• Most played of 2013

    Jan 7 2014, 1h59

    10 Most Played Artists:
    1. Hammock - 353 (1,250 overall, #5)
    2. The Limousines - 303 (493 overall, #32)
    3. Queens of the Stone Age - 246 (1,346 overall, #2)
    4. The Dillinger Escape Plan - 236 (840 overall, #9)
    5. Every Time I Die - 212 (741 overall, #13)
    6. Foals - 163 (279 overall, #74)
    7. The American Dollar - 136 (222 overall, #100)
    T-8. Kanye West - 133 (541 overall, #28)
    T-8. Helios - 133 (300 overall, #68)
    10. The Lonely Island -125 (557 overall, #26)

    For the second year in a row, Hammock tops the artist chart. Unlike last year, where they absolutely dominated with a record-setting 792 plays, they had the third-lowest amount of plays for a top artist in a year. Only Radiohead (2007, tie in 2011) has repeated as #1 artist. Once again, Hammock is the gold standard for study music for me, obviously leading to a huge accumulation of plays. Helios (#6 last year) and The American Dollar are in the same boat. Every Time I Die (#2 last year) is one of the gold standards for my workouts, along with DEP (#4 last year), who at least had a new album this year, as did every other artist in the top 10.

    I was lucky enough to see #2-6 live this year, as well, which always leads to increased plays.

    Carryover artists from 2012: Hammock, DEP, ETID, and Helios.

    The top artist of year's past include: Radiohead in 2007 (386), Beck in 2008 (441), Animal Collective in 2009 (the previous highest with 628), The Dillinger Escape Plan in 2010 (292), Radiohead/M83 in 2011 (254) and Hammock last year (792).

    20 Most Played Tracks:
    1. Prancer - 56
    2. Stranger - 42
    3. Get Lucky (feat. Pharrell Williams) - 40*
    4. Wild for the Night - 33
    5. Biggie Bounce - 31
    6. Inhaler - 30
    T-7. Ebolarama - 29
    T-7. My God Is the Sun - 29
    T-9. Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space - 28
    T-9. Bubble Butt [feat. Bruno Mars, Tyga & Mystic] - 28
    T-11. Royals - 27
    T-11. Love Is A Dog From Hell - 27
    T-13. Forget - 26
    T-13. I Sat by the Ocean - 26
    T-13. Black Out Days - 26
    16. Howl - 25
    T-17. Arguing With Thermometers - 24
    T-17. One of Us Is the Killer - 24
    T-17. I Appear Missing - 24
    T-17. If You Got It At Five, You Got It At Fifty - 24
    T-17. Reflektor - 24

    13 of the 20 songs placed in My Top 50 of 2013, with only four non-2013 workout songs crashing the Top 20. That's an improvement over 2012, where less than half of the Top 20 (nine!) were actually from 2012.

    "Prancer" logged 56 plays, but last year's victor, "Bimbos", amassed 69 plays, and now sits pretty at 97 plays, good for 14th overall.

    10 Most Played Albums:
    1. Hush - 271
    2. Holy Fire - 119
    3. Departure Songs - 100
    T-4. ...Like Clockwork - 93
    T-4. Yeezus - 93
    6. Reflektor - 92
    7. One of Us Is the Killer - 89
    8. In a Tidal Wave of Mystery - 86
    9. Modern Vampires of the City - 81
    10. Bitter Rivals - 72

    This chart is becoming increasingly pathetic as the years go on, as I listen to full albums less often and select tracks more often. At least all but one of these albums is from this year, with last year's victor Hammock hanging strong at #3. Hush's 271 plays almost beat Departure Songs' 276 from last year. As I mentioned last year, the number of plays towards the bottom of the chart are continuing to shrink. Last year, #8-10 had less than 100 plays each. This year, only the top 3 had more than 100 plays.

    No triple crown again this year, and in fact, this may be the first time three different artists topped the three charts. The closest would be The Limousines: #2 artist, #2 track and #1 album. I really dug Hush and the new direction that the album took, and I was lucky to not only see The Limousines live but to meet them and talk to them extensively after the show.

    I started 2013 with 79,189 plays (at least, that is what last year's journal entry marked it). As of this second, I have 88,515 plays, meaning I tallied 9,326 plays in a little over a year's time, down from last year's total of 10,399 plays, but more than 2011's 8,418 plays.

    Most of the observations that I had last year hold true: Spotify enables me to play (and scrobble) my music anywhere, but with diminishing free time, I tend to listen to music mostly while studying or at the gym. The charts aren't as crazily skewed towards those two as last year, luckily. I thought 2013 was one of the strongest years in music in a long time, and I know I enjoyed a lot of songs and albums, but know that there were still so many out there that I did not get to. Perhaps some variety at the gym could help mitigate this problem (although ETID/DEP is the perfect "drug" for me to get going).

    That's it. Whatchu got for me, 2014?
  • Most Played of 2012

    Jan 2 2013, 7h12

    To keep with tradition, here is the bookkeeping on my scrobbles from 2012.
    Some quick notes up front: This was my first year relying almost 100% on Spotify for my music. Spotify Premium allowed me to have my synced playlists on my phone at all times, likely allowing more plays than usual. Even with the incredible ease-of-access of music, I still feel like I wasn't as "into" or "on top of" music this year as usual.

    10 Most Played Artists:
    1. Hammock - 792 (893 overall, #7)
    2. Every Time I Die - 393 (527 overall, #23)
    3. Enter Shikari - 250 (250 overall, #74)
    4. The Dillinger Escape Plan - 192 (604 overall, #21)
    5. Sleigh Bells - 186 (504 overall, #26)
    T-6. Helios - 167 (167 overall, #114)
    T-6. Passion Pit - 167 (407 overall, #34)
    8. Yeasayer - 163 (322 overall, #54)
    9. Crystal Castles - 154 (657 overall, #16)
    10. Animal Collective - 133 (1,272 overall, #2)

    Hammock not only ran away with the most plays by an artist this year, but also takes the title for most plays by an artist in a given year (dating back to 2007). Having a stellar new double album released in 2012 can help, but using them quite exclusively while studying (which sadly happens far too often nowadays) can lead to some gaudy numbers (including catapulting them into my top 10 most played artists of all-time). The same logic applies to Helios, a similar artist to Hammock.

    As for ETID, it's a mix of new LP, seeing them live twice and having them on heavy rotation on my workout mixes. The latter can explain DEP's high #4 ranking.
    Every other band can be accounted for by mostly their 2012 album plays (although seeing Enter Shikari, Passion Pit, Yeasayer and Crystal Castles live this year likely did not hurt, either).

    Carryover artists from 2011: None! Radiohead ranked at #13 with 113 plays this year after topping last year's chart with 254.

    The top artist of year's past include: Radiohead in 2007 (386), Beck in 2008 (441), Animal Collective in 2009 (the previous highest with 628), The Dillinger Escape Plan in 2010 (292) and Radiohead/M83 in 2011 (254).


    20 Most Played Tracks:
    1. Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space - 69
    2. Arguing With Thermometers - 53
    3. Express Yourself (Feat. Nicky Da B) - 42*
    4. Floater - 38
    5. Generation - 37
    6. DoYaThing (feat. Andre 3000 and James Murphy) - 36
    7. The Sweet Life - 35
    8. Comeback Kid - 34
    9. ...Meltdown - 33
    10. Gandhi Mate, Gandhi - 31
    T-11. Milk Lizard - 30
    T-11. The Marvelous Slut - 30
    13. The First Supper - 28
    T-14. Fix Your Face - 27
    T-14. Treat Me Like Your Mother - 27
    T-14. New Beat - 27
    T-14. Monopoly - 27
    T-14. Reagan's Skeleton - 27
    T-19. Good Neighbor - 27
    T-19. Hold On - 27
    T-19. Gold on the Ceiling - 27
    * This combines the two tags for this song.

