The Singles 2016

This year provided some great tunage to keep me busy and entertained while I Edited All The Books or worked at the Day Job.  There was a great selection to choose from, so much so that my year-end mixtape took up four ‘tapes’ this year instead of three!

Same as the last years I’ve been doing this, the rule was to create four 90-minute mixes that could be split into two 45-minute sides.  The easy part was gathering up a tape’s worth of music, the hard part was shuffling everything around to get a good flow.  There were a few “oh, this one needs to go first/last” and a few tough decisions to keep it from being lopsided, but I think it worked out well!

The hyperlinks are to the YouTube videos, which will open in a new window.  Hope you enjoy listening!

Tape 1, Side 1
1. Radiohead, “Burn the Witch”
2. Hooverphonic, “I Like the Way I Dance”
3. Pixies, “Um Chagga Lagga”
4. Bastille, “Good Grief”
5. Jagwar Ma, “O B 1”
6. The Temper Trap, “Thick As Thieves”
7. Massive Attack, “Take It There”
8. Nothing But Thieves, “Trip Switch”
9. The Shelters, “Rebel Heart”
10. Nothing, “Eaten By Worms”
11. Garbage, “So We Can Stay Alive”

Tape 1, Side 2
1. Bon Iver, “33 ‘GOD'”
2. School of Seven Bells, “Ablaze”
3. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Dark Necessities”
4. Dog Party, “‘Til You’re Mine”
5. The National, “Morning Dew”
6. DJ Shadow, “Nobody Speak”
7. Grandaddy, “Way We Won’t”
8. Nice As Fuck, “Door”
9. Green Day, “Bang Bang”
10. Portishead, “S.O.S.”
11. Shearwater, “Stray Light at Clouds Hill”

Tape 2, Side 1
1. Shearwater, “Filaments”
2. The Growlers, “I’ll Be Around”
3. Jimmy Eat World, “Sure and Certain”
4. Dirty Dishes, “All of Me”
5. The Stone Roses, “All for One”
6. Bloc Party, “The Love Within”
7. Against Me!, “333”
8. Radiohead, “Daydreaming”
9. Yuck, “Stranger Things”
10. Cheap Trick, “When I Wake Up Tomorrow”

Tape 2, Side 2
1. The Avalanches, “Subways”
2. Banks & Steelz, “Giant”
3. Lush, “Out of Control”
4. Beach Slang, “Punks in a Disco Bar”
5. Paul Draper, “Feeling My Heart Run Slow”
6. The 1975, “Somebody Else”
7. Warpaint, “New Song”
8. The XX, “On Hold”
9. Blink-182, “Bored to Death”
10. Sleigh Bells, “It’s Just Us Now”
11. Phish, “Home”

Tape 3, Side 1
1. The Naked and Famous, “Higher”
2. Animal Collective, “FloriDada”
3. K Flay, “Blood in the Cut”
4. David Bowie, “Blackstar”
5. Capital Cities, “Vowels”
6. Dog Party, “Enough”
7. Cosima, “Girls Who Get Ready”
8. The Struts, “Kiss This”
9. Hooverphonic, “Deep Forest”
10. Two Door Cinema Club, “Bad Decisions”
11. The Divine Comedy, “How Can You Leave Me On My Own”

Tape 3, Side 2
1. Lucius, “Born Again Teen”
2. Bowling for Soup, ‘Don’t Be a Dick”
3. Garbage, “Empty”
4. Jorja Smith, “Blue Lights”
5. The Tragically Hip, “Tired As Fuck”
6. The Radio Dept, “Swedish Guns”
7. Beck, “Wow”
8. Fitz & the Tantrums, “HandClap”
9. Japandroids, “Near to the Wild Heart of Life”
10. Phantogram, “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore”
11. Radiohead, “True Love Waits”

