SIDEBAR
»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
Music of 2012 [F]
Jan 9th, 2013 by Dan

Colorful Dream

They’re not a real band, but I think you get the idea.

The biggest change in 2012 for me was the rise of Bandcamp and Soundcloud. Sure, I still bought plenty of music from Amazon or Google, but an increasing amount of the stuff I picked up came from the individual himself. I mean, why would I expect the Fez soundtrack to occupy a spot in Amazon’s mp3 store? Thanks to Bandcamp, I can just pick it up almost directly from the artist.

2012 also marked the year that genre walls were officially smashed for me. I think the only stuff I can’t really tolerate is noise metal. Just about everything else can penetrate my cold, black heart and move me to sing and dance.

I certainly never would have guessed that I’d be listening to so much hip hop and R&B back when I started this blog in 2008. It was all punk, rock, and ska, but now I cast a much wider net.

Top Artists of 2012

1. The Beatles (409)

This has been a mainstay of every list since the catalog re-release back in 2009. There’s not really much more to say about how incredible this band is so I’ll instead comment on the fact that I listened to them ~1,100 fewer times this year than last. I really spread out my music time this year…

2. The Weeknd (333)

I can’t remember what month it was when I discovered the trio of mixtapes just waiting for me online, but I will say that The Weeknd opened my eyes to R&B in a way I would have thought impossible. Without him I guarantee you that Frank Ocean would not be on this list. Everything about his music is simultaneously sleazy and sexy and so wrong it almost feels right. “High For This”, “Wicked Games”, and “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” are all stunners.

3. Sambomaster (サンボマスター) (326)

Another mainstay ever since my Japan trip. My understanding of the lyrics approaches zero, but I feel like I understand everything Takeshi Yamaguchi is trying to say with that heartfelt, almost mournful, sandpapery voice. As cheesy as it sounds, it speaks to my soul, man.

4. Frank Ocean (270)

Think about this: I didn’t get channel ORANGE until November. Everybody’s talking about this record, I know, but allow me to say that Ocean penned and crooned the best album of the year. Nothing tops this in 2012, guys. Nothing.

5. Jonathan Coulton (269)

Some people would have you believe that Coulton is a novelty singer best enjoyed in small doses. Some people are wrong. Coulton’s earlier work may lean on a geeky, nerdy motif, but, like I said last year, Artificial Heart really takes him to a new level.

6. Disasterpiece (240)

I listened to a lot of game sountracks this year thanks to the ubiquity and ease of Bandcamp. Disasterpiece’s moody, quasi-ambient work on Fez proved spooky, lonely, and mournful while also igniting that spark for adventure. It’s all synth-y, but the notes never feel quite right, which is pretty much what Fez is all about.

7. Yoko Kanno (202)

I bet you’re thinking that this is all Cowboy Bebop music. You’d be wrong. Kanno’s work on the jazz tunes in Kids on the Slope opened my eyes to a genre I’d ignored for most of my life. That medley in the culture festival? Pure. Magic.

8. George & Jonathan (184)

One of their tunes was the theme to Polygon’s podcast, The Besties, and the album, Beautiful Lifestyle, struck just the right balance of playful and fun without getting obnoxious.

9. Regina Spektor (152)

I fell for What We Saw from the Cheap Seats as hard as a person could for an album. “All the Rowboats”, “Firewood”, and “How” are all so stunningly beautiful that I want to be listening to them right now…In fact, I think I’ll go put them on.

10. Rodrigo y Gabriela (151)

The first entry that confuses me about being on this list. I still dig their stuff, but I don’t really remember listening to it that much this year.

11. The Civil Wars (136)

I’m really worried about the state of this band now that they’ve canceled their tours. What will I do without Joy Williams’ beautiful voice? I hope they figure it out.

12. Kanye West (129)

The current king of hip hop, as far as I’m concerned. Yeezy goes big. Even though I haven’t loved his collab stuff as much as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, I can’t help but come back to this guy time and time again.

13. Fall Out Boy (126)

So few bands know how to craft a tune as instantly catchy as these guys. Too bad they broke up.

