A music blog, established 2010. My name is Chris Cappello and I'm a Yale student from New Haven, Connecticut.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Top 25 Songs of 2011

The second installment in my 2011 Year End lists series is a list of what I view to be the top 25 songs of 2011. Songs were judged for personal appeal, cultural significance, and musical memorability, and have been ordered from great to greatest. I assembled an 8-tracks playlist of all 25 songs in order which you can stream below, and listen to while you read. Youtube links to each song have also been attached if you prefer that. Check back here tomorrow for my top 10 Connecticut albums of the year!

edit: The 8tracks embed is not working so if you want to stream the mix just click HERE

25. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - "Belong"

Indie rock culture is all about finding community in a world where you just don’t belong. That’s what The Pains of Being Pure At Heart¬†seem to think, anyway. On the title track to their new LP, the New York City indie pop group ups the shoegazey guitars and taps into that confusing but universal desire. “We just don’t belong,” frontman Kip Berman sings. Thanks in no small part to this song, it seems that they’ve found their place.

24. Into It. Over It. - "Connecticut Steps"

If you’re still wondering just how far reaching the effect of Mitch Dubey’s death last March was, look no further than Into It. Over It.'s “Connecticut Steps.” Written in reaction to the murder of Dubey, who was for years a fixture in the Connecticut punk scene and a friend to many, “Connecticut Steps” perfectly captured the feelings that countless people had on that cold March morning when we heard the news — Uncertainty, fear, sadness, denial, and more indescribable emotions — all through the uniquely personal lens of Evan Weiss' masterful songwriting. But just as I'm sure Mitch would have wanted, the song doesn't wallow in despair, but instead looks towards the future. “It's what you meant / To everyone you met,” Weiss sings. We don't know what “it” is for Weiss, but that's what's so beautiful about it; It allows us to supply our own memories.¬†

23. Azealia Banks - "212" (Ft. Lazy Jay)

Azealia Banks' raunchy, potty-mouthed banger “212” was far and away the definitive hipster-hop jam of 2011. There was something so initially jarring and perfect about the contrast between the song's lyrics and Banks' cute girl image that I still get surprised every time Banks says “cock” or “fuck” or “I guess that cunt gettin' eaten.” I mean, seriously, that is some raw¬†shit! Of course, the lyrical loops that Banks throws the listener for are only made more alarming by the speed at which she delivers them, which is impressive considering she claims to only have started rapping within the past year. With its bouncy Lazy Jay¬†beat (which she illegally sampled, just so you know) and lyrics made unforgettable by Banks’ relentless delivery, 212 hints at some big things for this girl in 2(0)12.

22. Los Campesinos! - "By Your Hand"

Welsh twee punks Los Campesinos! made their gradual and inevitable transition to a relatively subdued indie rock sound this year with their new LP Hello Sadness, in an attempt to shy away from the manic energy of their previous releases and focus on developing their lyrics. Unfortunately, it didn’t really pay off on the whole, and the record came off as rather middling for the most part. The lead single “By Your Hand” is fantastic though, and succeeds where most of the rest of Hello Sadness¬†fails at communicating a more mature vision of Los Campesinos! The angst-ridden bitterness of Gareth Campesinos!’ lyrics is still very present, but the raw clang of their past efforts has been condensed into the more palpable structure of a pop song, complete with an infectious and perfectly LC! chorus: “By your hand is the only end I foresee.”

21. Rihanna - "We Found Love" (Feat. Calvin Harris)

For a lot of people, the world in 2011 did seem like a rather hopeless place. Political riots, social/economic unrest, and revolutions swept over the globe like wildfire, being met at every turn with ardent opposition that often resulted in violence. It was a tumultuous climate that we went through, and one that doesn’t show signs of settling down any time soon. It goes without saying that these issues were/are very real to a lot of people. So perhaps it’s ill-fitting that the most compelling declaration of love in spite of hopelessness this year came from Rihanna,¬†one of the biggest pop stars in the world, someone who would never really be negatively affected by the global economic inequity or class issues. But who really cares anyway when the song is as good as “We Found Love” is? This is pop music at its finest, with an electric, pulsating beat that seems to never stop swelling and hooks for miles. Although the instrumentation constantly teeters on the edge of self-destruction, Rihanna herself sounds confident and poised, declaring the song’s titular chorus with conviction. If she’s trying to convince listeners that she’s real, I buy it.

20. The Strokes - "Under Cover Of Darkness"

When the “Under Cover Of Darkness” digital single dropped, it seemed for a moment that there was hope for The Strokes yet. Although they’ve only gotten bigger with each of their four releases, the band has always lived critically in the shadow of their debut Is This It. But with its instantly classic guitar riff and Julian Casablancas’ distinct vocal mannerisms, “Under Cover Of Darkness” seemed like it was just great enough to make The Strokes worth caring about again. Unfortunately, even a single this good wasn’t enough to save Angles¬†from being as bad as anything else they did post-Is This It, but at least we still have it to listen to and to remember that one time when, for a second there, it felt like 2001 again.

19. Kendrick Lamar - "Fuck Your Ethnicity"

In a hip-hop culture dominated by two idealistically separate but closely linked styles of aggressive rap, socially conscious hip-hop seems rather irrelevant. It took a truly courageous and talented MC like West Coast rapper¬†Kendrick Lamar to send a jolt through the hip-hop community and remind people about what actually matters. On “Fuck Your Ethnicity,” the opening track to his LP Section.80, Lamar makes a powerful statement about racial identity. With tastefully soulful female vocals, piano key flourishes, and a memorable chorus as support, he spits rhyme after rhyme of stimulating and thought-provoking lyrics calling for social responsibility. 2011 was a year where a lot of rappers made it big riding on a wave of controversy, but unlike them, listening to Kendrick Lamar actually makes me feel like a good person.

18. The Decemberists - "Calamity Song"

The Decemberists¬†apparently wrote “Calamity Song” in the midst of the 2008 United States presidential election as a criticism of the McCain/Palin ticket. Despite the alarming title, it would be pretty hard to guess the subject matter solely based on Colin Meloy’s verbose lyrics, but in retrospect it makes a lot of sense. “The Panamanian Child?” That’s John McCain, born on an American military base in Panama. Meloy’s indictment of Palin is a little harder to catch, although he seems not to think so — “Hetty Green, queen of supply side bonhomie bonedrab / You know what I mean?” Well, spend a few minutes analyzing that line with a dictionary and you might. “Calamity Song” wasn’t recorded until it appeared on this year’s The King Is Dead, but its calamitous lyrics seem just as relevant now than ever.

