Infinite Shuffle

December 31, 2012

Best of 2012 – My list

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

Rather than restrict myself to a set number of items to include in my various lists, I just went with whatever felt right. So, without further ado, I give you my Best of 2012 list, by the numbers:

THE 14 ALBUMS THAT I LIKED THE MOST

  • Of Monsters and MenMy Head Is an Animal … Favorite song: “Little Talks”
    Ever since I first heard “Little Talks” late last year, I have been in love with this album. I’m surprised by the lack of respect it received from all the critics out there.
  • First Aid KitThe Lion’s Roar … Favorite song: “Emmylou”
    This one is solid throughout and made a late run at the top spot, but it finished in a close second. The album was a huge step up for this group.
  • The DarlingtonsDecades Dance … Favorite song: “To Break a Heart”
    I recall singing this album’s praises a few months ago, but when I went back to listen to it recently, I’d forgotten how amazing it was.
  • Dry the RiverShallow Bed … Favorite song: “History Book”
    This is a great album start to finish. And it’s even more amazing to see in a live setting.
  • The Lumineers – self-titled … Favorite song: “Ho Hey”
    These guys seemed to come out of nowhere to become everyone’s favorite indie band. I suppose the Bing commercial didn’t hurt, but really, it was the power of their music that propelled them.
  • SuckersCandy Salad … Favorite song: “Bricks To the Bones”
    These guys were something of a dark horse for me. I figured they were nothing more than an honorable mention, but after several listens, the album continued to grow on me steadily moved its way up my chart.
  • Milo Greene – self-titled … Favorite song: “1957”
    Ever since seeing these guys on Last Call with Carson Daly, I could tell they had some talent. Then I listened to their album a few times and confirmed it.
  • Now, NowThreads … Favorite song: “Lucie, Too”
    Like Yuck a year ago, this band surprised me with how much its music grew on me over the course of the album.
  • Kishi Bashi151a … Favorite song: “Bright Whites”
    This is the artist that the gents over at All Songs Considered trumpeted throughout the year. And with good reason. He has a sound that is different from anything out there today.
  • Rah RahThe Poet’s Dead … Favorite song: “Prairie Girl”
    While there weren’t necessarily a lot of standout tracks on this album, the band’s sound is one that I will never grow tired of.
  • The Sun ParadeYossis … Favorite song: “Nothing Lasts Forever”
    This was just some random album I discovered through Plixid.com, and it turned out to be a rare gem.
  • Best CoastThe Only Place … Favorite song: “The Only Place”
    Like First Aid Kit, this group took a huge step forward in 2012. With its tighter tunes and short length, this is an album that can be played all day on repeat.
  • Sharon Van EttenTramp … Favorite song: “Serpents”
    It’s difficult not to become entranced by her voice. And on this album, she got some help from her friends and put out her most complete offering to date.
  • Alabama ShakesBoys & Girls … Favorite song: “Hold On”
    This band had been hyped since the latter portion of 2011, but it managed to live up to its billing by putting out an incredibly soulful album and one of the best songs of the year.

THE NINE SONGS THAT WERE ALSO WORTH NOTING

  • Japandroids – “The House That Heaven Built”
  • fun. – “We Are Young”
  • Team Me – “With My Hands Covering Both of My Eyes I Am Too Scared To Have a Look at You Now”
  • Fort Atlantic – “Let Your Heart Hold Fast”
  • Cloud Nothings – “Stay Useless”
  • Factories – “It’ll Be Alright”
  • Bahamas – “Lost in the Light”
  • Greg Laswell – “Come Back Down” (feat. Sara Bereilles)
  • Django Django – “Default”

THE 10 ESTABLISHED ARTISTS WHO PUT OUT SOLID ALBUMS

  • Avett Brothers – The Carpenter … Favorite song: “Live and Die”
  • Beach House – Bloom … Favorite song: “Other People”
  • Benjamin Gibbard – Former Lives … Favorite song: “Teardrop Windows”
  • Grizzly Bear – Shields … Favorite song: “Speak In Rounds”
  • Mumford & Sons – Babel … Favorite song: “I Will Wait”
  • The Shins – Port of Morrow … Favorite song: “Simple Song”
  • The Walkmen – Heaven … Favorite song: “Heaven”
  • Jack White – Blunderbuss … Favorite song: “Love Interruption”
  • Wild Nothing – Nocturne … Favorite song: “Only Heather”
  • The XX – Coexist … Favorite song: “Angels”

THE ONE ALBUM I PLAYED THE MOST IN 2012

  • The VaccinesWhat Did You Expect From the Vaccines … Favorite song: “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)”
    Although it came out in May 2011, I didn’t discover it until a year later. And I have since played it 17 times. They also put out an album this year — Come of Age — but it pales in comparison to the debut.

