Rob Masiello review The National’s new album “I Am Easy to Find.”
Adam Vitcavage liked lists long before Buzzfeed figured out how to monetize them. So now he wants to share his love of lists with you. Each week, he’ll round up a list featuring anything anything pop culture related from literature to music to cool designers that you should buy prints from. Welcome to LISTcavage.
Are you over all of those end of year lists telling you why the same group of songs are the best of the year? Okay, I get it. Kendrick Lamar is king. Kesha went from that singer with a dollar sign in her name to producing one of the most beautifully heartbreaking albums of all time. Those are great. But here are 17 songs from 2017 that might have flown under the radar. Or not. Either way, check out this playlist.
“Yours” by Now, Now
Their first single in half a decade—“SGL”—was NPR’s seventh favorite song of the year and my first. Their second single was more synth-filled, but just as catchy. Cacie Dalager’s vocals over Brad Hale’s instrumentation is alt-pop heaven.
“Same Dark Places” by JR JR
After an episode on stage, Josh Epstein wrote this infectious song about how we all might have similar demons, which is okay as long as we know where to find the light. He and Daniel Zott have been slaying for years, but, according to Twitter, they plan on just releasing a slew of singles for the next year or so.
“Runaway” by A.W.
A.W. released quite a few albums under their previous name Allison Weiss. Those albums were lovesick ego power ballads that were terrific. Now, they shifted their sound and wrote one of the catchiest songs of the year alongside Tegan Quin from Tegan and Sara.
“Call It Off” by Chvrches (Tegan and Sara cover)
Since I mentioned the twin sisters earlier, I figured I should include one of the covers from their 2007 album that was re-released with unique covers. Lauren Mayberry is one of my favorite vocalists right now and this is one one my favorite Tegan and Sara songs. It was a perfect match.
“Recite Remorse” by Waxahatchee
Katie Crutchfield's "Out in the Storm" album got a lot of recognition in the indie world this year lead by “Never Been Wrong.” It was the slower burning “Recite Remorse” that resonated with me so much though. Her vocals and the ambient chords are the perfect sonic blend that I’m always seeking.
“Management of Savagery” by Richard Edwards
He was the leader of a pretty popular (in the cult sense) band called Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s. This is a random song off his official debut album that I just really love. He told me in an interview that it was inspired by how awful ISIS made him feel. So that’s… pretty different
“Objects” by Big Thief
They’re is another premiere indie band from 2017 with a lot of songs getting a lot of street cred. This song is a deep, deep, deep cut from their album that just has a lot of short, sweet guitar riffs.
“Never Start” by Middle Kids
These Aussies have five songs to their name and I’m cheating by suggesting you definitely listen to their most popular “Edge of Town” along with this song. Both are just the type of indie rock that you would imagine being in a Michael Cera movie ten years ago, but with the refined taste that the indie blogosphere has come to demand now.
“North South East West” by Japandroids
These guys were topping all of the "best of" lists a few years back, but I haven’t seen too many people crushing on their recent album as much. Maybe it's worse? I don’t think so and this song is definitely catch. Check out their older stuff if there’s even an inkling of “oh yeah, that’s nice” when listening to this song.
“Take It” by Jay Som
Jay Som was actually the breakout band in the alternative world. Melina Duterte created it all herself from the crunchy guitars to the no-gimmick drumming. “The Bus Song” was in most people’s (including myself) top indie rock songs of the year. But I always had a soft spot for this track that’s nearly at the end of the album.
“Guardian” by Tigers Jaw
These guys sound like your favorite band from high school. They perfected that power pop punk vibe and have a lot of fun playing live. It’s easy to turn on any of their songs and feel nostalgia even though they released this song in 2017.
“Ride It Out” by TW Walsh
This man is criminally underrated in mainstream rock. The stuff he does my layering so many pleasant sounds but giving them all space to breath is outstanding. He’s a jack of all trades and he has mastered them all.
“Hot Thoughts” by Spoon
Speaking of giving room to breath, this song does so much, but it’s not in your face. It’s fun, but in the kind of way that sneaks up on you.
“Treasure” by Company of Thieves
Company of Thieves put out two unique records a few years ago and then basically disbanded. Genevieve, their lead singer put out some ultra pop music, but they reunited this year and recorded this single that blends their old quirky rock with some poppy undertones.
“Inner Lover” by Land of Talk
While everyone is shifting toward poppy synths, Land of Talk keeps it absolutely dreamy on this song. From Elizabeth Powell’s vocals to the soft snare drum hits. It’s relaxing without being tiresome.
