Archive for the 'Music' Category

Top 10 Albums – 2012

January 17, 2013

Now that I’ve got 3 top 10 lists (2010, 2011 and this one) all in one place, I can say without doubt that this is the latest I’ve published my top 10 since 2009 (I’ve found my 2009 post on Tumblr, but all it gives me is a vague “3 years ago). So I’m late and I’ve no excuse.

Anyway, listened to a lot of new music from a lot of artists I wasn’t familiar with this year. 7/10 artists on the top 10 list are making their first appearance on a Jon Becker top 10 list, though many of them have A) been around for awhile or B) Are a permutation of another band who’s made the list. Even though I’ve listened to a lot of music this year, I’m not sure this is my strongest list. My writing of the list is especially weak. It is what it is.

Wanna download it? Click the images to go to the download link.
The host I’m using doesn’t seem to like my files. Will look for a solution Don’t all you kids just use Spotify these days anyway? Here we go:

10. Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits

The Divine Fits (fronted by Wolf Parade/Handsom Furs Dan Boeckner and Spoon’s Britt Daniel) had so much promise for me. I love Dan Boeckner’s Handsom Furs, and I love the way Spoon sounds (and certain Spoon songs). These two seemed destined to make a fantastic album together. I loved the teaser song for the album, “My Love Is Real”, and then the album came out, and that was my favorite song on the album.

A Thing Called Divine Fits pretty much has the feel of a Spoon album with Boeckner singing half of the tracks and adding his synth parts. It’s good, but it isn’t as good as I wanted it to be. The cover of Nick Cave’s “Shivers” though is top notch, and got me to listen to the original version.

9. Shearwater – Aminal Joy

Shearwater is fronted by Jonathan Meiburg, once a member of Okkervil River. This is my favorite CD of this band. In a 1 word description, I’d say this band is pretty. The vocals are pretty, the arrangement is pretty and the songs are pretty, but maybe to a fault? I think that this album has the best songs and it’s the first album of theirs that has been able to captivate me.

8. Moonface – Heartbreaking Bravery

If you’ve been following this list, you may know how much I love Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Moonface [in order chronologically, not by my preference of his projects]). If you asked me my favorite musician, I’d probably say “Spencer Krug”. This CD is lacking in gripping content however. I really liked it, but I’m not so sure how fit it is for general consumption.

7. The Mountain Goats – Transcedental Youth

Songwriter extrodinaire & my favorite liberal tweeter John Darnielle is at it again. This may be my favorite Mountain Goats album since Get Lonely, which was the album that got me into the band. You should get this album, and you should get all other Mountain Goats albums. He is an incredible songwriter, writer, and thinker. He also might be a little crazy.

The album’s opening line “Do every stupid thing that makes you feel alive” might be my favorite line of the year. I don’t think that there are any throw-away tracks on any Mountain Goats albums, but this album never really grabbed me. I blame myself. Go see The Mountain Goats when they come to your town. You will have an incredibly enjoyable night.

6. Oberhoefer – Time Capsules II*

In 10-7, we covered known entities for avid readers of the annual Top 10 list (read: very few). Here, we break new ground, and there’s a lot of new ground further up the list to come. This is exciting news!

Here’s a band that I can’t really tell you anything about. I never did much research on them. But this CD is some wonderful pop-rock. With titles like “Away FRM U” “Yr Face” and “oOoO”, you might be led to believe that this is a different type of band than it is. Instead, it’s just some great rock music that I think everyone should enjoy. Also, it sounds like it might end up in commercials. I’m not sure if it has or not.

5. The Magnetic Fields – Love at the Bottom of the Sea*

Hated by every critic and longtime Magnetic Fields fan (I think all music critics are longtime Magnetic Fields fans), Love at the Bottom of the Sea is the first Magnetic Fields album that has ever grabbed me. So, I’m not sure what that means. But this album is solid pop musically and lyrically all the way through. I’d call it “cute” and maybe that’s what other people don’t like about it. Murdering ex-boyfriends, rhyming with obscure cities in Wyhoming, bad word play etc. It’s all here and I think it’s fantastic. Get it.

