This list is for all of our customers made by some of our most frequent and long time customers. You are the heartbeat of this shop. We’re coming up on 33 years in business and we’ve done it without compromising that simple mission statement to create a space for people hungry for something new and interesting. You are the explorers of the music world. You like to dig deep. A shop like Stinkweeds doesn’t rely on high demand. We rely on passion and curiosity. You will go out of your way to find music, because you know that it’s worth it. The longevity of this shop isn’t determined by trends. When we place our orders, we’re not just considering demand. We’re considering you. There are many conversations between our employees about bands we’ve never heard of. We’ll read reviews and descriptions and make decisions based on your taste. Your names come up, all the time. “Kenn will probably be interested in that.” “Oh, that’s got “Jesse” written all over it.” “Let’s order it. I’m sure Korina will want that.” The aisles of this store are filled with personal stories. As we walk around the shop, putting out stock, or alphabetizing, your names and faces come to mind. You are sewn into the fabric of this place. And, we couldn’t be more grateful to have that connection with all of you.
Please enjoy these Top 5 picks from just a few of our favorite customers.
You might recognize Jared from his 10 years working at Revolver Records! He recently left the record store world to pursue a more professional lifestyle…that is until we managed to drag him right back in! Jared was kind enough to lend us some of his limited time to help out for the holidays. We knew he would come equipped with the skill set and attitude to work in our little shop. But also, he brings with him some stellar taste in music. If you’re into the good/weird stuff, we recommend you get down here and pick his brain before the holiday is over and he goes back to the professional world!
Holly Herndon – Proto [4AD]
I’ve always been very interested in the intersection between music and technology. While I believe that technology has removed a significant portion of the personal aspect of music that I hold so dear to my heart, I do think it allows for endless exploration that can lead to new forms of expression. Proto is a prime example of this. Holly Herndon used artificial intelligence as a compositional tool on this record. The result is a set of songs that sound as alien as they do traditional. It starts with fragments of Herndon’s voice being pitched in all directions while slowly dialing in the melody for “Alienation.” The album continually builds, integrating Herndon’s signature synthesis that she programs for every record. The album is laced with interludes of an acapella ensemble training the AI, giving the feeling of progression taking place throughout the record. It flows seamlessly from song to song. This record is experimental pop at its finest. It’s full of new sounds, as well as memorable melodies. Herndon is a songwriter that successfully utilizes technology to push the boundaries of music, a practice reminiscent of artists like Laurie Anderson, Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno.
Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising [Sub Pop]
Titanic Rising is one of those rare records that is full of new songs I feel like I’ve heard before. Not because the songs sound derivative, but because they have an “instant classic” feeling to them. The songs feel as if they already existed. Natalie Mering’s soaring voice navigates through a plethora of soundscapes; everything from grand pop arrangements blanketed in lush strings (“A Lot’s Gonna Change”) to arpeggiated synthesizers in the vein of Philip Glass (“Movies”). It’s a sonic journey that offers something to anyone willing to listen.
FKA Twigs – Magdalene [Young Turks]
Magdalene proves to be a practice in restraint. There’s an impressive list of producers on this album, but the central focus is her voice. Her delivery is innocent, yet demanding, reminiscent of Kate Bush. The production offers layers of warmth, but they are quickly shed. Moments of distorted chaos are followed by whisper-accompanied silence, all of which are equally intense. The bombastic percussion and warped pianos offer a stability to these vulnerable compositions. This record is a window into the beautiful world that her music lives within.
Eamon Fogarty – Blue Values [Jealous Butcher]
My introduction to Eamon Fogarty’s music came earlier this year when he performed in the Cibo Carriage House (If you haven’t seen a performance there, you’re missing out!). I gladly bought this record after seeing him. It has been in regular rotation ever since. The album starts with an abstract instrumental in the vein of Mark Hollis (“Motet”) and leads into the sweeping “God’s Guts,” where his crooning, Scott Walker-esque voice makes its debut. The instrumentation on this record works flawlessly with his compositions. Imagine Nick Drake enlisting the Art Ensemble of Chicago to play on “Bryter Later,” and you would have something in the same realm as “Blue Values.” There is also a great cover of Chris Bell’s “I Am The Cosmos” on this record. It does not disappoint!
