The Update

Wow, I’m actually posting something? What is going on? Well, I’m posting to tell you that I’m a new man, and one of my new policies is to update this thing at least every monday with a review or some news or what I’ve been listening to or a picture of a dinosaur. I like dinosaurs.

Anyway, I’ve missed a lot in the last two months, so this post is going to fill you, o’valued reader, in on what Josh has been listening to for the last two months he was farting around.

JANUARY

The Joy Formidable- Wolf’s Law

The first song I heard from these guys was “Whirring” off their first major release, The Big Roar. What impressed me was not the technical playing or performance, but just the very idea that this huge shoegaze/loud alternative sound was coming from three people. This ‘roaring’ rock sound continues through in Wolf’s Law and is complimented by a perfect mixture of swelling, powerful guitars and incorporations of light ambient synths that blend excellently with an otherwise Rock and Roll sound. Ritzy Bryan has proved herself to be an excellent presence when surrounded by these bombastic soundscapes, and whether her voice is distorted or clean, it always cuts through and dominates the track. If you liked The Big Roar, or just need something with pure rock sensibilities and a kick-ass female lead singer, Wolf’s Law takes the cake so far this year. Here’s “This Ladder is Ours”, the first track on this exceptional album.

Foxygen- We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic

Okay, let’s get one thing straight. I don’t like the Rolling Stones. Not that I have any sort of problem with them; they just don’t really do much for me. I can’t deny the allure and majesty of songs like “Gimme’ Shelter”, but other than that I’ve never found a motivation to fanboy over Mick or Keith or any of the others. When listening to this record, however, I hear an uncanny resemblance to the stones sound and for some reason I am not deterred; I am attracted to it. It may be that Foxygens’ sound also has sprinkles of The Velvet Underground, psychedelic era Beatles and Bob Dylan (all of which I enjoy), but it’s the Stones attitude that made this record stand out like it does. Maybe this is the breaking point. Maybe this is when I start to understand why Paint It Black is a good song. Anyway, Foxygen’s psychedelic and interestingly named debut has a welcome place in my library, and it may have just opened doors in my own musical intelligence I didn’t know existed. Check out “No Destruction” below.

FEBRUARY

Coheed & Cambria- The Afterman: Descension

Coheed moves triumphantly forward with their new Afterman project while still incorporating the melodic and lyrical aspects that made me fall in love with them in the first place. If someone told me this record had a song with horns in it, I would have assumed the worst, but the track in question was refreshing while still maintaining the sound I can’t get enough of. If you like Coheed, especially the stuff before No World for Tomorrow, give this a listen.

Foals – Holy Fire

Foals is an interesting band. A blend of dance indie acts like Friendly Fires and Two Door Cinema Club, more traditional alternative acts like Interpol, and a bit of electronic introspection the likes of Caribou and even recent Radiohead releases, Foals brings something new to the table. Most tracks in their first release Total Life Forever almost adopted a post-rocky building structure, and this release uses the same idea more effectively; the pieces of the build are more interesting, and they move faster towards a grand climax. Also similar to their first release, many of the tracks are danceable and catchy, and lead singer Yannis Philippakis brings a bluesy grooving feel to match the tribal drums and syncopated guitars. Check out  their single “Inhaler” below.

Jim James- Regions of Light and Sound of God

My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James sure knows how to groove. His crooning voice reminds me eerily of Dirty Projectors lead singer David Longstreth at some points, and his moving piano lines and bouncing drum beats keep you paying attention. I unfortunately don’t have much of a background with MMJ, but this introspective and bright endeavor has just motivated me to do my homework and see what I’ve been missing. Here’s “Know Til Now”, my favorite off the record.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- Push the Sky Away

Nick Cave has been around for a while. His group The Bad Seeds have been around since ’83. I have not explored his music before, but like the Jim James album mentioned above, this release has motivated me to see what I’ve been missing. Drifting between an Avante-Garde spoken word sound and orchestral alternative rock, Nick Cave seems to produce haunting melodies and chilling spoken poetry with the same ease as a more tradition rhythm and melody. His music, much like predecessor Tom Waits, tells a story, and although the instrumentals are excellent, it’s the lyrics that really makes Cave superior to some of the other similar acts that have formed after him. Here’s a good sample of his sound (for this album at least), “Wide Lovely Eyes”. The video also does an excellent job of highlighting Cave’s lyrical complexities.

