This week M83 released the final video in their connected trilogy of epic mini-movies from tunes off last year’s brilliant Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. While the initial video for “Midnight City” was met with much acclaim from anyone who laid eyes on it, the follow-up video for “Reunion” sort of squeaked out with not much fanfare – probably because that tune isn’t nearly as epic as its predecessor. But now the 3rd installment has appeared with the tune “Wait,” which is the dreamiest cut off the album and probably my favorite, and most likely will reach the fame of the 1st video. But all 3 are brilliantly produced by the team of Fleur & Manum, and front-man Anthony Gonzales has claimed that the videos are somewhat of a tribute to Akira, Village of the Damned, and Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind. The first 2 references make sense as the story line is about children with heightened powers rising up to a new age of human purpose, but I think the Close Encounters reference just has to do with the fact that he digs aliens and shit. All 3 videos remind me more of the Arthur C. Clarke masterpiece, Childhood’s End, which if you have yet to read – then go spend 8 bucks and read it today. Either way, here’s my interpretation of what’s going on with em. Here’s “Midnight City”.
Ok, so we’ve got this center where the government is collecting children who have exemplary powers of mental control and intellect – basically a more frightened version of the Xavier institute if you will. It’s not quiet a prison, but it definitely appears as if they’re held here against their will. So in comes this new little kid who seems to instantly be able to unify all the children in some sub-conscious mind-cloud. With the combined mental strength and motivation of the whole team, they are able to break free. Kids being kids, they make their way to an abandoned warehouse where they use their ESP to throw cars around and break shit. Then they go up on the rooftop and watch the sun set as they presumably haven’t had a chance to do that in a while and the sun seems to potentially provide the essence of their power. It’s also possible that they’re testing their true strength here and actually speeding up the rotation of the Earth and causing the sun to set earlier than usual, but that’s tough to determine. On to “Reunion”.
So one of the children didn’t escape with the others, and is now set up in a room where the evil government folk are manipulating her powers to use as a weapon for themselves. You can tell they’re using her for bad shit because her eyes go red here instead of that awesome stella blue. She locates the missing children and essentially explodes the inner divinity out of the youngest one to turn her into a homing beacon so that the bad folk can recapture them. This process kills the young girl, and the other kids are like “Fuck, we gotta get the fuck outta here.” They run away from their hunters til the one powerful kid from the beginning says, “Hold on, I think I got this shit.” At this point, the dark empowered child takes control of one of the hunter guys, and uses his body as a puppet for her own darkened attack. She lifts the SUV in the air and chucks it at the kids, but the little guy is able to stop it mid-flight. Then a few other super-kids show up, and with their combined power they are able to relaunch the SUV back at the hunters. This combined power of the enlightened children is enough to snap the darkened girl out of her manipulated trance. She takes off her wiring and gets out of there. The rest of the kids then go into a church and combine their sacred inner lights into one powerful force, and we see the sun rise. Perhaps insinuating again that they have this unified control of the sun or rotation of the Earth and that they are turning shit once more. To the conclusion – “Wait.”
All right, now shit gets really heavy. We’re in space and we see a mirrored pyramid shape floating around slightly reminiscent of the thing that held General Zod in Superman II, but more likely a reference to the monolith from 2001. With the faint image of one of the girls’ faces interspersed with shots of a galaxy in space, it appears that the children have now astrally projected themselves off of Earth, and thus perhaps they actually are the flying pyramid monoliths. Either way, we cut back down to a severely trashed city where the now lone girl who escaped from the last video is wandering past dead bodies and destruction. We see some guys brutally beating the fuck out of someone else and then we cut back to space where we see a massive explosion go off on Earth. This is the little girl exploding her powers out, destroying all the perceived evil of society around her and cleansing the Earth. We then see here walking the now completely barren world of nothingness where upon she extracts a drop of water from the land and begins the process of rebirth on the planet. Back in space, we see the true 2001 reference take place as the boy enters full Dave/Star Child mode – launching through the escalated motions of his existence as we see the DNA structure realigning. Cut back to Earth, where the young girl has now completely reformed things into a rain-forest paradise and has essentially become the new Mother Earth. She is the new creator and the new dawn of the next life of a cleansed world. At the same time, Star Child reaches his own next state of evolution, and in exhausted completion he and his monolithic pyramid self come crushing back into the Earth. The new age officially begins. Brilliant, beautiful stuff. Powerful sounds and imagery as we near the end of 2012 here. Kind makes you really want to hold tight to the people you love. And seriously, go read Childhood’s End right now – it’s essential for an understanding of modern human potentiality.
