You have been waiting for G-Ferb 2013’s best music picks successfully. You will not be ashamed. I have picked three themes for music this year. They are gold, Cheetos, and Nickelback.
Song #1: Ecstasy of Gold
Gold is the only thing that makes me happy. So does this song. I use this song for everything. Here are some samples.
-Wearing turtle necks
I listen to this song when I look for gold. It reminds me that looking for gold is fun and cool. Then I get ecstasy when I find the gold. Sometimes I pretend that Cheetos are gold only they are different because Cheetos
Song #2: Hot Cheetos and Takis
No song has ever made me feel about Cheetos like this one. When I look down into my soul and I find darkness this song restores that hot spicy feeling that only Cheetos are proud of.
Cheeto almost winners!
Holy crazy cow, a Canadian cooking show? For a special Canadian cheeto delicacy, check out this video at 2:00
These might be my grandchildren. I hope so because I am proud of them
Song #3: How You Remind Me, lullabye edition
Sometimes babies are cool. Sometimes babies are dumb. This years best song makes babies less dumb and more sleeply. I have always wanted to dance without the judgement of awake babies. Now this can be possible.
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LET’S NOT FORGET…
This is my first post on CKTK, so allow me to introduce myself. I’m Dan, and I love Rock & Roll, Country, Blues, Bluegrass, and anything involving roots/americana music. This entry will follow a different format than you may be used to (the most recent album I’m discussing was released in 1975), but I hope that you still find it worth your time to read.
Each of these albums meant a great deal to me in 2013, and I think each carries a great life lesson between the tracks that still applies today. This is my flimsy excuse for contributing to a year end music post with music that is all older than I am. Deal with it.
THE ROLLING STONES-BEGGARS BANQUET (Released in 1968)
A great album has to made up of great songs, but great songs alone don’t make a great album. This friends, is a great album. From the opening percussive ass kicking of Sympathy for the Devil to the final hand crashing down on the piano on Salt of the Earth, the Stones knocked this one out of the proverbial park. As far as the songs go however, I would say Sticky Fingers and Let it Bleed rank higher. If you have the capacity to remember back a few sentences though, you’ll recall a great album needs more than great songs, which is why you need to shut up and let me tell why you need to listen to this album before 2013 is left in the dust.
Turn back a year to 1967. The Beatles had released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Syd Barrett was still at the reigns with Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones decided they needed to really ramp up their weird factor. They released Their Satanic Majesties Request in December of that year (to the best of my knowledge it was not featured in any CKTK publications at the time).
Think back to kindergarten, and Ms Sunshine and Rainbows telling you how important it was to just be yourself. Your middle school guidance teacher probably reiterated the same point, as well as your parents, beloved television characters, and any advertisement for Dove products. These people all had one goal in mind when they told you that. They desperately wanted you to avoid making your own version of TSMR. The Stones were masters of less is more rock & roll. Some of their best material sounds like it takes more time to play than it took to write. When 1967 was finishing up the last round of Auld Lang Syne, the Stones had put out an album that takes work to listen to, and in an uncharacteristic twist, sounded like it took work to write. TSMR combined the out of studios pressures of criminal trials and personal drama, and a desire to do what those around them were doing and resulted in a textbook example of what happens when a great band forgets what made them great.
I’m not suggesting musicians ought not experiment, but that experimentation should stem from something more genuine than wanting to line up with what those around you are doing. That just ain’t rock & roll.
In ’68 they learned their lesson, and released Beggars Banquet, their first great album. They carried that momentum into the ‘70s, added Mick Taylor on guitar and built the most impressive catalogue of any band. Ever. Period. That all started with Beggars Banquet, and the self awareness to recognize when a wrong step was taken.
As you boldly venture into 2014, fully energized by the gritty, upbeat grooves of songs like Street Fighting Man and the swampy, mugginess of Prodigal Son, keep in mind what it is that makes you you. Assuming you’re an adult you should have a pretty good idea what that is by now. Don’t let what others are doing make you think you need to change who you are. And if by some chance, you found yourself on the losing end of a big gamble in 2013, pick yourself up, raise that middle finger to the people who counted you out and drive on.
GRAM PARSONS-GRIEVOUS ANGEL (Released in 1974)
Gram Parsons is the fork in the tangled web of highways, byways, and whythehellisthisconsideredcountryways of American roots music. His simple, sharp songwriting and complete lack of pseudo-masculine bro-country nonsense provide a meaningful listening experience and leaves one without the opportunity to claim any kind of elitist status over anyone who isn’t familiar with his work. Listen to Grievous Angel (especially songs like Brass Buttons and Love Hurts) and you won’t feel like you’re a member of an exclusive club, you’ll just be glad the good Lord gave you a heart that can be broken. Especially with the ghost like voice of Emmylou Harris floating over Gram’s soft spoken timbre.
Gram did time with the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers before launching a short, two album solo career. Between his time with the Burrito Bros and his solo debut, he was what could almost be called an auxiliary member of the Rolling Stones. He wrote extensively with Keith Richards, and finished very little (see below for the drug fueled jam session that resulted in Wild Horses, used by both the Stones and the Burrito Bros). After touring with the Stones and ingesting more heroin and cocaine than even the most freewheeling Surgeon General would recommend, Gram teamed up with Emmylou and released his first solo album, GP in 1972. It featured some of the best American songwriting that time has forgotten, perhaps only topped by his last album, Grievous Angel in early 1974.