Hildur Gudnadottir – Chernobyl Original Score [Deutsche Grammophon]
The source material for the majority of this score was taken from field recordings done inside of an abandoned power plant in Lithuania. The pieces that were composed from this material resulted in a beautiful, haunting document of music. There is a looming pulse that changes rate very gradually throughout the score, sometimes accompanied by a choir, other times by metallic percussion. It builds slowly and anxiously, but hopeful chords show themselves throughout the piece, leaving a sense of resolution. This is for the patient listener, but it is a rewarding listen!
Micah & Caleb Dailey of Moone Records
The Dailey brothers have been long time customers and some of our biggest supporters. We were always delighted to have these young music appreciators coming in and asking for all the stuff that we have enjoyed for decades. They’ve also been responsible for introducing us to amazing new music. A few years back, they started their own label, Moone Records, which is now moving full-steam ahead with incredible releases from local artists like Lonna Kelley, Pro-Teens and Flower Festival to well established musicians like Tashi Dorji & John Dietrich, as well as a recent reissue of Little Wings’ 2002 K Records Release Wonderue. Any success to befall these beautiful human beings is well deserved and encouraged.
To be honest, I didn’t know Freddie Gibbs and Madlib collaborated on a record until coming across their *incredible* Tiny Desk performance on NPR (seriously, its amazing). I’ve been a long-time fan of Madlib, and Bandana is quintessential Madlib. This one is a must listen. – Micah
This album was recorded in the sanctuary of Grace Lutheran (Trunk Space) in 2018. It was an incredible out-of-body experience to watch these two improvise in that space. Midden documents the final performance of a short 3 night stint. They connected on a level I have never physically experienced before. We are so proud to have been able to collaborate with Tashi, John and Gilgongo Records to put this out. – Caleb
Customer of 20 years. New Dad to record store model and insta-famous kid, ‘Li’l man’ Sandrin Todd. It’s always a delight to see Jaymz and his family. He always leaves a little extra time to talk music with us.
A soft singing whisper that at times can draw comparisons to that of Alison Shaw from the Cranes. Sonically, the album is drenched in pure fuzz and dreamy distortion. The songs, although a little short, serve a brilliant purpose, never getting old, and encouraging multiple listens in one sitting.
This French foursome of beat-makers and producers meld in a perfect pairing of hip hop, electronica, jazz and reggaeton that could compete with the best releases from Madlib, Flying Lotus, Mura Masa or Kaytranada.
Iggy Pop sheds his punk rock image to lend his poetry and voice to a free jazz album. Working from other artists music he improvises lyrics to create something that stylistically speaks through the ambiance of keyboards, drums, reverb, and runs of the trumpet.
Lyrically abstract with sedated drum rhythms, jagged bass thumps and guitars ebbing and distorting with slow increases to clamor. Reminiscent of Slint’s Spiderland mixed with the more smooth vocal inflections of that one dude from Akron/Family that’s singing on “Running, Returning”.
After breaking up his band, Sound Team, in late 2006 Bill Baird has released over 15 full albums or mixtapes. But after getting lost in the shuffle at a record label and no longer owning his music, Baird went back to update and re-record 2018’s Nightly Never Ending. Or, as he put it in an email announcing the new release ‘to reassert my vision back into this picture.’ What transpired is Daily Ever Dawning, a moodier album with psychedelic flourishes and krautrock influence that’s more amazing than last year’s already terrific album.
Helado Negro – This Is How You Smile [RVNG Intl.]
Anderson . Paak – Ventura [Aftermath]
Hayden Thorpe – Diviner [Domino]
Operators – Radiant Dawn [Last Gang Records]
Hemlock Ernst – Back at the House [Ruby Yacht]
Larry is one of our favorite and most frequent customers. Our relationship with Larry is a testament to building a relationship with your local shops. We’ve come to know his taste so well that, when he ended up in the hospital from a cycling injury a while back, his coworker came in to get him a get-well gift and we just handed her a couple albums and said “He’ll like these.” We almost never give suggestions without the person hearing the music. With Larry, we just know.
Enjoying this album requires no Dungeons and Dragons interest or experience. I highly recommend watching the YouTube of the launch event held at Wizards of the Coast (the game company that owns Dungeons and Dragons) in which John Darnielle performs a wonderful acoustic set. This is the 17th album by The Mountain Goats. Prior to buying this album, I’d never listened to a single song by The Mountain Goats. I’m now listening to 3 of their albums and looking to try out some more.