It sucks to dis-hype any music by saying it sounds so particularly like anything else, but there’s no doubt that this 21 year old kid from England is the greatest champion of mid-90′s indie rock and shoegaze since My Bloody Valentine started a reunion tour. As I say in the interview – When I first heard Yuck’s debut LP last year, it wasn’t so much that is sounded like I was listening to Pavement as much as it felt like I was. Here’s a snippet but read the whole interview HERE at State of Mind.
Well, we wrote and recorded the music in… a timeframe. And I listen to music, well, I feel young with music. I think I was 17 when I started to really listen to records and discover labels. For me and Max, we still need to listen to, like, the most important bands — ones we’ve never heard before. So we go through massive phases with bands where we get really, really into something. And there are bands or artists that we always go back to, but sometimes when people ask that it’s quite confusing. Some bands Max likes a lot more than me, but I completely understand when people compare us to the 90s because I find that a lot of my favorite music comes from that time.
Portland, Oregon – shitty 80′s long-sleeves – funky Beck falsettos… So I’m not sure when all 3 of these things began to coexist as the hip new trend, but I have realized that I’ve begun to harness a preparatory disdain for the formula. And the thing is I really like shitty clothes from the 80′s and music that sounds like mid-90′s Beck – I really do. Perhaps that’s why I’m overly critical – I just want the best. Anyway, I’m not sure what level of sarcastic angst I was carrying the first time I heard Unknown Mortal Orchestra, but I do know I was a jackass that day. Luckily, since I’m 8 months late to the game, their self-titled debut is my new jam of the summer.
Basically you take 3 cats who have an obvious love for the Flaming Lips and modernized back-beats, throw them into the technicolor explosion of London circa 1966, light up a monster spliff, and wham – you are now pulsing in the heart of UMO. This album has also made me realize that making shit sound intentionally low-fi will never go out of style. 50 years from now, when we’re just shooting lasers into our heads to hear tunes, there’s still gonna be new kids on the scene who will figure out how to connect a busted 4-track to their cerebellum.
It’s about an hour’s drive to the beach from Portland, and these guys have made the perfect album to listen to on that drive with the windows down. It’s the kind of album that makes you want to eat mushrooms, swim in the ocean, then lie on the beach and listen to it all over again. Dig it.
Now I am not the biggest metal fan by any means, but there is some shit I really dig. My problem is not with the abrasive nature, the speed, or the volume though, my problem is when bands use those 3 things to hide the fact that they’re crappy musicians writing crappy songs. Not even ironically crappy songs you know? Just complete 12 year-old basement fat-kid shit. The best heavy-metals should utilize the intense nature of the genre to craft intelligent songs that manipulate pop and melody in functions other genres can not. I know there’s a lot of arguments about the distinction between metal, and heavy metal, and all that, but there seems to be a consensus on Black Sabbath kinda getting shit going. And at the time it was released, Sabbath may have seem loud, and dark, and evil, but it doesn’t sound bad by any means. So just because you’re singing about dark shit, and playing loud and heavy, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to learn how to play the friggin’ guitar.
Annnnnyway, my point is that Red Fang fucking rules. They are the living embodiment of the non-hipster Portland, Oregon scene – a world where the true emotions of punk and metal find a home to exist and thrive. They definitely fall partially into the sub-genre some call “stoner-rock”. Which essentially is just a newer term to distinguish modern heavy rock from speed metal. I think somebody came up with it when they needed a way to label Queens of the Stone Age. So think that kind of steadier bass-heavy groove, and then Red Fang turns it up another several notches in speed, intensity, pocket-lock, and self-satisfaction. To put it as generally as possible, mash QOTSA with the intense melodic attack of Mastodon and you’ll find Red Fang. Ehhh, but don’t think they do the speed arpeggio shit – it’s really just more hard rock. And they’re better than both those bands anyway if you ask me. Which you do, because you’re reading this post.
They signed recently with the metal label: Relapse Records, and they’re currently at the beginning of a 5 month Europe tour. In other words, they’re crushing it. And oh yeah, here’s the best part – they’re videos are friggin’ hilarious. I believe they’re all directed by this fella Whitey McConnaughy, and he knows how to totally embody what this music, this scene, this band, and this town is all about. These videos are what Portlandia could be if it edged it up a little bit. I recommend watching all 3. Right now.
