Category Archives: six stars

favorite singles of 2014

SINGLES
Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now — McFadden & Whitehead
All the Sun That Shines — Peaking Lights
Another Heartbreak— Peter Gordon
At Last I Am Free — Robert Wyatt
Blind — Frankie Knuckles
Coastin’ — Cities Aviv
Everybody Wants to Rule the World — Tears for Fears
Frontin’ — Pharell
Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! — ABBA
Got to Give It Up — Marvin Gaye
Guitars, Cadillacs — Dwight Yoakam
Happy — Pharrell
High Hopes — Mawkus
I Ain’t Got Nobody (And Nobody Cares for Me) — Louis Prima
Jack — Breach
Life Is Something Special — New York Citi Peech Boys
Lord of the Dance — The Dubliners
Never Catch Me — Flying Lotus
One in a Million — Aaliyah
One Two — Sister Nancy
Rapture — Blondie
Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand) — Diana Ross
Royals — Lorde
Shake It Off – Taylor Swift
Shake That — Eminem
Single Girl, Married Girl — The Haden Triplets
Situation — Yazoo
Spacer — Sheila & B. Devotion
Tell Me That I’m Dreaming — Was (Not Was)
Together — Disclosure

SOUNDTRACKS
American Beauty
Breaking Bad
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
Godzilla: 50th Anniversary Edition — Akira Ifukube

CLASSICAL
blue danube
american in paris
appalachian spring
lux aeterna
also sprach Zarathustra
Má Vlast Continue reading

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my top ten albums of 2014

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Blacklisted — Neko Case
Chicago Transit Authority — Chicago
Chronological Calloway Vol. 1: The Early Years 1930-1934 — Cab Calloway
Do It Again — Röyksopp & Robyn
Dreaming of You — Selena
The Feast of the Broken Heart — Hercules & Love Affair
January 07003 | Bell Studies for the Clock of the Long Now — Brian Eno
Los Angeles 6/10 — Daedelus / Teebs
Lost in the Spectacle — York Factory Complaint
On the Water — Future Islands
Suicide — Suicide
World Psychedelic Classics, Vol. 4: The Existential Soul of Tim Maia: Nobody Can Live Forever — Tim Maia
Yellow mY skYcaptain — Paz Lenchantin Continue reading

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concept album

“i’m so glad music doesn’t have a vagina. i’d never see you again.” — Skinny Bitch so there’s this couple that lives in the Santa Cruz mountains. they own two albino pit bulls and sleep in a bed that hangs … Continue reading

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“When the Music’s Over” — The Doors

in which the Hero has a friend until the end. Continue reading

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U Got It Bad

from here, we go sublime. that right there is “From Here We Go Sublime,” the title track off Axel Willner’s debut album under his alias, The Field. even if you don’t think it’s your style, it’s worth hearing out until … Continue reading

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Just a Souvenir

“This album started as a daydream about watching a crazy, beautiful rock band play an ultra-gig. At first, a giant fluorescent image of a coat hanger appeared at the back of the stage. A couple of seconds later a full … Continue reading

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Boy

all of my love all of my kissing you don’t know what you’ve been a-missing, oh boy (oh boy) when you’re with me, oh boy (oh boy) the world can see that you were meant for me all of my … Continue reading

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Bob Dylan & Auto-Tune

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Digital Love

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favorite “new” albums of 2010

Fly Pan Am – Fly Pan Am (1999)

i’m going to be completely honest here: this is the first post-rock album that i would consider a flat-out masterpiece. while i love a whole bunch of others (most notably Ágætis byrjun by Sigur Rós, & Yet & Yet by Do Make Say Think, and The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place by Explosions in the Sky), Fly Pan Am won my heart (and may be my favorite album of the year) because it is post-rock for lovers of Minimalism. it’s like Steve Reich or The Field composed the music and four dudes from Montreal performed it. like My Disco, but with more life. the disc is five tracks long–all instrumental–and lasts just over an hour. every one of the album’s 9+ minute songs sticks, breathes, sits with one short musical phrase, but the phrases are good enough to hear on repeat. and in between jams, right when you think you’re getting into it, you’ll be led astray, down a dark path of ambient electronics and unexpected musical explorations. and then the jams come back. try track one, “L’espace au sol est redessiné par d’immenses panneaux bleus” (Google Translate: “The floor space is redrawn with huge blue signs”) here:

Fela Kuti – Zombie (1977)

i already said a lot about this album when i six starred it over the summer, but i really can’t tell enough people about its greatness. it’s funk, it’s rock & roll, it’s African rhythms that will shake your ass no matter how hard you try to resist. since listening to Zombie over ten times, i’ve downloaded six other Fela albums–Why Black Men Dey Suffer (1970), Gentleman (1973), Alagbon Close (1974), Confusion (1975), No Agreement (1977), Shuffering and Shmiling (1978)–and i already consider the ’73 and ’75 ones essential listening also. thank god for Fela. rather, thank Fela for the godliness that is his music.

Spacemen 3 – Walkin’ with Jesus (1986)

according to my iTunes, i first added an album by Spacemen 3 (Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To) at the end of summer 2008 (maybe from Mark?). weirdly enough, i don’t remember there being any point where this album just “clicked” for me. on the contrary, around january of this year, around the dawn of the Great Never-Say-No To A Tab of Acid Imbroglio (which continues today), another thing dawned on me: i fucking love Spacemen 3. it must have just seeped into my brain slowly over the past year and a half. i now have pretty much everything by them in my library, and Walkin’ With Jesus is the one that is pure gold. it’s a three-track psychedelic space rock EP–four minutes, seventeen minutes, five minutes–and it just kills from beginning to the end with wailing, storming guitars, simple drum beats perfect for stoned head bobbing, and the most obviously drug-induced lyrics around. the first track, the title track, is about how we’ve found Heaven on Earth and don’t really need the bearded dude because we are the Bearded Dude. the final track is about how… we’ve found on Heaven on Earth and it Feels So Good:

Quicksilver Messenger Service – Happy Trails (1969)

i was really surprised to discover this album because–honest to god–i was once ignorant enough to think that i was already familiar with every single great psychedelic rock work from the late ’60s. never again. side A, the first 25 minutes, is an extended cover of rock & roll originator Bo Diddley’s classic “Who Do You Love?” and they do it justice, no doubt. long, sprawling guitar solos, cosmic ambient interludes, and jam drops that would make dubstep producers jealous. it’s really the perfect mix of psychedelia and blues, and it’s aged in the best possible way.

The Vaselines – Dying for It (1988)

the chorus to the first track on this 11-minute, four-track EP, Dying for It, is “ahh… i’m hanging on / i’m hanging on, baby, i’m hanging on,” on repeat. (it actually might be “i’m hanging out,” which would be just as amazing.) though i should have looked these guys up a lot earlier because of Nirvana’s cover of “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam” on MTV Unplugged, it took a positive Pitchfork review of Enter the Vaselines for me to finally actually listen to them. (plus, i’m a sucker for small compilations that encompass the artist’s total output [see also: Black Tambourine, Kleenex/LiLiPUT].) anyway, Dying for It is a poppy punk album brimming with raucous lo-fi guitars, straight-ahead drumming that you wouldn’t call flawless, and a whole lot of teenage angst that you’re not really sure to take as truly sincere.

Matthew Dear – Black City (2010)

the way to get into this is to listen to the longest song on the album, “Little People (Black City),” about ten times before investigating the rest of the album. or that’s how my cousin Chris got me into it, anyway. it’s the longest by far, at nine-and-a-half minutes, and it’s the danciest by far too, a dark hole of disco and city lights. Matthew Dear sings a little bit like David Bowie but his music sounds totally unique. although, like pretty much everything else Chris recommends to me, the music is very much inspired by ’80s production. thick and delicious sounds abound. if you’re like me, and decide to try listening to the album in full, you’ll at first be just waiting for the fun and dancy title track; but eventually, one by one, the more sullen, more low-key songs that surround it will begin to shine through. weird. easily my new favorite electronic album from 2010.

