Monday, May 11, 2015

McQ's Favorite Albums Of 2014

Highest Recommends
1.     Benji – Sun Kil Moon
2.     To Be Kind – Swans
3.     Singles – Future Islands
4.     Lost In The Dream – The War On Drugs
Strong Recommends
5.     St. Vincent – St. Vincent:
6.     The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas – Courtney Barnett
7.     Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything – Thee Silver Mount Zion Orchestra
8.     Heal – Strand Of Oaks
9.     The Future’s Void – EMA
10.  Present Tense – Wild Beasts
11.  They Want My Soul – Spoon
12.  Run The Jewels II
13.  Are We There – Sharon Van Etten
Solid Recommends
14.  Blank Project – Neneh Cherry
15.  Mess – Liars
16.  Familiars – Antlers
17.  Black Messiah – D’Angelo & The Vanguard
18.  Rips – Ex- Hex
19.  The Hum - Hookworms
20.  Too True – Dum Dum Girls
21.  Atlas – Real Estate
22.  More Than Any Other Day – Ought
23.  Syro – Aphex Twin
24.  Ultraviolence – Lana Del Rey
25.  Lose – Cymbals Eat Guitars
26.  It’s Album Time – Todd Terje
27.  Burn Your Fire For No Witness – Angel Olsen
28.  The Take Off And Landing Of Everything – Elbow
29.  Divide & Exit – Sleaford Mods
30.  Pom Pom – Ariel Pink
31.  Manipulator – Ty Segall
32.  Tomorrow’s Hits – The Men
33.  Morning Phase – Beck
34.  Salad Days – Mac DeMarco
35.  I Never Learn – Lykke Li
36.  Transgender Dysphoria Blues – Against Me
37.  Luminous – The Horrors
38.  Do To The Beast – The Afghan Whigs
39.  Sea When Absent – A Sunny Day In Glasgow
40.  You’re Dead – Flying Lotus
41.  Aurora – Ben Frost
42.  LP1 – FKA Twigs
43.  Deep Fantasy – White Lung
44.  Popular Problems – Leonard Cohen
45.  Trouble In Paradise – La Roux
46.  Sunbathing Animal – Parquet Courts
47.  Songs Of Innocence – U2
48.  Commune - Goat
49.  Stay Gold – First Aid Kit
50.  After The Disco – Broken Bells
51.  Soused – Scott Walker & Sunn0)))
52.  Too Bright – Perfume Genius
53.  Rave Tapes – Mogwai
Mild Recommends
54.  Voyage – DeLux
55.  Total Strife Forever – East India Youth
56.  The Moon Rang Like A Bell – Hundred Waters
57.  Turn Blue – The Black Keys
58.  Under Color Of Official Right – Protomartyr
59.  Our Love - Caribou
60.  Wig Out At Jagbags – Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
61.  So Long, See You Tomorrow – Bombay Bicycle Club
62.  Lazeretto – Jack White
63.  Brill Bruisers – The New Pornographers
64.  Nikki Nak – Tuneyards
65.  Angels & Devils – The Bug
66.  Here and Now – Cloud Nothings
67.  III – Bo Ningen
68.  This is All Yours – Alt-J

69.  Say Yes To Love – Perfect Pussy

Saturday, May 9, 2015

COACHELLA 2015 - WEEKEND 2 REVIEW

The Mobile Butterfly: Coachella 2015's most enduring art exhibit!
Let’s start with a truism – all reviews are subjective - and with a mega-fest like Coachella, that subjectivity is further limited by the fact that at best, any one individual can only witness about one-fourth of the total musical experience.  

But out of multiple reviews, hopefully a more complete picture grows, so here are my down and dirty thoughts on what I caught Week 2 of Coachella 2015, my 8th consecutive year in attendance.

WEEKEND 2'S BEST ACTS

1. AC/DC - An unexpected but in retrospect perfect old-timer headlining choice - the band couldn't have sounded better, brought out all of their arena show production tricks, and while Brian Johnson may have lost a step (though he's lost nothing with his voice), Angus remains a spry little elf whose gymnastic grounds crossing solos proved endlessly entertaining. Possibly the greatest big dumb rock band of all time did not disappoint.  Nigel Tufnel would have been nothing but proud!

2. STEELY DAN - Sure, there's a reason these guys came up as studio musicians...Walter Becker may look like a nerdy Pixar animator, and watching Donald Fagen live at the piano is like watching a troubling Randy Newman/Ray Charles lab experiment gone wrong - but damn, can these guys play, and their hour long set included almost all of their biggest songs. At a festival renown for it's great sound, this was the best sounding set of all.

3. SWANS - Fifty-five minutes is for too short for a proper Swans set, arguably the best live band in the world at the moment...but the post rock legends still brought their A+ game, thrilling with thirty minute opener Frankie M, the opening moments of To Be Kind's Bring The Sun, and an astounding rendition of another new track Black Hole Man.

