Remeau Remix)," Frankie Rose's "Know Me" and "Night Swim," Polica's "Lay Your Cards Out," Burial and Four Tet's "Nova," Orbital's "New France" (hooray, Orbital is back!), and finally The Wallflowers' "Reboot the Mission" - I've been waiting for a sequel to "Magnificent Seven," but I never thought it would come from The Wallflowers (of course having Mick Jones involved certainly helps).

My favorite song from 2012 was Grouplove's "Tongue-tied" - the problem here of course was that it was released in September of 2011.  I just never caught on to it until 2012!

Rather than finding the time to listen to new releases, I turned to some of my old favorites in 2012, primarily Interpol (man, I've played their stuff so much over the past decade), Bloc Party (Intimacy wasn't as bad as I initially thought, although I loved their earlier stuff, especially where Gordon would do some back and forth vocals), Thunderball (one of my favorite downtempo groups from one of my favorite downtempo labels - ESL Music), Groove Armada's Lovebox (there are several good tracks, more than just "Easy" and "Love Box" - two of my favorite "electronic" songs), Apollo Heights' White Music for Black People, and several baggy tracks ("Sunshine and Love," "World in Motion," "The Only One I Know," "Step On," "Groovy Train," "Fools Gold," and "En-Tact").

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Top 10 for 2011

My Top 10 of 2011 - a/k/a my once yearly posting! (And it's oh so late!)

10. Cut Copy - Zonoscope - when it comes to electro dance, I like mine Australian. A good, not great, third LP from the Cutters. Other than "Sun God," nothing really stands out, but overall it's a good album.

9. Fred Falke - Part IV - when it comes to electro house, I like mine French. I've always been a fan of Falke (especially his collaborations with Alan Braxe), and I'm glad to see a full-length from him. As you would expect, Part IV is full of sweeping synths and groovy bass lines. Falke's 2011 remixes were great as well, especially for Metronomy's "The Look."

8. The Naked and Famous - Passive Me Aggressive You - Nice indie rock from New Zealand with alternating male/female vocals. "Young Blood" is clearly the winner of the tracks here.

7. Class Actress - Rapprocher - A good follow-up to the Journal of Ardency EP and overall a consistently good album, although I don't think any of the tracks are as standout as those on the EP. Still, great electro-pop with sultry vocals.

6. The New Division - The Rookie EP and Shadows - Great electro-pop, on both the EP and the debut album. Definitely an early to mid career Depeche Mode sound. Lovin' "Starfield" and "Opium."

5. Still Corners - Creatures of an Hour - A rich etherial, slightly shoegaze, sound with breathy vocals. "Into the Trees" and "Endless Summer" are standout tracks.

4. The Rapture - In the Grace of Your Love - So glad to see The Rapture back, and back to their old tricks. Even with the loss of Matty Safer, the band puts together a great album of danceable rock. "How Deep Is Your Love" practically demands that you get up and move.

3. Foster The People - Torches - I think everyone jumped on Foster The People by the end of the year. How can you not like "Pumped Up Kicks"? I like Torches a lot, but hate when the best tracks on a debut LP are those that appeared on the prior EP (here, "Helena Beat" and "Kicks").

2. Friendly Fires - Pala - They really grew into their sound with this album. Such a step up from an overall consistency standpoint from their self-titled debut. "Hurting" and "Helpless" are absurdly good.

1. Thievery Corporation - Culture of Fear - Quite possibly Thievery's best yet - solid tracks from start to finish. Still the same downtempo/dub/chillout/bossa sound, but done well. "Tower Seven," "Fragments" and 'Stargazer" are three of their best tracks ever. It's really been a Thievery year for me, as I've repeatedly been listening to their earlier stuff as well - things like "Lebanese Blonde" and "38:45 A Thievery Number."

Honorable Mentions:

Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto - not bad overall, but not great either. "Paradise" is quite good, but the rest feels over-produced. I'd love to see a song like "Shiver" written again, but I think Coldplay is too big for that now.

Today The Moon, Tomorrow the Sun - WILDFIRE - Not sure how I missed these guys, but their latest, WILDFIRE, is very expressive, in your face indie rock, and if you ever wanted more Metric, TTMTTS are your band.

Liam and Noel - Different Gear, Still Speeding and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - if you take the 5 best songs from each album and put them together, do you get an Oasis album? Hopefully, as I found both of these efforts lacking. A few good tracks to pick out though - such "Roller" from Liam and "AKA ... What a Life!" from Noely G.

Radiohead - King of Limbs - I love Radiohead, but it's hard for me to get excited about everything they put out nowadays, including King of Limbs (which does have good moments).

Stand-Out Tracks Otherwise Not Set Forth Above:

Beastie Boys - "Don't Play a Game That I Can't Win" - love this reggae roller.

Chase & Status - "Blind Faith" - I love the epicness of this track.