One of Gram’s jackets, showcasing his enthusiasm for anatomy, botany, and pharmacology.
Grievous Angel was written in 1973 and Gram died before seeing the release. At age 26 he had managed to permanently engrain himself into one of America’s staple cultural exports and influence everyone from the Rolling Stones, to Drive-By Truckers, to Ryan Adams. In fact, if you insist on hearing about a 2013 release go check out Southeastern by DBT alum Jason Isbell after introducing yourself to your Uncle Gram.
Grievous Angel is a powerhouse of fantastic songwriting, and that’s exactly what you should listen to it for. It’s heavy on the slow ballad side, although tunes like I Can’t Dance and Return of the Grievous Angel will require some form of tapping from at least one of your appendages, and Ooh Las Vegas will have you singing along way before you know the words. This album is more at home on a lonesome highway than in a smokey honky-tonk.
When you listen to Grievous Angel, quite possibly for the first time, do so with the knowledge that life is short and you only have so many opportunities that come your way. Make them count. It’s easy to wonder what songs he would have written, and what impact he would have had if he had a longer life. But he didn’t, and still managed to leave a lasting impression on generations of songwriters in dive bars across America.
PINK FLOYD-WISH YOU WERE HERE (Released in 1975)
With the exception of Dark Side of the Moon, every Floyd record from the Roger Waters/David Gilmour era has been my favorite at one time or another. For those of you unfamiliar with Pink Floyd, start at the intersection of Pop and Blues and continue until you reach Rock & Roll. Once you get there turn left on Prog and stop almost immediately. You’ll know you’ve gone too far if you arrive at the Yes house and see Rick Wakeman trying to mow the lawn in roller skates and a cape.
Turn around, you’ve gone too far
WYWH is the follow up album to Dark Side of the Moon, the album that rocketed Floyd into stardom and immense wealth. Roughly three years of touring filled the gap between studio time, and the pressure to live up to DSotM was immense. In some ways it was the other side of the coin the Stones had in 1968. PInk Floyd’s genius was the same as the Stones. Less is more, keep it simple. WYWH is the rare marriage of massive creativity and strict taste. David Gilmour’s solo work from the first Crazy Diamond to the last is the culmination of all of man’s strivings. Every note is deliberate, and no note goes to waste. He’s Ernest Hemingway with a guitar.
Richard Wright laid a solid foundation on his synth for Gilmour to build on, and while music today is far from short on synths, Wright brought an unmatched sense of grace to the table and was a master of not using too much paint on the canvas, all at once demanding the listener’s imagination and allowing it to roam free. The overall atmosphere of the album allows for a handcrafted feel that is lost in most ventures into electronic music. Nothing about WYWH makes you think the band had to complete a degree from ITT Tech before they were able to write it.
Words like “texture” and “atmosphere” get thrown around a lot these days, but there is a substantial difference between what Floyd was able to achieve numerous times in the studio (most notably in WYWH), and what is being released and played on radio today. In order to illustrate this point I have provided you, dear reader, with a pie chart that shows how today’s young musicians budget their time to achieve the texture and atmosphere they seek.
The simple, dark colors of the album allow the themes of loss, mourning, and nostalgia to shine through. Syd Barrett had been long out of the band, and was losing his grip on reality (it’s rumored that he arrived at the studio while they were working on it and they were unable to recognize him for several minutes). It was a painful time for the band, as they were coming to grips with the deterioration of an old friend, worn out from three years on the road, and trying to measure up to the high expectations of a new fan base. Boy did they deliver.
Give ‘er a spin and focus on how big the ideas are, and how well the band controlled them. Thoreau once said something about building castles in clouds, that’s exactly where they should be, you just have to build the foundations under them. WYWH delivers the same moral, but if this is your first time hearing it you should expect to go through an experience so profoundly life altering that cognitive thought is not within your capabilities for some time. Heavy machinery should not be operated with 4 hours of listening.
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Greetings Music Lovers,
It’s that time again, when I get the pleasure of summing up my favorite musical moments of the year. I just wanted to take a moment to thank CKTK for letting me voice my opinions! In this same moment I thought I would take the time to explain where I’m coming from. My name is Christopher Friesen, and I’m a musician and producer from Portland Oregon. You can find out more about me at my website (linked above.)
There are a few resources I thought I would share so that you could find your own favorites from the year. The main source I use to discover music is AllMusic. They release “editor’s choice” listings every month of outstanding records in each genre. With that website alone it’s easy way to stay up to date with new releases. Another great method that is well known is Pandora. All Music and Pandora both rely on a system of ratings. Both will “learn” your tastes, and the more you rate, the better your recommendations will be.
Now, about this list in particular. I didn’t try to stay within any particular genre, but as I listed the albums I wanted to cover, they all ended up as “experimental.” To me, that term is more of an approach than a genre. Just be aware that I’m a bit scatter-brained, and this list covers just as much of the spectrum.
As a side note, I chose not to mention particular tracks, and the reason being that I wanted to feature albums, not songs. These recordings deserve to be listened to as whole pieces, which might be rough for listeners accustomed to the $0.99 era of music.
