Posted on January 10th, 2013 in Music,Year End

Top 30 Songs of 2012


#30 (tie). M.I.A. – Attention
Everyone was lolling at this, but it’s SO GOOD. So absolutely weird and strange on so many levels…and somehow this is one of my favorite M.I.A. songs. Just give it a chance and let the weirdness destroy you.



#30 (tie). Rihanna – Diamonds


I have never really gotten into Rihanna before, but “Diamonds” is just incredible. It’s the first time in a long time that I have heard a truly good pop song. The irony factor in liking this is 0 by the way. It’s just fantastic.



#29. Bob Dylan – Scarlet Town


Don’t listen to all the people who are saying this is Dylan’s best album since Blood On The Tracks or whatever. That is total bullshit. Those idiots probably haven’t even listened to half of his albums. This record is not that good. BUT there are some pretty decent tracks although even those are basically just new versions of old songs. Includes typically hilariously bad album cover.

Posted on December 30th, 2011 in Music,Year End

Top 30 Songs of 2011


#30 (tie). Kanye West & Jay Z – That’s My Bitch


The world (and Kanye, and Aziz) loves ‘Niggas In Paris‘. I get it, it gets to the heart of the $LOL$ Rich Nigga attitude that Kanye and Jay Z were going for; but ‘That’s My Bitch‘ has Kanye’s perfectionist million-dollar production, a ridiculously catchy synth riff and classic Kanye lyrics (“seen by actors, ball players and drug dealers / and some lesbians that never loved niggas”).



#30 (tie). Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow


With hints of Bowie and Laurie Anderson, Kate Bush made a record that is more wintery than winter. The 50 words make a Kate Bush amount of sense, but that’s the lark—like Haruki Murakami, she makes the weird normal and the normal weird. ‘50 Words For Snow‘ is…kafkaesque?



#30 (tie). Tyler, The Creator – Tron Cat


Tyler’s radical post-racial (and post-societal) hiphop expands on the culture-changing modus operandi of late-80s N.W.A. It’s challenging as hell, even for a desensitized postmodern culture, but that’s exactly what socially relevant music should be. ‘Tron Cat‘ references wetbacks, rape and Hitler; and Tyler himself might be satan. Good luck with that.

Posted on November 3rd, 2011 in Featured Record,Music

[Featured Record] The Fugs

This is a series intended to focus on records that were influential or important to music or cultural history in some way. In other words, “albums you should listen to before you die”.

The Fugs – The Fugs (1966)
The Fugs’ were one of NYC’s earliest garage/proto-punk bands, influencing everyone from the Velvets themselves—Sterling Morrison considered them an “authentic Lower East Side band”—to punk (obvi) to just about everyone in the modern DIY indie landscape—most notably The Brian Jonestown Massacre (practically a Fugs cover band) and Black Lips.

Posted on January 6th, 2011 in Album Art

The Greatest Album Covers Ever

This is a crosspost from my blog, but since it pertains to this site, I decided to post it here as well.

These are my all-time favorite album covers. Most of them are quite iconic and the majority are accompanied by exceptional records as well, which I think often goes hand in hand with a great cover. There might be a few surprises though.

One thing I had never noticed before, which may be a complete fabrication on my part, is the similarity between Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking cover, and Prince’s Purple Rain. An intentional reference, possibly? It’s pretty subjective, but I think you could definitely argue that there are some strong resemblances.

The list is in no particular order, although I would say that my all-time favorite is Hum’s You’d Prefer An Astronaut. Also, I think we can safely say that The Rolling Stones had the most consistently great covers.

The list:


Throbbing Gristle
20 Jazz Funk Greats (1979)



The Cure
Three Imaginary Boys (1979)

Posted on January 3rd, 2011 in Music,Year End

Top 15 Songs of 2010


#15. (Tie) Kurt Vile – Early Dawnin’


Kvile has been on fire this year; ‘Early Dawnin’‘, which appears on Vile’s exceptional In My Time 7″, combines the emotional fragility and acoustic-electropop tendencies of a Benoît Pioulard or Sufjan Stevens with the devil-may-care cool of Adam Green or Evan Dando.



#15. (Tie) Perfume Genius – Mr. Peterson


One of the most emotional songs from an incredibly emotionally-charged record; ‘Mr. Peterson‘ details the story of a gay relationship between a student and his teacher that ultimately results in the teacher’s suicide. Mike Hadreas’s delivery is somehow both full of emotion and completely detached, giving this song a white-knuckled tension that is only accentuated by brilliant lyrics like “He made me a tape of Joy Division / He told me there was a part of him missing / When I was sixteen / He jumped off a building”.

