Category Archives: year in review

[2011 Catch Up] Clams Casino

NJ-based producer Mike Volpe, better known as Clams Casino, very quietly had a prolific and remarkable run in 2011.  He turned up on releases from Mac Miller and, more prominently, A$AP Rocky, scored a buzz hit with “I’m God” (first shared that one here) and dropped an EP of originals called Rainforest.  But it’s the self-released instrumental mixtape of tracks he produced for Lil’ B, Soulja Boy, and Main Attrakionz, among others, that’s turned up all over Best of 2011 lists over the past few weeks.  Without rap vocals on top, his songs fall somewhere closer to ambient/trip-hop than hip-hop – slow beats; gauzy, fading electronic sounds, lo-fi production, and the occasional abstract vocal presence.  It’s truly hypnotic and beautiful stuff and definitely something I wish I checked out earlier.  There’s a brand new 320 kbps version of Instrumentals making its way around right now.  Props to Weekly Tape Deck, etc

MP3  ::  Motivation

MP3  ::  Realist Alive

(from Instrumentals. Download here)

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MP3  ::  I’m God

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MP3  ::  Palace (prod. By Clams Casino)

MP3  ::  Demons (prod. by Clams Casino)

(from LiveLoveA$AP. Download here)

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[guest post] 2011 in Review, Vol. 8 – Chris Kiehne

Chris Kiehne released two of the year’s most captivating folk albums – the subtly zombie-themed Pray for Daylight and its quick Hank Williams-inspired follow up A Widower’s Kind.  With a new album in the works for 2012, Kiehne took some time to recap his favorite things of 2011:  

 

I’ve got to start by saying that Have One on Me completely dominated my listening in 2011, just as it did in 2010.  And I’m going to limit myself to saying that-and-only-that in regards to Joanna Newsom.  Otherwise, this thing would definitely become overly doting and probably seriously embarrassing.

 

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, here’s some radical stuff that I saw, heard, read, or did this year.  In no particular order:

 

1.      The conclusion of Friday Night Lights.  I don’t think it’s the best show of all time (The Wire), but it was definitely my favorite. 

2.      I worked with my friend Jeff Alford on his haunting five-part piano suite, The Perpetual Calendar.  It can be downloaded for free here

3.      Although I loved Bill Callahan’s Apocalypse, I absolutely did not in any way love the song “America.”

4.      The Tree of Life.  The most Terrence Malick-y Terrence Malick movie yet. 

5.      On that note, I’ve been listening to a lot of Melanesian choral music, familiar to anybody that has seen The Thin Red Line.  It’s the most ecstatically joyful music I’ve heard.

6.      Getting Pray For Daylight reviewed on DreadCentral.com and receiving a perfect rating.

7.      “Love is Won,” from Lia Ices’ Grown Unknown, was probably my favorite song of the year.

8.      Popheadwound.com and slowcoustic.com

9.      Sonya Cotton’s elegy to her mother, It Is So, is utterly devastating and the most beautiful, honest, and redemptive collection of songs of the year.

10.   I definitely still think Bon Iver is the real deal, and “Beth / Rest” is the  best song on the new album. 

11.  The first 67 pages of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot.  Alexander Maksik’s You Deserve Nothing

12.  Bolano’s 2666 and David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green: neither was published in 2011, but they were the highlights of my year as a reader. 

13.  Everything that Super 8 did so wrong, Attack the Block did so right.

14.  The Bowerbirds are my favorite contemporary band that’s not Joanna Newsom, and “Tuck The Darkness In,” the first single off their upcoming album The Clearing, is so unnervingly amazing that I’m just going to go ahead and call it my-favorite-album-of-next-year.  Which is sort of a bummer, because I was hoping to put out an album next year, too.  So.  Armor up, Bowerbirds.  It’s on.

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MP3  ::  The Wind Through Your Wounds

MP3  ::  A Special Providence

(from Pray for Daylight. Buy/download here)

 

MP3  ::  My Sweet Love Ain’t Around

MP3  ::  I Can’t Get You Off of My Mind

(from A Widower’s Kind. Download here)

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2011: SONGS of the YEAR

You know the deal – these are my 50 favorite songs of the year.  For the sake of variety, no artist appears more than once.  You can stream each track, you can download the ones that were promo mp3s this year (the yellow ones), and you can hopefully find some great new artists in here that you never heard before.  If you like what you hear, come “like” PHW on FB, click the little button somewhere over there à

