Best Albums of the last 12 months or so… Passion Pit

May 1, 2009

Hey.  It’s May.  I continue to slack. Since the year is nearly half over, I’ll just post 12 or so albums I liked over the last 12 or some months…

Passion Pit – Chunk of Change

(#3 of 12 in no particular order)

As mentioned before, people are sick of sincerity. The world’s heart has hardened as year-after-year of more cloying emo bands  have clogged the brains of music fans and playlists of radio stations. When you hear something that’s confessional verging on embarrassing, it’s no longer a bold statement but a groaner.

Passion Pit, the nom de plum of Michael Angelakos, has the only acceptable excuse: these songs are not for you to hear. PP’s debut EP, “Chunk of Change” was recorded by him for an audience of one — his girlfriend.  Lyrics that would normally be cringe-worthy once again become sweet.  Grand imperfect love-sick gestures are somehow okay again.

What’s more, you can ignore all the lyrical content and you’re still hearing a brilliantly made laptop album. It’s an EP that mixes refreshing up-tempo samples, charmingly twee falsettos and occupational club-worthy bass. Their Vampire Weekendesque blog buzz has polarized critics, and the back-backlash should be starting soon.  Don’t worry about choosing sides… just give ’em a listen.

Their first LP, Manners, is dropping soon.

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2008’s “Best Of” Best Of (Continued)

December 17, 2008

Rolling Stone and Spin have released their top 50/40 so here are the updated “Best Albums of 2008” if you broke them all down number-like:

Top 10 based on any TWO nominations (by Rolling Stone, Spin, Paste, Meta, Mojo, Uncut)

1. B.B. King – One Kind Favor 3.00 (tie)
1. Shearwater – Rook 3.00 (tie)
3. TV On The Radio – Dear Science 7.50
4. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend 8.00
5. Beck – Modern Guilt 8.75
6. REM – Accelerate 9.50
7. Sigur Rós – Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust 9.67 (tie)
7. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago 9.67 (tie)
9. Amadou & Mariam – Welcome To Mali 11.00 (tie)
9. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Real Emotional Trash 11.00 (tie)
9. The Bug – London Zoo 11.00 (tie)

Top 25 based on minimum THREE nominations (by Rolling Stone, Spin, Paste, Meta, Mojo, Uncut)

1. TV On The Radio – Dear Science 7.50*
2. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend 8.00
3. Beck – Modern Guilt 8.75
4. Sigur Rós – Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust 9.67
5. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago 9.67*
6. Randy Newman – Harps And Angels 11.25
7. Santogold – Santogold 12.00
8. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive 16.00
9. Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark 17.33
10. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes 20.33*
11. Portishead – Third 20.50
12. The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lone 20.67
13. Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) 21.00
14. Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid 22.33
15. Fucked Up – The Chemistry Of Common Life 22.33
16. Duffy – Rockferry 24.00
17. Hot Chip – Made In The Dark 30.00
18. Kings Of Leon – Only By The Night 35.00
19. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! 35.00*
20. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III 35.33
21. Lucinda Williams – Little Honey 37.75
22. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular 39.80
23. Metallica – Death Magnetic 40.25
24. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges 42.50
25. No Age – Nouns 44.67

*Nominated in ALL SIX Magazine’s “Best Of” lists.


Well Why Don’t You Just TELL Me the Best Album of 2008?

December 4, 2008
She & Him

In trying to think of my favorite albums of the year, I was looking around on other sites to see what albums actually came out this year (why this tag info doesn’t come up in iTunes baffles me).  I’m trying to listen to as MUCH 2008 music as possible in the next few days in order to make some decisions, but so far my opinions were more like Steve from Coupling’s thoughts on Fabric.