Posted on December 4th, 2010 in Music,Year End

The 17 Best Records Of 2010

Instead of force-fitting a list to some arbitrary number, here are the albums released this year that I could not live without. There are 17 of them. A few great records that basically all tied for #18: Grinderman, Killing Joke, Hot Panda, No Age, Sleigh Bells, Wavves, Sufjan Stevens, Belle & Sebastian, LCD Soundsystem, Warpaint and Health’s Remix album.

#17
Arcade Fire
The Suburbs
It’s no Neon BIble or Funeral, but it’s still Arcade Fire. The title track and ‘Sprawl II‘ are as good as anything the band has written.
#16
Spoon
Transference
Transference seems lacking upon first listen, but the tight rhythms and jams are hidden in plain sight (sound?).
#15
Maserati
Pyramid Of The Sun
Psychedelic post-rock electro made for double rainbows and booze on summer afternoons.

#14
The National
High Violet
By far The National’s best record to date. ‘Anyone’s Ghost’ is one of the most breathtaking songs of the year.
#13
The Tallest Man On Earth
The Wild Hunt
Tallest Man’s second full-length is a haunting Dylanesque folkscape with enough originality—and modernity—to break free of Dylan’s shadow.
#12
Women
Public Strain
One of the best debuts in years. They had a meltdown on tour, canceled the remaining dates and (supposedly) broke up, but…brothers gotta hug.
#11
Yeasayer
Odd Blood
A brilliant 21st-century update of the late-70s/early-80s Talking Heads period.
#10
Beach House
Teen Dream
Beach House’s third album is…gorgeous, hypnotizing, dreamy, stunning, incredible.
#9
Adam Green
Minor Love
Minor Love shows a tender, stringless, hornless side of Green; stripped down and (almost) emotional.
#8
Liars
Sisterworld
One of Liars most potent records; Sisterworld mashes and stomps art+insanity into a fireball of indie hooks.
#7
Perfume Genius
Learning
The jawdropping debut from Mike Hadreas confronts pedophilia, abuse and homosexuality and is somehow both hopeless and full of hope.
#6
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
Before Today
Less schizophrenic than previous albums, but still an outstanding Encyclopedic collection of music history, and this one comes loaded with hooks and funky 70s-esque basslines!
#5
Blonde Redhead
Penny Sparkle
Patience is a virtue on Penny Sparkle. The shoegaze is gone, but a timeless netherworld of ice cold electro-pop remains.
#4
Les Savy Fav
Root For Ruin
Tim Harrington over the past few years is as close as an artist can get to “He’s On Fire!” from NBA Jam.
#3
Caribou
Swim
A post-everything wintry dance party from the arctic mind of Dan Snaith.
#2
Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
Few bands are as consistently brilliant as Deerhunter right now, and the blissful pop on Halcyon Digest displays Bradford and co. at the top of [his] their game.
#1
Crystal Castles
Crystal Castles
They may be dicks, but music doesn’t lie, and every song Crystal Castles has created could have come straight from heaven.
Posted on November 6th, 2010 in Music

100 best albums of the aughts, part 8 (#30-21)

On to part 8 of my 100 best albums of the aughts list.

You can find part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, part 5 here, part 6 here and part 7 here.