Tape 4, Side 1
1. The 1975, “Love Me”
2. Sylvan Esso, “Radio”
3. Phantogram, “Take Me Home”
4. M83, “Go!”
5. American Football, “I Need a Drink (Or Two Or Three)”
6. Minor Victories, “Scattered Ashes (Song for Richard)”
7. The Avalanches, “Frankie Sinatra”
8. Radiohead, “The Numbers”
9. Big Jesus, “Lock & Key”
10. Paper Lights, “Pixelated Skies”

Tape 4, Side 2
1. Bwana, “The Capsule’s Pride (Bikes)”
2. Wire, “Nocturnal Koreans”
3. Angel Olson, “Shut Up Kiss Me”
4. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, “First World Problem”
5. The Head and the Heart, “All We Ever Knew”
6. Blink-182, “She’s Out of Her Mind”
7. The Wedding Present, “Bear”
8. Little Green Cars, “The Song They Play Every Night”
9. Shearwater, “Quiet Americans”
10. David Bowie, “Lazarus”
11. Ra Ra Riot, “Water”

1987

Thinking about some of the great musicians we lost this year, I realized that Bowie, Prince, and George Michael all had career-changing releases in 1987.  It was probably the last year I paid any significant attention to commercial rock and the countdown charts before I sold my soul to college radio, but I still kept my ears (and eyes) open for the big names at the time.

David Bowie’s Never Let Me Down (released 27 April 1987) was a big seller but had a mixed reaction from its critics.  Having spent most of the 80s recording catchy but less-than-adventurous chart rock, after this album he’d work with Reeves Gabrels and Hunt and Tony Sales to form Tin Machine — an often maligned side project, but in my opinion a much needed boost to his creativity.  He’d follow up in the 90s with much stronger albums and critical success.  It took me a while to warm up to this album, as I too felt Bowie had fallen into a bit of a rut and was going through the motions, but in retrospect it’s still a solid album.

Prince’s Sign o’ the Times (released 30 March 1987) is one of my top favorite albums of his, and its creation story is even more fascinating.  Known for creating multiple side projects that may or may not come to fruition, Prince took the best parts of his Camille project (recording under a different name, an altered voice, and an even more androgynous image), the last dregs of two aborted projects with the Revolution before he ended that group (Dream Factory and Crystal Ball), and filled it out with his own solo tracks to create a fantastic double album full of funk, pop, psychedelia, rock, and even a few of his patented weird psych-outs.   I always felt this album was the point where he’d left his over-the-top 80s pop persona behind and became more serious about his music.  He’d hit a few more roadblocks and make a few more wrong turns, but by the early 90s he’d hit his stride and become an even bigger star.  I still listen to this album, it’s that damn good.

I remember hearing American Top 40 premiering George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex” single in the summer of 1987 and being blown away by it — the lite-pop production of Wham! was long gone (it had started slipping away with his “A Different Corner” single from spring 1986) and replaced by HUGE sounds and a hell of a lot of funk, and I loved the sound of it.  Radio and fans wondered what he was going to do next, having completely shed the goofy fun of his previous band.  His solo debut Faith (released 30 October 1987) was the result: mature, intensely creative and absolutely amazing.  I chose “Father Figure” here (even though the single dropped in January of 1988) because it’s my favorite song from the album…it’s a gorgeous and stunning ballad and I love the sparse-yet-cavernous sound of the production.

Year in Review, Part 4

And finally, here we are at the last quarter of the year!

Phish, Big Boat, released 7 October.  The band is positively perky on this album, full of bounciness and silliness that I haven’t heard since Billy Breathes twenty years ago.  It’s also more cohesive and catchier than Fuego, their previous outing.  And there’s some amazing harmony going on with this track right here.

Green Day, Revolution Radio, released 7 October.  Another excellent album from the boys from the East Bay.  While it may not be as radio friendly as American Idiot, it’s just as angry and in your face.

BT, _, released 14 October.  BT is a fascinating musician in that you’re never quite sure what his next sound is going to be like.  He’s a great remixer and his electronica stretches from glitchy to sublime.  And then there’s this album, which is essentially an electronic classical album of sorts.  It’s stunning and lovely and rates right up there with the work of my favorite new composer, Mason Bates.  And of course this got a ton of play during writing sessions.

