I actually got my 2018 roundup finished before the year is over! Here’s hoping I can keep that planning and productivity intact for all things to come in 2019.
Before we jump into the top 10 albums, here are some concert highlights from 2018:
I went to Cincinnati, Ohio for The National’s first ever Homecoming Festival. (Looking back to last year’s album roundup I had my fingers crossed the lineup would be good, and it was great!)
Saw Jack White at the Mayan and there was a “no phone rule”. Watching a show with my own eyes and not through the video screen of some strangers phone felt refreshing.
Smash Mouth played a free concert at Pershing Square in DTLA. No shame: it was amazing!
Other staple shows of the year were: LCD Soundsystem & the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the Hollywood Bowl, Arctic Monkeys at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Courtney Barnett at Pico Union and Leon Bridges at The Greek.
Went to The Foo Fighter’s festival, Cal Jam, and was there for the Nirvana reunion.
Listen along with the 2018 playlist as you make your way through my top 10 albums of the year!
TOP 10 COUNTDOWN
10. SOLACE / RÜFUS DÜ SOL
It’s an odd thing for me to stray from the indie/alternative path… Solace is the exception being the one EDM album on my list. Synth-y, deep, but not too “unce-unce-unce” rave-like. The album is influenced by stark Californian desert landscapes and has a dark, moody vibe that comes along with it.
The cover for Solace was taken by Le Fawnhawk who also photographed artwork for each single release. It’s definitely worth checking her out for her contrasting desert style, especially in the photos where people and shapes are the main focus.
9. FOR EVER / JUNGLE
I had been patiently awaiting Jungle’s sophomore album since 2014. For Ever was worth the 4 year wait which, at times felt like forever. It comes in strong with a heavy, funky percussion on “Smile” that you can’t help but move to. Mid-way you’re met by a keyboard-strong “Casio” that sort of gets you to sway. And it ends on a mix of a bit of everything with “Pray” that’ll send you into a dreamy state of mind.
They have a show at The Hollywood Palladium March 1, 2019!
8. THE OTHER / KING TUFF
The Other dives into the issues of technological addiction, the environment and how it’s suffering by our neglect, and ultimately, death.
Kyle Thomas, (aka King Tuff), touches on questioning what’s out there in the universe; but urges that if we focus too much on what’s out there we may forget what we have here on Earth, and we might realize that too late.
The song “Thru the Cracks”, is a touching tribute where Thomas reminisces about an old friend who is now at peace. Featuring an assist from Jenny Lewis on vocals, it’s a warm reminder that we are all loved, even our darkest hours.
7. SPARKLE HARD / STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS
Good ‘ol American Rock pretty much sums up Sparkle Hard. A bit twangy, almost country at times, with classic storytelling at the center of it all. Listen close for the modern day stories about the “Me Too” movement and Black Lives Matter.
“Kite”, weighing in at a nearly seven minutes, departs from the rest of the album by journeying back to the 2013 style of Wig Out at Jagbags and beyond. It’s like a walkabout for guitar riffs and “doo doo doo” backing vocals. A refreshing jam in the center of the album.
Malkmus has been in the game for a long time and seems to be finally kicking back, doing whatever he wants. Luckily it’s what I want too.
6. GEOGRAPHY / TOM MISCH
Tom Misch has a calculated take on jazz in that his songs are crafted to his version of perfection. They range from the slow, building storyline of “Movie” to the dancy, steady repetitive bass of “Cos I Love You”.
There’s also a cover of “Isn’t She Lovely” randomly wedged in the tracklist that’s a nice little instrumental surprise, and a fun exploration from his usual style.
Even though Geography was one of my most played albums of the year, I somehow can’t sum it up into words as to why. It’s just an easy listen that makes me happy.
5. VIDE NOIR / LORD HURON
Vide Noir is an atmospheric folk-pop triumph.
If you’re searching for the perfect road tripping/driving album, this is it. Picture fuzzy 8mm film playing where the sun hits your windows just right while you drive off into the sunset. Yeah, this could be you.
Lord Huron played The National’s Homecoming festival earlier this year in Cincinnati, OH at Smale Riverfront Park. Hearing them play "Wait by the River" while being between a river and at the edge of a city was a pretty surreal experience. Ben Schneider took it all in when he motioned to the river and skyline as he sang. Goosebumps all around.