#30
Islands – Arm’s Way (2008)
ANTI-
Former Unicorn Nick Diamonds gets more poppy and less weird on Arm’s Way, but that’s not a bad thing. Diamonds’ hooks are everywhere: the lyrics tend toward macabre; (“Creeper in my home crawled in through the window/I grabbed the kitchen knife couldn’t stick it in no/Creeper had his own shining in the moonlight“), and best of all, that beloved Unicorn eccentricity is still there.
#29
The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)
Warner Bros.
The Flaming Lips’ catalogue includes Zaireeka—a 4-disc album intended to be played on four different stereos simultaneously; a front-to-back remake of Dark Side of the Moon; production work for Steve Burns (of Blues Clues fame); years of bizarre costumes and an obsession with robots and UFOs. With the Lips’ love of all-things-weird as context, Yoshimi doesn’t come across as weird for weirdness sake (these songs are seriously good); but Wayne Coyne’s absurdism—as should be expected—is all over it.
#28
Santogold – Santogold (2008)
Downtown Records
Santogold (now Santigold)’s debut is a ridiculously catchy, genre-bending mashup of indie-disco, dub and hip-hop (a less in-your-face M.I.A.). Production help includes M.I.A.’s own Diplo and Switch, and Spank Rock makes a guest-appearance on the dub-stepping reggae update, ‘Shove It‘. This record has attitude, but more importantly, it’s a four-on-the-floor dancefloor destroyer.
#27
Minus The Bear – Menos El Oso (2005)
Suicide Squeeze Records
Menos El Oso showcases Minus The Bear at their absolute best. Waves of whammy-bar reverb turn every one of these songs into a sun-drenched, boozy jam. Jake Snider’s lyrics are typically day-in-the-life (“A swimming pool with no bodies/Is a problem that we can fix/Dropped his clothes on the chase lounge and asked/’Are you gonna come in?’“), which just adds to Menos El Oso‘s perpetually wasted vibe. The band released an outstanding remix album—titled Interpretaciones Del Oso—as well.
#26
Witch Hats – Cellulite Soul (2008)
In-Fidelity
Grungy, debauched, and sloppy as hell; this is Witch Hats. Cellulite Soul—the band’s debut—is a lurching bonfire of post-punk and sneer. Album opener ‘Before I Weigh‘ has the pace of sludge and the sweet, sweet nectar of gloom. The rest of the album is similarly vagrant: ‘Hellhole‘ would make a great backdrop for a prison beating; ‘Doors Film‘ is eight minutes of bad acid.
#25
New Order – Get Ready (2001)
London
Eight years after Republic and over 20 years after Ian Curtis’s suicide, New Order finally broke completely free from Joy Division. Get Ready RIPs the band’s post-Joy Division synth-pop palate in favor of crawling, shoegazy distortion. Sumner’s vocals are detached, hypnotic; ‘Crystal‘—New Order’s career apex—is a mind-melting anthem of fragility. Sumner’s lyrics have never been his strongpoint—and they certainly aren’t here either—but that simply doesn’t matter.
#24
At The Drive-In – Relationship of Command (2000)
Grand Royal Records
Relationship of Command (At The Drive-In’s final record before splitting into Sparta and The Mars Volta) featured breakneck tempos; split-second time changes; intense, poetry-slam lyrics; and the spastic insanity of Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López. As PCP-insane as this record is, though, it’s still poppy as fuck. You’d be singing along to mosh-pit anthems like ‘One Armed Scissor‘ and ‘Sleepwalk Capsules‘ even if you were on fire.
#23
Pidgeon – Might As Well Go Eat Worms (2008)
Cloud Recordings
A schizophrenic post-Pixies drug den, Might As Well Eat Worms—Pidgeon’s second criminally underrated album—is a brilliant postmodern adaptation of Black Francis/Kim Deal-ish back-and-forth. Its songs constantly evolve and devolve into strange comedowns and out-of-nowhere harmonies; bits and pieces that coil and weave from shrieks to lullabies and back again.
#22
Blonde Redhead – 23 (2007)
4AD
Blonde Redhead’s followup to the startling pop sensibilities of Misery is a Butterfly23 expands Misery’s Murakami-dreamworld with more death, more gloom and more shoegaze. Makino’s voice is angelic and delicate; and often simply bone-chilling. The highlight of the record, ‘Spring and By Summer Fall‘, is an icy shoegaze anthem that thunders melody and mood; grabs your soul and doesn’t let go.
#21
The Microphones – The Glow Pt. 2 (2001)
K Records
As much as I appreciate the prolificacy of Phil Elvrum—one of the more genuine artists you’ll find today—he will probably never come close to matching The Glow Pt. 2. That’s not necessarily a putdown, it’s just that this album is so…perfect. This is a record dripping with raw emotion, gorgeous melodies, haunting themes; and Elvrum is behind every stunning second of it. The Glow Pt. 2 is as close as lo-fi indie rock will ever come to its own SMiLE.
Posted on July 23rd, 2010 in Album Art,Music

Cover of the Week: Wavves – King of the Beach

Wavves – King of the Beach (2010)
[Fat Possum]

San Diego beach-punks Wavves’ brand new album, King Of The Beach, has already received rave reviews from Pitchfork; a great first step following last year’s public meltdown and stinging criticism from members of Black Lips and Psychedelic Horseshit.

King Of The Beach dials down the fuzz to focus on surfy Beach Boy harmonies and nostalgic references to the 80s (Nintendo, Super Soakers, baseball cards).

The pot-fueled cover for the album (my favorite cover of the year) was designed by friend-of-the-band Kelly Seagraves. I caught up with her to talk about her inspirations for the cover.

How’d you get hooked up with Wavves? Did you know them?

Yes, I’ve been friends with Billy Hayes (drummer) and Stephen Pope (bassist) for a pretty long time. I did a mural of Stevie Wonder in Billy’s house while he was on tour with Wavves, and the whole band seemed to like it. When they got done recording the album, Billy suggested that me and his girlfriend, Margaret Graves – who collaborated with me on the cover – come up with something. So we started brainstorming.

