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PST's 50 Best Albums of 2014

Posted by Billy Gil, December 5, 2014 02:48pm | Post a Comment

50 Best Albums of 2014

This is how it always works: You think, how am I going to find 50 albums I really liked this year? Then by the end of compiling these things, you’re leaving off records you really liked and realizing that this year didn’t suck so badly after all! Here are the 50 albums I honestly felt were the most well-made, original or enjoyable this year. Check out Aaron Detroit’s list, too, for even more good shit from 2014.

 

1. Sun Kil MoonBenji

sun kil moon benji lpAmid the wrongheaded War on Drugs bashing and indulgent songwriting/self-mythologizing that came with it, it could be easy to forget the brilliance of Benji. But Mark Kozelek’s later-career renaissance reaches its apex on Benji. Whereas songs in his ’90s project Red House Painters were often autobiographical, if morose and romantic, if, to call Benji “confessional” would be an understatement. Not only is it a classic example oversharing in the social media age, it’s just a new classic period, the best thing he’s done since RHP’s heyday. Two songs directly address Kozelek’s love for his aging parents as he himself hits middle age (“I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love” and “I Love My Dad” are far from ironic, though they cover ground beyond what their titles suggest). “Dogs” covers Kozelek’s history with women in sometimes excruciating detail, from his first kiss at 5 to getting bathed by two women. Part of what makes Benji so masterful is how Kozelek blends rich physical details, with references to Panera Bread and Pink Floyd records, along with impressionistic accounts, such as his atmospheric telling of what caught his attention in a Led Zeppelin film (“I Watched the Film the Song Remains the Same”) and what that says about him as a person. It can be a lot to take in at once—“Micheline” at first feels like a diary dump, though it ends on a touching note about his grandmother—but most of the time, the details are funny or poignant or both, coming through clearly with little more than Kozelek’s wavering, creaking voice and reverbed acoustic guitar. “Ben’s My Friend,” which ends the album with its catchiest song (and curiosity value, due to its titular subject being Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie), is a sterling reminder of how many little things add up to the sum of our lives, making a pretty refrain out of “blue crab cakes,” throwing in some horns and flamenco guitar for good measure and tying the album up nicely with a reflective bow. Kozelek may be a cranky old man, but his lifetime of experiences made for enrapturing listening on Benji, which simply has the best songwriting of any music release this year.

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10 Record Store Day Releases to Look For on Black Friday

Posted by Billy Gil, November 17, 2014 12:09pm | Post a Comment

record store day black friday amoeba

Black Friday launches the holiday shopping season the day after Thanksgiving with lots of great deals. Instead of yanking someone by the hair off of that $10 barbecue set at Wal-Marts or whatever, you can come to Amoeba for a variety of deals on turntables, Blu-rays, gift certificates and more. Additionally, there will be nearly 140 Record Store Day exclusive Black Friday releases to choose from—see the whole list (.pdf) here. That’s a lot of records, bro/broette! Here are 10 that stood out to me.

David BowieSue (Or in a Season of Crime) 12”

david bowie sue or in a season of crime“Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” is an unsettling new David Bowie track full of jazzy horns and creepy lyrics about a dissolving relationship that may end in murder. It’s backed on this 7” by another new Bowie song, “Tis a Pity She Was a Whore,” a fluctuating electro-rocker that shares its name with a play from the 1600s by John Ford. Both songs will also appear on the Bowie retrospective Nothing Has Changed, which came out today, but here’s your chance to get them separately from that. Hear both tracks in all their maddening glory below:

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Top 10 Domino Releases

Posted by Amoebite, November 14, 2014 01:31pm | Post a Comment

Domino Records

For over twenty years, Domino Recording Co. has been one of the most celebrated and creative forces in the world of independent music. Founded in 1993, the London-based label started off by licensing works from acts signed to American record companies for release in the UK. Since that time, they've opened an office in Brooklyn and established the divisions Domino Deutschland and Domino France. Their stable of artists includes some of the most inventive, beloved and influential acts in music today, and we're delighted to welcome Domino to our family of digital labels available on Amoeba.com! To celebrate, we've rounded up some of Domino's best releases from the past decade and a half, listed below in no particular order.

Arctic Monkeys AM

Arctic Monkeys - AM (2013) 

One of the biggest recent records here at the store, AM sees the band collaborating with Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) on what he calls a "really cool, sexy, after-midnight record." This means Queens-style spooky grooving, melodic, laconic, druggy guitar solos, tired-drunk-guy crooning with falsetto doubling, and a shuffling, mid-tempo disco snark turned sneer in a nicer jacket a la someone like Jarvis Cocker's work with Pulp.

The Top Ten Merle Haggard Albums

Posted by V.B., October 21, 2014 02:50pm | Post a Comment

It’s been said that during his heyday, 1966-1976, Merle Haggard wrote a good song every day.  I’ve only heard that said about one other artist: Stevie Wonder.  Indeed, Merle’s albums during this period showcase his talents as a songwriter and performer.  When he wasn’t recording his own tunes, his covers of mostly Bakersfield songwriters further displayed his unique ability to get to the heart of a song.

Merle started out playing bass in Wynn Stewart’s band and soon cut some singles for Tally, a small Bakersfield label.  After scoring a top 20 country hit with “Sing a Sad Song,” Merle got signed to Capitol and was teamed up with producer Ken Nelson.  Ken let Merle use his own band, supplemented with some L.A. studio guys like James Burton, to get his Bakersfield sound.  The key components were the hot but sparse sounds of guitarist Roy Nichols, steelers Ralph Mooney and Norm Hamlet, and the stark harmonies of Merle’s then wife, Bonnie Owens.  Merle had more hits when he moved on to MCA, Epic, Curb, Anti- and others, but the hard-biting brilliance of his early Capitol works defines Bakersfield C&W music.  There were also five excellent, mostly instrumental albums by Merle’s band, The Strangers, that are worth seeking out if you like slinky West Coast country pickin’.

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10 Essential Albums From Blue Note Records

Posted by Billy Gil, September 29, 2014 06:35pm | Post a Comment

10 Essential Blue Note AlbumsSome of our staff have picked out essential albums from Blue Note Records that should satisfy both the purist and the newcomer to go along with Sonos Studio’s brilliant exhibition celebrating the label's 75th anniversary.

A bit about Blue Note’s history: The label was in 1939 by Alfred Lion and Max Margulis, getting its name from the “blue notes” of blues and jazz, or notes sung a bit lower than the major scale for expressive purposes. Moving from traditional jazz to some bebop (including artists like Thelonious Monk) in the 1940s and hard bop (artists such as Horace Silver) in the 1950s, Blue Note distinguished itself by paying musicians for rehearsals as well as recordings, in order to ensure a better final product. With iconic album artwork by Esquire designer Reid Miles (using photographs of the musician in session, taken by Blue Note’s Francis Wolff), Blue Note made its name as one of the most influential labels in jazz music, later issuing records by free jazz musicians like Ornette Coleman and popular musicians like Herbie Hancock, having records sampled in hip-hop records by the likes of Madlib and, now, seeing massive success with mainstream artists like Norah Jones.

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