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

"WHY?"
Monday, January 28, 2013
manic-productions:

Why? and Astronautalis coming to The Space Feb 11th! Buy Tickets HERE
Facebook Event HERE

Excited for this.

manic-productions:

Why? and Astronautalis coming to The Space Feb 11th! 

Buy Tickets HERE

Facebook Event HERE

Excited for this.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 1/18/13

Thanks to everybody who tuned in to my most recent radio broadcast on Friday. My guest DJ Malcolm and I had a lot of fun spinning tracks for those of you who listened. Check out the full playlist below and stream the available tracks via Spotify at the bottom.

  • 1. WHY? - “January Twenty Something”
  • 2. Animal Collective - “The Purple Bottle”
  • 3. Belle and Sebastian - “My Wandering Days Are Over”
  • 4. Bob Dylan - “The Man In Me”
  • 5. Christopher Owens - “Love Is In The Ear of the Listener”
  • 6. Junip - “Line of Fire”
  • 7. Paul Simon - “The Obvious Child”
  • 8. Laura Stevenson & the Cans - “Beets Untitled” (Requested by Sam)
  • 9. The New Pornographers - “Myriad Harbour” (Requested by oceanofantics)
  • 10. The Postal Service - “Nothing Better”
  • 11. JJ - “Ecstasy”
  • 12. Rilo Kiley - “The Execution of All Things”
  • 13. Destroyer - “The Sublimation Hour”
  • 14. California X - “Curse of the Nightmare”
  • 15. Youth Lagoon - “Dropla”
  • 16. Sky Ferreira - “Everything Is Embarrassing”
  • 17. Elvis Costello & The Attractions - “Shipbuilding”

(Malcolm’s playlist)

  • 18. Andrew Bird - “Anonanimal”
  • 19. Ellen McIlwaine - “Can’t Find My Way Home”
  • 20. Four Tet - “Angel Echoes”
  • 21. Antonio Carlos Jobim - “Agua de Beber”
  • 22. King Geedorah - “Anti-Matter” (Feat. MF Doom & Mr. Fantastik)
  • 23. Bonga - “Mona Ki Ngi Xica”
  • 24. Bear in Heaven - “Beast in Peace”
  • 25. Beirut - “Venice”

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Stream via Spotify:

Monday, December 24, 2012

Top 25 Songs of 2012

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A great song is a singular entity — something that stands out from the pack on a record, that distinguishes itself from everything it touches. The following 25 songs all happen to appear on albums that I liked, many of which I enjoyed largely because of the strength of these individual tracks and others. Some were huge singles, and others were local anthems. Some were big budget hits, and others were simple demos. Some made me laugh, more of them made me cry, but all of them made me feel something real inside. Behold, my 25 favorite songs of 2012.

Stream the 8tracks mix featuring all 25 songs in reverse order at the embedded link below. Read on and enjoy each song individually below that. As always, thank you for being supportive and reading my work. I appreciate it more than I can articulate. 

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25. The Magnetic Fields - "Andrew In Drag"

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In a way that no other track on Love At The Bottom of the Sea succeeded, “Andrew In Drag” perfectly blends modern synths, beats, and textures with the lyricism of Stephin Merritt’s very best material as The Magnetic Fields. “Andrew In Drag” hits all the marks of being a classic Magnetic Fields track, from its twee bleeps and bloops to its unexpectedly soaring chorus, and its inclusion of gay humor for both romantic and comedic emotional appeal. It’s also got one of Merritt’s best lyrical characters in years — not Andrew, the cross-dressing titular subject, but rather the frustrating, confusingly lovestruck observer.

24. Joey Bada$$ - "Survival Tactics" (feat. Capital STEEZ)

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While going over my completed list, I was actually listening to this song when I heard the news that Joey Bada$$ collaborator and Pro Era member Capital STEEZ had died of an apparent suicide at age 19. The effect was rather chilling, and probably not unlike hearing about the death of any of the now deceased 90’s hip-hop legends that Bada$$ and the Pro Era crew idolize. Before I heard the news, I was thinking about how STEEZ’s verse is what makes this song so great — such a stellar combination of 2012-nowness (to the point that it already almost feels dated) and childlike nostalgia. Bada$$, of course, is the star of the show throughout most of his 1999 mixtape, but right now, I think it’s probably more important to honor the awesome feature guest, who will sadly never grace another terrific track with his rhymes.

23. WHY? - "Sod In The Seed"

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Far and away the best cut that the ever-unpredictable hip-hop act WHY? put out this year, “Sod In The Seed” is a hard-charging, fist-pumping anthem the kind of which Yoni Wolf & Co. have never before released. It drives along, driven in equal measure by a terrific bassline and Wolf’s nasally, bleeted raps, spat faster than nearly anything else in his discography, solo or otherwise. It’s a tour-de-force of a track from a strictly musical perspective, but Wolf’s hilarious lyrics are the real highlight. A road veteran, Wolf knows what he’s talking about when it comes to insincerity and vulturism in the music business, and is quick to call out all the “wordy blogger thugs” and their equivalents in the world with as much spite as he has humor. It’s self-aware, comedic, and laughable, but there’s more than a grain of truth to Wolf’s lamentation of the “first world curse.”

