Best of 2011: PST

Posted by Billy Gil, December 14, 2011 06:30pm | Post a Comment
Oh hey! It's time for some top 50 album love.

1. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

Longtime devotees of Anthony Gonzalez’s M83 got to see him make good on the promises of his previous albums, all of which are great in their own way, on this unabated masterpiece. Across two albums’ worth of material, Gonzalez’s childlike ethos spreads across synth pop dreamscapes taken to arena-level sonic and emotional territory in a way that never feels trite or untrue. If he overreaches, he does it in the best way possible.

2.  Toro y Moi – Underneath the Pine
Chaz Bundick’s second album is a light-year’s jump over 2010’s chillwave capsule Causers of This, an album that seems to take a young lifetime’s worth of backseat radio listening and picks just the choicest bits, whether its early hip-hop or psychedelic rock or cool jazz, filtering it through Bundick’s too-cool specs.
       3. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
PJ Harvey’s perfect instincts have guided her through the starkest of emotional territory with only the most necessary accompaniment. She continues that trend here, on an album reflecting on war and England’s history in a way that feels loose and not heavy-handed, aided by strangely fitting samples and tasteful effects, but still allowing for the emotional sucker punches she’s so adept at (“I’ve seen soldiers fall like lumps of meat” in “The Words That Maketh Murder” is one for the ages).

4.  Dirty Beaches – Badlands
Dirty Beaches’ Alex Zhang Hungtai is a master of minimalism. Over pitch-black surf riffs he plays and then samples, he breathes, whispers and cries tales of teenage longing inspired by ’50s rock ‘n’ roll (“Sweet 17,” “True Blue”), unearthing the dirt beneath the saccharine. At only eight tracks, two of them wordless, Badlands is the year’s most beguiling release.
       5. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up
Hip-hop that feels worlds removed from the realm of hip-hop, this forward-thinking album manages to stay fun while its psychedelic tones intimate something more cerebral and transcendent.
      6. Real Estate – Days
While Real Estate seemed primed to take the throne as leaders of the reverb pack with their self-titled debut in 2009, this glorious jangle-pop opus puts them more in line to grab the torch from the departing R.E.M.
        7. Iceage – New Brigade
Real noise punk from Danish teens that rocks so hard it puts just about every other band alive to shame in comparison.

8. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
Her oddest yet most compelling release yet marries Annie Clark’s quirky avant-noise experimentation and virtuosic guitar playing to juicy tunes ripe with nuanced imagery.
        9. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Like their self-titled debut, this one’s a grower but soon its strange pop diversions --  whether it’s Hawaiian shirt-style late Beach Boys (“Honey Bunny”), George Harrison style odes to mama (“My Ma”), or Dark Side-era Pink Floyd as lovelorn pop songs (“Vomit”) -- sink their teeth in.

10. Jay-Z/Kanye West – Watch the Throne
What could have been a mess ends up an uplifting testament to two of hip-hop’s greats, and a lot of fun to boot.
11  11. Yuck – Yuck
British kids raid their older sibs’ record collections, discover Dinosaur Jr., Teenage Fanclub and Yo La Tengo, and make one of the year’s most irresistible rock record.
12  12. Crystal Stilts – In Love With Oblivion
For a certain sect of music fans wired into liking all things spacey, reverby, ominous and still pop-oriented, Crystal Stilts have been a godsend, and this is their strongest set of songs yet.

13. Drake – Take Care
There’s something really appealingly delicate about Drake, despite the requisite machismo from an A-list hip-hop star. Buoyed by expert production work from fellow Canucks 40 and T-Minus, among others, Drake makes the case for Canada as the bastion of thoughtful, crowd-pleasing hip-hop.
14  14. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
More of the gorgeous rustic harmonies and able folk songwriting we can now hopefully expect to be blessed with every so often from Robin Pecknold and co.

