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

"Dirty Projectors"
Thursday, February 14, 2013
I made a mix for today. Fourteen songs for February 14th. Stream it at the embedded link below or download the whole thing HERE. It’s all properly tagged and ordered and everything. I made it for both my heartbroken followers and my happily coupled followers, but mostly for the heartbroken ones. 
Lewis and his Blog//Valentine’s Day Mix 2013

Tracklist:
1. Jens Lekman - “I Know What Love Isn’t”
2. Julia Brown - “Library”
3. Bright Eyes - “Loose Leaves”
4. Morrissey - “I Am Hated For Loving”
5. Midi & The Modern Dance - “Where Do You Think I Belong?”
6. My Bloody Valentine - “New You”
7. Teen Suicide - “Falling In Love”
8. Sky Ferreira - “Everything Is Embarrassing”
9. Dirty Projectors - “Impregnable Question”
10. Bob Dylan - “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”
11. Christopher Owens - “Everywhere You Knew”
12. Chet Baker - “It’s Always You”
13. Cat Power - “Color and the Kids”
14. Waxahatchee - “I Think I Love You”

I made a mix for today. Fourteen songs for February 14th. Stream it at the embedded link below or download the whole thing HERE. It’s all properly tagged and ordered and everything. I made it for both my heartbroken followers and my happily coupled followers, but mostly for the heartbroken ones. 

Lewis and his Blog//Valentine’s Day Mix 2013

Tracklist:

  • 1. Jens Lekman - “I Know What Love Isn’t”
  • 2. Julia Brown - “Library”
  • 3. Bright Eyes - “Loose Leaves”
  • 4. Morrissey - “I Am Hated For Loving”
  • 5. Midi & The Modern Dance - “Where Do You Think I Belong?”
  • 6. My Bloody Valentine - “New You”
  • 7. Teen Suicide - “Falling In Love”
  • 8. Sky Ferreira - “Everything Is Embarrassing”
  • 9. Dirty Projectors - “Impregnable Question”
  • 10. Bob Dylan - “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”
  • 11. Christopher Owens - “Everywhere You Knew”
  • 12. Chet Baker - “It’s Always You”
  • 13. Cat Power - “Color and the Kids”
  • 14. Waxahatchee - “I Think I Love You”
Saturday, February 2, 2013

Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 2/1/13

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We were having some technical difficulties in the studio at WNHU last night, and the online stream may or may not have been working for the entirety of the broadcast. Anyway, if you did get a chance to tune in, or if you’re just interested in what I played, here is the full playlist from Left of the Dial last night. I won’t be doing my show next Friday because I’ll be seeing Jeff Mangum, but be sure to tune in the Friday after that for another live broadcast.

Stream the available tracks from the playlist below via Spotify.

  • 1. The Antlers - “I Don’t Want Love”
  • 2. The Velvet Underground - “Beginning to See The Light”
  • 3. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - “A Teenager In Love”
  • 4. Los Campesinos! - “Romance Is Boring”
  • 5. Grimes - “Genesis”
  • 6. Wise Blood - “B.I.G. E.G.O.”
  • 7. Dirty Projectors - “Gun Has No Trigger”
  • 8. Animal Collective - “Also Frightened”
  • 9. Primal Scream - “Higher Than The Sun”
  • 10. The Beach Boys - “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)”
  • 11. The Stone Roses - “Waterfall”
  • 12. Elvis Costello - “The Greatest Thing”
  • 13. Cat Power - “Manhattan”
  • 14. The xx - “Islands”
  • 15. David Bowie - “Sound and Vision”
  • 16. The Jam - “Start!”
  • 17. Titus Andronicus - “Ecce Homo”
  • 18. The Modern Lovers - “Roadrunner” 
  • 19. LCD Soundsystem - “Beat Connection”
  • 20. Tame Impala - “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”
  • 21. Iceage - “Coalition”
  • 22. Bright Eyes - “Take It Easy (Love Nothing)”
  • 23. Crystal Castles - “Untrust Us”
  • 24. WHY? - “These Few Presidents”

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Stream via Spotify:

Friday, January 25, 2013

pitchfork:

Watch Dirty Projectors cover Usher’s “Climax” for Australian radio— Longstreth really goes in on this one. 

Not much to add to this, but wow. Amber Coffman sounds incredible. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Anonymous said: Do you prefer Bitte Orca or Swing Lo Magellan?

I think Swing Lo Magellan is better but Bitte Orca is a bigger production. Bitte Orca feels more ‘important,’ but I like Swing Lo Magellan because it’s a little more low-key. I’m starting to feel similarly about the new Christopher Owens solo record in comparison to the Girls albums, honestly. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

2012 Albums of the Year (#20-1)

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Here it is — the list of my 20 favorite albums of 2012. Please keep in mind that my opinions regarding these records are just that — opinions. That said, I hope you enjoy my choices and my writing. If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to read over the first part of this list, featuring my #50-21 favorite albums of the year. Also, you can keep up with all of my year end lists for 2012 HERE or at the "2012 Lists" tag. Check back here tomorrow for the list of my Top 25 Favorite Songs of the Year! 

