Posts Tagged ‘Garage Rock’

2016 Year End Picks

January 1, 2017

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A great place to get a pulse on what music critics, websites and blogs are thinking about at the end of the year is Metacritic, which compiles all those year end lists and gives an aggregate “best of” list based on the number of #1, #2 and other votes received by an album.  You can find it here and as of today, the top 10 are:

1 Blackstar by David Bowie
2 Lemonade by Beyoncé
3 Blonde by Frank Ocean
4 A Seat at the Table by Solange
5 A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead
6 Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper
7 The Life of Pablo by Kanye West
8 We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service by A Tribe Called Quest
9 Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
10 My Woman by Angel Olsen

I wrote about a few of these albums this year (Bowie, Radiohead, ATCQ), and I’ve listened now to all 10.  Life of Pablo and Blonde have some really good moments, but overall as albums I don’t think either deserves to be in a top 10.  Lemonade deserves a spot in a top 10, as the trio of 6 Inch (with it’s great use of an Isaac Hayes sample), Freedom and Formation are some of the best pop R&B of the past few years.

Nick Cave’s album has an unfortunate story to go with his melancholy album, but I thought this album was rather boring.  As I mentioned in my post about the death of Leonard Cohen, I hadn’t really given his music the attention I probably should have.  I listened to his last album he put out months before his death and wow, it’s good.  Appropriately titled You Want It Darker, it’s somber, dark, but really good.  I definitely would put it above the Cave album.  It’s ranked 12 on the Metacritic aggregate list.

As you know from my review of ATCQ’s album, it’s the number 1 hip hop album of the year.  Coloring Book is nice, but ATCQ beats it.  Caveat, I haven’t listened to the new Run The Jewels yet, but I doubt I’ll like it more than the Tribe album.

I was really surprised by the new Angel Olson album.  It was more rock, less folk and there’s hints of some PJ Harvey in there that I really liked.  Check out the Song Exploder podcast where she breaks down the album’s best track (and one of my favorite songs of the year) Shut Up Kiss Me for some insights on where she was coming from in making this new album.

Here’s some other albums and songs I really liked in 2016, including a few you might have missed.

Rock

  1. Andrew Bird, Are You Serious. Normally a Bird album would go under the Folk heading, but here Bird does rock just enough for me to put this in the proper Rock category.  The title track is one of my favorite songs of the year and his duet with Fiona Apple immediately before that is really good too.
  2. Okkervil River, Away.  Another band that sometimes straddles the line between rock, folk and country.  Only 9 songs, but only one clocks in at less than 5 minutes and the 7+ minute opus, Frontman In Heaven, was another favorite of mine this year.
  3. Allah-Las, Calico Review.  Garage rock band from Los Angeles that has a laid back sound but just enough bite to keep you coming back for more.
  4. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, A Man Alive.  This one is in my top 5 for sure this year, can’t understand why it didn’t get love from the critics in year-end lists.  I wrote about it when it came out here.

Folk/Country

  1. Blind Pilot, And Then Like Lions.  A six piece from Portland Oregon, straddles the line between folk and pop.  While no really transcendent songs here, a quality set of songs that reminds me of a less bombastic Local Natives.
  2. Jim James, Eternally Even.  Love James’ voice and so he can usually do no wrong in my book.  A good group of songs that get a little funky in spots with some nice horn/key parts.
  3. El Perro De Mar, Kokoro.  Ever since hearing her cover God Only Knows, always on the lookout for new music by the Swedish singer.  She put out a new album this year, a pleasant series of happy tunes.  My favorite is Hard Soft Hard.
  4. Cass McCombs, Mangy Love.  Packs a lot of different styles into this album, from sweet balladry to blues rock stomp.  Like James, a great voice that I always enjoy.  Rancid Girl is a standout.
  5. Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.  He followed up his excellent 2014 album with another great one.  He throws in elements of psychedelia, folk, rock, and country into his songs and he has a quintessential “country” voice in the mold of Waylon Jennings.  Covering Nirvana’s In Bloom could have been a travesty, but it works, particularly in the context of the songs around it.