4. Alex Winston – King Con*

So, I don’t love every song on this album, but the songs that I do love, I love so much.

If Joanna Newsom had a more accessible voice & vocabularly and wrote poppier music, it might sound like this. Somehow, I mean this in a good way. Tracks 1-7 are a non-stop bombardment of one great track after another. Particular hits are Velvet Elvis, Medicine and Locomotive.

But track 7… If you were just waiting for a baller song about Sister Wives, this one is for you. If you weren’t waiting for a song like that, you’ll be wishing you were after you heard it. It’s. So. Good.

Everything on this album is pretty similarly paced, but I promise if you download this you’ll enjoy some tracks from it.

3. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, M.A.A.D. City

Disclaimer: I’m late to this game. I don’t know when the CD came out. I don’t know anything about Kendrick Lamar. I haven’t listened to his first CD. I only listened to it AFTER Pitchfork gave it Album of the Year. So, my opinion is like 300% invalid.

That said, this album has been the only CD I’ve had in my car for a month now. It’s serious, it’s funny and it sounds good. Read what other people have to say about it.

All that said, this album is an incredible story told in the form of a really fun album. Every song is great. I’ve been listening to it non-stop for the past 2 weeks. If I started listening to this album earlier in the year, I’d like to think it might be a notch higher on the list, but… It is what it is.

2. Family of the Year – Lorma Vista*

This album is so good. So good. I’m astounded that it didn’t get more attention. This is what California pop music should sound like. Forget your drony boring Beach Coast Best House bullshit. Give this thing a listen! Pay attention to this band. Get this CD anyway you can. Pay them and make them come to St. Louis. Make Pitchfork review their album, for God’s sake.

1. Japandroids – Celebration Rock

Winter 2009: My second to last semester of college, and I’m taking a bunch of classes that have nothing to do with my major, like drawing. I’m working on my final project, which is 6 or 7 pieces that are all closeups of different parts of a foosball table. Probably took my 20 hours or so, and the whole time I was working, I was listening to the Japandroids first album, Post Nothing.

Summer 2012: Played in recreational Ultimate leagues on Mondays and Wednesdays all summer and pretty much every game I went to, I was doing damage to my car speakers and my ear drums listening to the Japandroids second album, Celebration Rock.

There’s a certain type of album that lends itself well to being associated with a specific place and time, even when the place and time aren’t relevent to the content of the album, and the Japandroids hit the nail on the head for me. Celebration Rock is a masterpiece in loud, pure rock.


Top 10 Albums – 2011

January 9, 2012

So, I work in an office now and I think in terms of hours, I listened to more music than ever in 2011. I listened to lots of new music, some old music but explored little new territory. My goal to review 1 album a week fell woefully short, but I’d say I listened to 30-40 new albums this year, which is fine.

I saw a lot of great bands live this year including (in alphabetical order): Bon Iver, Bright Eyes, Dan Deacon, The Decemberists, Destroyer, Mates of State, Mister Heavenly and Weezer (x2!). The most surprisingly good show I saw of the year was Tristen (opening for Ezra Furman and the Harpoons). I don’t want to rate these concerts from best to worst.

I will, however, tell you the three worst:

3 worst concerts of 2011

3. Okkervil River – The Pageant

This was my 3rd time seeing Okkervil River and the previous times had been fantastic. This show didn’t live up to my hype. Also, Will Sheff didn’t sing a verse of Westfall

2. Girl Talk – The Pageant

This was my 3rd time seeing Girl Talk. The first time was great. The second time sucked. blah blah blah (full review here).

1. Oh No! Oh My! – Off Broadway

So I didn’t find out about this show until the day before, and I got excited because I had seen these guys do a 30 minute set at Lollapalooza (2006?) and it was awesome. I had their first CD and the EP after that and I loved them. Apparently they had a newer CD that I never heard about. I wasn’t concerned about this though.

