Friday, December 30, 2011

Chuckin' up the deuces to 2k11

Steve jobs made me forget how to enjoy music. I get so overwhelmed knowing that I can listen to any song in my iTunes library with the click of a button that I barely finish listening to a song before skipping to another. I’m absolutely pathetic! And I listen to tapes because I am so pathetic. Tapes remind me that I have an attention span. When I put one on, I don’t think about what other music could be listened to outside the casing of the tape deck. I’m intent on giving my full attention to the album and it’s usually the only way I can appreciate an album as an independent piece of music. For that reason, I decided to limit my end-of-year music list to the 60-something tapes I accumulated in 2k11. Rather than mulling over all of the crap I downloaded into iTunes, I figured limiting my denominator to tapes would help me choose my favorites. This wasn’t as easy as I originally thought since I bought/traded these tapes for a reason (i.e., they were already some of my favorites). Ugh, I feel pretty lame putting together one of these lists. Oh well, here are some of my favorites (Note: Albums are listed alphabetically by artist name. Yes, it’s a copout.).

Jon Barba - If we say it in unison…

2k11 was the year of the Barba. Dude put out some great stuff and it was tough choosing my favorite because everything Jon Barba does amazes me. If you’ve never heard Jon, this is a great starter album since it’s filled with catchy jams, great lyrics, and a general feeling of angst/apathy. Pick up a copy of this bad boy from Bridgetown. I predict 2k12 will be the year of the Kidman.

Asthma by Jon Barba

Kevin GreensponCommon objects

I love this album so much that I own the LP, cassette, and mp3s. Needless to say, the cassette version is my favorite. I can easily pop this one into my Walkman and listen to it over-and-over again for hours at a time. It’s completely flawless, totally lush, and utterly heartbreaking. This one is guaranteed to send chills down your spine. The cassette version was a limited tour only edition, but you can snag a copy of the LP from Family Time or Bridgetown.

Kevin Greenspon - Threshold by Family Time

Mandarin Dynasty - Perpendicular crosswalk

I listened to this album about eight times the first day I got it. It’s not fuzzy. It’s not buzzy. It’s not drenched in reverb or delay. Well, then what is it?! It’s the best pop album I’ve heard in a long time. It doesn’t need to hide behind effects to sound good. Don’t believe me? Listen to the song below and tell me you don’t want to bang your head! After all, when was the last time you listened to something that made you want to bang your head?! Pick up a copy from Bridgetown and thank me later.

Mandarin Dynasty - Lap Steel Blues by Mandarin Dynasty

Motion Sickness of Time TravelDreamcatcher

Do you ever feel empty? Like you want something but can’t identify/articulate what it is? I was feeling that way about music before this one reached my front door. Dreamcatcher filled the void and told me what to want. I couldn’t have imagined anything like this before hearing it. It was like discovering a vibrant new planet in the dark abyss of space. Dreamcatcher is not of this world.

Nova Scotian Arms - Winds over Silmäterä

Winds over Silmäterä is a force against which you are defenseless. The oceanic soundscapes of drone and tape loops will pull you in, but the impetus lies in subtleties just beneath the surface. Like a lover that leaves you hanging on every word, you will find yourself at its mercy as you wait for a sign of warmth and affection. Listen closely and you will learn the virtue of patience. You will be rewarded.

Nova Scotian Arms- Veil Hollow (excerpt) by Hooker Vision

Pawko – Pawkward

Pawko's an honest man just trying to sing an honest song, and there's something really special about that given how dishonest the world can be. I haven't enjoyed a folk album for a very long time, but there’s something about this album that will get you thinking about life. It’ll make you ponder your past, recognize your present, and get you excited about the future. It’s equally enjoyable when listened to alone or as background music while hanging out with friends. I guarantee it will stimulate meaningful thoughts and conversation. Pick up a copy from Your Warmth.

Pawko - Little Stalin by halfhourhandshake

Reedbeds - Winds on high

Who the crap is Reedbeds?! In just under 45 minutes, Winds on high delivers everything I look for in a tape from guitar noodling, entrancing synth loops, to contemplative/gentle piano. Reedbeds crosses into disparate territory throughout the album, while bringing it all together under a common theme: beauty. I wish I could articulate exactly how incredible this album is, but you can pick up a copy of from Hooker Vision and find out for yourself.

Reedbeds- untitled (excerpt) by Hooker Vision

Solids – Generic dogs

It took about three weeks for this one to make it into my tape deck because the album art is pretty gnarly. I’m glad I listened because I was reminded of the old "don’t judge a book by its cover" saying. And actually, I really like the album art now. This album sounds like something I would’ve enjoyed in high school but would also enjoy today (and I do). In other words, it’s timeless. Side A repeats on Side B which makes listening to it over-and-over again even easier. Pick up a copy of the tape from L’oeil Du Tigre, or you can get the CD or LP from Machette Records.

