Tag Archives: St. Vincent

My Favorite Albums of 2017

Favorite Albums of 2017

IS TIME FLYING BY OR WHAT?! But seriously though, I know a lot of people think 2017 was worse than 2016, but for me, it was a year of growth, rebuilding and renewal, and I feel pretty great about it; I’m still emo, I’m still gay, but sometimes you gotta go through the darkness to see the light, right?

You could say the same for some of the artists and the albums that appear on this list, which are my favorite albums of the year. I say favorite, not top, because let’s be honest, there are other albums that came out this year that might be considered “technically” better than the ones on my list. Even the order of my list could be argued, but fuck it, they’re listed based on how much I love them, not who is a better artist or band, etc.

Anyway, back to that going through the darkness thing – lots of these albums are long-awaited returns for bands and artists that went through similar emotional journeys (or just needed a fucking break), so maybe that’s why some mean more than others to me. At any rate, I’m just happy that good, thoughtful music continues to exist in a world that increasingly doesn’t make much sense. And so, here are my favorite albums of 2017.

20. Sufjan Stevens – The Greatest Gift / Planetarium / Carrie & Lowell Live

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To say that this was a prolific year for Sufjan would be an understatement. While I know that putting his three releases this year all at number 20 is cheating (and that’s not even counting “Tonya Harding”), there was just too much good stuff not to recognize on this list, and all three of these albums now hold a special place in my heart (and in my Sufjan library).

Favorite Tracks: “Exploding Whale (Doveman Remix)” / “Mercury” / “Should Have Known Better (Live)”

19. Arcade Fire – Everything Now

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Yes, it falls flat in the middle and there’s not excuse for a song as lame as “Peter Pan,” but the good stuff in Everything Now is really good. “We Don’t Deserve Love” never fails to stop me dead in my tracks.

Favorite Track: “We Don’t Deserve Love”

18. Spoon – Hot Thoughts

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I mean they couldn’t not be on this list, sooooooooooo…

Favorite Track: “Tear It Down”

17. St. Vincent – MASSEDUCATION

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Mostly just because of The New Yorker’s profile on her, but also because Annie fucking rules.

Favorite Track: “New York”

16. Conor Oberst – Salutations

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I was lucky enough to see Mr. Oberst perform in Denver this summer, and the songs on Salutations absolutely thrived when played live. Also, nostalgia, ya know? ALSO, any album that name checks John Muir AND Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin is a winner in my mind.

Favorite Track: “Barbary Coast (Later)”

15. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

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Obligatory, but well deserving.

Favorite Track: “PRIDE”

14. Perfume Genius – No Shape

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Like, holy CHIC! Super fun and sexy and enduring album.

Favorite Track: “Valley”

13. LCD Soundsystem – american dream

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My personal american dream was fulfilled this summer dancing to “All My Friends” with all my friends at Pitchfork Music Festival, so that’s cool. american dream also slaps.

12. Cigarettes After Sex – Cigarettes After Sex

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There’s a song literally called “K.” K.

Favorite Track: “Sweet”

11. Laura Marling – Semper Femina

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I’ve always been a big Laura Marling fan, and Semper Femina finds the artist at the top of her game. The album even earned her a Grammy nomination – chic for her!

Favorite Track: “Nothing, Not Nearly”

10. The National – Sleep Well Beast

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Because nothing fits depression better than The National!

Favorite Track: “I’ll Still Destroy You”

9. Lorde – Melodrama

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But like who’s the 31 year old that inhabits Lorde’s body? For real though, this albummmmmmm. Soundtrack for a generation I tell ya.

Favorite Track: “Supercut”

8. Rostam – Half-Light

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Listening to this album is like being curled up under a down comforter in some really good lighting with some chic candle burning, and who doesn’t love that? And in these dividing times, what’s a more enduring line than “Everyone of us has felt the lights go down”?

Favorite Track: “EOS”

7. Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins

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I mean my Wi-Fi network was named Central and Remote forever – it was also the original name of this blog – so yeah, I am a bit of a Grizzly Bear fanboy. Admittedly, Painted Ruins is still growing on me, however it’s also provided a great reminder of how talented this band is, and I’m glad they decided to come out of hibernation when we needed them the most.

