This has been a year full of change for us. More than any other year, we’ve seen so many new faces. Good music seems to be pouring out in a constant flow. Since we’re such a tiny store, we’ve had to make a lot of adjustments with these changes. It’s very important to us to keep things small and hand picked. The music in our shop represents us as music lovers. We like a focused, well-curated selection. So, along with the physical changes we’ve made to the store and our online presence, we decided that our year-end picks should reflect this attitude. This year, we’re cutting our year-end lists in half, from top 10 to top 5. As any music nut could tell you, this doesn’t make things any easier for us. In fact, having to choose only 5 almost drives us mad, but as more and more music crosses our paths and more and more new faces walk through the door, we need to try that much harder to only focus on the absolute best titles out there. To make up for cutting these lists in half, we’ve recruited some of our favorite customers to contribute their picks. This way, there’s hardly any redundancies with these titles, which would have been really hard to accomplish with a Top 10 list.
Cutting this list down to five posed an interesting challenge for me. I really had to work to offer up picks that represented the absolute best of a particular kind of sound. So, instead of an “Honorable Mentions” list at the end, I’ve included “Runners Up” with every pick. These are titles that are comparable to these particular artists. Think of them as a “recommended if you like.”
There is an uneasiness to the music of Ought. All the conventional ideas of pop and rock music are replaced by dissonant intervals, with any resolutions used very sparingly; Tim Darcy’s vocals seem to make no effort to sound conventionally appealing. Instead, he cycles through a multitude of personalities, from bratty, post punk vocals to deeper timbres better fitted to industrial dark wave, then dipping into the spoken word cadence of a David Byrne or Lou Reed. With all of this discordance happening, they still manage to make some of the catchiest music I’ve heard this year. The drums are lively and full of forward movement. The changes are unpredictable and delightfully jarring and when they do decide to make anything resembling a resolution, it’s like dark clouds parting. The lyrics are, at any time, either a repetitive mantra of banality, said over and over until they take on more sinister meaning, or heartbreaking confessions. This is a clear reminder that music is a vast spectrum and should be experienced like a movie or a book, with full attention and openness.
Runners up to Ought:
A Place To Bury Strangers – Transfixiation [Dead Oceans]
Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect [Hardly Art]
This one gets my vote for slacker album of the year, beating out other favorites like Widowspeak, Houndstooth, and Courtney Barnett. Shana Cleveland has been sitting on these recordings for over 4 years, while she recorded and toured with her psych-surf band, La Luz. Oh Man, Cover The Ground oh so delightfully drags its feet through 12 songs of swirling fingerpicked guitar, dusty, brushy drums, over smokey folky songs, mumbled through reverb drenched vocals, that sweep themselves in and out of tune, like a heavily sedated Nancy Sinatra. Ambivalence has never sounded so sweet and exciting. This isn’t to imply that anything about this album was simply thrown together. Everything on this album sounds intentional and completely in place. If it sounds so lazy, it’s only because Cleveland seems so comfortable with this style. Her guitar playing has the unique “self taught” sound of a John Fahey, with all the cracks and gaffs powering through some energetic finger picking. The songs have the sparse loneliness that could only be found at 4:00 in the morning, drunk and stoned in a wide-eyed haze. It takes a special kind of artist to capture that in a bottle, instead of letting it atrophy, fall asleep and burn the house down with a lit cigarette on the couch.
