Thursday, December 29, 2011

Erik's Best of 2011 Mixes I-IV

This year, as is custom, I made year-end mixes of tracks I enjoyed throughout the year. There are 4 mixes, which are available for download here.

Mix I: Too Much Culcha

This mix is primarily garage and more uptempo rock music.


Track List:

01. Woods - Any Other Day
02. Black Lips - New Direction
03. Motel Beds - Go Go Make Yourself
04. The UV Race - Inner North
05. Mind Spiders - No. 3
06. Campfires - Chasing Planets
07. Hospital Ships - Reprise
08. Natural Child - Dogbite
09. Thee Oh Sees - I Need Seed
10. Those Darlins - Screws Get Loose
11. ART MUSEUMS - Dancning with a Hole in Your Heart
12. Crystal Stilts - Dark Eyes
13. Akron/Family - So It Goes
14. WATERS - For The One
15. Lavalier - Santa Claus Ain't Comin'
16. Kids On A Crime Spree - John Paul Sartre II
17. Fergus & Geronimo - Baby Don't You Cry
18. Sleeping in the Aviary - Someone Loves You
19. Girls - Honey Bunny
20. The Vaccines - Nørgaard 

Mix II: Hope Is For Presidents 

This mix is mostly rock, once again, but overall it's more polished, cleaner, and happier.


Track List:

01. The Strokes - Taken For A Fool
02. Generationals - Ten-Twenty-Ten
03. Dent May - Fun
04. Andrew Jackson Jihad - People II: Still Peoplin'
05. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Tune Grief
06. BOAT - Frank Black Says (No. 14 Baby)
07. Yuck - Milkshake
08. Cymbals Eat Guitars - Definite Darkness
09. The War On Drugs - Your Love Is Calling My Name
10. Dum Dum Girls - Caught In One
11. Chelsea Wolfe- Demons
12. Wye Oak - Holy Holy
13. Kurt Vile - Jesus Fever
14. Real Estate - It's Real
15. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Yesterday, Never
16. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Heaven's Gonna Happen Now
17. Fucked Up - Under My Nose

Mix III: We Built This City On Ruins

This third mix has a mellower tone than the other two, and features more electronic elements. Kind of a wind-down and ethereal mix.


Track List:

01. The Decemberists - June Hymn
02. Fleet Foxes - Lorelai
03. Eleanor Friedberger - My Mistakes
04. St. Vincent - Cruel
05. tUnE-yArDs - You Yes You
06. Jens Lekman - New Directions
07. Destroyer - Poor In Love
08. Panda Bear - Surfer's Hymn
09. Ford & Lopatin - Emergency Room
10. Craft Spells - Scandinavian Crush
11. Beirut - The Peacock
12. James Blake - Give Me My Month
13. Atlas Sound - Te Amo
14. Bon Iver - Holocene

Mix IV: Go Meet Aaliyah 

The fourth mix is a rap addendum. Rap never finds a natural flow into any mixes, and rap had a really great year this year, so so I figured I would make one hip-hop-only mix.


Track List:

01. Beastie Boys - Make Some Noise
02. Danny Brown - Detroit 187 (feat. Chip$)
03. Tyler The Creator - Tron Cat
04. Death Grips - Guillotine
05. Murs - Animal Style
06. Reks - This or That
07. Kanye West & Jay-Z - Otis (feat. Otis Redding)
08. Big K.R.I.T. - R4 Theme Song
09. Phonte - We Go Off (feat. Pharoahe Monch)
10. Freddie Gibbs - Natural High (Even Higher Learning)
11. Elzhi - The World Is Yours
12. Kendrick Lamar - Rigamortus
13. Shabazz Palaces - Swerve the Reeping of All that is Worthwhile (Noir Not Withstanding)
14. Frank Ocean - Novacane

There you have it! That was 2011 for me, musically. Enjoy, and I'll see you in 2012.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Erik's Top Albums of 2011: 5-1

For those of you just tuning in, here's where we've been:

Honorable Mentions:

Danny Brown - XXX
Jamie xx & Gil Scott-Heron - We're New Here
Panda Bear - Tomboy
Ford & Lopatin - Channel Pressure
Havok - Time Is Up
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
Big K.R.I.T. - Returnof4eva
The Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck
Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l