“Shades” by Alexandra Savoir
I don’t actually know too much about Savoir and honestly haven’t listened to her album that much, but this song kills me. That funky bass tickling my ears in the background is just… *mwah*.
“Praying” by Kesha
Screw what I said in my intro. This song is too gorgeous not to put on this list.
By Robert Masiello
Another year races by, another onslaught of fantastic music releases to keep up with. In a world that appears to be “going to shit,” as a dear friend put it so eloquently last month, it only seems fitting that many of the year’s very best albums are somewhat tortured and unpredictable.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, however, with pop music finding new saviors in Grimes and Carley Rae Jepsen.
The following selection represents a peek of what the year had to offer, but is by no means comprehensive. More importantly, this is not a ranked list. It is incomprehensible to rank high quality music, particularly across genres. How could it be argued that the year’s best techno release is somehow “better” than one of the superb folk offerings?
That being said, Writer’s Bone presents to you the 10 Best Albums of 2015:
“Art Angels” by Grimes
Tumblr kids lost their shit when Grimes released “Visions” in 2012, a set of ethereal, handcrafted electronic pop tracks that needed no big-name collaborators to gain traction. At that point, I didn’t quite get Grimes. I respected her, but “Visions” didn’t resonate with me the way it did with others. As such, when it was finally revealed that she was releasing a follow up, I couldn’t buy into the hype. Factor in a pre-release video that basically encompassed everything I found irritating about her, as well as the promise of “alter-egos” and diss tracks on the new album, and I never even intended to give “Art Angels” a listen. Fortunately, I came around. This is a maniacal, subversive, thrilling, infectious beast of an album. Entirely self-produced, this isn’t the sound of Grimes selling out; it’s the sound of a songwriting force to be reckoned with. Best of all, it’s not a cynical or ironic take on pop music. It just slays.
“Vulnicura” by Bjork
While nothing that Bjork puts her name on could be considered bad, it’s safe to say that her releases over the past 10 years didn’t quite measure up to her classics such as “Homogenic” and “Vespertine.” Fortunately that changes with “Vulnicura,” a devastating breakup album that could not have been made by anyone else. This album chronicles her failed marriage to Matthew Barney with mesmerizing arrangements, soaring vocals, and searing lyrics. This may be Bjork’s “complete heartbreak album,” as she explained in an interview, but she never plays the victim. “I am bored of your apocalyptic obsessions,” she seethes in the stunning centerpiece “Black Lake.” Distinctive producers Arca and The Haxan Cloak lend a haunting electronic soundscape to several tracks, but this is Bjork’s work, and she’s never overshadowed by their input.
“A Year With 13 Moons” by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma
“A Year With 13 Moons” is a stunning foil to “Vulnicura.” Both are “breakup albums,” but whereas “Vulnicura” is propelled by Bjork’s dynamic voice and painstaking lyrical details, “A Year With 13 Moons” lacks both words and voice. Not quite ambient and not quite shoegaze, these 16 tracks represent the gradual disintegration of a relationship, capturing moments of romance, longing, and disappointment along the way.
“Grind” by DJ Richard
No, perhaps the world didn’t need another icy, bleary-eyed techno record. But if it’s good as this, we’ll take it. It’s 2:00 a.m., and you just stepped out of the club. Your eyes adjust to the streetlights. You’ve sent your ex a text you’ll most definitely regret in the morning. Your cab driver is quiet, and the only sound is a cold rain against the windshield. Your life has never felt more cinematic than this exact moment. This is the soundtrack. As far as techno goes, Grind won’t necessarily light up the dance floor, but it will accompany you in the afterhours.
“Carrie & Lowell” by Sufjan Stevens
I had lost hope in Sufjan Stevens. Of course, like every other sensitive teen of the 00’s, his seminal album Illinois provided a wistful soundtrack to my high school experience. But after the overblown, misguided mess that was 2010’s “The Age of Adz,” I had no interest in his output going forward. Then this year, he dropped the delicate, masterful Carrie & Lowell, a poignant examination of his troubled relationship with his late mother. The album tackles big themes—grief, neglect, suicide, lapsed Christianity—with grace and wisdom. Rather ironic that, in detailing the collapse of his faith, Sufjan crafted his most spiritual album to date.