Atoms For Peace- Amok

Finally, back to familiar territory. For those of you unaware, Atoms for Peace is a supergroup of sorts formed by Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke with his producer and long time friend Nigel Godrich, Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame, Drummer Joey Waronker (who works mostly with Beck), and Brazilian percussionist Mauro Rafosco. Put them all together, and you get a delightfully spacey and beat-laced release that incorporates the electronic themes of Radiohead’s last effort on a whole other level. The record is sample heavy and very polyrhythmic, but Thom’s simple and ensnaring vocal melodies keep each track grounded so you know when to bob your head. On previous singles and unreleased tracks, I hadn’t noticed how much Mauro contributes to the sound, but his varied arsenal of percussion brings unexplored timbres and new flavors to an otherwise familiar Thom Yorke (dare I say it) masterpiece. Overall, the record is solid, especially if you enjoy the electronic and ambient textures found on In Rainbows, King of Limbs, and Thom’s solo effort The Eraser. Here’s the excellent video for  “Ingenue”.

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Welp, that’s all I got. I will be updating mondays, so keep coming back to see if I post a dinosaur picture. Seeya then!

Best Albums of 2012

Remember me? After a long semester and indefinite hiatus, I’m back right on the cusp of the new year to make sure you don’t miss the best of the best from the last 12 months. I’ve reviewed some of my favorites already, but there are a few in here that I missed the first time around, or that were released while I was (supposedly) advancing in my education. I’ll give you a top ten with a variation of genres, and wrap it up with a list of honorable mentions. Happy Listening!

P.S. These are in no particular order.

10. Sweet Heart Sweet Light- Spiritualized

Spiritualized is one of those bands that puts something out every couple of years, and constantly tops themselves. Led by the ingenious Jason Pierce, this most recent installment had me close to tears. Beautiful choral and string arrangements, lyrically poignant and indescribably flowing, the record is a must-listen all the way through. He also sounds uncannily like Lou Reed. Here’s one of the singles, if you’re still not convinced to listen to the whole thing.

9. Channel Orange- Frank Ocean

The best song wasn’t the single, but you weren’t either.

To be completely honest, if I had to pick one album from this list as the definitive Best Album of 2012, it would be this. Fortunately, I like to appeal to those with varying tastes, so I will not favor this album over any other. Even though it is my baby.

Mindless praise aside, Odd Future house singer Frank Ocean blends electronic and acoustic tastes of R&B in a whole new way on his debut LP. The entire album grooves, and we see excellent guest work from the likes of Earl Sweatshirt, Andre 3000, and John Mayer. Each song is perfectly tailored with pop sensibilities,  and his lyrics varie from comical quips and clever rhymes to deeper introspection and social commentary. The production and performance is spot on as well, and the way Frank meshes with anyone he shares the sound waves with is nothing short of amazing. I strongly encourage even those who tend to avoid R&B to give it a chance. You won’t be able to turn it off.

Here’s the Stevie Wonder-esque Sweet Life.

8. Blunderbuss- Jack White

I believe I’ve already blabbed enough about why Mr. White’s solo album is wonderful, and worthy of a spot. Check out my Blunderbuss review here.

Here’s the last track on the record performed live, which really defines all the tones Jack explored.

7. Until the Quiet Comes- Flying Lotus

FlyLo has had on hell of a year. His dark ambient beats and mellow electronica that have been permeating Adult Swim announcements and underground clubs for years have gained some popularity , he started his rap career as a mysterious Captain Murphy alongside Earl Sweatshirt, and he’s released my (as well as many other critics) favorite electronic record this year. The album has a constant, beautiful flow to it, and female vocal samples from the likes of Erykah Badu improve on Lotus’s mostly instrumental past. Earlier works such as Los Angeles and Cosmogramma are almost designed for a constant listen through, but Until The Quiet Comes is much more flexible. Each song is a complete thought, but it also improves upon the track following it. The record still feels like Flying Lotus, but new tones and song structures make this one of his most refreshing releases. Check out See Thru To U below, and let it take you away.

6.  Lonerism- Tame Impala

Tame Impala. If you’re looking for modern psychedelic rock, it doesn’t get much better than this. Couple flangy, reverby guitars with a bombastic drummer and a singer that sounds like Paul McCartney, and you have all the essentials in summery vibes and head bobbing grooves. Their previous release Innerspeaker had become my favorite record of the psychedelic variety, and I didn’t expect this to top it. I was very wrong.

Everything that made Innerspeaker great is utilized exponentially. A very prominent and driving bass line, use of both acoustic and electric keys with a variety of “trippy” effects, and soaring vocals permeate every track, and the album builds upon the successful elements of it’s predecessor in the most effective ways. The group really capitalizes on walls of sound to get their message across, and this is without a doubt one of the best records with a psychedelic tinge to be released in the past 10 years. If you like, rock, flange, the Beatles, and good music, give Lonerism a spin. Heres’ my favorite track, Music To Walk Home By.

5. Good Kid, m.a.a.d City- Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar has always been lyrically brilliant. His October release Good Kid, M.A.A.D City tells a story of an adolescent struggling in the inner city, caught between gang violence, drugs, sex, and his obligation to his faith and family. Each track has an excellent beat, articulate lyrics, and most importantly, a place in the overarching story. Smooth, grooving bass and synth work really pulls this album together without taking away from the true star: Kendrick and his biting, witty, and reflective lyrics. Check out his track with Drake, Poetic Justice.

4. Boys and Girls- Alabama Shakes

Alabama Shakes unique rock, motown, and bluesy blend more than earns it’s place on this list. Check out the full review here.

3. Celebration Rock- Japandroids

Japandroids is the group that has given me the most energy this past year; they just make me want to move. Blocky fuzzy guitars, bombastic and driving kit work, and straight forward lyrics of love and vulnerability makes the duo one of the most powerful forces in garage rock history. If you haven’t checked out the first record Post Nothing, I highly recommend it, but this little number from Celebration Rock hooked me.

2. Love this Giant- David Byrne and St. Vincent

This has to be one of David Byrne’s greatest works, and though I do like St.Vincent as a solo artist, she flourishes with Byrne. Check out the full review here.

1. An Awesome Wave- Alt-J

I don’t know how to describe Alt-J to you, reader. Tribal indie rock? Electronic folk? I think you better decide for yourself. All I have to say is this is one of the most refreshing records from a new band I’ve heard this year. Enjoy Fitzpleasure below.

Welp, that’s all folks! Here’s a list of honorable mentions that I also enjoyed this year!

Church of Rock and Roll- Foxy Shazam- Check out my concert experience here.

Mr. M- Lambchop- old fashioned Americana/folk/Alt-country with a little bit of a bite.

Port of Morrow- The Shins- Not as good as previous endeavors, but still a very good release.

Valtari- Sigur Ros- Sigur Ros’ most recent release is very much reserved compared to the last record, and it is beautiful.

Oceania- Smashing Pumpkins- Billy is back to his roots, and Oceania is a welcomed departure from Tarantula. Check out my review here.

Periphery 2- Periphery – If hardcore/djent/metal is your cup of tea, this should be your AOTS.

Gossamer- Passion Pit-  Michael Angelakos brings a solid sophomore effort out of production hell and mental instability. Check out the review here.

Swing Lo Magellan- Dirty Projectors- An excellent follow up to Bitte Orca. Check out the double review with Passion Pit above!

Shields- Grizzly Bear- Shields brings in a more electric and heavy side to a usually softs-spoken Grizzly Bear.

Cruel Summer- G.O.O.D Music- Kanye’s label puts out some solid tracks on this group LP.

The Money Store- Death Grips- An angry, politically charged mc, a drummer, and a keyboard player get together  for some grungy lo fi experimental hip hop.

No Love Deep Webb- Death Grips- their second surprise release this year after, apparently done without the label’s permission. Much more produced, but probably                                                                           my favorite release  from them thus far.

Visions- Grimes- An electronic outing with Claire Boucher is not one you’ll likely forget.

Habits and Inhibitions- Schoolboy Q- Some of the most chill beats to be released this year, each caressing Schoolboy’s insightful and hard hitting rhymes.

Smashing Pumpkins- Oceania

Billy Corgans’ latest entry into the world of modern rock music is one of excellent pacing and songwriting, as well as more experimenting with what gives the Smashing Pumpkins their signature sound.

After the last album, which became a critical punching bag (with good reason, in my opinion), Corgan seems to have worked hard to expand his sound and take more risks. At times during my listen-through, I was reminded of more recent groups that have entered the scene later than the 80’s-born Pumpkins, especially alternative rockers Circa Survive. A lot of reverb and delay can be heard in the guitar work, and an occasional synth layer on a few of the tracks is refreshing to hear compared to the Pumpkins past work. What really makes this album shine though is the pacing. Corgan organized this title with flawless flow, from the slower acoustic songs to the more experimental tracks to the slick and distorted rock and roll that brought his band to prominence. Lyrically, Corgan retains his fluxuating dark and bright tone, and the more electronic aspects really click with his voice.

Overall, this record has earned itself a solid 8/10 with me. Although it isn’t as ambitious as Mellon Collie, or as experimental as Adore, it still has what I want to hear in a pumpkins album (good lyrics, crooning vocals, and both articulate and heavy instrumentals) while also adding something new. Corgan strove to start a movement back to album oriented rock with this record, and I think for the most part, he achieved his goal.

Check out The Chimera below!

Concert Review: Radiohead

So, I spent almost a Benjamin to head up to Newark with a few of my friends to watch this weird British character named Thom Yorke “dance” around the stage to some obscure music.

It was the best show I’ve ever been to.

Every single song they played was magnificent, and the entire band was very together, played well, and expressed clearly that they were having the time of their lives; that expression carried around the entire stadium in every fans face, intoxicated or sober. Even the newer songs released after their most recent album The King of Limbs entranced the audience, but the true magic happened when the group touched on their past endeavors. An entire stadium singing Karma Police, Everything In It’s Right Place, The National Anthem, and Weird Fishes was nothing short of breathtaking to witness and take part in.The light show was absolutely phenomenal , and the engineers behind it obviously knew the music and how to communicate the intensity and varying moods to the audience visually.

All in all, Radiohead is one group who has not only excelled in the art of performance; they have perfected it. They can entertain an entire stadium full of people for without a break for two hours, and perform two encores. I would pay to have that experience again and again.

And who knows, maybe I’ll get something better than nosebleed seats next time.

Best Coast- The Only Place

Best Coast’s sophomore effort after the summery treat that was Crazy for You is noticeably less memorable. For one thing, the vocals have lost their dreamy and reverb-soaked charm, and it’s much harder to ignore the admittedly uncreative lyrics in each song. This direct lyrical style fit in the lo-fi, jangly surfing mood of the first album, but it seems out of place and boring in what can be described as an overproduced album. The duo has headed for a much poppier sound, and it’s not a change for the better. The charm of the punkish production and the exciting drive is gone, and the multiple harmonized vocal tracks remind me of  Taylor Swift.

Overall, if you are looking for a simple pop album to listen to, and you happen to like T-Swift (I don’t particularly care for her, but I don’t hate her either), give this album a listen. However, if you loved Crazy For You and expect more of the same summery greatness, you will undoubtedly be unpleasantly surprised.

Jack White- Blunderbuss

Jack White has always been a personal inspiration of mine, so this post may seem a little biased. Regardless, it has become a consensus that his ability to adapt the blues into a modern rock setting and make it sound refreshing is unparralelled. This being his first solo endeavor without the backing of Meg White, the Dead Weather, or the Raconteurs, I was curious as to how well he could recreate a genre he had so often breathed life into. I was not disappointed.

Right off the bat, the album opens with a bluesy organ groove in “Missing Pieces”, delivering something that feels like Jack White, and yet seems to delve further into the blues that inspired him. This is not the bass-empty, unstrained jams of the White Stripes, nor the mean, dirty, dark, whiskey-drenched blues The Dead Weather wreaks of. No, this is a cleaner, more refined blues (is that an oxymoron?), while still delivering that rock sound that can be found in anything Mr. White writes; this indicative rock sound is evident in “Missing Saltines”. While still ‘kicking out the jams’, Jack seems to take a softer tone towards the middle of the album by bringing in an masterful acoustic duet in “Love Interruption” and a string soaked ballad in the title track. He also seems to have take more of a fancy to the piano; It can be be heard in prominence in several tracks, especially “Weeping Themselves to Sleep”.

Despite all the inovations and creativity Jack White breathes into the blues, he never quite strays from everything that makes the genre. Very basic chord structures, a certain attitude, and raunchy lyrics permeate the album, and remind us that Jack is still still exactly what he was inspired by, and what he has always aspired to be: a blues musician.

All and all, Blunderbuss is a truly unique experience to anything else Jack White has every created, and you should go listen to it. Right. Now.

More Record Store Day!

I realized recently that I completely forgot about some of the exclusives released last Saturday. Please forgive me and check some of these great tracks out.

Foster the People- Broken Jaw

Lana Del Rey- Blue Jeans (Penguin Prison Remix)

M83- Mirror

Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends- Helping the Retarded Find God

Dirty Projectors- You Against the Larger World

Beach House- Equal Mind

A Brief Post: Delta Spirit

I feel a little late to the party after realizing this album from San Diego-based Delta Spirit came out in March. An animated tribal beat and reverb-soaked guitars are only complimented by an animated tongue roll in this energized track off the bands self-titled. I strongly recommend checking these guys out.

Sigur Ros Announce Tour Dates

Icelandic Post-Rock group Sigur Rós have announced a North America tour to go along with their new album Valtari, which will be released on May 30th. For those of you who have never experienced Sigur Rós, you are missing out on an amazing group. The lead singer, who goes by the name of Jonsí, has an incredible powerful falsetto, and the instrumentation on many of their tracks is absolutely breathtaking. Their music has been featured on several different commercials, and this one is probably the most recognizable. Do yourself a favor and listen to Takk… all the way through.

For those of you familiar with the band, check out the new single.

Spine Hits – Sleepy Sun

Sleepy Sun is an apt name or this lazy California rock outfit, a fact that can be recognized from the first few seconds of their new release, Spine Hits. The guitar jams, the singers harmonize, and the drummer hammers along, each member adding to the overall calm, dreamy, summery feel that envelopes the album. Lead singer Bret Constantino channels both the Shins and Manchester Orchestra vibes, but the song structures varie from similarities to U2 to Soundgarden to a ‘Lucy in the Sky’ era Beatles. It’s an interesting mix, and not one to be passed off as another yawn-worthy indie band. For such a lazy band, they just can’t seem to stand still. In this case, that’s a very good thing.

Check out my pick Creatures. Note: All picks will now be linked to Spotify, a great free music streaming program available here.