Since forming right before the heyday that was the so called “Nu Metal” movement, Chino, Abe, Stephen, Chi, and later Frank have never been comfortable with the bag they got lumped into. But as times often change, the Sacramento gang was able to find their own niche and create music that embraced briefs moment of hip hop, but also cautiously crafted soundscapes, wailing screams filled with terror, and experiences of gorgeous beauty that still hasn’t been touched among peers. They've maintained their high level of creativity, and after all these years, are still able to move fans in a way that their modern metal peers can only hope to get close to. Here’s the countdown of the five best, most important Deftones albums.
5.Saturday Night Wrist, 2006
While by this point the band has certainly found their footing in terms of what constitutes their own original sound, they still manage to get on the ledge of what was acceptable during their early years. Track four, “Beware” is a muddy, night sky filled trek into gradual darkness, that's only accentuated by Moreno’s trademark hollowing vocals during the chorus. It’s also probably known more as their least forceful, most textured album since the pinnacle of what ended up being “White Pony.” Sure they have heavily in your face tracks like the onslaught that is “Rats!Rats!Rats!,” but they also slow is down various times and bring you into a lush world with the instrumentation of a song such as “Xerces,” that for my money still stands as one of their best tracks, from any album. Towards the end of the session though, “Kimdracula” shines a light through the hazy, biting atmosphere as Moreno soars using his voice, all the while the backing band crashing down like a wave onto rock of jagged rock as the sun sets on another fruitful recording session.
4. Gore, 2016
At this juncture in their career, the ‘tones are able to both stay true to themselves as musicians while also pushing limits. As an album, “Gore,” was a show of strength but apparently quite a few older fans still long for the brutality of the “ATF” era. I get it, but as they’ve evolved over the course of twenty years, it’s been rewarding as a music fan in general to see what new things they can make stick. This album still has the upbeat angst you love about the band.“Doomed User,” with its distorted and thick guitar sound comes to mind, but it also exposes weakness in lyrical content, open to vulnerability from the mind of the person expounding the lyrics themselves. Shortly after that they nuzzle you into a layered, glum track called “Hearts/ Wires,” where the band turns down the notch while still delivering. Coming near the end of the record, the title track has a kind of scat musicianship happening, with Cunningham’s drumming making the listener uneasy as the explosive breakdown comes during the moments of the chorus. It’s an easy enough strategy but takes skill and craftsmanship to sell, which they do with ease. As the album closes with “Rubicon” it’s clear that the bands unique sound is still intact, and what would you know, they picked up a few new tricks to lure fans even deeper into admiration.
3.Koi No Yokan, 2012
The status of the band before the release of this album was difficult, heartbreaking one, to say the least. Following the untimely death of founding member Chi, and the ultimate scrapping of an album called “Eros” no one knew exactly what this band still had left to prove. In typical fashion, however, they came out swinging and ready to show their resolve to fans eager to know if they should, or could continue without Chi. The whole album is like a monument to the bass player, and it’s one of their most poignant albums. From the bounce qualities of “Swerve City,” to depressing but clear minded conclusion of “What Happened to You?” the five members are able to pour their energy into positivity when it’s needed the most. That’s not to say that all of the heavy, bombastic qualities are gone. “Leathers” has a quiet danger to it’s opening, but as the wielding blade that is Chino’s voice slashes into the forefront, you’re reminded that this band can turn the beautiful into the brutal in a blink of an eye. The radio hit “Tempest” struck a chord with audiences too, and once again they found the mainstream success that had had periodically since the days of that wonderful third album.
2. Around the Fur, 1997
I was still very much ingrained into the metal of that year, but much of it lacked the staying power that “Around the Fur” seemed to dwell on even more than twenty years after it’s touching down onto the musical landscape. Unabashedly the bands most violent, reckless album, it’s also one of its crowning achievement. I doubt the band could be as harsh these days as they were then, but artists always grow and evolve. From the low down rhythm section of the opener “My Own Summer,” the band takes you on a trip of veracious brutality and syncopated timed signatures that both disorient and engage the listener. Songs like the one two punch of “Mascare,” and “Around the Fur” come across as dynamic, but within seconds the intensity of a track like “Rickets,” with more than your share of full throated screaming washes away anything that was left standing. In short, this album doesn’t let up for much of it’s duration. It also has massive fan favorites like the brilliant “Be Quiet and Drive,” which propelled the band to a new level early on in their career, which helped them to gain even more attention when a certain ‘Pony” came prancing along...
1.White Pony, 2000
When this first came out, or should i say “leaked,” back when that kind of thing rarely ever happened, my group of friends were flabbergasted at the sound emanating from the record. It was futuristic, melodic, dreamy and energized all in one. It wasn’t like the music we were normally hooked on, and frankly it's a great thing we latched onto it in a way that made it part of ourselves. This WAS the record of that year to us, and it completely changed how I looked and accepted music. I found myself trying more and more new things that hadn’t interested me before, and at the core of all that was the superb nature of the songs themselves. “Teenager” still reminds me of song you’d hear on a rainy night in the world of “Blade Runner” while “Digital Bath” had this unease romanticism to it that swayed you to contentment. The band was going way out there in terms of what might or might work, but in the eighteen years since its release, it’s still hailed as their best, most beautifully open album. It also doesn't hurt when Keenan from a little band called Tool assists in what i always looked at as an unofficial sequel, or retelling of “BQAD” in the form of “Passenger.” Nearly every song still has the ability to touch a cord, from the female sounding wails on “Knife Prty,” to the band's biggest hit overall, “Change(in the House of Flies). Since trying something new and groundbreaking on this record, the band has managed to delve into certain elements form this epic effort in a more careful, thoughtful way, but without the breakthrough of this one album, who knows where the band would have ended up. It’s for these reasons that “White Pony” stands as the bands epic masterpiece.
Thanks for reading!
Hey guys so a few things have been added/ rearranged on the site and I wanted to make all of you reading aware. There's been some rebranding on the top of the page, and hopefully soon I'll be adding another link to the Reaching Out section to stay abreast of my other social media outlets. I already have the twitter feed and the The Death of the Mix Tape facebook page up, but once the instagram is up you'll be able to keep an eye out for all the show clips i post there. For the time being though my handle on instagram is @rickshawlando for anyone who wants to check it out.
Lastly, and this is the biggest new update: There's a new tab that's been up for a little over two weeks presenting a countdown of the Top 100 songs since 2000. I'm not posting that on the main page simply because it's too much to keep track of. It also just seemed redundant since I planned to create a seperate space for it in the end anyway. The list is being added 10 picks at a time, and as of today picks from number 100- 61 are available to read.
i sincerely hope whoever is reading this is enjoying the picks and opinions, and obviously I'd love any of you to comment, share on social media and whatever else. Thanks everyone!
Among hip hop fans, there’s always plenty of ever changing evolution when it comes to being a hit maker. Some play and safe and still do great, but others push the bounds of what is considered hip hop or rap. Among the best, or as he would say, “The Best,” is Kanye West. since breaking out in the early aughts, West has continually used his beat making and vast musical knowledge to make some of the most forward thinking hip hop of all time. Today we’ll be starting a series of top five lists from an array of artist covering music that has a certain sound, but also artists who naturally grow and extend themselves outside of their respective genres. Here’s my list of the top five Albums by Kanye West.Dig it!
5. The College Dropout, 2004
As soon as you heard the mouthshut vocal range West produced on the breakout track “Through the wire” you knew this was something special. It’s not often a man that committed to a vision sees the light out day, especially when his back is up against the wall and he feels like he has to break through. Multiple tracks have since become legendary among music fans. Standouts like the melody driven “All Falls Down,” or the in your face aggression of “Jesus Walks” converted naysayers into believers, but Jesus is a statement that finds West exploring topics that are rarely breached in hip hop culture. One of the best songs not heavily mentioned are the “New Workout Plan” which depicts various slouches following the training to make themselves new and improved. It’s a brilliant first album in a discography that unfolds in unexpected and rewarding ways.
