Archive for ‘Best of 2011’

February 6, 2012

Living Hard in ‘Pus City’: Monogamy Party Vinyl Review

Ok, this is a few months late as far as the release dates go, but “better late than never,” someone once told me. I also tagged this as a “Best of 2011″ because dammit it is! I received my 10” Monogamy Party Pus City LP just a while ago from Good To Die Records and I’ve been spinning it for as long as I’ve had it. In reality it hasn’t even made it onto the shelf yet.  So let’s get this party started.

Monogamy Party is a three-piece, no holds barred, punk-induced nightmare, landing smack dab in your face. Unlike your conventional three-piece, what this band doesn’t have is a guitarist, and it makes perfect sense. Yos-Wa holds his own on bass duties and vocals, as lead singer Kennedy, belts out fantastic lyrics. Their drummer Keith holds down the fort with solid, yet fast, rhythms. Listening to the album, you don’t even miss the guitar. As partial as I am to bass players, being one myself, I give mad props to Yos-Wa and his heavy, distorted rhythmic playing and his Rickenbacker’s clean mid-range thump. His blend of clean and effected passages really give a 2-dimensional quality to the overall sound of the album. Who needs those extra six strings getting in the way of perfection?

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December 28, 2011

2011 in review: Mansquatch’s favorite songs (The Conclusion)

Songs 50-26.

And here’s the whole damn thing in a tidy, easy-to-use and scent-free Spotify playlist.

25. Crystal Antlers – By the Sawkill
In a year where we were dodged by new material from the Mars Volta (again!), we were lucky to have one of our many bands with a deer-themed name help fill the freak-out garage prog void. “By the Sawkill” takes you by the balls by opening with a frantic fuzz solo, and the screamed-out vocals make sure you never have a reprieve.

24. Diego Garcia – You Were Never There
A dash of flamenco guitar, some backgrounds borrowed from “Five O’Clock World,” and an impossible-to-forget chorus make for the most infectious song I heard all year.

23. Those Darlins – Screws Get Loose
Bad girls make the best songs. I look forward to hearing this in the next Tarantino movie.

22. Timber Timbre – Woman
Evil. Fucking. Tuba.

Oh, and some seriously great crawling piano, spooky slide, and inventive singing.

But mostly, Evil. Fucking. Tuba.

21. The Black Keys – Mind Eraser
On an album where Akron’s finest seem to be spending a little too much time polishing a Bad Company impression, at least the finale delivers the balance of hard blues and melodicism we’ve all come accustomed to from Monsieurs Auerbach and Carney.

20. SHIM – I Don’t Know Why
If you wonder where all the rock went in 2011, Seattle’s beer-swilling, steak-eating SHIM stole it. All of it. And then they splurged the entire lot on this 1:41-long nugget of speed-freakin’ Foghattery.

19. Legendary Oaks – Grace Underwater
Another well-kept secret from Seattle, Legendary Oaks builds a forlorn guitar-and-fiddle duet up into an electrified shuffle with awesome double-tracked singing and a killer country-stomp guitar solo.

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December 28, 2011

2011 in review: Mansquatch’s favorite songs, Pt. I

Apparently 2011 was a good year for music, because I couldn’t whittle down my list of favorite songs below 50. Then again I’m not very good with that whole brevity thing (reference my personal mix post for proof), so what the hell do I know? The answer: A LOT.

50. Feist – The Bad In Each Other
Feist gets a lot of well-deserved praise for her trumpet-mimicking vocals, but her guitar skills always jump out at me when I watch her perform on TV. One of her subtle but ear-pleasing riffs introduces her masterpiece new album, giving way to horns and pounding percussion on this bittersweet folk gem.

49. The Cars – Blue Tip
After decades away, The Cars returned and sounded exactly like The Cars should sound. Though late bassist/singer Benjamin Orr left a big void, Ric Ocasek and Co. didn’t miss a beat after they dusted off their old instruments, picked up a few new ones, and affixed their sunglasses just so.

48. Neon Indian – Polish Girl
I’ve discovered that this chillwave stuff is kinda like a Totino’s Pizza Roll — if you stuff a whole bunch of processed crap inside a neat little package, it can be quite enjoyable. And yes, I am a fan of Totino’s Pizza Rolls. Them shits is delicious.

47. Foo Fighters – Arlandria
Dave Grohl revisited the old loud-quiet-loud pattern that grunge made famous, but also made sure to layer a few modern touches to distract the listener from some classically cliché lyrics. The crushing intro riff also sounds excellent as a follow-up to thrash-burner “White Limo,” the preceding track on Wasting Light (and, in most cases, on stage).

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December 26, 2011

Amie’s Best of 2011: New Stuff I Loved This Year

I don’t traditionally do “best of” music lists, but this was a banner fucking year at the old Bender Simon/Speights family, in which I managed to cull together a pile o’ great stuff from music sent to me, and CDs I picked up at Sonic Boom after hearing a few tunes at the listening stations.

Thus, I share with you (in no particular order) music that makes me happy — and might make you happy too.

The PausesA Cautionary Tale
First off, the cover of this is SIMPLY BRILLIANT. Secondly, and I cannot stress this enough, I love every single goddamn thing about this album. I don’t hand out 9 out of 10 ratings lightly, my friends. I would have probably even given this a 10 — if my imaginary cohorts would have let me. :) But I digress! This Orlando, FL band’s debut album makes me wanna dance, cry, scream, and do some handstands. Really, it’s THAT good. Trust me.