What inspiration did you have for the cover? Did you have any specific instructions from the band or the label?

I hadn’t met Nathan when Billy asked us to do the cover, so I just asked him, “Well what does this dude like?” Billy gave me a short list. Weed, California, skateboards, cats. When he told me Nathan had a cat named “Snacks”, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. The cover is essentially a portrait of some dude’s cat, but I wanted him to look ancient. Like something you’d see on an Aztec calendar stone. I gave him a black halo, magical weed leaf, and an All-Seeing Eye to ward off evil. Margaret did the blinged out step-pyramid background.

Everything was kind of inspired by 2012 mysticism and drug culture. Snacks is now totally equipped for the apocalypse. Shamanized.

Take me through your process. Do you freehand, or is it all digital? Or a mixture of both.

I freehand everything, paint it, ink it, scan it, then make it look sharp.

Do you have an all-time favorite album cover?

I guess I’d have to say [Michael Jackson's] Thriller. It’s not fancy, but it’s classic, and something about having that image around makes me feel empowered.

When I look at the King Of The Beach cover, I can’t help but think of World 2 on Super Mario 3. Did you ever beat that game?

Holy shit. That was my favorite level. Mario motifs. Yeah, it’s all subconscious now. Mario life.


Do you have any sketches or drafts or other stuff you didn’t get to use for this (or for the Post-Acid cover) that you’d like to share?

A few things. We did stuff specifically for the inside of the album too, so I hope people check that out. Some of the little patterns and flourishes are from older drawings. You can see that stuff at my blog.

Quick! What’s the best episode of Saved By The Bell?

The one where Jessie freaks out on pills. “I’m so excited! I’m so excited! I’m so scared!” Really hits the nail on the head.

Other work from Kelly:

Posted on July 18th, 2010 in Music

Pitchfork Music Festival 2010, Day 3

The final day of my P4k coverage for RadioK:

I woke up to thunder today, thanking everything holy that it might not be as hot outside. (Not the case! It was hotter than hell) But heat doesn’t matter when a day full of amazing music awaits, and Day 3 was my most anticipated lineup of the entire weekend.

After an awesome late breakfast at The American Depot near Austin, I arrived at the festival just in time to see up-and-coming blog favorite, Best Coast. Led by Bethany Cosentino, Best Coast was a beautiful way to start the day. The crowd was in full-on beach mode, tossing giant beach balls back and forth as Bethany played through most of her upcoming album, including ‘Crazy For You‘ and new single ‘Boyfriend‘. Her voice sounded stunning and angelic, reminiscent of early-50s girl groups. I already loved these songs, but they were even better live.

I left Best Coast’s set early to check out Girls on the A stage. Main Girl Christopher Owens looked ridiculous and amazing in his long-sleeve tropical Hawaiian shirt tucked into tan khakis. They opened with ‘Laura‘—a perfect fit for a sunny Sunday afternoon—and continued with more laid-back beachy jams until playing a sedated version of ‘Lust For Life‘ near the end of the set. Owens seemed legitimately nice (and humbled) too—at one point shooting video of the crowd, telling everybody to “say hi to mom”.

Beach House continued the relaxing summer vibe on the C stage with an absolutely mesmerizing show. They gathered one of the bigger crowds of the afternoon; played ‘Walk In The Park‘ and ‘Norway‘ back to back to hypnotize us all; and finished with a ravishing version of ‘10 Mile Stereo‘ that ended to massive cheers while Victoria Legrand held the final note for 20-some seconds. The stage décor (silver confetti streamers à la Warhol’s Silver Factory) and Legrand’s deadpan, hypnotic vocals reminded me of Nico, which I’d never thought before.

Lightning Bolt hit the A stage next, and it was absolutely: ear-splitting, eye-melting, awesome. If anyone was going to die this weekend, it was going to be during this show, which redefined loud. I still have no idea how these two guys can make that much delicious noise. Drummer Brian Chippendale was the highlight of the show (wearing a mic-outfitted mask and virtually destroying his drumset with ridiculous fills).