    Jesus, what is this? It looks mostly like my workout mix, featuring healthy doses of ETID and DEP. The top 3 were at least from this year, but a great deal of the list consists of songs on my workout mix on Spotify. I guess it's good that I've been going to the gym frequently enough, but I should probably change up the music a bit more. This list is very different from year's past, which is almost all tracks from that year. Technically, only NINE of the above songs were from 2012. A few were shown carryover love from 2011 (Danny and Toro Y Moi).

    "Bimbos" had a whopping 20 more plays than last year's victor, the incredible "Midnight City", which now has 70 scrobbles.

    10 Most Played Albums:
    1. Departure Songs - 276
    2. A Flash Flood of Colour - 182
    3. Ex Lives - 163
    4. (III) - 120
    5. Reign of Terror - 118
    T-6. Kenotic - 111
    T-6. Raising Your Voice…Trying to Stop an Echo - 111
    8. Chasing After Shadows...Living with the Ghosts - 99
    9. The Plot Against Common Sense - 85
    10. channel ORANGE - 81

    I was NOT kidding about using Hammock a shitton when I study, with four of their albums taking the top 10, including their 2012 release topping the list. Departure Songs' 276 plays bested M83's 157 from last year, although the play counts near the bottom of the list have been shrinking each year. I have been listening to music, but less frequently do I have time to listen to full albums repeatedly.

    No triple crown this year, but this year's closest winner was Every Time I Die: #2 artists, #1 song, #3 albums. Hammock nabbed #1 artist and albums, but didn't have a song in the top 20.

    I started 2012 with 68,790 overall plays and end with 79,189, meaning I tallied a whopping 10,399 plays in 2012, which is more than the 8,418 from last year. My prediction that I would have more plays in 2012 due to Spotify was certainly correct: Due to Spotify Premium, I am able to play my music on-the-go and have it scrobble. However, due to my increasingly restricted medical school lifestyle, the times I am able to play music are usually in the car, while studying or at the gym, as the charts clearly reflect. Although I would make playlists for albums I wanted to listen to, I still feel that Spotify has "killed" the album for me. That, or my free time has diminished. Or, my attention span is shot. Who knows?

    Anyway, onward to 2013!
  • 70,000th play

    Fev 2 2012, 22h01

    It has been customary for me to write a little blurb about my x-thousandth play on last.fm, solely for the purpose of me keeping track of when it occurred and what song it was.
    50,000 was my all-time favorite song Paranoid Android by Radiohead on November 24, 2009.
    60,000 was my third favorite song of all time, My Girls by Animal Collective on Dec. 26, 2010.

    Now, we arrive at No. 70,000. Drumroll, please.

    Actually, it happened by accident.

    Not that it's a bad song, but certainly nothing worthy of "all-time" or other superlative descriptors. It occurred yesterday, Feb. 1, 2012, at 5:29pm.

    Immigrant Song by Trent Reznor featuring Karen O, off of the soundtrack for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It is a surprisingly worthy cover of an immortal classic by Led Zeppelin...it just doesn't fit with the other great songs "planned" for my big, round play counts.

    Using the rate it took me to go from 50,000 to 60,000 to predict when I would get 70,000, I was actually eerily close. I said I would hit my 70,000th play on Jan. 27, 2012. Well, I was only off by 5 days! In predicting my 50,000th play from my 25,000th, I was off by nearly 5 months, so this is surprisingly close.

    This means it took me 13 months, 6 days and about 16 hours to go from 60,000 to 70,000 plays. If I continue at this rate, I will log 80,000 on Mar. 8th, 2013 at around 9am.

    We shall see.
  • Most Played of 2011

    Jan 1 2012, 22h08

    To keep with tradition and note my music listening trends in 2011, here's my most played artists, songs and albums. Right off of the bat, I have a feeling play counts will be down overall from last year.

    10 Most Played Artists of 2011
    T-1. Radiohead - 254 (1,974 overall, #1)
    T-1. M83 - 254 (751 overall, #9)
    3. LCD Soundsystem - 229 (603 overall, #17)
    4. Panda Bear - 173 (344 overall, #41)
    5. Das Racist - 167 (197 overall, #86)
    6. Battles - 158 (585 overall, #18)
    7. Destroyer - 144 (144 overall, #120)
    8. The Black Keys - 130 (132 overall, #130)
    T-9. The White Stripes - 129 (1,189 overall, #3)
    T-9. Neon Indian - 129 (210 overall, #79)

    Nothing terribly shocking: The Top 3 consisted of 3 of my all-time favorite bands. LCD got #3 despite no album this year, but I listened to them extensively before and after seeing their second-to-last live show ever in NYC. I vowed to listen to Das Racist more, and I did, logging 167 plays of last year's Sit Down, Man and this year's Relax. Kind of funny The Black Keys and The White Stripes were back-to-back.

    2010's most played artist, The Dillinger Escape Plan, logged 292 plays and the #10 artists (LCD and Deerhunter) nabbed 149 plays each, both totals more than this year's counterparts. The only carryover from 2010 is LCD Soundsystem. The only time Radiohead never cracked my Top 10 was last year (#36, 71 plays), but with the release of The King of Limbs, my favorite band is back on top.

    The top artists of year's past include Radiohead in 2007 (386), Beck in 2008 (441), Animal Collective in 2009 (the highest with 628) and The Dillinger Escape Plan last year (292). This makes the 254 plays at #1 a new low.

    20 Most Played Tracks
    1. Midnight City - 49
    2. Lotus Flower - 41
    3. Yonkers - 39
    T-4. Ice Cream (feat. Matias Aguayo) - 37
    T-4. Niggas in Paris - 37
    6. Slow Motion - 36 (44 overall)
    7. Barbra Streisand - 32
    8. Round and Round - 31 (47 overall)
    9. Not in Love (feat. Robert Smith) - 29
    10. Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair - 27
    11. Dance Yrself Clean - 25 (34 overall)
    12. French! - 24
    T-13. Gold Soundz - 23
    T-13. Adult Goth - 23
    15. Kaputt - 22
    T-16. Chinatown - 21
    T-16. Go Outside - 21
    T-16. Last Night at the Jetty - 21
    T-19. Apply - 20 (32 overall)
    T-19. Sail - 20
    T-19. hahahaha jk? - 20 (30 overall)
    T-19. 6 Foot 7 Foot - 20
    T-19. Make Some Noise - 20
    T-19. Polish Girl - 20
    T-19. Lonely Boy - 20
    All songs were first scrobbled in 2010, unless a higher overall play count is indicated.

    As usual, a list of mostly songs released in 2011, with a few 2010 songs that got some carryover love. The only exception is at #13: I downloaded Quarantine The Past, the 2011 greatest hits package for '90s indie rock gods Pavement. Like last year, there's a lot of clustering of play counts (as evidenced by the annoying 7-way time at #19), but it wasn't an incremental decrease from top to bottom like last year. Midnight City accrued 49 plays for the top spot; last year, a triumvirate of The xx's "Intro", Wavves' "Post Acid" and Sleigh Bells' "Tell 'Em" had only 37 plays each at the top spot. Although the top spot had 12 more plays this year than last year, the bottom spot had six fewer.

