Lewis and his Blog February 2013 Mix
I loved this February. Here in Connecticut, it seemed as though it snowed every weekend and that everybody generally expected a little less out of everyone else. It was a relatively relaxing contrast to the mania of January, and this was mirrored to some degree in the music that was released this month. Below, you can stream and read about my latest Monthly Mix, the rest of which you can find HERE. Thanks for listening, and enjoy!
1. Foxygen - “San Francisco”
A band like this comes around every couple years, but I still can’t help but love Foxygen’s shamelessly revivalist take on psychedelic pop. Lots of bands through the years have made careers off of sounding like The Zombies, but few do so with such accuracy, or while having as much fun as this duo clearly does. Edging out the Dylan-aping “No Destruction” for the best song on their new LP, “San Francisco” is a touchingly playful homage to the band’s hometown. The vintage keyboard sounds warmly familiar, and you won’t be able to get those female backing vocals out of your head. We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic is out now on Jagjaguwar.
2. My Bloody Valentine - “New You”
I remember the first time I played mbv, the long awaited new album from My Bloody Valentine. Specifically, I remember feeling a tremendous sigh of relief when the opening guitar chords of “She Found Now” rang out, evoking to a perfect tee the dense aesthetic of their landmark LP Loveless. Yet the single moment of mbv that sticks with me the most is the entirety of “New You” — the lone song on which the band tips the scales from pop and shoegaze towards the former side. My Bloody Valentine were unique when Loveless was released; nobody else sounded like they did. Now, though, plenty of acts have imitated their sound. With the catchy, breezy sway of “New You,” My Bloody Valentine remind the world that aesthetic prescience wasn’t all they had in them. They are, first and foremost, a pop band; tracks like this indicate that. Buy mbv online HERE.
3. The Postal Service - “A Tattered Line Of String”
So it turns out that this is indeed a ‘new’ recording. Like Desaparecidos, who also broke up about ten years ago and reunited recently, it doesn’t seem like The Postal Service have changed all that much in the interim. One thing is notable: “A Tattered Line of String” isn’t quite as sad as anything on Give Up, but with a melody as good as that which Ben Gibbard sings, it’s hard not to embrace his improved happiness. This song will appear on the forthcoming Give Up reissue, which will be out April 9th on Sub Pop.
4. Atoms For Peace - “Ingenue”
In light of the relative disappointment that was The King of Limbs, is Thom Yorke’s new project Atoms For Peace better because it’s not Radiohead, or does it just seem that way? These are the kind of annoying questions that I have to worry about. You don’t, though! Just enjoy this cut from AMOK, which is out now on XL Recordings. By the way, the band just released a video for this track which playfully echoes the now-iconic clip for The King Of Limbs’ “Lotus Flower.” “Ingenue” definitely favors aesthetics over pop sensibility, but it’s still hard to deny the catchiness of that synth hook.
5. Giraffage - “All That Matters”
Needs, the latest tape to drop from San Francisco producer Giraffage, is definitely one of the most notable hazy, sample-based pop albums of this early year. As Gorilla Vs. Bear points out in their premiere stream of the new album, the highlight is definitely “All That Matters,” which features an unmistakable sample of Ready For The World’s “Love You Down,” which Giraffage masterfully twists into something fragile and intimate. Download the tape for whatever you wish to pay via Giraffage’s bandcamp page. Needs is out now via Alpha Pup.
6. Kitty - “☠DEAD❤ISLAND☠”
Consider me a convert. Kitty (née Pryde) released a new EP called D.A.I.S.Y. Rage earlier in the year and I’ve actually enjoyed it quite a bit. Kitty seems remarkably self-aware and also refreshingly unwilling to play into her audience’s expectations. From a lyrical standpoint, tracks like “☠DEAD❤ISLAND☠” are a lot less cutesy and juvenile than her previous material, and her rhyming capabilities seem to have improved a lot too. British producer WATER serves as a foil to Kitty’s aimlessness, driving the track forward with a propulsive beat. Download D.A.I.S.Y. Rage from Kitty’s bandcamp page.
7. LVL UP - “Graveyard”
Can Purchase NY be considered local to a Connecticut kid? If so, my favorite local band has delivered a terrific single with “Graveyard,” which will appear on their forthcoming (and perfectly named) Extra Worlds 7”. “Graveyard” is faster, more urgent, and ultimately better than anything they’ve done up to this point, with the exception of maybe one track from their 2011 SPACE BROTHERS LP. It’s 2013 and indie rock is great! Preorder Extra Worlds from Double Double Whammy and you could win a test press copy!The 7” drops April 6th.
8. Julia Brown - “Library”
Julia Brown formed out of the ashes of the explosive punk band Teen Suicide, who broke up last year. The new group is decidedly less abrasive, but the lo-fi aesthetic that they employ on their debut album To Be Close To You is similarly harsh. Lead single “Library” is the album’s best song, and perhaps the lone moment when the band manages to craft a pop melody so brilliant that it completely transcends the limitations of the production. I’ve been humming this melancholic gem for close to a month now, and it doesn’t stand any chance of going away soon. To Be Close To You is out know on Julia Brown’s bandcamp.
9. Baby Grand - “Una”
I wanted to shed some light on this Connecticut group because I fear that they have been gratuitously overlooked even within the local community. Baby Grand (which comprises some members of Cold Snap, whom I’m seeing tonight in New Haven) is a hard-to-pin-down rock band with a lyrical focus that is only matched in intensity by their atmospheric heft. I like to think of them as a more melodic, more accessible version of Self Defense Family, whose frontman Patrick Kindlon sounds like a less melodically capable version of this band’s frontman. Their latest and best EP, Victoria, was unceremoniously released earlier this year, and it deserves way more credit than it’s getting. Listen to “Una” or just download all three songs for free at their bandcamp page to see what I’m talking about.
10. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - “Higgs Boson Blues”
Aging singer/songwriters seem to be doing pretty well overall in the two thousand-teens, but Nick Cave might be besting all of them. He released a terrific album in 2010 with Grinderman, but the new LP from his old band The Bad Seeds is even better. “Higgs Boson Blues” is the massive, 7 and a half minute centerpiece of the new record, entitled Push The Sky Away. Look out for Cave name dropping Hannah Montana, moaning over a choir’s backing vocals, and generally expressing himself exactly like the scary, depressed, manic old man that he is. It’s perfect. Purchase Push The Sky Away from Cave’s website.
Thanks for listening to this month’s mix. Happy March!
Lewis and his Blog January 2013 Mix
Congratulations! You made it through the first month of 2013. Give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it. Honestly, we both do. In celebration of your success at surviving this cruel and confusing world, give a listen to my first Monthly Mix of 2013. If you’re unfamiliar with my monthly mix series, the concept is fairly self-explanatory; every month, I publish a 10 track mix via 8tracks, featuring some of my favorite new music that I heard that month. You can find all of my monthly mixes HERE, at my “Monthly Mix” tag.
This month’s mix features tracks that came out in January, many of which are from forthcoming albums. Stream the entire think at the embedded link below, and read up on each track below that. Thanks for listening and reading!
Permanently-disaffected mumblecore rapper Milo (aka Rory Ferreira) kicked off his new EP Things That Happen At Day with an uncharacteristically hopeful cut that seems to promote self-acceptance even in the face of an unwelcoming world. On “Sweet Chin Music,” Milo waxes poetic about his love for pro wrestling, Delta Force 3, and “egg fried rice and fruits,” occasionally dipping out of his distinctive monotone and into a sumptuous half-sing. He reminds himself, rather soothingly, that he “[doesn’t] feel the need to be the best thing ever.” That self-awareness is not entirely anomalous within Milo’s body of work, but it does stand in stark contrast to the material on his darker accompanying EP, Things That Happen At Night. Pick up both of the records at the HellFyre Club bandcamp page.
2. A$AP Rocky - “Long Live A$AP”
Unlike the lyrically-focused and DIY-motivated Milo, Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky bases almost the entirety of his appeal on image and aesthetic. Frankly, the extremity of this image is what makes Rocky such an interesting figure; he is very much a mirror of rap’s fascinatingly narcissistic cutting edge. “Long Live A$AP” is the title track from his major label debut, a triumphantly hi-fi explosion of a record that manages to say absolutely nothing substantial in the best way possible. The song itself is representative of Long.Live.A$AP as a whole, presenting Rocky as the 2013’s greatest hip-hop paradox. He is, at once, a youthful legend, a geographically-transcendent New Yorker, an underground sellout, and a deeply insecure popular kid, both as self-conscious and self-obsessed as only a true narcissist can be. It’s not conceit if you’re right, and Rocky forces us to wonder just how right he may be. Pick up Long.Live.A$AP via iTunes.
