Favorited ex.fm Songs

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Favorite Albums of 2014 (1-5)

If you missed the first two parts of my favorite albums list, here are links for albums 16-25 and for albums 6-15. Now onto my five favorite albums of the year.

5) Mimicking Birds - Eons

I talked about this album a bit back in August. The Portland trio released their first record in four years in 2014, and it was well worth the wait. They combine acoustic and electric guitars, keys, and percussion, along with some electronic sounding elements expertly to create their own sound. While things could seem muddled with so much going on, they layering things really well to create a nice peaceful sound. My favorite tracks are "Bloodlines" and "Acting Your Age," but it's really nice album to play from beginning to end. It would make a nice soundtrack for a Fall walk with some headphones.


4) William Tyler - Lost Colony EP

This EP marks the third release from Merge Records to make my list this year (along with the previously mentioned albums by Hiss Golden Messenger and Ex Hex). The album is entirely instrumental featuring William Tyler's amazing guitar backed by percussion, bass, keyboard, and pedal steel. The three-song EP clocks in at 26 minutes and is perfect for driving with the windows down in the summer and soaking up the world around you. The 13-minute long opening track, "Whole New Dude," is my favorite of the three. According to the Merge Records website, William Tyler and MC Taylor (of Hiss Golden Messenger) were discussing a book called "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" and joked that it should be called "Whole New Dude," which gave birth to a song title.


3) S - Cool Choices

S is the stage name of Jenn Ghetto. At least she seems to recognize the extra efforts that fans have to put in to find her on the internet since she has begun selling shirts of her face with the word "ungoogleable" across them. However, once you do find her, you're in for something pretty special. Cool Choices is anchored by her voice and piano playing although there are guitars and drums on songs too. Her lyrics can be depressing, but they have a sweet honesty and openness to them. The album starts off with the line "This is how losers feel. I am a loser. And you're here to remind me that this is how losers feel." The song manages to captures a feeling of being on the outside or feeling self doubt and marries it with beautiful piano. When the second track "Like Gangbusters!" picks things up a little bit it's a welcome transition and includes the line "Another day here, and I am not breaking. And we all fall sometimes. You will not take me down" to make you realize the whole album won't be quite as depressing as the first track. "Vampires," which has a lo-fi bedroom recording feel and is probably the most immediately accessible song, and "Brunch" are two of my other favorite tracks on the record.


2) Cayetana - Nervous Like Me

I first wrote about Cayetana two months ago, and I still can't get enough of the Philadelphia pop punk trio. Nervous Like Me is a bit of a deviation from what I normally listen to, but I found myself wanting to return to this album over and over and over again (sometimes all in one day). I'm really hoping to see the band in concert sometime in 2015 (in the meantime this live performance on NPR will have to suffice). Augusta Koch's vocals manage to wonderfully toe the line between singing and screaming in a perfect way that is catchy and fun to sing along with. Her lyrics do a great job of touching on love, longing, anxiety, the mundane, and life as a 20-something. Allegra Anka on bass and Kelly Olsen on drums help provide a constant energy to the album that manages to not get lost at all from beginning to end. My favorite tracks are currently "Hot Dad Calendar," "Dirty Laundry," and "Busy Brain," but that could change the next time I listen to the album and find something new stuck in my head.

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and my favorite album of 2014 is...



1) Racing Glaciers - Ahead of You Forever EP

If you've been paying attention to my list so far, you could have predicted this album since I said there were two entries by Racing Glaciers. This five-piece from the United Kingdom just absolutely won 2014 for me, and I am so glad to have stumbled across their music. I normally don't even include EPs on my top albums list, but I couldn't imagine anything else taking the #1 spot this year. Every time I listened to the Ahead Of You Forever EP I was overcome with just how much I loved it and how well everything gelled. To me the sign of a great album is that I have a hard time coming up with anything to listen to next when I finish listening to it. This year I found myself often just starting the EP back over from the beginning for that reason. I was thankful when they released their other 2014 EP so that then I could at least play both. As I mentioned before, the band is absolutely perfect at building a song til it can't build anymore and then kicking in everything they've got. The guitars, horns, and percussion all come together into such a nice package that sounds familiar yet not really like another artist I know. To date, Racing Glaciers has 3 EPs, and I read that they are working on their first full length album now (which my fingers are crossed is true). I wouldn't be at all surprised if their debut album launches them toward stardom, so I recommend hopping on the bandwagon now so you can say you were ahead of the curve. I'm not going to pick a favorite song because the EP is only 24 minutes long and should be listened to as a whole anyway. You can find it on Spotify or buy it from Amazon or wherever else you find it.

Below is a mix of some songs from my five favorite albums of 2014.


If you use Spotify, below is a playlist where you can listen to 24 of my top 25 albums. Louis Weeks' album isn't on there, but you can stream (or download) the whole thing here.




Lastly, thanks to everyone who stopped by my blog at any point this year. Thanks to all the bands on my list and a whole bunch of others that didn't make it but still produced awesome music in 2014. And thanks to blogs like songsfortheday, We Listen For You, My Random Jukebox, Music Savage, and a whole bunch of others that helped me discover all kinds of great music. See you all in 2015!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Favorite Albums of 2014 (6-15)

If you missed the first installment of my list, you can find my albums ranked 16-25 here. Otherwise, it's onto the next portion of the list.


15) Field Report - Marigolden

Wisconsin's Field Report is led by Chris Porterfield (and is an anagram of his last name). Field Report's debut album was one of my very favorites of 2012. Their second album sees them refining their blend of indie rock and indie folk with beautiful lyrics that drag you into the story of the song. While I still haven't gotten quite as lost in this album as I did their debut, I wouldn't be surprised to have it click for me someday, and it's a darn nice album anyway. My favorite tracks are the first two off the record, "Decision Day" and "Home (Leave The Lights On)."


14) Hiss Golden Messenger - Lateness of Dancers

I feel like I had probably seen Hiss Golden Messenger's name around before, but I somehow never got around to listening to them until this year. The North Carolina folk duo was another artist whose discovery I owe to their presence on Merge Records. I'm planning to move to North Carolina this summer after I graduate, and besides finally getting to live in the same state as my girlfriend again, I'm also excited to be around the music scene in the Durham / Chapel Hill area. My favorite songs from this record are "Saturday's Song" and "Black Dog Wind (Rose of Roses)."