25. Thee Oh Sees - Castlemania + Carrion Crawler/The Dream
24. Real Estate - Days
23. Craft Spells - Idle Labor
22. Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes
21. Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo
20. OFF! - First Four EPs
19. Liturgy - Aesthetica 
18. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Tune Grief
17. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Hysterical
16. Woods - Sun & Shade
15. Elzhi - Elmatic
14. The UV Race - Homo
13. Chelsea Wolfe - Ἀποκάλυψις
12. Hospital Ships - Lonely Twin
11. Kendrick Lamar - Section.80
10. Motel Beds - Sunfried Dreams
09. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Belong
08. The Vaccines - What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?
07. Beirut - The Rip Tide
06. Yuck - Yuck (Deluxe Edition)

And now we have the top 5:

05. Fucked Up - David Comes To Life

Let me preface this by saying, I totally understand why people don't like Fucked Up. Pink Eyes' voice is trying, especially for 78 minutes. But, I can't deny the fact that I'm endlessly impressed with the energy and ambition and execution of this thing. Look at a song like "Serve Me Right," buried at the end of the second act. Even though I'm over a half-hour into the album, I still find myself being excited and surprised by the choices they made in making this thing. A lot has been written about, oh, this is a "Hardcore Concept Album." To me, the fact that it's a hardcore album is ancillary. It's just a flat-out great guitar rock record that happens to have a guy screaming the life out of his lungs.

Fucked Up - A Little Death

 04. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy

I just mentioned "choices" a few seconds ago. Strange Mercy is the perfect example of how odd sonic and production choices completely impact an album. I love this album because I don't know any other band who would think to do any of the stuff on it. People bringing up this album cite the guitar solo in "Cruel" as such an intense juxtaposition of Annie Clark's natural grace and the hideous nature of the music. But all of Strange Mercy is littered with these gross flourishes. "Dilettante" blasts with these nasty electronic hits, "Surgeon" has an incredibly alien-sounding guitar solo, etc, etc. The point is this, every time I listen to this album I find myself not only finding something new, but I find myself thinking about the choices that led to what I'm listening to.

St. Vincent - Dilettante

 03. Andrew Jackson Jihad - Knife Man

I'm a cynical asshole. I know it. I'm okay with it at this point. Tim talked about when listening to Lonely Twin, he felt personal connections to lots of lyrics. This is how I felt about Knife Man. Is this album especially innovative, or musically great? Nope. It's a standard folk-punk album. But the lyrics are so funny, and cynical, and dark, and brilliant. And every song (with the exception of "Backpack") has at least one line where I hear it and laugh as I nod my head. As soon as I listened to Knife Man, I started it over and listened to it again. It felt good to be obsessed with a new album.

"Zombies By The Cranberries By Andrew Jackson Jihad"

02. The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient

I still don't know if I'm 100% sure about my decision here. I am a huge fan of both Slave Ambient and Kaputt, but try and bear with me here. Slave Ambient is the best album in the context of all the albums made this year. I feel like every other album on my list was building towards this. It's as much Strange Mercy as it is Smoke Ring For My Halo. Everything those 23 albums did well: strong transitions, cultivating an aesthetic, songwriting, production risks, rhythm, etc. Slave Ambient did as well or better. Tim highlighted the three-track suite of "Your Love Is Calling My Name/The Animator/Come To The City," and he's right. In my opinion it's is the best ~13 minutes in music this year. Like I said, this is the best album of this year, in the context of this year.

The War on Drugs - Baby Missiles

01. Destroyer - Kaputt

Having said all that; every few years an album comes along that feels like it exists outside of the influence of the rest of music released that year. The last album I can think of that felt this way was Bitte Orca in 2009. Kaputt felt like Dan Bejar was functioning on completely different wavelength as everybody else. The musical influences are obscure and and the lyrical references even more obscure. It's lush, bizarre, pensive, and wholeheartedly unique. I can't really expand much on Tim's write-up of this. All I know is that every time I walk around New York City in the rain, and I see neon lights reflected off dirty curbside puddles, I think of this album, and the songs play over and over again in my mind.

