There are moments when a certain collection of music comes into your life and mixes itsinspiration with the nature of your soul. For me, this is true of the second album by Tame Impala,”Lonerism.” It’s has this perfect spectrum to it. For that reason we’re going to be discussing the valuable and timeless album of my life, “Lonerism” by Kevin Parker, aka Tame Impala.
One essential component that never changes in the world of Tame Impala is the process of making the actual music. Entirely done by Parker, it offers thoughtful observations into his psyche. Does he prefer doing everything himself, or does he just feel like he can better get the ideas out in his own time and journey? It’s hard to say and while both arguments could possibly be valid, I think the end results justify the means. This guy doesn’t make bad music, and on “Lonerism” you can see a more clear picture of a musical genius emerging from the background.
It all starts with the whirling, hazy yet fluttering opening of “Be Above It.” Being the first song on any record is important, as it sets the tone and stage for what’s to come. I imagine this track being made from an amalgamation of the other ideas, after they’ve been put into a blender to make something that’s colorful and full of energy. The best never changes or diverges from its early beginnings, but rather expands in density and thickness as all the beats are explored and brought into one harmonious rhythm section.
The whirlwind, psychedelic elements only start on “Above It,” but when you hear Parker’s voice creep in over the musical section of “Enders Toi,” you know the first track was only the musical representation of going up a roller coaster, waiting for the actual adventure to begin. Parker lets the music do the talking more than the scattered vocals, but it allows the music to breathe properly, which in turn makes the song better. By the time the thumping drum beat of “Apocalypse Dreams” come in, the listener is submerged in deep sounds that fill up a room like a light being shown in a dark field to help illuminate on your path to view the stars above your head. The drumming is crucial here because while it sets the pace, it also gives pointed motives for the rest of the music to become as good as it can be. It’s hard to imagine Parker doing all this himself, but that’s the reality, and none of us will ever be this good at doing something ourselves. It’s ok, I’m come to live with the knowledge that Parker is just not human. The breakdown towards the conclusion of the track is euphoric and beautiful, even if you can sense the remorse in Parker’s lyrics. It’s one of the early moments on the album that strike me as utterly beautiful. It just works and the full, lushly produced music flows effortlessly through the speakers and captures your body and soul as you surrender to the beats and arrangements.
This happens over and over again during the duration, but it never gets old. Each and every song has this kind of deep texture running through it, and the lo-fi production quality only helps to make a record that is as entrenched in heart and soul as it is in imaginative pysche rock. On tracks like “Mind Mischief” is extremely obvious, but it’s also obviously brilliant and thoughtful, which makes it all the more enjoyable to get lost in. I got this record a few years ago for my birthday, to this day it’s remained one of the best gifts I’ve received in terms of cool music.
Throughout “Mischief” Parker reminisces on a nameless women he was captivated by. It’s only at the chorus and conclusion that it becomes known that in fact “she remembered my name,” which for any guy who’s thinking about a lady all while being unsure if she even knows you exist, it’s a huge moment of positivity and gratefulness. It’s timing and moments like this that make the album feel like an extension of yourself, and makes you feel even closer to the spirit under which the album was created.
Just to throw this out there, but this album is full of almost nothing that doesn’t pull you in. Every track is a banger, but the middle section is where the road meanders into a truly trippy section of the record. “Music to Walk Home By,” is a thinly vailed attempt at making the drums and synth the focus of the track, but again because it works so well you don’t really care that the vocals are mixed low and muddy in the arrangement. For me it always goes back to how you want to service the song. You don’t always need the vocals to be forefront, but Parker manages to write lyrics that are easy to follow along with, should you choose that path. If you don’t that’s fine too because the instrumentation is pulling at you like nature pulls a helpless victim into a beautiful lush garden you might end up being a part of. To me, that doesn’t sound all that bad, as long as I have this album to accompany me.
It’s a pushy album in how it embraces the next gorgeous moment and that push helps to keep it fresh and ever growing. Middle tracks like “Music” and “Why Won’t they Talk to Me,” both work well as intermissions between the more solid sounds surrounding it on either side. These tracks are great, but to me it’s more about where we’re going and not where we’ve briefly found ourselves as listeners. Not to downplay the significance of this song and the former, but it feels like the bridge that crossed over two seperate sections. In that regard it works great.
After that though, the record spirals out in a wave of euphoria, starting with the band’s first taste of mass appeal. “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” is a monumental track that harnesses the power and emotion of a doomed relationship. Parker’s vocals are clear and the pain expelled fills the mostly upbeat instrumentation with a certain murky, unsure quality that really brings out the humanity that Parker was going for. I could listen to this song over and over (and I have), but it never loses its luster. It’s bright in arrangement and the heartache is palpable. There’s a reason it’s a massive hit, this wasn’t coincidental. From there the album continues with what has been proven to work, which is more drums, easy going guitar parts intermingled with a low but gorgeously inspired Beatles vocal style. Parker got a bit of heat for “ripping off Lennon” in these early days again, and well, he does sound like Lennon, but to me the difference is Lennon had three other members to lean on, and Parker is doing this all on his own. At this point pretty much no music can be claimed at “totally original,” but Parker has this knack for taking everything he’s ever heard, laying his own twist on it and coming out the other end with something that is as original as anything being played on radio right now.
One great example of this is the track “Elephant,” found as we get closer to the albums conclusion. It’s a thumping, heavy track that starts easily enough with a crunchy beat and a roaring appetite. The simplicity in the song is one of its strong victories, in that while it diverges to become part of a fuller sound, the drum beat never changes. Like it’s namesake, it’s driving, forceful, and determined. It never loses sight of that as a song, and that’s why it works so brilliantly. The lyrics are also fantastic. It’s somewhat nonsensical in that it isn’t a song about some deep loss or vulnerability. However, it does have the always timeless wordplay of “He pulled the mirrors off his Cadillac (yeah) ‘cause he doesn’t like it looking like he looks back,” which to me is cheeky, adversarial and too cool for school. The high energy featured during the track is a perfect detour from some of the other more slow, thoughtfully full sections of music we get during the rest of the record.
As the album finds its conclusion, we’re treated to a song that’s literally perfect for the ending. I picture the album being a journey through the darkness of the soul, but with “Sun's Coming Up,” it feels like the awakening of a new day. At this juncture, the pain felt throughout “Lonerism” can be happily discarded as you embark on an entire new day as you shed the difficulties of the past. The music also helps obviously. It’s slow at first just featuring a piano and Parker’s voice. For all intents and purposes, it works and the embrace you feel during the track is like an old friend hugging you after a stressful time. It’s easily the slowest song on the record, and it’s placement is crucial because it doesn’t get lost in the same way it might have been placed somewhere else. It’s still a sad track that makes you think, but it’s a pretty, and ultimately fitting end to what really is a remarkable album that I’m able to share my soul with. Thanks for reading.