15. Neon Indian – Era Extrana
A gauzey tribute to navel-gazing, like the soundtrack to half-remembered childhood dreams.
15  16. The Antlers – Burst Apart
A more mature affair than 2009’s Hospice, Burst Apart still brims with emotional power but backs that up with more precise pop songwriting.

17. Washed Out – Within and Without
Washed Out’s Within and Without to me sounds like the most luxuriously bummed out vacation ever, like being broken up with poolside at a five-star resort. Hopefully, between the quality of this album, Era Extrana and Underneath the Pine, the word “chillwave” will die and we can appreciate these artists on their own terms.

18. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient
Classic rock melodies and riffs under a wash of milky reverb and swirling orchestration. Between this and former cohort Kurt Vile’s Smoke Rings for My Halo, these Philadelphia types seemed to soundtrack some imagined road trip, its details murky but its destination all the more vital for their mystery.

Radiohead – The King of Limbs
It wasn’t Kid A or In Rainbows. But The King of Limbs still packed worlds of music into each track, from the twitchy Britpop of “Morning Mr Magpie” to darker, dubstep-inspired tracks like “Lotus Flower,” inviting either deeper study or as casual a listen as one could hope for from Radiohead while still maintaining their integrity.

20. Twin Sister – In Heaven
I unexpectedly fell hard for Twin Sister this year, who make a kind of anime-futuristic lite pop that makes me think of some domestic sci-fi scenario, like walking your space dog to space Starbucks.

21. Atlas Sound – Parallax
Bradford Cox’s most humanistic release yet under the Atlas Sound name, with a pack of great pop songs (namely “Mona Lisa”) amongst the typically gorgeous atmospherics.

22. Black Lips – Arabia Mountain
Mark Ronson produced several tracks on this album, adding only the most minimal pop sheen to the “flower-punk” formula Black Lips have perfected over the years. The result is their most instantly pleasurable release yet.

Tyler, the Creator – Goblin
Scary, sad and bracing hip-hop that shows vulnerable soul beneath its sneer. The menace of songs like “Yonkers” is nearly impossible to shake.

24. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – S/T
Quirky lo-fi psych pop that makes its home in your brain and stays there, particularly on the addictive “Ffunny Ffriends.”

25. Drive Soundtrack
The year’s best movie also had its best soundtrack, a pack of perfect night-drive pop songs (especially College’s “A Real Hero”, ft. Electric Youth), moving into Cliff Martinez’s dark ambient score.

26. Dum Dum Girls – Only in Dreams
Taken together with the crystalline He Gets Me High EP, Dum Dum Girls come out of the excellent but murky depths of their debut I Will Be with their chins up high and noise-pop hooks aplenty.

27. The Weeknd – House of Balloons
About as appealingly strange a release you could find in 2011 came from Ethiopian Canadian (again with Canada!) singer/producer Abel Tesfaye, who emotes falsetto R&B style over samples from Beach House and Siouxsie & the Banshees, as well as his own grimey production work.

28. Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls
I know I’m not the only one who fell hard for this C86-loving twee toting Slumberland band that remembered you can’t nail a signature sound without memorable tunes.

Zola Jesus – Conatus
Conatus continued Zola Jesus’ evolution from noise-drenched operatic curio to full-fleged goth pop star, with dance beats and hooks underpinning her freaky awesome voice.

30. Cut Copy – Zonoscope
A dance-rock epic that is perhaps a bit bloated, but its highest points (“Need You Now,” “Pharaohs & Pyramids,” “Alisa”) are pretty towering pop achievements.

31. John Maus – We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
Here’s what I said earlier this year: “It’s like someone left their Tangerine Dream and New Order cassettes in the wash and out came a perfectly fused, gauzy amalgam of new age floweriness and new romantic pop.” Good enough/too lazy to write something new.

32. Cults – Cults
Cults were like the too-cute kid at school you wanted to hate if they weren’t so damn nice. Backlash was aplenty to “Go Outside,” but it was harder to dismiss the rest of their album, which packed longer-lasting but still-sugary tunes like “You Know What I Mean.”

