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  • Top 50 Albums of 2017

    Feature Article, List, Music Comments

    On January 8, 2018 • By

     

    What an insane year. Looking back on 2017, I doubt it will make anyone’s “Top 10 Years of All Time” list (and if it does, you should probably cut off all communication with them). You know why and I know why. It was chaos with the worst parts of humanity being normalized day-by-day. But as 2016 ended, there was a chorus of folks speaking out about how this time period of extreme pressure could produce some great art. And dammit, they were right.

    Now, with regards to music, how much did the events of 2016 (and part of this year) influence the albums released in 2017? It’s  hard to say but it FEELS like it had at least some sort of measurable effect (I imagine 2018’s crop of albums will be far more up front about it). Regardless, some fantastic art was created here, no matter where the inspiration came from. And man, was there a LOT of great music made in 2017. In fact, there is such an abundance that this was the first year where I pretty much had to throw in the towel with the idea of listening to EVERY GREAT ALBUM released. In the past, it was more or less manageable – meaning, I could at least listen to all of the “big ones” and check out highly praised new recommendations. But this time, it was too much and that is a great problem to have.

    It’s a bit of an annoyance when I hear people say “there’s no more good music being made” because it reveals more about that person than the actual realm of music we’re experiencing right now. You only have to barely dig to find some jewels here. Not only are there the standard music reviews you can find in magazines (you still buy those, right?) and at online websites, but Spotify and Tidal have some amaaaaazing playlists that constantly introduce you to incredible artists you’ve never heard of before. Sure, the radio isn’t much help these days with finding your new favorite singer, but the internet has you covered.

    I’m not sure why, but this year gave me a feeling of flexibility and fluidity. Perhaps it’s the constantly evolving nature of our culture, the whirlwind barrage of news or the shifting centers of power when it comes to technology; nothing seems set in stone. Things can be changed on a whim. Empires can be toppled overnight. Heroes can emerge in a flash. With that in mind, I lifted my completionist urges to listen to every.single.album and let it all flow around me. This means that, yes, there are some big albums I haven’t listened to yet – some of which are in the top 10 lists of big music sites. When I get to them, I may edit this list below.

    So anyways, here it is – my 50 favorite albums of 2017.

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    50.) Migos – Culture

    49.) Omar Souleyman – To Syria, With Love

    48.) James Vincent McMorrow – True Care

    47.) Foxygen – Hang

    46.) Anohni – Paradise

    45.) Goldfrapp – Silver Eye

    44.) Thundercat – Drunk

    43.) Death From Above – Outrage! Is Now

    42.) Brand New – Science Fiction

    41.) Algiers – The Underside of Power

    40.) Queens of the Stone Age – Villains

    39.) The Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody

    38.) EMA – Exile in the Outer Ring

    37.) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – The Tourist

    36.) Real Estate – In Mind

    35.) Lupe Fiasco – Drogas Light

    34.) Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound

    33.) The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

    32.) Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins

    31.) Rose Elinor Dougall – Stellular

    30.) Jay Som – Everybody Works

    29.) Chaz Bundick Meets The Mattson 2 – Star Stuff

    28.) Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly & James McAlister – Planetarium

    27.) Spoon – Hot Thoughts

    26.) Kelela – Take Me Apart

    25.) Perfume Genius – No Shape

    24.) Arcade Fire – Everything Now

    23.) Throwing Snow – Embers

    22.) Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog

    21.) Feist – Pleasure

    20.) Beach House – B-Sides and Rarities

    19.) Slowdive – Slowdive

    18.) Phoenix – Ti Amo

    17.) Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

    16.) Father John Misty – Pure comedy

    15.) Paramore – After Laughter

    14.) Jay-Z – 4:44

    13.) Arca – Arca

    12.) Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory

    11.) The National – Sleep Well Beast

    10.) St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION

    9.) Kesha – Rainbow

    8.) Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy

    7.) Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up

    6.) The XX – I See You

    5.) LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

    4.) Passion Pit – A Tremendous Sea of Love

    3.) Lorde – Melodrama

    2.) Blanck Mass – World Eater

    1.) Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder

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  • Top 50 Albums of 2016

    Feature Article, List, Music Comments

    On January 6, 2017 • By

    savages the band live

     

    Well here we are once again – another year passed as we are hurled into the unknown future. 2016 has been an absolute whirlwind for everyone involved, there’s no questioning that. But what’s great is, no matter what challenges we face, no matter how much hope is lost or how bleak certain parts of the future look, we can always depend on great art to be released. And many times, chaos in the world can breed our most beloved works.