Craft Spells - "After This Moment" - A nice, poppy groove.

Cults - "Go Outside" - How can anyone not like this summery sing-song?

Dum Dum Girls - "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" - hard for me to like a Smiths cover, especially one of my favorite Smiths songs, but Dum Dum did a great job here - the harmonizing is quite nice.

Fonda - "Better Days" - A nice shoegaze throw-back (Lush meets School of Seven Bells perhaps)
Lana Del Rey - "Blue Jeans (Penguin Prison Remix)" - The remix really added a nice groove.

Little Dragon - "Crystalfilm" - sultry electro-pop - very similar to Class Actress actually, but with a cool Swedish vibe, of course (and god how I love "Feathers" from their last album)

Moving Units - "Until She Said" - Happy to have Moving Units back, again with their groovy dance rock

Mr. Little Jeans - "The Suburbs" - A hauntingly beautiful cover.

The Strokes - "Under The Cover of Darkness" - Nice to see The Strokes back with what they do best.

TV On the Radio - "Will Do" - I couldn't stop listening to this song when I first picked it up - such a beautiful expression of sound.

Vanessa Carlton - "Green Grass of Spring" - not normally an artist found in my collection, but this song is so good, it makes me want to cry.

Rediscovered or got back into in 2011:

Interpol - I really rekindled my love with Interpol this year. They've always been my "New York" band - they were up and coming when I moved to NYC and became the "it" band pretty much immediately after. I forgot how much I loved them.

Friday, December 03, 2010

My Top 10 For 2010

Although my blogging is non-existent these days, I still think I have good musical tastes - so hear you go, dear public, my Top 10 for 2010:

10. DOM - Sun Bronzed Greek Gods - DOM's music just makes you want to get up and move. Indie rock backed with swirling synths. "Living in America" is vying for my song of the year. A shame that this EP only has 19 minutes worth of music though!

9. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs - I've never really been that into Arcade Fire, but The Suburbs is quite good. "Ready to Start" is a great single.

8. Tears Run Rings - Distance - Yes! More perfectly constructed "newgaze" - love it. These guys really sound like an updated Slowdive. "Inertia" and "Reunion" are the top of the crop from this album.

7. Crystal Castles - (II) - a nice dark electro album here - some tracks are a little too crunchy/choppy for me, but others, such as the wonderful "Celestica," are fantastic. Although not on this album, nice touch for collaborating with Robert Smith on a vocal version of their cover "Not In Love."

6. Groove Armada - Black Light - a nice mix of big beat and house, with enough vocal tracks to sing along to. "History" with Will Young and "Shamless" with Bryan Ferry are must-haves.

5. Class Actress - Journal of Ardency - probably the best electro-pop I've heard in years. I've played the title track from this EP over and over and over again. Cannot wait for a full-length.

4. New Young Pony Club - The Optimist - less electro-pop than their debut (which really wasn't an over electro-popped album, but certainly dancier), I really think that this is what Elastica would have sound like a decade later. Dancey punk, this album does not disappoint. Best track is "Lost Girl"

3. Interpol - Interpol - very good, but not great, album (at least compared to their past work). I do not think anything could ever match the majesty of "Turn On the Bright Lights," so it's always hard to compare Interpol albums. Some good stuff here though - "Barricade" is fantastic and perhaps my favorite song from 2010. I realized that the best Interpol tracks have a heavy bassline in them, and "Barridcade" and "Success" have such a bassline.

2. Underworld - Barking - perhaps their best since Beaucoup Fish, this album toes the line between big beat, trance, house and straight up club disco. Love "Bird 1," "Scribble," and "Always Loved a Film."

1. School of Seven Bells - Disconnect From Desire - Really just a perfect album - laid-back and "dreamy" in many respects, but also makes you sit back and take notice. "I L U" is one of the best tracks I've heard in years, and "Bye Bye Bye" has such a great electro-shoegaze throwback sound to it.

Honorable Mention: Goldfrapp - Headfirst - glad to see that Ms. Goldfrapp has returned to her electro ways. Her best album since Supernature. As always, soaring vocals, but again over top of a lush soundscape; and UNKLE - Where Did the Night Fall - glad to see UNKLE get back to its trip-hop past. I absolutely love "The Answer."

Tracks that I loved from 2010: In addition to those noted above, I loved The Black Keys' "Tighten Up," The Chemical Brothers' "Swoon," Kisses' "Bermuda," Klaxons' "Echoes," Shit Robot's "Take 'Em Up" (with Nancy Whang on vocals), Still Corners' "Endless Summer," Tamaryn's "Love Fade," Violens' "Acid Reign," and United Nations of Sound's "Are You Ready" (hooray for the return of Richard Ashcroft!),

I think my biggest disappointment in 2010 was Gorillaz' Plastic Beach - sort of all over the place.