22. The Human Fly - "Moth"

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"Moth" is the most pure and pristine distillation of the product that The Human Fly was trying to craft on Everything Feels Bad All At Once, the emotionally crippling debut from Robert Mathis’ solo project. Hell, its lyrics are even insect-themed. It’s really rather heartbreaking, posturing Mathis as the utterly insignificant ‘fly on the wall’ and subtly, beautifully conveying that feeling of total helplessness through its slowly overlapping guitars and Mathis’ deep, hushed vocals. He re-recorded this track and others with a punk band shortly after the release of the debut album, channeling that complacent grief into anger, but the effect is lost in that context. On the original, Mathis grieves solemnly, and is all the more evocative because of it.

21. Titus Andronicus - “In A Small Body”

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This track may deserve its spot primarily for a single line, which happens to be my favorite lyric throughout all of Titus Andronicus' new album Local Business. In between memorable figurative punchlines like “your dick’s too short to fuck the world” and references to Titus’ pals Diarrhea Planet, Patrick Stickles delivers some cold, hard truth: “What do you know about being no sort of slave?” he screams over dueling guitars, “I know some kids who’d kill for this kind of cage.” With that verbal wrecking ball, Stickles ideologically demolishes a number of his newfound Brooklynite peers, but he also cuts himself down to size. Stickles himself is the cage — a flawed, damaged, but still remarkably privileged one at that. If there’s anything that I wish Local Business would have done more of, it would be to acknowledge that more thoroughly.

20. Elvis Depressedly - "Road Side Memorial (repeat)"

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Out of the context of his 2012 album Mickey’s Dead, Elvis Depressedly's grim closer “Road Side Memorial (repeat)” paints a bleak and powerful portrait of a vague, tortured individual. In the context of the album, though, the listener realizes that it is a portrait of Mat Cothran himself — the remarkably damaged songwriter behind the Elvis Depressedly project. This knowledge doesn't necessarily increase our perceived quality of the song, but it does make me at least very worried about Cothran's stability and wellbeing. There is something so perilously honest about “Road Side Memorial,” from its reverberant, single chord throb to Cothran's hard-panned multitracked vocals almost casually dropping lines like “burn my wrists with cigarettes / wash the blood out of my dress” and “I don't want or need your fucking help.” Cothran, it seems, doesn't literally need the “self portrait painted in vomit” that he describes in the second verse; this track is as wounded, flawed, and true as any self-portrait could be.

19. Hostage Calm - "Woke Up Next To A Body"

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Hostage Calm want to be a pop band, but they can’t quite shake their punk rock roots. “Woke Up Next To A Body,” from this year’s Please Remain Calm, is something like their Archaeopteryx, miraculously blending a sunny, power-pop verse melody with one of the year’s greatest stage dive-inducing, fist-pumping shout-along choruses. It’s also one of the most personal tracks on Please Remain Calm, conveying the universal struggle for romantic validation through a distinctly millenial lens. The track’s closing line, “No longer young and in love and at war with the world,” may actually describe Please Remain Calm more accurately than the band’s chosen descriptor — “The punk rock album of the Great Recession.” 

18. Dum Dum Girls - "Lord Knows"

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All the praise that is being heaped upon Dum Dum Girls for their new EP End Of Daze, and its lead single “Lord Knows,” seems to focus on how much frontwoman Dee Dee has developed as a songwriter. I, however, maintain that at least since the Dum Dums’ second LP, she’s always been mature, poised, and hugely talented. If I had heard Only In Dreams last year, I guarantee that “Coming Down” would have graced the top 10 of my Songs of the Year list for 2011. “Lord Knows” doesn’t quite reach the highs and lows of that aforementioned drugged out lamentation, but it’s definitely a terrific track, floating breezily on a reverb-heavy chord progression that gives way to a terrifically unexpected chorus. Dee Dee may have always been a great songwriter, but now she makes it sound easy. 

17. Grimes - "Oblivion"

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At the Pitchfork Music Festival this year, I skipped Grimes' set to get a spot in the front row for Godspeed You! Black Emperor. I don’t exactly regret it, but I do feel like I missed out on an important aspect of my potential 2012 experience. Even if it was just to hear this song, I would have liked to be a part of that communal existence — to take part in something that would only ever mean as much as it did in that very moment. Every year has a song like this, but no song I’ve heard has ever been like this, exactly. “Oblivion” is far-reaching in its appeal, accessible and catchy, bolstered by the year’s best video, and yet, it still feels like a great secret. I still feel like I could put it on a mixtape and not feel ashamed. In its best moments — the deceptively ominous chorus, the first time the “la la las” come in from the back of the mix, the “girl you know you’ve got to watch your health” line — it almost makes me want to love Visions as a whole. It doesn’t quite succeed at that, but it comes close. 

16. Serengeti - "Go Dancin"

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If Serengeti's pitch with this year's C. A. R. was for originality, then “Go Dancin” is his most successful sale. In its frantic, image-powered depiction of a decaying relationship (probably a marriage, given the context that the rest of the album provides), “Go Dancin” achieves in four minutes what countless minimalist indie films struggle to do in two hours. Geti’s constant lyrical contrasts, his increasingly emotional delivery, and the song’s brilliantly simple concept leave the listener struggling to decide whether to root for the narrator or to abandon him like his partner eventually does, as Geti’s last-ditch efforts for a meaningful life turn into empty promises and eventually selfish kiss-offs. It’s an emotionally wracked song that achieves remarkable pathos from relatively meager means.