50.  Thurston Moore /

Benediction

49.  Expwy / Armory Hall

48.  Roadside Graves / “Hank Williams”

47.  The Creepy Crawlies / Get Buried!

46.  J Mascis / Not Enough

45.  The Weeknd / The Morning

44.  Smith Westerns / All Die Young

43.  tUnE-yArDs / Bizness

42.  Clams Casino / I’m God

41.  Real Estate / It’s Real

40.  WU LYF / “LYF”

39.  The Roots / “Make My”

38.  Pure X / “Easy”

37.  Crystal Shipsss / “Smile”

36.  Balam Acab / Oh, Why

35.  ANTIQUES / ETC

34.  Future Islands / Before the Bridge

33.  John Maus / Believer

32.  Howth / Deep In My Heart

31.  Great Elk / Walk Down Yr Own Road

30.  Tyler, the Creator / Yonkers

29.  The Decemberists / “January Hymn”

28.  Burial / “Street Halo”

27.  Cass McCombs / “County Line”

26.  Girls / Vomit

25.  Kurt Vile / “Baby’s Arms”

24.  The Vaccines / “All in White”

23.  Belong / Never Came Close

22.  Disappears / “Guider”

21.  Handsome Furs / “No Feelings”

20.  Frank Ocean / Songs for Women

19.  Dirty Beaches / Lord Knows Best

18.  Forest Fire / Mtns Are Mtns

17.  Tom Waits / “New Year’s Eve”

16.  Arrange / Ivory Carpets

15.  Cymbals Eat Guitars / “Keep Me Waiting”

14.  Wilco / “Dawned On Me”

13.  The Field / Then It’s White

12.  M83 / Midnight City

11.  Shabazz Palaces / “Recollections of the Wraith”

10.  The War on Drugs / Come to the City

“Come to the City”, the centerpiece to The War on Drugs’ Slave Ambient, is an invigorating road anthem; you can sing this song to stay awake as the smeared city lights slowly come into focus at the edge of a blank nighttime sky. 

  

9.  Bon Iver / Holocene

After a handful of confounding initial listens, it was this Grammy-nominated track that became my gateway into Bon Iver’s sonically brave + stunningly gorgeous sophomore record. 

 

8.  EMA / “California”

As far as opening lines go, “Fuck California, you made me boring” ranks with “All the other girls here are stars, you are the Northern Lights” or, hell, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.  Not to stop there, EMA follows it with 4+ more minutes of pinpoint imagery and apocalypse-baiting noise/pop.

7.  Tim Hecker / “In the Fog II”

Pulling a single track off of Ravedeath, 1972 is not an easy task, as Hecker’s magnum opus works best if you close your brain to any and all external stimuli and just let it overwhelm you.  But “In the Fog II” stands out to me, like so much of Ravedeath, for the simple fact that it subverts every genre tag that gets thrown at this music.  It’s far too musical to be called drone or noise, and the foundations of these songs are too organic, having been recorded primarily on an organ in one day in an Icelandic church, to be called electronic.  I don’t know what the fuck to call it besides mind-blowing.

    

6.  Okkervil River / “Rider”

There is not a single working indie-rock band that pulls off this kind of heart-pumping Phil Spector homage with more gusto than Okkervil River.  Check “John Allyn Smith Sails” from The Stage Names, or click that little arrow below for “Rider”, a standout from the criminally underrated I Am Very Far. 

 

5.  Centro-matic / Only In My Double Mind

Will Johnson does not write pop songs.  Not for his solo records, not for South San Gabriel, and certainly not for the trucker cap hard indie-folk/rock of Centro-matic.  But “Only in my Double Mind” makes a case that he should attempt them more often.  Layering glorious vocal melodies over thunderous drums and some droning guitar chords has produced the most immediate moment among a catalog of, literally, hundreds of great rock songs. 

4.  David Shane Smith / Benzene

The occasionally jarring songs of experimental L.A.-songwriter David Shane Smith are seemingly obsessed with the numbing effects of our quickly decaying natural world.  Many of the song titles on his latest record, Control SM, tell the story – “Cool Pesticide”, “Global Warming Makes Me Hot”, “Over Feeling”.  Never is this depressing subject matter more affecting though than on the electro-pop/rap of album closer “Benzene”.  Aided by an insistent, nervous beat, a subtle string section, and a dash of auto-tune, Smith spits his evocative, rapid-fire lines like Kid A all grown up and dealing with a whole new set of issues.  The singing becomes more frantic and twitchy as the song progresses, as though the narrator’s mind is quickly losing a battle against an unwanted chemical agent. 

