Tuesday, December 30, 2014

best of 2014: part four of four

Best of 2014 by Shalloboi on Mixcloud

song- artist- album

1. heard about you last night- mogwai- 'rave tapes'
2. diastolic- lightfoils- 'hierarchy'
3. killer in the streets- the raveonettes- 'pe'ahi'
4. diamond eyes- the black angels- 'clear lake forest'
5. memory camp- the brian jonestown massacre- 'revelation'
6. feel- ty segall- 'manipulator'
7. hard water- white fence- 'for the recently found innocent'
8. the tower- wye oak- 'shriek'
9. tarifa- sharon van etten- 'are we there?'
10. windows- angel olsen- 'burn your fire for no witness'
11. drive- warpaint- s/t
12. somersault- nothing- 'guilty of everything'
13. off screen- hookworms- 'the hum'
14. god is a gun- thelightshines- 'now the sandman sings'
15. always forgetting with you (the bridge song)- spiritualized- 'the space project'
16. lighthouse- grouper- 'ruins'

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

best of 2014: part three of four

10) Angel Olsen—‘Burn Your Fire for no Witness’ (Jagjaguwar)

Again, this one was a grower and a complete curveball. Even having heard preview tracks ‘Forgiven/Forgotten’ and ‘Hi-Five’ it turned out that my expectations were useless when first listening to this album. In terms of strength of individual songs the breadth of styles Olsen explores with her backing band on this album have definitely helped her songs grow in strength and confidence. While 2012’s ‘Half Way Home’ was a strong listen as a whole, there wasn’t a lot of musical or textural diversity present and mood-wise it tended to hover in the ‘brooding’ neighborhood. The times it would really spring to life would be on the occasional upbeat song—I’d secretly hoped that songs like ‘The Waiting’ were pointing the way to Olsen’s future. I was half-right in a way. The other half I hadn’t even imagined, which was great news. It’ll be interesting to see what Olsen does next as it’s taking her audience a considerable amount of time to get used to her making a bigger noise. When I saw her at Lincoln Hall back in May the audience was the opposite of every rock show I’ve ever seen—chatty and ‘let’s go get a beer during this one,’ during the louder songs and sitting at rapt attention during the quieter moments. I’m hoping she’ll immerse herself in the dreamlike vastness of a song like ‘Windows’ (which worked beautifully at that show, as did her band’s interpretation of ‘Half Way Home’s opening track ‘Acrobat’). Since she’s released the deluxe version of ‘Burn Your Fire…’ there are a handful of outtakes from those sessions with her band that point in that direction as well.

9) The War on Drugs—‘Lost in the Dream’ (Secretly Canadian)

This album is an interesting case. This year could easily be described as ‘the Year of the Grower’—this album and the Warpaint record would be the perfect examples. After numerous listens that have gradually built in enjoyment since the album’s release in March it seems obvious that a record so overflowing with lush, sonic detail would take a little longer than normal to fully absorb. I’m particularly fond of the extended instrumental section of ‘Disappearing,’ which sounds like it nails the sound that Wild Nothing have been chasing for years now. The boldness of opener ‘Under the Pressure’ is the perfect litmus test for the album—if you’re able to let go enough to let the tracks stretch out and enjoy the ride you’ll find the album a very rewarding experience. If you just find it boring and overlong then you’re not going to enjoy it much, which is a shame. It’s nice to see a band whose star is rising take the chance to rely on the patience of their audience. After all, ‘patience’ isn’t a word you see in print much any more.

8) Hookworms—‘The Hum’ (Domino)

Hookworms have done a good job of polishing the grimy edges off of their sound for ‘The Hum.’ It’s given them a Stereolab-like metronomic groove that builds on the squalling psych and drone storm that was last year’s ‘Pearl Mystic.’ While I’m not as impressed with ‘The Hum’ as the previous album, ‘Pearl Mystic’ was a real barn-burner—the type of record you put on the turntable and you can practically see the smoke rising from the grooves as it plays, ‘The Hum’ continues to push their sound into new and formidable territory. The way it’s laid out and flows nods to ‘Pearl Mystic’ by picking up the numbered order of the between song drones (i.e. ‘iv,’ ‘v’ and ‘vi’) but the individual songs themselves are highlighted far more and for good reason—there’s a lot more diversity making up these songs which points towards a promising future for them. I’m still holding out hope that they’ll eventually do a full-blown American tour since they’re on Domino now, but I’m sure it’ll happen when the time is right for them. If nothing else they’re a band who can be depended upon not to rush things.