Favorite Track: Tossup between “Neighbors” and “Sky Took Hold”

6. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

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It’s scary how well this man can lyricize basically every trope about American society and our downfall as humans while making it all sound funny, lovely and heartbreaking at the same time.

Favorite Track: “Total Entertainment Forever”

5. The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

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Really honestly I don’t think a guitar solo has made me weep until this album came around and now there’s three of them on here that do just that. I also don’t think I’ve ever felt as blissed out as I have while listening to “Thinking of a Place” while driving in the mountains.

Favorite Track: “Strangest Thing”

4. Aimee Mann – Mental Illness

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I credit Aimee Mann’s Lost in Space” as playing a major role in my personal “musical awakening” in high school. And while there have been great Aimee Mann albums since then, Mental Illness is the first one that leaves me feeling as shook as I felt back in 2003.

Favorite Track: “You Never Loved Me”

3. Feist – Pleasure

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I had been anticipating a new album from Feist since 2011’s Metals became my standby lakeside companion in Chicago. Pleasure was well worth the wait, and I’m happy for its existence every day.

Favorite Track: “Baby Be Simple”

2. Lana Del Rey – Lust For Life

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Lana’s just always kinda been my (and every other gay man’s) thing. I really don’t understand how she releases a new album every other year and they just keep getting better and better. Lust For Life is like, peak Lana, even though I hope the peaks just keep coming like they have been. It’s got everything – breathy ballads, Lana saying “fuck,” a song about drugs and marzipan, trip-hop beats, beaches, music festivals, and “Get Free,” a song that came to define my outlook on 2017 and life in general, a “modern manifesto” that got LANA TO SMILE ON THE ALBUM COVER.

Favorite Track: “Get Free”

1. Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up

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It was really looking like Fleet Foxes might not ever return, so when the rumors of a new album started swirling around, I tried not to get my hopes up. Then I saw Robin Pecknold open for Joanna Newsom at The Boulder Theater last year, and that had to mean something, right? Little did I know that I was hearing him sing a handful of songs he was working on for what would become Crack-Up, my favorite album of the year, one that exceeded all of my hopes and dreams for what I’d want in new Fleet Foxes material. I really don’t have much to add to what’s already been written about Crack-Up by much more talented writers other than to say the one-two punch of “On Another Ocean (January / June)” and “Fools Errand” reduces me to a puddle of goo every single time. Endless gratitude to these gentlemen for making music, and my favorite album of 2017.

Favorite Track: “Fools Errand”

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Top 30 Albums of 2014

“It’s been a long time baby and it has been a rough road.” – Mariah Carey, Home Shopping Network

I feel like this quote from the elusive chanteuse herself (whose latest album effort is most definitely not included in my top 30) adequately sums up the year in music, as well as most things in my life, like putting together this list of my Top 30 Albums of 2014.

This list is all over the place, as expected. There were releases from artists that I knew, even before hearing, would end up in the top 10. There were releases from artists that I thought would end up at the top that didn’t even stick. There was one release from a particular Canadian artist that I knew I would love, but didn’t expect to be my favorite album of the year.

And so, as we turn down the lights on 2014, I’m looking at this list and I’m liking a lot of what happened. Here’s hoping you did too.

30. Damien Juardo – Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Sun

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Damien Juardo said this album “is about a guy who disappears on a search, if you will, for himself and never goes home,” which is kind of like what happened to me when I moved to Boulder, so that’s fun.

Favorite Track: “Silver Katherine”

29. Conor Oberst – Upside Down Mountain

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I feel like most people have written off this album. While there’s nothing groundbreaking here, there’s a familiarity in Mr. Oberst’s vocals and subject matter that, along with the sprawling, dusty guitars, makes flipping this record akin to sliding into your favorite boots. Whatever.

Favorite track: “Double Life”

28. Sia – 1000 Forms of Fear

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Best straight pop album of the year. WHATEVER T-SWIFT.

Favorite track: “Elastic Heart”

27. Glass Animals – Zaba

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It’s just like chic and funky and consistently groovy, front to back.

