Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

Top 10 Albums 2019

December 27, 2019

Happy 10 Year Anniversary to my top 10 list being hosted here at It’s been a journey. Maybe I’ll write a thing about my decade of musical consumption but for now it’s all I can do to get this top 10 list out the door for the 5 people who read it, and also for myself.

Last year’s list was very strong in the top 5, many/all of which would make my top 25 releases of the decade probably. This year’s list is much less strong in the top 5. I don’t think any of them would make a decade top 25, but it was very difficult for me to cut the list down to 10.

According to my poorly kept “2019 Albums I’ve Listened To” playlist, I listened to over 40 new releases this year. Trends in things listened to:

  • Still lots of women
  • more punk-leaning rock than in the recent past
  • less rap
  • A couple big disappointments from reliable top 10 appearers (New Pornographers, Chance the Rapper).
  • My most anticipated release of the year was not quite everything I was hoping it would be, but it still ended up I think still narrowly being my favorite release of the year.

But let’s take it from 10 and work our way down:

10. The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons

Listen on Spotify

This album came with its own podcast, and both were enjoyable. In fact, if it were not for the podcast, I probably would have ignored this album even more than I did. Thank you, John Darnielle, for your work. Come to St. Louis more so the Becker Family doesn’t have to plan our family vacations around Mountain Goats concerts.

9. Pup – Morbid Stuff

Listen on Spotify

I don’t know much about this band that apparently has been making music for awhile. I started listening to them because I bought tickets to go see the Illuminati Hotties open for them at Delmar Hall. And then I got really into it. Maybe the hardest thing to happen to this list in ever, or at least since the last Japandroids album came out.

8. Oso Oso – basking in the glow

Listen on Spotify

Like Pup, Oso Oso scratches a lot of nostalgic rock itches. This one is more early Weezer/Ozma vibes.

7. Jenny Lewis – On The Line

Listen on Spotify

“I wanna listen to Jenny Lewis” is something my 2-year old says a lot. I try to talk to her about what we’re listening to in the car or in the home, and I don’t know if the name “Jenny Lewis” stuck in her head, or if she has a genuine preference for her, but I’m proud of her none the less.

This isn’t my favorite Jenny Lewis solo project (#TeamVoyager) but it’s got a lot of great tracks on it and I like it more every time I listen. Go see this lady in concert. Her voice will destroy you.

6. Big Thief – Two Hands

Listen on Spotify

Sometime in 2018 Spotify started playing Big Thief’s “Masterpiece” really heavily in all my playlists. And I loved it. What an amazing song. I kept trying to get into Big Thief albums and generally coming up short. Fortunately they released two albums this year! I liked the first one a lot, but Two Hands really hit hard for me.

So here it is. This is Big Thief’s 4th album in as many years, which is pretty wild.

5. Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center

Listen on Spotify

Phoebe Bridgers was robbed from a top 5 appearance on my 2018 top 10 list when I found out her brilliant debut album Stranger in the Alps cam out in 2017. Tough break. But here she in 2019 with longtime favorite Conor Oberst with a strong collaborative effort.

If you like Conor Oberst, and you like Phoebe Bridgers, you’ll probably like this. I love both, and while this is neither of their best work, it feels like it was made just for me… so, thanks!

4. Bon Iver, i,i

Listen on Spotify

Bon Iver’s prior release, 22, A Million hit #6 on my 2016 list, but I think that was a bit generous. 3 years later, I don’t think I ever really got that deeply into it. i,i is profoundly difficult to type but otherwise better in every way. It does a good job combining the more interesting sonic ideas in 22, A Million with the more conventional songwriting of his first two albums.

3. The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience – The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience

Listen on Spotify

Baseball is my favorite sport. The Lonely Island are my favorite rap comedy group. Mark McGuire defined my baseball fandom in my childhood. A Lemonade-style concept album/movie by the Lonely Island about Mark McGuire & Jose Canseco’s steroid-fueled 1989 season with the Oakland Athletics is more than I could have ever asked for.

The concept delivers in every imaginable way, both visually and as a stand-alone album. All of these jokes feel like they are written just for me. I also have learned a lot about the earlier parts of Mark McGuire’s career, which I hadn’t previously delved into. Everything from here below was a legitimate contender for #1

2. Rosie Tucker – Never Not Never Not Never Not

Listen on Spotify

Heartfelt jams, clever lyrics, chill vibes, great guitars. Rosie Tucker’s debut hit me hard when it came out early in 2019 and it’s stuck with me the rest of the year through. It’s warm and welcoming and delightful.

1. Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

Listen on Spotify

Just some things that happened in the Vampire Weekend Universe between 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City and 2019’s Father of the Bride: Rostam Batmanglij left the band, Bassist Chris Baio released 2 solo albums, lead singer Ezra Koenig started hosting a show on Beats 1 and released 2 seasons of an Anime TV show called Neo Yokio on Netflix. Also he had a kid with Rashida Jones. And during most of these events, the Vampire Weekend album was perpetually almost done.

Modern Vampires of the City remains my favorite Vampire Weekend album by a long shot, and Father of the Bride may be my least favorite. But the album reflects the time & the diverse interests pursued in that time. It’s the most varied and least cohesive album of their catalog, but still holds together alright. Lead single, Harmony Hall is one of the most joyous songs this joyous band has ever released. It was also great to see them live in St. Louis while the Blues were winning the Stanley Cup. That was a joyous evening.

Thanks for reading. Maybe I’ll be back with a decade retrospective or something.

In the meantime, here’s my two 2019 Spotify Playlists:


Musical Overview, Including Top 10 Albums – 2017

January 8, 2018

Musically, I was feeling pretty distraught at the end of 2016, with the death of (the best music library in the history of the world). I wrote a lot about it. In 2017, I started out with a replacement but quickly abandoned in and have fully given myself over to Spotify.

Here are some things I noticed:

  • I bought significantly less music this year streaming music v. When I was pirating it. Like probably a 50% drop. Anecdotally, after one year, my paying $8/month for streaming is a net loss for artists, compared to my prior behavior. So, do with that what you will.
  • For these lists, I’m not 100% sure I took into consideration everything I listened to this year. For previous “best of” lists, I’d go into iTunes and sort by date added to see what was eligible. There is no such (manageable) feature for the Spotify universe. So I was a bit at the mercy of my memory. I think I got everything, but I’m not sure.
  • The things I go back to my iTunes library for, because they aren’t on Spotify: Joanna Newsom discography and old Lil Wayne mixtapes.
  • I discovered some great new things through Spotify’s weekly Discovery and Release Radar playlists. Two of my top 10 albums came to my attention this way, and four of the artists in my Runners Up section.
  • Overall… I think I like my Steal Things + iTunes + buy things system better, but this one is definitely less work.
  • I still go to about a live show a month, I’m still listening to new music, and still listening to new artists.
  • Here are my top 100 songs of the year, according to Spotify. (Spoilers? I’m not even sure this link will work for you?)

I also have a daughter now. Thet’s cool. But that also means that I’m not writing as much this year. Only publishing one year-end music piece, so let’s just dive into the top 10. Runners up are after that. Playlists and Spotify links mixed in. Here’s a highlights playlist:

Top 10:

10. Conor Oberst – Salutations

Conor Obers - Salutations

Conor Oberst, most known for his angsty work as the lead singer of Bright Eyes is a long-time favorite of mine. In 2016 he released an album called Ruminations, which was the last thing cut from last year’s top 10 list. In 2017, he released the same damn album, but with a full band this time and a handful of new tracks. Some of the versions of the old songs are worse, some are better. But amongst the new songs there are some real standouts. If you stopped listening to Conor Oberst when you exited puberty, try picking him back up again.

