• Still Grimey, Still Hateful

    5 jan. 2012, 21h08m

    TW violent queer-directed hatespeak


    What was up with that U-God song where Sean Price rapped, "Call me gay bashing / for fucking up these fa**ots"? Cuz it's like, "Uhh okay Sean Price. Will do."

    I mean, I know he's just making a lazy pun -- the "fa**ots" he refers to are not literally gay, but simply corny or feeble individuals (which, of course, is stupid and oppressive in and of itself). I'm just a bit incredulous that Sean P thought this pitiful couplet was more clever than offensive.

    ... But it's not without precedence. In the otherwise deservedly legendary '89 rap battle between Lord Finesse and Percee P, the former cavalierly claimed, "I don't gay bash / I slaughter fa**ots."

    Which renders Price's lines even more disturbing -- it's like the default homophobic attitudes of (underground!) hip-hop in the 15 year interim between these verses has not budged an inch.
  • The Albums From 2009 That I Liked Most

    10 fév. 2011, 10h34m

    I wanted to marinate on my picks for 2009 for 6 months, but it was really closer to a year. In that time there was surprisingly little change. Better late than never, eh?

    There are 41 albums. Try not to worry about it. You'll also notice I use these words a lot: "Pacific Northwest," "Psychedelic," "Mathy." Try not to worry about that either.

    41. Rick Ross - Deeper Than Rap

    Rick Ross is not deeper than rap. This was just a terrible, terrible year for hip-hop. Thus this stupid, stupid collection of wonderful top 40-ready megahits looks even sweeter by comparison. Nothing here quite reaches that level of “Billionaire” brilliance, but “Maybach Music 2” comes close in its shocking display of appalling braggadocio -- plus it features nearly every living rapper. The few MCs who were not featured on “Maybach Music 2” appear elsewhere on this album. If your brain is wired to respond favorably to the indulgences of pop music, you will love this album.
    Incidentally, I have a question for the American youth: has Springsteen’s place as “The Boss” yet been relinquished? If so, I know a rapper who would very much relish that title.

    40. Camera ObscuraMy Maudlin Career

    This is the worst Camera Obscura album, but it still manages to evince a certain impossibly bittersweet ephemera. The title track lends us such a moment: a reverby piano tinkling golden light across a corridor of wistful memory.

    39. RailcarsCathedral With No Eyes

    This treads a pretty perfect line between noise rock and noise, juxtaposing all the extremity with interludes of soft electronica pitter-patter. Would probably rank much higher if there were just a little more of it. The track names are also perhaps my favs of the year, though they hint at a concept album structure that only appears to me viscerally.
    Bonus: Lucky Dragons remixed the title track and turned it into a reggaeton club banger – why do they keep doing that?!

    38. 竹内電気 (Takeuchi Denki) -- SHY!!

    If ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, with their flawless idiot-pop-punk sound, are the Japanese equivalent of Foo Fighters, then surely Takeuchi Denki are the Japanese equivalent of Weezer. Thick, heavy guitars propelled with an uncompromising pop momentum, sweetly desperate vocal delivery, ringtone-ready climaxes on every single song – all the selling points of post-Pinkerton Weezer without Rivers Cuomo’s moronic lyrics (or maybe these Japanese lyrics are equally stupid – how the hell should I know?)
    Come to think of it, the frontman does deliver a few English-language lines, like “You should be my girlfriend!” So yeah I guess they are exactly the same as Weezer. But in a wonderfully banal way.

    37. Oh No - Dr. No’s Ethiopium

    Let me get this out of the way: this is not on the same level as the Oxperiment. However, Oh No is still one of the most inventive hip-hop beatsmiths currently in the game, and this is a stellar collection. These beats sample African music exclusively, and sound like more mature iterations of the ones found on Exodus Into Unheard Rhythms – and I guess that’s what they are!

    36. Orca TeamOrca Team

    Orca Team’s pop gems have a very distinct beauty that is only partially evident on this record – some of the idiosyncracies seemed to have gotten lost in the recording process, but what remains is still warm, reverb-soaked beach pop with the most delectable basslines of the year. This album, like the summer, goes by too fast!

    35. tUnE-yArDsBiRd-BrAiNs

    I almost forgive Merril Garbus for leaving Sister Suvi because this stuff she’s doing on her own is so fascinating! The ukelele, the distant drums, the garbled vocal samples – she makes one wonder why these gorgeous sounds are not pop music staples. While I am not in love with her voice as much as everyone else seems to be, she remains one of my favorite lyricists (“tiny teenage cocks”!) in any genre.

    34. Pastels/TenniscoatsTwo Sunsets

    Well it finally happened. Scotland and Japan apparently couldn’t settle the argument over who retained the rights to the monopoly on precious pop music, so they sent forth their cutest bands to wage a musician’s war of adorability. Instead, these two groups reconciled on their own and essentially formed a pair of wonder twins, together comprising an enormous reserve of snuggle tune potential. The rest of the world knew it was doomed even before these cuddle rabbits released the prettiest, most precious piece of music ever conceived.