13) Allo Darlin' - We Come From The Same Place

The third album by the London-based Allo' Darlin is chock full of good solid indie pop. They don't try to make the songs too extravagant or frilly, but it's a really fun album to listen to , and I found myself doing just that more often than I had expected based on my brief previous knowledge of the group. A couple songs reminded me a bit of Camera Obscura, and I really enjoy the pedal steel on a couple of songs like the albums closer "Another Year." "History Lessons" and "Heartbeat" were two other favorite tracks.


12) Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - Give The People What They Want

I had the immense pleasure of seeing Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings perform back in March and it was some of the most fun I've ever had at a show. If you can spend an hour watching a tiny 50 year old woman who recently beat cancer singing and dancing her heart out all night without having a huge smile on your face you may need to get yourself checked out. Much of the group's energy and enthusiasm is captured on this record as well. If your Monday ever needs a little kick in the pants to get going, fire this up and it should get your foot tapping and your mood improving. I particularly enjoy "Retreat!" and "Stranger To My Happiness."


11) Racing Glaciers - Don't Wait For Me EP

Racing Glaciers released two EPs this year. I didn't know whether to group them together or treat them separately, but I chose to split them up. And as a slight spoiler for the remainder of this list, this was my second favorite of the two. Racing Glaciers is great at letting a song slowly build until you can't take it anymore before letting everything kick in. Everything blends together into a whole that I cannot get enough of. The only thing preventing this from being higher on the list is that it's only four songs. Of the four tracks, I enjoy "First Light" and "Animal" the most, but the whole EP is excellent. I'll talk a bit more of the band when their second EP pops up in this list.


10) Louis Weeks - shift/away

This was the first album that I fell in love with this year, which I wrote about back in February. The Washington DC based composer combines electronic elements with organic sounds so well. One of my favorite blogs, We Listen For You, said of the album that it has "that rare quality in electronic music of feeling handmade as if the machines that go into producing the sound were as organic as the vocals that accompany them." I can't say it much better. "Bloodline" and "Fold" are my two favorite tracks. You can currently download the album for any price of your choosing here.


9) First Aid Kit - Stay Gold

The two Swedish sisters who make up First Aid Kit made my favorite album of 2012 and Stay Gold is another wonderful blend of country and folk from the duo. It's hard to believe they've put out this much good music while they are still only 21 and 24 years old. On this album, they introduced a 13-piece orchestra to back their beautiful vocals and own instrumentation. While none of the songs was quite as transcendent as "Emmylou" from their last album, I became pretty addicted to "Heaven Knows" for a while. "My Silver Lining," "Master Pretender," and "Shattered & Hollow" are other standout tracks.


8) Bahamas - Bahamas Is Afie

Bahamas is the stage name of Canadian Afie Jurvanen, so he nailed the album name. His 2012 record Barchords was enjoyable, but I found myself just picking out songs here and there but never really getting into the album as a whole. My first time through Bahamas is Afie, I knew this album would be different. I'm not sure what is different about this one or if it's just me, but I love listening to this whole album. "Stronger Than That" and "Can't Take You With Me" are my two favorite tracks.


7) Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas - Secret Evil

I discovered this band / album late in the year, but man is it fun to listen to. All Music describes Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas as a "gritty, high-energy Detroit rock & roll band whose sound embodies everything from Motown to early surf, psych, carnival, and girl group pop." It's hard to choose a favorite track and the band can do both upbeat and slower songs really well, something not all similar bands can pull off. If I had to choose, I'd say "No Place Left To Hide," "Cry Cry Cry," and "Caught Up" are my favorite tracks. Apparently this album had been completed for a couple years before seeing the light of day due to label issues, but I'm really glad it finally did.


6) Owl John - Owl John

Owl John is the solo debut of Scott Hutchison from Frightened Rabbit. Since Frightened Rabbit is one of my favorite bands, I was pretty excited for this album, and it did not disappoint. Hutchison amusingly stated his impetus for trying his hand at a solo album saying "it was also approximately 10 years ago that I started a band called Frightened Rabbit. In that time I've dedicated so much of my life to that good wee band with a stupid name, I felt it was time to indulge John." As Frightened Rabbit's sound has grown and become more elaborate, Owl John allowed Hutchison a chance to pull things back and try some new things musically. However, his thoughtful lyrics that fans have come to expect are present along with that wonderful Scottish singing voice.


Below is a mix with a song from each of the albums listed above. Hopefully you find something you like. If you do, go check out the artist(s) more and support them if you feel so inclined.



I'll be back tomorrow with my five favorite albums of 2014. Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 29, 2014

My Favorite Albums of 2014 (16-25)

My blog hasn't been quite so active lately since I've been busy with other things, but I've still been listening to plenty of music and working on my annual favorite albums of the year list. This year I've narrowed things down to my top 25 (although I may talk about some others that just missed the cut in a post later). Here are entries 16-25. I'm hoping to follow this up with 6-15 tomorrow and squeezing in 1-5 on the last day of the new year. I hope you find something you enjoy here. I'd love to hear what albums other people enjoyed that I missed.


25) The Antlers - Familiar

Familiars is the fourth album from the New York indie rock trio. It continues their tradition of making gorgeous music. My favorite tracks are "Palace" and "Intruders."

24) Benjamin Booker - Benjamin Booker

This album is Benjamin Booker's debut, and his high energy version of blues rock is instantly infectious. The album kicks off with the track "Violent Shiver," which is a great start to an album. I love the guitar work, and I can't wait to hear more from him in the future. In addition to "Violent Shiver," my other favorite tracks are "Wicked Waters" and "Have You Seen My Son?"

23) Cataldo - Gilded Oldies

Seattle-based Cataldo was new to me this year. I can't recall how I discovered them, but I've found myself returning to this album (released in March) quite a bit over the year. You can download the lead track for the price of an email address on their website. My favorite tracks are "Sinkhole" and album closer "Other Side."

