Infinite Shuffle

January 30, 2012

100 – Good Old War

Filed under: G, Philadelphia — assman41 @ 12:09 am

I will readily admit that my indie music knowledge barely scratches the surface of what is out there. Sure, I can talk endlessly about different bands I’ve heard and upcoming albums I’m looking forward to, but I’m constantly being reminded I’m just at the tip of the iceberg with this stuff.

One such instance came a couple of weeks ago while I was perusing local concert listings. I saw that two solid bands — The Belle Brigade and Family of the Year — would be coming to Chicago soon. But they were just the openers for another band, Good Old War.

I had no clue who these guys were, which surprised the hell out of me. I can’t remember a time when I recognized multiple opening acts but knew not even an inkling about the headliner.

Apparently, Good Old War is a three-piece folk/roots-rock band hailing from Philadelphia, home to other solid acts such as Kurt Vile, The War On Drugs and Dr. Dog.

Good Old War was born out of the ashes of two well-liked indie rock groups from Philly — Days Away and Unlikely Cowboy. Moving from their rocker roots to a more folk sound, and taking advantage of some great harmonies, the band is reminiscent to such contemporaries as Dawes, The Head and the Heart, Fleet Foxes and Lord Huron.

They released their debut album, Only Way To Be Alone, in 2008, and followed it with a self-titled disc in 2010. Their third release, Come Back As Rain, is set to drop in a few weeks on March 6.

They’ll be making their way to Lincoln Hall — my favorite venue in Chicago — on April 14. I’m very hopeful that I’ll be in attendance.

In the meantime, here are a couple more great tracks from the band.

P.S. I’d hoped to do something special for my 100th proper band post, but I’ve been pretty busy so far in 2012. Maybe I’ll do something for No. 150. Fingers crossed.

Advertisements

January 22, 2012

99 – Youth Lagoon

Filed under: Boise Idaho, Y — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Reading an interview with Trevor Powers is like getting a glimpse into a troubled mind. For a long time, Powers, whose musical alter-ego is Youth Lagoon, couldn’t properly articulate all the strange thoughts that were cluttering his brain.

It wasn’t until the Boise, Idaho, resident put pen to paper and began writing songs that he was finally able to start relaying to people everything that was in his head.

The end result is The Year of Hibernation, the eight-song debut from Youth Lagoon.

Upon a cursory listen, the songs meld together into a dreamy electronic escape. But that facade belies a darker message in the lyrics.

According to Powers in a review at Amazon.com, “I don’t think I could ever write a completely happy album. It’s not that I’m not a happy person, but I just have too many things in my mind that haunt me.”

While that may be true, he does a pretty good job masking it with beautiful melodies and soundscapes.

Youth Lagoon falls perfectly into the same ilk as Wild Nothing, The XX, Zola Jesus, Beach Fossils and Wye Oak.

Powers masters the slow-build in his songs, starting out soft and quiet before becoming faster and more powerful.

Hopefully, Powers is able to maintain a balance in which he can keep making such beautiful music while also holding on to his sanity.

 

January 17, 2012

98 – The Lonely Forest

Filed under: Anacortes Wash., L — assman41 @ 3:52 am

Besides having catchy tunes and good, honest lyrics, the one thing that sets The Lonely Forest apart from their indie-pop brethren is the fact that they don’t take themselves too seriously.

That becomes apparent with one listen to their big single, the ironically titled “Turn Off This Song and Go Outside”.

That ditty is definitely the best track on the group’s third full-length album, Arrows, but it’s far from the only quality song.

The four-piece hailing from Anacortes, Wash., channels the best of late ’90s/early ’00s alt-rock. Particularly on earlier releases such as Nuclear Winter (2007) and We Sing the Body Electric! (2009), where the piano is more prominent, the group conjures up memories of Ben Folds Five.

But on the latest release, the sound is more reminiscent to such bands as Jimmy Eat World and, to a lesser extent, Filter. (Sidenote: The album was produced by Death Cab For Cutie guitarist/producer Chris Walla.)

On the above track — which is actually titled “I Don’t Want To Live There” — singer John Van Deusen longs to remain in the Pacific Northwest as opposed to living in Los Angeles or Nashville or other far-flung metropolises.

Very few of the 12 tracks on Arrows even border on being filler. And, besides the two aforementioned songs, the other standouts are “(I Am) the Love Addict”, “Coyote” and “We Sing In Time”, which was also on the previous LP.

If I’d listened to the album a month or so earlier, it would’ve definitely made my Best of 2011 list. Perhaps I can make it up to the band by going to one of its shows. I’ve heard they’re pretty great in person, and I wouldn’t mind confirming that for myself.

January 8, 2012

97 – Lykke Li

Filed under: Sweden — assman41 @ 12:01 am

It turns out that Lykke Li is legit.