Sufjan Stevens – All Delighted People (2010)

“tomorrow you’ll see it through.” the album starts with that line, sung by Sufjan all emo over a chorus of angels cooing behind him, as they dive into the almost 12-minute monster opening title track, a sort-of ballad. it really sounds like it could be standard Sufjan, but it’s not. it’s still him, sure enough, but if you keep listening, you’ll discover that there’s something more dramatic, more theatrical, more of the Greek epic in here. this guy loves conceptual stuff–producing albums about states and expressways or writing albums based on the Chinese Zodiac–and this album still lives in that space, but it’s less blunt about it, which is kind of nice. sure, he got me to buy the album digitally by describing it as “a dramatic homage to the Apocalypse, existential ennui, and Paul Simon’s Sounds of Silence,” but at least it’s not called The End of the World. yes, it’s the end of the world: Sufjan is using autotune and Kanye is dancing with ballerinas. do you love Music from the top of your heart? the rest of the album is gorgeous too, and more closely resembling Classical Sufjan.

Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

you know what else is weird? my three favorite albums actually released in 2010 all have 10-minute epics–“Little People (Black City),” “All Delighted People,” “Runaway”–that serve as the album’s centerpiece. the only difference with Kanye is that “Runaway” isn’t my favorite track from the album. that honor is split between three other songs, “All of the Lights,” “Monster,” and “Devil in a New Dress,” thanks in no small part to Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and the Temptations, respectively. but really, this is my favorite album released this year. even better, it might be the best hip hop album ever. sure, Public Enemy, Eric B. and Rakim, and Afrika Bambaataa got it all started; sure, Dr. Dre created some of the most delicious, bombastic beats ever; 2Pac actually spoke poetry. but Yeezy’s MBDTF is the perfect goddamn culmination of two decades of saying stupid shit over excruciatingly-well-picked samples on repeat. it’s also a brilliant crown to Kanye’s four other five-star albums; they just keep building on top of each other. “Jesus Walks” –> “Gold Digger” –> “Stronger” –> “Amazing” –> “All of the Lights.” classic after classic after classic after classic after classic. it’s unreal, especially since he’s changing up his style, not just doing the same shit over and over again. MBDTF actually manages to surprise your ears, even on repeat listens. when was the last time you could call a mainstream hip hop or rap album “experimental” or “unpredictable”? maybe never. i really don’t know if i can trust you to play this on the sound system you really need to hear it, but i’ll take the risk (after all, it’s only YouTube):

Woods – How to Survive In/In the Woods (2005)

if Destiny’s Child was a sad lo-fi freak folk band from Brooklyn, they would have sounded like Woods. or, that’s how i feel about this album at least. the others i’ve heard, particularly Songs of Shame, sound more serious, more this-is-rock-music, but this one just rings of pop music for people who like whiskey and cassette tapes. if i were their record producer, i would just be smacking my lips with glee over all these brilliant catchy tunes: “okay so we’re definitely going to precede the record release with one single release, probably ‘Holes,’ it’s the opening track, it’s nice and safe, good feet-tapping music. next, we release the big winner, ‘Make Time for Kitty,’ simultaneously with the record release. huge money there. now we don’t want to let the hype fall, so we quickly follow that with the furious zinger you got there, ‘8-5 5-10,’ follow? then we mellow things out with ‘Silence is Golden.’ if it still makes sense, we’ll release ‘Kid’s Got Heart’ as your fifth single. oh, this is going to be a big year for you, boys. you and me!”

Caribou – The Milk of Human Kindness (2005)

both this and the album before were gifts from Rachel, and i really can’t thank her enough. a Caribou emerged from the Woods to lick my ears, as i lay on the soft leafy floor and stared into Music’s beaming eyes. while it would take a very specific kind of environment for me to play Woods, however, Caribou is something i would never hesitate to put on. this is one of those albums that you will always be happy to see while frantically scrolling through your library; i’ve never thought, “man, shouldn’t have put that Caribou on. now everyone hates me.” but don’t go away! this isn’t boring bullshit easy listening grammy awardwinning garbage either. this is Caribou, i’m ronny, and this shit is psychedelic and groovy as fuck! some of this stuff sounds like Boredoms’ Vision Creation Newsun, some of it sounds like lost Creedence Clearwater Revival demo tapes, and some of it sounds like DJ Shadow slipped in a cool record he found at his local shop. but it all sounds like good fucking rock & roll, and you can’t say that about new music often.

