Sunday, October 06, 2013

Noah and the Whale - Heart of Nowhere

I didn't love this album immediately.  Honestly, it was a bit too cheerful.  A bit too upbeat.  Parts of it came across as a bit cheesy for me.  Apparently I have a problem with sincere happiness.
But the songs are catchy, so I kept coming back to it.  The more I listen to it, the more I really love it.  Great, well-crafted songs.  Just a really nice little pop album.  I love it.  The instrumentation is terrific.

Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite track: "Lifetime"

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Jake Bellows - New Ocean

I have been a huge fan of Neva Dinova since they released their self-titled debut in 2002 (amazing that album came out over 10 years ago).  So you can imagine how excited I was to find out that the lead singer released a solo album.  I tried not to get my hopes up too high.
As it turns out, I could not have set my hopes high enough to be disappointed by this.  It's a terrific album, ranking up there with Neva Dinova's best work.
If you liked Neva Dinova's work, you'll like this album.  If you haven't heard Neva Dinova, listen to this album, then grab all of their albums.  You won't be disappointed.

Rating: 5/5
Favorite track: "Two Weeks"

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Lonely Wild - The Sun as it Comes

This entire album feels like a sonic explosion occurred in the middle of a Western.  Quite a few songs start sparse, only to grow into something massive by the time it's over.  There are times I can swear I'm listening to an updated take on a Morricone soundtrack.
This is the sound of the sky falling around two grizzled gunfighters.

This one didn't hit me immediately.  It took me a few listens to really fall in love.  But now I can't stop listening to it.  At the end of the year, I'd be shocked if this didn't end up in my top 5 albums of the year.

Favorite track: "Buried in the Murder"
Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

She & Him - Volume 3

Another beautiful slice of upbeat, shimmering, 60s pop goodness.  I like to throw this on, sit out on the patio and drink.

Favorite track: "I Could've Been Your Girl"
Rating: 4/5

Monday, June 17, 2013

Gary Murray & LN - Minor Lives

I've been a fan of Gary Murray's work for years now, dating back to LN's Novel album (2001).  At that time, if I was having a stressful day, I would turn the lights off, close my eyes, listen to that album, and probably end up falling asleep.  It was referred to as a "sleepytime album" for good reason.

I still love that album, although I think I love each LN album released since then just a little more.  This is the first album Murray has released since 2009's excellent Downstream Angels (also listed as Gary Murray & LN).  And it just kind of dropped out of nowhere on June 7.  Needless to say, I bought it as soon as I learned of its existence, and have been enjoying it ever since.

It covers the same basic territory as a lot of past LN albums.  Slow, dark, folksy songs, built around a simple melody, and eventually filled out with a vast array of atmospherics.  And, as always, Murray nails it.  It's a beautifully dark album, each listening revealing something new to love.

If he keeps releasing albums this good, I don't really mind the 4 year wait so much.

Favorite track: "Minor Lives"
Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Stressful Day Playlist

Your old pal Dusty was asked to contribute a playlist over at Steelhanded.  Since I had just gotten through a particularly stressful day, I decided to make a "get through a stressful situation" playlist.  I'm pretty happy with how it came out.

If you get a chance, check it out here.  And check out Brandon's other posts on that site.  Some really great stuff.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ghostface Killah - Twelve Reasons to Die

From the moment I heard about this album, I couldn't wait to hear it.  I love Ghostface (naturally), but I have also become a huge fan of Adrian Younge.  His scores for Black Dynamite and Something About April are terrific, and his production of the new Delfonics record was amazing.  His style is somewhere between laid-back hip-hop and Ennio Morricone.  He really is very talented.

Thankfully, this album delivered on my high expectations.  With the exception of the underwhelming "The Center of Attraction", the entire album is fantastic.  It's a concept album of murder and revenge, which is played out perfectly with Younge's dark and lush beats and Ghostface's delivery.  This is a perfect album for a dark night.

If you can, I would definitely spring for the deluxe version with the instrumental tracks.  They sound terrific.

Favorite track: "Murder Spree"
Rating: 5/5

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City

Through their first two albums, I wasn't really a fan of Vampire Weekend.  A couple decent tracks, but that was about it.  I listened to them a couple of times, then promptly forgot about them.  Just not enough there to keep my interest.
This album is different.  The songs are catchy without bordering on smirking-annoyance.  There's a depth to these songs that I hadn't heard from them before.  A spacious darkness, almost.
Don't get me wrong.  This isn't a morose album by any means.  The happy, Paul Simon-esque pop is still there.  But there's a different feel to it.  I have quickly fallen in love with this album.