3. Beach Fossils - “Generational Synthetic”
With their forthcoming LP Clash The Truth, Beach Fossils are poised to once again usurp the throne of Brooklyn’s guitar pop scene from their overrated labelmates DIIV, who are led by former Beach Fossils member Zachary Cole Smith. Beach Fossils might not have DIIV’s marketably nihilistic look or vague conceptual coherence, but they make up for it in song quality. “Generational Synthetic” toes the line between pop and punk, and although the singer doesn’t lyrically commit himself like a true punk frontman, there’s enough grit to rock out to. Clash The Truth is out February 19th via Captured Tracks.
4. Bleeding Rainbow - “Pink Ruff”
One part shoegaze, one part noise pop, and one part sugary female vocals, Philadelphia’s Bleeding Rainbow are a delectable duo with a lot of potential. Formerly called Reading Rainbow, the band had to change their name in lieu of a potential lawsuit from PBS, but the name change shouldn’t do much to stop them from winning over your heart. Fans of Dum Dum Girls should enjoy “Pink Ruff,” off their latest LP Yeah Right, for its subtle juxtaposition of garage-rocking minor key power chords and infectious pop melodies. Pick up Yeah Right via Kanine Records now.
5. Iceage - “Coalition”
Iceage’s sophomore LP You’re Nothing leaked well in advance of its release, but if you haven’t gotten on the bandwagon yet, now is the time. Lead single “Coalition” is probably poised to be the consensus standout track on the new record from these Danish, mostly teenage punks, and for good reason. In just over two minutes, the band reaches peak levels of catharsis, thrashing about with dualing guitars and cymbals blaring while frontman Elias Rønnenfelt drags himself out of his usual nihilistic apathy and lashes out in an impressively vigorous display of energy. Like the best moments of their last LP New Brigade, “Coalition” is also deceptively catchy, but this track manages to accomodate aggression and pop sensibility in nearly equal measure. You’re Nothing is out February 19th via Matador.
6. Comadre - “Hack”
The best description I’ve heard of Comadre’s aesthetic is that they “graduated from the Fucked Up school of yelling over what is essentially straight up indie rock.” It’s a true description, but the comparison to Fucked Up ends there; unlike their Canadian contemporaries, this Californian punk group doesn’t seem to take themselves so seriously. Their sound benefits from this looseness, allowing them to experiment with sounds and themes that are generally considered ‘outside’ of the realm of punk. On “Hack,” from their new self-titled record, the vocals are as throat-shreddingly aggressive as anything, but the instrumentals contrast starkly, blending shoegazy guitars with a theremin-reminiscent organ patch. Pick up Comadre via Vitriol Records.
7. Junip - “Line of Fire”
Although I’ve grown increasingly apprehensive about listening to sad singer/songwriters playing solo with acoustic guitars over the past few years, I think I’ll always appreciate the presence of a great songwriter singing over full band instrumentation. For this reason, I like Jose Gonzales’ group Junip more than his solo material, although I appreciate the precedent that he set on his own. Though a great song in its own right, “Line Of Fire” just benefits tremendously from the added texture and energy of the synths, drums, and backing harmonies; they actually make Gonzales’ signature Spanish guitar sound even better. Junip’s self-titled LP is out April 23rd via Mute.
8. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - “So Good At Being In Trouble”
This single from Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s sophomore LP (creatively titled II) is deceptively, subtly infectious. Stripping away some of the more psychedelic aspects of their sound, the group took a decidedly low-key approach on “So Good At Being In Trouble,” an analog R&B jam that harks back to the more soothing, gentler side of 70’s Northern Soul. With an earworm chorus and an arsenal of effects pedals at their disposal, Unknown Mortal Orchestra could have easily turned this cut into an anthemic, festival-ready banger, but they didn’t; this restraint is admirable, even though part of me would like to hear them rock out on this track. II is out now on Jagjaguwar.
9. Yo La Tengo - “I’ll Be Around”
New Jersey stalwarts Yo La Tengo may be the most dependable band in indie rock. Until the release of their new LP Fade, I was hesitant to fully commit myself as a fan, but it’s hard to deny the appeal of their genre-sweeping aesthetic on this record. Fade veers, calmly and tactfully, from the psychedelic heft of “Ohm” to the horn-laden grace of closer “Before We Run,” stopping briefly to catch its breath on tracks like the lovely, gentle “I’ll Be Around.” It’s a mostly acoustic piece with subtle inflections of modulated keyboard — the perfect aesthetic for a great romantic mixtape. It’s a respite on the record, but a highlight in its own right as well. Pick up Fade via Matador Records.
10. Christopher Owens - “Part Of Me (Lysandre’s Epilogue)”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I actually like Christopher Owens debut solo album Lysandre quite a bit more than some of Girls’ material. Girls’ records had the ambition and aesthetic prescience, but Lysandre has the heart. As evidence, look no further than the highlight closing track “Part Of Me (Lysandre’s Epilogue),” a heartbreakingly bittersweet Dylanesque anthem that subverts the guitars and harmonica of “I Want You” into something entirely personal to Owens and yet entirely relatable to us. As a songwriter, Owens’ greatest strength has always been forging this balance, and that above all is what comes through on Lysandre.
Stream the whole mix HERE via 8track. Thanks for listening and reading, and have a great February!
Lewis and his Blog November 2012 Mix
It’s December 1st, which means that we’ve come to the end of my Monthly Mix series for this year! Below you can stream the final installment in the series, featuring 10 of my favorite new tracks that I heard and covered this month. At the end of December, instead of dropping another mix, I’ll be posting my series of year-end lists. Isn’t list season great? Anyway, enjoy these tracks. If you want, you can stream all of the previous monthly mixes from this year HERE. This month’s mix is embedded below via 8tracks. Read on below that for descriptions of and information about each of the 10 tracks.
1. Pissed Jeans - “Bathroom Laughter”
Every time Pissed Jeans puts out something new, it seems like the internet collectively goes crazy, as if it had never heard a punk rock song before. It’s a strange phenomenon, but I can understand it — There is something extremely refreshing about the band’s new single “Bathroom Laughter” that makes me really excited for Honeys, their forthcoming 2013 LP. That record comes out February 13th on Sup Pop, but this extremely replayable first single should hold us over until then.
2. Parquet Courts - “Borrowed Time”
The recently-christened Parquet Courts is the new pet project of Andy Savage — the former frontman of Teenage Cool Kids and Fergus & Geronimo. It sounds like nearly all of Savage’s past work, and it succeeds for exactly that reason. Tracks like “Borrowed Time” exude that classic New York post-punk swagger with just the right touch of carefree lackadaisy. It’s also one of the catchiest things I’ve heard all year. Parquet Courts’ debut LP Light Up Gold is out now on Dull Tools.
3. The Babies - “Mess Me Around”
The Babies started as a side project of Woods’ Kevin Morby and Vivian Girls’ Cassie Ramone. On their first record, they played a style of scrappy, lo-fi pop more in the style of Vivian Girls’ music than the psychedelic folk ramblings of Morby’s other band. Their new LP Our House On The Hill, however, finds them meeting more in the middle. “Mess Me Around” is just the right mix of catchy, brash, and grounded. It’s steeped in Serious Country influence, but loose enough to soundtrack a house party or something. Our House On The Hill is out now on Woodsist.
4. Jeff Rosenstock - “Snow Charges”
Jeff Rosentstock’s band Bomb The Music Industry! had a great year in 2011, but this year was more bittersweet. They played some great shows, but capped the year with an unfortunate announcement that they would be disbanding after their current tour. To soften the bad news, Rosenstock released a solo album called I Look Like Shit, featuring demos of songs that were originally meant for a BTMI! EP that never happened. The mid-tempo, melancholic “Snow Charges” seems to pick up where Vacation left off, making its bittersweet message all the moreso. Pick up I Look Like Shit for free via Quote Unquote.
5. Great Caesar - “Rearview”
Great Caesar is a Connecticut band with way too much ambition for this little state to contain them. They’re currently based in Brooklyn, tearing up the indie rock club circuit on the strength of their new EP Scattered Air. Lead single “Rearview” scans like a sexy, minor key nightcrawl in the verses, before bursting into major key effervescence in the anthemic chorus. In other words, it’s a perfectly eclectic power pop song. Pick up Scattered Air on bandcamp.
6. Sufjan Stevens - “Christmas In The Room”
Each time I think Sufjan Stevens has maxed out his ambition, he one ups himself again in an entirely unexpected manner. 2010 was huge for Stevens, with the conjoined release of the 60-minute All Delighted People EP and the even better full length The Age of Adz. And yet, the 2012 release of Sufjan’s new Christmas music anthology Silver & Gold might be even more ambitious. For one thing, it’s 58 songs long. Secondly, it varies wildly in style and aesthetic, from whirlwind electronics to soothing folk. Furthermore, it features a sizable number of completely original pieces and songs, including gorgeous tracks like “Christmas In The Room,” which stands on its own as a terrific and moving song regardless of what time of year it is. Silver & Gold is out now on Asthmatic Kitty.
7. Earl Sweatshirt - “Chum”
2012 has been something of a redemptive year for Odd Future, featuring a terrific, high profile release from Frank Ocean and some promising stirrings from formerly-estranged member Earl Sweatshirt. He dropped “Chum” at the beginning of this month on his tumblr, and the track gives a lot of indication as to where his headspace is right now. It’s a moving, lyrically complicated piece of bittersweet nostalgia, and it’s the best thing he’s ever done on his own. 2013 could be his year.
