Sorry it’s been a little while since I’ve posted. Here’s a playlist I made for your ears (for listening) and limbs (for dancing). It’s mostly songs released from the last couple years, but there’s one by Arthur Russell which is from the 1980’s. Each artist is unique and lovely, so be sure to give each one a thorough listen.
This year brought lots of phenomenal shows out on the road. Touring is becoming so important for an artist’s livelihood, so be sure to keep an eye on tour schedules and go see all of these guys this year… they put on some incredible live shows.
1. Other Lives
3. Sufjan Stevens
4. Active Child
5. Kishi Bashi
7. Punch Brothers
8. The Antlers
9. Sharon Van Etten
10. The Shins
In comparison to past years, I didn’t make listening to new albums a huge priority. I love being exposed to new music, but I think to a degree it can become sort of taxing- always trying to find the best new stuff can become a bit tiresome. This year I was just content listening to what I was compelled to listen to and left the other stuff for later. Maybe this makes me less of a music connoisseur, but despite not listening to every new release, I still found some gems that will become staples in my music catalogue.
I can’t truly rate them 1-10, simply because every album has it’s place and has been equally valuable to me in different ways this year.
Poliça - Give You The Ghost
Poliça produced some of the best jams of the year. Channy Leaneagh’s auto-tuned vocals paired with the bass and drums create for the perfect atmosphere for an evening drive or an impromptu dance party. Excellent contrast between the intensity in the beats, lyrics, and the clarity of Channy’s voice.
Frank Ocean- Channel Orange
If I were to put this album into a genre, I would put it in the “Sassy Bluegrass” category. This album 1) Contains incredible musicianship and therefore sounds beautiful and 2) Is so, so sassy from a lyrical standpoint. If you just look at Chris Thile’s twitter you’ll quickly catch onto his wit and sarcasm. Because of the humor, it’s a really fun album, but it’s also balanced out by a couple songs that are a little bit more relaxed.
Here We Go Magic- A Different Ship
This album was produced by Nigel Godrich, a longtime collaborator with Radiohead, if that’s any indicator that it might be a good one. It’s a clean sounding album that contains some groovy beats that give it a nice poppiness while maintaining super solid bass lines and overall sound.
Usher- Looking 4 Myself
I’m somewhat surprised I love this album as much as I do, but knew it would be a favorite the moment I first heard the song “Climax”. I can’t say that every song on this album is noteworthy (it’s got 18 songs…) but there are definitely enough to earn a spot on this list. This is a diverse album, Ursher incorporated dub-step sounding elements, piano bits, electronic beats, pop-heavy songs and hip-hop-heavy songs.
Andrew Bird- Break It Yourself
This album took on a more organic, homegrown sound in comparison to some of Andrew’s previous albums. There’s more upright bass and personal lyrics, and less electric guitar and scientific talk. Somehow this album sounds homier, more inviting and lighter than some of his other work.
Kishi Bashi- 151A
K Ishibashi aka Kishi Bashi arrived on the scene this year with his first full length album that came about through Kickstarter fund. His main instrument is the violin, but he also utilizes loops for his beat boxing, vocals, and violin. The album is full of bright, happy sounding orchestration and the occasional japanese lyrics. Kishi Bashi is definitely doing something new and I’m excited to see where he takes his work in the future.
Lord Huron- Lonesome Dreams
Lord Huron took darn long enough to release their debut record, but it was worth the wait. Their EPs are just as good as the album and in Lord Huron style, it’s a great mix of beachy folk and whimsical pop.
Dirty Projectors- Swing Lo Magellan
This album is quirky and catchy. The Dirty Projectors are always doing something interesting and this album is perfectly poppy, perfectly rocky, and perfectly orchestrated with the help of the ever-so-excellent yMusic. Beautiful harmonies, weird sounds, and fantastic lyrics.