15. Slow Warm Death - “Sleep”

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The 2011 dissolution of emo revival firebrands Snowing left many wondering what direction frontman John Galm would take with his next project. He answered those questions to a certain extent when he dropped Slow Warm Demos, a demo collection released under the name of his new band Slow Warm Death. The record is perilously lo-fi, and mostly comprises gritty garage rock numbers in the vein of Ty Segall’s early material. One track, however, stands so tall above the rest that it would be criminal for Galm not to explore this style more in the future. “Sleep” begins with hollow acoustic guitar and strained vocals, calling to mind Galm’s rare solo material, but at exactly the one minute mark, the track goes supernova, evoking the massive sonic weight of Have A Nice Life with maxed-out guitars and a thunderous drum machine. Despite its demo quality, no other track blew my brains out the way that “Sleep” did this year.

14. Jens Lekman - "I Know What Love Isn’t"

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Like Giles Corey, my #1 album of the year pick for 2011, Jens Lekman's I Know What Love Isn’t is best appreciated as a full album, not as a collection of songs. Unlike Giles Corey, I Know What Love Isn’t is a lot of fun to listen to. On an album full of great tracks, the song “I Know What Love Isn’t” is one particular highlight. Lekman throws caution to the wind over a jaunty acoustic guitar, shooting the shit with a best friend, ogling girls from afar and, for 3 minutes and 33 seconds, forgetting about the one who broke his poor little Swedish heart. By the end, you’ll realize that he’s still miserable and alone, but each time that the glockenspiel signals the beginning of the song, I can’t help but feel that there’s hope.

13. Beach House"Lazuli"

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Beach House have distilled their formula for dream pop bliss so perfectly on “Lazuli,” that the track doesn’t even need a chorus. The effortlessly beautiful and cool Victoria Legrand’s smoky falsetto simply hums along each time the verse gives way, arching skyward over a constantly rising synth loop while Alex Scally layers harmonic textures. They’ve been building towards “Lazuli” for years, and from here, I honestly don’t see how their aesthetic could get any better or any more refined. Given the quality of this track and the rest of Bloom, for that matter, I’m nevertheless excited to see what they do next.

12. Carly Rae Jepsen - "Call Me Maybe"

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If I had released this list a week ago, nobody would have minded this choice. You might even have thought that it was ‘cool’ of me to include such a sugary, maximalist pop song on a list that mostly comprises music released on independent labels. But now that everyone from Pitchfork to Stereogum to probably Rolling Stone or something like that has included Carly Rae Jepsen's summer smash “Call Me Maybe” on their end of the year lists, a lot of people are throwing the 'pop tokenism' card. I can't say I blame them, given the track's utter ubiquity, but to dismiss this as a token pick would be a disservice to just how great “Call Me Maybe” is. Although she goes for the 'innocent teen girl' market, 27 year old Jepsen's anthem is remarkably empowering and even quite mature. On top of that, this synth-heavy treat is endlessly appealing. Even after hundreds of plays, on the radio, at parties, and in the comfort of my own home, “Call Me Maybe” has yet to grow tiresome for me. 

11. Purity Ring - "Fineshrine"

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If I can write about Carly Rae Jepsen for a little longer, I have to admit that I was made a little uncomfortable when I found out about her age. I had been imagining her as 19 at the oldest, and the realization that she was 26 when “Call Me Maybe” was released made me aware of just how powerful marketing can still be. Afterwards, the song made me feel kind of creepy and weird in a way that was definitely unintentional. Around that time, though, I was just starting to get into Purity Ring, another terrific pop act that also made me feel creepy and weird, but in a decidedly purposeful manner. “Fineshrine” is on par with Jepsen’s hit as my favorite straight up synth pop song of the year, but Megan James’ eerily sexual lyrics and self-imposed, childlike fetishization make “Fineshrine” the superior dark horse, despite its considerably lower budget. I’ve had “cut open my sternum and pull my little ribs around you” uncomfortably stuck in my head for six months, and that chorus shows no sign of leaving any time soon.

10. Self Defense Family - "Self Immolation Family"

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I think we can stop calling them End of a Year now. The latest music from the newly re-christened New York band Self Defense Family bears little in common with the DC post-hardcore worship of the records released under their former name. The new Self Defense Family is decidedly more experimental, heavier, and much, much better, as their recent output indicates. The perfectly-titled “Self Immolation Family” is the a-side to a 7” they released on Deathwish, Inc. this year, recorded at Sigur Ros’ studio in Iceland. True to its Nordic origins, “Self Immolation Family” is frost-bitten and, at over 6-minutes, glacially paced. The band’s endearingly tuneless frontman Patrick Kindlon barks his bitter heart out with vigor, but the real highlight is the pummeling instrumentation, with interwoven guitars and bass that evoke post-rock more than the band’s once-signature post-hardcore style.

9. The Music Tapes - "Takeshi and Elijah"

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Much has happened to the Elephant 6 collective in 2012. Jeff Mangum continued his second year of solo touring after a very successful return to the spotlight in 2011, and has possibly hinted at a Neutral Milk Hotel reunion for 2013. The Olivia Tremor Control continued their reunion, including a stop that I witnessed at Pitchfork Festival, until the untimely and mysterious death of frontman Bill Doss. Honestly, I think the best thing that happened to the closely-knit Athens, Georgia collective was the release of The Music Tapes' new album Mary’s Voice. It’s really the first great album from Neutral Milk Hotel ex-pat Julian Koster’s longtime pet project, and the closing track “Takeshi and Elijah” is far and away the best song he’s ever written. It’s mostly a solo cut, featuring Koster’s strummed banjo and nostalgic lamentations and remembrances about his life, including his time with his old band. It’s actually rather sad, for the most part, but once the full band comes in at the end with Rob Cucchiaro’s horns blaring, it’s clear that there is still hope — for Koster, and for all of us.