14. Eirik Suhrke (119)

You may be wondering who this guy is. He did the music for Spelunky, a genius take on the Mega Drive soundchip that gives me that extra push to hit retry on the off chance that I get that sweet sax tune in the Ice Caves.

15. Tsunku (つんく♂) (114)

If I had properly tagged my Rhythm Heaven Fever music earlier in the year this number would be much higher. Academically I understand why other people might not love all the music in Rhythm Heaven, but in my heart I can’t understand why any awesome person would hate it.

16. Childish Gambino (113)

Part of that hip hop kick this year. Donald Glover is pretty awesome.

17. Nintendo (98)

You know what? I think that this 98 is supposed to be added to the Tsunku tally above. Hear that, Tsunku? You should be 7th.

17. Jim Guthrie (98)

The composer to the Superbrothers soundtrack knows how to make a sweet groove. Seriously, go check it out.

19. OK Go (97)

“Needing/Getting” will always be a favorite of mine because I’m a hopeless romantic (emphasis on hopeless).

20. Jasper Byrne (95)

The Lone Survivor soundtrack is responsible for this play count. It was equal parts creepy and beautiful and I couldn’t stay away last winter/spring.

21. Alex Cuba (91)

Man, that afro is cool, isn’t it? There’s a clarity and richness to his voice that soothes me and makes me feel funky.

22. Hannibal Buress (88)

Is your name really Hannibal? These plays are thanks to two of my favorite stand-up albums that I got this year. That Buress dude is pretty funny, y’all.

22. Ana Tijoux (88)

Saw her live this year. That was awesome. Her ability to spit rhymes in Spanish is mind boggling to me.

24. Juan Luis Guerra (85)

I wonder what percentage of these come from “Niagara en bicicleta”? (Answer: ~26%)

25. Kendrick Lamar (84)

I picked up good kid, m.A.A.d city at the same time (or close to it) as channel ORANGE and figured that it would definitely win, play-wise. Didn’t quite go like that, but trust that Kendrick Lamar’s rhymes are equally awesome. Definitely check out that disc.

Top 10 Tracks of 2012

1. The Weeknd – “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” (23)

It all sounds so drug-addled and sexy, but in a dirty way. This was the first track I heard by The Weeknd and the rest is history.

2. Juan Luis Guerra – “El Niagara en bicicleta” (22)

Quite possibly my favorite song ever? I honestly have no idea how it didn’t make the list last year.

3. George & Jonathan – “Little Marcus” (21)

The aforementioned former theme to The Besties. It doesn’t overstay its welcome and it’s super pleasant. A great little tune.

4. Carla Morrison – “Compartir” (20)

I would have expected “Una salida” to have this spot, but this is also a fantastic love song by a beautiful vocalist. Carla Morrison has this sweet, delicate voice that just breaks your heart while you listen to her. I absolutely love her and this song.

4. Neon Indian – “Polish Girl” (20)

I think I own two Neon Indian songs, but this chillwave track puts me in a spaced out place where I can’t not love it. Put a gun to my head and I wouldn’t be able to describe what makes this song so special, but I think it really does speak for itself.

6. Regina Spektor – “Small Town Moon” (19)

It probably ended up with the most plays by virtue of being the first track on her new album, but “Small Town Moon” is no slouch. It perfectly sets the mood for a thoughtful, beautiful album.

6. George & Jonathan – “Street Monsters” (19)

There’s really no good explanation for how this track got up here. It’s funky and it’s quick and I guess it got lucky compared to the rest of the album.

6. Frank Ocean – “Bad Religion”, “Pilot Jones”, & “Pyramids” (19)

And the list closes out with my three favorite tracks from channel ORANGE. All three of these are perfect in their own way. Be it the soulful poetry of “Bad Religion”, the simple hook of “Pilot Jones”, or that sexy electrofunk of the first half of the epic “Pyramids”, they all land so unbelievably perfectly on my ears that I’m shocked they’re not higher up on the list.

