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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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50 Essential Albums Released in 2014

Posted by Aaron Detroit, December 5, 2014 09:20am | Post a Comment

Aaron Detroit, Buyer at Amoeba Hollywood. I've worked in Hollywood for ten years, but started my time with Amoeba - way back in 1998 -  at the San Francisco store. Here is my extensive list of new essential listening, released in 2014. There is a wide range of genres and artists represented here because musical passion should not be static.





1. Swans - To Be Kind (Young God)
To Be Kind, Swans’ 3rd LP since their 2010 reformation (and 13th overall,) is an unlikely triumph after 2012’s seemingly unmatchable masterpiece, The Seer. Any trepidation one might have about the sprawling triple-LP’s intimidating track lengths should evaporate under it’s hypnotizing ebb-and-flow of mental blues, super-honed grooves, manic clatter and hushed passages; all of which are eventually crushed by monolithic waves of majesty. Nothing short of classic.



 2. Carla Bozulich - Boy (Constellation)
Boy is Carla Bozulich’s (of Ethyl Meatplow, Geraldine Fibbers and Evangelista-renown) 3rd solo affair, but in a lot of ways it feels like her first. Bozulich pours her famed, devastating whiskey-voice into a cocktail of funeral country, death blues and industrial noise that sticks to your guts. Carla herself refers to this LP as her “pop record,” and if that's a true description, we could sure use a whole lot more “pop” albums like Boy. Don’t overlook this one.

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13 Albums That Are Perfect for Halloween

Posted by Billy Gil, October 20, 2014 07:30am | Post a Comment

13 Halloween Albums

It’s hard to believe Halloween is just around the corner. Luckily, there are plenty of great new albums and classics for your Halloween party or just to carry you into scaresville.

 

Krzysztof Penderecki and Jonny Greenwood - Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima / Polymorphia / Popcorn Superhet Receiver / 48 Responses to Polymorphia

penderecki greenwoodYou might not recognize his name, but Krzysztof Penderecki has soundtracked many a nightmare. The Polish, avant-garde composer was wildly inventive (and controversial) when his compositions first gained notoriety in the late ’50s, and thus his jarring compositions, featuring such innovative techniques as clustering tones, and such foreboding titles as “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima,” came to be used by wildly inventive and controversial film directors, from William Friedkin’s The Exorcist to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and David Lynch’s Wild at Heart and Inland Empire. Meanwhile, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood writes response pieces to both “Therenody” and “Polymorphia,” and his moody, solemn orchestral pieces serve as a terrific foil to Penderecki’s terror-inducing works.

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The Best Albums of 2014 So Far

Posted by Billy Gil, June 27, 2014 04:54pm | Post a Comment

sun kil moon mark kozelekmadlibst. vincentIt is now almost exactly halfway through 2014! It’s time to look back on the last six months and see what’s it’s had to offer music-wise. There’s already been a bunch of great records released this year, including a couple of excellent ones released just this week. If you haven’t checked these out, they’re all worth getting—pick ’em all up and catch up on what you’ve been missing.

Sun Kil Moon Benji

sun kil moon benji lpSome people write memoirs. Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek write songs crammed with details, from a brutal story about a distant cousin’s death by a freak fire to mundane details about Panera bread and sports bar shit on the walls, that somehow come together to form something called a life. Just when you feel like the songs are too stuffed to keep up, Kozelek will let his breathy “sadcore” folk open up and focus on a seemingly trivial line like “blue crab cakes” in the song “Ben's My Friend,” and in doing so perfectly captures the weird things that stick out in our heads when we reflect. Simply put, listening is like attending a master class in songwriting.

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Album Picks: Swans, Amen Dunes, La Sera, Little Dragon, Sean Nicholas Savage

Posted by Billy Gil, May 13, 2014 10:48am | Post a Comment

Swans - To Be Kind (LP, Two-CD Set, Deluxe Two-CD/DVD Set, Download)

swans to be kind lpSwans records are more like happenings, unforgettable experiences you have to sit down and pay attention to. The two-hour To Be Kind, released 21 months after the similarly epic The Seer, is no exception. Sounds wriggle, writhe and heave on the hilariously titled “Screen Shot,” but Swans also seem to have more control than ever—these sounds are speaking to one another, albeit in some unspoken language, not creating a cacophony. The effect can be paralyzing. Listening to “Just a Little Boy (For Chester Burnett)” feels like staring into the darkest night, accompanied by a country sway and Michael Gira’s chants, which grow suddenly violent—“I’m just a little boy!” he cries repeatedly, while the guitars bellow and sigh with increasing pronunciation and sampled laughter ups the creep factor into Lynch territory. Gira growls “I need love” like it’s a threat. Meanwhile, “A Little God in my Hands” is Swans’ version of a pop song—thumping percussion (think Tom Waits) meets multiple voices singing over each other, while eerie backwoods instrumentation and sudden noise explosions burst out of nowhere but somehow still leave you bobbing your head along as Gira repeats evocative adjectives (“forever hateful, forever beautiful, forever needing, forever reaching”). It’s easy to attribute pagan imagery to Swans’ music and say it sounds like a séance or something, but the 34-minute “Bring the Sun/Toussaint L’Overture” really does sound like the soundtrack to a sacrifice, or at least some wicked feast. Its slow, long build demands patience, but Gira’s always charismatic voice makes it worth the trip.

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