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31Dec/111

a grinning point.

Posted by .steve


johnny booth's connections

such a dope record.

i'd mentioned these guys months back when they released "pills for the havoc" as a streamable track. now they've got the full record streaming at their bandcamp site. definitely stream a few tracks. i'm stoked on it. very solid.

record is dropping through hotfoot records on january 6th. release show in garden city that night.
get in there.

Filed under: Music 1 Comment
24Dec/110

Glancing Back

Posted by Brian

2011.

As I started to think about this past year in terms of a list of favorite album releases, I realized something: there weren't that many. Not that it was a bad year for music, because I don't like to think in those terms, but that it was too sporadic- a track here, a newly-discovered older release there. This was due in part to services like Spotify, which let me find new music not by what's popular now, but by that simple and beautiful invention: the "artists similar to" button. So, I decided my list would encompass not just music but all media, a kind of screenshot of what entertained me and kept me going in two-thousand and eleven.

Musical Thing of the Year: Soundtracks

More than anything, 2011 for me was marked by the presence of great movie soundtracks. Hans Zimmer's intense score for Inception, Daft Punk's mixture of electronic and orchestral sounds (and subsequent remix album) for Tron, and Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross' one-two punch with Social Network and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. These were all legitimate cross-overs into mainstream music, each one unique and able to be enjoyed separately from the movies they were constructed for. An added bonus for me was the guarantee that none of their music would be ruined by repetition on radio, who don't bother to look at soundtracks as marketable. It's a good thing, or they would suffer the same fate some truly great albums have, such as Adele's 21. That was an album you couldn't escape. Even if, like me, you don't listen to much radio, you couldn't help but hear it in every department store or at the barber shop as you were getting your mustache waxed. And yes, I realize most of those soundtracks came out in the final days of 2010, but all that meant was they dominated my iPod in the coming year.

Other Mentionables: Bjork - Biophilia, Florence and The Machine - Ceremonials, Thrice - Major/Minor

Concert of the Year: Portishead @ Hammerstein Ballroom

One of my happiest moments this year came from seeing Portishead live, years after I'd given up on the idea of it ever happening. Portishead, if you don't know, are a british trip-hop band which were not only on hiatus for close to a decade, but have famously avoided touring in America even when they were actively playing. Waiting that long can in many cases be a major letdown, but not this time. The band sounded flawless, their presentation was elegant and simple, and the sweetly-sad voice of Beth Gibbons cut me like a goddamned knife in the gut. Videos can't do the experience justice, but here's to trying: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5elDh0SVqM

Movie of the Year: Immortals

Whatever expectation you had for the Clash of the Titans remake to be great (instead of just meh), whatever hope you have in your heart for a true God of War movie, take that hope, dry it, powder it, make it a great, big line on your kitchen table and snort it up in one go. That, my friend, is Immortals. I loved this film. It was everything I hoped it would be, which was a perfect mixture of art and violence. Director Tarsem Singh's signature lush visuals combined with brutal fight scenes so well it seemed almost wrong. I walked out of the theater wanting to make art, and then kill a man with that art. I could go on and on about this one, so I'll just say this: see it. See it. See it.

Other Mentionables: Rango, The King's Speech, Bridesmaids, X-Men: First Class, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

Surprisingly Good: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Book of the Year: Robopocalypse

To be honest, I read better books this year than Robopocalypse, but in talking about books it seems unfair to compare this year's releases to hundreds of years of literature. However, of the books I read which came out this year, Robopocalypse was the one that succeeded the most at being exactly what it promised. And that was, a fun read. Most people have described it as "World War Z for robots", and that's a fair assessment, but it definitely offered up enough original ideas to be considered its own thing. Not a lofty choice by any stretch, but I liked it, plain and simple.

Other Mentionables: The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood (non-fiction)

Videogame of the Year: Crysis 2

It's safe to say that I had no idea what I was in for when I threw this game into my 360. I thought I was just trying out my new flat-screen with this year's overblown tech-stravaganza, but what I found was one of the best first-person shooters I've ever played. And I've played a lot. The graphics were top notch, as expected, but the gameplay was so perfectly honed that it was a complete blast to play. This was so important, given that the game centers around a bio-suit which gives the player super-human abilities, because having that level of precise control really sold the feeling. Putting all this in New York City during an alien apocalypse made it a ten for me, and an instant classic. I never saw it coming.

Close Second: Dead Space 2

It did everything the first game did, and did it better. Just too many great moments to list them all. This was a new high-mark for survival horror.

Other Mentionables: Mortal Kombat, LA Noire, Alice: Madness Returns

 

21Dec/110

worth mentioning; 2011.

Posted by Dave

I don't usually like "Best Of (enter year here)" lists.

Since way before VH1 ruined the idea of wrapping up the past year with a pretty little bow and having shitty comedic commentary over it, reviewers and satirists used "Best Of" lists to emphasize how cool they were in the past 365 days and and un-hip YOU were for not being familiar with their obscure, pretentious picks.

What I do like about articles like this is seeing what people were mentioning and more importantly, exactly why they were mentioning it.  So that's what I'm doing, is putting together a collection of albums that dropped this year and telling you my experience with them, for better or for worse.  This isn't my Top Twenty, this isn't my "best" and "worst."  This is what I checked out this year and how it made me feel.  This is what I would want the 2011 lists to look like, so I hope you enjoy this.  Because I'd much rather want to hear WHY you didn't like Thrice's new album than it being assigned (or not assigned) a numeral, and a box being checked off.