January: The Concert Curse [Fukubukuro 2011]
Jan 2nd, 2012 by Dan

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before in this space, but I was not a frequent concert attendee prior to my undergraduate degree. It’s partly not living in a major hub in high school, part a disdain for live music that I have since lost, and part a sense of urgency as I feel myself aging.

A concert is a weird beast, really. I’ve probably attended more in 2011 alone than most people get around to in their entire lives. Don’t get me wrong, live music is still a huge thing, but I wonder if the ubiquity of Youtube and easy, pervasive access to music has dulled people’s enthusiasm for blowing out their eardrums in large, sweaty groups of people.

You may recall that I received some bad news at an Anamanaguchi concert back in March of 2010. This is a story of the rise and fall of The Concert Curse (cue spooky music).

See, two similar events are easily dismissible as a coincidence, but three? That’s hitting pattern territory. Eric touched upon it in the comments of my April Smith post in last year’s Fukubukuro. A superstitious man would stop going to concerts while dating. I was not a superstitious man in early January.

Anamanaguchi was, coincidentally, in town yet again. I’d been dating Danni for about a month and things seemed to be just peachy. She was super into me, but I guess I had glossed over the fact that she was just re-entering the dating game after a broken engagement the year before. Danni was cool and she dug video games and was receptive to chiptunes so we decided to hit up the Black Cat with David and Kendra and catch Anamanaguchi doing their thing.

Pete, Ary, Luke, and James delivered in a set that was much stronger than the one we caught at Sonar and the night was awesome. Everyone had fun. Everything seemed like it was fine. Two days later Danni broke up with me. She said she felt trapped and like she was in too deep. Meeting my little brother was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It made her freak that things were moving too fast and getting too serious. I jokingly blamed David, but he and I both knew that it was something more insidious: concerts

Of course this all turned out to be a blessing anyway. The end of my relationship with Danni opened me up to dating Tiffany, who things were going well with, except…two concerts were coming up within three days of each other with a date sandwiched in between. Could my budding relationship handle that kind of mojo?

I frantically laid out the impending crisis to my visiting friend Liana in a night that I rather embarrassingly spent lamenting the woes of my love life rather than enjoying hanging out with my friend. That very night we were at an embarrassing half-concert at a Cornell event, but the real deal was that coming Monday. Min and I were set to go to Philadelphia to see Jonathan Coulton. Surely the melancholic songwriter would curse my relationship and doom me to loneliness yet again!

No. Not this time. The curse was somehow lifted. Perhaps I had confused it by cramming three (really 2.5) concerts into one month and it had forgotten to ruin my relationship. Maybe there never was a curse. Sure, sometimes I get a small tingling at the back of my neck when I’m about to attend a show, but all I know is that I’m free.

Wild Flag Drum Kit

Two Shows: Wild Flag and The Civil Wars [F]
Oct 26th, 2011 by Dan

I doubt that I could attend two more different shows than when I saw Wild Flag and The Civil Wars last week in DC. One was loud, raucous, and distorted while the other was quiet, pure, and crystal clear. Shockingly, given my predilection for loud, upbeat shows, I actually preferred The Civil Wars.

Wild Flag

I didn’t even know Black Cat had a second floor venue, but I guess that’s where the larger shows take place. Unfortunately it comes at the expense of the nicer bar downstairs and the intimacy of the smaller room. Wild Flag is just too big to play that room, I guess, but the upstairs room just feels colder and less fun (that could also be because I was right below an a/c vent).

Long ago I tried to get into Eleanor Friedberger because she was linked on NPR or somewhere else, but her music just didn’t resonate within me. I don’t know if it was just her older material or that I wasn’t listening to full tracks (Amazon previews and whatnot), but her songs were actually pretty solid performed live. Each one escalates as the song goes forward, adding more and more elements and embellishes. Sometimes it’s more subtle than others, but it’s usually there. While I would recommend a little more diversity in a song catalog, it makes for excellent concert music. I don’t think her set was cohesively strong, but on an individual song level I tended to find myself really getting into it about halfway through each song. Like I mentioned in my WIBD post, “Roosevelt Park” was my favorite track, mostly for that funky bass line and sound. It’s a genre that I have an extreme weakness for and it gets me every time.