33. Kurt Vile – Smoke Rings for My Halo
The prolific Vile gave us his best yet with Smoke Rings for My Halo, full of gravely voice, lonely drugged out folk-pop tunes like the infectious “Jesus Fever.”

34. Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
Epic post-hardcore concept album about a nihilistic young couple. You have to love a band for attempting something of this magnitude.

35. Geoffrey O’Connor – Vanity is Forever
The power of the PR pitch — I hadn’t heard of Geoffrey O’Connor or his band, Crayon Fields, until someone randomly emailed me about him. This could be the year’s most overlooked release, a nighttime romantic synth album akin to Bryan Ferry or even this year’s uberhot Drive soundtrack.

36. Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital
Handsome Furs has always been my favorite of the Wolf Parade/Sunset Rubdown pack of related bands if for no reason than their sheer consistency. This album ups the two-person organ-laden indie rock of yore with gnarly post-disco beats.

37. Wild Flag – Wild Flag
The first of what hopefully will be a fruitful career from veterans including Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein and Helium’s Mary Timony, firing off guitar blasts and twisted harmonies just because they can.

38. James Blake – S/T
OK, not really on board the dubstep train, but you have to hand it to James Blake for injecting the young genre with some personality and songwriting chops. Plus he’s pretty killer live.

39. Cold Cave – Cherish the Light Years
I really couldn’t stand “The Great Pan is Dead” the first time I heard it. Too loud! For what reason? But I dug into Cherish the Light Years and its weirdo keyboard noise and post-punk hooks and couldn’t really stop for a while there. So now I get what these guys are getting at and can’t wait to see where they go next.

40. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
Like its predecessor, Wounded Rhymes is a bit sleepy at times, but its best moments can knock you on your ass when you least expect it. “I Follow Rivers” is her best song yet.

41. Smith Westerns – Dye it Blonde
Super fun garage pop that’s delightfully polite and winsome without being cloying.

42. Fool’s Gold – Leave No Trace
A more streamlined and brass-ring-reaching second release from Fool’s Gold saw the band largely dumping the Hebrew-sung lyrics and even some of its afropop leanings to focus on pop immediacy, and it suits them well.

43. Thee Oh Sees – Castlemania
I slightly prefer the ramshackle pop of Castlemania, released early in the year, to the more recently released and more acidic Carrion Crawler/The Dream, but really, they’re both great. Anyone else release two kick-ass albums in 2011?

44. The Soft Moon – S/T
A simply harrowing listen from start to finish, with nary a humanistic trait — Luis Vasquez breathes and howls his often lyricless vocals — but the songs are also toe-tapping post-punk jams. It never lets you sit as comfortably as you want to.

45. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong
Smashing Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine loving alterna-twee gems. This shit was made for me.

46. EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints
More goodness from the Cal Arts pool that birthed Ariel Pink and John Maus — if there’s any through line, it’s that none of the artists seems to be able to stay put, changing gears per song while keeping things structured. EMA’s electro-dusted, emotional singer-songwriter material harkens back to Suzanne Vega and early Liz Phair and PJ Harvey without slapping “’90s” across your face.

47. Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact
Really weird shit. I kinda wish they would calm the fuck down and do the stuff they do best — Eastern-tinged, Siouxsie-ish electro — all the time, but vaguely conceptual albums with crazy prog-rock art and song titles like “∞∞” will do.

48. Blouse – Blouse
Beautifully dreary post-punk that sounds best when it drops the mope and rouses itself to emit bleary pop (“Videotapes”).

49. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Is it too “duh” to say this is really overrated but still pretty good?

50. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
I barely listened to this but I feel like I’ll love it in like three months.

out this week, 9/13 & 9/20: the drums...wild flag...girls...neon indian...jens lekman...veronica falls...