4. GOOD THING / LEON BRIDGES
From the first listen, Good Thing felt nostalgic, familiar, comforting and warm. It’s like you’re listening with your best friends, arms around one another even when it’s just you and the music.
I can't listen to "Beyond" without tearing up especially when he sings, "I know that Grandma would've loved her like she was her own." (I’ve got a soft spot for my grandmas in my heart).
On the flip side of that, some laid-back, up-tempo funk songs that were on my heavy rotation this year are “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be")” and “Bad Bad News”.
There’s authenticity that comes with the songs on Good Thing. They remind me of love and loss, better days, but more importantly the great days to come.
Really regretting not buying a "Good Thing" jacket when I saw Leon Bridges at The Greek in LA earlier this year.
3. CON TODO EL MUNDO / KHRUANGBIN
Con Todo El Mundo means "With all the world" which, coincidentally is how much I love this record.
I also recently learned that “Khruangbin” is Thai for airplane. Very fitting for their 70s psychedelic, global sound that will definitely take you on a trip.
I put this album on when I need to zone out to some smooth sounds, or, on the flip side, dance to the occasional funky tune. May I suggest, “Evan Finds the Third Room” or “Maria También” for your swaying dance floor needs.
2. WIDE AWAKE! / PARQUET COURTS
The lyrics off the title track, “I'm wide awake, Mind so woke 'cause my brain never pushed the brakes”, are actually a great way to describe my 2018. A constant ‘go-go-go’ mentality of over-working and planning and trying to make time to do everything all at once, at points resulting in a flurry of anxiety.
Wide Awake! is loud, a bit punk, full of noise/yelling and serves as a great companion for LA traffic.
Earlier this year while browsing a blog I frequent, It’s Nice That, I was surprised to stumble upon an article about Andrew Savage of Parquet Courts. Not only does he do vocals/guitar in the band, but he creates all of the album artwork, too. What an awesome relationship between two creative outlets: one completely fast-paced, and the other slow and relaxed. What a good balance to strive for.
1. TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL / COURTNEY BARNETT
Equipped with a bit of anger, a lot of hope, and a “take shit from no one attitude”, Courtney Barnett told us how she really felt on Tell Me How You Really Feel.
Back in May in a tiny chapel near DTLA, Barnett played the full album front to back and I honestly can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to it all the way through since then. (look it’s me front ‘n center in a pink hat!)
This album is chock-full of emotional, soul searching anthems and for me, “Charity” really rose to the top. It talks about this “everything’s amazing” veil we all have over our lives, the obstacles in our way and the truth that none of us really know what we’re doing. “You don’t have to pretend you’re not scared, everyone else is just as terrified as you.” Be kind to one another: we’re all searching: we’re all going through something: we all want to be heard and respected: Are you listening?
2017 has come to a close, and with it comes my yearly roundup of top music! (Can you believe we're already 7 days into 2018?!)
First, here are some musical highlights from my 2017:
- I went to my first East Coast music festival, Panorama NYC, where I met my favorite band, Spoon!
- I finally made it to Red Rocks and saw Bonobo with Nick Murphy. Obviously it was amazing, and exploring Denver proved to be more fun than I could've imagined.
- Some other "staple" shows of the year were !!! (Chk chk chk) at the Echoplex, The Shins & Spoon at The Greek in Berkeley (road trip!), Beck at the Ford Theatre and El Ten Eleven at the Masonic Lodge in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery
- According to Spotify's 2017 Wrapped, I listened to 78,502 minutes of music, 7,926 songs, 2,423 artists and explored 110 genres along the way. If you haven't gotten your stats yet, try it here!
Listen along with the 2017 playlist as you make your way through my top 10 albums of the year!
TOP 10 COUNTDOWN
10. IN MIND / REAL ESTATE
Real Estate has always been the perfect band for a summer drive down the coast. Rolling down those windows and feeling the breeze through your fingertips, the salty sea air tangling into your hair and the sunlight kissing your skin. In Mind is the perfect roadside companion and a good reminder to just take it easy, you know?
Also fun lil' link to click on: there's a cool, interactive music video for "Stained Glass", featuring geometric outlined illustrations that the user can fill with color. Give it a go yourself here!
9. TI AMO / PHOENIX
The album opener J-Boy is synthesized auto-tune bliss. Not a sentence I ever thought I'd say, but seriously they know the formula to mix songs that just work.
Phoenix is a French band, known to sing in English. Not only are there dashes of French on Ti Amo, there's also Italian, Spanish and French. Each language subtly slips into the songs, blending perfectly with the rest of the lyrics.
A bit of rock, a lot of pop, perfect for the dancefloor and singing along at concerts... ti amo, Ti Amo.
8. SLEEP WELL BEAST / THE NATIONAL
On Sleep Well Beast, the first track grabs your attention by opening with an Imogen Heap-esque harmony, shifting to quick choppy drums and guitar. According to an interview with Pitchfork, "The System Dreams in Total Darkness" is "an abstract portrait of a weird time we're in."
I saw The National at the Hollywood Bowl this year when I was having a really rough day. A friend sarcastically said, "Oh good, that'll cheer you up". But it was therapeutic listening to the raw sounds of The National when my emotions were a bit raw, too. It's good to tap into your emotions and feel those feelings, even when it's tough.
Last month, The National announced a hometown music festival called "Homecoming" in Ohio. The lineup releases this Monday, January 8. Crossing my fingers it's a good group!
7. A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING / THE WAR ON DRUGS
When you listen to A Deeper Understanding, it's like a winding stream of music washing over you. There are unexpected splashes of sound and it always feels like you're floating.
The 11 minute dream-like haze that is "Thinking of a Place" feels like that completely, and I want to be lost in it forever. Hell, I want to be lost in this album forever.
6. SILVER EYE / GOLDFRAPP
"Systemagic" may have been my most played song of the year. A good, synthesized beat and soothing repetitiveness are found in this song and throughout Silver Eye as a whole.
I'll take some good electro-glam any day, and this is close to as good as it gets.
5. CRY CRY CRY / WOLF PARADE
Cry Cry Cry was worth the 10 year wait from Wolf Parade. It's indie rock at it's finest.
Don't get me wrong, I've loved Dan Boeckner's side projects with Operators (shoutout to last years top 10) and Handsome Furs but I'm glad to have Wolf Parade and their raw, gritty sound back.
These guys are the only band out of my top 10 that I've never seen live. But that's changing this month when they play at The Observatory in Santa Ana!
4. HEARTWORMS / THE SHINS
Heartworms is a pop-infused album guaranteed to make Zach Braff's character in Garden State smile.
James Mercer's skill for songwriting and making memorable songs has always been strong, and it's held the test of time judging by the tracks off of Heartworms. The only dispute to that I've ever witnessed was at their El Rey show in March of 2017 where Emily and I witnessed someone Shazam New Slang. Obviously that was a fluke and that person didn't know anything about anything. End of story.
My front-runners off of the album are: "Name For You", "Painting a Hole", "Dead Alive" and "Half a Million". The music video for "Half a Million" is awesome. It's composed of 500,000 (or half a million, get it?), hand cut stickers filmed in a stop motion fashion. Very clever.
3. COLORS / BECK
I'll admit it, when "Wow" initially came out in 2016, I laughed out loud. I had always admired Beck's experimentation with genres and his ever changing musical styles from album to album... but this felt too weird. I thought the weird shift was a predecessor of what to come from his next full length.
Now I look back at that moment and laugh, because I'm kind of into that song. It grew on me a lot. Granted it's not my absolute favorite off of Colors, but I really appreciate it for what it is. And the rest of the album blew me away with it's all around happiness.
I finally got to see Beck this year for the first time ever in his hometown of Los Angeles. He described the show as more of a "backyard barbecue filled with friends" than a concert because he was surrounded by so many people he knew. It was one of the most intimate shows I've ever been to and he owned that intimacy on stage.
Most importantly, I really connected with this album. When I was feeling down or not like myself, Colors lifted me back up.
2. MIGRATION / BONOBO
Bonobo started off strong in 2017 with the release of Migration. It's overflowing downtempo, nostalgic sounds are lifted up even further with the collaborative additions on the album of Rhye, Nicole Miglis, Innov Gnawa and Nick Murphy (previously Chet Faker).
I saw Bonobo 3 times in 2017: Coachella, The Theatre at the Ace Hotel Los Angeles, and most importantly Red Rocks Colorado.
During takeoff on the plane ride to Colorado, I listened to Migration. Watching the world shrink smaller out the window as I floated away with the music almost felt like an out-of-body experience.