    10 Most Played Albums
    1. Hurry Up, We're Dreaming - 157
    2. Tomboy - 150
    3. Kaputt - 144
    4. The King of Limbs - 141
    T-5. Bon Iver - 121
    T-5. Era Extraña - 121
    7. Sit Down, Man - 115
    8. Before Today - 114
    9. Take Care - 104
    10. Watch the Throne - 99

    Somewhat paltry play counts when compared to last year (2010's most played album, Treats, notched 229 plays), with #10 not even crossing 100 plays somehow. As usual, mostly 2011 fare, except for Das Racist and Ariel Pink from last year.

    I'm sure this does not skew things much, but since I've begun using Spotify near the end of 2011, some of their tags are wonky and would not line up with my iTunes tags. For instance, any The Throne plays would scrobble as Jay-Z. Real smart, Spotify.

    We have another "triple crown" winner this year, which was last accomplished in 2009 by Animal Collective. M83 shared top artist with Radiohead, but was alone atop the top tracks and albums list. No surprise there: M83 easily had my favorite song and album of 2011, as well. Last year, Sleigh Bells was the closest, coming in at #2 for artists, tied at #1 for songs and #1 for albums.

    I started 2011 with 60,372 overall plays and end with 68,790 (including plays from today as I wrote this exhausting thing), meaning I tallied 8,418 plays in 2011. I don't know how many plays I've had in previous years, but I average ~29 plays per day according to last.fm. If that's the case, an average year would result in 10,585 plays, making 2011 a "down" year in terms of plays. This could be because of medical school consuming my life and/or putting all of my music on an external hard drive, requiring me to plug it in when I want music. However, since I've gotten Spotify, I can circumvent that. I predict I will (hopefully) have more plays in 2012.

    Until then, go statistic minutiae!
  • My 25 Favorite Albums of 2010

    Jan 2 2011, 2h27

    Not a minute too soon, my infinitely-hyped, overly-wordy and precisely-ordered rundown of the year’s best albums is finally here. (Hold the applause.)

    From my personal perspective, it seemed as though 2010 had a lot of very solid releases, making it one of the better years in recent memory. The list is varied with doe-eyed newbies and grizzled veterans, dreamy lullaby-pop and ear-shattering mathcore, heady lyricism and stoners “just havin’ fun.” It isn’t perfect, it isn’t comprehensive, it isn’t good, but fuck it, it’s my twenty-five favorite albums of 2010. Drink it up:

    25. Big BoiSir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty – Although close to being deemed hip-hop’s Chinese Democracy (that dubious honor still belongs to Dre’s Detox), Big Boi’s debut has been long-awaited, to say the least. Luckily, it is finally here, and unlike Chinese Democracy, it is brilliant and transcends time and genre. With unlikely earworm hooks and Big Boi’s spot-on flow and lyrical craftsmanship, Sir Lucious Left Foot should pay dividends even for those with a cursory interest in hip-hop.
    Key Tracks: “Shutterbugg”, “Tangerine”, “Shine Blockas”

    24. No AgeEverything in Between – California indie punk duo No Age has taken their distinct, multilayered and noisy sound and refined it to a more nuanced, more expansive level on Everything In Between. While 2008’s superb Nouns had plenty of energetic highs and hazy lows, Everything In Between is just that: A blissful middle ground of more-than-superficial punk- and garage rock.
    Key Tracks: “Glitter”, “Fever Dreaming”, “Shed and Transcend”

    23. Beach HouseTeen Dream – No, not Teenage Dream, but rather Teen Dream, Baltimore duo Beach House’s third LP of shockingly simple dream pop. With an intoxicating, atmospheric aesthetic mixed with gentle vocals, Teen Dream truly emits the dream vibe, as each song is colorful, vibrant and beautiful as they effortlessly wash over the listener.
    Key Tracks: “Norway”, “Walk in the Park”, “Used To Be”

    22. Holy FuckLatin – The Canadian (!) instrumental outfit creates typical electronic-sounding music atypically, by using drums, bass, toy keyboards and other unusual instruments and by avoiding laptops and the like. Latin follows true to this vow, with nine smooth and groovy tracks constantly propelled by well-paced percussion. Battles fans itching for a follow-up to the magnificent Mirrored should be satiated in the interim with Latin.
    Key Tracks: “Silva & Grimes”, “SHT MTN”, “P.I.G.S.”

    21. WavvesKing Of The Beach – An impressive comeback from last year’s Wavvves and all of Nathan Williams’ personal drama, King of the Beach is a much more refined album of hooky surf/stoner rock that is consistently contagious. With all of the surf- and garage-rock in 2010, King of the Beach stands alone as the most addicting and the most fun.
    Key Tracks: “Post Acid”, “Idiot”, “Baby Say Goodbye”

    20. DaughtersDaughters – Relentlessly propulsive and brutal for nearly twenty-eight minutes, Daughters is jampacked with frenetic fretwork, dizzying drums and schizoid time signatures. Somewhat reminiscent of Torche’s Meanderthal without the sludge and with more of a technical, mathcore sense, Daughters is a speedy set of noisy-yet-calculated wonderment.
    Key Tracks: “The Theatre Goer”, “The Virgin”, “The Hit”

    19. GlasserRing – Melodic and hypnotic, Cameron Mesirow dazzles on her debut, both with her mesmerizing voice and soaring, synthy soundscapes. Anyone familiar with Bat for Lashes will instantly get hooked to Ring for the very same qualities that Natasha Khan exudes so effortlessly.
    Key Tracks: “Apply”, “Clamour”, “Plane Temp”

    18. The Dillinger Escape PlanOption Paralysis – Perhaps the most exciting, energetic live band out there and unquestioned masters of mathcore, The Dillinger Escape Plan continue to impress on their fourth full-length. With unbelievably precise execution on every instrument at all times and Greg Puciato’s signature screaming, Option Paralysis will heighten all senses as it bludgeons and consumes the listener. Toss in some unapologetic experimentation, like the piano-laden “Widower” and the Nine Inch Nails-aping closer “Parasitic Twins”, and the end product is an exciting entry into the DEP canon.
    Key Tracks: “Good Neighbor”, “Parasitic Twins”, “Room Full of Eyes”

    17. CaribouSwim – As paradoxical as it seems, Dan Snaith has made the perfect introspective dance record to be heard through headphones. Adopting more of an electronic sound, Swim abides by its name and flows fluidly from song to song, dazzling the senses with a myriad of evocative elements that coalesce precisely to overcome the listener.
    Key Tracks: “Odessa”, “Kaili”, “Bowls”

    16. DeloreanSubiza – Spanish synth-poppers Delorean have crafted an exquisite set of expansive songs that will entrance one to dance. Showcasing shades of bands like Air France, Phoenix and vocals eerily like Noah Lennox of Animal Collective, these catchy and at-times atmospheric beats and dreamy vocals combine to make an irresistible summertime album.
    Key Tracks: “Stay Close”, “Simple Graces”, “Infinite Desert”

    15. The Dead WeatherSea of Cowards – After a forgettable debut, the blues-rock supergroup (including the likes of Jack White, Alison Mosshart of The Kills and Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age) came roaring back on their second attempt, and have solidified their sound as a bluesy classic rock outfit teeming with swagger. Grungy guitars, distinctive drumwork and slithering synth and organ abound on Sea of Cowards, all capped off by Mosshart’s trademark howls and yelps. Simply put, Sea of Cowards is an addicting shot of pure, unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll.
    Key Tracks: “Die By The Drop”, “I’m Mad”, “Blue Blood Blues”