Posted by Brad Schelden, October 13, 2011 01:01pm | Post a Comment
Hello! Welcome back to my new release blog. I am so sorry that I have been neglecting you. It has been a busy two months of new releases! Maybe you didn't notice...but it is already October. Not sure how that happened. It is already October 13th actually! This is absolutely one of my favorite months. I wish it was October every month!  Although I was not exactly enjoying the warm weather yesterday. Although we did not really have a crazy hot Summer this year in Los Angeles. So I can't blame Summer for trying to squeeze a couple of more days into October. But October is most certainly here and November is quickly approaching. All of the music labels are rushing to get their best new albums out to you before the end of the year. And all the movie studios will soon be rushing to get their best movies out before the end of the year! So lets go back in time and catch up a bit on what has come out the last couple of weeks. Then we can actually move onto October! First up is the week of 9/13 and 9/20...

I fell in love with The Drums when they put out their Summertime EP last year. How could I not love this band. It was the perfect pop record. Brilliantly pop friendly songs heavily influenced by The Smiths and Joy Division. But adding more modern sounds and synths. I fell in love. They also released their debut self titled full length album last year. Which was also fantastic. And now they have unleashed their second album called Portamento. You can never capture that excitement of a first record. But I am still loving this new album. The songs are catchier than anything and they just make me happy. A nice way to end my summer for sure. If you have still not joined the cult of The Drums. You should start with their first album The Drums or the Summertime EP. You will not be disappointed.

Check out the video for "How It Ended" by The Drums from the new album Portamento...

Neon Indian have also just released their second album. The new album is called Era Extrana. They put out their debut album Psychic Chasms in 2009. That album was also reissued in 2010. This new album is simply a super fun album. The songs are catchy and electronic and will keep you coming back for more. I compare them to bands like Human League and Pet Shop Boys. Maybe a more dreamy and ethereal version of those bands. Somewhere in between Cocteau Twins and Spandau Ballet.  Everyone will obviously not like this band. Some people will think the songs are ridiculous and not real music. Some people might make fun of you for listening to this band. But that only makes me like them more. These songs would not be out of place on the soundtrack to Drive. But I will get to that later. Era Extrana is exactly the kind of album that I want it to be. Nothing more and nothing less. Neon Indian has created the perfect second album.

Check out this video for "Polish Girl" by Neon Indian from the new album Era Extrana. This is of course not the actual video but a clip from the amazing movie Breakin'. I highly suggest that you pick up a copy of this new album by Neon Indian and that you also watch the movie Breakin'. It is just as amazing as you remember it to be....

There are many more albums that came out on 9/13 and 9/20. A fantastic new little EP from Jens Lekman. Everyone's favorite Swedish genius songwriter is back! An Argument With Myself is exactly what you would expect from Jens Lekman. He is witty and funny and ridiculous but super talented and brilliant. I just can't get enough of Jens Lekman. And I can't wait for his next full length album! We also get new albums from St. Vincent, Ladytron, Toro Y Moi, Shimmering Stars, Tori Amos, Wooden Shjips, Patton Oswalt, Nurses, Wild Flag, & Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Something for everyone. Almost too many albums for me to keep up with. I still have not given my final verdict to the debut album from Wild Flag. I love Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney and I love Mary Timony from Helium. So it is great to see these amazing ladies back in action. But I really am just waiting for the next season of Portlandia and hoping that Wild Flag makes a guest appearance at an instore at the women's book store. This debut album is fun and playful and I think they sound great on it. If nothing else, this new album has made me go back and listen to my old Sleater-Kinney and Helium records. It has made me remember why I fell in love with them in the first place!

It really is the year of the second album. Girls have also just released their second album. The new album by Girls is really really good. It took me a couple months to actually get into them after the first album came out. I actually saw them live and didn't know what to think of them. But the Broken Dreams Club EP from last year pushed me over for sure. I was then a fan of Girls without a doubt. This new album Father Son Holy Ghost is worth your time and money. I know there are a ton of albums this last couple of months. But this is one that you should not miss! This band is straight out of the 90's. They are sort of a mix of Sunny Day Real Estate and The Posies and the more lighter side of the grunge sound of the 90s mixed with a more British Primal Scream shoegaze 90s sort of sound. Imagine the Beach Boys if they had discovered Shoegaze or Dreampop.