Solids - Whatevers and Neverminds by Loeildutigre


I’ll admit that I downloaded this one first, but loved it so much that I had to order the tape. Terrors creates a haunting mix of folk, drone, noise, and field recordings. Lonely, nostalgic, and bittersweet -- Inequipoise is many things, but one thing is certain: Terrors sings the blues. This is bedroom music at its finest. Pick up a copy from Monorail Trespassing.

Vehicle Blues – Koz Park

Didn’t my last post convince you that Vehicle Blues is awesome?! Exhibit B: Koz Park. Never in my life has a cassingle left me so satisfied, yet thirsty for more. Try to find a copy on Discogs.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Burn it All to the Ground - The Worst of 2011

I found this as an unfinished draft from December. It is now March (I don't know what Blogger be will post this as). This isn't really that interesting besides that a) my best of list only has a few things that I consider best of, b) I wrote it right after I had lost my entire music collection and the bitterness just drips off the screen. OH YEAH, and just like this blog, c) it's half-finished and not very well thought-out. Cheers! - Max

I thought 2011 was a horrible year for music. Not because there wasn't anything good released or anything but because for some reason I just stopped enjoying listening to music sometime around last spring. I think it had something to do with me making the decision that I hated everyone and everything. Chalk it up to my choice to live a high stress, low productivity lifestyle. This is still unusual, however, because ubiquitous unfocused hatred is normally a very good motivator for listening to music. I'm not really sure what I'm getting at because this is a very bad way to start a bestof list. Whatever. Here's a lot of stuff I thought was cool.

Big Kids
Algernon Cadwallader
Pygmy Shrews
By Surprise
Glocca Morra
Park Ranger Barkwood
Ten Thousand Leagues
Zona Mexicana
My Disco

Black Eyes - Cough

Genre: Noise, Punk
Sounds like: Mi Ami, maybe Q and Not U?

No more half-hearted apologies about not posting. All two of you who read this blog are just going to have to get what you deserve, which is an uneven posting schedule. As pretty much anybody who ever talks to me about music says: Max I want to hear more noise. And why the hell not? Here it is babies. The  second Black Eyes record starts where their first one left off, incorporating two bass players, two drummers and lots of falsetto screaming and putting a nice glossy layer of guitar wreckage on top. This album adds some ugly Ornette Coleman-style saxophone shrill too. Black Eyes is so awesome. They are so good. Black Eyes is so good.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vehicle Blues - 177

Genre: Shoegaze, Bedroom Pop, Real Loner Shit

Sounds like: Nothing else out there

Some things in life are obvious, or at least they seem that way in retrospect. When watching late night infomercials or seeing “As Seen On TV” products on department store shelves, I stop and wonder why I didn’t invent them. They seem so simple and so obvious. But if so, then why am I sitting here writing about music instead of raking in the Benjamins? I think the idea behind this is a phenomenon in psychology called Hindsight Bias, which explains that people have a tendency to overestimate their ability to predict the outcome of an event after being exposed to the outcome.

For me, Gabe Holcombe provides another source of hindsight bias. I find myself wanting to hit my forehead in frustration when listening to music he produces as Vehicle Blues. That’s so simple, why didn’t I think of that?! Though in reality, Holcombe’s music is far from simple. It’s easy to confuse perfection with simplicity, and that’s exactly what Holcombe creates: perfection. He’s a master of parsimonious bedroom pop. His music is neither too flashy nor bland, and every detail makes perfect sense. Take 177 for example: Though I don’t know a single lyric to this song, it resonates a feeling of hopelessness to which I can relate. I have felt the feelings that I imagine influenced this song. And it’s hard to imagine that something with such unambiguous meaning didn’t originate from my own mind, but it didn’t. It didn’t because I am not Gabe Holcombe and I’ll never be able to write music as perfect as his. And that’s when the feeling of hopelessness sets in.

