May 3 2012

Listen: Star Slinger Remixes Drake and The Weeknd


Dec 30 2011

The Top 50 Albums of 2011 – The Top Ten

10. tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l

Merrill Garbus has always been known for oddball melodies and quirky arrangements, but the growth shown on this spectacular album is spellbinding. Memorable, inviting, disarming, and purely inventive, this standout is unlike anything anyone in music is doing right now, and is an un-arguable example of the unique power of the musicality of tUnE-yArDs.

9. The Weeknd – House of Balloons

The addiction to partying, to tripping, to rolling, to getting wasted and blackout obliterated has never been so perfectly soundtracked than in this promising debut. The hollow feelings, the numbed experiences, and the utter craving to do it all again to forget about the last time is captured here. Dark, demented, honest, and with the worst intentions.

8. Araabmuzik – Electronic Dream

The title of this introductory mixtape is certainly appropriate – like the blurred drive home after a night of partying, the triple-time drum machines, 90’s era female vocals, and repeated reminders that “you are now listening to Araabmuzik” blend together like the final dance at the club, or the final steps to the bed.

7. Terius Nash – 1977

He’s proclaimed himself the Love King, but for his free mixtape, The-Dream chose not only to name it after the year of his birth, but opted to use his real name as the moniker of choice. Why? Because the Love King isn’t bragging much this time around. Lamenting on heartbreak, personal turmoil, and soulful anguish, this is the most introspective effort from Nash to date.

6. Jay Z/Kanye West – Watch the Throne

A collaboration of this magnitude certainly wasn’t going to meet the overhyped expectations it was given. With that out of the way, while nothing revolutionary, Watch the Throne is certainly memorable. It’s not even a collaboration, but a competition. Who can out-rap the other? It’s a battle of braggadocio rhymes and quick wit, and it’s entertaining all the way through.

5. Born Gold – Bodysongs

Freak pop might fit, but that’s more akin to the psychedelic work of Flaming Lips. No, Born Gold (formerly Gobble Gobble) is more futuristic ADHD pop. Chaotic electronic noise and stuttered, effected vocals surround the magnificent melodies of this group’s surprisingly strong debut. A joyous proclamation of computer-glitching defiance throughout, it might give you a fabulous headache.

4. Drake – Take Care

What a short, strange trip it’s been for Drake, who has evolved from a hashtag-rapping former actor to the most interesting, downbeat, and flat-out real rapper in the game right now. Take Care is the best rap album of the year because its mixed-emotion honesty is overwhelming, its beats are curiously addicting, and its mood is so powerfully smooth. Pristine production amongst contradictory, conflicting verses, this album is simply sublime.

3. Hooray For Earth – True Loves

Quite possibly the most overlooked album of 2011, Hooray For Earth are delivering subtle, yet undeniable unforgettable electronic jams for the undeserving masses. Everything here, from the hooks of the title track, to the gradual grandiosity of “Sails,” to the fist-pumping madness of “No Love,” is a winner.

2. Primus – Green Naugahyde

Since frontman Les Claypool has remained active, it’s hard to believe it’s been twelve years since Antipop, but our favorite alt-funk oddballs pick up right where they left off, bringing instant career highlights reminiscent of all the brightest spots of their catalog. It’s not exactly forward-thinking, but when the funk is this solid, who cares?

1. M83 – Hurry Up We’re Dreaming

While not as completely cohesive as the shorter Saturdays=Youth, Anthony Gonzalez managed to out-epic that album, a feat many surmised would be impossible. Then again, what’s more epic than a dream-pop double album exploring the concept of childhood slumber? And with that concept comes feelings of excitement, innocence, comfort, and imagination. There’s a lot to take in, but repeated listens will deliver the ultimate reveal: Gonzalez is brilliant, and this album is remarkable. Near flawless, completely enjoyable.