    14. LiarsSisterworld – More than anything, experimental rockers Liars’ fifth LP plays like a horror movie. The songs seethe with creepiness and an uncertain forebodingness, and occasionally burst into an auditory attack. Whether it’s the orchestral elements, the whispered backing vocals, the seemingly lifeless repetition of a guitar riff, or simply the lyrics (“Life possession could be fun / Counting victims one by one”), Sisterworld succeeds in leaving an unsettling feeling and constant paranoia in the listener. Who knew bloodthirsty, borderline insanity could be so catchy and fun?
    Key Tracks: “Scarecrows on a Killer Slant”, “The Overachievers”, “Here Comes All The People”

    13. FoalsTotal Life Forever – On just their second album, British band Foals has made significant strides forward from their debut without losing their math-y backbone and tablature. Still a Foalsian record at heart, the band can be seen exploring in a multitude of directions on Total Life Forever, perhaps none more striking than standout “Spanish Sahara”, a breathtaking seven minute journey with one of the most epic crescendos and satisfying peaks in a song this year. Although some tracks are more poppy and immediate (“This Orient”, “Miami”), the album as a whole is a grower that rewards upon subsequent listens.
    Key Tracks: “Spanish Sahara”, “This Orient”, “What Remains”

    12. YeasayerOdd Blood – With Animal Collective’s mammoth 2009, some band had to step in and fill their shoes in 2010, and fellow Brooklynites Yeasayer probably came the closest to matching AC’s quirky experimentalism and aesthetic. Merriweather Post Pavilion this ain’t, Odd Blood is still packed with sonically soothing pop melodies and atypical psych- and freak-folk fun: Opener “The Children” does its best Fever Ray impression, “Rome” channels the catchiest Arabian beat, and “Madder Red” is a toned-down, down-on-one’s luck touching ballad that takes off during its chorus. At a lean ten tracks, Odd Blood is a well-crafted endeavor into the burgeoning genre of experimental pop music.
    Key Tracks: “Madder Red”, “Ambling Alp”, “O.N.E.”

    11. How to Dress WellLove Remains – Tom Krell has made one thing clear: Low fidelity is not just for punk music. Love Remains incorporates an at-times chilling ambience and a soulful delivery to create a truly emotional experience. The fidelity makes the lyrics incomprehensible at times, but it still works to dramatic effect rather than frustration. It is as if the songs are distant, foggy recollections of a past love, but like all memories, the details are scattershot. HTDW has made a strangely beautiful collection of lo-fi R&B and ambient music that becomes truly immersive.
    Key Tracks: “You Won’t Need Me Where I’m Goin’”, “My Body”, “Decisions”

    10. Flying LotusCosmogramma – Steven Ellison is a beast. The multitalented producer responsible for a majority of the bumper music on Adult Swim has also made a fantastic, highly diverse album bordering on unclassifiable (in a good way). There exists a large chasm between an album with lots of influences and one that fuses said influences simultaneously, the latter case better describing Cosmogramma. FlyLo seamlessly integrates jazz, orchestra, electronica, and a plethora of other subgenres and sound effects to create a truly unique entity that stands alone as the most original album of the year.
    Key Tracks: “Do The Astral Plane”, “Dance of the Pseudo Nymph”, “Zodiac Shit”

    09. GorillazPlastic Beach – Many adjectives encapsulate Plastic Beach, surprisingly only the third full-length from the entertaining animated group. If anything, it is quite the collaborative, multi-genre effort, as mastermind Damon Albarn calls on an eclectic cast of characters to assist, including Snoop Dogg, De La Soul, Lou Reed and soul legend Bobby Womack. Plastic Beach turns out to be the Gorillaz’s most complete album, filled with varying emotion, from the silliness of “Superfast Jellyfish” to the pop euphoria of “On Melancholy Hill” to the slow and somber “Empire Ants.” All of this from a quartet of cartoon characters...if only more real bands made such sprawling, ambitious albums….
    Key Tracks: “Empire Ants”, “Stylo”, “On Melancholy Hill”

    08. Sleigh BellsTreats – If a band ever exemplified the sic-worthy descriptor “rawk”, it might be Sleigh Bells. Crudely put, they do cracked-out cheerleader chants. Mere seconds into the album, with the machine gun intro of “Tell ‘Em”, the listener is roped into their stomp-and-handclap, speaker-blowing world, and it is damn difficult to escape. There are moments of repose: standout “Rill Rill” is the sheer definition of the summertime classic, with its sun-drenched sound and sing-along sensibilities. Overall though, with song after song of pummeling guitar, bass and backbeat, Treats will damage your hearing and have you begging for more. One of the most refreshing debuts in recent memory.
    Key Tracks: “Rill Rill”, “Tell ‘Em”, “Infinity Guitars”

    07. Vampire WeekendContra – Vampire Weekend’s phenomenal debut made them indie household names. Contra thrust them into all of the other households. Like their debut, their sophomore effort is laden with meticulously-refined power- and chamber-pop, but with a bit more experimentation. Even so, Contra plays like an album that anyone in the world could dig, with infinitely hummable melodies and irresistibly warm structures. Simultaneously infectious and enduring, Vampire Weekend have cemented themselves among the more exciting bands in recent memory.
    Key Tracks: “Horchata”, “White Sky”, “Giving Up The Gun”

    06. Crystal CastlesCrystal Castles II – Sophomore jinx be damned, the duo’s eponymous follow-up to their excellent, also self-titled debut improves on the original by tweaking their sporadic spasticity (“Doe Deer” excepted) and in turn cranking out some impressive, more mature songs. Words are hard to come by on II, but this is unabashedly a more melancholy and even sinister album, and the music paints this quite vividly with a plentiful palette of entrancing electronica. Also, lush landscapes abound at times, in which it is difficult not to get lost. II is a consistently solid album front-to-back and deserving to be among the year’s best.
    Key Tracks: “Celestica”, “Baptism”, “Not In Love”

    05. The LimousinesGet Sharp – The best album this year that no one heard. Former Strata lead singer Eric Victorino and multi-instrumentalist Giovanni Giusti have joined forces to make one hell of a debut: Take catchy, electro-pop and mix it with an intoxicating falsetto, and get Passion Pit or at-times MGMT. The equalizer here is the fantastic lyrics on each track, whether it is the humorous contemplations of a one night stand on “Flaskaboozendancingshoes” or the all-too-real coming-of-age musings of “Very Busy People.” This powerful combination makes Get Sharp that rare record that will have you dancing and listening to the words.
    Key Tracks: “Very Busy People”, “Triangle Circle Square”, “Internet Killed The Video Star”

    04. DeerhunterHalcyon Digest – Atlanta quartet Deerhunter have followed up their excellent Microcastle with another fantastic album. Halcyon Digest plays so seamlessly: It is never too far-reaching, but it is a delight with focused attention. Frontman Brandon Cox tends towards the inclusive, but there are shining moments of radiance, like the “Nothing Ever Happens”-esque jam ending of “Desire Lines” or the slow-motion beauty of “Helicopter.” At times hazy and navel-gazing, at other times poignant punk-pop, the end result is a gradually addicting product that will abruptly end and demand another listen.
    Key Tracks: “Helicopter”, “Desire Lines”, “He Would Have Laughed”

    03. Arcade FireThe Suburbs – Not many bands could make a concept album about suburbia this interesting. Yet the adored indie vets do what they do best and thrust it to unheard-of grandiosity. This is tailor-made stadium rock, plain and simple, with the band always clicking together and producing instrumentally, lyrically and thematically satisfying music. The Suburbs is an hour-plus sprawling epic, propelled by striking immediacy and emotion and jam-packed with heavy themes of growing up and nostalgia, and the result is unavoidably engrossing.
    Key Tracks: “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”, “Ready To Start”, “Suburban War”