These days, the art of modern rock takes resilience, the right amount of swagger and musicianship. It’s also rare when bands can get more than five albums worth of catchy, popular hits that still get people excited. Led by brothers Matt Shultz, rhythm guitarist Brad Shultz, lead guitarist Nick Bockrath, guitarist/ keyboardist Matthan Minster, bassist Daniel Tichenor, and drummer Jared Champion.
Hailing from Kentucky, the band has managed to release only great albums. We won’t go going in depth on these too much, but rather talking about their growth and the ability to make a song that has something for everyone. I mean seriously, their first album has what’s likely the band’s biggest hit. The track “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” features a loose country twang running of the vocals, and the vocals are delivered with almost a hip hop type of flow. The tale is morbid, sad and the reality of some of our lesser fortunate. Basically based on the strength of this track, the band got recognized.
The band would evolve on that with their next album “Thank You Happy Birthday.” Even from the second track “Aberdeen,” you can tell how much the band embraced the idea of being the next big thing in indie music. To fill a vast amount of space you need the right type of artist, whose sound can elevate themselves and bring in the big crowds and paydays. “Aberdeen” proved that it was possible for them. It’s a strong anthemic song and all the parts work effortlessly together. There’s just so much to enjoy with this band it’s hard to decide which aspect is the best. Even the sneakiness and sarcastic nature of a song like “Indy Kidz” works better than it should. I mean they’re literally talking shit at a demographic that could have made or broken them. In that regard they get points for bluster and bravado, and it oozes out of them. Then you have a sweet lovely song like “Shake Me Down.” It’s reminiscent of pain but also salvation. When Schultz talks about keeping his eye “fixed on the sun” I see it at as a metaphor for the band’s pursuit of acknowledgment. Then the instrumentation opens up and your mood goes up in happy remembrance. The “even on a cloudy day” section is simply gorgeous, and for me at least, it’s impossible not to smile.
The band can also get heavier and more frenzied. The next album, titled “Melophobia” opens up with the scorcher known as “Spiderhead.” It’s one of my favorite songs they’ve ever composed, and it invokes images of a gorgeous strong woman dancing in a field with her arms in the air. It’s just a fun booty shaking track. It’s easy to lose yourself in the song; when I belt this song out in my car after a long day, all the stresses of life fade away. Having said that, the band’s other two best known and popular songs are the ones that eventually the album became known for. “Come a Little Closer” and final track “Cigarette Daydream” are heartfelt moments, but “Daydream” is the emotional conclusion of the album, and the heart of everything that came before. The soft guitar works wonderfully amidst a vocal section dealing with reluctance and pain at the thought of being lost in the passage of time.
Finally, three years ago, the first record on the big scale was released, and naturally, the band got bigger and better at their craft. The songs on this album didn’t end up being their best of all time, but there’s plenty to love about the entire duration. “Mess Around” is a 60’s era psych rock song arranged in the spirit of their Kentucky garage roots. It’s masterful and dance-able, both things the brand excels at by now. “Cold Cold Cold” is a dangerous darkly thematic track, but the real show stopper to me is “Punching Bag.” The story of a woman fed up with her abusers bullshit, it has a revenge plot running through it, but honestly, those fuckers deserve to be dealt with. It has an intentional type of danger to it that I enjoy. Rock n Roll needs to be more dirty and unsafe than it’s been in recent years, and this track proves that this band is capable of that, even if they only brush on the area.
All in all, this band is going to get bigger and (hopefully) better as the delve into new and exciting parts of the musical spectrum. The new album will be out soon, so we’ll all find out shortly I guess. Thanks for reading.
During the early aughts, a groundswell of garage based, mostly indie rock came bubbling up after the death of new metal. Bands like the Hives, White Stripes, and maybe most notably, the Strokes helped to usher in a new age of rock n roll. Hailing from NYC, the capital of American attitude, the five piece consisting of Julian Casablancas, Albert Hammond Jr., Nick Valensi, Nikolai Fraiture, and Fabrizio Moretti on drums released an album that was defined by its devil may care logic in quick, punctuated music that touched on issue of being reasonable, lost in thought, and more notably, fun times spent laughing about the memories, good and bad. I haven’t done one of these “Albums of My Life” in awhile so I thought it would be great to discuss one of the overall best albums of the last 20 years, without a doubt. Here are my thoughts on the Seminal album by the Strokes, “Is This It?”
I hope you enjoy.
At 35 minutes, this album is quite short, but what it lacks in duration is quickly forgotten because nearly every song is a classic anthem and perfectly exemplified everything that was amazing about the early indie movement. The opening title track starts with a mild electronic beat before becoming a very evenly paced instrumentation section. It’s only made better by the slow murmurings of singer Casablancas. Much has been made of the bands seemingly lax relationship with how normal bands do things, but from the start they made that known, and have basically stuck to their guns in the following 18 years.
Musically, the opening is a nice teaser for a more immediate next track “Modern Age.” It’s easily one of my favorite songs the band has ever recorded, the guitar part is contagious, and the song takes off like a coaster on Coney Island. It’s one of the more fun energetic tracks on the album, and overall is a masterpiece. It’s powerful, defensive and ready for attack. I think that’s what I like about it most.
Many of the songs on this album stay with you for way longer than they maybe should. Much of what was released during those years of the garage rock revival has been forgotten, like any fading genre, but this record always seems to get classier with age. As the album progress, we get a solid round or so of songs that would end up helping the band become such a well known act. “Someday” is filled with this sense of longing and regret, which I think is still relevant of the times. The lyrical content is used from points of frustration and apathy, but also of redemption and finding the strength to be the best person you can.
Following that we get the massive hit “Last Nite,” the song that was the first big break the band got on radio and (even then) music videos on MTV. I think the song is good but not the best in their arsenal. Having said that, it’s hard to be as great as you can be when the next track “Hard to Explain” blows everything out of the water. It’s a fast paced but beautiful song of remembrance. I have a friend who was going through a difficult time, with a lady, and he described to me the freedom of flying down the interstate on New Year’s Eve, blasting this song and being freed of all the burdens of the last year and the Strokes played it, seemingly just for him in that moment. It’s stuff like that that always stays with me. It’s the power of music, and while this album has many high points, “Hard to Explain” is not only the best track on the album, but more than likely the band’s best overall song. I hope you enjoyed this. Thanks for reading.
When At the Drive In broke up, leading members Omar Rodríguez-López and vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala made a left turn so surprising that many were uncertain. However, it worked, in spades actually and The Mars Volta became one of the great post rock, almost demented jam bands of the early 2000’s. Today we discuss the bands ten best songs, and try to make sense of it all. Enjoy, and wish me luck!
10. ABERINKULA, THE BEDLAM IN GOLIATH
One of the best mechanisms the band has is the ability to whirlwind this retro avant-garde prog rock with a type of trippy Spanish influences. Over and over again they mix the two to become a band that is as creative as they are free wielding shape shifters. This track is a perfect example of that artistry. It’s King Crimson meets Santana, and that mythological influence captivates everything in the song.
