Top 20 Albums of 2012
December 31, 2012, 6:05 pm
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Despite my pledge to post more frequently, this blog has not been getting much love as of late.  However, I am a creature of habit and cannot let a year go by without posting a list of my favorite albums.  Overall, 2012 was a pretty weak year for music and I eagerly anticipate/hope that 2013 will be a much better year.

  1. Beach House – Bloom
  2. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan/About To Die EP
  3. Cat Power – Sun
  4. The Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania
  5. Porcelain Raft – Strange Weekend
  6. Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse/Ty Segall –Twins/Ty Segall & White Fence – Hair
  7. Tame Impala – Lonerism
  8. Deftones – Koi No Yokan
  9. Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light
  10. Moonface – With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery
  11. The Men – Open Your Heart
  12. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
  13. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
  14. Frank Ocean – channelOrange
  15. Purity Ring – Shrines
  16. Chromatics – Kill For Love
  17. Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man
  18. Grimes – Visions
  19. Liars – WIXIW
  20. Jessie Ware – Devotion

Future Islands – “Tomorrow”/”The Fountain”
November 24, 2012, 7:15 pm
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In 2011, Future Islands released their third LP, On The Water, which I feel safe saying is one of my very favorite albums of the last few years.  Since then, I’ve grown hopelessly, pathetically in love with the band’s entire catalogue and consider them one of the best bands currently active, bar none. Frontman Samuel T. Herring’s brash, bellowing delivery may be the definition of “acquired taste” but he knows how to emote like a motherfucker and make the most of his limited range (i.e. Carey Mercer, Antony, Spencer Krug and Frank Black). On The Water‘s jaw-dropping, emotional centerpiece “The Great Fire” featured Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner playing the soothing siren to Herring’s heartbroken beast. Wasner (along with Lexie Mountain and Elena Johnston) once again lends her voice to “Tomorrow,” the A-side to Future Islands just released new 7″ and it is the closest the band has ever come to Sam Cooke territory. In fact, when I saw the band perform the song this week, Herring credited the song’s existence to a more contemporary Soul man, Lee Fields.  Seeing “Tomorrow” played live certainly made the song’s R&B thrust more apparent – especially when about two dozen girls jumped on stage to dance and grind around Herring like a phalanx of sirens while he sang “What’s a man to do?/When a man can’t be true.”

The Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania
September 16, 2012, 7:23 pm
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Yes, Billy Corgan is frequently a petulant narcissist. Many great artists are but we, the audience, tolerate all the bullshit as long as said artists keep providing us with great music. It’s the unspoken pact we make. Everything Corgan has released since Machina/Machina II (and the initial dissolution of the Pumpkins) has pretty much been a trail of fail.  As much, this output – both musical and conversational – has led most to assume (me included) that we were watching the slow decline into irrelevance of the once great Pumpkin and most of us stopped giving a fuck. I never expected a new “Smashing Pumpkins” album to capture my attention and emotions the way Corgan’s ’91-’00 output did but, against all odds, here I am, suddenly giving a sincere fuck about Corgan again. Oceania is the best thing Corgan has created since at least Adore and possibly Mellon Collie. Bold words, I know, and I do not type them lightly. Just scroll down, click on opening track “Quasar”, listen (I’ll wait) and tell me that Corgan hasn’t reignited the sky-scraping, bull-dozing psychedelic glory of Gish and Siamese Dream. Need more? Scroll down further to “The Chimera” and “Inkless” and witness the resurrection of Alternative Nation. And please don’t get me wrong: I’m not praising Oceania simply because it’s some sort of nostalgic joyride. Oceania succeeds only because Corgan is writing triumphant, radio-dominating songs again. At least half of Oceania could have absolutely owned alternative radio and 120 minutes in the ’90s. Everything here plays to his strengths – psych-addled prog-rock and dream-pop – but it sounds more relevant and enthralling than he has in over a decade.

Oceania is out now on Martha’s Music/EMI.

Cat Power – Sun
September 4, 2012, 8:33 pm
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A month ago, I would have described myself as a passive Cat Power fan – I owned a majority of Chan Marshall’s albums, loved a lot of her songs but the looming release of her first album in six years, Sun, was not something as I was actively looking forward to this year. Now? I’m dangerously close to declaring Sun AOTY and have been zealously revisiting old Cat Power albums for the last month. While I’m having genuine emotional epiphanies with old Cat Power songs I have neglected, there is still no precedent in her catalogue for Sun. It is a rebirth for Marshall. The folky miserablist we’ve come to know and love has been replaced by a much more confident and adventurous musician. As you’ve probably read a hundred times by now, Sun is more eclectic, upbeat and powerful than anything Marshall has previously composed. It is also, without a doubt, her best album.  Recorded in France with mixing help from Philippe Zdar (who has worked with Phoenix, Daft Punk, Beastie Boys and Ghostface Killah), the album is bristling with electronic flourishes and beats while still somehow sounding like no one but Cat Power.  “Human Being” could pass for an outtake from Moon Pix were it not for the whirring, luminous synths and Can-like drum fills rippling throughout the song .  The album’s penultimate track, “Nothin But Time” is an 11 minute homage to David Bowie’s “Heroes” featuring a gripping cameo from Marshall’s Miami neighbor Iggy Pop.  Over a reverb-drenched, cascading piano line (which echoes “Heroes” more than a little bit), tremolo’d guitar and buzzing synths, Marshall lays out a self-empowerment anthem to rule them all: “You ain’t got nothin’ but time/It ain’t got nothin on you/Your world is just beginning/It’s up to you to be a superhero/It’s up to you to be like nobody.” Iggy’s entrance into the song – a cloud-busting growl of “YOU WANNA LIVE!” is my single favorite musical moment of the year.  On booming, shit-kicking closer “Peace and Love”, Marshall manages to evoke Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” while spitting lines like “Peace and love is a famous generation/I’m a lover but I’m in it to win it.”  It’s Marshall at her most menacing and it proudly displays her long professed love of hip-hop with nothing more than some grimy, chunky guitar riffs and drums.  It’s very much worth noting that Marshall played every single instrument on Sun herself.  You crazy for this one, Chan.

Sun is out now on Matador.

Back From The Grave
September 4, 2012, 6:22 pm
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Over the weekend, my girlfriend reminded me about my poor, neglected blog and asked why the hell I haven’t updated it in so long. Her inquiry got me thinking and I decided maybe it was time to give this thing another shot but, before I start posting new content again, I thought I’d offer up an explanation as to why I’ve been M.I.A. During the life of this blog, I was a staff writer for PopMatters and then Under The Radar magazine. Most of my writer-ly energy was being spent on reviews and interviews for those publications and, over time, my desire/drive to update this blog naturally decreased – partially because of time constraints and partially because I figured “who cares?” While writing for PopMatters and UTR, I became increasingly disenchanted with being a music critic/journalist due to working for publications/editors I had very little respect for and also because being a music geek just didn’t feel fun anymore. The greatest continuous source of joy in my life was becoming a chore and a burden. I walked away from both jobs because I just didn’t give a fuck about either of them anymore and this blog was a casualty of those feelings. I’m not sure how frequently I’ll post or what shape my posts will take (or if anyone even cares) but I do know that I’m only going to write when I truly feel the desire. I no longer want obligations, deadlines or that phantom pressure of keeping up with EVERYTHING all of the time. I just want this to be fun.

PS I Love You – “Sentimental Dishes” & “Princess Towers”
April 15, 2012, 4:39 pm
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PS I Love You were responsible for one of my favorite albums of 2010, Meet Me At The Muster Station, a caterwauling and effortlessly melodic album that played like a mixtape of all that was great and mighty in ’90s indie/alternative rock (surplus of solos included).  Based on the two tracks the band has released from their forthcoming sophomore LP, Death Dreams, we should expect more of the same (in the best possible way) with improved fidelity to boot.  The blunt, chunky riffage of “Princess Towers” will continue to earn the band references to UMass alumni/demigods J Mascis and Black Francis.  “Sentimental Dishes” imagines Big Star signed to SST and ends with a blazing solo that gives Eddie Van Halen plenty reason to watch the throne.

Death Dreams is out 5/8 via Paper Bag.

Download MP3: “Sentimental Dishes”

Download MP3: “Princess Towers”

The Men – “Open Your Heart” & “Ex-Dreams”
March 25, 2012, 5:52 pm
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At the end of last year, I made my love for The Men known via a post on “Bataille” – a stand-out from their blitzkrieg of an LP, Leave Home – and, before I could even take that out of heavy rotation, the band has dropped another stellar album, Open Your Heart.  In the last few months, the rest of the music-loving world seems to have caught up and The Men are currently enjoying a tidal wave of much deserved love and praise.  Open Your Heart trades in some of Leave Home‘s white knuckle fury for bruised Americana and more expansive melodies.  Although, you still won’t mistake The Men for anyone else.  The title track, a whirlwind love song that roughs up The Buzzcocks’ “What Do I Get?”, is the most accessible, catchy thing they’ve produced to date.  Closing track “Ex-Dreams” is closer to the sprawling, psych-punk epics on Leave Home and has justly earned more than a few comparisons to Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth. Also worth mentioning: the band recently shared with SPIN some of their maybe-unexpected influences which included Gram Parsons, Big Star and The Rolling Stones.

Open Your Heart is out now via Sacred Bones.

Download MP3: “Open Your Heart”

Download MP3: “Ex-Dreams”

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