Dec 27 2011

The Top 50 Albums of 2011 – 40-31

40. Tom Waits – Bad As Me

Finally, after seven long years, our favorite barroom brawler has returned with his first album of new material. And the result? More of the same, give or take. Not that anyone’s complaining. With Bad As Me, Waits determines and plays to his strengths, all of which are diverse, and absolutely none of which are filler. The rasp is refreshing, the arrangements unusual, the dark mood prevalent. Nothing has been broken for a long while, so why change a winning formula?

39. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation

22-year-old Idaho native Trevor Powers has created a half hour’s worth of material that can be interpreted as simultaneously joyful, shy, alienated, and sad. Beneath these eight tracks is a vibe that shifts with every tempo change, every gradual crescendo, every explosion. And in all the correct places, Powers’ echoey vocals fill the air with the uncertainty of the future and the courage to move forward all at once.

38. The Dodos – No Color

Visiter was the strong debut, and Time to Die was the experimental sophomore slump. And so, No Color is indeed the combination of the two, where the Dodos have come full circle and grown immensely along the way. The brilliant hooks and time changes of their first album strengthen the intense progression of their songwriting they previously tried but came up short. Here, it all works.

37. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears – Scandalous

If you don’t know him by now, you best get acquainted; Austin local Black Joe Lewis, like contemporaries Janelle Monae, Sharon Jones, and Cee Lo Green, has a knack for taking the classic sounds and giving them a 21st century feel. But Lewis and his tightly-wound band aren’t focused on the surreal or the space-age; rather, they just want you to dance your ass off. And dance you will, all the way to Booty City.

36. Dum Dum Girls – Only In Dreams

It’s no secret Dum Dum Girls are simple. Obviously I mean that as a compliment – we heard that pretty simplicity on I Will Be. Here, as was hinted on the stellar He Gets Me High EP earlier this year, the group takes their Sub Pop-financed production and raises the bar ever so slightly. The melodies are intact, surrounded by a post-punk take on gorgeous music Chrissie Hynde would kill for. So you see, in this instance, simplicity is a very, very good thing.

35. Black Lips – Arabia Mountain

Good Bad Not Evil introduced this rowdy crew to the indie rock masses, but perhaps the limelight blinded them a bit. This was evidenced on the hot-and-cold 200 Million Thousand, but now, with the help of unlikely producer Mark Ronson, we get an incredible comeback littered with some of the finest, rawest, and catchiest material Black Lips have ever given us.

34. The Weeknd – Thursday Mixtape

The follow-up to House of Balloons is less diverse, less immediate, but just as intense. The Weeknd, by this point, was decidedly less mysterious, but no less serious about partying. Dark, disjointed, and deeply affecting, this second part of a strong trilogy of mixtapes released this year is a powerful chapter into the psyche of one of the year’s finest emerging artists.

33. Gauntlet Hair – S/T

This Windy City duo turned heads in 2010 with a few excellent singles, and here they take their winning formula to a full-length effort. The album is layered with echo, clanging guitars, R&B beats, and mounds of noise. It’s not for everyone. But for the patient, for those willing to be challenged, there’s a fair amount of accessibility here, precisely buried under that first level.

32. Wavves – Life Sux EP

Even when he’s dicking around, Nathan Williams is powering through, creating sloppy power pop-punk garage nonsense that will alienate some and inspire others. This thrown-together EP isn’t perfect, but its highs are almost as high as Williams perpetually is constantly. Life Sux marks a stepping stone for a project that has seen its ups and downs, but is certainly at a creative peak.

31. Cut Copy – Zonoscope

Is it too early to call these guys elder statesmen? Because in a time when everyone is biting their style, Cut Copy remain consistent, churning out hook after hook while newcomers struggle to create even one. I know it’s only their first follow-up to In Ghost Colours, but Zonoscope is a strong reminder that this group is naturally brilliant. They make it sound so easy. And it sounds like, it feels like, they’ve always been around, the way great bands in over-saturated genres are. Occasionally delivering gold around everyone else’s varied imitations.