7) A Winged Victory for the Sullen—‘Atomos’ (Kranky)

This is quite a departure from AWVFTS’s self-titled 2011 debut. They apparently only had four months to get the whole thing together—quite a feat for someone like Adam Wiltzie who moves at a slower and slower pace with every release. One of the highlights of last year was seeing Wiltzie’s other, longer-running and more drone-based duo Stars of the Lid at Lincoln Hall. During that show they played some new SOTL material as there is another album in the works for them as well. Then the ‘Atomos’ album was announced and delivered very quickly. In a lot of ways the immediacy seems evident on a lot of these tracks, but then there are examples of tracks where there isn’t much discernable difference sonically between them and tracks that Wiltzie and partner Dustin O’Halloran have spent years laboring over each tiny detail. The results make for an incredibly engaging hour-long listen. It’s not quite ambient music, but it’s not quite neo-classical either. The most important aspect seems to be that this is some jaw-droppingly beautiful and magical music. Now, hopefully that new SOTL album will come out in the next few years…

6) White Fence—‘For the Recently Found Innocent’ (Drag City)

Speaking of Ty Segall, Tim Presley’s latest White Fence was recorded in Segall’s home studio. Presley’s recordings as White Fence have always been done on his own exclusively on 4-track, but this time out he hit a wall developing these songs that way. ‘For the Recently Found Innocent’ sees him taking a far more direct approach, which serves these songs beautifully. It’s like a less insular version of last year’s excellent ‘Cyclops Reap.’ The songs are quick and immediate and it sounds like the record was cranked out in a very quick, inspired session. It’s tough to pick highlights because there seems to be one around every corner, but my go-to tracks for the moment are the first two scene-setting songs, ‘Hard Water,’ ‘Wolf Gets Red-faced,’ ‘Raven on White Cadillac’ and the jangly, bright lead single ‘Like That.’

5) Ty Segall—‘Manipulator’ (Drag City)

Ty Segall is still riding the same golden run that he’s been on since about 2010’s ‘Melted.’ ‘Manipulator’ is his first double LP and features his cleanest production to date which only shows that no one knows what needs to be polished and what needs to stay skuzzy better than Segall. Bright acoustics collide with grungey distortion as well as some crisp drum sounds and bright strings. None of it should work, but all of it does and effortlessly so. His songwriting continues to develop at a rapid pace as well. ‘The Singer’ is something anthemic and powerful that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on last year’s acoustic ‘Sleeper,’ but here sounds heavenly with Segall’s falsetto, strings and a lush arrangement. ‘Tall Man and the Skinny Lady’ is danceable and could appeal easily to a giant, massive audience without ceding any shred of Segall’s unique touch and personality. This record is a joy to listen to from beginning to end and the perfect soundtrack to Segall’s ever-ascending star. I hope he’s able to sell out stadiums in a few years at this rate—he certainly deserves it!

4) Grouper—‘Ruins’ (Kranky)

Liz Harris somehow manages to make an incredibly dreamy and ambient record using little more than a piano, her own voice and some textural background noise of frogs chirping and a few rainstorms. ‘Ruins’ is the follow-up to last year’s ‘The Man Who Died in His Boat’ and 2011’s keyboard-driven double album ‘A I A’ all rolled into one. It’s fascinating to hear music this stark and unadorned sound so mysterious and dreamlike without the aid of practically any effects (the only exception being the 11-minute misty ‘Made of Air’).