3.  Yuck / “Georgia”

I think it’s fitting that this song, from an album that so gratuitously (and successfully) mines 90s indie and alternative rock influences, appears on a list with legends like Thurston Moore and J Mascis.  The boys and girls in Yuck might have been in diapers when Slanted and Enchanted or Last Splash dropped, but they sure were paying attention to what their parents played around the house. 

  

2.  Destroyer / “Poor in Love”

 “Poor in Love” seems like a relatively minor song when placed between mission statements like “Kaputt” and “Suicide Demo for Kara Walker”.   But for me the best song on one of the year’s best albums was this achingly gorgeous version of Dan Bejar’s blues.  For all the various soft rock 80s influences decorating Kaputt, it’s actually The Replacements I think of when I hear this one.  As singers they may be from different planets, but there’s the same type of heart and disarming detail in “Poor in Love” that Westerberg used to poor into ballads like “Unsatisfied” and “Within Your Reach”.  And then there’s the guitar solo, which swoops in like Bob Stinson did on “Sixteen Blue” and elevates the song to an entirely different level. 

  

1.       Mogwai / “George Square Thatcher Death Party”

 

As a child of the 80s, to me Margaret Thatcher was just some frumpy old English bird who was always in pictures with Ronald Reagan.  I never knew until years later that a lot of folks really didn’t like her very much.  I’m not educated on the woman’s politics, and I can’t say I condone a song that may want to revel in someone’s death, however misguided they may or may not have been (though Kim Jong Il seems like the place to start).  But there’s still something undeniably rousing about this song; I get chills practically every time I hear that unintelligible, robotic melody.  There wasn’t a song I loved more or listened to more in 2011 than this.   

     

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2011: ALBUMS of the YEAR

Another December, another list.  God I love this time of year.  These are my absolute favorite records of the past twelve months.  Some things I posted about a long time ago, some things that snuck up on me over the past few weeks.  Some things you’ve seen all over other people’s lists, some things that maybe differentiate PHW from those other people a little bit.  Read & listen.  I hope you find some new music to love.  Onward:

   

30.   Balam Acab – Wander/Wonder

 

 

29.   Future Islands – On the Water

MP3  ::  Balance

MP3  ::  Before the Bridge

 

28.  A.A. Bondy – Believers

MP3  ::  The Heart is Willing

MP3  ::  Surfer King

 

 

 

27.   Oneohtrix Point Never – Replica

MP3  ::  Nassau

MP3  ::  Replica

 

26.    Centro-matic – Candidate Waltz

 

If you haven’t yet been introduced to this Denton, TX band before, and Crazy Horse, GBV, Drive-by Truckers, Son Volt, Sparklehorse, and early My Morning Jacket are your thing, then you have a goddamn treasure trove of Centro-matic releases to get caught up with.  Starting with Candidate Waltz is as good a place as any.

 

MP3  ::  Only In My Double Mind

 

 

25.  Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost

MP3  ::  Vomit

 

24.  Chris Kiehne – Pray for Daylight/A Widower’s Kind

 

Kiehne, a member of PHW faves The National Lights, finally finished and released Pray for Daylight – a hushed, immaculately-produced collection of folk songs he started years ago and lost in a hard drive crash – in 2011.  With its subtle zombie theme, the album comes on like Our Endless Numbered Days meets The Walking Dead.  Wasting little time, Kiehne went ahead and recorded A Widower’s Kind, a collection of Hank Williams covers/re-imaginings no less, in just two short weeks.  There’s really no way I could chose between them, so they share this spot.

 

MP3  ::  The Wind Through Your Wounds

MP3  ::  A Special Providence

(from Pray for Daylight. Buy here)

 

 

MP3  ::  My Sweet Love Ain’t Around

MP3  ::  I Can’t Get You Off Of My Mind

(from A Widower’s Kind. Download here)

 

 

23.  The Decemberists – The King Is Dead

 

I’ve never really loved The Decemberists, so when this collection of simple folk/rock songs dropped I kind of ignored it for a while.  Save a few songs here and there, they’d never been my thing, so I felt no urgency to listen to, what seemed like on paper anyway, a step backwards for the band.  But after hearing the sublime, Dylan-esque “June Hymn” on the radio I gave it a shot, and The King is Dead became one of the year’s most pleasant surprises.