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20. The Human Fly - Everything Feels Bad All At Once

Experimental Folk

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Original review HERE

The Human Fly came into being much like many solo projects. After moving to Virginia for college, Connecticut native Robert Mathis formed a band, they broke up, and he got sad. But Everything Feels Bad All At Once, the debut record from Mathis’ first post-Chest Piece project, is not your ordinary solo album from a prominent member of a now defunct band. Working with a singular concept and extremely minimal means — a laptop microphone, an acoustic guitar, and other instruments when he could find them — Mathis embraced his solitude in the creation of this humble but overwhelmingly depressing album. Because of its humble origins and its rather miserable lyrical content, this is the kind of album that you want to root for. Thankfully for Mathis, enough people seem to have picked up on this as well. Next year, he will be working with Enemies List Home Recordings, the Connecticut label run by Giles Corey/Have A Nice Life mastermind Dan Barrett. The two are definitely kindred spirits, and I wish them both the best in the coming year.

19. Hostage Calm - Please Remain Calm

Pop Punk, Power Pop

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The boundlessly ambitious Connecticut punk group Hostage Calm set out to write “the punk album of the Great Recession” with Please Remain Calm, their third and best album by a country mile. This is politically motivated power pop rooted in the struggles of the modern post-adolescent, something like The Clash for American millenials. That said, you will find no indictments of the neo-yuppie ruling class on here, nor will you find aggro, anti-Republican lyrical rants in frontman Chris Martin’s lyrics (although the band’s twitter feed has plenty of those). In fact, Please Remain Calm succeeds precisely because of its lack of ideological directness. It expresses its thesis through appeals to emotion — personal vignettes that detail the uncertainty of everyday life under the circumstances of economic stress and political turmoil. As wars rage on in foreign lands, we continue to struggle on our own, and life can be really confusing from a globally-aware perspective. Hostage Calm knows that better than anybody, and they’re more than capable of spreading that knowledge on Please Remain Calm

18. Teen Suicide - I Will Be My Own Hell Because There Is A Devil Inside My Body

Noise Pop, Emo

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Original review HERE

In contrast to the previous entry on this list, Maryland’s Teen Suicide have no political motivations. In fact, it seems like they have no real motivations of any sort. They didn’t even have the motivation to remain together only four months after releasing their nihilist-punk masterpiece I Will Be My Own Hell Because There Is A Devil Inside My Body in September. What they do (or, perhaps, what they did) have is energy — a raw, unstable current that surges through these 25 brief minutes like a live wire of angst and self-hate. The band does take time to wind down and reflect on tracks like the somber “Cop Graveyard” and the piano-led Sam Ray solo cut “Grim Reaper,” but for the most part, I Will Be My Own Hell… is defined by searing guitars and strings, crushed out drums, and achingly desperate vocal moans that all but transcend the tape-tracked limitations of the production. Perhaps it’s appropriate that the band announced plans to break up so shortly after the record’s release. These songs are like an exorcism; the devil is gone, and I Will Be My Own Hell… is all that remains.

17. Cat PowerSun

Electronic, Indie Pop

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Chan Marshall has had a rough time over the past fifteen or so years. Every one of her albums as Cat Power since 1996’s What Would The Community Think has made me cry on separate occasions, largely because I can somehow tell that she was crying a lot during the writing and recording process of each one. By contrast to any of her other records, 2012’s Sun is Marshall’s long deserved vindication — a brilliantly self-aware LP that not only invalidates any and all criticisms about her character on a lyrical level, but also transcends any cliched notions of her musicianship and aesthetic tendencies. She is, appropriately, her own harshest critic, but Sun projects a kind of constructive self-deprecation that suggests that the new Chan has much more to offer the world than her previous depressing ruminations may have indicated. It’s also very ambitious on a musical level, mixing Marshall’s distinctly soulful voice with synthetic drums, bright keys, and plenty of multi-tracked, vocal-filtered bliss. 

16. The Mountain Goats - Transcendental Youth

Contemporary Folk, Indie Rock

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The Mountain Goats are the sturdiest band in independent music, consistently delivering album after album of good songs, great lyrics, and occasional conceptual brilliance. Transcendental Youth is their best LP since 2008’s Heretic Pride, and it aligns with that record on a conceptual level as well. This is an album about kids growing up, breaking hearts, getting hurt, and ultimately struggling to postpone the inevitability of death. “Just stay alive,” frontman John Darnielle sings at numerous points throughout the record. Old time fans might miss Darnielle’s willingness to holler and shout, but will appreciate the lyrical coherence and references to past characters (All Hail West Texas' “Jenny” makes an appearance in the album standout “Night Light”). On a musical level, Transcendental Youth is simply the most adventurous album Darnielle has put out since he made the switch to a full band style with 2002’s Tallahassee. Electronic inflections blend with Jon Wurster’s sturdy drums and a full horn section blares skyward throughout the record, willing the record’s post-adolescent characters to fulfill the implications of the album’s title. 

15. Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan

Psychedelic Pop, Experimental Folk

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Just about the last move you could have expected Dirty Projectors to make after 2009’s Bitte Orca was to slow things down. In the past, the Brooklyn band has been wildly and uncompromisingly experimental, channeling African pop melodies, dynamic polyrhythms, and David Longstreth’s savagely amelodic howl through a series of bizarre conceptual lenses. Their new LP Swing Lo Magellan still bears some of the hallmarks of older Dirty Projectors albums, such as the distorted guitar leads on the skronked-out opener “Offspring Are Blank” and the eerily precise 3-part vocal harmonies. For the most part, however, Magellan is decidedly more low-key. Gentle pianos plink on the title track, while Longstreth and guitarist/girlfriend Amber Coffman trade off cutesy, romantic rhymes on the love song “Impregnable Question.” On tracks like the stuttering “About To Die” and standout lead single “Gun Has No Trigger,” there is still a kind of manic energy present, but it’s hemmed in and restrained by the simpler instrumentation and arrangements. To me, those tracks are all the more powerful because of it. 