This is an amazing pop record. It’s their first full length album and it opens with two incredibly tight hook-heavy, up-tempo songs that just get you tapping your foot. I’m looking forward to hearing more from Amsterdam. I envy your amazement when you hear this record for the first time. I thoroughly enjoyed how it continued to improve on repeated listens.
Contrasted with Pip Blom, Versing is very much in the shoegaze vein, and I don’t usually like albums that rely too heavily on droning, or at least use drone in a way that I find distracting. This album is stunningly good, and honestly I didn’t really “get it” on the first couple listens. I think the best compliment I can pay this record is that it made me understand why people love this style of music so much.
You don’t have this already? 8 grammy award nominations. It’s so, so good!
I miss the raucous, aggressive “rock until the wheels fall off” attitude of late 70’s and early 80’s punk. This album mixes a lot of other musical influences but packages it up in a loud fast and fun rock sound. These guys can really play! If you aren’t into this album, you just haven’t turned it up enough and jumped around with it yet.
Maggie Rogers – Heard it in a Past Life [Capitol Records]
The Hold Steady – Thrashing Thru The Passion [Frenchkiss Records]
Strand of Oaks – Eraserland [Dead Oceans]
Eileen Jewell – Gypsy [Signature Records]
Hozier – Wasteland Baby [Rubyworks / Island Records]
“Years from now, I’ll be that old and gray-haired women, still vying for front row status.”
Iris has been a loyal Stinkweeds customer since 1996, a contributor to Silverplatter since 2009, unofficial SXSW researcher since 2012, musical track stories weaver and professional “short girl in the front row/setlist snatcher” since forever.
IG: subtilittle / #shortgirlinthefront / # lovelettertophoenixmusicians
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Local band Willetta creates music to get lost in late at night when you’re in a mood that’s both melancholy and contemplative… but not without hope… like a discarded rose that has been picked up by someone who believes it still has life in it, and when placed in a vase, it slowly lilts upwards from its second chance.
Julia Jacklin has this way of capturing you with her sometimes unhurried and sometimes urgent vocal deliveries. Her album Crushing does exactly that. When you listen to it, you can’t escape from being crushed by the weight of the emotions contained. In the end, I’m not sure one minds being trampled over such palpable feelings contained within its brief 39 minutes of run time… it is that beautiful, contemplative and cathartic.
Sasami was a suggestion to me from Stinkweeds’ Lindsay and Paula… and what a whopper of a suggestion! With song collaborators like Dustin Payseur (Beach Fossils), Soko and Devendra Banhart, one asks “just who IS this girl?!” Apparently, she’s the sister of Froth’s JooJoo Ashworth! Great music seems to run in the family! And, having cut her teeth playing and touring with bands like Wild Nothing and Cherry Glazerr, she definitely learned the “on the road” music life. Is was during that time on the road that Sasami started writing and creating what became her self-titled debut. The lyrics are honest and relatable over melodies perfect for a solo road trip. It feels like she’s taking us on an adventure, sometimes droning, sometimes driving, and always contemplative. This album was my spring/summer album placed on repeat for pretty much the entire summer.
Correspondence is an actual musical correspondence project that took place in 2018 between Jens Lekman and Annika Norlin. Once a month, they would share music, posting songs to a website. After a year, the songs were collected and released in 2019 as an epistolary novel in the form of twelve folk songs with strings added to the original raw cuts.I actually didn’t even know it was a collaboration with Jens, whose music I love. It was actually Annika’s track, “Failure”, that grabbed my attention. I was instantly struck by the frank and vulnerable delivery on a topic that felt comforting to hear… that its okay to fail. I know I have problems accepting the idea, myself. So, being reminded in a song seemed to make the idea easier to swallow; easier to take in. The album’s honesty and friendship built upon correspondence makes it feel a bit voyeuristic, but in a way that seems like you’ve peeked your head into a meeting and asked, “Can I join in?” and getting nods to “please, do so.”
Samantha Sidley is a jazz chanteuse, who, on her first full length album sings songs that were created for and about her. Fellow musicians/friends, Inara George from the Bird & the Bee, Alex Lilly and wife, Barbara Gruska wrote about the Samantha they know and it became the album, Interior Person. The album is one that honors her background, being a proud and open LGBTQ person as well as a Jazz musician and wanting to sing music for others like herself. When singing standards, she has said that sometimes she plays with the words…for instance, still singing “I love her,” when a song is usually sung by a male, or, changing the he to a her, when it is sung by a female to a male counterpart to make it true for herself. Her first single, “I like Girls” definitely gets right to her stance. But, it’s the song Listen!! and the Brian Wilson Cover, Busy Doin’ Nothing that really captivate me.
