I’m starting a new series of posts listing my top 15 bands or artists that I have only recently heard of. These posts will highlight the artists and include an example of their work along with reasons as to why you should listen to them carefully crafted by yours truly.
This will be great.
It’s often that you don’t get the same experience from listening to a single song that you do when you listen to an entire album. There’s a story being told that you miss out on when you listen to one or two random songs. If I like an album, I listen to it over and over until I digest it as best as I can. Each of these albums was there for me through thick and thin, through any kind of weather, through road trips, through heartbreak, through life, death, what have you. However, I’m tired of putting things in a numbered order. It doesn’t matter. Each of these records is amazing. I thought “this is the best record I’ve ever heard” while listening to each one of these albums. Putting them in a numbered list seems fucking ridiculous now. In no particular order:
The Photon God’s Top 50 Albums of 2010
Beach House – Teen Dream
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today
Les Savy Fav – Root For Ruin
Here We Go Magic – Pigeons
The Flaming Lips – Embryonic
Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
Magic Kids – Memphis
Las Robertas – Las Robertas
Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Let It Sway
Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid
Owen Pallett – Heartland
Julian Lynch – Mare
Surfer Blood – Astro Coast
Lower Dens – Twin-Hand Movement
No Age – Everything In Between
The Soft Pack – The Soft Pack
Spoon – Transference
Twin Shadow – Forget
Jonsi – Go
Medications – Completely Removed
Dr. Dog – Shame, Shame
Harlem – Hippies
Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here?
Best Coast – Crazy For You
Eels – End Times
We Are Scientists – Barbara
Vampire Weekend – Contra
Women – Public Strain (Get back together, assholes)
The Books – The Way Out
Beach Fossils – Beach Fossils
Wavves – King of the Beach
Weekend – Sports
Devo – Something For Everybody
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Xiu Xiu – Dear God, I Hate Myself
Coma Cinema – Stoned Alone
The Walkmen – Lisbon
El Guincho – Pop Negro
Woods – At Echo Lake
The National – High Violet
Frankie Rose & The Outs – Frankie Rose & The Outs
Thee Oh Sees – Warm Slime
Jeff The Brotherhood – Heavy Days
Lord Huron – Mighty
Foxes In Fiction – Alberto (Really recent, but really good)
Girls – Broken Dreams Club
Twin Sister – Color Your Life
Warpaint – The Fool
This is my last list for LISTS WEEK. I am announcing here and now that I will be taking a break from the blog to regain whatever hours I’ve managed to shave off of my life from not sleeping. Call it a period of hibernation. I will be back sometime in January. Until then, if I don’t see you tonight or tomorrow, Happy Holidays!
I listened to a lot of songs this year. I’m talking A LOT. A few stuck with me, a few didn’t. This list was hard to pin down. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked each and every one of my friends’ heads off about at least one of the songs on this list. I have a habit of going “HEY EVERYBODY, LISTEN TO THIS” when I hear something I really like. Sometimes my exclamations are met with indifference, sometimes they’re met with “Yeah, we know”s. Other times they’re met with “QUIT YELLING”s. Just the same, I love these songs. Feast your ears on
The Photon God’s Top 50 Songs of 2010
50. The Babies – Meet Me In The City
49. La Sera – Never Come Around
48. Kanye West – Monster [feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver]
47. Ba Babes – Holy Ghost
46. The Soft Pack – Answer To Yourself
45. Panda Bear – You Can Count On Me
44. Owen Pallett – Lewis Takes Off His Shirt
43. Lower Dens – Completely Golden
42. Cee Lo Green – Fuck You
41. Magic Kids – Superball
40. Girls – Heartbreaker
39. Big Surr – Alright
38. El Guincho – Bombay
37. Les Savy Fav – Let’s Get Out Of Here
36. Janelle Monae – Tightrope [Feat. Big Boi]
35. The Books – The Story Of Hip-Hop
34. Women – Eyesore
33. Devo – Fresh
32. Jeff the Brotherhood – U Got The Look
31. Xiu Xiu – Chocolate Makes You Happy
30. Surfer Blood – Fast Jabroni
29. Active Child – I’m In Your Church at Night
