It’s hard to write completely non-subjective album reviews of records by close friends, and for that reason I never reviewed Benny Yurco‘s solo debut from last year. But with a year to form an objective stand point and the news that a new record is on the way, I thought it was time to finally give it a crack…
If you know Benny from any of his other bands – Blues and Lasers, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, or Turkey Bouillon Mafia (be still my heart) – then the most surprising thing about his solo debut will be the substantial lack of incendiary axe shreddage. Chalk it up to the strength of Yurco’s songwriting though, for the majority of these tunes are in no need of grandstanding filler. There are a number of sonic cues here taken from the pallet of co-collaborator Seth Kaufman’s doo-wop/dub band Floating Action, but there’s a refreshing audaciousness here that’s never been present on Kaufman’s solo works.
Opening cut “Seasons Failed to Bloom,” gives a good sense of the gameplan – imagine the album Wayne Cohen would make if he were locked in a Kingston Studio, running low on canned goods, nearing the brink of complete delusion and existentially saturated by his present state-of-mind. The title track sounds like a Bunny Wailer cut, and the rustic warmth it bleeds of is a clear reason why analog tape was used for the recording. For the most part, this is music that sounds best in its rawest form, although some tunes do scream to be released from their laissez faire approach. “Contempt of Court” thrives in this setting though; emitting a crackly 70’s vibe that sounds like something Randall “Pink” Floyd would play when the sun starts to rise on the moon tower. It also contains the greatest Grateful Dead/indie-rock crossover reference of all time – “We’re built to last not built to spill.”
The up and down side of recording to tape is that all these tracks are 1st takes – it’s ideal for capturing the lax nature of the music, but problematic when it comes to capturing the majestic nature of a track so huge as “Times They Were OK.” For a song that sounds like the idealized vision of what Dinosaur Jr. would sound like if George Harrison were in the band, I would have loved to hear another crack taken at it. These gripes about perfection are somewhat irrelevant though, as the charm of This is a Future lies in the embrace of its natural blemishes. Everybody knows you’re not supposed to polish off a beautiful layer of patina, and most of these cuts would sound forced if there was a misdirected attempt to make them radio friendly. “Meet Again” for instance, feels like a stoned Rubber Soul track salvaged from the cutting room floor, and any desire to stray from that sound would be senseless. Hopefully on future records Yurco won’t be so modest when it comes to showcasing his technical ability on the guitar, but for now this is an incredibly impressive debut for someone who’s had fans waiting for one for nearly a decade.
You can buy the record at www.bennyyurco.com
Hell, with a name like that – how could I possibly not do a write-up on Shit? When they first sent their music over to me, I thought “Oh great, another neo-punk, indie band that’s trying to be really provocative so as people will listen to their incredibly bland music.” But then I gave it a listen, and was overjoyed to learn that this music really is complete shit, in all the best connotations of the word. The band hails from the South Coast of England, and proudly proclaims that like it’s something Americans would have any clue of. To a geographically biased mind like that of most of the population of the U.S., that’s like saying they’re from the Northwest corner of Antarctica. Well anyway, as they put it, that means they were “Born in the suburbs, where obscenity is no lower than art itself.”
So here’s the thing – these guys really do suck. It’s really fucking shitty ass music that showcases not one iota of musical talent, nor even a dose of wit to make it original. Here’s the other thing – they’re better than half the bands out there that think they’re making “real” music. At its core, music is all about being a part of something. It’s about finding a way to relate yourself to a group of people, or to an idea, or even to some divine overseer. In other words, music is not supposed to be about isolation. Even the most emo thing in the world that you listen to crying in you bed with headphones on – you’re still having that external connection with realizing that someone else has been in that same position as you so as to make music like this. So even though Shit are the most self-defecating band I’ve ever encountered, they still are massively succeeding in the most fundamental aspect of being a band – having a good fucking time and not giving a fuck what anybody else thinks. Sure, nobody is going to walk down the aisle to “The Rape Song” or “I Abused a Broom,” but that doesn’t mean that some lonely kid won’t stumble into one of their gigs thinking that the world is complete crap and that there’s no one who understands him, only to hear “Poo Piss Bum Willy Tit Wank” and realize that the world isn’t really worth getting so bummed out about. You know, this is the same kind of crap that Ween started out making, and they eventually evolved into writing some of the most beautiful, endearing songs I know of in this life.