Honorable Mentions in chronological order:
Jared Duran is the co-founder of Hoot n Waddle, a publishing and digital media company that specializes in full-length collections of experimental literature, poetry, and creative nonfiction, as well as arts and culture-based podcasts. He is the host or co-host of three podcasts: Limited Engagement (an interview-based program which has been named “Best Cultural Podcast” in the New Times’ Best of Phoenix issue three years running), What the Fork? (discussing The Good Place with Jason Keil), and Album Infinitum (a podcast that examines an artist’s discography album by album ad infinitum). He is also a writer, poet, amateur musician, and avid music collector.
From the moment the first synthesizer notes of “The Spinning Song” rise up out of the speakers, it’s clear that Ghosteen is like no other album ever produced by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, though it is a natural culmination of the musical evolution set in motion by Push the Sky Away (2013) and continued on Skeleton Tree (2016). Noted by Cave as the conclusion of a trilogy, Ghosteen contains sonic elements and imagery alluding to both of the previous albums, but this one stands on its own for its remarkable ability to transcend any sonic structure inherent in popular music, creating an immersive, vibrational listening sensation of emotional resonance both for feeling and the structural foundation of feeling, the bones of feeling. A sensation created by Cave’s falsetto (rarely utilized on prior recordings), the instrumentation (which almost entirely eschews any sort of percussive anchor), and the philosophical, often hymnal lyrical content, this album is an ethereal wonder. It seems to emanate from everywhere at once–a lingering sigh exhaled from the stereo, it stretches out and fills the room, permeates the skin, and leaves a chill in the bones. Ghosteen is as much a waking fever dream as it is anything else.
Leave it to Robert Forster to open his latest album, Inferno, with a song like “Crazy Jane and the Day of Judgement,” which takes the poem by William Butler Yeats and sets it to a sultry, slinky groove. Perhaps best known (if known at all) as one half of the songwriting duo behind The Go-Betweens (very likely the best band you’ve never heard of) and often confused with the late great character actor of the same name, Robert Forster has been quietly releasing brilliant solo albums since the end of that band due to the untimely death of the other principal songwriter, Grant McLennan, in 2006. Inferno continues that streak. A surface listen to the album’s nine songs gives the impression of effortless simplicity, which any pop music devotee knows is something that takes hard work, experience, and confidence–in other words, it takes a master of the craft, and Robert Forster is just that. This album is filled with a measured balance of infectious hooks and gorgeously melancholic riffs that leap from the grooves and wrap themselves around some of Forster’s finest lyrics: the Carver-esque observation of “My mother hangs the washing and my father has jobs to ignore/The weekend that has come is the same as the weekend before/And if I bust out and the highway is really the key/Everyone can follow, everyone can overtake me” (“No Fame”); the meditative refrain of “Time to hit the ground, time to walk around, time to do my thing/Eat only what I eat, breathe only what I breathe, and then leave” (“One Bird in the Sky”); or the career summation of a filmmaker, “I did my great work while knowing it wasn’t my time,” (“Remain”) that could easily refer to Forster himself. To put it simply and succinctly, Robert Forster’s Inferno is another highlight in a long career filled with them.
Set out in primal relief against a landscape of fluid, resonant acoustic guitar and textured by the presence of his son Levon’s delicately breathed woodwinds (layered almost as whispers), the occasional delicately plucked notes of a piano, or the tinkling of a music box, Henry’s lyrics are carried out in a vocal styling that can only be described as necessary–words that insist on being heard, not because they begging to be, but because they must. “I mean to sing of love that goes uncured” he sings on “Green of the Afternoon,” and you can tell he means this with every fiber of his being, even as elsewhere he can’t help but allude to a disease he will have to manage for the rest of his life as a vine growing up through the floor of his home that “wants to thread a line inside my spine, as if it thought I just might come undone” on the song “Orson Welles,” though here, it’s clear that he has no intention of succumbing to the cancer that’s taken residence: “Come the end of story, come my want for more/If you provide the terms of my surrender, I’ll provide the war.” Throughout The Gospel According to Water, Henry speaks to the precious nature of life and the importance of giving all you have to your time on this plane of existence, which seems to be the overriding message of the album, as he concludes on “General Tzu Names the Planets for His Children,” “And what will we bring heaven when we have arrived/When we’ve surrendered all between us here to be alive?”.