    As I look back on 2016, I’ve come to realize that music is probably the art form I consume the most. I am usually working day and night on film projects so I don’t get to catch as many movies as I would like (this is something I want to change in 2017). When I get a few hours free before I go to bed, it’s hard to convince myself to spend it leisurely when I know there is so much work I have left to do. This is also the reason why I don’t get to read too many books, even though I LOVE reading (despite the fact that I’m a bit of a slow reader). But music has a portability that movies and books often don’t. I can take it anywhere, which allows me to soak in sounds no matter what I’m doing. (Yes, I know I could do audiobooks like this too but I’m not a huge audiobook fan. I like highlighting stuff and flipping back and forth)

    This is why I think music is such a bigger part of our lives than many people realize. It’s everywhere you go; it’s all over TV, movies, it’s in grocery stores, clothing shops, restaurants. And speaking of “everywhere you go”, 2016 may be the year where streaming reached its pivotal turning point. Streaming has exploded and I don’t think there’s any going back, for better or worse. The good news is that paid subscriptions have risen a ton within the last year. The bad news is, artists are still paid tiny fractions of what they should be earning. The other bad news is the amount of downloads has decreased considerably. The streaming paradigm says something about our cultural philosophies as a whole – we want access to everything, all the time, everywhere we go. Even if that means not actually owning the songs.

    On some levels, it’s hard to argue against that model strictly speaking from the point of view of the consumer. You pay a monthly fee and get access to millions of songs that you can play wherever you go, as much as you want. And the monthly fee is usually less than the cost of one single album. It’s cheap and convenient – which is what practically every consumer wants. I imagine streaming is only going to get bigger so I hope the royalty rates for artists continue to climb.

    But anywaysssss….enough of that, let’s get to business. As always, I want to make it clear that these are my PERSONAL FAVORITES and I’m not saying these are the undisputed, objectively best albums of 2016. These are MY top albums, plain and simple, that adhere to my musical tastes. The good news is, I have a pretty decent taste in music so no bullshit will be found here – that I can guarantee. And although I put them in a certain order, you must understand that every single one of these albums is fantastic. The number 50 album on this list is better than most of the music I heard last year so please, give every album on this list a chance.

    Here we go!

    50. Holy Wave – Freaks of Nurture
    49. Eureka California – Versus
    48. Seth Bogart – Seth Bogart
    47. Chance the rapper – Coloring Book
    46. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
    45. Whitney – Light Upon the Lake
    44. Empire of the Sun – Two Vines
    43. Explosions In The Sky – The Wilderness
    42. Deakin – Sleep Cycle
    41. Kendrick Lamar – Untitled Unmastered
    40. Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch
    39. Night Moves – Pennied Days
    38. Porches – Pool
    37. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
    36. Young Thug – Jeffrey
    35. Maxwell – blackSUMMER’Snight
    34. Local Natives – Sunlit Youth
    33. ANOHNI – hopelessness
    32. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3
    31. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
    30. Woods – City Sun Eater In The River of Light
    29. of Montreal – Innocence Reaches
    28. MMOTHS – Luneworks
    27. Frightened Rabbit – Painting Of A Panic Attack
    26. Crystal Castles – Amnesty (I)
    25. Julianna Barwick – Will
    24. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani – Sunergy
    23. Vince Staples – Prima Donna
    22. White Lung – Paradise
    21. Frank Ocean – Blonde
    20. Angel Olsen – My Woman
    19. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
    18. Schoolboy Q – Blank Face LP
    17. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
    16. Peter, Bjorn and John – Breakin Point
    15. Kevin Morby – Singing Saw
    14. Holy Fuck – Congrats
    13. M83 – Junk
    12. Beyonce – Lemonade
    11. Paul Jebanasam – Continuum
    10. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
    9. Brandy Clark – Big Day in a Small Town
    8. JEFF the Brotherhood – Zone
    7. Bon Iver – 22, a Million
    6. Solange – A Seat at the Table
    5. The Avalanches – Wildflower
    4. Ra Ra Riot – Need Your Light
    3. Yeasayer – Amen & Goodbye
    2. David Bowie – Blackstar
    1. Savages – Adore Life