Eleanor Friedberger

Definitely has a hipster look to her. I haven't seen jeans with a waistline that high since the 90s.

As for Wild Flag, it’s really a shame that the venue doesn’t quite highlight their sound. I don’t know if it was because I was too close, but every element was crashing over each other where they work more cohesively on the album. It seemed that Mary Timony thought so too, because she kept mentioning that she wanted something turned up. Vocals were mostly washed out by the hard guitars, but Rebecca Cole and Janet Weiss’ harmonies usually shone through regardless. They also had some feedback issues that they had to work out (and mostly figured out by the end of the second or third song).

Carrie Brownstein Rocking Out

Carrie was totally into it.

It didn’t sound bad, but it didn’t sound as good as it could have and that’s disappointing because Wild Flag was kicking ass up there. I’ve never seen Mick Jagger move on stage, but every description I’ve ever heard of him came to mind as I watched Carrie Brownstein just own the stage. We’re talking some serious moves all while maintaining her delicious guitar playing. Both Carrie and Mary had this air of professionalism; that they’d been there before and they knew what they were doing so much that they could almost “show off” with their behind the back playing, windmills, and just general guitar artistry. They really owned that stage.

Carrie and Mary

Mary Timony and Carrie Brownstein just rocking out.

Not enough has been said about Janet Weiss on drums, but her presence is the glue for the whole performance while Rebecca Cole’s keyboards were essential, but often masked by the overloud crunchy guitar work. The whole band was impressive and the setlist hopped around the album gracefully, only diverting from that course once to play two new songs. Both were impressive and harsher sounding than the mostly pretty sound on Wild Flag. It’ll be interesting to see how they wind up sounding when recorded.

The encore set consisted of covers that I wasn’t into (I don’t dig the Ramones and I’ve never heard of Television, sorry), but were performed with the necessary aplomb. It was a great set that I’m glad I went to, even if the sound issues were a little disappointing.

The Civil Wars

I’m not a fan of shows where you have sit down, assigned seats. There’s an inverse relationship (it’s not quite linear, but I don’t know if I’d say it was quadratic (and definitely not exponential) between how close to the stage you are and how much “soul” or “force” a performance has for me. Sit too far away and it’s just a sterile experience. My seats in the Lincoln Theatre were in the balcony, pretty far removed from the stage. I was worried.

The Civil Wars (With Milo Greene) 004

This is the view from my seat. Definitely a little removed from the stage.

Milo Greene came out and did their remarkably short set. The band itself is large (five members) with anywhere from two to four of those band members playing a guitar of some sort on each song. It results in a layered, complex musical sound that contrasts heavily to The Civil Wars, but it lacked the energy that five young musicians should give the band. Granted, that could have been my seat position, but I know that their closing number far eclipsed the rest of their songs and made me think that I wasn’t just imagining the energy problem. Then again, maybe it was just excitement for The Civil Wars.

The Civil Wars (With Milo Greene) 009

It's a very busy band. Good sound, though.

In any case, they were fun, even if they have to work on their stage banter. Friedberger’s was almost non-existent and Wild Flag kept it short (but great) while Milo Greene kind of floundered up there (made worse by the fact that The Civil Wars have unbelievable stage chemistry and amazing banter). They were solid openers and I liked their music, even though I’d say that the standing O some audiences decided to bestow was…well…overkill.

Then again, The Civil Wars destroyed my illusions about distance and involvement. Those two have an uncanny ability to put an audience under their spell. The best word to describe us during their songs would be rapt. Being an acoustic duo, John Paul and Joy’s production is spartan, which highlights how much the audience is completely drawn in. Every pause or moment of silence was so complete that you could have heard a pin drop. During one such silence I found myself annoyed by a man several rows up chewing something crunchy. It was surreal and amazing.