So, because I like Excel documents, I grabbed a few of the top 50-or-so lists (Paste, Mojo, Uncut) which, btw, is NOT a good sample of publications…  so I grabbed MetaCritic’s “Top 30 Best Reviewed Albums” and added it to the list too.  With a straight average (regardless of how many times they were referenced), here is the top 10 w/ their average ranking:

  1. She & Him – “Volume One” 1
  2. The Last Shadow Puppets – “The Age Of The Understatement” 2
  3. Plush – “Fed” 3
  4. Vampire Weekend – “Vampire Weekend” 4
  5. Fleet Foxes – “Fleet Foxes” 4.25
  6. Bon Iver  – “For Emma, Forever Ago” 4.75
  7. Neil Young  – “Sugar Mountain: Live At Canterbury House 1968” 5 (tie)
  8. Okkervil River – “The Stand Ins” 5 (tie)
  9. The Bug – “London Zoo” 5.5
  10. Shugo Tokumaru – “Exit” 6

After seeing this very odd top 10, I have to mention that 6 of the Top 10 didn’t make the top 50 of any other list.  How can this be?  How can the best album of the year (according to Paste) be completely disregarded by all other mags?  What does this say about the world of criticism?  Well, in my humble opinion, every magazine, despite all being able to listen to the same LP’s in 2008, need to have their own little “things”.  They all feel the need to champion records to exalt their superior tastes — whether this means gushing over a record no one went super-crazy for, or one no one else has even heard of.

The Bug

I cannot claim to be completely informed about new music, but it does annoy me that 3 of the top 10 artists:  The Last Shadow Puppets, Plush, and Shugo Tokumaru; I haven’t heard peep about until now.  You can chalk that up to me living under a rock, or, as I’d rather; chalk it up to critics keeping their favorite records a secret and then sticking an obscure album way high in their Best-Of List, thereby solidifying their status as super cool, music insider/outsiders.

So, to get rid of the Let’s-Mention-an-Album-No-One-Else-Will epidemic, I will eliminate all albums mentioned only once in all four Year-End lists.  THEN, our top 10 looks like this:

  1. Vampire Weekend – “Vampire Weekend” 4
  2. Fleet Foxes – “Fleet Foxes” 4.25
  3. Bon Iver  – “For Emma, Forever Ago” 4.75
  4. Neil Young  – “Sugar Mountain: Live At Canterbury House 1968” 5 (tie)
  5. Okkervil River – “The Stand Ins” 5 (tie)
  6. The Bug – “London Zoo” 5.5
  7. Shugo Tokumaru – “Exit” 6
  8. Paul Weller – “22 Dreams” 6.5
  9. Girl Talk – “Feed the Animals” 7
  10. Sun Kil Moon – “April” 8

This works more like DEMOCRACY!  Or, more like parliamentary procedure, like, you know, when one guys like “I move to nominate Girl Talk”, and then some other dude in a headband and American Apparel short-shorts is like “I second that!”…  The Girl Talk motion passes!

  

Now, we’ll cut the fat again, here is a list of albums that made three of the four 2008 Best-Of Lists (in an act divine intelligence, there are exactly 10 albums that did this):

  1. *Fleet Foxes – “Fleet Foxes” 4.25
  2. *Bon Iver  – “For Emma, Forever Ago” 4.75
  3. *Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – “Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!”  9.25
  4. Portishead – “Third” 10
  5. *The Hold Steady – “Stay Positive” 12
  6. Drive-By Truckers – “Brighter Than Creation’s Dark” 17.33 (tie)
  7. Randy Newman – “Harps And Angels” 17.33 (tie)
  8. Sigur Rós– “Med sud i eyrum vid spilum endalaust” 17.33 (tie)
  9. *TV On The Radio – “Dear Science” 19.25
  10. MGMT – “Oracular Spectacular”  30.33

*Appeared in all four Year-End lists

You can of course argue that reducing editorial content and criticism to averages strips the rating of any validity… I would probably agree with you. 

But here’s what the list above does:

  • It devalues the one-offs that a critic just had to put in the list for rep’s sake. 
  • The obligatory high ranking for the band that posed for your cover is marginalized. 
  • What emerges are albums that were universally liked — albums that you “buried” deep in your top 50 because they were too obvious, too mainstream, or were afraid to rank too highly.