“Wires” – This video’s epic. From last year’s Murder the Mountains and showing the best way ever to blow a $5,000 dollar video budget. If you’re like me, you’ll fall for this band even before the song starts. The tune itself is great though, it’s incredibly simple, (2 chords more or less) yet somehow sounds new and refreshing. When the spaced-out breakdown came, I was fully on board with this band. And then the milk exploded… Featuring a Brian Posehn cameo for extra-special seal-of-approval.
“Prehistoric Dog” - The first in this trilogy videos. Killer friggin’ hook, lyrics about vengeful space-wolfs, and the band’s take on the LARPing sensation. I love this tune.
“Hank is Dead” - The latest video from just a couple months ago. Featuring the band playing live from their station wagon while cruising the PDX streets, and leading up to an actual Red Fang air-guitar competition. Witness the love.
Despite my constantly triumphing carnal knowledge of all things music, there’s 2 worlds of which I am fairly clueless. One is whatever that Redneck Emo shit they call Country is these days, and the other is the smooth-ass world of R & B. Now I don’t give 2 fucks about Emo Necks – I know there’s nothing for me in that world. However, the smooth ass booty-spanking jams of the R&B world don’t frighten me -I’m just completely in the dark about where to go for good smooth beats. It seems a lot of those folks just take themselves way too seriously, even that new cat The Weeknd that everybody loves – it’s just too tense for me.
Thus, I’ve been completely ignoring all the references to Frank Ocean I’ve heard over the past year. Even when he started linking up with Odd Future, I presumed it was more of a funny thing for them to do. Well Mr. Ocean, I sincerely apologize, because you are the smooth ass, hilarious booty-grind magic-man I have been waiting for. It’s like totally taking the dirty hilarious world that Tyler the Creator and his OFWKTA crew bring to hip-hop, and flipping it to the R&B world. I’m late in the game to this fella, but get on board if you are as well.
Here’s the video for “Novacane” – featuring Frank smoking a blunt while he imagines getting fondled by naked chicks and a panda bear. If I follow the story-line of the lyrics correctly, he went to Coachella to see Jay-Z, met some hot girl who was there to see Z-Trip, and the two of them went somewhere to smoke a blunt. He starts getting really fucked up and the girl tells him that she laced the grass with novacane. I think that’s what’s happening – it’s awesome either way.
And here’s “Swim Good.” First off, I love the direct embrace of improper English – I really think it’s a powerful statement on preconceived notions of a black artists’ intelligence – seriously! But c’mon, how can you deny the man when he’s like, “I want to write a bad-ass song called swim-good?” It’s completely different than whatever fool forget to tell The Ying Yang Twins that the symbol is a YIN-YANG – I think that was a total ignorant goof on their part. However, this song on the other hand would be nothing if the hook was “swim well.” Whatever, those 50 words are more than anybody should really philosophically think about his video. Dig it, it’s my fucking jam.
50-41 – http://www.ishitmusic.com/?p=122
40-31 – http://www.ishitmusic.com/?p=124
30–21 – http://www.ishitmusic.com/?p=125
20-11 – http://www.ishitmusic.com/?p=126
10) M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
- 22 tracks at an hour and a half long is a lot to process, and subsequently it took me 3 or 4 listens to even get to the second half of this album. Touches of Flaming Lips, touches of MGMT, touches of droney shoegaze, touches of epic beats, touches of Duran Duran – this album has already cemented itself in landmark status for the new millennium. If “Midnight City” doesn’t grab you right off the bat, then this probably isn’t your thing – but if it intrigues you at all, then dig in deep because this album can reshape your expectations for good music these days.
9) ATLAS SOUND – Parallax
- Bradford Cox has entered into a weird self-inspiring world from his steady releases with Deerhunter and solo as Atlas Sound. As a result, this album is a lot more song-oriented than I expected from a release as this moniker, but that’s a great thing. The driftouts are still prevalent in tracks like “Te Amo” and “Quark Parts 1 and 2,” but interspersed melody-based tunes bring a more expansive cohesion to Parallax than any of Cox’s prior releases, and hint that he has still yet to make his true masterpiece. Either way, he is the current ruler of the psychedelic, ambient, melody-based universe I frequently like to dwell within.
8. WASHED OUT – Within and Without
- Just when it seemed like the chill-wave dream-pop scene was ending before it reached its’ adolescence, Ernest Greene stepped up and made it clear he wants to grow old with this sound. I definitely play this album a lot more as resonant ambient music than as a direct listening focus, and yes it does make you want to have a projector screen in your house just showing waves moving in slow motion. There is a modest hugeness to this music that also makes me want to replace all the furniture in my home with oversized bean-bag chairs.
7) THURSTON MOORE – Demolished Thoughts
- Fuck, I really hope Sonic Youth isn’t dead, but Demolished Thoughts seems to at least state that Thurston knew his separation from Kim Gordon was forthcoming. Acoustic, dark, and beautiful – this album should be next to the word bittersweet in the dictionary. I honestly can’t imagine my life without having the first track “Benediction” in it – sometimes it makes me tear up, sometimes it stops me from tearing up, and all the time it makes me think what an amazing blessing Thurston Moore is to those open to his reality. I truly love this record.
6) CAGE THE ELEPHANT – Thank You, Happy Birthday
- I am so not afraid to say how killer I think this band is. With a thick mid-90’s-ish rock sound and an astonishing melodic-pop sensibility, the comparisons to Nirvana and Arctic Monkies are justified, but leave little credit to this band’s own voice. Jared Champion is a murderous backbone beast of a drummer, and the band’s syncopated rock riffs over top along with Matthew Shultz’s crushing vocals and lyrics make them one of the most powerful bands out there today. This whole record is classic with no less than 5 or 6 amazing songs on there
5) DUCKTAILS – Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics
- The pseudonym for the solo work of Real Estate’s Matthew Mondanile, Arcade Dynamics is familiar in the same way that a forgotten dream is. His idea of crafting fake nostalgia came to complete fruition on this album – it’s California drift-folk recorded in Northeast basements and it’s just exactly right. It’s raw and analog in the most perfect way, and with just enough reverb on the vocals to not sound like a completely pretentious asshole. It sounds like the soundtrack to old reel-to-reel footage of a 50’s family reunion where you see your grandparents smoking reefer.
4) RADIOHEAD – The King of Limbs/ TKOL Live From the Basement
- I’ve said if before, but I’m really sorry if you still don’t ‘get’ this band. I have to include the live set here as well, since it is fucking unbelievable, has double drummers, and includes the newer tracks “The Daily Mail” and “Staircase” which are both amazing. With each new album this band re-writes the notions of rhythm in rock music, and restructures how the human soul can physically connect with sound. Get some good headphones, and don’t be afraid of where these songs, this music, and this band can take you.
3) STEPHEN MALKMUS & The Jicks – Mirror Traffic
- I don’t think there will ever be another album made with his old band, but subsequently, and perhaps charged from the 2010 reunion tour, this album sounds more like a Pavement album than any of his 4 other solo releases. The only thing that makes it even better, is that some of these tunes could only come from the independent operation of Malkmus, and that he’s reached a level of melodic and lyrical understanding that he never could have grown into with the other band. The rockers here, like the opener “Tigers,” are brilliantly focused, and the slower, more delicate songs are simply astonishing – “No One Is” and “Share the Red” are epic warm-blanket wrappers. As my dear friend Ben Yurco said, “This is maybe the warmest album ever made.”
2) YUCK – Yuck
- The only band that sounded more like the most ideal echo of the 90’s than Malkmus this year was these lovely young cats from London. Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, Pavement, slow Smashing Pumpkins – they all get touched upon here, but really this band just seems like one of their sonic peers you somehow missed out on 15 years ago. The rockers touch on the more melodic side of Dinosaur Jr., and the slow shoegazers just touch on your reverb-pedal-loving heart-strings. “Suck” and “Rubber” are HUGE. I never stopped listening to this album this year, and it holds just as big a place in my heart as some of its’ forefathering records. As my dear friend Wade Wilby said, “I wish I had this album when I broke up with my high-school girlfriend in 1996.”
1) DALE EARNHARDT JR. JR. – It’s a Corporate World
- This became one of my all time go-to albums this year. My iTunes claims I’ve listened to it 62 times since it came out. Two incredibly radical fellas from Detroit write amazing songs, and mix them with killer beats and transcendent drift. Melodically, there’s a pop-sense to it, but there’s more of a rock edge in the exploratory nature they let into the songs. Suppose you time-traveled back 50 years, and you meet someone who’s afraid that all music will suck in the 21st century. So you want to play them an album that’s warm and approachable, but still futuristic enough that it’s like nothing they’ll hear for decades. This is it.
50-41 – http://www.ishitmusic.com/?p=122
40-31 – http://www.ishitmusic.com/?p=124
30 – 21 – http://www.ishitmusic.com/?p=125
20) Booker T. Jones – The Road from Memphis
- With the MGs, Booker T. forged the cornerstone of instrumental soul music, and this album is by no means just a nostalgic celebration. Ideally having most of The Roots backing him up, Jones is still all about filling the pocket rather than playing crazy organ arpeggios. There’s an amazing take on Lauren Hill’s “Everything is Everything,” a killer cut with Jim James on vocals, and a crushing tune with Lou Reed called “The Bronx” which if you can imagine what it sounds like, I assure you it’s even more badass.