 

-worth mentioning-

 

Touche Amore - Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me
One of the touchstone "albums of the year" for just about about every media outlet for 'alternative' music, usually I would automatically ignore it as a gut reaction (as I've done with every "hyped" alt-band for years).  This is one of those times where I didn't, and I'm glad that I didn't.  This album brought me back to my punk rock roots while keeping me centered in my alt-rock shoes; even flirting with a Brand New-esque sound at times.  Honest, raw and powerful.  The largest impression this album made on me was surprisingly the lyrical content; I'd probably give this album "lyrics of the year" if I could, too.  "If actions speak louder than words, I'm the most deafening sound you've heard" is a PMA anthem and should be tattooed on people ten years from now.

 

 

Dance Gavin Dance - Downtown Battle Mountain II
Say what you will about this divisive band (and I'm sure you have a lot to say) but there's 2 things you absolutely, positively cannot deny: #1 that these kids can really play their instruments, and #2 Jonny Craig is one hell of a singer.  Is he an egotistical asshole?  Absolutely.  But he's probably one of the best vocalists in rock today, as painful as it is to admit it.  And man did JC mess up big time this year, after the scandal broke where he was tweeting about MacBooks his fans could buy, and then after they wire him the money he'd keep it and they'd never get a laptop sent to them.  Of course he's a huge heroin addict and there's no surprise he robbed people to get a fix... it's a sad story that unfortunately was also a public one due to the circumstances.  Regardless, DGD made made another excellent album which is interesting due to it's dichotomy alone, if nothing else.  Exceptional melodic singer with a staccato, intellectual and powerful screamer.  Instrumentally they go everywhere possible.  Emarosa have dropped JC as their vocalist now so if he's got a future anywhere it's with Dance Gavin Dance.  Let's hope this talented kid gets the needle out of his arm, his head out of the clouds and his ass back in the recording booth.

 

letlive. - Fake History
Although a re-release on Epitaph, so many people didn't know about the double-L from Los Angeles, CA until this release... and 2011 has been their breakout year. So for all intents and purposes, Fake History is a 2011 record.  And wow, what a record it is.  From the first few urgent, blistering seconds of "the Sick, Sick, 6.8 Billion" to the desperation and honest frustration felt within the last track "Day 54", this record is going down in the record books as not necessarily a game changer, but a game elevator.  Jason Aalon Butler was voted Kerrang Magazine's #1 Rock Star Of 2011 (whatever that means) which blew most of the population away that didn't know who he was, but if anyone has seen this band play live, you'd know why, and you'd never forget it.  Incendiery, intense, raw, passionate.  He's the rare type of genuine frontman that is shaking, throwing his shoes off, hanging from the rafters, meaning every word that comes out of his mouth.  If 2011 is the year that ll. broke, '12 is the year they become huge.  Pick up this masterpiece and watch the f out.

 

Drake - Take Care
In a "scene" where vulnerability is just another name for weakness and testosterone equals record sales, Drake just doesn't give a shit what you think. He loses a ton of 'street cred' having come from Canada and playing a parapalegic on a popular television drama about high school kids... man how did this guy become so huge? I'll tell you why. Because he's a triple threat - he's a decent singer and an even better rapper, he stands toe-to-toe with his boss Lil Wayne on tracks, and the best part yet is that he's dropping songs that are just straight up different. One listen to "Marvin's Room" off of this album and you'll see what I mean; because it's probably one of the most honest, revealing confessionals I've ever heard within the increasingly unoriginal R&B genre. And it's still very hooky. Of course there are some straight back-and-forth rap songs ("The Motto" is pretty tight) and club bangers, but the fact that this album is so downright unabashedly real is the best part about it.

 

 Robin Thicke - Love After War
Anyone who knows me knows of my love for the R&B genre, and Robin Thicke is the epitome of everything I love about it. He's an excellent R&B/Soul songwriter and doesn't rely on "big name" hip-hop producers like The Neptunes and Timbaland to create the tracks for him; what you'll find on this record is a huge ensemble band backing him up throughout most of the tracks on here, reminiscint of the James Brown, Marvin Gaye era. Robin Thicke (much like John Legend, another favorite of mine) actually performs his music, plans out every single second of it, and cares about every minute detail. What a lot of people don't know about Robin is that before he found commercial success, he was a successful songwriter for everyone from Usher to Mary J Blige. Love After War is what I consider to be one of his best albums thus far. After his last 2 albums (Something Else and Sex Therapy: The Experience) were somewhat disappointing, I'm glad to have him back to making music that sounds original and engaging. This album feels alive, and I welcome the vocal delay effects he's starting to play with because the outcome is outstanding. Even though this just came out in December, it's easily one of my top 2011 albums.