 

22.  Pure X – Pleasure

 

A late season discovery, Pure X came out of nowhere for me over the past few weeks and have sort of blown my mind.  With its gorgeous melodies and atmospheric guitars, Pleasure might well have been much higher on this list had I heard it earlier.

 

 

21.  Bry Webb – Provider

 

Though released with little publicity and even less fanfare just a few weeks back, the solo debut from Constantines’ front man Bry Webb is an understated, somber, and beautiful collection of songs about family and struggle. 

 

 

20.  David Shane Smith – Controls SM

 

The latest from this prolific, experimental L.A.-based songwriter plays out like a soundtrack for a decaying natural world.

  

MP3  ::  Benzene

MP3  ::  Global Warming (Makes Me Hot)

MP3  ::  Man Made

 

 

19.  Dirty Beaches – Badlands

 

Road songs for some lost desert highway, Alex Zhang Huntai’s Badlands is one of the year’s most promising debuts.

 

MP3  ::  Lord Knows Best

MP3  ::  Sweet 17

 

18.  Antiques – JWNS

 

JWNS is an endearingly slapdash collection that uses 90s alternative/lo-fi as a springboard into something completely refreshing.  My album of Summer 2K11.

  

MP3  ::  Everybody! Do the Twist

MP3  ::  Forgiveness

MP3  ::  ETC

 

 

17.  Arrange – Quiet State EP/Plantation

 

One of my favorite discoveries of the year, Arrange is the work of a Florida teen who seems intent to be one of the internet’s most prolific artists.  With at least 3 EPs, one full length, and handful of free singles (and much more in the works) all in the past 16 or so months, Malcom Lacey is a name to keep in mind in the years to come.

 

MP3  ::  Ivory Carpets

(from Quiet State. Download here)

 

MP3  ::  Turnpike

MP3  ::  Tear Up Old Asphault

MP3  ::  Blinds With You

(from Plantation. Buy/Download here)

 

 

16.  Wilco – The Whole Love

 

As a whole, Wilco’s latest is somewhat scattershot, but The Whole Love certainly has enough brilliant individual moments to warrant inclusion on this list.  “Art of Almost”, “Open Mind”, “One Sunday Morning”, and the quartet of great pop/rock songs (“The Whole Love”, “Dawned on Me”, “I Might” + “Born Alone”) are a welcome return to form from one of my favorite songwriters of all time.

 

MP3  ::  I Might

 

15.  Atlas Sound – Parallax

 

It seems like it will be quite some time before a year goes by without a great album from Bradford Cox, whether it be as Atlas Sound or Deerhunter.  Truly, he has become one of the most reliable and affecting songwriters working today.

 

MP3  ::  Te Amo

MP3  ::  Terra Incognito

 

14.  The Vaccines – What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?

 

A fun, promising debut from these U.K. darlings – perhaps the best album of the year to blast and shout along with.

 

 

 

13.  Disappears – Guider

 

The Chicago band’s second album in as many years is downright primal – all controlled chaos, minimalism, and old fashioned rock & roll swagger.

 

MP3  ::  Superstition

 

 

12.  Cymbals Eat Guitars – Lenses Alien

 

In an era where guitar-based indie ROCK seems to be dying off, Cymbals Eat Guitars are here to shed glorious light on what you (or your parents) were listening to way back in, like, the late 90s.

 

MP3  ::  Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)

 

11.  Blackout Beach – Fuck Death

 

Just read the CMG review already. 

 

MP3  ::  Beautiful Burning Desire

MP3  ::  Be Forewarned, The Night Has Come

 

10.  Forest Fire – Staring at the X

 

A huge improvement over 2008’s promising Survival, Staring at the X is a truly expansive 34 minutes and finds the eclectic folk/pop band exploring all sorts of weird, wonderful ideas. 

 

MP3  ::  Mtns Are Mtns

 

9.  Okkervil River – I Am Very Far

 

One of the most unjustly overlooked records of 2011, Okkervil River’s latest almost entirely eschews the kind of safe folk-rock a band of their stature could rake with for something darker, noisier, and distinctly claustrophobic.  I don’t think there’s a band out there that does the Phil Spector-influenced indie-rock thing as well as Okkervil River – if “John Allyn Smith Sails” wasn’t proof enough in ‘07, then “Rider” is here to put the argument to rest.

 

MP3  ::  Wake and Be Fine

 

8.  The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient

 

Adam Granduciel conjures up a shimmering, atmospheric classic rock freeway on his band’s second full length record. 

