One of the best songs of 2017 so far, in my humble opinion.
One of the best songs of 2017 so far, in my humble opinion.
2016 was a son of a bitch. Rest in peace Leonard Cohen, Prince, David Bowie, Phife Dawg, Sharon Jones, Merle Haggard, Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman, etc., not to mention all the social injustice and unrest, but I digress. One good thing is there was an abundance of great music released this year, and so there’s no way I could limit it to ten and feel okay about it. Here are my top 20 albums of the year.
What a comeback, and for great reason; Phife was the catalyst for this album ever happening. What a way to go out and what a tribute.
Not typically my type of thing, it wasn’t until I heard the live Audiotree versions of these songs that they really caught on. Great, light, feel-good music.
Two great indie musicians came together and it didn’t disappoint. Great vocals and great production, as if anything else was possible with these two.
A great follow up to a debut album that I listened to like crazy back in 2014. No sophomore slump for Nothing, just more towering, enveloping shoegaze.
I knew I would like this one but I didn’t realize I’d like nearly as much as I did. Great, funky, bluesy riffs and along with all the other things that have made Woods one of the most consistently good indie bands of the millennium.
Stripped down music is what this man was made for, so those poignant vocals and clever, satiric lyrics can shine through.
Along the lines of the Nothing album I mentioned above, just a bit more dialed in, and industrial which is something I’ve always had an ear for. This album sets a mood and forces you into it.
This is probably the one album on here that I recognize as really good that I didn’t listen to as much as the others. It’s great, there’s no doubt about that, but it didn’t click with me completely, or it hasn’t yet. Sometimes these things take time, you should definitely listen to it.
Loud, aggressive, in-your-face, punishing, world-destroying walls of sound. Delicious.
Time to fuckin’ dance. “Cold Light” is my runner up for song of the year.
Only Bowie would release and album this good and die two days later. Unreal, just like everything he ever did.
Only Cohen would release and album this good and die three weeks later. Unreal, just like everything he ever did. Legends like these last two will live forever, and as well they should.
I seem to like each Bon Iver album ever so slightly less than the previous one, which is still leaps and bounds above most bands’ output. His voice is the golden ticket, and even here when he chops it up and distorts it, it’s something to behold.
This was my album of the late spring/early summer. Great times were had at the pool with beers in hand while this thing was playing. Love the vocal melodies. The live Spotify sessions are great stripped down versions; “Step Up the Morphine”, “Blown Away”, “Delete”, “Lay Down”; this thing is packed.
One of my favorite bands ever, this was a shoe in due to my bias. I think the experiments with different song structures and ideas paid off for them. It wasn’t as easily accessible as they’ve always been, but once I cracked the code I could’ve get enough. The title track is a blood curdling scream-fest, and how Chino still belts those things out after all this time is something that should not go unnoticed.
This is another of my favorites, but because of this band’s style and niche I think they’ll always succeed, and since they got ahold of me early on in their careers and my adulthood, I will always cherish them. “Afrika” is among their best songs ever.
Of anything on this list, this is the album that grew on me the most. I nearly outright dismissed it, but over time it really started to resonate with me to the point that I think it’s probably the album I’ve listened to the most. It’s great front to back, something that will stay with me for a long time to come.
Another of my favorite bands of all time (I’ve had a good year, at least music wise). I’d put this near the middle of Radiohead’s catalog; nothing generation defining like before but very accessible and immediately enjoyable. The excitement that came with finally hearing studio versions of “True Love Waits” and “Identikit” most assuredly gave my opinion of this one a boost.
There is so much going on in this one; so many textures, shifts, changes, experiments. Mr. Ocean very well could’ve made another album full of pop songs with the catchiest of hooks and blow the fuck up, but he chose to be an artist instead. This left turn has been compared to what Radiohead did with Kid A after their massive success (and one of the best albums ever) with OK Computer, and I think that comparison is a good one. I like when artists don’t do what the mass public wants them to, because fuck what you think you want, it’s about the art. “Nights” is my song of the year.
I knew this was going to be my album of whatever year it came out in as soon as I heard about the passing of Cave’s son in July of 2015. All the beautiful and torturous stories he has told so elegantly throughout his career have shaped my life. Everything this man says, the simplest conversations, have the chance to be thought-provoking poetry. Words and conveying emotions are his gift, and so I knew this was going to be one of the heaviest pieces of music I’ve ever heard. It didn’t disappoint, and I wrote about it length here. The first two thirds will crush you, and the last third will give you a slight glimmer of hope. The title track closing it out the way it does gives me chills every time. 2016 was deathly year, and who else could possible take the throne and fill it like a king other than Nick Cave?