THE NINE ALBUMS I MAY HAVE MISSED

After scanning numerous end-of-the-year lists, there were some albums that I knew little to nothing about but piqued my interest.

  • DIIV – Oshin
  • Field Music – Plumb
  • Lower Dens – Nootropics
  • The Maccabees – Given To the Wild
  • Anais Mitchell – Young Man In America
  • Passion Pit – Gossamer
  • Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It
  • Toy – self-titled
  • Twin Shadow – Confess
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December 30, 2012

Best of 2012 – Everyone else

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

As I’ve done each of the past few years, here’s a compilation of the various tastemakers’ “best of the year” lists. There were a lot of different No. 1 albums, but it seems as though Frank Ocean was the most critically acclaimed of the year.

And don’t worry. I’ll post my own list tomorrow.

  • A.V. Club … No. 1 album: Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange”
  • Alternative Press … No. 1 album: The Gaslight Anthem – “Handwritten”
  • Amazon. com … No. 1 album: Of Monsters and Men – “My Head Is an Animal” … No. 1 song: Delta Spirit – “California”
  • American Songwriter … No. 1 album: Bob Dylan – “Tempest” … No. 1 song: Shovels & Rope – “Birmingham”
  • BBC Music … No. 1 album: Kendrick Lamar – “good kid, M.A.A.D. city”
  • Clash … No. 1 album: Bobby Womack – “The Bravest Man In the Universe”
  • Consequence of Sound … No. 1 album: Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange”
  • DIY … No. 1 album: Liars – “WIXIW”
  • Drowned In Sound … No. 1 album: Sharon Van Etten – “Tramp”
  • Entertainment Weekly … No. 1 album: Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange”
  • Filter … No. 1 album: Tame Impala – “Lonerism”
  • The Fly … No. 1 album: Sharon Van Etten – “Tramp”
  • Gigwise … No. 1 album: Twin Shadow – “Confess”
  • Gorilla vs. Bear … No. 1 album: Grimes – “Visions” … No. 1 song: Usher – “Climax”
  • The Guardian … No. 1 album: Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange” … No. 1 song: Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe”
  • Insound … No. 1 album: Kendrick Lamar – “good kid, M.A.A.D. city”
  • Magnet … No. 1 album: The Walkmen – “Heaven”
  • Metacritic … No. 1 album: Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange”
  • MOJO … No. 1 album: Jack White – “Blunderbuss”
  • musicOMH … No. 1 album: Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange”
  • NME … No. 1 album: Tame Impala – “Lonerism”
  • NPR (All Songs Considered, listeners’ picks) … No. 1 album: Mumford & Sons – “Babel”
  • No Ripcord … No. 1 album: Kendrick Lamar – “good kid, M.A.A.D. city”
  • Obscure Sound … No. 1 album: Tame Impala – “Lonerism”
  • Paste … No. 1 album: Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange”
  • Pitchfork … No. 1 album: Kendrick Lamar – “good kid, M.A.A.D. city” … No. 1 song: Grimes – “Oblivion”
  • PopMatters … No. 1 album: Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange”
  • Pretty Much Amazing … No. 1 album: Fiona Apple – “Idler Wheel …” … No. 1 song: Fiona Apple – “Every Single Night”
  • Rolling Stone … No. 1 album: Bruce Springsteen – “Wrecking Ball” … No. 1 song: Alabama Shakes – “Hold On”
  • Rough Trade Shops … No. 1 album: Grimes – “Visions”
  • Spin … No. 1 album: Frank Ocean – “Channel Orange”
  • Spinner … No. 1 album: Fiona Apple – “Idler Wheel …”
  • Stereogum … No. 1 album: Fiona Apple – “Idler Wheel …”
  • TIME … No. 1 album: Fiona Apple – “Idler Wheel …”
  • Uncut … No. 1 album: Leonard Cohen – “Old Ideas”
  • Under the Radar … No. 1 album: Wild Nothing – “Nocturne”
  • Urban Outfitters … No. 1 album: Tame Impala – “Lonerism”