Destroyer - Downtown

So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this list. Check back soon for best of 2011 track mixes.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Erik's Top Albums of 2011: 10-6

10. Motel Beds - Sunfried Dreams

This album, once again, was recommended to me by TK, which is a recurring trend in almost everything I listen to (especially this year). Motel Beds is a band from Dayton, OH. And no, that's not funny. But they are. Visit their website at That kinda funny. That humor runs through this fun, free LP. These songs are lighthearted, catchy, just a pleasure to listen to. What I like most about Sunfried Dreams is their song structure. Usually really straight-forward, but they have this way of one-upping themselves within songs. They'll start with a really infectious riff, and they'll play it for just long enough that you'll get into a groove, and then they'll come in with an outstanding melody that makes you almost forget how much you loved the riff in the first place. There isn't a bad song on this thing, and it's a wonderful summer album.

Sunfried Dreams by motelbedsmusic

09. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Belong

This year was full of great guitar records. Five of my top ten are albums that really innovated or perfected what can be done with how the guitar sounds. Now, I'm not saying Belong is the most innovative record, it mines heavily from the giant, cacophonous shoegaze pioneered by bands like My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins in the 80s. What I love about Belong is that it took these inspiration points and really turned them into pop gems. When I listen to this album I just find myself getting lost in the guitar sounds, for minutes sometimes, before I even realize that there's a fantastic pop song happening at the same time. It's really an achievement.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Even in Dreams

08. The Vaccines - What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?

Once again, this was another TK call. I didn't like it at first. I didn't dislike it. I just didn't see why it was so good. But it definitely won me over, and I've found myself listening to it with great frequency over the past 6 months. There's nothing especially innovative here. It's just straight-up, catchy rock and roll, with a lot of swagger. Tracks like "If You Wanna," "Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra)," and "Norgaard" just hit like a ton of bricks. Like the Motel Beds album, everything on this album is a winner.

If You Wanna - The Vaccines

07. Beirut - The Rip Tide

I remember after listening to this album the first time saying, "It was good, but it felt incomplete." Now, after repeated listens, my mind has been changed. It feels incomplete for a Beirut album, in the sense that his albums tend to have a lot of bloated tracks, and skip-over filler tracks. Not this one. He doesn't reinvent the wheel with his style, he still cultivates a sophisticated, luxurious aesthetic, but he's become much more refined. The album runs at just over a half hour, but not a moment is wasted. Sure, there are awesome pop flourishes like "East Harlem" and "Santa Fe," but there are also soaring, marvelous tracks like "Vagabond" and "The Peacock." It's really a stunner.

Beirut - East Harlem

06. Yuck - Yuck (Deluxe Edition)

I will be the first to admit that my age affected my love of Yuck. I didn't grow up listening to "Sugarcube," so when I first heard Yuck, it sounded fresh and original. And then this year, I went back and did some digging on all the sounds that Yuck mined from. To be honest, I like Yuck as much, or more than some of the source material. They took those sounds and songs, upped the production value, and tightened the songwriting on the majority of the A side. This album does tend to drag on the second half, but the first half is so damn good that I found myself going back to it as much or more than any other side this year. I specifically put the Deluxe Edition on this list, because, and I know this is cheating, but I took some of the bonus tracks (some of which are better than the album tracks), and replaced the dull tracks on the second half. The resulting album is much more concise, and overall way better than the original.

Georgia by Yuck

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Erik's Top Albums of 2011: 15-11

15. Elzhi - Elmatic

Elmatic is one of those times when you realize that innovation doesn't necessarily mean good. On this album, producer Will Sessions took a hip-hop classic, Nas' Illmatic, and updated it with better recording quality, and embellished the jazz under (and over) tones to create something that is simultaneously infectious and impressive. Elzhi builds upon Nas' original flow and lyrics and expands upon it. Elmatic's not so much a covers album as it is a jumping off point.

The World Is Yours (Represent Intro) by eLzhi

14. The UV Race - Homo

Druuuuuuugsssssssssss. This album sounds like a few Australians holed themselved up in a basement with 5 kegs and a few kilos and said, "Let's make an album." It's ugly, imperfect, bizarre, and fun as hell.

"Burn That Cat"

13. Chelsea Wolfe - Ἀποκάλυψις

This album has been described as "Doom Folk." On paper, that sounds like a recipe for A) Pretention B) Bullshit or C) Pretentious Bullshit. Oddly, though, Ἀποκάλυψις (Greek for Apolcalypse) is a unique piece of sincere, dark, and beatiful music. Tracks like "Demons," "Mer" and especially "Pale On Pale" channel some of the mood of metal, but repackage it into something much more pallatable. Overall it's a really dense and fantastic listen.