Favorite track: “Cocoa Hooves”

26. Interpol – El Pintor

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Yes, while El Pintor is a return to form (finally) for Interpol, the album sees the band falling back on old tricks. Nothing is new or exciting about most of this material, and yet it’s the band’s strongest effort in a long, long time, with a few of the songs being able to sit on the same shelf as the best work they’ve ever done.

Favorite track: “My Blue Supreme”

25. How To Dress Well – Where Is This Heart?

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Like, one minute it’s dance-y and fun (“Repeat Pleasure”) and then it’s like, really spooky and scary and sad (“Face Again”). I’m in.

Favorite track: “Repeat Pleasure”

24. Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes

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A very welcome surprise from Mr. Yorke, who continues to be prolific behind the scenes while we all wait for Radiohead’s next masterpiece.

Favorite track: “Nose Grows Some”

23. Sisyphus – Sisyphus

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I’m biased because it’s love. Sufjan and I share a very special bond, so I couldn’t not include an album on this list that he’s (heavily) involved in. While in theory this album shouldn’t work, it works well. Really well. Sufjan’s orchestral flourishes along with Son Lux’s melodies prove to be the perfect backdrop for MC Serengeti’s rhymes.

Favorite track: “Rhythm of Devotion”

22. Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste

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Perpetually delayed, and now perpetually great. I’m nervous I’m summoning something dark from the underworld when I listen to tracks like “Heavy Metal And Reflective,” or summoning something really, really chic while listening to “Ice Princess.” Even though most of the material is years old at this point, Ms. Banks still sounds fresh to death. Gays are flying everywhere.

Favorite track: “Wallace”

21. – TV On The Radio – Seeds

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TV On The Radio are a happy band now and it sounds great on them.

Favorite track: “Right Now”

20. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!

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But like really? It’s like candy coming out of your speakers.

Favorite track: “Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

19. The Antlers – Familiars

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I don’t think The Antlers will ever get to a place as good (or depressing) as Hospice, but with each release since that defining record, they continue to evolve and surprise, still able to deliver an emotional punch with those freakin’ horns in a way that few others can.

Favorite track: “Surrender”

18. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2

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Like, K. Album of the Year on many other’s lists. Not as high up on mine, but still, earth shattering.

Favorite track: “Early (feat. Boots)”

17. FKA Twigs – LP1

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Chiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiic.

Favorite track: “Pendulum”

16. Spoon – They Want My Soul

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I met Britt Daniel this past Sunday. Oh, this album is good. Spoon by the numbers, but that’s like, way better than most bands’ by-the-numbers shit.

Favorite track: “Knock Knock Knock”

15. La Roux – Trouble in Paradise

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Maybe it’s because I’m gay. Maybe it’s because the live show blew my mind (even though I was alone, which was chic but also not chic). I keep coming back to this album when I need to shake the stress away, one of the many magical powers of music. La Roux’s Trouble in Paradise does it better than many others – there’s no need to skip to the next track on this one.

Favorite track: “Cruel Sexuality”

14. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days

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Is Mac DeMarco good looking? Not good looking? What would happen if he fixed his teeth? Can he get naked more often in music videos?

Favorite track: “Let My Baby Stay”

13. James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical

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Murked me all last winter, and I’m ready to let it murk me all over again during this snowy season. McMorrow turned up the bass for his second LP and it sounds really great.

Favorite track: “Red Dust”

12. Future Islands – Singles

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I mean there’s really not much more I can say about Singles that hasn’t already been said. This was Sam’s year.

Favorite track: “Seasons (Waiting On You)”

11. Caribou – Our Love

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Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiike. Yes. Also, Owen Pallett contributed a lot to this one. More on him later…

Favorite track: “Back Home”

10. PHOX – PHOX

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Ok, honestly I really didn’t want to like this album as much as I did, and still do. First, it was pushed on me BY THE STARBUCKS APP. Red flag number one. And then just look at that album art. CUTE AS FUCK. Also, their name is a stylized spelling of fox, an animal that is plastered all over my favorite Pierrepont Hicks tie. There’s no way the music can be that good. Then I learn this Baraboo, Wisconsin-based band recorded this album at Bon Iver’s April Base. BAIIIIII. And then I gave in and laughed and cried and wow it’s just kind of perfect. Does this make me basic?