When the Swedish songstress dropped her debut, Youth Novels, in 2008, I simply wrote her off as a two-hit wonder — “Little Bit” and “I’m Good, I’m Gone”.

When her follow-up, Wounded Rhymes, came out in 2011, I enjoyed the first single, “Get Some”, but assumed that once again the rest of the album wasn’t worth my time.

But after seeing it earn a decent amount of praise on the end-of-the-year lists, I figured I should give it a fair shake.

Not only does it include some catchy dance-pop numbers, but Li shows her range with a few slow, heartfelt tracks that might be her real strength.

She brings out her bread and butter on haltingly, upbeat tunes such as “I Follow Rivers”, “Rich Kids Blues”, “Jerome” and the aforementioned “Get Some”.

On several songs — especially “Youth Knows No Pain”, “Unrequited Love”, “Sadness Is a Blessing” and “Silent My Song” — she channels some of the ’50s/’60s girl-group sound that has regained traction the past couple of years.

But the best song on this album has to be “Love Out of Lust”. It’s a slow ballad that takes awhile to build to a crescendo, but when that chorus hits, it totally seals the song’s greatness.

Even the live version is solid as hell.

After listening to this album a few times, I decided to give the debut another try. I figured I might have a newfound love for it. But, no, I was right the first time — there are only two good songs there.

If Li can continue that kind of steep improvement, her third album is sure to be amazing.

January 2, 2012

Best of 2011 – Everyone else

Filed under: Best of — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Just as I did last year and the year before that, I have compiled as many end-of-the-year lists as I could find. And, in case you missed it, here’s my list.

A.V. Club … No. 1 album: Wye Oak, “Civilian”

AmazonNo. 1 album: Adele, “21” … No. 1 song: Adele, “Rolling in the Deep” … No. 1 alt/indie album: tUnE-yArDs “w h o k i l l” … No. 1 alt/indie song: M83, “Midnight City”

American Songwriter … No. 1 album: Wilco, The Whole LoveNo. 1 song: Hayes Carll, “Another Like You”

BBC Music … No. 1 album: PJ Harvey, “Let England Shake”

Billboard … No. 1 album: Adele, “21” … No. 1 song: Nicki Minaj, “Super Bass”

Drowned In Sound … No. 1 album: The Antlers, “Burst Apart”

Exclaim! … No. 1 album: Bon Iver, “Bon Iver”

Filter … No. 1 album: M83, “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming”

KCRW … No. 1 album: TV on the Radio, “Nine Types of Light”

MTV (Bigger Than Sound … No. 1 Album: Girls, “Father, Son, Holy Ghost”

Magnet … No. 1 album: Yuck, “Yuck”

Metacritic … No. 1 album: PJ Harvey, “Let England Shake”

Mojo … No. 1 album: PJ Harvey, “Let England Shake”

NME … No. 1 album: PJ Harvey, “Let England Shake” … No. 1 song: Lana Del Rey, “Video Games”

The Observer … No. 1 album: Gillian Welch, “The Harrow & the Harvest”

Obscure Sound … No. 1 album: Destroyer, “Kaputt”

Paste … No. 1 album: Bon Iver, “Bon Iver” … No. 1 song: Fleet Foxes, “Helplessness Blues”

Picadilly Records … No. 1 album: Peaking Lights, “936”

PopMatters … No. 1 album: Fleet Foxes, “Helplessness Blues” … No. 1 indie rock album: Future Islands, “On the Water” … No. 1 indie pop album: The Caribbean, “Discontinued Perfume”

Prefix … No. 1 album: Shabazz Palaces, “Black Up”

The Record Exchange … No. 1 album: Youth Lagoon, “The Year of Hibernation”

Rise … No. 1 album: The War On Drugs, “Slave Ambient”

Rolling Stone … No. 1 album: Adele, “21”

Rough Trade Shops … No. 1 album: Josh T. Person, “Last of the Country Gentlemen”

The Sonic Medium … No. 1 album: Kurt Vile, “Smoke Ring For My Halo”

Spin … No. 1 album: Fucked Up, “David Comes To Life” … No. 1 song: Adele, “Rolling In the Deep”

Spinner … No. 1 album: EMA, “Past-Life Martyred Saints”

Stereogum … No. 1 album: Girls, “Father, Son, Holy Ghost”

TIME … No. 1 album: Adele, “21”

Treble … No. 1 album: St. Vincent, “Strange Mercy”

Uncut … No. 1 album: PJ Harvey, “Let England Shake”

Under the Radar … No. 1 album: St. Vincent, “Strange Mercy”

Urban Outfitters … No. 1 album: The War On Drugs, “Slave Ambient”

WNRN … No. 1 album: The Head and the Heart, “The Head and the Heart” (I wouldn’t put too much stock into the rankings of this one. The War On Drugs are No. 91, while Blink-182 is No. 63.)