22) Shovels & Rope - Swimmin' Time

Shovels & Rope is the stage name for married duo Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent. Swimmin' Time is their follow up to their excellent "O' Be Joyful" in 2012. Once again, Hearst's voice is the real star, but the charm and chemistry of both members is readily apparent in all of their music. I saw the them a couple years ago at Sasquatch Music Festival, and I highly recommend going to see them if you ever get a chance.

21) Courtney Barnett - The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas

Technically this is just a repackaging of two previously released EPs by the Australian Courtney Barnett. And technically it was first released last year. However, it got a US release this year, and this is my list, so I'm including it! Courtney Barnett's music is sort of wandering indie rock that reminds me a bit of Kurt Vile, who released one of my favorite albums last year. Her music is highlighted by her wonderfully witty lyrics. "Avant Gardner" and "History Eraser" are my two favorite tracks off the record.

20) Cold Specks - Neuroplasticity

In 2012, Cold Specks had my second favorite album of the year. While Neuroplasticity didn't quite grab me the way I Predict A Graceful Expulsion did, I will always listen to anything featuring Al Spx's incredibly voice. This album featured the addition of a trumpet, which added a nice new element. My favorite track is "Bodies At Bay."

19) Sallie Ford - Slap Back

Last year, Sallie Ford and The Sound Outside put out one of my favorite albums of the year as well as a really good EP. Thus, I was pretty disappointed to hear the band was splitting up, but I was intrigued by Sallie Ford's new venture (under her own name), which included three local women from other bands to round out her new group. Sallie Ford's energy is ever present as she blends sounds from the 60s-90s (venturing away from her 50s sound with The Sound Outside). Everything she does seems to work, and however she chooses to make music, I'll be there eagerly anticipating it. My favorite track from the new album is "Coulda Been".

18) Nick Waterhouse - Holly

Nick Waterhouse's second album proves that his solid debut was no a fluke. His sound is a really nice mix of rock 'n roll, old school R&B, and soul that sounds like it could have been at home in the 50s or 60s. My favorite tracks on the album are "This Is A Game" and "Dead Room."

17) Ex Hex - Rips

This Washington D.C. trio creates some rockin' tunes led by Mary Timony (formerly of Wild Flag). This album is my annual reminder that Merge Records is the best label around. I'm glad to have been introduced to another band by them. My favorite tracks are "Beast" and "Hot and Cold."

16) Collapsible Mountains - Ribs On Heart

Scotland's I Build Collapsible Mountains has been a blog favorite that I've written about several times. It appears that Luke G Joyce has added another member in Sophie Adams and dropped the "I Build" to become just Collapsible Mountains now though. While I happen to miss the old name a bit, I love the new sound. The vocals of the two beautifully pair with one another throughout the album. This is especially true on the lead track "Endings." This is a gorgeous album, and I highly recommend going to grab it for yourself over on their Bandcamp page and supporting an excellent independent artist in the process.


Below you can listen to a song from each album on the list. If you like something, go check out more and/or support the artist.



Check back tomorrow for albums 6-15.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Happy 65th Birthday, Tom Waits!

I haven't had much time for blogging lately (although I'm working on my favorite albums of the year list), but I always have time to wish a happy birthday to one of my all-time favorite musicians (and the creator of this blog's name), Tom Waits. It's way too hard to pick a favorite song from the hundreds he has written, so here's a couple that I don't think I've shared before. Enjoy!






Sunday, November 9, 2014

Song of the Day: Dearly Departed by Shakey Graves

I've had the chorus to this song stuck in my head for most of the day, so I thought I'd share it on the blog. One of the advantages to living alone is that I haven't annoyed anyone yet by periodically shouting "You and I both know that the house is haunted!" out of nowhere.

Shakey Graves is the stage name of Alejandro Rose-Garcia who apparently is also an actor and has appeared in the most recent Sin City movie and had a four episode stint on Friday Night Lights. He describes his most recent album as "simple, jaunty 50s-70s country."

Anyhow, check it out "Dearly Departed" featuring Esme Patterson below, and enjoy!




Want to check out Shakey Graves?

Band website
Facebook
Twitter
Bandcamp
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Thursday, October 30, 2014

New Music: Cayetana

One of the most impressive things a band can do is make you change your initial impression of them. I first heard Cayetana a couple days ago on NPR's All Songs Considered podcast. The band was introduced as a Philly punk band and the song they played was called "Hot Dad Calendar." In my head I kinda dismissed them as probably not my type of music and too cutesy or weird with their song titles. I figured I'd zone out a bit until the next band was introduced on the podcast. The thing is, about halfway through the song I realized I was nodding my head to the music, drumming along, and starting to sort of sing the catchy chorus to myself. By the end of the song, I figured I'd at least check out their stuff sometime to see if I liked the rest of it. Well, it turns out I did, and I'm fully on board with this band now. I think I listened to the album four times in a row initially, and I've returned a few more times since then.

So... check out "Hot Dad Calendar" by Philly punk band Cayetana below, and try not to write them off too much (like me) til you hear the music.



If you like it, it looks like you can stream the whole album at this link (Cayetana - Nervous Like Me) or buy the album from their label here.

And if you want to check out Cayetana, here are some links:

Facebook
Twitter
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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Merge Records Round-Up

I've written on several occasions about my love for Merge Records. The label was founded in 1989 by two members of the band Superchunk. Since then, they've staked their claim as one of the best indie labels around. They've put out albums by bands like The Arcade Fire, Spoon, Conor Oberst, The Mountain Goats, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Magnetic Fields, (my personal favorite) M. Ward, and so many more. It should come as no surprise, but over the last few months they have been on fire with their releases. Below are five albums they've released this year that I've been enjoying lately.

William Tyler - Lost Colony EP

Released in April, this EP has been one of my most listened to albums this year. The album, comprised of three instrumental guitar tracks, is a perfect driving or walking album.



Reigning Sound - Shattered

This album is full of old school rock 'n roll / r&b / soul music that reminds me of JD McPherson or Nick Waterhouse a bit. This is the band's fifth album and my first introduction to them. Looks like I've got some back catalog to check out.



David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights - End Times Undone

This album has a bit of a Kurt Vile feel, featuring meandering somewhat psychedelic indie rock that is a joy to listen to.  David Kilgour is another established artist that is new to me, but I really enjoy what he's doing on this album



Hiss Golden Messenger - Lateness of Dancers

William Tyler lends his helping hand (and guitar) to this excellent Dylan-esque folk album from North Carolina based Hiss Golden Messenger.



