Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Best of 2013 in 140 Characters or Less

We have reached the mid-point of 2013, and I have consumed an absurd amount of music in the last six months. Too much, really. I don't have the time to do it all justice, so here are my top 15 rekkids of 2013 thus far, summed up in tweet-sized bites...

1. Unknown Mortal Orchestra II (Jagjaguwar)
Zappa leads, Beefheart and Brian Wilson harmonies, GbV lo-fi sensibility. Pure deliciousness!

2. Yo La Tengo Fade (Matador)
Their best album in over a decade. Maybe their most concise ever. A triumph from one of the best!

3. Youth Lagoon Wondrous Bughouse (Fat Possum)
Immediately impactful like the Lips' The Soft Bulletin or Mercury Rev's Deserters' Songs.

4. Bibio Silver Wilkinson (Warp)
Pastoral folk-tronica of the highest order. "A Tout a l'Heure" is my song of the year.

5. Jacco Gardner Cabinet of Curiosities (Trouble in Mind)
If Waters had gone insane and left, and Syd had stayed, Pink Floyd may have sounded like this.

6. The Phoenix Foundation Fandango (Universal NZ)
Synth-laden Kiwi kitchen sink psych-pop. Candy for your ears.

7. Wire Change Becomes Us (Pink Flag)
A fabulous new art-punk salvo from perhaps the most underrated band ever.

8. Neon Neon Praxis Makes Perfect (Lex)
Crystalline conceptual synth-pop from Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip. Need I say more?

9. Queens of the Stone Age ...Like Clockwork (Matador)
Simply the best heavy rock band working today. Sooooo tasty!

10. Poni Hoax A State of War (Pan European)
French synth-pop masters of crooner-faced scrumptiousness.

11. The Besnard Lakes Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO (Jagjaguwar)
Dreamy, shoe-gazey Canadian psych-pop joy.

12. Still Corners Strange Pleasures (Sub Pop)
Sparse, minimalist British pop wonderment!

13. The Black Angels Indigo Meadow (Blue Horizon)
Austin TX garage-psych masters. Like Clinic and the 13th Floor Elevators had a baby.

14. Steve Mason Monkey Minds in the Devil's Time (Double Six)
Erstwhile Beta Band frontman makes delightful, pensive indie-pop.

15. Atoms for Peace Amok (XL)
Thom Yorke, Flea, Nigel Godrich et al. You can imagine what happens.

And a bunch of other 2013 rekkids I have purchased and enjoyed...

Adam Ant Adam Ant is the BlueBlack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter (BlueBlack Hussar)
Bass drum of Death s/t (Innovative Leisure)
Bettie Serveert Oh, Mayhem! (Second Motion)
Billy Bragg Tooth & Nail (Cooking Vinyl)
BNLX LP (Susstones)
Charles Bradley Victim of Love (Daptone)
British Sea Power Machineries of Joy (Rough Trade)
Eric Burdon ‘Til Your River Runs Dry (ABKCO)
David Bowie The Next Day (Columbia)
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds Push the Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd.)
Chelsea Light Moving s/t (Matador)
Mikal Cronin MCII (Merge)
Daughter If You Leave (4AD)
Deerhunter Monomania (4AD)
The Flaming Lips The Terror (WB)
Eleanor Friedberger Personal Record (Merge)
Guided by Voices English Little League (GbV)
Petra Haden Petra Goes to the Movies (Anti)
Hanni El Khatib Head in the Dirt (Innovative Leisure)
Robyn Hitchcock Love from London (Yep Roc)
Iggy & the Stooges Ready to Die (Fat Possum)
The Knife Shaking the Habitual (Rabid)
Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood Black Pudding (Ipecac)
Majical Cloudz Impersonator (Matador)
Mudhoney Vanishing Point (Sub Pop)
My Bloody Valentine m b v (MBV)
The National Trouble Will Find Me (4AD)
Palma Violets 180 (Rough Trade_
Pere Ubu Lady from Shanghai (Fire)
Primal Scream More Light (Ignition)
Psychic Ills One Track Mind (Sacred Bones)
Sigur Ros Kveikur (XL)
The Strokes Comedown Machine (RCA)
Telekinesis Dormarion (Merge)
Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires (XL)
The Woggles The Big Beat (Wicked Cool)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs Mosquito (Interscope)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Late to the Party and the Last to Leave, or My New Fav'rit Rekkids, Part 1

My apologies to anyone following this blog. I've been intending to write this post for weeks but haven't managed to find the time to do so. I have been engaged in a virtual orgy of music consumption since Record Store Day, and each week that I have put off writing this has only made the task seem more daunting. At any rate, I've been intending to write more in general, and this post in specific, and I've been failing. Mea maxima culpa.

So here's what happened. Repeatedly. Throughout my entire life.

I've always suspected that part of the reason why I became so obsessive about music is that it came to me so late. There was not a lot of music in my house growing up. Neither of my parents were anywhere near as into music as the rest of their ("Boomer") generation. My earliest musical exposure was almost entirely limited to school choir (I was once a pretty talented soprano, then one day I suddenly became a baritone and lost most of the vocal control I had as a child), whatever xmas carols and hymns I heard in church, and the classical and folk music that I would hear around the house. Sometime around the age of ten (circa 1980), my parents got divorced, I got my own bedroom, the first rekkids of my own, and I went nuts. Within a couple of years, all I wanted to do was collect records. Every dollar I could scrape together would go to the nearest record store. Then, right about when I started high school, a fabulous independent record store (Roadrunner Records) opened literally around the block from my house, compounding the problem. Essentially, I had arrived late to the party, but once I got there, I did not want to leave. This was the beginning of a pattern.