    02. Kanye WestMy Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Yes, it’s that good. Forget every negative thing you’ve ever heard or thought about ‘Ye. Forget it all, listen to this album with unbiased ears, and realize why it is being universally praised. Every song is meticulously produced, with a stunningly refreshing sound defying the laws of hip-hop (including length: eight songs are five minutes or longer), all the while Yeezy’s flow and swagger never ceases. Nicki Minaj’s rap on “Monster” might very well be the best fucking minute-plus in music this year, but the album is literally littered with standout moments that it is simpler to call the whole thing brilliant. The man might be twisted (and a douchebag, asshole, etc.), but he recognizes it and takes the listener on a journey through his subconscious, which is at times dark, but mostly beautiful.
    Key Tracks: “Runaway”, “Monster”, “Dark Fantasy”

    01. LCD SoundsystemThis Is Happening – If this is truly LCD’s last album, at least James Murphy and Co. are leaving on a high note. Every song here delivers in its own way, as Murphy uses all of his noticeable influences (punk, dance, electronica, new wave) to near-perfection. Whether it is the slow-build dance jam opener “Dance Yrself Clean”, the heartfelt yearning backed by melancholic synth on “I Can Change”, or the retro barnburner classic of “All I Want”, the album does not disappoint for a moment. Effortless interchange of genres, clever and meaningful lyrics and spot-on delivery: This Is Happening is the rare complete album.
    Key Tracks: “All I Want”, “I Can Change”, “One Touch”


    If you made it this far, congratulations! Here are some closing footnotes before I recede back into the darkness:

    > As with every year, there are always those albums that I catch just in the nick of time. Perhaps with a bit more time, Das Racist’s Sit Down, Man and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti’s Before Today would have cracked the prestigious list somewhere. They are both very solid and different albums deserving of recognition and repeated listens.

    > Apparently one of the most divisive albums of 2010, M.I.A.’s /\/\ /\ Y /\ was definitely not a bad record by any means. It was definitely no Kala, though. Ditto for Eminem’s Recovery: Better than Relapse, however, nowhere close to his first three albums.

    > Is it just me or am I the only one who can never see the Teen Dream artwork?

    > The Tron: Legacy soundtrack is not a Daft Punk album. What a fucking cocktease.

    > God, Ke$ha sucks.

    That’s it for me in 2010. Not a shitty way to kickoff the decade, for sure. Here’s to the release of that goddamned The Avalanches album in 2011. Well…that’s my mama.
  • Most Played of 2010

    Jan 2 2011, 2h07

    To keep with the tradition of logging my listening habits in a given calendar, here are my most played artists, songs and albums of 2010:

    10 Most Played Artists:
    1. The Dillinger Escape Plan - 292 (292 overall, #46)
    2. Sleigh Bells - 242 (247 overall, #58)
    T-3. Gorillaz - 178 (597 overall, #13)
    T-3. Flying Lotus - 178 (178 overall, #83)
    T-3. Crystal Castles - 178 (388 overall, #26)
    T-6. Brand New - 177 (239 overall, #60)
    T-6. Vampire Weekend - 177 (430 overall, #22)
    8. The xx - 163 (270 overall, #55)
    9. Wavves - 157 (358 overall, #32)
    T-10. LCD Soundsystem - 149 (374 overall, #29)
    T-10. Deerhunter - 149 (304 overall, T-#41)

    As usual, most of the artists also had an album released in 2010 (except for Brand New and The xx, whom I gave plenty of carryover love to their 2009 albums.) I downloaded Dillinger's discography in early January and haven't looked back since, as I am now obsessed with their highly technical mathcore. The only holdover from last year's Top 10 is, surprisingly, Wavves, who somehow logged 201 plays and ranked #4 last year. DEP has the fewest plays for a #1 artist in the four years I've kept track (Radiohead in '07 had 386, Beck in '08 had 441, Animal Collective last year had the highest with 628.) This is the first year Radiohead did not crack the Top 10, instead placing at #36 with 71 plays. One last note: The clustering of play counts. This is more evident with the Top 20 songs...

    20 Most Played Tracks:
    T-1. Intro - 37 (44 overall)
    T-1. Post Acid - 37
    T-1. Tell 'Em - 37
    4. I Can Change - 36
    T-5. Madder Red - 35
    T-5. WTF? - 35
    T-7. Norway - 34
    T-7. Good Neighbor - 34
    9. Feel It All Around - 33 (42 overall)
    10. Helicopter - 32
    T-11. White Sky - 31
    T-11. Percussion Gun - 31
    13. Milk Lizard - 30
    T-14. Crystalised - 29 (51 overall)
    T-14. At The Bottom - 29
    T-14. Odessa - 29
    17. Infinity Guitars - 28
    T-18. Crown on the Ground - 27 (32 overall)
    T-18. Riot Rhythm - 27
    T-20. Baptism - 26
    T-20. Stylo - 26
    T-20. Ambling Alp - 26
    T-20. Rome - 26
    T-20. Love Cry - 26
    T-20. Pickled! - 26
    All songs were first scrobbled in 2010, unless a higher overall play count is indicated.

    A first-time three-way tie atop the list, including an intro of all things from 2009 (although it is one of the best intros I've ever heard.) Almost all 2010 songs, and a few 2009 songs that I neglected in 2009. The exception is "Milk Lizard", a 2007 cut from Ire Works that I downloaded in 2010. As I mentioned briefly with the artists, there is a massive clustering of play counts. In fact, there is a perfect incremental decrease in plays from 37 on down, with no number being skipped. It's tough to say if I listened to less music or not or if I'm just spreading the love more (probably more of the latter.) For comparison's sake, the most played song last year, My Girls, had 68 plays, so the #1s this year have almost half of that. That six-way tie at #20 and four Sleigh Bells songs (including three in a row) in the Top 20 are both pretty ridiculous and noteworthy, as well.

    10 Most Played Albums:
    1. Treats - 229
    2. Cosmogramma - 178
    3. Contra - 155
    4. Plastic Beach - 154
    5. King Of The Beach -147
    6. The Suburbs - 144
    7. Odd Blood - 143
    8. xx - 136 (243 overall)
    9. Halcyon Digest - 133
    10. Eyelid Movies - 132

    9 of my favorite albums of 2010, and my 3rd favorite album of 2009 (The xx). My actual favorite album of the year, This Is Happening, came in at a close #11. Last year's #1 album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, notched a whopping 303 plays.

    Last year, Animal Collective swept across the board as my actual favorite album and song, and my most played artist, song, and album. This year, it is a bit more scattered. All I Want was my favorite song but didn't crack the Top 20, and This Is Happening was my favorite album but was #11. Based off of plays, Sleigh Bells had the closest sweep: #2 for artists, tied for #1 for songs, and #1 for albums. Not bad. Can't argue, loved the shit out of that album and band.

    I begin 2011 with 60,372 overall plays, so by this time next year, I'll be able to see how many songs I played in 2011. Because stats are important.
  • 60,000th play!

    Dez 26 2010, 6h04

    Nice, round play counts are exciting for certain dorks like me. Just like when your odometer rolls over. I guess.

    Anyway, while drunk (yes, I'm a phenomenal typist whilst drunk), I noticed I was approaching the big 6-0-0-0-0. Hence, I played one of my all-time favorite songs from one of my all-time favorite bands. Behind Radiohead, we have Animal Collective and their magnum opus, My Girls. They have plenty of great songs, but this one is just so perfect. Not a shitty way to ring in the 60,000th play.