8. Hot Sugar - “56k” (feat. Heems)
Brooklyn producer Hot Sugar’s new EP Midi Murder is his first to feature guest rappers and extensive features, and his friends in New York’s indie hip-hop elite turned out to lend their support. The opening track “56k” features Das Racist’s Heems, along with sampled sounds of a dial-up modem and some disorienting, expansive beats. It’s easy to dismiss this guy’s found-sound “associative music” style as gimmicky, but when the tracks are as good as this one, the gimmick starts to make a lot of sense. Midi Murder is out now, sponsored by Scion AV.
9. Mac Demarco - “Ode To Viceroy”
Not bad at all. Actually quite good, in its particular way. Effortlessly cool is the name of Mac Demarco’s musical formula, and even though his new record 2 isn’t great, it exudes a relaxed energy that makes it seem like this stuff just flows from the guy. “Ode To Viceroy” appears to be the favorite — go stand on a street corner, smoke a cigarette, and let the soothing guitars and vocals bleed out into your ear. 2 is out now on Captured Tracks.
10. Crystal Castles - “Child I Will Hurt You”
Crystal Castles’ third self-titled record is a transitional one — certainly not as powerful as their 2010 LP, but definitely indicative of some potentially great things to come. I particularly love the final track, “Child I Will Hurt” you, a surprisingly soothing piece of dream pop melancholy, with twinkling synths and ambient atmospheres billowing under Alice Glass’ reverberating vocals. Contrary to what the title suggests, this is the calmest that Crystal Castles have ever sounded, and that change is absolutely welcome. (III) is out now Fiction Records.
Lewis and his Blog October 2012 Mix
Welcome to the latest edition of my Monthly Mix series, where I compile ten of the best new tracks that I’ve heard each month. With early college applications and lots of other work, October has very hectic for me, but it has also delivered some great new music. Check out all the previous monthly mixes from this year HERE and stream this month’s mix at the embedded link below via 8tracks.
1. A.C. Newman - “I’m Not Talking”
The New Pornographers’ frontman’s latest solo outing is a relatively subdued affair, featuring autobiographical lyrics and a soothing palette of AM radio instrumentation and production elements. First single “I’m Not Talking” is one of two particular highlights; its gentle synth loop quickly gives way to a warm combination of acoustic guitar and horns that highlights A.C. Newman’s terrific, understated melodies. Purchase the new album Shut Down The Streets via Matador.
2. Titus Andronicus - “Ecce Homo”
The first track from Titus Andronicus’ solid new album Local Business is also one of the best. It’s a wordy, high-tempo slice of existential angst that displays the band’s lean, new, 70s-punk influenced aesthetic while making it very clear that Patrick Stickles has lost none of his anger. The track’s quotability is matched only by its catchiness; Stickles and Co. went full-on power pop this time around. Local Business is out now via XL Recordings.
3. Donovan Wolfington - “Hell”
The new single from New Orleans-based five piece Donovan Wolfington is just as punk rock as the name “Hell” suggests. It’s loud, brash, full of riffs and shouts, and is indebted as much to the past decade’s great garage rock bands like Japandroids as it is to the emo revival rabble. Download the single for free on bandcamp and look out for Donovan Wolfington’s debut LP Stop Breathing on Broken World Media in the hopefully near future.
4. Converge - “Sadness Comes Home”
Believe the hype: the new album All We Love We Leave Behind from hardcore legends Converge could very well be there best record yet. For an indication of this, look no further than “Sadness Comes Home,” which features the most punishing guitar riffs I’ve heard in ages along with frontman Jacob Bannon’s signature shrieks and shouts. It’s the most compelling post-hardcore record I’ve heard in at least a year, and it’s available for purchase from Bannon’s label Deathwish, Inc.
5. Cerce - “Weary”
While legends like Converge are slowly getting even better with age, excellent hardcore newcomers this year seem to be springing right out of the gate. Cerce is one such new band, and they dropped their official debut EP last month on bandcamp. “Weary” is one of the best tracks, featuring frontwoman Becca Cadalzo delivering incendiary, barb-toothed lyrics in her distinctively shrill voice. The track also has a pretty stellar breakdown, if that’s what you’re into.
6. Hostage Calm - “Woke Up Next To A Body”
Hostage Calm’s latest album Please Remain Calm is everything that the group has been building up to since they released their first demo in 2007. On “Woke Up Next To A Body,” the record’s immediate standout track, the Connecticut group blends winsome power pop melodies with a punk rock backbone to make one of the catchiest, most loveable pieces of Ted Leo-worship this side of Shake The Sheets. Please Remain Calm is out now on Run For Cover Records.
7. Sharon Van Etten - “Sychophant”
Although Sharon Van Etten’s new album Tramp did not manifest her ambition as precisely as I had hoped, the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter has still had a very good year. The fact that her b-sides and bonus tracks have been nearly as good as any of the material on the album indicates this. “Sychophant” is one of my favorite songs to come from the Tramp sessions — an electronic dirge with eerie, Radiohead-reminiscent atmospheric noise and backing vocals. Tramp is available now via Jagjaguwar.
8. Death Grips - “No Love”
Today, Death Grips officially parted ways with their major label Epic, who released their album The Money Store earlier this year. All of this came after the band unexpectedly leaked their new LP No Love Deep Web to the internet, complete with an erect penis on the cover. I would think that this method of release and flagrant opposition of the label’s wishes was obnoxious if it weren’t for the new album being so good. The five-minute “No Love” is one of the best and most pummeling tracks, featuring MC Ride’s distinctive shout-babbling and Zach Hill’s aggressive live electronic drumbeats. Download No Love Deep Web for free HERE.
9. Kendrick Lamar - “Compton” (feat. Dr. Dre)
In the context of rapper Kendrick Lamar’s amazing modern classic good kid, m.A.A.d. city, the closing track “Compton” is a celebratory validation of a life of hardship and hard knocks. On its own, however, the Dr. Dre-featuring banger is simply an awesome party song, featuring self-aggrandizing lyrics and an awesome talkbox solo that unmistakably harks back to Tupac’s “California Love.” Pick up Kendrick’s new LP now from iTunes.
10. The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die - “Gig Life”
Fans of the CT-based atmospheric emo group The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die will have to wait until 2013 to hear their full length debut Whenever, If Ever, but this track should hold us over until then. Though brief, the gentle folk song “Gig Life” is one of the more touching moments in TWIABP’s ever-growing discography. The band recently pressed it to vinyl in a limited edition 7” /50 run, so try to get a copy of it if you see them on tour!
Thanks for reading and listening! November’s mix will be up at the end of the month.
Lewis and his Blog September 2012 Mix
If you ask me, early autumn is the best time to make mixes. I certainly had that in mind when I made my “Back To School Mix” earlier this month, and I was thinking about it while putting this playlist together too. Here is the latest entry in my Monthly Mix series, which features 10 new tracks that I’ve blogged about in the past month. Check out all the previous Monthly Mixes HERE, and stream September’s entry at the embedded 8tracks link below.
1. David Byrne & St. Vincent - “Who”
The pairing of David Byrne and St. Vincent is the rare kind of star-studded collaboration that I think delivers real results. “Who” was the first track that dropped from their LP Love This Giant, and it continues to surprise and delight many listens later. Byrne sounds as invigorated as ever, and Annie Clark’s convoluted, catchy hook will stick in your head until long after those punchy horns fade away. Love This Giant is out now on 4AD.
2. Cat Power - “Cherokee”
Cat Power’s triumphant return to making original music signalled a dramatic shift in sound and style. “Cherokee” is the first song on her new LP Sun, and it’s among the most driving, upbeat songs that she’s ever put out. Along with the synthesizer underpinnings, the cutting power chords and keys (all played by Chan Marshall herself) give the song a tense amount of energy that is only amplified by her distinctive voice. Sun is out now on Matador Records.
3. Wild Nothing - “Only Heather”
Anybody who’s desperately holding on to the last inklings of summer should definitely check out Wild Nothing’s new LP Nocturne. In particular, the chiming album cut “Only Heather” is a highlight, with its rather adorably romantic lyrics and sunny guitar array. This is the kind of song that will make you feel pretty bad about not having a girlfriend or significant other, though; single folks be warned. Nocturne is available for purchase now from Captured Tracks.
4. Waxahatchee - “Be Good”
Former P.S. Eliot bandleader Katie Crutchfield has a new solo project called Waxahatchee, and if my review of American Weekend didn’t motivate you to listen to her, I implore you to do so now. American Weekend is a thoroughly miserable and depressing album through and through, but one of its saddest moments is actually deceptively upbeat. “Be Good” clips along with a catchy melody and the help of a gentle tambourine, but Crutcfield’s lyrics bely her hummable vocals. In truth, there is deep pain in her words that require a focused, honest listen to reveal themselves. Isn’t that the way all the best singer/songwriter music works? American Weekend is out now on Don Giovanni Records.