4. Graduation, 2007
By this point in his still early career, West was sky high surrounded by the flashing lights of media everywhere. Yet on this blockbuster album he easily expelled rumors that he couldn’t keep the winning streak up, which is to say one of his biggest accomplishments. He’s always put himself in vulnerable places, but with each step he cements himself as an artist worth watching. A song like “Can’t tell me Nothing” is a perfect example of where his mind was, but it also doesn’t hurt when he can puncture that sense of attitude with a genuinely upbeat, fun track like “Good Life,” which has the ability to do a feel good rap song better than nearly anyone, even if he’s known for being a provocateur. Let’s also not forget the colossal hit that was the Daft Punk inspired “Stronger,” which led him to increase his fan base two fold at least, by bringing in the legendary robots to a new fan base but also getting electronic nerds into the mix for something they might not normally try.
3. Late Registration, 2005
“Diamonds from Sierra Leone” may have been the first introduction to Kanye’s second album, and while it’s a great song featuring another stellar collaboration with Jay Z, that was all but forgotten when the world first heard the words “She take my money, when I’m in need,” which of course is the opening to the year’s biggest hit “Golddigger.”to say the song is infectious is a vast understatement. I remember not being able to go anywhere and not hear this song and everyone seemingly enjoying it. The rhythms on the track are a blistering critique of lazy woman everywhere who expect something back, but at its core “Golddigger” is also an incredible song. It also doesn’t hurt that with an opening skit from Bernie Mac and songs that follow like “Heard Em Say” and “Touch the sky” all coming before “Gold” which is is the fourth track, it’s hard not to reel from the track list and the momentum. It’s likely one of the best three song movements every committed to a record, and that’s a huge reason why this album is so Fucking good all these years later. He captures your attention early and doesn’t release it until he’s said all he needs.
2. Yeezus, 2013
After “MBDTF” sent everyone into a tailspin, Yeezus was a complete flip of the script in how West compelled and produced an album. Rumors swirled for months that the production of the record was a mess, but after getting much needed guidance from the incomparable Rick Rubin and slimming the album down drastically to the ten songs that formed the album, it’s hard to say it wasn’t worth it. From the early moments of tracks like “Black Skinhead,” which finds West again working with Daft Punk and putting white people on notice for practices that we as a people might not even know is wrong. It’s a great mindset though when an artist is angry but also willing to not shy away from difficult issues. The whole album is easily the most aggressive and angry of his catalogue, but it’s also his most potent in terms of originality. “Yeezus” also shows that he can carry an album with minimal guests(unlike the other records, not to say it’s a bad thing) as he circumvents his critiques of culture with unrelenting songs like “New Slaves” and the eye opening sincerity and pain behind “Blood on the Leaves.” Personally I can’t wait for another record like this to explode from his brain. Angry Kanye is the best Kanye.
1. My Beautiful Dark twisted Fantasy, 2010
This album man is so strong from start to finish that is damn near impossible to truncate it into a post that’s not an in depth look at every song. I’ll try my best though. Let’s start with the multitude of guests on this record. It’s staggering and the various voices force West not only to bring his A game, but it also sets the tone of of unpredictably that finds the listener at every song. Guests like Jay, Rhianna, Raekwon from the 36 Chambers respectfully shows up, as do Rick Ross, Kid Cudi, Nicki Minaj, John Legend, and dark horses like Chris Rock(who’s monologue at the end Blame Game is hilarious and dirty) and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon all show up and give their best in function of West’s vision. An early cut like “All of the Lights” is a triumph of hip hop history, and while I rarely like solo Rhianna, this is another example of how great she is as a guest star. But then you have a song like “Runaway,” which is a nine minute monolith of artist is displays that blows away anything he’s done before or since. The way the track uses the minimal beats early on and grows and build from their is quite simply brilliant musicianship 10. Is recommended listening to this record all the way to fully immerse yourself in the darkness West has composed for us, because it works best as one singular piece as opposed to different tracks for different days. It runs the gamut of musical imagination, and it’s for that reason this stands as the best work of Mr. West's career, so far at least.
I'd also like to announce that starting next week I'll be posting my TOP 100 SONGS SINCE 2000. It will be massive ten part post. Hope you enjoy!
Some bands you listen to and enjoy but they never seem to latch on to you in a personal way. Tame Impala is not one those bands. Since arriving on the scene in 2009 with “Innerspeaker,” the band, which is to say Parker himself, have gradually changed our perceptions of psyche rock and lovelorn melodies that can be at times infectious and daunting in terms of musical I.Q. Today we deliver the ten best tracks from the first three impeccable Tame Impala albums.
10. YES I’M CHANGING, CURRENTS
This track here is the dozy of the whole album. It’s so emotionally open and vulnerable it’s hard not to relate to it merit and depth. For someone going through a devastating end of a relationship (like I was at the time), “Yes I’m Changing” meant the world to me, and was a source of deep comfort, hoping that it would be alright in the end. The story of the song is a familiar one, which helps with relatability. It’s brutally cold and sober, depicting various frames of mind, encompassing the myriad of feelings you go through during a difficult emotional time. The best song off the new album, and the fourth spot on our Best Tame Impala Songs,”Yes I’m Changing.”
9. CAUSE I’M A MAN, CURRENTS
On “Currents” Parker is able to make what’s essentially a psych R&B record, and this is no more obvious than on “Cause I’m a Man.” It’s a slow, tense song about shortcomings, but it’s also one of the more pretty sounding tracks on the entire album. Parker’s voice is raspy yet open and clear, and his production skills on the instrumentation side are at peak conditioning here. It’s a song where his troubles are laid out in clear and concise patterns, and while he mostly takes his actions and consequences seriously, he also has the ability to not let himself take anymore of the blame than he feels responsible for.
8. IT IS NOT MEANT TO BE, INNERSPEAKER
Many songs depict the beach, but few do so in the way Tame Impala manages to convey it in the mind blowing spectrum of noises Parker is able to conjure. Chosen as the first song on the first album, “It’s Not Meant to Be,” feels like you’re on a beach, but not a beautiful beach with the one you love. Rather, this is a song about disagreements. Such disagreements about the pros and cons of sand on your feet, or smoking pot all day. The song, clocking in at nearly five and a half minutes, wilds through lush guitar work, and the drumming is elegant and low key, never willing to overtake the song, but rather nudging the song slightly to perfection.
7. APOCALYPSE DREAMS, LONERISM
Like a sun suddenly appearing in the sky at full strength, “Apocalypse Dreams,” roars into ears and explores the mind of Kevin Parker, and what he’s capable of. The track has this frollicking aspect to it that also renders the song in the best way possible. The lyrics, as well as the vocal harmony Kevin engages evoke some of the best moments of the record, but the real prize doesn’t hit until second half of the song. After the slow strung guitars comes and goes, the track is propelled by the drums, all leading to a bright explosion of energy as the song heads quickly into a sundrenched, mind altering field of sound.
6. ALTER EGO, INNERSPEAKER On early records Parker had to do more with less in terms of production quality, however, that doesn’t stop him from executing a song that can still draw you in. The song itself relies more on the vast musical labyrinth of styles and less of the lyrical aspects, but this is still something Tame can do very well. The lyrics are important, but by the time Parker’s voice comes in you’re already hooked in by the majestic nature of the dense, all surrounding instrumentation. It’s an early sign of what he’s capable of, and thankfully for us he hasn’t lost a single step on subsequent releases.