 

MP3  ::  Baby Missiles

MP3  ::  Come to the City

 

7.  Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

 

Mogwai’s latest hasn’t turned up on many year-end lists that I’ve seen thus far (props though), which is mildly shocking, if such a thing is possible.  This is a streamlined, engrossing, and, at times, harrowing collection of post-rock instrumentals (P.S. – the two tracks with vocals are absolute killers, mind you) that gets better every single time I hear it. 

 

MP3  ::  Rano Pano

MP3  ::  San Pedro

 

6.  Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for my Halo

 

Vile’s stream-of-consciousness ramblings, his oddly affecting version of a young-man’s blues, left me dazed and confused (in the best possible way) over and over again this year.    

 

MP3  ::  Jesus Fever

MP3  ::  In My Time

 

5.  Yuck – Yuck

 

Yuck deliver a virtual Best Of Comp for the Alternative Nation with their debut, mining a who’s who of 90s all-stars – Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Pixies, Hole, Pavement, Elliott Smith, etc – for inspiration.      

 

 

4.  Shabazz Palaces – Black Up

 

A stunning full length debut from this Sub Pop crew whose positively interstellar jams  draw as much from jazz and minimalism as hip-hop.  Clear some space out….

 

MP3  ::  An echo from the hosts that profess infinitum

MP3  ::  Swerve…the reeping of all that is worthwhile (noir not withstanding)

 

3.  Bon Iver – Bon Iver

 

Is there an “indie” musician with a brighter future than Justin Vernon?  Doesn’t seem like it.  Leaving the remote cabin behind for a fully realized studio effort, Bon Iver loses none of the disarming intimacy that caught the world by storm on his neo-classic debut, and just proves that Vernon is every bit the genius sonic architect as he is the amazing singer and songwriter. 

 

MP3  ::  Calgary

MP3  ::  Holocene

 

2.  Destroyer – Kaputt

 

Enough has been written about Kaputt’s sound and vision over the past 10+ months that getting into all that would just be white noise.  I will say this though – in a year where so many of my favorite artists from years past dropped albums that were just more of the same old same old, Bejar went in an unlikely direction and knocked it out of the park.

 

MP3  ::  Chinatown

 

1.    Tim Hecker– Ravedeath, 1972

 

Nothing I heard in 2011 hit me as hard as Tim Hecker’s drone/noise masterpiece.  There were countless late nights this year where the lights went off, the headphones went on, and for 50+ transportive minutes it seemed as if time and space ceased to exist.  Perhaps the year’s heaviest and most intense album, and quite unlike almost everything else on this list, Ravedeath, 1972 is everything I never knew I needed in a record.

 

MP3  ::  Hatred of Music I

MP3  ::  The Piano Drop

 

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[guest post] 2011 in Review, Vol. 4 – Howth

It was an impressive year for the guys in Howth, an eclectic folk rock band that, until recently, was a cross-continental songwriting partnership between Carl Creighton and Blake Luley.  Things are looking pretty good for the duo with a solid debut, a batch of free singles, and a killer Dolly Parton cover already under their belts, not to mention a new EP coming early next year.  Both Creighton and Luley passed along a list of some of their 2K11 musical discoveries.  Check it out: 

Carl Creighton (Vocals, Guitar):

Steve Reich – Music for 16 Musicians

I went from using Steve Reich on Pandora as jogging music to realizing that you really should be doing absolutely nothing while listening to Steve Reich because it’s so good. I can’t believe the precision.

Minnie Riperton – Best of Minnie Riperton

It’s really good. Check it out. Pretty trippy in its own way. The production is both slick and daring.

Sufjan Stevens – Age of Adz

My roommate has this on vinyl and the loud glitch noises sound amazing. I’ve become a little tired of listening to everything in headphones so it’s cool to know good headphone albums can translate to good speaker albums too.

Townes Van Zandt – Flying Shoes

I love how simple his songwriting is. Like Robert Frost. No Place to Fall is so perfect.

Henry Mancini – Martinis with Mancini

I packed my own bowl for the first time this summer in my car and this was playing as I fumbled with the wheel and a shitty lighter. The music has this mischievous feeling to it that was entirely appropriate. But I also just love how instruments come and go with little explanation.

Side note: I also listened to this New Ulm Minnesota Polka Band CD a bunch, but I don’t know the name of the band or CD. But I feel the need to list them because I probably listened to it more than any of those other albums.

Blake Luley (Guitar, other stuff):

Wilco- Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

I don’t know how I slept on this album for so long. Of course I had heard all the songs for years, but I never really “got into” Wilco and sat down with this album until this summer. It served as a soundtrack to pretty much every task I did and it was probably 95% of the music I listened to this summer besides working on our stuff.