Ex Hex - Rips

This is an incredibly infectious debut album of driving indie rock / power pop. The trio, fronted by a former member of Wild Flag, has set the bar high with their debut.



Monday, September 8, 2014

Video of the Day: Conor Oberst performing Lua with First Aid Kit

Conor Oberst recently performed a live version of his track "Lua" (from the 2005 Bright Eyes release "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning") with some help from First Aid Kit and Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes. I don't have a lot to add, other than to sit back and enjoy because it's already a really good song made even better by the always wonderful First Aid Kit.



Conor Oberst released an album called "Upside Down Mountain" back in May that I've enjoyed

First Aid Kit (who made my favorite album of 2012) released "Stay Gold," their third LP, in June.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bahamas Is Afie

The new album from Bahamas, "Bahamas Is Afie," has been in regular rotation for me the last couple weeks. As the album title suggests, Bahamas is the stage name for Afie Jurvanen, a Canadian folk musician. His songs are built around a soft meandering guitar and his soulful vocals, but they periodically incorporate elements from all sorts of other genres like pop, blues, gospel, soul, and country. With summer winding to a close, this album should be the perfect soundtrack to counteract the hustle and bustle of everyday life by getting you to slow down, relax, and soak in the tunes.

Below is an excellent live version of "Stronger Than That," one of my favorite tracks from the new album.



I was absolutely convinced that I had previously posted the excellent track "Okay Alright I'm Alive" from Bahamas' 2012 album "Barchords," but somehow I never got around to it, so listen to that one too!




Check Out Bahamas

Artist website
Facebook
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Soundcloud

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Happy 40th Birthday Tim Kasher

Today is the 40th birthday of Tim Kasher, front man of Cursive and The Good Life. In honor, below is one of my favorite "story songs" of all time "Album of the Year," the lead track of the 2004 album of the same name, which, chronicles a year of ups and downs in a relationship through 12 tracks (one for each month of that year). The title track covers the two people's initial meeting and then summarizes the year before the remaining tracks get into more detail. It's a simultaneously beautiful and heartbreaking song with lines like "She said she'd never seen someone so lost, I said I'd never felt so found" and "I know she loved me once, but those days are done. She used to call me every day from a pay phone on her break for lunch just to say she can't wait to come home." Give it a listen and (hopefully) enjoy!



Does anyone else have any favorite "story songs"? Or perhaps a favorite The Good Life of Cursive song to help celebrate Tim Kasher's birthday? Let me know in the comments or by email.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mimicking Birds - Eons

The blog has been quiet the last few months as life has been busy (and I've been lazy I suppose), but there's too much good music I want to share for it to stay silent forever. I'm hoping to start posting more regularly soon, but first... Mimicking Birds.

One of my favorite albums so far this year has been "Eons" by the Portland trio Mimicking Birds. This is the band's first release in four years, but it has been well worth the wait. I wrote a little bit about the first album here. Since that album, the band has reinvented its sound a bit, straying more from a folksy Modest Mouse to a band that expertly combines folk-rock and electronic elements in a way that sounds incredibly natural.

The first two tracks are outstanding and really set the tone for the album, but the whole thing is wonderful. Below, you can listen to track number five, "Bloodlines". I've had this album on repeat for large portions of the summer, and I expect to keep returning to it for quite some time. Here's hoping we won't have to wait another four years for their next album, but if we do I have faith they'll make it worth the wait again.




Want to check out Mimicking Birds?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Happy MLB Opening Day

Since I'm a huge baseball fan, Opening Day is one of my favorite days of the year. I know three games have already been played, but today is the first day with a full slate of games. Plus, almost every day from now until October should provide me with baseball to watch, so I'm in a good mood! A couple years ago, I wrote a post highlighting some baseball related music. That's certainly not the only time I've brought the sport up on this blog though. I figured I could add to those posts with a couple new items.

* The other day, Salon.com posted a list of baseball's 27 greatest songs. Check it out here.

* The Baseball Project, a supergroup comprised of members from R.E.M. and other bands, released their third album last week, the appropriately titled "3rd." The album contains songs about Babe Ruth ("The Babe"), the sad fall of Lenny Dykstra ("From Nails To Thumbtacks"), Dale Murphy's Hall of Fame candidacy ("To The Veteran's Committee"), and many more. The whole album is a lot of fun if you're a baseball fan. I mean it starts out with a voice just reading off numbers from famous baseball records over a driving electronic beat... Below I've included a song about the history of the Oakland A's. Since MLB.tv prevents me from watching Twins games in Iowa, I've adopted Oakland as my second team.



* Lastly, this connection is a bit more superficial, but Philadelphia-based pop punk/indie rock group Modern Baseball released an album earlier this year, that is an enjoyable listen. For a much longer write up on the band, you can read this post over on Grantland. If you'd rather just hear the music, below is a song of theirs.



Happy Opening Day!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Vancouver Sleep Clinic

Last week was my "Spring Break" from school. However, while the week started with temperatures nearing 70 degrees, last night I had to scrape ice off my car as snow fell around me. I thought that maybe I should make a "spring mix" to encourage the warm weather to hurry up, but I'll hold off for one more week and succumb to the sweet sounds of winter courtesy of Vancouver Sleep Clinic.

Vancouver Sleep Clinic is the moniker of 17 year old Australian Tim Bettinson, who makes some pretty gorgeous music along the lines of Bon Iver, or fellow Aussie and blog favorite Hayden Calnin. While we here in the northern hemisphere are (hopefully) seeing the end of winter, this album should perfectly soundtrack the upcoming winter for the southern hemisphere. I've included a song from the band's Soundcloud page below, but I recommend going and listening to (or buying) the whole album. At the very least, head over to the Soundcloud page and check out the beautiful track "Vapour."




Want to check out Vancouver Sleep Clinic?

Band website
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
Soundcloud
Spotify (below)


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I Don't Care / I Don't Mind

I don't have time for a proper blog post, but a while ago these two songs came up back to back on my iTunes. Since then, I've been meaning to post them together, partially because I found it amusing and partially because they are both relatively unknown gems.

