Friday, December 30, 2011

Adam & The Amethysts - Prophecy

Not only did Adam & The Amethysts make one of my favorite albums of the year but they use the Auld Lang Syne melody so perfectly that this has become my official New Years song, plus it's a free download on bandcamp. It's a wonderful way to ring in 2012. "Try not to get worried, try not to turn on to problems that upset you" is good advice to follow. Stay tuned for a new years mix and my favorite albums list in the next few days. Best wishes to you all.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lay Low - Vonin

Sometimes you just need your definition of pretty to be a simple song of hope sung in another language. In this case, the other language is Icelandic and the title of the song does actually mean "hope". Lay Low is Lovísa Sigrúnardóttir, and while two of her previous albums were in english, this icelandic album is somehow more intriguing. You can stream the entire album on soundcloud. Find more on her website.

Vonin by lovisalaylow

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011: Favorite EPs

There were so many good EPs this year that they deserved their own list, although they easily could have competed with my top spots for albums. Bands, especially new bands, blew me away with their three to four flawless songs time and time again. The fact that these songs aren't getting lost in the shuffle of a mediocre 10 song album made a lot of bands shine brighter than more seasoned groups with LPs out this year. Here's what stood out the most for me.

1. Pickwick - Myths [Buy]
I'm letting Myths count for all three volumes (six songs in total) that were released this year, because I don't know how I'd ever choose. Pickwick is my most posted about band of 2011 and for good reason; they're going to be huge in 2012 when their LP is released. That's all you need to know. 

2. Daughter - The Wild Youth EP [Buy]
Both of her EPs left me feeling crippled and overly emotional. Her voice and those lyrics cut through everything, even on the worst of days. I've felt guilty for selfishly wishing she still has a broken heart for her LP because these are the most honest and gut wrenching break up songs I've heard in a long time, maybe ever, and I wouldn't mind hearing some more of those from her.

3. TV Girl - Benny and the Jetts [Buy]
"Lizzy Come Back to Life" paints the laziest of summer pictures: a girl laying poolside, topless, in an indian headdress. It's an impossible image to erase. This was the most constant soundtrack to the late august nights and the most memorable sound of summer.
TV Girl - Lizzy Come Back to Life

4. Alabama Shakes - Alabama Shakes EP [Buy]
What can be said that hasn't been said already?

5. The Wooden Sky - City of Light [Buy]
I've wrote about my penchant for dancing in the dark with a glass of wine to this EP before. This music and that end of day glass of wine is the best recipe for comfort I know.

6. Cotton Jones - Sit Beside Your Vegetables [Buy]
This is the most underrated husband/wife duo of indie rock. This EP gives you smiles for days, weeks, and if you're me, for a year and I'm sure more years to come.
Cotton Jones - Egg On A Sea

7. Milo Greene - The Hello Sessions [Buy]
At first, their bandcamp page only had 1957 and as they slowly added more songs I fell more and more in love with their gorgeous harmonies and every single tambourine jangle.
Milo Greene - 1957

8. Peter & Kerry - Clothes, Friends, Photos EP [Buy]
"It's as much a sigh of relief as it is a breath of fresh air" was what the first review I read of Peter & Kerry and that's what I feel with every listen.
Peter and Kerry - Knees

9. Hip Hatchet - Coward's Luck EP [Buy]
Hip Hatchet played our first house show and was one of the most memorable nights of the year.  I specifically remembered this song and getting goosebumps. So when this EP came out, not only did I listen to it over and over, but I knew it was list worthy.
Hip Hatchet - Just Like An Old Friend

10. High Highs - High Highs EP [Buy]
This is the outlier on the list, it doesn't sound quite like the others. It's a daydream of an EP. I've never felt grounded when I listen and my mind wanders for the entire 13 minutes and often that's just what I want from music.
High Highs - Open Season

11. Big Snow Big Thaw - Winter [Buy]
They've since combined their Winter and Spring EP into one eight song album but these songs are addictive. You'll be stomping and clapping your way back for more.
Big Snow Big Thaw - Damn Allegheny 