28. Weekend – Coma Summer
27. Perfume Genius – Mr Petersen
26. Wavves – Green Eyes
25. Vulpes – Ghost Dance
24. Woods – Suffering Season
23. No Age – Fever Dreaming
22. The Young Maths – Hospitals
21. Medications – Long Day
20. Dr. Dog – Shadow People
19. Arcade Fire – Empty Room
18. The Young – Bird in the Bush
17. Best Coast – When I’m With You
16. Deerhunter – Desire Lines
15. Twin Shadow – I Can’t Wait
14. Las Robertas – Ghost Lover
13. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Sink/Let it Sway
12. The Tallest Man On Earth – Love Is All
11. Local Natives – Camera Talk
10. Twin Sister – Milk & Honey 9. Reading Rainbow – Wasting Time8. Dum Dum Girls – Jail La La7. Beach Fossils – Youth6. The Vaccines – If You Wanna5. Here We Go Magic – Collector4. Beach House – 10 Mile Stereo3. The Morning Benders – Excuses2. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Round and Round1. Thee Oh Sees – I Was Denied
McAllen’s Dignan one of the hardest working bands I know. I mean, they practically live on the road. Luckily, they recently came home to relax for the holidays and start working on their follow-up to 2009’s Cheaters & Thieves EP. They were kind enough to contribute today’s second list. Here are their
Top 10 Albums of 2010
10. St. Vincent – ActorDignan: Though this was released in 2009 we couldn’t stop listening to it in 2010. Layered with so many interesting textures, I always find myself hearing new sounds with every listen. If this were released in 2010 it would be no. 1 for sure.
9. Sufjan Stevens – All Delighted People EPDignan: Have always been a fan of Sufjan, so naturally couldn’t wait to hear his new stuff. Though Age of Adz is very good, I personally liked the more acoustic instrument approach to All Delighted People.
8. Jason Collett – Rat A Tat TatDignan: I’d never really been a fan of Jason Collett besides his Broken Social Scene stuff, but after seeing him showcase Rat A Tat Tat at SXSW I fell in love with this CD.
7. The National – High VioletDignan: Some of the simplest songs done right! Although not a huge fan of some of the lyrics, the music itself is so tasteful.
6. Deerhunter – Halcyon DigestDignan: Bradford Cox makes some of the best pop songs! I really love the recording quality of Halcyon Digest, it’s very diy but still refined.
5. Dr. Dog – Shame, ShameDignan: Had always heard their name from everyone, but never really gave them a chance until this last tour. Our drummer showed them to me and I couldn’t stop listening to this album.
4. Zeus – Say UsDignan: Saw these guys at SXSW by accident and loved their live performance,
I couldn’t stop telling everyone about this CD afterward! And they turned out to be Jason Collett’s backing band.
3. The Morning Benders – Big EchoDignan: I listened to this CD on repeat for about two months straight! They write some very dense, deep songs on this album, and really blow their previous releases out of the water.
2. Arcade Fire – The SuburbsDignan: Arcade Fire never does anything wrong, this album is put together so well! Enough said.
1. Beach House – Teen DreamDignan: This cd made it to the no. 1 spot on so many people’s lists, and for good reason. It’s easily the best album of the year. With a style all their own they craft some great dreamy, dark, pop songs, that you can’t get out of your head. And they’re talented enough to do it flawlessly live too!
One of the best things about life is meeting people. Almost a year ago, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Jeff Smith aka Jeff the Smith. He is an up-and-coming experimental electronica artist here in the Rio Grande Valley and, to this day, remains one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met. Here are his
Top 5 Albums of 2010
5. Avey Tare – Down ThereDavid Portner’s primal screams have made an all-too-brief cameo again. I bought Down There wanting it to be the ying to the yang of Panda Bear‘s Person Pitch. Such a ying would necessarily have some Avey Tare shrieking. But Down There is as primal as a father rocking his baby to sleep. Nevertheless, I always want to hear more. This record employs all the sampling and sonic texture one expects of an AC record. All in all, it’s another artsy (read: less-accessible) effort for the AC family’s catalog.
