Tag Archives: Los Campesinos!

My 2011 in Music: #20-11

You probably thought that Honorable Mentions post was my 11-20, right? Wrong! I couldn’t squeeze everything into a top ten or fifteen this year, so I did a top twenty, split into two parts. My top ten will post tomorrow, though between you and me, you could hop over to Row Three and see it now.

20. The Belle Brigade – The Belle Brigade

The first album from local sibling act The Belle Brigade was a self-produced collection of solid and sweet folksy songs. This time around, they have a label, a bunch of promotion (I’ve even seen them featuring on some big-name year-end lists!), and a bigger, bolder, more rollicking sound. Los Angeles musicians have their own take on country, sort of an indie-country hybrid, and I like it.

19. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong

Every time I hear The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, I really enjoy them (also lead singer Kip is like the nicest guy ever). They don’t stick with me for that long, though, which is the main reason this album isn’t even higher on my list. This one’s even catchier and more fun than their previous stuff, if possible, and the video for “Body” is a great tribute to the endless summers of childhood.

18. The Dodos – No Color

I quite liked The Dodo’s first album Visiter, but didn’t care for the second at all – with No Color, they’re back in form, with intricate arrangements and exuberant drumming backing up soaring vocals. Plus, this time they’ve got Neko Case on background vocals, which lends an extra air of awesome to many of the songs, especially “Don’t Try and Hide It.”

17. Los Campesinos! – Hello Sadness

The most surprising thing about this album is that Los Campesinos! haven’t used this title before. Yes, you won’t find much new on here if you’re a long-time Los Camp! fan, but if you are a fan, you’re probably okay with that. It continues the slightly slower, gloomier tone that characterized the second half of Romance is Boring, with lyrics that are slightly more mature and considered. Losing more original members is starting to take its toll, though – nothing against the replacements, who are solid, but Aleks’s sunny counterpoint to Gareth’s desperation is missed.

16. Wild Flag – Wild Flag

A band combining former members of Sleater-Kinney, Helium, the Minders, and others, I knew I had to check Wild Flag out as soon as I heard about them. I don’t love all of the songs (some tend toward the same noisiness that makes Sleater-Kinney just a sometimes band for me), but the ones I do like I like a LOT. Especially “Romance,” which also has a really fun video – basically a short film, really. Carrie Brownstein is also active as a comedienne (currently on IFC’s Portlandia with Fred Armison), and that sense comes through here.

15. Ida Maria – KATLA

Somehow I missed until a few weeks ago that Ida Maria had a new album out this year! Thankfully I got hold of it in time for this list, because this is one fun punk throwback album. There’s a few songs that tend a bit too abrasive for me, but for the most part, KATLA is immediately and unavoidably catchy. Throw in Ida Maria’s sly wit, and this is at least as fun, maybe more so, than her debut. “Cherry Red” is one of my favorite songs on the album; this version is acoustic, but the album is not.

14. Florence + the Machine – Ceremonials

I didn’t give Florence + the Machine’s debut album Lungs nearly enough listening time when it came out, beyond the two or three singles that got a lot of play, but I tuned into this one more. I’m still not totally sold on the whole package – her voice is amazing, there’s no doubt of that, but it often overpowers everything else that’s going on. I think that’s part of the point. But there’s a lot to appreciate here, and there are several songs definitely standing out to me on here.

13. Mates of State – Mountaintops

It’s so great to hear Mates of State back doing original music again after an admittedly-great cover album. I need more time with this one; the second half starts to get a bit same-y to me, and they’re definitely moving into a more melodic and pared-down style that I like, but doesn’t excite me as much as Bring It Back, which remains my favorite of their albums. That said, songs like “Palomino” and “Maracas” are right up with their best.

12. Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls

A friend has proven to me he shared UK band Veronica Falls with me last year, which I don’t remember at all, but after stumbling across them on Stereogum earlier this year, I find myself more taken with Veronica Falls’ eponymous debut LP every time I hear it. The combination of gentle vocals with melancholic chord progressions, tight harmonies, and just a hint of medieval intervals feels fresh and unique, and imminently pleasing.

11. Dum Dum Girls – Only in Dreams / He Gets Me High EP

The EP He Gets Me High was my #1 of the first half of the year. I still love it, and I quite like Only in Dreams as well, but it’s a lot less noise-poppy and a lot more polished than their previous album, which is throwing me off. With more time to get used to Only in Dreams, I’ve little doubt this pair of excellent discs would jump back into my Top Ten, but as of right now, I’m not getting the same exhilaration from Only in Dreams that I got from the EP or their previous album, so I’m reluctantly bumping them down here.