R&B/Pop

  1. James Blake, The Colour In Anything.  Wrote about this earlier in the year here.  Surprised this fell out of the top 10 and even top 25 aggregate Metacritic list.  It’s a little long, but some really beautiful songs.
  2. Amber Arcades, Fading Lines.  Lovers of modern Swedish/Norwegian pop will like the vocal styling and melodies of Annelotte de Graaf as Amber Arcades.  This is her debut full length album.
  3. Blood Orange, Freetown Sound.  While I haven’t been as high on some of his previous albums, I liked this one a lot and more than the Frank Ocean album.  This clocked in at 20 on the MetaCritic aggregate list.
  4. Jessy Lanza, Oh No.  Saw her a few years ago at SXSW and enjoyed her brand of synth pop.  This is her second full length.  It’s been nominated for the Polaris prize so it’s getting attention overseas.  An enjoyable album that pairs well with the Junior Boys album I mention below.

Soul/Funk

  1. Charles Bradley, Changes.  Another very good album from soul revivalist Charles Bradley and a rotation of backing bands. Ain’t It A Sin in the middle of the album is one of my favorite songs of the year and he does his best to keep his title of “closest thing living to James Brown” with Good To Be Back Home.
  2. Dam Funk, DJ Kicks.  If you are a fan of Dam Funk’s new style funk, this is a good way to figure out where he’s coming from and who he is trying to emulate.  A solid collection of funk tracks.
  3. Michael Kiwanuka, Love & Hate.  The stone heart and black background are a good visual representation of this album’s sound.  Kiwanuka’s soulful voice is used to melancholy effect here and Place I Belong is one of my favorite songs of the year.  This album was tied for #24 on Metacritic’s list.

Hip Hop

  1. Aesop Rock, The Impossible Kid.  Veteran MC put out his seventh album.  Still brings his dense lyricism and a good collection of dark beats.  Doesn’t hit the highs of something like Life of Pablo, but a much more consistent album.
  2. BadBadNotGood, IV.  Not a proper hip hop album, but the Canadian jazz group does have several singers and rappers provide vocals over their loping, modern jazz.  The collab here with Colin Stetson, Confessions Part II, is a stand-out.

Electronic

  1. The Orb, Alpine.  A three song EP of takes on alpine morning, evening and dawn, it’s a relaxing but engaging record with definite Eastern influences.  A nice soundtrack for you hikers out there as you drive out to your next trailhead in the early morning.
  2. Junior Boys, Big Black Coat.  Wrote about this one earlier in the year here.  Add track 8, And It’s Forever, to my favorites from this album of house-based dance music.
  3. Aphex Twin, Cheetah EP.  Usually enjoy anything new that Richard James puts out and this EP should have kept his fans happy.  Reminiscent of 2014’s Syro if not a little more straightforward.  CIRKLON 3 is a fun track with a little bit of a funk breakdown thrown in.
  4. DJ Shadow, The Mountain Will Fall.  Surprised this one didn’t get much love either in end of year lists.  No, it’s not Endtroducing, but it’s on par with Private Press and the Run The Jewels collaboration Nobody Speak is everything you’d want out of those three getting together.
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Quick Hit or Miss – Hinds, Leave Me Alone

January 13, 2016

homepage_large.21b15074Garage rock is a crowded genre and has been for at least a decade. Standing out in this sloppy, energetic and guitar-heavy field is hard.  Hinds has a leg up in that respect because the band is all-female in a male-dominated genre. And, they are Spanish, which sets them apart from the glut of American bands doing the garage rock thing, though there are and always have been foreign purveyors of this brand of rock.

There’s an obvious debt to early Black Lips, who they’ve toured with, via often caterwauling vocals and choruses that often seem to be a contest to sing over one another. Which isn’t a knock, but it’s treading on ground much covered.

