Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Top 10 Albums 2022

December 14, 2022

Another year, another amount of music consumed. A few notable(?) developments this year:

  1. I didn’t purchase a single physical music recording. No albums, no CDs, no deluxe reissues of things I already own, no nothing. Overall… it felt fine? My record player isn’t in a particularly used room of the house. There is no CD player in the house and only 1/2 of our family cars even have one. Buying CDs & records has always been important to me, but these things are just taking up space. I decided to take a year off and see how I felt about it, and I think I’ll continue. Obviously, artists aren’t making any money off my streaming, so this year I’m planning on buying 15-20 albums (digitally) on Bandcamp this year. Artists get more money, less plastic is used, less stuff in my house. Maybe I’ll buy a physical release or two a year going forward.
  2. Regular concert attendance is back for me, and it’s the best! I think I made it to about a show a month this year. Some highlights: The Beths (and especially opener Rosie Tucker) at The Duck Room, MUNA at Delmar Hall, Illuminati Hotties at the Duck Room, Bright Eyes at the Pageant, etc. I also saw a couple shows at “The Factory” in Chesterfield this year. I do not like this place. Still haven’t made it to Off Broadway since COVID and I am furious with myself about this, but I’ll be seeing Cursive there in a week.
  3. My father (my primary role model for musical appreciation) has always encouraged me to listen to more country music. This year, I think that 3 albums on this list qualify, but I worry it’s not the right type of country music to impress my father. You can try to figure out which 3, I guess.
  4. If you listen to your Spotify Release Radar and favorite things you like every week, you’ll find new bands to listen to. The vast majority of this list (8/10?) are bands that I wasn’t familiar with a year ago, and some of them are pretty obscure (less than a few thousands streams on some songs of the album), so here’s one small data point that new artist discovery is possible through Spotify.

I listened to 50 or so new albums this year and 20 of them were in serious contention for this top 10 list. My #1 album this year came out in February, and I pretty much knew it right away. The rest of the list is a bit soft in the order. Anyway, let’s dive in!

10. Momma – Household Name

(Listen on Spotify)

When I was a youth, I would get to shows hours early to get a great spot. As a father of 2, I put my children to bed and attempt to arrive to a show in time to see the last 2 songs of an opener’s set. Shows with two openers… keep me up too late, and I generally get a little cranky about them.

BUT. Momma, who was the 2nd opener at Snail Mail was incredible, and a demonstration for why my attitude towards openers is bad/wrong. Momma was great, and their album Household Name is also great.

9. 2nd Grade – Easy Listening

(Listen on Spotify)

This band has been bouncing around my Spotify infinity playlists for a bit (song: Velodrome) but this is the first album I’ve given much time to. Great power pop fun, a la vintage Fountains of Wayne.

8. Chloe Kimes – Chloe Kimes

(Listen on Spotify)

I was lucky to spend the month of July with my family in Michigan this year. For the 2nd year in a row, one of our favorite parts of the trip was following Chloe Kimes from brewery to distillery to state park. Chloe is from Michigan but lives & works as a musician in Nashville for most of the year. But each summer she comes up to Michigan for a bit.

We stumbled across her performing at Stormcloud Brewing in 2021, and saw her two more times in the coming weeks. We were thrilled that our times in Michigan were overlapping again in 2022 and this time we saw her 4 times! She put out her debut full-length album this year, and it’s great. The songs all contain wonderful songs & stories. Here’s a picture of her with the Becker Family

7. Deer Scout – Woodpecker

(Listen on Spotify)

This begins a block of 3 albums with pink/purple album art by artists that I know nothing about. This is the whisperiest, bed-roomiest album on the list. Tender & nice & beautiful.

6. Annie Blackman – All of It

(Listen on Spotify)

Another Spotify Release Radar stumble-upon. Based on the play count, I’d guess that “Glitch” was the song that got me hooked, but it’s a strong release from start to finish. Also, she writes a fun newsletter.

5. Lilito – Happy Horse Lamp

(Listen on Spotify)

I love this album. It’s fun & quirky and filled with joy. I tried to do some googling, and didn’t learn much, but the lead singer’s dad is in Taking Back Sunday, and that’s cool. Listen to the first song, Waning, and I think you’ll know if it’s your jam or not.

4. MJ Lenderman – Boat Songs

(Listen on Spotify)

The first song of this album is about how Michael Jordan was badly hungover (rather than having the flu, or food poisoning) during his famous “Game 6” NBA finals performance.

“It wasn’t a pizza & it wasn’t the flu.
Yeah, I love drinking too.”