 

Incubus - If Not Now, When?
No one could ever question the talent that this collection of musicians brings to the table, but it seems that a large collection of fans that Incubus has had over the years just can't seem to grow *with* them.  Can you blame them?  Listen to SCIENCE and then Morning View and then If Not Now, When? and you'd be hard-pressed to say all 3 were made by the same band; they've skipped through more genres since their birth than you would probably listen to in a lifetime.  But these guys continue to grow and mature with every release just like any hungry, creative collection of musicians would.  While this release is their most mature and contemporary, it also feels like it's one of the most 'finished' product they've ever put out.  It feels like they really took their time with this one.  If Not Now, When? didn't exactly release to critical acclaim... in fact the reviews were lukewarm at best.  I found that by taking my time with the album it grew on me just like their previous releases did.  The hooks are deeper and more complex, the layers are diverse and grand.  The album just sounds great.  I'll always be blown away by what comes out of these Californians' minds, instruments, and vocal cords - and if I'm alone in putting this on a "Best Of 2011" list, so be it.

 

City And Colour - Little Hell
What is there to say about Dallas Green's fragile and delicate falsetto, his honest and addictive songwriting that hasn't now been said by just about every media outlet in the modern world?  The once shy guitarist/back-up vocalist for Canadian post-hardcore outfit Alexisonfire chose this year to move forward full-speed with his solo project City And Colour, effectively striking a final blow to the already wavering AOF.  While Bring Me Your Love was more confessional and honest, Green seems to have expanded his pallet in more than a few ways with Little Hell (perhaps explaining the cover?).  The song structures are more intricate with a larger array of instruments, there is a full band accompaniment throughout much of the album, and overall it doesn't sound like a singer/songwriter record - which I like.  I think as a scene, we are done with the whole Dashboard Confessional, man and a guitar, anthems for the crowd deal.  Little Hell is complicated and deep, and although I probably still like BMYL a bit more, god is this album still great.

 

 Robbers - Fear To Face Beauty
This album wasn't going to make my "best albums" list and was probably going to be thrown into honorable mentions, but I decided to upgrade it due to the ferocity of it's creativeness alone.  In my humble opinion, Robbers picks up where As Tall As Lions left off.  For me, those are HUGE shoes to fill and it's both a compliment and a mission statement for them.  Singer Andrew Accardi's almost tourette's-ish vocals come off as ingenuine and gimmicky at first, but it's not until halfway through the album that you realize he's just really, really into his music.  As a fellow vocalist, I can relate to that and admire his freedom and passion.  This album is weird, crazy and amazing.  Pick it up off of their bandcamp (http://robbersmusic.bandcamp.com).

 

-EPs-

North Korea - The Basement Tapes Vol.1
I gotta be honest; I was heartbroken when Envy On The Coast broke up. Their career and output in my eyes was flawless and they were probably in the top 5 most talented bands to ever come out of Long Island. When I heard Ryan and Brian were starting a new band with an ex-member of The Dillinger Escape Plan, I was floored and excited to hear what this unique combination would come up with. The material is absolutely a departure from both parties' previous endeavors, but it's not exactly what you would expect either. It's certainly more aggressive, but I wouldn't necessarily categorize it as "experimental". Ryan's vocals are Patton-esque while still retaining those great melodic hooks he's known for - as well as some heavy lyrical content. Meandering guitars and powerful percussion. Although the EP was way too little material clocking in at under 14 minutes, I'm excited to hear what they have in store for us down the road.  They are an extremely creative and talented group of musicians.

Kenna - Land 2 Air Chronicles 1
Kenna's never had his break, unfortunately most people still don't know who this guy is or what he's about. The best comparison I could make is this; imagine if a guy who was obsessed with 80's "Depeche Mode"-esque sound and the atmosphere of that time, started singing R&B. although this doesn't fully capture what Kenna is about and how many influences he seems to touch with his music, it might give you an idea. After 2 full length albums, it seems that he's focusing on specific material and getting it out quickly, in collections of a few songs (this EP is only 3 songs). However I believe it's some of his most addictive material to date. "Chains" could even be a club banger with the obsessive, hypnotic beat; the piano and sampling on "What U Want" create a great backdrop for the pulsating chorus.

Glassjaw - Our Color Green (The Singles)
Legends in their time, the last new music from these guys pre-2011 was Worship And Tribute. In 2002. After close to a decade, we got 'singles' of new music slowly dropped on us one-by-one in late 2010, eventually being released as a 5-song EP called Our Color Green (The Singles) in early 2011. Aggressive and reminiscent of Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence at times, we see them coming back into their own here and not afraid to destroy faces after a 9-year hiatus. Even though they could have dropped 5 songs of complete shit and people still would have been freaking out about it, it's good to know we got some great new material on this EP.

Glassjaw - Coloring Book
No one was ready for the second round of new music from GJ in 2011, which took the form of a free 6-song EP that was given away during their nationwide tour earlier in the year.  Coloring Book sounds like nothing that GJ have ever released before, and is their most experimental and unique material to date.  The syncopation and complicated rhythms of new drummer Durijah Lang mesh with Manuel Carrero's bass to form the best rhythm section Glassjaw have ever had, and create a haunting and hypnotic foundation for the EP.  Daryl's signature screams are found nowhere on here, and instead his vocals weave in and out of the songs, skipping through as if it took no effort for him at all to create brilliant hook-laden vocals.  Beck even experiments with keys for the first time (that I know of) to create a lush and expansive-sounding EP that floored the scene and made the world stand and take notice again.