What we have with this bottom list is 2008 albums that found favor with a diverse amount of critical publications — two iffy “rock” mags, a singer/songwriter obsessed one, and a computer aggregate site.  The result is LPs that span an array of tastes despite the gerrymandering that may effect one individual publication.

I’ll put my personal faves up later this month, and follow-up with a revised page when Stereogum, Pitchfork, and Tiny Mix Tapes, Coke Machine Glow, PopMatters, etc start to mention their favorites.


The Emergence of the Hipster Prep

August 6, 2008

Boat shoes, fencing, polos, crew shorts, over-the-shoulder sweaters, oxfords, wayfarers, and indie rock.  Wait… what?

You have to love Vampire Weekend’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” video.  It’s a nice reminder that at the height of the 80’s New Wave scene U.S. culture has re-fallen in love with, there was another wholly opposite trend also at it’s epitome — the Super-Prep.  As it is the nature of nostalgia to forget the bad portions of two decade year-old trends, it’s not surprising to see a resurgence of both of these styles right now.

Both cliques are equally-reviled but by different crowds.  But ask yourself if the sulking/satanic Goth-Punk kids at the ending of “Kwassa Kwassa” are any more or less ridiculous than their preppy counterparts?   V.W. kindly reminds us that, as this generation mines John Hughes movies for style pointers, that super-priss Molly Ringwald was adored just as much as misunderstood alterno-rocker Ally Sheedy.  And if I recall, in Hughes idealized world, Ringwald’s prep was the heroine of a lot more movies than Sheedy’s dark dandruff artiste.

 

and, just for old time’s sake, back when this used to be more of a joke:


Notes on the Pitchfork Music Fest

July 22, 2008

Nick Zinner of !!!, doing what Nick Zinner does.

I’m currently working on my annual “trend spotting” type list of what I saw at this weekend’s festivities. (You can check out last year’s here.) If you are not aware, Pitchfork is a festival that brings local, national and international talent together, so they can all look at how each other are dressing. Oh yeah, there’s music there too.

It was a pretty good year, actually, but I was hoping for more in the “style” department, not sure why. It could be for anyone of these three reasons:

  1. As Pitchfork notoriety has grown in the last three years, perhaps the fest’s “edgy” feel has worn off a bit, and with that, it’s forward-dressing attendees have diluted.
  2. My disillusionment and unending distaste for anything new or old
  3. I am WAY ahead of all trends now.

Bradford James Cox of Deerhuner and Mark Sultan of King Kahn attempt to entertain impatient Cut Copy fans. “A” for effort.

The feast was actually really fun. !!! killed, which is no surprise. Les Savy Fav was awesome, also no surprises there. Biggest issue with the event was actually Cut Copy’s failure to make it from the airport in time for their closing set. Though that’s no fault of their own, it’s still supremely disappointing. In what allotted time was left, they made the most of it, banging out both crowd-bouncers “Light & Music”, and “Hearts on Fire” to an enthused (but obviously peeved) crowd. Those that stuck around to see the hyper-abbreviated set worked very hard for an encore which didn’t come — chanting “Five More Songs, Five More Songs” probably didn’t help.

Before I write about “trend spotting” thing, which I’ll post about tomorrow probably, I wanted to mention things I didn’t see but expected to…