Like I said before, Joy and John Paul have such lovely chemistry that it’s almost unbelievable that they’re not a couple. They must have unbelievably understanding/trusting significant others to trust that the stage chemistry is just that. It’s smoldering sometimes. Joy is playful, cute, and sexy while JP is an “Aw, shucks” type of cowboy with a tiny sarcastic streak. It just works. When you throw Joy and JP’s fantastic voices into the mix you have alchemized pure gold, my friend.

The Civil Wars (With Milo Greene) 022

They are just so beautiful on stage!

The duo hit every song of theirs I love and really brought down the house with a whisper rather than a bang. It was one of the most special shows I ever attended and I honestly did not expect it. Next time they’re in town I’m definitely buying tickets again.

What I’ve Been Doing 24 Oct 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Oct 24th, 2011 by Dan

The Civil Wars (With Milo Greene) 022

The Civil Wars were absolutely beautiful. What a fantastic show.

Movies

50/50 – What a great movie. It was funny and emotional at all the right times. After seeing it I just wanted to go home and hug my roommate (like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, she got cancer at a young age). I’ve seen her in a grand total of four movies now, but I love Anna Kendrick. She is absolutely adorable and she will go far in this business. So cute!

Solaris – A heady movie about a man who chooses to reject reality for a chance at fixing his mistakes. So muted and quiet and sci-fi without being sci-fi really at all. It’s not gonna blow you away, but it’s remarkably well acted. Potentially could be a stage play if it wasn’t for all the flashbacks.

TV

Homeland – Claire Danes is just perfect at her insecure, crazy, competent role. Morena Baccarin has the most unenviable role. The wife who thought her husband was dead and moved on is not one that audiences attach to. Also she got to take part in the most awkward sex scene ever. I guess I don’t have to keep worrying about this harem subplot (thank god!)

The Walking Dead – I really hate that nonsense with the “He told me…it doesn’t matter what he told me.” plot contrivance. Setting up suspense by explicitly hiding information from the viewers is one of my pet peeves. Hey Merle, a motorcycle in the zombpocalypse is a TERRIBLE IDEA. The premiere was tense and pretty awesome most of the time. I like how it’s going so far, but if they ever kill Glenn…haha.

Music

Eleanor Friedberger – The opener for Wild Flag, she was definitely interesting. All of her songs crescendo to these great endings, but can often sound similar. I fell in love with “Roosevelt Island“, but know that all of her songs aren’t that funky.

Wild Flag – I plan on writing more about both of these concerts, by the way, but these women rocked the stage like they owned it. They were having serious fun up there dancing and playing and almost showing off how great they are at this. I can’t say I love the mix that Black Cat had going (and Mary Timony seemed to agree with me. She kept motioning for adjustments), but it’s never a bad thing to be struck by a wave of sound. Great show, heard some new songs, a lot of fun.

Milo Greene – Super busy on stage as the four frontmen swapped instruments repeatedly during the show. They had some great songs, but their set was so short! The song they closed with was stellar.

The Civil Wars – This concert was…wow. Best show I’ve seen in a long time. More to come later, for sure, but The Civil Wars are a quiet group. It’s just Joy singing (occasionally on piano too) and John Paul on guitar (and also singing) and in moments of silence during the songs you could have heard a mouse sneeze. I heard someone crunching five rows behind me. The audience was rapt and Joy and JP just totally rocked the stage. Just beautiful. I can’t think of a show I enjoyed more this year.

Books

The Last Best League – Coming to a close on this one. I was expecting the team to suddenly turn things around during the summer, but it seems like they might close in last place. Wasn’t expecting that.

Video Games

Batman: Arkham City – Batman’s face isn’t so obscured that he shouldn’t have any expressions. He’s seriously like a robot when he talks. It’s…unnerving. Makes him seem like a sociopath. I might explore it more in this space, but I don’t think the open environment served the game well at all. Arkham City was superior and, while Arkham City was definitely a good game, it’s very far from the best of the year for me and nowhere near as impactful as the previous game.

Gears of War 3 – Shotgun event means…I get killed badly. Not my thing.

Mass Effect 2 – My game was so glitchy yesterday that I quit after making 10 minutes of progress over an hour. Bleh…

Wild Flag Drum Kit

Wild Flag knows how to rock

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa