Dec 22 2011

The Top 200 Songs of 2011 – 50-21

50. Surfer Blood – Miranda

To whet our appetite in between LPs, Surfer Blood released a rocking little EP featuring this excellent little tune.

49. Starsmith – Lesson One

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.

48. Cloud Nothings – Understand At All

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.

47. Kreayshawn – Gucci Gucci

This Internet sensation crept onto FM radio with this undeniable, absolutely fun track. Bonus points for rhyming “over me” with “ovaries.”

46. Born Gold – Decimate Everything

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.

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Dec 21 2011

The Top 200 Songs of 2011 – 100-51

100. The Strokes – Under Cover of Darkness

When the band sticks to what they know, they sound great. Angles is a hot-and-cold album, but this is the first of two tracks that showcases the former.

99. Born Gold – Wrinklecarver

Originally released as former project Gobble Gobble, nothing has been done to this track in terms or re-mixing or mastering, but it just sounds better in context within the new album Bodysongs.

98. St. Vincent – Cheerleader

Another highlight from Strange Mercy – here Annie Clark shows off her knack for start-stop surprises around what sounds conventional at first, then grows to be beautifully unusual.

97. Drake – Lord Knows (featuring Rick Ross)

The snare hits, the booming bass, the background vocals, that “Just Blaze!” intro, the use of the phrase “Murdercedez Benz.” What’s not to love here?

96. Wiz Khalifa – The Race

One of the more down-tempo tracks on the fun Rolling Papers, Wiz drops a chill-out anthem for the end of the night when you just wanna light one up and take it easy.

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Dec 17 2011

Most Disappointing Albums of 2011

A recent NBC/WSJ poll revealed 76% of Americans consider 2011 to be a “below average” year or “one of the worst” in their lives. Certainly times are tough in the world. Obama is a lame duck, and the competing Republicans are clinically insane adulterers and fundamentalists. The economy remains on the brink of collapse; Congress is a brainless, yelling mob of idiocy. REM broke up. Limp Bizkit got back together.

Musically speaking, do I consider 2011 to be a disappointing year overall? Not really, but I don’t consider it to be a revelatory one either. So I’m indifferent. That said, as is the case with every year, 2011 had its share of disappointments. Maybe in these five cases, my expectations were set unreasonably high. But for at least a couple, I don’t think that’s the situation; some of these albums just flat-out suck.

Radiohead – King of Limbs

This is a good album. Not a great one. And when it comes to Radiohead, “great” is the caliber the world expects. Perhaps that’s unfair, but it’s realistic. It took them a while, but they finally churned out a dud. Is it challenging? Yes. Is it ambitious? Absolutely. Does it sound forced, lost, sometimes even lazy? Unfortunately, but definitely. I look forward to hearing the next great transformation in the sound of Radiohead, because this was obviously a stumbling transition of some sort.

Tyler the Creator – Goblin

It’s incredible how one album can utterly silence an excited mob. Count me as one of the many who saw Odd Future at SXSW, on Jimmy Fallon, and was psyched to hear Tyler’s new solo outing. With the exception of “Yonkers” this is a complete mess from start to finish. It is patently offensive in an auditory, not lyrical, sense. The real disgust lies not within the misogynistic, homophobic verses, but the tuneless, boring dreck that surrounds them. Unlistenable.

Washed Out – Within and Without

Speaking of boring….I guess I should have seen this one coming. Abandoning the fun, infectious, danceable influence evident on the excellent Life of Leisure EP, Ernest Greene conjured up a full-length full of mood, but absolutely nothing that stands out.

The Strokes – Angles

That dreadful, thrown-together album cover says it all, doesn’t it? How bummed were you after hearing this all the way through for the first time? What a sinking feeling. Exactly three tracks here are great, even if they’re not exactly progressive. The rest is uncharacteristically confused. The listener feels the same way the band probably did after finishing this: what?

Justice – Audio Video Disco

It’s generally expected when you take four years to make a follow-up to a critically acclaimed debut, that means you’re taking some risks, trying some new things, and the result will be an interesting one. That’s exactly what Justice did. In fact, that’s all they did. Going the way of MGMT, there’s very little here that sounds even remotely like the 2007 French house duo that isn’t Daft Punk. More prog than anything else, Audio Video Disco throws a lot of spaghetti at the wall, and almost none of it sticks. Props for changing the formula, but I would have preferred a simple Cross Part 2.

Jul 27 2011

Currently Digging: Stereogum Presents: STROKED – A Tribute to Is This It

Regardless of what you thought of this year’s Angles (it sucked), there’s no denying the awesomeness of the Strokes July 2001 debut, Is This It, which turns ten years old this month. And as SPIN recently did in honor of Nirvana’s Nevermind, Stereogum has posted a tribute featuring a diverse collection of modern artists covering tracks from the album. Download it for free here.