Shit put out two albums in 2012, The Greatest Shits, and You Can’t Polish a Turd, and you can listen to them both on Spotify HERE. If you’re tired of people playing new music for you that is supposed to completely rearrange your conception of sound, then listen to Shit and realize that anybody, literally anybody, can and should make music. It’s a magical language – don’t feel like it’s something outside of your capabilities.
So as every music geek on the planet falls deeper and deeper into the marvelous new My Bloody Valentine album, I’ve heard several comments from people saying they haven’t heard anything like it in 20 years. Well, that’s not exactly true people. Sure, nobody can touch MBV at being MBV, but the shoegaze genre of electric drone that they spawned has given way to some pretty fucking good bands over the years. In fact, the release of their new album reminded me about this record that landed on my desk lat year from San Francisco’s Echodrone. What initially caught my eye about this record, Bon Voyage, was the fact that it showed up in my mailbox one day with none of the postage stamped on it. Meaning one of two things – either it went through the entire postal system with nobody ever marking it official, or these guys just crept by my home one day and dropped it off. Either way, I considered its mysterious landing an omen of its potential awesomeness – let alone the fact that it had two bucks worth of unused stamps on it – WooHoo!
So…Echodrone – think the washed out guitar of My Bloody Valentine, but with somewhat of an overall mellower, dreamier vibe, the kind of female vocals that make your brain feel all squishy, and the explosive bouts of energy that come around towards the end of some huge Sigur Ros tunes. In other words, it’s ethereal power rock at its finest. Now these guys are in no way trying to write a hit or anything resembling something that any normal radio station would ever go near – rather they’re making massive movements of atmospheric growth. This is the kind of shit that would go over great late night at a music festival when you and your friends are just settling into the tail end of your mushroom trip and smoking the largest joint of all time. They like to label themselves as dream pop, but they definitely fall heavier on the dream than the pop.
If this was 1999, you and all your best friends would already be knee-deep into this record. But this is the future, and a time when it’s increasingly hard to find outlets for people to explore your music with no pre-referential cues. Especially when the band has a name that could potentially be the title of some horrid dub-step DJ – I was actually quite weary before I first gave it a spin. But here’s your chance to be cool for once, and be the one who introduces the hip new druggy, dreamy band to all your friends who love druggy and dreamy shit. You can stream and buy the whole record HERE, as well as check out their new album of covers which includes a surprisingly killer take on Christopher Cross’ “Sailing.”
When I first hear of Tame Impala last year a few years back, I presumed they were some electronica band from the Philly suburbs – I mean, who else would name their band after a Chevrolet sedan? Then I heard the single for “Solitude is Bliss” and instantaneously googled the fuck out of them. Ahh, an impala is a type of antelope form the band’s native Australia – Ok, now that aligns more with this ideal mesh of 70′s acid-trip and 90′s indie rock that I can’t stop playing on repeat. And while the accompanying 2010 album Innerpeaker was fantastic, 2012′s Lonerism is straight-up amazing. While I ranked it as #13 on my Top 50 list for 2012, I probably listened to that record more than anything else in the past few months. And again, while the “Solitude” video is great – witty, very Aussie, and a wonderful portrayal of the song – I’m more psyched that so far their video releases for Lonerism make you feel like you just ate a vintage black-light poster off the wall.
If you somehow haven’t yet seen the video for “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” then go watch it immediately, and prepare to combine your memories of your first time eating mushrooms with what you remember 3-2-1 Contact looking like as a child. The video posted a few days ago for “Mind Mischief” is even better. It’s essentially a complete contrast to Pink Floyd‘s “Another Brick in the Wall” – like you dove straight into the daydream imagination of one of those British kids getting screamed at to eat his pudding. It’s brilliant, and heartwarming. But careful if you wash it while at work, because it will make you instantly want to go rip a joint in the bathroom.
10) Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory
Dylan Baldi’s latest album scares me in the most brilliantly amazing way possible. What started a couple years ago as a heavy, low-fi basement project has turned into the most powerful indie-shred rock on the planet. This is perhaps the only band of the past 2 decades that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Nirvana.
09) Alabama Shakes – Boys and Girls
If the Grammys have any integrity left, then the Shakes should be a shoe-in for Best New Artist. The pulsing soul-rock of the Brittany Howard-led band was my go-to record this year for early Summer evenings in the back yard, and it was hard to find a better match for sharing a cold beer with friends.
08) King Tuff – King Tuff
Tuff creates a world where he coexists with half of himself not giving a fuck about any of the pre-set boundaries of pop music, and the other half acting like the greatest pop-punk scholar of the past 2 decades. It’s an astoundingly warm land to share with him. Holy fuck this album is amazing.
07) Japandroids – Celebration Rock
They really couldn’t have named this album any better – punk rock with the melodies of classic rock boombastics and just the right usage of the word “fuck”. It’s hard not to completely love this album, and upon each listen you discover more subtleties in the recordings that make you realize how perfectly they made this record.
06) Beach House – Bloom
Luckily for all of us, the dream-pop duo essentially just made both a sonically and emotionally twin to their 2010 album Teen Dream with their latest record. Bloom has an extra spark of punch than its predecessor, but still is the most psychedelic drift-off of the year, and Beach House remain the crown-bearers of the dream-pop moniker.
05) Dr. Dog – Be the Void
A lot of the long-time fans of the Dog I know didn’t think this album was up to snub with their other masterpieces – I told them all they were out of their minds. While it may not necessarily have the striking indie-pop hits of some of the earlier records, Scott McMicken is astonishingly at the top of his lyrical game. This album tests how deep you’re willing to go with connecting your heart and soul to a present-minded yet traditional rock band, but the payoff is tremendous.
04) The Tallest Man on Earth – There’s No Leaving Now
This Swedish singer-songwriter does things with just his lyrics and acoustic-guitar that tens of thousands of folks would sell their souls to be able to do. If you love old-school 60’s Dylan, then this may the first guy who will ever come close to making you feel the same way. His first two albums were great, but this one is perfect.
03) Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes
To put it quite simply, there’s basically nobody in the same league as Steven Ellison when it comes to modern creative production. Calling him an electronic producer is an insult – he touches on classical, jazz, ambient, and anything else that would create the perfect sound he needs to manifest. The man is a true artist, and his music deserves to be showcased in the Museum of Modern Art.
02) Animal Collective – Centipede Hz
As crazy as it may sound, I thought things got a little too stream-lined on the last A.C. record, Merriweather Post Pavilion. But on this year’s album, they figured out how to once again mesh their totally nutso attack of instrumentation with the melodic pop sense of the previous record. Some folks found it too jumbled upon 1st listen, but if you give it a chance, it all makes perfect sense. It’s not only the most listenable album they’ve ever made, but my favorite of their career.
01) Sigur Rós – Valtari
The Icelandic lords of all things ethereal have had their fluttering moments of perfection since 1999’s Ágætis byrjun, but Valtari is the first full album that can stand by the magic of that breakthrough. You have no clue what the lyrics mean, but still they seem to shake the essence of your soul. This is music of the angels, and the last necessary piece of the puzzle to define these guys as one of the greatest bands of all time. Prepare for a massive shot of heart quivers.
20) Grimes – Visions
I gotta admit, it took me a hot minute to board the Claire Boucher train, but I’ve come to love this album. Cute and sinister haven’t coexisted this well together since The Christmas Critters episode of South Park. This was one of my go-to late night driving albums this year.
19) The Walkmen – Heaven
The most underrated band on the planet makes their most poignant album of all time with Heaven. This is the kind of shit modern rock aficionados dream of, and the title track is easily my favorite song of the year.
18) Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill
Ten minutes into the half-hour opening cut off Pill, you say to yourself – “Holy shit, this is some of the greatest rocking Neil Young I’ve ever fucking heard.” This album is both a blessing and a testament to the fact that you can make relevant and amazing rock music well past it’s time to start collecting your social security benefits.
