Thursday, December 20th, 2012 | musiX | No Comments
11. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Alleluja! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (Constellation)
12. Titus Andronicus - Local Business (XL Recordings)
13. Ty Segall & White Fence – Hair (Drag City)
14. Plankton Wat – Spirits (Thrill Jockey)
15. Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory (Carpark Records)
Monday, December 20th, 2010 | musiX, pdX | 6 Comments
Wait, weren’t we just here? Like, in 2009? As I hinted at in last year’s TDoL year-end extravaganza, making these lists is always a tug-of-war between what feels good and what actually is good. But if it makes you feel good, it must be good … right?
So here’s the process: I frantically assemble my list. Move things around. Re-listen to records. Cut one here; add another there. Anxiety sets in. I lose sleep. Get a few more gray hairs. Stop eating solid foods. I don’t bathe. I empty out my bank account on overpriced vinyl (including Rush records, for crissakes). I ignore my fiancée. Drink heavily. Call in sick to work. Stop returning phone calls. Kick my (imaginary) dog. Resort to drugs (prescription and non). And stand on the corner in the cold holding one of those signs that say “Will blog for food.” The list goes on—all so I can compile this silly list for you.
OK, it’s really not that bad … although I do like to kick my (imaginary) dog every now and again. I will say this: As someone who overthinks everything (e-ver-y thing), the early process for these year-end lists can be a bitch (which then I kick). But once I let touchiness and feeliness be my guides (more fartsy with the artsy) things always fall into place.
So here it is. I’m sure this is only one of dozens of lists you’ll read. I think it’s a good one (obviously), but it doesn’t mean you have to. Click the album covers to purchase, and add your own list in the comments section. And let the civil discourse take us into 2011, where we can be certain of two things: We’ll all be one year older, and we will definitely be sick of hearing about how incredible that Kanye West record was.
Though the band has shaken some of the folkier elements found on their debut, it takes only a few notes to know where Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s The Goodnight Loving are coming from (Milwaukee, duh). While there’s a certain innocence to their music—’50s rock ‘n’ roll meets honky tonk—the band has won over the cold hearts of those who like their music a little more, shall we say, grimy. Picture a sock hop with an open bar.
“The Pan” – The Goodnight Loving
It was a busy year for Quasi, who released their first record in four years and toured all over including several dates with Pavement. The band entered the studio for the first time with bassist/Jick Joanna Bolme, and what they got was a huge-sounding rock record. This thing is LOUD. As drummer Janet Weiss told TDoL earlier this year: “We wanted to capture what it feels like to be at a live show or be in the room with all of the molecules banging around.”
“Repulsion” – Quasi
I’m always digging for music from other countries only to come up with bad techno in one hand and even worse metal in the other. I was beside myself when I discovered Montañas, a trio from Northern Spain that plays a shit-gazey hybrid of garage rock and post-punk. Their 10-inch (that’s 10 solid inches of vinyl) has a fistful of threadbare 90-second gems—guitars bend in and out of tune, the drums sound like sticks on old seat cushions, bass is non-existent. Sounds ugly, but it’s really quite perfect.
“Yo Conduzco, Ella Me Guía” – Montañas
I guess there are benefits to being Jimmy Fallon’s house band. The Roots’ ninth studio record sounds like a group that kicks out the jams every night. The songs are shorter and scrappier. Black Thought’s gritty rhymes glide from his lips. And ?uestlove’s boom-bap is as snappy as it’s ever been. How I Got Over also features a slew of unexpected guests—from Dirty Projectors to Monsters of Folk—all of whom become small, yet integral brush strokes on The Roots’ brilliant canvass.
“Dear God 2.0″ – The Roots
The first thing you’ll notice on Old Light‘s debut long-player are the harmonies, which bring to mind the sunny vocal stylings of Crosby, Stills & Nash. But that’s where the similarities end (thankfully). The Portland four-piece—led by a 6-foot-5 Sabbath lover—throw in stoner riffs, autoharp, and lyrics about death. It’s the kind of record made to be listened to from front to back; and the more you listen the darker it gets. Which is how we like things around here.
“Pretty Machete” – Old Light
These guys took a left on E Street and ended up in the Deep South. Using the American Civil War as a metaphor for the wacky game of life, guitarist/vocalist/beard aficionado Patrick Stickles leads his motley crew through 10 punk rock epics that give equal nods to the drunk singalongs of the Pogues as they do Jersey’s favorite son (hint: not Jon Bon Jovi). An album about America’s bloodiest war by a band named after Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedy can be nothing but a bloody good time.
“A More Perfect Union” – Titus Andronicus
It’s a given that any year Nothing People put out a new record it will end up on a TDoL year-end list. Because this mysterious trio from the sticks of Orland, California (where, coincidentally, there is a high incidence of UFO sightings) has yet to put out a bad album. Soft Crash is these beings’ the band’s third full-length, another dark, sci-fi creepshow oozing with mangled guitars, spaced-out synths and echoed vocals. This is the sound of the future. And the past. Listen up—Nothing People are watching you.
“Avoiding Needles” – Nothing People
If you haven’t heard the voice of Julie Baenziger, aka Jules, aka Sea of Bees, then you’re missing out on something special. The 24-year-old Californian had barely been in a band when Tape Op honcho John Baccigaluppi heard her singing in a Sacramento studio. She recorded 2009′s The Bee Eee Pee soon after. Her followup is lush, yet spare, showcasing Baenziger’s Björk-meets-Leigh Nash register in addition to her musical ability (she plays everything but drums). Can you say wunderkind?
“Wizbot” – Sea of Bees
I never shook Surfer Blood‘s Astro Coast. These baby-faced Floridians have put out one of the best guitar records of the year—songs, hummable; riffs, air-guitarable; cheeks, pinchable. Vocalist John Paul Pitts croons like Steven Patrick Morrissey while the band dashes out wicked indie rock with the occasional Afro-Cuban break. Many a fickle blogger has probably spat the band out like a wad of chum. I’ll wait for the next record to decide whether or not they’re just another flavor of the month.
“Floating Vibes” – Surfer Blood
I became completely fascinated with Ariel Pink this year simply because he’s an honest-to-goodness weirdo. I’m not very familiar with his older material (dozens of self-recorded mixtapes, EPs, singles …), but I do like Before Today—a modern, lo-fi take on that magical and funky era from 1977 to 1983. Bottom line: Whether his songs are pretty and vulnerable or completely grating and bizarre, by the end of the record you know the eccentric/recluse thing isn’t an act.
“Beverly Kills” – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
My beloved Old 97′s discovered the fountain of youth in 2010 (what, you didn’t read about that?). Not since 2001′s Satellite Rides has the band fired on all cylinders—energy, songs, production. It’s all here. No fat. No filler. The 97′s are still the best at blurring the lines between British Invasion and Texas Twang, and this time around they do so relentlessly, while incorporating garage rock and power pop into the mix. On a side note, I had the chance to meet them this year. I wept only once.
“Every Night is Friday Night (Without You)” – Old 97′s
Seattle’s The Lights are sort of oblivious to what’s going on around them, cranking out cranky rock ‘n’ roll that sounds as if it could have fallen from a ’90s wormhole. Failed Graves (only their third LP in more than a decade as a band) might be mistaken for straight-ahead rock. Nonsense. Guitars snake around throbbing bass-lines while the drums fill empty spaces and vocals drone in and out of key. Think Mudhoney meets Pavement meets Spaghetti Western. Really, what’s not to like?
“Puerto Escondido” – The Lights
San Francisco is quite the hotbed of rock (no, I’m not talking the San Andreas Fault), including the manic Thee Oh Sees, the Sandwitches and Sonny & the Sunsets, just to name a few. But there’s something about Ty Segall. Melted is the most visceral and fun 30 minutes I’ve experienced in some time—I mean, it’s saying something if a song makes me want to pogo and do the Mashed Potato. Naked. “Girlfriend” and “Imaginary Person” can do that to a person. This I promise you.
“Girlfriend” – Ty Segall
Menomena‘s Mines is a stunning piece of work. The fact that it was pieced together by three members who hardly spoke throughout the process makes it even more incredible. Mines is less spastic then previous records, but no less intricate. Drums are bombastic, while synths, guitars, sax and other noises creep in and out of earshot. It’s an immense collage of sound, and every sound has purpose. No wanking here—this is a band unafraid to throw it all in your face and leave your ears ringing.