Honorable Mention: 
Of Monsters & Men - Into the Woods [Buy]
I had an Icelandic acquaintance ship me their LP which won't be available in the US until the Spring of 2012, but I've included it on my favorite album list anyway because I played the shit out of it and everyone should know about the band. However, on December 20th they released an EP with four of their best tracks from the Icelandic LP release (so no new material), it confused me as to how to fit it on the lists, but deserves to be mentioned here as well since it's now widely available for purchase. Get their song "Little Talks" as the free itunes download of the week.
Of Monsters and Men - Little Talks

**Note on 12/30/11: Took me a few days but I realized I forgot 3 very important EPs. I'm an idiot. This makes a nice round 15 EPs worth buying.

Jens Lekman - An Argument with Myself
Jens Lekman - An Argument With Myself

Frightened Rabbit - Tour EP

Aunt Martha - Bloodshot
Aunt Martha - Bloodshot

My blurbs haven't told you anything of use nor was it eloquent writing about how the music sounds, and I honestly doubt my writing is either ever of those things. I debated about this but decided blurbs were best used to tell a bit about my personal relationship to the music because after all that's why it's a list titled "Favorite EPs". I only hope that through all of that you can find a song or an artist for you to attach yourself to because it's one of the most rewarding experiences for a music listener. The personal connection and musical love affairs I have with these EPs has made an inexplicable difference in the enjoyment of my year. Happy listening.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Conflicted by Carols II - A Very Indie Xmas

Here it is, the cheery classic carols and a handful of christmas originals from your favorite indie and folky bands. I hope it's enjoyed by those that like christmas songs because it was a bit of a struggle to put all this good cheer and songs of joy and peace in one playlist without gagging. Just kidding...kind of. If you want the darker side check out yesterday's anti-christmas playlist. There's some secret bonus songs on the ZIP file not listed below too.

A Very Indie Xmas // Download ZIP

1. He's My Brother She's My Sister - Merry Christmas Everybody
2. Ohbijou - Last Christmas
3. Carnival Moon - Ring Christmas Bells
4. Dawes - Christmas Time is Here
5. A B & The Sea - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
6. Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler - Home for the Holidays
7. Seryn - Go Tell it On The Mountain
8. Brown Feather Sparrow - Let Us Come Together
9. The Wilderness of Manitoba - Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
10. Zaac Pick - Silent Night
11. Over the Rhine - Darlin' (Christmas is Coming) 
12. Scott Currie - Angels We Have Heard on High
13. Frontier Ruckus - Christmas Eve, Driving Home
14. The Ruffled Feathers - The Highest Mountain
15. Beta Radio - The Song the Season Brings
16. How To Swim - New Beginnings
19. DJ John - The Christmas Massacre of Charlie Brown
20. Paul Simon - Getting Ready for Christmas Day

Enjoy the list with eggnog or your holiday libation of choice. Mine is a Cranberry Smash made with Jameson and as my Christmas present to you, I wrote down the recipe because it's delicious and you should go make it right now. My sister, who doesn't even like whiskey, loves this drink. It's that good, plus you can make it as sweet or as sour as you like. Happy Holidays.
Cranberry Smash
  • 2.5 ounces Irish Whiskey
  • .5 ounce Demerara* simple syrup
  • half of a medium sized lemon
  • 1/4 cup cranberries
*Demerara is a granulated brown sugar and really works better in this drink than regular simple syrup

  • Cut lemon into small pieces. I usually make 4-5 circular slices and cut those in half.
  • Muddle cranberries and lemon pieces in mixing glass. (Don't break the glass, that would suck. But make sure you actually smash the cranberries for literal and maximum flavor purposes.)
  • Add whiskey and simple syrup to mixing glass.
  • Add ice to mixing glass, cap with mixing tin, and shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds.
  • Strain into crushed-ice filled old fashioned glass.
  • Garnish with whole cranberries.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Conflicted Over Carols