Runners up to Shana Cleveland:
Widowspeak – All Yours [Captured Tracks]
La Luz – Weirdo Shrine [Hardly Art]
Houndstooth – No News From Home [No Quarter]
This is unmistakably “art music.” The group is made up of 8 or so “classically” trained vocalists and performs songs composed by Roomful of Teeth members, as well as other contemporary composers, such as Missy Mazzoli and William Brittelle. I hesitate to call them a vocal group, as that brings to mind a choir of voices singing songs. Here, the voices serve to simply create music. The members have a background in classical as well as many different ethnic styles of singing. This serves to brush off any restrictions as to what the voice can and should be used for. There are wide sweeping synth-like lines as well as nasally, percussive vocalizations that create dissonance not often found in vocal ensembles. At times, they resemble groups like Dirty Projectors, Animal Collective or Merrill Garbus of Tune Yards, with whom they have collaborated. Even though they have won a Grammy, as well as a Pulitzer awarded to member and composer Caroline Shaw, they may elude household name status for some time. However, with all the interest they are garnering, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear their work on one of your favorite upcoming albums. I urge you to go back to some of your favorite albums and look at the collaborators. You may see names like Nico Muhly, Caroline Shaw, Bryce Dessner and other composers who cross over the lines of genre. As fans of music, we should give attention to the artists who inspire the art we love. We may not always appreciate these new sounds, but they help us dig a little deeper into the music we do respond to. If you’re looking for that sort of depth in your rock and pop music, Roomful of Teeth is a great place to start.
Runners up to Roomful of Teeth:
Bryce Dessner / So Percussion – Music For Wood & Strings [Brassland]
Tal National – Zoy Zoy [Fat Cat]
Julia Wolfe – Anthracite Fields [Cantaloupe]
I described Holter’s previous album Loud City Song as an Ellington album slowed down to one tenth of its normal speed, with Miles Davis playing his trumpet through a voice simulator. On Have You in My Wilderness, any comparisons to anything previously existing would undermine the originality of this beautiful piece of work. All the elements of the artist who created Loud City Song are certainly still there. Holter has a unmistakable sound that, on the surface, could draw comparisons to other chamber pop or chill wave acts out there – but only on the surface. Julia Holter is able to write songs that lie somewhere between indie pop, jazz and modern classical, all the while shaking off any derivative elements in their understated delivery. The arrangements give equal real estate to strings, drums, piano and string bass, creating a sound that belongs more in a concert hall than rock clubs, but the songs are presented in an unmistakably pop format. This lives right at the edge of “art music,” letting the listener decide what to focus on with each listen, making for multiple albums wrapped up as one.
Runners up to Julia Holter:
Other Lives – Rituals [tbd Records]
Patrick Watson – Love Songs For Robots [Domino]
Here We Go Magic has slowly become one of my favorite bands. I have been a fan of Luke Temple’s music since the mid 2000s, but mostly for his early solo albums. HWGM has been a great lesson in the shedding of personal biases. They have all the elements of Temple’s more folky albums, with dense, rhythmic layering, hypnotic modal chord changes, and unpredictable melodies that hold your attention throughout the album. Where the use of synths and electronic sounds, over his previous use of acoustic instrumentation, might have been the turn off for me before, I now appreciate the textures he’s working with. It’s strange that I ever really had a problem with them, considering some of my favorite bands, like Stereolab, Sea & Cake and Talking Heads use similar textures in a very similar way. Any trepidation towards Here We Go Magic was purely based in my own expectations of what Luke Temple’s music “should” sound like. That’s no way to have a relationship with music. So even though “Be Small” has only gotten a couple of solid listens from me, I am including it on this list knowing that, like the band’s previous albums, it has real staying power and is a perfect addition to their ever-growing catalogue of synth-pop masterpieces. A common conversation I’ve had at the record store is that our favorite albums don’t always start out as our favorites. Sometimes you have to put in the work to get something in return, but it’s almost always worth it.
Runner Up to Here We Go Magic:
Jaakko Eino Kalevi – S/T [Weird World]
Lower Dens – Escape From Evil [Ribbon Music]
Lindsay continues to hold this store together, keeping us fully stocked with awesome albums and charming our favorite labels so we can continue to get awesome prizes for all of you. Like her killer bass playing, she rounds out our little shop and keeps us on solid ground. She is that vital element that we couldn’t live without.
I started writing this list and got stuck at 4. Not because there were only 4 albums I could come up with, there were easily 12 more. Rather, I discovered the four I chose were all Canadian. I’ve always appreciated the creativity going on up there and the financial backing Canada provides their lucky citizens with to be creative, but I didn’t realize that I was exclusively partial toward Canadian music. After trying to round this list out with a 5th and final Canadian, I failed. Sorry, Canada.