I preferred the uptempo tracks and the pacing is a little off with an instrumental in the middle that just feels thrown in for no good reason and then several slower songs in the second half. My favorite track was Bamboo, though it seems like it would have fit better on the first half of the album. Closer Walking Home builds up nicely to a rousing end.

Metacritic has this rated at a 75 and its gotten some pretty glowing reviews. For a debut, it’s got its moments and I’m hoping they can stick around because I think they have the potential to do even better. If you’re a fan of the genre it’s worth your time, but overall I’d say it’s a near-hit.

Here’s the video for Bamboo:

Let The Year-End Music Reviews Begin!

November 23, 2014

I got a head start on my own 2014 music thoughts by putting together a few playlists of songs I liked in 2014.  The first one I’ve done consists of garage rock and hard rock.  Basically songs I liked that were propulsive with killer guitar.  I’m posting the mixes on my Dropbox, you can find the mix here.

Song List:

1. Huey Newton, St. Vincent from St. Vincent.  This wouldn’t seem to fit the mix at first, but I love how it flips about half way from calm to noise.  My favorite track off one of the year’s best front-to-back albums.

2. Tall Man Skinny Lady, Ty Segall from Manipulator.  I could have picked any of a half dozen songs off this excellent release.  The man knows how to create amazing guitar riffs.  The solo on this one is sick too and the drumming isn’t too shabby either.  He scorched this one at the Echo when I saw this summer.

3. So Hot So Cold, Ex Hex from Rips.  Mary Timony created one of my favorite power pop songs with this one from her new band’s debut.  Got to see them play almost the whole new disc at SXSW this year.

4. Lazaretto, Jack White from Lazaretto.  I thought this one was a little more uneven than Blunderbuss, but this was one of the tracks that shows White still is the current king of blues-based guitar rock (sorry Black Keys).

5. Have You Seen My Son, Benjamin Booker from Benjamin Booker.  White better look in his rear view mirror, this young guy from New Orleans is going to be nipping on his heels with driving guitar and drums and just the right amount of gravel in his voice for some blues-based numbers.

6. Headbanger, King Tuff from Black Moon Spell.  Reminds me of 90s alternative rock which reminds me of being in college.  Another strong album most of the way through.

7. I Don’t Know You Anymore, Bob Mould from Beauty & Ruin.  He’s still got it.  The type of song he’s been writing for many years and they still rock with both polish and grit.  Got to see him for the first time ever at SXSW this year, up close and personal and he also hasn’t appeared to lose anything in the live department either.

8.  These Plains, Vertical Scratchers from Daughters of Everything.  Made sense to include one of Mould’s labelmates on Merge Records next.  They played much earlier in the night than Mould at the Merge showcase at SXSW, but they also rocked out in short bursts of songs that bounced along with fun guitar riffs.

9. Flying Golem, Wand from Ganglion Reef.  Mentioned these guys in my write up of Ty Segall’s show at the Echo.  This riff is right up there with anything Ty’s done this year in my opinion.  Saw them again opening for Mac Demarco a few weeks ago and they killed it again on this song.  Hope they start getting some more recognition.

10. Shelter Song, Temples from Sun Shelter. Did you think this was a Beatles song when it started.  It sure sounds like it, but it settles into a pleasant pastiche of 60’s era psychedelia that seems to emanate sunshine through the speakers.

11. Tired & Buttered, Quilt from Held in Splendor.  Some more 60s psychedelic rock to back up Temples.  Instead of England, these guys hail from Boston.  A little less sunny and a little more uptempo.  And a great song title.

12. Instant Disassembly, Parquet Courts from Sunbathing Animal.  Slow it down a bit to end the mix.  An album-of-the-year contender for me and the slow burn of this song and the album in general might not be what you expect from this band, but it suits them well.  You think the song might take off at any minute, but it just keeps moving along at its own pace and I’m just fine with that.

Look for two more mixes in the next couple weeks.