It's that time of year where I get conflicted over Christmas carols. We only have 5 more days of listening to them thankfully. But at this point, I wonder if I should continue in my grinch like ways hating the nauseating carols that play in every store, coffee shop, and radio station all month long and placating it with healthy doses of bourbon and anti-christmas songs, or do I dig in to the treasure trove of indie christmas carols that have been plaguing my inbox since December 1st? Due to my conflicted nature, I'm going to give you both. Today just happens to look perfect for the anti-christmas song variety. Tomorrow you'll get the sweeter side. I hope you can handle the bipolar nature of these two lists. But the bottom line is no matter which side you're on the artists and bands behind the songs are awesome and worth your time. Some of these anti-songs you can even listen to after the holiday season. I left out some of the more obvious older ones and went with what was mostly new this year. Also check out last year's very bitter anti-holiday cheer mix here.

Anti - Christmas Songs // Download ZIP
  1. Whale Tooth - Hibernation Song
  2. Typhoon - Merry Xmas Anyways
  3. Artur Dyjecinski - Christmas at Turnagan Pass
  4. Sean Nicholas Savage - Wasted in Snowstorm
  5. Frightened Rabbit - It's Christmas So We'll Stop
  6. Jeremy Lister - Santa's Lost His Mojo
  7. Gruff Rhys - Slashed Wrists This Christmas
  8. Brown Feather Sparrow - December Radio
  9. Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys - Hole in the North Pole
  10. K.S. Rhoads - Why are Mommy and Daddy Fighting on Christmas?
  11. Diamond Rugs - Christmas In A Chinese Restaurant

It wouldn't be an Anti-Christmas list without my all time favorite Christmas song originally by The Pogues...

A few of these songs come from delightful compilations such as the Fuel/Friends December Mix, Ten Out of Tenn Christmas album, and my yearly favorite The Line of Best Fit's Ho Ho Ho Canada. All are free to download and overall less bitter.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Zaac Pick - Whitewater

What a delightful folksy hand clapping tune to get stuck in your head. It's on the cusp of being too sweet, but it's hard to argue that aspect when it puts a smile on your face. Buy the EP on Bandcamp and check out the original Christmas tune too, it's one of the best I've heard this year.

Friday, December 16, 2011

List of lists 2011

From The Ruckus
I feel like the best of lists started early this year. Way to go Paste kicking it off with a bland and poorly thought out list before December! A lot of people complain about the frivolity of such lists, but for me it's like Christmas came early. It's impossible to listen to everything 2011 had to offer and impossible to keep up with all the blogs I like throughout the year, so to hear what other people enjoyed in a compressed and easy to browse format is a huge gift that only comes once a year. I look forward to these lists and the purchasing frenzy that follows as I kick myself for completely missing wonderful albums and songs. After all, that is the purpose of these lists--to get people to buy the music you honor with your "best of" tag, right?

I'll be constantly updating this page with lists from people whose opinions I respect and trust. I'm not going to flood you with 1,000 lists but pick and choose the creative, diverse, and true to taste lists. Almost every list has something I haven't heard before, so maybe some of it will be new to you too. Feel free to let me know if I've missed any lists. Merry Listmas!

Best Songs of 2011
Artist Mixtapes: 26 Songs of 2011

Faronheit: Listmas 2011: The Top 50 Songs of 2011 (5 part list)

Songs For The Day: 50 Favorite Songs of 2011

Rollo Grady: Top 100 Songs of 2011

The Ruckus: Best 25 Songs of 2011
New to Me: Nightmare and the Cat - Sarah Beth

Slowcoustic: Top Songs of 2011
Based on play counts. Smart looking list.

Everybody Taste: Best of 2011: The Songs

Sunset in The Rearview: Top Songs of 2011 (writers' picks)

Wild Honeypie: 50 Best Songs of 2011

Sound on the Sound: Abby's (almost entirely local) favorite songs 
Yay Seattle sounds.
New to Me: Curtains For You - What Good am I to you now?

We Listen For You: Hank and Zach's top 10 tracks of the year
It's funny how their lists are the same but different.