19) Panda Bear – Tomboy
- Five years ago Person Pitch was released, and its’ influence on the independent music scene has been enormous. Tons of young kids realized their whiny acoustic tunes could sound way cooler with massive echo, drone, and repetition; and the genre known as electronic music suddenly took on much more depth than anyone could have realized. Tomboy is a perfect continuation of this master’s craft, with a touch more focus on melody lines but still that same ‘float up to Neptune on a sunny day’ feel.
18) Tennis – Cape Dory
- Yeah, this album is definitely geared more towards the harmonic desire of my fellow Caucasians, but what do you expect from a band named Tennis? There are plenty of duos out there right now fronted by female vocals, but this husband/wife act makes it sound far more natural than the rest. Part 50’s doo-wop and part gritty roots-rock, this is the new theme music for hipsters on sail-boats who want to puke when they hear Steely Dan.
17) Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee Part II
- Hi, my name’s Adam King. I’m 31 years old, and I fucking love the Beastie Boys. Sure, this isn’t their finest work but it’s still ultra-hype, has a bunch of incredible tunes, and gives credit to me wanting to wear skate-shoes until I die. Hopefully, MCA fully recovers from nasty throat cancer, and we won’t have to consider this their swan-song. Either way, it melds perfectly into the rest of their catalogue, with tunes like “Make Some Noise” being able to theoretically exist on any of their albums.
16) The Black Keys – El Camino
- It took a few albums, but The Black Keys are now officially the coolest band on the planet. Creating a thicker sound as a duo than most full bands out there, this is where the soul of rock and roll dwells these days. Despite Danger Mouse reprising his production role, this is one of the first times that an album he’s touched doesn’t sound simply like a Danger Mouse record – which is a testament to how well these guys fit together. And if you haven’t been to a strip-club in a while because you got tired of hearing Van Halen on repeat, I assure you that half the girls only dance to The Black Keys these days.
15) My Morning Jacket – Circuital
- After the rather dis-conjunct feeling that 2008’s Evil Urges left me with, I decided it was best to lessen my expectations of MMJ. Then this album dropped and they became my heroes all over again. The huge, slow build of the opening “Victory Dance,” the undeniable power of “Holdin’ on to Black Metal,” and the slow time-pod ballad “Slow Slow Tune” are 3 of my favorite tunes the band’s ever released. They are defining what the modern idea of a true rock band should be.
14) The Black Lips – Arabia Mountain
- Calling this band punk-rock is like calling Jonathan Richman punk-rock; it’s more of a mentality than it is a sonic connection. After over a decade as a band, these guys have settled into their niche of just writing cool, catchy tunes and not giving a fuck what anybody wants to call them. This is the kind of band The Peanuts Gang would be really into during their high-school years, and Arabia Mountain finds them at the top of their form.
13) Bon Iver – Bon Iver
- Regardless of the mythical hype that swirls around Justin Vernon these days, and as much as I initially tried to deny it, this album is incredible. It initially comes off as way too simple, but then you realize that it’s actually totally complex. Masterful use of different layers and incredibly melodic chord changes take what could have been an incredibly drab and boring collective of tunes, and make them incredibly thick and literally brilliant. I didn’t want to love it, but I fucking love it.
12) Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi – Rome
- DM took 5 years to make this album, teaming up with Italian composer, Luppi, and re-assembling many of the same musicians used in the old Spaghetti Westerns like “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly.” Essentially imagine that movie just came out, and Danger did the soundtrack and this is what you’d get. The creepy choir and dark strings, Jack White singing on a few morbid tracks, and a few with Norah Jones sounding badass for the first time in her life. This album is epic, and magical, and sadly overlooked by too many this past year. I personally thought it was gonna get nominated for at least a few Grammys.
11) Yeasayer – Live at Ancienne Belgique
- Ok, so this album was actually released a few days before 2011, but whatever, I make the rules. The tribal psych-rock of Yeasayer is presented with a whole new power here. A pristine recording from a Belgium show in the Fall of 2010, this is the album that can turn a whole different amalgamation of your friends onto this band – both head nodding hipsters and funked out post-hippies. It’s big, it bounces, it rocks, and it’s everything a great live album should be.