December 27, 2012

141 – Fort Atlantic

Filed under: Athens Ga., F — assman41 @ 1:14 am

The musical pairing that is Fort Atlantic likely saw its stock rise within the last week after having its anthemic single, “Let Your Heart Hold Fast”, playing during the climactic final scene of the most recent episode of How I Met Your Mother.

That’s certainly how I came across the group, which is basically Jon Black, a singer, songwriter and musical jack-of-all-trades, paired with drummer Josh Cannon.

The duo came together in 2010 after Black had been tinkering in his new home studio in Athens, Ga., wrote a bunch of new songs and decided what he created was bigger than anything he could handle, so he called in Cannon for support.

With the help of New York-based mixer/producer Tom Schick, they put together a 10-track, self-titled album that was released in May of this year. For the most part, the disc is full of solid folk/rock-pop. But at times they dabbled with the laptops a little too much.

The first two tracks — “No One Will Know” and “Career Advice” — are good old folk rock. Then comes the aforementioned “Let Your Heart Hold Fast”, which could easily be in consideration for everyone’s song of the year if anyone else actually knew the album existed.

After the mostly forgettable “Up From the Ground”, things go in a totally different direction with an artsy/experimental 8-minute-long “I’m Wrong”, which is an instrumental for the first five of those minutes.

That’s followed by “Movie Screen”, a very slow, churning, powerful song that is almost ballad-like. Then on “New York Lights”, Black brings things back to the folk side. Way back in fact, as he does his best Bob Dylan impression, right down to the harmonica.

Next is “My Love Is With You”, which is more of a modern alt-country ballad, something that Ryan Adams might sing. Then they close with a couple more forgettable tracks — “The Wrecking Ball” and “There Is Love”.

All in all, Fort Atlantic certainly have the potential to craft a great song, they’re just a little to hit-and-miss. Black and Cannon need to figure out what kind of band they want to be and then stick with it rather than jumping all over the place on each record.

December 17, 2012

140 – Sharon Van Etten

Filed under: Brooklyn, V — assman41 @ 6:20 pm

Since hitting the scene in 2009, singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten has been grabbing listeners with her beautifully haunting vocals and heartfelt lyrics.

With her debut, Because I Was In Love, the New Jersey-born, Tennessee-educated Brooklyn transplant began her ascent from timid folk singer to confident balladeer.

The songs on that first album were all sung in a very somber, melancholic tone and reflected on destructive past relationships.

The following year, she released, epic, which showcased a new, brave voice and bolder lyrics. The vocals were still haunting, but the sorrowful tone started to give way to empowerment.

The standout tracks include “Don’t Do It”, “Save Yourself” and “One Day”.

It was around this time that Van Etten developed a connection with boroughmates The National, touring with them in Europe and opening some shows in the U.S. They also collaborated on an original song — “Think You Can Wait” — for the soundtrack for the film, Win Win.

She began recording her next album in the garage studio of The National’s Aaron Dessner. And after several months, she released Tramp in February of this year to much critical acclaim.

Sonically, it’s the next step in Van Etten’s evolution. She continues to grow more confident with her voice and lyrics, and the songs themselves are more layered.

Adding to the complexity of the album were the contributions she received from such friends as Matt Barrick (Walkmen), Thomas Bartlett (Doveman), Zach Condon (Beirut), Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak), Julianna Barwick and Dessner himself.

The album is her best to date, with such strong tracks as “Serpents”, “Leonard”, “We Are Fine” and “Magic Chords”. It’ll be interesting to see how Van Etten continues to develop from here.

December 10, 2012

139 – Divine Fits

Filed under: D — assman41 @ 8:01 pm

Is there some sort of law in Canada that states if you’re an indie-rock musician, you may not have fewer than three side projects at all times?

Just look at Wolf Parade. The two main cogs in that group — Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug — have splintered off into so many different directions and have included enough similarly prolific musicians that you’d need a flowchart to keep it all straight. (Sidenote: I fully intend to create said diagram within the next year.)