It’s no easy task to make synth-pop compelling and emotionally affecting. Interesting? Intellectually fulfilling? Sure. But, something that can tear your guts out if you’re receptive to it? No. Synth-pop can’t usually manage that. This, though, is exactly what Angel Olsen has done with All Mirrors. There are moments on this album where it feels that the music is all that keeps Olsen from flying apart–that the build and crest of the synthetic wall of sound has to drop away and level off, or she’ll take off and never come back. The lyrical content here, often breathed in hushed, wavering, near-whispers before building to a beautiful, untethered, soaring vocal by Olsen, makes for a breakup album to rival Dylan’s Blood On the Tracks, or Beck’s Sea Change, or hell, anything that Jason Molina ever released. All Mirrors is an album to be listened to in the dark, eyes closed, heart open.
Arriving nearly 11 months to the day after last year’s wonderful The Horizon Just Laughed, Damien Jurado’s In the Shape of a Storm is a stunning example of what a great songwriter can do accompanied by little more than an acoustic guitar, a poet’s insight into the human condition, and an honest voice. This is an aching jewel of hangdog resignation, longing, desperate hope, and the need to shield a sensitive soul from everything the world is determined to throw–a soul whose wounds are often self-inflicted. An album with a concept that speaks for itself better than any review can, In the Shape of a Storm reminds those of us with a romantic nature that love is a long game, and it does so brilliantly in the opening verse of the song “Anchors”: “I don’t need another reminding of how it isn’t our time/I live with that daily reminding/And it has not changed my mind/I still go on seeing you as mine/Just not at the present time.”
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):
Kenn is our favorite Prescottonian with great taste to boot! He always makes an effort to visit us on his work trips to the big City and never afraid to stay late to catch a great show. He gets it, and prioritizing the important things in life!
Every now and then two of your favorite artists get together and make something really good, for me last year this was Marie/Lepanto (look it up) and this year it was Conor Oberst (a long time favorite of mine) and newer favorite Phoebe Bridgers coming together to form BOCC.
I love it when artists are able to get together and make an album with both a good combination of each individual’s influence and also collaboration to make something, well… more collaborative and new. In the case of BOCC Phoebe seems to add a little softness to Conor’s edge and Conor adds a little edge to Phoebe’s softness. While there are definitely some folksy, acoustic sounds here there are also enough rockers to keep the album moving along nicely. The song subject matters, as you would expect from these two, tends to fall on the dark side even in the case of upbeat numbers like “Sleepwalkin”. This album came out early in 2019 and never fell out of my rotation.
Hailing from the twin cities and gaining notice from a performance on the TV show Twin Peaks the Cactus Blossoms bring excellent harmonies and a master of pop, folk country mix. Sure with the sibling harmonies, classic pop, folk, country sound, it’s hard not to draw the Everly Brother comparison. On further listens I would argue Page Bunkum and Jack Torrey (they are brothers, Torrey is Jacks “stage name”) take the arrangements a little further on “Easy Way” than the Everly’s tended to do.
This album enlisted Dan Auerbach (who co-penned a couple tracks), Michel Lewis (Bon Iver and Andrew Bird) on sax, and Joel Paterson (Devil In A Woodpile) on pedal steel which adds some nice instrumentation on these tracks. Their previous release You’re Dreaming is really good, but I think this new collection offers a more progressive and modern sound, and is better suited to the songs and the band for the long haul. While I believe those looking for the nostalgia of the harmony sound will still be satisfied (me included) I love the way this record spreads its progressive wings a little bit.
There are some artists who make me contemplate why they are not more popular amongst music fans (saw JPKS play a ripping live show to an empty room in Phoenix recently), that said, without a suggestion to check out last years collaboration with Will Johnson I would have been guilty as charged. I guess for now we’ll keep JPKS in the underappreciated/underrated musicians section.
The thrill of hearing an artist and going back to gather all back catalog doesn’t happen too often but JPKS was that for sure for me last year, so I was really excited when this new one arrived. I was not disappointed. Generally the songs on this collection are a bit more “sunny” (by his own admission) than his previous solo or Water Liars albums but the songwriting, singing and musicianship remain strong points. His ability to bring an aching beauty to his songs (even “happy” ones) is top notch, musically the songs are woven with amazing hooks.
