Posts Tagged ‘Mac Demarco’

2014 Year End Music Review – My Favorite Albums

December 29, 2014

I’ve put together two mixes of my some of my favorite 2014 songs (and I’m hoping to get one more in, we’ll see)  and you can view those posts and get the links to the mp3s of the mixes here and here.  Today, I’ll give my thoughts on my favorite albums of 2014.  Some of these will be familiar to those of you who’ve been scouring the myriad year end lists on your favorite music sites.  A few others I didn’t see mentioned.  In no particular order:

1. Mac DeMarco, Salad Days.  I feel like this album is great to throw on when you have people over and want something fun, even, and not too harsh.  There’s a definite sonic blueprint that ranges across all the songs that makes that even sound, but there’s enough variation to keep me coming back and Mac has some good lyrics if you pay attention.  Saw him for the first time at the Fonda Theater this fall and he’s a great showman as well as putting out consistent rock albums.  The title track and Goodbye Weekend were two of my favorites.

2. St. Vincent, St. Vincent.  The album I listened to the most this year by far.  My wife loves this album and with good reason.  Like DeMarco, she had a plan for the feel of this album and it’s the pace of the album is always moving forward.  Annie Clark’s guitar work is stellar and some of the flourishes with horns and other instruments adds to the texture of these songs.  The first half of the album is a murder’s row of really good to great songs, including one of my top 3 songs of the year in Huey Newton.

3. Sylvan Esso, Sylvan Esso.  Probably the second most-listened to album of the year for me.  The reason I liked this, it was a fresh sound.  Taking pixie-like female vocals with bumping beats doesn’t sound like anything new, but I thought this was one of the most original albums of the year.  Opener Hey Mami starts with a stripped down vocal and some handclaps and builds with some booming bass lines.  Nick Sanborn really creates some great beats on this album and Amelia Meath’s voice matches up perfectly with them.  In addition to Hey Mami, Coffee, and Wolf are standouts.

4.  Neneh Cherry, Blank Project.  It was a good year for female artists this year.  This one I didn’t see on any best of lists, but I thought that Cherry’s first solo album in 18 years was a really well done album.  It came out around the same time as St. Vincent’s album and I thought there was a similar fierceness though Cherry’s album is a little bit more of a slow burn than Clark’s.  Cherry still has a nice, breathy voice that hearkens to a lounge artist and her recent collaboration with jazz trio The Thing seems to have influenced some of the music that accompanies her here.

5. Todd Terje, It’s Album Time.  I wasn’t familiar with Todd Terje, but after reading a glowing review when this came out, I took a flyer.  The DJ’s first proper album has a tongue-in-cheek title and there’s a whimsical feel throughout.  At the same time there’s an alien, outer spacey vibe.  In fact, this album was a perfect soundtrack to a surprise trip for friends out into the desert to go to a soundbath (which is a fun experience in of itself).  A cohesive first-off electronic album is hard to do, I can’t remember a better debut album effort in this genre since the Chemical Brothers’ first album.

6. Ty Segall, Manipulator.  My favorite rock album of the year, this album is chock-full of really good garage rock.  It reminded me of driving on the Pacific Coast Highway, you round a corner and think this is the best view ever and then drive on and think the same thing around the next corner.  With Manipulator, it’s this is such a great riff and song, and then you get to the next song and think the same thing all over again.

7.  Moon Hooch, Moon Hooch.  Two saxophones and a drummer doesn’t sound like it could create much variety, but you’d be wrong.  This album rocks hard and it’s one of those albums that you’ll find hard to stay seated while listening.  I’ve heard they put on a great live show and feeling the energy they put out on this album, I believe it.

There were a ton of other great releases this year, here’s a few others I’d recommend if you didn’t check them out yet: Damon Albarn’s Everyday Robots, Parquet Court’s Sunbathing Animal, Run the Jewel’s Run The Jewels 2, Perfume Genius’ Too Bright, John Talabot’s DJ Kicks entry, Caribou’s Our Love, Ex Hex’s Rips.  Two other albums that probably would have made my favorites list above but I haven’t had a chance to really listen to them enough to put them in the list were Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead and D’Angelo’s Black Messiah.

2014 was a good year for albums, hopefully 2015 will bring more of the same.

 

2014 Year End Roundup Part 2

December 27, 2014

I covered some of my favorite hard/garage rock songs of 2014 here. Next up is a mix of some of my favorite miscellaneous rock, Scandinavian pop, and folk-y songs. Again, you can download an MP3 of the mix here.

1. Down From the Rafters, Hundred Waters from The Moon Rang Like A Bell. Picking up on the slow vibe of the end of my last mix, Hundred Waters serves up an atmospheric tune that swirls around Nicole Miglis’ Bjork-like vocals, builds to a subtle groove and then fades back into the air.

2. Lonely Press Play, Damon Albarn from Everyday Robots. A lovely, shuffling track indicative of the mostly somber mood of his first solo album. As usual, Albarn’s voice fits this style well (see any of the slow pieces from a Blur album). Some took the grayness of the album as an indication of a boring affair, but I think there’s a lot of interesting things to find in here if you stay with it and give it a few listens.

3. Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes, Sun Kil Moon from Benji. Continuing the somber mood with a standout track from Mark Kozalek’s acclaimed release. Journaling as music, he pulls no punches with lyrics that tackle life’s problems surrounded, in this song at least, by the terror of the Nightstalker. His vocals have their own cadence that is the rhythm accompanying his guitar until the vocals end and a drumbeat kicks in to take you home.

4. Silver Timothy, Damien Jurado from Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son. Moving a little bit more towards rock but with a spacey vibe on a standout from a solid album. The lyrics have a faint echo which contribute to the feel this song was recorded on a spaceship hurtling through deep space, the guitars spewing out the back of the ship as it hits interstellar overdrive.