17. Ramshackle Glory - "Your Heart Is A Muscle The Size Of Your Fist"

Pat The Bunny entered into Hell and somehow came out better than he’s ever been. With his new band Ramshackle Glory, Pat wrote and recorded a collection of new songs about overcoming his heroin addiction, displaying a newfound sense of optimism for the future that was entirely absent in any of his previous work. “Your Heart Is A Muscle The Size Of Your Fist” is the best documentation of this profound change. It’s a folk punk song that stands with the best of them — An unrelenting powerhouse of solidarity and hope that, despite its personal lyrics, resonates on a universal level. Pat The Bunny has never written a better song.¬†

16. La Dispute - "King Park"

Although it’s only been out for a few months, “King Park’s” lyric sheet has already proven to be fodder for the lyric image-hungry tumblr hXc populace. Don’t let those ridiculous image macros influence your appreciation for the song, though. When “King Park” is removed from that context, it’s a chillingly powerful and serious piece of music. With his crazed, urgent voice, frontman Jordan Dreyer tells the story of an accidental shooting of an innocent child, playing the role of the silent observer as he describes how the family and town reacts, and how the killer himself is eventually found. It all builds up to the incredible climax, in which the killer is confronted by police, only to let out a desperate line for the ages: “Can I still get into heaven if I kill myself?” Put that on your image macro.

15. The Guru - "Arizona"

"Arizona" isn’t the best song overall on Native Sun, the debut full length from Connecticut kids The Guru, but it stands alone better than any of the others. “Arizona” is a singular declaration of intent — a manifesto of youth and post-adolescence that ranks up there with classics such as The Who's¬†”My Generation” and, more recently, Titus Andronicus' “Titus Andronicus.” It's a song that I screamed the words to in packed rooms on many occasions throughout the past year, and a song that I hope to scream again one day soon when the band comes back to Connecticut. Most of all, Arizona is a song that reminds me of what matters in my life. “I swear to grow old,” singer Eddie Golden shouts. It's got to happen some time.

14. Real Estate¬†- "It’s Real"

Real Estate¬†did a lot of growing up in the past two years, and this is what they have to show for it. “It’s Real” is a perfect single that displays everything the band does well: It’s got jangly, reverb-heavy guitars, a soothing bassline, precise percussion, catchy melodies, moving harmonies, and earnest lyrics. Sure, it could have been an early¬†R.E.M.¬†song or a Feelies¬†song, but it wasn’t. “It’s Real” is 100% Real Estate, right down to the name, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

13. Beastie Boys - "Make Some Noise"

Okay, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that the return of the Beastie Boys¬†was easily the most badass comeback of the year. Hot Sauce Committee Pt 2 was¬†extremely fun to listen to from the get go, and continues to be rewarding months later. Lead single “Make Some Noise” is definitely the best part of the record, and stands out just fine by itself for what it is. Ad-Rock, MCA, and Mike D spit nonsensical, hilarious rhymes over the squelching beat, at times rapping over straight feedback and just generally not giving a fuck and a great time. Line of the year goes to Mike D: “Pass me the scalpel, I’ll make an incision / And cut out the part of your brain that does the bitchin’.”

12. Bon Iver - "Perth"

Back in March, before the release of Bon Iver's¬†now-hugely successful¬†Bon Iver, Bon Iver, Justin Vernon previewed some of the songs from the album to Rolling Stone. He called the opening track “Perth” a “Civil War-sounding heavy metal song,” which kind of fits in retrospect. If there was any one moment on the new record where Bon Iver shed the “folksy”, “wood cabin” image that it had assumed since 2008, it was right when the massive sounding double bass drum hits came in on¬†”Perth” for the first time. Exactly right there is when I knew that Bon Iver, Bon Iver¬†was going to be something big. It turns out that I was right, and more so than I could have possibly known at the time.

11. Giles Corey - "Spectral Bride"

Dan Barrett (a.k.a. Giles Corey) makes soul-crushingly depressing songs in such a way that the listener often doesn’t realize how depressing they are until it’s far too late. “Spectral Bride” begins with Barrett strumming a guitar, as many of the songs on Giles Corey¬†do, and singing with multi-tracked vocals, creating the effect of a large choir. The melody sounds like something out of a gospel song, and with Barrett’s harmonizing vocals singing it, the song is actually quite beautiful. At face level, “Spectral Bride” is really quite sweet — Barrett is declaring his love to someone whom he obviously cares about a lot. But as the song reaches critical mass, and the instrumentation swells to a crescendo, the true motivations for the song become clear. Anything that might have been construed as plainly pretty or simply romantic now take on a darker meaning as the listener realizes that Barrett is not just calling out to a lover, but is instead revealing to that person his desire to kill himself. “And if I don’t survive, I’ll still be by your side,” the Barrett choir sings, as horns and heavy drums are added to the mix. This line becomes a mantra in the second half, almost as if Barrett is trying to convince himself of its truth more than his lover.

10. The National - "Think You Can Wait" (feat. Sharon Van Etten)

Both The National and Sharon Van Etten¬†came off a big year in 2010, a year in which they both had career-defining records that received a lot of critical praise. In this way, it’s fitting that the two acts, who are separately known for their unique songwriting and their atmospheric recordings, collaborated musically in 2011. The result of this collaboration is “Think You Can Wait,” released as a single by The National earlier in the year. It’s a slow burning, keyboard led number that follows The National’s established songwriting formula with its series of restrained, subtle crescendos. Frontman Matt Berninger’s lead vocals are absolutely melting, while Van Etten’s backing vocal contributions in the chorus contrast with his perfectly. It’s a beautifully sad storm of uncertainty, and it begs for more collaboration between these two musical forces.

9. Drake - "Marvins Room"

I was never a Drake fan when he first blew up a couple years ago, but that all changed dramatically when “Marvins Room” dropped in the beginning of the summer. With this one song, the Toronto rapper singlehandedly nailed the aesthetic that had been slowly developing for the past year with the work of artists like The Weeknd¬†and How To Dress Well. “Marvins Room” finds harmony between the swagger and excess of mainstream pop rap R&B, and the moody, down-tempo emotionalism that singer/songwriters with acoustic guitars and lonely electronic music producers have been channeling for decades. With its confessional lyrics and testy subject matter, it was an incredibly bold statement to make, especially in advance of an album as big as Take Care. Although the full album did not entirely build on the creative success of “Marvins Room,” the song works in its own context even better.