Must-hear tracks:
Go North
Beyond Bianca
Little Kids

The DrumsPortamento 
I didn’t think I could love anything more than The Drums self-titled first album, but I think I might love Portamento even more. It has the same joyful, poppy beats at the first, with a tinge more grown-uppedness — and it still makes me want to dance my pants right off. In fact, why even start with pants? This is clearly underwear-dancing music.

Must-hear tracks:
Book Of Revelation
Hard To Love
I Need A Doctor

Blue Skies for Black HeartsEmbracing the Modern Age 
I saw these guys open for Tennis Pro last summer and OMFG they are tight. Seriously, one of the best live bands I have ever, ever seen. And hooray! The CD is just as good. Somehow I missed knowing who this Portland band was before then, because they apparently have quite a few CDS out — but this one is good stuff. Love the retro-pop sound (especially on “Caroline Make Up Your Mind”) and the heart-tugging vocals on this as much as I loved seeing them perform. Good times.

Must-hear tracks:
Caroline Make Up Your Mind
Damn Those Girls
Taking Advantage

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December 24, 2011

Top Ten Of 2011: Amber’s Picks

2011 was a weird year for me. It was odd in general but it was especially strange when it came to music. If you’d have asked me eleven months ago what I thought my favorite records of the year would be, I would answer you with the utmost confidence, rattling off a list of records in what I assumed would be the order I would eventually rate them. Out of those ten albums, however, only four made my final list. This year was full of surprises, both good (Hey, O’Death! Pleased to make your acquaintance!) and not so good (I really did expect that Okkervil River disc to be the best thing I’d ever heard…) and above all else, it was certainly not what I thought it’d be.

1. Chris Bathgate – Salt Year

The moment I heard Salt Year, the latest album by Michigan native Chris Bathgate, I knew it was my favorite album of the year. Granted, that isn’t a huge compliment because I said the same thing about three other records (all of which appear on this list!) but when it came down to the wire, Bathgate’s won the battle royale for the affections of Amber Valentine. Why? Because Salt Year is a masterpiece, from the opening distorted notes of “Eliza (Hue)” to the fiddle that marks the close of “Everything (Overture)”. Salt Year is harsh. It’s brutal and cathartic and it perfectly encapsulates the misery of lost love years later, but don’t think that the album’s a downer. Everything on Salt Year is deliberately crafted, from the gentle horns on the heartbreakingly perfect title track to the washboard backbone of “No Silver.” The best part? I’m not the only one who has deemed Salt Year a masterpiece! Everyone from NPR to Paste has been raving about Bathgate which means that one of the best kept secrets in folk music won’t stay that way for long.

Chris Bathgate – No Silver

2. Timber Timbre – Creep On Creepin’ On

The moment I found out that Timber Timbre, my favorite exports from the north, were releasing their fourth album this year, I was obsessed. From the instantly quotable refrain of first single “Black Water” (All I need is some sunshine too, you guys!) to the tongue-in-cheek humor of title track “Creep On Creepin’ On,” Timber Timbre’s latest is everything you’d expect from the creepy Canadians, and so much more. Without turning a cold shoulder on their minimalist macabre past, Creep On Creepin’ On plays out deftly and seductively. Think Leonard Cohen sings Sam Cooke songs on Halloween … Only better.

Timber Timbre – Bad Ritual

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December 23, 2011

Abbytron’s Top 20 Albums of 2011

Chances are you’ve already seen tons of Best of 2011 lists already, but as a music blogger, I of course have to throw in my two cents. As usual, it’s been a phenomenal year for music lovers like myself, and I’ve spent all of 2011 digging into new releases like it’s going outta style. While I certainly didn’t hear it all, I heard enough to have a pretty good idea of what stands out ahead of the pack. So this is just a rundown of the 10 frontrunners (plus 10 more that vied hardily for those positions) that I believe should absolutely not go overlooked.

1. Noah Gundersen – Family
Okay, so technically this is an EP. But it’s seven songs long, which to me qualifies as full enough to make my list. I mean, as you can see, I’m ranking it No. 1, and if I had to acknowledge it as an EP, then I wouldn’t be able to include it on this list at all. And that, my friends, would be a monumental shame because Noah Gundersen’s music sounds like it was made by angels. So, I said screw it, this is my list and I’m leaving it on. The Seattle musician has a little masterpiece on his hands with Family — at times cleanly rootsy and others softly dulcet. He’s a young man, but his songwriting chops (not to mention his lyrics) are some of the most seasoned and professional I’ve ever witnessed.

Nashville – Noah Gundersen

2. Timber Timbre – Creep On Creepin’ On
I don’t know what I can say about this album that I didn’t already say in my review earlier this year. Basically, if you’ve heard Timber Timbre before (especially the trio’s 2009 self-titled album), then you can rest assured that Creep On Creepin’ On is more of what you already know and love. As you can tell, Timber Timbre continues to grow and change yet still hold onto its brooding exterior through all its subtle evolutions from one album to the next.

Too Old to Die Young – Timber Timbre

3. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing
I’d heard of the Rural Alberta Advantage before, but it was this year that I fell in love with them. A lot of people have seemed unimpressed with Departing, the folk-rock band’s sophomore album. But it’s brought me nothing but joy, despite the tragic tales set forth by the pained vocals of Nils Edenloff. The fact is, these singable melodies about the darker sides of life and love have been occupying my ears nearly all year, and I’ve found I still can’t get enough.

Coldest Days – The Rural Alberta Advantage

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