Posts Tagged ‘St. Vincent’

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.


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.

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 2014 – Quick Thoughts

March 17, 2014

We had such a blast last year, we headed back to Austin in 2014 for the music portion of the SXSW festival.  Like last year, we got badges.  Unlike last year, we went a day earlier and got a full day of music on Wednesday.  Here’s some quick thoughts, and then I’ll get more into the 51 bands we saw last week.

1. Last year was the year of lead singers going out into the audience.  Not one lead singer we saw went into the crowd this year.  Instead, this was the year of choreographed dance moves by lead singers.  I’m sure there’s some great insight to make about that, but I haven’t figured it out yet.

2.  If you have a badge, take advantage of the “fast pass” option.  Each day, you can go up to the 4th floor near the Radio Day stage and get a pass to one venue that will get you to the front of the line.  We used them Thursday-Saturday for the venue we planned to stay for the night. We got to the front of the line right before they opened for the night and were the first in and got our spot or seat of choice.

3.  The other theme that I noticed this year was the long soundchecks and adjustments that needed to be made after sets started to get the sound right, or at least listenable.  They should have handed out foam fingers to bands because they were constantly pointing index fingers up to get more sound in their monitors.  This culminated in a horrible sound job all night at the Bungalow on Saturday.

4. Seeing new venues is a fun part of the experience.  We did revisit a few places like Mohawk and Stubbs, but hit new places like the aforementioned Bungalow (it’s a nice space but couldn’t recommend because of the bad sound), The North Door, Red7, Parish and Empire Garage.

5.  A few of the shows that I really liked: St. Vincent’s set at Stubbs was probably the best thing I saw over the four days; Little Dragon’s sunny afternoon set at Red7; Hold Steady’s rollicking set at the Radio Day Stage; Angel Olson’s hypnotic performance at the Central Presbyterian Church; Cody ChestnuTT battling through the terrible sound at Bungalow with a fierce performance.

6.  The accident that happened early Thursday morning definitely put a damper on moods on Friday and was the subject of conversation with anyone we talked to during the day.  We were down the block at Stubbs that night and the only inclination anything was wrong was a circling helicopter between sets.  3 people have now died from injuries and there are still several seriously injured.  There was a moment of silence during the show at Parish on Friday night that was repeated at venues throughout the city.  It was a nice gesture that paid respect to the victims as well as announcing a fund to raise money to the victims.

Note that Jenn Wasner read during moment of silence Friday night.

Note that Jenn Wasner from Wye Oak read during moment of silence Friday night.

Some Music for the New Year

January 20, 2014

The 2014 music releases are already coming fast and furious.  Vets like Bruce Springsteen, Roseanne Cash, and Stephen Malkmus all have released new discs, which I haven’t gotten to yet.  Here’s a couple of other albums that have come out that I listened to and enjoyed:

1) Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Give The People What They Want.  Delayed while Sharon Jones got treatment for cancer, this album continues the band’s great run of capturing the essence of 60s Motown R&B.  Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, they mix in upbeat numbers with ballads that are going to leave the people wanting more.

2) Damien Jurado, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son.  Another throwback album, this one to 70s AM rock radio.  You can hear one of the songs here.

3) Twin Oaks, The Lion’s Den.  Found this on Bandcamp, it’s a California duo that evokes Mazzy Star with melancholy and haunting songs.

Listen: Beck:

Also, more excited about Beck’s new album with his release of Blue Moon.  Like Jurado, Beck seems to be channeling 70s rock in the vein of Neil Young, both musically and with his cover art (above).  Finally, St. Vincent has a new album coming out and Annie Clark looks like she’s going to continue making unique songs that still rock.  Get a sneak peak here.