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  • David Bowie: Losing a Legend

    David Bowie, Feature Article, In Memoriam, Music Comments

    On January 12, 2016 • By

    David-Bowie---ziggy-album-inside

    Like many of you, I woke up this morning to find out that David Bowie had passed away at the age of 69, just a few days after his birthday. Like many of you, I was utterly shocked – still am, to be honest. I don’t think a lot of people knew what was happening with his health and it kind of came out of nowhere for a lot of us. It’s been a strange day and I’ve struggled to collect all of my thoughts together. This post is an attempt to shape the objects swimming in my mind that desperately need to be pulled out.

    I feel very sad, depressed, and utterly heartbroken; I’ve never felt this much for a celebrity death before. It’s a bit of a strange feeling, to mourn for someone you’ve never met, who never knew you existed in the first place. If you died, would they have mourned for you? Probably not. This is why I’ve felt some confusing feelings about his death – I never knew him personally, he never knew me, we never hung out, I’ve never even seen him play live before. Who am I to feel like this? Hell, who am I to even write a blog post about it? Compared to David’s family, friends,and collaborators, I am nothing, and what I’m feeling can’t possibly hold a candle to the amount of pain they’re being overwhelmed with today. Who cares about how I feel or what I have to say about the matter? Especially considering the thousands (maybe even millions) of other websites, magazines, and blogs commenting on this event?

    However, I don’t think that just because other people are feeling a greater amount of emotion, I should just discard my own personal feelings – that would be absurd (see what I mean by “confused”?). I guess all I can really do is just talk…talk about how a man from England greatly affected the life of a man born & raised in Oklahoma. He is one of my idols, plain and simple. He (along with Paul McCartney) shaped the foundation of who I am as an artist, along with giving me bountiful inspiration for the type of artist I want to grow into. From just a pure songwriting perspective, he obviously has amazing chops when it comes to banging out a tune. He had an otherworldly talent that allowed him to weave disparate threads of far ranging ideas into a potent latticework of relatable sensations. His great ability was in crystallizing his thoughts and dreams with astounding clarity. That, in and of itself, is something to aspire to. For me, my reverence for Bowie went beyond just the songs because I identified with him more as a person.

    David Bowie was someone who was restless with his creativity, constantly soaking up all facets of the art world and synthesizing them into his own inventions. I identify with this because I myself am a pretty restless individual (which certainly causes problems when I need to get to sleep at night). I love art so much, I decided to dedicate my life to it. I love it all – music, paintings, poetry, film, novels, theater, and anything else. I felt a connection in that regard to this man; he was someone I saw as a guiding light for how I wanted to live my life. He showed me that it was possible to have a career where you can successfully jump back and forth between different musical styles and personas. A career where you could do all that AND star in some amazing films. And paint. And direct. Do anything, really. He gave me confidence in my choices, in unashamedly loving art while knowing how pretentious that can seem to others on the outside..and not caring one bit.

    When I found out the news, it felt like a light went out inside me. Whether that’s melodramatic or not, that’s for you to decide, but that’s how it felt. This was someone I grew up with and a sort of role model in the sense of how I wanted to approach my career (not the moralistic “role model” people in America often refer to). I had high hopes of seeing him live. Of meeting him. Of getting to work with him. The knowledge that those things are impossible now really gets to me. There’s nothing anyone can do. It happened and it’s over, simply put. The weird part is, when I think about how he affected me and how I wish I could’ve done this, done that, I feel kind of selfish. Like my mind is somehow making this about myself, looking at all the ways this person affected ME. I guess that’s kind of the point about art, though, right? To affect people somehow? It’s not a rhetorical question, I really don’t know the answer. The possibility of selfishness makes me feel sick and guilty, which further adds to the confusion.

    bowie02

    I kept wondering if there was any way to avoid this. What if they finished their clinical trials for curing cancer sooner? Could he have been saved? I’m sure they did absolutely everything possible to keep him alive but it’s still something I ponder. I think about the multiverse and how I could be living in an alternate timeline where he’s still alive and lives to be 100. I think about how great that would be and if we would all be happier there. Then I wonder about the timeline where he’s not a musician at all and none of his art was ever created. That would be a terrible timeline to live in. I’ve seen a lot of people talk about how we should be thankful we got to experience his presence in real time, which, I of course can agree with. But the thought hasn’t really helped me, either. I don’t entirely know why because I’m usually a very logical person. That part of my brain has been on vacation today, apparently.