Music that I re-discovered in 2010 (a/k/a likely to have happened to come up while shuffling my iPod and I forgot how much I loved) - Ned's Atomic Dustbin (God Fodder is just fantastic); Everything But the Girl (I forgot how good Walking Wounded and Tempermental were - and I actually discovered "Tracey In My Room," an incredible remix of "Wrong," for the first time about a month ago); DJ Spiller's "Groovejet (If This Ain't Love);" and tracks off of Siouxsie and The Banshees' singles collections, such as "Fireworks," "Dazzle," "Cities in Dust" (perhaps my favorite Siouxsie song) and "The Killing Jar."

Monday, July 12, 2010

"Disconnect from Desire"

Yet again I am coming out of blogging retirement to praise a track that I absolutely love - School of Seven Bells' "I L U." This may be one of the best tracks I've heard in years. Somehow, with this track SVIIB managed to continue the bridge from The Cocteau Twins to Gala-era Lush to 2010, something I didn't hear on their debut album Alpinisms. (I also love another new track of theirs, "Babelonia," which has a little MBV flavor to it.)

I'm a big fan of SVIIB. I loved a few of On! Air! Library!'s songs (especially "Feb." which is fantastic, but sadly only 2:14 long), and SVIIBadds more of an electronic twist to their prior-incarnation's music. The new SVIIB album - Disconnect from Desire - comes out tomorrow. Buy it here.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Best of 2009

Can't beleive that this decade is over. Crazy to think that the garage, "New York" sound, and new-new wave that were becoming all the rage when the decade started have now given way to, well, I don't even know what the current "sound" is.

Anyway, here's my Best of 2009. I found that I liked invidual tracks better than albums as a whole in 2009, so even if these are my "top" albums, I do not necessarily think they are top quality overall:

10. The Whip - X Marks Destination - Excellent dance-rock with a new wave feel, Manchester's The Whip will either make you get up and dance, or get up and scream. (Ok, this album came out in 2008, but didn't make it's US debut until 2009)

9. 2020 Soundsystem - Falling - Cool, dancey grooves that sound like another Soundsystem (LCD), but with more of an electro than funk flare.

8. Hotels - Where Hearts Go Broke - Shades of early New Order and early Duran Duran (especially on "Lelani") from this shoegazey, post-punk band from Seattle.

7. Doves - Kingdom of Rust - Solid effort from Doves, certainly more upbeat (as much as Doves can be) than previous albums. "Spellbound" harkens back to Lost Souls.

6. The XX - XX - Artsy, cool trip-hop tunes. The XX is just a kick, a snare, and a few samples away from being Portishead. The Them Jeans Drum remix of "Shelter" shows how great these The XX is with hard drums behind them.

5. The Cribs - Ignore the Ignorant - As usual, great guitar rock from The Cribs, and Johnny Marr's influence is quite apparent here. "We Were All Aborted" and "We Share the Same Skies" are fantastic tracks.

4. Moby - Wait for Me - Downtempo and chill in parts, in your face in others, Moby puts together yet another engaging album. The Apparat remix of "Pale Horses" really brings something to the table.

3. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - How can you resist the catchy "1901"? Seems like this album is showing up on a lot of top 10 lists, so apparently not many people could. "Fences" may be the best track on this upbeat indie-rock album from the French rockers.

2. Franz Ferdinand - Tonight - great album from start to finish. Classic Franz - dancey, upbeat, witty lyrics. Led by singles "Ulysses" and "No You Girls," Franz once again makes you dance. "Lucid Dreams" is also a standout track.

1. Metric - Fantasies - I've always liked Metric, but for the first time, I think they put together a complete package with their latest album, Fantasies. "Help, I'm Alive" is such an incredible song (and the Twelves' remix is even better), and singles "Gimme Sympathy" and "Sick Muse" are great sing-song indie rock tracks.

2009 also saw the fantastic remix of Saint Etienne's Foxbase Alpha - wonderfully entitled Foxbase Beta - a crisper, modern take on the classic album. Air France also put together a great remix of "Spring," which may be my favorite Saint Etienne track.

Great tracks from 2009 - Empire of the Sun's "We are the People", Hook and The Twin's "Transport", the aforementioned Twelves' remix of "Help I'm Alive", Detachments' "The Flowers That Fell" (and its remix by Parallels), The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's "Higher Than the Stars" (and the Saint Etienne remix of that track), Passion Pit's "The Reeling" and even U2's "Magnificent" (and the Fred Falke remix as well).

Finally, I'm not sure what to make of The Bravery's Stir the Blood. It's pretty synth/electro heavy, which I love, but the vocals and lyrics are so poor. I know Sam Endicott wants to be all DIY, but I'd love if he would work on his vocals a bit more. I'm still a fan of The Bravery, but it's hard to take them seriously.