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
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
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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)
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.
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.
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.