5. Madeliene - “Valley Street (Hepsabeth Dudley, 1854)”
Old Gray frontman Cam Boucher recently teamed up with vocalist/guitarist Michi Tassey to form Madeliene, a charming folk pop duo who released their debut EP Adieu earlier this month. Although all four tracks are solid, “Valley Street (Hepsabeth Dudley, 1845)” is the centerpiece — a nearly 7 minute song that tells a lovely story over an equally lovely arrangement of guitars and woodwinds. Adieu is available for download on Madeliene’s bandcamp page.
6. Spook Houses - “Bad Sound”
Ridgewood, New Jersey/SUNY Purchase kids Spook Houses raised the figurative bar to a high standard with their new LP Trying — a remarkably ambitious indie rock album that swings for the fences and occasionally surpasses them. “Bad Sound” is the album’s crowning achievement; a four chord song informed by everyone from Built To Spill to Modest Mouse, but with Spook Houses’ own distinctive youthful energy coursing through it. It’s a terrific indie rock anthem in a year that has had its fair share of them (namely, everything on Japandroids‘ Celebration Rock), and a song that I can see myself rocking out to many months from now. Purchase Trying from Spook Houses’ bandcamp page HERE.
7. Teen Suicide - “Give Me Back To The Sky”
Sam Ray is among the most important figures in the new guard of young emo revivalists. His band Teen Suicide’s new album I Will Be My Own Hell Because There is a Devil Inside My Body blew up hard when it dropped earlier this month, and for good reason. Tracks like the opener “Give Me Back To The Sky” convey self-hate and loneliness in practically the only way that hasn’t been done much before — with punishingly reverberant vocals, lo-fi guitars, and eerily wisp-like drums. I Will Be My Own Hell… finds a meeting place somewhere between Snowing and The Unicorns, and succeeds where both of those bands did simultaneously. Download the album on bandcamp HERE.
8. Serengeti - “Go Dancin”
Serengeti’s latest LP C. A. R. hits all the marks I want from a hip-hop album. It eschews the tendency of rap albums to be overly long, it emphasizes interesting beats and evocative lyrics equally, and it’s got its share of terrific standout tracks. “Go Dancin” might be the best, although I still haven’t quite decided on a favorite. It’s progressive, passionate, and almost wincingly emotional, and Odd Nosdam’s propulsive beat accentuates Geti’s truly moving rhymes. C. A. R. is out now on Anticon.
9. Deer Leap - “What Is Dead May Never Die”
New Hampshire’s premier atmospheric emo group Deer Leap followed up their excellent 2011 split with The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die this month by dropping a new LP called Here. Home. The album features more of a lyrical focus than much of their past work, as indicated by the track “What Is Dead May Never Die.” Of course, there’s also still plenty of soaring post-rock crescendos and Explosions In The Sky-style guitar theatrics. Check out Here. Home. on Deer Leap’s bandcamp page.
10. Title Fight - “Head In The Ceiling Fan”
There is a singular moment on Title Fight’s new LP Floral Green when everything fades away and I momentarily forget all my preconceptions about what bands are “legitimate” and what punk “should be.” That moment lasts exactly four minutes, and it comes in the form of a song called “Head In The Ceiling Fan.” This unclassifiable monster of a song takes influence from slowcore and shoegaze but feels somehow in a league of its own. It’s among the best and most replay-able songs I’ve heard all year, and an excellent closer to this mix. Purchase Floral Green from SideOneDummy Records now.
Thanks for reading and listening, and have a wonderful October!
Lewis and his Blog August 2012 Mix
(Photo by Tom Wolff)
August is on its way out, and with it, Summer 2012 is effectively coming to an end for me. This summer was a pretty intense and rich experience in both a musical and personal sense, and August was perhaps its apex. Here are ten new tracks that I loved this month. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Feel free to stream this month’s mix at the embedded 8tracks link below, and check out all of the previous monthly mixes for this year HERE.
1. I Kill Giants - “Life Instead Of Sleep”
The Massachusetts group I Kill Giants doesn’t like to waste anybody’s time, which might explain why almost all of their songs are under the 1-minute mark. At only 44 seconds, “Life Instead Of Sleep” is no exception to that trend, but it is exceptionally great. After a brief intro, the band launches into just over 20 seconds of cathartic emo-informed math rock, and just like that it’s all over. But hey, there’s a replay button for a reason. I Kill Giants latest EP We Can Live In The Exact Same Place is up now on bandcamp.
2. White Lung - “Take The Mirror”
Vancouver’s White Lung have one of the freshest takes on punk rock that I’ve heard this year. On “Take The Mirror,” the opening track of their excellent new album Sorry, the group pays homage to The Replacements and riot grrrl in equal measure with their lucid riffs, hardcore two-step beat, and singer Mish Way’s emotive punk howl. Sorry is out now on Deranged Records.
3. Desaparecidos - “Backsell”
Conor Oberst’s politically motivated punk band Desaparecidos caused a big stir this summer by reuniting after ten years, just in time for a very important election year. Earlier this month they released a double a-side single featuring two stellar new tracks, one of which was “Backsell,” a barnstorming, brutally sarcastic indictment of commercial radio and the music industry with which Oberst has certainly had some negative experiences. The lyrics are pretty clever, if forced, and the punk bite of Oberst’s earlier years clearly hasn’t lost its venom. The “MariKKKopa” / “Backsell” 7” is available for purchase from Desa’s website.
4. Dum Dum Girls - “Lord Knows”
Dum Dum Girls’ ringleader Dee Dee displays her impressive, maturing songwriting ability on this new single from the California noise pop group’s new EP End Of Daze. It’s a somber mid-tempo stunner with gorgeous guitars, vocals, and a soaring chorus that will have you simply sighing at its relatable, desperate lyrical message. “Lord Knows” is a rare mix of refined lyricism and pop perfection. End Of Daze is out September 25th on Sub Pop.
5. Spider Bags - “Friday Night”
Dan McGee’s Spider Bags turn down the twang and up the garage rock grit on their new full length Shake My Head, and no song exemplifies this revving up of energy more than the lead single “Friday Night.” This is a classic indie rock anthem that harks back to the alcohol-powered fervor of reckless 80s groups like The Replacements, while still retaining some of the band’s country rock roots. The ‘Mats connections run especially deep in the chorus, which sounds like it could have been written and sung by Paul Westerberg himself: “Baby it’s tough / Falling out of love.” It’s the kind of statement that’s been said before, but means a whole lot more when delivered with the conviction that McGee has. Shake My Head is out now on Odessa Records.
6. Dan Deacon - “True Thrush”
Dan Deacon’s latest LP America is an ambitious record with a huge, trans-national scope, and yet it also bears some moments that are deeply affecting on a much more personal, relatively microscopic level. The single “True Thrush” is one such moment, a homespun electronic jumble of very real, very relatable emotions that are delivered with relative subtlety. It’s a bit of a gentler direction for the typically zany composer, and one that he might want to explore more in the future. America is out now on Domino.
7. Liars - “No.1 Against The Rush”
“No.1 Against The Rush” is the centerpiece of Liars’ latest experimental odyssey WIXIW, a chilly electronic record that disturbs with unexpected minimalism rather than abrasion. “No.1 Against The Rush” is as moody and dark as anything else on the record, and yet it still operates as the album’s pop song — the lone moment where an earworm hook transcends the self-imposed darkness and almost threatens to shine. WIXIW is out now on Mute Records.
8. Purity Ring - “Fineshrine”
I’ll be damned if this isn’t one of the very best songs I’ve heard all year just in terms of sheer pop stunning power. Delightfully creepy lyrics and beat elements aside, “Fineshrine” simply has one of the best hooks I’ve heard in a long time. I can tell that this will be stuck in my head right up to and during list-making season. Purity Ring’s Shrines is out now on 4AD. Read my full review of the album HERE.
9. Jens Lekman - “I Know What Love Isn’t”
The title track to Jens Lekman’s new album I Know What Love Isn’t is an expectedly excellent piece of indie pop brilliance; it’s as perfect a song as any that the Swedish singer/songwriter has written to date. Some tracks on the new album are more sweeping, more ambitious, or more affecting, but nothing can match the simple genius of Jens’ storytelling, his full-bodied croon, or his gentle guitar playing on this track. Listening to “I Know What Love Isn’t” is always a thoroughly wonderful experience. The new album is out September 4th on Secretly Canadian.
10. Defiance, Ohio - “Horizon Lines, Volume and Infinity”
The folk punk legends Defiance, Ohio celebrated their 10th anniversary this month by releasing 6 new songs on their bandcamp page, which have since been compiled into an EP named The Calling. “Horizon Lines, Volume and Infinity” was among the first of the new tracks to drop, and remains easily the best. Theo Hilton’s songwriting is in top form, and the no-fuss acoustic guitar arrangement is breezy, nostalgic, and slightly sad — a fitting end to a remarkable summer. Pick up The Calling on bandcamp HERE.