    33. Midwest Pen PalsInside Jokes EP

    How many emo bands strive for the level of tangible contemplation that MPP evince in every measure? The intimate nostalgia on display in these scant 16 minutes are enough to establish a group’s sincerity for its entire career. To seal the deal, these dudes got a keen ear for mathy hooks.

    32. Sore ErosSecond Chants

    Pretty sneaky way to make a beautiful record: write instantly gratifying pop songs and bury them over layers and layers of synth washes, ambient drones, and blissful vocals. But to fully appreciate the lush majesty present here, you have to listen again and again and again. You’ll find this process to be its own reward.

    31. Moon RunnersFull Enough

    The dudes in moon runners have an uncanny knack for song-sealing riffs that sound familiar upon first listen. As such, one listen of this “alternative & punk” album will forever cement it somewhere in the recesses of your mind. That spot should be a landmark: the historic collision of college rock and skater jams that retains its heaviness despite its sunny-day pop imperative. Californian genre with Pacific Northwest swagger.

    30. Sister SuviNow I Am Champion

    All it took was two excellent anthems (“The Lot” and “Claymation”) from this otherwise mediocre album to earn it a place on this list. That’s how good those songs are. So what.

    29. Asa-Chang & Junray - 影の無いヒト

    This is Asa-Chang’s most accessible and most eclectic album to date. The songs run the atmospheric gamut; tones of somber menace, folky whimsicality, and upbeat pop are all touched upon. But the strangest victory occurs in the meditative solitude of the first track: a man speaking in time with his footfall, building cautiously to a twist ending. Also appreciated are the sketches of songs that serve as interludes between the attitudes of this schizophrenic trip.

    28. OGRE YOU ASSHOLEフォグランプ

    The first track and the last track of this album are as close as OYA has ever come to reaching the zenith of their first album. The final song in particular, with its Built To Spill style lachrymose guitar riff, is perhaps the most gorgeous piece they’ve ever constructed – even at nearly nine minutes the bliss never fades.

    27. The Pains of Being Pure At HeartThe Pains of Being Pure at Heart

    Remember when that EP dropped and we all thought these guys were going to change the landscape of shoegaze? What was up with that? This record is cute, and so is the singer.

    26. LakeLet’s Build A Roof

    The genre of this album is “cozy.” I believe it was recorded under a rug. Listen to it with your happy families.

    25. CluesClues

    What am I supposed to say about this album? It sounds very Canadian and it’s kind of hard to tell what is going on, but it still appeals to those basic rock impulses. It’s so colorful, so rich, and yet so bland. Aggressively artistic aesthetics, but grounded in convention. It’s way more fun to listen to than talk about.

    24. Fever RayFever Ray

    Thank God for Karin Dreijer Andersson. She brought spookiness back into fashion, validated downtempo pop music, rejected the traditional trapping of the Swedish indie chanteuse, and essentially kickstarted interest in witch house. I don’t know if it’s just because she’s really trying to channel that Charles Burns vibe or what, but this album sounds impossibly Pacific Northwest. Similar climates I guess?

    23. Wolves in the Throne RoomBlack Cascade

    Speaking of specifically PNW spookiness, these blacked out motherfuckers did it again. I often feel alienated by the attitudes and priorities of black metal, but Wolves always resonate with me. It could be that Olympia mystique, or it could be that they are really fucking good.

    22. BoredomsSuper Roots 10

    Another psychedelic masterpiece from EYE & co. This would be way higher on the list if it wasn’t just the same (excellent) song remixed four times. That said, it’s a remarkably fluid and varied listen for what it is.

    21. Gun OutfitDim Light

    I wish Gun Outfit had been there for me in high school when I discovered punk. Think how much happier I’d be now. The truly remarkable thing about this album is how mature it sounds: it’s got the swagger of a veteran band, and the production is tight.

    20. The xxxx

    Top 40 R&B sure is doing a lot of freaky things to a lot of people. I’m drawn to the hush, but more enticed by the chutzpah of the too-brief intro track. Hope they expound on that for their next effort.

    19. 1994!Thank you arms and fingers

    Did post-hardcore die? The death of post-hardcore seems pretty relevant to my life all of a sudden. Well, that will have to wait. This album is so fucking sick. This band channels that house show energy better than anybody. It’s a great balance of math and pop. Favorite dudes to come out of the PA renaissance.

    18. MF DOOMBorn Like This

    This album was not the culmination it could have been, but tracks like “That’s That” masterfully echo both the lyrical prowess and enigmatic emotive qualities of Doomsday. I sure hope “Batty Boyz,” a work of hyperbolic homophobia, is meant to be satirical.