5. LET IT HAPPEN, CURRENTS
When I first heard this song, honestly, I was not a fan. The music didn’t remind of what had come before, and more dancey, electronic vibe turned me off. Not that it was bad, but it wasn't the Tame I had fallen in love with on the previous two albums. But, after multiple listens, and hearing the album presented in full, it suddenly made sense. This album, and this track especially was Tame Impala opening themselves up and rising in the world of thought provoking music. The success of the albums rides on the popularity of the first track, and “Let it Happen,” with all of its meandering and chasing of holes, comes through in a big way, and shows the band is capable of so much more.
4. MIND MISCHIEF, LONERISM
One of the most polarizing moments for my upon the first listens of this landmark creatively full record was this song, found in the early moments of the album. The music is winding and carefree, but it’s very obvious how much thought went into the process. The lyrics are also cognisant of past loves and the trials of feeling attached to a person who might not even know you exist. It’s my suspicion that Parker is a deep romantic who has struggled with this before and since. It’s a wonderful mid tempo song, and for that reason, it’s included on this countdown.
3. ELEPHANT, LONERISM
There’s so so so much amazing happening in this song it’s hard to figure out a starting point. Obviously, a big part of the song is the fact that it very much lives up to its title. As a track,”Elephant” hurdles through the wild, violently and strongly pushing limits, with full sets of lumbering giants pummeling through whatever gets in its way. The live version also has a wicked cool instrumental section that only elevates the energy of the song. The drum roll through the verses is also brilliantly laid out, while Kevin’s vocals sound as pure and fun as they ever get. The best lines though come toward the end of the bridge, making its way to the song conclusion. The word pay during the segment about pulling off the mirrors of his Cadillac (YEAH!), are some of the best lines in any song I’ve ever heard.
2. FEELS LIKE WE ONLY GO BACKWARDS, LONERISM
For many people, this was the song where they suddenly became aware of the majestic mode of storytelling that Impala lays out. The dinging opening, the lush overlaid guitars and bass, and the minimal but effectiveness of the drumming all make the song one of the best by the band. When Parker bellows the chorus, and various other sections you can grasp and understand the weariness permanent in the song structure. So many of their songs go hand in hand with raw emotion, of guilt, second thoughts, and other feelings that it eventually becomes your song too. It’s amazing, and it’s a song that still gets all the love it deserves.
1. THE LESS I KNOW THE BETTER, CURRENTS
The argument could be made that without this song this record wouldn’t have been nearly the juggernaut it was, and while that may be slightly true, “Current is full to the brim with incredible songs.” However, this song has so much working for it that it’s nearly impossible to ignore. Let’s start with the 70’s stylings on guitar as the depth of the song opens up into a strange disco vibe, but it’s the lyrics that pull you in and embrace you. It’s a sad song that we all can relate to, the moment when your brain syncs in with your heart and you’re aware that the end of whatever you had with a person is over. It’s important to stress that anxiety but also to embrace it in hopes of getting better. Parker’s voice is top notch 100% here, and with this gorgeous balance among his word play and juxtaposition between trying to be free of the pain but also to learn from it, the song is able to transcend all modern music and make a song that you can feel as part of your soul. Thanks for reading!
Among modern rock bands, the Killers, hailing from Las vegas, have been able to stand at the top of the heap since early in their career. With the guiding voice that is Brandon Flowers at the helm, they’ve established themselves as a band that is able to elicit grand visions, even grander vocal range, and the ability to move stadiums of people with their added power behind the drums, guitar and bass powers of Ronnie Vannucci Jr, David Keuning, Mark Stoermer .Enjoy!
10. RUN FOR COVER, WONDERFUL WONDERFUL
The guitars are fast and to the point basically out of the front gate, and with that, another great high energy track by this band is given to the world. Flower’s and his lyrics tinge on political elements that the band isn’t normally known for, but in this desperate current political climate, you find more and more artists standing up and taking note. The cadence he uses and the drums at his back provide even more speed to an exhilarating song. It’s a bright moment on their new album, but there’s plenty more where that came from.
9. WONDERFUL WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL WONDERFUL
Like many artists The Killers haven’t always hit it our the park with every single album, but with the latest record, in my opinion at least they’ve rediscovered their importance. This song, the title and opening track, is something very different than we’re used to hearing. The horns, the tribal drum beats, and of course the smoky vocals of Flowers, slithering through the waves of music surrounding him are all very well timed and placed. It’s a sign that this band is still worth watching and engaging with. It’s one of the best, most unlike themselves songs they’ve ever made, and that's why it makes the list at number nine.
8. FOR REASONS UNKNOWN, SAM’S TOWN
Much of Sam’s Town was wrongly pushed aside, but as the years go on, it’s staggering to see just how good this entire record is. “For Reasons Unknown” is classic Killers in its preparation and delivery, but it also has a sullen, heartbreaking element to it. The music is more uptempo, but the contrast to the lyrics is what stands out the most. The listener can feel the sadness and vulnerability bleeding through the speakers, and it makes you wonder and imagine what choices were wrong, but more importantly, it shows you to keep going and strive for something better.
7. READ MY MIND, SAM’S TOWN
To me “Sam’s Town” was a move done to exemplify their desire to grow beyond how they were perceived during the first album cycle, but there’s way more to it. “Read My Mind” represents the Killers successfully going the route of Springsteen. A track like this has so much to offer. Everything from the Americana aspect prevalent through the song, to the nervous energy of a person going on a date. It’s also a song about regrets, and how little you actually know about what lurks in the brains of the people closest to you. It’s a song that exemplifies middle america without even trying. With this ability to put themselves in a vulnerable mind frame, the song is made that much stronger.
6. TYSON VS DOUGLAS, WONDERFUL WONDERFUL
Some songs just jump out at you from the first listen, and for me “Tyson vs Douglas” represents one of those moments. After one hundred or so listens I still can’t decide if the context of the fight in question is the main factor in the song, or if it's all just metaphor and nuance. Perhaps it's both, but either way it works really well. One of the things this band has never had a problem excelling at is soaring chorus, and here they present one of the best ones they’ve ever written. It’s also a damn fine driving song, and the little guitar part that shines through during the second verse is absolutely great.
5. MY LIST, SAM’S TOWN
This is a tough one for me to write about honesty. For my ex and I, this was one of the first songs we ever experienced together, and it stayed a favorite of ours for the years that followed. “My List” fills a more sorrowful void then nearly any other song in the Killers catalogue, but that’s why it’s such an impressive song. Flowers crooning in regards to his love, his regret, and his optimism of the potential future make this song something truly special. The overarching elements of the song are blatantly clear. This is a man desperate for the ability to do the right thing for his partner, while still staying true to himself. The chorus and crescendo at the end set it even higher up in terms of emotion, and it’s a tool the band uses to amazing effect on our number eight pick, “My List.”
4. RUNAWAYS, BATTLE BORN
Basically this whole list is an after effect of me jamming out incessantly to this song for the last week. As an album, “Battle Born” is easily their least accomplished record, but that says very little about the song in general. Brandon’s vocals are sparingly visible and can easily fill a giant open field with thousands singing his words back to him. Also, I know drumming isn’t a thing the band is mentioned often in regards to, but Vannucci’s skills on “Runaways” nearly steals the show from the vocalist, though they don’t quite get there. Lastly, “Runaways” might be regarded as their best song on their worst album, but it’s an unbelievably strong track, and it ends up at number four on the Top Ten Killers songs.
3. JENNY WAS A FRIEND OF MINE, HOT FUSS
For years I sung these lyrics innocently enough. I don’t know why, but it always seemed to me like a lovelorn song about the end of a relationship,and in many ways that remains true. That is, until you realize the song is more than likely about taking someone’s life. The musical aspects are whirling, bright and darkly optimistic, but the under belly of the song hints at a much darker band than fans bargained for with some of the more pop friendly tracks. It’s an early reminder of how well the quartet can blur lines to convince you a song is about one thing when it’s not even remotely about that, and while “Jenny” in the song met her demise by someone she trusted, we are gifted a wonderful, bombastic song that opened up an album that brought the band to places they never thought possible.
2. WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG, SAM’S TOWN
One of the band’s biggest hits finds us at Number two on the countdown. “When You were Young” details the lessons you learn through hard and good times alike. The music is immediate in a way but balanced enough to still leave room for vocalist Flowers to work his magic. What will tomorrow bring, and how will we handle it is also a topic discussed on the song, but it’s the presentation by the band, who all co-wrote this song, that makes it all the more important. The song always has a great juxtaposition regarding growing up. When we’re young we believe all these things, and we’re able to trust more people, but as we grow older, our bodies and souls are forced to confront the tough facts. There’s not always going to be a wonderful man to sweep you off your feet. It’s actually a really somber track in the way it takes our innocent childhood thoughts and forces those thoughts to come to terms with all the loss, sadness and humility a person learns as they get older and navigate this often cruel, misunderstood world.
1. ALL THESE THINGS THAT I’VE DONE, HOT FUSS
Years ago, during a torrentially bad time for me, “All These Things that I’ve Done” was a liftboat for me. There’s no other way to say this. Talk shit all you want, but this song saved me and reminded me that we all need assistance from time to time. The song opens with a soft piano, ambient background noise, and of course, the trademark voice of swooner Brandon Flowers. During this dark period for myself, I was stubborn, resistant, and in way over my head in terms of how I was dealing with depression, fucked up decisions, and various other things I’ve managed to forget over the course of years. When you’re at that point in your life, and you hear this song, you feel as though the band is speaking to you. It was a perfectly sobering experience to be able to relate to the line “You know you gotta help me out,” and feel as though the song itself was actually playing a part in the betterment of my mental health. For that reason, as well as all the others i’ve named. “All These Things that I’ve Done,” tops the list of the Top Ten Killers songs. Thanks for reading!
Annie Clark as St Vincent has steadily built up quite a name for herself over the course of six albums. She’s gone from indie rock shredding sensation to her current tenure as an electronically driven superstar, capable of filling venues all by her lonesome. She really doesn’t need any backing band at this point, as her recent, brilliant tour proved time and time again. Today I’ll be presenting her top ten songs. I hope you enjoy
10. Champagne Year, Strange Mercy
On Strange Mercy, Clark’s third album, she gets more subdued in terms of energy in spots, but when she wants to turn it down a notch and create a song that's as ethereal and hazy, it’s well worth the listen. “Champagne Year,” nestled in the middle of the record, showcases the atmospheric qualities of St. Vincent, but it’s also slightly melancholy and honest in a way that lures you in. It’s like a memory filled with distant recollections, and in the end, the listener is unsure of whether they were even on hand for the events going through their minds.
9. Masseduction, MASSEDUCTION
On “MASSEDUCTION,” both the album and this title track, Clark abandons her more alternative rock vibes in favor of a more synth, electronically heavy concept, to rousing success. Her voice here is ferocious and wanting, not in the mood for the listener to casually sway their hips. She’s thirsty for power, and it’s a testament to the female prowess that sets this record and it’s stylings apart from the glossy, candy wrapped modern pop. Except, it is modern pop, but done in a way that puts it well above the curve in terms of what is popular or carefully packaged idols in the mainstream.
8. Save Me From What I Want, Actor
Many of the tracks delivered on her records are both sublime and billowy in terms of depth and soundscapes. It’s like day drinking, feeling slightly faded, as the sun blasts your sunglassed face. It’s romantic but also not a pushover. On “Save Me,” from her second record “Actor” St. Vincent interchanges her sultry, cautious vocals with a forceful yet not in your face drum beat. It’s that cautiousness that makes the track all the more appealing, and while it could be described as a call begging for help, it’s more of inner cry for help, as Annie struggles to overcome the tense atmosphere of a cruel world.
7. Actor out of Work, Actor
One of the few intensely upbeat tracks from her whole discography, “Actor Out of Work” is a giant middle finger to her enemies who strive to shut her ideals down, but it’s also an intensely empowering song. The beats and energy here are impeccable and can virtually stand on their own, but it’s the vocals and chaos surrounded by the drums that guitar that make the song the fist pumping anthem it was meant to be. The ending breakdown is something to behold, especially when experienced in a live setting, and it’s for this reason the track finds itself at number seven on the countdown.
6. Chloe in the Afternoon, Strange Mercy
With “Chloe in the Afternoon,” the album’s beginning truly finds its starting point in a way that’s expressly Clark’s doing, The roughness of the guitar bleeding through and making a puddle under your feet, on top of the jingly qualities that keep it entrenched in a place not completely dark, ultimately makes the song a strong companion and lead in for the rest fo the album. Her vocals are able to be lovely and smooth, while also projecting a dark undertone that whispers the next unsure movements of an artist that is ready to excel, even if she’s not sure what the end result will be.
5. Birth in Reverse, St. Vincent
As i’ve mentioned before, this album was truly the first step towards what St. Vincent became with “MASSEDUCTION,” but it still stands on it’s own to feet with full competence and potency. “Birth in Reverse” speaks of the struggle of knowledge in terms of our country’s backward thinking logic, but it also stands as warning shot for all the naysayers who want to believe this type of music can outlast anything in terms of quality. It’s true though. Everything from the murmurings of the synthesizer to the immediacy provided by Clark’s vocals, not to mention her signature guitar breakdown towards the climax, put this song as a turning point for when Clark truly became reckless, dangerous, and truly empowering for fans of bands who truly risk it all for a new, career defining sound.
4. Cheerleader, Strange Mercy
The opening plucks of the guitar on “Cheerleader” only briefly dip into the darkness that's provided by the ominous vocals, but by the time the chorus kicks in, you get the full scope of pain and torment behind the classic song. It’s an anthem for “stupid” girls everywhere who think brains are something that us men simply don’t want. Many females believe this is the way, but in this ultimate fuck you to that construct, Clark smashes that notion and paves her own way to a beautiful, self relying notion that she simply “Doesn’t want to be a cheerleader no more.” It’s a beautiful sentiment about saying to hell with what a different gender thinks you should be, and making yourself the string individual that you want to be.
3. Los Ageless, MASSEDUCTION
Everything about this sonically heavy song, which finds its place at number two in the Top Ten St. Vincent tracks, screams tearing down the walls that hold our culture back. It’s about fighting back, but it’s chorus also touches on that insane type of fixation where a person truly believes they couldn’t be happy if they weren’t with one particular person. It sorta comes off as stalkery, but those moments aren’t force fed through the entire track. It’s almost Dystopian in themes, such as depicting guitar playing ladies forced into cages, but it’s such an aggressive song that it’s easy to not dwell on the lyrics being presented. It’s easily the best exposition on the record, and everything from the vocals, the echoes, the blast beats at the forefront,and the minimal beats you hear faintly, all drive the song to excellence.
2. Digital Witness, St. Vincent
The trumpets, alongside the buoyancy of the opening moments tell you a lot of what you can expect from this fun filled track, but there’s much under the surface that only shows itself upon multiple listens. It’s one of the best tracks on the self titled album, but it also showed that Clark has nearly no problem balancing different style in the same track. It has a very danceable quality to it, but it’s also pushes the bounds of what alternative rock could be, if you can even call it that. This song has been a popular stand out among myself and the people i know, but in the end it deserves it’s number two spot because it’s just a great fucking song. It’s energetic in tone, upfront in attitude, and dishonest in no way shape or form. At the end of the day, it’s an artist trying something outside of her comfort zone, and truly coming into her own as an artist worth watching, and loving.