I’m not into NBA lore enough (at all) to know if this story holds any water, but it makes for a great song. There are lots of great stories & great songs on this album.

3. Plains – I Walked With You A Ways

(Listen on Spotify)

When Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee) does a music project, I pay attention. Her 2020 release St. Cloud made my list, and when I heard her voice on my Release Radar I thought “What’s this?” She teamed up with Jess Williamson (Someone I am not currently familiar with) and recorded a country album… and I love it! A lot of things on this list came out in the first half of the year, and this one came out more recently and has really been eating up the last month or so.


(Listen on Spotify)

I didn’t know much about MUNA before Silk Chiffon, and TBH I still haven’t spent a lot of time digging into their back catalog. So there’s some room to grow on my end. But I saw them live this year, and what an incredible experience. Would recommend 100% for anyone who likes having fun.

This is the danciest album on the list and maybe the only one that makes substantial use of drum machines?

1. Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

(Listen on Spotify)

Big album name, big album length (20 tracks, 80 minutes) not a single wasted second. This is a dynamic album with ups & downs, fasts & slows, gorgeous haunting lyrics. The 3rd most popular song on the album (my current favorite), Simulation Swarm… is the 17th track! This one dominated my listening this year, with I think 4/5 of my Spotify Wrapped songs being from it. One (Certainty) even made it into the coveted “Sing this to my daughters at bedtime” rotation.

So, that’s the list. I’ve got a mix of some of my favorite tracks from these albums as well as 16 other albums that didn’t make the list, so take a listen.

Also, here were the albums that almost made this list:


Top 10 Albums 2021

December 29, 2021

Another year of working mostly from home means another year of a 40-hour-a-week music consumption habit uninhibited by the considerations of others. I listened to lots of things this year! Spotify says 82,030 minutes which comes out to over 26 hours a week. Over 50 new albums. Neat. When it all came down to it there were maybe 20 that I would have liked to give a spot on this list. But while Inflation is impacting many parts of the economy, this list remains at 0% y/y growth in length… we’re sticking to a top 10.

Some stats:

  • Newcomers to the list: 8/10
  • Debut Releases: 2/10
  • Non Male Artists: 7/10

This year’s top 3 is not as strong as the Top 3 in 2020, but it does have my 3 favorite genres represented: Indie Rock/Pop, Rap & Boygenius. The writing about these albums may be lacking this year, even compared to my previous poor efforts. That said, let’s dive in:

10. Claud – Super Monster

Listen on Spotify

The full-length debut from indie-pop artist Claud! The first full-length release on Phoebe Bridgers’ record label Saddest Factory! This came out in February and really stuck with me throughout the year as something I kept coming back to. It doesn’t sound at all like Phoebe Bridgers, except for being kind of sad.

9. Olivia Rodrigo – SOUR

Listen on Spotify

I hadn’t heard of Olivia Rodrigo until this album came out and my twitter timeline was full of jokes about it making millennials feel old. When I saw these jokes, I was expecting music I didn’t understand the appeal of bc I’m old & out of touch (see: Billie Eilish) BUT instead it was just some cool songs about the perils of being a teenager. This isn’t immediately relatable to my current life experience, but it is very good!

There’s a diverse range of genres & song-writing styles, but Rodrigo pulls it all together. It’s good. Listen to it.

8. Snail Mail – Valentine

Listen on Spotify

3 artists into our Top 10, 22 year old Lindsey Jordan of Snail Mail is the oldest artist to appear so far (But the youngest of the top 8, I think). Her sophomore album is as strong or better than her 2018 debut… which was also my 8th favorite album of that year.

Valentine has a much broader sound without giving up the intimacy of Lush.

7. Adult Mom – Driver

Listen on Spotify

I guess this album came out in March but I didn’t get into it until later in the year. Ended up being one of my favorites. Enjoyable storytelling, hooks, etc.

6. Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee

Listen on Spotify

I’ve listened to a lot of Japanese Breakfast albums but this is the first one that’s really stuck with me. It’s fun, triumphant, expansive indie pop.

5. Islands – Islomania

Listen on Spotify

Making their 4th appearance on this list since since 2006, Islands is Back with their first album in 5 years! Islomania is the least complicated, most purely fun release ever from the band I think. Their whole catalog is enjoyable but this is perhaps in contention for my 2nd favorite release of theirs.

Fun, energetic, catchy, straight-foward pop. Great stuff.

4. Cassandra Jenkins – An overview on Phenomenal Nature

Listen on Spotify

This is traditionally not my thing, and I don’t know why it caught me so strongly. It’s only 7 tracks long. The most listened to track on Spotify is mostly a spoken-word type thing. It has some smooth jazz vibes.

