Nada here, it’s been a while. Many of you have noticed that I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from blogging, only really posting here and there, this year was a whirlwind for me. I got a new job that ultimately has been kickin’ my butt, and left little room for much else in my life. Lucky for me I love it. But music remains one of the most significant things in my life, so I wanted to do a best-of (despite feeling like I’m little out of the loop). I’ll be doing this a bit differently this time. My best of will be a retrospective of my year and how certain albums and songs really stuck with me along the way. Many of these have popped up on my monthly mixes, or haven’t been up here at all. I tried to be as honest as possible too, most often when I’m reading best-ofs, I find that I’d like to say that I know any of the albums they’re talking about, but I don’t. This is really just a reflection of the stuff that I’ve dug throughout 2012, and a plug for one that you will need for 2013. Enjoy!
Most likely to be the best record of next year – Moon Casale- Moon Casale
OK so technically this isn’t out until Jan 1st and is currently up for pre-order. Moon Casale is the solo effort of Keith from The Shivers. I heard a few tracks from my friend Kenny who is pals with Keith and is the one who actually introduced me to the Shivers waay back when. I really really hope you all pre-order this record. I’ve got a strong feeling that Keith will stand the test of time as one of the great songwriters of our generation. His non conformist style of rock & roll/soul and gospel music woven into love ballads of a strange and relentless romantic make me want to cry every time I listen to his stuff.
The Comeback Kid - Pedro the Lion Vinyl Reissues
These weren’t exactly new but worth mentioning. I’ve been a Bazan fan for some time now but didn’t get a record player until earlier this year. When that happened, I finally entered the world of vinyl. So when I heard that TW Walsh remastered all four Pedro records and The Only Reason I Feel Secure EP I pre-ordered immediately. These records were pretty formative for me, especially Control, so when I heard that Bazan would be touring Control, I went to the show and stood in the center of the room next to my nemesis Billy Hamilton who, in all fairness, introduced me Bazan in the first place. We’re constantly fake fighting about who is the bigger fan.
Music to puts me at ease – Chris Cohen: Overgrown Path
Chris Cohen’s Overgrown Path gave me my Midlake fix when they didn’t put out a record this year. This is his first solo record after playing alongside Deerhoof, Haunted Graffiti and Cass McCombs. There’s something about his music that is quintessentially LA, and that’s what I love about it. It’s got this effortless cool to it, and sends you to the mellowest place. This makes me want to pass out in a giant exhale. If I ever got high, this would be my jam record.
Most likely to actually be, an angel – Angel Olsen – Halfway Home
Holy. This record slayed me. What a voice. Angel Olsen has got this strange ability to embody the ghost of Judy Garland and Emmylou Harris while evoking otherworldly sounds, it’s all mournful and dramatic at once. She plays with a wide range of genres spread across a multitude of eras. All of the strange complexities that she aims to untangle are so relatable, her fixation with death, the body and loneliness. In Lonely Universe, when she sings, “Goodbye, sweet Mother Earth. Without you now, I’m alone in the Universe” I can’t help but wonder if she’s speaking to the fact that she was adopted as a child and her struggle with the idea of home. This beautiful visualization of her, floating in a black abyss freely – it gives me the chills. Favourite tracks include, “The Waiting”, “Acrobat” and “Free”.
Favourite record to come out of my homeland- Andy Shauf – The Bearer of Bad News
Andy Shauf is one of those artists that you can rely on to put out consistently good records throughout his career. I’ve purchased all of them over the years and I’ve never been disappointed. I’ve always loved good storytelling records, and I feel like Andy does a great job at combining elements of dialogue, suspense and resolve – good examples of this are: Jerry Was a Clerk and Wendell Walker. Also, the vocals and production on this album kill. It’s like Paul Simon set to the Soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas. That’s probably the strangest combination of references I’ve ever typed. My favourite track off this record is Hometown Hero, it sets the whole record up quite nicely. If you enjoy putting on a record while you’re cleaning your apartment like I do, you’ll need this.