4. ST. VINCENT - Annie Clark's transformation over the years from compelling Heroin-chic indie belle to Bowie caliber freakazoid has been amazing to watch, and she was in absolute command for this electric, whacked-out fifty minute set drawing heavily from latest and best album, the self-titled St. Vincent

5. LYKKE LI - Always an intense, riveting performer, this swedish indie-pop goddess probably delivered the best orchestrated front-to-back set of the weekend, starting with latest album I Never Learn's quieter songs of heartbreak before crescendoing with massive performances of previous album Wound Rhyme's garage-y rockers Rich Kid Blues and Get Some.

Honorable Mentions: Brant Bjork And The Low Desert Punk Band, The War On Drugs, Caribou, Parquet Courts, St. Paul And The Broken Bones, Royal Blood, Kasabian, Sloan, Saint Motel, Florence + the Machine.

WEEKEND 2'S BEST SINGLE SONGS

1. SUN - CARIBOU - The single most massive moment I've experienced a Coachella since Sigur Ros ' Saturday night closer two years back in 2013.  Always an elite master of volume manipulation - words just do not do justice to how explosive this simple, repetitive closing number played.

2. CLUB FOOT - KASABIAN - Talk about raising the roof - best crowd energy at any moment of the festival.

3. BLACK HOLE MAN - SWANS - already mentioned. Amazing song.

4. LET THERE BE ROCK - AC/DC - The Angus guitar solo that wouldn't end and crossed the grounds.  Solo started with Angus on stage, continued as he moved over to a levitating platform 200 feet deep in the audience, then kept going as he ran back stage then continued soloing from the roof of their set as fire cannons burst all around him - the jam had to have gone on for 12-15 minutes and never wavered. The type of literal and figurative live fireworks you just don't get from today's younger musicians.

5. GET SOME - LYKKE LI - Another track that just swelled to epic portions before it concluded.  Fabulous set closer.

Honorable Mentions: Low Desert Punk - Brant Bjork, Fergus Gallery - Allah-Las, Seagull/Vapour Trail - Ride, Eyes To The Wind - The War On Drugs, I Never Learn - Lykke Li, Aja/Reelin' In The Years - Steely Dan, Back In Black - AC/DC, Borrowed Time - Parquet Courts, Figure It Out - Royal Blood, Busy Earnin'/Time - Jungle, Doorbell - Jack White, Type - Saint Motel, Carry The Zero - Built To Spill, Wrecking Ball - Ryan Adams, Huey Newton/Your Lips Are Red - St. Vincent, Cosmic Love - Florence + The Machine.

And now for the each day's action in a little more detail!

FRIDAY
Steely Dan delivers a bucket list performance Friday Night on the Outdoor!

Friday got off to a satisfying but unspectacular start.  Only the sparsely attended 12:55 pm Outdoor Theatre set from former Kyuss drummer Brandt Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band delivered A+ fireworks.  And unfortunately after seeing just his two incendiary opening songs, I left to catch a bit of the slightly disappointing Eagulls, who let the drone in their drone heavy post-punk songs  overpower their otherwise solid set.

Earlier that day, Los Rakas kicked things off to a spirited start with their energetic, Latin hip hop, and the Sean Lennon-fronted The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger delivered some tasty Revolver/Tame Impala flavored psychedelia.  Britian’s Ruen Brothers were less effective, with their Elvis impersonator-like vocals marring an otherwise well performed set.

Amoeba records product the Allah-Las were second best of the early daytime acts.  Their 60s garage rock isn’t exactly high energy, but they have that early Stones/Animals sound down cold, and actually have a some very accomplished songs too boot.  Enjoyed their set quite a bit.  The Reverend Horton Heat did his thing a touch earlier in the Mojave, but can’t say I was blown away…it was a well rendered pyschobilly set – nothing more, nothing less. Rounding out Saturday was an absolutely dreadful Ab-Soul (worst rap beats I’ve ever heard live), and a  slightly disappointing Charles Bradley – who while solid didn’t quite deliver the ecstatic soul highlights of previous Coachella soul acts like Vintage Trouble, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, and Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings.  Still, it was great to see this lifer whose career finally broke for him so late in the game get his moment in the spotlight.

After a break for dinner, Friday picked up big time, and ended up being one of my favorite eight hour stretches of any year of the festival. 

