Posts Tagged ‘Hot Chip’

2015 Year End Picks

December 28, 2015



Haven’t posted in awhile, but still been listening to a bunch of albums this year.  Here’s some of my favorites from this year.  Quite a few have been on best of lists I’ve looked at, but there’s a few that I liked that I haven’t noticed on these lists so I focused on those.  I’ll split it up by genre.


Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color.  Brittany Howard has got one of the best voices in rock today and her and the band cover a lot of ground in this album, with no missteps across the 12 tracks.  My two favorite tracks are Gimme All Your Love, a screaming stomp of a song, and Miss You, an almost folk-y ballad.

Budos Band – Burnt Offering.  While the Budos Band has produced several great soul instrumental albums, this year they decided to take a chance and make a “rock” record.  It’s not as far a stretch as you’d think.  A groove is a groove, whether it’s R&B or metal and Budos Band can groove.  The Sticks is my favorite song and the whole album is decidedly rocking.

Built to Spill – Untethered Moon.  One of those bands I’d always heard and read about, but just never spent the time to focus on, I happened onto their new release and decided to give it a spin.   I immediately went from this record to their earlier recordings, which I think is a testament to this record, which was their first in 6 years.  Living Zoo is a good representative of the album and the band’s sound in general, lots of guitars and Doug Bartsch’s off-beat, nasally lyrics.

Chastity Belt – Time To Go Home.  The all-female band from Seattle put out the rock album I listened to the most this year.  I think it reminded me of another band I loved in 2014, Parquet Courts.  They don’t quite get the same pace as Parquet Courts, but they bring a ton of attitude, great guitar work and clever lyrics.  Standouts are opener Drone, Why Not (which actually is a fast tempo number) and Joke.

Jenny Lewis – The Voyager.  Lewis has a golden voice and I’m not sure I could dislike an album by her.  This year’s release was another fun, rollicking album with Lewis belting out numbers like the title track and my favorite from the album, Just One of The Guys.

Moon Duo – Shadow of the Sun. I’d call this brooding psychedelia.  With its chugging riffs that sprawl over the entire record, their third full length seems like it would be the perfect record to soundtrack a nighttime desert drive down the freeway.  The trippily-titled Free The Skull is my favorite.

Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last.  Another band that sometimes gets the psychedelia label, a lot of reverb, garage rock riffs, and John Dwyer’s yips and yowls.  While they usually have songs that are tight and concise, my two favorite tunes from this album are the two longest tracks, Web and Sticky Hulks.

It was a good year for rock.  There were a lot of other good rock releases that are all over the year end lists that are definitely worth a listen: Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit; La Luz, Weirdo Shrine; My Morning Jacket, The Waterfall; Sleater Kinney, No Cities For Love; Spoon, They Want My Soul; Tame Impala, Currents.

Folk and Country

Calexico – Edge of the Sun. Another band that I’ve dabbled in a few songs here and there, but with this year’s album, I went straight to their back catalog after listening to this album. Toeing the line between folk and rock, I’m a big fan of singer Joey Burns’ voice and they flex in some new directions with the great Cumbia de Donde, which follows the other standout track Tapping on the Line, which has an assist from Neko Case.

Joanna Newsom – Divers. Just listened to this after getting it on vinyl as a present for my wife. Beautiful arrangements and Newsom’s voice, which can be a love-it or hate-it proposition, works well with these arrangements.  Kudos too for a well-presented vinyl package, with individual posters of beautiful nature scenes and lyrics for each song.

Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material.  A polished country album that still reminds me more of “classic” country-pop than today’s versions.  Musgrave’s is the country version of Courtney Barnett with her sly, witty, conversational lyrics.  The title track, Biscuits, and Family is Family are all really good tracks.

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell.  Abandoning the bleeps and bloops of Age of Adz, Sufjan returns to his folk roots with lean guitar providing the backdrop for some of his most beautiful and personal songs.  I saw him perform twice this year, and he beefed up the songs for the road with long, guitar-distorted extensions of those spare arrangements that worked surprisingly well.  He comes on strong out of the gate with tracks 2-4 all delivering a strong emotional punch.