1. Year of the Tiger , Strange Mercy
This is likely to raise some eyebrows for it’s placement, but since early upon in working on this year, this was the clear cut number one. It’s qualities include, but aren’t limited to it’s subtlety in terms of vocal range, it’s subject matter, but also the dreamlike regret that permeates through it’s length. Her voice never gets immediate, instead opting for a patient walk towards its goal. The musical nature of the song weaves in and out from soothing background in the opening moments to a more dense sounding production as the song veers to it’s closing finale. It works all the better as it’s placed as the very last song of this sublime, transformative record. It’s a song that’s not an obvious choice, but when all the moving parts work so well together, it’s hard to ignore it’s strengths and it power, especially when you’re left contemplating the silence that follows its brilliance. Thanks for reading!
For many music festival lovers, the start of a new year is one of excitement. In other words, the collective world gets to look finally at the lineups hundreds of festivals have been working on for months. Today we’re going to gloss over some of the most interesting bills, the good or bad, the issues facing modern fests, and where to go from here.
First up we have what is widely considered the best of the American Fests (We’ll be mostly covering those today), Coachella. For years the Indio, CA juggernaut has been known for awe-inspiring bands and unmatched moments. For christ-sakes, Daft Punk’s revolutionary set haphazardly led to the EDM craze full of insane productions but nearly nothing in terms of substance (Skrillex, Deadmau5, Calvin Harris and various others we’re trying to forget still come to mind), but lately the lineups have been veering further and further away from what made them so interesting to begin with. Some of this is sure to be caused by the varying degrees in which people are choosing more hip hop influenced and dance acts over rock music, but it’s almost as if Goldenvoice, who produces Coachella, purposely went out of their way to avoid rock bands mostly as a whole. Over the vast lineup of artists, there’s some solid rock bands, but in no way is there an even mix of demographics. More puzzling than anything though is the dramatic order of the billing among the three days and their choices for headliners.
Sure Beyonce is currently the Queen of Pop music, but at a festival known for hosting amazing songwriters, it’s an odd choice. Solange, who writes all her own songs and isn’t able to afford a team of writers would have been better, but she’d in no way move the number of tickets her sister will. Beyonce will shine, and likely make history, but whether that will go down as the beginning of the end for an alternative music festival remains to be seen. The other two headliners though, aren’t nearly as exciting as they would have been a year ago and 10 years ago, respectively. The Weeknd is still touring off his tamest and uninteresting album, while Enimen hasn’t had a great album since I was 23, which feels so much longer ago than it was. His new albums have all been regarded as being far short of the greatness he touched during his first four albums, and he’s headlining multiple other festivals that have already been announced, which doesn’t do anything in terms of making it a special moment.
One of the biggest issues, as I mentioned earlier, is the billing order. Now that isn’t to demean or put down the talents of any of the bands I’m about to mention, just specifically ordering in terms of visibility. Sza and Kygo on day one over St. Vincent, with Jamiroquai in between is leaving me vexed for one. Like, “Virtual Insanity” is a solid gold track, but who’s really excited about this? And who can name literally any other song by that band? Maybe it’s just me. The bigger issue for me though comes on Saturday, which sees the barely one hit wonder of the Haim sisters second billed over the perennial alternative star and creator of the Talking Heads, also known as David Byrne. By my account these girls are known for decent albums, being sisters, friends with Taylor Swift, and little else. After seeing them a few years ago at Bonnaroo, I swore never again, but maybe it’s just me once again. I’m clearly out of touch with the kids these days, but with choices like that I can’t say I feel bad about it.
One lineup so far has been excellent though. That festival, Atlanta’s Shaky Knees has, over the course of five previous years, been steadily becoming a can't miss for music fans. The lineups have consistently bordered on brilliant and imaginative. In terms of festivals, they’ve taken the less is more approach of sticking to mostly rock oriented bands who mixed many different genres into one singular bill full of amazing bands. 2018 is no different. Starting at the top with Jack White, Queens of the Stone Age and the National is exceptional, but there’s much more beyond the stacked top three. Once again Byrne shows up, but so do Tenacious D, as does Courtney Barnett, whose sure to deliver her signature rock mixed with nonsensical lyrics, and many others, among them Japandroids, the Black Angels and countless others.
I have a rule when deciding on festivals. If I can find 30 bands I’m interesting in seeing, I try to do it. Among the Coachella lineup there’s certainly more than at Shaky (39 and 32 respectively) but the cost of festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo tend to outweigh the thrills of going.
Which brings us to what was once a landmark when it came to eastern seaboard festivals. When I first went to ‘Roo I felt enveloped by the happiness and joy among my peers. Honestly I imagined this becoming my yearly getaway from the world. It was that amazing. But as the years went on, the lineups became more and more predictive and well, uninspiring. Lineups including Tool, Sigur Ros, the final Beastie Boys show, Paul McCartney, and a multitude of others dwindled away to where we are now, with a lineup whose top three consists of Eminem, Muse and The Killers. Two of those are subjectively great bands, but in a year where Eminem is playing more fests than anyone would have thought possible, and The Killers sharing the bill with him at at least four of these, it begs the question, where’s the originality? Again this leads to a natural conversation about the bursting of the festival scene. All of these fests started out as mostly independent, but with success brings corporate greed and a homogenized state of affairs. Coachella has gone the way of a pop fest where it’s more about being seen than seeing bands, and Roo is being smooshed among all the others in a desperate bid to stay relevant, which leads to easy bookings. My point though, is that it should be the opposite. LiveNation, C3, and others are partially to blame. Big corps tend to think in broad terms, but when it comes to music and festivals that’s never worked, or been a good idea. You go to these events for the special nature, to see bands you can’t just see on any random day, but that seems to be getting lost.
That’s why Shaky Knees is doing as well as they are. Sure they have repeats from the others, but the devil lies in the details. There’s a ton of bands in the shaky lineup that aren’t appearing at the other majors, and ultimately that’s what draws people like to me to that fest in particular. If you look at some of the Europeans festivals, the game is always changing and it’s always diverse. Take Mad Cool for example. With a staggering lineup of Depeche Mode, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Queens, Tame Impala, and Massive Attack it demonstrates how massive and diverse fests across the pond are compared to homeland festivals. My point is, why aren’t these bands showing up at any of the U.S. events. Of course you could factor in availability or a reluctance, but when you look at Mad Cool compared to the others mentioned, you get bummed when comparing the quality.
In closing, yes the festival market of our great United States is dying, perhaps it needs to. Fest after fest with vastly similar bills is killing the uniqueness of our festivals and if this isn’t the moment where the bubble explodes, I’m afraid to see what comes after. To stay relevant you have to be better at booking, and getting stale acts like Eminem and various others isn’t the way to go. maybe I’m just so far out of the loop that I’ve lost sight of what’s relevant, but when you have bands like Sza, Migos and Bassnectar filling up spots that used to held by a reunion like the Pixies and Portishead, clearly something is amiss. Thanks for reading!
In the last few years, there's been a rumbling from Australia, by way of future Prog Rock pioneers King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. This band is interesting, and early albums such “Quarters,” and “Nonagon Infinity” helped set the stage for what would be a hard task to pull off. Sure, it’s not as difficult to keep up with the pace they set early on (eight albums in five years), but when they announced early last year that they planned to unveil five albums in one calendar year, many people were skeptical. As one myself, it not only seemed highly unlikely, but it also brought into my thinking the notion of how much the quality of each album wouldn’t be up to snuff. Even Future, whose released multiple albums in a year more than once, can’t quite keep up the quality on various releases.
