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Best Albums of 2015 December 17, 2015

Posted by greatbloginthesky in Recommendations.
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It’s that time of year again – lists!  You’ll find all sorts:  the top 5 songs about cats, the top 10 non-GMO organic lactose-free hormone-free yogurt-free greek yogurts, the top 20 Star Wars-themed toilet-paper dispensers, the top 50 top 20s, etc.  Let me add one to your list.

I hope you’ll find something here that you’ve loved this year or, perhaps, something that you will love in 2016.

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Viet Cong – Viet Cong – Despite their unfortunate selection of band-name (which is now in the process of being changed), this foursome from Calgary crafted a feat of hypopnic garage-rock, post-punk and enough signature changes to wonder just how many songs are really embedded in these seven tracks.  Released early in 2015, no other album quite delivered the same narcotic rush.

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Susan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell – You may believe that this album is uncomfortably difficult to digest.  You would be mostly correct.  It is the painfully naked document of the relationship (or lack thereof) between Stevens and his recently-deceased absentee mother.  The only hope here lies in the belief that she has found peace in eternity, but Stevens has been left hollowed.  It is not likely you will find a more beautiful album with such heavy themes than this.  Well, not since Come On! Feel The Illinoise!

3. homepage_large-bda231cb  Scuba – Claustrophobia

4. homepage_large-54fff14a  Time Wharp – Time Wharp

5. homepage_large-5b83d4eb  André Bratten – Math Ilium Ion EP

6. rvngnl032  Blondes – Persuasions EP

7. 1035x1035-mmj_the_waterfall_cover_vinyl_2_rgb-hirez  My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall

8. 8f09545c  Jamie XX – In Colour

9. homepage_large-376ded24  Tamaryn – Cranekiss

10. wand-golem-lp_1428173344 Wand – Golem

Honorable Mentions:

John Tejada – Signs Under Test    /    Grooms – Comb The Feelings Through Your Hair    /    Nadastrom – Nadastrom    /    Nick Hoppner – Folk    /    Follakzoid – III    /    Lower Dens – Escape From Evil    /    BOOF – Hydrangea Whispers    /    Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin’ down    /    VHÖL – Deeper Than Sky    /    Karamika – Karamika    /    Special Request – Modern Warfare EP’s 1-3

Happy Holidays

J

GBITS Top Albums of 2014 December 19, 2014

Posted by greatbloginthesky in Recommendations.
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2014-300x168

This little website really is the gift that keeps on giving.  Though my last post was 366 days ago, it’s always just a click away, a digital document of the past five years of my favorite pastime.  Looking back at my short-lived attempt at music journalism, I make specific note of a major shift in preference:  from primarily guitar-based music to that of buttons and knobs.

Electronic music has overtaken my life (and the lives of some of those “fortunate” enough to be forced to listen with me).  Throughout this reeducation, however, it has become clear that crafting a coherent statement in album form is, for reasons unknown to me, more difficult for these artists.  Singles, remixes, and EPs seem to be more well-suited to these longer track lengths.  Or perhaps I just need more practice recognizing the subtle gestures that define a great electronic album (I’ll be quite happy to continue studying this).

That being said, I have tirelessly worked to critically evaluate as much music as personally possible to bring you the stand-outs, about half of which are from more traditional genres.  The others are from the vast pixelated plains of electronic music, but the percentage of electronic music albums here pales in comparison to the amount I actually listened to in 2014.

Changing gears – if anyone asks me what my favorite album in recent memory is, without hesitation I give them Lonerism by Tame Impala.  It stood head and shoulders above the pack in 2012 and, to be honest, no album has since eclipsed its every-song-is-great track listing.  I say this because this year’s nominees, while all great in their own regard, were not quite able to piece a full album’s worth of excellent songs together.  Some had 6, some had 8, none had 12.

However, the past year offered much in the way of outstanding full-lengths, from the return of a reclusive electronic genius to the best “beer commercial” Americana in decades.  So, after much consideration and 12 months of glorious listening, here are my favorite albums of the 2014.

Honorable Mentions:  Clark – Clark, Flying Lotus – You’re Dead, Real Estate – Atlas, Ricky Eat Acid – Three Love Songs, Brian Eno/Karl Hyde – High Life, Answer Code Request – Code, Tobacco – Ultima II Massage, I Break Horses – Chiaroscuro

Unknown20.  How To Dress Well – What Is This Heart?

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Unknown19.  Heterotic – Weird Drift

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Unknown18.  Aphex Twin – Syro

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Unknown17.  Lockah – Yahoo or the Highway

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Unknown16.  The Juan Maclean – In A Dream

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Unknown15.  Caribou – Our Love

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Unknown14.  Spoon – They Want My Soul

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13.  UnknownDownliners Sekt – Silent Ascent

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Unknown12.  Dark Sky – Imagin

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Unknown11.  Helado Negro – Double Youth

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Unknown10.  Leon Vynehall – Music For The Uninvited

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Unknown9.  School of Language – Old Fears

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Unknown8.  Swans – To Be Kind

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Unknown

7.  Beck – Morning Phase

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Unknown6.  Plastikman – EX

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Unknown5.  Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like a Bell

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Unknown4.  Mr. Twin Sister – Mr. Twin Sister

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Unknown3.  Wye Oak – Shriek

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Unknown2.  The War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream

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Unknown1.  Shabazz Palaces – Les Majesty

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Happy holidays!

