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Archive for January, 2013

Top 15 Albums of 2012

Well, here it is. A few days too late, I suppose. If you haven’t heard any of these albums, I highly recommend all of them.

15. Delicate Steve – A Positive Force

-Derek Trucks seen through the lens of instrumental neo-psychedelic guitar pop. Lots of licks, no hooks.

14. Clinic – Free Reign

-This time, these Irish chameleons deliver a bleak, dystopian realization of their own talents, and play less.

13. King Tuff – King Tuff

-Kyle Thomas’ second album packs a poppier, fuller punch than his debut; complete with T.Rex guitars!

12. Tame Impala – Lonerism

-Informed neo-psychedelia with faux-simplistic prog structures and indiscernable vocals. Animal Collective for rock fans.

11. Hospitality – Hospitality

-A charming 35 minutes of free love, jangly guitars, and ear-warming melodies. Here’s hoping they get weirder.

10. The Men – Open Your Heart

-Loud, at times seething, this varied trip through the canon of rock and roll is recommended for any esteemed fans of the genre that like to say “fuck yeah.”

9. Here We Go Magic – A Different Ship

-Good morning music; or good morning, music. Either way this pleasant freak-folk experiment starts off pretty and ends quickly. But the intricate guitar work and tasteful vocal deliveries throughout make repeated listens all the more rewarding.

8. Merchandise – Children of Desire

-I don’t doubt that by this time next year, this album will be my favorite of 2012. It’s a big and spooky monolith that is too colorful and vast to fully grasp at first.  Like a good relationship, this album takes a while to open itself up to you, although it could be the opposite. “Children of Desire” is beautiful and tragic and makes me happier every time I hear it. And I’m very excited for the years we will share together.

7. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…

-My mom said this album sounds like “she’s just throwing up everything she has inside.” And as unappealing as that sounds, she was as spot on as that kind of simile can be. There’s something so primal and warm about this bare-bones piano rock that this short paragraph just won’t do. “Idler Wheel…” is a stunning and bewildering thing. Now go listen to it. Hold on, sometimes I feel like I am Fiona when I listen to it. Ok you can put it on now.

6. Lambchop – Mr. M

-I’ve loved this record for almost 10 months now, and can honestly say it’s because of how easy it is to listen to. It’s gentle in the way a Bill Callahan record is, but polished like a recent Dylan release. Impress your parents, play this audible southern hospitality at the next holiday get together. Weird that it’s this high, but “2B2” seriously gets me every time.

5. Hot Chip – In Our Heads

-The sheer musical complexity of this album is its own work of art. The exceptional drum/percussion sits so beautifully next to and on top of the subtle but intricate guitar and bass work, while the synths fire melodies like missiles out of the cosmic fortress that is built by this sound. With the dual vocal attack at full swing, Hot Chip throws every style their Steely Dan/EDM/Atari soundtrack leanings can allow and delivers a heart-pounding, praise worthy record that flexes more muscles than we all thought they had.

4. Royal Headache – Royal Headache

-There is always something to be said about an album that makes you wish you were a different age. I hear this throwback fuzz soul/garage punk album from Australia and strangely I’m almost always transported to my first car, blasting these 12 songs louder than ever. I’m 17, I’m obsessed with girls and partying;  and I’m young and naive. The true pleasure of that time was the naivety, the thought that girls and partying were the only thought. For me, this album captures that primitive nostalgia the best way possible, through a dusty rearview mirror.

3. Father John Misty – Fear Fun

-My goodness. What a fun and thrilling album this is. It’s a step in several right directions for the former Fleet Fox, Josh Tillman. If his onstage demeanor behind those drums wasn’t proof enough, Tillman is a funny, cultured guy with a damn good voice. This album makes all those characteristics seem easy to come by, and although some of the hangovers and identity crisises that pop up here aren’t exactly envious, the Californian adventures that cause those mishaps certainly are.

2. Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits

-Solo project? Supergroup? Collaboration? Whatever this new wave/classic rock hybrid is categorized as in the years to come, I won’t forget that for a good month and a half, it was all I listened to. From the spiky, electronic swirl of “the Salton Sea” to the rustic, campfire-ready hymn “Civilian Stripes,” this record holds onto a simple mission statement throughout: collaborations should never stick to a particular genre. Britt and Dan will certainly outlive Divine Fits, but this record will always serve as a snapshot for this point in their careers, where the basic pleasures of a creative partnership were sought after, tampered with, and perfected.

1. Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light

-Although there wasn’t much UK music on this year’s list, Her Majesty’s rock and roll acts have always held a special place in my heart. And that’s where I’ll begin with this album, my heart. Sometimes when I hear certain parts on “Sweet Heart”–parts that are so moving, so emotionally wrenching–I comedically tilt my head to the left, smile with no teeth, and place my hands over my heart the way I imagine a father responds after hearing that his first born daughter is going to be a mother. It’s an intrinsic, undeniably visceral feeling that is (if you couldn’t tell) incredibly hard to put into words. The emotional make up of this record is a well-rounded mix of love, sadness, loathing, empathy, and ultimately, joy. Can you think of a better summation of life’s most intense feelings? As usual, J. Spaceman and crew use their pioneered noise-gospel to hammer home these terms. But, the group has never sounded so simple, so grounded. “Sweet Heart, Sweet Light,” is so vast in its account of human nature that I won’t soon forget its power, or the affect it has had on me since April. How could I?

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Bumpies: A fresh new way to waste time.

First of all, happy new year! Second of all, 2012 was crazy, right? The first of several resolutions I plan on making this year is posting on this blog more (cross your fingers–if you care), and because I don’t have any snide art criticism or woozy memoirs about how the Beatles changed my life to write today, I’ll start by writing a description of a game I recently made up and perfected (I think.)

The game is called Bumpies. The name of which came from sitting in the back of car during a particularly bumpy ride on the way from Detroit to Chicago some months ago. This game is no doubt a time waster and VERY fun if you’re bored. I was able to perfect this over the recent holiday break when I left my mom’s house a total of 5 times in 8 days.

All you need is a smart phone and someone to play against–who also has a smartphone. You open up any Wikipedia app you may have. One person picks a topic (example: Sewing Machine), and both people go to that topic’s page, and the other person picks a topic completely unrelated to the page they’re both currently on (example: Django Unchained). The objective is to get to the second named topic by only clicking the Wikipedia links (not sources) on the pages. Who ever gets there first (and trust me, you can ALWAYS get there) wins.

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I know what you’re thinking, “Bumpies!?!? What do you mean?!?” But other than the title, I find this game to be mentally and competitively stimulating. A recent opponent told me that it’s a really good way to get to know how your brain chooses to connect certain topics. For instance, in the above picture, I chose to go a geographical route, while my opponent may have gone a historical route (History of American Slavery, et al.) A fun exercise at the completion of each round is to compare histories of each opponent’s app and see how each one connected the dots.

Bumpies is great for small get togethers with people that don’t have much to talk about, the aforementioned long car rides, holiday parties with cousins/siblings who are interesting, or if you’re bored at a coffee shop with people who are bored.

I’m positive I’m not the first person to think of this, but I figured I’d let whoever cares know about it before someone else does and takes all the credit. Again, happy new year and be sure to bookmark the blog for more semi-interesting posts like this! I’m gonna try in 2013, I swear.

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