Chelsea Wolfe - Mer

12. Hospital Ships - Lonely Twin

I concur with Tim's bafflement at how unheard of this album was this year. Aside from him, really nobody I knew even mentioned this thing. And that's a damn shame. If there's one thing this past year should teach anybody, it's that sincerity reigns in music. If you look at albums like Bon Iver, Bon Iver, Girls' Father, Son, Holy Ghost, and Atlas Sound's Parallax, people respond to sincerity. Don't get me wrong, Lonely Twin isn't in the same league at those other albums. It's actually well produced, catchy, concise, and un-repetive (burn!). The closest analog I have to this album is Windmill's Puddle City Racing Lights; a heartbreaking and beautiful album that grows on you over time, and one that you find yourself immersed in, picking out specific lines that speak to you in a given moment, like that song was only written for you.

Reprise by Hospital Ships

11. Kendrick Lamar - Section.80

Kendrick Lamar is younger than I am. And that pisses me off. Section.80 is the hip-hop album of the year, in my opinion. KL's technical ability is unparalled, even in spite of the fact that his voice is sort of drab. Look at a track like "Rigamortis," where he starts in a dull-ish monotone, then as the song progresses, he gets more and more enthusiastic to the point where he has more words than he has air in his lungs. The album is wise beyond it's years, commenting on modern feminism, over-medication, general malaise, urban issues, etc. Sonically, this album has more in common with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy than anything else. I feel like KL heard that album and said, "I can do this, but actually put effort into lyrics and flow." And he did. In a year of hip-hop that has been defined by #SWAG, excess, homophobia, misogny, and violence (not necessarily bad things), Section.80 really stood out as a masterpiece with a message.

Kendrick Lamar - Ronald Reagan Era

Getting close,

Erik's Top Albums of 2011: 20-16

20. OFF! - First Four EPs

Technically, this album came out really late last year, but I didn't discover it until early 2011. This album has really been a grower for me. After seeing a few punk shows this year from the likes of Trash Talk and Poor Lily, you really learn to appreciate the gravitas of a minute-long chunk of energy. OFF! does just that. The 16-track album runs a whopping 16-minutes long. And every track is just a blast of throwback hardcore energy.

Poison City- OFF! by Jongilbertsound

19. Liturgy - Aesthethica
Metal had a really interesting year. With the throwback thrash of Havok, to the insane technical and innovative work of Vektor, metal ran as nearly as wide of a range as hip-hop in its diversity. While the aforementioned groups really honed old pre-existing styles, Liturgy built on the idea of black metal and transformed it into something fresh and innovative. On Aesthethica, Liturgy found ways to meld black metal with elements of post-rock, progressive rock, and experimental music to really push the envelope. Oh, and it's fucking brutal.

Liturgy - Generation by muntersinger

18. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Mirror Traffic

Classic Malkmus. Listening to this album rekindles what I imagine it was like hearing alternative and indie rock bands like Fountains of Wayne or Superchunk or, um, Pavement, for the first time at their peak in the 90s. Irreverent, fun, catchy, occasionally pointed, this album is far from perfect, but flashes of brilliance exist in those imperfections.

Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks - Spazz by artsandcraftsmx

17. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Hysterical

On most of the overlap albums, I'm mainly going to refer to Tim's previous analysis. Hysterical was unjustifiably overlooked this year. But if you go into it without prejudice, you'd have to be crazy not to find it catchy and enjoyable.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Maniac by pillowjungle

16. Woods - Sun and Shade

I remember after At Echo Lake making the drunken claim that Woods was on pace to be the best band in existence based on a string of solid releases that showed nothing but progress. I retract that claim. Woods is on pace to become the next Spoon (in my opinion, of course). That claim is pretty much just an augmentation on my first claim, but bear with me. Right now Spoon has a few certified classic albums, a few unappreciated gems, and consistently release albums that try something new and inspire the listener to want more. Sun and Shade does just that by perfecting the jammy freak-folk and the jangly pop gems that defined their previous releases.

Woods: "Be All Be Easy" by alteredzones

Monday, December 12, 2011

Erik's Top Albums of 2011: 25-21

25. Thee Oh Sees - Castlemania + Carrion Crawler/The Dream

Thee Oh Sees is the consistently weird band that I love to love. It's a little bit unfair to put their two solid releases into one spot, but I'm going to anyway. Though I preferred Castlemania, Carrion Crawler/The Dream pushed their jammy garage bizarre-ness to new extremes. And, between the two albums, you have 1.5-2 hours of music. Some of it's sprawling, some of it's focused, some of it's just plain strange. But it's all worth a listen.