5. Goodbye Weekend, Mac DeMarco from Salad Days. This track exemplifies the consistent vibe throughout this album, relaxed and welcoming. Perfect summer album for sitting on your porch with a beer and doing nothing. He sings about not telling “the boy” how to lead his life, but it’s a mild protest from someone who doesn’t really want to be bothered from getting up from that porch.

6. Are You With Me Now, Cate Le Bon from Mug Museum. Snuck in a late 2013 release that I didn’t hear until this year, but it seemed to fit in with the mix’s vibe. A sweet voice that evokes 60’s folk for me, this was a perfect song to start a morning at SXSW this year.

7. Hi-Five, Angel Olsen from Burn Your Fire For No Witness. A little country, rock, folk and a dash of punk defiance made this another album that is finding itself on a lot of top tens. A really spectacular voice that trembles with emotion along with her guitar on this song.

8. Blue Moon, Beck from Morning Phase. This album got some unfair criticism in my opinion for trying to create an album evoking pain and loss when Beck is not in a position currently in his life where he’s experiencing those things. I think this was more a reaction to the rawness of Kozalek’s album that came out around the same time more than anything. “Disingenuous” or not, I think this was a beautifully crafted record.

9. The Body Electric, Hurray For The Riff Raff from Small Town Heroes. Some more folk with elements of rock and punk influence, a sad and powerful song about violence, its effects and taking away the murder ballad from men. A good live act too, with a lot of upbeat songs to play off songs like this one.

10. Shattered & Hollow, First Aid Kit from Stay Gold. You wouldn’t know it from listening to this song, but this sister duo hails from Sweden. The sheen of Swedish pop is in their DNA as each album they’ve put out gets more polished, but they are rooted in American folk for sure.

11. Just One of the Guys, Jenny Lewis from The Voyager. Don’t sleep on this one because it came out near the end of the year! Really good stuff, a great chorus and hook that she seems to be able to effortlessly create and deliver every time she puts out a new album.

12. Younger, SW/MM/NG from Feel Not Bad.  Second band from Sweden on the mix, and though they have Swedish pop sensibilities, their music seems to have a grander, more epic scope (think Sigur Ros) than your average Swedish pop song.

13. Whatever That Means, Highasakite from Since Last Wednesday. Another Scandinavian band, though unlike First Aid Kit, this Norwegian group sounds much more like you’d expect to hear from Scandinavia. Pop beats filtered with ephemeral female vocals and soaring melodies. Saw these guys at SXSW on a rainy morning, which was the perfect setting for experiencing them for the first time.

14. Name on a Matchbook, Springtime Carnivore from Springtime Carnivore.  No, it’s not another Scandinavian group, though I thought this fit in well with those groups.  No, this band is from right here in LA, and I may or may not have been getting my hair cut next to the bassist for this band a few months ago.  Anyway, a nice piano part and some nice vocals anchor this summer-y indie pop song.  And some good whistling!

15. , Foxygen from …And Star Power. I haven’t decided yet how I feel about this album as a whole, it’s certainly not as focused as last year’s excellent effort. This song is in the wheelhouse of that album, well-crafted psychedelic 60’s pop with witty lyrics. It’s happy and wistful at the same time, fitting in well with the previous few songs.

16. Unkinder (A Tougher Love), Thumpers from Galore. End this mix with another Euro-pop number. Last year when I saw Bastille I really liked it but never thought I’d be hearing them on American Top 40 radio. This song seemed to have the same elements (bouncing beat, manicured vocals) but they haven’t made the same leap. Yet.

Albums of 2014, Six Months In

June 23, 2014

I think I’ve listened to more new albums in 2014 than the past few years combined and there’s been a lot of good stuff out so far. Here’s some albums I’ve enjoyed:

1. St. Vincent, s/t. One of the best live shows I’ve been to this year and one of my favorite albums. Favorite song is Huey Newton, but there’s not any stinkers in the whole album and the whole thing rocks.

2. Sun Kil Moon, Benji. Mark Kozelek bares it all (if he has more to bare, I’m not sure I can handle it) on this confessional string of songs. More than that, each song is a vivid story and his lyrics create a great rhythm that complements the mostly spare arrangements.

3. Mac DeMarco, Salad Days. Mac’s songs on this album somehow come off relaxed and rocking at the same time. It’s a great record for sitting out on your porch on a summer night.

4. Parquet Courts, Sunbathing Animal. Overall a slower affair than the last album which I actually enjoy more, especially when they draw out the songs and let the riffs ride.

5. Todd Terje, It’s Album Time. The Norwegian DJ’s first proper LP is a fun, spacey affair that still maintains a cohesion throughout that reminded me of the Chemical Brothers first album, which is a big compliment from me.

Honorable mentions to First Aid Kit, Sharon Jones, Sylvan Esso, Damien Jurado, Hundred Waters, Liars, Angel Olson and Neneh Cherry. Like I said, a lot of good music this year.

SXSW Five – January 22, 2013

January 22, 2013

Making some progress but still a lot of bands to listen to!  Here’s my latest five bands worth checking out:

1) Mac DeMarco – indie singer/songwriter, apparently already known to Pitchfork and the like.  Really good voice and songs are well put together.

2) Fredda – French female vocalist.  I don’t speak a lick of French but really dig her voice and vibe.

3) Jenn Grant – Canadian singer/songwriter (DeMarco also from Canada, apparently something’s in the water up there these days), reminded me of Feist.

4) Hashback Hashish – Electronic music from India.  Danceable music with Eastern sounds and dub influences.

5) Heidi Happy – Swiss female singer.  The name fits here, really pleasant music and a bit of a Joanna Newsome influence.

Here’s a Fredda song (a little less loungy than the stuff I heard from her):