"I Don't Care" by Breakfast in Fur is from the New York band's self-titled EP released in 2009. You can download that EP and another EP through the band's Bandcamp page for whatever price you'd like.




"I Don't Mind" by The Decemberists is from the Portland, Oregon band's "5 Songs EP," originally released independently in 2001. It was later re-released, and the whole thing is worth checking out. I also really enjoy the track "Oceanside" off this EP.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings Concert

First some advice: If you get a chance to see Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings perform live, take it!

Last week I went to see Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings here in Iowa City, and it was up there with the most fun I've had at any show. Right from the start, the band took the stage and informed the crowd that we wouldn't be needing our chairs that night. What followed was one and a half hours of soul, funk, singing, dancing, and just a general air of happiness.

Lead-singer Sharon Jones was diagnosed with cancer last year, but it has done nothing to hold her down. Quite to the contrary, Jones sang and danced all night with an energy that would have been impressive from anyone, let alone a 50-something who had just battled cancer. Her positive energy was incredibly infectious too as I'm not sure I've ever smiled more during a concert. Throughout the set, she pulled fans on stage to dance with her, led a dance tutorial of moves from decades past, and just sang and danced her heart out.

The tour was in support of the band's January release "Give The People What They Want." While I haven't written about it yet, it is an excellent album that I've been listening to a lot. Below are two tracks from the album. It may not quite be able to do justice to the band's live show, but it's an excellent stopgap until the next time they visit your town. Enjoy!




Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Out this week (3/4/14) - Featuring new Nick Waterhouse

There were an insane number of intriguing new releases this week. The one that I was most excited about was the sophomore album from Nick Waterhouse, "Holly," and it has not disappointed one little bit. I've only listened to it a couple times so far, but I see this being one of the albums I return to over and over throughout the whole year.

Nick Waterhouse's music combines rock & roll, old school r & b, and soul. While all of these were present on his debut album, he seems to have found a way to put them together with more punch on "Holly." I previously posted a stream of the track "This Is A Game," so here's another track from the album, this one featuring a nice saxophone solo.



Also out this week is the fourth album from Seattle-based Cataldo (the stage name of Eric Anderson). My only introduction to the band was this post on Songs For The Day, but one listen through the album has me sold. Here's the album's closing track.



KHUSHI (who apparently shares his name with a poorly rated Bollywood movie) released his debut EP this week. The three original songs are an exciting debut somewhat similar to previous blog favorite Hayden Calnin (who has his second EP coming out later this month!).



If none of these grabbed you, there were also new releases by Drive-By Truckers, Wake Owl, Eagulls (on Partisan Records, who never seems to fail me), and Nothing. It looks like new releases are finally starting to pick up after a slow first couple months.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Musical globetrotting - Lasse Passage, Franny & Zooey, and Blood Relatives

 Lately, I've been finding a lot of music I really enjoy from artists all over the world so I thought I'd do another "musical globetrotting" post.


I stumbled upon Scotland's Blood Relatives by accident. I was listening to a new song by Meursault on Soundcloud and got distracted. Instead of stopping and finding something else to listen to, Soundcloud started playing recommendations based on that song. A couple songs later, "Dead Hip" by Blood Relatives began, and the band's catchy and danceable indie pop grabbed my attention. They released their debut album, "Deerheart,"last October.



I've found myself being drawn to a lot of Scandinavian artists (First Aid Kit, Tallest Man On Earth, Indianna Dawn, etc.), so I started following the music blog allscandinavian.com. Most recently, they introduced me to the Norwegian artist Lasse Passage. He is in the process of releasing four EPs by May. His first, "Stop Making Sense and Start Making Success, Vol. 1" was released in January, and has me excited for the next three (of which I can presumably guess the titles). His music is hard to place in a single genre, but maybe alt-folk could match closest. Regardless, Lasse Passage is an artist I intend to keep an ear on in the future. If you have Spotify, go check out the whole album, otherwise here's a small taste:



Juan Julio Peña and Victoria Linares hail from the Dominican Republic and makeup the twee pop duo Franny & Zooey. The two certainly don't hide their affinity for J.D. Salinger. The band name comes from Salinger's book of that name, and their "Bananafish EP" from last year take its name from the Salinger short story, "A Perfect Day For Bananafish." You can stream/download the track "Like In Movies" below, and if you like that, head to the duo's Bandcamp page for another free track or to buy their EP.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

New music: Racing Glaciers

Racing Glaciers are a five-piece indie rock group from England. They toe the line of post-rock, at times reminding me of The Album Leaf or sounding like Explosions in the Sky with horns added. Regardless, the band has found a sound that they know how to work wonders with. They recently released their second EP, Ahead of You Forever, and I cannot get myself to stop listening to it. The first day I listened to it, I was almost late to class because I didn't want to stop before the album ended.

You can stream the whole EP below. At the very least, I recommending checking out the intro track "Ahead Of You Forever" and its transition into the wonderful "New Country." If you enjoy what you hear, the album is £2 (about $3.34) on Bandcamp. It is worth every penny and then some. The band's first EP is also available for whatever you feel like paying (including free) on their Bandcamp page. So have a listen and then hopefully go support an unsigned artist making music as good as anything else I've heard this year. Enjoy!




Want to see more of Racing Glaciers?

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Thanks to the All Things Go blog for introducing me to Racing Glaciers.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Discovering music the old fashioned way

Last week, I went to see Josh Ritter in concert. It was the second time I've gotten a chance to see him live. Since his new album is my favorite record of his since 2006's incredible "The Animal Years," I was really excited to hear the new material. His performance didn't disappoint at all. He performed a whole bunch of songs spanning his 15 year career, most of the time with a huge smile on his face. What made the show even better though was the presence of the previously unknown to me Gregory Alan Isakov as the opening act.

It used to be that I would discover a lot of bands by catching opening acts for other bands I enjoy. In high school, The Starting Line was my favorite band. I remember discovering them by hearing just the second half of the last song from their set as I was entering a show (for New Found Glory I think). The Starting Line hadn't been on the bill, but when I got home I spent a bunch of time listening to their music on Pure Volume (or whatever it was people were using back then). These days, I don't get out to as many shows, and most of the new music I stumble across is from one of the various music blogs I read (see the right hand side of the page for some of those) or Twitter accounts I follow, so I've missed that particular joy of discovery. Therefore, it was really nice to experience coming into a show with no preconceptions of the opener and finding myself pleasantly enjoying Gregory Alan Isakov's set.