8. One Hundred Year Ocean - "1576"

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Often, the most profound memories are set off by the simplest remembrances. In “1576,” the heartbreaking standout from One Hundred Year Ocean's Poison Smoak EP, Derrick Shanholtzer-Dvorak describes fumbling around in a messy car for a dropped marijuana joint, only to find “burned CD-Rs” and other mementos of a former life that now seems so distant. It’s a bittersweet paean to the confusion of life, the unfortunate necessity of companionship, and the bittersweet comfort of home. Shanholtzer-Dvorak wrote “1576” about his current home in the small town of Willimantic, Connecticut, but it could just as easily be about my hometown of New Haven, or any other town in America. “All cities are coffins,” he sings along with vocal harmonies from his wife, Katie Shanholtzer-Dvorak. The lyric is grim, but the sentiment is transcendent. “We’ve all got to die somewhere,” he sings in the guitar pounding final movement. He’s right.

7. Suns - "Crocodile"

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"Crocodile," the best track from Suns' debut full length The Engine Room, creeps up slowly in a manner not unlike the animal that its title describes. Lithe, and swimming just beneath the surface, the track lures the listener into complacency with its spindly guitar line and soothing vocals, before exploding in a cataclysm of spiteful virulence at the end. There are lyrics there, but only two lines are discernable. “WHY DON’T YOU GET IT?,” screams frontman Will Rutledge. Later on, the sentiment is even more desperate and angry — he’s simply shouting “Oh my god.” The violent final minute of this song is my favorite 60 seconds of music from 2012, but it’s only so powerful because of the preceding three minutes of slowly building, restrained urgency. 

6. Kendrick Lamar - "Swimming Pools (Drank)"

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Last year I was at a party where somebody asked me to put on some music. I put on a track from Kendrick Lamar's Section.80 mixtape, and within a minute or two, somebody had exchanged it for some other song by a different artist. It was kind of depressing, but I understood it. Section.80 wasn’t party music material. From a certain standpoint, neither is anything on good kid, m.A.A.d city though, ESPECIALLY “Swimming Pools (Drank),” the super depressing alcoholism study that Lamar released as a lead single from his major label debut earlier this year. Why then, does Kendrick’s reedy flow and “Swimming Pools’” cavernous bass hum seem to follow me to every party I attend? Probably because it’s the best track he’s ever released. Hip-hop purists might prefer the 12-minute suite “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst,” but to me, this single has the perfect combination of eeriness and accessibility, pleasure and pain, and happiness and misery.

5. Spirit Night - "The Last Time"

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Spirit Night's “The Last Time” strikes a very similar emotional chord with me as One Hundred Year Ocean's “1576,” which is appropriate considering that they were both released on Derrick Shanholtzer-Dvorak's label Broken World Media this year. Like OHYO's anthem, “The Last Time” is a sweeping piece of emotive, mid-tempo indie rock. It courses with the viscous, tangible energy of desperation, opening up slowly as frontman Dylan Balliett describes with just the right amount of vagueness a harrowing teenaged realization. “I don't want to have to kill you,” Balliett stammers in the first chorus, “I don't want to have to kill anyone…” By the time the chorus rolls around again, he sounds stronger in his convictions. The listener never learns exactly what “The Last Time” is about, but the music is so incredibly powerful that one can't help but feel its innate confusion, sadness, and pain. 

4. Frank Ocean - "Bad Religion"

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So much of Frank Ocean's breakout album channel ORANGE is effortlessly great, from the buttery soul of “Sweet Life” to the borderline rock chug of “Lost.” Of all the great tracks, only “Bad Religion” seems to take a genuinely painful emotional toll on Ocean. On “Bad Religion,” the California-based singer abandons his philosopher’s mentality for the first time and bares his soul to a humble taxi driver, unraveling a truly unexpected outpouring of sorrow and conflicted pain through his achingly gorgeous falsetto. The album’s accompanying letter gives Ocean’s pathos context, but more than all the other tracks on channel ORANGE, “Bad Religion” truly speaks for itself. No other song in 2012 made the tried and true topic of unrequited love so real, so intimately human, more than Frank Ocean’s solemn, quiet masterpiece. 

3. How To Dress Well - "Ocean Floor For Everything"

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"Ocean Floor For Everything" is the most formless song on How To Dress Well's stellar Total Loss LP, but it’s also the most powerful, favoring pristine, nearly divine-sounding atmospheres over songwriting chops and structure. In that way, it almost seems like ‘post-music’, or perhaps something more pure and ancient, untouched by the musical conventions that humanity has developed over thousands of years of making noises just for the pleasure of it. Philosophy student Tom Krell, the mysterious electronic/R&B project’s unassuming mastermind, is still singing words of course — lamenting “the worst of things” that no amount of planning could prepare for. And yet, this isn’t a song about sadness, or even particularly a sad song. It’s an experience in and of itself: not a conveyer of emotions, but an objective constant from which emotions may come. It’s art for the sake of art, untouched by the perversion of the surrounding totality. 

2. Title Fight - "Head In The Ceiling Fan"

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Much as Grimes' “Oblivion” video did a lot to increase my appreciation for that song, so too did Title Fight's clip for “Head In The Ceiling Fan,” the breathtaking, anomalous standout from their otherwise merely solid Floral Green LP. That grainy VHS footage of friends laughing, jumping off rope swings, and playing baseball in empty parks contrasts in such an intensely heartbreaking way with the slow, building chaos of the song’s shoegazing guitars. When the drums crash in, godlike in their sonic density and heft, it’s hard not to be emotionally moved. All of this joy that comes with everyday life, the song seems to suggest, will fade just as unexpectedly as it arrived. “Head In The Ceiling Fan” is the sound of that happiness dying out. It is the sound of your entire life’s experiences meaning more to you than you possibly could have imagined at the time. It is the groaning, glacial progression of existence towards a formerly unwanted but ultimately welcome end. 