“Wildheart” by Miguel
Imagine if Lenny Kravitz and Bruno Mars recorded an album together. Now imagine if it didn’t suck. I know that’s a tall order, but it’s the only way I can begin to describe “Wildheart.” Miguel’s comeback somehow fuses R&B, funk, and dad rock into a breezy, hook-filled album that sounds like little else. Tackling a variety of subject matter, from fleeting relationships (“Leaves”) to igniting a party (“Waves”), Miguel is flawless throughout. Better yet, “Wildheart” is devoid of the misogyny and tastelessness that continues to plague neo-R&B artists like The Weeknd.
“E*MO*TION” by Carley Rae Jepsen
The woman behind 2012’s inescapable “Call Me Maybe” released a sublime pop album this year and…no one bought it. The singles flopped. Pop radio ignored her. Please tell me what’s going on here. In a world where smut like “Cheerleader” and “Rude” become number one hits, the impeccably executed songs of “E*MO*TION” have gone largely unheard. It’s a shame, because Jepsen is smart, talented, and just the right amount of weird. Whether she’s falling in love, falling out of love, or cruising for a hookup, the music is catchy, charming, and quirky from start to finish.
“Frozen Niagara Falls” by Prurient
Little can be said about this massive double-album, which sits at the intersection of electronic music and black metal, it simply must be experienced. “Frozen Niagara Falls” features tortured vocals, blitzkriegs of noise, and harsh static; it’s not for the faint of heart. And yet, for all its nihilism and despair, it’s perhaps Prurient’s most accessible work yet. The album’s narrative focuses on New York City, painting it mostly as an unforgiving, dystopian world. But for all its bleakness, the core of this album nearly begs for human connection. “The East River isn’t romantic anymore you know / that’s where the suicides go,” he mutters on “Greenpoint,” one of the few moments where his words come through with clarity.
“Platform” by Holly Herndon
One could conceivably write a thesis about “Platform,” so trying to interpret it in 100 or so words feels unjust. This album is many things. It’s a series of electronic compositions that celebrate the human voice. It’s an unhinged critique of capitalism. It’s an ode to technology. It’s a warning. It’s a masterpiece.
“M3LL155X” by FKA Twigs
No one is making music like FKA Twigs right now. No other artist possesses her clarity of vision, her focus, her sultriness, or her strength. Last year’s “LP1” dazzled, but her “M3LL155X” (pronounced “Melissa”) EP from this year is somehow even stronger. Equal parts terrifying, mesmerizing, and beautiful, “M3LL155X” showcases FKA Twigs’ most complex, enthralling songwriting to date. “In Time” probably has the most Top 40 potential of any song she’s released, sounding like a darker, more lush Rihanna track. But while Rihanna often sounds like she’s being brash for the sake of being brash, FKA Twigs’ songs are far more confident and elegant.
For more playlists, check out our full archive.
By Robert Masiello
“I sat listlessly on my porch at home, crying over the way summer would not come again, never the same.”—Sylvia Plath
I’ve always hated autumn. I realize this puts me in the minority of New Englanders, most of whom embrace the season’s brisk air, bright foliage, and pumpkin-flavored whatever. Don’t get me wrong, I see the appeal—the nights are more comfortable for sleeping, the clothes are more fashionable, the restlessness of summer finally simmers, and the world slows down. But this season is also tied to an undercurrent of melancholy and decay. The days are shorter, and darkness nestles itself into the workday little by little. The leaves, though vibrant, are ultimately an ode to impermanence. Even the air is sinister, teasing us with a feeling of crispness before ushering in more biting temperatures. Fall is deceptive, masking atrophy with beauty.
I don’t liken my disdain for autumn to emotional maturity. In fact, it may well be evidence of the opposite, of an unwillingness to let go of the past and find hope in transitions. My tendency for bouts of nostalgia probably doesn't help matters, with the onset of fall serving not only as a reminder of the fleeting joys of summer, but also missed opportunities and unmet expectations. By the time fall comes around, we’re well into the second half of the calendar year, and callously reminded that time is relentless. Fall doesn’t care that you worked too much this summer, or that you never made that one last beach trip. Fall is unconcerned with the tedious coursework that awaits you at the start of a new semester. Fall is a cruel gesture, and in its path leaves naked trees and frostbitten grounds.
So maybe you’re like me and embrace autumn the way one embraces a root canal. Or maybe you’d just enjoy a wistful, subdued soundtrack to ring in the cooler months. Either way, here’s a playlist intended to comfort the sad souls this September.
“September Come Take This Heart Away” by Carissa’s Wierd
Before Ben Bridewell went off to make tepid country rock with Band of Horses, he was a member of Carissa’s Wierd (intentionally misspelled), a band that created some of the most elegantly mournful music of the early ‘00s. Any song in their brief but powerful catalogue aches with longing, but perhaps none more so than "September Come Take This Heart Away."