Favorite track: “Satyr and The Faun”

9. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There

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Dead. I’m dead by how perfect this album is. Really Sharon, stop it.

Favorite track: “Break Me”

8. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

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Slay Annie.

Favorite track: “Regret”

7. Lykke Li – I Never Learn

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Jesus, this album. I mean when the preview video was released, I was sobbing at my desk. TALK ABOUT DEVASDATING! Apparently she wrote this album after the most painful breakup of her life. “This album is about the shame and the guilt and the sadness and the regret you can experience after leaving someone,” she told Pitchfork. Like, sadness chic to the extreme. And that voice, that voice that can pierce anything. Really though, if you’re having a bad day or you just fought with your girlfriend/boyfriend/roommate or just want to feel feelings, this is about as cathartic (and brilliant) as you can get. I mean during the chorus of “Gunshot” it actually feels like the music is shooting you. How great is that?

Favorite track: “Gunshot”

6. Beck – Morning Phase

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The return of Beck was great for me, and great for 2014. Seeing Beck at Pitchfork Fest this year really cemented how great this album is; who knew “Blue Moon” was such a sing-along anthem? “I’m so tired of being alooooneeeee.” Sing it boy.

Favorite track: “Waking Light”

5. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence

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I don’t think I anticipated an album more this year than Lana’s- the one on which she had to prove to everyone she wasn’t a flash in the pan, she wasn’t her SNL performance, which honestly wasn’t that bad. The girl that everyone loved to hate became the subject of countless think pieces both defending and defaming her (once again). But Lana doesn’t care about any of that, and Ultraviolence is amazing. The album sounds like old Hollywood, curated by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and brought home by Lana’s vocals, which are stronger than ever. She revels in being the other woman, looking pretty when she cries, smoking hydroponic weed in Brooklyn with her boyfriend. And she’s cooler than him. Duh.

Favorite track: “Sad Girl”

4. Tweedy – Sukierae

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What could have been a toss-off is instead one of the most captivating releases Jeff Tweedy has put out in a while, with or without Wilco. It’s long, yes, but none of the tracks are throwaways. Instead, we get a look into how a singer/songwriter deals with family issues (his wife’s cancer), and learn that Jeff’s son, Spencer, is a skilled drummer, which isn’t that much of a surprise. Songs like “Fake Fur Coat” evoke solo Dylan material, while “Low Key,” “Pigeons,” and “Honey Combed” take their place along with the best that Wilco or Tweedy have ever done. A treat, for sure.

Favorite track: “Low Key”

3. Real Estate – Atlas

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Real Estate have established a pretty niche sound, and while that doesn’t change much with Atlas, the band has evolved that sound to drape around some forlorn subject matter. “I’m out again on my own, a reflection in the chrome,” sings Martin Coutney on the opening track, singling that not all is beachy keen in New Jersey. This sentiment continues throughout the album. Lyrics like “I cannot come back to this neighborhood without feeling my own age,” on “Past Lives” and “I’m just trying to make some sense of this before I lose another year,” on “The Bend” hit home for many who are watching their own lives evolve before their eyes, but also reinforce that change can be a beautiful thing.

Favorite track: “The Bend”

2. The War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream

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It’s perfect. Really. Like, almost too perfect. The best part is Adam Granduciel and company make it all sound (and look during live shows) so effortless, like this kind of material is easy to conjure. I’m guessing it isn’t, so bravo.

Favorite track: “Red Eyes”

1. Owen Pallett – In Conflict

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“I’ll never have any children. I would bare them and confuse them, my children.”

Oh Owen, aka Final Fantasy, aka master of the violin and loop pedal, aka the strings genius behind The National, Arcade Fire, Beirut and the Oscar-nominated Her soundtrack. On In Conflict, Owen the collaborator collaborated with Brian Eno to release his most personal album yet. One minute, this thing sounds like you’re on the moon (“In Conflict”), the next, you’re almost uncomfortably close to a past sexual encounter that’s at once eerie and beautiful (“The Passions”). I knew In Conflict would be good, but I had no idea that this album would grow on me to become my favorite of the year. Finally eschewing the guise of a stage name and signing about fictional characters like he did on Heartland, Pallett opens up and sings about his life, which is beautiful, messy and yes, gay.