Crosses - EP
Having been somewhat of a fan of the band FAR back in the day and a self-admitted Deftones fanatic, this Chino Moreno and Shaun Lopez side project finally coming to fruition after many years seemed like a dream come true.  Crosses has a much different feel than Chino's other side project Team Sleep; it feels more concentrated and stylistic, less all over the place with the direction it wants to go.  I love the aesthetic of them already.  This 5-song EP (4 and 1 instrumental) isn't much material to flip out over but it's enough to get excited about (they have a song called "The Years" off of the Batman: Arkham City video game soundtrack which is probably one of my favorite Crosses songs thus far).  It would seem that Crosses has way more of a future than Team Sleep ever did, and with live shows now being announced I'm stoked we have yet another venue in which to experience Chino do his thing.

 

 

-Honorable Mentions-

Lupe Fiasco - Lasers
Excellent album, incredibly different but still maintaining the ability to have commercial success.  Loved every minute of it.

Taking Back Sunday - S/T
I remember when I first heard the track "El Paso" off of this album.  I was so friggin excited.  They were back.  After the last couple of albums that, although good in their own right, failed to capture the magic that made them so special to begin with, their original line-up is back.  They're expanding and maturing their sound, and I'm genuinely stoked to see where they go from here.

Lil Wayne - Tha Carter IV
As usual, Tunechi delivers an album packed with insane beats and mind-blowing similes and metaphors.  Surprisingly however, the best part of this album is actually the guest appearances; it's almost as if he made an album strictly to show off his crew and his friends.

Blindside - With Shivering Hearts We Wait
I love the music that these Swedes have made since their album Silence came out in 2002.  The last album they put out was The Great Depression in 2005 so understandably, I was excited about this.  While it definitely didn't even come close to the magic they had back in the day, the fact alone that they put out a new album's worth of material gives me hope they aren't dead yet and they deserve to be mentioned.

Lloyd - King Of Hearts
An extremely fun and well put-together R&B album from an artist that has had glimpses of the spotlight, but has never truly had much of it for himself.  Any guy that, in a song about his ex, sings "That pussy done changed, it ain't the same and that's a shame" in a major record label release deserves a shout-out.

 

 

-Letdowns-

Atmosphere - The Family Sign
Seven's Travels and You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having are two excellent albums, and everything I've heard past them hasn't impressed me. Unfortunately the former was hyped as one of the first "emo-rap" albums (how terrible is that label?) but the latter was brilliant; Ant did an amazing job of capturing that mid-nineties hip-hop sound and Slug's swagger fit right in. Unfortunately nothing on The Family Sign grabbed me at all, just like the album before that (When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold). I found it slow and drab, and it saddens me to say that.

Dredg - Chuckles And Mr. Squeezy
I still remember seeing Dredg open up for Deftones years ago, back when they were still supporting Catch Without Arms.  They blew me away with their atmospheric and dreamy effects-laden sound.  Years later I can barely recognize them.  Last year I saw Dredg with Codeseven and Circa Survive and they played a couple of songs off of their upcoming album, specifically "Upon Returning" and I couldn't wait for this album (which apparently was produced by Dan The Automator) - the new material sounded excellent live.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  Aside from a few spare instances, this album is probably the biggest disappointment of the year.  From the atrocious name to the downgrade in overall sound, Dredg and the producer made choices that did not fit the band or their style at all.  I'm all for experimentation and switching it up, but only when it benefits the sound.

Sainthood Reps - Monoculture
I already know that I'll probably be very alone here on my hate-filled island of anti-hype, but I just wasn't a fan of this album at all.  I liked Sainthood Reps' aesthetic and live show, and the hype surrounding this album was just inescapable - from one of the band members being a touring member with Brand New, to local legend producer Mike Sapone manning the boards for this record.  It would seem that this was The Next Big Thing out of Long Island.  To me, Monoculture is pretentious and noisy.  I see what they are going for but I'm not a fan.  The vocals are near-indecipherable, the overall sound feels messy, and I honestly don't see anything of value to it.  There is literally almost nothing here that makes me want to come back for more.  I wanted to like it but that just didn't happen.  I apologize Sainthood Reps, I will continue to check out your future material regardless.

Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
I don't know where Part One went but if it sounded anything like Part Two, who gives a shit.  What happened to these guys?  With every record they make they just get more and more unlistenable.  I used to worship albums like Ill Communication and Hello Nasty.  Beastie Boys, either come out with some music that isn't just self-indulgent experimental crap, or just stop it altogether.  People are wasting their hard-earned money on a dream that you could possibly sound like you used to.

Yelawolf - Radioactive
I already updated wrankmusic.com about this album, but it was definitely one of the disappointments of the year for me.  After Trunk Muzik 2.0 I expected Yela's first real LP release and Shady Records' debut to destroy.  Needless to say, it didn't.  Although there are a couple of great tracks on here, it's too commercial and feels thrown together/rushed.  The worst part is that what makes Yelawolf so special and engaging to me is only rarely seen on the album.  I'm still a fan, but I'd honestly suggest to check out Trunk Muzik 2.0 and not worry about this debut.

 

 

-ETC-

 "Sooo... This Happened" Award (TIE)
Patrick Stump - Soul Punk
Yes, the singer for pop-punk legends Fall Out Boy is now Michael Jackson.

Travis Barker - Give The Drummer Some
Although there are actually some great verses on here by well-known rappers, REALLY?  a solo album for a drummer?  REALLY?  Just sounded like a thrown-together rap album.

"That Sounded Exactly Like I Thought It Was Going To" Award
Kanye West & Jay-Z - Watch The Throne
 few good tracks, a few throwaways, overall not bad - 100% predictable.