Music For Ants: 50 Best Songs of 2011
New to Me: Bodies of Water – Mary, Don’t You Weep

Best EPs/ 7" of 2011
Everybody Taste: The Best of 2011: Vinyl Singles & EPs
Probably my favorite list of hidden gems so far. Highly recommended. If you haven't heard FIDLAR's "Wake Bake Skate" you're really missing out.
New to Me: Hundred Visions - Last Cab From Tunis

Rawk Blog: Best of 2011: Favorite EPs/Singles

Visible Voice: Favorite EPs of 2011
New to Me: Conrad Plymouth

Best Albums of 2011
Gorilla vs. Bear: GvB's Albums of 2011
Really great list with some real gems and surprises. 
New to Me: Korallreven - As Young As Yesterday (feat. Victoria Bergsman)

Sunset in the Rearview: Top 20 Albums of 2011
Hip hop is not a genre I actively search out so I only find myself listening to it if it's recommended by Lydia (or her bff - Confusion). True story. But I love her lists because it's a bit of everything and she's not scared to put Bon Iver at #1.
New to Me: Atlas Sound - The Shakes

The Ruckus: Best 10 Albums of 2011 
No numbers, just a bunch of good albums that aren't on anybody else's lists. Check it out.
New to Me: Sleepy Vikings - White Wolves

Listen Before You Buy: Counting down every day all month.
New to Me: Ghost Heart - No Canticle

Aquarium Drunkard: 2011 Year in Review
New to me: Ben + Vesper - Consubstantiation

Ride The Tempo: Top Albums of 2011
A list based on owning the albums and top listens, which frankly makes for a much more enjoyable and interesting list. I'm a big fan of Tiana's picks and happy to see so many Canadians on the list too.
New to Me: Graham Wright - Soviet Race

Quick Before It Melts: 10 Favorite Albums of 2011 (entirely Canadian list)
You should be reading this blog if you aren't already. It's been a pleasure to read every day and the list is solid.
New to Me: Grey Kingdom - Haunted

Mixtape Muse: 10 Top Albums of 2011
It's just 10 albums but it feels like a lot more because it covers all the bases going from indie rock, hip hop, to soul.

Chromewaves: Favourite Albums of 2011
Great to see Emmy the Great getting some recognition.

Aye Tunes: Best Albums of 2011
I should probably pay more attention to Scottish music
New to Me: Adam Stafford - Fire & Theft (bandcamp)...also new to me: 90% of the list

Folk/Alt-Country Lists
Captains Dead: Top 14 Records of 2011
I look forward to his lists each year because it's always different than all the rest. 

Her #1 pick is a name your price download on bandcamp, and you should get it.
New to Me: Great American Desert - 18th & H (Formerly Known as South of Lincoln)

We actually traded long list a week ago, we have lots of overlap.

Songs: Illinois: (waiting)

We Listen For You - Best Vinyl of 2011

Music For Ants: 30 Best Videos of 2011
I don't know how anybody makes a best video list, that takes some serious time, but Music For Ants always does a great job. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fort Frances - The Lowlands

When I heard that this song was "ukulele/acoustic guitar/harmony driven" I was expecting to hear a jaunty cutesy song. But it's not like that, instead it's a gorgeous and delicate song, perfect for the winter. The ukelele is understated and blends in well. And then there's the harmonies that make your heart flutter. It's one of the prettiest songs I've heard all year, looks like 2011 has been saving the best for last. Find Fort Frances on FB and Bandcamp. They released a full length album, The Atlas, in February of this year so make sure you give it a spin.

"Don't let the years bring us to our knees, 
may love be enough to cover 
these days in the dust."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Paper Aeroplanes - Winter Never Comes

How apropos is this song for the warmest fall to winter transition we've ever experienced in the northeast? However, the last time it was this unseasonably warm, the northeast was slammed with record making snowfall in the 70s. I've been watching the weather channel a lot. This Paper Aeroplanes track was posted for a remix contest and what started as a sad yet charming acoustic folk song really did become a warm and fuzzy song in one of the winning remixes. I strongly dislike remixes, but in this case it's worth it to listen to both.