Bowling for Soup, Drunk Dynasty, released 14 October.  BfS is up to their goofy, punky best as always with this Kickstarter-funded album (you should check out the KS page just to watch the video where they forget they’re trying to sell the album and talk about–you guessed it–drinking beer).  It’s a strong and solid album all the way through, and a hell of a lot of fun.

Jagwar Ma, Every Now and Then, released 14 October.  This album, interestingly enough, reminded me of Primal Scream’s Screamadelica, in that it’s a flawless mixture of melodic indie rock and blissed out dance grooves.  And “O B 1” is definitely my Track of the Year, with its ticking ambient/chunky riff mix and infectious beat.  The album itself is up there in my top ten as well.

American Football, American Football, released 21 October.  WOO!  New American Football!  Given that their previous album was 17 years ago, that’s a long wait, but it was quite worth it.  These guys were part of the original laid-back, wistful, math rock sound that included Low and early Modest Mouse back in the late 90s, so it’s great to have them back.

Jimmy Eat World, Integrity Blues, released 21 October.  Glad to see these guys are still going strong after all these years, and still writing songs that stick in my head for hours.  A solid album all the way through.

The Radio Dept, Running Out of Love, released 21 October.  Yet another Wait–they have a new album out?? release for 2016, and it’s excellent.  Dark and weird and groovy and twitchy all over the place — which is what makes me like them so much.  Really dug the production on this one a lot.

Sleigh Bells, Jessica Rabbit, released 11 November.  I really love their Wall of Crunchy Guitar sound (it’s great for headphones when you’re on a plane or at the gym), and I love the way they slip around their melodies, making them playful and in your face at the same time.

A Tribe Called Quest, We got it from here…thank you 4 your service, released 11 November.  YES!  Another ATCQ album finally arrives, and it’s a stunner.  It might be their last one they release, but it’s a hell of tight one.

Metallica, Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, released 18 November.  Ending on a surprising note, considering I’m not much of a metalhead at all, but this is one hell of a great album, the best they’ve done in the past few years.  They still have a few songs here and there reminiscent of the more radio friendly Load/ReLoad era, but they’ve returned (finally) to some the best axe-wielding they’ve put on record in quite a while.

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Coming up next week: The End of Year Lists!  Favorite songs, and my year-end mixtape!

 

Fly-By: Please stand by…

bbc-test-card

No, not having any technical difficulties with the PC today, but it is computer related.  I’m getting a laptop refresh for my Day Job!  Which means I’ll be busy getting caught up with my outstanding work, and then spending an hour or two making sure everything that’s on my old laptop gets moved to the new one.

Hopefully I’ll have the next music post up and running later on today, or tomorrow the latest.

Thanks for your patience! 🙂

Year in Review, Part 3

Back again for Q3!

Blink-182, California, released 1 July.  I’ll admit, I’m still a Blink fan partially because Travis is such an insanely great fast-speed drummer.  This new album feels like a return to their happier, punkier days of the late 90s-early 00s, and it’s a lot of fun to listen to.

The Avalanches, Wildflower, released 8 July.  When was that last album of theirs?  2000?  2001?  Far too long.  They’ve lightened up on the sampling (a bit) for obvious financial reasons, and their songs aren’t nearly as weird and goofy as the ones on Since I Left You, but on the other hand, they’ve excelled at creating groovy vibes and insanely catchy tracks like the above.

Lou Rhodes, theyesandeye, released 29 July.  Lamb’s lead singer released a lovely solo album featuring some of her best work outside that band.  Her style of singing works well in a non-electronic atmosphere here, and she also does a hell of a great job covering The XX as well.

Dog Party, ‘Til You’re Mine, released 5 August.  One of my favorite local bands releases their fifth album — the first after drummer Lucy’s high school graduation (!!) and as always, it’s all kinds of fun to listen to.  Short econo punk that would make the Ramones and Fuzzbox proud.