1. AMERICAN DREAM / LCD SOUNDSYSTEM
Ah, LCD. The indie-electro rock-n-roller who went out with a bang was reborn this year with a long awaited reunion album.
I was lucky enough to snag a ticket for the first show at The Hollywood Palladium during their 5 night residency. I had goosebumps, and maybe even shed one single tear when I chanted along to "Tonite" with James Murphy.
"Tonite" is probably my favorite track off of American Dream. It's a bit reminiscent of "Losing My Edge" from '05, where Murphy talks about the past with that infamous line, "I was there". But instead of talking about the past, he's going on about the present. The world we live in where everybody is 'famous' (*cough, cough* Instagram) and how songs are all recreations of the same thing over and over. A world where technology is blindsiding us, changing who we are and making us question things when comparing ourselves to others. Which is something so accessible at our fingertips every day with the influx of tiny screens that act as windows into other people's lives. It's easy thinking others' lives are better, that they know better than us and are better than us. But they're not. The song closes with, "But that's all lies. That's all lies."
This album gets... really real about modern life. It makes you feel something. Or at least it does for me, and that's why it's my #1.
After a red eye flight from LAX to RDU, we landed at 6:20am and had to sprint through the airport to catch our connecting 6:20am flight to LGA. Yeah, you read those times right. Luckily our second flight was delayed, and we landed in NY a few hours later.
We went straight to our Airbnb, (which was super cute by the way), dropped our bags off, changed with superman-style speed, scarfed down some lunch, then headed to the ferry. Did I mention this festival was on an island? Well, it was.
Day one's lineup was insanely awesome... and we were insanely tired. But we were determined to push through!
We got in with a bit of time to explore the lay of the land (figuring out how to get from Stage A to Stage B, etc.). We passed by the Rough Trade record booth when I noticed a sign. And what a sign it was! "Signing today: Spoon. 4:15PM"
How unexpectedly awesome! The catch was you had to buy merch from Rough Trade to be signed. I bought Hot Thoughts on CD, (yes my car still has a CD player), and kept it safe in my backpack until later.
We headed over to the main stage for Honne and watched from a shady spot on the side. It was ironic hearing him sing, "I'll keep you warm on a cold night" with the current weather being in the low 90's.
Foxygen was up next. You know, like from that Google Home commercial where the dad tries to relate to his daughter's boyfriend by finding out what their latest album was?... It's "Hang" if you were wondering.
Emily and I grabbed some beer and enjoyed Foxygen before bouncing back to the Panorama stage for Vance Joy. By coincidence, my outfit was color coordinated to match the Panorama wristband and, apparently, beer.
I sat in the back on a sprawled out scarf on the grass for a bit before heading over to the Spoon signing.
When it was time I grabbed my CD, Instax camera, and nervously walked over. I’ve been listening to these guys since 2005, and have seen them 5 times in total! And in 3 different states! This band seriously means so much to me and I definitely fangirled/froze in front of them at the signing.
There were no "posed" photos allowed, but I was able to snap a shot sans me in it. I only took one photo on my Instax camera and prayed to the indie music gods that it would develop.
Luckily it did! And I came out with a signed CD and tangible photo from it all.
I walked back over to Vance Joy, sat down and basked in the happiness of all that had just happened. Riptide was playing and everyone was going crazy.
During the 30 minute breakdown time in between sets, we made a beer run and then posted up in a good spot for Future Islands.
I've seen Future Islands a few times now and the energy in this band never ceases to amaze me. Samuel Herring, the lead singer, has a unique performance style about him that I've never seen before and it's entertaining to a whole other level. He runs back and forth on the stage pounding on his chest to really get that deep, raspy, howling voice out. He'll even break into that Russian jumpstyle Cossack dance once in a while and it never gets old.
Emily stayed for the full set, but I ducked out a bit early to see my guys Spoon play at The Pavilion stage. As I was walking over, I passed Alex (keys/guitar in Spoon); he recognized me from the signing and kind of stopped, motioning if I wanted to say hi. I sort of waved and just kept walking because sometimes I'm really stupid and walk right past musicians that mean a lot to me out of nervousness. (This has also happened with Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip and Michel Gondry, the director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). I kick myself whenever I think about those times.
So this was actually the worst Spoon show I've ever been to. Not because of the performance, but because of the crowd.