The Dream by Thee Oh Sees by GIMMETINNITUS

24. Real Estate - Days

I gave this album some guff on first listen. I thought Real Estate got a bit too polished, too repetitive, too obvious. But, when it came down to it, after repeat listens, I'm OK with what passes as obvious and repetitive for them. Tracks like "It's Real" and "Green Aisles" encapsulate the carefree, mellow-but-catchy style they're especially good at. Summer music.

Real Estate - It's Real by DominoRecordCo

23. Craft Spells - Idle Labor

Craft Spells impresses me. And that's saying something for a group that does throwback 80s electronic music (though with a bit more guitar power). The sound quality and general song craftsmanship from ostensibly a bedroom project just blows me away. It's beautifully melodic, rhythmic, and heartbreaking. In addition, this is my favorite album art of the year.

22. Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes

I did not want to like this album. I resisted Lykke Li's rabid, "Have you heard Wounded Rhymes?" fans. And her indie eccentric persona. And I wanted to hate this. I wanted to sit back and say, "Oh you suckers. You'll like anything." And then I liked it. Like, a lot. Much like the Craft Spells album, Lykke Li put together an intensely rhythmic album with incredible melodies. Tracks like "Love Out Of Lust" are as wrenching as anything released this year. Honestly, when I hear some of the tracks on this album, I hear melodic, soaring structures that hearken bands like The National.

We will live longer than I will
We will be better than I was
We can cross rivers with our will
We can do better than I can

21. Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo

I'm enthralled by Kurt Vile in the same way I'm enthralled by Bob Dylan. Not in the sense that they sound or do anything especially the same. I am just taken by the fact that they can sing such embarrassingly good songs with near nonchalance. This album has peaks and troughs, sure, but the moments when it strikes, it's breathtaking.

"Peeping Tomboy"

To be continued...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Erik's Top Albums of 2011: Honorable Mentions

This was a good year for music, despite what other year-end lists may lead you to believe. (Drake? Bon Iver? Justify yourself!) Parsing through some of these lists has given me perspective on the fact that I have wildly different tastes from most people. Except TK, of course. Though he and I sometimes differ. For example, my list features rap and metal; both of which had some exciting releases this year. Regardless; here are 10 albums (in no particular order) that I liked this year, but not enough to make my official Top 25.

Danny Brown - XXX

14 - Nosebleeds by foolsgoldrecs

Jamie xx & Gil Scott-Heron - We're New Here

Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx – My Cloud by @beatpie@

Panda Bear - Tomboy

Panda Bear - Surfer's Hymn by NIKLAS

Ford & Lopatin - Channel Pressure

Ford & Lopatin 'Emergency Room' by CosmosMusicDK

Havok - Time Is Up

"Prepare For Attack"

PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

PJ Harvey - The Words That Maketh Murder by Vagrant Records

Big K.R.I.T. - Returnof4eva

Big KRIT - R4 Theme Song by SteveyGeez

The Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck

The Mountain Goats - Damn These Vampires by Indiespot

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues by subpop

tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l

Tune-Yards - Bizness by snipelondon

Until next time...


Friday, December 9, 2011

TK's Top 10 Albums of 2011: Recap and #1

Recap (click on any # below to open new window with full review):

#10: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Hysterical

#9: The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?

#8: The Caretaker - An Empty Bliss Beyond This World

#7: Emperor X - Western Teleport

#6: Beirut - The Rip Tide

#5: Woods - Sun and Shade

#4: Caveman - Coco Beware

#3: The War On Drugs - Slave Ambient

#2: Destroyer - Kaputt

.... and ...

#1 - Hospital Ships - Lonely Twin

Maybe it was just a case of right place, right time, but this was the album that made the biggest impression on me in 2011. I met this album on a solo road trip from Milwaukee to Athens (via Dayton) in July. I had already fallen for its cousins (the Minus Story albums released between 2003-2006), so I wasn't exactly surprised when it hijacked my being for a short time and sticks with me to this day.

It was the first thing I listened to when I settled into my hotel room in Dayton on a Friday afternoon, the first album I played upon departing Dayton on a bright Sunday morning, and the album I listened to as I approached Athens later that day. I had the majority of my music library at my disposal at the time, but nothing else sounded as intriguing, or real, or appropriate to me at the time. I just wanted to keep listening, wanted to make myself more familiar with the songs.