There are definitely some standouts here; I would gather this tribute is even more diverse than the interesting Newermind from SPIN. Most notable is Chelsea Wolfe’s haunting take on “Modern Age.” Frankie Rose makes “Soma” a dream-pop event, replacing jangly guitars for synth hums and soft crooning. And with covers from Real Estate, Owen Pallett, and Austra, the album certainly remains an overall low-key affair, more subdued than its garage-rocking source material.

My personal highlights are the Morning Bender’s upbeat, true-to-form electro take on “Last Nite” and Heems’ scathing commentary on officers of the law over a sped-up sample of “New York City Cops.” Grab the mix and listen for yourself.

Jul 13 2011

Disappointments/Overrated Albums of 2011 So Far

The Disappointments:

Washed Out – Within and Without

Ernest Greene has made the age-old mistake most sophomore slumps make – he has focused too hard on form, and not on content. Abandoning the sharp pop of the impressive Life of Leisure EP for a bland, boring follow-up, Greene has created a sleepytime comp, but not in a good way.

Tyler the Creator – Goblin

Never since the invention of the good ol’ Internet/blog hype machine has an artist been so lauded and built up to impossible expectations, only to release an irredeemably bad album and lose all that praise.  I mean, man.  What a terrible record.  No one has fallen harder than Tyler the Creator.  At least, not yet.

The Strokes – Angles

This album is a giant mess, with the exception of exactly three songs. Possibly worse than not living up to hype (see above) is watching an established band return after a long hiatus and produce what is arguably their worst effort yet.  We all know the first two can’t be beaten, but it would’ve been nice to see these guys try.

Radiohead – The King of Limbs

It is apparent that, well inside their comfort zone, Radiohead have settled into trading in hooks for ambient experimentation and a lack of depth or cohesion.  There is nothing memorable here; the group phoned it in for their first mediocre album since Pablo Honey.  Perhaps this is a transformative period, and we can all look back and laugh at this stepping stone record.

REM – Collapse Into Now

At least Radiohead was progressive – most REM albums are always claimed to be a “back to basics” or “return to form,” but this time it’s for real.  Unfortunately, Stipe, Mills, and Buck forgot to bring the sharp melody and memorable kick back from 1995, and the result is somewhat dated and underwhelming.

The Overrated:

James Blake – S/T

This is a noble debut from an up-and-comer; it shows promise, warts and all.  Apparently the critics didn’t notice most of the album is not necessarily songs, but experimental sound and structureless production.  Maybe in the future Blake can rein it in and produce an album worthy of all the praise it’s getting.

Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo

I guess I’m missing something here, but the sheer uninspired tone of boredom Vile likes to deliver his songs in is just grating to me.  I don’t pretend to understand why this album has received the unjust praise it’s received.

Foster the People – Torches

It’s Maroon 5 trying to replicate the hits of MGMT.  It’s repetitive.  Its success is uncanny and undeserved.  “Pumped Up Kicks” is the prime example for an album of one-note structure beating you in the head until it’s stuck in your brain.  Just because you can’t stop singing it doesn’t mean it’s good.

Juliana Barwick – The Magic Place

I have to give credit here – what Barwick has tried is pretty creative.  The main instrument here is layers of Barwick’s haunting voice, and the result is original and intriguing.  Unfortunately, it’s also frankly boring, especially for an entire album.

Bon Iver – S/T

There’s just not enough here to warrant the praise this sophomore slump has been receiving.  I feel this is a transitional album, that Vernon just needs to get his creative juices flowing again, instead of letting the celebrity status take control and half-ass a disc that only picks up on the last two tracks.

May 13 2011

My Top 300 Songs of the 2000s – 20-11

Today I continue my ongoing feature showcasing my personal picks for the best songs of the past decade, posting ten songs at a time.

20. The Postal Service – Such Great Heights

My favorite Ben Gibbard album is Give Up, even amongst all those great early Death Cab masterpieces. Before the twee synth became commonplace, Gibbard took it to every first-generation iPod, car commercial, and teen soap montage (I’m looking at you, The O.C.). And of course, he did so with this song, still as beautiful as I remember it back on WOXY-FM my sophomore year of high school.

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Apr 3 2011

Sunday Night Videos 4/3/11

Apr 1 2011

Quarterly Review – January-March 2011

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.

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Feb 12 2011

Culture Greyhound Podcast 2/12/11

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!


The Thermals – Everything I Want
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Panda Bear – Last Night At the Jetty
The Strokes – Under Cover of Darkness

Feb 10 2011

Currently Digging: The Strokes – Under Cover of Darkness

This leaked yesterday, and I’ve been blaring it nonstop. It sounds like old Strokes, so nothing revolutionary, but since when is sounding like old Strokes a bad thing? Angles drops March 22 here in the States on RCA, and it’s all but been confirmed they could stop in Austin for SXSW. Get psyched!

Graab the mp3 here.