1. Japandroids - "The House That Heaven Built"

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I have been waiting for so long — at least since I first started consciously paying attention to new music — to find a new album like JapandroidsCelebration Rock that is as good as Celebration Rock, with a song as good as the lead single “The House That Heaven Built.” My favorite songs of the year for the past two years have essentially made me want to kill myself, but this is different. This is flawless, unforgettable punk rock makes me want to stay alive forever, and I couldn’t be more gratified that it exists. I could have chosen “Adrenaline Nightshift” or “The Night Of Wine And Roses” or “Fire’s Highway” or nearly any of the album’s eight near-perfect tracks to put in this place, but “The House That Heaven Built” somehow stands out in particular. It is the apex of an album about living life to the most ridiculously intense degree, about forgetting the rules and breaking them inadvertently, and ultimately, about transcendence. Isn’t that what we all want, at our deepest core? I can’t speak for anyone reading this, but if I ever achieve that primal goal, “The House That Heaven Built” will be blasting on my record player in the clouds. 

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Thank you for reading this list. Be sure to check out all of my past and future lists from this year HERE or at my "2012 Lists" tag. Thanks again and happy holidays!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Video: WHY? - “The Water You Walk”

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Earlier this month, indie hip-hop outfit WHY? dropped a winter/Christmas-themed track called “The Water You Walk,” which will appear on a forthcoming 7” along with “Waterlines,” from this year’s rather muddled but occasionally good Mumps, Etc. This week, they dropped a video for the track as well, featuring some serene and beautiful winter-themed footage along with a creepy Santa Claus figure lurking ominously in the background. 

Frustratingly, the track is actually better than a lot of the material on Mumps..., a record that I liked a lot initially but soon found myself growing tired of. The dream pop keys of “The Water You Walk,” along with its lurching snare rolls and ominous melody, make it a rather eerie standout amongst typically jovial Christmas songs.

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Watch the video, which was directed by Erika Ochoa, above. The “Waterlines”/”The Water You Walk” 7” will be out at some point in the future on Anticon.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 11/30/12

Thanks to everybody who tuned in to my broadcast of Left of the Dial on WNHU last night. I won’t be on the air next week, but I will return on the 14th to start playing some of my favorite songs of the past year in a three part radio series that will take place over the next three Fridays. 

The full playlist from last night’s show is below, along with a Spotify link to stream the available songs at the bottom*. Thanks again for listening! 

*Edit: Spotify’s embed code doesn’t seem to be working with tumblr today. I will update this if it starts working again in the near future. Until then, I’m afraid you won’t be able to stream this playlist. Oh well! Enjoy it anyway.

  • 1. Bomb The Music Industry! - “25!”
  • 2. Sufjan Stevens - “Alphabet St.” (Prince cover)
  • 3. Anamanaguchi - “Overarrow”
  • 4. Parquet Courts - “Borrowed Time”
  • 5. Title Fight - “Numb, But I Still Feel It”

— Interview with Jamie Rhoden of Title Fight

  • 6. Title Fight - “Head In The Ceiling Fan”
  • 7. Title Fight - “Sympathy”
  • 8. Tigers Jaw - “Between Your Band And The Other Band”
  • 9. The Guru - “Cow”
  • 10. Yo La Tengo - “Avalon Or Someone Very Similar”
  • 11. Red House Painters - “Lord Kill The Pain”
  • 12. Low - “Words” (Live, feat. Benjamin Gibbard)
  • 13. Elliott Smith - “Waltz #2 (XO)”
  • 14. Snowing - “Pump Fake (Demo)”
  • 15. My Heart To Joy - “That Ungodly Arch-Villain Voltaire Is Dead”
  • 16. Joie De Vivre - “Sundays”
  • 17. Koji - “Matches”
  • 18. WHY? - “Gnashville”
  • 19. Radiohead - “These Are My Twisted Words”
  • 20. Elvis Depressedly - “A Bible In A Bath of Bleach”
  • 21. Paul Baribeau - “How Could That Be True”
  • 22. Cat Power - “Empty Shell”
  • 23. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - “Love Letter”
  • 24. Carissa’s Wierd - “Low Budget Slow Motion Soundtrack Song For The Leaving Scene”
  • 25. Sharon Van Etten - “Tornado”
  • 26. Waxahatchee - “Bathtub” (Requested by firewalkwithmel
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:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Video: WHY? - “Strawberries” (Official Music Video)

With the possible exception of the previously-covered single “Sod In The Seed,” “Strawberries” is easily the most immediate and accessible track on WHY?'s new LP Mumps, Etc. While most of Mumps finds Yoni Wolf & Co. discovering new ways to explore their hip-hop roots, “Strawberries” harks back to such melodic classics as “Fatalist Palmistry” and “Rubber Traits.” It’s got everything you could want out of a WHY? song, from its catchy chorus hook to a line about somebody’s mom smoking weed and listening to A Prairie Home Companion. It also bears one of the album’s most impactful singular lines: “The shit I’ve said to high school counselors haunts me.” If that isn’t a classic Yoni Wolf truism, I’m not sure what is.