J

GBITS Top 20 Albums of 2013 December 20, 2013

Posted by greatbloginthesky in Recommendations.
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2013Though I no longer have the time to devote to this little hobby, it doesn’t mean I’ve stopped loving that with which it’s populated (um, music). And as a fan of music, and a fan of lists, and a fan of sharing my music lists, I feel there will always be a need to pixelate a year-end list here.

A word about the state of music discovery:  As life has begun tightening the screws and the gray hairs creep in, the methods I’ve used for this have, out of necessity, been pared to the quickest and, often times, most “free” depositories. It’s no secret that the days of buying CD’s have come and gone (a nostalgic aside:  my first CD was Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell (1994); my last, M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (2011).  Similarly, I no longer buy albums on iTunes, primarily because I no longer use my iPod (!!!).  More on that below.  For quality home album listening I’ve invested in a record player, something I’ve been kicking around for several years.  But seeing as how records are quite expensive these days, I’ve decided to only purchase those I’ve deemed excellent and that will be guaranteed a listen.  The wax collection grows…

So what about all the music that doesn’t make that cut?  I pay $10/month for a subscription to premium Spotify.  Spotify has (almost) everything, released (mostly) on it’s physical release date.  For most of my electronic fascinations (DJ sets, new singles, etc) I supplement with SoundCloud.  Beyond that, I do without.  An unfortunate example:  I’ve noticed several year-end lists have included Bill Callahan’s Dream River.  Since there is no way for me to hear this album (and several others) in its entirety without paying for it on iTunes, it shall remain unheard.

All of these have apps that make listening anywhere on the phone a breeze (a whiny layman’s discussion of the poor sound quality of streamed media and MP3’s is thankfully beyond the scope of this piece).  Even listening to podcasts has a dedicated app.  Hence, no iPod (or CD’s, or cassettes, or 8-tracks,…).  To summarize:  The world is changing, music is changing, drugs are changing, even men and women are changing. One thousand years from now there’ll be no guys and no girls, just wankers. Sounds great to me. It’s just a pity that no one told Begbie.

Honorable Mentions:  Mountains – Centralia, Simian Mobile Disco – Live, Föllakzoid – II, Kelela – Cut For, Savages – Silence Yourself, Fort Romeau – Stay/True EP, Atoms 4 Peace – Amok, Livity Sound – Livity Sound, The Range – Nonfiction, Swans – Not Here/Not Now

cjjrf9psz60rr5mo9ddvsyae2.410x410x120. James Blake – Overgrown

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The-Flaming-Lips-The-Terror19. The Flaming Lips – The Terror

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4e6c6fb218. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

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blondes-swisher-608x60817. Blondes – Swisher

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homepage_large.f71966d816. Rhye – Woman

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packshot15. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

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Moderat_Cover_Digital-600x60014. Moderat – II

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131211-burial-rival-dealer-ep-stream_grande13. Burial – Rival Dealer

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GI-172_1500x300_540_54012. Lusine – The Waiting Room

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homepage_large.f2e8fe1311. Forest Swords – Engraving

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machinedrum-2013-138679399810. Machinedrum – Vapor City

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ARCADE-FIRE-REFLEKTOR29. Arcade Fire – Reflektor

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boards-of-canada_tomorrows-harvest-608x6088. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest

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189a79087. Justice – Access All Arenas

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News From Nowhere6. Darkstar – News From Nowhere

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avery5. Daniel Avery – Drone Logic

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jon_hopkins_immunity4. Jon Hopkins – Immunity

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fuck_buttons3. Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

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f40d167d2. Disclosure – Settle – I honestly believe that if I was ten years younger, this album would have been my #1.  It’s the unlikely perfection that only a sibling pair of under-22-year olds from the fertile dance mecca of the UK could craft – part house, part deep-house, part UK funky and a whole lot of pop.  Their lithe use of vocalists intertwined with bona fide basement-club readiness and pop sensibility is what sets them apart.  No one else to date has figured out how to meld these influences into a whole album.  It just didn’t fit as well with this year’s life as much as #1 below.

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Kurt-Vile-Waking-On-A-Pretty-Daze1.  Kurt Vile – Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze – Given the increased time spent (dancing) at home this past year, this was the album to which I listened the most.  Vile’s ear-worm guitar melodies and his simple stoned-Yoda musings (I can’t take credit for that but it’s the best analogy ever – see Pitchfork’s review) soundtracked my mornings, my staring out the windows, my getting ready for ?, and my son’s beginnings.  Such versatility and such beauty, and for those it deserves the top spot.

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Until next time – happy 2014!

J

Tame Impala – Mind Mischief (The Field Remix) March 5, 2013

Posted by greatbloginthesky in Recommendations.
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Sweden’s Axel Willner makes the kind of music that feels less like a progression of notes and chords and more like swimming in a warm technicolor stream.  Detail is paramount to the Kompakt keystone.  He establishes his foundation and then sprinkles in subtleties that stir the comfortable haze up with each successive pass.  His albums are beautiful exercises in headphone prowess.

Here he’s taken the most arresting track from Tame Impala’s Lonerism and built it into a hypnotic funk.  The original’s thick synth stabs ebb and flow as the mix progresses, ultimately intertwining with Kevin Parker’s lament “but she was only messing around”.  It’s  more Field than Tame Impala, as remixes should be – take the stems and graft them into a new being.

The significance here isn’t in this song’s pedigree, and Willner isn’t only messing around.  The beauty is in it’s feigned simplicity, as it is with most Field tracks.  His talents lie in lulling you into his trance, then peppering you with flecks of intricacy.  Really hear this track:  keep your ear to the speaker and follow his leads.

2012 in review – 1 from Botswana! December 30, 2012

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 6,400 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 11 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.