Number 5 goes to neighboring Duluth, MN, home to longtime favorites LOW.
It’s an interesting journey to grow up with a band. Low was a big deal for me in high school, continued their roll through college, and has held strong through my adult years. A rare thing indeed, to stay consistently strong while changing and growing album after album. While they’ve got an album for every mood (provided it’s of the brooding kind), they’ve always and forever been the MASTERS of arrangements and dynamics within a world of extremely steady tempo and melancholy. This is an intense sounding record, best of course listened to with full attention. Tried and true, slow and steady; Ones and Sixes.
All the records that could have/should have been on the list:
Houndstooth – No News From Home [No Quarter]
Rachel Grimes – The Clearing [Temporary Residence]
Widowspeak – All Yours [Captured Tracks]
Lianne La Havas – Blood [Nonesuch]
Helvetia – Dromomania [Joyful Noise]
This has been a busy year for Kimber! When she’s not traveling the globe, spreading the word about Local First Az, putting on amazing festivals or even moving houses (Seriously, she moved a hundred year old house to keep it from being torn down!), she’s still putting in time at Stinkweeds, keeping the valley up on new music. For someone whose time is as valuable as hers, you know she’s going to choose her music wisely.
Don’t be fooled by the 60’s girl band harmonies- these songs have a dark and eerie edge to them that separates them from the pack. Produced by Ty Segall in an old surf board warehouse, Weirdo Shrine has smart guitar parts that play off the organ in creative, deliberate ways that are easy to miss, and their lyrics will cut you off at the knees. I haven’t seen them live but have heard these women are prone to body surf, so be prepared to get elbowed in the head. But in a pretty way.
I just can’t get enough of his guitar playing. Gonzalez plays music that is incredibly soothing and rhythmic at the same time. His voice, even when he’s reaching for high notes, never alters from the same smooth and effortless tone. His sound hasn’t changed much from his last solo record 7 years ago, but I say that’s a good thing. No one does this better.
I find it truly amazing that Low can still be so relevant after more than 20 years of making music. Admittedly, they lost me for a few years, but this new record is as lively and urgent (in a dirge-y kind of way) as anything they’ve done. Somehow they always make ‘less is more’ work so well and they can always pull in the listener with what isn’t there and then turn up the intensity at just the right moments.
Grimes has always played in the world of indie rock without actually playing indie rock. Best known for her work in Rachel’s, which is was a neoclassical band in the 90’s and early 00’s, she continues on this record to blur the lines between stark, minimal compositions played on a crazy wide variety of instruments and by many well-known indie rock players- and magical songs that are sometimes stormy and sometimes light and lovely. This record is challenging and gorgeous at the same time.
Music for Dogs harkens back to their debut album, which is significantly more lo-fi than last year’s outing Dunes. With more dirge and less dance, this is a synthpop record that’s somewhat menacing and joyless, constantly at odds with itself. Even though it’s only 35 minutes long, this collection of songs is noteworthy and memorable in that it’s wrought with tension and is certainly gutsy, coming off last year’s shiny pop record.
Jeff just joined the Stinkweeds family earlier this year, but he’s been a long time customer and a big player in the Phoenix music scene for some time. As a full time job, he does booking and marketing for The Rebel Lounge & Psyko Steve Presents and others.
Formed from the ashes of Canadian noise-punk legends Women, Viet Cong put out the first release this year that was in my constant rotation for a long while. This album is packed with driving, angular riffs, a healthy amount of drone, and dark, but totally catchy vocals. Highly recommend catching them live too.
This album became my go-to ‘house music’ this year because it is the most calm, melodic rock presented with amazing tones throughout. Absolutely chill, slacker pop rock that doesn’t try to do too much or too little with their sound.
This album may be my favorite release of this year. J Fernandez was songwriter I had never heard of until I asked on at least 5 different occasions in the shop, “this is cool, what are we listening to?” The ground he manages to cover on this album while maintaining such a cool, low key sound is what is completely entertaining and keeps me hooked on this album.
