Tag Archives: An Horse

2011-in-Review-music

My 2011 in Music: Honorable Mentions

Over the next few days, I’ll be listing out my favorite things of 2011 – music, movies, games. I’d do books, but I only made it through a pitiful number of books in 2011, not even worth listing. All this stuff is listed on my 2011 Favorites page, which I’ve been keeping updated all year, but calling my favorites out with a bit of explanation is something I always look forward to doing.

To start things off, here are ten albums (in no order) that I really enjoyed, but didn’t quite make my favorites of the year.

Neon Indian – Era Extraña

I came across Neon Indian via NPR’s First Listen – I often check First Listen to preview albums I’m planning to buy a week early, but once in a while I find something I’d never heard of before. Neon Indian are a bit heavier on the electronic-sounding distortion than I usually like, but something about their sound really pleases me, especially when it falls into fuzzier distortion. Both “Hex Girlfriend” and “Polish Girl” would rate among my favorite songs of the year, but the rest of the album left me colder – kind of same-y and unmemorable, knocking it down into the honorable mentions.

St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

I can easily see this album being in my top twenty if I’d given myself more time to get accustomed to it, but I find St. Vincent something of a tough sell, personally. I don’t know why; lots of people whose taste I generally share love Annie Clark a lot, and I can see the appeal, but she just doesn’t grab me immediately. Like I said, with more time to let it seep in, it might.

An Horse – Walls

The third album from this Australian duo takes their basic sound and polishes it up a bit – not quite so much reliance on the fourth interval, for one thing, which is welcome.

Braids – Native Speaker

A January release, so this one has had plenty of time to earworm me, but only the opening song “Lemonade” has succeeded in sticking with me very long. That song is killer, a pop-happy experimental number that promises more than the rest of the album can quite deliver.

The Pauses – A Cautionary Tale

It’d be disengenuous of me not to mention that I’m pretty good online friends with this Florida band’s drummer; I wouldn’t know they existed otherwise. They have a very pleasing indie pop sound, with strong vocals and a bit of experimentation around the edges that sets them apart from the crowd.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Hysterical

I’ve not really liked Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s previous albums all that much, but listened through this one on a whim and was duly impressed. It’s tighter and stronger than what I’ve heard before, with catchier hooks and a great sound.

Pepper Rabbit – Red Velvet Snow Ball

I saw these guys opening for another band several months ago and remembered enjoying their set, so when I saw they had an album out now, I figured why not check it out. Often I enjoy opening bands at the show because, well, live music is awesome, but Pepper Rabbit followed through in the studio.

Feist – Metals

Most people who like the bands I like put Feist way up at the top of their lists. I like her all right, but I just can’t quite love her stuff (aside from her vocals with Broken Social Scene, of course – those are awesome). It’s a little too spare, a little too quirky, or something. That said, I enjoyed listening through Metals more than I’ve enjoyed her other albums. Maybe next time is the charm?

The Violet Lights – Sex & Sound EP

Another band I’m friends with, but I think this EP is really strong aside from that – an LA-tinged throwback to Britpop, like a touch of Oasis mixed with a dash of the Libertines, and then a sprinkling of Jack White thrown in on top.

Twin Sister – In Heaven

A bit of an electropop touch layered in makes this album really listenable; with a bit more time it might’ve risen higher, but on the other hand, it’s maybe a tad forgettable outside of definite earworm material like “Bad Street.”

Current Obsessions Mix 9-6-09

Every once in a while I put together a mix that’s unthemed other than it’s what I’m into at the moment. Okay, that’s actually what most of my mixes are. Usually I just make them and foist them off on people and say HERE LISTEN TO THIS IT’S AWESOME because I’m egomaniacal like that. But this time, my friend Lis specifically asked me for one, so this one is specifically stuff that I’m into right now that I know she doesn’t have. Other than, like, Rilo Kiley, who she’s really into but she doesn’t have this one because it’s a non-album track. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, I’m giving her an actual burned copy, but I figured why not share it here as well. Just a snapshot of what I’m listening to in September 2009. Not all of them are new, some of them are from older albums; others are from upcoming albums. The main criteria is I love them *right now*.

Preview or download individual songs below, or grab the whole mix here: September ’09 Mix zip file. Order in the mix is based on how they sound good. :)

As always, .mp3s are provided for sampling purposes. If you like the artist, please support them by buying their music and attending their concerts. If you are or represent one of these artists and would like the file removed, please let me know. The album titles are linked to Amazon, using my affiliate ID, so if you buy them through here, I get a tiny kickback. Cover image is based on a photo by Stuck in Customs on Flickr, one of my favorite photographers who has amazingly licensed his photos with Creative Commons and allowed derivative works. /disclaimers

Sept09MixCover2.jpg

1)

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(album: Taller Children, 2009)
Thanks to Nathan Chase on FriendFeed for this recommendation – I fell immediately in love with this album and have been promoting it all over everywhere. And then they played it in Barnes & Noble the other day. And I was kind of simultaneously happy they were getting exposure and sad that I wasn’t very far ahead of the curve on them.