Sometimes hearing an artist has gotten “happy” worries a listener but there is nothing cheesy here, JPKS is such a good writer, cheese is not on the menu. He is truly one of the best songwriters out there right now, in my humble opinion, with an lyrical intricacy that requires multiple listens and some thought. This album feels like someone who has been through a dark tunnel and comes out the other side into a light (for now). There are no skippable tunes on this album for me it’s great from first to last note.
While over the years I’ve remained a faithful JR fan I must admit not since 2013s (Beast In Its Tracks) have I enjoyed an offering like I’m liking this one. It may be no wonder considering one of my favorite current artists and band Jason Isbell (producer) and the 400 unit (band) back JR on Fever.
Right out of the gate on first track first listen I had a good feeling with “Ground Don’t Want Me” which showcases Josh’s great songwriting and singing blending perfectly with the 400 unit (Jason and Sadler Vaden great lead guitars and Amanda Shires harmony and backing vocals). Maybe Josh knew it was time to try something new, and while the sound is no great departure, there seems to be a renewed energy and verve.
As a lyricist JR remains one of my favorites, I’ve always admired his ability to describe situations, feelings and people with both wonder and empathy. So while there’s nothing groundbreaking or very new in this new song cycle for him it leaves me feeling that JR is not so much back as he never really left.
So Steve Gunn has always been on the radar and in the playlists in year’s past for me, but this album takes a big jump in my yearly favorites list. No doubt his finger style guitar has always been amazing and is again on this record, but on this album SG seems to have taken a big leap as a lyricist. There’s an introspect and delivery that it takes it up a level from his previous albums, in my opinion. He introduces us to several interesting characters, including his father (Stonehurst Cowboy) who passed just after SG released his Eyes On The Lines record.
Our love, lost loves, existence and mortality are all addressed and questioned, provokingly and beautifully, but not necessarily answered here. One thing that is similar to other records by him is the album moves along, with amazing guitar hooks and licks, just as you would expect, for me the hooks are as catchy as anything he’s done to date. While often understated if you listen closely you’ll hear just what a great player SG truly is. My only complaint here would be there’s only 9 tracks which leaves me wanting more in this collection.
Lucy Rose – No Words Left
Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow
Will Johnson – Wire Mountain
Calexico and Iron & Wine – Years To Burn
Griffin House – Rising Star
Middle Kids – New Songs For Old Problems
Mike Krol – Power Chords
Gerrit and Brittany are two of our favorite kinds of regular customers. With all this music, it’s sometimes hard for even us record store employees to keep up on all the awesome releases. We can always count on them to share their thoughts on their newest, favorite albums.
When the children of tomorrow ask me what living in 2019 felt like, I will point them to this album. Chaz Bundick’s uncanny ability to pinpoint the zeitgeist of his time hasn’t ever felt this poignant, and is easily my favorite Toro y Moi project since 2013’s Anything In Return. The structure of the album feels like a diary of sorts. Some moments are banal (JFK airport anxiety and online shopping), others are cathartic (going to a house party and realizing no one gives a shit about context anymore). But in all, this album is a mesmerizing testament to our overwrought, overinformed, overstimulated times. In an impossibly dense 30 minutes, Chaz travels coast to coast and jumps party to party, looking for an intimacy and intentionality that we’ve lost in the name of YOLO or FOMO – who knows which one. No album has covered more emotional range for me this year than Outer Peace.
Back in September of 2011, half a year after the release of Radiohead’s King of Limbs, Thom Yorke did a radio mix for Mary Anne Hobbs’ XFM show dubbed the “MoneyBack Mix”. Hard to remember now, but King of Limbs was a weird moment of doubt for Radiohead fans. Their choice to lean so hard into emerging electronic music trends was a surprising (if a bit disappointing) move for those who considered In Rainbows to be some kind of great return to form (fact: those doubters are commonly referred to as “grumps”). Thus, it’s not surprising that Yorke’s “MoneyBack Mix” went unnoticed by more than a couple people. But here’s the funny thing: track 2 on the “MoneyBack Mix” is a little monster called “The Twist”. I remember hearing this for the first time and thinking to myself holy shit, this is everything I’ve been waiting for. I was destroyed when the track didn’t appear on Yorke’s Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, and thought it had been lost to time. But sure enough, the final version of the track, now shortened to just “Twist” appears on this year’s Anima, and the final product is a masterpiece. Like with “True Love Waits” or “Lift”, there is a god-like aspect of choice in the release of Thom Yorke/Radiohead music that flies in the face of all notions of album cycles and anticipation. Anima took a long time because it needed to be timeless. Like The Eraser, it will live forever, a testament to brilliant songwriting and modular production that supercedes any notion of technological time-bounding. I love every moment of this album.