This one was totally out of left field for me, and is on the most ambient, lush pop side of my favorites this year. This Finnish songwriter (who I still have no idea if I am pronouncing correctly) drags through relatively minimal instrumentation and vocal stylings to create awesome low-key pop tunes that sound totally familiar but stay interesting at the same time.
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I spent a lot of this year diving into the Exploding In Sound catalog and it was just in time for this amazing chug-heavy collection of slamming pop songs. Steve Hartlett (Stove) was previously in an amazing group called Ovlov (think My Bloody Valentine with vocals that come through clear as day) and spent the start of this year recording all the instrumentation on this album in a barn. Not only is it impressive that this beast was released before the end of the year, but it’s also fascinating how quickly captivating his driving riffs and catchy hooks will suck you in.
Other favorites from this year (five is hard!):
Helvetia – Dromomania (as a huge Duster fan, this one took a minute for me to process, but I absolutely love the myriad of ideas presented in such a casual manner here)
Deerhunter – Fading Frontier (just now getting into this one but it is amazing!)
Pro Teens – S/T (amazing local surf/soul pop, seriously fun live)
Twin Ponies – Friendly Pet Mass Graves (best riffs in town with amazing tones)
Diners – It’s All True (also local – very intriguing direction from my favorite pop songwriter in AZ)
Ought – Sun Coming Down (perhaps the most surprising / interesting record that struck a chord with me this year)
Hibou – S/T (reverb drenched, sunny beach pop)
Mac DeMarco – Some Other Ones (his new record Another One didn’t do as much for me as this collection of (seemingly perfect for Mario Golf) instrumentals recorded at the same time)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi Love (these guys continue to release amazing album after amazing album)
Pile – You’re Better Than This (another heavy hitter from Exploding In Sound)
Caleb & Micah Dailey (Moone Records)
One of our newest groups of friends is the Moone Records crew. Caleb and Micah have been just the greatest group of people. They’ve put on a couple events at Stinkweeds, as well as helped us put our Record Store Day together, booked bands and sound and have done a ton of promotion. They obviously have a lot of love for their community and it shows in their Top 5 picks. They feature two awesome local releases!
With Take Me Home Spiderman, what seems to be lost only serves to make what’s left even sweeter. There is a sense of grief and sadness, which only seems to reinforce the integrity of the hopeful joy also palpable in Lonna’s timeless sound. Her prominent Beach-Boys-esque vocals rise like a phoenix from a foundation of drum machines which run throughout the album. Take Me Home Spiderman stands out to us for the little things you won’t notice on a first listen, but which you would definitely miss if they were gone. We love Lonna’s use of distorted guitar and noise, pervading the album and thickening its air to round out her haunting production. listen
Some rides we enjoy for their smoothness and consistency; but others we enjoy because we’re never quite sure what the next turn will bring, and No Draw by Soft Shoulders is exactly that kind of ride. There’s a thrill that comes when you feel like you’re about to be thrown off an edge, but get pulled back to the center of the tracks at the last minute in this wild “even-more-shattered-punk” experience. What might seem to be broken pieces, come together in a beautiful, experimental composition which is fun, thrilling (and maybe slightly uncomfortable at times), but which leaves you satisfied by the time you unbuckle your seatbelt. The first side of the album, recorded in 2009, is still just as relevant as the second side, recorded in 2014. Compositionally, No Draw stands out to earn a spot on our list. listen
Timeline by Mild High Club earns its place for having all of our favorite elements of good psychedelic pop. When you first put it on, you may wonder if the record player is set to the right speed, but very soon the album’s short, catchy songs will bring you in and let you get lost in its flow. Punchy bass lines carry the album rhythmically as it phases in and out of it’s driving energy. While suspending us in the midst of an altered psychedelic reality with all of its swirling instrumental and vocal effects, Timeline still manages to keep us anchored with the sobriety of its clear pop rhythm and song structure. listen
Helvetia’s vocals float effortlessly and lazily over Dromomania’s 90s chord structures. The album moves from 90s lo-fi, to psychedelic, to something all its own, and yet the flow really works for us; it hearkens back to the psychedelic renaissance of the 90s and takes form in a well-executed production that still maintains some lo-fi feeling. The way it switches time signatures, it’s masterful guitar tone and half-closed wah sounds, along with the heavily compressed drums, are just a few of the things that make Dromomania such a fun listen. listen
Star Wars takes Wilco into newer territory and shows the band’s versatility as they carry the strength of the folk genre’s warm melodies through to their more recent rock/pop sound. Jeff Tweedy’s classic, warm vocals shine down like steady sunshine on the bouncing, twisting and turning river of cool instrumentation and close drums. Star Wars also stands out for having our favorite album art of the year; the cat on the front with its acrylic-painted feel gives a sense of the opulence in 30s and 40s entertainment, and yet the name of the album itself belongs to a different era, and the colors are limited and distinct. We feel that the cover art of Star Wars fits the feeling of its music more than any other artwork we’ve seen this year. listen
Rob is a longtime customer, as well as a local musician and DJ. We’ve always enjoyed seeing what obscure titles he requests and sharing things we think he might enjoy. We love the challenge of finely tuned tastes.