Of the 11 tracks on Lonely Twin, 8 of them have been my favorite on the album at some point. And they all revealed themselves to me at different times, during different plays - the true sign of a great album.

Carry On was the first to strike. I had to replay it (and then re-replay it) immediately. This:

Well, the world doesn't care if you're in it or not. 
Just a little point of steel into the beast you were shot.
But the whale's going to dive, he will pull the lines taut.
And when you're gone, carry on, carry on.

I could go more into why the other songs are all great, but I feel like everyone just needs to hear this album. Jordan Geiger poured his heart out into this one, and it's a bit discouraging to see the lack of its presence on year-end lists. Since you have been gracious enough to read my ramblings, I would like nothing more than to buy this record for you. I suggest the vinyl (beautiful packaging, free mp3 download, plus a gorgeous vinyl-only song called Dani, Love Of Mine), but I can buy you the mp3 download too, if you'd prefer. Just let me know. Leave a comment or email me. I just want people to hear this one. Seriously. It'll make me happier than you'll know.


TK's Top 10 Albums of 2011: Honorable Mentions

Honorable Mentions

Before I reveal my choice for top album of the year, here are some other ones that I enjoyed listening to, in no particular order:

* Real Estate - Days
* Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo
* The Beets - Let The Poison Out
* Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
* Yuck - Yuck
* Black Lips - Arabia Mountain
* Mars Classroom - New Theory of Everything
* Wooden Shjips - West
* Chad VanGaalen - Diaper Island
* BOAT - Dress Like Your Idols
* Motel Beds - Sunfried Dreams
* Moon Duo - Mazes
* Tim Cohen - Magic Trick

TK's Top 10 Albums of 2011: #2

#2 - Destroyer - Kaputt

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Destroyer. When I was thinking of names for this blog, it came down to lyrics from either a Destroyer song (there are about 10 great blog names in The Bad Arts alone - "Horizontal Myth", "Feel Medium", "Twin Prizes Waiting For The Sun", "Another Word For Sacrament", "Taking Notes For A Crooked Underground", etc.) or a Guided By Voices song (which ultimately won out). But I have to admit, I was completely taken aback when I first heard Chinatown, the first song released from Kaputt, back in January. The saxophone is, without question, my least favorite horn instrument. And here was this song, with saxophone spilling from its ears.

It wasn't until the third or fourth listen (and then hearing the next single, Kaputt) that I started to see what Dan Bejar was doing: creating an album within a very specific construct that had been relegated to music that people generally had previously despised. This is an album that looks terrible on paper but somehow sounds like a masterpiece in reality. I like what my friend Nathan had to say about the album earlier this year:

"I have been rocking this album when I walk around on my bustle. I stay super cool and relaxed in an amazing pre-apocalyptic space disco world. Such a good time."

That pretty much nails it for me. It's so much fun to listen to this album, really listen to it, immerse yourself in it, get lost in it, and do so while strolling amongst all the other people who aren't in that same mind-space. This is a record that affects your whole constitution, if you let it. 

...and yet it's not my #1 album of the year...

I leave you with a great snippet from a Bejar interview on Aquarium Drunkard:

AD: Goals change during the course of an artistic career, so where do you see yourself in five to ten years? How have your motives and ideas about your art changed from the earlier days to now?

DB: I don’t understand the world of goals. Goals is a numbers game. I never had a goal, let alone goals, when I started making records. And now I have even less. I am at peace with way more things, which is standard operating procedure for aging. And way more confused and terrified by the world, and even more at peace with that than with the other stuff. I am grounded by things outside the world of artmaking, not true 10 years ago. I am less polemic, more thoughtless. More like a windchime these days. I’m not sure I’m suited to what it is that I am doing, I guess that hasn’t changed…

TK's Top 10 Albums of 2011: #3

#3 - The War On Drugs - Slave Ambient

"if i start my day w/ Best Night for the rest of my life i won't be unhappy." - Graham

Besides having one of the best band names I've ever heard, The War On Drugs have figured out how to properly update classic guitar rock. The songs (and non-songs) on Slave Ambient all have plenty of room to breathe and sprawl. There's no urgency, save for a couple of well-placed panic attacks that spring the listener back to attention.