I’ve gotta say, I super glad the world didn’t end with the Mayan calendar. If it had we wouldn’t have heard AMOK by Atoms for Peace. The super group dropped the record on Feb. 25th. I think the best way to describe the vibe is experimental rock. It’s heavy with grit from synths, and odd percussions. The guitars and vocals tend to glide over the top of all the glitchiness with simpler motifs creating a very smooth ride. Speaking of vocals, Thom’s enunciations are clearer than ever. It features moments of expansive reverb and über wide stereo imaging to create an expansive room for the listener to float in.
As far as songwriting goes, it was very well crafted. Taking a riff, and changing the harmonic rhythm to generate new sections of tunes seems to be a commonly used tool. As a whole the record seems to be centered on textures more than clarity of the form. It can tend to leave you wondering things like, was that a bridge, was that processed, what rhythm was that? At just under forty-five minutes of music, I felt like there was never a weak point in the album. There are enough variations to create a constantly morphing curve throughout the entirety that keep listeners from feeling like they’ve heard that song before. Yet there isn’t so much to disorient the soul of the record.
Just for an idea of how the group came to be, it formed as the band to perform Yorke’s The Eraser, and over time and three days of jam sessions AMOK came into being. Yorke brought Radiohead’s engineer Godrich, Flea from RHCP as a bassist, Waronker to play drums from REM, and Refosco as a percussionist from Forro in the Dark. It really does feel like another Yorke record despite the eclectic line up.
Three singles were unveiled over the span of seven months prior to the official release. The album was very well received, ringing the bell at the top of the billboard charts for Electronic, Independent, Modern Rock, and Rock albums.
“One of the things we were most excited about was ending up with a record where you weren’t quite sure where the human starts and the machine ends.” – Thom Yorke
Trentemøller’s Lost is the second record I’ll be reviewing, which came out September 24th. To be honest I haven’t been a Trentemøller fan for long. It was just this year that I fell in love with his debut The Last Resort, and what a pleasant surprise it was to hear how he had grown over the past seven years. Again, the best way I can describe this record is experimental techno, blending elements of acoustic folk and indie rock with his natural gift of glitched out house soundscapes. Any die-hard fan is definitely going to think they put in a different record when the album starts with its vocal heavy melancholy tune.
Don’t get me wrong, the album gets dark and grimy with tunes like Trails and Morphine, but this record does seem to feature songwriting more than previous releases. It not only features more vocals, but puts them at the center of attention. His use of vocals is very reminisant of the french band AIR. As a listener of modern jazz, I found it interesting that Anders Christensen was the bassist for the album. The K. Rosenwinkle fans out there will probably recognize his name. In that sense it really is a genre-blending treat from the Danish producer. Another interested side note is that Trentemøller is the sole composer of only 5/12 of the album, which implies more group writing than ever.
The album was revieled live while opening for Depeche Mode, which was one of Trentemøller’s favorite groups in his pre-teen years. To be honest, I’m a little concerned how the music would translate live. It can be so ambient at times that some of it might need to be omitted or re-written to keep the audience awake. I’m a huge fan of mood music, and Lost is very moody at times. My best advice with this album is to let go, don’t be afriad of the emptiness presented at times. There has to be tension for a resolution to be effective. If there is one thing Trentemøller is great with, its builds and drops, be patient and let him take you on the journey.
“… but for me, it could be the beautiful thing about being lost in the music, or lost in love you know, cause that is a great thing sometimes is to loose your self control and give in…” – Anders Trentemøller
P.S. Don’t forget to listen to the entire thirteen minutes of Hazed, (there is a hidden track.) At first I thought my computer had slipped over to my Erik Satie collection.
The next record we’ll look at is Kneebody’s The Line. The textures in this album are perfect for the vibe the quintet has been developing. They’ve been writing as a unit for twelve years now, and unveiled their fourth studio record on September 24th. It’s an all-instrumental recording of pop, rock, electronic, and funk genres heavily influenced by the improvised technique so prevalent in jazz music. They operate with a system of musical cues that any member can trigger to change key, meter, or section of the tune. The result is modern avant-garde songs with awe-full high energy soloing. All the members are extremely proficient with their instruments and comfortable with the ambiguous forms leading the listener to settle into dissonance that would typically be off-setting.
The band has really mastered the use of effects. Ring modulation is a tricky one to be musical with, and they’ve tackled it. The types of spaces they create for their music with delay and reverb is very tasteful as well. Great examples of volume swells, distortion and fuzz can be found throughout the album. The utilization of effects is very broad, from subtle to in your face!
With all of the odd meters, rhythms, timbres, and harmonies the listener can constantly be surprised with moments of “ah ha, I never would have thought of that.” As a whole the record is well balanced between intense up-tempo, and ballade-esque relaxed moments. The compositions are strong, that being said, the conversation between the musicians is a main focal point for the record. The horn players are amazing, but the rhythm section steals the show with rhodes, bass, and drums being the core of the ensemble’s sound. Then again, I’m a bassist…
I got the pleasure of seeing them live a few months back at the end of the album release tour. I would highly recommend seeing them live if you get the chance. This album is great, but live is a completely different level of performance.
Go into this one with an open mind, and I’m sure you’ll be inspired.
John Zorn has never been an artist for the faint of heart. Just thought I would put that out there as fair warning. We’re stepping further out with Dreamachines than any of the previous records mentioned. This album is an alchemical concoction of free, avant-garde, conceptually composed aural genius (or madness!) John Zorn’s role is the composer/conductor of this ensemble built upon upright bass, drum set, vibes and piano. There seems to be very little effects used on this acoustic music. A few moments where the vibes felt like they were processed through an LFO, but it’s very subtle.
