Most bands would be thrilled with a cut like “Will Calls,” but Grizzly Bear relegates it to a B-Sides album.
Before I say something hyperbolic and overwhelmingly positive, I want to note that writing this music blog is odd because I’m not covering anything that I don’t like. The 200 Pitchfork people’s list albums that I covered were refreshing in part because I got to be critical of music instead of saying that everything was wonderful and if you’re not listening to this then there’s something wrong with you.
Such is the tension that exists in this blog, which hasn’t decided if it’s a full-fledged personal blog or if it wants to be something slightly closer to music journalism. I didn’t really think this through when Sgt. Pepper’s Strawberry Jam was born in the Spring of 2010. At that point, I just wanted to give my music obsession more permanence than my last.fm page. 563 posts later, I’m still not sure what I’m doing.
That being said, if you’re not listening to this, there’s something wrong with you.
As half of Rhye, Michael Milosh stays enshrouded in mystery. His new solo album is more revealing.
As a Rhye fanboy, I can’t ignore this release. After one listen, I’m not sure what to think- it’s almost begging to be a Rhye album, but, of course, it’s not. I think I’ll have to listen a few more times to figure it out.
I’m seeing Andrew Bird for the third (should be fourth, curse you oversleeping!) time on Saturday. My personal indie revolution started with the whistles and loops of Mr. Bird, as I bought a ticket for a show that I would literally have to fly to, having not heard his music at the time of purchase.
Long story short- it was the catalyst of a fantastic semester of new friends in Budapest telling me about a bunch of amazing bands that I for some reason had written off as pretentious (what?). The weekend escape from Budapest to Madrid to see my first Andrew Bird show wasn’t half bad, either.
I was in Scotland last week for a conference, so I went to a record store- Avalanche Records- and asked for some relatively unknown Scottish indie. The proprietor recommended several album to me, but I ended buying two. The first is from the band “Cancel The Astronauts,” a band name that makes me sad because, well, NASA. They are a pleasant indie pop outfit. Their lead singer sounds not unlike Ted Leo, so take that or leave that.
I always underestimate Arctic Monkeys. For each of their albums since #2, Favourite Worst Nightmare, I’ve been hesitant to even listen. But now for the third straight time, first Humbug, the Suck It And See, and now AM, they’ve surprised me with a fresh-sounding, highly listenable set of songs. Maybe my high school taste wasn’t so bad after all (in some cases).
I saw Local Natives at the Fox last night. I saw them open for The National two years ago, and their live show has improved considerably. The obvious confidence they’ve gained in putting out Hummingbird, a much more ambitious album than Gorilla Manor, has seeped into their live performance.
I don’t mean to hate on Gorilla Manor, though. Among their best performances last night were Airplanes (of course), an acoustic, La Blogotheque-referencing Who Knows, Who Cares (that video was largely responsible for me getting into the band in the first place), and their gut-busting closer, Sun Hands.
Colombia, a devastatingly sad cut on Hummingbird was kind of ruined by the uberdrunk undulations and scream-talking of a girl standing right by me. Alas.
You’ve probably heard this about a million other places online already, but I can’t not share it.
Kendrick DESTROYS the rap game with his verse on this track which was cut from Big Sean’s upcoming album. Apparently it was cut because of sample clearance issues, but realistically, it’s probably because Big Sean was so thoroughly embarrassed by how bad Kendrick made everyone else sound.
Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Electronica - “Control (HOF)”
I just got home from the third straight day of basking in the fog of Golden Gate Park for the Outside Lands music festival. This yeah I saw partial or full sets by (highlights in bold):
The Tallest Man On Earth
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
Matt & Kim
Red Hot Chili Peppers
It was a special weekend, featuring four of my top ten (top 5?) indie rock bands: The National, Vampire Weekend, Phoenix, and Grizzly Bear. I’ve now seen The National and Vampire Weekend 3 times each, but it was my first time seeing Phoenix and The Grizzly Bears (as Jay Z would say).
I’ve been loving Rhye’s early 2013 debut album, “Woman,” so I was jazzed to see them in the park. They did not disappoint, and they looked like they were enjoying themselves just about as much as possible (ok, Matt & Kim were clearly enjoying themselves but it was part of their act in a way that Rhye’s was just honest-to-goodness excitement to be singing love songs to thousands of attentive ears… and Paul McCartney was enjoying himself in a very “Hey, damn, I’m Paul McCartney” kind of way). I’m hoping that Rhye return to the Bay Area soon- I’d love to see them in a small club.