Be sure to check out all of the previous monthly mixes HERE.
Lewis and his Blog July 2012 Mix
I returned from Spain a little too late last night to write this up yesterday, but late is better than never. Here is the latest installment in my Monthly Mix series — a 10 track recap of last month’s best new music. Stream this month’s installment below via 8tracks, and check out last month’s mix, as well as all the other mixes from this year, at the “Monthly Mix” tag.
1. The Mountain Goats - “Cry For Judas”
Just over a year after the release of their last album All Eternals Deck, The Mountain Goats are gearing up to release their new full length Transcendental Youth on October 2nd via Merge. Boasting a boisterous horn arrangement recalling Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and Love’s “Alone Again Or,” lead single “Cry For Judas” is an exuberant exultation of self confidence in the face of doubt. “We are the ones who don’t slow down at all,” John Darnielle sings. With 15 studio albums under his belt as of October, Darnielle seems to be speaking the truth.
2. Fang Island - “Seek It Out”
Although Fang Island’s new album Major bears a more traditional sound than their mathy, intricate 2010 s/t, it’s no less joyous and resonant. Long standing live show favorite “Seek It Out” finally saw a release on the new record, and it stands out as a clear highlight, with distinctively brash guitars and a great singalong chorus. Major is out now on Sargent House.
3. Frank Ocean - “Sweet Life”
Frank Ocean has had quite a month, and it all kicked off with the surprise release of the “Sweet Life” single in early July. Upon its release, channel ORANGE proved to be something much bigger than any one single (or two, counting the lengthy “Pyramids” released in June) could suggest. Still, “Sweet Life” stands out in retrospect as the album’s singular summer jam, a cool, buttery slice of retro-futuristic R&B that is irresistibly fun on the surface but deeply troubled underneath.
4. Passion Pit - “Constant Conversations”
In his own awkward white boy way, Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos explored similar territory to Frank Ocean on a handful of tracks from his emotionally wracked new LP Gossamer. “Constant Conversations” is one of the very few moments on which his creative approach succeeds, mostly because his forced lyrics and awkward overshares are covered up by the track’s silky smooth R&B atmosphere. On the whole, Gossamer has turned me from a passive Passion Pit fan to someone who’s not really much of a fan at all, but moments like “Constant Conversations” make me wish it hadn’t. Gossamer is out now on Columbia.
5. Wye Oak - “Spiral”
Baltimore duo Wye Oak veered from their well-hewn brand of guitar pounding on their new single “Spiral,” instead venturing into some disco-influenced electronic territory. True to its name, “Spiral” twists and twirls around over a looping guitar line, anchored by electronic beats and livened by Jenn Wasner’s reverberating vocals. This is the sound of a band having fun with a new sound, and it’s a pleasure to experience. “Spiral” is out now as part of Adult Swim’s singles series.
6. Aesop Rock - “Crows 1”
Aesop Rock’s new album Skelethon is excellent largely because of its intimate and personal nature. Aesop produced it himself, and the album features almost zero credited features. Still, even though I like the DIY approach, I can’t help but think that one of the album’s best tracks is the one that does feature another artist. Kimya Dawson’s rambling hook on “Crows 1” perfectly contrasts with and complements Aesop’s visceral flow, and adds a dark atmosphere to this highlight track. Skelethon is out now on Rhymesayers.
7. SpaceGhostPurrp - “The Black God”
In the bizarre and entertaining world of 2012 cloud rap, SpaceGhostPurrp exists as something of a villainous character. His beats are cheap, hollow, and tossed-off, while his raps are slow, dark, and mysterious. His image is similarly eerie. Even though there is a lot to dislike about the guy, I still find myself oddly compelled by his work, specifically the chilling, mantra-like track “The Black God,” which appears on his new record Mysterious Phonk. That album is out now on 4AD.
8. Daughn Gibson - “Ray”
Daughn Gibson’s debut album All Hell is a curious affair that probably couldn’t have come out at any other time. It’s part synth pop, part folk, with a heavy dose of country influence. He doesn’t always pull it off, but when he does, the results are fascinating. “Ray” recalls The Magnetic Fields’ country experiments on The Charm Of The Highway Strip, but with updated production. All Hell is out now on White Denim.
9. Samuel Bass - “The Gritty Smoke”
Samuel Bass is a teenaged singer/songwriter from Connecticut, but to unknowing ears, he could be a grizzled old man from the Yukon. His new album The Gritty Smoke is a shockingly mature debut, perhaps best represented by its haunting title track, which opens the record. For Bass, folk music is just as much about atmosphere as it is about lyrics, and “The Gritty Smoke” crafts a dark and dusty world of its own with eerie electric guitar, harmonica, and an omnipresent train whistle sample. Pick up The Gritty Smoke for free on bandcamp.
10. Joie De Vivre - “High School Me Would Have Been Pumped”
Joie De Vivre’s tale is a familiar story: Emo band puts out a great record (2010’s The North End), starts to get recognized, breaks up, and then reunites shortly thereafter. The only part of their story that is unusual is that they released another great record post-breakup. We’re All Better Than This is the name of the album, and of the many great songs present, the melancholically titled “High School Me Would Have Been Pumped” is probably my favorite. Of all the bands aping American Football these days, Joie De Vivre might be my favorite, just because they’re so unapologetically misanthropic. We’re All Better Than This is out now on Count Your Lucky Stars.
That’s it for this month! Check out all previous Monthly Mixes HERE and stream July’s mix above.
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.
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 review, The 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.
I hope you enjoy this mix! Have a wonderful July.
Lewis and his Blog May 2012 Mix
When it comes to new music being released, May was one of my favorite months so far this year. In keeping with my 2012 tradition of making a 10 track mix of new songs every month this year, here is the latest installment in my monthly mix series. Stream this month’s mix at the embedded link below, or at my 8tracks page. If you want to check out the previous months’ mixes, head over to my “Monthly Mix” tag HERE.
1. The Hiya Dunes - “Black Fur”
These SUNY Purchase kids apparently didn’t get the memo that reverb-heavy beach rock is played out, but with tunes as good as this one, who cares? Long live summer 2009. Download The Hiya Dunes’ new record High Tide over at their bandcamp page, or pick up the casette for $5 at the Seagreen Records webstore.
2. Animal Collective - “Honeycomb”
At the beginning of the month, Animal Collective debuted two new tracks from a forthcoming 7”, and soon afterwards announced a new full length LP called Centipede Hz. That LP is due out in September, but the 7” should hold us over until then. Of the two tracks, “Honeycomb” is the highlight, with its spacey drums and returned-member Deakin’s psychedelic guitar leads. Check out both tracks and purchase the 7” digitally or on vinyl HERE.
3. Fang Island - “Asunder”
Like Animal Collective before them, the Rhode Island math rock act Fang Island also debuted a new single this month, coinciding with the announcement of a new album. The joyous, guitar-worshipping “Asunder” is the first track to debut from Major, the band’s forthcoming third LP, which will be released July 24th via Sargent House.
4. Sean Milo - “Eyes So Small”
Teenaged songwriter/producer Sean Milo is a rare talent in the bedroom pop world. On “Eyes So Small,” the most recent single from his forthcoming album The February Heat Wave, Milo layers subtle percussion, twinkly guitars, and slurred vocals to produce a calm, soothing aesthetic wash that builds effortlessly to a dramatic climax in the final minute. Download “Eyes So Small” on bandcamp HERE.
5. The Tallest Man On Earth - “1904”
Appropriately named There’s No Leaving Now, Kristian Matsson’s latest record as The Tallest Man On Earth is a remarkably ambitious sonic step forward for the Swedish folk singer. Thankfully, as tracks like the aching lead single “1904” show, he hasn’t lost his ability to craft great folk songs under all the aesthetic trappings. The album is available for pre-order now from Dead Oceans.
6. Sun Kil Moon - “Among The Leaves”
The latest songwriting effort from Mark Kozelek’s Sun Kil Moon project is surprisingly open and earnest, giving a lot of previously unseen insight into Kozelek’s psyche. It’s also filled with some really gorgeous music, as evidenced by the lush, string-laden title track. Among The Leaves is available for purchase now from Caldo Verde Records.
7. Mount Eerie - “Through The Trees pt. 2”
Clear Moon, Phil Elverum’s most recent full length album as Mount Eerie, is a remarkable subtle and introspective affair, dealing primarily with minimalist instrumentation and lyrics about coming to terms with unfamiliar places. These themes are exemplified by “Through The Trees pt. 2,” which was released as a single earlier in the year but works best in the context of the album. Purchase Clear Moon from Elverum’s record label HERE.
8. Self Defense Family - “Self Immolation Family”
Try as they might to cover it up with name changes, unpredictable promotional strategies, and their utterly hilarious tumblr page, Self Defense Family can’t help but make fascinating music. “Self Immolation Family,” the frostbitten a-side to their new Iceland 7”, might be their most interesting — if not best — song to date. Purchase the new 7” from Deathwish Records HERE.
