Once every three months I list the best of what I heard in albums/songs/remixes for the quarter. I do this to personally keep up with all the awesome music I hear, as it ultimately helps me at the end of the year when I do my overall listing for the previous twelve months. I also do it to introduce you cool cats to tunes you may have missed independently.
Every Saturday, I post a 15-20 minute podcast featuring some tracks I’ve been jamming the previous week, as well as some commentary and random musings from yours truly. Enjoy!
Cloud Nothings – Stay Useless
The-Dream – Rockin’ That S***
Cloud Nothings – Fall In
The-Dream – I Love Your Girl
Daniel Johnston – True Love Will Find You In the End
Cloud Nothings’ sophomore album Attack On Memory is exactly that, according to leader Dylan Baldi: it’s an attack on the former memory of the band. It’s more raw, angry, and even more unpolished than the self-titled debut. Perhaps that’s the influence of producer Steve Albini, but Baldi’s songwriting is darker, more grand in scope, and more ambitious in delivery. They’ve replaced ooh-wah choruses for increasingly strained vocal work and more minor key arrangements, but try as they might, there’s still plenty of pop material here. This time around, however, the finished product might have more in common with Male Bonding than Wavves. Like Pinkerton did after the more accessible Blue Album, Attack On Memory is slightly flawed, but wholly bold, introspective, and mature. It’s a strong step toward a gradual shift for the long term, warts and all.
Stream the whole thing below. It drops on January 24.
20. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
Age tends to wear and tear a group into writing lamentations on nostalgia, love, family, and life – apparently aging has the opposite effect on Foo Fighters, who have released their loudest, RAWK-iest album since The Colour and the Shape. And the songwriting in at its finest hour since One By One.
19. Gillian Welch – The Harrow & the Harvest
After years, Welch has finally returned, now a primary elder statesmen, with a new album that quiets the naysayers and gives the fans exactly what they wanted. There’s no shortage of emotion here, nor is there lacking of reserved brilliance in melody, balance in structure, and perfect respect to tradition. Best folk album of the year, no contest.
18. Givers – In Light
Simple indie pop wrapped in a blanket of wise intuition and progressive approach. In what should sound like an album full of throwaway 3-minute ditties, Givers transform an overdone sound into a borderline-epic affair full of tempo changes, wavering moods, and consistent unpredictability. And yet, it all feels like a challenging puzzle you’re putting together slowly, but surely.
17. Yuck – S/T
Fuzzy grunge and disarming melodies are the tale here. We can sense this London group loved their flannel, but so did Candlebox; the difference here is not pure derivative formula, but unique arrangement and a knack for knowing what works. We admire grunge’s finest for their abrasive, angsty mood – Yuck goes deeper to find what works not as a method of looking back, but moving forward.
16. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart – Belong
For those wondering if Pains were a one-note, twee-loving band, think again. The sound is bolder, the scope is grander, and the melodies? Worthy of some of the best written this year. Choruses stick like rubber cement, shy vocals peer out from aggressive guitars, and the ambition just keeps growing as the record plays on.
15. The Rapture – In the Grace of Your Love
Like contemporaries Cut Copy, while everyone around them struggles to meet the expectations of an overcrowded genre, the Rapture takes their time to craft an impeccable album. And that’s exactly what happened. The group’s fourth album is effortless, confident, and a reminder of what everyone else is missing.
14. Cloud Nothings – S/T
2012 may be a sharper, more mature turning point for Cloud Nothings, but until then we have this self-titled debut – a fun, noisy romp through great hooks and haphazard punk licks. Six months from now we may find this effort somewhat naive compared to the growth the band has done in future albums, but for now it’s simply charming.
13. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
No one has ever said Annie Clark wasn’t a gifted songwriter, but what she had in ambition she lacked in accessibility. That is, until now. Clark has found the missing link between her unique approach and a larger audience. Crafting some of her most memorable tunes, St. Vincent has kept that bold brilliance we’ve come to adore.
12. The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar
In a time full of clean, quiet indie, this Welsh group provides the fix for loud and brash. The sound of this debut disc is mighty, and the melodies accompanying the in-your-face noise loom just as large. Joyous anthems are wrapped around chaos, providing optimism amongst today’s apathy and nonchalance.