17) The XX – Coexist
Things get a little bit more of a back-beat on The XX’s follow-up to their 2009 debut, but luckily sound just as spooky and drift-worthy. Being sad and British hasn’t seemed this appealing since The Cure first hit the scene.
16) Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light
When J. Spaceman is on, the results can be truly breathtaking, and this latest record is just as epic as the hugest works from his past. If you want massive soul-rock, then this is about as big as it gets – their live gig in Portland this year was possibly my favorite show of 2012.
15) Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
After a decade of silence, I never thought we’d hear again from the deepest band on the planet. Allelujah continues their legacy of making huuuuge, epic, half-drone tunes that no other band would ever have the audacity or balls to attempt. This is probably the greatest and most unexpected reunion of the past 5 years.
14) Grizzly Bear – Shields
Finally these guys put out an album that wasn’t made to put preschoolers to sleep. If they hadn’t obnoxiously complained about not being nominated for a Grammy, I’d be totally excited for whatever was coming next, but now I feel like this will go down as their finest work. There’s no doubt that it’s the most brilliant indie-rock of the year.
13) Tame Impala – Lonerism
Thank God these Australians realized that dream-pop still had somewhere to grow and evolve to. Psychedelic floating over great melodies and fantastic lyrics – shit can’t be beat. If these guys keep their progression up, they could be one of the greatest bands on the planet in a couple more years.
12) Dan Deacon – America
I think the “U.S.A. Suite” on this record could be the line in the sand between folks who love music and folks who just love redundant pop. More so than ever, each track on Deacon’s latest is an honest-to-goodness journey through the literal wirings of modern sound’s potential. Dude’s my hero.
11) Jack White – Blunderbuss
This is the album Mr. White has been hoping to make for 15 years. This is the sound he envisioned for The White Stripes before embracing the fact that his ex-wife had absolutely no drumming skill whatsoever. This is the most influential artist of the past decade at the top of his game. Rock and roll survival music.
30) Yeasayer – Fragrant World
If you still haven’t become familiar with the obscure, dance-worthy psychedelia that is Yeasayer, then this latest album is a fantastic place to start. Every song’s turn is unexpected yet comfortable, and I wholeheartedly believe they’re one of the most important bands on the planet right now. They should be opening for Radiohead.
29) Benny Yurco – This is a Future
For any of us familiar with Benny’s dominating axe-slashing prowess, it’s hard to believe there’s not one guitar solo on this, his debut record. But then you realize how great these Kingston via Brooklyn tunes are, and it all makes sense.
28) Actress – R.I.P.
The ambient electronic magic of this album falls somewhere between the subtle wonder of Caribou and the genius production of Flying Lotus. If you’re worried that every producer is being subdued by the womp of dub-step, then this album is a huge sigh of relief.
27) Heems – Wild Water Kingdom
Heems released two mix-tapes this year that made you realize that maybe Das Racist breaking up isn’t as big of a bummer as first instincts project. Things clicked perfectly on WWK, where laid-back, spun-out beats created the perfect backdrop for his hilarious and furious attacks.
26) Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
Modern soul music needed a good kick in the head, and thank God Ocean showed up to do it. Like anybody who’s heard it, I think the record is killer, but I feel it lacks the amazing hooks found in previous singles like “Novocaine” and “Swim Good.”
25) The Black Keys – El Camino
Shit, who would have thought a few years back that the Akron duo would become the biggest band in America? Bringing back Danger Mouse was a huge move, even though this album comes in a solid third to their previous 2 efforts. And yeah I know, this album actually came out in December of 2011, but it was fucking everywhere this year so deserves its spot on the list.
24) Dinosaur Jr. – I Bet on Sky
Ahhh, the 3rd album since Dino Jr.’s reunion 5 years ago is once again consistently amazing, and finds Mascis and crew truly at the top of their game. If you ever loved this band and haven’t given the new stuff a try, be prepared to love them even more than ever before.