English shoe gazers Ride starter things off with a fine late afternoon Gobi set that got a little flat in the middle but was marvelously bookended by Nowhere tracks Seagull and Vapour TrailsThe War On Drugs took things to the next level with their 6:05 mainstage set, with Lost In A Dream cut Eyes Against The Wind's long instrumental wind down just the perfect accompaniment to the sun setting behind the mountains.  From there, Friday night only got better…after a couple of tasty songs from blues rockers Alabama Shakes, it was off to the Mojave, where Lykke Li delivered what I've already mentioned as the 2015 fest's best sequence set…her singer-songwriter cuts from latest album I Never Learn played much larger and more dynamic live than on record, then gave way to the increasingly awesome garage rockers that dominate her second and best release Wounded Rhymes. She’s been scaling back on performances this year…but after this show, I would see her again in a heart beat.

Things got better still as we moved to the aforementioned Outdoor Theatre set by Steely Dan. All I can say is what a treat, from a band I never thought I'd see in my lifetime…No Rikki or Do It Again, but they played just about everything else I most wanted to hear, and their take on the full ten minute version of Aja was to die for.

After that, things got electronic.  First, the end of Caribou…only caught one song, Sun, but as I already said, the best single song performance of the entire festival.  An unforgettable performance.  Todd Terje followed with a funky rendition of his playful debut It’s Album Time, performed with live accompaniment almost straight in sequence.  No Bryan Ferry guest appearance for Frankie and Johnny as in Week 1, but still a fine dance/electronic set.

Finally, it was time for AC/DC, who acquitted themselves like the absolute veteran pros they are…delivering crystal clear, spot on performances of all their biggest hits.  It’s funny, I was a teenager when they broke out in the 80s, and I thought they were just a dumb hard rock band at the time.  I still think that, but the years have been very kind to their music, and in retrospect, thought formulaic, it’s a formula that just works. Angus in particular was in fine form (see my Let There Be Rock comments above)…Probably one of the 10-15 sets I’ve ever seen at Coachella, and the best headlining set since the Stone Roses/Blur double bill back in 2013.  A great way to end the night.

SATURDAY

Swans kills in Saturday's finest set!
Prior to arrival, Saturday, the most rock heavy day on the lineup, seemed a sure bet to be my favorite,  but due to a number of slightly disappointing sets and a comparable lack of stylistic variety (much the result of my own set choices, admittedly), it ended up being my least favorite day of the 2015.

That said, teenage African-American sibling punk trio Radkey got things off to a fun start with a enthusiastic and impressively polished (given the band’s age) Ramones-like set.

Until The Ribbon Breaks, an up-and-coming electro-soul act provided no such thrills. This is the market dominant/overplayed genre of the moment, and this band showed no advancement on the form, instead they just seemed like another act jumping on the "what sells today" bandwagon. To their defense, I only stayed for about ten minutes, but those ten minutes I did see were among the dullest ten minutes I caught all day.

PHOX on the other hand, was wonderful.  It’s funny how as the years pass and different genres come to dominate the lineup, one gets sick of them at their peak as they overpopulate the schedule, but as they drift out of vogue, and make up a smaller portion of the bill, as richly instrumented indie and hard rock do now, they begin to sound absolutely essential. Wisconsin's  PHOX was one of just a few pure indie-sounding acts, and I found myself loving the density of their instrumentation and lead singer Monica Martin's voice.  UK Synth-rock anthem-ers COASTS brought things back to more familiar 2015 territory.  Their set was well performed, but I can't say I found their music to be anything more than guilty pleasure generic.  Ditto for Americana act Jamestown Revival

Then it was time for the day’s first high-priority act, Brooklyn’s highly adventurous art-punkers  Parquet Courts. This was one of my favorite sets of the day, but it should have been better. Not through any fault of the band, but because Goldenvoice was a year late to this party.  When a young band delivers a Top 50 of decade caliber album as Parquet Courts did in late 2013 with Light Up Gold…you don’t wait for the next release,  you book them on the spot.  But Coachella did wait, and two decent but lesser releases later, when the band finally shows up, it’s with a significantly diminished set list. Which is a shame, because while Ducking and Dodging, Pretty Machines, Bodies Made of and a few of their more recent other songs are all solid, they were no match live for the one two punch of Light Up Gold openers Master Of My Craft and Borrowed Time – two of the days best single song performances – to think if they had been booked the previous year that set list would have also included Stoned And Starving, Donuts Only, North Dakota and Tears O’Plenty only brings frustration over how great it could have been.  Regardless, this was still one of the day’s best sets.

St. Paul And The Broken Bones were even better– a white soul act fronted by a pudgy, bespectacled Harry Carry look-alike who is nonetheless a wowzer of a front man, armed with a voice to rival Otis Redding or Al Green.  Just a great tear down the roof soul set – exactly what I had hoped Charles Bradley would be the day before.

British drums and bass due Royal Blood kept the fireworks going with an overpowering, Zeppish set – hits Figure It Out and Little Monster were fantastic – and the rest of their tracks played equally huge.  These guys feel destined, along with St. Paul and Sunday’s Saint Motel, to be placing their names much higher on the poster in upcoming years.