Now, about the music itself, I find this one in particular difficult to put into words. This might be due to the fact that Zorn’s work is very new to me, and it relies so much upon elaborate conceptual composition. As a result, a lot of this review is going to be stated from the first person, rather than the third.
In comparison to other Zorn records where the music is jolted between genres this is varied, yet maintains the consistent vibe necessary to build a concept album. The shape as a whole has a very nice flow. I wouldn’t dare call myself a connoisseur of free music, but I will step out on the limb and say that I felt the free moments are well executed. It moves in and out of free improvisation with enough “taste” that I don’t loose interest. It never seems like the musicians are stepping all over each other, rather, the space is respected.
The feelings it inspires have moments of release where the chaos dissolves into modalities that resemble the Middle East with instruments associated with the West. One of my favorite techniques in this album is when an arpeggiated line is repeated over shifting harmony. It reminds me of meditation, when one is heavily rooted, yet soars to places unknown.
I think this record stood out for me because it’s a guide into the unknown. I would encourage listeners to give it a chance, more importantly listen to it a few times and see if it can be digested.
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this collection of experimental music. To sum all this up, I hope you can take a square and pull on the corners till you have a circle.
Peace & Truth,
Filed under: 2000s, guest spot, music videos, Year In Review | 1 Comment
Tags: 2013, Atoms for Peace, Best of, Experimental, John Zorn, Kneebody, Music, Trentemoller
You’ve heard from Tk, now it’s time for my top ten albums of 2013. Over the past few years, our tastes have diverged in a yellow wood, and that has made all the difference. This year, our lists share a stunning zero albums – and not on purpose! I suppose you’ll have to head to Spotify to listen to all 21 albums and rank them together in one mega-list. If you do, please let us know what you came up with! We’d love to see your opinions (including your own favorites from the year) in the comments.
Before I start my list, a note about one of my all-time favorite bands:
Five Iron Frenzy – Engine of a Million Plots
Whenever I think about reviewing anything, one rule I live by is this: I don’t review nostalgia. There’s no way to pretend to be objective about it. And yes, I suppose the point of a review is to hear someone’s subjective opinion, but I feel as if I’m reviewing it from a different place when it’s something that was especially important to me as a child or adolescent. I was devastated when FIF hung it up ten years ago, elated when they reunited and started recording again in 2011, and bought tickets to their show in Seattle within the hour they went on sale. Five Iron Frenzy occupies a completely different space in my mind than any other band.
I do love this album. In fact, I probably enjoyed it enough to put it in the top five this year. But because Five Iron is such an important band to me personally for a lot of reasons, it doesn’t work in my mind to try to put it alongside the rest of the year’s new releases. So I’ll just say this: Engine of a Million Plots stands strong alongside the rest of their discography. If you haven’t heard Five Iron before, this isn’t a bad place to start. And if you haven’t heard them since 2003, this isn’t a bad place to re-start.
MUST HEAR: “So Far,” “The Zen and Art of Xenophobia,” “I’ve Seen the Sun”
…on to the top 10!
10) Sigur Ros – Kveikur
If 2008’s með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust was their “pop” record, Kveikur is Sigur Ros’ “rock” album. I realize this is a relative term when talking about the Icelandic crew’s output, but Kveikur is aggressive. At the same time, the record doesn’t leave behind the beauty that Sigur Ros is known for – tracks like “Stormur” and “Var” shine. If this is what they’re capable of as a three-piece, then I’m very much looking forward to hearing more from the trio.
MUST HEAR: “Isjaki,” “Brennisteinn,” “Kveikur”
9) Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob
With each album, Tegan and Sara just get better and better. They tweak their sound bit by bit, experimenting just enough without making the kind of 180-degree turn that would give their fans whiplash. The twins still weave their vocal harmonies into Heartthrob, one of the best, catchiest records to sing along to this year; it was stuck in my car stereo for at least a good month after its release. This synthpop-infused record is a great little niche-filler; there has to be a place in everyone’s record collection for this one.
MUST HEAR: “I Was a Fool,” “Goodbye, Goodbye,” “Closer”
8) Fall Out Boy – Save Rock and Roll
After a five-year hiatus, Fall Out Boy blasted back in 2013 with the most Fall Out Boy record imaginable. Everything you’ve loved on their previous pop-emo-punk records is back with a vengeance: Patrick Stump’s vocals, catchier-than-hell hooks, semi-discernible lyrics, and their unique, bombastic, fist-pumping hipster-doofus attitude. I’m a sucker for bands finding their niche and knocking it further out of the park than previously thought imaginable, and FOB is the best there is at what they do.
MUST HEAR: “The Phoenix,” “Alone Together,” “Young Volcanoes”
7) Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Like it or not, Daft Punk was everywhere this summer. Their promotional blasts for Random Access Memories raised hype to an almost-unattainable level, and “Get Lucky” stood alongside Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” as the songs of the season. When the leaves started turning colors, though, the album as a whole took on new meaning. Daft Punk has a reputation for making robotic dance music with a soul, and this sounds more like Earth Wind and Fire than Kraftwerk. It opens up on repeated listens, which is not something people say about Pitbull’s Global Warming or other brainless dance records (not that I don’t love a good brainless dance record, but you get the point). Some of the less-danceable tracks (“Game of Love,” “Touch”) serve as centerpieces of the album, and they stick in your mindgrapes just as well as Daft Punk’s classics like “Digital Love” or “Robot Rock”.