Note: If this is your first time hearing Vehicle Blues, then I feel a little sorry for you because all of his amazing Bridgetown Records releases (e.g., Koz Park) are sold out. If you dig 177, you can find it on his split with Jen Paul/No Lakes released on his very own Lillerne Tapes. While you're at it, you should also try to pick up a copy of his split with Trudgers as it’s also a gem!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Kickball - ABCDEFGHIJKickball

Genre: Indie, Pop
Sounds like: Beauty Pill, Rainbow Tornado

Kickball make cute, vaguely math-y pop music. They pull off a hard feat by taking what are essentially stripped down three-piece songs and making them sound energetic and full. I played this once with my roommates home and one of them said that the lead singer's voice is one of the most annoying things he's ever heard. I disagree. It's nice and airy, high pitched and he gets some pretty good yells in sometimes. Plus they have a cute, talented, female drummer which would basically vault them into my good graces no matter what music they played.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Marble Sky - No Matter How Close

Genre: Ambient, Drone, Experimental

Sounds like: Cream of the crop drone

It never snows in California, or at least in any city in which I’ve ever lived. If California were ever hit by a blizzard I imagine that our daily lives would halt and we’d be forced to slow down and live simply for a few days. I’d really like to see this happen someday as I think it would do us all some good.

No Matter How Close is about as close an experience as I’ll ever have to a debilitating snowstorm. I don’t mean to suggest that the album is filled with cold drone songs, as it’s actually a very warm and gentle album, but that it always slows me down like no other. When listening, I close my eyes and picture myself in a cabin in the woods. I am alone and snow is falling gently outside. I find comfort beyond the warmth of the fireplace in knowing the freezing temperature outside. Time becomes an arbitrary concept when you don’t have anywhere to be and nobody looking for you. I’m simply living in the moment and not thinking about tomorrow or next week. I have finally found patience.


Note: Get at me if you have a copy of this bad boy on cassette and want to sell it. This is my favorite of Jeff Witscher’s projects. I don’t think he’s doing anything under the Marble Sky moniker anymore, but you can check out what he’s currently up to as Rene Hell. If you like this album you should pick up a copy of Sway from Monorail Trespassing.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Neil Young - On the Beach

Genre: Neil Young
Sounds Like: Neil Young

To put it very bluntly, I have a lifelong obsession with Neil Young. My father played him continuously throughout my childhood. I can honestly say that I heard Neil Young while I was in the womb. It's actually a little hard for me to talk about Neil because I can't tell whether I'm being a critical music lover or just getting caught up in nostalgia.

Most honest reviews of Neil Young's career will mention that he's hard to categorize. This is a) lazy writing, and b) true. He's got a long career with some significant success, although most people know him because of his early CSNY stuff and his first few albums. His journey as an artist is an interesting story and worth reading. The short summary is that after 1972's #1 hit Harvest he got too famous. Drugs followed and eventually took the life of both his guitarist and roadie. It's during this period that he made the Ditch Trilogy, a series of three albums significantly darker and looser than his previous work. Of these, On the Beach probably represents the most solid artistic work. Neil flows seamlessly from haunting electric guitar to more traditional, stripped down acoustic ballads. He's always been his best writing low-key, sad songs and this album presents a treasure trove of music that really hits home. People will argue whether Neil Young is actually a technically good musician but they miss the point: he's an emotional artist and he puts himself into his music. Every song on On the Beach packs a punch and leaves you drained.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Belong - October Language

Genre: Ambient, Electronic, Shoegaze

Sounds like: Infinite Body, Mountains

I felt extremely isolated in my small studio apartment when I moved to the Bay Area a few years ago. Though the loneliness typically didn’t bother me, I found a lot of comfort in desolate sounding music that other people created in their bedrooms. I assumed the people creating this music were also lonely, and I found solidarity in that assumption. So anyway, be prepared to read about a lot of introverted bedroom music!

I’m not sure whether Belong recorded October Language in a bedroom, and come to think of it, they must not be very lonely since they are a duo. Regardless, this album is absolutely gorgeous. Much of this album contains thoughtfully orchestrated music buried beneath layers upon layers of rubble. Recorded in New Orleans just before Hurricane Katrina, I can’t help but think that the apocalyptic soundscapes on this album were an omen that should have been listened to more carefully. Put on some headphones and give this album an attentive listen and you might be surprised by what you hear.


NOTE: I will generally not post albums that are still in print for download, but this one has been out for about five years and I just can’t help it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Joe Pass - Virtuoso

Genre: Jazz
Sounds like: Django Reinhardt

Ask almost anybody and they'll tell you that above all things, I am a man of pure class. The perfect gentleman. Whether I'm throwing a dinner party or trying to tastefully seduce a woman of intellect, I put on this album. Joe Pass is, to put it bluntly, a ridiculous guitarist. He also looks like a grimy Italian used car salesman. His use of weird jazz chords gives my wrist carpal tunnel by proxy and he can out-shred almost any metalhead. The real brilliance comes when you realize that he never over complicates things or tries to make them too dense. In the end it's just a really talented dude that loves playing the shit out of some top-notch jazz guitar. I'm gonna post a ton of videos below because he's just as much fun to watch as he is to listen to.