    I got my 50,000th play (to the tune of Paranoid Android, the song and band that ended up getting me into indie music) on Nov. 24, 2009 @ 6:27pm. It took me 13 months, 1 day and about 6 hours to accrue 10,000 more plays. At this rate, I'll hit 70,000 on Jan. 27th, 2012. We'll see.

    On my 25,000th play, I used the "rate" it took to get my 1st 25,000 to see how long it'd take to hit 50,000. I predicted June 30th, 2010, so I was off by almost 5 months.

    Alright, going to bed. Happy Kwanzaa.
  • 50 Favorite Songs of 2010

    Dez 24 2010, 17h48

    One glance at the calendar should render this post rather customary. To make it seem slightly more impressive or reputable, this is my sixth foray into the whole “Songs of the Year” arena. It is pretty remarkable to see how markedly my music taste has changed since 2005, and how much more music I am exposed to in a given calendar year (thanks, high-speed internet and torrents!)

    With that filler intro out of the way, here is another rundown of my favorite songs from 2010. Unlike year’s past, I have expanded the list to fifty and allowed multiple entries by the same band (a whopping ten occurrences.) Even still, I tried not to overstock a particular artist to allow for diversity. A song must have been released on a proper LP in 2010 to be considered, so “Very Busy People” finally gets some much-deserved praise. If a particular song was released in 2009 but its LP came out in 2010, it still counts. I typically bombard myself with 2010 music in December, so I am sure I will uncover some fantastic gems that I have snubbed here. Shit happens. Without further ado, here is my Top 50 in all of its uber-linked glory:

    50. hahahaha jk? by Das Racist
    49 .The Ghost Inside by Broken Bells
    48. Into The Mirror by Minus the Bear
    47. Sextape by Deftones
    46. Do the Astral Plane by Flying Lotus
    45. Die by the Drop by The Dead Weather
    44. Airplanes by Local Natives
    43. Apply by Glasser
    42. Boyfriend by Best Coast
    41. Mouthful of Diamonds by Phantogram

    40. You Won’t Need Me Where I’m Goin’ by How to Dress Well
    39. Stay Close by Delorean
    38. Silva & Grimes by Holy Fuck
    37. Swim by Surfer Blood
    36. Glitter by No Age
    35. Flash Delirium by MGMT
    34. XXXO by M.I.A.
    33. The Weekenders by The Hold Steady
    32. Ready to Start by Arcade Fire
    31. Tell ‘Em by Sleigh Bells

    30. Stylo by Gorillaz
    29. White Sky by Vampire Weekend
    28. Triangle Circle Square by The Limousines
    27. Stick to My Side by Pantha du Prince featuring Panda Bear
    26. Ambling Alp by Yeasayer
    25. Desire Lines by Deerhunter
    24. Born Free by M.I.A.
    23. Odessaby Caribou
    22. Scarecrows On A Killer Slant by Liars
    21. WTF? by OK Go

    20. Post Acid by Wavves
    19. Horchata by Vampire Weekend
    18. Rill Rill by Sleigh Bells
    17. Empire Ants by Gorillaz
    16. Madder Red by Yeasayer
    15. Norway by Beach House
    14. Celestica by Crystal Castles
    13. Fuck You by Cee-Lo Green
    12. Round and Round by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
    11. Spanish Sahara by Foals

    10. Shutterbugg by Big Boi
    09. Love Cry by Four Tet
    08. Good Neighbor by The Dillinger Escape Plan
    07. Monster by Kanye West featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver
    06. I Can Change by LCD Soundsystem
    05. Runaway by Kanye West featuring Pusha T
    04. Helicopter by Deerhunter
    03. Very Busy People by The Limousines
    02. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) by Arcade Fire
    01. All I Want by LCD Soundsystem

    "All I Want" is no "All My Friends," but it is still an epic in its own right and deserving of the top spot, despite some very stiff competition (like the entire Kanye album.) Can’t say I’ve ever had three hip-hop songs in my Top 10 before, so there’s a first. I think this is just a testament to all of the great music I was exposed to in 2010, but some legitimately awesome songs are far too low. “Round and Round” was one of a few last-minute additions, but this one in particular has demanded repeated listens.
    That’s it for now, expect my contentious albums list in about a week. Until then, enjoy this early Christmas present.
  • 20 Favorite Albums of 2009

    Jan 8 2010, 5h40

    On the verge of already outdated in the wee opening days of the new year and decade, at long last is my dissertation of my favorite 20 albums of 2009. As with any year, it is borderline excruciating to decide which albums are worthy, in what order they meaninglessly belong, and most importantly, describing them with a verbose punch. Perhaps even more so this year, a year with much more musical diversity than, say, 2008. Alas, the deed is done, and the finished product is below.

    If you have been cognizant of the indie landscape this year, the results may not be terribly surprising. I was not going for surprises or upsets, but merely albums I actually enjoyed listening to throughout the course of the year. Even if it meant some off them were universally adored. The fact of the matter is, the general public would still find this list baffling and suspiciously lacking Lady Gaga. But I digress. Everyone is entitled to make lists, it seems. Here's mine:

    20. Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures – When even the vaguest hint arose about the communion of three talented rock musicians (“gods” seems a bit presumptuous), expectations were expectedly high. Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters), and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) are Them Crooked Vultures, and the end result more or less satisfying for any appreciator of honest-to-goodness rock that favors the “classic” descriptor. Supergroups are no guaranteed entity, but the resultant musicianship is far from clunky and superfluous; instead, riveting riffs and soaring melodies abound with minimal dull moments, as if these three had been rocking for years. The Vultures debut effort is definitely laudable and full of swagger, setting expectations for any subsequent follow-up even higher.

    19. Yacht - See Mystery Lights – The now-duo of Jona Bechtolt and new comer Claire Evans team up to make a cool, calm and collected set of indie dance rock jams. Brainier than the average electropop, YACHT combines groove and guile, a rare amalgamation that has listeners befuddled as to whether they should dance or think. Enjoyment preference aside, it is a mix that works effectively throughout the album, particularly the first half. See Mystery Lights is a sleek, solid set of synth-driven songs that is built to party.

    18. Dan DeaconBromst –Dan Deacon has created an intriguing electronic album with the nonsensically-titled Bromst, but merely in the broadest sense. Indeed, many of the noises are electronically produced, but at particular times, it sounds like the soundtrack to a toy box rave, catapulting it into its own personal realm. Slightly spastic and even silly, Deacon masters the layering of sounds from the entire spectrum, encapsulating the listener in a whirlwind of sugar-high bliss. Not content with being merely a one-trick pony, Deacon manages the down-tempo, as well, most noticeably on “Snookered,” a slow-building gem reminiscent of one of LCD Soundsystem’s epics (minus the masterful lyrics) that explodes into transient hysteria before cycling to the minimalism of the introduction. Plenty of albums could be deemed electronic this year, but few as inventive, energetic, and flat-out interesting as Bromst.

    17. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – French hipsters Phoenix have created a seemingly effortless, timeless pop record for the ages. Clocking in at a lean yet effective 37 minutes, Wolfgang utilizes every second to its fullest potential, managing meaty hooks, bouncy beats, and soaring synths to create one memorable track after the other. The songs are immediately accessible without sacrificing creativity and diversity, particularly in song structure. Musical exploration is not sacrificed either, as “Love Like A Sunset” is a touching, shimmering instrumental piece, almost in the vein of M83, and a welcoming intermission to the otherwise fun-filled fare. Wolfgang is bursting with an exceptional brand of warm, danceable pop-rock that, given the brevity of the album, never overstays its welcome and has the listener coming back for more.