MUST HEAR: “Get Lucky,” “Doin’ It Right,” “Give Life Back to Music”
6) Sleigh Bells – Bitter Rivals
If you wanted to ROCK in 2013, there was no better way to do it than jamming out to a band who regularly performs with an entire wall of amps behind them. Besides just being loud, though, Sleigh Bells brought their unique brand of melodic, crunchy guitar rock to a new level this year. They’re steadily improving with each album, and this time, they’re mixing in some acoustics and synths with their punishing brand of volume-based rock and roll. This took the title of “best driving music” for me this year; there’s nothing like blasting Bitter Rivals and yelling along with Alexis Krauss as strangers look on with jealousy at each red light.
MUST HEAR: “Bitter Rivals,” “Young Legends,” “Sing Like a Wire”
5) The National – Trouble Will Find Me
I fell in love with The National when their 2007 record Boxer came into my radio station. High Violet was very good, but it was a totally different record. Did I like what The National was becoming in 2010? I wasn’t sure. Sure, I liked that record, but at times, it seemed too “big” for what I thought The National should be. Imagine my joy, then, when listening to Trouble Will Find Me the first time. Perhaps The National’s most intimate album, many of these songs almost sound like companions to Boxer’s “Green Gloves” or “Start a War”. As usual, Matt Berninger’s voice drives the band (and rightfully so), and he sounds smoother than ever as he croons his way through an album that feels like it’s always been part of the collective unconscious.
MUST HEAR: “Pink Rabbits,” “I Should Live in Salt,” “Don’t Swallow The Cap”
4) Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady
Through her career thus far, Janelle Monae has weaved a world full of beauty, androids, and Armageddon. From the opening overture through the last seconds of stellar album-closer “What An Experience,” it’s clear that “The Electric Lady” is the most full realization of her vision for what music should be. The music here is great, but I confess that it doesn’t rank higher for one reason: I hate skits, and “The Electric Lady” drags us back out of its sonic bliss with three awful skip tracks that break our suspension of disbelief for no apparent reason except to advance her sci-fi narrative. Between those, though, Monae effortlessly voyages through R&B, rap, and pop, with a little help from her famous friends (Prince, Erykah Badu, Miguel, etc).
MUST HEAR: “Electric Lady,” “Dance Apocalyptic,” “What An Experience”
3) Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
Back in 2010, I wrote: “An improvement over their self-titled debut in almost every way, Contra is that rare sophomore record that makes you excited for album #3 after just one listen.” Well, now we have album #3, and what an album it is. I’m not sure that it’s better than Contra, but it’s one of those that begs to be heard all the way through when the opening chords of “Obvious Bicycle” kick in. The energy is still there, but it’s more muted than either of their previous records. Part of that might be “maturity” (usually code for “a boring record,” but not here), and part of that might be Ezra Koenig coming into his own as a frontman and singer. Song of the year candidate “Step” is perhaps the purest distillation of Vampire Weekend’s ethos thus far, musically and lyrically, and several other tracks aren’t far behind.
MUST HEAR: “Step,” “Diane Young,” “Ya Hey”
2) Grouplove – Spreading Rumours
I’ve said it before, but it’s still true: Grouplove just seems to be having more fun than almost any other band out there. It shines through on almost every track of their stellar new record, Spreading Rumours. There are a couple spots that drag in the middle of the album (especially the chorus of “Hippy Hill,”) but so many of the songs are so good, I can imagine Grouplove carving their way onto rock and alternative radio through all of 2014. There are at least seven songs here that would be great singles. Indeed, this is the best song-based record of the year.
MUST HEAR: “Ways to Go,” “Shark Attack,” “Borderlines and Aliens”
1) Typhoon – White Lighter
While most of my list is full of known quantities, this year was the first time I had heard Portland’s Typhoon, and I’m glad I did. I’m always excited when I see more than three or four musicians on a stage, and the 11 (!) members of Typhoon do not disappoint. This is definitely the band I’m most excited about heading into 2014. Ultimately, no matter how many great individual songs are out there (and I contribute to the single-based economy as much as anyone), my top album spot usually goes to a record that stands as a full album, and White Lighter fits the bill better than any other this year.
From their literary lyrics to the sheer number of instruments used on the record, Typhoon has made an album worth sinking your teeth into. It stands strong on the first listen, and gets better and better on repeat. At times both anthemic and intimate, the songs on White Lighter ride rollercoaster waves of emotion through questions of the universe, life, love, families, home, and starting over. Turn on this record, and let it carry you away through the new year.
MUST HEAR: “Dreams of Cannibalism,” “Young Fathers,” “Hunger and Thirst”
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Tags: 2013, daft punk, earth wind and fire, erykah badu, ezra koenig, fall out boy, five iron frenzy, grouplove, janelle monae, kraftwerk, matt berninger, miguel, national, patrick stump, pitbull, prince, robin thicke, sigur ros, sleigh bells, tegan and sara, typhoon, vampire weekend
Thanks to the friendly beast known to many as “Spotify” (and known to me as “that friendly beast known to many as Spotify”), I listened to a lot of music in 2013. Hundreds of albums later, I am proud to present my 10 favorites below.