9. Milkshakes - “Joey Fitness”
“Joey Fitness”, the last track on Milkshakes’ new split with Wisdom Teeth, manages to condense nearly 22 years of indie/emo angst into just over 2 minutes. Stream Milkshakes’ half of the split on their bandcamp page HERE, and download all three tracks for free.
10. Spirit Night - “The Last Time”
Spirit Night’s new record One Man Houses stands among the best indie rock revival records of 2012 so far because it challenges traditional indie rock tropes rather than just reinforcing them. With its arching guitars, cryptic, disturbing lyrics, and skyward vocal melody, the album highlight “The Last Time” is a heavy, emotional tearjerker that will serve as a great closer to your next summer mixtape. Read my review of One Man Houses HERE and download the record on their bandcamp page.
Lewis and his Blog April 2012 Mix
Of the four installments in the monthly 10-track mix series that I started at the beginning of this year on Lewis and his Blog, this one has been the hardest to put together. I listened to so much great new music this month that it was very difficult to choose just ten songs to represent all of it. Nevertheless, I think I did a pretty good job. This is easily my favorite monthly mix that I’ve made so far, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do. Stream the embedded mix below or the click the picture above to listen to the mix via 8tracks.
1. Japandroids - “The House That Heaven Built”
When Japandroids debuted this track from their new album Celebration Rock at the beginning of the month, my already dangerously high excitement level for new Japandroids music reached critical mass. Now that the album has leaked and “The House That Heaven Built” has had time to settle into the Japandroids canon, I’m still convinced: This might just be their best song yet. With an explosive chorus, pristine power pop riffage, and more hooks than you can shake a stick at, I don’t think that anything I’ve heard this year has made me want to yell and pump my fist while crowdsurfing more than this track. Pre-order Celebration Rock now from Polyvinyl Records.
2. Screaming Females - “Expire”
With Steve Albini at the helm, the New Jersey punk trio Screaming Females may have upped the production ante on their rich new album Ugly, but its best moments reflect what they’ve always done best. On “Expire,” frontwoman Marissa Paternoster howls and wails like a post-punk legend while she and her bandmates craft a swirling, angular brand of garage punk with inflections of surf rock. Add in a monstrous guitar solo and a killer chorus, and you’ve got a single that seems primed for the coming summer months. Ugly is out now on Don Giovanni Records.
3. St. Vincent - “KROKODIL”
Coachella crowdsurfing aside, this is a song that nobody expected St. Vincent to make. In a complete reversal of the steely, reserved art pop that she crafted on last year’s rather middling Strange Mercy, Annie Clark absolutely cuts loose on “KROKODIL,” her new single released on 7” vinyl for Record Store Day. The track is angry, brash, and most importantly fun, all three of which are qualities rarely displayed in the music of St. Vincent. Hopefully this is an indication of things to come for her.
4. People Who Love People - “The Dirty Misogynist Gets His Wings Cut Off”
On their new record Disappointment: The Album, the Connecticut group People Who Love People remind me a lot of Andrew Jackson Jihad, if Andrew Jackson Jihad had tried to make Knife Man back when they were just getting their start in 2005. It’s rife with vaulting ambition, radically varied on a song-to-song basis between different styles, and undoubtedly good, but it plods along with an endearing quality of inexperience and youthfulness that can neither be overlooked nor dismissed. Still, they certainly do craft some great songs on here. In particular, the harmonica-punctured, drum machine powered, distortion fest “The Dirty Misogynist Gets His Wings Cut Off” is a great highlight. That reminds me — this band is great with song titles. Download Disappointment: The Album HERE.
5. Death Grips - “Hacker”
I’m still not sure if I really get Death Grips, but I’m certainly fascinated by them. Their new album The Money Store might not be the perfect record that some (*ahem* Anthony Fantano) have touted it to be, but it’s a vast improvement over their 2011 mixtape Exmilitary that leaves me wondering whether I can truly enjoy this band that I previously ruled out. “Hacker” might be the album’s most immediately appealing track (although not strictly the most immediate) because it manages to find balance between the fucked up mythos of the group and their actual musical talent. “Gaga can’t handle this shit.” Neither can any of us. Purchase The Money Store from Epic Records via Amazon HERE.
6. El-P - “Oh Hail No” (Feat. Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire & Danny Brown)
I wrote about this new El-P track yesterday in my review of his new album Cancer For Cure, so I’ll spare the details here, but suffice to say that this track is a huge banger and a definite album highlight on a record filled with raw, motormouthed rap and vicious mechanical beats. El-P and up-and-comer Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire are in top form here, and although I can’t say I’m a fan of Danny Brown’s verse from a technical perspective, that guy certainly knows how to make a song his own. Cancer For Cure is available for pre-order from Fat Possum.
7. Sufjan Stevens & Rosie Thomas - “Here I Am!”
After a very disappointing collaborative EP with his new group s /s / s, I’m happy to say that Sufjan Stevens has earned my trust again with his new Record Store Day 7”. It turns out that he just needed to do a little work with his longtime collaborator Rosie Thomas in order to get his groove back. Although Sufjan is still operating in that weird auto-tuned electronic style that he’s been obsessed with since 2010’s The Age Of Adz, his lyrics on this new track hit a lot closer to home than anything he’s done since the All Delighted People EP. Thomas’s vocals (also auto-tuned) are a nice treat as well.
8. Suns - “Crocodile”
Bolstered by the addition of a dynamic new guitarist, the Connecticut group Suns stepped their game up to great effect on their new LP The Engine Room. Released a few days in advance of the album, the single “Crocodile” is the best track — a dynamic, pulsating song that slithers about in the reeds before explosively pouncing in its incendiary final minute. That last conflagration of guitar noise, bitter screams, and propulsive drumming might be my favorite isolated minute of music that 2012 has given me. Download The Engine Room from Suns’ bandcamp page.
9. The Act of Estimating As Worthless - “The Things We Remember”
In my review of The Act Of Estimating As Worthless’ new album (the title of which is even longer than the band’s name), I focused on “The Things We Remember” as the album’s centerpiece — a lush, nostalgic song that captures the dusty ruminations and memories of the album within its ~3 minute running time. Although the track works best in the album’s context, it stands up well enough on its own, thanks in part to its instrumental dynamics. Echoing Mount Eerie, the song begins quietly and soon burns up in a pyre of distortion. The twin vocalists play it cool throughout the whole piece, and go down calmly in the flames. Download the new album HERE.
10. Sigur Rós - “Varúð”
Sigur Rós’ new album Valtari has earned the distinction of being the only Sigur Rós I can listen to in full while falling asleep at night. The only remote impediment to the washed out, ambient atmosphere that hangs over Valtari comes in the form of “Varúð,” the sole track on the new album that approaches the level of cathartic grandeur of their earlier material. Although the Icelandic group may only try to craft a post-rock crescendo once on Valtari, it’s clear that they still know how to do it well — “Varúð” features a breathtaking instrumental buildup that rivals Sigur Rós’ most angelically heavy past work. Preorder Valtari from Sigur Rós’ website HERE.
Thanks for reading and listening to this month’s mix! As always, feel free to stream and read along to any of the past monthly mixes by clicking the “Monthly Mix” tab towards the left of this page. Otherwise, just click HERE. Enjoy!
Lewis and his Blog March 2012 Mix
Welcome to the third installment of my monthly 8tracks mix series, which I started at the beginning of this year in an attempt to provide a retrospective overlook of each month’s new musical releases. To view an archive of all the past mixes, simply click the “Monthly Mixes” tab in the lefthand links sidebar on my blog. I hope you enjoy this mix in particular, because I love the music on it and I had an especially fun and difficult time choosing the songs on it.
1. The Men - “Turn It Around”
As a whole, The Men’s heavily hyped new album Open Your Heart doesn’t grab me as much as I’d like it to, but I’ll be damned if the opening track isn’t the most immediately gripping song I’ve heard all year. “Turn It Around” plays out like a breakneck-speed trip through the annals of Rock ‘n’ Roll history, with charging, overdriven guitars, bluesy vocals, and even a drum solo. It’s a stunning amalgamation of the numerous styles of music that the electric guitar has led, from blues to pop to punk, hardcore, grunge, and modern indie rock, all condensed into four minutes of joyful fury. Open Your Heart is available now on Sacred Bones Records.
2. Martin Luther King - “Boneflower”
After undertaking something of a hiatus when their band members went off to college in the fall, Martin Luther King are back with an excellent new EP. Simply titled EP, the three-song set is helping to establish them as one of the most excitable bands in the area, with a rabid punk energy that begs to be set free. Any of the three songs on the record could have merited a place on this mix, but “Boneflower” sticks out to me for its dynamics and its unpredictable melodic sense. Download MLK’s new EP on their bandcamp page HERE.