"Had That One Song On It That was Pretty Good" Award
Tyler The Creator - Goblin "Yonkers" - the rest of the album was meh.

"Finally Took Me Until This Album To Get Into Them" Award (TIE)
Manchester Orchestra - Simple Math
::Audible Gasps::   yes, I know.  I will now grow a beard and move to Greenpoint.

Bayside - Killing Time
::Audible Gasps again::  yes, I know.  I will now trade in my Long Island scene card.

"Wait, That Didn't Come Out In 2011?" Award
Brandon Boyd - The Wild Trapeze
Didn't check it out until a few months ago.  Definitely worth a listen.

Most Hilarious Music Album of 2011
The Lonely Island - Turtleneck & Chain
If you haven't heard this yet you really need to.  My one mistake was waiting so long.

Most Hilarious Stand-Up Album of 2011
Patton Oswalt - Finest Hour
And although this was worth it regardless, 2011 was a dead year for stand-up comedy.  I died a thousand times when he started talking about a father fucking his "future-stripper" daughter in a Garfield mask.  Pure genius. 

Best Album Title Of 2011
Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Worst Album Title Of 2011 (TIE)
I Set My Friends On Fire - Astral Rejection
Dredg - Chuckles And Mr. Squeezy

See you guys in 2012!

 

Filed under: Music No Comments
20Dec/110

on the cheap.

Posted by .steve

i'm not sure if i'm doing a full video game list the way i did a music list for this year's end-of-the-year cataloging, though i will remind you that back in august i was talking about a game called bastion and how it was blowing my mind. it has since gone on to be listed as one of the most highly rated and appreciated games of the year, critically. the game's great, i'm telling you. and today (and apparently today ONLY) it is on sale on the xbla for half price, leaving it at $7.50.

it's a steal.
get it.

Filed under: Video Games No Comments
19Dec/111

the records of 2011.

Posted by .steve

it always takes a lot to put together a list of records that made a major difference in the year. there are the ones that define the entire tone of the year, the ones that completely miss, the ones that open your eyes to entirely new genres. and while i'm constantly hunting down fresh music both new and old, these are the ones that were released this year that ended up making a difference. i encourage everyone to stream, spotify, download, purchase, or road trip with each one of these records and create your own opinion of it. there are some i still have pages upon pages to speak about and others which i will just let speak for themselves.

enjoy. discuss. refute. agree. e-mail me your list.

 

balance and composure's separation.
steve's record of the year, 2011

THE GREATS:


balance and composure – separation 
this record is completely timeless. there is nothing gimmicky about its aggression. I remember when some brief posts were made on its release date by some of the band’s peers and buds via twitter, I was in a drought of new music. I needed a new movement, I needed some level of push in a new direction. I bought it on itunes on a whim and it made its little impacts. as I would revisit it over the course of the year, I realized that it had a lingering effect and a power that hides beneath its skin. I’m not sure that these guys showed up to create a masterpiece, but they’ve framed a perfect moment in their creative development and have left an astounding piece of art in their wake.

robbers – fear to face beauty
the earnestness of this record is what stands out above all other things, possibly more so than any of the records on this list. it is a work that sounds built upon one concept, one thought and one motivation. it’s a look inside one compartment of the mind of andrew accardi, an individual who puts out art, poetry and thought in thick gooey slices of abstract composition. absolutely a “weird” record that performs and goes through a lot within its almost seventy minute body, but it establishes itself with each track and stands strong as an unknown amidst a fit of other artists who put out records in 2011.

manchester orchestra – simple math
admission: i stopped listening to this record sometime toward the end of summer. it isn’t that its songs didn’t continue to compel me, or that I felt that it just couldn’t stand up. it still screams as one of the better ones to come out throughout the year. but the major part of this record that set it aside from many of the others is that before it came out on may 10th (the same day, in fact, as balance and composure’s effort) I had not yet heard anything that could define the year as ultimately beginning from a release standpoint. this one hit me hard and caught me quickly. I remember sending out a ton of text messages to get people’s attention glued to it almost immediately. its distinction remains its timing.

radiohead – king of limbs
an obvious choice in any end of the year list. though for me, it sort of resonates with a different tone. I have spent almost my entire history with radiohead as someone who has been listening at the door. the party has always seemed interesting and I’ve seen some good going in and out, though I never fully stepped through that door. and this seems to be the record that finally did it for me. it shares a lot of greatness with thom yorke’s solo record that came out a number of years ago. very mellow, mild tracks that beckon you further in with every play through. if nothing else, this is the record that finally became the keystone for many, many of the other records and songs I may have missed by these guys just due to the separate language they’ve been speaking.