After that it was punk legends Bad Religion,  quite good in the 30 minutes I caught (though a little of their always the same sounding catalog goes a long way), and Jack White protege, African-American garage rocker Benjamin Booker, who was solid, but underwhelming when compared to what Parquet Courts, St. Paul, Royal Blood, and Bad Religion had laid down the previous two hours.

U.K.  electro-soul act Jungle closed out the daytime hours in fine fashion.  They’ve got an interesting take on the genre, driven by group harmonies rather than a dynamic front person, and for the first two-thirds of their set, this was a slight issue.  Staged with their four vocalists side-by-side up front, there was little room for the band members to move around, making for a fairly static set, but towards the end, when they hit their best songs, especially the closing double whammy of Busy Earnin’ into Time, none of that mattered. The vibe in the tent became electric.  One of the day’s best moments.

Following Jungle, I caught a couple of minutes of Belle & Sebastian on the Outdoor (whom I had seen in a full a few days earlier in a delightful set at the Fox Theatre, Pomona, California, performance), then it was off for sudden rap superstars Run The Jewels in the Mojave. I’ve been tracking on this act since their inception, and after seeing act member Jamie Meline play Coachella twice before to near empty tents, once with his ground breaking 90s act Company Flow, and again under his solo moniker El-P in 2013, it was great to see him playing in front of a packed, enthusiastic tent.  But I can’t say I loved the show.  Jamie and Killer Mike had great energy, and their rapping was first rate, but the mix in the tent was way too heavily weighted towards the vocals…to the point where the beats were all but non-existent, a shame since their beats are fantastic.  Still a solid performance, and the fans seemed to love it.

I only caught about 20 minutes of Alt-J, a middle portion of the set that started with their latest album’s best track Left Hand Free, and ended for me with their first album’s best track Tessellate.  Bathed in neon green lights, the band was hard to see, but no matter…Alt-J is an "all about the sound" type of band, and though a very interesting act to put on the mainstage at this time of night, given how quiet much of their music is, their sound was fantastic in that way only the Coachella Mainstage on a calm desert night can deliver.

British dance-rock superstars Kasabian were up next, delivering their propulsive update on the Stone Roses’ classic paisley Madchester sound, and they were freakin' fantastic…one of the weekends true peaks. A Glastonbury-caliber headliner back in the U.K., their ability to overwhelm a crowd was blatantly apparent, and by the time they hit their all-time best track Club Foot midway through their set, the crowd was ecstatic.  Not sure why they haven’t caught on in the states, other than that they are a rock act in an era where America’s youth doesn’t listen to rock acts, but if you get a chance to see them at a festival this year…do not skip their set. This band just knows how to thrill on stage.

From a 2015 peak to one of the weekend’s biggest disappointments: Jack White’s Saturday night headlining set. 

To his credit, Jack came out gun’s blazing,, opening with a hard rocking cover of Elvis Presley’s Power Of My Love then segueing into the jammy instrumental High Ball Stepper.  But the fitful, stuttering, stop-and-start nature of High Ball Stepper would prove to be the defining characteristic of the entire show. Until main set closer My Doorbell, it felt like no song was allowed to just play, every song had to break off every minute into some instrumental detour. Many people I spoke to afterwards loved it, but for myself and my friends, the show never developed any sort of momentum, and the endless instrumental breakdowns grew increasingly tedious as the show went on despite the abundant talent of the players on stage. Things got more streamlined during the encore, which included Fell In Love With A Girl, Steady As She Goes, Sixteen Saltines, Ball and Biscuit, and Seven Nation Army, and it was easily the best part of the show, just not enough to fully overcome the negative impressions that had been forged over the eighty minutes prior.

Following Jack White, I closed the night with the back-to-back extremism of 90s hardcore legends Drive Like Jehu and overpowering post-rock gods Swans. Both shows were sparsely attended…just a few hundred at each.  Jehu was decent but unspectacular.  Swans were staggeringly good, despite some withering, Whiplash-style nastiness band leader/crazy person Michael Gira was throwing at pedal steel guitarist Christoph Hahn after Hahn ran off stage early to grab the stool the roadies had forgot to put out for him.  Only time for two and a half songs – Frankie M, the opening few moments of Bring The Sun, and then an amazing Black Hole Man, but it was without question the best set of the day and a riveting way to end the night.

SUNDAY
St. Vincent's Annie Clark takes weird to new heights in Sunday's best set!

Despite being arguably the lest impressive day on paper, Sunday 2015 proved to be quite a winner, particularly during the early hours, which delivered a number of excellent performances with a wonderful eclectic flow.

Canadian veteran power poppers Sloan jump started the day with the best opening set of the weekend. I’m not that familiar with their music, so don’t remember the song titles, but there was a three song stretch smack dab in the middle of their forty minute set that just killed.  Bottom line, as I’ve said in years past, never sleep on the old timers – experience counts.