Sufjan Stevens- Silver & Gold
Yep, it’s a Christmas boxset, and yes, it’s a collection of 58 songs (doesn’t quite fall into the category of “album”), but I can’t not have this on my list. The five EPs inside are a representation of music he made for friends and family during the holidays each year from 2007-2011. This album is full of ridiculous quasi-christmas songs as well as some lovely renditions of classic Christmas songs. Put it on your list for next year’s Christmas music.
Here are a couple releases from this year that I plan to spend some more time with in the coming months: David Byrne and St. Vincent- Love This Giant, Grimes- Visions, Perfume Genius- Put Your Back N 2 It, Liars- WIXIW, Grizzly Bear- Shields.
For whatever reason I wasn’t anticipating this collaboration to be something so grand and exciting, but after seeing fan videos and listening to bootleg recordings from the the song cycle, I promptly rethought that misconception.
The trio (backed by drummer James McAlister, the Navarra String Quartet, and the New Trombone Collective which consistes of 7 trombones!) has created this song cycle with a song for each planet. My favorites are Jupiter, Mercury, and Saturn. The songs are sort of similar to that of Sufjan’s last album Age of Adz in theme, but a bit less electronic and more orchestra heavy. Lately Sufjan has been on the biggest autotune/vocoder kick known to indie music, so be prepared for autotune if you listen. Some people seem to have complaints about the use of autotune in these pieces, but really, a song cycle about outer space warrants a bit of autotune in my opinion.
The Fuck Yeah Sufjan Stevens tumblr put up a bootleg of one of the performances of the song cycle last night and I’ve been listening to it all day…the sound quality is actually pretty decent. As of right now there hasn’t been any info about an official recording or release of this collaboration, so for a while these recordings will have to do.
The six-minute track ”Museum Day” features Sufjan singing Auto-Tuned lines alongside rap verses from Serengeti. The EP features vocal contributions from Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond on closer “If This Is Real”, while Doseone from Subtle and Themselves appears on the opening track, “Octomom”.
Sufjan and Serengeti were introduced in 2009, when they worked together on Buck 65’s remix of Sufjan’s cover of Castanets’ “You Are the Blood” for the benefit compilation Dark Was the Night.
Serengeti will release the Kenny Dennis EP on Anticon on April 3. Watch the video for “Shazam” here.
Beak & Claw EP:
02 Museum Day
03 Beyond Any Doubt
04 If This Is Real
This is great news for the music world. I am a huge fan of these three and look forward to hearing this EP!
Here’s my “official” playlist for you all. It’s got a hodgepodge of artists, but it mostly sticks to a mellow/folksy/occasional electronic theme.
If you aren’t familiar with some of these bands, check them out. Good music for a nice Fall day! (or evening)
Here are my favorite albums from the last couple of years that have gotten many a play on my itunes. These aren’t really in any order as they have all had some impact on me and I like them all a lot!
•Riot On An Empty Street (2004) by Kings of Convenience
•Why Should The Fire Die? (2005) by Nickel Creek
•Once Soundtrack (2006) by The Swell Season
•The Pursuit (2009) by Jamie Cullum
•Age of Adz (2010) by Sufjan Stevens
•Plans (2005) by Death Cab for Cutie
•Bon Iver (2011) by Bon Iver
•Trouble (2004) by Ray Lamontagne
•LP (2009) by Discovery
•All Delighted People (2010) by Sufjan Stevens
•Give Up (2003) by The Postal Service
•Dark Was The Night Compilation (2009)
•Veneer (2003) by Jose Gonzalez
•Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends (2008) by Coldplay
•Armchair Apocrypha (2007) by Andrew Bird
•The BQE (2009) by Sufjan Stevens
A few that are really close to being on the list- The Eraser by Thom Yorke, The Suburbs by Arcade Fire, High Violet by The National, and Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars. I think the reason I can’t put these albums on the “official” list at this point is because I’ve only been listening to these last few musicians for less than a year. I’ve been listening to all the bands that made it on the list for at least two years, and I don’t want to prematurely name some brand new album or band I don’t know very well onto my list.
That’s all for tonight folks. Sorry I haven’t had a ton of posts recently! I’ve been working a lot.