The Photon God’s 2010: LPs & EPs

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 HouseTeen Dream
Arcade FireThe Suburbs
Ariel Pink’s Haunted GraffitiBefore Today
Les Savy FavRoot For Ruin
Here We Go MagicPigeons
The Flaming LipsEmbryonic
DeerhunterHalcyon Digest
Magic KidsMemphis
Las RobertasLas Robertas
Dum Dum GirlsI Will Be
Someone Still Loves You Boris YeltsinLet It Sway
Janelle MonaeThe ArchAndroid
Owen PallettHeartland
Julian LynchMare
Surfer BloodAstro Coast
Lower DensTwin-Hand Movement
No AgeEverything In Between
The Soft PackThe Soft Pack
Twin ShadowForget
MedicationsCompletely Removed
Dr. DogShame, Shame
EmeraldsDoes It Look Like I’m Here?
Best CoastCrazy For You
EelsEnd Times
We Are ScientistsBarbara
Vampire WeekendContra
WomenPublic Strain (Get back together, assholes)
The BooksThe Way Out
Beach FossilsBeach Fossils
WavvesKing of the Beach
DevoSomething For Everybody
Kanye WestMy Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Xiu XiuDear God, I Hate Myself
Coma CinemaStoned Alone
The WalkmenLisbon
El GuinchoPop Negro
WoodsAt Echo Lake
The NationalHigh Violet
Frankie Rose & The OutsFrankie Rose & The Outs
Thee Oh SeesWarm Slime
Jeff The BrotherhoodHeavy Days
Lord HuronMighty
Foxes In FictionAlberto (Really recent, but really good)
GirlsBroken Dreams Club
Twin SisterColor Your Life
WarpaintThe 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!


The Photon God’s 2010: Songs

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 BabiesMeet Me In The City
49. La SeraNever Come Around
48. Kanye WestMonster [feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver]
47. Ba BabesHoly Ghost
46. The Soft PackAnswer To Yourself
45. Panda BearYou Can Count On Me
44. Owen PallettLewis Takes Off His Shirt
43. Lower DensCompletely Golden
42. Cee Lo GreenFuck You
41. Magic KidsSuperball
40. GirlsHeartbreaker
39. Big SurrAlright
38. El GuinchoBombay
37. Les Savy FavLet’s Get Out Of Here
36. Janelle MonaeTightrope [Feat. Big Boi]
35. The BooksThe Story Of Hip-Hop
34. WomenEyesore
33. DevoFresh
32. Jeff the BrotherhoodU Got The Look
31. Xiu XiuChocolate Makes You Happy
30. Surfer BloodFast Jabroni
29. Active ChildI’m In Your Church at Night
28. WeekendComa Summer
27. Perfume GeniusMr Petersen
26. WavvesGreen Eyes
25. VulpesGhost Dance
24. WoodsSuffering Season
23. No AgeFever Dreaming
22. The Young MathsHospitals
21. MedicationsLong Day
20. Dr. DogShadow People
19. Arcade FireEmpty Room
18. The YoungBird in the Bush
17. Best CoastWhen I’m With You
16. DeerhunterDesire Lines
15. Twin ShadowI Can’t Wait
14. Las RobertasGhost Lover
13. Someone Still Loves You Boris YeltsinSink/Let it Sway
12. The Tallest Man On EarthLove Is All
11. Local NativesCamera Talk
10. Twin SisterMilk & Honey 9. Reading RainbowWasting Time8. Dum Dum GirlsJail La La7. Beach FossilsYouth6. The VaccinesIf You Wanna5. Here We Go MagicCollector4. Beach House10 Mile Stereo3. The Morning BendersExcuses2. Ariel Pink’s Haunted GraffitiRound and Round1. Thee Oh SeesI Was Denied

Interview: Joe Stickney of Bear In Heaven

A few weekends ago, I was supposed to go to Austin City Limits. As you all may or may not know, I didn’t after all. This is one of the interviews I was supposed to conduct during the festival. Read along as Joe Stickney, drummer of Bear In Heaven, and I discuss great bbq, growing up a drummer, and their recently-released Daytrotter session.
(Photo: Sade Williams)Photo: Sade Williams
The Photon God: Hi, is this Joe?

Joe Stickney: Yeah, it is. What’s happenin’ man?

TPG: Not much. Let’s get started. This interview was supposed to happen at ACL (Austin City Limits) but I ended up not going. How was your experience over there?

Joe: In Atlanta?