8. Low - "Try To Sleep"

I’m so happy Low went back to making music that is pretty. Their past two efforts prior to 2011’s C’mon¬†were heavy on experimentation, but not particularly thick with substance or simple beauty. “Try To Sleep” is C’mon's opening track, and it is perhaps the single prettiest song that the Duluth, Minnesota slowcore band has ever released over their lengthy career. With its toy piano twinkles and characteristically lush haromonies, “Try To Sleep” was so pretty that the band managed to enlist John Stamos (yes, that John Stamos) to star in a video for it. The video, which features Stamos and a woman sitting in a car in front of a screen on which moving images of a countryside road are projected, perfectly captures the tone of the song: Beautiful and eye-opening, but ultimately very sad.¬†

7. House of Wolves¬†- "50’s"

The past four entries on this list have all been moody, melancholic, and rather sad songs. I guess I have a type, because “50’s” is no different. On the first track to his debut album Fold In The Wind,¬†House Of Wolves¬†singer/songwriter Rey Villalobos captures a cracked and fleeting feeling of nostalgia for a bygone era, an era which neither I nor Villalobos himself ever experienced. “Kiss me like it’s the 50’s,” he sings, in his inflated falsetto, beckoning to an unnamed lover. Sadly, the person he’s calling out to seems just as far removed from the present time and space as the era that Villalobos is trying to evoke. With its glacial speed and gentle, sweetly layered instrumentation, “50’s” is a sad parade indeed, but one that is worth watching run its course.¬†

6. Gang Gang Dance - "Glass Jar"

"I can hear everything. It’s everything time."

Gang Gang Dance's stellar new album Eye Contact opens with that simple statement, spoken in the first five seconds of the opening track “Glass Jar.” In the subsequent 11 minutes, Gang Gang Dance unfolds a stunning sonic portrayal of the birth and evolution of life. There’s no death represented here — That’s for the rest of the album to deal with — just an uncompromisingly vivacious and organic declaration of the wonders of existence. In the first half, churning synths bubble up through cracks in “Glass Jar’s” surface while atmospheric effects flit about through the speakers. But don’t let the six minute ambient/new age intro fool you; In its second half, “Glass Jar” explodes with powerful rhythms, psychedelic vocals, and an infectious repeated synth line, displaying some remarkably catchy pop attributes. Enlightenment and nirvana comes with the tapping of a foot.

5. Destroyer - "Kaputt"

Forget for a second everything you know about culture and nostalgia for the 80s, and just play this song. Disco beats, hi-fi production, and saxophone licks don’t have to be bad if you forget everything bad that you ever listened to that sounded like that. In the 6 minutes and 18 seconds of “Kaputt,” the title track from¬†Destroyer's new LP,¬†Dan Bejar and his arsenal of supporting musicians and vocalists redeem the 80s pop aesthetic and give it a new purpose and feeling of life, all while making every other 80's-referential 2011 band seem totally useless and insignificant. Just as I did when I first heard it at the beginning of the year, I still hope that “Kaputt” kills 80's nostalgia, but I think that even if it does, I'll still be listening to the song and getting nostalgic.¬†

4. The Rapture - "How Deep Is Your Love?"

I’ll just get this out of the way right now and admit that yes, that the chorus of my fourth favorite song from 2011 sounds exactly like "The Thong Song."¬†Now that I’ve dealt with that, let’s take a moment to think about just how much of a banger “How Deep Is Your Love?” is. Are there clubs that play The Rapture¬†anymore? Did clubs ever play The Rapture? If I were in charge of a club, I would just play “How Deep Is Your Love?” over and over again and everyone would love it. Although In The Grace Of Your Love¬†is a good album in its own right, this song alone justified The Rapture’s comeback completely. Now I’m going to listen to it again.¬†

3. The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die - "I Will Be Okay. Everything"

On “I Will Be Okay. Everything,” The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die¬†distilled everything that I love about them into one fantastic four minute track. The communal vibe of Formlessness¬†is here, represented in the opening line, “No, we aren’t ghosts, ‘cause even ghosts have a home to haunt.” The aggressive urgency of Josh Is Dead¬†is here too, conveyed by the song’s electrifying final movement. But more than anything else, I love “I Will Be Okay” because of how it differs from their previous material. The song displays a songwriting confidence previously unseen from the Connecticut band, with the three vocalists all contributing their own distinctive lyrics and singing in perfect literal and figurative harmony. The production and musicianship has also dramatically improved, as the band plays tightly and with tremendous conviction on “I Will Be Okay. Everything” The result shows that the whole is better than the individual parts, and that the forces controlling The World Is… are a great match for each other.¬†

2. Andrew Jackson Jihad - "Big Bird"

I’ve always admired Andrew Jackson Jihad¬†for their minimalism. Minimalistic folk instrumentation, minimalistic song lengths, minimalistic chord progressions…. The band has always been good at getting a lot out of relatively little, and it’s paid off for them. However, I never considered what the band would be capable of if they went the opposite route. “Big Bird” is the last song on Andrew Jackson Jihad’s new record¬†Knife Man, the culmination of experimentation and a tremendous exercise in self-exploration for singer/songwriter Sean Bonnette. It’s the complete reverse of their established formula of skittery punk folk, trading minimalism for maximalism, high speed for dirge-like slowness, and clever lyrical witticisms for crushingly emotional declarations. Bonnette lists his fears like he’s reading from a grocery list, adding emotional weight that is emphasized by the heavy instrumentation. Organs, strings electric guitars, and massive percussion fall on the listener with every subsequent line, building to a moving emotional head when Bonnette references the city that he calls home, Phoenix Arizona. “But the big red bird that lives under the city doesn’t give a damn about me and it dies every night / By burning alive.” The band has come a long way from Candy Cigarettes and Cap Guns, and the future is looking amazing.¬†

1. The Antlers - "Putting The Dog To Sleep"

"Prove to me I’m not gonna die alone"

We all have our own individual insecurities. Everyone has his or her own fears, and some people have more than others. Nothing is truly terrifying in a universal sense, but one particular notion comes close. The Antlers¬†frontman¬†Peter Silberman recognizes how much humans fear dying alone, and in that one line (along with its subsequent repetitions), he provokes an emotional response that is somehow even more significant and immediate than all of Hospice¬†was. While Hospice provided¬†a needle-like injection of extremely potent depression and sorrow into the arms of so many of its listeners, the Burst Apart¬†closer “Putting The Dog To Sleep” speaks to a more general, farther-reaching feeling of pain. It’s the human condition in song form, conveyed as a 1950s-style doo wop piece having been run through Silberman’s aching vocals and the band’s wash of reverb and electronics.¬†The band takes its time in building up to that powerful opening line, but once it arrives, it’s an incredibly cathartic release. That first guitar chord punches you in the gut hard enough to make you forget the lyrical subtleties of the song, but by the second verse, Silberman is back on his desperate, yearning track. By the end, it seems that he has proven whatever he was seeking to himself. Or perhaps, like Dan Barrett on “Spectral Bride” earlier, he is simply trying to prove¬†that he is proving it to himself. “Put your trust in me,” Silberman sings, calling out once more to his unnamed target, “I’m not gonna die alone. I don’t think so.” If anything has the power to prevent that from happening, it’s this song.¬†

Thursday, December 15, 2011

2011 Albums of the Year, Part 1 (#50-21)

This is the first installment of my 2011 Year End lists. To view the full schedule of my lists, click HERE. Check back tomorrow for #’s 20-1.¬†Click HERE¬†to check out #s 20-1!