9. VISCERA EYES, AMPUTECHRE
Drawing an audience has never been a problem for this band, but I doubt they care immensely. This gives the band cause to do whatever they want. “Viscera Eyes” is a perfect example of that. Mixing Spanish and English lyrics captures both sides of the band while still expanding their sound. At over nine minutes in length, it’s another in a long line of adventurous tracks that make you feel like a fever dream setting out for your prize.
8. CICATRIZ ESP, DELOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM
Quite a few of these selections come off the seminal full length record, and all these years later the album is still mesmerizing, along with this song which finds us at number eight. It’s got quite the drum beat, but the real show is the guitar work, which I think was done by Frusciante of the RHCP. It has this middle section that welcomes the calm before the storm, then welcomes the storm itself while Baxter screams “defender.” It’s a powerful moment for sure, and a great song to boot.
7. TETRAGRAMMATON, AMPUTECHRE
Easily the longest track to make this list, this sixteen minute journey exemplifies how the band delves into otherworldly grooves and hooks and never looks back. It meanders between weird Latin infused arrangements while embracing the prog rock nature of the band itself. At this point in the band’s career they were basically operating freely and away from normal operating procedures for most successful bands. Trusting their instincts and making something that is wide ranging yet thought provoking is what got them to where they ended up, so why not keep trusting it?
6. TEFLON, OCTAHEDRON
I remember hearing this song when they album released, and quite frankly it had me spellbound. It’s hypnotic and captivating in leaps and bounds. The swerving mechanics bringing forth the twilight zone-sequel instrumental section, while again the vocals roam like a once caged but now free animal. It’s curious and darkly mesmerizing and it’s one of their best, weirdly mid tempo classic. It’s even better to experience live, as I did finally at Bonnaroo 2009.
5. INERTIATIC ESP, DELOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM
Maybe their best known song, but also their mass welcome to the music world at large. It starts with a bang and doesn’t let up for the entirety of nearly four minutes and thirty seconds. The drumming, coupled with the madness of the screeching guitar make it a truly dynamic song. Much of the vocals and words are non sensibility, but that finds its way into this band pretty often. It honestly works though. Sometimes, for certain songs I feel like the lyrical content isn’t as important as the overall quality of the song. But, this is part of where they thrive. We don’t have to understand everything.
4. METATRON, THE BEDLAM IN GOLIATH
I’ve used this before to describe this band, but the wild , free wielding nature is one of the best attributes of the Mars Volta. Strange unorthodox soundscapes lay the groundwork for a song that’s as heavy and verbose as anything the band has ever done. Much of the lyrical content is jumbled into an abstract context, but the real winner here is the drum work, I believe by Jon Theodore( they change members quite often) is electric and pummeling all at the same time. It’s one of the best aspects of the song, and it helps “Metatron” land at number four in the countdown.
3. ROULETTE DARES(THE HAUNT OF), DELOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM
Many songs on “Deloused” are navigations into uncertain waters, but “Roulette Dares” actually ends up being one of the more straightforward, albeit jammy tracks on the record. The gradual opening begins with drums and off the wall guitar renderings, but with an explosion of other instruments joining the fold, the song becomes more epic than any other song found in this countdown. Cedric's vocals are strong and soaring, but he’s also able to bring it down a notch when needed. Honestly the contrast between the two vocal stylings show how powerful and capable he is as a vocalist, and the song is better because of it.
2. THE WIDOW, FRANCES THE MUTE
After a huge debut like the band had, it was somewhat expected for most fans to be underwhelmed by what they cooked up next. It’s not because of the end product is bad, but rather I think it had to do with the length of the album and how many of the songs seemed to be one big long piece that had to be played as one. Thankfully, the second track on the album,”The Widow,” is a song that hides hardly any mystery and has few drastic changes throughout. This juxtaposition helps the album to find some common ground in its arrangement. It’s more of a straight ahead track than what the band is known for, but it also ends up being one of the best the band has ever recorded. The agony in Cedrics voice is obvious, and with all the other parts working together the song is able to become profound and ultimately engaging and rich.
1. TELEVATORS, DELOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM
I’m not sure when this ended up being my favorite song by this band, but during the years I ended up falling in love with this band “TELEVATORS” always stood out to me as an imperfect masterpiece. It’s weirdly arranged but still maintains a more linear songwriting approach than many of their other contributions. The slowly building background sections are gorgeously layered, and when Baxter suggests that “the chalk outline will circle this city,” you get the feeling he’s weapons for a divisive culture on the edge of collapse. It’s a sobering song in a heap of exploratory songs that shows that the band isn’t all weird and alien like. In the end it ends up being the band’s best overall song, which is why it ends our countdown at number one. Thanks for reading, I hoped you enjoyed!
Artists by nature are allowed to be chameleons to a certain extent. The album or songs you write as a 20 year old might draw from very different places than it will when you’re gaining in years. It’s all part of the growth and maturity that comes with being a performer and an adult, as a matter of fact. That’s where we find the inspiration for today’s post, about up and coming, potential superstar in the making, Mitski.
Since arriving modestly in 2012 with her album “Lush,” her music has been about personally engaging emotions that overwhelm while also waking you up to how these deterrents can be fought and ultimately conquered. The record, along with her next self released album “Retired from Sad, New Career in Business,” are both engaging and worth a listen. On “Retired,” we get a more orchestral movements along with her silky yet sullen voice whispering from the darkness, trying to lull the listener into a dark, albeit engaging emotional place. One of the best tracks on the album, “Shame” features violin chords that cut deep with tension and a foreboding that is often not heard outside of film scores or during haunting symphonies. It’s an early testament to her pushing herself musically, and even without a huge budget and no name recognition, it stands proudly as an early sign of excellence that portents to what future Mitski works will showcase.
In 2016 though, at the age of 26, right as most adults are still trying to gain traction and make a name for themselves (in whatever field they happen to be in) Mitski took that dive and released a record that was not only hailed by indie music types, but also caused people to take notice to this soft spoken but direct Japanese American songwriter named Mitski Miyawaki. That record, “Puberty 2,” explores the dense and intimidating nature of things like growing up racially obscured in terms of how to balance the concepts of cultures that often wildly misalign in how events are felt, showcased and ultimately handled. Her experience in this is likely normal for others like her who grew up walking the line between having a profound culture from one point of view while still trying to fit in in whatever culture you spent more time. It’s a struggle that bleeds through the whole record, but it doesn’t ever get black and white in terms of what’s right and wrong. I’ve found in dealing with culture clashes there often isn’t a “this is right or this is wrong” standpoint. Certain people just do things differently from how my family might do it, but it’s not wrong or right. It’s just how it is.
