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.








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!