RUNNERS_UP

Beach House – Teen Dream (2010)

i love you, Victoria. both Miss Legrand, the beautiful curly-headed hottie that sings this dream pop dream, and Miss Wolffe, the dark-haired California Girl that spiraled into that dream with me for the first time (for me). i may have downloaded this album around the time it came out or when it got a lot of hype from both indie internetz and Pomona kids (no idea if those happened simultaneously [by Pomona kids, i mean Christian]), but i didn’t really get into it until i spent a week with Tori in Seattle. the girl is a role model for me because she actually listens to music mostly via her record collection. it’s a completely different experience, and it feels so good. every side of the record is a moment. but, no matter where we wandered that day (to Jimi? to Pink? to Vampire?) we kept going back to Teen Dream, and the lush waterfall fantastic reverb of Beach House. we played this record so much, Tori’s roommates gave us shit for it. it was our heroin, and that’s really what it’s like. not perfect, but perfect enough, heavenly.

Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space (1997)

the first song on this record is one of the greatest moments in music history. no fucking understatement. to start, a lo-fi lady with a British accent speaks the title just like that, like it’s no big deal. then slowly, so slowly, just as silently, Jason Pierce aka J. Spaceman aka former Spacemen 3 co-leader almost whispers sings, “all I want in life’s a little bit of love to take the pain away, getting strong today, a giant step each day…” on repeat to the unmatchable Pachelbel melody, “Canon in D.” as he fades in louder and louder, more instrumentation emerges, more keys, more drums, more guitars, then more verses layered over his voice, was that a beep? are we on a spaceship? synthy sounds hover from left to right, maybe a little harmonica, there’s that beep again, drum roll crash and we’re in this ocean of exotic, familiar, soul-filling sounds of Superbia if Superbia were a place and everyone there just hugged each other and squeezed each other’s squidy hands and cried while pointing into the sky because there’s nothing really here unless we say it’s here and wouldn’t it be nice if we could just give each other all the love we need? phew. it’s not one of Meryl’s five favorite songs of all time for nothing. oh, and the rest of the album is pretty good too.

Entrance – Prayer of Death (2006)

once upon a time, i saw my favorite San Francisco garage rock band play three times in one weekend, and the last time a stupid psychedelic band called Entrance opened for them. once upon a time, i had the hots for a high-heeled bassist from A Perfect Circle, and i still do, except she now plays for a stupid psychedelic band called Entrance. once upon a time, Meryl said i never listen to her music recommendations, until i fell in love with a stupid psychedelic band called Entrance. i say psychedelic, because his guitars are all acid-soaked and his voice is all death-croaked, that’s a given. i say stupid, because i’m stupid and so is Guy Blakeslee, the leader of this band, because we’re both white boys with dark long hair that love drugs music girls and want to love death but don’t know quite how. but we will.

Gas – Gas (1996)

i can safely say that this is the only Noah Lennox recommendation on this list. thank god, i guess i don’t completely idolize the fucker. Gas is Wolfgang Voigt and Voigt is a man from Cologne, Germany who tripped on LSD in Königsforst, a part of Germany’s black forest, and returned with this, one hour eight minutes of ambient bliss divided into six tracks, with the intention of “bringing the forest to the disco, or vice-versa.” holy shit did he do it. it’s kind of what you would get if you mixed Aphex Twin’s two ambient albums together, with an emphasis on SAW2. dark, brooding, heavy, ethereal, apocalyptic and… sometimes dancy? this is definitely a creature of the night, a panacea for the stoned.

The Strokes – Is This It (2001)

i don’t really know why i put this album on the list. i guess it was sort of a rediscovery. the drive from Claremont to LA is fucking long, often an hour each way, so there’s a lot of time to listen to music; The Strokes eased the pain for half an hour of that voyage many, many a time. none of the eleven songs goes over four minutes and every single one of them is a catchy headbanger, so there’s really no time to get bored. silly fun garage rock!

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