14. Elvis Depressedly - Mickey’s Dead

Indie Pop, Twee Pop

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After abandoning his Coma Cinema moniker for the time being, South Carolina singer/songwriter Mat Cothran brought a renewed focus to his Elvis Depressedly project this year, dropping two releases under that moniker. Mickey’s Dead is something like the quieter, younger brother of Coma Cinema’s last LP Blue Suicide, and although it lacks the scope of that record, it actually benefits a lot from its intimate, homespun aesthetic. Mickey’s Dead feels something like twee pop’s response to Elliott Smith. It’s got miserable, occasionally very blunt lyrics (“this world is a torturer, nature gets off on pain”), and hushed, multi-tracked vocals overlaid upon instrumentation that ranges from cheap drum machines to strings and toy pianos, power pop electric guitars to somber acoustic plucking. For an album that only clocks in at just over 20 minutes, it’s remarkably diverse from a musical perspective, and surprisingly coherent from a lyrical one. For Cothran, it seems, sweeping ambition is not his prerogative. Concision, clarity, and compactness achieve great things from meager means on Mickey’s Dead

13. Sharon Van Etten - Tramp

Indie Folk, Indie Rock

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Original review HERE

As someone who’s followed Brooklyn singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten for years, I really do want to root for her with each successive album. Tramp is her latest and, from a certain perspective, best full length album. It’s certainly her fullest full length, comprising 46 minutes of often edgy, mostly full-band material. With production from Aaron Dessner and guest vocal/instrumental parts from Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner, Beirut’s Zach Condon, The Walkmen’s Matt Barrick and more, Tramp swirls tornado-like around Van Etten herself, who occasionally struggles to find singularity within the chaos. That struggle makes Tramp all the more evocative though; as a listener, one can actually hear Van Etten maturing and learning to assert herself, which is also a central theme of the album’s lyrics. From the female perspective, there was no singer/songwriter record more ambitious or more sweeping in scope. Although Van Etten never completely actualizes that ambition by the end, her remarkable effort makes Tramp's occasional flaws forgivable. 

12. Burial - Kindred

Electronic, Dubstep

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UK producer William Bevan — aka Burial — is a ghostly, formerly anonymous godfather of British dubstep, but his two-step beats and moody bass rumblings have little in common with the maximalist thump that many typically consider dubstep. His new EP Kindred, one of two records that he released in 2012, is his best release yet, featuring a condensed, updated version of the grayscale urban soundscapes that he introduced the world to with his self-titled LP and 2007 followup Untrue. With just three songs in around 30 minutes, Kindred is never overbearing or tiresome, but it’s just long enough to allow the listener to warily enter its lonely, late night world. 

11. Frank Ocean - channel ORANGE

R&B, Electronic, Soul

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No year in music is ever entirely predictable, but I never would have guessed that Odd Future’s lonely, fatherly crooner Frank Ocean would be this year’s biggest breakout star. In retrospect, however, it makes sense. Ocean, for all his solemn twitter introspection and psychedelic style sense, was always the most level-headed member of his ragtag collective, to the point that it seemed as though he wasn’t really a member of OFWGKTA at all. His new full length channel ORANGE doesn’t eschew connections to Odd Future, given that it features a guest spot from Earl Sweatshirt (on “Super Rich Kids”) and production from Tyler, The Creator on one track, but it certainly doesn’t encourage those connections either. Channel Orange is a bonafide solo album at heart, and despite its gorgeously layered pop soul production, hugely ambitious arrangements on tracks like “Pyramids,” and major label budget, the focus is perpetually on the immensely talented Frank Ocean throughout. Much ink has been spilt regarding the circumstances of this album’s release and certain conceptual themes behind it, but I actually maintain that even without the context of Ocean’s now famous letter, channel ORANGE would still be just as great. Albums this good can simply stand on their own.

10. Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind

Post-Hardcore, Metalcore

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All We Love We Leave Behind is the eighth LP from Massachusetts hardcore legends Converge, and it shows. No, this is not some phoned-in, tepid rehash of the tried and true aesthetic of their earliest records. Rather, this album sounds the way you wish more legendary punk groups would continue to sound — adventurous, forward-thinking, but anchored and empowered by the experiential conviction that 20+ years of making music provides. From a group that has always been on the cutting edge of post-hardcore, All We Love We Leave Behind is envelope-pushing even by their standards. Incorporating the scorched-earth, emotional extremity of recent Deathwish, Inc. acts like Touche Amore with Jacob Bannon’s distinctively harsh vocals and their collectively honed musicianship, Converge demonstrate on this album that perhaps it’s better to age ungracefully. On this LP, they do so in the absolute best way possible. 