Much like Caveman's Coco Beware, Slave Ambient draws you in immediately with opener Best Night and doesn't let go. The three song suite of Your Love Is Calling My Name / The Animator / Come To The City is the centerpiece of the album and should really be listened to as a complete piece. Late-album track Baby Missiles channels The Boss is exactly the right ways, even throwing in some harmonica right where it needs to be.

This is a sincere and hard-working band that deserves all the accolades they have received. I was fortunate enough to see them play twice this year - once with Caveman (see #4), and once with Destroyer (*spoiler alert*, wait for #2) - and cannot wait to hear how this album sounds in the dead of winter.

 The War On Drugs - Baby Missiles by The Line Of Best Fit 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

TK's Top 10 Albums of 2011: #4

#4 - Caveman - Coco Beware

This album came out of nowhere. I saw Caveman (along with the 3rd best band in Milwaukee, Surgeons In Heat) open for The War On Drugs at Club Garibaldi in late August. My first impression was not great - I thought they were some sort of glorified drum circle, out of their element by being thrust on stage. But as soon as I heard the harmonies cut through the audience chatter, I knew that this was a band worth exploring further.

Coco Beware is one of the strongest debut albums I have ever heard. As a whole, it's fluid, eerie, and strangely calming. Caveman recalls Grizzly Bear (without the pretention), Nada Surf (without the over-sentimentality), and Real Estate (without the noodling). Unlike most of the other albums in my Top 10, there aren't really any standout tracks. My Time is probably the closest thing to a "single", but I've honestly only ever listened to the album as a whole, never cherry-picking songs. The opener, A Country's King of Dreams, draws me in whenever I put it on, and I just need to listen until the end.

Not that I put much stake in music critics, but it boggles my mind that AVClub gave this album a C, and Pitchfork didn't even review it, although it's seemingly right up their alley. I guess that makes Coco Beware one of the best-kept secrets of 2011.

 Caveman - A Country's King of Dreams by TheDiscoverialist

TK's Top 10 Albums of 2011: #5

#5 - Woods - Sun And Shade

The very first time I heard the opening song on Sun And Shade, Pushing Onlys, I knew it was going to be my song of the year. It didn't stray much from the Woods-formula, three chords and a simple melody sung in one of the highest male voices you'll ever hear, but it sounded so fresh and earnest, almost anthemic. Woods has been known (by me, anyways) to put their best foot forward, opening with To Clean on 2009's Songs Of Shame, and Blood Dries Darker on last year's At Echo Lake. But Pushing Onlys took things to a new level, and set the tone for what is my favorite Woods album.

Sun And Shade contains some great 2.5-minute pop songs (To Have In The Home, Any Other Day, Who Do I Think I Am), but the key to enjoying the album as a whole is to embrace the two 7-minute+ songs. Of the two, Out Of The Eye is the easier to stick with. Appearing early in the album (only 8 minutes in), it's a major departure from the pop ditties you'd been used to, but it's a great jam that also serves as a nice precursor to the two shorter songs that follow. The nearly 10-minute Sol Y Sombra will be a stumbling block for a lot of listeners, but it sets up a stellar 5-song run that closes out the album.

One more thing: if Woods comes to your town, make an effort to see them play. The juxtaposition of the pop song / space jam is one thing on a record but a whole other (better) animal in a live setting.

 Woods: "Any Other Day" by alteredzones

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

TK's Top 10 Albums of 2011: #6

#6 - Beirut - The Rip Tide

This is the record I've been waiting Beirut to make since I first heard them in 2005. After a Balkan-influenced debut album, a French-tinged sophomore album, and a Mexican/Electronic double EP, I was curious to see which direction the band was headed in. Turns out that pop music trumps all. Pop w/ horns, that is.

The album opens with a solid 1-2-3 punch, including the standout track East Harlem. It might be the finest song Zach Condon has ever composed (with the possible exception of After The Curtain). Late album track Vagabond seems instantly recognizable - and instantly likable. Closer Port of Call is rather brutal in the way that it leaves the listener wanting more. And after only nine songs in 33 minutes, I've often found myself relighting the candle's fire right away.

The Rip Tide is, by far, Beirut's most consistent and polished record to date. They are quickly becoming the next Spoon, a band so talented and solid that their releases tend to get overlooked by critics and taste-makers. Don't make the mistake of missing out on this gem.

 East Harlem by thespiralcase