9. (Sandy) Alex G – Rocket

(Sandy) Alex G - Rocket
Apparently this dude’s been kicking it for awhile but 2017 is the first time that (Sandy) Alex G has come to my attention.

He’s got some janglin’ low-fi pop sensibilities that wouldn’t be out of place in an early Elephant 6 setting. It’s mostly guitar, drums, fiddles & the like but there are a few really noisy tracks that aren’t my favorite.

8. Wolf Parade – Cry Cry Cry

Wolf Parade - Cry Cry Cry
Hey, a new Wolf Parade album… and it’s pretty darn good, if you like Wolf Parade albums. I’d call it my second favorite one after their unstoppable debut which is easily a top 25 album of all time for me. (No, that list doesn’t actually exist)

Co-Lead-Singers Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner do their their thing, switching who sings lead more or less each song and it seems like they’ve got some of their original energy back. Still bummed I’ve never seen them live.

7. The Mountain Goats – Goths

Mountain Goats - Goths
Mike & Sandy Becker (those are my parents) Family Favorite™️ the Mountain Goats are back, with another album that isn’t my favorite Mountain Goats album, but has some solid tracks on it.

Mountain Goats albums are good forever, and I often find that listening to one a couple years after its release has better results for me. I think I saw them live 3 times this year?

6. Japandroids – Near to The Wild Heart of Life

Japandroids - Near to the wild heart of life
Kind of forgot this album came out in 2017? Almost missed the list. Everyone’s favorite Canadian Indie Loud Rock Duo is back with their most ambitious release back… and I don’t like it as much as their previous two less ambitious releases. BUT it is still really good and loud and they should make music together forever.

5. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

Kendrick Lamar - Damn.
This was at the top of almost everyone’s album of the year lists, but it did not connect with me the same was as his previous two albums. Who knows. Still great work, still one of the most interesting and important artists making music today.

4. Tristen – Sneaker Waves

Tristen - Sneaker Waves
Jon & Lydia Becker Family Favorite™️ Tristen is at it again with one of my most personally anticipated albums of the year. Sneaker Waves does not disappoint! Perhaps this is in contention for my Favorite Tristen Album.

Go see her live, whenever you can. I think Lydia and I paid to see her as an opener 2 or 3 times this year for various artists, and she was able to win over every crowd of people who had no idea who she was.

3. Spoon – Hot Thoughts

Spoon - Hot Thoughts
It should be illegal to be as consistently good as Spoon is. I think this is my favorite Spoon album? That sounds crazy to say, but I guess there it is.

2. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 3

This, on the other hand, is my LEAST favorite Run The Jewels album. A ringing endorsement for the #2 album on my list? That said, it balls extremely hard.

I think when it comes down to it, I think Killer Mike is the most interesting lyricists out there. EL-P makes some of the best beats out there. This album tries some new things and while it is generally successful, it doesn’t have the same urgency as their previous two releases. But I think this was close to my most played album of the year because it’s so much damn fun.

1. Dieg Cig – Swear I’m Good at This

Diet Cig - I swear I'm good at this
So. Much. Fun.

Another loud rock duo, like the Japandroids, except this one is led by a woman, and they are from New York not Vancouver. This is a discovery for which Spotify’s algorithm’s gets 100% of the credit. They must have been pushing it pretty hard because it came up independently for both my father and I and we both recommended it to each other.

2017 – Runners Up & Odds & Ends

Trophy Dad – Dogman EP
Susto – & I’m Fine Today
Destroyer – ken
Why? – Mow Lhean
Mister Heavenly – Boxing the Moonlight
Sufjan Stevens – The Greatest Gift
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell Live
Sufjan Stevens, James McAlister, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner – Planetarium
Yucky Duster – Duster’s Lement EP
Oso Oso – The Yunahon Mixtape
The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions
Jens Lekman – life will see you now

See you again next year.

p.s. I did update my data sheet for the past 12 years of lists, if that interests you:

10 Years of Top 10 Lists: Data

January 10, 2016

I’ve been writing Top 10 Albums of the Year lists for over 10 years now, but this year marks 10 years of lists which are published on the internet. If you’d like to take a walk down memory lane, go for it:
2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

One of the most amazing parts about this, to me, is that all the links still work, across Facebook Notes, Tumblr and for the last 6 years, this very website here. Things have broken though: images embedded from elsewhere on the web, all download links, and who knows what else.

Well, I like data so I decided to take this 10 year milestone as a chance to draw as much as I can out of these top 10 lists. So I made a Google Sheet and I went to work.

Here are some charts. Some have some explanation and others should be more self explanatory. Click on the charts to see bigger versions with interactive data in a new tab.

Does my list contain popular opinions?

Are the opinions on my list widely held? This first chart aims to find out. I put in the Metacritic scores for all 100 albums on my list (when available) and averaged them out for each year. Some years 2-3 albums weren’t available so there are less than 100 data points to work with here.

My list is pretty steady from year to year with my “least popular list” at an average score of 76.1 and 3 of my most popular lists all topping out just above 81.5. Metacritic states that a score of 81-100 is “universally acclaim” and 61-80 indicated “Generally Favorable Reviews”. I put a trend line in there as well which seems to indicate that things are getting more popular:
List's Average Meteoritic Score

Some other trends

Here I took 5 different data points and put them all on one confusing chart.
The red line indicates how many artists made their first appearance on my list that year. Obviously, the first year, that would be all 10 of them.
The blue line indicates how many new artists have showed up on my list that year. This line is troubling because it’s definitely trending downward, meaning I’m listening to less new artists. Boo Jon.
The other three lines are demographics: How Canadian is my list? How female is it? And how many entries on my list are by eponymous artists?
That first chart was a little cluttered, so I made another one that is a 3 year average (one year before, one year after, when data is available):

The Regulars

The last 3 charts attempt to visualize some of my favorite artists of the last 10 years by documenting how frequently they show up on my list, how they rank in the top 10 and finally if they are in multiple bands throughout the years.
Here are all the bands that appear more than once:
Here are how bands with multiple appearances usually rank (shorter bars are best here):
And finally here are the individuals who are leads or co-leads in multiple bands that appear on the list:
For clarification:
Panda Bear is in Panda Bear & Animal Collective.
Dan Bejar is in Destroyer, The New Pornographers and Swan Lake.
Dan Boeckner is in The Handsome Furs, Divine Fits and Wolf Parade (though Wolf Parade never appears on this list!)
Britt Daniel is in Divine Fits and Spoon.
Rostam Batmanglij is in Vampire Weekend (though probably a bit of a stretch to call him a lead) and Discovery.
Spencer Krug is in Sunset Rubdown, Moonface, Swan Lake and lots of other bands that aren’t on this list.
John Darnielle is in The Mountain Goats and Extra Lens which I think was a 1-off project.
And Tim Kasher is in The Good Life, Cursive (not on any of these lists!) and of course, Tim Kasher.
There were a couple surprises for me in this chart:

  • Conor Oberst, despite being one of my favorite artists and in a ton of bands like Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos and Monsters of Folk only has 1 top 10 spot over the last 10 years
  • There’s only 1 Spoon album in my last 10 years of top 10s? That’s crazy
  • Anyway. That’s all for now. The data is available to anyone who’d like to look at it on Google Drive!

