Top tracks of 2009

February 20, 2010 at 6:51 pm (Uncategorized)

Edit: sorry for some of the poor prose and lack of organization in this earlier; I posted it and then wordpress wouldn’t let me edit it! some kind of server was down or something. now all the links are there and everything is in its right place.

I planned back in January to make this my first real post on this blog. Turns out life’s been way more busy since then than expected. Oh well, here it is, a month and a half late. I hope you enjoy my favorite tracks from what was, in the end, a decent year in music.

10. Patrick Wolf – Count of Casualty

While the album this comes from, The Bachelor, got some grief, I don’t know why anyone would think (as the indie music press seem to) that it’s worse than Patrick’s (sort of) breakout The Magic Position. Regardless, I think this track is one of the least-appreciated on this album, which is too bad because it’s my favorite. Why? Well, it showcases Patrick’s amazing talent for arranging–particularly his knack for juxtaposing  electronic and acoustic elements in ways no one else does. Most interesting in this track is the choir: while Patrick uses it to similar effect on some other tracks on The Bachelor (like Hard Times), it’s on this track that it really takes the song to the next level of awesome. And I mean awesome in the literal sense–the wordless mournful chorus makes my heart hurt. If only it were actually winter in Seattle and not some sort of facsimile of spring; it’s exactly the kind of music I’d feel like listening to while feeling like I’m trapped in a grey overcast bubble.

9. Burial & Four Tet – Moth

This comes from Burial and Four Tet’s super limited edition split that came out earlier this year–all 500 copies or however many of the vinyl were sold out before it even officially went on sale, I think. Regardless, you can still hear it thanks to the magic of the internet. It’s a real slow burner–the first minute consists of barely audible synths emerging out of the vinyl static, and it slowly plays out over 9 minutes. However, it’s almost a perfect slow burner: instead of being boring it’s hypnotic, lulling, and beautiful. Perfect late-night driving music. Ditto to that thing I said about that Patrick Wolf song above.

8. Adrian Lux – Strawberry (Marcus Rombo Pop Remix)

On a much lighter note, here is an electro house remix. The original is nothing special–it was the first single from Adrian Lux, some producer guy from somewhere in Europe. This remix, however, is amazing. It turns the original from a straight dance song to something somewhere between a dance song and a genuine pop song. Marcus Rombo puts the vocals firmly in the center of the mix and adds blaringly cute/melancholy synths (am I the only one who experiences this combination surprisingly often?). The dynamics are perfect; the climax is overwhelming (don’t give up after the first minute–give it a listen all the way through). The result sounds like being sixteen for the first time all over again and passionately making out with your girlfriend in her mini van to Ratatat. Ooooor maybe just the being sixteen part?

7. Gold Panda – Back Home

I don’t know who this guy is and I don’t know anything about him except that he’s from California and makes great music. The whole EP this comes from (the Miyamae EP) is good but this track is far and away the best. It’s nostalgic, glitchy, somewhat chillwave-y. It sounds kind of like early Four Tet with a stronger house influence channeling the Ghost of Music Future and referencing Universal Studios Florida before they even started making music. Yeah, what?

6. Memory Tapes – Bicycle

Memory Tapes tends to make music that is also nostalgic and, like Patrick Wolf, uses really interesting and beautiful arrangements which juxtapose synthesized and acoustic instruments. This one is the best track and lead single off his newest album (I would say ‘debut’ since it’s his first as Memory Tapes, but that name’s just an amalgamation of his other musical aliases, Memory Cassette and Weird Tapes). It has the sort of mysterious, haunting quality of older Bat for Lashes but it’s much more rhythmic and almost danceable. The arrangement includes such diverse elements as: steel drums, ‘verbed out 80s pop lead guitar, a ghostly choir, gnarly bass synths, etc etc. It actually sounds even cooler than you’d think. The bridge/outro is pretty epic too.

5. The Lonely Island – I’m on a  Boat (Kue’s Tugboat Fix)

This song is everything a super good electro remix should be: stupid simple, catchy, dirty, and danceable. It doesn’t hurt that the original was so good (in this blogger’s humble opinion). If you don’t like dance music, still try this one–it’s at least worth the comedic value. It’s also fun to play at a party and see the looks on people’s faces when they suddenly realize what it is.

4. Madrid – Defy the Magic Mule

First let’s get one thing straight: this is not the crappy Canadian duo Madrid. This is the now (sadly) defunct Seattle instrumental band. They released an absolutely amazing debut album in 2009 and then broke up after several years as a band. I never got to see them. :c Regardless, in the future I’m going to re-blog this band with a couple mp3s of their tracks, so look out for that later. For now what you get is a live video of my favorite track from the album, Defy the Magic Mule. What’s good about it is what’s good about the whole album: it’s interesting and mathy without being too heady or difficult, the excellent drumming, and the epic climax (you’ll like it a whole lot more if, like that Adrian Lux remix above, you listen to it all the way through). Give it a whirl, man.

3.  The Harlem Shakes – Winter Water

The album this is from is one of my favorite of the year, and once again, this is one of the less-appreciated tracks from it. Why do I love it so much? Just wait for the chorus where the Shakes pull off some violently melodic harmonies. The bridge is so good it breaks my heart. I still need to see them live.

