WE’RE ALIVE! by Matt
If you’re reading this post it means one of two things, either the Mayan prophecies were flat out wrong, or they simply didn’t anticipate that my contribution to CKTK’s Top 10-A-Palooza would save all mankind. As with any near-death experience, 2012 has moved us to reflect. We gaze deeply into ourselves… and by that I mean the bathroom mirror. Just before making a kissy-face, and before snapping that hot new profile pic, we contemplate the good, the bad, the ugly, the sad, the weird, the informative, and the downright awesome of the past 366 days. For some reason, we almost can’t help but to consider the past.
Now, here’s where we have a choice. We can take this newly rediscovered information and simply flush it down the John with the rest of our processed morning coffee…
We can compare everything to everything else by putting it all in numerical order, then proceed to post our selfish observations online for the world to see, examine, and disagree with. This is the route I take; and coincidently, I was the 6-year-old kid who felt the need to let everyone know that my dad was stronger than their’s (he was). As I’ve gotten older, and more mature, I’ve made zero progress, and still tend to analyze, rank, and share utterly biased information. Hence:
Matt’s Top 10 Albums of 2K12
(my list is better than yours)
10. Spirituralized- Sweet Heart Sweet Light
Last year, band leader Jason Pierce told Pitchfork that, “If I’m going to make new music now, it better be fucking good.” Soon after, he released an album that’s fucking great. Well played, Pierce. Although Sweet Heart Sweet Light has been tough for me pin down to a definite position in my list (it hovered around #6 for a while, and even climbed as high as #3 for a very short time), there’s no doubt that it belongs here somewhere. With enormous arrangements containing orchestral strings and choirs enveloping a classic-rock foundation, Spiritualized practically creates it’s own genre. The only issue I’ve got with this one is the artwork- Huh? I understand that it’s a roundabout allusion to the fact that Pierce mixed the majority of the album while existing in a doctor-prescribed, drug-induced fog, but it doesn’t seem to be an at-all accurate representation of the music. Now this is the guy who once stated that he “takes drugs to make music to take drugs to.” So really, the only difference this time is that he made music while living with a completely non-functioning liver. Good on ya, mate.
9. Chromatics- Kill for Love
The Chromatics have been through a lot. Formed in Portland, OR in 2001, only a single original member remains. With folks consistently coming and going, it’s no surprise that their sound has evolved over the years. I can only hope that the present line-up is here to stay, because Kill for Love is outstanding. Lead singer Ruth Radalet will instantly catch your attention with her cryptic vocals, while a bubbling rhythm section lays down an equally engrossing foundation. This 17-track, monster of an album is downright hypnotizing. Usually, I can’t comprehend a record with more than about 11 songs, but this one stands as a clear exception. It flows effortlessly from one track to the next, ebbing and flowing, making it possible to not be overwhelmed with it’s sheer size. If you’ve got the time, listen to Kill for Love in it’s entirety. If you’re the impatient type, do it anyway; you might learn something.
8. Tallest Man On Earth- There’s No Leaving Now
Kristian Matsson has done it again folks. His third full-length album under the “Tallest Man” moniker is, not surprisingly, incredible. He’s picked up right where he left off. And in fact, it seems like his entire discography is proof that he’s on a real-life musical journey, and he’s gracious enough to share his progress with us. For the first time, Tallest Man has made use of multi-tracking by layering guitars, strings, and drums, adding an overall fullness to the mix. He still manages to maintain his now-classic ragged emotion though. That said, he’s found his middle ground, releasing a collection of thoughtful, appealing folk songs that are more mature and balanced than what we’ve heard in the past.
7. Leonard Cohen- Old Ideas
Now here’s something unexpected: With Old Ideas,Leonard Cohen has possibly given the best vocal performance I’ve ever heard, by ANYONE… EVER. At age 77, his infamous baritone crooning is especially grumbling, leaving his mouth like boulders- and brace yourself, they’re on a crash course to your heart. Imagine how someone might sound if they’re on the verge of crying, or if the person you are closest to in life is whispering something into your ear that is meant only for you. It’s impossible NOT to believe every word.
After a 20 year-long drum machine craze (which I thought lasted about 20 years too long), Cohen has finally reverted back to the real thing. Tasteful, female background vocals nicely balance his dark tone, while sparse instrumentation fills in the gaps. Whether you’re a die-hard Cohen fan or not, this album is a true gem.
6. Ava Luna- Ice Level
What if the Dirty Projectors decided to get funky? Well, they’d be Ava Luna, of course. Ice Level boasts post-punk grooves, with indie-style detachment and soulful harmonies. This makes for an insane blend that defies all odds, and is somehow congruent. I’m a big fan of genre-defying, creative music and this album is a prime example. Tension makes for great art, and with that in mind, Ice Level will surprise you, excite you, and leave you with a smile.