The WHY? crew recently dropped a video for this song, which follows the "Sod In The Seed" clip. Like that video, the “Strawberries” clip features footage of Yoni Wolf leading a pack of eager WHY? fans doing some ridiculous antics. This video takes place in some sort of flamboyant parade with costumed marchers, cyclists, and a giant float featuring the Mumps, Etc. album art. Check it out above.

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Mumps, Etc. is out October 2nd on Anticon.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Serengeti - C. A. R. (2012)

Stream: “Geti Life” (feat. Yoni Wolf)

Serengeti deserves an album like this. It’s been a long time coming, and frankly, I wasn’t sure if he’d get there. Although he has been a prolific and uniquely talented figure in the alternative hip-hop scene for a decade now, he’s never had a great LP, which is frustrating because I would definitely call him a great rapper. Unfortunately, Serengeti (aka David Cohn) has been dogged by poor production choices, misguided collaborations like the bizarre s / s / s supergroup, and general lack of focus for the majority of his career. Despite its lackluster production and proclivity for hooks that didn’t quite fit, last year’s Family & Friends LP showed promise that ‘Geti was on the right track. Now, with the release of his new album C. A. R. (and its recent predecessor, the Kenny Dennis EP), it seems that Serengeti is finally fulfilling his tremendous potential.

So what changed this time around that distinguishes C. A. R. from virtually everything Cohn has released in the past? The most immediate improvement is the production, handled by Anticon labelmates Jel and Odd Nosdam, both of whom have a seemingly preternatural ability to make stellar beats for the kind of artists that Anticon tends to sign. Their production is dense, blocky, and very synthetic — a strong contrast to the live sound of Family & Friends. Sonically, C. A. R. feels almost like hip-hop retrofuturism; Nosdam and Jel throw in plenty of modern production elements, but the album still feels like a boom-bap record at its core. 

The production on C. A. R. is so stellar that one could probably listen to and enjoy the album for its beats alone. The opening track “Greyhound” lilts with the spasmodic loop of a broken keyboard before giving way to an infectious synth squelch. “Amnesia” features a chopped up soul sample and broken, tired-sounding beats that help fit the sarcastic joy of its lyrical message. Meanwhile, the humorous and self-deprecating “Geti Life” features a bouncy, spindly beat that recalls the funnier moments of Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP. Production elements like these make C. A. R. a very entertaining and even fun album to listen to on the surface. 

There is, of course, more to this LP than the production and instrumentation, although the excellent beats might be able to take credit for why Geti sounds so invigorated here.  ”Greyhound” provides a calm and reflective introduction, with Geti sliding in over the beat and dropping lines like “I’ve burned every bridge I’ve ever owned,” as if to distance himself from his past musical efforts. By the time the second track “Talk To Me” rolls around, Geti is fully engaged, namedropping (and purposefully mispronouncing) Bon Iver with a wink and romanticizing a life as a chauffeur and a scuba diver. Traditionally, Geti’s raps have the depressing, retrospective quality of a conversation with an old man at a bar, and although there is enough humor here to balance that, his sad-sack storytelling has never sounded better than it does here. 

"Geti Life" balances the two rather deftly, offsetting the shock value of lines like "Let me get drunk as fast as I can / so I can fall asleep and pretend I’m a different man" with humorous references to WHY?'s Yoni Wolf, who pops up to deliver some hilarious banter of his own. Later, on “Cold,” he paints a miserable picture of adulthood punctuated by sarcastic interjections — “Everything is great / stolen license plates / dandruff everywhere / kids got colds / dishes in the sink / place smells like mold.” The the album's best and most heartbreakingly sad track comes in the middle, in the form of a lengthy, propulsive centerpiece called “Go Dancin'”. At over four minutes, “Go Dancin'” occupies a solid chunk of C. A. R.’s 29 minute runtime, but it justifies its length with one of Serengeti’s most powerful and evocative lyrical statements. Over a slowly building standout beat, Geti raps through a mild distortion filter, describing an idyllic vision for a failing relationship that slowly morphs into a passionate and emotive reality check. Geti has never sounded as emotionally invested in his music than he does on “Go Dancin’”; by the end of the song, he’s practically screaming “We’re not immortal.” 

That passion turns out to be short lived, but its brevity only makes “Go Dancin’” stand out more. Quickly, the visceral pain fades away, covered up once more by Geti’s pointed sarcasm, and by the time the chilling closer “Uncle Traum” rolls around, he’s describing his wife being shot and killed without even an ounce of emotion. It’s a powerful contrast, and it speaks to Geti’s versatility that he can pull off both extremes with nearly equal effect.

C. A. R. is a validation for Serengeti, and a very strong highlight in a year that has been great for underground hip-hop. Although his label has admittedly definitely seen better days, C. A. R. is easily the best release to come from the Anticon camp since at least 2008, when WHY? dropped the near-perfect Alopecia. In his cool, collected, and admirably subdued manner, Serengeti has, with this LP, established himself as Anticon’s rising star — and perhaps its saving grace. Beyond that, he’s proved that neither shock tactics nor 2kNext relevance are essential qualities to making great rap. Sometimes a great hip-hop album is just that, and that’s exactly what C. A. R. is.

8/10

Key Tracks: "Geti Life""Go Dancin’"

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C. A. R. is available for purchase now from Anticon Records

Monday, September 3, 2012

Lewis and his Blog Back To School/Fall 2012 Mix

Since so many people started reblogging that Carissa’s Wierd song recently, I thought it might be a good idea to make a little mix for going back to school and just for the fall in general. I put this together pretty quickly, but I think it serves its purpose. 