    17. world’s end girlfriend - 空気人形 O.S.T.

    Though he’s made his name in glitchy post-rock, this soundtrack to Air Doll is the most complete and affecting music I’ve ever heard from WEG. I don’t want to see the film; I don’t want any connotation in my mind when I hear these heartbreaking sounds. “道” is one beautiful minute.

    16. Desolation WildernessNew Universe

    There sure was a lot of transcendent lushness this year. Count this among the rare albums that utilize wall-of-sound production to constitute an idiosyncratic sonic world. So few bands deserve that genre tag: “dream pop.” I love that when I listen to this album on iTunes, Destiny’s Child comes up next. I usually just let it happen.

    15. Daniel, Fred & JulieDaniel, Fred & Julie

    Okay, so normally a cover album of old, classic folk songs is something I’d enjoy sparingly. I’d listen to it on a rare night when I’m reading or drawing or something, and I’d enjoy immensely in those instances. But when it’s Fred Squire and Julie Doiron of Eric’s Trip, it is, for some reason, I can appreciate the beauty at any time. Never have I heard two guitars and three voices used so gorgeously.

    14. Cold CaveLove Comes Close

    After a string of delightfully dark singles, Cold Cave came kinda pop on their anticipated debut. And there are some insidious cuts on here, but it’s the unashamed anthem “Life Magazine” that reaches the loftiest point, bringing a certain maturity to the field of possible O.C. Soundtrack music.

    13. Dirty ProjectorsBitte Orca

    Still one of the most exciting experiments of the human voice.

    12. Animal CollectiveMerriweather Post Pavillion

    This is the only way it could have gone. AC defined this decade, and they end it with radio-friendly coalescence of all their influences and protégés. This album is a synecdoche for the state of psychedelia at the time: riding a wave of resurgence that ultimately culminated in its adoption by Top 40 pop in the coming months. They got a lot of flack for abandoning some of their more esoteric leanings, but it makes sense: a truly unbridled manifestation of the consciousness is necessarily accessible. After all, we are surrounded by pop and we are human.

    11. Hex DispensersWinchester Mystery House

    I wish the perceived stigma of party punk -- that of frivolity and tackiness -- would buzz off. Everything the HD do is immediately accessible, and has a beer-drenched thoughtfulness that seems nigh unattainable by younger, hipper punks.

    10. VetiverTight Knit

    Tight Knit is Vetiver’s strongest effort yet, offering an ideal balance between refined folk tropes and a quietly progressive new agrarian romanticism. They’ve built their reputation on slow, ethereal songs, but some of these are real head-nodders.

    9. Tea CoziesHot Probs

    It’s ridiculous how little attention Tea Cozies get. They, more than any of their contemporaries, have perfected that garage-girl sound, and they live in a city (Seattle) that should be especially receptive to that vibe. “Corner Store Girls,” a more explicitly girl-group throwback jingle, is not the best representation of their sound, but it is likely the catchiest song of the year. Most of the other tracks are like a Rose Melberg project with slightly up’d punx.

    8. BowerbirdsUpper Air

    Ol’ B-Birds have set the bar on baroque-folk a little too high. Country twang, accordion dolor, romantic lyricism, emotive vocals … This record is sort of a synthesis of everything interesting you could do with an acoustic guitar band. I am so glad that this album features more female vocals than their debut.

    7. Le LoupFamily

    I guess Sam Simkoff discovered Animal Collective or something. There’s a tribal psychedelia at work here that blends impossibly well into an array of already impressive country-folk jams. This album is so emphatically different from their 2007 debut (in terms of both sound and production) that he really ought to have changed the band name. The only thing Family and The Throne… have in common is how unique and beautiful they are.

    6. Bill CallahanSometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle

    I consider this the best lyric of the year: “The leafless tree looked like a brain. The birds within were all the thoughts and desires within me.” I also consider Callahan the most eminent genius in folk(?!) music.

    5. Talbot TagoraLessons in the Woods or a City

    So apparently Talbot Tagora is, in their limitless sonic exploration of what post-punk never was, Chris Ando’s idea of a joke. This is the most idiosyncratic punk sound to ever come out of the Northwest, and this album, for its niche constituency, is destined to be a classic.

    4. Molly NilssonEuropa

    The vague genre sometimes confusingly referred to as “pop wash,” which includes artists like John Maus and Bubonic Plague, has reached an undeniable zenith with Nilsson’s brilliant sophomore album. Her distinctly apathetic voice belies a profound emotional depth and intimacy, and, when coupled with her lo-fi synth beats, evinces a zeitgeist you never knew existed. This is what pop stars always should have been.