9. Sidewalk Dave - Hard On Romance

Garage Rock, Indie Rock

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Original review HERE

The CD version of Sidewalk Dave's new album Hard On Romance comes with an insert that includes a brief analytical essay regarding the album’s (painfully obvious) concept, along with a set of nude photos of Dave Van Witt himself holding a sparkling Danelectro guitar with photoshopped honey bees covering up his exposed genitals. In a way, that alone merits the record’s place on this list simply for making the Hard On Romance CD the most ridiculous piece of physical music that I owned this year. I almost wish the music was terrible, just so that I could file this away as 2012’s strangest, most anomalous release. Unfortunately, this album is completely brilliant. Dave channels the aggressive, sexual energy of garage rock through a philosopher’s lens, demanding physical fulfillment in one moment and questioning the morality of his sexual pursuits the next. This physical/mental conflict results in Dave’s best, most complicated songwriting yet; “Happiness Is An Art: We Must Learn While We’re Apart” drones on in confused sadness, while “Wait Forever” throbs and clanks, perfectly conveying frustration through its distorted guitar thump. 

8. Sun Kil Moon - Among The Leaves

Contemporary Folk, Slowcore

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Original review HERE

Few singer/songwriters are in the position that Sun Kil Moon mastermind Mark Kozelek is in. At 45, Kozelek has just enough diehard supporters to fund his near-constant touring, but few enough young people who give a shit such that he is actually forced to tour constantly. It must be frustrating to be him, especially given his rumored short temper and penchant for perfectionism. Unlike everything else that he’s released within the past decade, his new LP Among The Leaves is a deeply flawed, largely inconsistent record, riddled with technical imperfections throughout its rather taxing 1 hour 17 minute length. It’s also the best, and by far the most human album he’s put out since at least 2003’s Ghosts of the Great Highway. By this point, Kozelek has earned his right to be jaded, and he expresses his frustration with surprising comedic brilliance on tracks like “Sunshine In Chicago” and “Track Number 8.” He almost always comes across like an asshole, detailing numerous pathetic hookups and fuckups throughout his storied career on the road, but he does so with notable self-awareness. It’s almost as if he feels bad. Either way, this is a side of Mark Kozelek that we have never seen before, and because of that newfound openness, Among The Leaves succeeds tremendously.

7. Perfume Genius - Put Your Back N 2 It

Chamber Folk, Slowcore, Electronic

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Original review HERE

Mike Hadreas raised the stakes on Put Your Back N 2 It, the second album under his Perfume Genius moniker, increasing production values tremendously, crafting arrangements with much more diverse instrumentation, and refining his lyrical focus more onto himself. Longtime readers of this blog may remember that his debut LP Learning was my second favorite album of 2010, and although Put Your Back N 2 It doesn’t break my heart as forcefully or as immediately as that album did, the notable improvements from a technical standpoint, plus a set of solid songs, merit this album’s place on my list. In the past, Perfume Genius sounded thoroughly wounded, cracked open, and left for dead. Here, there are certainly moments of similar vulnerability and desperation, but there are also some impressive indications of newfound confidence on this record, such as the demanding piano thumper “Take Me Home” and the somber, synth-led empowerment  anthem “All Waters.” In the future, it will be interesting to see how Hadreas accepts his new popularity and position of power, and whether he plays to his strengths as a tearjerker or continues to strengthen his conviction.

6. Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city

Hip-Hop

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Honestly, I’m so happy that Kendrick Lamar is in the position he’s in right now. I liked Section.80 a fair bit last year, but I really wished he would learn to balance his Profound Statements About Racial/Economic/Social issues with some lightheartedness and maybe even some fun. Section.80 was too uncompromisingly conscious for me, but I knew that Kendrick was onto something great there. Then good kid, m.A.A.d city came along, and with it, all of my wildest expectations were surpassed. This album is so powerful — so perfectly expressive of modern oppression and struggle — precisely because it’s so personal and real. At its core, this is an album about Kendrick’s life and Kendrick’s world; any broader, transcendent statements that good kid, m.A.A.d city makes come from that world, because Kendrick lived it. It’s honest and real and heavy and evocative. It’s party music and it’s also socially conscious rap. It’s got the best, most hi-fi beats and production of anything that was released this year, hip-hop or otherwise. Best of all, it’s got Kendrick Lamar, 2012’s most talented, most dexterous rapper, who can sell a song about being a horny 17-year old with as much grace, candor, and lyrical proficiency as he can sell a 12-minute album centerpiece about life in Compton, told from the conflating perspectives of a brother, a friend, a dead prostitute, and himself. Yeah, this guy is talented. 

5. The Act of Estimating As Worthless - Amongst These Splintered Minds//Leaden Thoughts Sing Softly

Chamber Folk, Indie Folk

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Original review HERE

Remember the movie Once? It’s a tale of two creative people who come together under unusual circumstances and end up falling in love and producing beautiful folk music together filled with gorgeous harmonies. I don’t know how Matthew Van Asselt and Zoe Grant met each other, nor do I have any idea whether they’re romantically involved, but they definitely have the beautiful music part covered. The Act of Estimating As Worthless delivered a staggeringly beautiful chamber folk album from humble origins this year, recording and producing it in the SUNY Purchase music studios in which so much great music from this year came to be. Amongst These Splintered Minds//Leaden Thoughts Sing Softly may be among the more obnoxious album titles this year, but the music within makes up for it. These songs are lush, beautifully produced, and achingly nostalgic, calling to mind the innocence, whimsy, and overwhelming wonder of childhood through Van Asselt and Grant’s warmly intertwining voices. It’s a vision of the childhood that you wish you remembered, staring into the night sky and crying at the beauty of the stars. 