50. The Feelies - Here Before

Jangle Pop, Folk Rock, Indie Rock

Chalk this one up to one of the most pleasant surprises of the year: The Feelies¬†returned in 2011 with their first new music in 20 years, in the form of their full length record Here Before. Although they had reunited in 2008 and continued to tour vigorously throughout the subsequent three years, the prospect of new music from the band seemed bleak. But unlike some other bands from The Feelies’ era who have gotten back together over the years, this group genuinely had something left to say. In this case, it seems like they had a LOT to say; with 13 songs and a 46 minute running time,¬†Here Before is the longest Feelies album to date. Sonically, the record does not stray from the jangly folk pop style of their past three records, but it still feels adventurous. In their lyrics, the band explores the concept of aging and gives listeners an insight as to what reuniting an indie rock band after almost two decades is like. “Is it to late / to do it again?” vocalist Glenn Mercer sings on the opening track.¬†For fans of the New Jersey indie rock progenitors,¬†the answer is a resounding “No!”¬†Here Before¬†stands as a shining example of why reunions can be truly rewarding.

49. Algernon Cadwallader - Parrot Flies

Twinkly Emo, Math Rock, Indie Rock

Here at the end of 2011, with their punkish peers¬†Grown Ups and Snowing¬†having called it quits, Algernon Cadwallader¬†seems like the only big player in the twinkly emo revival scene. But when they released their sophomore LP Parrot Flies¬†at the beginning of the summer, the scene had never been stronger. With its meandering, heavily layered guitar lines, unpredictable time signatures, and uniquely catchy vocal melodies, Parrot Flies¬†both typified emo revival and also advanced it. There was just enough experimentation on this record to keep it interesting, and although it lacked singularly great songs with the immediate of fan favorites from the group’s first album, songs like Parrot Flies’ "Pitfall," "Springing Leaks," and the acoustic guitar-led "Sad" have held up to repeated listens better than anything on Some Kind of Cadwallader.

48. Man Man - Life Fantastic

Avant-garde Rock, Experimental, Indie Rock

The problem with the new Man Man record is not that it doesn’t quite live up to their previous albums, that it’s production, handled by Bright Eyes' Mike Mogis, is a little overdone,¬†or even that after three years their experimental¬†Modest Mouse¬†meets Rain Dogs-era¬†Tom Waits¬†formula has begun to grow stale. Although all of those criticisms are true to an extent, the real reason that Life Fantastic¬†hasn’t been particularly well-received is rather simple: Man Man’s fans have grown up. I’ve read a large handful of dismissive reviews of this record that say something along the lines of “My sixteen year old self would love this.” Well, I’m sixteen, and I love this. Or at least I like it a lot. While the annoyingly catchy “Piranhas Club” is a little silly, songs like the darkly danceable title track, the creepy murder ballad “Haute Tropique”, and the aggressive “Dark Arts” are among the band’s best tracks ever. This record was admittedly my first exposure to Man Man, but the fact that I appreciate it so much still says more about the record itself than it does about me.¬†

47. Washed Out - Within and Without

Chillwave, Dream Pop, Electronic

I found Washed Out's 2009 EP Life Of Leisure pretty boring. It was good for a summer makeout session (at least, it probably was, I guess…), but it held little substantial water past those summer days and nights. I suppose that sums up how I felt about chillwave in general that year; I could never really connect with it on an emotional level. On his new LP Within and Without, the first full length record from this project, Washed Out mastermind Ernest Greene turns my frustration on its head. Within and Without revels in its self-aware lack of emotion, right down to the purposefully generic stock photo album cover. Cold synth washes cover the record in an impenetrable haze, while the hushed, disconnected vocals distance the listener from the sadness at the heart of this album. By the end, that sadness bubbles up to the surface in the form of “A Dedication,” a slow, somber reminder that even chillwavers have feelings.¬†

46. Ovlov¬†- What’s So Great About The City? (EP)

Indie Rock, Noise Rock, Shoegaze

Lots of bands tried their hand at 90’s revivalism in 2011, but few did it better than Ovlov. On their new EP What’s So Great About The City?, the Connecticut group pays tribute to fuzz rockers such as¬†Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, and Nirvana¬†with their buzzsaw brand of indie rock, or as they call it, “pop songs played heavy.”¬†With its title and loose concept about the downsides of urban life, the group also seems to be paying tribute to¬†The Dismemberment Plan's Emergency & I, albeit in a much more palatable form.¬†Although it only runs a little over 11 minutes, the four song EP has tremendous replay value. Opener “The Valley” is the grungiest track here, while “I Got Well” is the most catchy. “What Comes Next” is a propulsive punk song while “The City” features female vocals in its lofty chorus. All four tracks have personality that goes beyond their short lengths, and playability that extends for miles. If you’re fed up with boring revivalist bands like Yuck, but still want to hear some authentic sounding 90’s indie rock, give Ovlov a spin. The EP is available for whatever you want to pay over at their Bandcamp page.¬†

45. Blue Sky Black Death - NOIR

Electronic, Dream Pop, Shoegaze 

The duo behind¬†Blue Sky Black Death¬†made their name as instrumental hip-hop producers, but you wouldn’t be able to tell just from listening to their new record NOIR. Instead of adhering to the established hip-hop format on this record, Blue Sky Black Death have struck out their own course into virtually uncharted electronic territory. Mixing lush synth textures, piano melodies, heavy guitar leads, strings, and crisp, minimal beats, NOIR¬†sounds like little else that was released this year. These instrumental backdrops are topped off in some cases by soulful vocal samples, including Dusty Springfield on “Farewell To The Former World” and¬†Solomon Burke¬†on the too-short interlude “Falling Short.” With or without the sampled vocals, NOIR¬†is one of the most moving and organic electronic albums of 2011.¬†

44. Holy Ghost! - Holy Ghost!

Synth Pop, Electronic, Alternative Dance

If 2011 goes down primarily as the year that LCD Soundsystem¬†broke up and dropped the electronic indie rock torch, history will look at Holy Ghost!¬†as the first group to pick it back up. Released on James Murphy’s DFA Records, the duo’s debut LP is quintessentially New York in all the same ways that Murphy’s own band’s first LP was;¬†Holy Ghost!¬†is full of smart, spastic, and singular electropop, with just enough of a rock edge to maintain the listener’s interest. Although they make music for dancing and potentially tripping to, Holy Ghost!’s self-aware lyrics clarify their nu-disco aesthetic. Look out for a guest spot from Michael McDonald¬†on the closing track “Some Children”, and the starry-eyed but earnest “Jam For Jerry”, which was written as a tribute to the late Jerry Fuchs (of !!!, LCD Soundsystem, Maserati, and a number of other great New York bands.). It’s a musical model we’ve all seen before, but one that’s been proven to work. Hopefully we can expect even better things from Holy Ghost! in the next couple years.¬†