2)

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(album: ray guns are not just the future, 2009)
I have possibly put this on every mix I’ve done since it came out. I can’t get over it, and even though I love every song on the album, this one somehow embodies the whole sound the best. Plus it’s hopelessly catchy.

3)

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(album: You Forgot It In People, 2002)
This song took me forever to get into. I heard it, and just kinda went, meh, what’s everyone see in this one? And then one day I heard it again and it just clicked. And now every time it comes on I have to put it on repeat for a while. I might have to do it right now.

4)

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(album: Lovers, Lead the Way!, 2003)
I almost put on one from their 2009 album, Rose City, which I very much like, but “Wrecking Ball” came out of nowhere on random the other day and made me fall in love with it. And I can’t deny instant love like that.

5)

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(album: Blacklisted, 2002)
And I also chose an old one of Neko’s rather than one off her 2009 album. One of my cowriters on Row Three suggested I pick up Blacklisted when I was first starting to get into Neko, and wow, was he right. And this song even more than the others – it just feels so deep and lived-in and worn and…perfect.

6)

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(album: In & Out of Control, 2009)
Okay, here’s a new one. From their upcoming album releasing in October. I’m enough into The Raveonettes right now that I’ve already reserved a spot in my top five albums of the year for In & Out of Control, so let’s hope the rest of the songs are as good as the three that have leaked so far.

7)

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(album: Two Suns, 2009)
It took me seeing Bat for Lashes live to fall completely in love with her (Natasha Khan, that is; Bat for Lashes is her band pseudonym), but now her combination of ethereal vocals, intricate melodies, and innovative instrumentation is right near the top of my faves.

8)

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(album: Heart, 2004)
Stars, like Metric and Feist, is connected to supergroup Broken Social Scene, this time through vocalist Amy Millan. They’re a little sweeter, a little less experimental than BSS or Metric, and when it all comes together right, they’re hard to beat for just pure pop goodness. Like here.

9)

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(album: Wildlife, 2009)
This album is due out in October, and if this track is any indication, it’ll match their first two albums in quality.

10)

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(album: Further North, 2007
In addition to his solo career, Johnathan also does guitar and vocals for Jenny Lewis’s latest album and tour, returning the favor of her appearances on his album and tour. Though she sings vocals on several songs on his album, this is the only one where she’s featured.

11)

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(album: Time to Die, 2009)
My current favorite of the sub-trend of folk rock, I guess you’d call it. I like them even better than Fleet Foxes – more confident, more catchy, and more jaunty.

12)

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(album: Rearrange Beds, 2008)
An Australian duo, they hung out in LA for several months this year, and I was glad to catch them twice. I think this is their best song, and the one that uses Kate’s distinctive voice to the best advantage.

13)

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(album: Swim, 2008)
This is potentially not the best introduction to The Whispertown 2000 – it’s a little more experimental and a lot less melodic than most of their songs, but this mix is about what I love and this is the song that completely bowled me over when I heard it live. Something about the slide on “great divide” and Morgan’s a capalla phrases just overpowered everything in the room.

14)

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(album: Horehound, 2009)
Heh. Okay, this one is less about what I love and more about seeing how far I can push Lis before she stops letting me make mixes for her. I’m genuinely curious to see if she’ll like it. Anyway, I think The Dead Weather are really interesting, but I’m not always sure how much I like the album. I’m somehow drawn to keep listening to it, though, so there’s that.

15)

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(album: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, 2009)
I came at this band randomly, through a Stereogum post, and liked it immediately. Listening to the album more has only solidified that – fits in very well with my move toward a more Raveonettes/Viva Voce-type sound.

16)

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(album: Saddle Creek 50, 2003)
NEWS FLASH: I like Rilo Kiley. What? You knew that? Oh. Well, maybe you’ve still missed this song, which isn’t on any of their albums, but appeared on a Saddle Creek Records compilation a few years back. I’ve been collecting their non-album tracks the past few weeks, and this is easily one of my favorites.

17)

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(album: Grow Up and Blow Away, 2001/2007)
Yes, you also know I love Metric. Interestingly, this song from their first album (recorded in 2001, but due to a label issue not released until 2007), which isn’t particularly Metric-esque nor particularly within my usual taste, is the one that really got me into Metric last year. I can’t explain why I love it so much. But I do.

18)

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(album: Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, 2005)
One of several Swedish bands I like very much; probably my favorite right now, actually. You just can’t hardly help being happy listening to them.

19)

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(album: stellastarr*, 2003)
Thanks to Robert Patton on FriendFeed for this one; it was listening to his last.fm library that I first heard of stellastarr*, and he also pointed me towards this song as one of his faves. The moment it kicks into high gear? Awesome.

