Tag Archives: mates of state

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: #9 Mates of State – Crushes

Mates-of-State-banner.jpg

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

Yes, there’s a covers album on my Best Of list. No, I wouldn’t have expected that either. In fact, I was fairly disappointed when I heard that Mates of State was going to be doing a covers album – I love their original stuff so much that the idea of losing out on an opportunity to get more of that while they put effort into a covers CD made me a little sad.

But. BUT. This album is awesome. It’s like a master course in how to do covers. They take some great songs, from a wide variety of artists (established indie bands like Death Cab for Cutie, lesser-known up-and-comers like Girls, classics like Tom Waits, etc.) and truly make them their own. They maintain the integrity of the original while making them sound as if Mates of State had originated them. It’s quite a feat, and they do it perfectly on every song on here.

In fact, they even do some BETTER than the originals, I’d say – the first single to be released was “Laura,” originally by Girls. I was very not excited by this, because I saw Girls open for Los Campesinos! last year and was the opposite of impressed: I didn’t like them at all. But Mates of State’s version of the song turned out to be one of my favorites on the whole album. Others, like Belle and Sebastian’s “Sleep the Clock Around,” they play pretty close to the original, but it still fits their sound well.

Basically, I dare anyone to listen to this album without a giant smile on their face. It proves that you don’t necessarily have to write the songs originally to have a fresh and original version of it to call your own.

Summer 2010 Soundtrack

cover.jpg

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

Music Thursday: Melancholia Mix

I was driving home one day last week, really tired after several days of late nights, and I needed a playlist of very calming, down-tempo, melancholy-type songs. And I liked what I came up with so much I decided to hammer it down into a mix. I’ve called it the Melancholia Mix because that most closely approximates the sound I was going for, but really, it’s not morose or depressing music – most of it honestly makes me smile. It’s the type of music that you’d listen to in the fall or winter when it’s raining softly outside and you have a fire in the fireplace and you’re curled up with a book or just staring into the flames with a cup of hot cocoa. It’s a very easy-going, very comforting mix. Which is pretty different for me, since I usually tend to pick upbeat songs for mixes. It’s cool, though, because I’ve gotten to choose a few songs from bands that normally do upbeat songs but this particular one happens to fit the theme – like Babyshambles and Mates of State.

Melancholia

Grab the whole mix in this zip file, or stream and download individual songs below (if you’re reading on Facebook, click through to my blog to stream the music). You can right-click > save on the artist/song title to download each song. Clicking on the album title will take you to Amazon.com [disclaimer: through my affiliate link] to buy the album (in MP3 format when available, on CD when not). If there’s no link on the album, it’s out of print or otherwise not available. If you like the music, please support the artists by buying their music and going to their concerts. If you are or represent one of these artists and would like the files removed, please contact me.

01 Amy Millan – Low Sail
(from Masters of the Burial, 2009)

02 The Beatles – Yesterday
(from Help!, 1964)

03 Belle & Sebastian – It Could Have Been a Brilliant Career
(from The Boy With the Arab Strap, 1998)

04 Broken Social Scene – Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl
(from You Forgot It In People, 2002; yes, this was on my last mix, too – what’s your point?)

05 Viva Voce – Midnight Sun
(from Rose City, 2009)

06 Architecture in Helsinki – Souvenirs
(from Fingers Crossed, 2003)

07 Elizabeth and the Catapult – The Rainiest Day of Summer
(from Taller Children, 2009)

08 The Libertines – Breck Road Lover
(from Demo, c. 1999)

09 Emma Pollock – The Optimist
(from Watch the Fireworks, 2007)

10 The Whispertown 2000 – Atlantis
(from Swim, 2008)

11 Karen O and The Kids – Worried Shoes
(from Where the Wild Things Are: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, 2009)

12 Babyshambles – Lost Art of Murder
(from Shotter’s Nation, 2007)

13 Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue
(from Acid Tongue, 2008)