 

WORTHY MENTIONS:
more great records that came out this year that never really distinguished themselves as greats, but were still solid in their own way. whether it was due to the fact that I didn’t put enough time into them or if it was just missing one special something, they never became heavy hitters.

august burns red – leveler
bon iver – bon iver
this is hell – black mass
thrice – major/minor
kanye west & jay-z - watch the throne
earth – angels of darkness demons of light
i am the avalanche – avalanche united
emmure – speaker of the dead

 

EPs:
it’s always been tough to include EPs in the list of best records to come out during the year, but they do require a place on the list, though separately.

glassjaw – coloring book
what do you say about a glassjaw release? it’s nearly impossible to put together a paragraph or synopsis that summarizes the many ways this band continues to innovate at their own pace and within their own context. received this release at the philly leg of their early 2011 tour, and it firmed itself as the perfect release for this band to put out after the amount of time they gave us the silence. they’ve grown massive within their concept and will never be forgotten. coloring book presents a rhythm heavy groundwork in which daryl does everything you know he will in all of the ways you’d never expect.

braid – closer to closed
finally releasing this four song EP as a part of their temporary reunification is something extremely special for myself and other a long-time braid fans who possibly missed out on the major part of their career. I’d never seen them play, was never around to get amped about their releases until now. and after worshiping frame and canvas for years and years, to get this release which is a few shades less aggressive, though not any less intricate and powerful, it finally feels a little bit closer to closure. and the jeff hanson tribute cover not only worked as a beautiful track, but also got me introduced to an unbelievable solo artist, though it is unfortunate that it was posthumously.

 

SOMETHING ABOUT 'EM...
I didn’t find these records great, but they folded into my collection and had a glow about them that I’m glad I jumped on.

lupe fiasco – lasers
I don’t feel lupe can ever top food & liquor. but I always will have my sights set on what he has going on, knowing that he’s frequently pushing for something major with his releases. and there are some unbelievable tracks on this record, though there is something distinctively poppy and alien about his sound that keeps it from being a classic. it lacks the substance to make it a truly great album release. but it is one fun collection of songs to listen to.
danger mouse & daniele lupe - rome

 

NEW ARTISTS (FOR ME):
great records from bands who I am newly familiar with. more important than these specific pieces of work, I’m more excited about the possibilities of what these individual bands hold for me going forward through their library.
city of ships – minor world
into it over it - proper
touche amore –parting the sea between brightness and me
pianos become the teeth – the lack long after
ghost thrower – ten songs
restorations – s/t

 

COMEBACK PLAYERS OF THE YEAR:
I honestly though these bands were done doing anything that I could find relevant. though they both did something that hit a chord with me.
new found glory - radiosurgery
saves the day - daydream

 

DISAPPOINTMENTS:
get up kids – there are rules
portugal. the man – in the mountain in the cloud

 

REVISITS:


kind of like spitting - bridges worth burning
I moved four times this year, and during the process of moving from brooklyn to long island the first time, I came back across of a bunch of CDs I had stored at the old house and started re-ripping them into my laptop since all of my music had been lost in The Catastrophic External Hard Drive Crash of 2010. this record I ended up completely reconnecting with on a different level. I already knew and loved the songs from the outside, somewhat understanding the kind of emotion that was being demonstrated in the writing and in the playing but further comprehending more of the musical intrinsics that went into the process reengulfed me. thank you jon nistal for having me over your apartment some night in 2004 and playing the song “Passionate” for me.

poison the well – versions
it wasn’t until late in the year, very late in the year, that I jumped into this record again, simply due to the record’s first track coming up during a shuffle of my entire library. I was instantly brought back to the place when this record came out and I was trying to figure out what exactly made the sound so incredible. something about the country inspired instruments used to build a hardcore record nothing short of the kind of respect and innovation that poison the well have always, always come forward with. they don’t finish record to just put a record out, it seems. they put in labor and put out work.

Filed under: Music 1 Comment
19Dec/113

Yeah, Korn…

Posted by Rahul

I know, I know. Whatever. Just listen. It grew on me. I like it. There's like 3, maybe 4 good/decent songs on their new album. They're trying. Whatever. It's more than I can do.

Filed under: Music 3 Comments
5Dec/110

white devil.

Posted by Dave

As a fan of many things (but definitely not all things) hip-hop, I take note when I see something that ditchs the status quo and piques my curiosity.  This dude Yelawolf stood up and demanded it when he opened up the Shady Records 2.0 cypher a couple of months ago for the BET Awards.  Blew me away.  His higher-pitched flow, wild animated style and different look immediately engaged me.  Who the hell was this cat?

Let's rewind a bit.  It's 2011 and the "new era" of white boy rap is in full effect.  Asher Roth got on the radio with his Weezer-sampled "I Love College".  The young buck Mac Miller, only of 19 years of age out of Philly already getting spins on MTV for his single "Knock, Knock" - and supposedly is the first independent artist to debut at #1 on the Billboard in something crazy like 40 years or so.  More recently, Mac Lethal is blowing people away with his version of Chris Brown's "Look At Me Now" on YouTube - making pancakes while destroying with his take on Busta Rhymes' and Lil Wayne's verses (supposedly Mac Lethal is also the genius behind that "Texts From Bennett" blog that Steve posted about a few days ago).  Look up the video, it's actually pretty tight.  You might not be a fan of Pitbull but the white cuban rapper has been camped out on your radio like the OWS protestors for the last couple of YEARS.  Even across the pond, Mike Skinner aka The Streets ruled the UK hip-hop scene until he recently dissolved the project after their last show last month, dubbed "The Big Reunion."  And I'm not even mentioning the probable dozens of minor-league white hip-hop artists waiting in the wings to get their chance to shine. 