Widowspeak – All Yours. An entirely different album than I was expecting, the fiery guitar band that I saw at SXSW two years ago is replaced with a softer, gentler version.  The guitars are more subdued and the lyrics more at the forefront.  Singer Molly Hamilton’s lush voice works well with that softer approach and it reminded me of Mazzy Star’s 90s output.  Stoned and Coke Bottle Green were my favorites.


Dan Deacon – Gliss Riffer.  Reining a little of the chirpy vocals of some of his earlier releases, but keeping his ability to create madcap beats, this album bounces and bobs its way through 8 tracks.  A master of the slow build, Sheathed Wings and When I Was Done Dying, will certainly have you dancing.  And if you have a chance to see him live, do it.

Hot Chip – Why Make Sense.  Remarkably consistent, Hot Chip put out another album this year full of pleasant, slightly funky, and always dance-y songs.  Opener Huarache Lights and the electro-funk of Easy to Get are representative of what this album has to offer.

Jamie XX – In Colour.  Taking a break from his more relaxed work with XX, this solo album showcases a more upbeat side of Jamie Smith.  Like Disclosure’s album last year, this is a great electronic album from beginning to end, a cohesive work that is meant to be listened to as a whole.  Obvs, the back-to-back duo of Hold Tight and Loud Places, and back ender The Rest is Noise are all great tracks.

Jazz, R&B, and Hip Hop

Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Surf.  A surprising free release earlier in the year, this is probably the album I played the  most this year.  I think the reasons are: 1) the variety of musical styles on display from jazz, hip hop, and R&B and 2) it’s just a fun album.  Great to throw on in the car or when friends are over. The fact that my two favorite tracks land in the second half of the album, Familiar and Something Came to Me, is testament to the strength of the whole album.

Kamasi Washington – The Epic.  No album all year had a more spot-on title.  This ambitious jazz album, from the saxophonist who was also responsible for a lot of arrangements on the next album I’ll talk about, sprawls over three sides with 8 songs clocking in at over 10 minutes long.  It’s an immersive album that didn’t lose my interest even on those longer songs.  Several of the songs have lyrics and Malcolm’s Theme includes an excerpt from Malcolm X speech that is probably more topical than Kamasi imagined given recent events.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly.  Ranked at or near the top of most year end lists, hip hop’s reigning king followed up his critically acclaimed Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City with a angrier and more determined album.  King Kunta and The Blacker the Berry are raw, confident political statements with Lamar not mincing any words.  Throw in a super-strong opener, Wesley’s Theory, and the 12 minute long closer Mortal Man, and you have a new entry into the canon of classic hip hop albums.

Leon Bridges – Coming Home. Bridges is a 50s/60s soul and R&B throwback and his debut album sounds like it comes from a different time.  Songs like Brown Skin Girl could have been done by Otis Redding and the album-ending ballad The River is a beautiful number.  Hope that he can continue in the same vein as other similar throwback acts like Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley.

Miguel – Wildheart.  My personal favorite album of the year.  Miguel is the heir-apparent to Prince as the man who exudes sex in his music.  Start with the cover and move to songs like The Valley and FLESH and you’ll see what I mean.  The man can also belt out a ballad, see Coffee for an example.  Great beats abound as well, I can’t get enough of Hollywood Dreams.  And he even throws in an outsider anthem in What’s Normal Anyway for good measure.

Shamir – Ratchet. Released earlier in the year, I think people slept on this one a little in the year-end lists.  After the slow build of opener Vegas, Shamir hits three homers in a row with Make A Scene, On the Regular and Call It Off.  His unique delivery, reminiscent of Missy Elliott’s ability to latch onto a beat, is suited to the disco and house beats that recall electronic acts like YACHT, Basement Jaxx, and Hot Chip.  Closer Head In the Clouds is a positive anthem that appropriately soars up and out to the end of the album.

Night and Day

April 25, 2012

Hot Chip – Shake a Fist and Ready For The Floor from Made In The Dark

Wanted to talk about two super tracks from the beginning of Hot Chip’s 2008 release.  The tracks sit next to each other, but they have very different vibes, which is probably accentuated by their proximity.

Shake Your Fist starts off innocently enough with some synths and bleeps that sound very Hot Chip.  15 seconds in though, the mood gets darker.  Booming bass and harried percussion enter the mix and dominate Alexis Taylor’s vocals, which seem to be trying to peek out over the bombast.  In the chorus his voice gains power, but so does the music with more pulsating squelch.