That brings us to the start of 2017. For those wondering, this won’t be an in depth critique of all of the albums, but more of a general glossing over of the features and sounds King Gizzard demonstrated on these releases. In February, the seven piece featuring Stu Mackenzie, Ambrose Kenny Smith, Joey Walker, Cook Craig, Lucas Skinner, Michael Cavanagh, and Eric Moore unveiled the first of five, titled “Flying Microtonal Banana,” and well, it sounded like previous releases, but one song in particular stuck out, helped in no short way to the utterly weird and fun video. The track, simply called “Rattlesnake,” explored the more psych prog rock fans had become accustomed to. To note, this music isn’t for everyone, and often times takes a more challenged music fan to fully appreciate the weirdness transparent in everything King Gizzard does. My girlfriend for one, is not a fan, but you can’t win them all. This was followed up a few months later in June by what’s essentially one long jam session strewn through 21 tracks.That record, “Murder of the Universe” is as fun of a record to listen to as the name indicates. It’s a wild ride for sure, but the cohesiveness of the entire album makes it easy to not only listen all the way through, but the length of the tracks help tremendously. It’s a dense album to be exposed to, but clocking in at under fifty minutes it’s able to not overwhelm you like a traditional 21 song album, like many rappers and producers have become accustomed to. For the record, this type of album, where the septet has one solid idea that mushrooms into various areas, sees the band at the height of chaotic brilliance. I find the albums that have individual songs not as easy listening, but when there’s no break in the action, they’re a much more enjoyable band as a whole.
Many themes are presented throughout “Murder,” having featured everything from a storyline about a robot in a new digital world as his conscience comes full circle in his ability to control, to a story about discovering a monstrous “Altered Beast.” It’s weird as fuck, but challenging and thoughtful art sometimes is. Then in August of last year, the band once again changed course drastically with their third record titled “Sketches of Brunswick,” which heavily features a much slower, free jazz fusion sound permeating the album. It’s a gorgeously textured album that makes it hard to imagine it being the same band, but even in this role, they showcase another layer of what they’re capable of. Recorded and written alongside the “Mild High Club,” this album is perfect for sunny days near the ocean, with not a care in the world. It’s certainly their least intense album, but it’s beautiful and relaxed, unforced in every possible way. People may not enjoy this band, but you simply can't say that they’re one dimensional. King Gizzard seems pushed to defy the notions that the public has set for them, and as a music lover, you can’t ask anything more of a band willing to test and evolve with relative ease.
Forth coming down the line finds King Gizzard going back to the idea of a long track in the forms of a jam of sorts with “Polygondawanaland,” The shortest of the five, running at 43 minutes covering ten tracks, this record finds the band finding a mellow center in between the sounds of “Murder” and “Sketches.” The opening song “Crumbling Castle,” is a mythological heightened song is the visions portrayed, but from their the band expounds on their technique. Featuring meandering time signatures and ancient notions, it’s another solid listen for anyone who’s a fan of the band. Finally though, we come to the bands fifth and final album of the year. Released only right before the end of the year, “”Gumboot Soup,” is way more accessible in sections, but it’s also more in tune with pretty sounding folk rock with an element of strange mixed into the contents on others. Now I must say, only two songs show up on Spotify for some reason, but they bring everything back into what falls under the wide influence of capabilities the band has shown to possess. That being said, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, even if you’re not a fan, accomplished something astonishing and successful on their five album year. Nearly all of the releases are solid and thoughtful, and while they all sound like the same band, you’re never bored and unfazed when you check them out. They literally have a different mood on each album, and when a band can grow that much and still not sound like complete shit in the process, I believe their experiment was a success. What 2018 holds for the band is unclear, but these releases certainly make for a much deserved break, or at the very least, super interesting shows that could be focused on one particular album or a wild diverse mix of sounds. Well done King Gizzard, you’ve just shown yourself to be one of, if not the hardest working band in music right now. Congrats to the band, and thank you for reading!
As we get to the last of our end of year countdowns, it’s time to present the Top Twenty albums of 2017. Among this list you’ll find rock, metal, hip hop and many other configurations of genres. All these records were awesome and while many worthy records didn’t make the cut, these twenty five do a great job of showcasing the best sounds of the year. Enjoy!
BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE: HUG OF THUNDER
PORTUGAL. THE MAN: WOODSTOCK
MOSES SUMNEY: AROMANTICISM
THE XX: I SEE YOU
20. WOLF PARADE: CRY CRY CRY
After a lengthy hiatus, the foursome of Krug, Boeckner, DeCaro, and Thompson, released a record that’s just as good, if not better than what they delivered before taking time away from the industry. The album is at moments sinister, upbeat and eclectic, and further elevates their craft to a very interesting level. Hopefully they’ll stick around for more, because “Cry Cry Cry” is a record old and new fans alike can get behind.
19. PHOEBE BRIDGES: STRANGER IN THE ALPS
One of the loneliest sounding albums on the list finds us out the gate at number nineteen. Bridges sulks hazardously and openly about her struggles with depression and anxiety for our future using nothing more than her soft voice and eloquent guitar. It’s a tough album to get into and it forces you to examine your life in a different rear view. A remarkable record great for just you and your thoughts.
18. THE NATIONAL: SLEEP WELL BEAST
After so long, a total of seven albums now under their belt, the National are changing. However, some things stay the same. Matt Berninger in the vocal role maintains his sullen depression and agony while the brothers Dessner still maintain a tight sync with each other. New elements such a more synth heavy sound, and more speedy songs like “Day I Died” alongside the velocity of “Turtleneck” all add this new exciting energy to the band. The last record wasn’t anything remarkable, but I think on this one the National are back to the core and have accelerated into entirely new terrain.
17. JAPANESE BREAKFAST: SOFT SOUNDS FROM ANOTHER PLANET
Michelle Zauner as Japanese Breakfast is able to get sensual, and sexual with minimal effort, and it never seems like it’s being forced. From early on during her second album in two years, you can sense her lyrics and instrumentation are open to new routes of exploration. I haven’t heard the first record yet, but that’s mostly because of the aroma “Soft Sounds” gives off. It’s great for a lazy day at the house, or for a easy bike ride through the park, with only you and the energy of the day. If you haven’t dove in, you should, it’s some good stuff.
16. THE WAR ON DRUGS: A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING.
While the Adam Granduciel led War on Drugs has been gradually getting more and more traction with each release, on “A Deeper Understanding” the band ventures beyond their comfort zone. The result? A strong fourth album that is sure to lead to bigger pay days and more acclaim and acknowledgement. Listened to in a single listen, the ten songs join to make a cohesive album that’s filled with intricate musical arrangements and honest, personal lyrics that shine a light even more on the depth of the band.
15. GRIZZLY BEAR: PAINTED RUINS
It seems like every few years, another chapter in the vastly organic Grizzly Bear albums comes out, and Ed Droste, along with Dan Rossen, Chris Taylor, and Christopher Bear have somehow refined their sound even more than in the past. Songs like “Morning Sound,” perfectly paint a picture of the depth that the foursome are capable of. There’s not a bad song on the record, which helps to clear the way in a more cohesive style. They keep doing it, and I’m sure in a few years, they will have grown even more. For now, the Bear is hibernating, and touring.
14. NINE INCH NAILS: ADD VIOLENCE
This time last year, Reznor and Ross as nine inch nails released part one of a trilogy of Ep’s. This year we got this excellent new breath of fresh air with “Add Violence.” From the opening moments of “Less Than,” Reznor delves into experimentation after experimentation. “This isn’t the Place” is a unique beauty of eeriness, but the complex, descending nature of “The Background World” showcases Reznor’s rang as a vocalist, but also some of the craziest beats and noise he’s ever concocted.
13. SPOON: HOT THOUGHTS
I first heard this band over a decade ago, when they appeared on the Conan O’Brien show, and honestly I wasn’t impressed at all. However, the moment finally came for my understanding during the exciting, and varied sounds of “Hot Thoughts.” I’ve heard from longtime fans that they didn’t enjoy the album, so maybe everything got flipped on its head in terms of how far they pushed themselves. Lead single and title track has, for good reason been all over the radio for the last months, and other songs like “WhisperI’lllistentohearit” are minimally gothically inspired, with a dark undertone trying to get through the more beats driven sections of the song. This is repeated multiple times on the record and ultimately adds to the individuality of the Austin Texas based band.
