Sunday, January 26

The Top 25 Tracks of 2013: 1-10

Alright here we go. 10 to 1. 0 to 60.  Back to front. Moms and dads. 

(Again not all of these were on Spotify so you'll have to click the links for the ones in blue.)

  • 10. Nils Frahm - Says - Brian Eno's Big Ship used to be my go-to for huge, epic sounding ambient that made any normal day seem like the last hours you would spend on Earth. Now Says has taken the torch on that one.
  • 9. Close - My Way ft. Joe Dukie - Simple, short, and sweet. You don't need flashy effects when the core elements already sound so good. This one was on repeat for weeks.
  • 8. Darkside – Golden Arrow - Darkside is Nicolas Jaar's new project with his friend Dave on guitar. Jaar is a master of dynamics and uncommon builds. Add in some choice guitar licks and you have one juicy piece of music. Let this one fill up the room. The video is pretty badass too.
  • 7. Tessela - Nancy’s Pantry - This one is unruly.  It sounds like nothing else in 2013.  It feels underground in that it is so different from your typical dance music formula and yet it is eminently danceable.  I see it being an anthem to a huge basement party for the Occupy crowd.
  • 6. Foxygen – No Destruction - Sure you could track down and buy a bunch of exquisite vintage gear and hire some knowledgeable producer to record your would-be 60's psychedelic album, but at some point you'd need to play those instruments and make real music. What sets Foxygen apart is their ability to master both - the music and the sound. If someone played this for me blind I would not be surprised at all if they said it was recorded in '68. This is really a placeholder for the whole album, No Destruction is just one of the more fun, whacky tracks off of it.
  • 5. Disclosure – Help Me Lose My Mind ft. London Grammar - I'm not one for singing along to songs, but your better believe I was testing out the pipes on this one.
  • 4. Dirty Projectors – Socialites (Joe Goddard Remix) - Joe Goddard consistently puts together well-rounded tracks that make you want to play them over and over. The muted intro and steady build made this one my go-to for leaving the office and re-entering the madness that is New York City.
  • 3. Jon Hopkins – Open Eye Signal - Hopkins has spent most of his career creating moody, ambient albums rather than dance music and you can tell. The songs on Immunity are long explorations into simple grooves that are in no rush to pull any gimmicky bass drops or cameo appearances. They kind of just grab you by the ears and say, 'hey look at this.' That being said, there is a lot of energy here and the album is a ton of fun to listen to while you yourself are in motion - on the train, running, biking whatever. Open Eye Signal captures that well and made a lot of Best Of lists as a result.
  • 2. Jim James – State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U) - This song came out around the time New York was dealing with the reality of Hurricane Sandy's devastation. It was insane. Everywhere below 39th St. in Manhattan, which might as well be the center of the modern universe, was dark - unable to function. ("I mean it, the powers goin out). People lost so much: TVs, rugs, whole homes, tragically even fellow family members. When you go through something that traumatic it makes you more grateful for the things that truly matter in life. You start to question all the things that you thought were important ("state of the art technology, supposed to make for better living"). What does it give us anyway? ("Are we better human beings?"). State of the Art felt like someone pulling back the curtains reminding us that we are merely human despite our best efforts to distract ourselves into thinking we are more.
  • 1. Rhye - Open - This one speaks for itself.

Thanks for reading folks. Godspeed in 2014.

The Top 25 Tracks of 2013: 11-25

This blog was never designed to be a music news blog, but if I don't post my favorite tracks from 2013 as a compilation then they will never get posted in a soundtrack-style playlist at all.  So without further ado, here are my Top 25 Tracks of 2013 - the songs that rose above the noise, pushed boundaries, and made me excited about music again.