Sometimes - next up was Blake Sennett of Rilo Kiley’s latest project Night Terrors of 1927, another anthem-y, slightly 80s leaning act like Coasts the day before.  Also like Coasts, the performances were impressive, but in service of songs that didn’t wow. After catching a few tracks, I moved on…to much better things.

Chicano Batman, a hard to pin down Mexican act that combines elements of Mariachi, garage, psychedelia, jazz, and folk were loose and chill – a great way to kill a few minutes in the early outdoor sun, and then Chapman College’s young Saint Motel were nothing short of awesome.  Blending a Franz Ferdinand-ish approach with old time Cuban/Caribbean/Tropicalia accents, the performed their joyous music with the assistance of six costumed dancers.  The entire set was just loads of fun, and by the time the band closed with their massive single Type, the small but enthusiastic crowd was ecstatic.  Another one of the week's best shows.

Following that – I scrambled over to catch what was left of Angel Olsen’s set. The answer, not much, and her closing with White Fire, my least favorite track off of her breakthrough LP Burn Your Fire For No Witness, was a slight disappointment. But her voice was amazing, probably the finest to grace the fields this year…so still a very solid set.

Two very young (just out of their teens) impressive punk/garage acts were up next – Torrance California’s Joyce Manor on the Outdoor, and suburban Chicago act The Orwells on the Main Stage. The Orwells, with their Black Lips bad-boy vibe and devil-may-care front man Mario Cuomo, seem to have the higher commercial upside, and were a lot of fun in their best moments,  but Joyce was the better of the two acts on this day…tighter, more consistent…in truth it was a very a strong performance for an act this young. Maybe the fact they were playing in front of a huge contingent of their neighborhood friends had something to do with it.

Panda Bear was a nice chill-out alternative following.  I’ve never been a huge fan of his or Animal Collective’s noodle-y electro-pychedelia, and watching a non-emotive singer standing like a statue at a sequencer for forty minutes is hardly my idea of live performance fun, but I have to admit, on this day, I found his set pleasant and relaxing, and really got into the trippy videos he had playing behind him.

Emerging country-superstar Sturgil Simpson was Coachella’s one country crossover act.  Hope he drew a much larger crowd the following week at Stagecoach…because while his Coachella crowd was meager, he was quite good, showing a versatile command of a number of country/bluegrass styles.  His uptempo numbers in particular played strong.

Built To Spill was my first of only two must sees Sunday. Always a fan of their recorded output, I’d never seen them before…but I can’t say they wowed.   Carry The Zero was awesome, it's ending jam pure bliss, and a few other killer instrumental breaks peppered the set…but overall, this one felt a little sleepy and uninspired, an effect that was amplified when they chose to close this weekend with Randy Describes Eternity instead of my all time BTS favorite Goin’ Against My Mind, which they had played the week before.

Jon Talabot justified my one foray into this year’s version of the Yuma tent. I'm a fan of him on record, but he was playing purely for the dance crowd here...just grooves, not songs…so only stuck it out for about fifteen minutes.

Jenny Lewis proved to be a pleasant enough set as the sun started to fade, working a cross of material from her solo and Rilo Kiley output. Then England's The Cribs proved to be one punk act too many for me – wasn’t in the mood for any more straight ahead bar chord rock. I stuck around for about 25 minutes, but couldn’t get into it.

Ryan Adams on the Outdoor under the last wisps of daylight proved to be the perfect antidote – one of my favorite sets of the day – especially on new ballad Wrecking Ball, which was just gorgeously rendered.  Had a fun call out to the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir also, who was watching from the sound booth.  (A move Adam’s apologized for a few minutes later after half the crowd turned around and started snapping pictures).

Following Ryan it was off for one of the weekend’s weakest sets, courtesy of Radiohead drummer Philip Selway, making a rare trip to the front of the stage.  Gotta think this booking was 90% about retaining good will with the band to secure a third Radiohead headlining slot in next year or two…cause as a front man, Philip makes a very good drummer. Would have been perfectly fine at a local coffee house, but by Coachella standards....

Sunday closed with a fine pair of female-fronted acts – St. Vincent, and the recently hobbled Florence + the Machine (Flo had broken her foot jumping from the main stage the week before.) St. Vincent killed it.  I’ve seen her all three times she’s come to Coachella, and her transformation from intriguing, strong voiced ingenue to the commanding, guitar shredding, Bowie-esque freak that took the stage this night is astonishing.  Working primarily from latest, fourth, and best LP, the self-titled St. Vincent, St. V was a tiny-stepping joy to watch start to finish. Easily the day’s best set.