4. Serengeti - C. A. R.

Experimental Hip-Hop

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Original review HERE

When it comes to my favorite hip-hop albums of 2012, Kendrick Lamar may take the cake with respect to ambition, expectation-fulfillment, and self-actualized, singular brilliance. But in terms of originality, a quality so eternally vital to great hip-hop, I have to give the award to the underdog. Chicago rapper Serengeti has been kicking it on the indie rap circuit for a decade, constantly bending traditional rap tropes in his continuous pursuit of an original product. C. A. R. is the validation of all that work, featuring the perfect combination of Odd Nosdam/Jel beats, great hooks and flow, and Geti’s depressing but evocative vignette portraits of American life. Unlike Lamar, David Cohn is making no attempts at political grandstanding or transcendental statements, nor does he offer much insight into his own mind and life the way that Kendrick does, save for the humorous highlight “Geti Life.” Instead, working like hip-hop’s response to The Mountain Goats, Cohn portrays society from the perspective of a series of unique characters — a jaded couple of married hipsters, a prepubescent Peeping Tom, a crack-addicted uncle, and more — who, when taken in together, say something much more profound and open to interpretation than any other record from 2012, in hip-hop or otherwise. 

3. Waxahatchee - American Weekend

Contemporary Folk

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Original review HERE

Every year, something like this album ends up around this place in the list. Last year it was House of WolvesFold In The Wind. The year before that, it was Perfume Genius' Learning. I can’t help but love miserable, exceptionally lo-fi folk music, and I’m so happy that every year seems to deliver a record of this style that breaks my heart harder than the last. American Weekend, the debut full length from former P.S. Eliot frontwoman Katie Crutchfield (aka Waxahatchee), is sadder than any breakup album and more romantic than any love song. It is a broken heart that is growing increasingly tired of the world telling it to cheer up. It is a story about two people who find themselves alone together, happy for the first time in forever, until they realize that despite being together, they are still individually alone. Except it isn’t just a story — it’s Katie Crutchfield’s life, and it’s the saddest, most accurate musical self-portrait you’ll listen to this year. Ultimately, American Weekend is an album about the failure to transcend individuality, one muted guitar strum and cracked falsetto vocal at a time. Sadder still, it seems as if Crutchfield is convinced that the worst is yet to come. “Someone will hurt me so bad one day,” she sings on the album highlight “Bathtub,” as if to prophesy the next Waxahatchee LP. For my sake and hers, let’s hope she’s wrong; I don’t think I could handle an album sadder than this.

2. Japandroids - Celebration Rock

Garage Punk, Indie Rock

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Original review HERE

Contrary to what some blogs and major music publications will tell you, Celebration Rock isn’t the saving grace for rock music. Rock music doesn’t need to be saved, precisely because albums like this will, for the foreseeable future, always exist. Japandroids are this year’s Nirvana, and this is their Nevermind. They are 2012’s Replacements, and this is their Let It Be. They are The Rolling Stones and The Clash and the Pixies and The Strokes and Green Day and Titus Andronicus and every other rock band that you know you love because they understood at some point that great music can be made with little more than distorted guitar, heavy drums, and a beating heart. This isn’t about irony. It’s not about what’s cool or relevant or bloggable. It’s about what means something, and no album made me feel that indefinable, vague, but incredibly powerful something more than Celebration Rock this year. Its appeal may have faded the smallest amount as the initial shock of Brian King and David Prowse’s pummeling drums, huge guitars, and incessant “Oh yeah!”s subsided, but the lifeblood of Celebration Rock remains thick months later. Familiar and unoriginal though it may be, I will always retain a connection this album. I laughed, I cried, I moshed, and I screamed along — alone, and with hundreds of other fans — to Japandroids with greater intensity than any other artist or band this year, and I’ll never forget those experiences. 

1. Jens Lekman - I Know What Love Isn’t

Indie Pop, Chamber Pop

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Original review HERE

Of course, from the moment I found out that he was putting out a record this year, it was always going to be Jens Lekman. The Swedish singer/songwriter stole my heart with Night Falls On Kortedala, but he blew my mind with I Know What Love Isn’t, the near-perfect followup that manages to improve on nearly every aspect of that 2007 record’s brilliance. Like Dirty Projectors did with Swing Lo Magellan, he achieves this marked improvement by actually scaling things back on the instrumental side, trading in heavy electronics, a full horn section, and an orchestra for a much simpler chamber pop aesthetic. Drawing from flamenco music on “Erica America,” American country on “I Want A Pair of Cowboy Boots,” and disco on “The World Moves On,” I Know What Love Isn’t is just as musically ambitious and stylistically diverse as anything in Lekman’s ouvre, but more intimate, personal, and more conservatively arranged and produced. This instrumental backdrop allows Lekman to speak as plainly as ever, divulging tales of love lost and hearts left lonely and confused, all set against the exotic background of Melbourne, Australia, where Lekman wrote and recorded the LP.

As a lyricist, Lekman’s strengths lie not just in sweeping statements (although this record has many of those), but in the smaller moments — the individual lines and images that make I Know What Love Isn’t a personal and human album. I’ll never forget hearing the line in “Erica America” about “the air [smelling] like popcorn and ladies perfume” and wondering how anybody but a non-native English speaker could come up with something so simply evocative. So too will I remember almost breaking down in tears after first hearing the final verse of the title track, in which Lekman sings from the perspective of a strictly platonic best friend about how she hates going to shows because “they’re always packed with men spooning their girlfriends, clutching their hands, as if they’d let go, their feet would lift from the ground and ascend.” As someone who really, truly doesn’t know what love is, I can say that Lekman at least has a better grasp than I do. Wow.

