Feature: Jeff the Smith’s Top 5 Albums of 2010

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 TareDown 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. GorillazPlastic 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. MGMTCongratulationsA 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 SunsFight 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 MontrealFalse 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.


Feature: Vulpes’ Top 10 Albums of 2010

Vulpes are one of the strongest acts coming out of the Rio Grande Valley area right now. They’re just four dudes from Mission, Texas with passion and energy. They’ll have a new album coming out sometime next year. This is their list for their

Top 10 Albums of 2010

10. Ryan Adams & The CardinalsIII/IVVulpes: Recorded in 2006, but released under Ryan’s start up indie label, Pax-Am, this year. No one describes this album better than Mr. Adams; “concept rock opera about the 80′s, ninjas, cigarettes, sex, and pizza.”
Key Song: “Typecast”

9. Best CoastCrazy For YouVulpes: Because you can’t go wrong with a girl singing songs about romance and relationships Ramones-style.
Key Song: “Crazy For You”

8. Wild NothingGeminiVulpes: This indie dream-pop album was good on so many levels, it’s a shame there isn’t more like it.
Key Song: “Summer Holiday”

7. The Black KeysBrothersVulpes: No longer just a drums and guitar duo, The Black Keys showed they are among the best blues-rock bands with this album, which includes a broad variety of instruments and styles.
Key Song: “Never Gonna Give You Up”

6. Dr. DogShame, ShameVulpes: One of our favorite bands since the release of Toothbrush, Dr. Dog did not disappoint.
Key Song: “Later”

5. Miniature TigersFORTRESSVulpes: These songs retained the catchiness from Tell It to the Volcano and we absolutely loved it.
Key Song: “Egyptian Robe”

4. Kings of LeonCome Around SundownVulpes: We reached closure when we realized the raunchy sound of Kings of Leon’s first two albums would not return for Come Around Sundown. We were definitely surprised to hear this great album.
Key Song: “Beach Side”

3. Ram Di DamLiar To AdmireVulpes: This was our first taste of Swedish indie pop, and we’ve got to say we loved it.
Key Song: “Flash Backs”

2. MGMTCongratulationsVulpes: Psychedelic. Epic. Beautiful.
Key Song: “Siberian Breaks”

1. FoalsTotal Life ForeverVulpes: This album combines good beats, great vocals, and amazing arrangements. Why can’t we be English?
Key Song: “Black Gold”


Photon God Awards: Fun Fun Fun Fest 2010 Edition

Ah, the music festival. The true test of a music lover. I’m of the opinion that you aren’t truly a fan of music until you have endured the energy-depleting and wallet-emptying hijinks of a good music festival. When I attended last year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest, I was introduced to the concept of waiting in crowds two hours in advance just to get a good spot close to the stage for a certain band. I almost blew my brains out just standing there for two hours listening to people talk about who knows what. I won’t lie, it can be pretty tough. Some people alleviate this painful bore with alcohol or drugs, but I played it clean and therefore was conscious of every passing second and grew to hate each second that the band I was there to see was not playing in. It’s fun. Totally.
(Photo: Mary Rehak)
This year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest was quite the experience for me. Beyond the fact that I was attending as a member of the press for the first time, I think that I had a better festival experience than I did at least year’s fest. For starters, it didn’t rain. That made my experience last year quite frustrating. Instead, this year’s festival was plagued with dust clouds. I saw people left and right coughing or wearing bandanas over their noses and mouths. I think I even saw a guy get taken away in a stretcher, but that may have been for another reason. Like last year, I’m going to give out ‘awards’ for various achievements and happenings that I witnessed during the festival. Hello and welcome to the 2010 Photon God Awards: Fun Fun Fun Fest 2010 Edition!