I’ve never felt like an album more accurately captured my inner dialogue better than Titanic Rising. Weyes Blood is on a hot streak right now, with her second unquestionable modern classic after 2016’s Front Row Seat to Earth. But with Rising, Natalie Mering’s quippy observations go far beyond sardonic YOLO jokes. In a lot of ways, I feel like Weyes Blood is the superhero to (Sub Pop label-mate) Father John Misty’s supervillain. Both are watching the same world burning on its axis. But where Tillman might be content to point out the structural weaknesses and lean back in the red velvet seats of the peanut gallery, Mering is on the front lines, bearing her soul and offering a helping hand to those others who live in this “wild time to be alive”. Titanic Rising was a companion I dearly needed this year. It’s a friend that can laugh with you as well as cry, and will pick your ass up when you are knocked down. It doesn’t need to be a sinking ship if we don’t want it to be.
Starting with 2016’s It’s Immaterial, Sacred Bones duo Black Marble have slowly moved away from the noisy post-punk of their early work into more pop oriented new wave (much like many in their sphere of influences). Bigger Than Life pushes further in this direction, with the brightest work in Black Marble’s discography. But don’t mistake brightness for a lack of weight. “Private Show”, the crown jewel of this record in my opinion, is a joyful ode to the pure individualism of death, flying in heavy contrast to the communal nature of life. It’s a beautiful, haunting reminder to retain oneness in an increasingly groupish world. Black Marble write stadium-worthy anthems, disguised as lo-fi for posterity. This is my favorite band to be surprised by, and Bigger Than Life is another gift I hope everyone gets to unwrap.
Man, the 2010s are over! Wild. New Year’s Eve is historically a weird time for me. I feel like I’m always somewhere else, or out somewhere unfamiliar, like welcoming in a new year always happens somewhere apart from where I’d like to be. But I made a decision that I don’t really want it to be that way this year, because we are entering the 2020s – the time where we have to have some kind of explanation of all this mess. Right? Vision? Hindsight? Clarity? Isn’t that part of the deal? HTRK’s Venus In Leo ends with the most impactful ten minutes of music I heard in 2019, “New Year’s Eve” into “New Year’s Day”. And in these brief minutes, the Australian duo effortlessly capture the anxiety of changing times. But I think the other thing they capture is the resolution – the calm of reassessment once the chance is long in the rearview. That’s what I want from 2020, and at 11:55pm on 12/31, I’m looking forward to watching the clock hands turn with HTRK on the soundtrack.
Laura K Smith
“Lifelong record store customer. First time blog contributor.”
Laura isn’t just one of our favorite people and she’s always up on and open to awesome new bands. She knows her tastes and might not be the easiest to please with new tunes. But, she keeps at it and is just that much more rewarded when she finds what she likes. This is the essence of “taste.”
This record sounds like nothing else I bought this year. It lives up to the hype, which is rare. The Alabama Shakes lead singer’s first solo effort has a great, solid, consistent sound all the way through the record. The songs are raw and her voice is so earnest and pure. I feel like I’m eavesdropping on her diary. Not because I’m nosy but because we’re best friends and she read it out loud to me.
This is on the list solely because of an awesome extended version of Truth is Not Punishment that breaks into Chuck Berry’s No Particular Place to Go. It’s only on the vinyl. And, I also don’t know if this breaks the rules since it’s an old song, but this improv version is worth the entire record…the rest of which is still pretty fun.
This make me feel like people say Jack Johnson is supposed to make you feel. But, Jack Johnson has never made sense to me. Terms of Surrender is kind of soft and easy like hanging out with coffee on the patio on Sunday morning but with some soul and intricate lyrics. Dylanesque (but not the version of Dylan you hate). HGM has been around since 2007 but I didn’t know. I finally stumbled onto them from a Merge Sampler around mid year. Then I bought an older record (Hallelujah Anyhow from 2017). I don’t know what their earliest stuff is like but I like where they are now. Or is it where we are now?
I hesitated including this record because it is not super consistent but only because I may be too emotionally involved. It’s BOB MOULD. Bob fucking Mould. This man was Husker Du. This man released Workbook. He was Sugar. He’s been actively releasing music for a long time. As you should expect, Sunshine Rock is a good record. There are elements of the old tried and true Bob Mould…both sonic and melodic at different times. He feels like an older brother telling you like it is in the real world but with amazing guitars.