So there were hardly any people at the show and the band… (it makes me angry to write this) ONLY PLAYED ONE SONG OFF THEIR FIRST TWO RELEASES. The entire remainder of the (short) show was all off their new album. I respect artists for sticking to mainly songs off their new albums. It’s good to be accountable to your new albums. But when you only have TWO FULL LENGTHS, how can you not play at least 3 or 4 songs from each of them? poo-on-you I say. I downloaded their new CD after the show, and I thought it sucked. But I am 100% sure I am just bitter.

The Top 10!

Now for the top 10. Some notes: I’m particularly short on real critique this year, so these reviews will be no longer than necessary. About 1/2 of these CDs I reviewed earlier this year, and I’ve put links up to those reviews. There’s no rap and very little not-real-music on this year’s list.

If you click the images, you will be taken to a magical land where you can download the CD

Jan. 19 update: Yo, Megaupload got shut down. Maybe will rehost files elsewhere if there is interest. Leave a comment.

10. Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde

Click image to download!

Listen if you like: Summer, big guitars, chilled out but with pop hooks and not boring.

9. Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean

Click image to download!

I was pretty sure I was done with Iron & Wine prior to this CD. Turns out, no. I’ve reread my earlier review and I stand by it.

My initial review of Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean

8. Mister Heavenly – Out of Love

Click image to download!

So, the Nick Diamonds/Nick Thorburn is a favorite of mine. He’s been in bands like The Unicorns and Islands. Here, he’s the front man of Mister Heavenly with the drummer from the Shins & Modest Mouse (Joe Plummer) and Honus Honus from Man Man. Michael Cera also toured with the band as the bassist for awhile.

Diamonds at his best writes some of my favorite weirdo pop songs and he’s near the top of his game here. Standout tracks are Bronx Sniper and Pineapple Girl. The whole CD is pretty great though.

7. The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck

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My favorite songwriter. Becker family favorite. Lead singer John Darnielle triumphs again. My earlier review is just fine. However, I wouldn’t say the CD bloomed as much on repeat listens as I thought it would. Also, it is still my goal to do a mashup of “Teach Me How to Dougie” and “Never Quite Free.”

My initial review of The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck

6. Tristen – Charlatan at the Garden Gate

Click image to download!

Tristen Gaspadarek is the only artist on this list that I had never heard of when 2011 began. All of a sudden I was at a show for a band I wasn’t familiar with, (Ezra Furman and the Harpoons) and the opening band comes on and it’s just a duo, a girl singing and playing the guitar and a guy doing… whatever the song called for.

So I’m sitting at a table when Tristen starts, just talking to friends. They start, and (the way I remember it) we stop talking, not to be polite, but because this singer’s voice was a force to be reckoned with. With a sound that I imagine only a special combination of whiskey, cigarettes and touring can produce, this tiny 28 year year old girl belted through a set of fresh stripped down country songs and made her voice the primary instrument. I was blown away.

I bought the CD and was a bit disappointed to find a full band and a bit prettier more restrained vocals. That said, it’s a great CD full of songs about murder, sex, drugs and other things that make for decent stories.

5. Moonface – Organ Music, Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped

Click image to download!

Not too long ago, you may have read that John Darnielle is my favorite songwriter. Now, you will read that Spencer Krug is my favorite musician. Here are some things these artists have in common: I’ve done art projects on both of them and they are both pretty well respected in indie-rock circles.

This CD, Organ Music, is the second (or third, depending on how you look at things) release from Moonface, which is Spencer Krug’s solo project. Their prior release was called “Marimba and Shit Drums” and was just one long track. Much as “Marimba and Shit Drums” was a CD of marimba and crappy sounding drums, this one is a CD of organ music. There’s also drum loops here.

It’s a kind of short CD with kind of long songs. While most of Krug’s work with Sunset Rubdown and Wolf Parade has been pretty well structured, this is a little more exploratory. If you want to listen to it, give it a shot, but it may require some getting in to.

4. Mates of State – Mountaintops

Click image to download!

What do 4 of the 5 bands ranked 4-8 on this listen have in common? They put on kick-ass shows at the Firebird this year. I saw Mates of State on Halloween and they were dressed up with the lead singer, Kori Gardner dressed up as a police officer, and husband Jason Hammel (and the two other male members of the band) dressed up as prisoners. Great already… but then towards the end of the show, they all stripped off their costumes to reveal Cardinals shirts… a week after the Cardinals won the world series. The crowd went wild!


Mates of State is a long-time favorite of mine. They are a husband & wife, organ & drums duo from Austin, TX and they’ve been writing great and cute pop songs for a long time. This is my favorite CD of theirs since Team Boo. It’s so good that it is featured on Burger King commercials.

3. Destroyer – Kaputt

Click image to download!

Already reviewed this! Like it now more than I did when I reviewed it. If this was a list of 80’s saxophone revival albums, this would have been #1.

My initial review of Destroyer – Kaputt

2. Decemberists – The King is Dead

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Who would have thunk that restraint, focus and lack of narrative could make for the best Decemberists album ever? I say best, but I’m not sure if it is my favorite. Anyway, this CD was the first one I reviewed this year and it is full of great short songs. Put this on a shelf. It will age well.

My initial review of Decemberists – The King is Dead

1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

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Jon Becker has the same #1 as Pitchfork 2 years in a row. What a loser.

…pfffft. I say.

I was late on the Bon Iver bandwagon. I didn’t listen ’til their first CD until a year after it came out, and I thought it was great. This one is even greater though. I would like to think that we’ve all gotten to the point where we have gotten over Bon Iver’s narrative and can just love his tunes.

This CD warms the heart. It’s beautiful from start to finish. Most importantly, I don’t think any of it is boring. I could not have said the same thing about For Emma. While I wouldn’t call this a particularly strong best CD of the year for my list, I would say it definitely deserves the spot.

So, that’s my list. What can we take away:
1) No rap this year. I probably listened to more rap than ever this year, but nothing cracked my top 10 list.
2) If you tour in St. Louis, there’s a good chance you’ll make this list. Smith Westerns, The Mountain Goats and Iron & Wine are the only bands on this list that I didn’t see in concert this year.
3) Office jobs are great for listening to a lot of music but not necessarily great for taking in and making impressions about music. That still requires a bit of attention and work, and I feel I lacked in that department this year.

More blogging this year? We’ll see how it goes.

2010 Best Albums of the Year

Degrees of Separation: Spencer Krug

October 25, 2011

C: Spencer Krug (1)
M: People in bands with Spencer Krug (14)
Y: People in bands with people in bands with Spencer Krug (36)
K: Bands (30 [6 primary, 15 secondary, 9 tertiary])

Degrees of Separation: Spencer Krug

Click image to see full-size.

Points where I had to make decisions about inclusion:
There were too many Hot Hot Heat members, so I included the ones that were in the band with Dante Decaro and are still in the band.

March, a month in review.

March 29, 2011

I’ve tried not to do too many “life-update” type blog posts on this blog thus far, instead focusing on analysis of things that other people are doing, but a lot of stuff happened to me this month, so I’m just gonna roll with it. Everything is divided into sections. There’s still some music stuff here. Just skip over the things you don’t care about. Click through to read the rest!

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The Mountain Goats: All Eternals Deck

March 8, 2011

The Mountain Goats; All Eternals Deck
all eternals deck
Artist The Mountain Goats
Album All Eternals Deck
Label Merge Records
Release Date March 29, 2011

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Dan Deacon 3.4.11 The Gargoyle, St. Louis

March 6, 2011

Dan Deacon at The Gargoyle
In my last review of the Jan. 18 Girl Talk concert at The Pageant, I commented that the first time I saw Girl Talk, Dan Deacon opened for them and arguably made the show the fantastic experience that it was. Friday, I saw Dan Deacon again, headlining this time. How did he fare? Read on to find out.