My goal this year is simply to share some great music with great people (I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt here, Mr. Stumbled Into This Blog by Searching on Google for “Buttered Toast”). So, please, please, if there’s only 2 things you do tonight (one of which will be eating buttered toast), click on these videos below and listen to some great tunes.
10. Volcano Choir – Repave: Things that Justin Vernon touches do not turn into gold. They already are gold due to the mere anticipation of the possibility that Justin Vernon may touch them at some point in time. Volcano Choir is Bon Iver x 1.5. If you study math (or Bon Iver) then you know what that means.
9. Julianna Barwick: Nepenthe: I get tired of music somewhat quickly. For this reason, no artist has made my Top 10 more than once since I started these lists in 2006 (unless you lump together Bon Iver and Volcano Choir as “Justin Vernon”). Julianna Barwick has exploded this trend and taken a beautiful musical step forward with her latest angelic choral work. Some darker moments, some Sigur Ros moments (recorded by Jonsi’s boyfriend, Alex Somers), and plenty of gorgeous, soul-filling moments.
8. La Vida Boheme – Sera: La Vida Boheme are from Venezuela and may just be the most exciting rock and roll band from South of the Border (which basically means that they give Cafe Tacvba a run for their money). Fresh and unpredictable with some punk, disco, 70s, and 80s touches.
7. Bryan Ferry Orchestra – The Jazz Age: What’s so striking about Bryan Ferry’s latest album, in which he rerecords his songs in a 1920s jazz style, is just how natural it feels. What could have felt gimmicky or forced is fun, easy, and memorable.
6. Josephine Foster – I’m a Dreamer: If someone described to me what Josephine Foster sounds like, I’d probably be less likely to listen to her than without any description. So, I will simply say that she makes a unique brand of old-fashioned music that gets better with every listen.
5. Haim – Days are Gone: This pick holds a special place in my heart. My friend, Matt Salmons, and I followed Haim’s local Los Angeles career religiously back in early 2010. In January of that year, we happened upon them at The Echo, opening for Olin & The Moon. They blew us away, and we couldn’t stop singing their songs, even though we’d only heard them once. We saw them again in February at the tiny Silverlake Lounge. I am ecstatic that they have grown their fan base and even more ecstatic that they have released an undeniable catchy power pop album full of syncopated bliss.
4. Young Fathers – Tape Two: Nigerian / Scottish alternative hip-hop with an inspiring mix of both spoken and sung verse. An overlooked 2013 release that deserves some healthy attention.
3. Laura Mvula – Sing to the Moon: From the powerful opening note, followed by a triumphant layering of vocals, it is apparent that Mvula is a force to be reckoned with. In her confident debut, she delivers genre-defying tracks that you and your little sister and your Dad and your Grandma and your Great Grandpa can all agree upon. Her versatile, jazz-trained voice remains front and center throughout the album, but the varied instrumentation helps keep things interesting.
2. Pet Shop Boys – Electric: This English duo are known for their pop contributions to the 1980s. In what is perhaps the best album of their 32 year career, they do exactly what you’d want from a band in this position: they capture all the elements that made them popular ‘back then’ with the artful, quirky synthpop sound, but update it appropriately for a modern audience. The goofy name doesn’t help their cause but I would argue that these 60 year old dudes have rendered themselves relevant once again.
1. Nils Frahm – Spaces: This release from German composer Nils Frahm has been out for less than a month, but it’s probably the album I’ve listened to the most from the entire year. The stand-out track, “Says,” is my Song of the Year and it is surrounded by ambient, piano and synth-driven works. At times, he sounds like the next great classical pianist. At other times, he sounds like an artsy avant-garde enigma. He is, of course, both. Filled with live recordings, Spaces is marked by both intimacy and immediacy. You can hear the heartbeat of each and every song as they whisk you away to worlds of meaning, beauty, and hope.
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Tags: bon iver, bryan ferry orchestra, buttered toast, cafe tacvba, haim, josephine foster, julianna barwick, la vida boheme, laura mvula, matt salmons, nils frahm, pet shop boys, spotify, volcano choir, young fathers
2013 in music can be noted for being a year of transitions. Growing less relevant was indie-folk in the vein of Mumford & Sons to make way for a batch of mature, old-fashioned folk artists, such as Laura Marling, Martin Simpson, and Josephine Foster. Meanwhile, four-to-the-floor electronic music has yielded to EDM that borrows from other genres (Avicii) and real instruments (Daft Punk). Even Arcade Fire got interested in the dancey-with-real-instruments thing on “Reflektor.”
My list below can be noted for its short and sweaty quality. This year includes a simple combination of Favorite Song + 10 Honorable Mention albums, and that’s the short part. This year also includes music that if you turn upside down and squint hard enough, you may just see a sweaty glisten radiating from its pores. And that’s the sweaty part.
Song of the Year
Nils Frahm’s album, “Spaces,” came out in November, so I’ve only had about a month to chew on it. And boy, have I been chewing. The stand-out track and my song of the year is called “Says.” The song is long (8:18 to be exact) and repetitive. Its melody travels in waves through the listener’s ears, taking us to a different sonic world (is it underwater? Outer space?) Don’t miss the underwater spaceship taking off to embark upon an important mission from 5:30 to the end.