    Today was hard, a lot harder than I thought it would be. I got up, made coffee and felt the unrelenting urge to learn how to play “Ziggy Stardust” on guitar. The weird thing is, I had just downloaded that song onto Rocksmith (video game where you play real guitar) the night before and played through it. I sat down with my blue Fender Stratocaster and played the song, over and over, until I learned all of it. I tried to turn my emotions into a song but I couldn’t think straight, so that plan went to hell. So I kept doing busywork to try and take my mind off of all this. I have a sick dog to take care of, which helped give me something to focus on. I can see how this would come across as being silly to others on the outside, especially if they had no idea who David Bowie was. Whatever.

    Perhaps part of what makes it hard is the gut punch of time passing through our fingers. It’s a terrible, terrible reminder of how mortal we are. How even starmen who have traveled to Mars and back will one day succumb to man’s greatest threat. Realizing that a lot of time has passed and will continue to pass. All of our heroes will one day be gone, one by one, and it really sucks. Given how many of our legendary artists come from the baby boomer generation, these next 15 years or so are going to be really rough. What other artists could possibly step up to the towering legacies of Bowie, McCartney, Dylan, Elton John? Perhaps that’s why this feels like such a big loss – the man was an undisputed ground breaker. He changed culture across decades, across generations. What other artists have come close to this in the past 20 years? Will there be any other musicians now or in the future who can build a legacy that compares to the likes of those I just mentioned? Can it even be done anymore?

    I hope I can have just a fraction of the impact he had on this world. It made me wonder about what I’m contributing, who is receiving the art I create and how it’s affecting things. It can be easy to get lost in the technical aspects of making films or music. Taking a step back to see how your work fits into the overall culture is highly beneficial, I’ve come to realize. There are days where I feel like art doesn’t do shit with “changing the world”, no matter how loudly the hippie voice in my head politely screams. On those days, I feel almost delusional, like I’ve built a nice little web of comfort to give me that courage to keep doing what makes me happy – even if it all gets swallowed up in the void at the end. And then there are days like this where the passing of an icon makes it seem like an earthquake split the Earth in half, with humans from many continents expressing their loss. It gives me hope that music can change people, can change the course of their lives. What an amazing thing that would be.

    If I had to describe Bowie in one word, it would be “explorer”. He strikes me as someone with endless curiosity and imagination. I am almost certain he is currently exploring another part of our dimensional existence and it is blowing his mind. He probably wishes we could see what he’s seeing, hear what he’s hearing. If only there was a way to communicate the experience. I never met him. I never saw him live. He never even knew I existed, yet, he changed me as a person and gave me guidance, for which I will forever be grateful. That sounds kind of amazing, doesn’t it?

    I’m really going to miss you David.

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  • Top 50 Albums of 2015

    Feature Article, List, Music Comments

    On January 8, 2016 • By

    panda bear

     

    Here we are again! Another year gone, another review of the best music that soundtracked our lives. To me, it seems the industry as a whole has gone through changes, but a lot of which point to previous decades. Not too long ago, I was having a discussion with someone as to what this decade’s musical identity sounds like. It’s easy to pinpoint sounds from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, even perhaps the 90’s, but what kind of identifiable sound have we cultivated from 2010-2015? It’s hard to say because so many artists have culled their audible sheen from decades long past. Hell, Taylor Swift rebuilt her latest aesthetic after the sounds of the 80’s and has been wearing it as a badge of honor. Have we become more nostalgic as a culture? Although I’m sure every generation has their fair share of “back-in-my-day” fist shaking, the current population seems very intent on revisiting a known-good well of entertainment.