De La Soul, …and the Anonymous Nobody, released 25 August.  So happy to see these guys back at it…one of the best hip-hop groups around.  I’m also impressed by the DIY nature of this album as well: the samples used were recorded using live musicians (their jamming would be recorded and various bits used for the samples), and the entire project was funded via Kickstarter.  Even a lot of the non-music packaging and post-production was done either by them or by friends and acquaintances.

Banks & Steelz, Anything But Words, released 26 August.  Who knew that the dark, driving alt-rock of Interpol would fit so perfectly with the blistering delivery of RZA?  And that these guys met up frequently to play chess?  This match-up delivers one hell of a strong punch from both sides and it’s one of my favorites of the year.

The Wedding Present, Going, Going… released 2 September.  The Weddoes are back!  Another Kickstarter-funded album that was well worth the wait.  Full of their trademark dreamy and crunchy riffs on top of lovely melodies.

Wilco, Schmilco, released 9 September.  Wilco has always been just this side of weird, and their new album proves once again that they can pull it off and still be fun and enjoyable to listen to. Definitely a band off in their own universe, but they’ve become quite comfortable and agile within it.

Bastille, Wild World, released 9 September.  I wasn’t quite sure how they were going to top their fantastic debut album from a few years ago, but they’ve pulled it off by being bigger, stronger, and more experimental with their sounds.  They’ve also injected a bit of humor into the mix this time out, which makes a lot of the songs that much more fun to listen to.

Preoccupations, Preoccupations, released 16 September.  The band formerly known as Viet Cong returns with a new album that sounds straight out of 1985-era goth that you’d expect to hear on Homestead Records, and it’s a fascinating listen.  [Also, the above video perfectly fits with early era 120 Minutes, doesn’t it?]

Against Me!, Shape Shift with Me, released 16 September.  One of their most melodic releases that I can think of, and some of their best work as well.  The songs feel freer and livelier.  Another frequent player during the Day Job as well as writing sessions.

Beach Slang, A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings, released 23 September.  Another album that sold me on first listen, even before the album was done.  Equal parts Replacements and Dinosaur Jr, there’s a hell of a lot of great pop-punk going on here.  Definitely in my top ten of the year.

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Next up, the final quarter of 2016….and of course, I’ll follow up with the lineup for the end-of-year compilation mix and my Top Albums and Songs of the year!

 

Year in Review, Part 2

As you can tell, I haven’t quite been sticking to my schedule nearly as well as I’d hoped.  I’d blame it on the procrastination or the Day Job or the election or whatever, but it really has been a bunch of things.  I started writing this one up last night after doing much of our Christmas wrapping, but had to stop short so I could get working on my editing.  I’m hoping in the new year I’ll be a little more on the ball, yeah?

Well hey, here we go with Part 2 of my favorite albums of 2016, and Q2 was filled with a hell of a lot of great albums that I’m still playing heavily months later.  Enjoy!

Cheap Trick, Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello, released 1 April.  Thought I’d start off this one with an unexpected surprise — I’ve been a longtime Cheap Trick fan [I’m talking “Surrender” era here, so that means I AM OLD] so I was quite pleased to hear that they had a new album out this year.  This isn’t the poppy CT from the late 80s, mind you.  This is the crunchier, rockier CT from the late 70s – early 80s.  One of my favorites of the year.

M83, Junk, released 8 April.  Where 2011’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming was the sound of 70s LA glitz and 80s cinematic vistas, Junk seems to take the idea of the one goofy track from that album (you know, that one about turning into frogs) and expands on it.  The end result sounds like a mix between 80s kids shows on PBS and theme songs to Love Boat episodes.  And yet somehow it works without being cloying or embarrassing.  Even if the album cover does look like a Happy Meal box.

Lush, Blind Spot EP, released 15 April.  One of the best shoegazey bands of the 90s returns after twenty years for a tour and a new EP, and it was well worth the wait.  It’s just as lovely and shimmery as their previous records.  Yet another constant play during my writing sessions.