4. Gorillaz – Plastic BeachYears ago, Blur’s Damon Albarn found a new home for his poppy hooks and compositional pacing. (Its name was Gorillaz.) The musical mage is at it again on Plastic Beach. On the album’s second track, the National Orchestra for Arabic Music settles the listener into a breezy, seaside hammock, peppered with the wind-blown chirps of a nearby piper…the listener’s hammock is flipped, and when he wipes the sand from his face, an infectious rap beat and a pair of tea-sipping rappers signal that a beach party is under way. Ultimately the rap beat and the classical Arabic score merge in a seamless mash-up to wind down the track. The listener sighs. Then the Gorillaz-brand bad-assness bursts back in on “Rhinestone Eyes,” which, like the record’s first single, “Stylo,” reminds us of the band’s first hit, “Clint Eastwood,” whose synth-rock made Gorillaz a household name in the first place.
3. MGMT – CongratulationsA Pitchfork review said Congratulations was a major departure from the debut album. It wasn’t. There’s no dance songs on Congratulations, but if you take “Kids,” “Time to Pretend” and “Electric Feel” off Oracular Spectacular, that disc becomes Congratulations. I love both albums.
2. The Ruby Suns – Fight SoftlyThis is the more dancey follow-up to the New Zealand band’s sophomore-but-far-from-sophomoric album, Sea Lion. Despite the festive mood of Fight Softly, the album manages to squeeze in a reference to tween alcoholism (the opening lyrics of “Olympics On Pot”: “Today I met a 12-year-old whose favorite beer was Coors Lite”). Hurray for emotional complexity. Hurray for indie Down Under. Hurray for non-Western instrumentation.
1. Of Montreal – False PriestThree albums ago [Sunlandic Twins], Kevin Barnes’ funk was confined to bass lines. Two albums ago [Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?] he cut loose his falsetto, ghetto-fab spirit and introduced the narrator Georgie Fruit. One album ago [Skeletal Lamping], Georgie Fruit (who in one song told us, “I’m just a black shemale/and I don’t know what you people are all about”) took center stage. On the current album, half of which owes to George Clinton, Kevin Barnes goes so far as to enlist Beyonce’s little sister for a roller-derby duet, dubbed “Sex Karma.” Barnes has soul, but he’s not a soulja. Of Montreal began life as a Beatles cover band. The indie icons have come a long sonic way from the acid-drenched ramblings of their mid-catalog in the early 2000s. And we can only hope for more transformations to come. Lyrics plucked from the nonsense chanting toward the end of Hissing Fauna became titles for the two albums that followed (Skeletal Lamping and False Priest). It’s worth noting now because the varied and cluttered soundscapes of False Priest probably hold the seeds from which Kevin Barnes’ next perceptible identity mutation will spring. I, for one, can’t wait for the next dispatch from his freak-flag empire.
Yesterday we had Vulpes and Cassie Ramone (Vivian Girls, The Babies) contribute year-end lists to The Photon God. Today’s second list comes from our friend to the north, Vancouver’s ever-so-mysterious electronica artist, Teen Daze. He was kind enough to contribute a list of his
Top Ten Albums Of The Year!
10. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before TodayTD: There were a lot of records that I really loved this year that didn’t get listed, but I wanted to give Before Today a spot, simply because “Round and Round” is my favourite song of the year. It’s just so perfect. This record is really amazing, and it’s hard as it is to try and rank all my favourite music of the year. So don’t let my giving this the 10 spot make you think I think any less of it.
9. Twin Sister – Color Your LifeTD: I dream of making an EP like this one some day. I first heard Twin Sister when I saw a live clip of them playing “All Around and Away We Go” and “Something About Us” (a Daft Punk cover) on a rooftop. The city lights below and the dim Christmas lights around them, the band completely melted me. This is another record that has grown on me more and more, which is an amazing fact considering an EP is usually a pretty digestible, easy-to-comprehend medium. I think that just shows that Twin Sister are capable of creating some really beautiful, in-depth music, and I’m so stoked to see what they come up with in the next year.