Songs like the powerful opener “Happy,” are engaging in their sexuality but also frank about the turbulence of any potential romantic relationship. Her lyrics are dirty in message but they way she manipulates the words ends up being more romantically cathartic than perhaps it’s meant to be. It’s another example of her word play when she talks about “happy came into me,” as she’s describing the bliss of love making with the person of her choosing. Other songs like “Dan the Dancer” brim with immediacy courtesy of the rhythmic guitar sections. It’s moments like this that capture the listener while also making departures that an unknowing fan might not expect. It’s this variance of sound that’s makes difficult to anticipate what might come next. At least it’s exciting thought provoking music though.
One of the best, standout tracks on “Puberty,” “Your Best American Girl” finds its entrance about fifteen minutes in, but it’s musicality, vocals, and lyrical content stand as the best on the record. The trepidation composed throughout the track is palpable and agony driven. At the root of the track is the regret and uncertainty of being in love but of also feeling like the way you were brought up isn’t in line with what others perceive as being the best way. Again this speaks to the culture clash of being a Japanese born American and having to navigate the difficult task of being from two juxtaposing worlds and ways of life. “Puberty 2” ended up getting accolades from various indie music blogs, justifiably so, but Mitski’s next trick would be more eye opening and raw than anything else she has released thus far.
Released last year to widespread acclaim, “Be the Cowboy” has everything her fans have grown to love, but it’s pouring with dark pop tendencies. Take the first track “Geyser,” it’s a blustering harmonization of dinky lit synth, with Mitski’s voice calling from the darkness for us to join her. From there the album delves into what the artist Mitski has described as her “saddest record” to date. And boy let me tell you she wasn’t joking. Over the 38 minute run time, you feel her pain and desperation. Tracks like “Washing Machine Heart” might seem more upbeat than others but the lyrical content still makes you want to weep with her and tell her it will be ok.
Albums like this can be difficult to get through. Mostly what it boils down to for me is how closely do I want to be engaged to these forbidding, often deceptive thoughts. Many of the songs here simply work, like “Remember My Name” with its pure vocals and walloping drum section, it’s vaguely heartbreaking in scope, with the listener hoping for recognition in a world that pretty much lets everyone ignore everyone else at will. It’s small moments and observations like this that gave the album growing room and high praise. It’s also why among many publications and websites this record, this “Be the Cowboy”, came bursting through and landed atop most of the year end albums lists of the year just completed. Hell even this very website named it the top album of 2018.
For some that classification speaks to what was perceived as a lukewarm music year, but to me it means the album was incredible and moving. To get to a point where your album is named “the best” means that you’re taking risks in your creation. That point brings me to the track “Lonesome Love.” It’s a bittersweet piece about attempts to convey your happiness through your outward beauty but then being let down. Included during the vocals is a line regarding how well she can take care of herself sexually. Twenty years ago a female musician likely would’ve been chastised for being “too graphic” or any of the other things bullshit men who don’t want women being too overly sexual to be. The point I’m trying to make is that to stay strong and independent and well, human, we have to be able to convey our feelings and to do so without being frightened of perception. The album is seething with these types of abandoned or pushed aside emotions, but in its final minutes Mitski takes a leap and manages to pull all the other messages during the album into one last, gorgeously layered track.
This track, “Two Slow Dancers,” is the type of song that breaks into your heart, making you remember all the times you were wrong, ill informed, or downright fucked over. I can feel the pain of being part of something that ends tragically or miserably- and in that moment we’re transported to a time where lovers held each other under soft lights. The picture she paints here is regrettable, not because we don’t want to deal with it, but because we all already have, and the weight of the pain in going back is just too much for our souls to handle. When Mitski harmonizes “To think that we could stay the same,” it brings moments fluttering into your subconscious. Moments that you’ll never forget, even if you want to, and also the joys and free wielding nature of being in love during the early highs of our 20’s, without a care into the world. That can’t last of course, and even though we hear the beautiful vocals of Mitski as she exclaims that “we get a few years and then it wants us back,” we know that life is filled not with ultimate second chances, but of regret and sadness. Like I said, the record is incredibly sad and vulnerable, but the best music was never made from a confident, happily reassured place. But rather from a place deep within us as we try to move past our own hang ups and mistakes. Thank you for reading.
It’s hard to make one truly amazing film. It’s entirely more difficult to become one of the most innovative auteurs of our time. Both of those are traits Scott holds, and oftentimes the execution is obvious, grandiose and spellbinding. Today we’re gonna discuss what I consider to be his five movies. Picking his best is difficult and many great films of Scott’s had to be left off the list. I tried to include a mixture of his exercises in filmmaking, and this list features horror, science fiction, crime drama and others. What they do have in common is their ability to create a world through a lens that is at times heartbreaking, shockingly scary and poignant. Without further adieu, I give you Ridley Scott’s best. Lastly, there will be spoilers throughout, so hopefully you’ve seen these. Enjoy.
5. THE MARTIAN, 2015
What could have been a film as depressing and downtrodden as any other survival type movie manages to be not only tough skinned in tone and delivery, but also quite funny throughout. Much of this is due to the screenplay for the film, based on the book of the same name by Andy Weir is thoroughly funny throughout, with sarcasm and snarkiness permeating through. Much of that is due to how well Matt Damon delivers in his role as Mark Wattley. You sense his desperation in the face of almost certain death, but the levity he brings to his trials helps the movie goer, and the character himself, brave the more difficult parts of the film. You ache for him when his crop dies, yet you laugh with him when he’s explaining the poor choices in music that his captain has. It’s a harrowing adventure sci-fi film, and it’s thoroughly rewatchable. The whole cast, which includes Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover, Jessica Chastain and more are all great, but this is Damon’s show and he owns its power.
4. AMERICAN GANGSTER, 2007
I went to see this with my former partner over a decade ago, and her reaction to loving the film still creeps out in my head. She hasn’t heard much about it. But was uninterested all the same. Nearly three hours later she was excitedly ranting about how great it was. In hindsight it’s hard not to expect Washington and Crowe to deliver the kind of top tier acting they’re known for, but this movie still wasn’t a completely sure thing. The plot involves a crime lord working his way up while working himself into the spotlight long pointed at his mentor, who passes away during the early moments of the film. On the other hand you have a cop, played by Russell Crowe, who’s similarly working his way back into the good graces of his police cohorts, while also trying to get his law degree. Both of these masters trade back and forths as they circle each other until the tension can’t be held anymore. It’s an excellent drama led by another insane cast, with Josh Brolin playing a huge asshole corrupt cop, and plenty of others. The tale spans years, continents, provocations and of course the ultimate fight among cops and the drug dealers who work to control the means of production.