From the first song, I could tell I'd enjoy his gentle finger-picking style of guitar playing. Throughout the show, he used multiple microphones to create different vocal effects, sometimes sounding far away, other times just a bit tinny, and other times strong and powerful. It was a nice way to add some variety while performing by himself. And while lyrics aren't always something you notice right away, Isakov is really a wordsmith, peppering his songs with great lines like "If it weren't for second chances, we'd all be alone" and "your heart's a thousand colors, but they're all shades of blue."

Fittingly, with Valentine's Day fast approaching, here's a song called "Saint Valentine" from Gregory Alan Isakov's album he released last year.



And here's a live performance of the hauntingly beautiful, "The Universe," another standout song from his most recent album, "The Weatherman."




Want to check out Gregory Alan Isakov?

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

My favorite album so far this year

With 2014 a little over a month underway, there's one album that's stood out to me thus far. I've really enjoyed releases by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, James Vincent McMorrow, Hospitality, and others, but the album I keep returning to is the debut LP by Louis Weeks.

Louis Weeks is a Washington DC based composer / songwriter who spends his day job writing music for tv and movies. In his spare time, he's been crafting his debut LP, which he released January 14 after two years of work. The album, "shift/away," does an incredible job of combining digital elements with more organic sounds. I was introduced to Louis Weeks by the excellent We Listen For You blog, which described Weeks' music as having "that rare quality in electronic music of feeling handmade as if the machines that go into producing the sound were as organic as the vocals that accompany them." One of my favorite tracks, "Bloodline," sounds like a song from an indie folk album with only occasional synthetic sounds filtering in and out. That this song works so well and fits in amongst the others is a testament to Weeks' genre defying sound.



Another album highlight is the track "Fold," but the whole thing is wonderful and worthy of repeated listens.



Even better, the whole album is currently available for whatever price you'd like (yes, including $0) on his Bandcamp page. You can click here to go get it.


Want to check out Louis Weeks?

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sam Cooke's birthday

Today would have been soul singer Sam Cooke's birthday were he still alive. He has long been one of my favorites, so now seems as good a time as any to listen to a few of his songs. Enjoy!


First, one of his most well-known songs, the civil rights anthem "A Change Is Gonna Come." Allegedly he was inspired to write the song after hearing Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind."



Here's a short clip of him performing "You Send Me" on the Ed Sullivan Show.



Lastly, it may not be the best quality, but I love this cover of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind"



And as an added bonus, here is Colin Meloy (of The Decemberists) covering "Cupid" along with Laura Gibson.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Musical globetrotting

One of my favorite music things on the internet is the monthly mix from the Music Alliance Pact, which is a group of around 30 music blogs from different countries across the world. Once a month, each blog picks a song from an artist in their country, and all the songs get put together into a big mix that can be downloaded for free. The most recent one is here. I've fallen way behind on these posts, but I wanted to highlight some of my favorites that I've run across recently. They serve as a pretty great reminder that awesome music is being made all over the world.


* The awesomely named Anarchicks are a four-piece female group from Portugal. The band can rock as evidenced by the track "Restraining Order." I love the guitar on this track. They also have a free cover of The Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?" over on Soundcloud that you can get here.




* On Your Horizon is a Turkish post-rock band similar to Explosions in the Sky. You can download a free five song EP here. The first track is below if you want a taste of it. I love music like this or Explosions in the Sky for when I'm studying. I love it the rest of the time too, but particularly then.




* And from down-under, we've got Courtney Barnett. Australian music blog Who The Bloody Hell Are They? (also awesomely named) describes the below track as "a perfect summary of the earnest freewheelin' and rambling wit that makes music from this end of the world just so great." As a bonus, I've included a newer track of hers called "Avant Gardener" as well. The cadence of the vocals remind me a bit of Foxygen's album from last year and the song ambles along similarly to Kurt Vile's excellent release.






* The Fundamics are a Finnish funk/hip hop group. I don't usually associate funk/hip hop with Finland, but with the world being so connected, anyone anywhere can make any type of music, which is a lot of fun. They have a full album that can be downloaded for free from Soundcloud. I particularly enjoy this instrumental track though:



Sunday, January 12, 2014

Music Roundup - Mary Lambert, First Aid Kit, and more

One of my goals for 2014 is to post a bit more often on this blog. That may mean more miscellanea posts such as this one.


* Back in July of 2012 I wrote about Macklemore's same sex marriage anthem "Same Love." Mary Lambert, who sings the chorus of the song, adapted that chorus into a full song of her own, and it is absolutely gorgeous. She recently performed the song, titled "She Keeps Me Warm," for NPR, and here's the video.



* Nick Waterhouse released an excellent debut album in 2012 that wouldn't have sounded out of place if it had been released 50 years ago. If the first track off his sophomore album, "This Is A Game," is any indication, he's ready to build on that success.




* This blog is slowly turning into a Charles Bradley blog, but he keeps releasing things I want to post, so oh well. The most recent of these is Charles Bradley's cover of the Black Sabbath tune "Changes." I'm unfamiliar with the original, but I'm pretty confident it sounds nothing like Bradley's version. I mentioned this song in my write up about his album, but I wanted to get a chance to embed it, so here it is.




* And last but certainly not least, First Aid Kit posted a cover of themselves performing "On The Road Again" in honor of their upcoming tour. The Swedish sisters made my favorite album of 2012, and I'll take any excuse I can get to post more of their amazing folk/country music.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

My Favorite Albums of 2013 (1-10)

If you missed the first two installments of this list, here are a couple links: 11-20 and 21-30. The ten albums that are left are all albums that I grew to love over the course of 2013. At one point or another, each of these albums had me obsessed and listening to it repeatedly.