20)

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(album: It’s Blitz!, 2009)
Picking just one YYYs song was as annoying as picking just one Metric or just one Rilo Kiley. But this is the one that makes me chairdance the most, so this one won out. I DARE YOU to sit still while listening to this song.

Bishop Allen @ The Echo, 11/11/08

Guess who finally remembered to take her camera to a concert and thus can use her own pictures instead of scrounging ones from Flickr? Yay! On the other hand, I’m still working on finding the best camera settings for low light conditions, so… Still. MINE.

007 - Bishop Allen @Echo, Los Angeles, 11/11/08

Before Bishop Allen, though, were three opening bands, all of which I enjoyed. First up was The One AM Radio, who actually started before I got in (whole ticket fiasco which was not as much of an issue as I thought it was going to be, but caused me to be in the wrong line – won’t get into it). I was in line with a bunch of people who knew the keyboardist/backup singer, so that was cool. For a little while I felt almost part of the Silverlake scene. Speaking of the Silverlake/Echo Park music scene, the Echo is a great venue. It’s the perfect size, with a good bar (and food, apparently, though I didn’t eat there) and a really great vibe. The bands were wandering around before, during, and after the show, so it felt really casual and intimate. Okay, back to the show. I’d actually heard of The One AM Radio before; they have a track on the compilation CD “Give. Listen. Help.” (available from Urban Outfitters; almost all of the proceeds go to children’s cancer research), which I really enjoyed. Their newest album (from 2007) is called This Too Will Pass, available from Amazon CD and MP3. I apologize for the blurryness of the photo. First one I took, and I was still testing flash vs. no-flash. (Flash is better, FYI.)

001 - The One AM Radio @Echo, Los Angeles, 11/11/08

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Then came The Electric Owls, which turned out to be one guy – but I think there are sometimes more of them in the band? I wasn’t really clear on that. Anyway, he could pick a mean guitar, and he sorta reminded me a little bit of Glen Hansard, except not Irish. I didn’t have a good angle from where I was at the time, so no pictures of him.

And I REALLY liked the third opening band, An Horse. Not only because they’re from Australia, though I admit that’s part of it. Kate Cooper, the singer/guitarist, was adorable and funny. She bantered more between songs than most. “We’re from Australia, which I’ve just been told is right next to Switzerland. It isn’t really. It’s actually a whole other planet in the solar system.” The other band member, Damon Cox, played the drums and sang backup. Sort of a Mates of State sort of thing, except with guitar instead of keyboards. I wanted to pick up a CD or something of theirs, but didn’t see any on the merch table as I went out. I must’ve missed them. Their album Not Really Scared is available on iTunes, or as an import from Amazon, but that’s way more expensive.

003 - An Horse @Echo, Los Angeles, 11/11/08

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(sorry for the title, but it is the best song, and the one containing the album’s title)

Then Bishop Allen! I will say that I finally know how annoying it was for fans of The Shins when Garden State came out and suddenly there were a lot more Shins fans based solely on their inclusion in the film. Not that I object to bands gaining more fans, and in fact, I’ll admit I’m a Garden State Shins fan. But now I feel an irrational, overly defensive need to declare that I was a Bishop Allen fan long before they were featured in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and in fact, went to see the film in no small part because of Bishop Allen’s involvement. There, done being defensive. Sorry about that.

Anyway. They had an issue with Darbie’s mic, so after futzing with it for a while, they finally had to make do with one less mic than usual, which meant that bassist Keith kept having to run over to guitarist Christian’s mic whenever he was needed for backup vocals. :) In his tour blog, he complained about tripping over cables, but assuming he wasn’t actually hurt, it ended up being rather more amusing than not.

005 - Bishop Allen @Echo, Los Angeles, 11/11/08

They did a great mix of songs from The Broken String and the various EPs they’ve put out – last year, they tested the limits of prolificness by putting out an EP every month. And succeeded. I should’ve picked up some of those, but being faced by all 12 EPs on the merch table was a little overwhelming. And did a couple of new songs from the album they’re working on now. Yay new stuff! After the briefest pre-encore break ever, they finished it all up with the Darbie-led “Butterfly Nets” (which was the first song that made me a fan). And it was good. And then I mostly copped out of a review by mostly posting photos.

015 - Bishop Allen @Echo, Los Angeles, 11/11/08

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(from “June EP”)

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(from “The Broken String”)

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(from “The Broken String”)

Amazon.com CD
Amazon.com MP3
EPs at Bishop Allen.com
Amazon.com MP3
EPs at Bishop Allen.com
Amazon.com MP3

(Amazon.com MP3 has all the tracks from the EP Project available in two sets, but they were originally released as twelve 4-song EP CDs. Check out the Bishop Allen store page to see the original covers, designed by Darbie.)