“Five Little Rooms” – Menomena
Bradford Cox is a music fan, first and foremost—a guy who pines for those days when you waited for release dates and plastered your walls with pictures of rock stars ripped out of Creem and Rolling Stone. That spirit runs throughout Deerhunter‘s Halcyon Digest, a record that brings all of the band’s powers together. When I say “powers” I mean the ability to embrace inanimate drum loops, bleeps and bloops as well as flesh-and-blood rock ’n’ roll without ever losing sight of a good hook. I can’t think of another band aside from Radiohead that can pull it off. I also like the fact that there are loads of bands doing the garage rock thing—looking the part, recording through shitty mics—and here’s Bradford Cox writing some of the best garage pop out there without really trying. Halcyon Digest is a seamless album that’s simply fun to listen to. Easy listening for people with impeccable taste.
“Revival” – Deerhunter
The Rest of the Best of the Rest
Lupon - Y La Bamba (Tender Loving Empire)
That’s How We Burn – Jaill (Sub Pop)
Transference - Spoon (Merge)
The Great Return – Purple Rhinestone Eagle (Stank House)
Pop Negro – El Guincho (Young Turks)
Equilibrio! – Wow & Flutter (Mount Fuji)
Crazy For You – Best Coast (Mexican Summer)
At Night We Live – Far (Vagrant)
Man Pop – Graham Repulski (Shorter)
No Great Lost: Songs, 1979-1985 – Kevin Dunn (Casa Nueva)
Monday, July 26th, 2010 | musiX, pdX | 3 Comments
TDoL spent countless hours in a dark room assembling your summer soundtrack for 2010, a mixtape filled with singalongs, un poquito de español, noise (Noise? NOIZE!), a few breezy numbers, a handful of Portland cuts, and loads of hand claps … we’re talking more clap than a state school fraternity house. Most of the music on this compilation has been lovingly featured on The Days of Lore. You should totally buy the records.
Grab the full mix in a convenient zip folder by clicking the link below. Pairs well with road trips, good barbecue and cheap beer, as well as bad trips, good times and cheap friends.
1. “Guadalajara” – Pepe Guízar
2. “Girlfriend” – Ty Segall
3. “Too Young to Burn” – Sonny & the Sunsets
4. “Free Association” – These Hills of Gold
5. “Better Surrender” – Far
6. “Beverly Kills” – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
7. “Flashes” – International Waters
8. “Miss Metro” – The Knuckles
9. “Starting Over” – Typhoon
10. “The Ghost Inside” – Broken Bells
11. “Bad Buzz” – The Mint Chicks
12. “Get Around Town” – Revolver
13. “Juniper” – Y La Bamba
14. “Evening Star” – Blitzen Trapper
15. “TAOS” – Menomena
16. “La Barra” – Montañas
17. “Cars and Explosions” – Kevin Dunn
18. “Doesn’t Shake Me” – The Goodnight Loving
19. “Floating Vibes” – Surfer Blood
20. “Atom Bomb” – The Apples in stereo
21. “Sidepain” – Sea of Bees
22. “A More Perfect Union” – Titus Andronicus
DOWNLOAD: Getting Chummy: TDoL Summer Mix 2010 (117 MB ZIP)
Wednesday, March 31st, 2010 | musiX | No Comments
New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus brings us The Monitor (XL Recordings), a record that could have easily buried itself under all that angst and pretentiousness if it wasn’t so much fun. It works because the album perfectly skirts the very fine line between artiness and drunkenness (both of which bookend godliness). We get sloppy 2 a.m. singalongs, we get not-so-subtle references to the American Civil War and the Garden State’s favorite son (not this son), and we get heady lyrics delivered with melodramatic rancor (not this Rancor) by guitarist/vocalist/mastermind/beard devotee Patrick Stickles. It’s a punk rock record on which half of the songs clock in at over seven minutes (“The Battle of Hampton Roads” is an epic 14). Opener “A More Perfect Union” is the album’s defining moment—if you don’t get goosebumps while listening, place your middle and index fingers in the hollow of your neck and feel for a pulse.
Of course, no one had to convince me. The band’s debut The Airing of Grievances made TDoL’s 2008 year-end list, and the performance I caught that same year was a sweaty heap of rock ‘n’ roll fun (though the multiple guitarists failed to do anything more than just make things louder).