10) Josh Ritter - The Beast In Its Tracks

This is my favorite Josh Ritter album since his incredible 2006 album "The Animal Years." The album was written in the wake of his divorce to fellow singer/songwriter Dawn Landes (who has her own album coming out in February). Rather than writing a "woe is me," vindictive album, Ritter has managed to write an album that is introspective, honest, hopeful, and often times funny. "New Lover" hits all of these themes as he looks back on his past relationship while musing on a new one. Throughout the song, he wishes his ex well, hoping she's found someone new to treat her well. However, before the song ends he admits "if you're sad and you are lonesome and you've got nobody true, I'd be lying if I said that didn't make me happy too." Breakups are tough.


9) J. Roddy Walston and The Business - Essential Tremors

This list spans quite a few genres, but I tend to gravitate toward folk-y stuff a lot. However, if you're looking to rock, look no further than J. Roddy Walston and The Business. Essential Tremors is an album full of rockin' guitars, forceful drums, pounding piano, and Walston's howling and shrieking. This is a foot stomping album to be sure. This album was my first time hearing J Roddy Walston and The Business, but I imagine the band puts on an incredibly fun live show. One newpaper wrote that the band's live shows "make James Brown look lazy." I'm thinking I'll have to try to get to one of those in 2014.


8) John Moreland - In The Throes

John Moreland has written several other albums, but this was my first exposure to the Tulsa, Oklahoma native, and I am a full on convert now. In The Throes is an incredible folk/americana album with great songs from beginning to end. His lyrics are a big part of what makes the album great. Because of that, the album may take a few listens to sink in, but it's well worth it. Fortunately Moreland's talent seems to have been recognized somewhat in 2013 as the year saw him opening a small handful of shows for Jason Isbell and getting a couple of his songs ("Gospel" and "Your Spell") featured on the show Sons of Anarchy. In addition to those two songs, "Nobody Gives A Damn About Songs Anymore" and "Oh Julia" are two more favorites of mine. Here's to hoping John Moreland keeps making incredible music and being rightfully recognized for doing so.


7) Suburban Dirts - A Tiny Little Island In The Big Bad Sea

I've written about Suburban Dirts a few times on this blog and for good reason since they keep putting out excellent music. Last year, I ranked the band's debut album as my 10th favorite of the year. I had assumed they'd play a bunch of shows this year, maybe put out an EP, and get ready for another album in 2014 or 2015 like most bands would. Well it turns out they aren't like most bands because instead they released a second full length that I like even more than their impressive debut. You can read more of my review of the album here but the short story is that they mix folk, rock, blues, and country as well as just about anyone else around. A Tiny Little Island In The Big Bad Sea is an absolute treat of the album. If you enjoy what you hear from the preview below, please support them and buy their music so they can continue to do what they do so well.


6) The Postelles - ...And It Shook Me

The second album from the New York quartet features an album full of hook-heavy rock/pop songs that are a joy to sing along to. This album is a really fun road trip record with song after song of catchy choruses that can be belted out. In their review of the album, AllMusic sums up the album better than I could hope to, saying "what impresses isn't the hooks themselves but how The Postelles craft the riffs and melodies into songs, how they retain a brightness to their punch without ever seeming saccharine, how they seem to celebrate exuberance, not detachment." My favorite tracks are "Pretend It's Love," "Caught By Surprise," and "Running Red Lights."


5) Kurt Vile - Wakin On A Pretty Daze

This may be the antidote to the cheeriness on The Postelles record, but man is it good. Over half the songs on this record surpass the six minute mark, several going well past it. Vile's style has been referred to as "slacker rock" but that in no way does justice to the precision that somehow seems to underlie the rambling nature of the songs. The album opener, "Wakin On A Pretty Day" is probably the song I became most obsessed with this year. Somehow despite being almost 10 minutes long it always seemed too short. The lyrics, combined with Vile's delivery, have made me actually chuckle out loud at times with lines like "Rising at the crack of dawn, I gotta think about what wise crack I'm gonna drop along the way today" and "Phone ringing off the shelf, I guess somebody has something they really wanna prove to us today." Really though, my review won't be able to do justice to this song or this record. I recommend you find a way to listen to it on headphones while wandering through a city. Somehow that's when it always seemed most perfect to me.


4) Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse

The Scottish indie rocker's Midnight Organ Fight is perhaps my favorite album ever and their follow up, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, was my second favorite album of 2010. That is to say that expectations from me are sky high whenever they put out new music. Fortunately, Frightened Rabbit are up to the task and have put out another incredible album of indie rock with excellent lyrics and Scott Hutchison's infectious Scottish accent. This is probably the band's most polished sounding record to date (and their first on a major label) and it shows that they are able to adapt while still retaining what makes them so good. The album closer "The Oil Slick" is my favorite song off the record. When I got to see the band live earlier this year, Hutchison told the crowd the song was sort of an apology for some of the things he'd said in other songs. How could anyone stay made at someone who can write lines like "How can I talk about life and warmth? I've got a voice like a gutter in a toxic storm. All the dark words pouring from my throat sound like an oil slick coating the wings we've grown."


3) Sallie Ford and The Sound Outside - Untamed Beast

Over the past couple weeks, I think I've had each of these top three albums in the number one spot for a bit, so the order is pretty arbitrary since I'm sure it'd change in a week. 2013 was a bit of a mixed bag for fans of Sallie Ford and The Sound Outside. Back in  February, Untamed Beast was released, and it has remained in rotation for me all year. According to Last.fm the band is my most played artist over the past year. Ford's voice and attitude are absolutely incredible as she can belt out defiant songs (like "They Told Me" and "Bad Boys") or croon about love (like on "Paris" and "Roll Around") without either sounding out of place or insincere. Unfortunately, a couple weeks ago the band announced they were going their separate ways in 2014. Everything is amicable, but it's sad to see after they put out such an incredible record (as well as a really, really good EP) this year. Sallie Ford has recently put together an all female band and plans to keep making music, so I'll certainly be following along with that.


2) Small Houses - Exactly Where You Wanted To Be

This may be the album I've listened to most this year and it certainly holds a special place for me. Small Houses (aka Jeremy Quentin) has put together a touching folk record that I couldn't help but listen to over and over again. I made my second road trip to Sasquatch Music Festival this summer and after each of the days jam-packed full of music, I found myself returning to my tent and listening to this album on repeat as I fell asleep. There's something comforting and soothing about the composition of these songs that makes me feel at home wherever I am. The only complaint I have about this album is that it comes in at a little under 30 minutes long, which is nowhere near as long as I wish it was. I guess that's why it just finds itself played on loop.