3. ALIEN, 1979
John Landis once commented that Alien isn’t actually a science fiction film but gothic horror. To some extent he’s correct. However, in my opinion it’s able to be both sci -fi and gothic horror. It’s scary and futuristic, but the setting of the Nostromo makes the sense of dread even more palpable. Essentially it’s a film about a creature torementing the residents of a ship, but that’s just the beginning of the nightmare. Ellen Ripley, played brilliantly by Sigourney Weaver is a powerhouse of raw energy and instincts that she utilizes to defeat the Xenomorph in the film. Simply put this film is a masterpiece, and its success spawned decades of at times exciting film making and plot twists. But if not for the memorable moments of the first film, none of the others would have ever done to fruition. Between the infamous chest bursting scene, or all the grizzly deaths carried out by the “Alien,” Aliens was a different kind of horror tale, and it worked to massive success and the emergence of a female heroine that everyone could root for, even if the story of Ripley is ultimately heartbreaking and seemingly never ending.
2. GLADIATOR, 2000
From the epic battles and plot, to the grandiose set design and feel of the time, Gladiator is a rare Epic that did extremely well with both casual audiences and critics alike. Nearly twenty years later, it’s still a marvel to watch, and it only gets better with time. As Maximus, Russell Crowe is amazing in his role, and expels determination and brutal methods in his race to be welcomed to the afterlife where his family is waiting for him. Running close to three hours long, it’s easy to lose interest in some films, but Gladiator sucks you in and won’t let you go until all the wrongs of Commodus are undone and made right. It’s poetic and poignant, but also deeply dark and sinister, especially when Phoenix begins his descent into madness. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time, but it’s also just a really really good film. For that and all the other reasons I’ve explained, Gladiator lands at number 2 on our countdown, and it’s well deserved.
1. BLADE RUNNER, 1982
Really, where to even begin? Among Scott’s best films there tends to be a large division among the top choice. Some choose the coldness of Alien, others the engaging battles of films like Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, while others like his softer more compassionate side with The Martian. For me though, Blade Runner tops all of them. I’ve always been a fan of dystopian science fiction, and this is widely considered among the all time best. From harrowing performances by Ford, Rutger Hauer and Sean Young, to the gorgeously layered rubble of Los Angeles, it’s basically perfect. One thing though, they have multiple cuts of this film, so make sure to avoid the voiceover version. Stick with the final cut. It’s longer and more dense, but you get snapshots of the world more and it ends up being more thoughtful also. It’s honestly beautiful in its portrayal of humanoid machines trying to figure out what the right way to survive is. It’s a struggle for the characters, but understanding it is really a cinematic treasure and a joy to experience. It makes you think long and hard about our future and the unnerving future that is racing towards us. One of the best movies of all time, it only gets better and more relevant with age. I hope you enjoyed this little variety in the programming, and I’ll see y’all later. Thanks for reading.
In my opinion, the single greatest band of the last twenty years. What was wrongly assumed to be a no brainer one hit wonder band, the British powerhouses of nuance-Yorke, the brothers Greenwood, Selway, and O’Brien have consistently been able to transcend modern music and make thought-provoking music that’s not easily digestible but nonetheless has engrossed a massive following that is as fervent as the band is stubborn in pursuit of new exciting sounds and emotions. As another entry in our series of top five albums, I present to you the five best albums from the one and only Radiohead.
5. Amnesiac, 2001
Released just one year after Kid A (we’ll get to that later), this record is weird, yet motivating, but also with a sinister undertone, like a foreboding apocalypse. “Pyramid Song” is a masterpiece and maybe their best song period, while closer “Life in a Glasshouse” is a solemn, worrisome track that whimpers passionately, under a cloud of horns and uncertainty. So much of the album is opposite of its predecessor, yet it still manages to be a poignant reminder of the potential of the band. I feel like it’s often overlooked when discussing the bands best moments, but if you’re a fan of the band through and through, it’s a classic album that deserves accolades.
4. The Bends, 1995
Pablo Honey has come and gone, and while most people simply wrote them off as that one hit wonder band, the quintet set out to push themselves to make something more memorable than the first go ‘round. The result, 1995’s “The Bends” is a British arena rock album just waiting for a crowd big enough to rock arenas. The title track is snarky and conquering all in the same, and the guitar work on the track, as well as the accompanying record proved to everyone that they weren’t correct in writing the band off as the next big thing that went nowhere. “Fake Plastic Trees” is perhaps the most unusual ballad of the decade, while still being a beautiful soaring moment. “My Iron Lung” bristles in the sunlight before diving deep into anguish, while “”Black Star” is melancholy and honest. The album got people to put more stock into the band(at least critically), and by the time the band released their next album they were no longer a forgotten name from the early 90’s.
3. In Rainbows, 2007
Pay what you want, and get a record. I still remember the announcement of the bands seventh record, and definitely not understanding the angle. Either way, once you downloaded “In Rainbows” you were welcomed into a record that ended up being a landmark for the band. It has all the constructions and effects that a fan can recognize as being Radiohead, but it’s more casual and easy going then some of their more experimental records. It’s has the slow building moments like “Nude” and “Videotape,” but it also has measured angst and raucousness during segments like “Bodysnatchers” and “Jigsaw Falling into Place.” This record is hard to escape, even 12 years after the fact. It shows a band maturing in gorgeous but painful ways, and sees the band enter a new landscape of musical direction.
2. OK Computer, 1997
The album that changed everything. One moment they were a quite good but obscure band, and then the turn approached and the band went balls to the wall to break out of their earlier shell. The result is simple- the best album of the 90’s. In 1997 it was hailed as a masterpiece, which it is, but we hadn’t yet met this “new” Radiohead. Every track on “OK” works and sits nestled in comfortably with each other track. “Paranoid Android” is a whirlwind of sounds and energy, while “Let Down” is a thick mess of emotions and soundscapes. The point is, every song compliments the tracks before and after it while staying true to the theme of failing systems prevalent through the running time of the album. The fact that every song is an illumination of the bands strengths make the album that much more of a landmark. Even after 22 years it’s still often regarding as a perfect album, but that’s only because it actually is.
1. Kid A, 2000
And now we come to the number one. Obviously this is just my opinion, but when a band does a complete and sudden 180 in regards to their sound, and it ends up being this goddamn good, you have to take notice. The cold electronic elements beaming through the record put the listener in a lonely, thoughtful place, but again, it simply works. “How to Disappear Completely” is a slow burn of emotion, with Yorke’s detached voice acting as a compass as you wander through the dark looking for safe passage. Note, this record is less about showing safe passage than it is opening up your subconscious in a way that’s measured but sullen. I could listen to this all day and still find new things to get excited over. “Idioteque” is more upbeat and energetic in instrumentation, but it still has the hunger and depraved moments the band is known for. If “OK Computer” was the best album of the 1990’s, than “Kid A” stands as the moment that the band not only made two of the best albums in different decades, but also the moment that the mass public really started to get hooked into the wondrous, illuminating sounds that make this band so timeless and engaging.
Thanks for reading!!
In a day and age where celebrity and worship is devoured, and where info and the personal loves of our favorite entities are known and dissected, Richard D James stands firmly in the shadows.