(Not all of these were on Spotify so you'll have to click the links for the ones in blue.)
  • 11. Bibio – A Tout A L’Heure - Bibio has always had a great texture to his music, but it wasn't until A Tout A L'Heure that he managed bring excellent vocals into the mix. This one is going to make every vacation playlist I make from here on out.
  • 12. Phosphorescent - The Quotidian Beasts - Call me crazy for not putting Song for Zula in this slot, but Quotidian is really the one on this album that does it for me. The guitar line that holds it all together, filled with attitude and experience, is one that doesn't happen so often in music nowadays. It's an ambitious tune and even Phosphorescent barely has the years under their belt to pull it off... but they do... and it's awesome.
  • 13. Blondes - Andrew - Swisher was my favorite electronic album of the year, because it was made for the club, but could easily be dissected by a group of intellectuals over a bottle of wine. Andrew is representative of Blondes' slick attitude and knack for the adventurous. DJs use this to separate the early stage of the night from gametime. You're not messing around when you throw this on.
  • 14. Juana Molina - Eras - The guitar here really reminds me of early Radiohead and I love it.
  • 15. Sophie - Blipp - Imagine a DJ dropping this in the middle of a house set? Everyone would lose it. It's so different, but immediately likeable. I imagine people absolutely breaking it down, kind of like the dance scene in Two Lovers.
  • 16. Courtney Barnett - Avant Gardener - Talk about a head trip. It's rare to find a song where the vibe between the lyrics and the instruments meet up so well. Barnett pulls off the straightforward indifference to her own anxiety problems so well that someone should probably call a doctor.
  • 17. Toro y Moi – Rose Quartz - the best build of the year.
  • 18. Burial – Rival Dealer - Just before the end of the year Burial released the Rival Dealer EP composed of three cinematic tracks that surprised pretty much everyone for their dramatic departure from his slow, sparse dubstep history. Hiders is a close second here, but Dealer wins, because it drops a relentless jungle beat out of nowhere. Not only is it a surprise in the song itself, but in the context of Burial's career no one saw that coming. So to hear it for the first time was truly mindblowing.
  • 19. Daft Punk - Doin’ It Right ft. Panda Bear - Who knew Panda Bear and Daft Punk would sound so good together? Random Access Memories is cool in that before Daft Punk would just sample a vocal like this, but here they actually collaborated on new material with leading musicians from a couple different genres and eras. Kind of refreshing in the age of digital everything.
  • 20. Almunia - Wrapped In Your Hair - My new favorite roadtrip album. The guitar line around 3 minutes gets me every time.
  • 21. Motor City Drum Ensemble - Send A Prayer pt. 2 - throw it on some good speakers and pour yourself a drink.  What a good track to play in the middle of a classy party. Just people floating around from room to room checking out the scene. Sheesh. The double bass beat is so damn confident it’s sexy.
  • 22. White Denim - Pretty Green - Sometimes I feel like new indie bands hide behind their trendy lo-fi fuzz effects, too afraid to play it to us straight.  Not White Denim.  They want you to hear what’s going on and that is a very good thing, because these guys have serious chops. 
  • 23. CFCF - Beyond Light - The Last of the Mohicans meets Mission to Mars.
  • 24. Eluvium - Rain Gently - Rain Gently is Eluvium doing what he does best, slowly creating introspective atmospheres that start out as songs and evolve into something much more.  It’s the sound of you having an epiphany. The title is downright corny though.
  • 25. Finnebasen - Bella - You’re driving your red 1969 Ford Mustang Boss through the Nevada desert at night.  It was hard to leave but you had to.  Things would have never worked out between you two.  Have you really been driving all night? I guess so... the sun is about to come up.

1-10 will be posted later this week.

Wednesday, July 24

It's Summer Y'all

Here's some breezy tunes for a do-nothing weekend.
  1. Chilly Gonzalez - Kenaston
  2. White Denim - River to Consider
  3. Foxygen - No Destruction
    Started out as a joke band - then they got good... like really good.
  4. Generationals - Put a Light On
    You've heard it by now, but it's still worth a listen.
  5. Toro y Moi - Rose Quartz
    The best song off of TM's latest album. A real creeper.
  6. Airbird & Napolian - In the Zone
  7. Tourist - Your Girl
    This kid has serious talent.
  8. Gabrielle Aplin - Home (umami & Alle Farben Remix)
    We're not there yet, but we'll get there.
  9. Tanlines - Yes Way
  10. Andrew Ashong - Flowers 
    Big weekend morning jam.
  11. Au - RR vs. D.
    Nonsensical vibe + upbeat bells = summer jam
  12. Mark Maguire - Get Lost


image: mason_mashon on instagram

Friday, February 15

Say No to the Keystone XL Pipeline

There is so much to be said about the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, but at the end of the day it comes down to the idea of justice.  Justice, because the companies that stand to profit from the project are destroying our climate and that of our children in the process.  Fast Company just posted an article that listed the Alberta Tar Sands as one of the 14 Carbon Bomb projects, that if exploited, would lead to disastrous long-term temperature increases.  Even the Dalai Lama and Nobel Peace Laureates are against this thing.

Yes, we use oil everyday. But stopping the Keystone XL is a crucial first step to creating a safe future for all of us.  It will send a strong signal to oil, coal, and gas companies around the world that people are pissed off at their reckless strong-arming of our energy policy and are prepared to take true action that will cure us of our fossil fuel addiction.  We are already capable of doing this through existing renewable energy technologies and smart energy efficiency policies.  And if it's jobs you're worried about - research from Cornell shows that the project would "kill more jobs than it creates by reducing investment in the clean energy economy."

On Sunday thousands of people will convene on Washington D.C. for the largest climate rally in this nation’s history.  I’m going, because this is one of those moments where we, as everyday citizens, have power.  By showing up in massive numbers, the media will take notice and that will give Obama and the State Department license to reject the pipeline.  This could actually work, people.

The Sierra Club is arranging for free buses and cars to take people from all over the country.  You should consider going. You won’t be alone.