43. Thurston Moore - Demolished Thoughts

Indie Folk, Chamber Folk, Singer/Songwriter

Dispel any thoughts or preconceptions you might have about Thurston Moore, the aging indie rock legend, or about Sonic Youth, the band that he has fronted for over 30 years, or even about Kim Gordon, his longtime wife and bandmate from whom it was recently announced that he was separating. Hell, demolish those thoughts. Download a copy of Moore’s most recent solo album¬†and allow yourself to be overcome by the enveloping swathe of acoustic guitar textures and strings. Lose yourself in Moore’s soothing vocals, calling to mind Nick Drake, and Demolished Thoughts'¬†understated songwriting.¬†Ease yourself into the first half of Demolished Thoughts,¬†with its lush chamber folk numbers “Benediction” and “Circulation,” and fall into the atmospheric haze of its abstract second side. Lie down on your bed with this record on in the middle of the day, and if you aren’t asleep by the end of “January”, you should stop drinking so much coffee.¬†

Now, as you wake from your healing midday slumber, recall those thoughts and consider how amazing it is that Thurston Moore was able to create a record this beautiful in 2011.

42. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Mirror Traffic

Indie Rock, Singer/Songwriter

This album could earn its place on this list solely for the first line of “Tigers”, which is probably the best opening line to any album I’ve heard since Silver Jews' American Water¬†(which, coincidentally, Stephen Malkmus¬†was also involved with.). References to streaking in birkenstocks aside, the former Pavement¬†frontman’s new album with his backing band The Jicks is just about as good as anything he’s done since the former band broke up. With production assistance from fellow 90’s indie rock icon¬†Beck, Mirror Traffic¬†is steeped in nostalgia while still coming across as forward-thinking. The jangly “Tigers” is probably the best track here, but others like the fuzzy folk rock gem “Stick Figures In Love” and the delightfully profane (and topical) lead single “Senator” round the album out for a consistently enjoyable listen. Also, you get to hear Stephen Malkmus say “blowjob”. What’s not to love?

41. The Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck

Indie Folk, Folk Rock, Singer/Songwriter

When was the last time The Mountain Goats put out a bad album? Have they every put out a genuinely bad album? Perhaps the best thing about The Mountain Goats is their consistency. Over the past ten years, John Darnielle has released eight major albums under his Mountain Goats moniker, and all of them have been solid releases. Although The Mountain Goats can’t claim to have very many great¬†albums, they certainly have a lot of good albums. Darnielle’s latest, All Eternals Deck, is no exception.

2012 marks ten years since The Mountain Goats transformed from a personal, lo-fi solo project of John Darnielle into a full band operating in a studio, with 2002’s Tallahassee. On All Eternals Deck, it seems that The Mountain Goats have finally come into their own as a studio band, and are now able to have some fun with it. Working with some interesting producers (including death metal singer/guitarist Erik Rutan), this album must have been a lot have fun to record. What All Eternals Deck¬†may lack in coherence, it makes up for in stylistic variety. Many different kinds of music are represented here, from the band’s signature folk rock (“Birth of Serpents”), to sentimental piano/strings ballads (“Outer Scorpion Squadron”), and even barbershop-quartet style vocal music (“High Hawk Season”).¬†

On top of this,¬†All Eternals Deck¬†happens to be Darnielle’s best set of songs in quite some time.¬†The best moment comes in the form of “Estate Sale Sign”, an aggressive, high tempo number that sounds more raucous than any Mountain Goats song in years. ¬†No matter where Darnielle & Co. go next, I’ll be sure to follow behind with open ears.

40. Pianos Become The Teeth - The Lack Long After

Screamo, Post-Hardcore, Experimental Hardcore

Having tracked¬†Pianos Become The Teeth for a while, I’ve observed a lot of refinement happening with their creative output. Looking back on the band’s earliest recordings, their 2009 LP Old Pride¬†represented a tremendous stylistic refinement from the unrestrained madness of their previous material, with its sweeping post-rock song structures and unified conceptual ideas. On their split with The Saddest Landscape, they brought their style together even more with a meticulous attention to stylistic detail. Now, on their brand new sophomore LP The Lack Long After, I wonder just how much more refined they can get. The lengthy post-rock soundscapes are gone here, as are the slow instrumental interludes of Old Pride, and the record comes across feeling much more urgent and immediate because of it. On the new LP, the group’s established experimental hardcore style remains, but in a condensed, pressurized form. Only two songs here surpass the 5 minute mark, but all eight of them pack a serious punch — More so, arguably, than anything on Old Pride¬†with the exception of “Filial”. Pianos Become The Teeth have been working towards this for quite some time, and as long as they don’t overstep their goal too much, listeners should be able to expect quite a bit more where this came from.

39. Desertshore - Drawing Of Threes 

Indie Folk, Slowcore, Indie Rock

Despite his reclusive nature and reportedly testy personality, Mark Kozelek remains something of a gargantuan character in singer/songwriter circles. He’s been consistently putting out records since the early 90s, never adhering to any stylistic guidelines, and essentially bending every band that he’s been in to the breaking point just so that he can get what he wants out there. The guy is about as badass as slowcore types can be, and he certainly has the songwriting skills and legacy to back it up. It’s no wonder, then, that¬†Desertshore have been eager to work with Kozelek, both on their 2010 debut and even more on their new record, Drawing Of Threes. Of course, the people behind Desertshore have had a relationship with him for quite some time, as guitarist Phil Carney was once a member of the amazing Red House Painters, which Kozelek fronted throughout the 90s. Hearing the two work together on Drawing Of Threes is incredibly rewarding, although the record doesn’t quite stack up against the best Painters material. The six songs on the album that Kozelek sings are all great, as are Carney’s understated instrumentals, although the latter require a more intense focus thank Kozelek’s immediately appealing songs. Highlights include the dense, true-to-form slowcore opener “Diana” and the subtler, more gentle “Mercy”.¬†

38.¬†J√ľrgen M√ľller - Science Of The Sea

Ambient, Electronic, New Age

One thing I’ve learned from getting really into ambient music this year is that every great ambient album has to have a concept to go along with it.¬†J√ľrgen M√ľller's Science Of The Sea is no exception. Science Of The Sea¬†was touted in press releases as a reissue of an obscure 1980s album composed by a German oceanic science student named¬†J√ľrgen M√ľller, who wrote and recorded the album after having powerful transcendental experiences observing sea life. Although few took the story to be true originally, it has now been pretty thoroughly debunked. If M√ľller ever did exist, he certainly didn’t make this album. Still, it provides the mind with something to ponder as the listener drifts off into the aqueous realms that Science Of The Sea¬†explores. Listening to this album is like taking a trip to the aquarium as a child. The record instantly taps into those deep-seeded feelings of wonder-evoked nostalgia, in a way that no other album did this year. I may never explore the depths of the ocean, but after exploring¬†Science Of The Sea, I feel like I already have.

