Thursday, December 31, 2009


Man did this decade SUCK or what???  What a waste of 10 years.  Not musically, though!!  Music was the awesome yin to life's shitty yang for the decade.  I had to cut down my list from something like my 200 favorite records to this: the absolute-ultimate-unimpeachable-undeniable-unfuckwithable top 30 albums of the last 10 years!!  These albums are the jam and if you don't like at least a few of these, nuts to you old fogey!!!!  Don't come to my party because we are rocking the fuck out.

30. So - So (2003)

read the rest!

29. Jana Hunter - Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom (2005)

28. Jay Reatard - Blood Visions (2006)

27. Black Dice - Broken Ear Record (2005)

26. Yellow Swans - Bring the Neon War Home (2004)

25. Snoop Dogg - Tha Blue Carpet Treatment (2006)

24. The Angelic Process - Weighing Souls With Sand (2007)

23. David Thomas Broughton - The Complete Guide to Insufficiency (2005)

22. Daughters - Hell Songs (2006)

21. Ratatat - Ratatat (2004)

20. Greg Ashley - Painted Garden (2007)

19. Black Moth Super Rainbow - Dandelion Gum (2007)

18. Panda Bear - Person Pitch (2007)

17. Wolves in the Throne Room - Two Hunters (2007)

16. Flying Canyon - Flying Canyon (2006)

15. The Pack - Skateboards 2 Scrapers (2006)

14. Comets on Fire - Blue Cathedral (2004)

13. Madvillain - Madvillainy (2004)

12. Harvey Milk - Special Wishes (2006)

11. The Dirty Projectors - The Getty Address (2005)

10. Six Organs of Admittance - School of the Flower (2005)

09. Om - Conference of the Birds (2006)

08. Mclusky - Mclusky Do Dallas (2002)

07. Animal Collective - Sung Tongs (2004)

06. Deerhoof - Milk Man (2004)

05. Mastodon - Leviathan (2004)

04. The Blood Brothers - Burn Piano Island, Burn (2003)

03. Genghis Tron - Dead Mountain Mouth (2006)

02. Tim Hecker - Radio Amor (2003)

01. Hella - Hold Your Horse Is (2002)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

top 10 2009 edition

Destroy-the-scene mentioned this in his top 10, but man, was this just not a great year for music or what?  There were a lot of albums that I'd call really solid and happily listen to again and again (Converge, Blues Control, Dirty Projectors, Antipop Consortium), but which were not exactly mind-blowing.  Every time I've sat down to make this list, I've just ended up feeling kinda down and uninspired.  Maybe it's because I listened to more music this year that wasn't new- or maybe I just did a poor job of seeking out the exciting and ground-breaking music that was made in 2009?  At any rate, there were definitely at least a few standouts this year.  One last note before we get started: the ordering of this list is fairly arbitrary, and based more on my passing whimsy than a intentional declaration of ranked superiority, so don't take the numbers too seriously.  Here's what I ended up liking best:

10.  Garage/Lo-fi
With apologies to Mr. DPW (who has a preference for logically-numbered lists) I couldn't find 10 proper records to round out this list and so I'm gonna fudge it on the first couple of these.  So yeah, "garage/lo-fi" isn't a band, but actually a wide swath of music I dug this year.  Apparently a lot of other people did too, given the ever-changing "hip/not hip" status of some of these bands.  There were great records this year from Blank Dogs, Thee Oh Sees, Ganglians, Vivian Girls, Wavves (ha ha man did this dude ever take in the nuts this year, critically speaking), Eat Skull, Dum Dum Girls and more.  I can't really talk about this type of music without mentioning what an incredible source id reverberations (RIP, kinda?) was on this front.

read the rest!

9. Dubstep
Another genre that I dug a whole hell of a lot this year was dubstep, not exactly a scene that produces a lot of full lengths- so I'll just say "uh....dubstep, in general".  In particular though, I'd say Joker definitely had the stand-out year- "Digidesign" and "Do It" got more play around my place than almost anything else.  I also really, really loved Zomby, Guido, Appleblim, Hudson Mohawke, the most recent Mary Anne Hobbs mix, and the free live concert series put on by a car company that doesn't need to be named.

8. Tonetta 777
I keep trying to get people to pay attention to this dude but feel like no one is listening.  Is there something about a middle-aged Canadian man, a total acid casualty of indeterminate sexuality, gyrating provocatively and lip-syncing to his own bizarro lo-fi jams that people find off putting?  Try "DRUGS DRUGS DRUGS", "A Beautiful Dream" and "$$ VIRAL $$" before you make up your mind.