So is this just a phase?  My personal opinion is that the only white hip-hop artists that survive/thrive are the ones that gain the respect of both the white suburban community (easy) and the black hip-hop community (hard) and you can only do that by being believable and genuine.   Yelawolf is definitely that - genuine.  Raised in a white trash trailer park in Gadsden, Alabama, Yela came up in a very similar manner to the only white rapper that has truly been successful and universally-respected by the black and white communities - of course, Eminem.  Which isn't a surprise then that Marshall Mathers took notice of Yela and signed him to Shady Records along with the sick rap outfit Grindhouse.

The first release of Yelawolf's that I purchased after being blown away by the Shady Records cypher was his mixtape "Trunk Muzik 0-60" which reminded me of Slim Shady's first album, albiet with a little bit more "bump."  There's some great beats on this record along with some honest recollections of the environment he was raised in... all in all a damn good release for a first.  He shows genuine story-telling ability, true unique style and a redneck aesthetic that makes cheesier redneck rappers (Bubba Sparxxx anyone?) ashamed to flaunt it.  However Yela's major label (and Shady Records) debut that just dropped last month, "Radioactive" has pretty much been a disappointment.  In my eyes it fails to capture both the ferocity I saw in the cypher and his unique style.  Most of the attempts at radio singles are absolutely terrible (ahem "Let's Roll feat. Kid Rock" cough cough) and although his new boss Eminem kills it on "Throw It Up", that song also features probably the worst verse I've ever heard by some unknown female rapper Gangsta Boo.  No surprise that Lil Jon brings the crunk on "Hard White (Up In The Club)", but it's nothing other than a great banger/club song.  In my eyes the strongest track is actually "Animal (feat. Fefe Dobson)" - it comes out of nowhere, Yela fucking kills it with a fast-as-shit Busta Rhymes-esque flow, and the former/current pop star Dobson actually comes up with a pretty strong hook. 

Hip-hop is an exhausted genre nowadays, screaming for something different, clamoring for anything or anyone to switch it up from the materialistic, self-absorbed drama of the early 2000's that it just never grew out of.  The one thing I can say about Yela is that he definitely is switching it up.  Dude is straight trailer trash and flaunts it - he even rocks a TIE DYE hoodie in the "Hard White" video... hilarious.  Although his first album is somewhat of a disappointment I recommend checking out "Trunk Muzik 0-60" and absolutely check out the Shady Records cypher even if it's just a few bars, because that's what initially got me to take note.  I'm hoping to see more Yelawolf and crossing my fingers that with age, he gets better.  And I'm also hoping this white rapper trend dies quickly, because it will be harder for true artists like Yela to survive once the inevitable backlash comes around.

Filed under: Music No Comments
2Dec/110

Immigrants All

Posted by Brian

 

After deservedly winning the Oscar for their collaboration on the soundtrack for David Fincher's The Social Network, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross went into high demand. It's fitting then that they chose as their next project nothing but David Fincher's next project, the English language remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I've seen the first two films of the original trilogy, and personally I don't find them anything special, explaining why I haven't bothered to fire up the third and final installment on Netflix Streaming yet, but I'm always willing to give Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en, Zodiac) the benefit of the doubt. Then he went and hired Reznor/Atticus a second time around, and I became more interested.

Then the trailer dropped. That trailer. The one where Karen O from the Yeah Yeahs Yeahs sang a cover of Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song over what was essentially Nine Inch Nails. This, my friends, couldn't be more my style if it was wearing my skin like an Edgar suit. It immediately elevated my hopes for the soundtrack, proving that Reznor and Atticus wouldn't simply rely on the same formula that had won them the Oscar a year before.

Today the news for the soundtrack officially dropped, including a link to download a six-song sampler. From what I've heard it does sound very atmospheric, akin to The Social Network, but at the same time it clearly owes to a different world than that other film. It's yet to be seen what the full soundtrack holds, considering this sampler is but a small piece of a seemingly long piece of work. As for the details, I'll let Reznor's words explain the rest:

For the last fourteen months Atticus and I have been hard at work on David Fincher’s “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”. We laughed, we cried, we lost our minds and in the process made some of the most beautiful and disturbing music of our careers. The result is a sprawling three-hour opus that I am happy to announce is available for pre-order right now for as low as $11.99. The full release will be available in one week - December 9th.

You have two options right now:

VIsit iTunes here where you can immediately download Karen O’s and our version of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” when you pre-order the soundtrack for $11.99.
You will also be able to exclusively watch the legendary 8-minute trailer you may have heard about (no purchase necessary obviously). We scored this trailer separately from the film, BTW.

Or…

Visit our store here. We’re offering a variety of purchasing options including multiple format high-quality digital files, CDs and a really nice limited edition deluxe package containing vinyl and a flash drive.
In addition, RIGHT NOW you can download a six-track, 35 minute sampler with no purchase necessary.

Or…
Live the dream and visit both! Atticus and I are very proud of the film and our work, we hope you enjoy.

Best,
TR

Filed under: Music No Comments
2Dec/110

the mass of us; 12/1.