Typically, the “Best Album of the Year” title comes with an implication of transcendental significance, and although Lekman certainly has a lot to say about life and love on I Know What Love Isn’t, he actually strives (and succeeds) to prove that love ISN’T “the end of the world” on this album. It’s a remarkable admission for him to be making, especially as someone who one sang in complete earnestness, “I would cut off my right arm to be someone’s lover.” I Know What Love Isn’t is by no means a lighthearted album, but it is an album about successful acceptance. Sometimes, Lekman suggests, the only way to move on in life after love is to abandon everything else. After all, “You don’t get over a broken heart,” he asserts on “The World Moves On.” “You just learn to carry it gracefully.”

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Thanks for reading this list and supporting Lewis and his Blog! In the replies, let me know what you think of this list. What were your favorite albums of 2012? What is my list missing? Let me know!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 12/14/12

Sorry for not posting this earlier! I’ve been very busy lately with a number of serious obligations, not the least of which is my upcoming series of year end lists, which will feature a lot of retrospective writing. Anyway, here’s the playlist from my most recent radio show on Friday. The format for this broadcast was simple; I chose some of my favorite songs from 2012 and arranged them, mixtape style, outside of the formal structure of a typical year end list. I will, of course, be putting out a more structured Top Songs of 2012 list featuring songs that are not represented in this playlist. In fact, I purposefully left out anything that might be included in my SOTY list. Many of these, however, were very close to making the cut for the Top 25. Check out the full playlist below and stream the available tracks via Spotify.

  • 1. The Shins - “Simple Song”
  • 2. The Ambulars - “We’re Golden”
  • 3. Parquet Courts - “Borrowed Time”
  • 4. Cat Power - “Ruin”
  • 5. Dirty Projector - “Gun Has No Trigger”
  • 6. Desaparecidos - “Backsell”
  • 7. Now, Now - “Thread”
  • 8. Death Grips - “I’ve Seen Footage”
  • 9. Converge - “Sadness Comes Home”
  • 10. The Tallest Man On Earth - “1904”
  • 11. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti - “Mature Themes”
  • 12. A.C. Newman - “I’m Not Talking”
  • 13. Ty Segall Band - “I Bought My Eyes”
  • 14. SPOOK HOUSES - “Bad Sound”
  • 15. Spider Bags - “Friday Night”
  • 16. Sidewalk Dave - “Happiness Is An Art: We Must Learn While We’re Apart”
  • 17. First Aid Kit - “King of the World” (feat. Conor Oberst)
  • 18. The Mountain Goats - “Cry For Judas”
  • 19. Teen Suicide - “Give Me Back To The Sky”
  • 20. SpaceGhostPurpp - “The Black God”
  • 21. Burial - “Loner”
  • 22. Joie De Vivre - “I Was Sixteen Ten Years Ago”
  • 23. You Blew It! - “The Fifties”
  • 24. Fiona Apple - “Werewolf”
  • 25. Suns - “The Engine Room”
  • 26. Sun Kil Moon - “Among the Leaves”
  • 27. The Antlers - “Drift Dive”
  • 28. Prairie Empire - “Song For You”
  • 29. Mount Eerie - “I Walked Home Beholding”
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Stream via Spotify:

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 12/7/12

My broadcast of Left of the Dial on Friday was the first of a three part radio series in which I’m informally spinning some of my favorite tracks from this year outside of the rigidly formal ‘year end list’ context. I will, of course, be dropping a Songs of the Year list in addition to an Albums of the Year list and a bunch of other goodies in a matter of weeks, but I wanted to preface those lists on the radio in this way. 

If you missed the show, give this playlist a listen to get a taste of some of my favorite 2012 tracks. Parts 2 and 3 of this series will take place on the coming two Fridays.

  • 1. The Babies - “Alligator”
  • 2. Cat Power - “Manhattan”
  • 3. Cloud Nothings - “Stay Useless”
  • 4. The Act of Estimating as Worthless - “Bones”
  • 5. Dirty Projectors - “About To Die”
  • 6. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti - “Only In My Dreams”
  • 7. Literature - “ARAB SPRING”
  • 8. Dan Deacon - “True Thrush”
  • 9. Fang Island - “Make Me”
  • 10. Purity Ring - “Saltkin”
  • 11. Great Caesar - “Rearview”
  • 12. The Magnetic Fields - “Quick”
  • 13. Mac Demarco - “Ode To Viceroy”
  • 14. Woods - “Cali In A Cup”
  • 15. Grimes - “Genesis”
  • 16. Grizzly Bear - “Yet Again”
  • 17. Wild Nothing - “Only Heather”
  • 18. S O H N - “Oscillate”
  • 19. DIIV - “How Long Have You Known”
  • 20. Death Grips - “I’ve Seen Footage”
  • 21. Lower Dens - “Brains”
  • 22. Desaparecidos - “Backsell”
  • 23. Liars - “No.1 Against the Rush”
  • 24. Jason Lytle - “Dept. of Disappearance”
  • 25. David Byrne & St. Vincent - “Who”

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Stream via Spotify:  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 11/16/12

Thanks for tuning in to another broadcast of my radio show last night on WNHU. The full playlist is below, including a few pretty stellar requests. Thanks everybody! As a head’s up, I won’t be doing my radio show next week. Like about 2/3 of Connecticut, I’ll be seeing Bomb The Music Industry! in New Haven on their final tour. If you’re in the area, you should come.