AND

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1) Typhoon - White Lighter

This is just an absolutely incredible album from the 14-piece Portland, Oregon band. There is so much to love on this album that I don't really know where to begin. Many of the lyrics are inspired by lead singer, Kyle Morton's battle with Lyme disease that caused several of his organs to fail and led to his dad giving him a kidney. Many of the songs muse on life and death in its many forms, including "Possible Deaths" sees Morton singing that "every star is a possible death." However, the lyrics are just icing on a delicious musical cake because I didn't know any of the back story when I had already fallen in love with this album. Instead it was the sounds that this 14-member band was putting together (again without me realizing they had that many members). They show all sorts of restraint, never forcing more into a song than belongs there but filling up your ears with enough to keep you discovering new things with each new listen. Several songs caught me off guard when I first listened, bucking the expectations my ears had grown to expect by employing different time signatures. It's rare to hear an album that simultaneously challenges you and satisfies you at the same time. This may all just be rambling at this point, but I highly recommend this album to anyone unfamiliar with it. Make sure you listen a few times and make sure you aren't too distracted while you do because there is just a ton to like.


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So that's the list, my 30 favorite albums of 2013. I'd love to hear what other people enjoyed, either that I'm missing or that they agree with. I've made a Spotify playlist of all 30 albums if you want to listen to them. You can find that by clicking ---> here.


As with the last two posts, here are a few songs from albums 1-10 to get a taste of them. I think all of these are all best listened to from beginning to end though. At least one song ("Bad Boys" by Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside) is possibly "not safe for work", so bear that in mind.



And since I can't find Kurt Vile on Soundcloud...




There was a lot of music to love in 2013, and I'm already looking forward to several 2014 releases.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My Favorite Albums of 2013 (11-20)

I know it's 2014 now, but I'm gonna focus on 2013 for just a couple days more. If you missed albums 21-30, you can find them here. As of this moment, a bunch of these albums can be downloaded over at Amazon for only $5, so check that out if you're looking to buy any of them. Otherwise, it's on with the list!


20) Telekinesis - Dormarion

Dormarion is the fourth full-length album released by Michael Benjamin Lerner under the name Telekinesis. By now, the Seattle native has figured out how to mix indie rock and power pop to craft songs that beg to be sung along with. The album opener "Power Lines" lulls you into thinking your speakers somehow got turned down somehow before cranking up the noise a little over a minute in. Additional fun fact: if Wikipedia is to be believed, his dad voiced Fox McCloud in Star Fox 64 game.


19) Wooden Wand - Blood Oaths of the New Blues

I wrote about Wooden Wand in my first post of 2013. As I said then, this is just a really nice americana/folk/country album. The track "Outsider Blues" shows off James Jackson Toth's knack for storytelling/song writing and is one of my favorite songs of the year.


18) Bastille - Bad Blood

Bastille are an English indie rock band that first came to my attention when I saw they had a song named "Laura Palmer" (a character from the show Twin Peaks). Their synth-heavy debut, Bad Blood, is filled with catchy, anthemic songs. "Laura Palmer," "Pompeii," "Icarus," and "Flaws" are some of my favorite tracks.


17) CHVRCHES - The Bones of What You Believe

Number 17 is another synth-heavy band releasing their debut LP. CHVRCHES (pronounced churches) had garnered a good deal of buzz by releasing a couple tracks before this album. Fortunately, The Bones Of What You Believe does not disappoint. "The Mother We Share" and "Recover" are both exceptional songs that were released before the album, but the band has surrounded them with plenty of other enjoyable tracks. This is a band that I imagine we'll be hearing a lot more in the future.


16) Los Campesinos! - No Blues

The enthusiastic Welsh band Los Campesinos! released their 5th full length album in 2013. Time has not sapped any of their energy as No Blues is packed full of songs just bursting at the seams. The band could come off as too cute (they refer to themselves as all having the last name Campesinos!) if their songs weren't so catchy and fun.


15) Local Natives - Hummingbird

This sophomore album from Local Natives is much more dreamy and atmospheric sounding than their debut. The lyrics are largely inspired by the departure of a band member and the passing of a mother of one of the members. These two different forms of loss may have led to a less sunny sounding record than their debut, but it certainly didn't affect the quality of their music.


14) Jason Isbell - Southeastern

How the work of Jason Isbell has slipped past me to this point in my life is beyond me. My new year's resolution may have to be to better familiarize myself with his previous solo output and his work with the Drive-By Truckers because Southeastern was an album that grew on me more and more each time I heard it. The album was recorded after a stint in rehab, and Isbell's twangy guitar perfectly backs emotionally powerful lyrics about his recent sobriety. In the process of writing this, I moved the album four spots up my list. If I revisited this list in another few days it may move up even higher.


13) Har Mar Superstar - Bye Bye 17

I guess this is the "What have I been doing?" section of the list. Despite having released several records and hailing from my home state of Minnesota, I didn't know the music of Har Mar Superstar until checking out Bye Bye 17. It turns out I've been missing out. Sean Tillman may not look the part, but this album is full of really wonderful soul/r&b/pop gems. Make sure to check out "Lady You Shot Me" and "Prisoner."


12) Volcano Choir - Repave

Repave is a gorgeous sophomore album from Volcano Choir (a collaboration between Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and members of the post-rock band Collections of Colonies of Bees). The rest of the band has done a wonderful job surrounding Vernon's voice with sparse guitar, piano, and drums throughout most of the album. Repave didn't click with me right away, but sitting here and just letting the sound wash over me now seems pretty perfect.


11) The Shouting Matches - Grownass Man

Justin Vernon may not be giving us new Bon Iver music anytime soon, but he's sure giving us a lot of other really good stuff. The Shouting Matches is a blues-rock trio consisting of Wisconsin natives Vernon,  Phil Cook (of Megafaun), and Brian Moen (of Peter Wolf Crier). The album is really enjoyable and if you've ever been curious what Vernon sounds like not singing in his falsetto, this record answers that question.




Here's a song from each of the albums so you can get a taste for yourself.



Tomorrow I'll post my top 10 favorite albums from what was a very strong year for music.