    Top 10 Albums – 2015

    January 10, 2016

    2015 was almost the year that I switched from my time-honored tradition of buying & illegally downloading music to buying & legally streaming music… but alas, it was not. I tried Apple Music for the whole 3 month trial and while I found it pretty nice in a lot of ways it couldn’t break my old habits. I still torrent whatever I want and buy whatever I like. So it has always been, so it will probably always be.

    What other things didn’t change in 2015? I still can’t find a way to get interested in EDM, I never stopped listening to Run the Jewels 2, and I still am writing a list of my top 10 favorite albums of the most recent year. Spoiler alert: this list is not that exciting. There’s only 1 artist on here that hasn’t appeared on previous Top 10 lists. Yikes. Will 2015 be an anomaly of will it mark the start of me being an OLD PERSON?

    Oh well, let’s get to it.

    10. Death Cab for Cutie – Kintsugi

    Listen on Spotify
    Death Cab for Cutie - Kintsugi
    Death Cab’s guitarist quit sometime between their last album and this one, but Ben Gibbard is still pretty much doing the same thing he’s always done. I find the sound of Death Cab albums comforting even when I don’t think the songs are quite as good as they have been in the past, so here’s this album with a top 10 spot.

    9. The Good Life – Everybody’s Coming Down

    Listen on Spotify
    The Good Life - Everybody's Coming Down
    Tim Kasher (Cursive, The Good Life) is a regular on this list, but The Good Life haven’t put out an album in a long time. Everybody’s Coming Down checks all the regular Kasher boxes (drinking & breakups) but I think this is his best work since his untouchable 2000-2004 run. This has a bigger, louder sound than previous Good Life records and I think it works well. Bonus tip: If you ever get the chance to see any of his bands live, I think you should do so.

    8. CHVRCHES – Every Eye Open

    Listen on Spotify
    CHVRCHES - Every Eye Open
    CHVRCHES 2013 debut The Bones of What You Belive took me awhile to warm up to but ended up being one of my favorite albums of the year. Once you’ve warmed up to that, their 2015 followup Every Eye Open should take no time getting used to, because it’s very very similar.

    That said, It’s still very good. Poppy tunes, fun beats, etc… They definitely didn’t reinvent their sound for their sophomore album but that’s probably a good thing. What’s going on here works.

    7. Holy Sheboygan – THREE

    Listen on Spotify
    Holy Sheboygan! - THREE
    If you haven’t heard of Holy Sheboygan, you are forgiven. However, there are no excuses for not checking them out if you’re reading this list and especially no excuse if you read this list last year. Their latest release (or at least most of it?) is even on Spotify!

    This CD (probably an EP?) is a big winner for me and my wife. If you’re looking for some chaotic but accessible pop music check this out. It’s endearing and beautiful and happy and sad. Special standout track: Swim with me.

    6. Destroyer – Poison Season

    Listen on Spotify
    Destroyer - Poison Season
    Easily in my top 3 Canadian musicians, Dan Bejar’s Destroyer is back with another tale of mystery and intrigue. This album contains beautiful string and horn arrangements and melodies which serve as backdrops for Bejarian classic lyrical contradictions like “The writing on the wall wasn’t writing at all”.

    The album’s thematic core, Times Square/Poison Season (not sure what to call it) is particular beautiful, with different versions at the beginning, middle and end of the album.

    5. The Mountain Goats – Beat The Champ

    Listen on Spotify
    The Mountain Goats - Beat The Champ
    Becker Family Favorite™ The Mountain Goats did not disappoint in 2015 (they never do) with their 2015 release, Beat The Champ, a concept album about professional wrestling at the time when it was still a regional affair.

    I’ve never been a huge wrestling fan, beyond a brief stint with N64 classic “WCW vs. NWO Revenge” but as always, lead singer/songwriter (of our generation) John Darnielle finds ways to find the humanity in stories and people that you don’t think you care about.

    4. Joanna Newsom – Divers

    (Not on Spotify… hates streaming. Purchase on iTunes here.)
    Joanna Newsom - Divers

    Otherworldly enchantress, wife of Andy Sandberg, “the world’s most famous harp player”, Vicoria’s Secret Commercial Music Contributor, second cousin twice removed of former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom… these are just some of the ways to describe Joanna Newsom.

    Divers, her first album since 2010’s overwhelming triple album Have One On Me, is a compact logical evolution from that ambitious event. The strengths of this album are the strengths of all Newsom albums: clever use of a uniquely beautiful voice, lyrics which may require a dictionary, and thoughtful arrangement of an ever-growing bag of instrumental tricks. While this might not be her strongest work, if you were just starting with Joanna Newson, this is perhaps your gentlest route into her beautiful world.

    3. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

    Listen on Spotify
    Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly

    Thank God for Kendrick Lamar. Rather than remaking Good Kid, M.A.A.D. city (which would have been awesome!), this Compton rapper started from scratch to create something completely different. Kendrick, who is almost certainly the most lyrically proficient rapper making popular music right now, is pushing himself on every level here. The music is challenging, the lyrics are challenging and the story line is ambitious.

    This album is asking and addressing questions that I have the luxury of never having thought about as a white person in America. It is good to be challenged, to think, and to have perspectives broadened. It is good to listen to voices other than your own.

    2. Natalie Prass – Natlie Prass

    Listen on Spotify
    Natalie Prass - Natalie Prass

    Welcome to Natalie Prass, the lone newcomer on this list. This was one of the first albums I listened to in 2015 and it stuck with me throughout the year. It’s short, there are repetition of motifs and themes throughout, and the melodies and arrangements are seeping in a vaguely familiar nostalgia.

    Prass’ voice is breathy and beautiful. And she writes lyrics which are immediately simple and memorable. One point of consternation: album closer “It Is You” is too much for me.

    1. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

    Listen on Spotify
    Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell
    What is there to say about an album that speaks so clearly and with such focus for itself? Carrie and Lowell is an album that Stevens wrote about his complex relationship with his mother (Carrie) and stepfather (Lowell) following his mother’s recent death.

    The songs buck Stevens trend of plunging headfirst towards musical decadence and pulls everything back as far as it can go here. There are no more instruments or words than necessary. Stevens has always felt like an artist on the verge of quitting and becoming a recluse, but albums like this show what a tragedy that would be. He has a unique way of reaching into the soul of a personal experience and making it universally powerful.

    21 Netflix Christmas Movies, Ranked

    December 23, 2014

    Christmas movies, right? There are so many to choose from, and there are tons of new ones being made every year. So how do you know what’s good and what’s garbage? It turns out, most of them are garbage. High budget or low budget. TV specials or blockbuster releases. Big name actors or nobodies. It doesn’t really matter much.

    But if you sit down to watch a ton of them, as my wife and I did this Holiday season, you’ll find something to like about almost all of them. And something to hate about almost all of them. But I have to say that this exercise did put me in the Holiday spirit. We picked movies, pretty much at random, by what sounded good to us at the moment and was also available on Netflix. We ended up getting through 21 movies, only 2 of which I’d seen before

    Lots of these movies are pretty much the same. If you’re looking for some clichés to incorporate into your next Holiday film, here are some that we noticed:

    • Single moms with kids trying to find them a new husband
    • Plays at the end
    • Women who are in their mid-twenties and are too busy with their careers to find the right man
    • Terrible people from any walk of life can be visited by 3 ghosts

    Anyway, we hardly made a dent in the Netflix Christmas collection, but here’s my incredibly arbitrary ranking of the movies I did watch:

    21. Christmas with the Kranks


    Bad. A couple decides not to celebrate Christmas, and does a poor job communicating the reasons to their neighbors who are crazy. There’s a twist, but it isn’t interesting.

    20. Snowglobe


    Bad. Girl can’t find a relationship and falls in love with a dude in a snow globe. Non-hilarity and annoying family dynamics ensue.

    (Snowglobe and Christmas with the Kranks were the first two movies we watched on this marathon. I wonder if they were actually the worst, or if I just wasn’t in the Bad Christmas Movie Spirit yet)

    19. Happy Christmas


    Lena Dunham and Anna Kendrick. What’s not to like? For me, the answer to that question is almost always Lena Dunham. And also, Anna Kendrick’s character is kind of unlikeable in this film. But everyone learns something in the end, and this movie isn’t really about Christmas. It might be a decent movie, but it probably won’t bring you the Christmas spirit.

    18. Christmas Cupid


    The girl from Snow Globe is back … well, not her character, but the same actress (and Cash Money Records Recording Artist). Also an ABC Family Movie. It’s the worst version of the Christmas Carol on this list. (There are 4.)

    17. All I Want For Christmas


    Fine. Two kids get their parents back together for Christmas and it works. I wasn’t really paying attention during this one.

    16. Holidaze


    Not a stoner holiday movie, unfortunately. This movie tells women they shouldn’t pick careers over marrying and having children. Or tells them they can do both. Or something. Also, Walmart is bad. Small town businesses are good.

    15. I’ll be home for Christmas


    Meh. JTT is at a boarding school in California. He has to be home by Christmas Eve at 6pm to get his Dad’s Porsche. Along the journey, he finds out that some things are more important.

    14. A Christmas Kiss


    An artsy type, but also up & coming decorator or something accidentally makes out with her boss’s boyfriend. Love trumps career or something.

    13. Dear Santa


    A 30 year old woman who didn’t graduate from college and has been mooching off her parents and living in Manhattan for 8 years, I guess, doesn’t have a job. Under the threat of being cutoff by her parents, she finds a man. It turns out well. Kind of cute.

    12. All American Christmas Carol


    Wow, another Christmas Carol… who cares? YOU WILL, when you watch this terrible white trash version. There are 3 ghosts, and the ghost of Christmas Past is a 17 year old girl who gets wasted at a party when she’s supposed to be teaching a lesson. What’s not to love?

    11. The Nightmare Before Christmas


    What’s the bigger sin? That I had never seen this movie before, or that I didn’t really pay attention while it was on? Either way, this seemed pretty good. Had some good musical numbers. Maybe will watch again some time. Sticking this in the middle of the list.

    10. Love, Actually


    I used to argue that Love Actually wasn’t a Christmas movie, but after watching so many Christmas movies this year, I take it back. It is at least as Christmasy as most of the movies on this list. I also used to not like this movie, but I take it back. It’s at least as enjoyable as half the movies on this list. It is also the only movie on this list with nudity, including the one with Lena Dunham.

    9. Scrooged


    Bill Murray plays a modern-day scrooge as a TV executive… the catch is that they are putting on a live TV musical of A Christmas Carol. It’s pretty good, but not as good as you might hope Bill Murray in a Christmas movie would be.

    8. 12 Dates of Christmas


    Speaking Of Bill Murray, this is a Christmas take on Groundhog Day. Also, not as good. But plenty cute enough, I think. A girl eventually finds love on Christmas and learns a life lesson or something.

    7. Holiday Engagement


    A girl’s fiancé dumps her right before Christmas, and she hires an actor to play her fiancé. It’s fun. Things work out.

    6. 12 Dogs of Christmas: Great Puppy Rescue


    Some stuff happens. They put on a play and save a dog adoption place and keep dogs from getting killed or abused as race horses. It takes place in the 30s maybe, but they do a poor job keeping the piece in the right time-frame. There’s a cute play at the end.

    5. Christmas Angel


    This is a cute one. A little girl finds that the Christmas wishes of her friends are magically coming true. Also, just like in a lot of these movies where there’s a kid, there’s a single mom who finds a new husband.

    4. Holiday in Handcuffs


    This is the campier lower-budget version of Holiday Engagement. Naturally, I liked it more. Clarissa Explains what it’s like to kidnap a dude to impress your family, and have it all work out in the end. Good.

    3. Coming Home for Christmas


    Surprisingly good. Though, if you’re picking it because there’s a dog on the cover, you’re going to be a bit disappointed. Two sisters have a big falling out, and 5 years later they decide to start talking to each other again, to fix their parents marriage at Christmas time.

    2. Switchmas


    Favorite new (to me) Christmas movie of the year. Two kids who kind of look alike and get shipped off by their parents to visit other relatives meet in O’Hare, and decide to switch destinations. One is Jewish and celebrating Hannukah. One is Christian and celebrating Christmas. There’s a play at the end.

    1. The Muppet Christmas Carol


    I almost feel bad including this on a list. It is in a league of its own, especially amongst the other crappy Christmas Carol stories on this list. Funny, touching and brilliant. Almost makes me want to read the book, which I’ve never done.

    Top 10 Albums – 2014

    December 17, 2014

    Welcome, one and all to my top 10 list! Sorry if this one takes awhile to load… got a lot of embedded Spotify playlists and things this year. If you’d like something to listen to while you read, I’ve even created a “Mangosquash’s Best of 2014” playlist right here for your listening pleasure. It features a track from my honorable mentions as well as every artist on the top 10, except one who isn’t on Spotify (No, It’s not Taylor Swift.). Anyway, you can check that out here:

    It’s tough to find a theme in my list this year, and perhaps even tougher than in previous years.. There’s a lot of poppy stuff here, but my two favorite albums of the year were definitely not pop, definitely pretty serious, and definitely very very different.

    Here’s some cool stuff: 5/10 of the artists here have never made a top 10 list of mine in any form, and I was not familiar with them before this year. Also 5/10 of the albums have a female as at least one of their lead singers. 2/10 Artists have released their own coffee this year. 1/10 Artists is remaking their whole album with cat noises in 2015.

    I will say, at the time of writing this, I haven’t read Pitchfork’s Top 50 yet, but through the Twitter grapevine, I have found out that we do have the same #1 album. So that’s something. Enough with the chitter chatter. Let’s dive in:

    10. The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers

    Prior to Brill Bruisers, The last time the New Pornographers released a CD was 2010’s Together and it featured at #5 of that year’s top 10 list…. 4 years might seem like a lot of time between albums, but I think at least 2 of the leads of this group would consider the band a “side project.”

    Since the last release, Dan Bejar has released 2 EPs and an LP as Destroyer, and Neko Case and AC Newman have both released solo CDs as well. Other singer, Kathryn Calder, who’s taken an even more active roll in the band on this album, also appears to have released some work. What I’m saying is, these folks haven’t been idle

    Every New Pornographers album is good, and this one is no exception. This release could be the band’s most raucous ever. Standout tracks include the opener, Brill Bruisers, and War on the East Coast. Perhaps the reason this album didn’t rank higher on the list is that the Dan Bejar tracks, my favorite part of most of the supergroup’s output, aren’t particularly strong here. It’s a good listen none the less!

    9. Ortolan – Covered in Black

    Here’s something new! Ortolan was the second band ever to take the stage at St. Louis’ new venue, The Ready Room. They were touring with Of Montreal at the time, and when I wrote-up a review of the show, they got but a single paragraph of mention. Fortunately, I followed through and picked up their CDs because hey, they are really good.

    These ladies are on Sounds Familyre records, which I always assume means that they get to hang out with Sufjan Stevens a lot. This assumption draws me to make comparisons that may or may not be there. But the songwriting seems to share themes of spirituality and allusions to religion that may be missed if you aren’t looking for them

    I think that there’s a wide appeal with this album, perhaps if you enjoyed my previous year’s recommendation of Tristen as an artist to watch out for. Standout tracks on this CD include “Votes are In” and album closer, “Miles”.

    8. Conor Oberst – Upside Down Mountain

    I’m pretty sure Conor Oberst isn’t making albums as Bright Eyes anymore, but I can’t seem to find a source for that information. Either way, whether it’s his former main vehicle, Bright Eyes, his punk band Desaparecidos, his folk supergroup Monsters of Folk, or his self titled releases, for me, Conor Oberst is always worth checking out.

    Upside Down Mountain is my favorite Oberst release, perhaps in 10 years. No, I don’t think it is as good as Wide Awake/Digital Ash era Bright Eyes, but I do think it really finds Oberst making the best of his adult self. The songs here are well developed, have big hooks and are fun to listen to.

    Standout tracks include: “Governor’s Ball”, “Hundreds of Ways” and “Enola Gay”

    7. tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack

    So, I missed tUnE-yArDs’ first two releases and I still haven’t listened to them yet. Don’t know why. But Damn, is Nikki Nak a fun album. This might be the second poppiest thing on this list, but in a very world-music type of way

    There’s an incredible dichotomy between the fun, loud and crazy instrumentation on each track, and their often incredibly serious subject matter. Every song contains some kind of blunt social commentary.

    If you like crazy pop music and appreciate an enthusiastic eccentric vocal style, check it out!

    6. Spoon – They Want My Soul

    Don’t you just sometimes wish that Spoon would release something that wasn’t so solid?

    I mean solid in a lot of different ways. In stark contrast to the songs on the previous album on this list (tUnE-yArDs) which often feel on the verge of falling apart, each spoon song is built on a foundation that could support a skyscraper. Spoon songs and albums sound solid, and are of solid quality and are predictably good. They’ve done this shit for 8 albums since 1993!

    This album, They Want My Soul, is even more solid than usual and I don’t mean that to sound boring. This is probably my favorite Spoon album since 2007’s “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga”, and more than any other album on this list, it’s just a solid rock album.

    5. Holy Sheboygan – TWO

    Want a good funky folk album about love and life? You’re going to want to check out this release (It might be an EP? I’m not sure.) from Holy Sheboygan. I saw them perform this year at 2720 Cherokee, where I was going to check out music and art from my friend Lawton Hall who was in town touring from Wisconsin. I was really impressed, so I bought their cassette tape. Only later that day did I find out my cassette player no longer works, but it came with a free download code, so I was in the clear.

    This release, at 22 minutes long (OK, so it’s probably an EP.), is so good all the way through. It’s also tackling some ambitious subject matter. Finding love, the purpose of life, materialism, indefinite detention of prisoners… everything you could want is all here.

    Also, there are fun instruments. They don’t have a “drummer” but on their Facebook page they do list two people playing “trash”. Milk jugs feature prominently. There’s also plenty of horns, saxophones and strings. TWO has a big full sound. I could be wrong, but I think many of the people in this band have some kind of advanced musical degree. But the music is accessible and fun. Anyway, be on the lookout for more from these guys. I think they could blow up!

    4. Jenny Lewis – The Voyager

    Jenny Lewis is pretty great, right? Per her Wikipedia page, she made her acting debut in a Jello commercial and went on to play parts in TV shows and made for TV movies forming Rilo Kiley in 1998. She made, by my estimate, 3 great albums as Rilo Kiley and was a contributor to the Postal Service’s only album. More recently, though, she’s released some pretty but also pretty forgettable solo albums, and also a project called Jenny & Johnny which I’ll admit I haven’t listened to

    The Voyager is the first Lewis album to captivate me since Rilo Kiley’s 2004 release, “More Adventurous” and I think it shares a lot in common with that string of great Rilo Kiley releases. The hooks are big, the stories told in the lyrics are good, and Lewis’ voice is still as beautiful as ever. We’ll probably never get another Rilo Kiley CD, and that’s for the best, but this CD is a reminder of why I might still want one.

    3. Kishi Bashi – Lighght

    Kishi Bashi is a classically trained violin player who used to be in Of Montreal. According to his Wikipedia page, he’s also toured with Regina Spektor. If you haven’t listened to his albums, or heard of him, you may know his work from this Microsoft Windows 8 commercial

    Of all the albums on this list, this was the one I listened to the most this year. This was my album of the summer, driving to and from Michigan and it’s the best (and the last) pop album on this list. I can’t believe it didn’t get more attention. The track I included on the Best Of mix at the top, The Ballad of Mr. Steak, is the most infectious song of the year. If you’re looking for fun pop music, this is your album

    2. Sun Kil Moon – Benji

    People die. People die for strange reasons. People are in the process of dying. You are in the process of dying, right now. If you’re not interested in thoughts like this, this probably isn’t the record for you, because that’s about all that’s here. Sure, there’s a track about loving your mom. There’s a track about loving your dad. There’s a track about early sexual encounters. There’s a track about attending a Postal Service show. But even these are framed by death.

    But there is poetry found in death, and Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek is out to find all of it that he can. This premise is laid out in the album opener, Carissa. Kozelak’s second cousin, who he didn’t know that well, is 35 years old. She had 2 kids as a wild teenager, but turned her life around and is now an RN. She dies one night, because her trash explodes as she’s taking out. It’s hard to find meaning in a story of senseless tragedy, but these reflections on mortality are as interesting a way as any to tackle the topic.

    1. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2

    My city, the city of St. Louis, has had a lot of national attention on it since Mike Brown was killed on August 9. Protestors in Ferguson and in cities around the United States have been out daily to share their messages and questions of righteous anger and frustration. Why is our justice system so broken? Why do black people, in every neighborhood and in every economic and social class, get treated so poorly? Why do white people (like myself) get the benefit of the doubt? How have we allowed our country to remain in a state where so many people feel so hopeless from the time they are born?

    These are the types of questions I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about lately, and I don’t have any answers. I’m trying to do my best to listen to what others are saying and Killer Mike, who makes up 1/2 of Run The Jewels, is one guy who’s saying something. While the biggest artists in Hip Hop have stayed mostly silent, Killer Mike has been out there. He’s written op-eds in USA Today and on Billboard. He’s been on CNN. And then, as fate would have it, on November 24, hours after the Ferguson Grand Jury decision came out, Run the Jewels took the stage at The Ready Room in St. Louis Missouri. It is my biggest regret of the year that I wasn’t here to see this show. Before the show, Killer Mike came out, and made this speech in tears. The audience doesn’t really understand what’s going on, but this is powerful stuff:

    Run The Jewels is two 39 year old Rappers who have come together after long solo careers. Killer Mike is from Atlanta, GA and first gained exposure as a part of Outkast’s Dungeon Family collective. He appeared on their 2000 record, Stankonia. El-P is a white dude from New York. Together, they are the most dynamic thing happening in hip-hop. Run The Jewels 2 is the band’s second album in as many years, and it is insane. These are two best friends doing what they love together. This collaboration plays well not only in music, but when they give interviews together. Check out this crazy piece about El-P’s Steven Seagal obsession in The Onion’s AV Club.

    Run The Jewels 2 is not for the faint of heart. It’s loud, vulgar, violent and should offend everyone. Social problems are addressed aggressively throughout the album, but most directly on tracks “Crown”, “Lie, Cheat, Steal” and “Early”. Killer Mike and EL-P are asking questions too, and these questions are uncomfortable.

    But damn, if it isn’t the most fun thing released this year. Amongst these tough questions are two friends just having a blast. The intensity and urgency with which both the beats and the verses are delivered makes for one wild right, from start to end in 39 minutes. If rap isn’t your thing, this isn’t going to be your thing either, but this is a really special album.

    Mates of State, April 17, 2014, The Ready Room

    April 18, 2014

    Mates of State, October 31 2011, The Firebird

    On October 28, 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series in absolutely astonishing fashion. My whole body was in a euphoric state for days afterwards, and so it was with an incredibly good attitude that I saw Mates of State at The Firebird on October 31, 2011.

    Being a show on Halloween, the band was dressed up. If I remember correctly, keyboardist, lead singer and only female of the band Kori was dressed up as a cop, and the rest of her band was dressed in pin stripes as criminals. It was a fun look, and it was an incredibly fun show. This was the second time I had seen Mates of State and I expected an up-tempo show, featuring the faster and poppier hits from though out their catalogue, and that’s exactly what I got.

    But at some point in the middle of the show, All the band members ripped off their costumes to reveal Cardinals t-shirts underneath, and the audience lost their shit. There often is not a huge overlap between sports fans and indie-rock concert goers, but for this city, at this moment, it was perfect.

    I will always remember this moment as one of extreme happiness in my life.

    Mates of State, April 17, 2014, The Ready Room

    Earlier this week, my wife and I were listening to the “Unless I’m Led” from Mates of States’ 2011 album, Mountaintops. It’s a pretty great song, but definitely on the quieter and slower side of the Mates of State catalogue. Each of their albums have songs like this, and I do sincerely enjoy them.

    It prompted me to pose this thought: “It must be weird recording songs for a record that you’re probably never going to play live.”

    This statement was based on logic from my previous Mates of State show experiences. They have a large amount of high-energy quality music to pick through, so inevitably some songs are probably never going to see the light of stage, right?

    On April 17 at the Ready Room, I saw a completely different Mates of State show, where they played “Unless I’m Led” as well as several other songs of this ilk, and while it wasn’t the show I was expecting, it was fantastic none-the-less.

    Mates of State is a primarily drums & keys band that tours with more musicians as they see fit. The two previous times that I’d seen them, they toured as a rock band. This show, there was a cellist, saxophone & trumpet. The arrangements that they came up with for the songs they played were great.

    The set pulled heavily from their 2008 album, Re-Arrange us, and while the energy was still high, it was definitely a more mellow experience.

    I loved seeing something a little different, and the audience seemed to as well.

    Speaking of audience, I didn’t expect Mates of State to come close to selling out this show, but I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t love them. They make incredible hook-heavy, relatable pop music. They are still adorable on stage together after all these years. There is nothing pretentious or difficult about their music. They are everything that pop music should be. Everyone should go to a Mates of State show to make the world a better place.

    One confession/apology: Some girl requested oft-crowd-favorite “Everyone Needs an Editor” several times, and I said, kind of loudly, “You need an editor.” She heard me and gave me a dirty look. I deserved that look, and I’m sorry. Everyone does indeed need an editor. Kori & Jason played the song by themselves as the first song of the encore right after I made my rude remark.

    Anyway, the show was great.


    Ready Room Revisited

    My last piece here was a review of the first night at the Ready Room under the guise of being a review of an Of Montreal show. This is a bit of the opposite. My primarily nit-picky complaints from the otherwise great first show were as follows:

    • Lighting & Sound were weird for the first band
    • Bar lines were excruciatingly long
    • It smelled too new.

    None of these items were problems. The opener, who I only saw the last 1/2 of their set, sounded good and the house lights were appropriately low. As I suspected, the audience seemed to be paying more attention to them.

    This wasn’t nearly as crowded as the Mates of State show, so I’m unsure how it’ll hold up at capacity, but I never waited more than a couple minutes for a drink, and I went at “busy” times in between sets. It also looks like they’re in the process of installing beer taps, so that’s great!

    It still smells new, but less new than last time. Everything still looks great, and I didn’t really notice too many other changes.

    I was a bit worried that the room was going to feel empty for Mates of State, a band that didn’t quite sell out the Firebird on their last visit to St. Louis. However the Ready Room did a great job making the space feel smaller by repositioning the tables. Previously they were in the back corners, but for the anticipated smaller audience, they moved them to the back-center, right in front of the soundboard. This gave people a place to sit and enjoy the show, and also provided plenty of room for people to stand in front of the tables. Because of the high tables and the relatively high stage, I think everyone could still see. Here’s how it looked during the opener when no one was standing in that space:
    I appreciated this detail greatly. I won’t say that I’m ready to crown the Ready Room as my favorite St. Louis venue yet (that distinction still goes to The Firebird) but I am thrilled with their booking so far, have enjoyed both my experiences there, and look forward to attracting more Mates of State/of Montreal quality acts to the St. Louis area.

    Opening Night at The Ready Room

    April 3, 2014


    26 is the oldest I’ve ever been, but it’s still a young age, right? If all things go well, God willing, I’m less than 1/3 of the way through this life thing. That said, when I see a sign at the door like this, my first thought is “I’m too old for this shit.”

    Let’s back up! I went to a show last night at St. Louis’ newest venue, The Ready Room. The venue, located in The Grove neighborhood, accommodates 800 folks, and is run by the same people who brought you The Firedbird. You can read more of those types of details in this article.

    My expectations for The Ready Room were very high, as I was basically hoping for it to be the Mississippi Nights replacement that St. Louis has needed since its closure in 2007. I don’t care much for The Pageant (capacity 2,300), and I’ve seen too many shows there that would have been better served in a smaller venue.

    I showed up to The Ready Room around 8:30, the time the first band was supposed to start, and easily found free street parking just a few minute walk from the venue.


    I knew the show wasn’t sold out, but I expected it to be crowded. What I didn’t expect was the long line to get in.

    This line, maybe 50 people strong, moved at a quick-enough-but-not-quite-fast speed and I was inside the venue in 15 minutes. They expedited the entrance process by having IDs checked while you were standing in line instead of at the door. This was a good move.

    The process could definitely be faster, but it could also definitely be worse. I just wasn’t expecting the line. Next time I will… or more likely next time I’ll aim to show up after the first opener has already finished.

    When I got in, the first thing I noticed wasn’t the layout, or the bar, or the colors or even the music. It was the smell (not pictured). The Ready Room, for presumably obvious reasons, smelled like fresh paint.

    It’s not fair to knock a new place for being new, but I like my concert venues to smell like smoke, body odor, and spilled booze. These last 2 things will come with time, but let’s talk about the first one: smoke.

    I don’t smoke, but I think concert venues should smell like smoke, and that people should be allowed to smoke in them. You may disagree, and probably for good reason. But there’s one thing that we can all agree on: e-cigarettes look ridiculous, and probably are ridiculous. If you’re going to be a no-smoking establishment, you should probably just be a no-smoking establishment. It occurred to me that e-cigarettes probably provide cover for people smoking less legal substances though? So, maybe it’s an upside for those people.

    Anyway, there were a lot of people smoking e-cigarette type devices at this show, helping neither the smell of the venue, nor their own appearance. Back to the review…



    The first thing you see when you walk into the Ready Room is this bar. One of my favorite things about The Firebird (also, Off Broadway) are their reasonably priced 24 oz PBRs. I am happy to report that these are also available, for the price of $5, at The Ready Room.

    They also have a good variety of craft beer, ranging from New Belgium to Schlafly, and a few breweries in between. I would like to see a bit larger local selection, but I got a PBR & a New Belgium Shift over the course of the night, so who am I to judge? Part of the lack of selection could be due to the fact that the venue would much rather serve cans than bottles, and local craft cans aren’t yet too common.

    One thing that this bar doesn’t have enough of is the ability to serve a near-capacity crowd in between sets.

    My first drink order, in between the first opener and second, went smoothly enough, maybe a 5-10 minute wait. This is an acceptable amount of time to wait. My second drink order, in between the second opener and Of Montreal, was a disaster.

    When the second band ended, I got in line, where I stood for 30+ minutes. I don’t know exactly how long I was in line, but I know that Of Montreal had started playing around the same time I finally got my drinks.

    I say line, but really it was a cluster of people all fighting to get a space at the bar, and trying to get the attention of the bartenders. Off Broadway recently switched away from this system to an actual line system and I think their service quality has increased greatly as a result. At least when you’re standing in a line, you have an idea about how long it might take for you to get a drink. When you’re in a cluster, it’s ambiguous and frustrating.

    This is a fault of the venue, and not a fault of the bartenders, who were working their asses off in an efficient manner.

    There needs to be a second bar at this venue. Maybe one which only serves beer and only takes cash, to reduce strain on the other one. You can’t serve drinks to 800 people in 30 minutes from one 30 foot bar. My recommendation for location: next to the merch setup to the right side of the stage. It’s out of the way and there’s plenty of room (see next diagram).


    Rather than describing the layout, I’ve made this rough map. This map is not to any kind of scale, and may not be accurate at all, but I’d like to use it for reference:


    I like the layout. It’s got a good feel to it. The separation between the bustle of the bar and the concert room is admirable (I know that I’ve suggested getting rid of it, with a second bar, like a jerk). Things flow well between the two rooms though, and there was never congestion going from one to the other.

    The place looks like it will age into being a good concert venue. The green/blue color paint (yes, the paint I complained bout earlier, like a jerk), is a good color. My favorite aesthetic feature of the venue is the exposed black ceiling beams across the whole venue.

    The tables are a nice concession for people who like to sit at shows, and they aren’t in the way of anything.

    I think the venue feels smaller than it actually is, and I mean that as a compliment to the space.

    There’s a lot of room to the sides of the stage though, and those spots seem to have kind of sloppy & muddled acoustics.

    Here’s my last big gripe: There are cool exposed light fixtures on the sides to the left and the right of the stage. During the opening bands, they were too bright, to a distracting degree. You can see them (or their effects) in all of my pictures pre-of Montreal (Below, and in “The Show” section).

    I was worried that they didn’t have a dimmer setting, and that it was going to be like this the whole night. Fortunately things got darker when of Montreal came on.

    Dark rooms are essential for good shows. They make the audience talk less, and a quieter audience makes for the appearance of a better band. A quiet audience also makes for the appearance of better soundboard operations. During the second set, the vocals weren’t coming through loud enough, the room was too bright, and the audience was too loud. These factors made it hard to enjoy what otherwise seemed like a performance I think I could have liked a lot more.


    I’ll wrap up the venue comments in a bit, but I saw a great show last night, and I should probably write a bit about that first.


    Local band Middle Class Fashion opened the evening off. I’m pretty “meh” on a lot of local bands (I’m sure that’s due more to the lack of effort on my part rather than the lack of quality of the local scene!), but I appreciate the gesture of having one be the first to play in this new venue. I also appreciated even more the fact that Middle Class Fashion appears to be very good. They are a 4 piece band, featuring a couple keyboards, a bass player and a drummer. Despite the no-guitar lineup, the songs were pretty rocking. The female-vocal led group sounded well put together, and I’d like to see them again in the future.


    The second band, Ortolan, was also female lead — three times over in fact. I had never heard of them before, and I had a bit of a hard time hearing them during this set. Vocals were particularly soft on the first song, but as the show went on, things either got better, or my ears adjusted. This band was a little more folksy, which I’m all about. I’m grabbing both of their CDs today, and I hope they come to St. Louis again as a headliner so I can get a better feel for their sound.


    The sets ran on time all evening, and of Montreal came on as scheduled at 10:30 PM. The band took the stage, minus lead singer Kevin Barnes, and a masked man came triumphantly to the stage to give a funny, silly, kind of dark speech to introduce him. This theatrical flourish would be repeated before the encore, and supplemented with other theatrics throughout the show.

    Sometimes, things like this can take up too much time, and I’ve read recently of of Montreal shows that were criticized for being more about the theatrics than the music. This was not the case during this show, which I think struck a wonderful balance between the two. The production was good, but the music was the star of the show and it was incredible. There was only one costume change, and no nudity, male or female.

    The 6 piece band stormed through the best parts of their 6 most recent albums, though they only played 1 song from False Priest (Coquet Coquette), and completely omitted 2012’s Paralytic Stalks. They pulled heavily from Skeletal Lamping & Hissing Fauna, as well as their most recent release, Lousy with Sylvianbriar. They couldn’t have played a set that was tailored better to my desires as an of Montreal fan. The most notable omission of the night, to me, was “Wraith Pinned To The Mist And Other Games”, but once your song is remade for an Outback Steakhouse commercial, maybe you don’t need to play it live anymore. There were a few other songs I would have liked to hear, but when you’re working from such a large catalogue of great work, these things are more than understandable.

    Lighting and sound were both wonderful for the duration of the set. The show was loud, and every instrument sounded great. I look forward to seeing this band again, hopefully at the same venue.


    There are no perfect venues, especially on opening night, but The Ready Room is off to a pretty good start by my estimation. My only 2 real gripes are that there should be another bar and that the lights should be dimmed during the openers. The “venue smell” I desire will show up eventually. Sound systems in new spaces are complicated, and I’m confident that the sound for opening bands will get better.

    I’ll be back to see Mates of State in 2 weeks and I’ll have another, and hopefully shorter write-up then!

    Here are some more pictures:



    Top 10 Albums – 2013

    January 18, 2014

    4 years in the same location. This is certainly a new record for my top 10 list, and though this blog has been neglected/abandoned this year, it’s nice to have everything in the same place.

    I had a great year listening to music this year, and still believe in the album as the best way to listen to music. Perhaps the fact that I’m saying that though indicates that I don’t really believe it. Who knows? In 2012, 7 artists were new to my top 10 list, and this year that number is down to 4.

    I had a wild ride through October and November where I was seeing about a concert a week, but despite that fact, I only saw 4 bands that made the top 10 list live this year.

    It’s been a tradition that I’ve provided download zips for past top 10 lists… but I’m not going to this year. If you’d like to hear the album, you can click on the Spotify link, or find it on YouTube or whatever. If you can’t figure out a way to listen to the album, get in touch. Without further ado, here we go!

    10. Tim Kasher – Adult Film

    Tim Kasher had an incredible run 2000-2004 chugging away as Conor Oberst’s second fiddle on the Omaha scene. Tim Kasher released 5 albums and a couple EPs over this period of time, and some of them are among my favorite albums ever. Specifically, Cursive’s Domestica and The Good Life’s Album of the Year.

    I’ve kept up with his work with varying degrees of interest since that time, but I hadn’t really gotten into an album since this one. Adult Film is more Good Life than Cursive, but it still rocks pretty hard. Standout tracks: A Raincloud is a Raincloud, Truly freaking out.
    Listen on Spotify

    9. of Montreal – Lousy with Sylvianbriar

    of Montreal’s another band who I was into for a long time. Unlike Kasher’s music, which I thought got kind of boring, of Montreal’s music just got too weird for me, and I lost interest.

    With Lousy with Slyvianbriar, of Montreal takes a sharp left turn from their hyper-sexualized-pschadelic-disco-pop and basically makes an accoustic country album. This isn’t too crazy, as they started out as a more acoustic pop band, but it’s pretty unexpected twist, and it works out pretty well. But it’s still pretty weird. Standout tracks include: Triumph of Disintegration, Belle Grade Missionaries
    Listen on Spotify

    8. Fur Trade – Don’t Get Heavy

    So, here’s a new band, but a sound you might recognize. Fur Trade is a side project of Steve Bays of Hot Hot Heat (Who’m you’ve probably heard of) and Parker Bossley of the Gay Nineties (Who’m you might not have heard of. I haven’t.) Now, I’ve never listened to a Hot Hot Heat album, so I wasn’t expecting much when I grabbed this one.

    But hey, it’s good, maybe even really good. This album is one of two that falls into my annual category of “Who’s going to make a better Islands album than Islands?” (The next answer is #7)

    This album is a rocking good time. The album starts out with a really strong 1-2 punch, so check those two out: Don’t Get Heavy and Kids These Days
    Listen on Spotify

    7. The Little Ones – The Dawn Sang Along

    I literally don’t know anything about this band. They weren’t reviewed on Pitchfork, and the people who formed the band were a part of Sunday’s Best, another band I’ve never heard of. I probably stumbled across this CD when it was on a torrenting site’s top 10 and had the tags “indie, pop, rock”. Those are all things I like

    And it turns out this album is really good. Those tags are pretty good indicators of what you’re in for. It’s a great pop rock album. It’s got good beats throughout. I think maybe on this list, it might be #2 or #3 on an “appealable to the largest amount of people” ranking.

    Check out tracks: Argonauts and Little Souls
    Listen on Spotify

    6. Kanye West – Yeezus

    Hating Kanye West appears to be back in style and stronger than ever in 2013, and I won’t deny that he makes it pretty easy. He says dumb things in interviews, he marries weird people, etc… I understand if you don’t like Kanye West.

    But he is doing real work, musically. His previous full-length, 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, was my favorite album of the year, and I just listened to it again this week. It’s incredible. This album is not that good, by a long shot, but it’s also wildly different.

    I still haven’t got on board with this IDM or whatever the kids are calling it these days, but Kanye’s keeping up with the times. He’s built a huge platform for himself and he’s not sitting on his ass making Graduation over and over again, raking in more money. He’s doing interesting things. He’s setting himself up over and over again for criticism and failure, and (at least musically) he keeps succeeding.

    This album took awhile to grow on me. Maybe 3 times through I was still unsure about it, but it’s strong all the way through from the schyzophrenic “On Site” to the topless Kim Kardashian “Bound 2”. There’s a reason that artists as diverse as Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Daft Punk and Rick Rubin want to work with this guy. No matter how misguided you might think he is, he cares passionately (often to a fault) about the work he’s doing, and will go to whatever ends he deems necessary to get it done.
    Listen on Spotify

    5. Okkervil River – The Silver Gymnasium

    Unlike Tim Kasher and of Montreal, where I kind of lost interest for awhile, I’ve given all of Okkervil River’s albums a good hard effort, and things have been in decline (on my estimation which is obviously of little consequence) since Black Sheep Boy, which capped a string of 3 phenomenal albums. Both Stage Names and Stand-Ins (which maybe doesn’t count as an album?) were both pretty good.

    2011’s I Am Very Far was decidedly average though and after seeing a decidedly below average show in support of the album, I was worried my Okkervil River days were nearly over.

    This album is very good though. Not BSB good, but at least Stage Names good, and the St. Louis tour date was decidedly great. This is a concept album about a boyhood in New Hampshire in the 1980’s, and if that sounds too quaint to you… it might be. But if you think “oh that might be interesting” then you’ll probably like this album.

    Looking at the track list, it’s hard to recommend just a few tracks here, but let’s see how you like: On A Balcony, Down The Deep River & Pink Slips
    Listen on Spotify

    4. Tristen – Caves

    You might remember Tristen from her #6 appearance on the 2011 list with Charlaten at the Garden Gates. This follow album seemed to take a long time to get out. Maybe I only think that because I backed it on Kickstarter.

    But anyway, Charlaten was a very nashvill-y album, and this one is too. But there are more drum machines. I don’t have a lot to say about this, other than I love her voice and I think you will too. Check out the tracks “No One’s Gonna Know” and … I don’t know “Monster”. They are all good though.
    Listen on Spotify

    3. CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe

    This one took a lonnnnggggg time to grow on me. There are discussions on record of me not liking this album. I still stand by the fact that CHVRCHES is a stupid band name, but I can no longer say that this is not one of my favorite CDs of the year.

    This is an electronic pop album. Listen if you like “The Postal Service”, maybe? But it’s definitely less minimal than that. It’s big, it’s fun, and it might be just as good. This is solid stay awake, multiple listen road trip material.

    Check out “The Mother We Share”, “Gun”, “Recover”, and then be confident that if you listen a few times, the rest of the album is as good as these three tracks.
    Listen on Spotify

    2. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

    I keep waiting for this band to disappoint me. Their debut seemed like such a flash in the pan, their second album seemed like an acceptable continuation of their first album, but what about that third album? They have to get worse, or get boring, right?

    WRONG. Modern Vampires of the City is as good as Vampire Weekend’s debut, and it is completely different. Sure, it’s still kind of ivy-league pop-rock. But they strayed well out of their comfort zone here, most notably by writing some great slow songs. I can’t and won’t say what my favorite Vampire Weekend album is, but this is definitely in the conversation. Also, it gives me hope that this band has a lot more potential than I thought they did.

    Every track is great, but I guess check out “Dianne Young”, and “Everlasting Arms”. My favorite track though, is “Hannah Hunt”, but it’s a bit of a grower
    Listen on Spotify

    1. Moonface – Julia With Blue Jeans On

    If Spencer Krug is putting out an album, under any name there’s a good chance it’s going to show up on a Top 10 list for me. (Except for those Wolf Parade albums after the first one. Don’t know what went wrong there.) Moonface has been an amorphous project with the only fixed piece being Spencer Krug himself, and this one is the most concentrated form of this vision: Spencer Krug, his voice, and a piano.

    It’s easily my favorite Moonface album and maybe up there with my favorite Spencer Krug album under any name. (Sunset Rubdown was his other main band. They only put out 3 albums but all of them were close to my #1 album of the year when they came out.)

    If this album were by anyone else, it might not have made such an impact on me, but I just love this guy’s voice and his style of writing so much. I guess standout tracks include: “Love the House You’re In” and “Black is Back In Style”.

    To be clear, these top 3 albums were kind of a tossup. In a tossup though, Spencer Krug always wins for me.
    Listen on Spotify

    Thanks for reading. See you again in 2015.

    St. Louis Diner Review: Jeff Mangum

    January 25, 2013

    I went to see Jeff Mangum with my father last week. He blogged about it, and I like it, so I’m not going to write much about it.

    Jeff Mangum at The Sheldon

    We were in the balcony but about 40 people came up and either sat right in front or actually sat on the stage with him. it was cool. And all of them knew the words… to every song. I remember being a fan like that and having a passion like that. but barely.