The Microphones- The Glow Pt. 2

Similar situation to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, in the sense that a few of the tracks were totally familiar to me but I hadn’t full dug into the album. I forged an obsession for the sounds and the strange (at first glance, incomplete) song structures on this album. It started in 2010 but really bled over into 2011 pretty extensively. There is such a dark warm and cohesive feeling to this whole record. It doesn’t come across at first listen because of how different a lot of the tracks are, but it is an album that really does get better with age (which I think is getting more and more rare in the modern music spectrum).

William Basinski- The Disintegration Loops

I’ve listened to this casually in brief bits and pieces over the years. Mainly admiring the general “sound” of the loops disintegrating, not necessarily wanting to sit through an hour of it. In September of this year I sat down and listened to the first part loudly in a dark room, all alone. At first it served as a way for me to clear my thoughts and just work through my life, then it become an overwhelmingly cathartic and emotional experience as I got more and more lost in the loop and felt it decaying so intensely. I can’t full describe the situation but it’s made me really enjoy these works, if nothing else, therapeutically.

The Shirelles- Greatest Hits

I may be burned at the stake for putting a Greatest Hits on my favorites list, but I don’t really give a shit. My roommate has a record of this album and would play it every time we would play board games in the family room and I was always so into it. Once I got my hands on it for myself I couldn’t stop listening. The beautiful and sometimes strange pop song structure, the perfectly contained yet chaotic string arrangements, and overall the warm and fuzzy feeling you get listening to these songs.

2 Pac- Me Against the World

This is a CRAZY rap album. First thing is the production is incredible. Super slick and musical and by far my favorite west coast rap beats. Beyond that, 2 Pac is at his lyrical height on this album in my opinion. The thing that really sold me was that it’s extremely dark and emotional in a way that very few rap records ever have been.

Side note: To not seem like a hater on this year in music I will say I throughly enjoyed the new albums by The Antlers, Atlas Sound, Wu Lyf, Yuck, and Adele.

MP3  ::  Needles & Pins

 (from Howth. Listen/Download here)

MP3  ::  I Will Always Love You (Dolly Parton cover)

MP3  ::  Deep In My Heart

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[guest post] 2011 in Review, Vol. 3 – Expwy

Recording as Expwy, Matt LeGroux dropped Dance Maul this past summer, a vintage-sounding homemade folk/rock album.  It took one listen for me to fall under its spell – ghostly organs, healthy doses of reverb, and some of the year’s most fluid guitar solos will do that.  Already finished with the follow up to Dance Maul (Total Gold, due in early 2012), LeGroux sent along this summary of his 2011.   

I started the year working on Dance Maul and trying to finish it up.  My wife and I had moved to a much smaller apartment and I was having some serious trouble getting things going.  I was also playing in my good friend Ian Jarvis’ band Chairs before it dissolved and Ian joined the Alberta band Ghostkeeper.  It’s really too bad about Chairs, the music was amazing, the band was great and people really liked us when they heard us.  Hopefully Ian will see fit to release that stuff someday, I was never in a band whose music I liked so much.

I spent a good chunk of 2011 obsessed with the music of Carlo Gesualdo, the Italian Renaissance madrigal composer, particularly his piece “Moro lasso al mio duolo.”  I even went so far as to try to learn it on guitar but threw in the towel when it became painfully apparent that I could not for the life of me approximate the sound of five voices running circles around each other.  It did allow me to really get into the piece and get a feel for Carlo’s centuries-ahead-of-its-time sense of harmony.  I also found that I was in good company; Igor Stravinsky and Aldous Huxley were also fans.  I grew to love Gesualdo’s music so much I even used the very first part of “Moro lasso…” at the beginning of “We Will Lift, We Will Drop” on the new Expwy album Total Gold. 

I had a few more obsessions last year, Merle Travis and Ariel Pink.  I discovered Ariel’s music in 2011 and it quickly became a favourite.  If I had to pick, I think Lover Boy would be at the top of my list.  I started toying with the idea of an album of Ariel’s music done instrumentally to highlight the songwriting but I never got farther than a mash-up of Fright Night and Round and Round played on acoustic guitars.  As a guitar player the figure of Merle Travis looms large.  He has an entire style of finger picking named after him, for pete’s sake.  I had known Merle’s music before but I got into it big-time last year.  Sixteen Tons, Dark as a Dungeon and Cannonball Rag are all classics but to hear him really play his ass off check out Walkin’ the Strings.  Back Home also made a great soundtrack to driving through Kentucky’s blue rolling hills, horse farms and coal country and visiting its bourbon distilleries.