Titus Andronicus is currently on—wait for it—The Monitour, and is even offering free admission in exchange for a floor to crash on. Five intoxicated, unbathed rockers in your living space into the wee hours—sounds like a bloody good time.
“A More Perfect Union” – Titus Andronicus
As you read these words I am in Guanajuato, Mexico—the birthplace of Diego Rivera—perhaps inside the very house he lived in … that or I’m looking at dead people at the Museo de las Momias. And there’s a very good chance I have a cold Negra Modelo in one hand and a fish taco in the other (TDoL likes to multi-task). Or there’s a chance my tender, white flesh is cooking on a beach in Melaque (with a cold Negra Modelo in one hand and a fish taco in the other). I can’t really tell you because … well, I’m not even here yet. Or am I. Am I not?
That said—this is all you’re going to get from The Days of Lore until el 15 de marzo. So I’m taking this time to tell you what’s on the horizon. First off, I’ve been listening to Soft Crash, the new LP from Orland, Calif. trio Nothing People (whom I’m convinced are actually from a distant planet), and it is creeping me out … in a good way. And Titus Andronicus‘ new album The Monitor is teaching me what really happened during the Civil War—it rocked! Look for more thorough reports on these and much more upon my return. If I return.
But the big news here at TDoL HQ is that I’m gearing up for the first-ever The Days of Lore Presents show on April 16 at the Doug Fir that will include The Mother Hips along with a couple of great Portland bands in Jared Mees & the Grown Children and Monarques. It’ll be an unforgettable night of rock … and with any suerte I will have a Negra Modelo in one hand and a fish taco in the other. Look for giveaways of some Mother Hips goodies in the coming weeks.
I leave you now with a little slice of Mexico with Los Dug Dug’s, a band out of Durango that created their psychedelic sounds after hearing the Beatles in the late-’60s. The band’s self-titled debut is still one of my favorites … probably the best 127 pesos I’ve ever spent.
“Let’s Make It Now” – Los Dug Dug’s
“Eclipse” – Los Dug Dug’s
Monday, December 15th, 2008 | musiX | 9 Comments
I’ve been wrestling with the whole year-end list thing since I saw them popping up in November. Some makes lists of 50. Others try 33. Twenty-five is always a good number. So is 20. I’ve decided to go with 10 (plus a few honorable mentions) … any more than that would be five too many. And I’m pretty sure it isn’t going to resemble yours. Or his. Or hers. Or theirs. That’s probably a good thing. Click on the cover to buy the album. And let the civil discourse begin …
10. Yes No Yes No Yes No – The Girls: I grew up during the early days of MTV when bands like Missing Persons, Devo and The Cars were coming in loud and clear in technicolor. The five men who are The Girls take the innocence, and the excess, of ’80s new wave and power pop without resorting to kitsch—then they grind it up with giddy Blank Generation riffs. What can I say? It’s damn good fun. “Not I” is the immediate standout, but “Who Are the Forgetters” is The Girls’ secret weapon that will sneak up on you and threaten to wear out the repeat button.
“Who Are the Forgetters” – The Girls
9. Nevergreens Vol. 1 and 2 – Los Fancy Free: Mexico City’s Los Fancy Free has been at it for years. Martin Thulin (aka Menonita Rock) was born to Swedish hippies in a Scandanavian Mennonite community in Northern Mexico. It reflects in the music—a rock outfit that relies just as much on flower power as it does on stomp boxes, with lyrics in English and Spanish. This year, the band released a double-disc gem. It’s a long and winding trip through the desert aboard the Partridge Family bus with pockets full of peyote. And they do a 10-minute psych-punk version of “Sultans of Swing.” Rules.
“Money Money Money” – Los Fancy Free
8. Rising Down – The Roots: The Roots continue to do all the right things by pointing out the wrong in America. Rising Down is less organic than past albums, and it’s definitely one of the group’s feistiest, taking issue with, well, everything: global warming, school shootings and the black experience in general. The biting social commentary is given weight by the always-steady back beat of ?uestlove and a revolving door of guest MCs including Talib Kweli and Mos Def. Should have made more lists. I’ll take The Roots over Lil Wayne’s haughty ways any day.