This is the third in a series of ‘Xerrox‘ albums on Raster Noton curated by the amazing Carstein Nicolai (aka Alva Noto). The premise behind this series is based around the way copies of sounds modulate the nature of them. Many of the sound sources on these albums were captured via field recordings at various places and treated by Nicolai in his music studio. He was especially interested in how recorded sounds are degraded by their re-sampling and copying, and how that can be transformed into a means of music composing. The results are rather gorgeous, with sample artifacts adding strange, grainy textures over the top of looping orchestral swells. Definitely headphone music for those not equipped with some nice speakers/studio monitors. If our hyper-digital, socially networked cities could breathe, this would be their voice. listen
First off, when will these guys come to the damn U.S.?!?! But that desire aside, this album is quite a masterpiece that’s definitely part of the current post-punk revival. Tom Smith is easily one of my favorite male voices in alternative music today, and he really flexes his vocal range on tracks like “No Harm” and the anthemic single “Life Is A Fear”. What’s also clearly noticeable right from the album’s opener, is the role electronics play in the production of the album. Synth leads and synthetic textures accent the traditional acoustic instrumentation beautifully, and sometimes clearly lead specific tracks (reminding me of Depeche Mode’s more recent and musically mature albums). With the success of similar groups like Interpol, it’s extremely surprising to me that Editors don’t have as big a fan base in the U.S. to provoke them to tour on this side of the pond. listen
Why this was only self-released digitally I’m not entirely sure, but Tobias Lilja has been someone on my radar for several years now since past releases on n5md caught my attention. This is seriously conceptually driven electronic music with a definite influence from both industrial and poetic, but leftfield, singer-songwriters. The attention to detail in the compositions is quite apparent, where even the voice is treated to carefully chosen effects, which are never cliche or drowning out. It’s difficult to site who Tobias Lilja’s peers are in the contemporary musical world, which is definitely not a bad thing. Though perhaps that’s why he hasn’t garnered as many listeners as I think the music deserves. There’s also a cinematic intensity to his music, especially on this album, that would likely put off many easy listeners seeking instant gratification. Tracks clock in, on average, at a length of seven minutes, but still feel un-repetitive and are completely invigorating as compositions. Tobias Lilja’s music does share some sensibilities with darker post-rock outfits, even though it is almost entirely electronic. To cut to the chase about it: If Trent Reznor and company were more adventurous with their How To Destroy Angels project, I think it would sound something like this. listen
This release was something I stumbled across randomly while sifting through the “rock” section at a local Zia Records, discovering that all sorts of experimental music that apparently doesn’t pass as “electronic”, is buried in amongst Limp Bizkit and Korn. Helm is definitely a peer of electro-acoustic composers like Tim Hecker and William Basinski. A tape-loop aesthetic is clear in how tracks unfold onto the listener, with multiple layers of treated sounds that create rich, dark atmospheres. There’s a strong organic feel to the music, which comes across as performed and not overly contrived in front of a computer screen. The overall mood is one of melancholy, though not of the hopeful kind, more of a nihilistic trudge through life (which is not to say unenjoyable — there’s a reason it’s in my top 5 for 2015). The album itself could easily pass as the material for a soundtrack, though the kind of score that leads the movie along, as opposed to one that recedes into the background. listen