12. FEIST: PLEASURE
When Leslie Feist releases an album you’re never quite sure which Feist will be showing herself to the world. Her first solo album “The Reminder” was an elegant, emotionally vulnerable but upbeat album, while “Metals’ fell flat with hard edges and a certain incoherent nature. However, with her amazing “Pleasure,” it seems as though she’s going back to her softly sung variance of folk rock. Even a song like “Any Party” has a down home ho-hum to it that makes it exciting, like something you’d hear in a western drama in the 60’s. “Century” featuring Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker is rustic in all the best ways a Feist song can be, joining another great track in the form of “Pleasure,” which for my money steals the entire album, which lands at number twelve on the Top Twenty Albums of 2017.
11.CONVERGE: THE DUSK IN US
It’s reassuring when a band of twenty plus years is still capable of making some of the best aggressive music around. Massachusetts natives Converge seem delighted and exposed as they venture through their ninth record. Openers like”A Single Tear,” tear open your awareness, while slow burning, cathartic tracks like the title track show just how much thought and emotion Bannon and Ballou and company have in their engine, ready to spew forth. Bannon’s voice is the driving force, but the storm enveloping everything else only adds to his deliberate moment of truth.
10. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM: AMERICAN DREAM
When a band comes back from a breakup, or whatever it was that LCD did a few years ago, you never quite know what the end result will be. In this case, we got a record that easily matches the eclectic wave that James Murphy and company found early in their career. All of the songs featured on “American Dream” weave and wind like before, but there’s a far amount of experimentation happening for the NYC Electro Punk pioneers. “I used to” rolls through a jungle cautiously yet focused on its end point, while “how do you sleep?” shines bright like a fire in a far off country, isolated by darkness and joy. After each album I wonder where this band can go, and each time they surprise but never disappoint. Let the second phase of LCD Soundsystem continue, and get excited for whatever result we’re treated with.
9. SAMPHA: PROCESS
This has been quite the year for the silky smooth voice and piano murmurings of Sampha Sisay, or just Sampha for short. From the early moments of his excellent “Process,” Sampha narrates a beautifully downtrodden song, but it doesn’t end with opener “Plastic 100* C.” in fact the emotional intensity only gets harder to work through, but it’s in those moments where his beauty soars through turmoil. The record to me harkens back to the distinct sounds of Joanna Newsom, Bjork or other musicians who have embraced the harp in recent years. It’s wonderfully pretty, and makes you want to share your emotional energy with the world after you get through a listen of the entirety of the record. If this is his high note, then later albums might suffer, but if this is Sampha just getting started, heart flutters and excitement be damned, because this could get very interesting.
8. FLEET FOXES: CRACK UP
I’ve been a fan since the early days, the “Sun Giant Ep” days, and it’s remarkable how much Robin Pecknold and company have grown into a beautiful, majestic creature that only shows it’s face for small amounts of time. “Crack Up” is no exception. From the early moments of the unisonally song “I am All That I Need…” you’re welcomed into the arms of a soothing voice and harmonic hymns that it’s impossible not to get swept up in the mess of things. Over the course of the eleven song record, you watch in awe as Pecknold and the rest of his Fleet Foxes spread their wings and build a world of music jumbled into something tangible and gorgeously layered. At this point, I’m happy with the amount of output these guys have, because every album has been immaculate, and i expect that trend to continue.
7. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE: VILLAINS
Can this band make a bad album? The short answer, no. The long answer has to do with the gestation, growing period. Once again joining forces with Van Leuvan and welcoming John Theodore on his first record playing drums with the band, Queens take a chance and succeeds with producer Mark Ronson, and with this fresh air coming through, Homme and the other Queens are able to make it lighter to handle in some areas, while turning up the aggression and volume, sometimes during the same song, like what they accomplish on “The Evil has Landed.” It’s another reminder of how truly wonderful this band is, and why they’re still very much at the top of the rock n roll heap. If you think I’m wrong, just listen to “Head Like a Haunted House,” and tell me this isn’t classic QOTSA mixed with a little something extra.
6. FEVER RAY: PLUNGE
After nearly nine years, Karin Dreijer Andersson has returned to her Knife alter ego Fever Ray. This album, simply, is astounding and astonishing, much different form the first, but still pushing the boundaries of overt sexually that she so vehemently defends. This is a Pro- Woman Pro-Sex type albums, and Karin eats the narrative up, all sensual like. It’s refreshing that in this day and age, with all the sexual turmoil happening over and over again in various sections of the world that a woman can make a record as unapologetically overt in it’s sexuality. Upbeat tracks like “IDK About You” only add to the casual vibe prevalent through the record. It’s fun, sexy, graphic, and it only adds to the allure of one half of the Knife, Karin.
5. KENDRICK LAMAR: DAMN
Simply put, this shit is fire. Raised in the house of Dre and Snoop and gradually elevating himself to form a beast of his own creation, Kendrick Lamar is the without a doubt the most important solo rapper currently releasing music. If the also excellent “To Pimp a Butterfly” was Lamar’s presenting his ideas in a powerful, anti-authority warning shot, then “Damn” is the back up to that which sees Lamar signaling how far he’s willing to push his ideas to get what he wants, while opening the eyes of naysayers who simply dismiss rap as bullshit music not worthy of the bright lights of the best musicians unafraid to display their beliefs. It’s both booty bouncing music and protest music in a singular “fuck you” to all the enemies who are trying to destroy everything they see as unfit. With Kanye still doing something somewhere, and Jay Z having drifted even further from authentic rapper to “Look at how awesome it is to be Mr. Beyonce,” Lamar is the truth teller we all need.
4. LORDE: MELODRAMA
It’s rare for a major breakout star to have two albums as authentic and awesome as Lorde’s first two records have been. From the dimly light but gradually brightening opening of “Green Light,” you accept that not only has she grown as person, but her art has turned a corner to an intersection of brave honesty and smarts, and someone with a good enough x-factor that she somehow is big in circles ranging from indie to electronic fans to teenie boppers. A song like “Writer in the Dark” has all the brutal honesty to tackle a subject that we’ve all struggled with. It’s a song about life’s challenges and the difficulty of family. But it’s in that song that her true potential is burning to come out even more. Dave Grohl is right I think, when he mentioned Lorde as the future of alternative music. “Melodrama” has everything you’ll love, and more you'll grow to love with repeated listens.
3. RUN THE JEWELS: RTJ3
Ok so first things first. RTJ3 was suddenly released on everyone the day after Christmas last year, but it makes it onto this list mostly because of how close it was to 2017, but also because of the physical release, which was actually this year. Anyway onto the music, and well it’s another home run for the supergroup featuring Killer Mike and El-P, and they spare no expense to give us another near perfect record. It tackles quite a few tough lingering issues, including corruption of the highest order, the propensity of white police officers killing black people of various shapes and sizes, and the loss of friends and complacency in this hazardous world and country we’re currently living in. After all that though, this is still a record that allows you to have fun some of the time and dance your conflicted brain away. “Talk to Me,” is a siren for awareness, while “Panther like a Panther” is a filthy song with dirty, highly sexual lyrics(after all it’s still hip hop.) It’s a perfect record all around, and as the album closes with the one two punch of guests like Kamasi Washington Zack de la Rocha, it’s hard to brush this collection aside. All hail RTJ, they are the future storm of the rap world. My prediction: we haven’t seen anything yet.
2. BLACK ANGELS: DEATH SONG
This one for me is a long time coming in terms of getting around to. I’ve seen them three times, but never got into their studio albums. Until this year, when my roommate had them on and i was transfixed. “Death Song” is their fifth albums, and it’s as slow, doomladen and methodical as all the other ones, judging by what i’ve heard live. “Currency” brings the album to a heavy stepped opening, but from there they have many songs that captivate you. Songs like “I’d Kill for her,” “Estimate,” and the album closing explosion that is “Life Song” all tie into one messy but calm record that is sure to make you think about your past, present and future. It’s just one of those albums that can be enjoyed with one or two people around, but you all need to listen closely, or all the most interesting parts will blend into the background.