I mostly made this for myself, so I apologize to those of my followers who aren’t in school or won’t be returning to school this fall. Still, I hope that everyone who listens to this finds it enjoyable and appropriate for the fall. This summer was pretty cool, and I’m a little sad to see it go.

I’ve made this mix available to stream via 8tracks, but you can also download it via mediafire HERE. Everything is properly tagged and arranged and it all has the above album artwork, so you don’t have to worry about anything being out of order. Check out the tracklist and give it a spin at the embedded link below.

  • 1. Serengeti - “Greyhound”
  • 2. WHY? - “Strawberries”
  • 3. Desaparecidos - “What’s New For Fall”
  • 4. The Get Up Kids - “I’m A Loner Dottie, A Rebel”
  • 5. Jens Lekman - “Maple Leaves”
  • 6. Tawny Peaks - “With Steps”
  • 7. Yo La Tengo - “Autumn Sweater”
  • 8. Sun Kil Moon - “Among The Leaves”
  • 9. The White Stripes - “We’re Going To Be Friends”
  • 10. Ty Segall - “Goodbye Bread”
  • 11. The Shins - “September”
  • 12. Paul Baribeau - “When You Go Back To College”
  • 13. Carissa’s Wierd - “September Come Take This Heart Away”
  • 14. Destroyer - “Streethawk II”
  • 15. Joie De Vivre - “Autumn In New London”

»DOWNLOAD HERE«

Friday, August 31, 2012
Left of the Dial Radio Show on WNHU: 6-8 PM EST

Tune in now!

Tonight’s broadcast of Left of the Dial will be my last radio show for the summer. I’ll still be doing my show throughout the school year of course, but I still see this as something of a ceremonial end to the summer. This is going to be a pretty sad show. I’m going to try really hard not to play “The Summer Ends” by American Football but I can’t guarantee anything. Tune in any time between now and 8 PM and you might get to hear me cry on air! Expect new stuff from WHY?, The Mountain Goats, Swans, and more.

The full playlist will be posted tomorrow along with a link to stream via Spotify. Leave any and all requests in my ask box, and I’ll try to play them.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

WHY? - “Jonathan’s Hope”

Yesterday the genre-bending hip-hop collective WHY? dropped a new track from their forthcoming full length Mumps, Etc. The track is called “Jonathan’s Hope,” and it marks the second taste of Mumps to drop after “Sod In The Seed” was released earlier in the summer. As the opening track from the album, “Jonathan’s Hope” offers some introductory context to the record and makes for a pretty solid second single

I remember hearing this song live at their show in Hartford back in December of last year and being blown away by it on the first listen. The “Good god, what the hell, what the fuck?” line in the chorus has been stuck in my head ever since then. I’m a little less impressed with the dense, blocky arrangement that appears on this recorded version, but the song is still very good. 

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Stream “Jonathan’s Hope” above and download it HERE via Soundcloud. Mumps, Etc. is out October 2nd on Anticon.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Video: WHY? - “Sod In The Seed” (Official Music Video)

Well… white stage scene music videos seem to be in this year

WHY?'s latest clip for their new single “Sod In The Seed” is a humorous, entertaining affair, replete with jumpy camerawork and surprisingly well-choreographed dancers. Yoni Wolf, dressed in retro-looking workout clothes, is of course the star, but half the fun in this video comes from watching his bandmates and all the ridiculously-dressed volunteers openly embarrassing themselves on camera. I can't tell if WHY? is making fun of the viewers by playing to their expectations, or if they're just making fun of themselves. Either way, I'm loving this video.

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Stream the “Sod In The Seed” clip above and stream their new Sod In The Seed EP at the embedded link below via Soundcloud. It’s out officially on August 13th via City Slang/Anticon.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Lewis and his Blog June 2012 Mix

June was a great month for me personally and an equally good one in terms of new music being released. Check out ten of my favorite tracks that I blogged about this month below. You can stream the whole mix at the embedded 8tracks link immediately below, and read a blurb about each track after the jump. To listen to and read about all my previous Monthly Mixes, click HERE or click the “Monthly Mixes” tab in the ‘links’ section of my blog.

Lewis and his Blog//June 2012 Mix

1. Tilly and the Wall - “Love Riot”

Tilly and the Wall's “Love Riot” will open their first full length record in four years, entitled Heavy Mood. Other bands take note: This is how to re-introduce yourself. Although the ties to Bright Eyes and Saddle Creek Records run deep, this track is considerably rougher and scrappier than anything Conor Oberst — or Mike Mogis, who handles the production here — has worked on in some time. Girl group vocals, blistering guitar, and handclaps for miles. Heavy Mood is out October 2nd on Conor Oberst’s Team Love imprint.

2. King Tuff - “Bad Thing”

This track from King Tuff's new self-titled album is a shockingly great garage rock banger, and one of the best singles that 2012 has had to offer so far. The self-appointed King spends his time in the verses feeling something between apathy and self-loathing regarding his bad boy image, but then ultimately revels in it in the electrifying chorus. It'll make you sing, dance, and maybe even do some unwholesome things. After all, doesn't everyone want to be bad? Read my review of King Tuff HERE and purchase the album from Sub Pop

3. Donovan Wolfington - “Spencer Green”

In keeping with the true punk tradition, Donovan Wolfington wastes no time with introductions. From the very onset of the New Orleans band’s new single “Spencer Green,” they’re screaming and hollering and banging on their instruments like children having a temper tantrum. Their message of frustration and self-deprecation is a familiar one, but when it’s delivered this convincingly, with a surprisingly melodic instrumental palette and noise-pop production value, I’ll buy into it every time. Download “Spencer Green” for whatever you wish to pay on bandcamp

4. The Helveticas - “Streetlight”

Let me write from experience for a minute. I’ve met a lot of sad musicians from Connecticut, but none of them strike that chord within me quite like The Helveticas do.  I’ve written at length in the past about how this band’s appeal lies in their ability to convey feelings of sadness, longing, and loneliness over catchy and even poppy instrumentals, and nowhere is that more evident than on “Streetlight,” the second track from their excellent new album I’m Alright If You’re Alright. If you’re unsure whether to sing along or cry, choose both. Download I’m Alright If You’re Alright from bandcamp HERE.