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 20 2011

The Top 200 Songs of 2011 – 150-101

150. Drake feat. The Weeknd – Crew Love

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.

149. Cass McCombs – County Line

McCombs brings another signature somber note in his trademark melancholy falsetto. One of my favorites from Wit’s End.

148. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

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.

147. The Joy Formidable – Magnifying Glass

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.

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Dec 18 2011

Best Music Videos of 2011

Thirty of my favorites from this year, unranked, in alphabetical order.

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Dec 14 2011

2011: The Year In Music

For those who truly choose to recognize it, three major shifts happened in 2011.  The first, as is apparent during this year’s Listmas (and will be apparent on my year-end lists as well) is the resurgence of irreverent, smart hip-hop and what is half-mockingly referred to as PBR&B.  The introspection of 2010’s hottest rappers (you know, when Eminem got all mature and serious and junk) has caused a shift in the landscape.  As rap has been semi-tossed aside in the pop world in favor of the Eurodance craze, rappers have become more….sad.  And real.  And risk-taking.  And progressive. And brilliant.  Drake crooned, the Weeknd swooned, Big K.R.I.T., Danny Brown, Kendrick Lamar, and A$AP Rocky all impressed.

The second one is more important to the industry as a whole: Spotify.  Its launch in the US has caused nothing short of a revolution: millions have signed up for the service, initiating a preference for a streaming-based distribution model over downloading iTunes files.  Spotify isn’t the first of its kind, but certainly its connections and marketing have made it the poster-child for what many are calling the next pivotal shift in how we listen to music.  A vibrant, passionate discussion has formed from the company’s popularity; the service has caused its share of controversy and criticism regarding royalties and high-profile artists like Coldplay and the Black Keys opting out.  Certainly the model isn’t perfect, but could it be the new blueprint?  One thing is for sure: the business of digital music is crazy exciting right now.

The final shift in 2011 happened to me personally, it really wasn’t an event, more of a realization.  I became aware of my adulthood, I suppose, probably for the first time ever, and it has affected my listening habits and preferences.  Not that I’m listening to “mature” music now….quite the opposite, in fact.  I guess I just finally decided life is too fucking short to be pretentious, and that we should just listen to whatever we want.  Though I suppose I’ll always have these so-called “hipster tendencies,” I’ve begun to embrace my love of escapist music, of pop, of rap, of dance, of strong melody, of hooks.  Because, to me, music is probably the most important thing in my life, and it is meant to be stimulating, challenging, but also, prominently, and this is the part we forget in college, kids, it is meant to be enjoyed.  And if I sit around listening to shit I don’t like all the time because I was told it was awesome or groundbreaking, I will die a sad, pompous, stuck-up old man.  So live your life, and stick to your guns. And dance if you want to, damnit.  And listen to music that makes you feel good.  Because this is your life, and you only get one.

One other thing I would like to mention that 2011 will likely be remembered for, but is of no consequence to me: this is the year Adele took over.  And so emerges another AC-friendly artist that the world adores, but I am left all by my lonesome to proclaim: “Meh.”  And look at that: I’m bored already just talking about her.  Damn, there I go again! Hipster tendencies…..baby steps.

So here is the blog schedule for the remainder of 2011.  Stick around and be prepared to disagree!  Should be a grand old time.

December 15: My Year In Live Music
December 16: Most Overrated Albums of 2011
December 17: Most Disappointing Albums of 2011
December 18: Top Music Videos of 2011
December 19-23: Top 200 Songs of 2011
December 24: Top 20 Remixes of 2011
December 25: Honorable Mention Albums of 2011
December 26-30: Top 50 Albums of 2011
December 31: Top TV Shows of 2011
January 1, 2012: Quarterly Review


Dec 11 2011

Sunday Night Videos 12/11/11

The Weeknd – What You Need from NovStru on Vimeo.


Sep 4 2011

Sunday Night Videos 9/4/11

Iceage – Youre Blessed from iceage on Vimeo.