“Lost Desire” – The Roots
7. The Airing of Grievances – Titus Andronicus: Jersey’s Titus Andronicus punched me in the face and then kicked me in the ribs. Then they barked at me about Camus’ existentialist ways. Guitars and drums clang together like they were recorded in a tin shed while frontman Patrick Stickles screams like Conor Oberst on a whiskey bender. It’s actually a near-exact translation of their live show. If the E Street Band hopped a train to CBGB and sat in with The Ramones, you’d get Titus Andronicus which, fittingly, takes its name from William Shakespeare’s most violent tragedy.
“Joset of Nazareth’s Blues” – Titus Andronicus
6. S/T – Vampire Weekend: I heard “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and, slightly annoyed, went on with my business. But a friend made me listen to the entire album. At gunpoint. I started humming “A-Punk” and “Oxford Comma” (which, sadly, I do give a fuck about). I began getting annoyed when critics focused more on the band’s Ivy League pedigree and its proclivity for sweaters and Sperry Top-Siders. Silly critics. It’s a smart, fun record—there, I said it. I hope Vampire Weekend keeps making decent albums; unless they’re willing to try new things, their Afro-indie pop could wear thin fast.
“Oxford Comma” – Vampire Weekend
5. Real Emotional Trash – Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks: Stephen Malkmus still has a way with words. He also wields a mighty axe, and it’s evident that Malkmus is indulging himself here, experimenting with strung-out epics that are heavy on the guitar. But Real Emotional Trash is still a pop gem, made even sunnier by the warm production. Even if he goes for the hippie jam (the 10-minute title track), or the stoner riff (“Dragonfly Pie”) Malkmus returns to those shimmering pop melodies with “Cold Son” and “We Can’t Help You,” the latter on which Janet Weiss’ vocals melt me every time.
“We Can’t Help You” – Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
4. Anonymous – Nothing People: This three-piece hails from a tiny sliver of land in Northern California. I always picture them as these sort of mad scientists that hole themselves up with an array of vintage gear and effects inside this fortress-like laboratory among the wind-swept olive groves. Anonymous is Nothing People’s first full-length after releasing a handful of excellent 7-inches. The band makes controlled chaos where echo-y vocals quiver over distortion and feedback and occasional drum loops and keyboards. In fact, if I didn’t know them better, I’d say they were not of this earth.
“I-5″ (live) – Nothing People
3. Blame it On Gravity - Old 97′s: Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of the Old 97′s. Unhealthy huge. But, even I wasn’t too keen on this record upon initial spins; I selfishly wanted a full return to those glorious Bloodshot days. Then I began to notice Rhett Miller’s familiar bookish wordplay, which wasn’t quite there on 2004′s Drag It Up. And guitarist Ken Bethea’s leads and licks killed me. Blame it On Gravity essentially plays like a greatest hits album, tapping from the band’s 15-year history and all of their clear-cut influences—’60s Brit-pop, Replacements rawk, outlaw-country. How could it not be good?
“Here’s to the Halcyon” – Old 97′s
2. I’ll Be Lightning – Liam Finn: I wanted to hear this album because of my love for Liam’s pops. He definitely inherited Neil’s knack for writing a pretty pop song, even snagging some of his old man’s vocal phrasings in “Music Moves My Feet” and “Lead Balloon.” The young Finn plays most of the instruments here, and he isn’t afraid to throw some ugly on top of the pretty … in a very handsome sort of way. There’s always something lurking in the background to make songs like “Second Chance” and “I’ll Be Lightning” feel not-so Crowded House—not that there’s anything wrong with that.
“Lead Balloon” – Liam Finn
1. Furr - Blitzen Trapper: I gravitate toward melodies and dynamics, even production, well before lyrics begin talking to me. But Eric Earley can spin a yarn—whether it be a murder ballad in “Black River Killer” or the tale of a young man who, literally, follows his animal instincts in the title track. What’s most impressive is how naturally this band can traverses folk (“Furr”), country (“Stolen Shoes & a Rifle”) and even ramshackle garage (“Love U”). There’s even a weepy, Elton-inspired ballad in “Not Your Lover.” So good an album that I actually get a little sad when it ends.
“Black River Killer” – Blitzen Trapper
Even more to love (in no particular order):
Microcastle - Deerhunter
Evil Urges – My Morning Jacket
Dear Science - TV on the Radio
Alight of Night – Crystal Stilts
S/T – Fleet Foxes