Now, while he’s nowhere near as known as Kanye( Even though Mr. West knows his music well enough to lift some of his work for his own use and then not credit him), James has made of career of sidestepping his “counterparts” and entrenching himself on the outside rim of what is mainstream.
For many people, their first encounter with the work of Aphex Twin came with the video of “Come to Daddy,” the super fucking creepy clip that helped to at least in part establish risk taking electronic during the late 90’s. Like Daft Punk, the Chemical Brothers and Autechre especially, the sounds of AT were different than the more guitar driven rock of the time period, but such is the way of the music world. It still remains one of the best plots of the world of music as we launched toward the next millennium.
When I first heard this “Come to Daddy” track and witnessed the nightmarish landscapes and construction of the video, it instantly stood out to me. It was gorgeously done and mixed, but it’s also terrifying and worrisome. That said, while he certainly has songs that are dark and foreboding in its mayhem, quite a lot of his material is engrossing, layered, and well soothing. When I look at an artist, I hope for continuity but also experimentation and growth. It can be tricky thing to pull off, but the rewards are often plentiful. During his music making career, Richard D. Has performed and recorded under the Aphex Twin moniker, but also over ten other names. some of the more known include AFX, the excellent Caustic Window, GAK and Polygon Window. Honestly it’s a lot to consider, but you can’t deny his prolific nature.
One of the best overall tracks during the first half of his career as Twin, is a single “Windowlicker,” that not only stands up these days but remains a core foundation of the growth for electronic music during the turn of the century. It’s a masterpiece that flows and cascades through various whimsy and delight. It’s just a chipper yet soothing song that is as captivating as it is plush. With the release of that song, alongside the release of his masterpiece Drukqs in 2001, he was on the map, but then retreated and didn’t start to reuse his Aphex Twin moniker for nearly 13 years. From there though, it got even weirder.
The return started in typical Aphex Twin fashion, with something out of the box and provocative: samples of music showing up on the dark web for fans to track down, stumbling through the darkness in pursuit of something musically exciting. The result of the campaign was the
release of James’ first AT album in over a decade, “Syro.” Musically it’s similar to what came before, but it’s still an excellent example of electronic music pushing boundaries and waking audiences up to something that perhaps they had forgotten.
Since then we’ve seen the release of two very good but quite different EP’s, titled “Cheetah,” while the other “Collapse” takes the route of weird even by Aphex Twin standards. My partner wasn’t a huge fan of either, but the whole sound of the project doesn’t really embrace drawing new fans. I think it’s likely because with Twin, you either gravitate towards it’s challenging nature, or you just don’t get it, or downright don’t like the minimal nature. Either way, Richard D James as Aphex Twin is a true trailblazer of electronic conjuring’s, and it’s excited to see more mininmal productions and sound engineering making their way back into a more appreciated musical landscape. Thanks for reading, hope y’all enjoyed.
Welcome to 2019! First I’d like to thank everyone who read my year end posts. I hoped you enjoyed it. Secondly, this year I’m planning more posts this year than I’ve been able to do in the last year or two. In the coming months, I’ll be sharing articles in Florence and the Machine, Radiohead, and many others. Some of these are likely to be long and in depth, while others will be more tight and to the point. I’ll also be doing some reviews of festival lineups, and also more articles in films and whatever else brings me inspiration.
But, before all of that gets going, it’s time to talk about the start of festival announcements season. That means, at least for me, sharing my thoughts on the brand spanking new Coachella Lineup. I won’t be going over every single artist, but rather will be discussing some of my favorite sections of the bill, as well as some of the choices that we see presented. I hope you enjoy.
THE BEST OF
For months rumors had been swirling that the headliners were set as Gambino, Justin Timberlake and Kanye. Well as we all know now, only one of those is actually happening. Choosing Gambino is a no brainer, especially given his fall concert cancellations that disappointed a great many, including myself. But maybe the best pick to headline is Kevin Parker, aka Tame Impala. With three excellent albums already under his belt and a fourth expected to drop sometime before Coachella begins, this is sure to be a big moment for Parker and his backing band.
Now while two of top three round out this list, the next options helped to define varied and eclectic world of music. For Kacey Musgraves, who garnered a giant 2018 with an amazing country record, while Solange looks set to conquer alternative R&B with an album that’s likely to be among the biggest hits of the year. Finally we have Lizzo, who creates independently of the previous two. Having seen her a few months ago at Voodoo, I can attest to her live energy. It’s a don’t miss set that might just catapult Lizzo to the upper echelon of the music scene.
SURPRISES, GOOD & BAD
Every year more or less Coachella reaches deep into their bag of off the wall bookings and lead the way in increasing visibility for artists that perhaps normal Coachella goers wouldn’t naturally gravitate to. This year is no exception. khruangbin and their style of laid back world music is amazing, and while Idris Elba is a head scratcher(apparently he’s been doing electronic music for years now), they still manage to snag a once obvious booking of Weezer, their placement on the lineup is dubious. Bummed down to fourth billed of their day, it’s sure to be a big crowd pleaser, even if they haven’t released an amazing album in over 15 years. Beyond that we have the K-Pop phenoma Blackpink, who I’m not familiar with, but from what I’ve read lately it seems like this is a big deal and a huge get for the festival. Finally we have Aphex Twin, who in my opinion towers over every other electronic artist on the lineup. He’s been consistently brilliant most of his career and had operated mostly in the background, choosing not to become a household name wit ridixulous build ups and “bass drops.” If you like intelligent electronic, this is the must see show of the weekend. If you like being a bro and chugging beers while acting like a douche, maybe stick to Diplo and some of the others. Those are way better suited for limited capacity brains than Aphex Twin is.
HMMM OKAY I GUESS:
Within the last few years, the festival has strayed away from their landmark reunions and going toward a more hip hop/ pop infused lineup. This year is no different, though not as extreme as last year’s lineup. Ariana Grande is a massive star, but is more overproduced than anything tye festival has ever had. It reminds me that these days, it’s less about the bands playing and more of a name dropping type of thing that lets people brag about being there. That not to say though that she isn’t currently relevant. Kid Cudi is well known, but his high billing is surprising, since he hasn’t been a landmark name for a few years, except for the moderately good Kids See Ghost project. The two most surprising and not exciting acts for me though, are Diplo and Jaden Smith, albeit for different reasons. Smith hasn’t released a single thing that gets me going, and it’s darkened by my thinking that he’s only getting these moments and opportunities because of his family entertainment history, not for actual skill. Diplo is a different beast the music is a relic of the glory days from 7 years ago when EDM was giant, but I’ve heard things about his sexist behavior, and it just doesn’t appeal to me. Finally we have the 1975. While nowhere near as off the wall as some of the others, frankly I just didn’t like the new album, and overall haven’t been hyped on them. It’s ok though. I realize I’m one of the few. Oh well.
Either way, the lineup was excellent for some, and as is tradition, the first weekend has already sold out, and I’m sure the next weekend will soon go.