Marching Church – Telling It Like It Is
Emma Ruth Rundle – Marked For Death
Mind Spiders – Prosthesis
Wussy – Forever Sounds
Young Thug – No, My Name is JEFFERY
Kendrick Lamar – untitled.unmastered
Holy Esque – At Hope’s Ravine
Pinkshinyultrablast – Grandfeathered
Shearwater – Jet Plane and Oxbow
Vince Staples – Primma Donna EP
The Strokes – Future Present Past EP
Nick Cave, one of my favorite musicians ever, just released his 16th studio album with The Bad Seeds, entitled Skeleton Tree. Accompanying it is a film entitled One More Time With Feeling that focuses on the writing process, the events surrounding the album, and includes live performances of the majority of the album’s songs. A brief background: Cave’s twin son Arthur was fatally injured when he fell from a cliff last July. Some of the music here was written beforehand, some after, but the effects of the traumatic event is the focus of both the film and the album.
Originally I had planned on waiting to listen to the album until I saw the film, as Cave had for the most part intended by not releasing many singles in the lead up to the albums release. I ended up listening to the album four times before I made it to the film screening this past Friday night because it became available to stream and purchase (I bought the digital copy, then went and bought the vinyl the next day). I don’t regret not waiting because of how the music fit in the film. Having already heard the music a bit allowed me to focus on the conversations more.
About the film itself, I will say that it was well done, particularly how they utilized silence, often after Nick, Warren (Bad Seed and Cave collaborator in other settings), or Susie (Nick’s wife) talking about the event. I watched it at a venue that allows alcohol, even still it was so captivating that during those silent moments no one moved or made a noise; the air was sucked out of the room on numerous occasions. It was heart wrenching to see them try and discuss such a traumatic thing, to see someone so good with words admittedly fall short every time he tries to summarize it. Cave says they are connected to the personal catastrophe by a rubber band, in that they can stretch and get away from it for a period of time, but they are always snapped back at some point, and he feels it will always be that way. He wonders aloud about the elasticity of time, and of his existence in each moment as something unique to itself, yet never more significant than any other moment, which is something I’ve struggled with personally day-to-day since I first read Sartre back as a freshman in college, but I digress. I’ve always been astounded by Cave’s ability to make simple thoughts or conversations so poetic and hold so much weight, so hearing him talk about what happened to his family breaks me apart. I’ve never felt more pain and sympathy for a stranger in my life.
The music itself is just about exactly what I expected it to be. The strings, the erratic loops, the perfectly placed piano chords, the somber overtone of it all; we all knew we weren’t going to get anything like “Stagger Lee”, “Loverman”, “Red Right Hand”, “Jack the Ripper”, etc. It flows very well, and I think the length of it is perfect. I am surprised by the amount of hope he managed to squeeze in there, and clearly that all stems from his wife and the love he has for her. In “Rings of Saturn” when he goes from simply speaking “this is the moment, this is exactly what she was born to be” to singing it, and in “Girl in Amber” when he sings “if you want to bleed, just bleed…”; god damn. The first time I heard the album, after the overwhelming, intense somberness of the first two thirds of it, “I Need You” and “Distant Sky” brought hopeful tears to my eyes, and then when the title followed to close it out, I absolutely lost it. Such a great way to end the album, with a lighter sense of hope that you can feel; “I called out, I called out right across the sea, but the echo comes back empty; nothing is for free”, and then the last words spoke on the album, “it’s all right now”.
I don’t have children and at this point in my life I really don’t see myself ever wanting them, and a part of that reason is how paranoid and worried I am about the well being of the people I care for and love. I can’t imagine having to deal with it when it’s multiplied by ten billion for my child, and if something like what happened to Nick Cave happened to me, it would absolutely be the end of me. I wouldn’t survive, and seeing one of my favorite musicians who has had such a gigantic influence on my life go through it is too much as it is. All of that said, I feel lucky that he was brave enough to share.
Go give Skeleton Tree its due. It’s one of the best albums of the year.
Hamilton Leithauser, the vocalist of The Walkmen, and Rostam Batmanglij, the mastermind behind Vampire Weekend, are releasing a collaborative album next week. This is the first single off that album which they recently performed on The Late Show. The song is epic, and this performance of it is even more epic. Enjoy.