When he sings that line, “I’ll never have any children,” you can almost hear the sadness in his voice, but he’s also come fully to terms with that fact. On “The Secret Seven,” Pallett sings, in defiance to Dan Savage, “It won’t get better,” before offering up his own telephone number and an ear to those that are experiencing “the hunger” and the rising water that can be navigating the gay lifestyle. The arrangements are complex yet playful, with added electronics, on display during “The Sky Behind the Flag,” and others, fleshing the whole thing out. I’m just rambling at this point, but the point is that I couldn’t escape In Conflict even if I wanted to.

And I don’t hate that.

Favorite track: “Song For Five & Six”

 

 

 

 

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Top 25 Albums of 2011

Ok 2011, you were kind of a weird, but good year for music.  Honestly, this has been one of the hardest “Top 25” lists I have ever made, because, besides my pick for the number one album, a lot of the rest was pretty much up in the air for me.

One note: PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake is nowhere to be found on my list.  Sorry for partying, but it still just hasn’t clicked with me.

Also, lots and lots of good hip-hop came out this year.  Which is fun, but also, as a big fan of hip-hop, might make my list seem very “commercial.”  Not really sorry for this one, it just is what it is.

And so…..judge away:

25. Panda Bear – Tomboy

 

 

 

 

 

I mean, it’s mostly all about “Last Night At the Jetty,” but it’s also about the overall lush, woozy sound drenched in layers upon layers of reverb  heard throughout the album that makes Noah Lennox’s Tomboy a notable listen in 2011.

24. Cults – Cults

 

 

 

 

 

Cults threw their hat in the whole retro-pop ring and came out on top with their first try.  Although I was skeptical at first, debut single “Go Outside” was the perfectly breezy song of the summer.  Seeing them live at the 7th Street Entry sealed the deal, and “Walk At Night” is one of my favorite songs of the year.

23. Lady Gaga – Born This Way

 

 

 

 

 

There’s really not much more to say about this one than what I already wrote in my review of the pop star’s second album, and even though it’s getting kinda old kinda fast, there’s no denying that this was one of the best pop albums to come out this year.

22. Beyoncé – 4

 

 

 

 

 

Ughhhhhhh Beyoncé, how you murk me so.  Even though I would have preferred an album filled with songs like “Countdown,” we instead got more of a mood album, a Beyoncé tone poem, if you will.  You can almost hear the tears in “I Care,” feel the swagoo in “Party,” and bonus track “Dance For You” definitely makes me want to swirl.  A fine body of work.

21. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation

 

 

 

 

 

Another example where a live show catapulted an album into being something special…no but really, as a debut, The Year of Hibernation is a remarkable achievement for the young Mr. Powers.

20. TV On the Radio – Nine Types of Light

 

 

 

 

 

Bucking the trend, I actually didn’t much enjoy this band’s appearance at First Ave.  I honestly think it was just because I was in a sour mood, however music usually can lift me out of that, and that just didn’t happen at the show.  But as an album, Nine Types of Light continues a winning streak for TV On the Radio.

19. Britney Spears – Femme Fatale

 

 

 

 

 

I mean…Britney hasn’t been this exciting since Blackout.  Love her, hate her, say what you will about her, but Femme Fatale is simply a fun, expertly crafted, perfect pop album, and that’s all it needs to be.  It’s also fun when Britney gets dirty and swears (“You can be my fuck tonight” on “How I Roll”) and references past hits (“Hit me one more time” on “Inside Out”).  Let’s just face it, growing up with Britney as the soundtrack to everything from 8th grade “mixers” to high school proms and now drunken, messy nights out in your 20s has been a gift everyone can (and should) appreciate.