    3. Shabazz PalacesShabazz Palaces / Of Light

    Much respect to any artist who counts Soulja Boy as an influence. Ishmael Butler, in seeking to define a more relevant manifestation of rap music, accidentally united radio-ready snap music with bass-heavy boom-bap to create the most original and psychedelic hip-hop to emerge in years. These two EPs (the latter of which is better), demonstrate an eclectic and flexible lyricism, and an experimentalist imperative that raises the bar for underground MC’s across the country. This envelope shoulda been pushed long ago.

    2. Lucky DragonsRara Speaks

    I had the same dilemma in 2008: how to place Lucky Dragons on an ordered list of best music? The nature of their tunes is so bizarre, so fresh and free, that no other artist really makes sense in context. Rara Speaks, right from the magnificent first track (perhaps my favorite LD track yet), is enormously enjoyable. I just really have no idea why.

    1. Mount EerieWind's Poem

    Phil Elverum is channeling something truly profound here. He’s always had a mystical relationship with nature, and that intuition must have tipped him off to the state of the world in the coming months: things got darker, scarier, more intense. Beneath the furious winds there is still a tranquility, a resolutive recursion that speaks on a cosmological level. We are reminded of the link between the humble stone and the universe is. Perhaps it’s just Elverum’s (in)famously extreme honesty, but I have experienced moments in which this is the only album that truly makes sense.
  • 50 Favorite Songs of 2008 pt. 3

    23 juin 2009, 5h40m

    Oh right, the last bit. WHOOPS.

    15. "I've Got Your Number" by Passion Pit
    When a band's mythology overshadows their actual music, it can be hard to know how to listen to them. This is how: spontaneously, put this track in a mix with whatever else. Drive somewhere. Eventually this track will come on and you won't have time to unravel the adorable mythos that surrounds it, you will have to submit to its prettiness and catchiness.

    14. "Guitar Hero by Amanda Palmer
    I continue to be confused about how I love Amanda Palmer so much yet remain ambivalent about the Dresden Dolls. Oh well. Who Killed Amanda Palmer? is full of wonder and delight, far closer to the "Brechtian punk cabaret" thing than her old band's work. On the other hand, Brecht reminds us to bare the device of our artform, and Amanda seems to do the opposite: "Guitar Hero," like much of the album, is seamless, beautiful, almost transcending pop music to be a statement of pure art eroticism. Meaning is irrelevant; sensation is everything.

    13. Skinny Love by Bon Iver
    This is one of those songs that is destined to become a clichéd favorite. But that's okay because it's breathtaking. The whole "myth-versus-content" Passion Pit thing of course plagues Bon Iver too, and his story is maybe a little more important. A little more Into the Wild. If isolation is all it takes to make beauty, more folks ought to give it a go. It also helps that his voice is perfectly desperate without ever being whiny.

    12. The Healer/Hip-Hop by Erykah Badu
    Madlib and Erykah Badu together is the best thing to happen in human history. Star track on the album, even though Badu does almost nothing with her voice other than quietly clue us this way and that in a characteristically esoteric trip-soul jam. Badu states "This one is for Dilla" or is it "This one is the Healer"? (It is both).

    11. Summer Cutting Kale by the pica beats
    The Pica Beats are wonderful people. They make these ideal, KEXP/coffeehouse cuts and remain modest even though they have perfected what 5,000 other bands are trying to do. This song is slow, thoughtful, and ends with a boy/girl outro that makes one want to sleep under a nice tree on a summer day. Ok, let's do that.

    10. Nothing Ever Happened by Deerhunter
    This is a terrific name for a song. I'm glad that Deerhunter finally stopped messing around with that ghosty, ambient stuff and got down to business. You see, as great as they were at supplying soundtracks to B&W Super-8 films about spirits (this didnt actually happen), they are even better at cranking out hyper-modern pop-rock singles. This one gets a little jam bandy at the end, though, and it is the best part. ... OF THE ALBUM

    9. Your Protector by Fleet Foxes
    "The amount of excitement I have for Fleet Foxes right now is almost as much as I have for Obama!"
    - My Mom, 2008

    8. Brain Burner by No Age
    I wish every band would put their strongest song as the last, instead of the first or second or third. When an album ends like this, so optimally and succinctly, you are going to want to listen to the whole thing again. This is the funnest, most instantly resonating riff No Age have ever come up with. No Age are better at being punk teens than actual punk teens.

    7. Poor Old Ra by the pica beats
    The Pica Beats again?! Get out of here! This is a rich, stunning album opener, and would probably be my track of the year if I hadn't disproved its immortality by getting sick of it after 15 successive listens. But after I recovered, this song still moves me every other time. Is it Barrett's unique, evocative lyrics? Is it the boy-girl harmonies again? Is it that mysterious riff that sounds like some sort of ancient Eastern magic? Who am I kidding, I ask myself these questions after EVERY Pica Beats song. This is one is, maybe, the MOST magical.