11. Neon Indian – Era Extrana
Psychic Chasms was a delightful acid trip, an introduction to one of the sharper chillwave pioneers. Era Extrana proves that pioneer has staying power, even if his original subgenre doesn’t. The aural wooziness of his debut is heightened here with dark undertones and enticing refrains. If you feel weird after listening, just know that’s the whole point, as it’s always been.
To whet our appetite in between LPs, Surfer Blood released a rocking little EP featuring this excellent little tune.
Another band I know little about, but this played nonstop in my car last spring. A great ode to the unrequited and the ones that got away.
Another catchy lo-fi power pop rocker from this group’s self-titled debut. Enjoy it while you can, because the follow-up promises to be darker and more ambitious.
This Internet sensation crept onto FM radio with this undeniable, absolutely fun track. Bonus points for rhyming “over me” with “ovaries.”
My first introduction to the newly named Born Gold, and I was immediately hooked. There is a remarkable gift here in making the unorganized sound so irresistible.
This is the first of many times for both these artists on the list. Here the Weeknd provides his eerie tortured-party R&B before the beat drops and Drake laments.
McCombs brings another signature somber note in his trademark melancholy falsetto. One of my favorites from Wit’s End.
The first verse of this track more or less describes my life right now – realizing we are not unique snowflakes but small cogs in a machine we don’t know about yet. Simple, yet poignant.
From the maniacal laughter to the thumping stomp of that chorus to those wailing guitars, Joy Formidable claim the throne as the loudest new band of 2011.
146. YACHT – Dystopia
A play on an old R-rated cheerleader chant becomes a boogie-worthy ode to the end of the world. In typical Yacht fashion, it makes you wanna dance around the flames.
Already a contender for most awesome album title of the year, Sleigh Bells’ sophomore effort drops the same day you’ll be giving chocolates to your lady. It is sure to be loud, frenetic, and face-melting. How romantic.
Instead of dropping this new LP this year, Terius Nash ran into some label disputes, so the album has been put on hold. In the meantime, to whet our appetite, he dropped a free, excellent mixtape on his site, 1977. If that release is any indication of what to expect this year from Nash, it is sure to be a worthy follow-up to the incredible Love King.
Although I wasn’t particularly impressed with the new material in a live setting, studio versions have sounded incredibly promising. 19-year-old Dylan Baldi leads his group from their garage power pop approach to a new, darker, and more mature follow-up, destined to be one of the most interesting releases of 2012.
Although their last two releases have been immeasurably disappointing, I still can’t help but get psyched for this ambitious project, an album based on a silent French film made in 1902. It’s just the kind of concept one would expect from this dreamy duo; the album is slated to feature help from Au Revoir Simone and Beach House.
The Mclusky offshoots have been quiet for two years, and that’s two years too long. After dropping a promising EP in November, the band’s stateside release of their third album is sure to induce massive amounts of headbanging, as well as earn the group a new handful of fans.
A friend of mine and I were discussing the awesome awesome lineup for Fun Fun Fun Fest this year, and yesterday, they announced their schedule for our viewing pleasure. My friend was excited, but admitted he knew only a few bands. Where, he wondered aloud, could he find a comprehensive rundown of each band, a sampling of their musical chops, so he could further educate himself before the finest weekend of his year? I assume the Fun Fun Fun website has such a playlist, and they do, and it’s cool, but I wanted to make my own. So every Friday, from now until the fest (that’s nine weeks), I will be posting a playlist for your educational purposes for each stage and day, excluding the Yellow stage, which is mostly comedy.
This week’s playlist covers the bands playing on the Orange (Indie) stage on Friday – Boxer Rebellion, Cloud Nothings, Ocote Soul Sounds, The Thermals, Heartless Bastards, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Okkervil River, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and Passion Pit.
My Stage Pick: Cloud Nothings
While The Thermals rank high on my anticipation list, I am most excited to see a repeat viewing of the high-energy Cloud Nothings, whose SXSW sets knocked me on my ass with rapid-fire tempo and singalong refrains.