January 1, 2012

Best of 2011 – My list

Filed under: Best of — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Despite a lot of excellent live music experiences this year, I kept finding myself bemoaning the lack of standout albums released in 2011. There were only a few that I knew deserved recognition.

But rather than just write some rant about the poor quality of music this year, I went back and re-listened to everything I’d heard from the past 12 months — as well as some other stuff that I knew was worthy of consideration.

The end result? It really wasn’t as bad a year as I kept making it out to be. By the time I was done, I’d found 20 albums and 10 bonus songs that deserved to be honored.

Normally, I just list everything in alphabetical order. But, as I was compiling my list, I was forced to rank everything and make some tough decisions. And, since I’m a sportswriter by trade, I figured it’d be fitting if I broke things into a first and second team.

And, just like last year, I put together a playlist of all the best songs I could find (which turned out to be barely half of the 30 I searched for).

Anyway, without further ado, I give you the Best of 2011.

FIRST TEAM

  • The Decemberists – The King Is Dead … As far as I’m concerned, these guys can do no wrong. After several highly praised concept albums, the Portland crew stripped things down and put out an album full of great songs and no filler. … Favorite song: “Down By the Water”
  • Yuck – Yuck … At first I was apprehensive about this album. But after my first listen, I knew this was a disc I was gonna love all year long. This was a close second to The Decemberists. … Favorite song: “Georgia”
  • Cults – Cults … I can’t help but smile every time I listen to this album. These guys latched on to the lo-fi, old-school girl group sound that has become popular and took it to another level. … Favorite song: “Go Outside”
  • The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing … I never got into Neutral Milk Hotel during their heyday, but this group is a nice consolation. I saw them live and met them afterwards, and it just added to my love for them and this album. … Favorite song: “Two Lovers”
  • Wye Oak – Civilian … I’d known of this band for a while, but after seeing them live at SXSW, I was totally sold. This album is great to just sit back and relax to. … Favorite song: “Holy Holy”
  • The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart … Another band that I’ve seen live (in 2010) and missed seeing a couple of times this year, this Seattle crew is just the latest in a wave of great solid indie folk acts. … Favorite song: “Lost In My Mind”
  • Young the Giant – Young the Giant … This album is full of catchy tunes, and I’d love to get the chance to see them live someday. … Favorite song: “My Body”
  • Grouplove – Never Trust a Happy Song … I was worried this would be one of those groups with one or two great singles and nothing else. But this album has plenty of solid indie-pop tracks. … Favorite song: “Tongue Tied”
  • The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient … Yet another band I saw live this year, this third disc (second LP) by the group adds to a strong catalog of catchy, groovy indie folk with a tinge of psychedelia. … Favorite song: “Baby Missiles”
  • Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues … While their debut album was great, I worried that this follow-up would be too similar. Thankfully, it’s not. No longer sounding like a band that lives in a cabin in the woods, the group channels its inner Simon & Garfunkel en route to some amazing folk-rock. Favorite song: “Helplessness Blues”

SECOND TEAM

  • The Cave Singers – No Witch … Favorite song: “Gifts and the Raft”
  • Rival Schools – Pedals … Favorite song: “A Parts For B Actors”
  • Death Cab For Cutie – Codes and Keys … Favorite song: “You Are a Tourist”
  • Tammar – Visits … Favorite song: “Deep Witness”
  • The Black Keys – El Camino … Favorite song: “Lonely Boy”
  • The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong … Favorite song: “Heart in Your Heartbreak”
  • Wilco – The Whole Love … Favorite song: “I Might”
  • Real Estate – Days … Favorite song: “It’s Real”
  • Apex Manor – The Year of Magical Drinking … Favorite song: “Southern Decline”
  • Big Scary – Vacation … Favorite song: “Mix Tape”

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Since writing this post earlier in the week, I have listened to a handful of albums that received solid reviews during the past year. For one reason or another, I had just kinda overlooked them until now. And, as it turned out, I was quite keen on all of them. If I’d given them more listens earlier in the year, there’s a decent chance they would’ve made the above lists.

  • Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost … Favorite song: “Alex”
  • Lonely Forest – Arrows … Favorite song: “Turn Off This Song and Go Outside”
  • Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes … Favorite song: “Get Some”
  • Youth Lagoon – Year of Hibernation … Favorite song: “Daydream”

I look forward to giving all of these albums repeated listens soon and sharing my thoughts in the near future.

TOP SINGLES (That weren’t on an aforementioned album)

Check back tomorrow for my annual compilation of end-of-the-year lists from around the internet.

Blog at WordPress.com.