Check out the video for "Honey Bunny" by Girls from the new album Father Son Holy Ghost...

One of my other recent favorites is Veronica Falls. Their debut album has just been released by Slumberland. They are a band made for people like me who still wish every band sounded like either Twee or Shoegaze or something in between. This album is still blowing me away every time that I listen to it. And I have listened to it many many times. I still get sad when I think about the fact that we will probably never get another album by the band Lush. But Veronica Falls sound very close to what I would have loved for Lush to turn into. They are a little less shoegaze and a little more Twee than Lush. But just as amazing and brilliant. You really should be loving the band as much as I do. I almost can't believe how great they are. This album is magical. It really is. I will be listening to it over and over again for many months to come.

Check out the video for "Bad Feeling" by Veronica Falls from their debut album....

also out 9/13...

American Goldwing
by Blitzen Trapper

Dreams Come True

by The Drums

Father Son Holy Ghost
by Girls

by The Human League

Junk Of The Heart
by The Kooks

Gravity the Seducer
by Ladytron

by Memoryhouse

Earth Division
by Mogwai

Era Extrana
by Neon Indian

Green Naugahyde
by Primus

Violent Hearts
by Shimmering Stars

by Slow Club

Strange Mercy
by St. Vincent

Freaking Out
by Toro Y Moi

Wild Flag
by Wild Flag

by Wooden Shjips

also out 9/20...

Night of Hunters
by Tori Amos

by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

In Animal Tonque
by Evangelista

by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Argument With Myself
by Jens Lekman

by Megafaun

by Nurses

Finest Hour
by Patton Oswalt

Veronica Falls
by Veronica Falls

by Weekend

FYF Fest Delivers on Promise

Posted by Billy Gil, September 6, 2011 07:20pm | Post a Comment
FYF Fest may have been better in theory than practice in previous years, due to the usual big festival woes. But as shows like Coachella and Pitchfork Music Festival took some time to iron out the kinks, FYF Fest seems to have gotten it down, judging by this year’s show. Quick entry, lots of different kinds of food, plenty of porta-potties and better sound … the logistics alone surpassed last year’s festival by a longshot.
This year’s band lineup packed some surprises, with plenty of old faces (The Dead Milkmen, The Descendents) showing up amongst up-and-comers (Ty Segall, Twin Sister, Avi Buffalo) and a reunited Death From Above 1979. I’ll try to recount as best I can the bands I was able to catch.
Olivia Tremor Control, best known as an Elephant 6 band as well as creators of the classic ’90s psych-pop opus Music from the Unrealized Film Script, Dusk at Cubist Castle, returned for a reunion set that hopefully leads to a full-length album — they’ve said they’ve recorded a few tracks already. They really sounded like Pink Floyd to me at FYF, not holding back on long instrumental passages that tend to spill your brain into the frying pan. When I first walked up, I couldn’t tell if the loud squeal coming from the stage was intentional or not. I think it was. I saw the cutest little hipster couple holding hands during the set and realized they could have each been conceived on Dusk at Cubist Castle’s release date, which made me feel a little old but glad they were there to experience this kind of obtuse music when something a bit easier to swallow, like Cults or Japandroids, was going on at the same time. I also saw a group of people “trippin’” Grateful Dead style, dancing around in tie-dye. One of them was holding a baby doll. Seeing them alongside one of OTC’s extended jams made me feel like I was on something too. Another girl was wearing a fox mask.
After catching the end of Cults — “Go Outside” sounded pleasantly anthemic, as usual — I saw No Age, who sounded weirdly pretty at FYF, as the marked lessening of decibels employed on their third album, Everything in Between, seems to have translated to their live show, too. It’s still loud, but more emphasis has been placed on melody and precision. “Fever Dreaming” sounded amazing.