I almost forgot about Choro, a Brazilian music based around the mandolin, guitar and cavaquinho.  I loved Jacob do Bandolim so much I actually went out and bought a mandolin, quickly discovered that it’s crazy-hard to play and that I would have to dedicate my life to it and decided the role of non-participating observer was best for me.  Throw in Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Charles Ives and you’ve got pretty much everything that’s been on my mp3 player in the past year.

The biggest news for me, though, was much more recent.  Dance Maul got written-up at Quick Before it Melts, this wonderful blog, and Pasta Primavera and people started listening to it.  I had signed up for the Charles Ives plan; make music in your spare time for your entire life and finally be recognized well into your 70s as some half-genius cranky obsessive madman.  But things are starting to pick up and with a child on the way it couldn’t have happened at a better time.

But I’m really excited for 2012, I think Total Gold is a much better record than Dance Maul, I’ve got a great and supportive wife, friends and family and am being given a forum for my music.  What more could a cranky obsessive madman ask for?

MP3  ::  Armory Hall

MP3  ::  Park Row

(from Dance Maul. Listen/Download here)

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[guest post] 2011 in Review, Vol. 2 – Jacob Faurholt

It’s been almost two years since Berlin-based songwriter Jacob Faurholt, recording under his Why Write? indie-rock persona, absolutely floored me with the blistering, electric-guitar fueled “Burning Holes”.  This past summer he re-emerged under his given name with an album of slow-burning, brooding folk songs called Dark Hours.  It wasn’t long thereafter that he sent along a link to another project he’d been working on under the new moniker Crystal Shipsss.  That album, sssimply titled Yay, is a batch of weird, lo-fi folk/pop that features Faurholt singing mostly in a delirious falsetto.  It’s been on constant rotation around here for weeks.  Below the very busy Faurholt reveals what he watched/read/listened to during whatever free time he had this year:

2011 has been busy and enjoyable year so far, my second in Berlin. I have spent a lot of my time recording music in my living room, finishing three different albums,but I have (of course) also spent a good deal of my time listening to albums, watching films, reading books and attending shows. So here is my 2011 “best of” list:

Films / TV:

Shotgun Stories: Probably the best film I saw this year. It’s the debut from director Jeff Nichols, starring my favorite American actor Michael Shannon. It’s basically about a feud between to groups of half brothers. It’s slow paced, tense, beautifully filmed and really atmospheric. I like movies that disturb you a little bit, like films by Lars Von Trier and David Lynch.

Boardwalk Empire: Great TV-show with Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson, who is the ruler of Atlantic City in the 1920s. A lot of corrupt politicians, gangsters, etc. Love it. 

The Walking Dead: A cool slow paced zombie show. It’s more character driven than action driven, which I appreciate.

Albums:

Liturgy – Aesthethica: I heard a song from this album in a record store in Erfurt, when I was on tour last April, and I immediately fell for the heavy riffs, the energy and the beauty of the music. Fortunately Liturgy played just a couple of weeks later in Berlin. So I went to my first black metal show and bought my first black metal album.

Nadja – Touched: This album inspired me to write the Crystal Shipsss song Burning Kingdom. A friend lent me the album, and I instantly fell in love with the music. I guess it can be described as ambient/doom metal, but I will say that the music is also reminiscent to shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine.

Man Meets Bear – the catalog: This year Soren Brothers, my good friend from Canada, put his Man Meets Bear albums up on Bandcamp for everyone to hear. They are highly recommendable, especially if you are into home recordings and songwriters with an experimental approach to their material. Very inspiring. (www.manmeetsbear.bandcamp.com)

Shows:

Why? – HBC, Berlin (October 29th): This concert was announced as Why? – Accoustic Piano Tour, which I thought sounded very interesting. It was a seated show at the small venue HBC, and the band mostly played new material. It was one of those concerts where feel you have experienced something special. Maybe the best show of 2011. 

Books:

Haruki Murakami – Dance Dance Dance: I think I have read most of Murakamis novels, and this one is one of my favorites. I love his writing, even though his stories are often pretty surreal, you can still relate to them. Reading Murakami feels like stepping into another world, a very unique world than can be both disturbing and beautiful at the same time.