Wire, Nocturnal Koreans, released 22 April.  Essentially a mini-album of leftovers from the sessions for their previous album (2015’s self-titled), but nonetheless there’s not a wasted track here.  They’ve settled quite nicely into their current iteration as an indie-rock band with a sparse yet powerful sound.

RWBY Vol 3 soundtrack, released 3 May.  I found this online animation series quite by accident back in 2014 (I think I saw the Vol 1 soundtrack on eMusic as an endcap suggestion), and I quite enjoy it.  The soundtracks are great as well, very Paramore-ish and a lot of fun to listen to during my writing sessions.

Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool, released 8 May.  “Doot doot OH HEY we have a new album out.  Here you go.”  And the fans trip all over themselves downloading and liveblogging it! Heh.  Seriously, though, it’s a great album.  Haunting, gorgeous, tense, and dreamy.  Another writing session soundtrack!

Nothing, Tired of Tomorrow, released 13 May.  I do likes me some crunchy alternative metal, especially if it’s as melodic as Nothing is.  I’d never heard of this band before hearing this album streamed on NPR.com, and within two songs I definitely had that HOLY CRAP I NEED THIS response.  And once this was out, I quickly downloaded it along with the rest of their available albums and singles, because I loved it that much.  One of my top ten albums of the year.

Mark Pritchard, Under the Sun, released 13 May.  On the other end of the spectrum we have some lovely quiet ambient electronic from one of its best producers (and one half of Global Communication, whose 76:13 I still listen to on a regular basis while writing).  The album feels haunted at times — kind of hinting at being alone on a desolate world, come to think of it — but it also has its moments of light humor (“Hi-Red” sounds a bit like Mark playing with the settings on his keyboard more than anything else) to balance it out.

Beth Orton, Kidsticks, released 27 May.  Beth is one of those ‘off in her own universe’ songwriters, but without the weirdness that sometimes derails Tori and Bjork.  Her music has also retained that not-quite-electronic sound that she captured so well back on 1996’s Trailer Park, letting it sound both natural and ambient at the same time.

Garbage, Strange Little Birds, released 10 June.  Probably my favorite album of theirs after their self-titled debut back in 1995.  There’s some great guitar crunch going on here, and Shirley Manson can still belt it out effortlessly.  One of my top ten favorites of the year.

The Shelters, The Shelters, released 10 June.  As my sister said to me, ‘Dig that Rickenbacker sound!’  These guys picked up where Jet left off some time ago with the Swinging London-influenced sound, and I couldn’t be happier.  That this was released on Capitol makes absolute sense; they would have fit in quite nicely next to the Beatles as a great 60s guitar combo.

The Temper Trap, Thick As Thieves, released 10 June.  This band has grown to be one of those ‘I haven’t heard it yet but I’ll definitely download it’ bands of mine, and their newest has not let me down.  The title track is in my top ten favorite songs of the year as well.

DJ Shadow, The Mountain Will Fall, released 24 June.  The always amazing DJ Shadow brings forth an album that features less samples and a lot more hard sounds, giving his already experimental vibe a grittier edge.  I’ve been putting this one on during my writing sessions when I need an angrier vibe.  [The above track is NSFW lyrically, but they sure do fit the video, given the present political atmosphere.]

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Coming soon, Part 3, in which we check out some excellent late summer tunage!

Year in Review, Part 1

Oh hey!  It’s that time of year again.  Time for me to wax poetic about my favorite tunage that came out in the last twelve months.  Time to yap about the purchases I’d made, the stuff I listened to in various parts of my universe.  Time to talk about things personal, creative, and so on.  I figure I’d split it up this time out, over the course of a few weeks, and give you the usual year-end Best-of Lists at the end of it.

It’s been quite a year of change, folks.  Some awesome, some good, some not so good, some mindbogglingly craptastic.  It’s been…interesting, to say the least.  But musically, there were a lot of really strong albums that came out that I’m sure will stay in my rotation for some time to come.  Here’s a quick overview of stuff that came out in the first quarter!