5. DIIV- Oshin
It’s hot. The air is thick. The world around you is melting into a goopy puddle at your feet. It’s a good thing you live by the beach because just about the only thing that can keep you from conforming to the shape of the inside of your (non-air-conditioned) apartment, is to take a DIIV into an Oshin of rejuvenating reverb. Channeling the bests of dream-pop, kroutrock, new-wave, and shoegaze, this skilled quintet will have you cool as a clam in no time flat. Grab whichever floatation device is most convenient, I’ll meet you in the tide.
4. Tall Ships- Everything Touching
With their past EPs boasting a heavy math-rock modus operani, Tall Ships have previously been somewhat unaccessible to the masses. Their newest, and first full-length release, Everything Touching, sports a new, less unorthodox approach. It’s smart, fun, and damned exciting. Staying somewhat true to their history, the occasional odd measure or extra beat adds the element of surprise to an already enjoyable body of music. Driving percussion and repetitive guitar riffs frequently make way for gently-sung melodies with minimal accompaniment- only to explode, once again, into a vast cloud of distorted debris. This is one thrill ride of an album, and the best part is: you never have to wait in line.
3. ∆ (alt J)- An Awesome Wave
No doubts about it, An Awesome Wave is one helluva debut. It’s playful, yet mature- subtle, yet vibrant- and almost entirely unpredictable in the best ways possible. Just out of the oven, the album fills the room with whiffs of Radiohead, Depeche Mode, and Local Natives; but it only takes one bite of this piping-hot cookie to realize that the taste is uniquely (Alt-J). I like when bands don’t hold back; I appreciate when they create and play from the heart like children, and when ∆ is having fun, so am I, and so will you.
2. Tame Impala- Lonerism
If the Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Caribou somehow developed the technology and produced a three-way love child, it would be jealous of Tame Impala. From the very first track “Be Above It,” band leader Kevin Parker has you tight in his grasp, wondering where he’ll take you next, and believe me, it could go anywhere from there. Every time Parker opens his mouth we’re hit over the head with wonderfully simple, catchy melodies that serve as a bridge between that nostalgic classic rock sound that many of us know and love, and the cutting-edge of today’s best. Refined, synthesized bloops and blips are fun for all, making this album stand out as an appealing collection. I’ll be first in line at Laser Impala.
And now, the moment I’ve been waiting for:
1. Kishi Bashi- 151a
During the many hours of scrupulous searching and listening, through the whirlwind of frantic typing and clicking, while being woven into a tapestry of sound and emotion, and amongst the sporadic watchings of Star Trek: TNG episodes, there’s been only one constant; 151a has topped my list since the beginning. I’m gonna be totally honest here, this album has absolutely blown me away. The production alone is breathtaking. Couple that with extraordinary songs, and we’re presented with an uplifting, inspiring, exhilarating, GENIUS (really) album. I’ve been lucky enough to listen to 151a (and all of the above wonderful music) through a 1973, pre-outsourced JVC receiver (named Gertie) who’s connected to Infinity 2500 speakers from the same era, and believe me when I say, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a better mixed, more balanced album in my life. To make sure I wasn’t just getting lucky, I BOUGHT a pair of Sony MDR-V6 headphones (which I highly recommend btw), only to still be completely astonished by the sound of this record. Now, I know what you’re thinking- that Silly Matt is overreacting (and that he has shapely calves), but if you don’t believe me, you’re more than welcome to post up on my futon, directly in front of my stereo, and have a listen for yourself.
For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t), Kishi Bashi is the solo project of Of Montreal’s ex violinist Kaoru (K.) Ishibashi. His classical and jazz roots are evident in the complex arrangements, full of beautiful strings, fat synthesizers, playful bass lines, and bright, vibrant vocals. From the very first track, you know you’re in for something special; it has a very natural, woodsy feel to it, giving the sense of being lost in forest only to run into a flurry of animals who dance and sing all the way back to your home, guiding you along the way. Every song is superb, somehow familiar, and blissfully new. You can’t help but feel happy when listening. Perhaps, a statement such as that can never fully be expressed through words; we’ve reached the point where art or music alone is left to fill the void. Have a listen, and give someone you love a hug.
Thanks to CKTK for letting me overrun their classy-ass blog
with my disgusting musings and rants. They’re a couple of stand-up gents!
***SEE YA NEXT YEAR***
Filed under: 2000s, guest spot, lists, reviews, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: alt j, ava luna, ∆, chromatics, cktk, cohen, diiv, dirty projectors, doomsday, fleet foxes, kishi bashi, local natives, radiohead, spiritualized, sufjan stevens, tall ships, tallest man on earth, tame impala, top 10