10 Honorable Mention Albums
Autre Ne Veut – Anxiety: Is this the beginning of a gringo indie R & B phenomenon? Perhaps. Autre Ne Veut resides in Brookyln and creates textured, impassioned music with an 80s sensibility. The only thing keeping it from my Top 10 is too many peaks and not enough valleys.
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City: One of the joys of following music in the last 10 years is the realization that Vampire Weekend are not some flash in the pan indie group like, say, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! These boys grew up listening to all of the greats and it reflects in their ever-maturing, always-fresh sound. A joyful listen not to be missed!
Monoswezi – The Village: A Norwegian jazz group collaborates with Hope Mazike from Mozambique and the results are splendid.
Tegan & Sara – Heartthrob: Tegan & Sara have found their niche with early 90s synth-pop ear candy. There biggest liability as a band right now (and this is totally unfair to say) is that they are not Haim.
Guy Clark: My Favorite Picture of You: Raw Texas folk. Fans of Johnny Cash’s later works will probably love this album. It is hard to overlook the heart and craftsmanship in these songs.
Kanye West – Yeezus: I will not write about Kanye West’s offensive arrogance. I will not write about Kanye West’s offensive arrogance. A fiery, spastic, and fun album. A big and bold artistic statement that will change the landscape of rap music.
Forest Swords – Engravings: A subtle, experimental dub album from Liverpool’s Matthew Barnes. Deserving of multiple listens.
Arcade Fire – Reflecktor: This is not Arcade Fire’s niche. This is not their musical strongsuit. But it’s great. A not-entirely-unexpected-foray into dance, reggae, and even psychodelic is coupled with one of the better marketing campaings in recent memory. In the end, it works as a satisfying listen that progresses the careers of this Canadian troop.
James Blake – Overgrown: Blake’s new release is lush (relatively speaking) and expansive at times, but also has the intimate moments that he captures so well. He is still dabbling with where gringo R & B (there it is again) meets post-dubstep and has Brian Eno’s help to figure it out.
Martin Simpson – Vagrant Stanzas: English folk music from Simpson that takes cues from American and Irish folk music. While this is a 2013 release, it could have been 1957 or 1981. It is refreshingly not timely.
Watch for CK’s Not-Top-Tens soon, followed by Tk’s Top Ten of 2013.
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Tags: arcade fire, autre ne veut, avicii, brian eno, daft punk, forest swords, guy clark, haim, james blake, johnny cash, josephine foster, kanye west, laura marling, martin simpson, monoswezi, mumford & sons, nils frahm, robert pattinson, short, sweaty, tegan & sara, vampire weekend
Can you choose the 5 albums that define your life?
I have attempted to do just that. Bear in mind, these are not necessarily my 5 favorite albums (although a few are in the running). These are the albums that define different stages of my life through their personal impact or a just-the-right-album-at-the-right-time quality. Together, they offer a concise musical glimpse at my soul. What are yours? -Tk
THE BEACH BOYS – PET SOUNDS
The Beach Boys were the first band that I loved. I popped their live album into my Walkman on a family road trip to California in 1994 and found myself falling in love with pop and rock and harmonies in one sitting. This album stands for my childhood: simple, sunny, harmonious, drenched in nostalgia.
FIVE IRON FRENZY – QUANTITY IS JOB ONE
If the Beach Boys define my childhood, Five Iron Frenzy define my early adolescence. From age 10 – 14, I listened to nothing but Christian rock. Of all the Christian rock bands, this group was my favorite due to their zany sense of humor, blistering ska sound, and a lead singer who told me it was okay to be weird. This album, while technically an EP, stands out to me because it features some of the band’s better songs alongside, quite naturally, a song cycle about pants.
TAKING BACK SUNDAY – TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS
By the time I got to high school, I was intrigued by secular rock music. blink 182 were the first secular rock band that I got excited about, but Taking Back Sunday had the most impact. I saw them live multiple times during these years and listened to this album on repeat. When I borrowed my first car (which did not have a CD player), I placed a battery-powered Boombox in the back seat and turned “Tell All Your Friends” up loud. It was precisely what I wanted in music at the time: emotional, dark, alternative, and full of fist-pumping climaxes.
SIGUR ROS – ( )
Us high-schoolers had to grow out of emo at some point. Sigur Ros made it easy. The summer before starting college, I discovered the vast, gorgeous sounds of this Icelandic band and did not look back. This album hit me so hard that I felt compelled to light candles, lie on the floor, and listen to it when my roommate would leave town for the weekend. Its pensive and hopeful mood met me where I was at in life and it was my hands-down favorite at the time.
THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH – THE WILD HUNT
After college, I surprised myself by moving to Los Angeles. “It’s just so crazy it might work.” Well, it did work and I am still living in this beast of a city. My time here has felt like an entirely new chapter of life with new sights, new jobs, and new friends. It has been a time of independence, exploration, and feeling more comfortable in my own skin than ever before. My favorite album of this time also happens to be defined by themes of independence and exploration and also happens to be very comfortable in its own skin. It comes from my current favorite artist, The Tallest Man on Earth and has been a near-constant presence in my life since the day it was released.