The “pulled out of the Fun Fun Fun Fest’s founders’ asses at the 11th hour” Award: Descendents
Best Performance: Descendents. Best Song: “Suburban Home” 1st Runner-Up:Jeff the Brotherhood Best Song: “Bone Jam” 2nd Runner-Up: Monotonix Best Song: I didn’t really pay attention to which songs they played, I was too busy making sure I didn’t get my head kicked in.
3rd Runner-Up: Cap’n Jazz
Best Non-Festival Set: Joan of Arc at the Mohawk.
The Robin Hood of Weed Award: Nathan Williams, for presenting an audience member with a blunt before Wavves‘ set.
Best sentence I overheard: “I’m gonna pee all over myself! Damn water moccasins…” – guy walking into the port-o-potty next to mine.
Best opening line to a band’s set: “Hi, we’re from here not the woods.” – Andy Burr of Woven Bones
Coolest view from Backstage: Delorean‘s smoke-filled stage
Nicest Person: Haggai Ferschtman of Monotonix
1st Runner-Up: Allen Chen of Austinist
Most Evil Person: Guy in beverage line backstage who I heard planning to tackle the Media tent in the name of possible free pizza.
The “Destruction: Business As Usual” Award: GWAAARR. It’s like watching the Rock-A-Fire Explosion if they played metal.
The “Play into Bad Religion’s timeslot and piss off their manager” Award: GWAAARR
Longest Soundcheck EVER: Bad Religion
Shittiest Soundguy: Bad Religion‘s set
The “Spirit Fingers” Award: Greg Graffin’s hand motions.
The “I got there for the last 45 seconds” Award: MGMT
The “I’m a dumbass and now everyone knows that” Award: The punker kids who jumped the backstage fence and were quickly tackled to the ground by both attending media people and Austinist employees.
Crowd Participation Award: Peelander-Z
1st Runner-Up: Tim Kinsella, for using the photographers as a bridge to get to the audience who later held up his mic stand while he leaned against it to sing.
Best bass solo while hanging from the top of the stage by your legs Award: Peelander Red
The “Jimi Hendrix’s all-white rhythm section, Stevie Wonder’s piano playing, and Curtis Mayfield’s funk, soul, and looks all rolled up into one” Award: Toro y Moi
The “Damn, they’re here” Award: Cults, for coming so far in so little time.
The “I thought they were Fleetwood Mac for a second” Award: Cults
The “drooooooooooolllll” Award: Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast. (heels!? :faints:)
Hottest Woman Ever To Smoke An Audience Member-Presented Joint: Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast
The “It was fun while it lasted” Award: Deakin, for having his set shut down by the police.
The “I Keep Seeing This Guy EVERYWHERE” Award: Nathan Williams of Wavves
1st Runner-Up: Bradford Cox of Deerhunter
2nd Runner-Up: Andy from Woven Bones
Shittiest Hair-Cut of the Festival: Bill Kelliher of Mastodon
Best Interview of the Festival: Jeff the Brotherhood
The “I’m still kicking myself for not going” Award: Cowabunga Babes at Beerland.

That’s all I could think of, but I hope you have enjoyed the annual Photon God Awards! Next time I promise to have them up before three weeks pass.

Show: MGMT/Tame Impala at Stubb's BBQ

This is the debut post from our guest contributor Roldan Bocanegra! May it be the first of many to come.

(Photo: Mary Rehak)
I arrived at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q at about 3:45 P.M. expecting a pretty big crowd, however, no one was there, and I was one of the first in line. Doors were going to open at 7:00 P.M. Waiting in line for a long time was worth it, though, because I was able to hear both Tame Impala and MGMT do sound check. Both bands sounded pretty good. I could already tell the show would be great.
When doors opened, I quickly walked to the front of the stage and waited patiently for Tame Impala to set up. I’m not too familiar with their music, but I was very pleased with their live performance. Their songs all had really good bass lines, and I liked that they were very instrumental.
Then, it was time for MGMT to play. They walked onstage and the audience went wild. They started off their set list with Pieces Of What from their first album Oracular Spectacular. Other songs they played included Destrokk, Siberian Breaks, and Weekend Wars. After they played The Handshake, they went into a jam, and it was really great. When they played It’s Working, projectors lit up the ceiling part of the stage with psychedelic images. All the songs they played were performed very well, and the only thing I think I would want to change would be the volume of the bass. It was bit overpowering.
Before playing Brian Eno, their last song on the set list, they walked off stage and came back with water bottles and towels. They threw them into the audience and the crowd was really excited. I was even able to catch a bottle of water that Matt Asti, the bass player of the band, bounced off the stage.
The whole audience was impressed when they were done playing, but they all wanted more, so the band came back to perform an encore. They played Congratulations and Kids.
When they performed Kids, only the singing was live, and the music was pre-recorded. Basically, while Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser sang the song and danced around the stage, people were helping get equipment out of the way. While performing this song, Andrew and Ben gave high-fives and shook hands of people in the audience. After performing the song, the other members of MGMT gave high-fives and shook hands as well, and while I was shaking hands with Matt Asti, he fell off the stage. His fall was turned into a crowd surf, though, and he was brought back to the stage by the audience.
Overall, the show was really great, and I’d love to have an opportunity to see them live again.

Congratulations is out now on Columbia Records.

Follow Roldan on Tumblr here.


Under new MGMT

Of Montreal–woops, ahem–MGMT had the world eating out of the palm of their hands just a couple of years ago. Their sophomore album, 2007’s Oracular Spectacular, launched them straight into the sky where they, apparently, found a whole lot of instruments.

Congratulations, the band’s third and highly-anticipated LP, will be released April 13th on Columbia Records.

From listening to a recently released track, “Flash Delirium”, one can deduce that the band is going as ‘all out’ as possible. This anthemic beast of a track grabs uncut psychosis-inducing elements from the psychedelic rock of days long past, fuzzed out waves of lo-fi garage rock madness, and lone flute solos, and injects a cocktail of the said elements into the bloodstream of their synth-driven pop/rock system. In short, this track goes from playfully simple synthy pop to downright demented really quickly. It’s kind of impressive. I don’t normally use number ratings but I give this a ‘holy hell’ out of 10. Easily.

MGMT – Flash Delirium