Tyler the Creator was the next act at this stage, and that's all people cared about. It was packed. Unfortunately it was packed for Tyler the entirety of Spoon's set and everyone was talking through the show. I looked around and I was the only one in my sight actually singing and dancing, let alone enjoying the music. I was a sardine in the midst of people who gave zero fucks about the show that was happening right in front of them.
I was so angry by the rudeness of everyone. Spoon was what drew me to this festival. They were basically the reason I came and to have it ruined by a sea full of bucket hats really sucked.
But hey, at least I met them. And this wasn't my first time seeing them and it won't be my last. So that's okay.
Breakbot was going to be next, but they got rescheduled to the next day due to some technical difficulties in The Parlor. Apparently Cherry Glazerr also got caught up in the little tech mishap, but had to be on the road for another show so they just didn't get to play at all. Bummer.
In the meantime, we went to the craft cocktail garden and grabbed food.
When the sun was setting, Emily and I made our way over to Solange. I enjoyed her performance way more than I thought I would. So full of soul and emotion; not to mention great subtle choreography.
We stayed in the same spot for Frank Ocean (probably because we were too exhausted to move), and headed back to the ferry after a few songs.
7 acts on Day 1? Super jetlagged? Not too shabby if I do say so myself.
We passed out immediately upon arrival at our Airbnb.
Our alarm was set for late in the morning so we could catch up on sleep. We brunched and filled up on coffee at Mud before heading into the festival.
Our first stop was Sofi Tukker. I was crazy excited to see them again. They were at Coachella this year and it was one of the most high energy shows I've ever seen! (even in the 102 degree heat!)
Thankfully they were in an enclosed tent this time so it was on the cooler side and we didn't get as sweaty when we danced. Because this is dancing music.
Continuing with the dancing theme, Emily and I headed over to the Aussie duo, Jagwar Ma. We hung out in the shade, danced a bit and got ice cream in between acts. Mine was fruity pebble flavored.
After devouring our ice cream, we headed to the rescheduled Breakbot set. They're known for their funky, electro remixes and "French-touch" to music. Good, groovin' tunes.
Previously known as Chet Faker, Nick Murphy was next. I saw him at Red Rocks earlier this year, and this Panorama show was even better than the last. At one point in the show he ran down into the audience and everyone was singing and dancing together. There's just something special about being so close to the live performance, and "up in the vibe" as my friend Jen would say.
PS if you haven't listened to his new album Missing Link yet you should do so.
The last act of the night was at a semi-hidden stage tucked away around a corner. Twirling lights hung above a giant, checkered dancefloor where a DJ was spinning tunes.
I didn't exactly expect Motor City Drum Ensemble to be a DJ, but he appeared in the disco-ball-clad booth and started doin' his thing. What a fun show, though. Everyone was dancing together underneath the color changing lights on a warm, summer night.
It had been a long couple of days and this was only day 2! I fought the urge to go to sleep when we got back from the festival that night, and I dragged Emily out on the town, telling her, "This is our only night to go out!"
We made it to 4 bars and were out 'til 3am. I'd say we did New York right that night.
Our first stop was McSoarleys Old Ale House. A friend suggested this and really talked it up. And I'm glad they did. Cash only, two beers at a time, light or dark. That's the drill. No fancy craft brews, Bud Lights or Stella. You throw your cash down on the beer-soaked bar and pick from the simplest two options. In a "tapper" style fashion they serve you your beer.
Next was Amor Y Amargo. The littlest bar I've ever been to, with one of the stiffest drinks I've ever had. Something with gin is all I remember. They also have a ton of bitters for purchase, and include bitters in pretty much all of their drinks. This place only has about 5 seats and standing room for maybe 10-15 more.
We put our name down at Death & Company and while we were waiting, grabbed a drink at a tavern next door. The tavern wasn't really noteworthy, but Death & Company was. Odd to say, but my drink had the most perfect ice cube I've ever seen. Some solid craft cocktails.
We brunched at Philip Marie Restaurant after our night of drinking, and I figured why not keep it going with bottomless Bloody Mary's?
The ferry ride over was crazy windy and I think the wind blew all the color out of my hair 💨🌈
Once on the island we did our now routine drill of filling up our water bottles, finding food/beer and heading to the first show: Preoccupations. Noisy, grumbly rock which I enjoy every now and then.
The indoor show had been nice and cool, but it was time to venture over to a tented outdoor stage for Angel Olsen. As I type this I'm looking at an Angel Olsen flyer I have pinned up at my desk. God, she's so photogenic AND so talented. There's such a sweet presence to her/her music. I'm sure that everyone in the crowd, at some point during her performance, closed their eyes, swayed and smiled a little.