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Bright Eyes: The People’s Key

February 24, 2011

Bright Eyes: The People's Key Album Cover

Artist: Bright Eyes
Album: The People’s Key
Label: Saddle Creek Records
Release Date: February 15, 2011

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Iron & Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean

February 8, 2011

Iron & Wine Kiss Each Other Clean

Artist: Iron & Wine
Album: Kiss Each Other Clean
Label: Warner
Release Date: January 25, 2010

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(color) & (color)

February 4, 2011

Black and Yellow
So, I’ve been enjoying the song Black & Yellow by Wiz Khalifa for a bit now. I can’t say I was early on the listening curve though. Maybe I had heard it a couple weeks before Girl Talk sampled it on All Day but probably only a couple weeks before. Shortly after I began enjoying the song, the NFL playoffs started and I started seeing people associate the song with the Pittsburg Steelers. The #blackandyellow hashtag was a popular one for Steelers fans on Twitter. Black and Yellow played a lot during their games. Was their an official connection?

I searched the Googles. I found the Wikipedia article for the song. Sure enough, Wiz is from Pittsburg and the song is about the city and their sports teams (Steelers, Pirates, Penguins… all Black and Yellow). So, pretty much for this reason alone, I’ve rooted for the Steelers in every NFL game. (Since my Rams didn’t make the playoffs, I have no real interest in the games, so I pick who I’m pulling for in a rather arbitrary basis). Along the same lines, I was planning on cheering for the Steelers against the Packers.

Then this morning, my favorite rapper Lil Wayne released a Green Bay version of this song, Green and Yellow. I was happy to hear some new Weezy, but kind of annoyed that people were taking a song that was written basically about the Steelers and making it a Packers song. Get your own damn song.

But none the less, it piqued my curiosity. I knew there were a lot of different versions of this song, but how many? Wikipedia lists 49. FORTY NINE. Ironically, not one of them is about The San Francisco 49ers. I could only find 40 of them anywhere on line, and I downloaded all of them (or ripped the audio from their YouTube videos). I put them in one zip file for you to evaluate the varying degrees of quality.

I downloaded theses in rapid succession and listened to hardly any of them in their entirety, but here are some highlights that I noticed:

  • There are a couple about high schools (Green & White by Larceny and Green & Yellow by YoFitteds). These are both hilariously bad.
  • Northwestern has TWO VERSIONS (White and Purple). One by some dude who did it first, and another by Chet Haze, who is apparently Tom Hanks son and ripped this kid off. This is funny.
  • Black and Gold is the most common variation with 4 different songs. (Saints, Vanderbilt, UFC, and… not sure what the last one is for)
  • Anyway, I’ll shut up and share this file. If you want to share it, please link to this post and not the megaupload link. Thanks.

    (Also, if you are thinking about making a remix of this song for you school, probably don’t do it. I can’t imagine it would be original or interesting at this point.)


    You can find the tracklist here (on Wikipedia, as of 2/4/11 at 1:03am Central)

    except here’s the ones I couldn’t find:
    “Young & Ladded” by Swych
    “Black and Scarlet” by Feezio representing Git Bread Ent. of Little Rock, Arkansas
    “Green and Gold” by Killed for Less representing the Oswego Lakers
    “Red and Yellow” by rapper Big Will representing Streetz 104.7 in Winnipeg, Manitoba
    “Black and Silver” by Kazer and 2 Clean representing San Antonio and the San Antonio Spurs
    “Blue and Orange” by K9 representing Syracuse University
    “Green and Purple” by DJ DarkNinja & DaJoka
    “Orange and Silver” by Dj Fish and Young Buck University High School (Orange City)
    “Gua & Pan” by Mohammed Yunus Miah (Mohammed City Remix)Produced By MC MZK (Stansted)

    Destroyer: Kaputt

    January 31, 2011

    Destroyer - Kaputt Album Cover

    Artist: Destroyer
    Album: Kaputt
    Label: Merge Records
    Release Date: January 25, 2011

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