And then, out of nowhere, we get Todd Rundgren instructing us he’s got a game to play and we need to put on our headphones.  And then things get really loud and dance-y.  It reminds me of something Missy Elliot would have slayed over in the 90s.  Some probably think that ruins the song, I think it’s a great breakdown section.  And instead of returning to the tame by comparison beginning of the song, when they return to the lyrics and chorus for a second go-around, they don’t let the music settle down.  The bass modulates in waves and snare hits propel the song to its end.  Made in the dark, indeed.

And then there is light.  Ready For the Floor is bright and bouncy.  It throws you a bit of a curve at the beginning, with the reverberating beats and synths settling into a groove that mimics some of the menace of Shake A Fist (it has a Depeche Mode vibe to me).  However, all the sudden the synths take an uplifting turn and Taylor’s vocals soar rather than shrink in the face of the beats and all the moodiness of the last track is washed.  It’s synth-pop at it’s finest; it invades your body, puts a smile on your face and makes you want to get out your seat and dance.  I’m not surprised it got nominated for a Grammy in the Dance category in 2008.  I also think of the two songs it’s more representative of their sound; if you love Shake A Fist, you might get a let-down from some of their other material but I would still recommend this entire album as it has some other really good tracks.

Both songs below (video for Ready for the Floor seems very 80s to me):


LCD Soundsystem at Hollywood Bowl

November 7, 2010

So, this was the second time in less than a month I’d seen LCD Soundsystem, but last time I only got to catch part of their set headlining VirginFest.  This time I was going to make sure I caught the whole thing.  This was my first time at the famous Hollywood Bowl, so I was excited just to see the stage where everyone from Pavarotti to Jim Morrison has played.  As you can see from the picture to the left, we were up quite high and getting there required several escalator rides.  The distinctive band shell covering the stage is the focal point of the Bowl.  Unfortunately, it was cloudy out so the views of the Hollywood Hills and the HOLLYWOOD sign were obscured.  As the concert progressed, we decided that the cloudy conditions may have been caused not by the weather, but the large amounts of marijuana being smoked throughout the venue.  I am shocked the legalization proposition failed on Tuesday, maybe a bunch of people forgot to vote because they were out jonesing for Cheetos.

Anyway, back tot the music.  We missed the first opener, Sleigh Bells.  Since I saw them at VirginFest, and since they only have about 40 minutes of material to their name, I don’t think I missed anything.  I even think the smaller stage I saw them at was much better suited for them than the cavernous Hollywood Bowl.  The second opener was Hot Chip, who I’ve heard of, but wasn’t really familiar with.  They were actually really good.  They are on my list now (of bands to learn more about).

James Murphy came out clad in all white, prompting memories of David Byrne (which is funny cause I actually hear similarities between the LCD and Talking Heads).  They started out by playing the opener from the new album “Drink Yrself Clean.”  I’d only gotten to listen to the album a few times before the show, but I hadn’t realized how good this song was.  Known for his sharp wit with lyrics (see “Losing My Edge” which he played during the encore), this song has some hilarious lines, none better than his deadpan delivery of “talking like a jerk except you are an actual jerk and living proof that sometimes friends are mean.”  It’s a great opener since it has that slow burn that builds and builds until it explodes.  I’ll have to write more about this song later because I think it’s one of the best song I’ve heard in a long time.

The band kept up the energy throughout the set, bobbing back and forth between older tunes like “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” (see my Facebook page for a video of part of that performance) and songs from their last two albums.  There was little break between songs, it was almost like they couldn’t wait to get to the next song.  The enthusiasm was palpable, from both the band and the crowd.  The sound was magnificent, for such a large venue I was really impressed with how well the sound traveled to the back where we were.  Towards the end of the show, it started drizzling but it didn’t damper the spirits of the crowd, who kept dancing through the encore.  The concert ended with “Home,” the last song from the new album (which oddly has a similar chorus consisting of a chant-like “aaahaaaah”).  Nice symmetry but it wasn’t really the banging end to the show that would have been if “Losing My Edge” (played immediately before) had been the closer.  A minor quibble though, this was definitely a top 10 concert for me.  And thumbs up to the Hollywood Bowl as a venue too.