    6. Mykonos by Fleet Foxes
    This is the song that did it. This is how you knew that Fleet Foxes were not another set of Northwest folk revivalists, but actual people who were assimilating a lot of different interests and combining them into something you have not heard before. How was this mix made? Some tea? Some pixie dust? A little foliage? Mykonos does not sound like it was made with guitars and things -- it sounds like Pecknold willed it into existence. When it all dissolves into the 10-second a capella couplet and rebuilds itself into a stronger beast, you are finally certain that the Fleet Foxes are goddamn nymphs Jesus Christ.

    5. The Swimming Song by Vetiver
    Why are Vetiver better at playing other folks' music than their own? Maybe because when they have a finished product to go off of, they can abandon their second-guessing and just show off how amazing they are at making music. Each song on this album is incredibly faithful to its original, but this one is almost identical. This is a good thing, because they are both genius.

    4. Fine Young Cannibals by Wolf Parade
    Whereas Apologies contained excellent songs by both of the Wolf Parade masters, the new album is dominated by Dan Boeckner. Always the punkier and harsher of the two, this song is the apex of his forte. Sharp guitar lines continually rip open Boeckner's abject howl -- wounds kept open by the equally unforgiving piano. After a while, Dan has about had it with his voice getting eviscerated so he grabs his guitar and forces it to submit. What results is a closing two minutes where a strangled guitar must repeatedly apologize for his former misdeeds in a spiraling diatribe of contrition. It is the best moment in music in 2008.

    3. Undone by DeVotchKa
    Every few bars you think this song has reached its harrowing culmination, but it hasn't. There is definitely a zenith to this song's beauty and emotion, but this spot will change depending on one's mood. There is something to be said about a song where any portion could be considered its most powerful.

    2. Time to Pretend by MGMT
    Again, this song would be an absolutely unquestioned #1 if I hadn't been listening to it for a good 4 or 5 years now. This an anthem. There is literally nothing wrong with this song. Hearing those opening chords takes me back to sophomore year when everything is significant. Hearing the elegant, echoing closing makes me realize that everything still is.

    1. Hallelujah by The Helio Sequence
    It takes a special song to comprise only build-up, yet remain totally rewarding. "Hallelujah" grows stronger and stronger, gaining more and more momentum, eventually unleashing the Mighty God Fist in the form of weird electro-shoegaze nirvana. Like "Nothing Ever Happened" and "Fine Young Cannibals," the latter half of this song is ambitious instrumentation that explores every possible path on the route to bliss.
  • 50 Favorite Songs of 2008 pt. 2

    7 avr. 2009, 5h37m

    Have you guys ever wondered what dolphins think of us? They have proven themselves to be capable of superfluous thought, so surely they have noticed us and made a few musings. And, more specifically, I wonder what they think of me.

    29. "English House" by Fleet Foxes
    This is the song you hear and you realize that Fleet Foxes actually are mystical, and not just a red herring. Faeries and Djinnis exist, and the Fleet Foxes are one of the few bands who realize this. They recorded some songs, also, and this is a pretty good one. Do you want to know what it sounds like?

    28. "Die Allman Bruder" by Ponytail
    Ponytail is like a more punk, less psychedelic Boredoms, and they give you something you didn't know you needed this. This closing track is a debacle of all the various kinds of energy formerly expounded on this album: guitar, drums, vox, all going crazy separately and together, letting you know that there is one more thing that has to be said before you're allowed to catch your breath. And that thing is, "IBVEYUSIGUEEUEOAAOBEUBUAEOIAEBAJFKPAGIABAEUDWFFEA!!!"

    27. "Blind" by Hercules and Love Affair
    This is one of those lovely dance songs that comes along and does something totally new and manages to transcend its genre and appeal to everybody. This song's horns are charming, and it has the unfair advantage of Antony Hegarty's idiosyncratic vocals. Antony absolutely wrecks any H&LA track he's on, but this is the obvious star.

    26. "M79" by Vampire Weekend
    Dang it.

    25. "Soldier" Erykah Badu
    You know those drums you're looking for? Soldier has them. That's how this song manages to stay captivating for its (mostly unchanging) 5 minute duration: absolutely perfect drumming. Don't get me wrong: there's a soothing synth line and Badu's voice is characteristically masterful -- but this just wouldn't be the same song without the exquisite drums. On an album without a single bad track, "Soldier" still stands out.

    24. "Out There on the Ice" by Cut Copy
    Cut Copy are masters of the flourish! True for all their songs, but especially evident on this track, Cut Copy can make a beast so lush and layered that you can hear something new every time for like 80 times. How can human minds possibly conceive something so meticulously and elaborately constructed? The members of Cut Copy are probably either from another plane or are just some kind of music alchemists. ... But that doesn't explain how they understand fun better than we Earth mortals do -- wtf?!