50 Favorite Songs of 2011 [25-1]

Find Songs 50-26 here
25. Churchill - The Only One
24. StartYourOwnRebellion - Live Like an Outlaw
23. Dawes - If I Wanted Someone
22. Delicate Steve - The Ballad of Speck and Pebble
21. Neighbors - Watergun
20. Jennie Abrahamson - Hard to Come By
19. Rural Alberta Advantage - Stamp
18. The Barr Brothers - Beggar in the Morning
17. Monogrenade - Ce Soir 
16. Dolorean - The Unfazed
15. The Antlers - I Don't Want Love
14. Cataldo - Rock of Calvary
13. Ambassadors - Unconsolable 
12. Cults - You Know What I Mean
11. Slow Club - Half Drunk
10. Future Islands - Before the Bridge
9. Seryn - Untitled
8. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - Heart on a String
7. The Middle East - Jesus Came to my Birthday Party
6. Other Lives - For 12
5. Sin Fang - Fall Down Slow
4. Diego Garcia - Roses and Wine
3. Shakey Graves - Built to Roam
2. Big Snow Big Thaw - Damn Allegheny
1. Of Monsters and Men - From Finner

Get The Songs:
Songs 50-26: Download ZIP
Songs 25-1 : Download ZIP
Stream Playlist: On Spotify 
 I wrote down 50 of my most listened to songs from 2011, without repeating a band, based on my account. The only flaw is that some songs had the advantage of spending more time in my library than others. There's plenty I've left out, and frankly a "best of" list would look a little bit different, but I'm really happy with how this list turned out and it's probably more interesting than an attempted best of list.  I hope you can enjoy it and maybe find some favorites too. Check out yesterday's post: songs 50 - 26.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

50 Favorite Songs of 2011 [50-26]

Compiling the "best" songs of the year is one hell of a daunting task so I decided to tackle it the easiest and most honest way I knew how. I wrote down 50 of my most listened to songs from 2011, without repeating a band, based on my account. The only flaw is that some songs had the advantage of spending more time in my library than others. There's plenty I've left out, and frankly a "best of" list would look a little bit different. However, looking at the list, I love that I can vividly remember playing these songs non-stop at certain points during the year. I hope you can enjoy it and maybe find some favorites too. Download the zip of all 25 songs.

50. Jens Lekman - An Argument with Myself
49. Daughter - Youth
48. Good Lovelies - Old Highway
47. Bill Callahan - Drover
46. Typhoon - Summer Home
45. Kurt Vile - Baby's Arms
44. Real Estate - It's Real
43. Vandaveer - Concerning Past & Future Conquests
42. TV Girl - Lizzy Come Back to Life
41.  Milo Greene - 1957
40. Joseph Giant - Out in the Breeze
39. James Vincent McMorrow - If I Had a Boat
38. The Wooden Sky - City of Light/Dancing By My Window
37. Allo Darlin' - Wu Tang Clan
36. Emma Louise - Al's Song
35. Aunt Martha - Bloodshot
34. Chamberlin - Dust
33. NewVillager - Lighthouse
32. Francois Peglau - One Minute to Midnight Dream (So Sad)
31. The Rosebuds - Woods
30. Portugal. The Man - Once Was One
29. Penny & The Quarters - You and Me
28. Fruit Bats - WACS
27. Beat Radio - Beautiful One
26. Claire Denamur - Bang Bang Bang

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Indie Christmas Songs #1

Having been sent a Christmas song as early as October, I was not looking forward to this year's onslaught of Christmas songs. But so far the one's I've heard and liked are either delightfully pissy, off kilter, or tastefully done (i.e. distinct lack of jingling bells).  I'll shut the grinch up so you can hear some tunes.

This is one you should really buy because it has a $1 minimum for 13 songs, some are original, and anything you donate goes to Austin Area Toys for Tots and to prevent hunger and homelessness in New Orleans via NOAAHH. If you like quirky carols with names like "B.Y.O. Cheer" and "All I Want for Christmas is Money", then this holiday album is for you.