23) Swans – The Seer
The legends of post-punk made the greatest album of the career this year, 30 years after this debut. Centered around the half-hour long title track, drone and darkness have never coexisted in such a land of triumphant light.
22) Dr. Dog – Wild Race E.P.
The tunes just keep fucking keep coming from the Dog gang, and like always, they’re undeniably amazing. I have no clue why “Be the Void” wasn’t on this year’s album of the same name, other than the fact that they needed to prove how many amazing songs they had tucked away still.
21) The Shins – Port of Morrow
Sure, James Mercer may have once again hired an entirely new band for this album, but his consistent onslaught of amazing songs makes him allowed to do whatever the fuck he wants. Deceptively complex pop music at its apex – keep em’ coming James.
40) Band of Horses – Mirage Rock
B.O.H. got a big chunk of their balls back on this album that they seemed to have lost on Infinite Arms. While still lacking a stand-out tune like the one that made you fall for this band on either of their 1st two albums, Mirage Rock is a solid statement that you shouldn’t forget about these guys just yet.
39) Best Coast – The Only Place
Bethany Cosentino made it quite clear on this, her sophomore release, that she has no plans any time soon of changing up the formula for her So-Cal garage-rock band, and that’s fucking fantastic. We need a regular go-to for bashing odes to the sun, and hopefully Best Coast will remain that go-to for quite some time.
38) Bear in Heaven – I Love You, It’s Cool
I had all but written off these guys in the past few years, but things went up a few notches on this latest Bear In Heaven release as they seemed to embrace every musical angle that make people hate bands from Brooklyn. Meshing rock and electronica together with no regrets and no excuses, this record’s great for late night city-gazing with headphones in the rain.
37) Marco Benevento – Tigerface
While the album starts out with a debatably off journey into lyrical pop territory, the rest of the record makes up for it with the brilliant instrumental melodies that Marco has made a name for himself with. It’s hard for him to shake the influences of both Vince Guaraldi and his old teacher Brad Mehldau, but why would he ever want to?
36) Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
Things got shockingly yet refreshingly simple on the latest work of genius composer Dave Longstreth, and this album seems like an essential step in his sometimes eerie and always ethereal pop journey. This is maybe the most intelligent band on the planet.
35) David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant
Maybe the most ideal collaboration I could ever dream of, (other than Eddie Van Halen and Les Claypool ever teaming up,) Love This Giant takes Byrne’s funk obscurity, combines it with Annie Clark’s gently sharp attack, and puts a giant brass section underneath – I hope there’s a sequel.
34) Benjamin Gibbard – Former Lives
We’ve been hearing Gibbard deal with heartbreak for quite some time now, so it’s no surprise that it sounds perversely wonderful on this solo release. It’s lacking the drive of Death Cab’s drums, but the rest of the sonic exploration makes that well worth it.
33) Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes
Pink has always taken pop music into worlds familiar but previously unseen, and Mature Themes is the perfection of an AM radio station on Venus. This is the most gently odd album of the year, just like his next album will be, and the one after that ad infintum.
32) How to Dress Well – Total Loss
Tom Krell brought in a touch more of the R&B flave to Total Loss, his sophomore album, but that doesn’t take anything away from this being the dreamiest music out there. The kind of record that makes you glad to have a roof above you for fear of total drift off.
31) Bob Dylan – Tempest
Anybody who didn’t get the big man’s new album obviously hasn’t been paying attention to anything he’s done in the past 30 years. Yeah, we know, his voice sounds like shit – that’s kind of the point. These songs are the definition of epic and bold, and nobody else on the planet could have crafted them. And since Dylan doesn’t allow Youtube videos, then I’ll put up Tim Heidecker’s one-up Titanic song that intentionally beats out Dylan’s by a minute and a half.
50) fun. - Some Nights – At first I didn’t want to admit that I dug this album so much, but the fact is it’s some of the best pop music to come out in years. If Top 40 radio was more littered with this stuff than the emo/dub-step crossovers, then I might actually be listening to it. I could definitely do without some of the intentional auto-tuning on some of the tracks, but I’m not afraid to make this my #50 pick.