Florence followed with a modified acoustic set to play more to her immobile status, and right away, I could tell this was going to be a much better show than her Outdoor closing set of 2012. I think being made to sit forced the super energetic performer to focus on her singing…prone to pitchiness, I’ve never heard her in better voice.  Though scheduled for only 30 minutes, she ended up going a full forty-five, including a duet of Gram Parsons Love Hurts with guest Father John Misty.  All in all a fitting end for my 2015 version of the the festival.

Actually, I stuck around for Drake, but he was so dreadful I refuse to consider him as the festival's final act.  In all seriousness…in my eight years of attending, there has never been a worse headlining performance.  As mailed in as mailed in gets.

And that's it for 2015 - if you were there, and have anything to add...please feel free to comment below.
Coachella 2015 nears the end! Another fine edition to the festivals legendary history!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

MCQ'S FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2013 - UPDATED RANKINGS

All right, here's an updated list of where I would rank all the 2013 albums I was able to spend a decent amount of time with.  Everything here has merit, regardless of ranking.  Obviously I'm way higher on Trouble Will Find Me and Light Up Gold than Major Arcana, but this list only contains albums I found worthwhile.

Biggest surprise for me is how much some of the years folkier releases - Once I Was An Eagle, American Kid, Dream River - grew on me as year went on, and how hard it was for me to truly buy into two of the year's most celebrated releases - MBV and Disclosure's Settle.

HIGHEST RECOMMENDS
1. Trouble Will Find Me - The National
2. Push The Sky Away - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
3. Light Up Gold - Parquet Courts

STRONG RECOMMENDS
4. Southeastern - Jason Isbell
5. Modern Vampires Of The City - Vampire Weekend
6. Sunbather - Deafhaven

SOLID RECOMMENDS
7. New Moon - The Men
8. Psychic - DARKSIDE
9. Women - Rhye
10. Holy Fire - Foals
11. The Silver Gymnasium - Okkervil River
12. Howlin - Jagwar Ma
13. Silence Yourself - Savages
14. Once I Was An Eagle - Laura Marling
15. Dream River - Bill Callahan
16. American Kid - Patty Griffin
17. Pearl Mystic - Hookworms
18. Excavation - The Haxan Cloak
19. Random Access Memories - Daft Punk
20. Immunity - Jon Hopkins
21. MCII - Mikal Cronin
22. The Worse Things Get... - Neko Case
23. The Bones Of What You Believe - Chvrches
24. Shaking The Habitual - The Knife
25. Yeezus - Kanye West
26. Reflektor - Arcade Fire
27. Cerulean Salt - Waxahatchee
28. More Light - Primal Scream
29. Absolute Zero - Little Green Cars
30. We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors - Foxygen
31. The Electric Lady - Janelle Monae
32. Muchacho - Phosphorescent
33. Pale Green Ghosts - John Grant
34. Signed And Sealed In Blood - Dropkick Murphy's
35. Virgins - Tim Hecker
36. Days Are Gone - Haim
37. Floating Coffin - Thee Oh Sees
38. Wakin On A Pretty Daze - Kurt Vile
39. Pedestrian Verse - Frightened Rabbit
40. Fade - Yo La Tengo
41. The Next Day - David Bowie
42. Kveikur - Sigur Ros
43. Slow Focus - Fuck Buttons
44. AM - Arctic Monkeys
45. ...Like Clockwork - Queens Of The Stone Age
46. Pure Heroine - Lorde
47. The Terror - The Flaming Lips
48. Innocence Is Kinky - Jenny Hval

MILD RECOMMENDS
49. The Messenger - Johnny Marr
50. Welcome To Oblivion - How To Destroy Angles
51. Monomania - Deerhunter
52. Pushin' Against A Stone - Valerie June
53. Same Trailer, Different Park - Kacey Musgraves
54. Hummingbird - Local Natives
55. Wonderful, Glorious - Eels
56. Overgrown - James Blake
57. In Guards We Trust - Guards
58. Head In The Dirt - Hanni El Khatib
59. The Bomb Shelter Sessions - Vintage Trouble
60. Settle - Disclosure
61. Jake Bugg
62. Old - Danny Brown
63. The Blowout - The So So Glos
64. Mosquito - The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
65. Wise Up Ghost - Elvis Costello & The Rootsr
66. Anxiety - Autre Ne Veut
67. Nepenthe - Julianna Barwick
68. I Hate Music - Superchunk
69. Loud City Song - Julia Holte
70. Tomorrow's Harvest - Boards Of Canada
71. Run The Jewels
72. Wondrous Bughouse - Youth Lagoon
73. Twelve Reasons To Die - Ghostface Killah
74. Grownass Man - The Shouting Matches
75. MBV - My Bloody Valentine
76. Nomad - Bombino
77. Every Kingdom - Ben Howard
78. 6 Feet Beneath The Moon - King Krule
79. Repave - Volcano Choir
80. You're Nothing - Iceage
81. 180 - Palma Violets
82. Major Arcana - Speedy Ortiz

Last Updated 09.04.2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

McQ's Best Of 2013 Mix Collection

What can I say, friends, this year life just got in the way.