    You can even look at our movie landscape as an example: two of the biggest hits of the year came from continuations of Jurassic Park and Star Wars. When listening to music, it seems that a lot is snatched from the steely sounds of the 80’s along with R&B/Neo-soul of the 90’s. Everyone seems to be looking back in some sort of way. What decades will the next few years pull from? Will it advance into the future? I don’t know, obviously, and this subject could turn into an entire article itself.

    To step away from the aesthetic stylings of the music, I want to touch on the attitudes of the public as a whole. I’ve probably said it before that I really hate it when someone exclaims “there’s no good music being made anymore” because it’s A.) completely untrue and B.) downright lazy. There is SO much music being put out now, there is an album for every niche and need you can think of. To further illustrate the point though, I want to talk a bit about my own personal listening habits. See, this year, I tried to keep track of how many albums I listened to. Here is my final calculation:

    • 180 albums (that I managed to track. There may be more I didn’t track)
    • 80+ albums I didn’t have time to get around to (that are in my queue)

    Keep in mind that all of those albums above are recommendations or have great reviews. Meaning, those are the BEST of the BEST from each month! More than 250 albums and those are ranging from mid-level indie to major label. Who knows how many great small label/local albums were released that were barely promoted.

    My point is, there is no excuse for not listening to great music. There is an abundance of it released every year and all you have to do is check for it. While streaming services like Spotify, Tidal and the like are still controversial, they make it easier for you, as a listener, to discover great music. Need a few places to start? I recommend looking at Allmusic.com’s Editors Choice, Pitchfork’s Best New Albums, and Stereogum’s Heavy Rotation.

    Alright, enough babbling and philosophizing. You didn’t come here for my words! You came here for the LIST! Here it is below, in all it’s glory:

     

    50.) The Cribs – For All My Sisters

    49.) Wilco – Star Wars

    48.) Lower Dens – Escape from Evil

    47.) Earl Sweatshirt – I don’t like shit, I don’t go outside

    46.) Mark Ronson – Uptown Special

    45.) Holly Herndon – Platform

    44.) Miley Cyrus – Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz

    43.) Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love

    42.) A$AP Rocky – At.Long.Last.A$AP

    41.) Tyler, the Creator – Cherry Bomb

    40.) Sam Prekop – The Republic

    39.) Skylar Spence – Prom King

    38.) Wavves –  V

    37.) Screaming Females – Rose Mountain

    36.) CHVRCHES – Every Eye Open

    35.) Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss

    34.) Belle &  Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

    33.) Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit & Think and Sometimes I just sit

    32.) Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again

    31.) The Amazing – Picture You

    30.) Destroyer – Poison Season

    29.) Coldplay – A Head Full of Dreams

    28.) Grimes – Art Angels

    27.) Milo Greene – Save Yourself

    26.) Madeon – Adventure

    25.) Tobias Jesso Jr – goon

    24.) The Go! Team – The Scene Between

    23.) FKA Twigs – M3LL155X

    22.) Miguel – Wildheart

    21.) Beach House – Depression Cherry

    20.) Tame Impala – Currents

    19.) Toro y Moi – What For?

    18.) Blur – Magic Whip

    17.) Deerhunter – Fading Frontier

    16.) Deafheaven –  New Bermuda

    15.) Arca – Mutant

    14.) Kamasi Washington – The Epic

    13.) Baroness – Purple

    12.) Father John Misty – I Love You Honeybear

    11.) Neon Indian – Vega Intl. Night School

    10.) FFS – FFS

    9.) Dr.  Dre – Compton

    8.) Jamie XX – In Color

    7.) Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

    6.) Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

    5.) Florence + the machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

    4.) Panda Bear – Panda Bear vs the Grim Reaper

    3.) Oneohtrix Point Never – Garden of Delete

    2.) Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion

    1.) HEALTH – Death Magic

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  • “Something There” – Music Video Sequence

    Feature Article, Music, Original Film, Original Music Comments

    On May 19, 2015 • By

    Some of you may know about a little short film I did a few years back called Trying My Best to Love You. The centerpiece of the film is without a doubt the music video sequence. It was created over a span of 3 months utilizing 700 (!) original paintings. I decided to split that sequence off and display it here for all of those who missed it.

    The song is called “Something There”, which is a piece that I wrote, recorded and produced myself. One of these days, I’ll put out the full-length version of the song. Until then, enjoy this special, 1 1/2 minute psychedelic experience!

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