But with Wolf Parade on hiatus for the last two years, and his other main project, Handsome Furs, seemingly kaput, Boeckner has moved on to another outlet. And this time, he’s heading south of the border to Austin and teaming up with Spoon frontman Britt Daniel. They, along with drummer Sam Brown (New Bomb Turks) and keyboardist Alex Fishcel (Papa) have formed Divine Fits, a synth-laden indie-pop/rock outfit that despises the term “supergroup.”

That’s Boeckner on lead vocals, which he handles on seven of the 11 tracks on the band’s debut album, A Thing Called Divine Fits. Daniel takes care of the remaining songs, as well as laying down the music for most, if not all, of the album.

According to an interview with Spin magazine, Daniel met Boeckner while attending a Handsome Furs show. The two stayed in touch, and, when Wolf Parade took a break, Daniel suggested that the two of them make some music together.

The result is an album full of new wave-tinged pop/rock that takes advantage of everyone’s strengths.

That’s one of the few songs that Daniel took the reins on. And, while his voice is normally only palatable in small doses, he really does a great job on this track.

In all the various online postings, the one member of the quartet who gets little to no recognition is Fischel, whose synth lines are critical to the band’s sound and lay the foundation for nearly every song.

The band currently has a few shows left on its U.S. tour, including three in Colorado and two in Las Vegas to close out the year. Then it heads to Australia. Hopefully, it’ll tour the States again next year — unless the members decide to turn their focus a few more side projects.

December 2, 2012

Random threeplay 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — assman41 @ 4:39 pm

OK, so this week’s trio of groups wasn’t randomly compiled. They actually came from the first “Best of 2012” list I’ve seen thus far, Paste Magazine’s top 50 albums. And they all came in ranked in the 30s, which means there are plenty more albums on the list that I need to give a listen.

Shovels & Rope

I’d actually heard a song or two by Shovels & Rope before seeing them listed by Paste. My favorite local, progressive radio station has been playing some of their music for a while.

The band consists of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, a couple of accomplished singer/songwriters who came together a few years ago and released the Are You Ready To Die EP in 2010.

They’ve received plenty of praise this year with the release of their debut full-length, O Be Joyful, which fully conveys the group’s alt-country/folk-pop ditties to the masses.

Hearst’s vocals have been compared to those of Wanda Jackson, and they pair well with Trent’s on such standout tracks as “Hail Hail”, “Keeper” and “Birmingham”.

King Tuff

King Tuff is just one of a handful of projects for prolific musician Kyle Thomas. Among his many outlets are freaky folk revivalists Feathers, off-kilter power-pop band Happy Birthday and a stoner metal group headed by J. Mascis called Witch.

But it’s as King Tuff that the Los Angeles-via-Vermont musician is able to spread his wings as a solo artist. He put out a proper full-length debut, Was Dead, in 2008 before taking on the bevy of side gigs. Now, he’s back with a self-titled follow-up, this time on the Sub Pop label.

His lo-fi sensibilities are still present throughout the album, but this time they sound tighter and cleaner. While the first half of the record sounds like something Cloud Nothings might have put out a few years ago, it suddenly shifts gears and becomes much more rocking on tunes such as “Stranger”, “Baby Just Break” and “Hit & Run”.

There are also a couple of slower, almost ballad-like tunes in “Evergreen” and “Swamp of Love”.

Howler

Interestingly enough, the highest rated of these three albums is my least favorite. America Give Up, the debut full-length from Howler, a five-pieced based out of Minneapolis, is garage rock in its purest form.

The problem is that nobody wants to hear music made in someone’s garage. Songs inevitably are suffocated by distorted guitars and feedback.

Howler have earned comparisons to The Strokes, but Is This It? this is not. The Strokes weren’t just a welcome diversion from the over-polished tripe that was on the radio a decade ago, they were also a group of talented musicians who knew when to fine-tune their sound or leave things a little rough.

Howler seems content with leaving everything a little grimy. That being said, they do show potential on this album, particularly on the radio-ready “Back of Your Neck”, which perfectly captures the surfer-rock sound that percolates just beneath the surface of much of Howler’s catalog.

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