But after many delays, it's time to once again look back at some of the best musical moments from  the year that just...er, some time ago...transpired.

In truth, 2013 was a down year, strong in the less accessible fringes and the ongoing psych rock movement, but otherwise weaker than normal across the board.

But even in the worst of years, there are always gems to be found, and Nancy and I have done our best to aggregate those songs that stuck with us here.

And hey, despite the lateness, summer listening is better than no listening at all, right?

So without further ado, I give to you McQ's Best Of 2013 Mix Collection.

Enjoy!

Volume 1 - Best Of The Best:
We start 2013 the same way we have the last two years, with selects representing my favorite albums and singles of the year.




Volume 2 - Groovy:
As stated above, the ongoing psychedelic revival continued to show considerable legs.  Many of my favorite 2013 moments from this movement are included here.



Volume 3 - Earnest:
Though not devoid of humor, this eclectic mix focus primarily on those 2013 artists most known for their seriousness of intent and straightforward, heart-on-their-sleeves passion.  Oh, and it also rocks.



Volume 4 - Playful:
My favorite lighter electro-pop, punk-pop, indie-pop, and mainstream hip-hop/R&B moments of 2013.



Volume 5 - Creepy / Classless / Angry / Pissed:
A mish-mash of raging punk, decadent hip-hop, axe-to-grind confessionals, troubling art rock, and searing black metal...all things off-putting are celebrated here.



Volume 6 - Mild:
Where some of 2013's best folk, alt-county, yacht-rock, choral ambient, and singer-songwriter efforts get their due.



Volume 7 - Coachella Starters:
One of my favorite editions in our annual celebration of the lesser known international and up-and-coming artists that make the early hours of each Coachella festival such a joy.



Volume 8 - Textural Marvels:
My favorite mix of this year's collection.  It just felt like all the creative energy of the world music community was channelled towards the fringes this year, with no genre benefitting more than experimental electronica, which makes up a big portion of this mix.



Volume 9 - Nancy's Favorites:
With a few dynamite exceptions, Nancy's went very mellow this year, but her song choices couldn't be stronger.



Volume 10 - Goodnight, Sweet Prince:
A tribute to Velvet Underground founder Lou Reed.

McQ's Best Of 2013 Volume 1 - Best Of The Best

Volume 1 - Best of the Best gathers my favorite singles and choice cuts from most of my favorite albums of 2013.

1. Obvious Bicycle - Vampire Weekend: From the moment I heard those amazing backing vocals, I sensed this song, my favorite from 2013’s best pop-album Modern Vampires Of The City (Strong Recommend), would open this collection. It wasn’t until later, as I focused on the lyrics, that I realized this sad micro-portrait of a struggling New York twenty-something the morning of his eviction marked the second year running I had started these mixes with a song about white economic plight.  A sign of the times? Personal fixation? Who knows? For me it really was about those backing vocals.


2. KV Crimes - Kurt Vile: A beneficiary of Nancy’s track poaching, this, the shortest track from Kurt Vile’s long and hazy but wonderfully produced stoner-mantra Wakin’ On Pretty Daze (Solid Recommend) seemed the best replacement for the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Sacrilege, which was originally slotted here.





3. Get Lucky - Daft Punk:
 Yeah, I know, you’ve heard this track from Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories (Solid Recommend) 1,000 times and you’re sick to death of it.  I don’t care.  If any throwaway summer dance hit of recent years deserves its fame, it’s this one.  As a closet Chic fan, I just never tire of that Niles Rodgers guitar. So you’ll have to listen to it one more time.





4. Tears O Plenty - Parquet Courts: My favorite track from my favorite punk album of the year, Parquet Courts often hysterical, Minutemen-flavored Light Up Gold (Highest Recommend).






5. This Is The Last Time - The National: Is this the best track from Trouble Will Find Me (Highest Recommend), my choice for album of the year?  I’m not sure, as my favorite track from Trouble changes almost daily.  What I do know is that the opening minute of this song, with its killer bass intro, gets me every time.






6. Black Skinhead - Kanye West: I’ve got mixed feelings about Yeezus (Solid Recommend), Kanye’s attempt to bring the in-your-face sonic palette of the Death Grips-inspired industrial rap movement to mainstream hip-hop. On the one hand, I admire his adventurousness and willingness to follow 2010’s brilliant My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy with an intentionally imperfect album, but as with U2’s Pop twenty years ago, I fear this marks the point in a true original’s career where he starts chasing trends rather than initiating them himself. Still, this track, with its fun Gary Glitter sample, is “Kanye, the master beat producer” at his best.