3. Titus Andronicus - “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape With The Flood Of Detritus”
Titus Andronicus’ new single has been floating around the internet for a while, but it finally saw an official release earlier this month when Titus Andronicus included it on their new official bootleg collection known as Titus Andronicus LLC Mixtape Vol. 1. With embittered lyrics filled with references to everything from the Trojan War to Woody Guthrie, the track harkens back to their existentialist Airing Of Grievances days. Meanwhile, the stepped-up production values and harmonizing guitar leads suggest an ambitious new change in direction, almost calling to mind artists like Thin Lizzy. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise…. After all, that mixtape also includes a live cover of “The Boys Are Back In Town.” Download the 23 track bootleg HERE.
4. Poliça - “Dark Star”
Comprising members of GAYNGS and backed by heavy plaudits from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Poliça seem practically destined for blog credibility, although they certainly deserve a great amount of it. The Minneapolis-based act finds its groove between the 1980s-inspired indie rock of the past few years and a bold undercurrent of electronics, molding new wave drums and bass with synths and autotuned vocals. “Dark Star” is probably the most sensual track on their new LP Give You The Ghost, with Channy Leaneagh proclaiming her independence (“Ain’t no man in this world that can pull me down from my Dark Star”) over a defiant layering of horns and bass. Give You The Ghost is available to purchase now from the Poliça webstore.
5. Beach House - “Lazuli”
Beach House’s new record Bloom leaked two months early, giving fans like me a chance to ease into it and avoid some of the hype that will inevitably surround its official release. Although I definitely feel sad for the band that the record leaked so early, I’m really glad that it did. I’ve been listening to this record the only way that I really can appreciate Beach House’s music, soaking it up in languid moments of relaxation and calmness. I always find myself coming back to “Lazuli,” the immediate standout track, and losing myself effortlessly in its wispy wordless chorus. Sigh…. Where was I? Oh, right — Pick up Bloom when it comes out on May 15th.
6. The Magnetic Fields - “Quick!”
As the stellar single “Andrew In Drag” suggested, The Magnetic Fields came through on their latest album Love At The Bottom Of The Sea. Although “Drag” is probably the most immediately appealing track, I’m finding myself increasingly drawn to some of the Claudia Gonson-sung pieces, including the penultimate song “Quick!” With its arching synth rhythms, “Quick!” represents the Fields’ best use of electronics on the new record, which is their first to feature synths since 1999’s 69 Love Songs. Merritt’s lyrics are in top form on this track as well, and Gonson sings them with just the right amount of spite and bitterness. “Get me a drink of something quick between your outrageous remarks,” she bites, “like the mating calls of sarcastic sharks.” Brilliant. Read my full review of the record HERE. Love At The Bottom of the Sea is out now on Merge Records.
7. Fishing The Sky - “You Just Got Niced!”
The Massachusetts-based musician Rob Hughes (aka Fishing The Sky) released his debut album Thank You this month, featuring four tracks of engaging, unpretentious post-rock with a particular focus on melody and electronic rhythms. “You Just Got Niced!” is an outlier track of sorts, trading in guitars and bass for a more refined musical palette of cold keys and skittering electronic beats. Fans of Dntel take note. Read a full review of Thank You HERE and purchase the record on the Fishing the Sky bandcamp page.
8. Alcest - “Beings of Light”
On Écailles De Lune, the last LP from the French black metallists Alcest, the band evoked moonlight, rain, and nighttime atmospheres to great effect. Their new record, Les Voyages De L’Âme, aims to do the opposite, channeling the incomprehensible power and energy of light and of the sun into a raging musical fireball. The album’s title track, translated into English as “Beings of Light” is perhaps the best singular example of this in effect. It begins with soothing, ethereal vocals, and soon layers on pounding blast beats and heavily processed shoegaze guitars, creating a powerful contrast between the calmness of the harmonizing voices and the aggression of the instrumentation. I’m seeing Alcest perform tomorrow night in New Haven, and I’m particularly excited to hear the new material. Les Voyages De L’Âme is out now on Prophecy.
9. Bruce Springsteen - “Wrecking Ball”
In 2009, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band debuted their then-new song “Wrecking Ball” at a show at Giants Stadium, which was to be closed and demolished soon thereafter. Now, three years later, the song has endured so well that Springsteen ended up naming his whole album after it. The track was recorded for the new album, which was released at the beginning this month, and it stands out as by far the best song on it. For its nearly 6 minute duration, “Wrecking Ball” recaptures that unique feeling of inspiration and just plain understanding that Springsteen seemed to so effortlessly exude throughout the 70s and early 80s. Sure, it’s corny, and it’s certainly overblown, and Springsteen himself has probably never been more distant from the ‘common man’ that he’s targeting with this song, but as long as those horns are blaring and the electric amplifiers are on, it just doesn’t matter. It also helps that the track is one of the very last to feature a saxophone solo from Clarence Clemons, the legendary E Street Band player who died last year. Pick up Wrecking Ball now from Springsteen’s website HERE.
10. OFWGKTA - “Oldie (feat. Odd Future)”
“Oldie” is not the best thing that Odd Future (or any of the individual members therein) has ever done, but it is quite a relief to all of us who hopped on the bandwagon in the past couple years. In its ten minutes of exuberant, self-hyping glory, “Oldie” reminds us what was so exciting and different about this rap collective in the first place, combining in no small parts every element of their style into a cohesive, engaging, and most importantly FUN piece of music that is wholly worth listening to all the way through. It almost doesn’t even require Tyler, The Creator’s dramatic closing verse, in which he asserts, “Not only are we talented, we’re rad as fuck” — It practically speaks for itself.
Stream: Lewis and his Blog February 2012 Mix
I’m posting this a little late because the past few days have been extremely busy for me. Last night was particularly cool; I played a show in New Haven with some other local acts at my friend’s apartment and it had a pretty great turnout. Anyway, this is the second installment in a monthly mix series that I started in January for this blog. The goal is to recap some of the best new music that I’ve covered on here in the past month. Each mix features 10 tracks. Feel free to stream the mix HERE on my 8tracks page, where you can also listen to last month’s mix.
1. The Magnetic Fields - “Andrew In Drag”
On March 6th, Stephin Merritt’s long-running project The Magnetic Fields will release their highly anticipated new album Love At The Bottom Of The Sea, which, among other things, marks their first use of synthesizers on a record since 2004’s i. The bouncy “Andrew In Drag” was the first track to be released in advance of the album, and if it’s any indication of how the record as a whole will sound, then I look forward to falling in love with Love At The Bottom Of The Sea. This track is vintage Merritt — ironic, catchy, and unabashedly gay — and I love every second of it. Pre-order the new record from Merge Records HERE.
2. Porcelain Raft - “Drifting In And Out”
Porcelain Raft’s new record Strange Weekend wowed me a lot when I first heard it, but it hasn’t held up too well with subsequent listens. Still, I can’t seem to get the opening track “Drifting In And Out” out of my head. If you’ve been paying any sort of attention to indie electronic music trends over the past few years, you’re sure to be familiar with at least some aspects of Porcelain Raft’s sound. If you haven’t, then Strange Weekend should be a good introduction. Purchase the album now from Secretly Canadian Records.
3. Grimes - “Oblivion”
The best description I’ve heard of Grimes’ music is that it sounds like the singing of Greek Sirens. Even if you approach it with this knowledge in mind, you still can’t help but get sucked in until the pixie-voiced Claire Boucher has you in her hyper-melodic musical grasp. “Oblivion” is one of the best tracks from her new record Visions, a delightfully twisted synth pop record with a lot more heart and spirit than most of the similar albums I’ve heard from the past year. Like the album as a whole, “Oblivion” is messy and certainly flawed, with a looping synth bass line that constantly straddles the line between working and falling off, but such flaws only make the realization that it won’t get out of your head more fascinating.
4. Burial - “Loner”
“Loner” may not be the best track from British dubstep producer Burial’s new EP Kindred, but it is the most immediate. From the eerie vocal sample that introduces it (“There is something out there…..”) to when those vaulting synthesizer arpeggios come in around the 1:30 mark and never seem to leave for any sustained period of time, “Loner” conveys that creepy, walking alone in the city at 3 AM mood even better than anything on Burial’s 2007 full length Untrue. Now we just need another full length. Until then, the Kindred EP is out now on Hyperdub.
5. The Saddest Landscape - “This Heals Nothing”
I was a fan of The Saddest Landscape before seeing them live last weekend, but I don’t think I realized just how great they were until that show. In particular, I’ve come to appreciate their new record After The Lights quite a bit, largely due to their performance of this track “This Heals Nothing.” I firmly believe that it’s the best song on the record now, and certainly the most emotionally charged. Andy Maddox’s vocals are the highlight here, and his use of militaristic lyrical imagery is seriously chilling. It all comes to a head at the very end with a shouted repetition of the song’s title. It’s powerful stuff. Hopefully I’ll get to see them again soon, when they officially release After The Lights at The Space in Hamden on March 18th. The album is available for purchase now from Topshelf Records.