5. WHY? - “Sod In The Seed”

WHY?'s first single since 2009's Eskimo Snow is an utterly refreshing barnstormer of a track. Like a seasoned battle rapper (and very much unlike the folk troubadour that he postured himself as on their last record) frontman Yoni Wolf goes off the handle on “Sod In The Seed.” In top lyrical form, he delivers line after line of quotable material revolving around the concept of what he calls the “First World curse.” It’s a topic that only WHY? could make this provocative. This band is just fantastic. WHY?’s Sod In The Seed EP will be out August 14th on Anticon

6. Milo - “The confrontation at Khazad-dûm”

Although Milo's new Milo Takes Baths EP predates that new WHY? single by a couple months, this Chicago-based rapper certainly owes a lot to Yoni Wolf both in his nasally flow and his abstract, reference-loaded lyrical style. The EP’s opening track, which samples Baths' “Aminals” (Milo Takes Baths… get it?), is the highlight of the release, which is thoroughly good as a whole. Download Milo Takes Baths for free HERE.

7. Fiona Apple - “Werewolf”

Fiona Apple’s latest LP The Idler Wheel… has caused quite the hubbub in the internet music criticism community. The word that gets thrown around the most is “authenticity,” and I certainly agree that it’s refreshing to hear a high profile artist be so open and vulnerable on a new record. Although other tracks demonstrate more impressive vocal theatrics, the highlight for me is the delicate, simile-filled “Werewolf,” an honest piano ballad that straddles the line between eerie and comforting. Pick up The Idler Wheel… from Epic Records on Amazon.

8. How To Dress Well - “Ocean Floor For Everything”

The experimental electronic/R&B producer How To Dress Well really surprised me with this track off of his forthcoming LP Total Loss. “Ocean Floor For Everything” reminds me of a pop song that I must have heard as a child, played underwater, or piped into my ears while I was sleeping. Although its experimental trappings are exciting on the first few listens, the real appeal of this track lies in its familiarity. Preorder Total Loss now from Acéphale Records

9. The Human Fly - “Moth”

As I wrote in my reviewThe Human Fly's debut LP Everything Feels Bad All At Once is best experienced as a whole. That said, there are certainly some highlights, and the gentle folk ballad “Moth” is one of them. On a record that deals mostly in harsh, dissonant melodies and blown out, distorted production, “Moth” is a calm oasis. Lyrically, it’s also a perfect distillation of the concept behind The Human Fly. “Well I’d love to be a butterfly but I am just a moth,” Robert Mathis sings, dejectedly. Don’t we all want that? Download Everything Feels Bad All At Once for free on bandcamp

10. You Blew It! - “The Fifties”

Though they may be unapologetically aping Into It. Over It. on this track, I still can’t help but love “The Fifties,” a highlight from You Blew It!'s Topshelf Records debut Grow Up, Dude. Something about soothing, melodic, American Football-style emo will always appeal to me, no matter how old and jaded I get. Keep singing about the fifties and beautiful brown eyes, kids. I don’t think I’ll ever not feel nostalgic. Purchase Grow Up, Dude from Topshelf Records HERE

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I hope you enjoy this mix! Have a wonderful July.

Friday, June 29, 2012
Left of the Dial Radio Show on WNHU: 6-8 PM EST

Tune in now!

Click the link above to tune in to my radio show Left of the Dial live on WNHU here in West Haven CT. Tonight’s show will feature a wide range of new tracks by artists including The Human Fly, Donovan Wolfington, WHY? and many more. I’m very excited for this show, and I would be honored if some of you guys tuned in tonight.

Feel free to leave any and all requests (as long as they’re FCC clean — no swears on air) in my ask box HERE. I’ll be on the air from 6 to 8 PM, and I’ll post the playlist tomorrow along with a link to stream it via Spotify.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

WHY? - “Sod In The Seed”

Oh lord it feels good to have this band back. When I saw WHY? last year in Hartford, they debuted a ton of new material from a record that they promised was forthcoming. That material was nothing short of amazing — an effective mix of Alopecia’s hip-hop experimentalism and Elephant Eyelash’s blissed out psychedelic pop. I’ve been waiting for the first taste of music from that record, which will be out later this year, and now I’ve finally got it.

WHY?’s new single is called “Sod In The Seed,” and you can stream it above now. After the melancholic, folk-infused Eskimo Snow, it’s refreshing to see Yoni Wolf and Co. returning to their hip-hop roots. Over a looping, bass-powered beat, Wolf spends most of the time on this track spitting like a straight up battle rapper, save for a catchy, reverb-laden hook. WHY? has been one of my favorite bands for over two years now, and it’s great to see that they’re still just as good as they ever were. From the sound of this new track, my expectations for the new album are peaked. 

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Stream “Sod In The Seed” above or at Soundcloud. This track will appear on a new EP, also called Sod In The Seed, which will be out August 14th on Anticon.

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