BUT it’s… phenomenal! When I was typing that first paragraph, I was like “maybe I should drop this further down the list” but then I listened to the first few seconds of every track, and they are all great.

3. Lucy Dacus – Home Video

Listen on Spotify

Lucy Dacus’s Home Video marks the last member of the supergroup Boygenius to release an album since that group’s impeccable 2018 EP. Before the Boygenius EP came out, Lucy was the only member of the group I was particularly familiar with as her earlier-in-2018 sophomore album Historian was my 3rd favorite album of that year.

Home Video draws on Dacus’s crystal clear recollections from earlier in her life. Stories of Vacation Bible School camp, Friends’ subpar boyfriends & fathers, complicated relationships with boys & girls. Each one told with the detail of clarity like it happened yesterday, but with the perspective of someone with distance.

While I still slightly prefer Historian, this is a very enjoyable followup.

2. Tyler the Creator – CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST

Listen on Spotify

Remember rap in the late aughts? Tyler the Creator remembers. Rappers at the height of their game rapping on other people’s beats with DJs confusingly shouting thing during tracks. It was the best of times, it was the most obnoxious of times.

CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is Tyler’s homage to this style & time, and he brings the mixtape king, DJ Drama along for the ride. This is from start to finish the most traditional & accessible “rap” album. But it still has the bombastic & creative beats that Tyler’s known for.

This is easily my favorite Tyler album ever and it’s one of my favorite rap releases in recent memory.

1. Kiwi Jr. – Cooler Returns

Listen on Spotify

I enjoyed Kiwi Jr.’s 2020 Debut “Football Money” a good bit, but I don’t think it was really in contention for my top 10 last year. I don’t know what made this album different but it was in heavy rotation from January 22 when it came out!

The lyrics are biting, the hooks are big, the guitars are jangly. I really enjoy the whole vibe of the thing.

It was also one of my 4 year old Julia’s favorites. When we’re riding in the car together, it’s about 50/50 on who gets to pick the tunes. She generally gravitates towards Frozen & Moana soundtracks. But one day in the car she said “Dad, can we listen to Kiwi Jr.?” and I’m not going to lie, this made me feel great.

So, here we are. Julia and I’s favorite album of the year.

Get Your Mix!

If you want a little taste of everything here + 20 or so songs from my other favorite releases of the year, you can grab the mix here:

Top 10 Albums 2020

December 28, 2020

From 2011 – March of 2020, I’ve worked 3 jobs, but they’ve all had this in common: A small team of 2-4 people sitting in an open office environment, working on computers all day. Due to a combination of my own obnoxiousness and others’ apathy, I normally end up determining what music everyone listens to all day. This is great (for me, at least) but it also comes with some responsibility to make sure people aren’t miserable. So, I listen to a lot things that everyone that I work with, who is generally within 10 years of my age one way or the other, find tolerable. For me this means a lot of 2000s era rap & indie-ish rock. Kanye West, Outkast, Girl Talk, The Strokes, The White Stripes, etc. And then I also listen to new things coming out that I think other people might be able to tolerate, to mixed results.

But what if I had the majority of the year to pick music just for me, without feeling the need to moderate my selections to please others? Thanks to a flexible job & a global pandemic, 2020 is the year we find out! If I want to listen to the same mopey album on repeat for 8 hours in a row, there’s no one to stop me. I know, because I did that a lot.

What a great year to be stuck at home picking your own music. 7 artists on this year’s list are new to my top 10 (2006-Present). This was an incredibly tough year to whittle down to 10. One of my favorite artists (The Mountain Goats) released two great albums this year, and neither made my Top 10. Another one of my my favorite artists (Sufjan Stevens) released two albums this year that I couldn’t get into, and it didn’t even bum me out.

You can get a general feel for what I was listening to on my Mix that features songs from 20-ish of my favorite releases this year. But let’s just move into the Top 10 (playlist link, but the albums are in no particular order):

10. Long Neck – World’s Strongest Dog

Listen on Spotify

Don’t know who this is or how they came into my life. Maybe it was a Spotify Release Radar. Maybe it was an artist I follow on Twitter. But, they have a cool name, and a great sound. 10 songs, 29 minutes. Short, catchy good rock songs.

9. Christian Lee Hutson – Beginners

Listen on Spotify

I know exactly how I got into Christian Lee Hutson. He’s apart of the Phoebe Bridgers Expanded Universe, which is where I spend a lot of time these days. He was involved in some way w/ both of Bridgers’ side-projects Boygenius & Better Oblivion Community Center, and also did work on her 2020 release Punisher. Bridgers produced this album.

Anyway, this album is noticeable on this list because it’s the only one with a guy who sings & plays guitar. Quiet songs about relationships & stuff. Kind of got some Carrie & Lowell vibes, but I don’t think it’s about his parents or Jesus. There’s also a real banger called “Get the Old Band Back Together”

8. Beach Bunny – Honeymoon

Listen on Spotify

California pop rock, via a Chicago band. Short songs (7/9 less than 3 minutes), short album, big hooks. Fun summer music for everyone. This band has released a lot of great EPs but this is their full length debut.

7. Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud

Listen on Spotify

A lot of people I know LOVED this album, and I just think it’s great. Waxahatchee has been around & critically acclaimed for awhile, and has been appearing frequently on Spotify’s infinite playlists for years, but this is the first album I was able to get into. Great voice, melodies, guitars, etc.

6. HAIM – Women in Music Part III

Listen on Spotify

Of the ~6 people who read this list every year, I’m on a group chat w/ two of them who love HAIM (Hi, Joel & Collin) but for some reason I hadn’t found a way to really connect with their first two albums (Sorry, everyone). This one really got me though, from the first listen. Bops from the first track to the last. (Aside: Albums that release, at launch with only one version that includes “Bonus Tracks” are confusing/annoying to me, because I don’t actually know where this album ends, but the bonus tracks are also bops, so I will allow it.)

5. Frances Quinlan – Likewise

Listen on Spotify

Frances Quinlan released two worthwhile projects this year: This one, her first (On Spotify at least) titular release and “Freshman Year” a re-release of her first album using the “Hop Along” name that would bring her to indie darling status. Hop Along’s “Bark Your Head Off, Dog” was my favorite album of 2018 and remains in heavy rotation as one of 2 CDs in my car.

Likewise is a much sparser project than Bark Your Head Off, Dog, which means it highlights her voice & songwriting, both of which are delightful. The first track, Piltdown Man, is an exemplary example of Quinlan’s strengths as a songwriter. A simple childhood memory, vivid & relatable, perhaps framing a larger issue, perhaps not. Other favorites of mine are “Went to LA” (the last minute, that voice, my goodness) and the closer “Carry the Zero” a great take on a Built to Spill classic.

4. Liza Anne – Bad Vacation

Listen on Spotify

My top 3 albums on this list are pretty widely regarded as some of the best of the year (#6, #1, #4 according to MetaCritic) but this one which almost cracked the top 3 really flew under the radar. Another mystery on how they showed up on my radar, but it was probably a recommendation someone in the Phoebe Bridgers Expanded Universe, as three of them (Phoebe, Lucy & Christian) follow her on Twitter. A catchy upbeat album about depression, substance abuse, etc. My jam! Big Saint Vincent-esque guitars at times.

3. Run the Jewels – RTJ4

Listen on Spotify

Miller Mike & El-P are back, and they aren’t disappointing because they are heroes & masters of their craft. This isn’t my favorite Run the Jewels album (RTJ2) but, it probably takes the #2 spot. Best beat: Oh La La. Best lyrics, maybe song of the year: Walking in Snow.

2. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Listen on Spotify

In April, a couple weeks after this album came out, if you had told me it wouldn’t be my favorite album of the year, I would have said you were crazy. Perhaps too much has already been said about the nature of this art made by someone who had more or less locked themselves in their home for years, coming out as we were slowly realizing we’d be more or less locked in our homes for a year. This album has an incredible energy to it that I think will prove to be timeless and came out at the time it was most needed.

1. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

Listen on Spotify

So, what could be better than that? Phoebe Fucking Bridgers, who has had a prolific and nearly perfect three year run, with 4 releases with 3 different groups: 2 solo albums, 1 perfect supergroup EP (Boygenius) and a full-length with one of her childhood idols, Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes with Better Oblivion Community Center. Punisher (the song) is about a different one of her childhood idols, Elliot Smith, who I have never gotten into (sorry!).

Her debut album, Stranger in the Alps might have been my favorite album of 2017… but I didn’t listen to it until 2018, so it didn’t make my list. Punisher is bigger and better in every way. Bridgers musical palette expands wildly here, and her lyricism grows with it. So many beautiful songs about so many different kinds of sadness. She also is really funny & self-aware, in her music and especially on Twitter.

Stuff I really liked that didn’t make the cut:

Ohmme – Fantasize Your Ghost
Sad13 – Haunted Painting
Bright Eyes – Down in the Weeds Where the World Once Was
The Mountain Goats – Songs for Pierre Chauvin
The Mountain Goats – Getting Into Knives
The Magnetic Fields – Quickies
Wolf Parade – Thin Mind

Cool Re-issues & Live Albums & EPs & Other Stuff:

Rilo Kiley – Rilo Kiley
Hop Along, Queen Anslies – Freshman Year
The Mountain Goats – Jordan Lake Sessions
Belle & Sebastian – What to Look For In Summer
Phoebe Bridgers – Copycat Killer EP
Nick Lutsko – Songs On The Computer

Runner Up Albums – 2016

December 23, 2016

Welcome to part two of my year-end music recap. This isn’t much of an article as it is a list of things that didn’t make my top 10 list. You can check out that list or other parts of this thing by clicking something below:

  1. Top 10
  2. Runners Up (You are reading this, right now. No need to click anything)
  3. Stats, Data & Trends, 2006 – 2016
  4. Music Piracy & Discovery

Things that were really close to making my Top 10:

Conor Oberst – Ruminations

Listen on Spotify
One of my favorite songwriters singing songs like Bob Dylan, by himself with a piano and harmonica and sometimes a guitar. Quiet and nice

Oh Pep! – Stadium Cake

Listen on Spotify
This band opened for the Mountain Goats, who I saw two nights in a row this year. They were a great opening band and I checked out their album and it turns out it’s great also.

case/lang/veirs – case/lang/veirs

Listen on Spotify
Women indie super group. Niko Case, K.D. Lang & Laura Veirs. I was worried it would be a letdown, but it’s actually great.

Things that were less close, but still really good:

Okkervil River – Away

Listen on Spotify
Okkervil River’s best album in a long time, even though the band broke up and Will Sheff found some new people to play with him and call Okkervil River. Nice and acoustic and good.

of Montreal – Innocence Reaches

Listen on Spotify
Not of Montreal’s best work. Still pretty good. See them in concert whenever you can.

Wolf Parade – EP 4

Listen on Spotify
With the exception of their incredible 2004 debut, “Apologies to the Queen Mary”, I have always loved the side projects of Wolf Parade’s members more than I have loved Wolf Parade themselves. But it’s still exciting when they are doing things together. This album is fine.

Islands – Should I remain Here At Sea?

Listen on Spotify
Islands other album made my top 10 list. This came out on the same day, and may have made my top 10 list if it was the only Islands album that came out this year. But I like the other one more, so I listened to this one less and we’ll never know for sure.

Beyoncé – Lemonade

Not on Spotify
Yeah. I like this album.

Operators – Blue Wave

Listen on Spotify
Here’s a Wolf Parade side project. Dan Boeckner’s Operators released this album. If you like his other projects (Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs, the Divine Fits) you’ll probably like this too.

Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing

Listen on Spotify
Twee as fuck.

Moonface & Siinai – My Best Human Face

Listen on Spotify
Another Wolf Parade side project. Spencer Krug can do no wrong in my eyes. This is kind of boring though. If I don’t love this, I’m not sure who will. Still worth a listen if you like his stuff though.

Music Piracy & Discovery

December 23, 2016

A remembrance of

Remember Napster? I sure do. I was 12 when it came out. I was just getting into computers and I was just getting into music and Napster basically changed my life.

On our family’s 56k modem, I downloaded songs I heard on the radio that I liked. Here are some early downloads I vividly remember: Papa Roach: “Last Resort”, Limp Bizkit: “Rollin” (both the Air Raid & Urban Assault versions), O.P.M.: “Heaven is a Halfpipe”. Absolute garbage that 4th graders who are just getting into music might be interested in.

It wasn’t a straight upward trajectory, but things got better for me musically. My big obsession in middle school was Weezer (and also a lot of punk rock music we don’t need to talk about). I used Napster (and when Napster got shut down, services like Limewire, BearShare, Kazaa and all the rest) to find rare tracks, tons of bootleg concerts, radio show appearances and pretty much anything else I could get my hands on. It took 15 minutes to download a song and it was amazing.

Eventually, I got on Weezer message boards to learn more about Weezer and also to read about music that other Weezer fans liked (Hereae’s retrospective from the heyday of Weezer’s message board). I’d read a thread about an artist, then head over to whatever music pirating program I was using at that point and download an album to figure out if I was interested in them also.

The quality of these downloads were often terrible. There were low bit-rates and weird bleeps and cutoffs. Sometimes you’d have to download different album tracks from different places, and sometimes it took days to get the rare file you were looking for. But for a young person with an abundance of time, an insatiable interest in discovering new music and a satiable budget, it was incredible!

When I found an artist I liked, I tried to download as much of their stuff as possible. And eventually I’d buy the CDs. As I grew older, I’d attend more and more concerts.

To this day, I buy 10-20 physical albums (some CD, some vinyl) a year and probably attend on average a concert a month. I love music, and I spend money on music.

I really believe that one of the catalysts for me loving my music the way I do today was the ability for me to discover, hunt down and acquire (steal) music on my own at a young age. (The other catalyst is my father’s love of music.) The idea of knowing bands’ whole catalogues, finding bands that my friends had never heard of, or finding weird recordings of bands my friends loved but had never heard… all of it was wonderful.

Eventually, Napster, Limewire, Kazaa and BearShare all got shut down, or became too much of a hassle, or just weren’t that great.

Then eventually I learned about torrents.

Getting music through torrents is like getting music from Napster, but better in almost every way. On a peer to peer (P2P) service like Napster, when you downloaded a file, you were downloading it from 1 person. If they logged off of Napster, your download would stop. With torrents, you download from multiple sources as the same time, sometimes tens or hundreds. When one person logs off… it doesn’t matter! It just redirects and starts downloading from elsewhere.

Another amazing thing about torrents: You could download whole albums at the same time. No more searching for the last track of an album, or getting things from a ton of different sources and bitrates. Everything was right there in one folder.

But some things still sucked: Sometimes music was mislabeled and you’d download a virus. Sometimes the quality was garbage. Sometimes there were no seeders (that’s the term for the people you download music from) and you couldn’t download anything at all. It was tough to find a good torrent site and you’d spend a good amount of time searching for one.

Then, I started to hear about the amazing world of private torrent sites. These were invite-only sites that had rules in place to make sure that the user wouldn’t experience any of the problems above: Music wasn’t mislabeled or a virus, because you could get banned from uploading mislabeled music. Quality wasn’t garbage because they set minimum standards for that, and they were all labeled so you knew the quality of file you were downloading before you started. There were always seeders because you were required to keep a certain ratio of content downloaded to content uploaded.

The first one of these sites, and certainly the most popular at that time was Oink’s Pink Palace. This ugly site had rules like the ones listed above and also silly ones like “You have to have a cute avatar” (almost everyone had pictures of cute puppies). I got into Oink (I think from an invitation from someone on a Radiohead message board) about a year before it got shut down, and even though I had only been a member for a short amount of time, it was devastating when it happened.

Out of its ashes came an incredible site called and I rushed to get access as soon as I could. For the last 9 years, until it was shut down last month, has been my source for music discovery.

Not only did they have the best organized library of music known to man, quickly surpassing Oink’s selection, but they got everything the moment it became available (legally or otherwise), and they also had incredible tools for discovery.

There was a top 10 page where you could easily see the most downloaded torrents that had been uploaded in the last day/week/month/year. Easily visible for each release was the artist, the title, the type of release and the file file format. And even better, each upload was tagged with a smattering of genres: indie, indie.pop, indie.rock, garage.rock, etc. And when you clicked on a torrent’s page, you could participate in a discussion about the release and see what others were saying about it.
It was from this Top 10 page that I downloaded countless releases from artists I had never heard of before… and so many times I was rewarded with incredible music. So many of my new artists on my top 10 lists over the years have been a direct result of a random download.

A lot of times, I wasn’t able to get into whatever I had downloaded. But the cost of downloading was so low and the payoff for finding something great was high, so I kept going.

And just as I did with Napster, when I found an artist I liked, I bought their CDs and went to their concerts. From fourth grade until last month, while my musical tastes have evolved, my general habits of music consumption have not changed.

So it hit me like a punch in the gut a few weeks ago when was shuttered, its servers taken by some government agency in Europe. Like Napster and Oink before it, I knew that illegal music sites are never long for this world. But it felt like this was different. This site felt like it would be around forever.

Now I’m lost and confused. I’ve been depending on something for so long and now it’s gone. I don’t have a plan of attack for music discovery going forward and it is a little scary to me. Do I look for the “next”? Do I trust a combination of Pitchfork reviews and Spotify Discovery playlists to encourage my music growth going forward? I don’t know.

What I do know is that I am not ready to stop listening to new music. I will not give up on finding and supporting new artists I like. When I have children, I will play current music for them that they think is weird in various ways. And I will keep putting together these stupid top 10 lists at the end of every year as long as I can stand to write them. I don’t think I know that I am not a good music critic, but I know the joy that music brings me and that I will keep doing my part to share that joy with others.

Other 2016 Year-end music posts:

  1. Top 10
  2. Runners Up (You are reading this, right now. No need to click anything)
  3. Stats, Data & Trends, 2006 – 2016
  4. Music Piracy & Discovery

Music Data & Trends – 2016

December 23, 2016

Here’s updated data from 2015. Not tracking any new metrics, but you can read last year’s post for more context here.







Other 2016 Year-end music posts:

  1. Top 10
  2. Runners Up
  3. Stats, Data & Trends, 2006 – 2016 (You are reading this, right now. No need to click anything)
  4. Music Piracy & Discovery

Top 10 Albums – 2016

December 23, 2016

You know what was great in 2016? The music was great. This is the hardest time I’ve ever had whittling my list down to ten albums, and there are a few that break my heart to not have made the cut!

This list is full of new-to-me bands with a wide variety of genres, moods and perhaps accessibility. Old friends like Bon Over come back with exciting new sounds, my favorite band of all time is back with their first great album in almost twenty years, and Chance the Rapper literally changed my year for the better just by existing.

This year’s music review comes in four parts… I guess I’ll break these up into four blog posts. Let’s dive in.

  1. Top 10 (You are reading this, right now. No need to click anything)
  2. Runners Up
  3. Stats, Data & Trends, 2006 – 2016
  4. Music Piracy & Discovery

Here we go.

10. Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam – I Had A Dream That You Were Mine

Listen on Spotify

Hamilton Leithauser was/is the lead guy for The Walkman, a popular indie rock band that I was never able to get into. Rostam Batmanglij is a side guy for Vampire Weekend, a popular indie rock band that I love. He’s also in Discovery, another band that has made an appearance on this list.

Hamilton Leithauser + Rotsam is a beautiful rock band that is more Walkman than Vampire weekend, but I love it none the less. Excellent rock music for any time. For awhile, I only listened to the first song over and over again and wasn’t that impressed by the rest of the album… but it grew on me.

9. Islands – Taste

Listen on Spotify

Nick Thorburn (Or, Nick Diamonds) is the lead singer of Islands. He is also the lead singer of indie pop legends, The Unicorns. But YOU probably know his work best as the guy who wrote the score for the smash hit podcast Serial That’s fine too.

Islands has been a mixed bag of musical output in terms of quality, never bad but not always inspiring. Taste, which they released simultaniously with another album, “Shall I Remain Here at Sea”, is their best work since their 2006 debut “Return to the Sea”. Shall I Remain Here at Sea was also very good, but not good enough for this list. Clever pop music and clever lyrics. Exciting song structures. Not cumbersome.

8. Frank Ocean – Blonde

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Did I ever really taken the time to get into Frank Ocean before this year? NO, I DID NOT. Does that make me a bad person? MAYBE. But man, this album is excellent.

This album, which might be most generally characterized as R&B, has so much feeling and intention in every bit of it. Perhaps if I listened to it more, this would be higher up on this list.

7. Whitney – Light Upon the Lake

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Chill pop rock. Falsetto singing. Fun for all occasions but this wins the distinguished award of “brunch album of the year”.

6. Bon Iver – 22, A Million

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been five freaking years since Bon Iver released his last album, “Bon Iver, Bon Iver.” That album, and his 2007/2008 debut “For Emma, Forever Ago” have never really left pop culture, from their placements in movies & TV shows to YouTube covers. It’s rather remarkable for such soft spoken music.

It is easy to hear 5 years of growth in “22, A Million”. So much growth that it’s a bit startling on the first few listens if one goes in expecting more of the same. This album is sparse and weird, at the same time melodic and beautiful. I like it more every time I listen.

5. Chairlift – Moth

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This band announced they are breaking up today (December 16, 2016) which is a bit of a bummer, considering I just found out they existed in January of this year.

Fortunately, I was able to really enjoy their last album, “Moth”, and see them in concert before they broke up. This album is an infectious bit of dance pop and the album is a joy to listen to, dancing around your house and cleaning up or doing dishes or whatever. I guess they are touring a bit more in the spring before they break up, so if they’re coming to your area, go check it out.

4. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

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You already have an opinion about Kanye West and I’m not going to change it. This album is great.

3. Weezer – Weezer (The White Album)

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Who would have thought that Weezer would find its way up this high on any top ten list ever again? I sure didn’t. I didn’t think they would even make it onto my Top 10 ever again. Their most recent effort, “Everything Will Be Alright In The End” was a step in the right direction, but it didn’t seem like they had enough in the tank to make a full album of really enjoyable music again. I have never been happy to be so wrong.