And speaking of Paul McCartney, he played a mind-blowingly good two and half hour long set. That man has still got it. I went through my own personal Beatlemania four summers ago, and I felt myself propelled back into that mode of just loving every word of every song. His set was well balanced between newer McCartney and Beatles favorites. He closed the set with the Abbey Road medley, which is about as much as I could have asked for. Blackbird, Hey Jude, Yesterday, and Helter Skelter were other highlights, but his uke-first rendition of Something (which I believe they played for the first time during the Concert For George)… well, I’ll remember that forever.
#200/200: Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala
I’d never heard of Jens before listening to this, but I dig his kooky-The-Smiths slash Magnetic Fields vibe. I found the opening track, “And I Remember Every Kiss” surprisingly affecting as I was walking to the BART station this morning.
And so it ends. The 200th album out of 200. Expect a debriefing post or two (or three) in the near future.
I distinctly remember the first time I listened to this album, because before that I actively disliked Drake. I talked smack about him whenever I got the chance. I had a Drake rap impression that, while probably not funny, eerily accurate. Take Care changed all of that. And it changed the way I listened to his earlier stuff too. I suspect this album isn’t higher on the list because (1) rap hasn’t gotten much love on the list in general, aside from Kanye and (2) a lot of hipsters (I mean, Pitchfork readers) are hesitant to listen to and admit they like Drake. I get it. But listen to “Lord Knows” and tell me how you were wrong about him in your reblogs.
#198/200: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
This album, and Pains (POBPAH!) in general, are seriously underrated. Yes, their two albums received great critical praise, but I’m still going with underrated. HEY INTERNET, listen to Pains more! Peggy Wang, co-founding editor of Buzzfeed, is a keyboardist and backup vocalist in Pains. YOU LOVE BUZZFEED, INTERNET!
There’s not a lot that distinguishes this album from, say, Zonoscope, but sure, let’s throw it at the bottom of the list. While we’re on the topic of Cut Copy… please go watch their video for “Need You Now,” from… uh… Zonoscope.
I tend to write off Belle and Sebastian as overly twee, but this album really kicks on all cylinders. I prefer it to If You’re Feeling Sinister, which rampaged up the charts to number 21 on the People’s List.
The song I posted is great, but it may only be my second favorite song about sleepyheads (see: Passion Pit).
Sant(i/o)gold confuses me. I just don’t know what kind of music she’s trying to make. That’s not to say it’s bad… I mean, it’s basically indie pop, but it feels wrong to classify it as such. Musical enigmas don’t work well for me because if I can’t associate an album with a mood or a genre, I’ll never want to listen to it.
While Fevers and Mirrors is a good album, it really sounds like a dry run for I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. I can’t comprehend why IWAIM isn’t on the list. Maybe the average voter had their angsty teen phase closer to 2000 than to 2005?
#192/200: M83 - Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts
It’s interesting to listen to this older M83 album because they were working in much more atmospheric sound space than in Hurry Up, We’re Dream with its indie rock hits. There are shades of Outro here (which happens to be my favorite song on HUWD) so I’ll chalk this album up as a success. This album would make a better movie soundtrack than did the actual movie soundtrack that Anthony Gonzalez penned for “Oblivion.”
As I’ve mentioned before, Spoon’s albums are consistently good. Does that mean they deserve to take up 4 of the 200 slots? I’m not sure. Girls Can Tell is a strong album, but it’s not distinct enough to replace a non-Spoon album on the list.
I’ve grown a little weary of psych-rock (it requires a certain mood) but after just one listen, I think Cryptograms is my favorite Deerhunter album. It was very Beatles-esque in its vibe, which I can always get behind.
#189/200: Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
Holy verbose band name and album title, Batman! But on the other hand, it’s a perfectly fitting title for the long-form, epic music that they make. If you have the time to sit down and listen to a 90 minute album, you’re not in the mood for lyrics, and you want to fell all the feelings, you could do worse than this GSY!BE album.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor - “Life Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven…”
I can’t explain why, but this album sounds like when it was release- late 2000. I just wish I had listened to it then an not after I’d already listened to The Electric Version and Twin Cinema. Mass Romantic is a fresher, rawer The New Pornographers, yet it was their first outing. Curious.
Two of my friends have a debate about which MMJ song is better, “Lay Low” on Z, or “One Big Holiday” on It Still Moves. It’s a tough question, and I’m not one to take sides (who am I kidding?) but either way, both Z and It Still Moves are 10-out-of-10-would-listen-again albums.
As someone on Rdio said about “One Big Holiday”: “This song should be on all of the playlists. Just add it.”
ANGST! I like the way an Rdio user suggested that when they listen to it while they’re going about their life, it makes them feel like their life is an indie movie. And then I think about Kronk in The Emperor’s New Groove and the way he does his own theme music, and then I’m on to David Spade…. and then Dana Carvey, and naturally to the Gerald Ford skit.
#184/200: TV On The Radio - Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
I took an “underground rock” class at a summer camp after 9th grade. It was taught by a couple of Yale undergrads, and it was my first exposure to New Pornographers, The Decemberists, Elliott Smith, TV On The Radio, and several more indie bands. At the time it was both overwhelming and ridiculously pretentious… that experience actually turned me off to indie music for a while (thanks in no small part to Aphex Twin’s Windowlicker video that they showed us). The seed was planted though, and I would really nurture that seed later in high school, and ultimately, when I was studying in Budapest in 2009.
Some of the music really stuck with me, including TVOTR’s “Dreams.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but this album has got some soul.
#183/200: Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
This was my biggest surprise album of 2010. While Kanye’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” blew this out of the water (for my taste), I’ve found Big Boi’s solo debut to be a fun album to revisit every few months. I didn’t think he had it in him without Andre 3000.
I was a Kanye apologist when this album came out. Yeah, I liked it, but yeah, I thought he was a little out of touch with his assertions that this was his experimental phase- his Pink Floyd phase. Considering the wave of the sometimes-autotuned rap/sung pop songs that came afterwards, and in the context of the recently-released “Yeezus,” I can’t help but think he was on to something with his “genius” theory. Let’s see how this one plays out. Count me as excited for the next 10 years of Kanye music.
It’s not hard to believe, but 808s is much easier to listen to in 2013 than it was in 2008.
#180/200: Andrew Bird - The Mysterious Production of Eggs
The Mysterious Production of Eggs is my favorite Andrew Bird album, and would certainly make my top 20 of the past fifteen years, if not my top 5. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why Pitchfork (and by extension, its readers) don’t give him as much credit as he deserves. He is a master craftsman; anyone who has seen him live knows this. Hell, even those who haven’t seen him live should be able to figure that out.
Also evident: his command of the English language. I think reviewers in general make a little too much of lyrics. When I was in middle school and high school, I obsessed over lyrics, memorizing all of my favorite songs. Now, I memorize songs if and only if I happen to listen to them dozens of times, and even then it’s not a sure thing. I’d argue that I’m better off this way, letting the music resonate subconsciously instead of picking through potential meanings, trying to find the one that’s just right, like a horoscope. So if someone complains that his lyrics don’t mean anything just remind them that poets don’t get criticized when their work is dense and cryptic. Why should musicians?
I hadn’t listened to this album before now, but I had “Pieces of the People We Love” as a teenager and I never really liked it. I feel similarly about this album: while I can’t argue that it’s a bad album, it’s entirely unmemorable.
#175/200: The Tallest Man On Earth - The Wild Hunt
I haven’t liked a non-rap/electronic album by an artist I’ve never heard before this much in quite a while. Usually new indie rock/folk acts take their time, creeping on up me until I am accidentally playing them on repeat to the chagrin of everyone around me. Not this one. Guess that’s someone else I have to fit into my packed Outside Lands schedule.
Sometimes I wish I had grown up as rap grew up so I would understand all the references when I’m listening to current rap. In this particular instance, I didn’t realize how directly Kanye’s “New God Flow” borrowed from Ghostface Killah’s “Mighty Healthy.”
The Wu Tang Clan has such an unbelievable amount of material… I don’t even know where to start. I guess Ghostface’s critically acclaimed second solo effort is as good as anywhere.
The fact that “Nostalgia, Ultra,” which is essentially a mixtape, founds its way onto the list speaks highly to (1) the recency effect, and (2) the strange, wonderful power that Frank Ocean has over his listeners.
Works for me.
Also, I just learned that pretty much all of the R&B I like is classified as “PBR&B,” a portmanteau of PBR and R&B, or “indie R&B.” It sounds sort of derogatory, but hey: Whatever works.
This album and Picaresque were two important albums to me in high school, but I pushed them to the side when I had the obligatory “All I need are The Beatles” phase in college.
When I got back into indie rock, I didn’t think to revisit The Decemberists. If you’ve been following my progress through the People’s List, you’ll see the common theme here: I made a mistake. Just because I liked something in high school doesn’t mean it was complete garbage. I have to start giving my 16 year old self some more credit.