Lastly, a 1 hour mix of all your favorite (or most hated depending on who you you are) christmas songs available for download with the best opening of all...a clip from Christmas Vacation featuring Mr. Griswald himself. (track list after the jump)
  Crushmas Mix by Hyper Crush

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Wooden Sky - City of Light/Dancing at My Window

The first thing I do when I return from work to my pitch black apartment, sometimes even before turning on lights, is I plug in my ipod to the good speakers. Recently, my end-of-the-day song has been The Wooden Sky's "City of Light" and it's usually being played on repeat until I feel appropriately decompressed from the day's stress. When I listen I feel like I'm finally breathing for the first time all day. This song is like a warm bath, when you get in to it you melt away. I honestly don't know how I lived without it. I'd be lying too if I told you that this ritual doesn't usually involve a glass of wine and swaying to the music while looking out the window toward the city. It's perfection.

"Soon I was lost, caught up in the light
And if I felt empty at least I was tired 
oh city of light"

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Laura Gibson - La Grande

This song is a good reminder of just how powerful the drums can be. It's a song that gets under your skin from the very start and I, for one, can't wait to hear more. Gibson describes La Grande as a place that "people usually pass through on their way to somewhere else, but which contains a certain gravity, a curious energy." She'll be touring the north east and westcoast starting in the end of January. Pre-order the album, due out January 24th, through Barsuk Records.

On The Water - An Elephants Memory

I couldn't write anything more telling about On The Water than what they wrote for their bandcamp bio.
"A folk collective of oddballs, loons and hooligans via West Philadelphia. We have a lot of fun, come join us for a show. We like to shout, stomp and holler. We make our records at Sex Dungeon Studios in Philadelphia." 
It's the perfect blend of banjo, stomping, and hollering and I love it. Oh, there's also the accordion, toy piano, and violin to love. The other nifty tidbit is that I came across this band on a recommendation from Brandon from The Larcenist who heard about them from The Pearl & The Beard. Recommendations from bands you like are the best kind. Check out On the Water's alter ego Da Comrade! too.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Huck Finn - Charles Dickens

Here's a poppy track that's been getting a lot of attention from the Huck Finn home base of Switzerland and heard about them from a friend living there asking why I hadn't heard of them yet. The band does the pop thing well and occasionally blasts you with lots of synth or electronic components. The best ones are songs like this one where they keep it simple.

Charles Dickens by HUCK FINN

Sunday, December 4, 2011

[Buried in Bandcamp] The Great American Canyon Band - Tumbleweed

"Tumbleweed" is the first single released off of The Great American Canyon Band's debut LP due out next year. I spent a solid portion of 2011 being obsessed with their Wild Heart EP which is still available on bandcamp on a name your price basis. Their music is earnest, endearing, a little bit folky, and made by a married couple, Paul and Krystal Jean Masson, just playing the music they love.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

[Video] Moses Luster & The Hollywood Lights - Lover

This video is a bit intense and NSFW, but it is perfect for a weird Saturday night. The email I got for this was short and sweet saying only: "Part Johnny Cash, Part Nick Cave and part something completely different" and you can hear those parts when you listen. A little more research showed that Moses Luster has been making music for decades. His album, I'm the Lion, is available on a name your price basis on bandcamp and is full of dark and moody tracks that are deeply satisfying. Have a listen.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bombadil - One Whole Year

Awkward is my favorite emotion. It rattles you, takes you out of any complacency you might have settled in to, humbles you, and leaves you feeling uncomfortable to your very core. Sure happy is great but a good emotional challenge does a better job as showcasing who you really are. So it's no surprise that I got all squirmy and excited over the delightfully awkward song "A Question" and then proceeded to send terribly awkward and embarrassing text messages true to form. Waiting to ask a girl out at the laundromat is pretty awkward too and there's a song about that on this album as well. Above all (and I hate to use the 'f' word but this record) is the epitome of fun. It's goofy, a bit scrappy and offers a variety ensuring that the fun never leads to boredom. Durham based Bombadil recently released the new album, All The Rain Promises, in the begining of November. It's a strong album chock full of stand out tracks. You can stream the entire album on bandcamp and check out their website too.

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