    23. "Hikikomori & the Rental Sisters" by the pica beats
    The Pica Beats put out almost the most enjoyable album of the year and nobody knows who they are. Listen to this song first. It will begin with a sneaky bassline, imposing, heavy drums, and then hit you with that menacing mandolin, and you are going to say, "I'm sorry, The Pica Beats! I should have known that you had Risen!" and then Ryan Barrett is going to start singing soothingly and sadly, and you will feel safer, but still upset. Then Ryan Barrett will lead the band in an increasingly-beautiful and emotional song that sounds like something the Decemberists might do if they weren't so full of it. THE PICA BEATS ARE REAL AND, WHAT'S MORE, THEY ARE REAL

    22. "Kids" by MGMT
    This song would have ranked much, much higher, if I hadn't listened to it about a hundred times before 2008 struck. But this is a majesty who must be addressed. By adding bust-your-ish-open drums to the most lachrymose song on their EP, MGMT managed to make a half-decade delight seem at least a little fresh. While "Time to Pretend" suffered a tad from the new, expensive production, the even-more anthemic "Kids" thrived. You can cry or dance, it's whatever.

    21. "An Eluardian Instance" by of Montreal
    Triumphant horns! On an album where every song changes several times every minute, this excellent cut is beautifully consistent and sort of sounds like the summation of everything Kevin Barnes has told us these past years. This is the last song to play in the of Montreal opera. This is the last song to play in your life, if your life revolves around of Montreal. "Do you remember our last summer as independents?" is a query that cements Kevin Barnes' place as the greatest lyricist in pop.

    20. "Confections" by Natalie Portman's Shaved Head
    From the stupidest band name of the year comes the smartest album closer of the year. This incredibly-gratifying teen anthem starts and ends with birds chirping and switches midway from a tweetronica dance fest and dissolves into a gorgeous, swaying lovefest. This is where the crowd at an NPSH show would wave their lighters in the air - if they were old enough to smoke.

    19. "Untrust Us" by Crystal Castles
    "Haunted house" is probably the cleverest name for a genre, and the only prominent artists to whom it applies are the Knife and Crystal Castles. But the ghosts summoned by CC are more curious, more bizarre than the Knife's. The ghosts of CC speak even more unintelligibly, hiding behind 8-bit beats (that are, by nature, "more human"), and mysteriously wander around, only occasionally warning us about something in particular. The ghosts in this song are pretty much here to tell you, "hi we are gosts.........."

    18. "Basso Profundo" by DeVotchKa
    This is the new way for DeVotchKa to rock out, in a romantic, gypsy way. Nick Urata's voice is even more beautiful when he's not singing in English, which gives a lot of credit to the theory that DeVotchKa's allure stems fully from how foreign they are while still appealing to established "indie" sensibilities. But in truth, DeVotchKa are the best at doing this Balkan/gypsy/world/mariachi/whatever thing. "Basso Profundo" is a good declaration of this.

    17. "Water Curses" by Animal Collective
    Who knew that submerging "Grass" in water would make an even more accessible track. Animal Collective have, of course, gotten more and more approachable, while keeping their weirdness pretty stagnant. "Water Curses" shows off everything AC is good at these days in a song that has been described a number of times as "impossible to cover." You do not dissect the instruments of this song, you dissect the weird stuff you see when you close your eyes and hear it.

    16. "Poison Dart" by The Bug ft. Warrior Queen
    6 minutes of dub bliss. Warrior Queen, as reflected in her lyrics, can hold her own with the slew of male guest stars that comprise the rest of this album. Warrior Queen suffuses a lithely aggressive beat with a flow full of finesse. The result is a refreshingly feminist dub track that's anything but divisive -- this song hooks upon first listen, no question, and keeps its teeth in you for any number of weeks. After you first hear it, you will have to hear it again later that day. You have been poisoned.

    END PART 2
  • 50 Favorite Songs of 2008

    31 mars 2009, 22h38m

    Is this a little late for you? This year, I let my choices for albums and songs marinate for a little while, ensuring that my final lists would be accurate. I don't think I'll post my top 20 albums (boring!), but I've spent so long laboring over my top songs list that I simply must share it. It's pretty representative.

    50. "Plastis Wafers" by of Montreal
    This songs takes the lowest official spot because I am in love with its blissful first half, but I can barely stand the last 2 minutes. But for a little while, this is the of Montreal track we've been waiting for, combining the beauty of Sunlandic Twins with the raunchiness of Hissing Fauna. Also, I love it when people talk about Orpheus.

    49. "Choir Practice" by Lackthereof
    It was hard to find a good Lackthereof song for this list (and there needed to be at least one), because Danny Siem's latest, Your Anchor, is a powerfully cohesive album. The first two tracks are definitely more enjoyable than this one, but they are so dependent on each other. But then this bass line was like, "Hey, remember?" and I was like, "Yeah, oh yeah."