50-41 – http://www.ishitmusic.com/?p=122
40-31 – http://www.ishitmusic.com/?p=124
30) Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
- Of all the young kids that Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox has obviously influenced, no one has been able to define their own voice as much as this youngen from Boise. Floating vocals are strengthened by big bass kicks and an incredible ear for uncluttered melodies. Trevor Powers sounds like the kid from the movie version of Where the Wild Things Are recording an album in his basement 10 year later – incredibly warm and caring, comfortably alone, and with echoes of Karen O ringing in his ears.
29) Broken Bells – Meyrin Fields EP
- Danger Mouse can bring anybody up a few notches on the bad-ass ladder, and James Mercer should forever be in his debt. There’s just something so much ballsier about these tunes than anything The Shins ever put out. There may only be 4 tunes on this EP, but they’re just as dope as those on the debut LP. This is the kind of music that makes you feel like you’re James Bond stealth attacking an evil-madman’s Icelandic lair while an enormous joint hangs off your lip.
28) War on Drugs – Slave Ambient
- Finally somebody brought a taste of dream-pop into a successful cohesion with that classic Americana feel. Once fronted by Kurt Vile, a whole new lineup seems to have ignited this band into an amazing album that falls somewhere between the land cohabitated by Dire Straits and My Bloody Valentine. Adam Grunduciel has some amazing ideas on here – the kind that make you want to start your own shoegaze band all over again.
27) Death Cab for Cutie – Codes and Keys
- Death Cab makes killer albums, that’s all there is to it. They may always be the great bridge between middle-aged hipsters and tween-age girls, but once you let go of all preconceptions they can totally take control of your heart. There’s no direct radio hit on Codes and Keys, and that’s a good thing. If you’ve spent any time with the classic Transatlanticismi¸ this is in many ways its’ sister album. Incredible drum lines shape the entire album, much in the same way that Jason McGerr helped mold the songs on Transatlanticism, his first album with the band. And portending his breakup from Zooey Deschanel, it’s quite obvious that Ben Gibbard writes way better songs when his heart is a little broken.
26) Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo
- I’m sure they let you smoke butts in heaven, and Kurt Vile couldn’t have been more right on then crafting this image for his music. These solo, acoustic tunes are drifty and dreamy, but at the same time they make me want to drink shitty beer. The imagery and flow to the tunes make em’ sound like an old Sonic Youth album stripped down to its’ most naked form. First listen is casual, and then it may consume you.
25) The Flaming Lips – Gummy Song Skull EP (and) Lips w/ Neon Indian
- Wayne Coyne and cohorts have been a friggin’ psych-rock factory the past year or so. It seems like they released a new EP every month, so I had to include 2 here on my list. The tracks contained inside a 7 pound human skull made of gummy sound like a Phish soundcheck where everybody’s trying out a new synthesizer. And of all the collabortations they keep releasing, nothing was more natural than these 4 tracks with Neon Indian. Somehow eerie and uplifting at the same time.
24) The New Mastersounds – Breaks From the Border
- When this English four-piece announced they would be including vocals on their new album, my reaction was “Well, say goodbye to one of the tightest funk acts you’ve ever seen.” But lo and behold, something magical happened – instead of being sonic peers to 1997-era Medeski and Scofield, they became the only band that could ever live up to the heritage of The Meters. Soul, speed, and perfection – you can picture the Neville Borthers cranking this album in their homes.
23) Grouplove – Never Trust a Happy Song
- My favorite pop-rock band in quite some time. It is insanely tough to write this music without sounding like complete tools, but they mix the ideal parts of melody, fun, and rock to make an amazingly perfect pop album. So much groovier and more interesting than Edward Sharpe or any of the other quasi-popular indie-pops band out there today. I crank this record when I’m home by myself.
22) Tyler the Creator – Goblin
- I haven’t had music make me feel this way since the 2nd Eminem album came out. Inappropriate “F” words flow freely, plenty of murder, and the most innovative beats on the scene today. This is America, and we are legally allowed to be as politically-incorrect as we want to be. You gotta respect a kid who is definitely not afraid to have FoxNews blame him for all our problems. I love this shit.
21) Cloud Nothings – Cloud Nothings
- Dylan Baldi has already released his 2012 album which finds his sound progressing in unfathomably fast ways, but this eponymous disc is his primary statement of purpose. The finest in today’s neo-punk scene – these songs are fast, hard, and yet full of incredible melodies. If the kid likes a line, he’ll repeat it just to the point where you’re ready to bash your head against the wall, and that’s a huge part of the reason why I dig this album so much.