37. Football, etc.  - The Draft

Indie Emo, Indie Rock

For a year so apparently steeped in 90s emo revivalism, I didn’t hear many albums that actually sounded like 90s emo bands in 2011. Of the few that did, one in particular stood out. Football, etc. is a trio from Houston, Texas who have taken impressive notes from 90s legends like Mineral,¬†Sunny Day Real Estate, and of course American Football¬†(Their band name and all of their song titles are references to the sport, which is probably some sort of nod to the latter band).¬†Their entire aesthetic, even down to their artwork, may be derived straight from the 90s, but their new full length record The Draft is¬†so good that it’s easy to excuse their lack of musical innovation. One thing that sets them apart is their female singer/guitarist Lindsay Minton, who absolutely nails the teenaged emo boy whine with her nasally voice and crushingly melancholic lyrics. In addition to a genuine 90s emo-influenced sound, the band has a much better pop sensibility than many of their revivalist peers, which displays itself in the form of their earworm guitar hooks and unusual vocal melodies. The Draft is easily¬†the best record to hate jocks to of 2011.¬†

36. Wild Flag - Wild Flag

Pop/Rock, Power Pop, Riot Grrrl

With her new band Wild Flag, former Sleater-Kinney guitarist¬†Carrie Brownstein has officially returned to making awesome music, and what a return it’s been! Ever since forming back in September of last year, Wild Flag has been on a rampage of critical praise-gaining, making the rounds at festivals and establishing themselves as a fresh voice in a stagnated scene. Their debut record Wild Flag¬†is the culmination of this steamroller of success; It’s loud, brash, punkish, and nevertheless one of the catchiest albums of the year. The band shifts styles throughout the album seemingly on a whim, going from girl-group inspired power pop (“Romance”) to rough and tumble punk rock (“Racehorse”), and even explores psychedelic rock with the 60s-influenced “Glass Tambourine”. Although the women in Wild Flag (among which are members of Helium and The Minders, along with two former members of Sleater-Kinney) aren’t the young riot grrrls that they were in the 90s, they’ve proven that almost-middle aged women can rock out with the best of them.¬†

35. The Rural Alberta Advantage - Departing

Folk Rock, Indie Folk, Indie Rock

"Goodnight to the Alberta Advantage"

That’s a line from the closing song of The Rural Alberta Advantage's sophomore LP Departing. It would be a pretty interesting way to end an album that would knowingly be your last, and it would certainly provide closure. Thankfully — hopefully — that isn’t the case with this band. From what I can tell, things are just getting started.¬†

The Canadian folk rock group got their start with a 2008 record called Hometowns, a jaunty, lo-fi collection of earnest folk songs, and got saddled with¬†Neutral Milk Hotel comparisons pretty soon after that. On Departing, they’ve cleaned things up a bit and refined their sound a lot, producing a much more cohesive and musically wholesome album of catchy, life-affirming, and meaningful folk rock songs. This time around, they’re not coming across as Jeff Mangum imitators, but one other well known folk band does come to mind: The Decemberists. Departing¬†is the album The Decemberists wish they could have made in 2011, or at least the album I wish The King Is Dead¬†had been.

34. Deafheaven - Roads To Judah

Experimental Black Metal, Post Rock

At the expense of not listening to nearly as much hip-hop as I should have this year, metal was one of the primary musical genres that I sought to explore in 2011. Most of my metal this year was of the “black” variety, which was probably due to the genre’s strange crossover success this year. Since I’ve never listened to much metal before this year, my qualifying judgement for most of this stuff was simply how much it scared the shit out of me and blew me away. Although Liturgy's Aesthetica came close, no record in 2011 did either of those things more than Deafheaven's Roads To Judah. I think the reason that it was so overpowering was that I could actually relate to it in some ways. Using the lengthy post-rock song structures that the band crafts their songs with as an entry point, I allowed myself to be drawn in to each of the four pieces on Roads To Judah, only to be blasted away by the pummeling drumbeats and incomprehensible howls of the vocalist. I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever truly enjoyed listening to this record — not in the traditional sense of the word anyway — but in terms of sheer physical effect, nothing beats Roads To Judah.

33. Powder! Go Away - Laika Still Wants Go Home

Post-Rock, Electronic

This one was an interesting find. Powder! Go Away are an instrumental post-rock band, but I didn’t know very much about the group itself until I read up on them after listening to their record. In fact, I only downloaded this album in the first place because of the title and album art; I didn’t know anything about it before listening. There was just something so immediately compelling about the album title. Laika Still Wants Go Home. Until my third or fourth listen, I didn’t even realize that the “to” was missing. You probably didn’t either. Supposedly, it is a conceptual album about the space dog Laika, the first animal in space, who was sent up by the Russians in 1957 and tragically died during her journey. As conveyed both by the simple cover art and the album title, there is a childlike wonder about Laika Still Wants Go Home, which only makes the concept even more sad. The music itself, a surprisingly lo-fi concentration of Explosions In The Sky-style¬†post-rock with high energy sections heavy on electronic beats and keyboards, produces a very cinematic feeling akin to what I imagine a journey to space is like. I think this is one of those fascinating, one-of-a-kind, weird little albums that never lead to anything bigger, but if Laika Still Wants Go Home¬†is the only great thing we get from Powder! Go Away, I’ll be perfectly content.¬†

32. Ramshackle Glory - Live The Dream

Folk Punk, Folk Rock

There wasn’t much going on in the folk punk world at large this year, but one artist in particular managed to make up for the genre’s overall lack of stimulation. Pat The Bunny (of Wingnut Dishwashers Union¬†and Johnny Hobo & The Freight Trains¬†fame) returned to the music world this year after recovering from his heroin addiction with a new band Ramshackle Glory. Their debut record Live The Dream¬†is easily Pat’s most mature album to date, if not his best. The songs range from self-referential odes to the struggles that Pat faced against addiction, to life-affirming punk anthems about reveling in the face of adversity. One clear highlight from the latter camp is the brilliantly-titled “Your Heart Is A Muscle The Size Of Your Fist”, which may be the best song Pat The Bunny has ever written. In addition to boasting some improved songwriting, Live The Dream¬†features the best backing band Pat has recorded with, giving an impressive instrumental backbone to the new songs. Overall, it’s a positive album that makes me feel good not only for myself, but also for Pat. He’s come a long way, and it’s great to see that he hasn’t lost his songwriting talent after recovering.

31. Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver

Indie Folk, Art Pop, Chamber Pop

You’ve heard this already. I don’t feel the need to write much about the content of the album because I’m sure that you’ve read about it already as well. I’m sure you recognize, whether or not you appreciate the album’s content, that this is one of the big records of 2011 and one that has perhaps the most potential to make a lasting impact on musical trends in the future. None of this is news. All years have their big records, and this is one of them. What’s worth looking at now, six months after the Bon Iver, Bon Iver's release, is how it's affected Justin Vernon himself. The sheer mass of this album and its subsequent hype train has managed to shift Vernon's public image away from the snowy woods where For Emma, Forever Ago was meticulously crafted, and into some previously unexplored art pop territory where everything is bigger. Unfortunately,¬†Bon Iver, Bon Iver's success seems to have made Vernon's head bigger along with everything else. As good as I know this record to be, I rarely find myself wanting to listen to it anymore. I would be doing a disservice to you if I were to exclude this from the list, but I probably wouldn't lose much sleep if I did.

30. Diarrhea Planet - Loose Jewels

Garage Punk, Pop Punk, Indie Rock

Last year, Titus Andronicus¬†frontman Patrick Stickles made me hip to a number of great bands, including The Oh Sees¬†and Free Energy, via his blog. This year, with his discovery of twitter, Stickles’ band recommendations have been nearly constant. One of the many great bands that he turned me onto this year is Diarrhea Planet, a group of dudes with guitars from Nashville, Tennessee who play some of the most energetic and enthusiastic punk rock I’ve ever heard.¬†

Aside from Patrick Stickles’ sponsorship, I was attracted to Diarrhea Planet of course by their ridiculous name. Most of their fans like this band in spite of their name, but I like them all the more because of it. Punks take note: If you want to show the world that you really don’t give a fuck, name your band Diarrhea Planet. Nowhere on their new LP Loose Jewels¬†do they even approach the realm of maturity, but when your name is Diarrhea Planet, maturity isn’t exactly expected of you. Instead, Loose Jewels is true to it’s own name. It’s a loosely connected set of lo-fi, guitar heavy punk nuggets — Jewels indeed, but unpolished to say the least. Joyful gang vocals appear on every song, beckoning drunk, late night sing-alongs with tried and true melodies. Few songs (except maybe the closer “Fauser”) stack up to fan favorites from their past records like “Ghost With A Boner” or “Power Moves”, nor does Loose Jewels¬†hold a candle to their ALOHA! EP as a whole, but it’s simply to lovable not to praise.

29. The Rapture - In The Grace Of Your Love

Electronic, Alternative Dance, Dance-Punk

The Rapture's return to the underground musical spotlight this year wasn't as climactic as some might have hoped, but it was certainly worth it. Given the lukewarm level of buzz surrounding their new record In The Grace Of Your Love¬†at the time of its release, it was easy to forget that there was a time when The Rapture was the biggest band in New York. I admire the stylistic choices that the band made in creating this record in light of that. Rather than attempt to resuscitate the long-dead New York City dance-punk scene, The Rapture instead chose to strike out on a new creative route. With Grace, they have taken much of the “punk” out of their old formula, replacing angular guitars with crystalline synths and crisp Chicago house keys. Frontman Luke Jenner’s voice has gotten brighter with age, and he flexes it throughout the record, particularly on the stunning opener “Sail Away” and the soulful “It Takes Time To Be A Man”. Highlights include the starry-eyed synth jam “Children” and the song-of-the-year contender “How Deep Is Your Love?”, which was easily the biggest banger of 2011.¬†

28. The Guru - Native Sun

Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Psychedelic Rock

In the nostalgia-fueled musical climate of 2011, many bands sang about youth, but few approached the subject with such immediacy as The Guru. When they recorded their debut album Native Sun before this past Summer, the four members of the Connecticut-based group were all on the verge of post-adolescence. But rather than approach the end of their youths with anxiety and uncertainty, The Guru chose to capture the best aspects of childhood with music, and learned a lot in the process. Like your best memories of childhood, Native Sun¬†is fast paced, exuberant, and incredibly fun. Although the band is broaching a serious subject with this record, they always manage to keep the mood light. Thought provoking lyrics about getting older are juxtaposed against joyful lines about going to the beach, driving to Cape Cod, and playing Mario Party. The music is a mix of Modest Mouse's sunnier side, with a psychedelic edge and emotive vocals that are strangely compelling once you get used to them.¬†With just eight songs at 24 minutes in length, Native Sun reminds us that our youth is fleeting and short, and urges us to make the most of it while we’re still young.¬†

27. Low¬†- C’mon

Slowcore, Indie Folk

The latest album from slowcore legends Low¬†puts them back about where their 2001 masterpiece Things We Lost In The Fire left off. It’s been praised as a return to form for the band (whose last two records have been rather experimental) not because of any dramatic similarities to their earliest albums, but because it strikes that perfect chord between miserable dreariness and prettiness. They reached a stylistic apex with Things We Lost In The Fire, and for the most part,¬†C’mon¬†succeeds in reaching it once more. Indeed, songs like “Try To Sleep” and “Nightingale” are among their most lushly melodic and beautiful. Other moments on the album hint at a bold new direction for the band. “Witches” is grim and heavy, with a snarling guitar part from frontman Alan Sparhawk and equally dark lyrics. Meanwhile, “Majesty/Magic” and the gargantuan “Nothing But Heart” build to tremendous post-rock style crescendos previously unseen from the band. Low still has new sonic territory to cover, and although it fits the mold of a return-to-form album,¬†C’mon¬†tells us to definitely not write them off yet.

26. WU LYF - Go Tell Fire To The Mountain

Psychedelic Pop, Indie Rock, Post-Rock

Hype got the better of many bands in the blog buzz cycle this year, but no one made good on hype’s promise the way that WU LYF did. They stood out from the pack as true counterculturalists, avoiding interviews and press releases at every turn. With cryptic imagery and a 2010 single that was just alien enough to resound in the ears of people eager to find the decade’s new sound, WU LYF was the greatest hype success story of the year. The less we knew about them, the more the buzz built, until the previously unknown British band released their debut LP Go Tell Fire To The Mountain. The album was recorded in an old church, giving it a natural reverb soaked sound that permeates every song, and tying into their mystical, cultish image. The music itself remains difficult to describe; It’s something like if Man Man became a post-rock band and started playing anthemic songs about brotherhood. Vocalist Ellery Roberts (who goes by “Elle Jaie”) howls with lupine resonance, rising above the churning instruments and injecting raw emotion into WU LYF’s product. It’s impossible to understand what he’s saying over the waves of reverb and pounding drums, but his conviction genuinely makes WU LYF something to believe in.