    16. The AntlersHospice – The idea of the concept album is nothing new. Bands have toyed with the idea in decades past to varying success and effectiveness. Enter Brooklyn indie outfit The Antlers, who have impressively pulled off the polarizing concept album with Hospice. The concept in question is not particularly difficult to discern, as the album follows the painfully heartbreaking journey of a man’s last moments with his lover, who is stricken with terminal cancer. The straightforwardness is by no means negative: The sincere fragility and raw human emotion expressed is utterly chilling and real, leaving an indelible impression on any listener time and time again. The soft, delicate nuances of the music are near-perfect, which rightfully places the emphasis on the storyline, but it swells and explodes when it counts. Hospice is the rare, universally relatable album, exploiting fundamental human experiences with a powerfully moving story.

    15. Bat for Lashes - Two Suns – One of a handful of fantastic female chanteuses on this list, Natasha Khan manages to differentiate her stellar second LP, Two Suns, with dark and dense lullabies and some pop sensibility for good measure. Khan’s voice is simply magnificent from beginning to end, and the music behind her elevates the songs to frequently epic proportions. “Daniel” is the easy standout track, distilling all of the laudable elements of the album into a flawless four minutes of dreamy pop bliss. Two Suns may seem haunting and otherworldly at times, but it is consistently thrilling and downright beautiful.

    14. Future of the Left - Travels With Myself & Another – Sometimes, an album was created for the sole purpose of deafening the listener because it begs to be played at maximum volume. Travels with Myself & Another is that album. Future of the Left have created a terse album jampacked with raunchy, angular hooks, dizzying drumwork, sheer volume, swagger and hilarious wordplay and wit. Every single song has the instinctual singalong sensibility to it, and the curious capability to captivate any listener. In fact, primal rocking out proves impossible to avoid while engaging in this album. Absurd, adventurous, but above all just flat-out awesome, Travels is all-inclusive enough to be the only rock record necessary this year.

    13. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It’s Blitz! – The bad news is that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs of old are no longer. The good news is that they might be better than ever. The band’s third album takes a bit of a departure, relying on synths this time around to propel their compelling brand of pop-rock. As a result, the album seems a tinge retro, a touch groovy, and a certainly a dash of dazzling. Songs like “Zero” and “Heads Will Roll” are unabashed upbeat synth-pop, whereas “Skeletons” and “Runaway” are affectionate barn-burners executed exquisitely by Karen O and Co. It is always encouraging and refreshing to see a band attempt the unknown, particularly when it is highly successful and engaging like It’s Blitz!

    12. The Pains of Being Pure At HeartThe Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Breezy, unadulterated, lo-fi pop matched with unaffected vocals and a dash of melancholy mope: This recipe works to perfection on The Pains’ eponymous debut. The soft, fuzzy feel of the songs creates a type of timeless aura, aided by sublime yet simple songwriting that could have been from anywhere in the annals of music history. It sounds familiar, yet remarkably fresh, an atypical balance. Furthermore, the typical teenage angst expressed throughout is sincere and never overbearing. All in all, the album is an affectionate, wholehearted display of irresistible indie pop goodness, making it damn near impossible not to like.

    11. Passion PitManners – It is not always about subtlety and nuance. Sometimes, some unbridled exuberance, if executed properly, is just as effective. Cambridge, Mass. outfit Passion Pit seem to have made this their life’s mission, or at least the overarching theme of debut Manners. Most of the songs are brimming with enthusiasm and excitement, yet there is enough variety to prevent exhaustion. Cuts like “Sleepyhead” and “The Reeling” exemplify the prototypical hyperactive electropop, while songs like “Swimming In The Flood” resonate with their ballad-like sincerity without sounding unbefitting. Manners is feelgood, catchy euphoria injected right into the bloodstream, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    10. Atlas SoundLogos – Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox’s second effort under the Atlas Sound moniker further refines the undeniably shoegaze aspects of his debut so well, an entire album of these jams could have sufficed. Instead, in addition to these delightfully introspective gems, Cox explores a bit and produces some uncharacteristically upbeat numbers as well, and these prove to be just as satisfying. The two standouts come in the form of two polar opposite guest appearances. On one, Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox teams up on “Walkabout,” an unabashedly bouncy pop classic that defies era. On the other, Stereolab’s Lætitia Sadier makes “Quick Canal” an unforgettably gorgeous trip, stealthily synthesizing significant swirls of sound and haze, whilst Sadier croons angelically. It is precisely these two realms that Logos melds magnificently, creating an often times insular yet always exciting experience.

    09. Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport – I guess the Bristol duo didn’t get the memo about the whole “sophomore slump” business. Tarot Sport picks up right where last year’s solid Street Horrrsing left off, and improves in literally every dimension. In broad generalization, it is still an electronic, instrumental endurance test, but this time around the methods are much more diverse, subtle and mature, and thus more engaging and entertaining. Weaning off of the indistinguishable screaming and sheer walls of noise, Tarot Sport instead relies on elements of techno and even dance to create some remarkably moving compositions. Even without words, the album compellingly marches on as if there is a story. Tarot Sport is a thrilling, visceral experience and certainly worthy to be among the year’s elite.

    08. Florence + the MachineLungs – Yet another new act to hail from England, Florence Welch could be from anywhere in the world and still achieve recognition with her out-of-this-world voice. Lungs juxtaposes Welch’s knockout pipes with invigorating, genre-blurring backing that combine to form a multitude of majestic, grandiose moments. Whether it is soul, folk or pop, Welch manages them all with ease, and as a result weaves them together to form a powerful and beautiful debut effort that demands repeated replays.

    07. Girls – [album artist=Girls]Album
    – One of the more pleasant surprises of the year, Girls generated plenty of buzz before their debut even dropped, mainly due to the engrossing back story of lead singer Christopher Owen (he was raised in the Children of God cult.) Owen has commented that Album is an “overflow of expression” since there was no restrictions in its creation, perhaps a perfect, pithy summation. Girls make the sun-drenched pop classic seem effortless, all the while captivating the listener with honest, heartfelt emotion. Owen can make the simplest of statements seem so profound and revolutionary, and the at-times retro, lo-fi aesthetic simply furthers this feeling. Girls may not be doing anything particularly new, but they certainly make it seem otherwise.

    06. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca – When Grizzly Bear frontman Ed Droste was asked to describe Bitte Orca, he was at a loss of words. Good, I’m not the only one. This should not be construed as critically pejorative in the least. In fact, this is simply a testament to the admirable work Dirty Projectors have accomplished on Bitte Orca. Perhaps the premiere instance of genre blurring, the lean nine-track album exploits unconventional experimental measures and stunningly refurbishes them into awe-inspiring accessibility. Compiling elements from across the musical landscape with laudable songwriting and synthesizing them into something as listenable as this is simply impressive. Classification may be elusive, but the end result is not: An exhilarating, digestible piece of experimental near-perfection that nearly circumvents any modicum of diminishing returns.

    05. Fever RayFever Ray – One-half of Swedish electronic outfit The Knife, Karin Dreijer Andersson (under the pseudonym Fever Ray) demonstrates glimpses of her origins on her solo debut, but more impressively establishes an interesting blend of electronic music. Equal parts chilling and claustrophobic, every song haunts the senses with its combination of rich textures and Andersson’s shrill, often times manipulated vocals. Everything gels together for a truly nocturnal album that is dark and uncertain at every turn. Fever Ray’s eponymous debut effort may not be immediately gratifying, but upon repeated listens it becomes apparent that it is an album filled with standouts, each more evocative than the last.