  • Party-Rappers: I saw very few nu-rave/b-boy kids. There were a few zany fluorescent windbreakers in the crowd, but surprisingly few retina-burning limited-edition hightops, Kanye-esque Venitian blind sunglasses, and “crosscolor” wear.
  • American Apparel Smack Girls: Emaciated heroin-chic AmAp mannequins, looking like the Olsen twins on a budget, did not take over the fest. I’m not particularly against American Apparel at all, but sometimes their style and color-choices are very disturbing. Just because you bought your entire outfit at the same store does NOT mean that it will automatically go together. They should put that as a disclaimer on the bag.
  • The Unapologetic Prep: With XRT-approved artists Vampire Weekend and Spoon both playing, and with coverage from outlets like Chicago rag The Red Eye, I anticipated seeing a lot more Chad/Trixie presence. V.W. especially, whose style is particularly “high-prep” did not bring out the J. Crew slew. Surprisingly, the most evidence I saw of this was on Friday during Public Enemy!(?) Who woulda’ thunk it? While Chuck D was talking about war, racism, Darfur, etc., there was a dude next to us going on a tirade about Chicago’s 10.25% sales tax. When Chuck was talking about the drug trade and Big Pharm, this guy started screaming about how much money he lost with his Pfizer stock last week. I’m NOT making this up.
  • Mud People: I’m am SO impressed with the lack of Mud People over the weekend. The hippie count, though present at the fest, was still at very low levels. Very few idiots thought it a good idea to douse themselves completely in mud. Yes, L.S.V. did it, but they’re on a stage — you are not.

Check back soon for a quick overview of what was stylin’ this year, and what you will soon see in your local bar if your local bar has Yo La Tengo on the juke box.

Oh, and just to streamline the process, here’s all the missed connections posted from this weekend so far. You’re welcome:

Jul 21 – My new friend from the East Coast – w4m – 29 – (Pitchfork)

Jul 21 – Pitchfork — the draw of the music kept me from stopping to chat – m4w – 30 – (Pitchfork)

Jul 21 – Broken arm dude at pitchfork – w4m – 22 – (pitchfork)

Jul 21 – giant camera lense and gray cut off jeans boy – w4m –

Jul 21 – To all the beautiful women at pitchfork that I missed (and still miss) – m4w – 28 – (Union Park)

Jul 21 – I saw you yesterday, but we still haven’t seen Of Montreal – m4w – 22 – (pitchfork)

Jul 21 – you asked if i’d blow the next hit in your mouth – m4w – 25 – (pitchfork animal collective)

Jul 21 – Rae…Ghost…Empty Cups…Backpacks – m4w – (pitchfork)

Jul 21 – your friends called you caleb – 25 – (pitchfork)

Jul 21 – Pitchfork: owl belt buckle both days – m4w – 26 – (union park)

Jul 21 – To The Hula Hoop Chick From Pitchfork (Saturday Night) – m4w – (Pitchfork)

Jul 21 – Can I see you again? – m4w – 28 – (Pitchfork) pic

Jul 21 – Hey, another pitchfork post – m4w – 24 – (The pitch)

Jul 21 – pitchforked – m4w –

Jul 21 – Pitchfork’s No. 1 Boobs – m4w – 27 – (Pitchfork Music Fest)

Jul 21 – Pitchfork glance – m4w – 26 – (Pitchfork)

Jul 20 – pitchfork guy at cut copy – w4m – 21 – (pitchfork)

Jul 20 – pitchfork – w4m – 24 –

Jul 20 – Brad on the No. 9 to Pitchfork – w4m – 25 – (Ashland to Lake St.)

Jul 20 – tennessee and pitchfork boy – w4m –

Jul 20 – Cute girl at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Saturday – m4w – 26 – (Chicago)

Jul 20 – Pitchfork — Throwing up near the entrance – w4m – 21 – (Union Park)

Jul 20 – saw you at the art museum AND pitchfork –

Jul 19 – Katie, this is Alex from Pitchfork – m4w – 22 – (Union Park)

Jul 19 – Pitchfork–your friend asked to unzip my shirt – w4m – 25 –

Jul 19 – you were working by the jewlry – w4w – (pitchfork)

Jul 19 – pitchfork – (indielove)

Jul 19 – Pitchfork Fest – 25 – (Union Park)

Jul 19 – pitchfork girl with guy’s face tattooed on left arm – m4w – 27 – (grant park)

Jul 18 – Pitchfork Cutie – Blue Cubs Hat and Glasses – m4m – 33 – (Pitchfork)