14 Citizen Helene – ‘Til Tomorrow
(from The Gilded Palace of Gin, 2007)

15 Bat for Lashes – Moon and Moon
(from Two Suns, 2009)

16 Metric – London Halflife
(from Grow Up and Blow Away, 2001/2007)

17 Neko Case – I Wish I Was the Moon
(from Blacklisted, 2002)

18 Angie Mattson – Thank You
(from Given to Sudden Panic and Hasty Retreat, 2007)

19 Mates of State – Nature and the Wreck
(from Bring It Back, 2005)

20 The Submarines – Clouds
(from Declare a New State!, 2006)

21 Rilo Kiley – 85
(from The Initial Friend EP, 1999)

22 The Bird and the Bee – Lifespan of a Fly
(from Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future, 2008)

*photo by fotologic

Music Monday – Fun Fun Fun Fest Edition

One day later and I’ve mostly recovered. Physically, that is. It was probably noon today before I could walk and be sure my legs would hold me up, but that’s also because of the actifed I took when I got home last night to combat being-outside-all-day-in-the-dust-and-dry-grass allergies. Still, everything was totally worth it, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Here’s a sampling of who I saw and enjoyed. Though there were three stages at the festival, I pretty much hung out at Stage 1, since that’s where all the bands I’d heard of were playing, and thus I suspected that I would have a good chance of liking the other bands there as well. Generally, that was right. I could hear the bands on Stage 2 any time Stage 1 bands weren’t playing, and they were playing really LOUD punk rock over there. Far too heavy for my tastes. I couldn’t hear Stage 3 very much, but the one time I wandered over there, there was a rapper up, so I wandered back pretty quickly. Thankfully, most everybody on Stage 1 was listenable to one degree or another. If you saw my Twitters during the show, you’ll know I didn’t care for the first four or so on Sunday, but they still weren’t awful. Anyway, here are the eight or nine I enjoyed the most, with my very favorites at the top.

edit: Great photos here, from photographer Chad Wadsworth.

Headlights

I’m giving Headlights the number one spot mostly because I was pleasantly surprised by how great they were. I’d been sitting in the back through four bands that I mostly disliked (far too screamy; fine if you like that sort of thing, but I don’t), and then Headlights came on, and they were somewhere about four bars in before I was up by the stage totally into it–and not just because they were so much better than the previous bands. I hadn’t heard of them before, and in addition to the music being good, they were also adorable. Erin Fein, the lead singer, seemed taken by surprise that we liked them so much. That was also a nice change from the earlier bands, who were convinced they didn’t suck, even though they kinda did. I’m sorry, that was biased. Anyway, I fell in love with them, and headed straight up to their merchandise table and bought their album. And I’m not usually an impulse buyer. But I figure, buying things at concerts gets more money to the artist, so if there’s ever a time to impulse buy, that’s it.

PEOPLE IN ST. LOUIS: Headlights is actually playing St. Louis this Wednesday (November 7th), at the Bluebird on Olive Street downtown. See http://bluebirdstl.com for more info. It’s only like $7-9, so you should totally go.


(video – multiple; I think “Lions” is one)

Headlights – TV
Headlights – Lions

e-music | Amazon.com MP3 | website | MySpace

The New Pornographers

I’ve liked the New Pornographers for a few months now, but have held off posting their stuff because, yes, of their name. But you know what, I can’t help what they call themselves, and they make some really great music (which is not at all pornographic in nature). And they were basically the biggest drawing card for me going to the festival in the first place. The only reason they’re not at the top of this list is because I expected them to be good, whereas Headlights surprised me. Anyway, I was five feet from the stage! They did all my favorite songs off “Challengers” as well as a lot I liked but didn’t know (must be off “Twin Cinema,” which I haven’t heard). Interestingly, “Myriad Harbor” (my current all-time favorite song) doesn’t work as well live as it does on the album; I think because in the recorded version, Dan Bejar is so very introspective and quiet in parts, almost like we’re overhearing something we shouldn’t be, and that’s one of my favorite things about it. But you can’t do that in a live show, you’ve gotta be forceful enough to be heard, and it came out harsher. But it was still good. And the other songs, “Challengers,” “My Rights Versus Yours,” etc., were awesome. Plus, they were more comfortable playing with the crowd than some of the other groups. At one point Neko Case got a serious craving for Rice Krispie Treats (they had a huge sign straight in front of her at the food stand where they were selling them), and said she wanted a mattress of them. Next song break, a stagehand brought a handful of them to her and Carl Newman, so we had a brief snack break. It was fun. I enjoy stuff like that at concerts.


(video – “My Rights versus Yours”)

Three from them, one led by Dan Bejar, one featuring Neko Case, and one with the whole band, but mostly Carl Newman:
The New Pornographers – Myriad Harbor
The New Pornographers – Mutiny, I Promise You
The New Pornographers – Challengers

e-music (“Challengers” not available) | Amazon.com MP3 | website | MySpace

More after the jump.

Continue reading Music Monday – Fun Fun Fun Fest Edition