I’ve read some of these lately that seem to suggest this year was a weaker one in terms of great albums. I still personally think it’s how and where you find out about great records. Either way I’ve managed to come up with 25 albums that are at least enjoyable and some you can completely fall in love with. Here’s my list of honorable mentions, as well as the Top 20 Albums of 2018. Enjoy!
LUCY DACUS: HISTORIAN
NINE INCH NAILS: BAD WITH
THE INTERNET: HIVE MIND
BEHEMOTH: I LOVED YOU AT YOUR DARKEST
SNAIL MAIL: LUSH
20. BLOOD ORANGE: NEGRO SWAN
Opening our list is the masterful soulful essence that is Dev Hynes led Blood Orange. The album is rich in texture and subcontext, and while I’m not a huge fan of the voiceover interludes, the depths of the record are enough to still make an impact. Picture a more woke version of Marvin Gaye and you’ll get Blood Orange, with his sultry voice cascading over various instruments including piano, keyboards and a variety of others. It’s a mostly smooth ride that can suck you in and make you want to make love to the aura of sound enveloping you. For that reason it opens up the countdown at number 20.
19. MOUSE ON MARS: DIMENSIONAL PEOPLE
On the German duos eleventh album, you get the sense that they’re going into uncharted territory even for a band that is known for taking risks. By utilizing the artistic gifts of members of the National and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame, they create a profuse array of sounds and textures throughout the records 43 minutes. I spent a lot of time listening to this while driving, and it has the kind of focus and symmetry to make the minutes fly by as fast as the road does. It’s thoughtful throughout, and with the assistance from the previously mentioned contributors, it’s a testament to Mouse on Mars and their devotion to trying new things.
18. TEYANA TAYLOR: KTSE.
Seduction can be a great theme for modern hip hop, and what Taylor does on this record is draw you in with a sultry voice that oozes heartbreak and desire all in one, and it does so effortlessly. Even beyond the vocals, the beats are infectious and easy to sway to. It’s a relaxing record that fits in nicely on a slow, lazy day, and hopefully Taylor continues to exude the strength and passion she brings forth on “KTSE.” This is only her second full length album, but given the acclaim it’s received and her seemingly limitless talent, I expect to her great things to come in subsequent years.
17. ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER: AGE OF
Going forward, we have quite a few excellent and challenging electronic avant-garde albums filling the list, and while all of them are great, what OPN mastermind Daniel Lopatin continues to do is nothing short of rewarding and challenging. “Age Of” isn’t his most remarkable album to date, but it’s brimming with strange contributions and mixtures of instruments and elements that still make it engaging and thoughtful. It’s weird as fuck, and while only certain music fans will want to listen to it at length and on repeated listens, it’s worth a drop in if you’re the kind of person that wants a challenge.
16. DENZEL CURRY: TA1300
Late last year I saw Curry open for Run the Jewels, and frankly I wasn’t impressed. Having said that, this album completely won me over. It’s brimming with intensity while also being more sensitive than most other hip hop and rap music of the last few years. Gone for the most part are the brutal sounding screeching vocals I witnessed in the live setting, and to me it’s all for the better. The lyrics and flow are effortless, while the beats and usage of samples are pitch perfect in terms of joining everything to make a cohesive album. It’s still fundamentally a hip hop album, but Curry seems to be evolving, which is good.
15. FATHER JOHN MISTY: GOD'S FAVORITE CUSTOMER
Since “becoming” Father John Misty, J. Tillman has embraced the satirical nature of the often pretentious indie alternative to great success. Through four albums he’s captivated the fan base and continues to put out records at a pretty decent pace. That being said, “God's Favorite Customer” is at worst his best album since “I Love you Honeybear” and at best his best album under the FJM moniker. Songs like “The Palace” are sweet and soft in both lyrical content and instrumentation, whole opener “Hangout at the Gallows” has the downtempo music that makes his brand so enjoyable while still ejecting his brand of devilish commentary during the song.
14. WYE OAK: THE LOUDER I CALL THE FASTER IT RUNS
Plenty of fantastic bands from Baltimore have been gaining traction over the last decade(another great Baltimore band even makes this list a little later), and you might as well add Jenn Wasner and Andy Stacks Wye Oak to the list. “The Louder I Call the Faster it Runs” is a musical version of a kite flying dizzily through a clear blue sky overlooking a scenic lake or body of water. It weaves in and out of dreamy and centered, and Jenna voice shimmers through the synthy aspects of the song. It all works well though, and with this sixth album, the band gets even better than they were previously.
13. VINCE STAPLES:FM
Recently few have been better than Staples when it’s comes to an excellent hip hop tracks and albums, and “FM” is no exception. This barely made the list because of its sudden appearance, but it’s easily one of the best rap albums of the year. It’s energy is unflappable and the lyrical wordplay of Vince sees him just getting better and better. It’s both party rap and thoughtful, which is a profound statement given the quality of some mainstream hip hop. Staples has been crushing it with the last two albums, simply put. Either way it’s a great record that’s fit for a night of getting “turnt up,” and it lands at number 13.
12. YVES TUMOR: SAFE IN THE HANDS
Electronic based music can be very hit or miss for the casual fan, and while “Safe in the Hands by the Tennessee native Yves Tumor isn’t likely to start filling giant arenas anytime soon, the album has its merits. It’s a lush grove of experimental ambient noise, with the ability to be dark with tension bubbling up while occasionally bringing out the beauty and inviting the listener into the creation. He’s got a fair amount of recognition in the music snob department, and with this intriguing third album out in the world, I’d keep an eye out for even further explorations in the future.
11. MGMT: LITTLE DARK AGE
MGMT is a peculiar and often intriguing band. Since blowing up a decade ago, they have some awesome albums, and some that just didn’t click. “Little Dark Age” is one of the great albums. It’s shiny and high energy at times, while still being able to get weird when the time tome calls for it. The lyrics are good, but the instrumental aspects are the real crowd pleaser here, and they deliver time and time again. “Me and Michael” is a masterpiece of a song, and with moments like that, MGMT is poised to be as big of a band as they should have been all along, if they had consistently release records that are as smart and energetic as “Little Dark Age.”
10. PUSHA T: DAYTONA
Yes Pusha had a crazy beef with Drake filled year, but what he actually did that’s important is make one of the best hip hop albums of 2018. Recording during the same period where the recent Kanye and Teyana Taylor album was created, this seven song burst of creativity (barely) knocks out all the other albums made during that period in Wyoming. It’s a fast record to get through, but that’s part of why it’s so great. His flow is top notch and groove based, and as always he continues to shine for the right reasons, mostly. He should be playing arenas by now, but I’ll settle for continually great hip hop done right.