25. Into It. Over It. - Proper

Indie Rock, Pop Punk, Singer/Songwriter

As bold as it sounds, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to call Evan Thomas Weiss the most hardworking and talented guy in punk right now. With his solo project Into It. Over It., Weiss has recorded a staggering body of work over the past three years, from his numerous splits with artists such as CSTVT¬†and¬†Koji¬†to his monumentally ambitious 52 song debut album 52 Weeks, for which he (you guessed it) wrote and recorded one song every week for all 52 weeks of the year. Apparently being a punk genius can be time consuming; although he has recorded dozens of songs since Into It. Over It. began, he has yet to put out a traditional, proper album — until this year, of course. The aptly titled Proper¬†is mostly about two things. It’s about coherence, and it’s about expansion. For Weiss’ first crack at producing an album of songs united by one style, Proper is excellent. It’s impossible to resist the melodic charm of “Discretion and Depressing People” and “Write It Right”, or the powerful frankness of the slower, more subdued numbers such as “Where Your Nights Often End” and the highlight “Connecticut Steps”, which was written for Mitch Dubey. The warm analog sound that Weiss capturess throughout the album brings it together beautifully, and although the songs vary greatly in mood and tone, they are unified by the album’s fantastic production style. Now that he’s gotten that whole “proper LP” thing out of the way, Weiss can hopefully begin to focus on whatever brilliant next musical project he has in mind.

24. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Belong

Indie Pop, Noise Pop, Shoegaze

When I first heard Belong, the sophomore album from twee-gazers¬†The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart¬†back in April, I was already convinced it would be my favorite album of the year. Something about the album’s soaring guitar melodies and huge, glistening synthesizers, combined with the fact that I really wanted to feel happy again at the time, made me accept Belong¬†with an open heart. Since then, the album’s appeal has faded in my mind somewhat, but not by much. I still regard Belong¬†as the most life-affirming pop record of the year, and even when I go for long stretches of not listening to it, I still find the melodies of “Heart In Your Heartbreak” and “The Body” skittering around in my head from time to time.¬†

Even when I backed Belong¬†as the frontrunner for the album of the year race, I still knew that it would change anyone’s life. It probably won’t, but that really doesn’t matter when the songs are this good. If you’re seeking meaning or subtlety, look somewhere else, but if you want to have fun, Belong¬†belongs with you.

23. Beirut - The Rip Tide

Indie Folk, Chamber Folk, Chamber Pop

Believe it or not, I never really enjoyed listening to Beirut¬†until this record. Although the lo-fi, wine-soaked travel songs were fun to listen to in small doses, I could never stomach either of Zach Condon’s previous two Beirut albums. Then The Rip Tide came out. While I recognize the problems that older Beirut fans have with the record, I see all of those alleged issues as good qualities. Finally, Condon has been able to produce an album full of actual songs — Not just layered loops with singing over them — with great production value and a natural, live feel to all of them. Songs like the single “East Harlem”, “Santa Fe”, and the Sharon Van Etten-featuring opener “A Candle’s Fire” are the best he’s written for Beirut to date, and with the improved production, the songs actually feel like they have sonic space to occupy. In my view, a refined Condon is a better Condon, and The Rip Tide is about as clean and sharp as Beirut can possibly get.¬†

22. Julianna Barwick - The Magic Place

Ambient Folk, Dream Pop

Brooklyn-based singer¬†Julianna Barwick's music seems to exist in its own sonic realm. I've never heard anything that evokes such a powerful emotional response with such minimal interference. Whereas other ambient artists find space and depth in synthesizers and electronics, Barwick's music is derived from a much more natural place. Most of the sounds on her new album The Magic Place come from her own voice, which is layered and manipulated in the most subtle and unobtrusive ways to produce a wholly soothing sound. It comes from from somewhere so familiar and yet so alien; listening to The Magic Place at night, you simultaneously feel like you’re wrapped up in your mother’s arms as a baby, listening to her lullabies and exploring the great, silent expanse of an exotic foreign world. It’s dreamy and hazy, impenetrable, but light as a feather.¬†If I were to describe The Magic Place¬†in one word, “ethereal” wouldn’t quite cut it. “Magical” comes close.¬†

21. Trash Talk - Awake EP

Hardcore Punk

Five songs. Eight minutes. Trash Talk's 2011¬†Awake EP doesn’t overstay its welcome. Like a mugger in a dark alleyway, it approaches quickly, whallops the listener in the head a few times, and runs the hell away before you realize that you’re bleeding from somewhere and it stole your wallet. I’ll make this brief, both because this album is brief, and because I’m sure you’re tired of reading after the previous 29 entries in this list: Nothing since the 80s ended has come this close to capturing the essence of 1980s hardcore than this EP. I don’t mean that Awake¬†particularly sounds like 80s hardcore bands — It doesn’t, exactly — but it hits¬†just like the best of them. This is straight up, no frills hardcore punk, with militantly political lyrics, superbly tight musicianship, and the vocals of a deranged, barking maniac. It’s the perfect hardcore archetype, and with the¬†Awake EP under their belts,¬†Trash Talk is poised to become the perfect hardcore band.¬†


Check back here tomorrow for the next installment in this list! #20-1 are just around the corner! The full schedule of my year end lists can be found HERE. Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 2, 2011
"Heaven's Gonna Happen Now" by The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.

Song of the Day Number 145

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - “Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now”

Tonight, Brooklyn’s indie pop darlings¬†The Pains of Being Pure At Heart are playing at Milford CT’s Daniel Street Club. The shoegazing four-piece group is here in Connecticut thanks to the booking agency Manic Productions, who is basically responsible for the vast majority of great shows that happen in the state. This show is special in that it’s open to people of all ages, which is very unusual for the venue, which is a bar. Daniel Street is a relatively large venue, so it would be really great to have more all ages shows there. I’m upset that I couldn’t make it to this one, not only because I want to show my support, but also because I like the band a lot. Hopefully the show got a good turnout.¬†

Anyway, I just wanted to post this to show my continued support for manic, and because I’ve been really into the new Pains album Belong¬†lately. This track is such a jam! Check it out above.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

VIDEO: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart¬†- “Heart In Your Heartbreak” (Live on Letterman)


Is it just me, or is there a hint of Elvis Costello in Kip Berman‚Äôs vocals these days? The Pains of Being Pure at Heart brought ‚ÄúHeart In Your New Heartbreak‚ÄĚ to Letterman last night, and there was something reminiscent of Imperial Bedroom in the way Berman hit his lines. The whole band looks and sounds very good ‚ÄĒ more polished than they when they first hit the scene. Their new record, Belong, comes out March 29 ‚ÄĒ and until they you can stream it at the band‚Äôs website. (via Dan)

Look out for The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, who played on The Late Show with David Letterman last night, when they stop by Milford, Connecticut’s Daniel Street Club in May for an all ages show. They’ll be playing with fellow buzzband Twin Shadow, and it’s sure to be a good time.

Their new record Belong currently stands as one of my favorites of the year.

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