Broken Social Scene sounded like the bewildering beast of a band they ought to, balancing between being the kind of hits-oriented indie flagship band people want them to be and the more indulgent collective they sort of are, which is to say, much of their music is great but is also jammy and they’re going to play a random Modest Mouse cover if they feel like it (“The World at Large”) and “Shampoo Suicide,” a mostly instrumental song from the pretty poppy You Forgot It In People. I didn’t care for the cover, but I liked that they did it. “7/4 (Shoreline)” delivered the singalong goods. Folks may have been sad Feist didn’t show up to sing, but touring member Lisa Lobsinger more than makes up for the absence with her springy stage presence and similarly lovely croon.
Girls were sort of letting me down. I might just not be that into their new stuff and its more languid feel. I kind of miss the scrappier side of them. Either way, it wasn’t the best live.
Everyone at a festival show probably has one or two bands that are their main reason for being there, and Guided By Voices were mine. I got to see them once before they initially broke up, and I’ll never forget that experience of being surrounded by very drunk 35-year-olds as a sober 21-year-old while Robert Pollard told lewd stories (something I’d rather not repeat about Kim Deal) and led the band through a fantastically sloppy set. While this performance shared some similarities to that one, namely the great amount of energy and fun they exude from the stage, I didn’t remember them sounding this together or powerful before. Pollard sang beautifully and forcefully, and seemed like he was having a ball, leading the band through GBV classics like “Exit Flagger” and “Game of Pricks.” I couldn’t stop singing or smiling.
Bonus feature: Chromatics and Glass Candy did double time by playing a decadent show the night before at Los Globos in Silverlake. Plenty of hipsters have tried to or at least wanted to go to Los Globos, and they finally got their chance (I hear shows at Los Globos might become a more regular thing? Awesome!). It was really crowded and seemed really hazy and coked out, which is basically perfect for both of these bands. Chromatics got the crowd nice and riled up, a feat given their dance-oriented but dark, ethereal sound — it works counterintuitively in a nightclub setting, creating a sort of sexy atmosphere that draws in listeners like a tractor beam and makes them sway with abandon. Glass Candy finished out the set nicely picking up where Chromatics left off, upping the pop and dance ante in a pretty rare way. It’s kind of like being at a drag show. I’m curious to hear their new record, especially after hearing their batshit-crazy new song.

10 Records From the FYF Fest Lineup

Posted by Billy Gil, September 2, 2011 05:10pm | Post a Comment

FYF Fest is this weekend — tickets are still available here — at the LA Historic State Park Saturday. The lineup features Descendents, Death From Above 1979, Explosions in the Sky, Broken Social Scene, Guided By Voices, the Dead Milkmen, Girls, No Age and more. Check back here later this weekend for my review of the event, including a preview show at Los Globos (!) tonight with Chromatics and Glass Candy. F yeah, indeed. (BT dubs, I'll always link to a record first, then a CD if I can't find it on record.)

In preparation, I made a list of 10 great records from the lineup of the show. Check it out.

Guided By Voices – Propeller

Lots of people know Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand (get them now if you don't!) but Propeller is another solid-to-great GBV album with great shoutalong chorus four-track gems like “Exit Flagger.” They'd release stronger material later on, but this charmingly lo-fi album was self-released at the same time Nirvana's Nevermind and a bunch of grunge albums would change the alternative landscape forever. While out of step then, it sounds positively prescient now.


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Top Ten of 2010 by Erin

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, December 10, 2010 05:08pm | Post a Comment

joanna newsom have one on me

1. Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me
The Wire said that this album is like an overturned jewelry box, and I would agree. So deeply felt, everything else seems shallow. See her live.

glasser ring

2. Glasser - Ring
My favorite newcomer. Innovative electronics meet radio-friendly R&B. And there's something else I can't quite put my finger on...

zola jesus stridulum zola jesus valusia

3. Zola Jesus - Stridulum & Valusia EPs 
A pretty epic talent, considering she's only 21. She must be an old soul.

girls broken dreams club

4. Girls - Broken Dreams Club EP 
More 80s jangly than their debut, but always as heartbreaking.

orange juice coals to newcastle

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