TPG: At ACL in Austin? At Austin City Limits?

Joe: Oh, A-C-L.

TPG: Yeah.

Joe: It was great, man. That was kind of a band vacation for us. We flew down there on, uh, Thursday and left on Tuesday and the only shows we had were, uh—we played the festival on Saturday and then we played an extra show with Gayngs that night over at Emo’s.

TPG: Oh, cool!

Joe: Yeah, so it was super mellow, man. We went tubin’, ate a lot of tacos…

TPG: Delicious!

Joe: Yeah, man. [We] had some good bbq.

TPG: Nice, they do say it’s the best in Texas.

Joe: Yeah, man. We had some crazy good bbq.

TPG: That’s pretty cool, do you remember where from?

Joe: Uummm, I feel like one of the places was called—well one of the places was a ways out—like, it was in another town, we had to drive an hour to get there. It’s called—I think it starts with an ‘S’, I think; I’m not really sure. Yeah, I can’t remember it. It’s a really well-known spot, I’m surprised I can’t think of it. Like, you go in and they have a sort of cafeteria area in the front and there’s another room with a smoker in it and the fire pit is just on the floor there and they got a huge chopping block and they cut up your meat right there.

TPG: Whoa.

Joe: Yeah, man. It’s pretty nice. And I went to this other place that was right next to the interstate, kinda North, and it was just a trailer. It was called ‘Franklin’s’ or something like that. It’s a trailer and apparently, they normally sell out—like, they open at 11 and they’re usually sold out by, like, noon.

TPG: Oh shit.

Joe: But this was like the first day they had two smokers goin’ so they had twice as much brisket.

TPG: Oh, man—

Joe: Yeah, it was excellent. (laughs)

TPG: Okay, I just saw that video you guys did for Pitchfork where you play “Beast In Peace”. The performance on the ‘Don’t Look Down’ thing. You guys were really getting into it.

Joe: Oh, yeah. That was fun, man. Those guys—the whole A/V department for Pitchfork is full of cool people.

TPG: That’s awesome. I want to ask, how long have you been drumming?

Joe: Um, since I was like, 13, I guess.

TPG: And how old are you now?

Joe: I’m 31. So, that’s 18 years. 17, 18 years. Something like that.

TPG: That’s pretty cool, man. I read that you also used to drum for Panthers on tour in the past.

Joe: Yeah! Yeah, I did two tours with those guys. I still play—I’ve got a band with two of the guys from Panthers but we haven’t had any time to play; we’ve all been busy with other stuff.

TPG: Oh, what are you guys called?

Joe: We’re called Dark Vibe.

TPG: Cool. So you know those guys already? Like, you’re old friends or something?

Joe: Um, we practice in the same building, right across from each other, and Adam was friends with two of the guys from Panthers from uh, I think before he moved to New York he was living in…I don’t remember where he was living. Somewhere up…some—New England—somewhere. I don’t know. But he got to know those dudes back when they were in a band called Orchid.

TPG: Oh, the screamo band.

Joe: Yeah.

TPG: I love that band. Are you into that kind of stuff as well? Or just the more rock and roll type of stuff?

Joe: Yeah, totally man.

TPG: Cool, cool. Well speaking of drumming—personally, I think that the beats are a pretty important part of the music with Bear In Heaven.

Joe: Yeah, I mean, I feel like with all the arpeggiated synths and stuff, the songs are pretty rhythmic. Even when they’re sort of droney, there’s like, a rhythmic drone.

TPG: Yeah, could you describe the band’s songwriting process?

Joe: It changes so much from song to song. Some of them we came about with everybody jammin’ in the rehearsal space. We’d record hours and hours of us practicing and then we’ll go back through and find parts that we felt worked and focus in on that. We’ll come up with some loose structures and then John will go build all of the synth patches and sounds he needs and flesh out that area, and start writing lyrics and stuff. Then we’ll come back in and just sorta like, organize more and more. But with the beats, some of them were written straight up, and some of them we winded up using one beat from a song that I originally started off using—like, having them play through a beat that I play throughout the whole song, basically. I originally only use like, a bridge drum beat in the middle of the song and two other more predominant drum beats through the whole thing but the song sounded entirely different back then, too.

TPG: Yeah like a demo or something.

Joe: Yeah they all go through a lot of different permutations and then we sort of just, like—stop. We stop changing it once we feel like it sounds good.

TPG: Right. I can totally relate to that. I write music too.

Joe: Oh nice. What do you do?