Deftones have long been a huge influence on my life in just about every conceivable way. One of the first rock bands I really loved, so many great memories with their music in the background, one of the main reasons I wanted to start making myself, etc. They just released a new album last Firday (04.08.16) and it’s a great one that will most assuredly fit right into their large catalog of outstanding records that toe the perfect line between angry aggression and beautiful ambient spaciousness. Given the new release I’ve been inspired to tally up my personal favorite (not greatest) 10 tracks of theirs:
10. “Sextape”; such a fitting name…
09. “Knife Prty”; …part two of the film.
08. “Kimdracula”; I think this is one of their most underrated, as is Saturday Night Wrist overall, despite the bands’ own dislike for how it turned out.
07. “Dai the Flu”; Dai was Chi’s middle name, and as simple as this bass riff is, it’s got the flu, alright.
06. “Rocket Skates”; so fucking relentless.
05. “When Girls Telephone Boys”; scream “SOMETHING’S WRONG WITH YOU” along with it and tell me you don’t feel alive.
04. “My Own Summer (Shove It)”; the most filthy mcnasty opening riff ever, and you want to talk about screaming…“SHOVEITSHOVEITSHOVEIT!!!!!!!”
03. “Digital Bath”; …the climax.
02. “Riviere”; “she haunts the roads…”, that last 20 seconds is bliss. Perfect closing track to follow the penultimate “Kimdracula” mentioned above. A few months after Chi Cheng passed I saw them live and Chino dedicated this one to Chi before they played it; that probably makes it hit a little harder for me.
01. “Pink Maggit”. Such a slow starter, but if you make it through the scream/screetch/squeal, it’ll take you to the next dimension. I worked graveyard shift in a laboratory straight out of college and my drive to work is when I found this song, must’ve listened to it every night for a month and it got me through hating that job. “…we are the leaders”
I didn’t feel right including any Gore tracks because as great as some of them are, there hasn’t been enough time for it to soak into their catalog and disperse yet, no Koi No Yokan tracks because I feel it’s more of an overall effort (however, there would’ve been 3 or 4 from that album if I listed songs 11-20), and none from Adrenaline because as big of an impact that has had on me being a musician (“One Weak” is a MAJOR reason I wanted to start playing bass), I feel the pure aggression doesn’t hold up to the quality of songs they put out after.
Everyone be sure to check out Gore because after all these years, Deftones just keep knocking them out of the fucking park, and despite whatever label people try to place on them they continue to slip, bob and weave, and counter punch any simple genre classification with veteran timing and suaveness. They are their own entity, and I’m forever grateful for what they’ve done.
Sometimes I get so caught up in my relentless pursuit of new music, both inside of my personal genre-sphere and out, that the music I love the most takes a backseat. A good thing about that though is when I do get around to revisiting it, I fall in love all over again and I’ll go through an obsession period akin to when I first discovered the band where my appetite for their music is insatiable and anything else just won’t do the trick. So, for this week’s song, I decided to highlight one of my all-time favorites again.
This week Trent Reznor released his eulogy to David Bowie. Personally, I’m not a huge Bowie fan. I respect him and his influence to the utmost degree, but his music isn’t something that I visit with often, save a dozen or so songs. When he died, I was surprised how much it affected me. I was sad and depressed right along with people who have his discography memorized, and I couldn’t figure out why. It’s most likely attributed to the loss of a legend, the realization of mortality and fact that everybody dies, even the greatest of us. I also think some of it had to do with knowing how much Bowie had impacted Reznor being that Reznor is one of, if not the most, singular most influential musician thus far in my life in regards to how I listen to music, think about music, and most of all how I create my own music. I don’t need to sit here and talk about Reznor’s compositional genius because it’s well documented. So when Bowie died, I kept thinking that if I was feeling like that about his death then Reznor must be crushed by it, and that might also have added to my unsuspecting emotions I was/am feeling. It was great to read Trent’s thoughts and how Bowie was such a huge inspiration to him, just as Trent is to me, and also helped him through his alcohol and drug addiction just by being there for him and being himself. Bowie really was a one-time-only soul.
First of all, here’s one of my many favorite Nine Inch Nails songs that might be unknown to casual fans:
Secondly, here’s one of the many collaborations between Bowie and Reznor:
To keep the comeback rolling, here’s one of my favorite songs of the year off one of the albums that just barely missed my Top 10 list. I love the simplicity of the drums and how they let them breathe at points throughout the song in order to accentuate the riff and the vocals. Well done, sirs.