Left of The Dial will be back the following week on November 30th. Until then, enjoy this playlist and stream it via Spotify at the embedded link at the bottom of this post.

  • 1. Townes Van Zandt - “Be Here To Love Me”
  • 2. A.C. Newman - “I’m Not Talking”
  • 3. WHY? - “Sanddollars”
  • 4. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti - “Mature Themes”
  • 5. Dirty Projectors - “Simple Request”
  • 6. Sharon Van Etten - “Give Out” (Requested by oceanofantics)
  • 7. Mac Demarco - “Ode To Viceroy”
  • 8. Great Caesar - “Rearview”
  • 9. Jeff Rosenstock - “Twinkle”
  • 10. The Babies - “Moonlight Mile”
  • 11. The Human Fly - “Moth” (Everything II version) (Requested by playingmakeupwearingguitar)
  • 12. Sufjan Stevens - “Carol of St. Benjamin The Bearded One”
  • 13. Sam Cooke - “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen”
  • 14. Eels - “P.S. You Rock My World”
  • 15. Tom Waits - “Ol’ 55”
  • 16. Madlib - “Slim’s Return”
  • 17. Crystal Castles - “Violent Youth”
  • 18. Zomby - “Get Sorted”
  • 19. Portishead - “Silence”
  • 20. Ólafur Arnalds - “Near Light”
  • 21. Sufjan Stevens - “Christmas In The Room”
  • 22. Samuel Bass - “A Holiday Din”
  • 23. Andrew Jackson Jihad - “Guilt: The Song” (Requested by withlugosi)
  • 24. Sun Kil Moon - “The Winery”
  • 25. Jenny Owen Youngs - “Voice On Tape”
  • 26. The Microphones - “I Felt Your Shape”
  • 27. How To Dress Well - “Set It Right”
  • 28. The Magnetic Fields - “No One Will Ever Love You”

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Stream via Spotify:

Friday, November 16, 2012
Left of the Dial Radio Show on WNHU: 6-8 PM EST

Tune in now!

I was away last friday, but I’m glad to be back for another live broadcast of Left of the Dial on WNHU tonight. Click the link above to tune in. Tonight, expect new tracks from Dirty Projectors, Jeff Rosenstock, and The Babies. I’m also going to play a handful of selections from Sufjan Stevens' new, 59-track Christmas album Silver & Gold, which is really, really terrific.

The show will run from 6 until 8 PM on WNHU. Click the link above to tune in, and please leave any requests you might have in my ask box! The full playlist will be up tomorrow.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 7/20/12

Thanks to everyone who tuned in and or made requests during my radio show on WNHU last night. Check out the full playlist below, and stream the tracks that were available via Spotify at the embedded link after the jump. 
  • 1. The Mountain Goats & Kaki King - "Black Pear Tree"
  • 2. Frank Ocean - “Thinkin Bout You”
  • 3. Built to Spill - “Hindsight”
  • 4. Fang Island - “Make Me”
  • 5. Baroness - “March To The Sea” (Requested by rainbowsrillusions)
  • 6. Japandroids - “Sovereignty”
  • 7. The Men - “Open Your Heart”
  • 8. The Olivia Tremor Control - "Courtyard"
  • 9. The Hold Steady - “The Sweet Part Of The City”
  • 10. The Mountain Goats - "Jam Eater Blues"
  • 11. Jens Lekman - "If You Ever Need A Stranger (To Sing At Your Wedding)"
  • 12. Into It. Over It. - “Where Your Nights Often End”
  • 13. Girl In A Coma - "Their Cell" (Requested by blueshadedays)
  • 14. Dirty Projectors - “Just From Chevron”
  • 15. Xiu Xiu - “I Luv The Valley OH”
  • 16. Tame Impala - “Apocalypse Dreams”
  • 17. Frank Ocean - “Forrest Gump”
  • 18. Passion Pit - “Constant Conversations”
  • 19. Burial - “Archangel” 
  • 20. Balam Acab - "Expect"
  • 21. Autechre - “Gantz Graf”
  • 22. Nine Inch Nails - “Terrible Lie”
  • 23. James Blake - “Limit To Your Love” (Feist cover)
  • 24. LCD Soundsystem - “Someone Great”
  • 25. Simon & Garfunkel - “The Only Living Boy In New York”
  • 26. The Mountain Goats - "Satanic Messiah"

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Stream via Spotify:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pitchfork Music Festival 2012: Day 1 Recap

The Olivia Tremor Control

The introduction. We arrived via El Train at Union Park before 3 PM, only to be met with a torrential downpour. We stood in line for upwards of half an hour, getting soaked with hundreds of other misanthropic festival attendees. Hearing that the gates were going to remain closed until 3:30 elicited a number of groans from the line, but soon enough the rain stopped and the gates were opened. Lower Dens delivered a strong set on the red stage that got more impressive and engaging as it went on. We cut out slightly early to get a decent spot for The Olivia Tremor Control — an Elephant 6-affiliated psych rock revival band from the 90s — who happened to have Neutral Milk Hotel's Scott Spillane playing sousaphone and trumpet for them. Jeff Mangum was nowhere to be found, unfortunately. I'm still hoping for a full on NMH reunion in 2013. Before the OTC wrapped things up on the green stage, we bunny hopped one stage further to catch Willis Earl Beal on the blue stage. During the portion of his set that we caught, Beal delivered songs ranging from foot stomping, bellowing dirges to slow, heartfelt ballads. His versatility as a songwriter and his hoarse, mighty voice drew comparisons to Tom Waits, as did his affinity for liquor; Beal downed the majority of a freshly opened bottle of Jack Daniels during his set. 