1. ST. VINCENT: MASSEDUCTION
From the early moments of this years number one, you get the distinct impression that Annie Clark is defying space and time. Her rock hard guitar has melted into a electro-rock aroma that is now fully filling her cup. It’s seductive in a “I won’t be ignored” way, but it’s very provocative in its delivery, which only helps to put even more ideas and music and concept in the brain of the listener. It’s a difficult listen at first, mostly due to how different it is compared to previous albums, but on listen after lister it installs itself as a powerful, evocative listen. Once you get to “Masseduction” the song, you’re already well aware of how different and energizing this neo-pop renaissance is. It’s a dangerous record for a world that needs to have different experiences shoved in faces, but it never worries you that it might go off the rail. With each album Clark is able to create a different scenario than anything else in alternative music. She’s a guitar god with a beautifully willful voice. She periodically changes her persona and adds another shimmering example of what a challenging artist pushing different views of morality, secuality, power, and the hunger to succeed. Think of her a Madonna type, able to contort and show different sides of herself with each new interpretation, except here Clark is actually writing the lyrics and music, which is something I doubt Madonna has done in a very long time. The Best album of 2017, “MASSEDUCTION,” by St. Vincent. Thanks for reading!
As we begin our second installment for the end of the year, we delve into the top ten songs that made life a little easier to enjoy. Some of these artist will show up again for our Top Twenty albums, but all of these songs are memorable for their own reasons. This list is filled with anthems, ballads about walking through darkness and various other emotions that all help to provoke the listener in a positive way. Without adding anything further, here we go with the ten best tracks of the year. Enjoy!
10. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, THE EVIL HAS LANDED, VILLIANS
Homme and company has always been known as a thinking man's rock band, intent with pushing the limits of their sound, but on “The Evil has Landed,” we get a little mix of the funky new Queens, intertwined with the chunky, thumpy guitar elements of their early tracks. The delivery is spot on and full of gusto, and only sees that raw attitude and swagger grow and exceed it’s space by the end of the song. It’s a slow, guitar filled ride, but as the song concludes it implodes in a flurry of drums, guitar, and pure swagger that only QOTSA is capable of delivering.
9. ST. VINCENT, SUGARBOY, MASSEDUCTION
Like a dangerous synth and knife party, Annie Clark, aka St. vincent, delivers a in your face, frantic track called “Sugarboy” in the early moments of her excellent new album, “Masseduction.” Many of the songs are top notch, but this track stands out so much because of how different it is compared to anything else she’s produced on her previous records. It’s scary and intimidating, and reaffirms the belief that Clarke is without a doubt one of the most exciting acts of recent years, and if she keeps releasing challenging albums and tracks like this, there’s no limit to how important and popular she can become.
8. NINE INCH NAILS, THIS ISN’T THE PLACE, ADD VIOLENCE
Over the last thirteen months as Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have slowly delivered two EPs, each similar in theme but different in musical attributes, they’ce delivered one of the best tracks not only of the year, but one of the most consistently good songs they’ve released. “This isn’t the Place” is a dark road, ominous with overhead lights and fog during the evening hours. Reznor’s voice creeps in, and in that moments he’s apprehensive, but sure of himself in a way only he can deliver. It’s really shiver inducing in that way. Both EPs (“Not the Actual Events,” and “Add Violence”) are solid and enjoying, but this track shines over all the other parts.
7. THE KILLERS, TYSON VS DOUGLAS, WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL
A song you may have missed on this album, but a song that also happens to elicit an amazing response once it envelops you. It’s fast paced, eye opening, and soaring in a way that only the Killers from Las Vegas are capable of doing with very little issue. The chorus is in your face, and sees Brandon Flowers letting his voice reach even the darkest corners. It all revolves around the faithful night “Iron” Mike was dethroned, but beyond that you get a song full of energy and regret. It’s one of the band’s best songs in years, and for it lands on the top half of the countdown.
6. PORTUGAL.THE MAN, FEEL IT STILL, WOODSTOCK
For the longest time I didn’t get these guys. Finally at Shaky Knees, upon realizing that this song was them?!, I was hooked. This track is a more hip hop infused track than they’ve been known for, but it’s awesome so it doesn’t really matter. It’s fun, and it’s varied appeal across multiple types of radio stations has shown that people still love a track with a good beat and high energy vocals. It still gets played in my car or house pretty often, which always helps to brighten a mood. It’s a great one if you haven’t heard.
5. KESHA, PRAYING, RAINBOW
Not that I was ever a fan of her before this record and song, but you simply can’t ignore a track this important, especially at a time like this. I won’t go into details that we likely all know at this point, but for the first time Kesha is actually using her voice for powerful, inciteful comments on her struggles to prove she had more to showcase than the typical dumb pop music she was known for before this song rightfully flooded the airwaves. For her anguish, and her treatment, and her resentment at how she’s been treated, she deserves this one.
4. KENDRICK LAMAR, HUMBLE, DAMN
Has any solo rapper had as much success in terms of brilliant song writing in the last five years as Lamar has? I’m not sure of that, but if Kendrick keeps making blistering tracks like “Humble,” then he’s already cemented his place in modern rap history. The rhymes elicited are fire to your ears, and the beat it grimey and gangster enough to make people of various colors join in while the enjoy top level rap music. Every track on the album is killer, but for the purposes of this countdown, “Humble” is here to represent the continued brilliance and excitement that Lamar delivers routinely.
3. LORDE,WRITER IN THE DARK, MELODRAMA
One of the most sorrowful songs of the year finds the list at number three. In “Writer in the Dark,” Lorde give a narrative that’s not only tragic song in terms of its theme, but it also seems to be Lorde’s lament about how insane this current climate is. It’s more poignant and introspective than nearly any other song on her still excellent “Melodrama,” but it sit nestled nicely along with the other highs she reaches. When she bellows “I find a way to be without you babe,” you feel her pain and anger over everything that’s happened in her life, while still not going into graphic personal detail. That metaphorical passion is one that pushes the song to excellence.
2. THE BLACK ANGELS, I'D KILL FOR HER, DEATH SONG
I‘m not sure what about this song drew me in, but I’m happy it did. It’s spooky from the opening drums beats, and as soon and the vocals of Christian Bland meld into the atmosphere, this song takes off in a haze of nighttime glory. The guitars glisten and portray dark intentions throughout the duration, but the real treasures are the lyrics. Being seduced by a witch of sorts, or maybe just an evil person, is always a great basis for a song, but the way the angels do it, your excitement is standing right near to your fear about what awaits you. It’s a big moment early in the album, and it finds its spot as the second best song of the year. Great for an evening bike riding.
1. RUN THE JEWELS, A REPORT TO THE SHAREHOLDERS/ KILL YOUR MASTERS, RUN THE JEWELS 3
Honestly, take your pick at your favorite track from this album and it would still stand a chance at landing on this year’s list. For me though, the finale of their nearly perfect “RTJ3” stands as the best song of the year. It’s eye opening in a way that makes your resent that fact that songs like this have to be created in the first place. It’s a track full of resentment in regards to our lopsided thought process, our issues with the little guy still fighting for his increasingly small cut. At its heart though, it’s a call to arms for everyone to stand up and be heard. The song is essentially two independent pieces out together to make one lengthy, sobering track, but they sync together in a way that makes it fluid and invigorating. The lyrics delivered from Mike, El, and special guest Zack De la Rocha all make “A Report to the Shareholders/ Kill Your Masters” my top rated song of the year. Listen, learn, and most importantly enjoy. These guys are hopefully just getting started.
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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