Photo by Marty Perez

I had planned to check out the beginning of Major Lazer before heading over to Neon Indian, but Major Lazer’s show was so insane and amazing that there was no way that was happening. Instead of leaving, I moved closer to the stage. Diplo and Switch (Major Lazer’s two main culprits) were outrageous; this was a partyx3. Switch, has to be completely insane at this point; he came out wearing purple suspender-pants and a bleached Mohawk, taking pulls of Hennessy. There were Chinese dragons (later replaced by ballerinas), half-naked dancers, and seXXX-energy everywhere. Rolls of toilet paper thrown into the crowd; goose-stepping ballerinas; oh my god, this is happening. The show was 100% localized, and Switch gave shout-outs to Chicago and Pitchfork in nearly every song. Diplo was killing it on the breakdowns, (a cardboard sign near his DJ decks accurately stated, ‘Diplo Rulz’) and by the end of the show Switch had the crowd waving shirts in the air as he climbed a 10-foot ladder only to take off his pants and jump to the ground.

Pavement finished off the night—and the festival—with a set heavy on classics and heavy on mood. Stephen Malkmus’s slacker hooks were an absolutely perfect comedown from the hi-heat, hi-energy weekend. They started off the set with ‘Cut Your Hair‘, and played just about everything else, including ‘Shady Lane‘, ‘Stereo‘ (which Malkmus dedicated to Pitchfork security), ‘Trigger Pull‘ and ‘Silent Kid‘. Hearing the solo on ‘Stop Breathin’‘ as the Festival came to a close was incomparably awesome.

Top 7 music moments of the weekend:
7. Modest Mouse opening with a 9-minute version of ‘Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes
6. Liars covering Bauhaus
5. Pavement playing the solo of ‘Stop Breathin’‘ as the Festival began to shut down.
4. Major Lazer attempting crowd-seizures during ‘Keep It Goin’ Louder
3. Beach House playing ‘Walk In The Park‘/’Norway‘ back to back
2. LCD Soundsystem’s four-on-the-floor stomper, ‘All My Friends
1. Nine members of Titus Andronicus and Hallelujah The Hills finishing off ‘…And Ever

Other loose ends:
-Oldest Festivalgoer: about 60
-Youngest Festivalgoer: about 3 months
-Most ironic band t-shirt: Billy Ray Cyrus
-Best day: Sunday
-Biggest disappointment: Panda Bear
-Overall favorite band/show: Wolf Parade

Top 5 shows:
5. Modest Mouse/Pavement (tie)
4. Major Lazer
3. Beach House
2. Titus Andronicus
1. Wolf Parade

Posted on July 17th, 2010 in Music

Pitchfork Music Festival 2010, Day 2

A continuation of my P4k coverage for the lovely RadioK. Head over there for more exciting things (like interviews!).



Photos by Jules Ameel

The first chills-inducing moment of the day came from Titus Andronicus. On a stage decorated with American flags, Titus slayed the mid-90s heat with cameos by tourmates Hallelujah The Hills, including a full set with Andy Dick-lookalike/keyboard guru Elio DeLuca. These guys turned the stage into a party; I counted 9 people playing during the anthemic ‘…And Ever‘. Trumpets turned choruses into monsters, guitarist Amy Klein had The World’s Biggest Smile Ever glued to her face for the entire show, and Stickles was swimming in sweat by the time the set was up. At one point I looked over to see a guy with the longest handlebar mustache I have ever seen, fully decked out in an overcoat and longpants (in other words, exactly the type of Civil War-era dude Titus sang about on The Monitor).

By the time Titus finished, the heat had almost taken me to the grave, so I checked out some of the vendor tents, which featured dozens of stands manned by great poster artists and booths loaded with enough vinyl to make my hands tremble. Amp was giving away free screened t-shirts, and Toyota Antics (whatever that is) was offering free screened tote bags. I grabbed both.



Wolf Parade was the highlight of the day. The guitars were razor sharp, the songs were somewhat faster…and it was LOUD. Spencer Krug’s yelps seemed to have much more protopunk influence in a live setting. (I definitely got some Stooges and New York Dolls vibes at times.) Awesomely, the band played plenty of older stuff, including a thundering version of ‘Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts‘. They finished things off with the entire 10 minutes of ‘Kissing the Beehive‘, which led to all kinds of freakouts—including dancing makeout sessions in the crowd.

LCD Soundsystem brought the night to a close with a rave-up danceparty extraordinaire. James Murphy pulled no punches, going huge early—the second song was ‘Drunk Girls‘—and turning it to 11 from there. He had the crowd losing its mind 15 minutes into the set with a MONSTROUS version of ‘All My Friends‘ (one of the Festival’s highlights). People were hula-hooping, a six-year-old was dancing on her dad’s shoulders, the crowd was loving every second. The obvious comparison here is Depeche Mode, but LCD more than held their own tonight. After more than an hour of nonstop danceable jams, Murphy put an end to the night with the comedown of ‘New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down‘, which seemed strange at first (but was ultimately perfect).

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