    48. "Teen Drama" by Times New Viking
    Shitgaze. Someone, somewhere, found a genie lamp and wished, "I want there to be a band like the Thermals, BUT MORE," and at that moment Times New Viking put out their latest, Rip It Off. This opening track lets everybody know.

    47. "Impulse" by New Faces
    New Faces is a cute, young, dance-punk band from Seattle, and this is the only song on their debut without an embarrassingly stupid name. It also has an unrelenting forward momentum that encourages silly people to make Franz Ferdinand comparisons.

    46. "Lay It Down" by Al Green
    What is this, 50 Favorite Songs of 1975? ?uestlove is all over this track, but there's nothing here to make you think that (except for the fact that it rules).

    45. "Highways of Gold" by Jaguar Love
    Does anyone care that the Blood Brothers broke up? There's like 50 good bands that came out of those ashes. Thanks to Jaguar Love, in particular, for letting us continue to hear Johnny Whitney's voice all the time.

    44. "Big FM Radio Hit" by Head Like A Kite
    Head Like a Kite is a project of indulgences. Dave Einmo somehow knows exactly how to construct a perfect pop song and uses this power to give us song after song of magic gratification. Anything on this album coud be a big FM radio hit, but this one is the most likely candidate. This song -- while not without passion -- may have been created in a laboratory ... of funk?

    43. "What Up Man" by The Cool Kids
    All the Cool Kids rap about is how fly they are, and it doesn't always make sense, but it always sounds wonderful. It's not hedonistic, and it's not intellectual, it's just freshily fresh. This song, in particular, is fresh for the chopped up vocal samples (of the words "tick," "clap," and "bass") that comprise the beat.

    42. "Olympia" by Herr Jazz
    Somehow, by copying Abe Vigoda, Seattle younglings Herr Jazz managed to make a couple of tunes that are pretty much better than anything in Abe's entire oeuvre. This song, in particular, in adorable and tropical and punk as fuck, describing the punkest city and the punkest girl ever conceived. Catchiest Riff on a Self Released Album Award.

    41. "Tora Tora Tora" by Pretty & Nice
    This song hooks instantly and continues to please for its too-quick 2-minutes duration. The obvious single from Pretty & Nice's charming debut. By far the danciest thing ever put out on Hardly Art.

    40. "Make Love That Lasts" by Karl Blau
    Karl Blau has been doing this majestic/adorable folk thing he's got it down to an intuition. This track seems instantly familiar while also sounding like nothing ever heard before. It is the definition of "pleasant." I wish I knew what he was talking about.

    39. "Fair Warning" by Shane Tutmarc & The Traveling Mercies
    I love music that sounds like it was written on the prairie, and good ol' Shane Tutmarc has put together an entire project based around this rustic American nostalgia. "Fair Warning," starts his latest album off, and does it perfectly. This is by no means a bad (or even average) album, but the lead track still manages to dwarf the others. It is absolutely perfect at what it is.

    38. "D.F.M." by Little Party and the Bad Business
    LP&BB are one of the most DIY bands in Seattle; they play almost exclusively houseshows, screenprint their own shirts (on the back of other shirts, no less), and bring the ruckus even when they lose power or whatever in the middle of their show. "D.F.M." (Do it For Me) is an antithesis to everything they are, and it is hilarious. I hope it was created as a diss to all the corny Seattle bands who wish they were this capable and autonomous. But it probably wasn't -- these guys are sweethearts.

    37. "A Milli" by Li' Wayne
    When I first heard this now-infamous cut I remember thinking, "This is terribly annoying," but it soon sunk its teeth into me, and I was hooked on it for a good month. Christ, Weezy. You are such a weirdo.

    36. "Courtship Dating" by Crystal Castles
    This is one of the most threatening songs on CC's debut, even if it doesn't have Alice Glass' lovely screaming. Instead, she just sings saccharinely over a menacing array of swirling 8 bit riffs.

    35. "The Upgrade" by
    I thought this was a terrible year for hip-hop, despite new releases from J-Live, Vast Aire, and Vordul Mega. This wasn't an exceptional album, but J-Live is consistently clever, and he invites Oddisee and Posdanous to join him in some lovely wordplay over this song's Monch-esque beat. Something about it also seems kind of Nas-like ... I suppose it could be the scratching -- some of the best I've ever heard.

    34. "Teen Creeps" by No Age
    This is probably No Age's most blatantly emotional song, and it still has a certain level of poise and aloof.

    33. 75 Bars (Black's Reconstruction) by The Roots
    So Black Thought spits for 75 bars straight and uses the N-word 40-something times. It's an angry, aggressive verse rapped over an angry, aggressive tattoo pounded out by ?uestlove. Best couplet: "I'm the field with a shield and a spear, n*gger/ I'm in your girl with her heels in the air, n*gger." Damn, Roots.