Favorite track: "Don't Lie"
Rating: 4.5/5

I couldn't find a video for "Don't Lie", so here are videos for a couple other tracks I love:


"Ya Hey"

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The National - Trouble Will Find Me

My love of The National has been well documented.  High Violet was my favorite album of 2010.  So the fact that I positively love this album shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.
There are moments that bring to mind Boxer and Alligator.  But, for the most part, this album is its own monster.  A beautifully-crafted, thundering monster.

Favorite Track: "Slipped"
Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Kat Jones - La Rosa, La Calavera

Okay, so it's not technically a "new" album (it was originally released in 2004), but it was recently remastered, so I thought I'd talk about it for a second.
I love this album.  It's a perfectly dark little pop record.  At first listen, it's a bit surprising that half of these songs are not murder ballads.
The instrumentation is terrific here (which is not surprising, seeing as how her backing back is comprised of Frank Lenz, Richard Swift & Josh Dooley).  Lots of organ, and perfect piano flourishes.
It's no surprise that it's the songwriting and voice of Kat that really makes this album great.

And now, with it remastered, I'm hearing it in an entirely new light.  It really does sound quite a bit different, in a good way.  I was a big fan of this record before, but I'm an even bigger fan now.

Favorite track: "One More Second Chance"
Rating: 5/5

You can grab this (as well as some of Kat's other albums) at her Bandcamp page.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Kate Nash - Girl Talk

I'm working on trying to get this up and running.  Going to try to ramp up to a couple posts per week.  They'll be short (in some cases probably nothing more than the album cover and a rating), but I'll try to keep this up with stuff I'm currently listening to.
For today...

On this album, the poppy, jumpy, piano-driven songs from her past couple albums are gone.  This album finds Kate delving into fuzzy, scuzzy punk rock.  Driving basslines and filthy guitars and primal screams.  I'm not a fan of every song, but, as a whole, I really like this album.  It's a different direction for her, and it took me a couple listens to get into it, but, once it clicked, I found myself listening to it quite a bit.
A good summer driving album.

Favorite track: "Conventional Girl"
Rating: 4/5

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Josh Ritter - The Beast in its Tracks

This past Tuesday (March 5), both Josh Ritter & Kate Nash released their new albums.
I'll get to Nash very soon.
Right now, it's time for Ritter.

Josh Ritter is consistently one of my favorite songwriters.  He started his career at an extremely high level, and only seems to be getting better, which is very impressive.
And he needed to be at the top of his game for this album.  It's not easy to write a break-up album, especially when that break-up came in the form of a divorce.  It's too easy for the songs to be angry and bitter.  It's too easy to write about how you've been done wrong.  There have been great break-up albums, but there have been a lot of terrible ones, too.

This is one of the good ones.
This is Ritter at the top of his powers.  Even his angry lyrics are poetically bitter.  Behind the sadness, there is an overwhelming feeling of optimism.  There's anger.  There's regret.  And, when he points the finger, it's rare if he's not also placing some of the blame on himself.

Here are a handful of my favorite lines from this album:

"I hope you got a lover now, you got somebody who
Can give you what you need, like I couldn't seem to do
But if you're sad and you are lonesome, and you got nobody true
I'd be lying if I said that didn't make me happy, too."
[From "New Lover"]

"She went away and took all her love
And I could not believe how little there was"
[From "Hopeful"]

"These days I'm feeling better about the man that I am
There's things I can't change and there's others I can."
[From "Hopeful"]

"There is pain in whatever
We stumble upon
If I'd never have met you
You couldn't have gone
But then I'd never have met you
And we couldn't have been
I guess it all adds up
To joy in the end"
[From "Joy to You Baby"]

If I felt like it, I could really just type up the entire album.

This is a devastatingly beautiful album.  In a career full of amazing albums, this may be his best.

Favorite track: "Hopeful"
Rating: 5/5

Last of all, check out this video for "New Lover".  It's terrific.

Friday, February 15, 2013

My Bloody Valentine - mbv

After 22 long years away, My Blood Valentine finally resurfaced a few weeks ago with their first album since their groundbreaking album Loveless was released in 1991.
And it's glorious.  Like they haven't missed a beat.
The guitars are layered and dense and massive.  And beautiful.  My first time listening to this album, I was driving through a snowstorm.  And it was perfect.

Welcome back, Kevin Shields & Co.  We've missed you.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Top 20 Albums of 2012

With January almost in the books, I figured it was time I finally unveiled my top 20 albums of 2012.  Except my top 20 will be my top 21 this year.  I recently started listening to Lost in the Trees' album a bit more over the last couple weeks, and realized just how much I loved it.  Since it didn't make it to my honorable mentions, I decided to just throw it in the last spot here.

Without further adieu, my top 21 albums of 2012.