3) The Swans—‘To Be Kind’ (Young God)

‘To Be Kind’ is punishing, but not quite in the way that its predecessor ‘The Seer’ was. There’s a lot of dynamic schizophrenia at play which makes for some nice tension. ‘Kirsten Supine’ is almost anxiety-inducing in the underlying menace of the beauty of its opening section. The only track that’s all-out abandon is the nine-minute scree of ‘Oxygen.’ ‘Just a Little Boy’ is the one that really does it for me—12 minutes of slow-burning tension that explodes in small, unexpected bursts right at the end.

2) Warpaint—s/t (Rough Trade)

This one’s a grower. If you’re a doubter, I’m sorry but you’ll just have to put the time into this one. It doesn’t reveal its charms very quickly. It was months before I really loved it, but as a record I think it’s far superior to their debut ‘The Fool.’ It’s one of those records that sounds minimal and unadorned but filled with lush, intricate tiny details filling in almost every second of space. I remember reading Pitchfork’s review and them knocking how the bass and the drums were too prominently featured in the mix and relied upon too heavily to add form and melody to the songs and it occurred to me that this was not a bad thing. It’s the fact that Jennifer Lindberg and Stella Mozgawa have always been such a strong rhythm section that it seems like a no-brainer to mix them prominently on songs with drifting, stark melodic guitars, voices and synths. The band has also not been shy about talking about how it’s okay to find these songs sexy and they are definitely that. The best thing about this record’s particular brand of sexiness is that it’s one that’s mysterious, a little dangerous but also beautiful and poignant. It’s the type of record that makes people use the word ‘sensual’ and ‘slinky’ a bunch. I sometimes think that it’s the female version of ‘smooth operator’ music. Not much of a surprise that it’s more subtle, truthful and appealing.

1) Wye Oak—‘Shriek’ (Merge)

This position is almost always chosen for me. There’s always one record every year that I play over and over to death for myself and everyone around me until they want to kill me. This year it’s ‘Shriek.’ For a good month or two this record was all I listened to. I can’t quite put my finger on what I love so much about it—I never listened to the band before this record (in fact I think someone recommended I listen to ‘Civilian’ back in 2011 and I hated it), but these songs all jumped out at me they were so unique. It’s one of those records that does almost everything—the lyrics are great and engaging, the singing is fantastic, the sounds run the gamut from breathtakingly beautiful to hypnotically odd, it has a cohesive overall sound that is explored from a diverse number of angles during its running time. It’s just a fantastic record—I find myself struggling to describe what I like about it so much and the only parallel I can draw is ‘Hounds of Love’ by Kate Bush. I get into a similar state of having so many great things to say about it that I get completely tongue-tied when talking about that record.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

best of 2014: part two of four

Honorable Mentions

Lightfoils—‘Hierarchy’ (Saint Marie)

I often find myself wincing a little on the inside when I’m introduced to a new band that self-assigns the term ‘shoegaze.’ Perhaps this is a holdover from when I first became obsessed with that first wave of shoegaze and quickly found a legion of lackluster bands identifying under that umbrella as well—it was usually made up of half-assed my bloody valentine copyists that cheapened the descriptor and trampled upon everything that made it a distinctive and special type of music to begin with. As such I’ve always been a little cautious when first listening to local band Lightfoils. With ‘Hierarchy’ they’re doing what I’ve always hoped later wave shoegaze bands would do—take those sounds from that first wave as a jumping off point to build upon rather than to merely imitate. ‘Diastolic’ is the perfect example of what I’m talking about here—it’s a fantastic song with great melodies, awesomely trippy guitar sounds that don’t sacrifice clarity in their stacked effects held up by a great beat plowed through with gusto by an able-bodied rhythm section. There’s also plenty of sighing, mysterious beauty on this album, but above all else there’s a diversity of sounds that flies in the face of copyist complacency. It’s inspiring to hear and even more inspiring to have found an entire subculture of similarly-minded bands bubbling under the surface on the very strong online shoegaze movement.

thelightshines—‘Now The Sandman Sings’ (Great Pop Supplement)

A very last minute addition, thelightshines does an incredible job of walking the tightrope between jangly, psychedelic pop and some incredibly out-there trippiness. Initially available only as a self-released limited edition LP and digital download the colored vinyl version that came out on Great Pop Supplement has already sold out. I'd do almost anything to hear a full-length version of the three part ‘Kaleidoscope‘ without the fades. The record builds nicely, never delving too deeply into jangly brightness and never losing itself in self-indulgent layers of effects. Closer ‘God is a Gun‘ ties the whole thing together and leaves you wanting more, which can be acquired via a digital download of older material on the band‘s website called ‘Before the Sandman Sung.‘

Ex Hex—‘Rips’ (Merge)

‘Rips’ is the best thing Mary Timony’s done in years—probably since ‘The Golden Dove’ if you ask me. Even better, it’s nice to see her getting some positive feedback for it lately as she tends to get raked over the coals unfairly (and really always has been if you look at a lot of what was written about her during her days in Helium). It’s well-deserved—this is an air-tight album of hard-hitting power pop with just enough of Timony’s requisite jaw-dropping ability to shred paired with her take-no-shit lyrics. It’s great to hear her sound this invigorated after so many years and so many bands.

Sharon Van Etten—‘Are We There’ (Jagjaguwar)

While I didn't get as sucked in by this self-produced effort as I did with 2012‘s ‘Tramp‘ this is still a very strong album. The songs are far more consistent and the production is very controlled and disciplined—it was a wise decision to make the album with the band that spent two years touring with her for ‘Tramp.‘ There is less of a schizophrenic palate of sounds than on the previous album, which would have to do with the fact that it was made almost entirely with guest players and spread out over the course of a two-year period. These performances are very crisp and the mixes are bright and organic. ‘Tarifa‘ has always been the highlight for me, but there are a few decent intense offerings on here like ‘Break Me,‘ ‘You Know Me Well,‘ the suitably dramatic ‘Your Love is Killing me‘ and opening statement-of-intent ‘Afraid of Nothing.‘ A lot of the songs have a more optimistic tone, but one that is fragile and genuine. As a cycle of songs they are all tied together by the beauty, wonder, fragility and danger of giving yourself over completely to falling in love. It can be surprisingly uplifting when someone has the guts to tell it like it is and Van Etten has laid herself bare here.

Goat—‘Commune’ (Sub Pop)

I still have never heard Goat's 2012 album ‘World Music‘ so I have no basis for comparison. The general consensus I‘ve heard is that ‘Commune‘ is less concerned with accessibility than ‘World Music.‘ This album gets an awful lot done in its fairly short duration—it‘s the sound of a band going for broke with reckless abandon. Closing track ‘Gathering of Ancient Tribes‘ is my favorite here—it nails the intensity that the album has spent every second building up to. I’ve heard a lot of talk about what a spectacle the band is to witness live, I am curious to see if they spend as much time touring this time around. It seems that they’ve done a good job of translating their live intensity onto tape on ’Commune.’ It’s the type of record that sounds like it was made less than a week after returning from a lengthy and grueling touring schedule—the point at which a band is beyond exhausted, but when they pick up their instruments their instincts and emotions take over and run the show completely.

Thee Oh Sees—‘Drop’ (Castleface)

I feel kind of bad that I didn’t give this album the attention it deserved when it first came out. On first listen all I noticed was that it wasn’t as strong as ’Floating Coffin,’ which was probably the best of the many Oh Sees releases preceding it. It came out during what John Dwyer referred to as an ’indefinite hiatus.’ When most bands make this announcement it’s code for ’break-up.’ Dwyer moved to LA, reformed his previous band, the garage punk Coachwhips, reissued a few of their records and then headed to South-by-Southwest with them to play a million shows in a weekend, returned home, formed a new trio version of Thee Oh Sees and within a few more months they were right back to normal. I still haven’t witnessed this new iteration of the band live (both of their November shows at the Empty Bottle sold out well in advance) I’m guessing that this album is a good indicator of what they are aiming for live. What’s most fascinating about this set of songs to me is that they somehow sound polished and raw all at the same time. The title track is something that wouldn’t be out of the question to hear on the radio. Then there are the supremely out-there and fuzzed-up beauties like ’Transparent World’ and ’Savage Victory’ mixed with the slight menace and beauty of the strings and horns embellished ’The Lens.’ It’s a supremely weird record, even in the context of Thee Oh Sees.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre—‘Revelation’ (A Records)

As a record ’Revelation’ doesn't flow quite as well as 2012’s excellent ’Aufheben,’ but there are a few more standout tracks that manage to take that familiar 60s pastiche that the Brian Jonestown Massacre is known for and push it into unfamiliar territory on this newest offering. ’Memory Camp’ has that deliriously hooky, snaking, chunky melody building up through it until it fades out to the sound of it repeating for ever and ever. There is also ’Days, Weeks and Moths’ which builds on the dreamiest ’Aufheben’ track ’The Clouds are Lies’ and then there’s the title track of the preceding EP ’Food for Clouds’ which features Anton Newcombe pulling off his finest Ian McCulloch impression mixed with some infectious synth melodies and layered, driving acoustics. It seems that ’Aufheben’ may have been a launching pad for the newest phase of the band since it signals the return of a guitar and band-driven sound for BJM that many longtime fans have been hoping for since the release of 2010’s ’Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?’ While it is the return of that familiar template the make-up of the music and the songs couldn’t possibly be more different than it had been before 2005’s mini-album ’We Are the Radio.’

The Raveonettes—‘Pe’ahi’ (Beat Dies)

The Raveonettes continue a nice run with this self-released offering, many of the songs were inspired by a near-death experience that singer/guitarist Sune Rose Wagner had while surfing on the Hawaiian island that the album takes its name from. The songs are suitably dark, uncontrolled and unapologetic for such an inspiration. It’s one of the first albums I’ve seen to sport a ’Parental Advisory’ sticker since their prevalence in the early 90s. It matches the fury and noise of their debut EP ’Whip It On.’ Tracks like ’Sisters’ introduce a quickly-shifting dynamic element as the squalls of noise are broken into short bursts by stark, melodic breaks of sampled harp flourishes. ’Killer in the Streets’ moves with the urgent push of its sleazy electronic beat underneath its ever-shifting layers of vocal harmonies, guitar melodies and noises—it’s a great indication of how a majority of the album’s tracks have been carefully constructed.

Mogwai—‘Rave Tapes’ (Sub Pop)

While I wasn’t as impressed with ’Rave Tapes’ as I was with last year’s ’Les Revenents’ soundtrack it's still a testament to the fact that Mogwai are still capable of making a strong, bold move so many albums and years into their career. Tired and uninspired is definitely not what I hear when I listen to it, it’s more the sound of a band that isn’t afraid to take chances even if it means occasionally falling on their faces. What’s more this record features some of the band’s most distinctive-sounding tracks in years—’Heard About You Last Night,’ ’The Lord is Out of Control’ and ’Hexon Bogon’ are all to die for and outshine the finest moments on 2011’s formidable ’Hardcore Will Never Die, but You Will.’ I also really love the bonus track that came with my download code—’Tell Everybody That I Love Them’ would fall under that category as well.

Foxygen—‘...and Star Power’ (Jagjaguwar)

Interestingly a lot of what I find off-putting about this record is reflective of what I love so much about it—it’s beyond schizophrenic, completely uneven, at least half of it sounds carelessly tossed-off, but it’s a proper 70s style double LP in every possible way (and more). While I haven’t listened to it that much pieces of it come to me randomly at almost any time—for instance I caught myself singing the multiple hooks that make up the glorious weirdness that is ’Cosmic Vibrations’ multiple times today. What’s most surprising is that this is a record where even at its weirdest almost any moment on this record has the potential to inspire a similar moment.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

diary 12.11.14- polar waves

Diary 12.11.14- polar waves by Shalloboi on Mixcloud

My normal holiday-themed mix failed. Completely. Instead I ended up with this wintery, dreamy mix of songs that I've been obsessed with lately. It works.