Abyss is easily Chelsea Wolfe’s heaviest album to date at a sonic level. Her goth/folk aesthetic has always flirted with metal and heavy post-rock, but here on Abyss the distorted walls of sound are at the forefront in most tracks — without giving up the noticeable sense of vulnerability she regularly exudes both on stage and in recordings. There are some wonderful moments of experimentation in tracks like album closer “The Abyss”, complete with an unsettling music-box-like melody woven through the building guitars and vocals that gives way to a chillingly performed string solo. Chelsea Wolfe definitely sets herself apart from other darkwave-revivalists like Zola Jesus, Cold Cave and TR/ST at a sonic level in that Wolfe shares much more with Swans than say Siouxsie & the Banshees or New Order. The album is full of distorted, pulsing grime that is never chaotic and always intentional and well controlled — your subwoofers should get a workout on tracks like “Iron Moon”. This is definitely my favorite album of hers so far. If you missed the supporting tour, shame on you. listen
Kyle is the man behind a lot of the shows you see. He’s one of the main designers and hustlers for Valley Bar, Crescent Ballroom and Stateside Presents. He’s also an enthusiastic record shopper and all around super awesome dude!
Beach Slang put out two fantastic 7″s last year, and this record is the perfect mix of those two efforts. With the super high-energy from “Ride The Wild Haze” to the slowed down, string accompanied acoustics of “Too Late To Die Young” – Beach Slang have proven they can write a dynamic full-length while keeping the perfect balance of youthful punk and 90’s rock. Also, Tim Kasher called them “The Best Rock Band In America.” If that’s not enough for you, I honestly don’t know what is. Go buy this, and for the love of God, go see them live very soon. listen
Title Fight – Hyperview
Mutoid Man – Bleeder
Broadside – Old Bones
Knuckle Puck – Copacetic
Neck Deep – Life’s Not Out To Get You
Behemoth – The Satanist
Senses Fail – Pull The Thorns From Your Heart
Jaymz is a longtime customer and a valuable resource for any albums we might miss throughout the year. He always has some great suggestions for us to check out. Now, he gets to share some of those suggestions with you!
Sounds like: A Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes-era TV on the Radio rolled around in the grit of a dark alley outside of an Afghan Whigs show, got a concussion and instead of a constant ringing, they forever only heard the percussions of a Neubauten song. Album of the year. listen
Emotionally confident, adventurous and true, a spiritually grandiose album for repeated listens. Fingers crossed she wins another Grammy or 2. listen
From open to close this album moves. In parts jazzy but always consistently infectious. There’s something to be said for an artist that is willing to wear a heart of humility on their sleeve and prove that integrity always wins out over the mainstream. listen
Versatile and free with a uniquely un-relenting rhythmic energy — at times reminiscent of a Silent Alarm-era Bloc Party and a more R&B influenced Depeche Mode. listen
The album doesn’t really find its stride until the record’s single, track 4, “Coffee”. But then builds a boundless mix of lush, post-genre, ethereal-alternative soul with a naughtiness that only Miguel or Prince could pull off today. listen
Prince – HITnRUN Phase One
The Helio Sequence – Sunrise and Sunrise Demos
Tanlines – Highlights
Jesse is our champion of all things dark, weird, spacey and worldly. He’s been a mainstay of our little shop for as long as we can remember and was playing music and working the record stores long before that!