    32. "Run To Your Grave" by The Mae Shi
    The most beautiful detail about this absurdly catchy song is its place: right before an epic 12-minute centerpiece that combines the rest of the album into one ridiculous hodgepodge.

    31. "I Will Possess Your Heart" by Death Cab for Cutie
    How did Death Cab for Cutie make an 8-minute song with a 4-minute intro that everybody loved? There are so many things to hate about it! Too bad it rules.

    30. "This Gift" by Sons and Daughters
    What on Earth happened to rock? Every genre has to have some wacky prefix or something. Even rock that tries to sound like old rock call itself "revival" or "classic rock." Bogus. If rock had just matured without radical genre expansions of influences, it would probably sound like these lovely lads and lasses. "This Gift" has everything a good rock anthem should.

  • Favorite Hip-Hop Groups That Aren't OutKast

    10 juin 2008, 7h50m

    Binary Star
    While they've only ever released one album (or, more appropriately, the same album twice), the flows of One Be Lo, Senim Silla, and their rare guest drops are so ridiculous that I have to rank Binary Star up with the best. The beats, most courtesy of Decompoze, are always fresh, always chill, always engaging. Masters of the Universe is an album that can be played in the background, allowing the listener to drift in and out of attention, but also contains myriad clever lyrics that can be scrutinized and analyzed for hours. The relentless flow of Silla and Lo, however, does not wait for the listener to understand and digest every line; with no opportunity to play catch-up, multiple listens are necessary -- and enjoyable.

    Track of Choice: K.G.B.
    Album closer, and clocking in at a whopping 6:51, K.G.B. is unquestionably the most epic cut on the album. Lo and Silla bring in a couple guests to flow repeatedly for nearly seven minutes -- with no intro, outro, or chorus. All set to an ominous Russian chant loop that feels at once weary and punishing.

    Does it count as a supergroup if it's just two incredibly talented producer/rappers? Regardless, the meeting and subsequent majesty of Madlib and J Dilla was one of the best things to happen to hip-hop this decade. The two artists take turns beatcrafting and rapping, but the result is always beautiful. Any listener could get lost in Madlib's surreal jazz landscapes, but Jay Dee's reliable flow guides the experience masterfully; Madlib, likewise, find his bizarre cadence, tempo, and voice shifts are perfectly suited to Dilla's beats, which are both inventive and profoundly accessible.

    Track of Choice: McNasty Filth
    No disrespect to obvious star track and public favorite, "The Red," but McNasty is what got me hooked. Despite the majority of Champion Sound being pretty relaxed, McNasty kickstarts the experience by evincing that two humble producers can still fuck shit up. The uptempo beat and in-your-face hook ("we are in this motherfucker") seem out of place in theory, but are perfect in practice.

    The Pharcyde
    It is said that if you ask a rock kid why he doesn't like hip-hop, there's a good chance he'll pull out Bizarre Ride II. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. The Pharcyde were, when they debuted in the early 90's, viewed as refreshing and progressive due to their jazzy, mellow beats and self defecating lyrics. Just as that unique style reached out to xenophobic genre-huggers in the day, so too has it transcend chronological limitations, and sounds just as fresh today as it did 15 years ago. Pharcyde are funny, clever, thoughtful, and above all, really good rappers. Switching between trains of thought and storytelling on a whim, the members of Pharcyde always show diversity and maturity in their flows. And yes, the beats are "jazzy."

    Track of Choice: Passing Me By
    A quintessential 90's joint, Passing Me By tells a cleverly-worded story of unrequited love that resonates with humor and realness. Set to a beat that strongly recalls the golden hip-hop days, it's hard not to listen to this track without being flooded with memories.
  • OTIS

    13 mai 2008, 2h53m

    REDDING. Otis Redding.

    I need to start blogging more. I mean, I don't NEED to, but I probably should. You know, as a creative outlet.

    I will later, probably. In the meantime, let's just sit and think about Otis Redding and how beautiful he is.
  • Yellow Fever Fever!

    3 jui. 2007, 9h34m

    This is the first time I've truly fallen in love with a band immediately since 3 Swimmers.

    Yellow Fever is so good. They are so cute. They need to come out with an album and have it be surprisingly widely distrubuted.

    Here's all I know about them so far:
    - They are from Austin
    - They rock
    - They are two girls and a boy
    - One of them is in Voxtrot??
    - Their shirts kind of suck but I don't care, I'd still wear one
    - Daaaaamn
    - They are lo-fi
  • I Buy a Lot of CDs

    24 mai 2007, 1h05m

    And I intend to buy many more! Including that new Elliott Smith rarities/b-sides CD - New Moon.

    Also, my family is still having trouble locating our copy of ABBA Gold, so I'm forced to listen to The Album on vinyl to satiate my craving. At least it's got "Take a Chance on Me," which I keep misreading as "Take on Me." Also a fantastic song!