TPG: Uh, sort of lo-fi pop-ish kind of stuff.

Joe: Cool, what’s it called?

TPG: Jungle Bodies.

Joe: Jungle Bobbies?

TPG: Jungle Bodies. Like, ‘bodies of water’.

Joe: Bodies. Gotcha, cool man. I’ll look for it.

TPG: Oh, we don’t really have anything out yet. It’s just a project I’m working on. I mean, I’m still looking for a drummer and stuff.

Joe: Oh okay. You live in Texas though?

TPG: Yeah, I live in Weslaco, Texas. Pretty far down there.

Joe: Wow.

TPG: Yeah, but drummers are really hard to find. So you’re a pretty unique person, man.

Joe: Yeah, well it’s cause most people’s parents don’t want them to play the drums when they’re kids. So it’s rare when you have parents that’ll let you. You start playing at a young age and like, practice your kit in the house, you know?

TPG: Yeah. So you think that’s a big factor in drummers growing up? Or drummers period?

Joe: I think it’s a huge factor, man! Like, how many kids do you remember when you were growin’ up who wanted to play the drums but they’re parents would buy ‘em a guitar instead?

TPG: Yeah, very true. I only knew one guy who had a kit, but his father was a drummer so he had a studio set aside and stuff. So it’s one of those, like, rare occasions.

Joe: Yeah, right? It’s the anomaly.

TPG: Yeah. Well, I read that the album name, Beast Rest Forth Mouth, is supposed to be a play-on-words with the directions East West North South. Is that correct?

Joe: Yeah, yeah that’s right.

TPG: Is that implying in any way the sound of the record? Like, you guys tried different methods of recording or writing songs?

Joe: Uh, to me it’s sort of vague. I don’t really know a direct description, the name was come up with by Adam.

TPG: Oh yeah?

Joe: Yeah, and I think it has a more personal meaning to him, I guess? But I don’t know. I sorta like the ambiguity of it, myself. The vagueness suits me fine.

TPG: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Okay, “Ultimate Satisfaction”. Personally, it’s my favorite track on the record.

Joe: Oh, nice.

TPG: I read that it was written by you guys and someone named Michael Darius Wofford. Who is that? A friend of the band?

Joe: Oh, he’s one of John’s old-time skating buddies.

TPG: Oh…

Joe: Yeah, and I think he’s got some new lyrics coming our way, too. He wrote the words t it [Ultimate Satisfaction].

TPG: Oh, really?

Joe: Yeah, and I think hes sent John some more stuff actually. Yeah, John is stoked on it. He’s a super good dude, man. He joined us when we were in San Francisco and LA the last time we went up there. He’s a good dude to have around.

TPG: Cool, man. So this new material, is it going to be on an EP or something coming up? Or is it just being thrown out there right now?

Joe: It’s hard to say, man. We haven’t really had too much time to write stuff so when we get back from this tour, we’re just gonna start stockpiling songs and we’ll see—we started to bring out ideas to release I think an EP with somebody but we don’t really have any direct plans. We’re just gonna try and start writing music and putting together a record.

TPG: Cool. I saw you put out that remix record. How did that come about? Did people already have remixes of your songs or did you put out requests with stems or something?

Joe: It was a little bit of both. We had some people that we knew that were asking to do remixes already. Then we asked some people to do remixes for us. I dunno, it all came together really, surprisingly easy. I’m super stoked with it, man. All of the people pretty much knocked it out of the park in my opinion.

TPG: Yeah it’s a pretty good collection you have there.

Joe: Yeahh.

TPG: Who does the artwork for the albums? It’s really neat.

Joe: That’s this girl Laura Brothers. She’s totally awesome, man. All of her work is really sweet, too. It’s all like, computer-based. Her stuff looks really amazing when it’s on a monitor. I think Adam found her on this art blog he checks out and he contacted her and now she’s a good friend of the band.

TPG: That’s pretty sweet.

Joe: Yeah, she started off as a stranger, now she’s a friend.

TPG: That’s how you do it, man. So your Daytrotter session was released not too long ago.

Joe: Yeah we actually recorded that in the Spring. Yeah, like late Spring. That was at the end of the first tour that we did this year that was like, that was our last performance of 11 weeks almost nonstop of touring.

TPG: Oh, so you were you guys burnt out and stuff?

Joe: Yeah a little bit. But it was a good time, man. It was really fun; they’re super cool.

TPG: Yeah, it sounds like it. You went back to Red Bloom Of The Boom with the last track.