Most Likely To Make Me Regret My Decisions In Life (whyy didn’t I start young?): HAIM – Forever EP/Don’t Save Me
Can I just list HAIM, in general? I’ll mention that they put out their Forever EP and more recently the Don’t Save Me 7″ but let’s just discuss these three sisters for a minute. I mean, c’mon, really?! How is it earthly possible that you are so good? I’m talking to you, Danielle Haim. You may remember me as the girl who was drooling over your long brown hair when you played at my benefit show in ’1o at the Troubadour alongside your supernaturally talented boyfriend Blake Mills. (I’m not even going to get into it). Since then, you and your gal pal sisters with equally luxurious locks have become global superstars. And rightfully so, your jams kick butt and your voice is something fierce. I’m going to keep doing my thing (running to your jams on my treadmill, wishing I could start my own girl band already) and you continue playing shows around the world, because it all seems quite fair, karmically.
Most likely to invent a new genre of music: Buke and Gase – Function Falls EP
I bought this purely so I could own the track, “Misshaping Introduction” because it is so so good. I love the play between the heaviness of the guitar tone and the lightness of the layered vocals. It’s got a powerful sound. I also like the vibrancy of this Brooklyn duo in that they pride themselves on be undefined and willing the explore beyond the traditional guitar/bass/drums band sound. Their use of homemade instrumentation and distortion has classified them as “avant garde” or “experimental” but from the sounds of it, they don’t like to be categorized. So let’s just call them the new normal.
Music that deserves to be more well known – Kissed Her Little Sister – Sailor
This record is so so good. Sailor was a follow up to last year’s High & Low and keeps getting better. The Thrills Is Gone has somehow made it’s way into one of my favourite songs of this year. I love the drag of the distorted vocals, the simple melody, the fact that he says, “Californ- i- a”. It’s got a bit of Woods and Neutral Milk Hotel in it- attributed mostly to the folk tales in the lyrics, and the lofi recording, then outta nowhere it throws in a little 90′s hip hop. I don’t know why, but this record makes me so happy, it’s wild that more people haven’t heard it.
Most likely to say, “I knew them when” – Writer – Brotherface
It’s been so cool to see how much this band has grown since they moved to Brooklyn from San Diego. And rightfully so, they were one of my favourite bands when I was in San Diego and I’m so stoked to see that they’re getting the recognition they deserve. The album Brotherface is a sonic accomplishment for two bandmates and brothers who make their sound much larger than the two of them, while the songs themselves are minimalist, the lyrics and distortion are the epitome of cool: evoking hot days, trips to Mexico and dirty lakes. When I listen to this album, I think of every house party in Long Beach and San Diego I’d ever been to, where I barely knew anyone at all – this sort of reminds me of that era of my life down there.
Music to elicit vivid nostalgia and warm feelings – Bad Books – Bad Books II
This is a slight departure from what I’d normally listen to, in terms of genre, but it’s got a long history with me in the various chapters and cities of my life. I first heard about Kevin Devine and Manchester Orchestra when I was in high school and eventually got to work with them in various ways, getting to watch them grow both individually and together has been a really awesome trip. The level of production and maturity in their lyricism and instrumentation continues to impress me. Especially in Andy Hull who I see as a young Dave Bazan – shit, the guy is younger than me. But you can hear his wisdom and his searching in songs like Pytor and Lost Creek. And Kevin – the longevity of his career is a testament to his body of work (and his charm). They’re a dream team. I’ll always be interested in what they produce for years to come. But even more importantly, this record reminds me of car rides with my good old friend, Alex Collins. I hope to share a few beers with him in the park and talk about the meaning of some of these songs with him real soon.
Most likely to be one of the more defining pop records of our generation- Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
I know it’s a bold statement, but it’s true in my experience with it. I like they get playful with this record and don’t take themselves too seriously. I think a band like Dirty Projectors is so acclaimed that it’s cast into obscurity, definitely in a musical sense – the band is forced to produce something epic, and instead produces something completely accessible. They’re one of the few more commerical bands out there that are really experimenting, taking appropriate amounts of influence from R&B, and garage rock psychedelia and infusing it with their own sound. This record was pretty important to me this summer, I used to run with it a lot down by the lake and songs like “The Socialites” and “Dance For You” always got me pretty pumped. It feels sweet and naive, but also calculated and perfectly executed, polished harmonies and no lack of hand clapping and thunderous bass. It’s all the makings of a good-feeling record, and sometimes you just gravitate towards that.