2010 in Music: #12 Los Campesinos! – Romance is Boring

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[#8-12 on this countdown are basically tied. I’ve put them in order of release date.]

When I saw Los Campesinos! in late 2009, I lamented to Gareth that they’d released both Hold On Now, Youngster and We are Beautiful, We are Doomed in 2008, and that their next one wasn’t scheduled until February 2010, leaving me unable to put any Los Camp! on my 2009 Best Of list. His response: “But see, the new one is all set to be your favorite of the 2010s, the whole decade.” Well, it won’t quite make that, but I pretty much love everything Los Campesinos! does, and Romance is Boring is no exception.

All of LC!’s albums are pretty much of a piece; you’ll find the same manic orchestration and vocals, the same clever, intellectual, self-pitying lyrics (with just enough irony and humor to keep them from being hopelessly annoying), and the same nearly cacophonous sound that somehow resolves into something awesome. But you’ll also find a growing maturity and experimentation with other sonic planes, on some songs more than others, but especially on “The Sea is a Good Place to Think About the Future,” which has absolutely heartrending lyrics and music to go with them.

I’ve moved this album up and down on the list a lot – I get tempted to move it down simply because other than a few glimpses of evolution in certain songs, it is so very similar to their other albums (I can almost literally put all three on random and not know which album any given song is from immediately), but then I listen to it again and realize I still love listening to it a lot, similar or no. It’s liable to move up and down in my estimation a lot more. But overall, I love LC! to pieces, and this album does nothing to change that.

Summer 2010 Soundtrack

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Or perhaps more correctly, this is the soundtrack to my own personal summer 2010, but hey. Semantics aside, these are basically my earworms of the summer. The few criteria I worked with: they had to be songs I’m listening to almost constantly this summer, or keep coming back to off their respective albums; they had to be off albums that were current (a full list of my earworms right now would include some Joan Jett, but that’s really it outside of this year’s releases, and that would seem anomalous); and they had to be good songs for listening to while driving with the windows down. At first I tried finding all really upbeat, summery songs, but that quickly ran askew of the first criterion, but even the slower/mellower songs on here rise to pretty awesome levels by the end. So it’s cool.

Download the full .zip file here.

01. The New Pornographers – Crash Years
02. Mates of State – Long Way Home (Tom Waits cover)
03. Admiral Radley – Sunburn Kids
04. Stars – We Don’t Want Your Body
05. Metric – Black Sheep
06. Seaspin – Reverser
07. Los Campesinos! – Romance is Boring
08. Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
09. Beach House – Zebra
10. Charlotte Gainsbourg – Time of the Assassins
11. Broken Social Scene – All to All
12. Kathryn Calder – Slip Away
13. Kaki King – The Betrayer
14. The New Pornographers – Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk
15. Jenny & Johnny – Big Wave
16. She & Him – In the Sun
17. Kathryn Calder – Castor And Pollux
18. Best Coast – Our Deal
19. Arcade Fire – Ready to Start
20. Stars – Wasted Daylight
21. Broken Social Scene – Meet Me in the Basement

Wrapping Up 2009: Jandy’s Favorite Music

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This is probably the first year that I’ve listened to enough current music that I feel comfortable making a top ten list. Some of my favorite bands released new records that I loved, a few released records that I don’t love as much as I wanted to, and I found a bunch of new bands that took me by surprise, overwhelmed me, and wouldn’t let me go. This list reflects both the bigger bands (though still not big by mainstream, stadium-going standards) and the local bands that I’ve grown to love – I’ll admit my bias for mixed-gendered bands with a focus on female vocals right now, because you’ll notice it anyway.

Ten Favorite Albums of 2009

10. Headlights – Wildlife

HeadlightsWildlife.jpgIf you like perfectly-crafted, sparkling pop gems, look no further than Headlights. I first found Headlights at Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest in 2007 – they were a breath of fresh air after a bunch of noisier, less-pleasant sounding bands, and I was an instant fan. Their first full-length album Kill Them With Kindness was on repeat for months. I didn’t care as much for follow-up Some Racing, Some Stopping, but they’re back on top with this year’s Wildlife. From the upbeat yet wistful longing of “Telephones” (“I wish I wasn’t so far from home…”) to the blissfully poppy “Get Going” to the mellow sadness of “Love Song for Buddy” (very depressing yet lovely video here), there’s so much to like about this album.