MP3  ::  Creatures in the Sea

(from Dark Hours. Listen/buy here)

MP3  ::  Burning Holes

(from Why Write? EP. Buy here)

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[guest post] 2011 in Review, Vol. 1 – Antiques

Kicking off PHW’s annual Year in Review guest post series is Antiques, whose 2011 record JWNS is an endearingly slapdash collection of 90’s-influenced indie-rock.  It’s also a free download available right here, so no excuses.  Here’s Timothy from the band recapping Antiques’ 2K11:   

 

You’ll have to forgive me; I’m no good at writing retrospectives like this, particularly considering how out of touch we all are with music in this band, or the state of music, or new music, or whatever one calls it. I discover all my music in a non-linear, non-chronological fashion. We’re a fairly hermetic band and I think we get less of our inspiration from Western Mass rock than appears on the surface. Most of the time, I listen to Hank Mobley while I’m cooking or something; I don’t listen to enough music and I listen to too much. Not to mention, in the last year, I’ve become an old person, and I no longer enjoy shows. It is mostly you young people who are ruining it for me, with your hip pants and your rock ‘n roll music. How can I compete?

 

Through the first 5 months or so of this year, we were putting the finishing touches on the JWNS mixes. My Winter and Spring were dominated by three albums, all old: Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, Steve Reich’s The Desert Music, and the Magnetic Fields’ Charm of the Highway Strip. JWNS was mixed under the influence of those albums, but you wouldn’t know if if you heard it. JWNS sounds (production-wise) more like Jay Reatard’s Watch Me Fall mixed with Sebadoh’s III, two other albums that I enjoyed in the early part of the year.

 

I was also very fortunate (if that’s the word you want to use) to witness the death of LCD Soundsystem this year, twice. The first show was at Terminal 5 (for New York readers, the worst venue ever, yes?) and the second was Madison Square Garden (the 2nd worst venue). I have to admit that they made Terminal 5 seem almost tolerable with their very long and energetic show. I will miss that band. I’m lucky, sometimes, that I live in New York City, even though at times I want to kill everyone and bust out of town on the MetroNorth toward the Catskills.

 

Like most people of my construction and upbringing, I liked the Yuck album a lot. I’m upset I never got to see them this year, but then the shows probably would’ve been populated by morons anyway. I’d say that band was my summer band this year. Who cares if it’s regurgitated Dinosaur Jr.? It’s fucking great. Billy calls it a “nostalgia meatball.” I like that term. My year has also been continuously dominated by Twin Shadow’s Forget. I feel like I’m behind on that one, but I’m behind on everything.

 

Since the fall, I’ve been interested in the very underrated There Is No Enemy by Built to Spill. There are a couple of groaney, soppy ballads on there I don’t like, but the melodies make up for it. I’ve also been really into Lou Reed’s The Blue Mask (and I have a deep respect for Lulu), Carter Tanton’s Freeclouds, Atlas Sound’s Parallax, Woods’ Sun and Shade, Tycho’s Dive, and David Byrne and Brian Eno’s Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.

 

In the wake of Thanksgiving, I feel I should be thankful for Spotify coming to the States this year. I have always been a poor person and my poverty has been perpetuated by my insistence on buying all music. Now that I have some demonic corporation to rob people of royalties for me (i.e. I no longer have to steal their albums directly; I have an intermediary!), I can get as many albums as I want in a given month. I go through albums really fast and I give almost everything a chance if I like the cover art. I also hate the structure of the music business and I have been reluctant to ever sell anything we put out. It’s bad enough how attention seeking and fad driven being a musician is; why add money into the mix? So you can afford your goddamn Ray-Ban’s and play shitty Bon Iver songs in the subway again? Sometimes I want to punch every musician who plays in public in the fucking face. In fact, no one should ever play or create music ever. I quit.

 

Here are ten albums I listened to this year of which I approve for your consumption:

 

The Books – The Lemon of Pink/The Way Out

Yuck – S/T

Robyn – Body Talk

Orange Juice – The Glasgow School

Built to Spill – There Is No Enemy

Ahmad Jamal – Live at the Pershing

Lou Reed – The Blue Mask

Bjork – Biophilia

Talking Heads – Everything ever by them

Broadcast – Haha Sound

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MP3  ::  Everybody! Do the Twist

MP3  ::  Forgiveness

MP3  ::  ETC

(from JWNS. Buy here)

 

Previously:

Introducing: Antiques

Further into Songs // Antiques – “Everybody! Do the Twist”

Antiques – “ETC”

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