03 December 2011

The Joys and Challenges of List-O-Mania

We're not even a week into December and I feel like I've already overdosed on year-end list-making/reading. As a freelance contributor to Paste, I was asked to turn my lists in BEFORE Thanksgiving. (It was culled with about two dozen others to create their master list of best albums of the year.) But here's the thing. Before you even tell me my list is WAAAAAY OFF, I'll tell you straight-up, it totally is. I left a lot of stuff off; some stuff is too high; some is too low. That's not to say anything about the albums I haven't even listened to. But such is the subjectivity (and failings) of my own ever-shifting taste and memory.

So as of November 17, these were my faves:

1. Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
2. tUnE-yArDs - W H O K I L L
3. The Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck
4. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Belong
5. Emmy the Great - Virtue
6. Larry and His Flask - All That We Know
7. Tom Waits - Bad As Me
8. Andrew Jackson Jihad - Knife Man
9. Cut Copy - Zonoscope
10. The Decemberists - The King Is Dead
11. Wilco - The Whole Love
12. The Antlers - Burst Apart
13. The Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde
14. Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness
15. Slow Club - Paradise
16. Future Islands - On the Water
17. Yuck - Yuck
18. Mister Heavenly - Out of Love
19. Acid House Kings - Music Sounds Better With You
20. Childish Gambino - Camp

As of now, well there's stuff I'd remove and stuff I'd add, but by the time you ask me about it, they will have once again changed. So there.

ANYWAYS while discussing the matters of list-making, I stumbled upon a tweet by a musician I was previously unaware of by the name of TW Walsh. It turns out his well-received album, Songs of Pain and Leisure, got a better review and higher rating by Paste than many of the albums on that comprised their list (including Wilco and The Decemberists), yet his was nowhere to be seen. I think his is a valid frustration - while lists that are cumulatively created allow for greater overall diversity, they also make it easier for low profile artists to go completely under the radar.

It turns out Songs of Pain and Leisure is pretty great. Chances are even if you haven't heard of TW, you've heard his influence - he was a member of Pedro the Lion and he mastered Sufjan's epic Age of Adz (not a bad resume this guy has, eh?). As for his own music it's at times folksy, at times bluesy; it has ample rustic charm and even when things quiet down, there's still a propulsive sense of urgency. I especially love how opener "Make it Rhyme" furiously chugs along. Best of all, you can stream it ALL here. So go give it a listen, why don't you?

21 November 2011

Triple Bills and Mister Bands

Let's talk about triple bills. Sometimes it's so annoying having to wade through hours and hours of openers when all you want to do is rock out to the main act. I can think of a few notable exceptions to this rule, however. The best being the Okkervil River/Titus Andronicus /Future Islands tour that took place earlier this year. Seriously if you missed it, you missed the awesomeness of three distinctly different, insanely talented groups. Moody synth-pop, fierce indie punk and rollicking Americana all rolled into one night -- WHEN DOES THAT EVER HAPPEN? Practically never.

The only other shows that comes close -- Los Campesinos!/Girls/The Smith Westerns (my god was that show really over two years ago??) and Jens Lekman/ Frida Hyvonen/ Beirut (and, yikes, that was over FIVE years ago).

I'm not sure if last night's show could have been ranked among those concerts, as I missed the first band's set (oops, sorry Fort Lean). But judging from the other two, it definitely had potential. Mister Heavenly and Mr. Dream. (I am working really hard here to refrain from making lame "Mister Mister" jokes, folks.)

Y'all probably know Mister Heavenly, or at least know of one of their three main band members. It's the guy from Man Man! The guy from Islands! The guy from Modest Mouse! (And sometimes, but alas not last night, Michael Cera?!) Together they make immaculately poppy music, drenched in 1950s melodies, mixed with a little bit of modern day menace. They literally coined the phrase "Doom Wop" to describe their sound and I'd be hard pressed to find a better term to describe it. On record these songs are catchy, but live they are intense. Check 'em out here.

Opener Mr. Dream was also enjoyable. This is what music sounds like when people stop writing about it and start making it. (I only say this because, just like everyone else who writes about them, I'm obligated to mention this is a band composed mainly of one-time Pitchfork writers) In other words, they sound sort of like the the Pixies. It's heavily-influenced punk with nervy bass lines and noisy guitars. They know their indie-rock history and play off of it with great aplomb. Stream their debut album here