9. APHEX TWIN: COLLAPSE EP
Unlike the “Syro” sessions from a few years ago, this incarnation of Richard D. James finds his Twin domain being a little more streamlined while accessing some pretty frantically fast paced beats. It’s perfect for a late night party or just wondering in a haze through the streets, but it’s nothing if not incentive and interesting. This guy has been a legend of the electronic scene for decades now, and while it’s likely too out there for the vast majority, his music and this album always has a built in fan base of open minded individuals who will give it a shot. Without a doubt this is an artist that simply doesn’t care what the mainstream appeal of his music might or could be, but when you’re an innovator of Electronic music, you aren’t really looking for the kind of fame that artists like the chainsmokers or deadmau5 seem to thrive on.
8. LOW: DOUBLE NEGATIVE
On the Duluth trios 12th album, the band dives headlong into a substantial world of ambient songs and pulsating soundscapes, and for newer fans like myself, I’m left wondering why I hadn’t given this band more listens throughout the years. It’s engaging and hypnotic all at the same time, and Low really push themselves to make something challenging but also rewarding. I can’t say if this is their best album, but among the four or so I’ve heard, it’s damn good and lifts their memorable career a few more steps up. It’s just a shame more music fans don’t know about them. You could call this band post hardcore to a certain extent, but any resemblance to that genre is mostly lost here, not that it makes the album less valuable. Engaging and dark, “Double Negative” lands at number 6.
7. KING TUFF: THE OTHER
Seems like a fair amount of trippy albums this year, but you can’t really do much about that if the record delivers. That being said, King Tuffs “The Other” is one of the easiest albums to sit down and delve into that I encountered this year. It’s spacey at times, proggy as hell at other moments, but it’s all wrapped in a nice package that draws the listener in. “Thru the Cracks” shimmers like it was made to be played at dusk during an outdoor music festival, while standout track “Neverending Sunshine,” draws us closer to the end of the record with a glimmering night time sky descending young the listener. At times it’s thunderous and blistering, but the music presented wraps itself beautifully in a thick layered contrast to most popular music of the year.
6. THEE OH SEES: SMOTE REVERSER
If you know anything about this band hailing from San Francisco, you’re likely we’ll aware that although they’ve made over ten albums, the name of the band has changed quite often. On “Smote Reverser” the band stick with just “Oh Sees,” but the energy and cohesion is stronger than ever. The record has a lo-fi reverb happening to it that makes it all the more heavy, and the vocals are mixed in the way that make the entire album seamless. I got a chance to see them a few times throughout the years, and I always thought it was kind of hit or miss, but with “Smote Reverser” they’ve fully embraced their slowish drudgy psych rock ambition, and it excels at being a record that repeatedly delivers.
5. KHRUANGBIN: CON TODO EL MUNDO
I discovered this band during the early months of the year, and frankly I was floored by the wondrous sounds emanating from the speakers. It’s leisurely paced and doesn’t just speed it at random times, instead deciding to ride the wave that the music has provided. It’s mostly instrumentally driven also, which somehow never gets old. Songs like “Lady and Man” are best enjoyed with company lingering and chatting in the background, as joy and laughter fill the air, but so much of the album is like that that you can take your pick really. It’s refreshing and groove heavy in a way that none of the other records on this list are, and for that reason “Con Todo El Mundo” by Khruangbin opens up our top five albums of the year.
4. BEACH HOUSE: 7
As Beach House, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have proven that a deep, darkly polished synth pop sound can work and can even get the attention it deserves. On the seventh, appropriately titled record, the duo continues doing what has given them so much success in the first place. The album is dark for sure, but with added soundscapes combing through the proceedings, it’s clear that they haven’t lost any of the vigor and attention to detail. “Lemon Glow,” while mesmerizing and eery, stands out as one of the better songs on “7,” and it’s slow pulse reverberates through your brain like a nighttime glow party watching a creepy movie. While Beach House hasn’t taken some huge artistic leap in how the albums sound, they haven’t really had to because all of the outputs are often amazing and engaging in all the best ways. The same can be said for “7.”
3. KASEY MUSGRAVES: GOLDEN HOUR
Even I can be surprised by myself sometimes. When I first heard this record, I was stunned by how much I found to enjoy. On “Golden Hour,” Musgraves bridged the gap of country music in a way that even alternative music fans can find something to chew into it. Country music is hugely popular to a certain core group, but often times that popularity doesn’t translate to mass success. This is where Musgraves shines. She transcends the stigma of what a country artist is and creates a gorgeous record that’s as good as anything I heard this year. It’s a refreshingly easy record to listen to, especially if you find yourself outside enjoying some drinks and relaxing company. It’s the type of album that’s just easy, which isn’t meant in anyway as a put down. On this, her third proper album Kacey ventures over varied paces, sounds and concepts, but it all fits in to make this “Golden Hour” truly special.
2. DEAFHEAVEN, ORDINARY CORRUPT HUMAN LOVE
Picking the best album of the year can be difficult, and this year it proved to be just as hard as previous years. For the last two weeks I’ve gone back and forth on the top two, and now finally, I can present the second best album of the year: the fourth record from the George Clark led Deafheaven, the California based purveyors of a style of black metal that is both evil and engrossingly beautiful, depending on which segments you here. With this record they’ve proven that the early signs of their greatness were accurate, and they’ve created an album that is steeped in true human emotions, while clashing those ideas with driven, pinpoint accuracy chord progressions and poignant undertones and segues. Tracks like “Canary Yellow” are spellbinding, while album closer “Worthless Animals” has a guitar section that’s so in tune with vulnerability that it’s impossible to not be engrossed in it. As the final vocals “ All who have forgotten Remember now, Remember now, Now, Now” bellow from Clark’s throat, it serves as reminder that Deafheaven aren’t simply a black metal band, but are in fact so much more.
1. MITSKI: BE THE COWBOY
The first thing you hear sung in the mesmerizing “Be the Cowboy” is the line “You’re my number one,” and while Mitski is talking about a romantic entanglement, that statement is true also in regards to her placement on this list. Over the last few years, with her “Puberty 2,” and now this record, Mitski has emerged as one of the most interesting artists to watch of the last few years. This album feels very much to me like a spiritual successor to “Masseduction” by St Vincent in that it sees the artist Mitski trying her hand at a shade of pop music not often heard, but it’s also very raw and open about the struggles we as people can face. A track like opener “Geyser” has an ominous background instrumentation that works well while Mitski and her silky, seductively open voice reign you in for a ride that’s as enjoyable as it is mature and direct about emotional states. Many of the songs here simply work, like “Washing Machine Heart,” and “Remember My Name” with its pure vocals and walloping drum section, but as the minutes close on the sadly beautiful closer “Two Slow Dancers,” you’re left with a void. The album, and this track especially embraces the profound highs and lows an average human being has to go through, and how those events help to shape our art, ideas and our impact our futures. As she says in “Be The Cowboy” and it’s conclusion, “To think that we could stay the same” is a beautiful, yet heartbreaking sentiment, but it’s fleeting all the same. Still, Mitski tries to stay in that perfect place, and the album is better for it. The best album of 2018, “Be the Cowboy” by Mitski.
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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