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Tags: beach boys, five iron frenzy, my life in 5 albums, sigur ros, taking back sunday, tallest man on earth
hay wuz rolling sukerz? g-ferbalizhus 2012
i herd 3 songz lazt year. we plyd them at a barmits fuh for pampers. then we had a paper contezt
#theZe ar the best sonx of2012 U better hold on 2 sumthieng nice
#3 2012: We are taking the Bentley
this tun is great for partease and if yu lik to steele carz
#2 julgne book remix
u now when you want to shake urself in a club but there clozedddddd? just pley this song
#1 Well smith: gettin jiggy wit this
you feel jiggy wen this plays. diet pedro will only lis5en to this song aftr he drinkss jamba jooce
peece foolz. c u in 2013
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Greetings fellow adventurers in the realms of organized sounds. My name is Christopher Friesen (aka NuGaia), and I’m here to reveal my perspective on the most interesting releases of this year. Before I start referring you to these alien artists, I would like to tell you a bit about myself. I’m a twenty-something male out of Portland, OR; composer, musician, spiritualist with far reaching roots into Reggae, Modern Jazz, IDM, Ambient, Soul, Afro-Cuban bass playing. If you would like to learn more about me or hear my music, here is my website:
Also, if hit me up via my site’s e-mail, I’ll make sure you have a source for the music I review.
Without further delay, I want to share some music with you. I requested to do reviews for experimental music, partially because that lets me do anything, hehe, it’s all an experiment. These are not in order of most impressive, or anything of that nature, rather I tried to move through the Elements, starting with Fire, Earth, Wind then Water. Genre blending, sound design and time contorting; here we go:
Donny McCaslin – Casting for Gravity (Green Leaf Music)
This record is fantastic, my first experience with Donny, tenor sax player. From what I’ve come to understand this was quite the adventure for him as a leader pulling on influences such as Aphex Twin. The compositions are mature, and amazingly executed by the band. Hints of dub in the harmonized bass lines, and pads with familiar LFO and filter twiddling. It’s like if Joshua Redman Elastic Band and The Mars Volta had a instrumental love child. Although there are dynamic moments in the album, this is by far the most intense record of my bunch, not a lullaby by any means.
Black Radio – Robert Glasper Experiment (Blue Note)
This is a record of a bunch of jazz trained cats playing soul tunes, with a hint of modern effects. Harmonized sax solos, vocoders drenched in delay, and loads of Rhodes. A busy ensemble (technically), but they have the ears to never step on anyone’s toes. Robert has put together a fantastic band, which backs up a number of vocalists. I’d have to say my favorite track is Erykah Badu doing Afro Blue. This is a currently touring act, so don’t miss them. I got to open up for them in Portland with The Wishermen, and their live show was incredible. The way the passed around solos was really inspiring, letting individuals develop solo concepts as these elaborate segways between tunes.
Yes it Will [Strata EP]– Rafiq Bhatia (Rest Assured / Spectral Voice Recordings)
This ensemble is currently one of my favorites. Rafiq Bhatia is the guitarist and composer for the ensemble with roots in modern jazz. There’s a hint of 21st century minimalist classical influences creeping through repetitive licks with changing roots moving underneath in a Steve Reich fashion. A great example of how a band can use effects to augment the space in which the band is playing rather than the instruments themselves. A few moments of filters changing the timbres of instruments, although most of it is dry. A creative use of vocals give a very eerie feel to Open Spaces.
Another device Rafiq uses is the ability to record the same solo over itself. It’s like a hype man that gives emphasis to certain phrases. The flip side of that coin is moments where he’ll layer multiple solos over each other to build this chaotic form of forward momentum. There is a moment in Endogenous Oscillators where the band breaks into this free feeling textural sound scape and gradually boil back into time. The album is a great purchase, and the ep has one track in particular that I was drawn to, Sunshower. The compositions are extremely inspiring with a perfect blend of ups and downs.
Live – Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin (ECM)
This album is a rare treat. It’s not very often you get to see a groups development at this point in the path etched into a cd. All but the last of the tracks feature the bassist Björn who is an original member (of ten years), and then the last track is with the replacement (Thomy Jordi). The line up is six years old, and you can hear the intimate chemistry play throughout the two discs. Another quirk about the music is that Nik (from Switzerland) numbers his compositions, so you can see how new a concept is.
As for the musical observations, the genre tends to be described as Zen-Funk. The eastern mindset is noticeable in the name of the ensemble. They tastefully use dissonance to support melodies I can only describe as yearning. Consisting of minimalistic motifs as drones, twisting perceptions of time, wide dynamics, layers of retrogrades, all presented in incredibly tight grooves. They are architects, engineers of sonic landscapes for a listener to be guided through. It’s like geo-caching in the astral plane with musical maps.
Being a fan of the group for five years, this is the first live record I’ve heard. It is great to compare the studio recordings to how they allow the beast to mutate in the moment. This isn’t a single show either, so you can hear the reliability across the span of continents and years. (Tokyo, Amsterdam, Wien, Lorrach, Liepzig, Mannheim, Gateshead and Salzau, between 2009 and 2011) The last attribute I’d like to mention is that this is an acoustic ensemble; they reach these extrinsic sensations without processing the instruments. Final statement, go see them! I got to meet them in 2008, and exchanged a few emails with Nik. Really gentle giants (musically that is).
Well, that is what I have for you, music to soothe and heal. I hope you find these recordings to be as inspiring for you as they continue to be for me. Thanks for spending your time to uncover new music. Also, I would like to take a moment to thank the boys back at CKTK for allowing me to step in a talk about music. Artists are in need of support, and the world is in need of art. Keep the circle going.
Peace & Blessings
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