Most likely to make me reconsider autotuning – Polica – Give You the Ghost
I remember first listening to this record earlier in the year and just thinking that every song was good. The sensuality of it, the eeriness, the feeling of loss and renewal – all wrapped in this ambient R&B melodies and the inaudible sounds of frontwoman, Channy Leneagh’s harmonizing with herself. It’s almost as if she’d possessed another language and could only communicate through autotune effects (which I normally hate, but it works really well here). The songs are more experiential as a whole than they are isolated pieces – formlessly floating and colliding with the songs among them, above a bed of dueling, marching band drums, synth and sax. The instrumentation reinforces her timid yet unrestrained vocals, making it larger than itself, aggressive even. The result is one of my favourite records of this year.
Most eccentric and badass: Cate Le Bon – CYRK
Beyond her Nico comparison, Cate Le Bon holds her own as an avant garde Welsh songstress, she’s all parts punk rock, folk, pastoral and psychedelic. At times, frantic (Falcon Eyed) and soft and sinister (Greta). This record can only be described as a trip to the carnival on acid, making you feel uneasy or on edge – only to be comforted by her voice as it cascades rhythmically above the chaos. I admire her courageousness, as this record sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before.
Most satisfying - Aidan Knight- Small Reveal
I experience the world a little more severely than the average person, in that everyday things affect me physiologically, it’s why I’m so drawn to music that is easy listening. Non-abrasive and contemplative. I think more than anything, I listen to music for it’s healing properties. So when I hear strings, and thoughtful songwriting, I’m all ears. Does that make me sound ancient? Aidan Knight is deeply satisfying, both in his execution and narration. Folk tunes like Margaret Downe make you want to burst into tears for no apparent reason. That’s carthasis, and for that I thank him.
Strangers I call Friends - Blessed Feathers – Peaceful Beasts in the Ocean of Weeds
My friend Donivan from Blessed Feathers is something special, he makes zines that are thoughtful, and full of whimsy and an impressive lineup of guest contributors. He’s got an honest voice in his writing, you feel like you’re reading letters from a friend. This translates as well in his band, Blessed Feathers. He, alongside the beautiful Jacquelyn Beaupre, churn out sweet folk songs, with their most recent: Peaceful Beast in the Ocean of Weeds. It’s in their careful attention to detail, observing the nature that surrounds them, contemplating it, and nurturing it. Their music is made up of healing properties.
Best use of a spooky children’s choir - Damien Jurado – Maraqopa
Maraqopa is a live-to-tape record and collaborative effort with producer Richard Swift, rounding out a 13 year professional relationship that might have just hit the nail on the head. In other words, it is excellent. It’s got all the elements that make for a good listening experience: the haunted sounds of a children’s choir, slow claps, organs, moody carnivalesque- vibes. My boyfriend toured with Jurado earlier this year and I happened to be in town for their Vancouver show so I got to see him live, and boy, what an experience. That really solidified my love for Jurado’s music and I had a whole back catalogue of albums afterwards waiting to be explored. I’ve since really grown fond of Saint Bartlett as well. When I imagine driving up the PNW (hopefully this January) I will want this album in hand.
Most endearing - Aaron Embry – Tiny Prayers
I first watched a video of Aaron Embry around Valentines Day of this year. He’s got this naive romance to him, slightly shy and totally sweet. He’s got this old fashioned sense to him, with intricate fingerpicking and the hum of a harmonica, serenading acoustically – there’s just something different about him. He’s got an old soul.
Hottest frontman everrrrr - Jake Westin – Jake Westin
C’mon, I had to. But really, Don’t Leave and We Became Kids Again are two of my favourite songs of this year. If music is meant to be honest and lay it all out there, that that’s exactly what he has done. I could not be more proud and in awe. That’s my guy, right there.
These should all probably belong up there with the rest of ‘em, but for the sake of your sanity I will stop writing.
Thanks for making it through 2012 with me. Sign up for my monthly mixes and you’ll get all the long winded life updates you could ever want in one email. Have a lovely Holiday, everyone!