49) The Men – Open Your Heart- There’s post-punk, and there’s no-psychedelia, and then there’s The Men. This is straight up punk music like there hasn’t been in a while, and these guys have already forged a place for themselves at the table right next to The Buzzcocks.
48) Captain Murphy – Duality - When it was recently revealed that Murphy actually was the rapping alter ego of the genius producer Flying Lotus, it seemed like one of those – “How did I not realize that moments.” Obviously the beats are fly as hell on Duality, but his cartoon-hinged MF Doomish lines are equally as impressive.
47) Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror - I didn’t think it would possible for these Noise-Pop destroyers to get any more aggressive on their sophomore album, but sweet Jesus did they ever. I still think they’d be better off with an actual drummer than the drum machine they use, but they are still on a very conquering run.
46) Trey Anastasio – Traveler- Trey hasn’t made a solid album with either Phish or by himself since 1995′s Billy Breathes, but this one kind of comes close. The production work of Peter Katis is a huge step in the right direction, but unfortunately the songs just aren’t there to back it up.
45) A.C. Newman – Shut Down the Streets- The front-man for New Pornographers seems to have an endless run of song ideas under his belt, and this solo album lives up with some of his finer work with the band. It’s a little more stripped down, but still manages to put out the pop music sing-alongs from Venus kind of vibe.
44) Thee Oh Sees – Putrifiers II – The first time I heard these guys a few years back, I thought I had a clear picture of their sound – Now I have no idea what to expect and that makes them so much more amazing then I thought they were. Kind of like if the Flaming Lips decided to only do the hard, raging shit.
43) Nas – Life is Good- God’s son came in strong with this record and made a good case for the fact that he ain’t going anywhere anytime soon. I could do without the reggae tinged things he seems to be favoring since his Damien Marley collaboration, but this shit might be the best work he’s done since Illmatic.
42) Delta Spirit -Delta Spirit- If someone time traveled from the 60′s and wanted to know what good music sounded like today, I might play them this album before any other. Brooklyn rock at its finest, minus all the bells and whistles.
41) Chairlift - Something - This synth-pop duo may be the only folks out there that are actually pulling off being a synth-pop duo. This album grows on me more and more upon each listen, and Caroline Polachek has one of the most beautiful voices in the indie scene today.
You know how when you listen to a Girl Talk album, you say: “Oh, that shit sounds really fucking cool, but I feel like I could have done that on my little sister’s laptop”? Well the electro-wizard known as Dan Deacon has basically taken mash-ups to a whole new realm on his latest “mix” tape – this is the kind of thing where you say: “Oh shit, this sounds fucking nuts and I have no clue what’s actually happening.” Perhaps motivated by his brilliant sonic-success of this summer’s attack on the Carly Rae Jespen hit “Call Me Maybe Acapella 147 Times Exponentially Layered,” Deacon has just released a 5 track mix known as Wish Book Volume I. Hopefully the volume 1 part refers to more on the way, because nobody else is doing this stuff and we need to get as freaky as possible as we move into 2013. I know I was definitely not waiting for “Gangnam Style” to be mixed up with Grimes‘ “Oblivion” – but it takes a bold leap into the unknown. Take a listen below, and download the whole mix from Soundcloud HERE.
Here’s Deacons’ full rundown:
Hope you enjoy. Wish Book Volume 1 was made with music made by (in order of appearance): grimes+psy+beach house+skrillex+diplo+nicky da b+dirty projectors+lil wayne+nicki minaj+oneohtrix point never+tune yards+animal collective+rod stewart+the strokes+wiz khalifa+beyoncé+lcd sound system+death grips+ludacris+rihanna+the beatles+roy orbison+silver apples+katy perry+69 boyz+gary glitter+james brown+lmafo+black dice+the ronettes+r. kelly+black eyed peas+lenny kravitz+the misfits+2 chains+daftpunk+led zeppelin+the notorious b.i.g.+devo+lightning bolt+unknown artist recorded in jaipur, india+marvin gaye+radiohead+rage against the machine+salt n peppa+brian eno+madonna