 

David Bowie, ★. Released 8 January. I’ll be honest, I’ve been a slow-burn Bowie fan.  It took me a long time to appreciate his music, and I’m quite sure it’s due to the Commercial Radio Disease.  You know the one — stations play the same five core songs to the point of torture so the passive listener doesn’t really want to invest in checking out the deeper cuts.  It took me until 1997’s Earthling to actually pay attention to his music more.  January’s Blackstar was a wonderful final release from him.  He knew instinctively that this was his last album, and he wasn’t about to go away without a curtain call.  It’s disturbing, fascinating, brilliant, and touching all at the same time.

Shearwater, Jet Plane and Oxbow.  Released 22 January.  Shearwater is a band you don’t hear on the radio; they’re a band you hear about via word of mouth and the music blogs and magazines.  I first heard of them via listening to a streaming of 2012’s Animal Joy.  They’ve got a unique indie rock sound that’s hard to pin down, their singer doesn’t really sound like anyone else, and their music is a bit hard to describe.  But that doesn’t matter, because they’re just that good.  Jet Plane and Oxbow got a hell of a lot of play for me this year, both as background music during my Day Job and during my evening writing sessions.

Massive Attack, Ritual Spirit EP.  Released 29 January.  I’ve loved everything Massive Attack has done since I first heard “Teardrop” in 1998, and this quick release was worth waiting for.  Tricky is back in the fold once more on a devastatingly dark track — the kind they do exceptionally well.  Another release that got heavy play during my writing sessions.

The 1975, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it.  Released 26 February.  The kind-of-creepy album title aside, I was completely floored by their follow-up to their poppy debut.  The album originally reminded me of Primal Scream in their Rocks period — heavy on the Stonesy rock and British flavor — but it really grew on me.  “Somebody Else” was consistently one of those songs I’d hear on the radio and think ooh, I like this….who is it? …and be pleasantly surprised when I remembered, and that I already owned it.

Yuck, Stranger Things.  Released 26 February.  When this band released their debut album in 2011, they had a different singer and sounded like an even messier Dinosaur Jr.  Now they’ve turned their fuzz down some and sound a hell of a lot like Superdrag at their indiepoppiest, and I have no qualms about that at all.  This is a lovely album worth checking out.

School of Seven Bells, SVIIB.  Released 26 February.  It’s touching that when guitarist/keyboardist Ben Curtis passed away in 2013, the rest of the band felt it necessary to finish off the album they’d been working on, and it’s a beautiful piece of work full of positive energy.  Yet another album on writing session heavy rotation.

Paper Lights, Great Escapes. Released 15 March.  I’ve been big on DIY this year, for obvious reasons.  I first heard of Paper Lights via NoiseTrade in 2013, where the band had uploaded one of its EPs.  I’d ended up on their mailing list, and was pleased to find out they had a new album out this year.  It’s a wonderful album of relaxing dreampop.

Hooverphonic, In Wonderland.  Released 18 March.  I will always buy a Hooverphonic album, regardless.  They’ve always been one of my favorite bands ever since I first heard “2Wicky” in the back room at HMV all those years ago.  They’ve gone through numerous lead singers since then (the new album features multiple vocalists this time out), but they’ve always written great pop tunes that balance perfectly between alternative rock and synthetic pop.

Bwana, Capsule’s Pride EP.  Released 25 March.  I don’t think I’ve ever chosen an super-underground release as one of my favorite albums of the year, but this is definitely on that list.  [One needs to get a Tor browser and go to a specific website in order to download it, as it’s not available for sale or downloadable anywhere else.  That’s how underground it is.]  A brilliant mashup of jittery techno and soundbites from the movie and soundtrack of the classic anime movie AKIRA, it not only got me through numerous writing sessions, but also through multiple plane rides!

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Stay tuned for the next installment, Q2 releases!