Moments of Silence

September 24, 2010

Hippie, Hippie, Hoorah – Black Lips from Let It Bloom

My first real exposure to the Black Lips was when I saw them as an opener for the Ponys in Baltimore.  I’d heard a few songs and liked them, but seeing them live sold me on them.  Lots of energy that was reciprocated by the crowd.  As their set ended, the drummer flung one his drumsticks straight up in the air, smashing a stagelight above and showering some glass over the stage.  Not that crazy by the Lips’ standards, but a rock n’ roll moment for sure.

Seen them twice more since, and both times they’ve played Hippie, Hippie, Hoorah (which apparently is a cover of a 60s French song by Jacques Dutronc).  It’s a crowd favorite, even though it’s a slower-paced song than a lot of their newer stuff.  It is a good song for those up front to catch their breath.  It’s a sloppy song, even more so live.  There’s reverb, echo-y drums, a rattling tambourine, lyrics that sound like they were recorded in a air conditioning duct (it’s hard for me to make out more than every second or third word and there’s a metallic quality to the guys’ voices).

But what really makes this song for me is the pauses.  Starting for the first time around 40 seconds in, the music quiets as an organ enters and as quickly as it came disappears, and a voice (Cole or Jared, not sure which) shushes the band and then speaks a few words in French(why, who knows) and then there is nothing.  Well not quite silence, as there is a quiet hum of guitar feedback.  It only lasts for two seconds, but it builds anticipation of what’s to come.

The guitar riff kicks back in by itself.  Then the snare drops in, quickly followed by a cymbal crash.  Not sure why but it gets the hairs raised on my neck everytime.  They come back and do it again two more times over the course of the song.  I find it interesting how the lack of sound can have such an effect in a musical composition, but I’ve noticed some other songs that use silence to great effect (some of which I plan to write about in the near future).  Not sure the Lips are the kind of band to consciously think about things that way (and since it’s a cover they probably didn’t), but damn it rocks.

Here’s a live version (though in their live versions there’s usually a lot more noise during the quiet/”silence” parts):

A Closer

August 2, 2010

Take It or Leave It – The Strokes from Is This It?

I’ve written recently about great opening tracks (also see Sriram’s take).  What about closing tracks?  It seems a lot of times the latter halves of albums, much less the last track, are not a band’s best efforts.  Whether it comes from front-loading the best material to the beginning of an album or the fact it’s hard to sustain an album’s worth of good songwriting and music.  So toss-offs and experiments that shouldn’t have occurred can plague the end of an otherwise good album.

The Strokes’ first album is a wonderful debut, with 11 solid songs (not a stinker among them).  While the star of the album, and the one probably best known from the album, is Last Nite, my favorite song is the closer Take It or Leave It.  In fact, tracks 7 through 11 of this album arguably outshine the first half of the album (minus the decent but pedestrian Trying Your Luck).  One thing that was remarkable about this album was how polished the Strokes’ sound was, even though they were hailed as revivers of “garage rock.”

Take It starts out with a riff that bodes a darker place than the rest of the album, but when the drums kick in, it shifts back to the poppy (in a good way) rock style of most of the previous tracks.  Julian Casablancas’ voice works wonderfully for the Strokes’ style, though here he’s a little louder and angrier sounding than on other tracks on the album.  The song really takes off for me around the 55 second mark, as Casablancas sneers “oh, that’s right” and then shouts “he’s going to let you down” as the guitar and drum speed up.  But instead of just keeping the pedal to the medal, the band slows it back a bit down for the second verse, but then quickly turns it up again and around 2:05, a snare fill/guitar riff (which absolutely gets me every time) introduces a lead guitar that stands out over the drums and brings you rollicking towards the finish of the song as the band and Casablancas become more unhinged until the same snare fill and guitar riff from earlier close out the song.  More than anything else on this album, the last minute or so of this song is “garage.”  And a killer end to a great album.

Here’s a live version of the song that’s a pretty close representation of the album version, complete with Casablancas climbing into the stage for the end of the song: