Song of the Day: James Vincent McMorrow "Cavalier"

James Vincent McMorrow's "Cavalier" captures a mood.
Here's the lyrics:

Speak until the dust
settles in the same specific place
Light refused to go
Drink it from a cast and iron plate
instead of cold milk
was offered unripe
Instead of silence
considered craven

Nothing made it seem
hidden where the aging soil was pure
Pressed against the crease
Mountains become fragrant at the source
how can you stand this
exotic angle
I read it somewhere 
that they would lie still

I remember how cloth hung
flexing with the forest clung
Half waist and high raised arms
kicking at the slightest form
I remember my first love
I remember my first love

Unrelied I was called
missing teeth out of favour
Nickel beach it was all
gathering by the sundial

I woke hard
I woke heavy 
for the half way stop
Five whole hours in
when I woke hard 
I woke heavy with the live or parts 

I remember how cloth hung
flexing with the forest clung
Half waist and high raised arms
kicking at the slightest form
I remember my first love
I remember my first love

I remember my first love


Best of 2013: 10 - 1

This is it. My top 10 albums from 2013. I really enjoyed these albums and am so glad to share them with you. Enjoy!

10 Deafheaven Sunbather 

Deafheaven is some sort of metal, melodic instrumentation thing. Every time they came on, I found myself nodding my head and smiling. It didn't matter if it was growly screaming metal or melodic instrumentals. Something about it just worked. Here's the title track "Sunbather":

And here's one of their melodic instrumentals:

Facebook Fans: 63,270
Standout Tracks: Sunbather, Irresistible, The Pecan Tree, Please Remember

9 Arcade Fire Reflektor
Arcade Fire are great. I've liked much of what they put out. This album is no sore spot on their awesome back history. I liked it when it first came out, but it really take me watching their Roman Coppola directed 3-song movie Here Comes the Night Time in order to be fully on board. Watch for some great cameos from James Franco, Bono, Ben Stiller, Aziz Ansari, Michael Cera et al:

They are great, and I do really enjoy the Haitian rhythms and influences on the new album, as well as the mythological tie-ins on the 2nd half of the album.

Facebook Fans: 2,088,389
Standout Tracks: Reflektor, Here Comes the Night Time, Normal Person, Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice), Afterlife

8 Portugal. The Man Evil Friends

 Theses Alaskans first came my way in '07 by way of their concept album It's Complicated Being A Wizard. This album delivers on some of the great elements that is this indie rock band. They are solid, very listenable indie rock fronted by a guy with a voice that could be somewhat polarizing (it's a little higher in the register). But songs like Modern Jesus and Purple Yellow Red and Blue are head bobbin jams. The lyrics from "Modern Jesus" are also super catchy with lines like, "...we don't need no modern Jesus to roll with us". Here's the video for "Modern Jesus"

And here's the video for Purple Yellow Red and Blue:

Facebook Fans: 305,233
Standout Tracks: Modern Jesus, Evil Friends, Plastic Soldiers, Someday Believers, Purple Yellow Red and Blue

7 Perfume Genius
 Put Your Back N 2 It

Beautiful, quiet, haunting, piano and vocals. This is Perfume Genius on their latest album. And by their, I mean Seattleite Mike Hadreas, who comprises the band.  I found them on a best of list and gave them a listen, and was hooked by the earnestness. More than an anthemic song that moves me, every song on the album conveys a tone that is cohesively vulnerable. There's an intensity to his stuff that may be too heavy for some, but I so appreciate the artistry. Here's the video for "17":

Facebook Fans: 37,685
Standout Tracks: Normal Song, No Tear, 17, Take Me Home, Dark Parts, All Waters

6 Lord Huron
 Lonesome Dreams

This is an LA band. They are slick, professional, good looking and all sound great. Many of them grew up together where they are actually from Michigan. Think of an indie rock band playing the soundtrack for an Ol' Western and you are coming close to all that is Lord Huron. My favorite track is definitely "She Lit a Fire" because of the sliding guitar line, but they are easy to listen to. Check it out now:

This album is full of great tracks. Here's "Time to Run"

Facebook Fans: 49,383
Standout Tracks: Ends of the Earth, Time to Run, Lonesome Dreams, The Ghost on the Shore, She Lit a Fire, In the Wind

5 The Appleseed Cast
 Illumination Ritual

This is one of my favorite bands of all time. Since 1999. All time. They are post-rock. They are melodically driven, and their drums are ridiculous. Chris Crisci's voice is great. It has an earnestness, an honesty that makes you believe that heartache can be doable. And guitars that will carry you through it. Here's "Great Lake Derelict". It's ok if it changes your life.

And here's "Adriatic to the Black Sea" to demonstrate the drumming beauty:
Facebook Fans: 13,913
Standout Tracks: Great Lake Derelict, Adriatic to the Black Sea, Cathedral Rings, 30 Degrees 3 AM, Barrier Islands (Do We Remain), Illumination Ritual

4 Torres

Mackenzie Scott named this effort Torres in honor of her grandfather. That was his last name. There's something sacred or holy about how she sings. It's gorgeous and has such depth. This is classic singer-songwriter, except that the guitar is a Gibson semi-hollow body and the tone is a little dirty. It's excellent. The song "Honey" is gut-wrenching and amazing:

And here's "Don't Run Away, Emilie":

Facebook Fans: 4,594
Standout Tracks: Honey, Jealousy and I, When Winter's Over, Moon & Back, Don't Run Away, Emilie

3 Local Natives

This band rocks. Their tracks like "Wooly Mammoth" have so much amazing energy. They make me want to try to write songs as awesome as they do with the intricate drumming and groovy guitar and bass lines that break into choruses that blow the whole song wide open with a half-time rhythm and thrumming harmonies. Here's "Wooly Mammoth":

Here's their video for "Breakers":

And here's "Heavy Feet":

Facebook Fans: 340,730
Standout Tracks: Wooly Mammoth, Heavy Feet, Breakers, Mt. Washington, Black Spot

2 Daughter
 If You Leave

This female fronted group is incredible. It's calm. It's moody. It's beautiful. It's worth letting seep into your soul.

While technically not on their most recent album, here's "Landfill":

And here's "Smother"
And here's "":

Facebook Fans: 469,636
Standout Tracks: Human, Touch, Amsterdam, Shallows, Winter, Landfill

 The Bones of What You Believe

This is the most solid album this year. It's consistently great and listenable throughout. Female-fronted, keyboard driven, upbeat rock. Their song "Recover" destroys me when they sing "And if I recover, will you be my comfort? Or it can be over...":

And here's "The Mother We Share":

Facebook Fans: 276,845
Standout Tracks: Recover, Night Sky, By the Throat, Miracle Mile, The Mother We Share, Under the Tide, Lungs

As an added bonues, here's a link to my best tracks of 2013. This comprises all of the tracks from the albums on this list that I think are totally ace. Enjoy!


Best of 2013: 20 - 11

How to describe the Best of 2013: 20 - 11. In looking over the list, it is clear to me that I really dug into these albums. I got to know them. I know many of the tracks on the album, and got into them. I've thought and thought about their rank, and really agree with their rankings.

20 Mikal Cronin MCII 

Mikal Cronin is a recommendation from my friend Aaron. It is upbeat, solid rock from a Los Angeles native.

Facebook Fans: 13,669
Standout Tracks: Weight, Peace of Mind, Change, Piano Mantra

19 Fort Frances Breathing Room & Harbour EP's 

Fort Frances put out two EPs in 2013. Breathing Room a little more loose in its production than Harbour. At it's heart, Fort Frances feels like a singer songwriter found a band and made a record. Their songs are solid and singer driven. So, it sounds full, goes down easy and really emphasizes the lead singer and guitar player David McMillen. Also, they're from Chicago.
Facebook Fans: 2,712
Standout Tracks: How to Turn Back Again, Truths I Used to Know, Habits

18 Joy Formidable Wolf's Law

I know about the Joy Formidable from my friend Eric. He kept talking about them and their song Whirring (previous release). So, when this album came out, I got around to checking it out. Their songs are energetic, female-led and fun. They sing with heart. It could best be summed up as music that moves you, makes you move, but won't leave you weeping. It's a good time, but without the hangover of fully letting your hair down.
Facebook Fans: 137,316
Standout Tracks: Wolf's Law, Maw Maw Song, The Turnaround, Tendons

17 Kanye West Yeezus 

This album is sparse, glitchy and involves robots yelling. It's a pretty solid rap record, but I would say that is almost exclusively attributable to the magic of Rick Rubin. Read about how amazing Rick Rubin is here. Back to Yeezus. Overall, I like Kanye's swagger, and think he is a true artist; committed to his craft. It's worth checking out, but I'll spare you the video for Bound, which is really more about Kim than Kanye. Here's "Blood on the Leaves" live at Jools Holland:

Facebook Fans: 9,430,624
Standout Tracks: Hold My Liquor, Blood on the Leaves, Bound

16 Haim Days Are Gone

I listened to Haim and initially wrote them off as an 80s throwback band. After seeing their SNL performance (and Este's bassface), I was intrigued.

There was an earnestness and a commitment to the music that came through in the performance. I was very interested and gave them another look. Here's a quick recap of what I found out. Three sisters (last name Haim) whose dad emigrated from Israel and grew up in LA. The lead singer and guitarist, Danielle Haim, was a touring musician with other bands, including the Strokes, before starting Haim in earnest with her sisters. They are dancy, poppy, 80s and they grow on you.

Facebook Fans: 389,998
Standout Tracks: Don't Save Me, The Wire, Go Slow, Let Me Go

15 The National Trouble Will Find Me
The National is consistently good; like a warm rain soothing your soul. Are you going to go to their show and be completely blown away? In my opinion, no. Are you going to absolutely include their tracks on just about any indie rock mix you ever make? Yes. This album is another solid offering from the National gentlemen, not least of these is the fairly incredible "I Need My Girl":

Also, here's a video for "Graceless":

Facebook Fans: 750,137
Standout Tracks: Graceless, I Need My Girl, Hard to Find

14 Andrew Belle Black Bear

Andrew is a Chicagoan, which I have tried hard not to hold against him. Think acoustic, electronic, goes-down-easy indie rock, and you have Andrew Belle. It's pure ear candy and is full of songs that when they come on cause me to pick my head up and ask, "Who sings this song?" because he is great. In particular, the song "Many Lives" really caught my attention and made me think about the world this last Fall.
Thanks, Andrew Belle.
Facebook Fans: 70,176
Standout Tracks: Many Lives, Dark Matter, Black Bear, I Won't Fight It

13 Cage the Elephant Melophobia
I remember hearing about Cage the Elephant in '08-'09, and while I didn't really seek them out, I remember kind of lumping them in with Fallout Boy. Maybe it was their name, or maybe their disco-y style. I don't know. Either way, my friend Peter nudged them my way this year, and I really liked them. Here's their track "Halo":

Facebook Fans: 1,294,805
Standout Tracks: Halo, Hypocrite, Teeth

12 Tegan and Sarah Heartthrob

Tegan and Sarah chose a different path this year. They chose to also channel 80s beats and pop sensibilities. And I'm glad they did. This is a really solid offering from them. Here's "Shock To Your System":

Facebook Fans: 993,518
Standout Tracks: Shock To Your System, Now I'm All Messed Up, I'm Not Your Hero

11 On an On Give In

On an On, local Minneapolis sons and daughter, were an early favorite this year thanks to my friend Tim. I spent a lot of last Spring rocking and re-rocking this album. I saw them live, and was slightly less excited, but I still really liked the album, and their video for "the Hunter" is pretty epic in it's 80s hair metal nods. Also, I love their bassist. He's super good, has great tone choice, wears his semi-hollow body bass really high and reminds me of famed Milwaukeean Harrison Dole of Bright Kind fame. Here's their video for "The Hunter":

Facebook Fans: 34,513
Standout Tracks: The Hunter, Ghosts, Cops, Panic, Every Song

Stay tuned. The top 10 videos and a Spotify playlist are coming soon.


Best of 2013: 21 - 40

After reviewing 50 albums and adding the findings into a spreadsheet with some fairly complex formulas, I'll provide the top 40. In reviewing the albums that fell in the 40 - 21 slots, it seems that most albums fell into one of two categories:
Category 1 - A few great tracks, a few terrible tracks.
Category 2 - Some good tracks, but evenly, consistently ok through the album.

So, here they are!