song- artist- album

1. polar bear- ride- 'live at the roxy'
2. starfire- low- 'secret name'
3. days, weeks and moths- the brian jonestown massacre- 'revelation'
4. silver angel- helium- 'the dirt of luck'
5. hot and cold- ex hex- 'rips'
6. polar waves- lightfoils- 'hierarchy'
7. del rey mar- the stargazer lilies- 'we are the dreamers'
8. ocean- lush- 'spooky'
9. shriek- wye oak- 'shriek'
10. one more time- the cure- 'kiss me, kiss me, kiss me'
11. disappearing- the war on drugs- 'lost in the dream'
12. tell everybody that i love them- mogwai- 'rave tapes' bonus track
13. sing- slowdive- 'souvlaki'
14. soma- smashing pumpkins- 'siamese dream'
15. leaving on a train- mazzy star- copenhagen, loppen 2000 bootleg
16. traveling through a sea- grouper- 'dragging a dead deer up a hill'
17. lord can you hear me- spiritualized- edinburgh 1999 bootleg

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

best of 2014: part one of four

Biggest Disappointments

Real Estate—‘Atlas’

I guess disappointment might be a little strong of a word for this album, but considering how much I loved 2011‘s ‘Days‘ and their self-titled debut I couldn't help but feel let-down by the very placid nature of this album. It lacks that vibrancy and electricity that made ‘Days‘ such an engaging listen, plus Real Estate‘s particular style of indie guitar pop has always paired best with wistful reflection and introspection, so for whatever reason the bright, sunny nature of these songs seems to fall a bit flat here. It‘s a shame, too, since the production on ‘Atlas‘ is so bright and lush. The songs themselves could just use a little more spark and glow.

A Sunny Day in Glasgow—‘Sea When Absent’

I was sure this one would be a safe bet-I loved A Sunny Day in Glasgow's debut ’Scribble Music Comic Journal,’ ’Sea When Absent’ was gloriously funded through the band’s kickstarter campaign and then, upon release, it scored them their first Best New Music rating on Pitchfork. Then I listened to it and, for whatever reason, I found nothing on it that drew me in whatsoever. I guess I should’ve given it another listen, but of everyone I talked to who was gaga for it every single one of them claimed they loved it from the moment they started playing it. Not sure what happened there, seemed like a no-brainer, and yet... I have noticed people are awfully quiet about it now.

Best New Discoveries

Beach Fossils—s/t

It only took me four years to finally hear this album—but at least it finally happened. This album has a refreshing vibrance and melodic richness that enriches the wistful nature of the songs. It’s also a nice touchstone in the development of Captured Tracks, which has become a go-to label for dream pop of this caliber.


Speaking of Beach Fossils the debut album from former Beach Fossils guitarist Zachary Cole is pretty special as well. It was fascinating watching DIIV go from opening for Wild Nothing at the Empty Bottle to headlining at the Vic in a little over a year. ‘Oshin’ weighs in as dreamier and more in the late-80s shoegazing area than the Beach Fossils debut. It‘s a shame that I missed DIIV's set due to a transit delay on my way to Pitchfork festival this year—it would've rounded out an already great day of live music.

Lost Gems of 2013

The Stargazer Lilies—‘We Are the Dreamers’

I really wish I’d heard this album last year—it would’ve made the list without any problems and would’ve been in very good company. This record is one of my favorite examples of a new band exploring the classic ’shoegaze’ sound and building upon it admirably by taking some familiar sounds and injecting them with some new life and vitality.

Lumerians—‘High Frontier’

Not sure how this didn't make it into the incredibly crammed list last year, especially considering how much I listened to this record. It almost seemed that Lumerians were able to pick up the torch from Cave and carry it off into even stranger territory—where Cave seems to be more concerned with grooves than psychedelic exploration, Lumerians have the two switched which means I’m looking forward to where they go next all the more.

Carlton Melton—‘Always Even’

Since there wasn’t room for the Lumerians record in last year’s list there wasn’t any for this album by Carlton Melton either. I like the way that this record juxtaposes the loud, heavier side of psych with the weightless, dreamy mass of ethereal soup that it can be as well.