Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Final Fantasy guys' new album

I'm of course talking about Owen Pallett's new album, Heartland. I've never really been a huge Final Fantasy fan. Now that doesn't mean I'm not an Owen Pallett fan. He's done such great compositions for bands like Arcade Fire, Fucked Up, Grizzly Bear, The Mountain Goats, Beirut, and so on and so forth. I'm REALLY excited to see his work on the new Arcade Fire album... but until then my unquenchable music lust for Owen Pallett's contributing compositional work will have to be filled by Owen Pallets lesser heard (and for me, liked) solo work. Now for some reason (maybe it's the name change) I actually kind of dig his new stuff. Say what you want about Pallett, he knows how to arrange a song. My only complaint is that the album really doesn't fair as well in the first half as it does in the second half. The album ranges from moments that are challenging, monotonous and slow, to moments that are upbeat, poppy and intricate. Gee, I wonder which ones I prefer? While the tame sections aren't bad by any means, they certainly get bogged down when compared to the brighter moments on the record (like the amazing, catchy and incredibly intricate song structure of "Tryst With Mephistopheles"). Maybe if the album mixed up the songs a little more so that a more upbeat track separated two stripped down, tame tracks.. then I wouldn't find as much fault. But like most good (not great) albums, if you can weed your way through the few uninteresting tracks there is a lot to be loved here.


Surfer Blood - Astro Coast

I'm getting a LITTLE tired of all this beach friendly music coming out lately. I mean... i dig it and all. It's just kind of over saturating the market at the moment. It seems like everyone and their brother wants to be in a beach summer pop band. Even though Surfer Blood definitely fall into this category (I mean c'mon... their name is SURFER BLOOD), they definitely do it a little differently than the rest. They remind me of a modern take on a pixies post punk sound mixed with an oi punk mentality...with more focus on being catchy rather than being witty. It's definitely a "guitar" album... and that's where it succeeds the most in my opinion. My favorite aspect of their music has to be the transformation that each song seems to take. Instead of a favoring a verse/chorus/verse style of writing, they focus on transforming the track so that by the time you reach the end it sounds like a different song than what you started with. A lot of bands try this and fail miserably, but these guys make these transitions seamless and natural. With all the mellow music coming out lately, it's nice to be able to this on (track 2 "Swim" is a catchy favorite) and do some fist pumping for a change. And not the Jersey Shore, "Guido" fist pumping.

Astro Coast

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Best of 09!!!

Holy shit. I've been dreading this day for a while. This is like the finals of blogging. A lot of writing, a lot of thinking, and a shit load of work....but after you finish you feel relieved and, if you do well, proud of pulling it off. But like I did with real finals, I crammed, overslept, showed up late, and rushed through the whole thing in my PJs. Unlike real finals though I didn't have to perform sexual favors for good grades. Ahem...I didn't have to, but I will. Who wants to give me an A? No one? I do this shit for free you know. *sigh* Okay... It's ridiculous how much good music there was this year. Like 10 times what was good last year. But have no fear because I am here to sort it (mostly) out for you. For me 09 was a year dominated by pop music. Some soft, some loud. Some with guitars and fuzz. Some with synths and drum machines. Because a LOT of what I thought was "the best" this year already ended up in my past blog posts (Bibio, Washed Out, The Pains, etc.) I'm going to expand my list to pretty much everything and anything that I thought was good or interesting. For the sake of continuity and keeping with the system I had last year, I'm going to give the list a best of "order"... and I'm going to keep it to the top 15 so as not to convolute the list... but honestly everything on this list I think has faults and is equally genius in some way. Alright now for a little disclaimer about this list: Let's get one thing straight, Animal Collective released what most people think is a great album. Everyone has it who wants it, it's still up here on my blog if you want it... but I'm not posting it on this list because it would just be entirely pointless. They are probably the one band right now that does NOT need the attention. Capiche? Also, I did want to include some artists like Grizzly Bear and Bill Callahan, but I was afraid because I know blogs that went down because they posted their material. So I want to be safe. Alright... BUMMM BA DA BUM BUM BUMMMM BAAAAAAAAAA! Too man bums? Never! (I'm funny) Best of zero niner below. I'll try to keep descriptions brief. ENJOY BITCHES!

15. Real Estate - Real Estate

I was a fan of Ducktails, but honestly Real Estate is such a step in a better direction for Matthew Mondanile. He is an insanely good guitarist. Maybe I'm not on the drone train anymore, who knows... but either way this album is such a chill out record. The first song is definitely worth the download alone, but the more I listen to this, the more I like it.

14. Bear In Heaven - Beast Rest Forth Mouth

So apparently these guys were on the "New Moon" soundtrack? Uhhhhh.. okay. Why these good artists strangely decided to sell their music to that shit-show of a movie is beyond me. All I know is I really don't want Twi-hards liking the same music as me. That minor complaint aside the music is quite good. Like I said in the beginning paragraph, this year was the year (at least for me) of good pop music, and this is no exception. Most of the songs are mid-tempo but honestly they somehow end up pulling of this unique sound while still being incredibly appealing. Check it!

13. The Big Pink - A Brief History of Love

I really wanted to hate these guys at first. I just thought, "Wow, a bunch of guys who want to be MGMT". What I failed to realized is that these guys succeed at their sound more that MGMT do at theirs. Sure, there are a few sing along singles in the mix and there are a few tracks with some absurdly lame lyrics... but honestly, try not to enjoy "Dominos". It's this year's "Time to Pretend". lol. If you get past those few songs (trust me there are only like 3 songs on here I don't like) the rest of album is amazingly good. They also rarely stick to one style so if you don't like one song, wait a few minutes and you might like the next! I think someone described it as all of the best bits of 90's indie rock rolled into one album. Good description... and definitely one of my favs this year.

12. The Flaming Lips - Embryonic

Wow.... I MIIIIIIGHT get in the shit for this one...after all that posturing about being safe. *sigh*. It's okay. This is already done and gone, so maybe they won't care anymore (although I can't promise the link will stay up long). This album COMPLETELY took me by surprise. When I first heard the leak, I thought I got the wrong download. It took me a while to get used to the idea that The Flaming Lips left my favorite sound (via Soft Bulletin/Yoshimi) behind and reinvented themselves as a pych rock jam band. But once you realize that's what they have done with almost every (good) record recently, it makes the shock that much less and the awe that much greater. If only every band would experiment like these guys do. They took a huge risk with this album. You don't see that very often, especially these days. The fact that it's also really freakin good doesn't hurt either.

11. Cold Cave - Love Comes Close

Defintely one the best break out acts of the year. The best songs on this are the most accessible, but honestly the whole thing is good if you dig his singing style, which obviously I do. All I can say is, I'm totally excited for their next LP... mostly because I have a feeling it will take the best parts of this album and multiply it. Hurry the fuck up, guys!

10. Memory Tapes - Seek Magic

This guy continues to make music that I can't help but love. Everything he releases has this, "I just got an idea and went with it... really far with it" mentality. It gives the album kind of an inconsistent feel, but that's also it's charm. Each song's off the cuff nature brings out something great about each idea that makes it to tape. Like a lot of my favorite stuff this year, there are some "instrumentals" and some pop-ish songs with singing. For just some guy humble guy sitting in his apartment making music he finds interesting, this sure is good.

9. The Antlers - Hospice

This album actually holds a special place in my heart. While it may not be my "favorite" or the "best" album of the year, it's the one that affected me the most, that's for sure. While my grandmother was sick in the hospital after he second stroke, I spent most of my time sitting by her side. This album had just came out and I was coincidentally listening to at the same time. Good idea or bad idea? I don't know, but it sure hit close to home. Definitely a few tears welled up while I was sitting by her bedside, listening to this on my Ipod. She passed away shortly after that and that incident will forever be tied to this music for me. If you've ever had to deal with sickness or know someone who does, or if you have suffered the loss of a loved one, or if you are just in a situation where you are contemplating your own/someone else's mortality... (that should be pretty much everyone)... this is the album for you.

8. Washed Out - High Times

I get really sick of all the new glo-fi, blog-core stuff coming out lately. I found myself like there wasn't ever going to be something of REAL value in all of it. Just when I was telling myself to give up on the whole genre, Washed Out comes along and completely reinstills my faith. If I were trying to be cooler than my actual taste in music, this might have made #1 just to impress the blogosphere. Unfortunately I actually listen to stuff other people know too. I'm not that cool I guess. SHIT. Sorry guys.

7. The Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

I'm gonna say something that's going to blow your feckin MIND. This is the first album I've heard from Dirty Projectors. Sey WHAAAAAA!? That's right. I am officially lame. I'm kind of glad this was my first DP experience (hehe...DP) because this one was just crazy enough, but also just melodic and appealing enough for me to get into with out being scared away. Honestly though, these guys take all sorts of odd genre's, like R & B, and turn them on their head. Just when you think the music is too jarring, in comes a gorgeous melody or hook... and then just when you are getting tired of the pop sounding nature of the music, in comes a crazy ass time signature with a cut and chop drum beat or an interesting production quality or some crazy off kilter singing. It balances the line between radio friendly and completely obscure better than anything I've ever heard before. It's that good.

6. Girls - Girls

Sometimes you hear a story about a band and then you can't separate the music from the people. That's pretty much what happened to me with this album. But even if you know nothing about these guys their music stands on it's own. This album contains some of my favorite songs of the year. It has it's low points here and there. Like with Big Pink they sometimes get a little cheesy on the lyrical front. But even those few songs work in their own right because they come across more as genre pieces then just missteps. It's sad, it's beautiful, it's fun and lighthearted and equally deep and heavy handed. If there ever was a perfect fuzzed out beachy pop record, this is it.

5. The XX - XX

The XX aren't doing anything insanely out of the ordinary. They are making simple minimal pop music. But they do it with such style and creativity that you can't help but love them. Sure most of their songs are about, well, doing it. But that's also why they work so well. It's so sparse and soft, yet warm and intimate, like a lover singing sweet nothings into your ear while in bed late at night. I relate these guys to Spoon whenever people complain that they are boring or too tame. Spoon have mastered the art of the minimal rock song. These guys have mastered the art of the minimal pop song. Every drum click, hum, bass drone, whisper and harmony is meticulously put in place not because they want it to be there, but because it HAS to be there. Trust me when I say it's much harder to leave things out and make a good song than it is to cover the song up with a string section, 5 guitars, a horn section and overdubs galore. In an age where everyone is layering the SHIT out of their music, these guys give a refresing look at what you can do if you focus on the essentials.

4. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

I told you these guys would end up on the "best of" list. I said it before and I'll say it again: It was the year of good pop music. While there are weak moments on this album, the strong ones are so great that they completely blow away any faults I have with this album. Like The Strokes, these guys conjure images of great bands past, but just like The Strokes, they end up taking those influences and expand them to their own sound and end up making some timeless, ridiculously poppy, inventive indie rock. This is the album I put on when I want a brilliant mixture of twangy sparkling Jesus and Mary Chain-esque pop, with energy and spirit of an 80's punk rock band. How can you not like that?

3. Why? Eskimo Snow

Okay.... I know some people don't like this album as much as Why?'s other albums, but for me, this was exactly what I wanted out of Why? since their creation. Sure it's not nearly as wacky and zany or creatively out of bounds as their other releases, but I don't see that as a fault here. While this is a "tame" album for them, it also ends up being one of the most sincere in terms of it's delivery. Do I like their other albums? Sure! I definitely think their other albums have better songs, but they also lack a cohesive quality that this album possesses. The more serious lyrics mixed with the jazzy organic sound of this record just struck a chord with me more than anything else they've done. Say what you want, but this WHOLE (that is, virtually every single track) record was on repeat more than any other record for me this year. So suck it.

2. Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue

While I might have caught flack for my last choice, I know most people will agree with me on this one. This one completely came out of left field for me. I didn't ever imagine an album of music that ranges from Flying Lotus style electronic hip hop to fuzzed out acoustic folk music and everywhere in between. And the craziest part is, IT WORKS! It flows together perfectly and each track stands out on it's own. Creatively, probably my favorite work of the year. When I would put this away for a little while in order to listen to other new stuff coming out, I always ended up longing for just one more listen. I came back to this album more than any other this year. And each time I put it on I discovered something new I liked about it. It's both immediately appealing and grows in quality with each listen. Not an easy feat.

1. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Okay... I know... I know... I'm supposed to be a cutting edge blog filled with music nobody knows about. Well guess what, I'm partially to well known bands too. Even bands with music in car commercials. That's right. Should I say it one more time? It was the year of good pop music. On first listen I just thought... wow... pretty cool, insanely catchy pop music. But then I REALLY listened. I read the lyrics (which I don't do very often)...listened a few more times... and that's when things really changed for me. These guys are writing pop music but with sweepingly huge and terribly sad themes. While they are hitting your ears with sonically pleasing aesthetics, they are depressing the shit out of you with their words and messages. There is so much more working here than meets the eye. This album transformed so much from the first time I heard it until now (like 100 listens later). What started off as something upbeat and catchy, turned into something powerful and with so much depth. Every once in a while you run into an album with a little magic in it and you can't explain why you like it so much. You just feel it. This is one of those records. I didn't really want to include this on here because they are a big band... but IT'S MY #1 RECORD. So I had to. I've listened to this constantly since it came out. When I run out of stuff to listen to, this one always goes back in the player. That's the reason why this is first. I can't stop listening to this album. Just when I think I'm done with it, I put it back on and it reminds me just how good it is all over again. This one is in 320 kbps too, so get it while it's hot!

Ahhhhh... thus ends another best of list! I know it's a little late. I've had this saved as a draft for like three weeks. It takes so much work to do one of these megaposts... I put it off like crazy. I hope everyone enjoys it. This year I really went with my heart on this list. I could have put up a bunch of albums that are "acceptably" cool that I liked. But for me I just picked what I couldn't put down. Even if it was pop music. Now that this daunting as fuck task is outta the way I can get back to doing more regular postings. Here's to hoping I can make it another year! Cheers and happy music poaching, you waskally wabbits.