It felt like we were ping-ponging a bit from the inside tented stage to the outside tented stage. Strangely similar from hopping back and forth from pool to jacuzzi.
We got to the next set a bit early and laid down on our scarves underneath the disco ball.
The atmosphere was awoken by the lo-fi pop that is Cloud Nothings. The disco ball lights were thumping/pulsating to the beats. (Good thing that we magically didn't have hangovers from the night before).
Glass Animals played the main stage next. They sing about pineapples a lot. And they threw a pineapple into the audience, which seems like a bad idea but the dude who caught it was super stoked. Fun fact: some festivals in the UK banned pineapples due to the amount of fans bringing them in to the grounds.
Another really fun show where he jumped into the crowd and sang/danced with everyone. The roadie who had to carry his microphone cord (which was now very tangled) seemed way over it, though. As I could only imagine.
We made a mad dash to grab some food, then held down our spot for A Tribe Called Quest.
It was a lot more emotional of a show than I thought it would be. They had a microphone on stage for Phife Dawg, who passed away in March of 2016; when his part came up in song they showed the mic on screen with a photo of Phife in the background.
I can't imagine how emotional that must be for them as a group, hearing his voice recorded like that. They paid respect to him and his family, and announced it would be their last NY show. Ever.
It's understandable that it's just not the same without Phife Dawg.
We didn't stay for NIN. I ended up going to FYF the week prior and had caught a few songs there. Plus we were exhausted.
The breeze on the ferry ride back felt nice, and I think gave us the energy to go out for one last drink. This was our last night in NY so we went to a rooftop bar to take in the view, and some tequila.
We walked back to our total artsy/90s-dream-world of an Airbnb for the final time. The space was perfect for any music or art lover who is also (bonus) fond of cats. Let me tell you, Blackie is the sweetest cat I've ever met! Don't let his half-cut ear, piercing yellow eyes and snaggle tooth fool you. He was a total cuddler and great buddy to chill with. It was going to be hard to leave.
On Monday morning we slept in and took our time leaving. We grabbed coffee and a bagel from a local shop, walked around and looked at street art, then hung out at the Ace Hotel until it was time to catch a cab.
'Til next time, New York.
It goes without saying that 2016 was a pretty terrible year for the world at large. Luckily for myself, it wasn't too bad. I landed a new job at Ticketmaster, traveled, adventured, transitioned a room in our apartment into an art studio, and saw a lot of music. So I can't really complain.
According to Spotify, I listened to 60,232 minutes of music this year. That's 41 days on Spotify alone!
I saw nearly 100 bands (96 if you want the specifics)
- One of those five festivals was my first one abroad in Wales where I got to see my favorite band, Hot Chip. (This was a weekend after they headlined at FYF. And I got the set lists from both weekends!) What an AMAZING experience.
Enough of that, let's get to the good stuff. My top 10 albums of 2016!
TOP 10 COUNTDOWN
10. Eternally Even / Jim James
Jim James of My Morning Jacket is a rad dude. He took this time of a political clusterfuck that we're in and made an activist album out of it. It talks about gun control, people in 'power', and how citizens need to speak up (directly stated in "Here in Spirit" with the lyrics, "If you don't speak out, we can't hear it").
It's a really important time right now. I mean, Trump's inauguration is in 12 days. He's not even officially president yet and things are out of control. Shit.
Speaking of Trump in music there's a project called "30 Days, 30 Songs", (which is now 50 songs), that is "united in our desire to speak out against the ignorant, divisive, and hateful campaign of Donald Trump" - 30 Days, 30 Songs.
Jame's song "Same Old Lie" is featured on the album.
9. Dolls of Highland / Kyle Craft
I was listening to KCRW on the way to work one day when I heard "Berlin" by Kyle Craft for the very first time. I arrived at my desk and immediately looked up tour dates and bought a $9 ticket to a show at the Bootleg. Best $9 show of my life! Intimate. Front row. Perfect.
My friend Emily and I got to talk to Kyle after the show. I remember he had this awesome hat he wore everywhere, collecting little knick-knack memories from shows on the trim.
His voice has this broodingly inviting quality to it. Pitchfork described it as "summoning you into its world like a carnival barker wooing customers into a funhouse." Pretty spot on.