Posted by .steve


touche amore

last night went to santos party house and caught seahaven, pianos become the teeth and touche amore. perfect, three band set. no local, no time eater. quick in-between set times. great, breezy show. started at seven thirty, out before ten. the value of that brevity is unspeakable to an old and crass one like me.

i can't say that seahaven lived up to the hype of their brother bands. i've been watching the buzz of them through the social networks, other bands jumping on their tiny bandwagon, pushing them forward on tours, talking up their new record. i got a somewhat generic vibe from them. i kept waiting for them to really embrace a voice or style to make their own, maybe a thing or two that make them jump off of the stage at you, to define them. but i've got nothing. the singer used a few monster-esque REM vocal parts, and had a jesse lacey kind of swagger, though the backing music was distinctly elevated pop-punk (meaning it didn't sound like i was waiting on line to buy deck shorts, but still had that aesthetic to it). honestly though, honestly. please give them a listen. there may be more to their sound that may not have come across at their live show. here is their bandcamp page, and they've released a new record, winter forever just recently. support them. may just need more time with it.

the bands that i came for followed, and floored me.

what pianos become the teeth do is prowl. they have this guise of being just a bunch of dudes who play aggressive music. "you know! we scream, play some low tones. we show up!" but the unbelievable microcosm of moments within those songs are best compared to specific conversational crises in scenes of mass emergency. the brief sweeps of clean guitar, the hushed breaths in places most bands would power through. and in my first time seeing the band live, i was impressed to see that they leave no stroke rushed or hamfistedly shoved over. the drum style is very forward, very much part of the landscape, not just keeping the beat and during their live set, took a spotlight. the metal hair didn't hurt at all. the perfect flourish. and i honestly couldn't believe, truly, how spot-on the vocals sounded to the record. not one moment of growing hoarse, or speaking a line to give his throat a rest. just maintaining and respecting the medium. incredible. such a good set. a little as cities burn, a little bear vs shark? somewhere in there? here's a video.

i never got this vibe before, but i kind of got a bit of a "her middle name was boom" in the intro to this specific live video.

and touche amore. what belief. truly, genuinely, one of the most earnest performing bands i've ever had the pleasure of watching. what has always made this band a true gem, from the moment they were suggested to me, are the brief glimpses, even as a stranger to the songs, you get of the sharp and direct lyrical content. relatable, stark and honest writing. and the live show brings that to the fore, with the accompaniment of a room filled with people who have had those same realizations, those same singularities, and shouting it out along with the man who initially wrote them. this is what often makes the live interaction worth all of the waiting, the expensive drinks, the commute. but with touche, it's more of a knuckle bare union. pardon the comparison, but i almost liken it to those days when dashboard was playing CB's or Maxwell's. the eye contact and all of it. but this was filled with that kineticism of a hardcore show. and what makes touche great are their abstract, more progressive hardcore moments. the almost indie band guitar lines hopping on top of converge drum blasts. and it was all in there, very sharp. not a slip, not a miss. and even when security took things a bit far with the "no mosh/stage diving", things hiccuped as a venue, but got back on track. the film didn't burn. such gracious dudes, you could feel every minute of it. the band's record parting the sea between brightness and me, again, is a must listen. and when you hear it and when you love it, catch whatever bus, whatever car pool, whatever caravan you can to get to their next show. live that with them.

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1Dec/113

heart, ears, eyes.

Posted by .steve

i'm kind of going overboard on this, i guess. i shared this on twitter, facebook and now here. is there a "too much" on the internet? i have no idea. i don't think we, as a generation, just laugh at things anymore. there are too many avenues to force-push it out into. and pricks like me, the real stalwart ones, the ones who are 60-year-old-miserable before 30 (just made the cut!) are constantly trying to be first. maybe not anymore, but that's for a successful resolution to decide. the above still is [allegedly] from the blogger's 17 year old cousin Bennett. the blog i pulled this from, easily memorable texts from bennett, is one i'll be following with my regular blog feeds. seems like it's going to be a hilarious ride. reminds me a little bit of the site "dear girls above me" wherein a guy lives beneath girls who he quotes then curmudgeons and we all say "i know riiiight?"

pianos become the teeth and touche amore tonight with dave and mr. smith. very excited to see this go down. parting the sea... is definitely in the top bundle of records to come out all year, and pianos... get[s?] better every time i hear them. their new record the lack long after is going to be in there as well. what're we thinking about for great releases this year, by the way? if anyone wants to throw a list up on the site, e-mail wrankmusic [at] gmail. i think that's how web people break it down when they don't want to hyperlink it. i assume it's to hide it from the nigerian bots. and samuel hyde parker or whoever wears the mustache mask, you know, the guy who's always revolutioning.

also, i purchased a PX3 gaming headset. the thought was to use it for quieter gaming, not communicating online or anything of the sort. mostly just for the surround experience. so far, solid headphones, good quality audio. i've noticed that in moments with a lot of silence (dialogue in uncharted for example) it tends to drop out completely, and 'switch on' when things start to pick up a bit. i may have to mess with the settings a bit more. though a lot of the great background chatter that you'd generally pick up in-game (villagers speaking, random bustling) completely dropped out. it's fine, but obnoxious if you know what you're looking for. while it claims to be wireless, it ended up adding to the spaghetti pie of cables and wires behind my television. i chose this one over the cheaper wired models because it's universal, so i can get one headset for both my 360 and ps3. great thing is it allows me to plug directly into my laptop to listen to tunes. good purchase, but i think i'd recommend towards the x12 or p11. haven't used either of them, though in principle i can imagine they remain the same audio quality and the wire really won't mess with you too much. i've never really gotten fully behind the wireless concept as a true upgrade.

i'm around.

addendum:
they've added buffalo '66 to the netflix streaming library. if you've yet to watch that movie, please jump on board. required.