Here are some tunes that try to put this exciting moment in history into perspective.  I imagine masses of people of all ages marching around the White House in slow motion, with no sound, but this music.  Then there would be cuts to shots of tar sands extraction and oil executives watching the protest on the news.

These are two runner's up:

And here are some reliable links that will explain the situation:

Coverage of previous pipeline oil spills:

image: NYTimes

Tuesday, September 18

Getting It Right

This is for those times when you come home from work, throw your keys on the table
and know you've just put in a good days work.  It is full of front porch guitar, positive rock, and retrospective folk.  This is not the mix you put on when you build the log cabin.
This is the mix you put on when you want to remember building it.

Keep it simple, friends.

  1. Leo Kottke - Part Two
  2. Tallest Man On Earth - Troubles Will Be Gone
  3. The Head and the Heart - Lost in My Mind
    Can't argue with these harmonies.
  4. Alt-J - Something Good
  5. Here We Go Magic - How Do I Know
    Try listening to this while walking down the street without smiling.
  6. ALO - Blew Out the Walls
    Those big chords in the middle will shake up your day.
  7. Broken Social Scene - Meet Me in the Basement
  8. Megafaun - Heretofore
  9. Jack Johnson - Enemy (Worst Friends Light Leak Remix)
  10. John Renbourn - I Know My Babe
  11. Mark-Almond - Friends

Friday, June 29

Lost in Summer

This is a reserved summery-slowjam playlist that goes well
with mornings, latenight bonfires, and a cerveza. 

Sorry for the lack of blog activity. 
Who would’ve thought your free time becomes
limited once you land a real job??

  1. Brian Briggs – Aeo (Pts 1 and 2)
    Welcome to what is quite possible the best morning song: it creeps in gently, it is light and fun-loving, it has a repetitive rhythm… it makes you coffee.
  2. Patrick Lee – Hovercraft Song 
    Just uncovered this older Patrick Lee jam.
      Some of his hip-hop pieces are too glitchy for me. He is best when he keeps it straightforward and simple.  This is the getting out of work on payday jam.
  3. Sorcerer – Cobra Coven
    Taking it back to Miami.
  4. Sandro Perri – Changes
    wins the award for the most unexpected song twist.  The chromatic breakdown in the middle surprisingly doesn’t sound out of place.  Thanks to Jack for the suggestion.
  5. Umberto Tozzi – Dummi Di No (Nassau Poste80 Edit)
    If I ever
    landed a sweet job in the 80’s I would put this on as I exited the elevator.
  6. Steely Dan – Peg
    Couldn’t resist…
  7.  Sailcat – Motorcyle Mama
    You can’t listen to this without clearing the sweat off your brow with a cold
  8. The War on Drugs – Taking the Farm
    TWOD are the band of the year for me (although technically Slave Ambient came out in 2011).
      You could argue that a lot of their songs sound the same, but I love that sound.  As Johnny put it, “It’s like driving a red convertible in the desert while smoking a cigarette.”
  9. Marco Benevento – You Must Be a Lion
    Sorry to bring you down, but I have been wanting to post this track for awhile now.
      Something about it reminds me of the feeling you get when you know you are growing up.  The outro is incredible.  By the way he is playing a free show at the City Winery on July 10th if anyone is interested.
  10. AA Bondy – No Man Shall
    AA Bondy used to front a punk band. His most recent work is all acoustic, but no less punk in spirit.
      Really great for night walks. 
  11. The Books – There Is No There
    If I had any say I would’ve picked this song for this
    Oregon timelapse video – especially for the night sequences.
  12. Damian Jurado – Cloudy Shoes
    Big thanks to BK for introducing me to Damian Jurado through this
    Berrics skate video.  Can music get any more introspective?
  13. Jeff Tweedy – Sunken Treasure (live)
    Just give it a listen – preferably with no one else around.
      Thanks to Hazlett for recommending the Live in the Pacific Northwest album, which is fantastic.

image: Oh Pioneer

Thursday, March 15

St. Patrick's Day

Ah, St. Patrick's Day.  The day where everyone's Irish, it's acceptable to fraternize with redheads, and frowned upon if your first drink is consumed after you've finished breakfast.  Here's a collection of celtic and pub style tunes to get you through the day with the right songs on the speaks instead or drearily watching Boondock Saints with subtitles at a packed bar where they serve green beer. 
Get up and dance, lad. 

Sorry about the links.  I am away from my hard drive so this will have to do.

  1. Shaun Davey - Michael's Ride
  2. Reeltime - Trucks of Bohermore (myspace)
  3. Cherish the Ladies - Woman of the House Medley (myspace)
  4. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem - Whiskey You're the Devil
  5. The Dubliners - Whiskey in a Jar
  6.  The Dubliners - Wild Rover (live)
  7. The Pogues - Streams of Whiskey
  8. The Mahones - Paint the Town Red

  9. The Dubliners and The Pogues - Irish Rover (live)
  10. The Dubliners - Molly Malone (live)
image: Marcus Nilsson of NYTimes
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