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Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Han Toshi

I haven't written in a long time, even though I really want to. I reached a point where I needed to divorce myself from the keyboard when I wanted to talk about school/work lest my thoughts devolve into angry musings that none would care to read. I try to stay positive. That's probably the best way I can sum up my state of mind: I try to stay positive.

Moving on, music is a great way for me to drown out the white noise and feedback loops of futility that have become my job. This year hasn't blown me away with any one release (yet), but there's a handful of things that I recommend people put on their radar. As always, until the year end best-of list, they are in no particularly order.

 Jamie xx - In Colour

Jamie xx is one half the duo called (not surprisingly) The xx. Apart
from an album he made with Gil Scott-Heron - just before he passed away, this marks
Jamie's debut solo album. He drops all notions of the subtlety that earned his former band
their well deserved acclaim, but retains his focused and calculating style, just bigger.

My jam: Seesaw [ft. Romy]

 Best Coast - California Nights

How was I not supposed to like an album and a band that is essentially 
themed around living in Southern California? Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno bring 
back their signature style of garage/pop enthusiasm for a third time.The 
edges have been softened a bit, but it still feels like something only they could have done.

My jam: Feeling Ok

 Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free

I'm new to Jason Isbell, so while I don't have much of a backstory on him
that informs my opinion of his work I probably wouldn't need it anyway. This is
a heartfelt album through and through. Even if country isn't your thing, I think there's
something that everyone can find enjoyable on this record. Check it out.

My jam: How To Forget

 Beach House - Depression Cherry

Bands don't get much more reliable than this. Depression Cherry might throw some
fans of "Teen Dream" era for a loop, but I promise you this is forward movement. 
Beach House has never sounded more sincere and intricate in their production even
when you take most of it away as they've done here.

My jam: Beyond Love

 Tame Impala - Currents

Everything about this band is cool. Their name, the name of their albums (Lonerism), and
the artwork. I don't even need to mention the music because their brand of Psychedelic Rock
does all the talking. It's replete with fantastic hooks and wonderful lyrics that only add 
to the discourse of the romantic break-up album. It was a welcome surprise.

My jam: Yes I'm Changing

 Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell

Sufjan is such a wildcard. It feels like he's either got a hat of ideas
for records, or he takes on dares - as in the case of  2010's electronically
driven, "Age of Adz." Whatever the case, he's a prolific lyricist and equally
powerful composer. The inspiration for the album (the death of his mother) might 
sound like a downer, but rather than a collection of brooding dark pieces it's more
of a joyful and fond send-off. 

My jam: The Only Thing
 Purity Ring - Another Eternity

I fell in love with Purity Ring upon hearing their first double A-side that 
combined the powerhouse tracks of "Lofticries," and "Ungirthed" together. Simply
describing Purity Ring as an electronic band wouldn't be doing them justice. It's electronic
pop infused with trip hop beats, and a more sinister undertone. It's good, that's what it is.

My jam: Bodyache

 Father John Misty - I Love You Honeybear

Father John Misty was new for me as well this year. I'll definitely be going back and
checking out his surprisingly huge catalog of solo work. The stage name (as you correctly assumed)
has only been in use for a few years however, with the bulk of his work having been created
under his actual name - Joshua Tillman. This album is at times emotional, sarcastic, and horribly romantic.
I don't want to get ahead of myself just yet, but this is probably the ringer for best of the year.

My jams: Bored In The USA / Holy Shit / I Went To The Store One Day 
Seriously, the last three tracks on this album are amazing.

 Sleater-Kinney / No Cities To Love

After a long absence Sleater-Kinney returns thrashing into the foreground of
everyone's consciousness. The sound is no less raw, the lyrics are no less memorable, and
their presence is never more desired. Sleater-Kinney returns in fine form with No Cities To Love.

 My jam: Hey Darling

 The Go! Team - The Scene Between

Despite the dissolution of the team in the band's namesake, Ian Parton has managed
to create a sound that supersedes anything The Go! Team has previously produced.
If I were going to declare any single album as the pop album of the year for me, this one would 
be it hands down. It's catchy, full of hooks, and will definitely find you hitting replay more than once.

 Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly

Originally titled "Tu Pimp A Catterpillar," (TuPAC) Kendrick has been quoted as saying that Tupac is one 
of the rappers that he draws most of his inspiration from whether it be style, or in day to day life. 
Kendrick has certainly made a name for himself though with his unique style of rap. "To Pimp A Butterfly" is another link in that chain, which fuses hip hop, spoken word poetry, and even jazz - seamlessly.

My jam: King Kunta
 Passion Pit - Kindred

Passion Pit's music feels like the kind of thing one is supposed to eat rather 
than listen to. Their pop synths are all so fantastic, colorful, and vibrant that they feel
sweet to the ear. I haven't decided where this one places among their three releases, but
that I have that decision to make at all says something.

My jam: Where The Sky Hangs

 Natalie Prass - Natalie Prass

Newcomer and singer-songwriter Natalie Prass gracefully glides onto the music scene
with her melodic debut album. While it might feel a bit of a slow burn for the 'gotta have it now' 
generation, there's plenty to be enjoyed throughout this album. With elements of Chamber Pop, a 
twinge of Baroque, and an overall classic feeling, it's something to check out.

My jam: Your Fool

 CHON - Grow

Despite hitting a nerve for bands with names that are all caps - seriously - CHON is
pretty exciting. I know every once in a while I recommend something immediately off-putting
and this one will probably be it unless you are familiar with the exquisitely detailed 
sub-genre known as Math Rock. Noted for it's at first dissonant sound, Math Rock is hard
to describe but easy to recognize. "Grow" contributes a few great pieces to the style.

My jam: Book

 Belle and Sebastian - Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance

I was greatly anticipating getting my hands on this album. Earlier this year I saw 
them in Tokyo performing some highlights of this release and of course a ton of old standards. 
Any new Belle and Sebastian album is a cause for celebration, and this one is no 
different. Their occasional melancholic but always poppy songs have been injected with 
a more dance-worthy beat, as the title would suggest.

My jam: The Party Line

 Panda Bear - Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper

First off, the award for best title ever goes to? Panda Bear follows his previous solo
work with another album that will be on rotation for some time. Constructed as a kind of concept 
album that deals with exactly what you think it does, but not in the way you think,
PBMTGR packs a punch. It's chilling while catchy, psychedelic but poppy, and 
grabs your attention throughout.

My jam: Mr. Noah

 Hiatus Kaiyote - Choose Your Weapon

Okay, I lied. This is the crazy one. Haitus Koyote's "Choose Your Weapon" appears to be
an experimental album. Just by the sheer number of genres and styles that get mashed within
the course of this record (jazz, soul, funk, R&B, and so on) it's incredibly difficult to 
give it a singular label - which isn't a bad thing. They describe themselves as 
Neo-Soul, but I don't know if that helps.

My jam: Shaolin Monk Motherfunk
(How about that title, right?)

 Ratatat - Magnifique

Ratatat is a jam band. This album, like almost all of their work, features no vocals. On "LP3"
there was a jaguar-esque sound on a track called "Wildcat." That's the kind of band
that Ratatat is. Magnifique rolls with crunching guitars that constantly seem on
a path of out-cooling the other - much like their previous work. It has moments of
introversion, but that just means there's breathing room in between. 

My jam: Abrasive
 Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

Seemingly in a competition with Fiona Apple for the longest album names ever, Courntey
Barnett delivers a resounding debut album. It rocks. She rocks. Her voice is amazing, and she 
shreds the hell out of more than a few songs here. I don't know much about her, but I'll definitely
be keeping my eye on her after this. Give it a listen if you care about rock at all. 

My jam: Pedestrian At Best
The Vaccines - English Graffiti

These guys came out of nowhere for me. Though they've been around since 2010
apparently, I hadn't caught wind of them until the single "Handsome" off this record 
was released earlier this year. It immediately became the song of the summer for me
and I had to investigate the rest of the album, where many more gems would lay.

My jam: Minimal Affection

Here's the list one more time, alphabetically:

Beach House - Depression Cherry

Belle and Sebastian - Girls In Peacetime Just Want To Dance

Best Coast - California Nights

CHON - Grow

Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear

The Go! Team - The Scene Between

Hiatus Kaiyote - Choose Your Weapon

Jamie XX - In Colour

Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly

Natalie Prass - Natalie Prass

Panda Bear - Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper

Passion Pit - Kindred

Purity Ring - Another Eternity

Ratatat - Magnifique

Sleater Kinney - No Cities To Love

Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowe

Tame Impala - Currents

The Vaccines - English Graffiti

Happy Listening.