MP3: Headlights – Telephones

9. Obi Best – Capades

ObiBestCapades.jpgWhen I was checking out my Last.fm charts to see what I’d actually listened to the most this year, I was a little surprised to find that Obi Best was at about #4 of all 2009 music. But I shouldn’t be, really – they’re one of the LA bands that I try to seek out every time they play, because I really can’t get enough of leader Alex Lilly’s whimsical tunes. She also sings back-up for The Bird and the Bee, and you can see some of their influence on her unusual melodic progressions, but she’s really created something special of her very own with Obi Best (and the help of ubiquitous LA musicians Bram Inscore, Wendy Wang, and Barbara Gruska, each of whom are in a whole laundry list of bands). It may be a little twee for some, but I find myself liking it more and more every time I listen.

MP3: Obi Best – Swedish Boy

8. Karen O and the Kids – Where the Wild Things Are Soundtrack

WTWTA.jpgI don’t care if it’s cheating to put a soundtrack on here, or that I’m giving Karen O extra love this year. Finding out that she was doing the music for Where the Wild Things Are was the thing that really got me interested in the film in the first place, I loved the soundtrack on hearing it before the film was released, and I’ll grant you that a decent portion of my love for the film is due to this music. It’s simply perfect, both on its own, and for the movie – a seamless melding of joy and sadness, comfort and freedom, all with a wild edge that I doubt anyone but Karen O could pull off with such panache. There are no good videos or clips that I could find to go with this one, so here’s one of the TV spots that features “All is Love,” the main theme. But the track that moves me the most is her cover of Daniel Johnston’s “Worried Shoes.”

MP3: Karen O and the Kids – Worried Shoes

7. Bat for Lashes – Two Suns

BatForLashesTwoSuns.jpgIt took me a while to warm up to Bat for Lashes (aka Natasha Khan), and the aha moment didn’t really occur until seeing her live at Lollapalooza. Even though most people agree that an outdoor festival is not the perfect venue for her, it worked for me, and I look forward to seeing her in a more controlled, indoor venue at some point. Her ethereal voice soars whether she’s alone with a piano or surrounded by intricate instrumentation, melding the influences of her British/Pakistani heritage together into something wholly unique. Her music is enigmatic, and her persona parallels it, appearing innocent and down to earth in some moments and otherworldly and profoundly strange in others. She’s not someone to be easily overlooked or forgotten.

MP3: Bat for Lashes – Moon and Moon

6. Great Northern – Remind Me Where the Light Is

GreatNorthernRemindMeWheretheLightIs.jpgI was practically dragged to see Great Northern by a friend of mine, and now, here they are, on my top ten list. They’ve got the sort of sound that overwhelms you, especially live, coupled with a really unique timbre in Rachel’s voice that sets them apart from most other bands. I can’t seem to find a video that really captures their sound properly, but this stripped down radio station recording is my favorite of the ones that I found. They don’t perform acoustic usually, so take this and imagine it turned up to eleven with electric guitars and drums.

MP3: Great Northern – Mountain

Click through to see my top five, and few of my favorite live shows of the year.

Continue reading Wrapping Up 2009: Jandy’s Favorite Music

Coachella 2009: Heating Up the Desert

I‘ve never made it to a musical festival before (largely because I didn’t really get into festival-type music until a few years ago), but when this year’s Coachella featured several of my favorite bands I decided to spring for it, since it’s the biggest festival close enough for me to drive to rather than fly. And even though everything’s overpriced, it’s hotter than Hades, and I ended up only seeing full sets from seven bands rather then the eleven or twelve I wanted to see, it was worth it. The downside is I think I’ve caught the festival bug – I’m drooling over the Lollapalooza lineup Andrew posted the other day, and though I won’t make it Lolla this year, I’m seriously trying to work out getting to Austin for Austin City Limits.

Anyway, here’s a recap of my subset of Coachella, which woefully underrepresents the available audio overload. Especially since I skipped Sunday altogether – fewer bands I wanted to see meant I didn’t care to spend the money for the extra day and night.

Silversun Pickups @ Coachella 2009

Please go to Row Three: More Pop to read the rest of this entry. It has pictures and .mp3 files, so I promise it’ll be worth it!