8. Baths – CeruleanTD: My BOY! Will and I emailed a bit over the summer (mostly his returning thanks for my gushing over his record and live show), and I’ve had the pleasure of playing two shows with him this year. After seeing his Yours Truly session on Pitchfork.tv, I was sure that this guy couldn’t be for real. I remember seeing the clip for “Apologetic Shoulder Blades” and honestly thinking, “What on earth is he doing to that AKAI unit?” Will, like Chaz from Toro Y Moi, is another production and songwriting wunderkind. To be so young, and possess the talent to craft such exceptional beats is truly a gift. And then, there’s his live show. Aside from GOBBLE GOBBLE (who I saw 16 times this year), Will’s shows were my favourite of this last year. The guy is SO committed to his set; his passion for playing music is uncontainable, and he shows that he is completely connected to the music he makes. Which leads us to the record, which is a great example of all of these great attributes that Will possesses; huge beats, perfect samples and Will’s signature voice meld together to make the best beat-hop record of the year, hands down.
7. Local Natives – Gorilla ManorTD: This was one record, amongst many, that my girlfriend and I really agreed on. We tend to have pretty similar tastes, mine maybe going a bit into the weirder territory, and this one solidified it. Whenever we needed a record to listen to in the car, this one never failed. Like the Deerhunter record, this one was a grower on me; at first I didn’t get what the fuss was all about. But the more and more I listened, the more I heard the amazing songwriting that exists on this record. I mean, a song like “Airplanes” alone. Again, another band who’s live show completely justifies the praise these guys have been garnering.
6. Caribou – SwimTD: This was my summer jam. I listened to this record EVERY time I drove to the beach. LITERALLY. “Kaili”, most definitely my favourite track on the record, took me to places that I never thought dance music could. I mean, he never even drops a beat in it, and it still manages to make me move every time I hear it. Seeing Caribou play on the main stage at Sasquatch this summer topped it all off too. Dan Snaith and his band are complete showmen, and they killed the new songs live. An amazing follow-up record to an already amazing career.
5. Toro Y Moi – Causers Of ThisTD: This was [the] one that everyone knew was going to be a game-changer. Where Washed Out presented the idea of the nostalgic, sample-based, reverb-drenched genre that has so lovingly/sarcastically been coined “chillwave”, Chaz took it to the next level. In a matter of words, he raised the bar. When people look back in 20 years, this record should, and most likely will, stand as the perfect “chillwave” record. Like [My Bloody Valentine’s] Loveless to shoegaze. The wonderful part about this record is the production value; Chaz isn’t some bored suburb-dweller, trying to make “chillwave beats” to impress girls (well, who knows, maybe he is). This kid has SERIOUS production talent, an amazing singing voice, and really, an incredibly talented ear for melody and arrangement. I can’t wait to see what Underneath The Pine does to not only the whole “chillwave” scene, but the electronic music scene in general.
4. Magic Kids – MemphisTD: Without a doubt, the most positive, encouraging, mood-changing record of the year. “Superball” was the first track I heard, and honestly since hearing it, I haven’t been able to stop listening to this record. Magic Kids’ lead singer [Bennett Foster] can sing. Like, REALLY sing. The arrangements on this record are spot on, and the youthful, vibrant energy spills out of it.
3. Deerhunter – Halcyon DigestTD: On my most recent tour (early October), my friends and I listened to this record for the first time. We were all a little underwhelmed to be honest. The quote that stuck out for me was made by my friend Brendan. “The thing that’s so great about Deerhunter is that every record they make breaks some new ground, and this one feels a bit like it’s treading in old waters.” I agreed, for the time being. But the more I dug into it, the more it completely destroyed my expectations. This is the problem with coming at music with a critical mindset (or anything in life for that matter): when you come at it with expectations, you’re more than likely to be disappointed. Anyways, I really came to love this record in the last month. I think I’ve listened to “Desire Lines” more than any song this year. A very subtle step forward for this already powerful, triumphant band.