6. Ceremony - “Quarantine”
If it hasn’t already, Ceremony’s new LP Zoo is sure to piss off some hardcore purists when it comes out on March 6th. If you want to see why, look no further than this track “Quarantine,” one of my favorites from the album. Instead of staying true to the raging hardcore punk style of their previous releases, Ceremony adopts a sort of lackadaisical Replacements-style slacker swagger. I’m not sure if the stylistic change is meant to be a “fuck you!” to 80s hardcore purists or if it’s just a genuine representation of what they want to sound like now, but I’m all for it either way. Zoo is out now on Matador Records.
7. Matt Elliott - “Dust Flesh and Bones”
As far as I’m concerned, Matt Elliott’s masterfully-constructed The Broken Man is an early contender for the most interesting folk record of the year. With a lush classical guitar as the instrumental foundation, Elliott layers eerie choir sounds, strings, and subtle ambient inflections onto his music, along with his own distinctive baritone vocals. But The Broken Man is not just aesthetically beautiful; it’s also incredibly moving. Perhaps no other track on the record cuts as deep as “Dust Flesh and Bones,” on which Elliott proclaims, “This is how it feels to be alone.”
8. Leonard Cohen - “Crazy To Love You”
With his new album Old Ideas (his first full length in eight years!), the legendary, 77 year old singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen has crafted one of his best LPs ever by finally admitting, unlike so many other aging musical geniuses, that he really is an old man. On the wonderfully minimalist standout track “Crazy To Love You,” he sings, “I’m old, and the mirrors don’t lie.” It’s a powerfully statement coming from Cohen, and one that works wonders in humanizing him. In the best sense, Old Ideas makes Cohen seem like a Tom Waits figure — old indeed, but still very full of ideas.
9. Katie Buonanno - “East Of Hudson”
This wouldn’t be Lewis and his Blog without a little shameless self-promotion. My friend Katie Buonanno recorded her debut EP Mediocre Songs For Mediocre People this month, and released it on her bandcamp page for free. I produced the record and we recorded it together at my house. I also play instruments and/or sing on a couple tracks. Anyway, I’m really happy with how it turned out and I’d love it if you gave it a listen. This is my favorite song on the record and I’ve been thinking about covering it for a while. Enjoy!
10. First Aid Kit - “King Of The World” (Featuring Conor Oberst)
On the closing track from their new album The Lion’s Roar, the Swedish sisters known as First Aid Kit offer a wonderfully skewed interpretation of American folk rock music. The best moments are when they diverge slightly — either intentionally or otherwise — from the distinctly American musical format and display other influences that transcend lingual and national boundaries. Complete with a guest vocal spot from Conor Oberst, “King Of The World” makes a strong contender for the best folk rock song of this early year.
Thanks for reading and listening! I hope all of you have a wonderful March.
Stream: Lewis and his Blog January 2012 Mix
Here’s a new Lewis and his Blog feature for the new year. Starting today, and continuing at the end of every month of the year, I’m going to be posting a 10-track mix of songs that have come out in the past month, or that I have covered on this blog in the past month. Because January had something of a lull in output at the beginning, this first mix will also include tracks that I came across in December. For now, I’m going to be doing this via 8tracks, a really cool playlist site that allows users to upload their own music. The order of these monthly playlists will be arbitrary, but they will be posted with a tracklist and some information about the significance of each track. So, with that in mind, feel free to stream and read up on the first Lewis and his Blog Monthly Mix for January 2012 below!
1. The Shins - “Simple Song”
Indie pop darlings The Shins have returned in 2012 after a five year break, and they sound as good as they ever did. More importantly, they sound very much the same as they always did, in both the good ways and the bad. People who dislike the band’s bookish, doe-eyed pop sound will find nothing of value in “Simple Song,” but for the rest of us, this new track shines as a refreshing return. The Shins’ new record Port Of Morrow is out March 20th 2012 on frontman James Mercer’s new label Apothecary Records.
2. Craig Finn - “No Future”
The Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn exhibits a restrained form of his band’s brash and bold bar rock sound on this standout track from his new solo LP Clear Heart Full Eyes. The guitars have been turned down and cleaned up and the vocals made softer and more melodic. Even Finn’s lyrics, which were once so sharp and literate, have been mollified to a notable degree. Remember when this guy used to reference The Replacements, Jack Kerouac, and John Berryman within practically the same breath? That Craig Finn seems to be gone. “No Future” references Freddie Mercury and Johnny Rotten, and it does it through direct name drops. That’s it. Of course, Finn’s track record shows that he’s got nothing to prove, and “No Future” comes across sounding less like pandering to a larger audience, and more like genuine sincerity. Clear Heart Full Eyes is available now on Vagrant Records.
3. One Hundred Year Ocean - “1576”
In “1576,” the best track from One Hundred Year Ocean’s new EP Poison Smoak, frontman Derrick Shanholtzer makes an awkward rummage through a car’s leftover refuse seem like a heroic journey. It’s a metaphor for the band’s musical approach; taking simple songwriting formulas and applying them on a grand scale, effectively creating incredible mountains out of sonic molehills. One Hundred Year Ocean’s work is a lot more subtle than that of The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, of which Shanholtzer is also a member, and it’s all the better because of that difference. Poison Smoak can be downloaded HERE.
4. Secret Plot To Destroy The Entire Universe - “Tri-Lateral Commission”
I just posted about this last night, so I’ll be brief. Philadelphia’s Secret Plot To Destroy The Entire Universe is taking the emo revival movement back to its roots in the 1980s. Download their 2011 demo Montauk HERE for whatever you want to pay.
5. Loma Prieta - “Uniform”
Loma Prieta’s new record I.V. is not just an early contender for the heaviest record I’ve heard this year; it absolutely blows its competitors out of the water. The key to their sound lies in the interplay of the guitars — heavy and distorted in the left channel, and searingly clean in the right. Meanwhile, the drums pad the mix with thunder and the vocals add a palpable tone of rage. On “Uniform,” Loma Prieta’s frontman repeatedly screams the song’s mantra “I will never change,” but based on what I’ve heard, I.V. represents a significant sonic production from the band’s earlier work. I like the way things are going. Purchase I.V. now from Deathwish Records.
6. Slow Warm Death - “Sleep”
Although I didn’t completely take to the full demos album that this song was included on, Slow Warm Death’s “Sleep” is solidifying its place in my mind as my current favorite track of the year. The acoustic intro is fragile and affecting, but the best part really starts when the song picks up in its second verse. With oceans of reverb, filtered vocals, and utterly crushing drums, the music of “Sleep” resonates with me on an emotional level that no other songs from this year have reached. I never thought that hearing John Galm take on the aesthetic of Have A Nice Life could be this rewarding, but then again, I never thought it was a possibility.
7. 10,000 Blades - “A Child Is Born At Happy Harry’s Liquor Warehouse”
To be honest, I’m not sure exactly when the 3-song demo that this track appears on came out. All I know is that when I saw 10,000 Blades perform at the end of December, I knew I would have to get a hold of some of their music. “Happy Harry’s” plays out like frontman Jon Stone’s version of Titus Andronicus’ “My Time Outside The Womb” — An autobiographical account of his own misery and confusion growing up here in Connecticut. The best line? “So with my pre-made guitar in one hand, and my pubescent dick in the other / I then began my lifelong quest to disappoint my mother / And I still do!” Download the Fiber EP HERE.
8. Chris Cappello - “Cheer Down”
So, I put out a full length record of my own this month. It’s called I’m Not Afraid Of My Own Name and I spent a lot of time and effort working on it. I’m proud of the way it turned out, and I hope that some of you have listened to it and enjoyed it! Failing to include this song on the monthly mix would be doing a disservice to myself, since I definitely spent a lot of time this month both covering the release of my own album and actually working on releasing it. Download and stream the record at my bandcamp page HERE.
9. Perfume Genius - “Dark Parts”
Even after a number of repeated listens, the new Perfume Genius album Put Your Back N 2 It still has me puzzled. It doesn’t seem clear to me whether it wants me to pay attention to the production aesthetic, the more abstract lyricism, or the songs themselves, and I’m not really sure what I want to think either. What I do know is that there are some tracks on the record that I really like, especially “Dark Parts,” a piano-led number that moves along at a clip, heavily evoking Sufjan Stevens with its chord progression and religion-influenced lyrics. With the heightened production in place, singer Mike Hadreas actually sounds scarily like Stevens, but as a Sufjan Stevens fan, I think this is a very good thing. Put Your Back N 2 It is available for pre-order from Matador Records.
10. Sharon Van Etten - “Kevin’s”
There’s a lot to like about Sharon Van Etten’s latest album Tramp, both in the sense that it’s a good record, and also in the sense that it’s a BIG record. But like many singer songwriters, Sharon Van Etten’s most affecting moments on the record come when she strips away all of the outside influence that pervades Tramp and focuses on herself. “Kevin’s” is the best example of that — A minimalist folk ballad that stands out almost jarringly amongst the sonic density of the songs around it. On its own, or in any other context, it works just as well — The true indicator of a great song. Tramp is available for purchase from Jagjaguwar.
Thanks for listening and reading, everybody! I hope you enjoy the mix and have a wonderful February.