Joe: Yeah, “Bag of Bags”! That song’s sort of coming together in it’s newer state. We’re pretty happy with how it sounds. We’re actually bringing back another song from Red Bloom Of The Boom for this tour that we’ve got coming up.

TPG: Which one?

Joe: “Werewolf”.

TPG: Sweet. That’s another thing I was going to ask about. “Werewolf” is like, seven minutes long, more or less.

Joe: Mmm—shit, is it that long? (laughs)

TPG: Yeah.

Joe: Yeah everything on that record is really long. (laughs)

TPG: Yeah, and the songs are significantly shorter on Beast Rest Forth Mouth. Is that a decision you guys made or that’s just how it came about?

Joe: I think we just wanted to write some shorter songs but then also, a lot of those songs started off way longer and as we started lookin’ at ‘em and listening to ‘em and thinkin’ about which parts were kind of necessary, we just shed down a lot of the time on there. So we just tried to keep them as focused as possible.

TPG: Awesome. Well speaking of the Daytrotter experience, how was that? What was it like?

Joe: It was cool, man. Actually, when we did that, the normal studio they record in was being used. So, we had to record it at this different studio down the street, so I don’t think we got the full experience ‘cause everybody that I talked to said that they’ve got all these amazing amps and stuff at the regular studio. The place we recorded in was nice, but it wasn’t the same thing that most people experience when they’re playing Daytrotter.

TPG: Well, that makes it kinda unique though, doesnt it?

Joe: Yeah, totally man. We’re the only ones! I don’t know if that’s true but I’m gonna say it’s true.

TPG: Yeah, for the sake of this interview, let’s say it’s true. So, you guys are going on tour soon with Lower Dens, Twin Shadow, Sun Airway

Joe: Yeah that’s right, man. We only have a week from today pretty much.

TPG: Oh, shit. That’s right. Are you guys excited?

Joe: Yeah, man. I’m super excited. This is gonna be the last one for a while.

TPG: Yeah, are you going to start writing or what?

Joe: Yeah, this tour’s going to be like, three and a half weeks. Then we come back and start writing new material. Then we’re going to Australia in February, but I don’t think we’re really going to be doing anything around the States for a while. Just writin’ some new stuff; hopefully it’s all amazing. (laughs)

TPG: Are you friends with any of the bands you’re going to be touring with?

Joe: I’m psyched about all of em, man. Yeah, I can’t wait. Lower Dens, that record is excellent. Then we’re going to be doing some dates with Twin Shadow, then three shows with Cloudland Canyon. So it’s going to be a really good tour, I think.

TPG: Yeah, and I know Twin Shadow’s record just came out.

Joe: Yeah, yeah. I saw them play over at this place in Brooklyn like, three months ago or something and they were great.

TPG: Awesome. Well, that’s all I’ve got for now, but I appreciate the interview, man. Thanks.

Joe: Oh yeah, of course, man. Are you going to come out to any of the shows we play down south? I bet you live too far away, huh?

TPG: Well, I actually make the trip up pretty often to Austin. That’s what I was going to be doing for ACL. It’s a six-hour drive; not too bad. If you guys hit Austin again on tour, I’ll definitely go.

Joe: Cool man, hit us up on Facebook or something.

TPG: Will do. Thank you.

Joe: Take it easy, man.

Beast Rest Forth Mouth is out now on Hometapes.

This band is called Lower Dens

As much as I know about music, there is still plenty that I don’t know.

Case in point: I’ve never heard of Jana Hunter (only non-dude in photo). However, I’ve heard her work. Aside from her solo music, she’s played with a handful of great bands both in and out of the studio. (Castanets, Indian Jewelry, Phosphorescent, Cocorosie, the list goes on)

Jana now has her own band, Lower Dens, which formed last year and has since spent pretty much all of their time recording their first album.

The album, Twin-Hand Movement, will be released on Gnomonsong Records July 20th. Have a taste below with “Hospice Gates”.
Lower Dens – Hospice Gates

There’s so much going on in this song that it’s hard to pinpoint it, or the band for that matter, to something like ‘post-new wave’ or ‘post-dream/noise/pop’ something or other. However, every element of this track, the clanging guitars, the hissy snare, the male/female vocal interplay, the way the song transitions from a calm environment into a loud, noisy, beautiful sonic feast; good stuff. You could say I’m keeping an eye on this record.

Also, the band is currently on tour throughout the country. Dates can be found on their MySpace. They will be playing Austin on Sunday at Club Deville.

Gnomonsong Records