“This room has so many windows, too many windows/I’ve sat and watched the trees framed to fade outside,” singer Matt Brooke begins. It’s the sound of feeling powerless against the march of time, and being forced to confront change and disappointment.
“Immunity” (Asleep Version) by Jon Hopkins
This is the reworked title track from Jon Hopkins’ fourth album, released as part of a gorgeous EP last year. Most of the electronic elements are stripped away in this version, revealing a naked piano ballad with ethereal vocals provided by King Creoste. It’s an unspeakably moving arrangement, with lyrics that mourn broken promises and letdowns. This song’s beauty is almost otherworldly, and proof that restraint and minimalism often yield the most breathtaking results.
“The Mark” by Cold Specks
Canadian singer-songwriter Al Spx, who records as Cold Specks, has a weathered, soulful voice that belies her age of 27. A truly gifted lyricist, she gives just enough detail in her songs to create a storyline, without making anything too obvious. This track from her 2012 debut seems to tell the story of a man who lost his infant son to either miscarriage or illness.
“Cross your heart and remember me, a good father and a bad seed,” she murmurs, downtrodden but resilient. By taking on the voice of her subject, she imbues the song with warmth and empathy, despite its dark subject matter.
“Fields of Our Home” by Tallest Man on Earth
The Tallest Man on Earth’s latest album “Dark Bird is Home” opens with this stunner. It begins as a rather conventional folk song, propelled by Kristian Matsson’s Dylan-esque vocals. But in the final verse, his voice unexpectedly gets shrouded in reverb, lending it both intimacy and vastness. The overall effect induces chills of the highest order, and Matsson closes by asking, “Is this a lifetime or some years?” It perfectly encompasses the way a moment, a year, or a lifetime can feel simultaneously infinite and fleeting.
“Tiny Gradations of Loss” by The Caretaker
The Caretaker captured ears and hearts with his 2011 release “An Empty Bliss Beyond This World.” A poignant meditation on Alzheimer’s and the restorative power of music, this conceptual album sounds beamed in from the memories of your great-grandparents. "Tiny Gradations of Loss” (starts at 36:03) masks a cheerful piano melody with static and glitchy interruptions, as if the moment of joy it captures is just on the verge of fading from memory permanently.
“All Equal Now” by Belong
Belong’s 2006 masterpiece “October Language” is perhaps one of the most mysterious albums in recent memory. Recorded in pre-Katrina New Orleans and donning ominous song titles such as “I’m Too Sleepy, Shall We Swim?,” the album can’t help but feel a bit prophetic. The music recalls Tim Hecker, and the shoe-gaze elements give it a harrowing, claustrophobic feel. This standout cut begins delicately, and builds to a deafening squall of noise. And yet, despite the harshness of the track’s second half, it never loses the warm ambient textures it begins with; the white noise buries the warmth, but doesn’t eliminate it. As such, it’s actually somewhat hopeful and indicative of rebirth.
“Gigantic” by Eddi Front
Eddi Front appeared out of nowhere in 2012 with a brief collection of stark piano ballads that sounded far too sophisticated for an unknown artist. There’s little information available about her, but her debut album is allegedly due for release this year. In the meantime, check out this title track from her earlier EP.
“Ive always been slow to get off of some drugs, to let go of some loves,” she admits, coming to terms with romantic loss. But the song isn’t all hopeless floundering: “I’ll crawl out of this hole soon enough,” she promises, able to see beyond the rubble.
“Never Anyone But You” by The Clientele
Few modern bands sound as distinctly “British” as The Clientele, and even if their discography doesn’t take many risks, the songwriting is reliably strong. Their brand of nostalgic Brit-pop is heavy on charm, but also has a ghostly quality that gives their material added depth. “Never Anyone But You” uses autumn as a metaphor for death, and even if that doesn’t sound particularly novel, the band pulls it off masterfully. The lyrics emphasize the way that memories color our emotions, even well after an event or relationship has ended: “So that summer passed, but I was never the same when I got home… there’s a phantom in the gaps between my bones.”
“Bonfire” by Memoryhouse
As expected given their name, Memoryhouse are unmatched at evoking nostalgia and yearning. The band has been mostly quiet since their debut LP dropped a couple years back, but this highlight is still an ideal soundtrack to chilly autumn nights. Singer Denise Nouvion pleads“lets get cold together,” grasping at a relationship on the verge of disintegrating with the onset of a new season. Her crystalline voice adds comfort to the sparse musical backdrop, like a sweater that fits tight in just the right places.