7. The Stars (Are Out Tonight) - David Bowie: Easily one of my top ten tracks of the year, this ambiguous “one foot in, one foot out” examination of the celebrity bubble from late career effort The Next Day (Solid Recommend) shows David Bowie still capable of delivering those odd but fantastic vocals that have always made him such a unique recording artist.

 


8. Down Down The Deep River - Okkervil River: God bless Okkervil River.  Now deep into their second decade, it has become clear they are one of this era’s American Music Club type acts, consistently near-brilliant, mostly accessible, should-be-huge lifers who, because of a few quirks in their style, will just never enjoy significant commercial success. This song, a Stand By Me-like reflection on bandleader Will Scheff’s childhood in rural New Hampshire from 2013’s warm, 80s nostalgia-drenched The Silver Gymnasium (Solid Recommend), is one of the band’s all-time bests. I hope you like it. They could use a few more fans.

9. Late Night - Foals: Most of the critical attention for Foal’s latest release Holy Fire (Solid Recommend) focused on its two most divergent cuts, the straight-up pop track My Number, and the bordering-on heavy metal Inhaler (featured on Vol 3 - Earnest), but this slow-burner is my personal favorite.  Note for note / sound for sound perfect, it gets my vote for the best produced song of the year.




10. Gun - Chvrches: In a down year for M83/Robin-esque electro-pop, the bright sounding but lyrically downcast Scottish act Chvrches was as good as it got. The Mother We Share (included on Volume 4 - Playful) and Recover were their 2013 debut’s (The Bones Of What You Believe (Solid Recommend)) most popular singles, but for me, when it comes to electro-pop, it’s all about the hooks, and I found Gun to be the catchiest track of them all.



11. Freaky - The Men: My favorite track from my favorite hard-rock album of the year, The Men’s Crazy Horse-inspired, country-tinged slop-fest New Moon (Solid Recommend).








12. Song For Zula - Phosphorescent: One of the year’s most celebrated songs, and definitely the year’s best rumored to have been inspire by a gorilla, Matthew Houck’s impassioned, no-verse-no-chorus alt-country ballad from Muchacho (Solid Recommend) challenges Johnny Cash’s assertion that “love is a burning ring of fire,” suggesting it instead as a soul-crushing agent of personal entrapment…a “caging” thing as powerful and impervious to will as the metal bars that restrain sad Zula of the song’s title.



13. Kinda Fuzzy - Eels: It’s not a personalized “Best Of” mix until you’ve included that one song no one else would consider, and Kinda Fuzzy from Wonderful, Glorious (Mild Recommend) fills that role for me here, just as Red Kross’s Uglier did in 2012. I’ve always loved Eels’ plainspoken, beaten-down but still-in-the-fight persona, and in particular love the escalating, herky-jerky feistiness of this song here.





14. Nitrous Gas - Frightened Rabbit: Frightened Rabbit’s 2013 release Pedestrian Verse (Solid Recommend) was much more a lyrical than a musical accomplishment, but I love the flow and acoustic feel of this tiny Celtic-tinged ballad.







15. Normal Person - Arcade Fire: One my two fav tracks from Arcade Fire’s uneven but great-in-its-best-moments fourth release Reflektor (Solid Recommend), this Stones-y throwaway captures the sense of jammy, irreverent fun the band was going for this time out better than anything else on the record. 






16. Higgs Boson Blues - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: A surreal, fever-dream evocation of late-nights on the road, focused mainly on the sinful, post-gig allure of various American cities, Higgs-Boson Blues is my favorite song of the year. Released just months before “twerk-gate” on 2013’s second best album Push The Sky Away (Highest Recommend), its creepy closing lines of “Miley Cyrus floats in a swimming pool in Toluca Lake / and you’re the best girl I’ve ever had” garnered a lot of attention, and inspired more than one critic, oddly, to label it the most prescient song of 2013 (as if a fifty-plus industry outsider like Cave gives a damn about the direction of pop culture). I…having actually passed Ms. Cyrus outside her home a couple times while on lunchtime walks (I used to work in that Toluca Lake neighborhood), and having seen the surprising number of young starlets Cave attracts to his L.A. Bad Seeds/Grinderman shows…interpret the song’s ending a bit, um, shall we say, less metaphorically. Whether I’m right or not…still the best song of 2013.

17. Relatively Easy - Jason Isbell2013 may have been a down year musically, but it was an exceptional year for lyrics. Parquet Courts, The National, Frightened Rabbit, Okkervil River, John Grant, and Vampire Weekend, just to name the obvious, left indelible impressions with their words. But in the end, no wordsmith was as impressive in 2013 as one-time Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell on his marvelous singer-songwriter release Southeastern (Strong Recommend), and this track, the album’s moving, “be grateful for what you have” closer, seemed a fine way to end this mix.