2. Fighter X – Defeat

Unfortunately Fighter X doesn’t make this kind of music any more. Now he just makes music on his gameboy. Now there’s nothing wrong with that, but blippy gameboy beats just can’t beat the stuff from this EP: intense, dark, spazzoid breakbeats set against 8-bit chiptune synthesizers. This song is the best from the EP it was released on (the Little Fighter X EP), and it showcases the whole EP’s best elements: its emotionalism, its intensity, how hard it is to wrap your brain around some of the insane beats, and the uniqueness of the chiptune-meets-breakcore sound. Every time I listen to this song I feel emotionally exhausted because the climax is just next level insane.

Fighter X – Defeat (this one aint on YouTube, but his record label is giving the track [and the whole EP] away for free)

1. Passion Pit – Moth Wings

This song is in this slot because it has a lot of sentimental value for me. I listened to it as I rode on the Havas bus to the airport to leave Istanbul, my home for a year, for the Americas. It made me cry on the bus as I realized the weight of that whole year, that city, tugging at, ripping away from my heart–the things that could never be said or understood by anyone except for those who were there to experience it, something that could never be put back in its place. I don’t know if this song is about leaving, but it’s the perfect song for leaving. Maybe no one will know what I’m talking about, but now I feel like I can’t help but appreciate this song after knowing what it’s like to really and finally leave something that is so close to my heart. It’s also a really good song. Listen to it if you’re interested.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Bear Hands – What A Drag

February 17, 2010 at 7:31 pm (Brooklyn crap, Songs, Uncategorized)

Kendra and I just heard this song while listening to Western Washington’s student station, KUGS (awesome
station by the way), and it was the best song I’d heard in days! Woah, BIG DEAL. Anyway, check it out. The band is from Brooklyn (yeah yeah, what else is new?), they’re called Bear Hands, and they wrote a song that’s a little mathy, has a really good, driving beat, and is pretty catchy. It sounds a little bit like early Tokyo Police Club, but a little more…mmm…Brooklyn?

Check out the mp3 at KEXP’s blog (yeah, I know, bad music blog etiquette, but this blog isn’t big enough yet where it’ll trash their bandwidth if I link):

Bear Hands – What A Drag

UPDATE: Now that I listen to this with better speakers I am sorry for calling it at all mathy. That guitar during the chorus somehow sounded a lot more interesting on crappy little TV speakers.

Permalink Leave a Comment

((Speak))

February 12, 2010 at 12:16 pm (Uncategorized)

There’s this jazz band (or is it a jazz band? yeah, okay, I get it, that’s, like, the perennial question–my answer to this question is that, at this point, one of the telling characteristics of jazz [there are many, as I see ‘jazz’ as a cluster concept] is that it brings up the question of whether or not it is jazz; if you feel the need to even ask, then yes, it’s jazz) that’s composed of some UW students and some people. It’s kinda gritty, slightly discordant, slightly rock-inflected. I haven’t heard ’em live yet, but their record sounds phenomenal; check out their myspace:

((Speak)) on Myspace

They’re playing at the chapel at Good Shepherd Park in Wallingford on Thursday, the 18th at 8PM ish. It’s their record release. They’re supposed to be awesome live. Make it out if you are at all interested in contemporary jazz music–as far as I know it’s hard to hear good jazz live in this city for a reasonable price. On Thursday it’ll only be $5-$15, sliding scale.

Damn, check out that whole first minute and a half to Amalgam in the Middle, especially the sick (what I think is a) synth-sax.

Permalink Leave a Comment

The XX, Tupac, & Biggie – Runnin With the XX (DJ Quixotic & Elliot Caps Remix)

February 12, 2010 at 12:40 am (Uncategorized)

Holy shit this mashup is good.

Runnin With the XX

Permalink Leave a Comment

The Middle East – Blood

February 11, 2010 at 12:40 pm (Pop, Songs)

This track comes to you courtesy of Kendra, ~*my girlfriend*~. She put it on a mix she made me and it’s been stuck in my head ever since. The Middle East are a…uh…somethingtet (I can’t seem to find information on exactly how many group members there are, but it sounds like a good number) out of Townsville, Australia. This track is beautiful and it’s a little long–though I generally find that contemporary pop songs could almost always do with a bit of trimming down, this one uses every measure effectively. It develops slowly, artfully, gracefully over five and a half minutes and culminates in one of the most tremendous, triumphant, and beautiful choruses I’ve ever heard. Take a listen.

Track:

The Middle East – Blood

Video:

Permalink Leave a Comment

Vitalic – OK Cowboy

February 11, 2010 at 3:28 am (Electronic, Songs)

Does this look like the cover to a sick early electro album?

Why is it that album covers so often do a terrible job of conveying what the music they represent actually sounds like?The cover to this Vitalic album, OK Cowboy, is one of the things that discouraged me from listening to it when it was first recommended to me years ago. From the cover and album title I’d guessed Vitalic was some kind of crappy turn-of-the-millennium garage rock band or something. What Vitalic actually sounds like, as I discovered yesterday when I finally gave it a spin, is something much better. Pick your cliche music journalist analogy:  early Ladytron or Daft Punk with a harder edge, Crystal Castles minus most of the vocals (though those that are there are just as machinic and fuzzed out) and the chip tune aesthetic, Black Moth Super Rainbow making dance music, etc. You probably get the idea: really dirty, aggressive synths, four-step house beats with rock drums, occasional guitar leads. It seems to find a sweet spot, being just repetitive enough to be pleasantly hypnotic but not so repetitive as to be boring like much minimalist dance music. However you describe it, this album will probably be in my top 50 of all time now. Check out a couple select tunes below.

Track 1:

Track 2:

Permalink Leave a Comment