Weezer (The White Album) is EASILY the third best Weezer album. It it closer in quality to their two classics (Blue (1994) and Pinkerton (1996)) than it is to any of the pretty decent to irredeemable garbage albums that they’ve released this millennium.
Don’t miss this album, and if you only listened to it once, listen to it five more times. This is great California pop rock. It never takes itself too seriously, and it’ll make you laugh or be confused without rolling your eyes/pulling your hair out. It’s weird and it’s fun and it’s great.

2. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

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Apparently this has band has been around awhile making pretty great rock music with a small following. But they seem to have picked up steam and coverage this year with their incredible rock album, “Teens of Denial” as they’ve finally reached my ears.
This album is as packed with guitar riffs as it is with clever lyrics that are at times both self-defacing and outwardly eviscerating to their subject. See this stand-out line from one of many standout tracks, Cosmic Hero:

And if you really wanted to be kind,
You’d have forgiven them a long ass time ago.
And if you really wanna know how kind you are,
Just ask yourself why you’re lying in bed alone.
If you believe in rock music, you are doing yourself a huge disservice by not checking this one out.

1. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book

Listen on Spotify

When everything else was busy going to shit this year, Chance the Rapper was out there saving the world. “Coloring Book” is the happiest, most uplifting, most life-affirming, most wonderful album of the year. The joy is infectious.
This album came with a teaser of sorts, as Chance blew up the first track of Kanye’s album, delivering the only gospel verse (and the best verse) on Kanye’s self-described “Gospel Album”.

Coloring Book is a bonafide gospel album, with choirs, hymns and God throughout. It’s also a rap album, with thrilling verses from newcomers and veterans alike.

I haven’t wanted to stop listening to this album since the moment I first heard it and I know that I’ll be listening to it for years to come. Thank you, Chance the Rapper for everything you’ve done.

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!

    2014 Honorable Mentions

    December 16, 2014

    It’s that time of year again where I remember that I have a blog and get to writing some year-end lists. Just like every year, I promise that I’ll make better use of this blog, but I probably won’t!

    Anyway, I’m putting together my top 10 list right now, and I’m not sure what the order is looking like in that top 10, but I am sure that these three releases aren’t going to make it. But it was really hard to leave them out so I’m going to write about them anyway. Two of my favorite artists’ releases didn’t make the list. What kind of world is this?

    Anyway. Here’s three great releases that weren’t in my top 10:

    Moonface – City Wrecker

    Longtime list-readers will know that Spencer Krug (Moonface, Sunset Rubdown, Wolf Parade) is maybe my favorite dude making music. I love everything that he does, including this EP.

    But… this release, coming in at 5 songs long is definitely an EP, and it seems to be a “leftovers” release from the excellentJulia With Blue Jeans On LP, released last year. It’s in the same style of that release, featuring the piano and Krug’s voice nearly exclusively for its somber noisemaking.

    That’s not to say that there isn’t some good stuff on here. The first two tracks, The Fog and City Wrecker, are both exceptional tracks which highlight Krug’s skills as a songwriter. I try to save the top 10 for full-length releases, but this was definitely one of my favorites of the year.

    Ex Hex – Rips

    This CD is loud, melodic, and fun. It’s like a punk girl group from the 50’s. You might say that it rips. Standout tracks include: Hot and Cold and How You Got That Girl.

    This was the unofficial #11 on this year’s top 10 list.

    Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright In The End

    More words have been spilt on this website about Weezer than any other band, and that’s because I have a lot of sentimental attachment to them and consider them to be one of my favorite bands.

    And this is their 3rd or 4th best CD ever. Is it as good as their first two albums (The Blue Album & Pinkerton)? No. It definitely isn’t. Is it as good as their third, and third best album, The Green Album? It actually might be. Does it stand tall and proud as significantly better than Maladroit, Make Believe, The Red Album, Raditude and Hurley? It stands miles above these releases.

    So, it bums me out to leave it off this year’s top 10 list, but that’s just how it goes. I might find myself listening to this one in 2015 though, which is more than I can say about any other recentWeezer release the year after it’s come out. If you have any sentimental attachment to Weezer at all, this album is worth checking out.

    Ladies & Gentlemen: Harry Marks

    January 24, 2013

    “I Will Not Fix Your Computer”

    Do you own a Mac? Is it under warranty? Take it to the Genius Bar.

    Do you own a Windows PC? Your Google search is as good as mine.

    Ahh! I love this so much. Read the whole thing.