A$AP Rocky

We felt the need to run over to the red stage once Beal finished in order to catch A$AP Rocky, but, of course, Rocky and his crew didn’t go on until well after their posted set time. That turned out to be par for the course with most of the rappers I saw at the fest, but I’m not complaining. Rocky’s set was actually pretty great, even though his crew looked a little ridiculous onstage playing hype-men (Also, who’s that one white dude? He sucks.). Unfortunately, we had to jet before we got to hear “Peso” because we wanted good spots for Japandroids. We arrived just at the end of Tim Hecker's set, which was pretty depressing and miserable. Honestly, I like Tim Hecker on record, but I don't think a single person there gave a fuck about him in that moment. The vast majority of the crowd was definitely there to catch Japandroids, who were supposed to play at 6:15 but ended up going on late. 

Japandroids

Because of the late start time, Japandroids' set was clipped to just 8 full songs. Nevertheless, it was an awesome and intense experience that will probably go down as the most enjoyable (if not the absolute best overall) set from Pitchfork 2012 for me. Plus, as both Post-Nothing and Celebration Rock prove, sometimes 8 songs is just the right number. Highlights included the opener “Adrenaline Nightshift,” which incited a mosh pit within 5 seconds of its opening chord, and the closer “Young Hearts Spark Fire,” which segued into “Sovereignty” at the end. The segue was a nice way of acknowledging the band’s older fans, many of whom recognized the deep cut.

Dirty Projectors

Bruised, battered, and absolutely loving life, John and I managed to crawl our way over to the red stage just in time to catch the beginning of Dirty Projectors’ set. The setlist mostly focused on stuff from Swing Lo Magellan (which is excellent, by the way), but they also busted out some Bitte Orca art rock classics, including “Useful Chamber,” which was extremely intense live. Other highlights included the rousing new single “Gun Has No Trigger” and the gentle love song “Impregnable Question,” during which frontman David Longstreth and guitarist/vocalist/Longstreth’s girlfriend Amber Coffman seemed to be making heart eyes at each other. Mostly, I was just amazed at how tight the band was instrumentally and vocally. The four part harmonies, which are so jarring and angular on record, are equally attuned live. It’s almost scary how good they sounded.

Feist

Dirty Projectors were the last band on Friday that I really wanted to see, so after their set, John and I just hung around for a while, catching the first half of Purity Ring’s set before heading over to the green stage to catch the rest of Feist's. I'm not a huge fan of either group, but both their sets were enjoyable. The highlight of the latter set came at the end, when Leslie Feist and her band transformed the gentle title track from 2004's Let It Die into an arena rock-worthy power ballad. Watching from a distance, I was able to appreciate the scope of Feist's vision, and in that moment I understood exactly why she was headlining Day 1.

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To view more photos of all the bands I saw at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, head over to the Lewis and his Blog facebook page!
Friday, June 15, 2012

Dirty Projectors - “Dance For You”

After their excellent single "Gun Has No Trigger" dropped in March, I’ve been getting excited for Swing Lo Magellan, the new Dirty Projectors album. “Gun Has No Trigger” hinted at a more accessible sound for the album, and their new single “Dance For You” furthers that trend while keeping their signature experimental edge as a foil. The new track has a really fascinating mix that sounds almost like a demo-quality recording at first, but then builds into a lush, orchestral piece with strings and woodwinds around the 2 minute mark. Even when he’s busy singing catchy melodies and crafting tracks that could almost pass for pop songs, guitarist/frontman David Longstreth really knows how to keep the listener on his or her toes. 

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Stream the pining “Dance For You” above and pick up Swing Lo Magellan on July 10th from Domino.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Needle Drop Recap - 6/12/12

I started working for The Needle Drop again yesterday. Anthony and I had a busy day together that included some writing for the website. Here are the posts I made yesterday. They’re all worth checking out as far as I’m concerned.

Friday, June 1, 2012
Now Playing: Dirty Projectors - "Two Doves"

A pretty acoustic gem from Dirty Projectors' 2009 record Bitte Orca. I’m excited to catch this band at the Pitchfork Music Festival this year. Tune in to Left of the Dial now on WNHU.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Dirty Projectors - “Gun Has No Trigger”

Dirty Projectors are back, following up their 2009 record Bitte Orca with a brand new single. “Gun Has No Trigger” is a change of pace for the band, with sensual, dubby bass, skittering live drums, and surprisingly tuneful and simple vocal melodies from frontman David Longstreth. Longstreth’s angelic bandmate Amber Coffman provides her signature backing vocals, adding an eerily hypnotic sheen to the track. It’s the next step in their evolution from experimental noise-freaks to more melodic accessibility, and I’m certainly not complaining. At a digestible 3 minutes and 24 seconds, “Gun Has No Trigger” makes for a great start to what’s sure to be an excellent spring and summer of music.

Stream the song above, or check it out over at the Domino Records soundcloud page. “Gun Has No Trigger” will appear on an as of yet unnamed new LP, which is due for a release in the coming months. That seems to be the album art above.

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