    04. The Flaming LipsEmbryonic – Don’t call it a comeback. The Flaming Lips have been waxing experimental for two-and-a-half decades now, so they certainly know what they are doing. Embryonic is an ambitious, sprawling double album that is simply jam-packed with a bevy of ideas and influences. The antithesis of refined, the songs are scattershot, raw and sometimes indulgent, but all in the best possible manner. Over seventy minutes in length, and yet there is never a dull moment to be found, as the album constantly keeps the listener off guard with its bountiful bag of tricks, ranging from beautiful, laid-back and trippy to explosive, rocking and urgent. From beginning to end, Embryonic is one hell of an intriguing ride that, despite its length, still ends too soon.

    03. The xxxx – All debut albums wish they could sound this good. The South London quartet of twentysomethings has made an impressive album on their first attempt, displaying maturity beyond their years. It is an impressive feat to use the standard palette of instruments and sound so fresh, which is constantly on display over the eleven tracks of xx. The startlingly effective use of minimalism and unbelievable nuance create evocatively powerful backdrops over which the subdued boy/girl dual vocals work their magic. The result is a complete, perfectly-executed album, free of any extraneousness and brimming with raw emotion.

    02. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest – Seemingly destined to always be second to MPP, Grizzly Bear put out a fantastic album that could have been tops in many other years. A meticulously refined album, the band’s astuteness to detail on their third LP pays major dividends, rewarding listeners with well-constructed, warm chamber folk/pop gems that are too easy in which to get lost. The continual restraint and precision exercised on Veckatimest only makes the moments of grandiose (such as in “Fine For Now” and “While You Wait For The Others”) that much sweeter and epic. Perhaps fulfilling the “grower” classification of album, Veckatimest still manages to finagle some pop sensibility in their beautiful compositions, yielding a powerful hybrid of an album that consistently delivers.

    01. Animal CollectiveMerriweather Post Pavilion - Upon its leak to the masses on Christmas 2008, and its subsequent release a month later, many hailed the Collective’s eighth studio album with premature “Album of the Year” distinctions. Potentially facetious in January, MPP certainly had a special aura surrounding it that always put it a cut above the rest. At year’s end, the haughty expectations hold true: It is that good.

    A seemingly unanimous pick among some indie circles, the reason is simple: It has it all. They manage to create some sonically stunning soundscapes on the fringe of accessibility while maintaining their unique identity. The songs detail raw human emotions and desires, concepts that are universally relatable. Each song has its own feel to it, whether it is the hazy otherworldly bliss of the perfect love song that is “Bluish,” the successive sugary Afro-chamber-pop swirls of “Brother Sport” or the slightly less refined, experimentally electronic edge of “Daily Routine.” Every song is not only good, they are all great, and any perceptible lull only further emphasizes the majestic highs of the album. Not to mention that Noah Lennox and David Portner are simply unmatched when they sing together, forever drawing Beach Boys comparisons.

    Fresh, fulfilling and always fun, MPP is worthy of all of the hype and superlatives surrounding it. 2009 saw a lot of impressive releases, but none quite as memorable or landmark as MPP.

    There ya have it. Predictable but deserving. Things become cliche for a reason, after all. Some final footnotes:
    - I wasn't kidding last year when I said that Merriweather Post Pavilion would have placed high if it was legitimately released in 2008.
    - Circulatory System's Signal Morning just missed the cut. Love that album, not the fact that it was snubbed.
    - Grizzly Bear & Animal Collective owned my top two favorite songs and albums of 2009. Go figure.
    - This list excludes EPs, but Animal Collective's Fall Be Kind would probably top a shortlist of Top EPs, too. Give it up, it was their year.
    - I tried, but I didn't get Baroness's Blue Record.
    - As if this needed any additional restatement, 2009 was way better than 2008.

    And cut. Here's to an eventful beginning to a new decade. Hope Contra is awesome.
  • Most Played of 2009

    Jan 1 2010, 22h25

    The end of the year would not be complete without arbitrary lists. I have done this the past few years, and thought it would be appropriate to continue the trend of seeing what artists, songs and albums were really my most played. Thanks to the wonders of last.fm’s Last 12 Months charts, here are the lists:

    10 Most Played Artists:
    1. Animal Collective - 628 (969 overall)
    2. The Lonely Island - 248 (248 overall)
    3. Grizzly Bear - 238 (287 overall)
    4. Wavves - 201 (201 overall)
    5. Passion Pit - 196 (196 overall)
    6. Weezer - 192 (573 overall)
    7. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - 186 (305 overall)
    8. Fever Ray - 179 (179 overall)
    T-9. Radiohead - 174 (1,648 overall)
    T-9. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - 174 (174 overall)

    Pretty interesting mix, but makes sense since all of the artists (except the perennial favorite Radiohead) released an album this year. The only carryovers from 2008 are Animal Collective (#5, 312) and Radiohead (#2, 382.) It is appropriate that Radiohead is the only artist to place in the top 10 all three years I've kept track of this shit (#1 in 2007, 386)...after all, they are my favorite band. The #1 artist in 2008, Beck, had 441 plays and the #1 artist in 2007, Radiohead, had 386, meaning Animal Collective trumped both years.

    20 Most Played Tracks:
    1. My Girls – 68 (87 overall)
    2. Brother Sport – 48 (63 overall)
    3. Triangle Walks – 46 (46 overall)
    4. Daniel – 42 (42 overall)
    T-5. Summertime Clothes – 40 (43 overall)
    T-5. Ulysses – 40 (40 overall)
    T-5. Stay Alive – 40 (40 overall)
    8. Two Weeks – 39 (39 overall)
    9. Gun In The Sun – 38 (38 overall)
    10. No Dice – 37 (37 overall)
    11. While You Wait for the Others – 35 (37 overall)
    12. The Reeling – 34 (34 overall)
    T-13. If I Had a Heart – 31 (31 overall)
    T-13. So Bored – 31 (31 overall)
    T-13. Zero – 31 (31 overall)
    T-16. Lion in a Coma – 30 (33 overall)
    T-16. Nothing Ever Happened – 30 (47 overall)
    T-16. Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Part 2 – 30 (62 overall)
    T-19. Kids – 29 (43 overall)
    T-19. In the Flowers – 29 (33 overall)
    T-19. Michael Douglas – 29 (29 overall)
    T-19. No Hope Kids – 29 (29 overall)
    T-19. Fatalist Palmistry – 29 (46 overall)

    Two-for-two for Animal Collective, easily the most-played song of the year for me and, for once, my favorite song of the year, too. As is expected, all of the songs are either from 2009 or songs from 2008 of which I couldn't get enough. For comparison's sake, the most-played song in 2008, Atlas by Battles, received an overwhelming 85 plays. And for further bookkeeping, the highest-charted Radiohead song was once again Reckoner, this time with 17 plays and in a lowly 12-way tie at #90.

    10 Most Played Albums:
    1. Merriweather Post Pavilion – 303 (371 overall)
    2. Incredibad – 248 (248 overall)
    3. Wavvves – 201 (201 overall)
    4. Manners – 196 (196 overall)
    5. Veckatimest – 191 (191 overall)
    6. Fever Ray – 178 (178 overall)
    7. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – 174 (174 overall)
    8. It’s Blitz! – 151 (151 overall)
    9. Music Has the Right to Children – 146 (146 overall)
    10. Two Suns – 145 (145 overall)

    Animal Collective finishes the sweep with the most-played album of 2009, as well, and had more plays than last year's #1 album, Mirrored (252 in 2008.) Merriweather Post Pavilion got so many plays, it is now my second all-time played album. As for everything else on the list, it's typical 2009 fare. Except for #9, which is a pleasant surprise from the '90s. The highest-ranking Radiohead album was In Rainbows again, but with only 46 plays, good for a tie for 64th in 2009.