2. Beach House – Teen DreamTD: In January, I knew there would be two records that would undoubtedly make my end-of-the-year list: Toro Y Moi’s Causers Of This (which got the fifth spot), and Teen Dream. This was the record I had been waiting for from Beach House. Though their self-titled[album] and Devotion had received permanent spots on my “fall asleep” mix, they had never really broken through for me. But Teen Dream completely blew me away. The fluidity of the whole record is astounding. Rarely would I, or any of my friends for that matter, ever put this record on and NOT finish it. This is one to be savoured; you can’t fast forward to “Take Care” and expect it to be as devastating as it would be if you would go through the labour of love that is experiencing the record in full.
1. Candy Claws – Hidden LandsTD: An inspiring journey through the quiet creation of all things natural. Candy Claws construct a world of wonder, mystery, melody and harmony; these themes weave through ten songs in the most peculiar ways. The range of emotions that I experience when I listen to this record is almost overwhelming; confusion, comfort, alienation, acceptance. The organic creation of this dream state is what really draws me in. This record is a testament to anyone who loves “found sounds”. I can’t explain away the sounds I hear on this record, and that is why I love it. Every time I listen to it, I hear something new, and experience it in a different way.
The Morning Benders – Big Echo
S. Carey – All We Grow
JBM – Not Even In July
Twin Shadow – Forget
Sufjan Stevens – The Age Of Adz
Aidan Knight – Versicolour
Beach Fossils – Self-titled
Glasser – Ring
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Wild Nothing – Gemini
Teen Daze’s new EP, Beach Dreams, is available for purchase/download here.
You could say I ‘joined’ my local scene back in 2005. A good friend of mine started taking me to his band’s shows, most of which were of the ‘hardcore’ persuasion seeing as how that’s what was ‘in’ back then. I met a lot of the other bands and befriended a few of the guys. Eventually, my friend’s band broke up, I stopped seeing people, and stopped talking to them as a whole. (MySpace didn’t count.) Fast forward a year or three and I re-meet a guy named Steven Salazar who I met when he played in a band called My Final Farewell a while back. Fast forward to today, and Steven’s now known as Lumberjack, one of the Rio Grande Valley’s blossoming electronica artists and a close compatriot of Jeff the Smith. He was kind enough to contribute today’s first list of his
Top 10 Albums of 2010
10. Com Truise – Cyanide Sisters EPLumberjack: Com Truise is something new to chillwave that will be setting standards. That bass drum sound and those synth parts are unforgettable.
Key Song: “Slowpeels”
9. Arch M – Land HuxtLumberjack: A very short and simple EP but amazing at the same time because it gets to the point with very well set samples and transitions.
Key Song: “Highest Plains”
8. Dum Dum Girls – I Will BeLumberjack: I caught the Dum Dum Girls at SXSW and really enjoyed the sound. Then this album came out and I was in awe. This album is fun and raw and keeps playing on and on.
Key Song: “Jail La La”
7. Small Black – New ChainLumberjack: Do I have to say anything? I mean, holy shit, Small black knows how to write amazing music. Chillest album I have heard yet.
Key Song: “Patterns”
6. Starslinger – Volume 1Lumberjack: Groove and bob your head is what this album should have been called. Amazing hooks and samples; I couldn’t get enough of this album!
Key Song: “Extra Time”
5. oOoOO – oOoOOLumberjack: R&B-style influenced and hard bass, this album goes well for drives and just chilling.
Key Song: “Hearts”
4. Active Child – Curtis LaneLumberjack: Haunting vocals and harps put together make Active Child’s EP just amazing. It feels like I’m in a dream of some sort.
Key Song: “I’m In Your Church At Night”
3. Keep Shelly In Athens – In Love With DuskLumberjack: Amazing key parts and wonderful vocal parts, this EP just makes me remember the good days.
Key Song: “In Love With Dusk”
2. Best Coast – Crazy For YouLumberjack: Songs about weed and love are the best; perfect soundtrack for the summer of 2010.
Key Song: “Bratty B”
1. Twin Shadow – ForgetLumberjack: Reverb and singing about heart-ache always goes well together in a album. It also has killer bass parts.
Key Song: “Forget”