Caspian continues to grow, exhibiting greater diversity, from hushed Americana to Electronica. Dust and Disquiet is heavier than anything they’ve released before. Their show at the Rebel Lounge was pure tonic. listen
I thought For My Parents was a bit calcified; a refinement of 2009s Hymn to the Immortal Wind, for sure, with little forward movement for the first time in their discography. But, this double CD live recording is, without a doubt, their finest hour. No orchestral filigree. Just the four piece band they were when they started out. Epic from start to finish. Oddly, like a phantom limb, the orchestral accompaniment can still be heard. listen
The Twerps have much in common with fellow Aussies, The Subliminals, who have much in common with the Feelies, Bedhead and 69-era Velvets. Jittery, reptilian pop at its finest, at once, plush and stripped down. Yoda would dig these guys. listen
Simply beautiful. Didn’t think they could create anything to compete with 2013’s Dalmak. But, here it is! listen
Guilty pleasure? I love the shoegaze/grunge hybrid this band emits. The vocals have just the right amount of sneer & lilt, like Verbena in its heyday. listen
Bonus pick (hey, why not!). Some sculpted noise from Dana Schechter (Bee and Flower / Angles of Light). Like Tim Hecker and Roly Porter if they were more jacked into the post-metal crowd. listen
Iris is long time customer and a contributor to the Silverplatter.info site. She buys about as many concert tickets from us, as she does albums. She’s always willing to give things a chance, but also has a strong grasp on what she likes. This is our favorite kind of customer!
This album is just gritty and gorgeous from start to finish. It goes from orchestral to pop and back again, seemingly as if heading to the moon and back, making a pop meets classical output that helps listeners of those genres open to the opposite genre with more of an open mind. Despite the female lead vocal change, San Fermin has weathered a change that usually sets other acts back, but Charlene Kaye is able to play off and hold up against Allen Tate’s vocals, not merely replacing Rae Cassidy, but carving her own place into the band. Though, it is nice to hear Cassidy in “Astronaut,” it’s like her farewell, mid album. There are so many great tracks on Jackrabbit, but my favorite would have to be “Reckoning,” with its slow build and strings, I fell in love immediately. Ellis Van Ludwig-Leone’s orchestration has flourished on his sophomore effort. listen
Haunting as always, is Soley. Her latest output is a dark adventure that starts with a question. I was so taken with the lead single “Ævintýr,”the melody drawing me in, but the lyrics are very sinister… Beautifully creepy is Soley’s output and I fall for it every time. Fairytale or Cautionary Tale, they are one in the same in the musical world Soley creates, I can see her, like a witch with her brew, stirring and stirring until each song has just the right amount of both. listen
Wolf Alice’s debut album, My Love Is Cool, is an eclectic one in all the right ways. It feels like an art exhibit collection, curated from their early beginnings to now. Wolf Alice owns every sound they make be it hushed or loud, and they had me at their opening tune “Turn to Dust,” which is quite the feat as I was skeptical with all the friend rec’s and online ads hyping the band and album up. listen
On a whim, I heard the tune “No Comprende” on a Spotify playlist and snatched this album up based on that song alone. I guess I was really in the mood for what Low had in store on this album, because song after song entranced me. It is slow burning music, like a candle giving off a delicate, intimate light… kind of hypnotic in its output, and I definitely fell under its spell. listen
I’ve only listened to the album a couple of times, savoring it like some fine wine from a faraway land that you’ll probably never taste again, and so you slowly take it in… Actually it feels like a treasure found, a time capsule from long ago, opened with commentary of the time frame it was created in. The songs are shorter, and with a more somber-thoughtful tone. It did not grab me quick as her debut or last album did, but it still spoke to my musical heart in such a sincere way. The tunes that really grabbed me were “Leaving The City,” “The Things I Say,” and “A Pin Light Bent,” along with the albums first single, “Sapokinan.” The lyrics in this album really hit me… They are more direct and simple, but that makes them more poignant to me somehow, and yet, there are those Joanna quirks, sprinkled within the verses that also keep the wait of the words from getting too heavy. listen
Russ is the employee that got away. He worked for a short time at Stinkweeds, then moved on to work for Local First Az, then moved his family out to the Midwest. We never stopped loving the guy and appreciating his unique taste in music.