8. The Colour In Anything / James Blake
The Colour in Anything, is the perfect album to listen to on a rainy day.
James Blake has this really interesting quirk where he's able to be melancholy and upbeat/optimistic at the same time. I think the electronic R&B sampling in his music plays a big part in that.
Justin Vernon of Bon Iver is featured in "I Need A Forest Fire" which is probably my favorite song off the album. It sort of makes me feel like I'm in a dream when I listen.
7. Epoch / Tycho
Epoch is a collection of wordless, dreamy electronic that makes me feel like I'm floating in the clouds.
It's the perfect zone-out music. When I'm working on a project and need to focus it helps me block everything out. That's probably why it's been a constant repeat listen for me this year.
6. Blue Wave / Operators
Operators was a band destined to find a place in my heart. They're composed of Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs, Sam Brown of Divine Fits (a spin-off of Spoon [one of my favorite bands]), and a multi talented Devojka, a badass woman who plays the keys and much more.
Blue Wave is their first full length, after having released an EP in '14. It was 100% worth the wait. The gritty, echoing vocals over strong drums and twanging guitars in the background have me swooning.
5. 99.9% / KAYTRANADA
I saw Kaytranada a couple years back at a club opening for Purity Ring. It was one of the worst shows of my life. Another shit DJ set with lyrics repeating the mindset of "fuck bitches get money".
I feel like in the past, he didn't have the resources to team up with so many great artists to make his own album so he was playing a lot of other people's music and maybe it wasn't the best curated selection that it could've been. Some of his old singles have been good, but it's all been a maturing process with him working up to this moment.
That's why I was so surprised to find myself wrapped up in 99.9%. Like it's REALLY good. I can't even tell you how many times I've listened to it.
The way the percussion and rhythm weaves their way through the lyrics to the foreground and background, the funk R&B feel that's having an affair with electro, and the collaborative aspect are what really makes this album for me.
AND Little Dragon is featured on the track "Bullets"??! Sold.
4. Stiff / White Denim
I got to see White Denim at Free Press Summer Fest this past year shortly after they released Stiff. They're indie rock at it's finest. When they play live it's like one huge jam sesh. No setlist, they just do what they want.
Stiff has a forceful retro soul that hits you in the face with its sound. It's so groovy and just makes you want to get up and dance
With lyrics like "Be yourself, try to have a good time", it's really hard to not have a good time. Listen to "Ha Ha Ha Ha! (Yeah)" and try to tell me you didn't at least tap your foot...
3. Blackstar / David Bowie
David Bowie's death last year came as a surprise to all of us. I'm not gonna lie, I cried like a baby when I watched Lazarus. I had chills the whole time watching what seemed like the foreshadowing of his passing. All the songs off Blackstar have this eerie yet beautiful feeling that accompanies them.
Just today, on what would've been Bowie's 70th birthday, an unreleased track from Blackstar beamed down like a message from heaven. You can watch the video for "No Plan" here, or stream it on Spotify.
2. Are You Serious? / Andrew Bird
Ever since seeing Andrew Bird at Coachella years ago, I've been in love with his music. Did you know he took whistling lessons at Julliard? For some good whistling on this album, check out "Chemical Switches". Also, the amount of different instruments throughout Are You Serious is impressive. Specifically the violin in Capsized.
1. Teens of Denial / Car Seat Headrest
Earlier this year I described Car Seat Headrest as sounding like Tapes 'n Tapes infused with a hint of Modest Mouse. But they're much moodier and introspective than those two combined.
I think part of the reason I relate so much to this album is that Toledo is basically the same age as me, older by only a few days. The lyrics seem like they're maturing, becoming more aware of the real world and the issues surrounding them.
The song "Cosmic Hero" deals with what you want/need vs what you do to make it happen. How you can be your worst enemy or your most useful advocate. Powerful stuff.
Have a listen to the 2016 playlist below. It includes songs off of my favorite albums of the year, as well as ones I constantly had on repeat.
COMING UP FOR 2017
I only have a few shows queued up at the moment (Bonobo and Jose Gonzalez) but I know this year will be filled with massive amounts of music.
- Bonobo's new album "Migration" comes out January 13
- I'm DEFINITELY NOT going to Coachella, (cough, what the fuck happened?), but I do want to check out some new festivals I've never been to
- The Shins are working on new music!