18. Feist – Metals

 

 

 

 

 

Metals is a really pretty album.  Nothing too groundbreaking happening here, but for craft, this album gets an A.  “Graveyard” and “The Circle Married the Line” sound both thrilling and heartbreaking at the same time, which could describe this album as a whole….yes?  Maybe?  Yeah.

17. James Blake – James Blake

 

 

 

 

 

Dubstep ughhhhhhhh.  It’s a great album though.  Also, I saw him in the Entry and you probably didn’t.

16. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah yeah, “Midnight City” is like, the song of the year.  Listening to this album in one sitting is quite the experience.  And, they hit their live show out of the park at First Ave.

15. CANT – Dreams Come True

 

 

 

 

 

I was pretty skeptical about the solo effort from Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, especially since lead single “Answer” really didn’t do much for me.  Well, wow, this album is pretty fucking great, proving Taylor can hold his own as an artist.  Also, none of you went to the show at the Entry.  Shame on you.

14. Terius Nash – 1977

 

 

 

 

 

Terius Nash aka The-Dream.  That’s pretty much all you need to know.  The best part is that this breakup album is mostly about Christina Milian.  Super fun.  Also, 1977 is a contender for giving us some of the best one-liners in rap history: “You used to be anti-internet, but now you constantly blogging and shit,” “Another day with you is just another fucking day,” “That get up in the mornin’ and put it on me, she so horny,” “Let me sing you my drunk song,” “Blowin’ bottles of dat drank,” “Ever seen a n@&*a buy a house from the toilet?”  I could go on, but I wont.  You should just listen.

13. Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know

 

 

 

 

 

Not too much to say about this one either, other than Laura Marling’s voice is, you know, one of those voices.  It just hits you right in the gut.  And she’s only 21.  Although not as immediate as I Speak Because I Can, there are plenty of highlights throughout A Creature I Don’t Know, including “I Was Just a Card,” “Salinas,” and “Sophia.”

12. Wilco – The Whole Love

 

 

 

 

 

WILCO IS BACK!!!  Right, they didn’t really go anywhere, but honestly, this is the best thing since A Ghost is Born, and a lot of people didn’t even like that album.  So then this is the best thing since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.  Which is saying a lot.  Also, their first of two recent shows at The State Theatre was one of my favorite concerts of the year, maybe even ever.

11. The Roots – Undun

 

 

 

 

 

If you know me, it’s kind of a given that if an album includes Sufjan Stevens in the credits, I’m going to take notice.  And while Sufjan’s “Redford” is the base for the last suite of songs, the rest of this concept album is all The Roots, and it’s fantastic.  Definitely the most heartfelt hip-hop found on this list.

10. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

 

 

 

 

 

Strange Mercy might be Annie Clarke’s masterstroke.  “Cruel” is one of the best songs of the year.  The title track is my personal favorite from the album.  All in all, Strange Mercy is classic St. Vincent but more focused and sonically profound.  Amazing stuff.  I also got to sit on the stage for her show at The Walker.

9. The Antlers – Burst Apart

 

 

 

 

 

The Antlers’ Hospice was a masterpiece, even if it left you completely wrecked after each listen.  Talk about a downer!  Things haven’t changed much with Burst Apart, but everyone was waiting to see if Peter Silberman and crew would be able to produce something as meaningful that didn’t have the story arc of Hospice.  I’d say The Antlers have succeeded – Burst Apart still tells a story, but this time it’s about moving through the murky waters of heartbreak and loneliness, fun stuff like that!  Who knew depression could sound so lovely?

8. Real Estate – Days

 

 

 

 

 

The surf-infused sounds of melancholy is the best way I can describe Days.  What’s up with me and loving sad-ish music so much?  Anyways, Days is a lovely gem of an album.  And really it’s not all that sad.  Seriously, don’t let that scare you away from listening to it!

7. Beirut – The Rip Tide

 

 

 

 

 

Zach Condon’s most accessible work still maintains that European quirkiness that defines Beirut’s sound.  Condon’s voice has also never sounded better, song’s like “Goshen” a showcase for his deep, swoon-worthy vocals.  All those horns pull at your heartstrings too.