This is the one and only song Chicano Batman released this year to my knowledge, but damn is it a good one. It has such a super cool mood to it… laid-back funk, slick guitar lines, stabbing organs, and of course the subject of the song: the girl with the black lipstick. Maybe it’ll make you want to check out their other stuff like it did me. listen
I came for the African high-life and stayed for the new wave. Yannick Ilunga explores his vocal range and in-and-out relationship statuses over complex rhythms, chilled electronics, and his unique take on mellowed out high-life guitars. The songs grow organically and all of the pieces fit together so well, creating a busy undercurrent of music that Yannick comfortably sails across. I’m glad he included the song “Chess” on here from his earlier EP The King of Anxiety which is also worth a listen. listen
To Pimp A Butterfly is dense with style and subject matter. Kendrick and his crew have a lot to say musically and lyrically: angry jazz spars with ferocious lines on some cuts, deep beats lifting up tentatively hopeful words on others. The videos also reach creatively for something new and unseen, “Alright” feeling especially relevant lately. listen
Dark guitars wrap themselves around Chelsea Wolfe’s coldly comforting voice, floating in from just beyond the fog out on the sea. The album starts off with dooming riffs for a couple tracks, leaving their presence over the rest of the album even when hidden. An overblown acoustic drives one song about crazy love through twisting violin roads. I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty dark and moody. But it’s also beautiful and unique, and maybe you’re the type of person who likes to approach Wolfe’s. listen
Sleep is an eight hour set of compositions where art meets science, written with the intent of taking you on a slumber train through Max Richter land. There is also a shorter companion release called From Sleep which is a normal album-sized version. Obviously this is a pretty subdued album (especially during the part where you’re supposedly in deep sleep); it’s also one of the most well-thought out albums Max Richter has put out in a while, weaving long lines together in M.C. Escher-like tangles, lazily spiraling you into a serene sort of… *yawn*… uh, serene, .. placid, ..hmm. zzzzz listen
If it rocks and pops, Larry’s going to want it. His taste is so fine tuned, we almost always know what he’ll like, as soon as we hear it. But, that isn’t to say that he doesn’t surprise us, from time to time. As much as we try to get inside all of your heads, you always manage to remind us just how personal musical taste is.
I picked up this album because it does two things that are very hard to do at the same time. To produce an album that is so sincerely and completely nostalgic it sounds like it’s been re-released from another era, while at the same time being just exceptionally well written, played and recorded. The first time I heard it I fell in love with the retro style, the next hundred or so I feel in love with each track’s creative yet reminiscent song writing. It doesn’t sound like Sharon Jones – Dap Dippin’ with The Dap Kings but it gives me the same amazed and inspiring reaction. listen
If you like your indie rock a bit more folk experimental and you aren’t put off by songs with a soft gentle space to them, you will really enjoy the latest Great Lake Swimmers. listen
I’m just amazed at how much I like this album. The first two times I listened to it I felt like it wasn’t really for me. I don’t listen to a lot of music with electronic rhythm sections, but the third time I noticed the bones of the album. It’s absolutely great songwriting, with oddly distant and melancholy lyrics combined with really upbeat and not quite pop but still very hook-laden melodies. listen
I’m a huge fan of Frank Turner. I mean, why wouldn’t I be? Seriously, try to come up with a reason, I’ll wait.
Maybe you could say this: I don’t like the oddly popular formula of mixing busker style songwriting with a polished and tightly rehearsed rock band. That’s a fair concern, maybe this isn’t for you. Actually, check that, I think anyone will enjoy this album. His song writing is self deprecating enough and personal enough that the juxtaposition of a busker that can fill Wembley never feels precious or insincere.
I love this album for the same reason I love Mr. Turner’s other albums. He looks into the way people wrestle doubt to the ground in order to do great things and he celebrates that. He especially celebrates the quietly great triumphs that aren’t apparent but are still meaningful, which are my favorite. “The Next Storm”, on this record is probably the best example, but it’s really a theme through all his work. listen
So I was actually a bit worried when I read the lineup for this band. I don’t usually like “super groups”. I kind of wish I hadn’t read about the album before I listened to it. Going through this album with no preconceptions would have gotten me to loving it a few minutes earlier. It. is. so. good. listen
The Front Bottoms – Back On Top [Fueled By Ramen]
Giant Sand – Heartbreak Pass [New West]
Jason is a longtime customer and another great resource for albums we might have missed. Also, he informed us that these picks were also approved by his dog Josie (the black lab).