40. Major Lazer Free the Universe
"Bubble Butt" is an infectious, crass and fun song. Just don't watch the video.
Standout Tracks: Bubble Butt

39. Phoenix Bankrupt! 
This album was pretty disappointing. I expected a lot.
Standout Tracks: Entertainment

38. Mogwai Les Revenants 
Standout Tracks: Special N, Wizard Motor

37. Pearl Jam Lightning Bolt 
Standout Tracks: Sirens, Infallible

36. Yo La Tengo Fade 
I wanted to love this album. 2000's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out was so great. I really wanted this one to workout. There were some songs on this record that I connected with, but there were also quite a few tracks that I was not a fan of. So, 36.
Standout Tracks: Paddle Forward, Well You Better, Cornelia and Jane, Child of the Valley

35. Godspeed You! Black Emperor Allelujah! Dont... 
Standout Tracks: Mladic, We Drift Like Worried Fire

34. Waxahatchee Cerulean Salt 
Standout Tracks: Brother Bryan, Blue Pt. II

33. British Sea Power Machineries of Joy 
Standout Tracks: Monsters of Sunderland

32. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. The Speed of Things 
Standout Tracks: Dark Water, Knock Louder

31. Forest Swords Engravings 
Really interesting, minimalist, noise-scaping. Because it can be really sparse and arhythmic, it is almost unlistenable as an entire album, but there are a few tracks that come on that are still really interesting to listen to:
Standout Tracks: Gathering, Onward

30. Justin Timberlake The 20/20 Experience 
Initially, I didn't like "Suit and Tie", but it totally grows on you. "Mirrors" was the wedding dance song for my friends, it was a pretty incredible moment, is pretty great, and "Tunnel Vision" is a pretty legit jam.

29. Hayden Us Alone 
Best known for "Bad as They Seem" off of 1995's Everything I Long For, I was interested to check out his work 18 years on. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Standout Tracks: Blurry Nights, Instructions

28. Laura Mvula Sing to the Moon 
For many of the songs on this album, I feel like you have to be in a specific mood to get into Laura Mvula. One track, though, "She" stands completely on it's own and is an amazing song that I keep circling back to.
Standout Tracks: She, Can't Live With the World, I Don't Know What the Weather Will Be

27. A$AP Rocky LONG.LIVE.A$AP 
This album had some great, great singles that have been in heavy rotation (I'm lookin' at you "F**kin Problems"). It is crass and rough, filled with hooks and awesome. That being said, there were a few really rough spots that dropped it in the rankings.
Standout Tracks: F**kin' Problems, Wild for the Night, 1Train, Goldie
Note: This song and video are NSFW

26. Polica Shulamith 
Go hometown music!
Standout Tracks: I Need $, Chain My Name, Tiff

25. Cold War Kids Dear Miss Lonelyhearts 
Standout Tracks: Miracle Mile, Jailbirds

24. Fuck Buttons Slow Focus 
Noisecore to the core.
Standout Tracks: Sentients, Brainfreeze

23. Icona Pop This is... Icona Pop 
Aside from their, "I love it" single, which I thought was just ok, this album had some really great tracks.
Standout Tracks: Girlfriend, Light Me Up, Hold On

22. Jay-Z Magna Carta... Holy Grail 
Traditionally, I haven't been as big of a Jay-Z fan as I have of Jaydiohead. So, I was pleasantly surprised by several of the tracks on this album.
Standout Tracks: Heaven, Holy Grail, F*ckwithmeyouknowigotit, Nickels and Dimes, Crown

21. Foals Holy Fire
Standout Tracks: Prelude, Inhaler, Bad Habit, Moon

Stay tuned for 20 - 11 and 10 - 1!

The 4 Worst Albums of 2013

I just spent the evening inputing my listening habits from the last year into a spreadsheet. As excruciating as that sounds, I discovered that I've reviewed 50 albums in 2013.

My best of 2013 list is forthcoming, but in my listening adventures, there were a few albums that I gave a pretty fair shot that left me feeling like I'd just licked the top of a 9v battery. Sour. Not good. I honestly wouldn't think badly of someone who liked these albums, but I will say that I really couldn't stand them. So, without further ado, here are the 4 worst albums of 2013:

4. Hot Chip - Dark and Stormy 
3. Darwin Deez - Songs for Imaginative People 
To be fair, I did like one song off of this album, "Good to Lose".

2. Savages - Silence Yourself 
Please do.

1. Yeah Yeah Yeah's - Mosquito

I really liked Fever to Tell and It's Blitz! As much as I tried, I could not connect with this album. Take the song "Sacrilege", Karen O's voice is a little screachy, which can be used to great effect, but the added distortion to her voice actually causes my ears a little pain. It's named Mosquito. Given that this is my least favorite animal, the title is fitting. Better luck next time YYY's.