With yesterday’s lineup announcement from Transmission, my heart is still a-flutter. Though I’m not crazy about the move to Auditorium Shores, this year’s roster of talent has eviscerated any worry I had that this year might not be so fun fun fun. The lineup is crazy good; though I’m not familiar with the Black stage as some of you (as is the case every year), I do have some picks from the other stages that you will most likely find me at come November 4-6.
This is the one I’m flipping out over. I’ve been dying to see an Anthony Gonzalez show for about three years and there’s no way I’m missing this one. Highest priority.
I’m a big fan of “Stars” and the rest of that seminal, yet somehow forgotten album You’d Prefer An Astronaut, and the kids at Transmission are like daytime talk shows for bands – they always can make a reunion happen. I’m there expecting some spaced-out shoegaze rock.
Community might just be the best comedy on television, and Donald Glover’s Troy might be my favorite character. But when Glover isn’t making me laugh (he’s also doing a stand-up routine on the Yellow stage), he’s wowing me with crazy wit rhymes. Dude is a solid rapper, and this show should be nothing but fun.
All I keep hearing is how amazing this girl is live, and I finally have the chance to witness it for myself. Fest-goers and critics called her the indisputable highlight of Pitchfork in Chicago this year, one to not sleep on. And as awesome as that new album is, you can bet I won’t.
I saw them in 2009, but since then they’ve dropped the Depeche Mode/New Order thing for the most part – now the vibe, at least on their latest album, is more of a Bauhaus feel, and I’m curious to see how it translates live.
One of my favorite albums of last year – Clinging to a Scheme – had that sweet, jangly shoegaze electro that I love so much down to a high-minded science. This group has been around for a while, but they’re finally getting the hipster love they deserve, and I’m pumped to see the show they put on.
If you’ve never seen Cloud Nothings kick out the jams, you’re in for a treat. Just be prepared – you will not be able to stand still. At all. Show is a rapid-fire blast of percussion and sweet hooks.
The Joy Formidable
One album most people have slept on this year is the surprisingly rock’n’roll Big Roar – I’m curious to see if these newcomers can translate their loud studio sounds and big choruses to a big ol’ park in downtown Austin. I’ve got high hopes.
This is probably the festival’s entire highlight – the one for the newspapers and bloggers and whatnot. Austinites, riddle me this: if you had the chance to see one of the most influential, seminal, and downright badass hip-hop groups of all time, you’d go, right? Of course you would. Believe the hype.
America’s Producer is gonna rock your world, along with his Major Lazer crew on the Blue stage. And I thought I was getting spoiled when I saw A-Trak last year!
I’m gonna hold off on this one until I hear the new album in October, but if it’s good, you can bet I’ll be wanting to hear those new tracks live.
Fuck yes. If any band can bring the fun x3, I’d place my bet on these guys. Sex jams and x-rated hip-hop. Someone had to pick up where 2 Live Crew left off, and these guys do it properly.
One of the most legit producers I’ve seen in a long while, the beats and collages this guy cooks up just blow my mind, take a listen to Cerulean if you don’t believe me.
I’ve been raving about this group for awhile – their music is encompassing of great pop and subtle sounds thrown in to create a pretty progressive, yet undeniably infectious, feel. I’m very curious to see how they bring that studio texture to the stage.
WTF Award – Turquoise Jeep
I’ve slept on this, mainly because I’m not an Internet meme-chaser or whatever, but apparently these guys are a YouTube sensation and have been for a year or so. Turquoise Jeep is a mysterious record label, headquarters location unknown, featuring a strange roster of artists that put out hilarious R&B/rap songs and post super-low-budget videos for them. With a straight face…it’s hard to tell if these guys are in on their own joke or not, but I’m willing to bet they are. Anyway, they’re booked for Fun Fun Fun, which is….well, it’s not the strangest thing Transmission has ever done, but it’s likely up there.
There are a ton of other bands on the lineup that I’m excited to see that I didn’t list here – these are just the ones that rank as high priorities for me (except for that last one, which I just thought was pretty damn funny.) Once the schedule drops in September, there’s sure to be some nail-biting conflicts. Like I said, I’m not too familiar with the Black stage roster, which is usually the case every year – not a big metal/punk/Danzig guy. What are your picks for the fest? What did I miss? What Black stage bands are you pumped about that I can’t miss? Educate me!