21. Lost in the Trees - A Church That Fits Our Needs
Favorite Track: "Red"

20. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel...
Favorite track: "Anything We Want"

19. The Killers - Battle Born
Favorite track: "Runaways"

18. Passion Pit - Gossamer
Favorite track: "It's Not My Fault, I'm Happy"

17. The xx - Coexist
Favorite track: "Angels"

16. St. Vincent & David Byrne - Love this Giant
Favorite track: "Optimist"

15. Regina Spektor - What We Saw From the Cheap Seats 
Favorite track: "All the Rowboats"

14. M. Ward - A Wasteland Companion
Favorite track: "Crawl After You"

13. Mumford & Sons - Babel
Favorite track: "Below My Feet"

12. The Raveonettes - Observator
Favorite track: "Till the End"

11. Norah Jones - Little Broken Hearts
Favorite track: "Miriam"

10. Waxahatchee - American Weekend
Favorite track: "Bathtub"

9. Rosie Thomas - With Love
Favorite track: "Back to Being Friends"

8. Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania
Favorite track: "Violet Rays"

7. The Tallest Man on Earth - There's No Leaving Now
Favorite track: "There's No Leaving Now"

6. Ingrid Michaelson - Human Again
Favorite track: "Ghost"

5. Jenny Owen Youngs - An Unwavering Band of Light
Favorite track: "Pirates"

4. Sharon Van Etten - Tramp
Favorite track: "I'm Wrong"

3. Andrew Bird - Break it Yourself
Favorite track: "Lusitania"

2. Metric - Synthetica
Favorite track: "Speed the Collapse"

1. The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten
Favorite track: "Handwritten"

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Albums of 2012: Honorary Mentions

In putting together my best-of lists, I'm always amazed at how many don't make the cut for top 20.  I always think that 20 is enough, but it never is.
So, before I get to those top 20, here are a bunch of albums I really loved from this past year.  I didn't love them enough for them to actually crack the list, but I loved them, all the same.

Jessica Ripka - The Family Album
She has become a good friend, and I was honored to be able to contribute to this album with a remix of one of the tracks.  The entire album is solid: full of fun, piano-pop songs.  There's more than a little Regina Spektor influence here, but she is also able to craft a sound that is all her own.  Buy the album here.  It's only $5 for the download.

Favorite track: "Tagalong"

Call Me Constant - The Sun, The Moon, The Dark, The Dawn
The lead singer is a friend of mine.  This entire album is terrific.  Full of driving, emotional riffs, thundering drums, and horn-laden breakdowns (it's clear they're fans of Anathallo).  This is one that is hard to listen to just one song.  The entire album is an experience.  It's a beautiful, cohesive album.
You can buy the album here.  You can get the download for $10, but it's well worth your money to pony up the extra $5 for the physical edition.  The packaging is fantastic.

Favorite track: "An Oath Can Be Amputated/The Dawn"

And now the rest, in no particular order:

Action Bronson - Rare Chandeliers
Favorite track: "Sylvester Lundgren"

Bat For Lashes - The Haunted Man
Favorite track: "Laura"

Beach House - Bloom
Favorite track: "Myth"

Cat Power - Sun
Favorite track: "Ruin"

Chiddy Bang - Breakfast
Favorite track: "Handclaps & Guitars"

Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet on Sky
Favorite track: "Pierce the Morning Rain"

Lana Del Rey - Born to Die
Favorite track: "Lucky Ones"

Efterklang - Piramida
Favorite track: "Told to Be Fine"

El Perro Del Mar - Pale Fire
Favorite Track: "Walk on By"

Father John Misty - Fear Fun
Favorite track: "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings"

First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar
Favorite track: "Emmylou"

Flying Lotus - Until the Quiet Comes
Favorite track: "Getting There"

Frank Ocean - Channel Orange
Favorite track: "Bad Religion"

Fun - Some Nights
Favorite track: "Some Nights"

Amanda Jenssen - Hymns For the Haunted
Favorite track: "Illusionist"

Kid Koala - 12 Bit Blues
Favorite track: "8 Bit Blues (Chicago to NY to LA)"

La Sera - Sees the Light
Favorite track: "Drive On"

Margot & The Nuclear So and So's - Rot Gut, Domestic
Favorite track: "A Journalist Falls in Love with Deathrow Inmate #16"

Shearwater - Animal Joy
Favorite track: "You As You Were"

The Vaccines - Come of Age
Favorite track: "Teenage Icon"

Woods - Bend Beyond
Favorite track: "It Ain't Easy"

Yeasayer - Fragrant World
Favorite track: "Henrietta"

The School - Reading Too Much Into Things Like Everything
Favorite track: "Never Thought I'd See the Day