7. Micachu & The Shapes - Jewellry
Destroy-the-scene did an excellent job of reviewing this album earlier in the year, plus this album made his list, so I don't have too much to add, other than this is one of the few truly original-sounding records I heard this year.

6. A Place to Bury Strangers - Exploding Head
I have a soft spot in my heart for APTBS' (as well as APTBS-related bands, Skywave and Ceremony) gothy take on shoegaze, and I feel like this album is definitely by far the most solid release from any of these groups.  You could make the case that this record is derivative and is standing on the shoulders of older, better artists; you'd probably be right.  Nevertheless I really enjoyed "Exploding Head" and found myself coming back to it again and again.

5. Ducktails - Ducktails
Looking at my playcounts, it would seem that I might've listened to this dude more than any other act this year.  This is, in part, because he already has a fairly sizable body of work (most of it really good!  some of it, not so much).  This release, though, is probably the best distillation of the relaxed, summer-time vibes that he does so well.  His live show, however, was kind of a weird one- loud, dissonant and punishing rather than chill and laid-back(??).

4. Om - God is Good
Look, basically any year an Om album comes out, it's gonna be in the top 10.  Even if every Om album sounds like the last Om album (save a new drummer, some extra instrumentation, a slightly varied vocal style, other subtle differences).  This band rules so hard and everyone should be listening to them.

3. Absu - Absu
I reviewed this earlier in the year, and I'm still way into it.  Really focused, memorable black/death metal- what this record might lack in intensity (particularly compared to my next pick...) it more than makes up in songwriting.  I maybe would not have ranked it so high if I had been familiar with this band's back catalogue prior to this year, but I wasn't, and this was a hell of an eye-opener.

2. Liturgy - Renihilation
I detailed the reasons I love this album last week, and I don't have too much to add to that.  But this was one of the few albums I listened to this year that really, really grabbed me.  The energy that this record possesses is immense, and it captivated me in a way that no other album this year did.  Just thinking about this record makes my head spin.

1. Neon Indian - Psychic Chasms
I guess the whole "chill-wave" "glo-fi" "whatever" backlash is in effect now, which serves to remind me why I don't bother reading music reviews anymore.  I really dug this album, and it got a lot of play time around my apartment and on roadtrips.  While I think the record improves significantly in the second half, it's a really fun album throughout, catchy and breezy and light.  Neon Indian put on a great live performance when I saw them too, transforming a somewhat insubstantial bedroom pop project into a compelling, dancefloor-moving show.  I've reached the point where I'm pretty burned out on this album, and I think it'll definitely be a "2009" record that is more tied to this specific time, rather than something I'll return to frequently, but I'm OK with that.  I don't think there was any other album this year that was more present in my life.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

liturgy - renihilation (2009)

Listening to Renihilation, the 2009 release from NY black metal band Liturgy, is similar to the very first moment after you've jumped into a freezing lake: the nerves in every inch of your body are screaming at you, your lungs have contracted from the shock and cold, and you feel as though you are being suffocated.  The album opens with Gregorian chanting in "Untitled", the first of four such quasi-ambient interludes on the album- without the strategic placing of these, I suspect I would pass out from the blood rushing to my head.  From the first notes of the next track, "Pagan Dawn", the pace is set for the rest of the tracks on the album: unrelenting, pummeling, frantic, overwhelming black metal that seemingly defies the laws of entropy that starts out at maximum intensity and yet inexplicably intensifies with every second.  This is, however, not the same type of relentless energy summoned by darker, more misanthropic BM artists such as Anaal Nathrakh or 1349.  Instead, it is more melodic and mournful, akin to the sound of contemporaries Krallice and Wolves in the Throne Room.  Or for a non-black metal reference, recall the most epic, explosive moments of Godspeed! You Black Emperor or Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky, stripped of of the build-up and held in that moment when your limbs feel electric and you want to literally, physically explode.  It isn't simply the pace at which the drums and guitars are played (faster than the speed of light, if you are curious); the production, too, adds to the all-encompassing sound of this album.  This isn't a tinny, lo-fi BM album; the production is clean and expansive.  Yet every inch of that expanse is full of sound, everything maxed out, everything happening at once.  It seems as though, while this album plays, the only physical space that exists is that between your speakers and yourself.  If you are a fan of BM, check this album out.  Take a deep breath first.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

show review: nadja @ vacation vinyl/ nadja @ synchronicity space

nadja @ vacation vinyl
Monday's in-store appearance from Nadja took place at Vacation Vinyl, which is only a half-hour's walk from where I live. The weather recently had taken a turn for the gray, so I grabbed an umbrella, stopped for some coffee, and trekked to Hollywood and Vermont. Upon arriving, I was immediately greeted with bad news- Skeletonwitch had played an in-store the day prior! FUCK!! I have the worst luck with that band. They played a "secret show" in the bar I worked in, and NO ONE TOLD ME, and I missed it!! I didn't have time to dwell on my misfortune, though, because Nadja started their set just as I arrived. The store seemed pretty cool, although small - about the same size as Aquarius Records. I took a spot right up front, next to one of the speakers, and although Aidan Baker was given permission to turn the volume up from the store clerk (owner?), it still wasn't loud enough to necessitate ear plugs. Over the course of half an hour, Nadja played three songs (I think), without breaking for applause. I recognized only one, though I'm not sure which release it was from. While it wasn't as loud as I would have liked, and although Nadja is not a particularly "theatrical" band, it was still a great performance, and perfectly suited for the overcast twilight outside the store.

synchronicity space
The following night, Tuesday, was the official show. It turned out that my friends who were planning on coming were otherwise occupied, so I ended up going to the show by myself. I didn't mind though- I think that small avant-garde art gallery shows are pretty ideal for solo attendance. I showed up at the official start time, but the show was a little late in starting. The gallery owner/curator was playing Oval side-project So over the speakers, which is a great album. I was glad for that. Outside, rain came and went intermittently.

aiden baker

Aiden Baker did his solo ambient set first, and everyone took seats cross-legged in front of the stage. Much like the show at Vacation Vinyl, the volume was just loud enough for me to try putting in my ear plugs, but not so loud that I felt I needed them. The music was beautiful, melodically droney, and reminded me of Cliff Martinez's score for Solaris.

pedestrian deposit

The next band was Pedestrian Deposit, who set up their equipment on the ground in front of the stage. I hadn't heard of them before the show, but ended up enjoying their set. The object you can see placed on the white stool was pretty interesting- it was something like the head of a broom made out of iron, or a miniaturized Stonehenge set in tall metal reeds. There was some sort of receiver placed on the underside, and the girl playing it plucked the rods, tapped the mini-obelisks and even used a bow to play it. The sounds it made were interesting, and created a feeling of cavernous disquiet over the thick background ambience. Equally compelling as the music were the extremely loaded glances that the members of Pedestrian Deposit exchanged throughout the duration of their set. The non-verbal interplay between the two seemed important, although I couldn't guess what it was they were communicating to each other.

infinite body
I had run out to my car to check on something, and missed the beginning of Infinite Body's set (although I think not by much). His set-up was as unique and interesting as Pedestrian Deposit's had been- it seemed that most or all of the sounds he was generating were through a microphone, and heavily tweaked and modified. He would forcefully exhale or sing into the mic, and the results sounded almost like a bizarre melodica. His table was surrounded by colored lights that were set up to pulse and fade with the music, leaving the stage in darkness before exploding into illumination with the swelling drones. Infinite Body played two long songs, but declined to play a third- I was grateful, since my feet were asleep and I needed to go to the bathroom.


Finally, Nadja took the stage, set against a visual backdrop that showed Aurora Borealis-esque lights, vibrantly colored stalactites, psychedelic rapid-fire Rorschach tests, and cryptic runes. The result was mesmerizing, and I found myself spacing out for long, long stretches of song. Unlike the Vacation Vinyl store, there was no mic for vocals, and the volume was much louder. One again there were no breaks in between songs, and the heavy, body-vibrating drones seem to exist timelessly. By the time the show ended and the lights came on, I felt dazed, and staggered back out into the rain.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

tim hecker - an imaginary country (2009)

I love Tim Hecker. I love that, throughout the course of his career, he's taken "ambient" as a starting point, and used it to craft very enthralling and emotional musical pieces. In some way, past Hecker releases were not ambient in the most absolute sense, because they were far too engrossing and demanded too much of your attention to be truly "ambient". That's not to say that they were loud or bombastic in any way; they were as quiet, fuzzy and delicate as any other ambient music. But they were engaging, musically and emotionally, and rewarded attentive listening. Over the course of a single song, you might have found yourself at first lulled into a sense of quiet peacefulness, then taken by driving, swelling chords to dramatic heights, before again returning to pacific tranquility. Yet on An Imaginary Country, Tim Hecker has smoothed out some of the emotional peaks he would have previously reached for, or perhaps merely hidden them better, presenting them in a more patient and subtle guise. None of the tracks here are as engaging as "I'm Transmitting Tonight" or "Song of the Highwire Shrimper" from Radio Amor, or "Dungeoneering" from Harmony in Ultraviolet. The album is still very moving, especially when compared to other ambient artists, but when viewed against Hecker's back catalogue, the highs are not quite as high, the lows not so low, and certainly never occurring within the same song. What does this mean? Is this meant to represent Tim Hecker refining his craft, trying to add subtlety and nuance over immediacy and intensity? Or has he settled into a comfortable sound, and ceased to push himself in new directions? The result, either way, is a less gripping, though not necessarily less satisfying experience. Taken as a whole, An Imaginary Country is indeed a very moving and emotive work. It seems, though, more content to adhere to a more traditional concept of ambient, rarely calling for too much attention, and more content to reveal itself patiently throughout the course of the album.

Tim Hecker - Sea of Pulses
Tim Hecker - Borderlands

show review: eagle rock music festival, 10/03/09

pocahaunted @ the american legion hall

Saturday was the Eagle Rock Music Festival, a free event that I only learned about last night. Knowing how these free festivals tend to be, I was expecting a lot of shitty lowest-common-denominator local acts to be playing. Surprisingly, there were a few bands I actually wanted to see, so Rob and I decided to check it out. We got there a couple hours after the festival began (it was scheduled to run from 4-11PM).
The first acts we wanted to see were a couple of local dubstep DJs we had seen a few weeks back, opening for Mary Anne Hobbs and Flying Lotus. Gaslamp Killer was first, and I'm kind of bummed I didn't get any pics or video of him, because he's visually one of the most entertaining DJs to watch. Imagine Animal from the Muppets playing air trumpet and doing energetic dance moves, and you'll have the general idea. His set was mostly Eastern European and Middle Eastern music, which wasn't what I had expected. I assume he was tailoring his set to the all ages crowd, and perhaps taking the opportunity to take a break from dubstep.

DJ nobody

Next up was DJ Nobody, who weirdly was playing several blocks away at the other end of the festival. I'm not sure why he and Gaslamp Killer weren't on the same stage. At any rate, he played some pretty cool songs, including one ridiculous Mars Volta remix, but he definitely seemed to be half-assing it when it came to blending songs and, you know, actually DJing. It wasn't bad but it wasn't as good as the last time I saw him, either.


Robedoor were another band that I had seen in the last month, opening for Ducktails at the L'Keg Gallery. I was pretty impressed the first time I saw them, and was looking forward to seeing them again. Unfortunately it took a little while to find the American Legion Hall in which they were playing- it was the only indoor venue at the festival, and tucked away on a side street past a bunch of food vendors. We got there in time for their two last songs, both noisy, heavy jams. They were pretty great.


We journeyed to the nearest gas station so I could grab an energy drink, and returned to the American Legion Hall to catch Pocahaunted. They shared members with Robedoor, which I think I had heard about but then subsequently forgotten. They played a mixture of dub, funk, noise and rock. It was pretty killer.
"Wow," I thought as the energy drink started to kick in, "this band is really good!"
"Those two singers are really cute!"
"I feel great!"
"...I should drink more of this energy drink!"

no age

Although Pocahaunted ended their set quite a bit later than the schedule had predicted, it was still well before No Age were supposed to go on. We trekked back to the stage DJ Nobody had been on in order to catch Peanut Butter Wolf, but it turned out that stage was even further behind schedule than the Amercan Legion had been. So we returned to the stage No Age were playing on, and waited for the show to start. No Age are yet another band I've seen recently (come to think of it all of these acts play pretty frequently), and I'm not super into them, so I wasn't really dying to see them again or anything. Their set started out terribly- the sound from the speakers was so muddy and indistinguishable that all you could hear was a wash of guitar. But soon enough they added another amp to the stage, and things improved. It didn't really compare to their set at FYF Fest, but it was still good to see all the local kids getting super psyched for it. We left to go check out Peanut Butter Wolf, but the sound on his stage was so quiet that it was actually kind of infuriating to try and watch. So we bounced. All in all, pretty great for a free festival.