- SPOON IS WORKING ON NEW MUSIC!
Yeah, it's gonna be a good year.
FYF '16 /
Fuck Yeah Fest (FYF) was really good this year! I remember it being an unorganized clusterfuck when I went back in 2014; they've totally cleaned up their act since then! (A bit of bottlenecking aside).
I went both days and didn't get sunburnt! Patting myself on the back, and it doesn't even hurt.
Here's what the weekend consisted of:
- Todd Terje & the Olsens
- Gerd Janson
- Junior Boys
- Tame Impala
- Hot Chip (Live)
- Explosions in the Sky
- Moby (DJ)
We watched Classixx from the beer garden; it was good, dancy, (drinky?) music for the background. While we were there, I creeped on this guy's "Dedicated to the Craft" shirt and I whipped out the sign I made for Hot Chip.
The stage for Junior Boys was sort of tucked away in the back, and at first we ended up grooving a bit in "The Woods" before heading to "The Club" (stage names). In doing so, we stumbled on this guy named Gerd Janson who I ended up really liking.
We made our way to "The Club" and caught my favorite Junior Boys song, In the Morning, just in time! Dancing our way under the disco balls, we headed to Tame Impala. I've seen them twice before so I didn't mind ducking out early for my main obsession, Hot Chip.
Because I was front and center, guess who got the set list!?!?! Hoping I can get another one from next week's show in Wales!
Sidenote: On day 2 of the fest, I actually saw Alexis Taylor walking through the park with his wife and daughter. I choked and didn't say anything to him and I'm still slapping myself for it!
Explosions in the sky filled the stage with vivid colors while exploding peoples' minds with their sound. Instrumental music always feels like a dreamscape to me and is really, really wonderful. It's refreshing to strip away all lyrics and dig deep into the sound.
We danced to Moby and then stumbled home around 1:30. Getting a Lyft out of there was an absolute nightmare!
- Wild Nothing
- Blood Orange
- Father John Misty
- Anohni: Presents Hopelessness
- Mac Demarco
- Beach House
- LCD Soundsystem
Saturday, I went solo to the festival and Emily met up with me later in the day. I caught the middle to end of Preoccupations' set. They're previously known as Viet Cong, but changed their name for obvious reasons. Starting my day off with a bit of grungy punk felt good.
Emily found me mid-Wild Nothing set. Having purple hair really does come in handy.
Blood Orange was next. They brought out Carly Rae Jepsen and Nelly Furtado for a song each... which is quite possibly the most random combo of guests ever for Blood Orange. I mean, good, but odd.
Father John Misty always puts on a hell of a show. Talk about drama. He kept flailing himself all over the stage, falling to his knees and completely on his back.
We couldn't figure out if his graphics were malfunctioning or purposefully ironic. First, the screen quickly flashed to a desktop background of a baby with a mess of folders. Next was the software update failed message. Then a Windows start-up screen, and the set ended with a "Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival 2014" banner. It was then that we knew (or are pretty sure?) it was all on purpose.
After grabbing some Fruity Pebble churro ice cream from Ridges, we met up with my coworker Zack and his girlfriend at Anohni. Her graphics were really powerful. I turned to Zack and said, "This feels like something that would be in a back room at MOCA or LACMA for an art installation". He's a copy-writer at work and does lots of artist bios, so knows lots of fun facts about the music scene.
He explained to me that it probably was art-installation-esque because in the past, Anohni has worked with the likes of Lou Reed and Bjork on installations and projects. Plus, the show was called Anohni: Presents Hopelessness which in itself seems like an art piece with an underlying message.
We went from Anohni to Mac Demarco and met up with a few more friends. Fighting our way through the crowd, we ended up to the side of the sound booth which was a pretty good spot.
Afterwards, we caught a few Beach House tunes and moseyed our way over to LCD Soundsystem.
Hey, remember that time I waited for 8 hours to be very front row for LCD at Coachella? Me too.
Anyways, LCD was AMAZING. I danced so hard, as soon as I got out of bed and stood up the next morning I felt my legs scream, "What have you done to us?!" Worth it though. Totally worth it.
I metro-ed home, showered at like 1:30 or 2am, and tried to get some sleep for work the next morning.
Speaking of mornings, I leave tomorrow morning (6am flight) for Festival Number 6 in Wales! I'm beyond excited but man is it going to be a long trek.
Cross your fingers for us!