I collected records obsessively throughout the 1980s, and when CDs came around, I dismissed them almost entirely. They seemed to expensive and too plastic, and besides, I had already committed so much time and effort to my record collection, and I couldn't afford the upgrade to a CD player. Then in 1988, the year I graduated from high school, Frank Zappa (with whom I wan inordinately obsessed at the time) put out a new album Broadway the Hard Way which could not be had for love or money on vinyl, but was easily found on CD, and the CD had all these "bonus tracks". I bought the CD, but could only listen to it at a friend's house until I declared to my mother that I could not live without a CD player. Once again, I was late to the party. Once again, I did not want to leave.

At that point, I made a critical error. I over-committed to the CD. So much so that I sold off almost all of my vinyl. Within a few years my CD collection was huge, and my LP collection had shrunk to less than 50 titles, every one of them with some sort of collectibility factor justifying its presence. Then, sometime in the last decade (or maybe earlier) the vinyl resurrection began. As MP3s and file sharing began to make the CD more and more obsolete, record stores and record companies began to re-embrace vinyl more and more. To make a long story slightly less long, I was late to a few more parties. I was WAY late to the home computer party and way late to the MP3 party. Fortunately, part of my music collecting obsession has always been about loverly packaging and liner notes and tactile sensation and basically everything you cannot get without hard copy media. Consequently, I never got really sucked into the MP3 and file sharing party, though I do know people who did.

By way of maybe getting to the point, the vinyl resurrection is the latest party to which I arrived late, and has recently become the latest party that I never want to leave. I became more involved in collecting vinyl again a few years ago, when the first "official" Record Store Day took place. I have been a huge supporter of this event ever since, and in fact, I think it is the only event for which I've ever gotten up in the wee hours of the morning to wait in line for hours in the cold in order to get exclusive material. However, despite my love of Record Store Day, I had been resisting full commitment to reverting to vinyl. That changed a couple of months ago. After this year's event, and knowing that almost all new vinyl releases come standard with a free digital download (portability/iPod-ability is very important to me) I decided to more fully embrace vinyl records. I have officially changed my buying policy to vinyl first, CD second. Late again, still not wanting to leave.

That said, I haven't done a proper post about new music in way too long. The reason being not that there is not enough good music, but that, having once again arrived too late at an utterly fabulous party, I have gone absolutely buck-wild with it, and have been consuming almost too much new music to keep track of. I've been trying to keep track of all the new stuff, with an eye toward doing it all justice here, but there is so much that I can only give all too brief attention to all of the new things I've been listening to lately. So here are some brief blurbs on some of the new music I've encountered since my last entry. I think I'll call it...

My New Fav'rit Rekkids, Part 1:

Youth Lagoon Wondrous Bughouse (Fat Possum) - This is the rekkid I've been most eager to promote. It is one of those albums which haunted my mind almost immediately, in the same way that Pink Floyd's Piper at the Gates of Dawn did in my youth, and the Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin, Guided by Voices' Under the Bushes, under the Stars, Mercury Rev's Deserters' Songs, and Yo La Tengo's Electr-O-Pura (among others) did later. In fact, Youth Lagoon's mastermind, Trevor Powers seems to be cut from similar cloth at the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev, and this new album is a magnificent bit of 21st century American psychedelic indie rock. Currently hovering behind Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Yo La Tengo on my best of 2013 list.

The Phoenix Foundation Fandango (Universal) - I just recently discovered these kiwi geniuses (which is odd, given my obsession with kiwi music of the past. I read a blurb on them in a recent issue of Mojo which said "for fans of Super Furry Animals...", which naturally captured my eye. While they don't actually sound that much like SFA, they do use a similar retro-kitchen-sink approach to making delicious, shimmering psych-pop. It's just that, while the Super Furrys are more obviously indebted to late Beatles and Brian Wison, the Phoenix Foundation is doing more of that early Rundgren and Fleetwood Mac thing that all the kids seem to be so into these days.

Savages Silence Yourself (Matador) - Honestly, the fact that a band can wear such obvious post-punk influences so proudly on its sleeve and somehow not sound in any way stale or even all that derivative is kind of miraculous. Sporting a singer who sounds almost exactly like Siouxsie, and songs that are cut from the Wire, Joy Division, and early Killing Joke mold, this rekkid is a magnificent example of a young band making old sounds seem entirely new.

Jacco Gardner Cabinet of Curiosities (Trouble in Mind) - More fabulous psychedelia from 2013. If Roger Waters had been the one who went off the rails, and Syd Barrett and Richard Wright had gone on to dominate the songwriting, Pink Floyd would have been a completely different band, and they might have sounded a LOT like Jacco Gardner.

Bibio Silver Winkinson (Warp) - I don't usually go into the "electronic" section of the record store, but when I do, it's to buy the new Bibio rekkid. Sharing a psychedelic lo-fi esthetic with Unknown Mortal Orchestra, but with a slightly more electro sensibility. This rekkid will end up in my top ten for the year, and the track "A Tout a l'Heure" might be my song of the year.