6. Radiohead – The King of Limbs

 

 

 

 

 

It’s an odd year for me when Radiohead put out an album and it’s not automatically number one on my list.  Yup, I’d say you either loved or hated The King of Limbs.  Maybe it even pissed you off.  Clearly, I fall in the love camp, while also recognizing that better music came out this year.  Honestly though, why is everyone so mad that the album (consisting of JUST EIGHT SONGS?!?!?! ) is under 40 minutes long? There’s a lot packed into those 40 minutes.  “Bloom” is like an awakening, “Lotus Flower” is another one of the best songs of the year, “Codex” murks you and “Give Up the Ghost” is unlike anything heard from the band.  Yeah, it’s not an instant classic like In Rainbows, but this record holds up very nicely when not compared to Radiohead.  Think about it.  Bye.

5. Kanye West & Jay-Z – Watch the Throne

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah yeah, I know I wasn’t head-over-heels for this when it first came out.  But my, how Watch the Throne has grown on me, just like I guessed it would.  Again with this one, pretty much everything that could be said about this album already has been said.  Along with 1977, Watch the Throne also ranks high with classic one-liners that have quickly made their way into me and my friends’ everyday vernacular.  I’d type out some examples but I’d have to use too many $*#@)($#@s.

4. The Weeknd – House of Balloons/Thursday

 

 

 

 

 

Completely out of nowhere and I am so completely happy that both of these mixtapes (with a third on the way) happened this year.  Really, there’s not a single track on both of Abel Tesfaye’s (ok let’s just stick with calling him The Weeknd) outings thus far that I would skip over.  They just make you feel so many feeelingssssssssss.  And I think that’s a good thing, especially in this genre.

3. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

 

 

 

 

 

I actually re-listened to Helplessness Blues last night as a refresher.  Originally it was a few slots lower on my list, but my notions were confirmed that, yeah, this is definitely one of the top three albums of the year.  The title track kills me every time.  The harmonies almost make you want to vomit because they sound so perfect.  It’s almost an overload of beauty.  Did I really just say that?  Yeah.  Cuz it is.  Helplessness Blues is almost an overload of beauty.

2. Drake – Take Care

 

 

 

 

 

Are you for real?  Really though, Drake killed it this year.  I really can’t talk about it.  I also really can’t talk about that album cover.

1.  Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver

 

 

 

 

 

Why must Justin Vernon do this to me?  Crying in my car, crying at work, crying in my apartment, crying at the freaking concert.  This album is actually mind blowing.  It’s almost like everyone wanted it to suck because it would not be fair for our very own Justin Vernon to keep on succeeding and producing music that is again and again this transcendent.  But guess what??? He made 2011’s album of the year.

So, that’s it!  Below, in no particular order, are some of the albums that didn’t make the cut, even though I really, really wanted them to.  Going up to 50 albums would have actually killed me.

Akron/Family – S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT

My Brightest Diamond – All Things Will Unwind

tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l

Cut Copy – Zonoscope

Bright Eyes – The People’s Key

My Morning Jacket – Circuital

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong

 

 

 

 

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St. Vincent @ The Walker Art Center 10.02.11

There had been hints of the true brilliance of Annie Clark’s vocals throughout the evening during her second performance at The Walker Art Center.  I’m sure like most others, I was mesmerized by her guitar shredding abilities and the almost hypnotic state Clarke enters when she really gets into her solos.

However, it wasn’t until Clark, aka St. Vincent, came back to the stage sans guitars to perform a stripped down version of “The Party” that I began to realize the power of her voice.  Back in one of her hypnotic states, Clark snapped along as she layered her vocals during the song’s waltz-esqe chorus, the audience obviously enthralled as you could hear a pin drop at any moment.  Like, holy shit.

Maybe it was because I was literally sitting on the freaking stage of the Walker’s McGuire Theater with nothing but 12 feet separating me from St. Vincent and her band, but St. Vincent’s 10pm performance is one that I won’t soon forget.