Hard not to support the coolest person in any room for a long time. I’ll admit that I like the idea of Kim Gordon more than I thought I would like this record. It’s a great collection of meditative noise. It’s an easy record to get lost in.
Filthy Friends – Emerald Valley [Kill Rock Stars]
Eddie Garcia / Henry Peretz
Eddie and Henry are one of a few customers that we consider a package deal. They shop together, they listen together and we’re always happy to see both of their smiling faces walk through the door. They both have stellar taste in music
What a time to be a music fan! 2019 really delivered something for everyone. Perhaps it was uncharted territory of a new band or maybe the familiar grounds of an artist you’ve loved who took you on a new musical journey. Choosing five was super hard for Henry and I. However, we slimmed down our selections to the best of our ability:
Twig’s beautiful vocals unravel on intro track, Thousand Eyes (reminiscent of His Name Is Alive’s Livonia) and quickly escalates into emotional landscapes with sultry beats and bass that take control of your senses, projecting her story of love loss but true self found. Falling Alien may find a home on a dancefloor. Tracks like Daybed, Cellophane and Mirrored Heart can be saved for those still moments. For what has been deemed a break-up record, this record takes a high road and comes out of the other side with super healing powers.
“I’m speaking about Love and how the lights of love go down.” Picking up in the backwoods where the Skeleton Trees grow to a trip to Hollywood, Nick Cave and team lead us into Ghosteen, where we encounter the majestic feels of our Bad Seeds. Divided into two albums, record one being the children and record two being the parents, here we realize Nick coming to grips full circle and reaching the place of release. A captivating record, recommended for consumption in one sitting.
Ride – This is Not a Safe Place [Wichita Recordings]
Tamaryn – Dreaming the Dark [DERO Arcade]
2019 seemed like the year of the reissue. Not that I’m complaining, it was great to revisit old friends but let’s get to some new friends.
Released in October through Matador, No Home Record is easily my favorite record of the year; not to mention, probably the record I’ve waited the longest to happen. Sonic Youth has had a giant influence in my life since I was teenager. One of the few bands who can deliver the same level of spectacularity individually as they did collectively. But No Home Record, for me, is far superior than the solo releases that Thurston and Lee have been putting out since Sonic Youth broke apart. This album reminds me of a subtitle for a Tennessee Williams play, “A Prayer for the Wild of Heart Kept in Cages”. Stand-outs for this record include: “Sketch Artist”, “Air BNB”, “Don’t Play It”, “Hungry Baby”, “Earthquake”, “Murdered Out”, “Paprika Pony”, “Cookie Butter”, “Get Yr Life Back”…I think I just listed all of the songs. Yeah it’s that consistently good.
Iggy (James Osterberg, Jr.) released Free in September through Caroline Records and it shares a closer energy to his previous French influenced jazz records Préliminaires and Après (which are amazing!) than it does to the more recent bombastic Post Pop Depression (though there are some
elements of bombast, especially on Loves Missing). Clocking in at just over half-an-hour, Iggy puts
together a great record filled with minimalist jazz ditties peppered with his sense of humor and
understanding of life. Stand outs on this record for me are She Wants to be Your James Bond, Free,and Page. We are the People and Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night have a big, later era Leonard Cohen feel to them.
HOO is a side-project of a side-project; part Slowdive and part Black Hearted Brother and 100% amazing. It was released by Graveface in July and since then it’s just become a greater and greater record with each listen. Holton is a reference to Nicholas Holton who a few years back gave us Black Hearted Brother. HOO feels like a great evolution happened to Nicholas. There’s a prominent drone feel to Centipede Wisdom. But whereas Black Hearted Brother was more straightforward shoegazing, Centipede Wisdom benefits from a good dosage of psychedelic vibes and krautrock electronic influences. Some of my favorite songs include I Think It’s Over Now, This World of Mine, the End is so Dark It’s Boring, Eyes of Sorrow…well there’s only seven songs on the
record so yeah, every song is amazing. Also, of course Neil Halstead makes an appearance on Tic Tic but, calm down all you Neil Halstead vocal lovers, he just showcases his skills on a Roland Juno106.
Glok – Dissident (Ride’s Andy Bell side-project) [Bytes]
Leonard Cohen – Thank You for the Dance [Sony]