50 – 41 – http://www.ishitmusic.com/?p=122
40) Ween – Caesar 1 & 2
- The New Hope boys haven’t released anything formally since 2007, so for the Ween-freaks like me out there, this collection of demos from the Quebec era provides quite the fix. First put out on Mickey Melchiondo’s (Deaner’s) facebook page, the amount of never-before-heard-or-released tracks that are friggin’ awesome here proves just how prolific these guys really are. “Eulogy for David Anderson” – fucking beautiful. “You Can Go Shit in Your Hat” – dope as all hell. “Hello Johnny” and “Wide Open” – why the hell didn’t they release these?!? Thanks Dean.
39) Neon Indian – Era Extraña
- When I first heard “Should Have Taken Acid With You” 2 years ago, I figured Neon Indian was going to evolve into a dub-step mess of synthesizer patches by 2011. But instead of taking the easy way out, Alan Palomo put his head back down, wrote some waaaaay better tunes, and found a way to make all those patches sound epically classy. Good lyrics, good beats, and a truly fun use of modern sound – I’m on board for the rest of his ride.
38) Givers – In Light
- A group of Louisiana sub-brooklynites make music that half draws from Phoenix and half from Paul Simon’s African skies vibe. But don’t think about how that first Vampire Weekend really got annoying after multiple listens – Givers go deeper in stacking of melodic layers, have a killer guitarist, and aren’t afraid to intelligently slow things down when they want to. I’m going to listen to this album a lot in 2012.
37) Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler/ The Dream
- This San Francisco garage-rock attack force is like Iggy Pop with better chord changes. Loyal to the melodic vengeance of pre-punk punk-rock, this is the kind of band that your friends who don’t like punk-rock will be like “Oh, I dig this though.” While your friends who love punk rock will be like, “Maybe not as sloppy as I’m used to, but I like this shit a lot.” It’s better to just call it rock and roll.
36) Starfucker – Reptilians
- It’s hard to make an acoustic guitar sound cool in a quasi-electronica band, but the opening cut from Reptilians make it seem essential for Portland’s Starfucker. Think Beta Band turned up a few notches, focused more on potentially danceable grooves, and not afraid to have a shit-load of glitchy tweek noises cycling in the background. The album turns into more of a dance-party as it goes along, but there’s a lot of potential for this horribly named band to go deep – soon.
35) Wilco – The Whole Love
- I’m one of those people who loves Wilco but thought the last album kinda blew chunks for the first time in their career. It wasn’t bad, it just featured the most non-memorable songs in the band’s history – it was cliché Dad rock. Then I heard “Art of Almost” and let out an enormous sigh. Again, the whole cycle of songs isn’t nearly as strong as what they used to release, but there’s a solid handful of ridiculously good songs on The Whole Love. It’s definitely not the album that’s gonna win any new fans, but it definitely will keep the old ones happy.
34) Real Estate – Days
- More and more lately this album has been reminding me of Echo and The Bunnymen. It’s because Real Estate not only has that same space-folk feel, but also has the same drive to keep things from getting too boring. The beats, the melodies, and the reverb are all the things that put this album on my top 50 and keep The Fleet Foxes out of it. “It’s Real” has been cycling in my head many a morning the past few months.
33) Floating Action – Desert Etiquette
- Shit, somebody forgot to tell Seth Kaufman that stupid puns are always crappy ideas for album titles…moving on. There’s a late-50’s beach-rock swing that is the basis of Floating Action, and that Kaufman is constantly gaining more indelible control of. This is the perfect music for a backyard party in the summer – or at least for drinking a beer before 5 on a weekday during the winter. It’ll be interesting to see how long this band remains so seriously underrated.
32) Destroyer – Kaputt
- I figured Destroyer was a new side project for Dan Bejar of The New Pornographers to get his yacht-rock coke-funk passions out, but turns out he’s been releasing stuff with this act since the 90’s. Either way, all 9 tracks on the album are classics that will make you want to drink Zimas in the sun. You’ll hear one track and think there’s no way he can keep up that cool-ass groove for the whole record, but boy does he.
31) TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light
- What happened, did people just get tired of talking about how great this band is? After Rolling Stone put 2008’s Dear Science as their album of the year, it’s like people don’t want to admit that TV on the Radio are as important as they actually are. Nobody is crafting rock in such epic rhythmic syncopation these days, and Light is probably their finest work to date. And despite bassist Gerard Smith’s passing, these guys still have a lot of soul left in them to unleash on the world.
All right, here we go. There were a wicked crap load of different albums I spent time with this year, and most of them never got around to reviewing. But as we go through upgrade mode here at ishitmusic, time for a run-down of the 50 albums that are really worth your time from last year. 10 a day all week long.