First, let’s talk about the lights.  Colored lights, laser-like lights, flashing lights – and then the smoke, all combined and added to the temple like atmosphere at the show that would be fitting for a space 10x the size of the McGuire Theater.  Clark kicked things off with “Cruel,” although a little something was missing.  After about 30 seconds, Clarke ended the song and said, “I’m sorry you guys but you should really hear the guitar for this song.”  Oh right, her amp had been turned off.  Everyone laughed and I certainly appreciated how comfortable and casual Clarke and her band was about the whole thing.  The four musicians on stage started over from the beginning, and with that signature guitar line from the song now blaring out of the speakers, “Cruel” started off the evening on a pounding, celebratory note.

Choosing from a smorgasbord pedals and guitars lined up behind her, St. Vincent continued the string of songs from this year’s fantastic Strange Mercy with “Cheerleader,” which sounded just massive, followed by “Surgeon.”  You would have had no idea that St. Vincent’s two Minneapolis shows were the kick off to the Strange Mercy tour, as the band sounded extremely tight even as they stared lovingly at their leader, who noted “you’re up late tonight!”

The high energy continued with “Save Me From What I Want” and “Chloe In the Afternoon,” Clark nailing the latter’s chorus despite its odd beat.

And then, St. Vincent sent everyone to fairytale land with the sleepy and swirling “Just The Same But Brand New.”  The coma continued with an enthralling take on “Champagne Year,” only to be broken when the drums hit hard during “Neutered Fruit.”  However, the lobotomy was finally complete during the performance of the title track from Strange Mercy, Clark throwing in a naughty word during the chorus, singing “If I ever meet that dirty policeman who fucked you up,” maximizing the crescendo of that song to the extreme.

It was all beginning to be almost too much – the lights, the voice, Clark and I locking eyes at one point, her black ensemble complete with sequins.  And since no one got up out of their seats and there was a brief pause before an explosion of cheering from the audience after each song, I think it’s safe to say that everyone was completely intoxicated with the entire production.  At another point, a speaker even started to smoke and melt a little bit, Moog player Toko Yasuda pausing the show to make sure everything was all good.  Like, the speakers couldn’t even take the heat from Clark and her guitars.

So finally, after “The Party” opened the encore, Clark urged everyone to stand up.  “I know those seats are really comfortable, but this next song is kind of a jam.”  And with that, everyone kinda shook out of the St. Vincent spell and peeled themselves off of the seats (me off of the floor) to groove to closer “Marrow.”

Clarke thanked everyone, blew kisses towards the audience, and then looked directly at me again and at those other lucky few that got to sit on the stage before exiting as the house lights came up.

A show for the ages, I tell ya.

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2010 – Sunday Roundup

Yes it was 90+ degrees outside and the wind whipping the dirt off of the baseball diamond located in Union Park wasn’t helping that whole feeling clean business, but that didn’t stop anyone, including the artists, from having fun on the last day of the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival.

Beach House sounded epic as always, playing favorites like “Walk in the Park”  and “Norway” from Teen Dream.  Back were the giant rotating geodes the band sported at The Cedar Cultural Center earlier in the year, the sun glittering off of the sparkling shapes casting reflections all over Victoria and Alex.  Dreamy indeed.

Problems with the setup of the stages became apparent when anyone trying to hear the Local Natives do their thing had to be right up near the stage, otherwise what you heard was Local Natives feat. Beach House, for the most part.  However, Local Natives still sounded excellent despite volume and speaker problems, and pulled off their Talking Heads cover of “Warning Sign” without a hitch, soaring harmonies and all.

And although Lightening Bolt rocked the faces off of the entire park, St. Vincent was lovely as always, Big Boi got his swagger on and the Pavement show was complete with plenty of mistakes, Major Lazer left me stunned for the rest of the day.

Diplo was on fire, whipping out Ace of Base tunes and Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” amongst the best of their own catalog, all while dancing Chinese dragons, ballerinas in tutus and two other girls working their shit out on stage made the show one giant party.  At one point, one of the dancer chicks fainted and had to be carried off stage, only to come back 30 minutes later to work it harder than ever.  Hennessy was poured on people, champagne bottles were popped in the direction of the crowd and ladders were involved to recreate the dance moves seen in Major Lazer’s music video for “Pon De Floor.” Basically, it was heaven on earth.

All in all, quite the enjoyable day in Chicago.  Too much fun for the chick below:

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