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By Dave Pezza
Led Zeppelin reissuing its albums on vinyl may not seem like a tent pole inducing event for you, but Led Zeppelin fans across the world are currently cleaning out their underpants.
Led Zeppelin is my favorite band of all time, so posit that as you read this attempt at an impartial review. Last Tuesday, after much hype and pomp, the band reissued its first three studio albums—the newly remastered “Led Zeppelin I,” “II,” and “III”—on CD, vinyl, and digital download. The albums can also be purchased as a super deluxe, ridiculously expensive, box set with all manner of collectable gems such as a booklet, lithographs, and whatnot.
On the day of the albums’ release, I purchased “Led Zeppelin I,” the band’s freshman album from 1969, remastered on 180 gram vinyl. The album is famous for setting the band’s rock/blues foundation, the sound that immediately established them as a rock powerhouse and the faithful disciples of blues rock ‘n’ roll. It features greatest hits tracks “Good Times Bad Times,” “You Shook Me,” “Dazed and Confused,” and “How Many More Times.” I won’t waste my time reviewing the albums songs; that would be ridiculous. The remastering, however, is totally up for comment. Apparently, Zeppelin’s famed and genies guitarist, Jimmy Page, spent the last few years holed up in his mansion in England remastering the entire Led Zeppelin canon. The result is this onslaught of merchandise that is most certainly taking advantage of vinyl’s rebirth. I, however, am not complaining. I have been waiting for Zeppelin reissues since I bought my first vintage Zeppelin album.
The deluxe edition features the original remastered album on a single vinyl disc, as well as two additional discs containing an unreleased 1969 concert in Paris, France. Those of you familiar with vinyl know the always present and ignored snap, crackle, and pops. Well, Page has presented his work on some pretty heavy duty and clear vinyl. The smooth transition from outer groove to “Good Times Bad Times” is impressive. Page’s efforts become apparent in the albums’ next two songs, “Babe I’m Gonne Leave You” and “You Shook Me."
If you’re not familiar with Zeppelin, these songs immediately break the fast blues rock of the opening song, pull the barking brake on the album, and slow everything to an anguished crawl. This bluesy tandem spans a combined 13 minutes and withdraws every imaginable emotion from the human gut. On the reissue, Page meticulously sharpened every guitar note, which was expected from the band’s lead guitarist. Robert Plant, the band’s lead singer, sings a difficult range in these songs, and Page was generous with the vocals. Plant’s voice sounds little more robust than in earlier versions.
Side B opens with an arrangement by the band’s bassist and organist, John Paul Jones, titled “Your Time Is Gonna Come.” Page smooths over the song’s cacophony of electric organ into what I would consider the song’s most enjoyable incarnation. The B side’s meat, “Black Mountain Side” and “Communication Breakdown,” sound better than ever, an amalgamation of Page honing of band’s signature sounds.
“Zeppelin I" ends with “I Can’t Quite You Babe,” followed by the eight and a half minute powerhouse that is “How Many More Times.” These two songs showcase two remarkable characteristics of this reissue that make it entirely worth its nearly $50 price tag. Page has broken out John Bonham’s drum kit remarkably well. If you have even a decent sound system and listen to “How Many More Times” with your eyes closed, you can feel Bonham hit every drum in the exact position it would be if it were playing in front of you. I was floored, weak in the knees, rocked to my core. John Paul Jones’ bass track is left untouched, but this is a good thing. The best bassists play so in sync with their drummers that the bass and the drum notes slip in and out of differentiation. Page does a great job here of letting Jones’ skills speak for themselves.
Lastly, this deluxe edition contains a previously unreleased concert in Paris, France. Admittedly, you are not buying the reissues for this concert, but if you are a Zeppelin fan, it’s a nice and pleasant addition. The concert includes songs off of “Zeppelin II,” such as “Heartbreaker” and an early version of “Moby Dick.” The concert’s highlights, however, are most certainly “Dazed and Confused,” where Page breaks out the violin bow on his guitar, and a surprisingly concise and beautiful “White Summer/Black Mountain Side.”
As personal tastes go, on a scale of one to five, the “Zeppelin I” reissue scores a solid 4.5. Should you spend your hard earned cash on it? Definitely. If you’re a fan, go nuts and indulge on one of the deluxe editions. But if you are not a huge fan, just pick up the original remastered album on CD or vinyl or, if you really must, digital download. You’ll be getting the best version yet of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s best albums.