50) Daft Punk – Tron Legacy Reconfigured
- The original score for Tron Legacy seemed somewhat hollow for the legacy these guys have crafted for themselves. But I think the notion was to keep things rather unframed so that subsequent producers would have more room to make these songs their own, and that they did. There’s a killer Com Truise remix, and Glitch Mobb are in their finest form, but the go-to cut is the M83/Big Black Delta remix of “Fall.” It’s the tune that turned a ton of folks, (myself included) onto the power of M83.
49) Adele – 21
- There’s a reason home-girl has sold 7 million copies of her album – she’s really fucking good. Great melodies and some of the most painfully bittersweet lyrics to get thrown on Top 40 radio in quite some time. Don’t be turned away just because your 12-year old neighbor has been playing the album on repeat for a year.
48) Dawes – Nothing is Wrong
- On their 2009 debut, North Hills, Dawes placed their boot-print in the ongoing timeline of California Americana Rock. Despite having a huge year in 2011, including backing up Robbie Robertson on tour, Nothing is Wrong couldn’t quite live up to the haunting cycle of songs on their first album. The sound is still there, but the heart-tug isn’t nearly as deep. This might be the best background-music album of the year.
47) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Hysterical
- CLHSY made two of my favorite albums of the 2000’s before going on extended hiatus in 2008. Hysterical is still the same post-punk Byrne-esque fast-backbeat-driven rock band from before, but the initial spark of enthusiasm has somewhat dwindled. “Same Mistake” and “Hysterical,” the first two cuts, portend for more than the consecutively drabber rest of the album that follows, but they’re strong enough alone to put the whole record on this list.
46) Das Racist – Relax
- Listen, I fucking love Das Racist, but I’m really worried that they think they need to start getting serious. And sure, serious to them is still wicked loco to most mainstream hip-hop today, but their increasing focus on bollywood riffs and the lack of any Billy Joel references on this album has me a tad antsy. Either way, it’s still some of the only rap being released these days that everybody should at least give a shot to.
45) Phantogram – Nightlife
- This 6-song EP from the upstate New York duo is rather grandiose compared to their earlier self-described sound of “street-beat, psych-pop” and it’s totally a move the band should continue to embrace. Sarah Barthel’s voice is as eerily soothing as she is ridiculously attractive, and I think with the right producer these guys could step it up huge on their next release. Perfect music for a 3AM after party: calm enough for half the folks to melt into the couch, bumping enough for the party to still bounce around them.
44) The Antlers – Burst Apart
- I missed the boat 2 years ago when Pete Silberman got an actual band together and released the amazing Hospice. So Burst Apart was my first introduction to the driving drift of these Brooklynites, and the first tune “I Don’t Want Love” is the defining track of the band for me. There are plenty of folks who can sound really blue with tons of space-echo on their guitar, but The Antlers have a dark tongue-in-cheek edge that gives them a touch of necessary grit.
43) Radiohead – TKOL RMX 1234567
- Radiohead albums are like jet-planes: they weave through the airwaves, change the landscape, and leave an extensive trail of their residue behind them. When compiled together, the 19 different official remixes off The King of Limbs are like listening to the album through a kaleidoscope. 5 different takes on “Bloom” sound nothing alike, including the 2 stabs by the ever-expanding Jamie xx. Caribou’s version of “Little By Little” instills a comfortable paranoia like only the actual band usually does. Caution, subsequent late night listening sessions may temporarily jostle your frontal lobe and pineal gland… in a good way, of course.
42) Wild Flag – Wild Flag
- Sure, it’s worth mentioning that they’re an all-female four-piece of 90’s indie-rock superstars, but it’s more important to talk about how much this album rocks. Perhaps Portlandia has given Carrie Brownstein some rejuvenated inspiration, because some tracks like “Electric Band” are better than anything she wrote in Sleater-Kinney. The only downfall is that she stole my beloved drummer Janet Weiss back from Stephen Malkmus’ band, but as long as they keep the Wild Flag thing going for a little while, I completely understand.
41) Work Drugs – Summer Blood
- Admit it, it’s hard to be a smooth-ass low-fi gritty-dream-drift band these days without sounding like a pretentious dick, but Work Drugs kick ass. A fan has made a video for the title track featuring beach scenes from Point Break in slow motion, and that’s exactly what this album sounds like. It grows more on me each time, and isn’t gonna leave my rotation for a while. It’s actually far superior to its’ sonic peers and older brothers from the past couple years.