CBK Best of the Decade So Far: #20-11

 

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20. Mitski – Bury Me At Makeout Creekmitski-bury-me-at-makeout-creek
Back in 2014 this album wowed me. Now in 2015, it’s surpassed the wowing and has ventured onto consuming. My feelings are tied to lyrics, melodies, timbres, and thoughts all associated with this album. I love the variety it offers, with songs like “Last Words Of A Shooting Star” bringing some of the hottest lyrical heat on this list, while “Drunk Walk Home” brings the fiery, emotional energy. I really don’t know what to say besides this album deserves to be so high in this list.


19. Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here?
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Always and forever, this will be the album I will return to when seeking moments of deep introspection and calm thoughts. Sure, there are other ambient albums out there that are probably much more soothing or what have you, but this one makes me really think out of the box. It sounds like the sounds of robots dreaming. Absolutely sublime washes of textures flood together in perfect harmony, while rogue bleeps and bloops filter in and out of the subconscious layer while a backbone of subtle guitars guide the track with what sounds like mindless jamming, but they’re there to aid you. And when this album does get intense, it goes all out. Flying arpeggios and oscillations every which way. A complete, understated masterpiece. Pick this up if you can.


18. Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like A BellTMRLAB1500
Jeez. #1 album of 2014 and now in my Top 20?? What do I like about this album so much? Well, I guess that’s people might be thinking at me right now, which might not be the case, but that’s how I am. I just love Hundred Waters. What isn’t there to like? They’ve got the super interesting instrumentals with great variety, awesomely structured songs, lovely vocals, etc. There’s just a magical element to their music, like they’re playing about a certain universe that’s commonplace to them but unknown to the rest of the world and they’re doing their best trying to convey this alternate plane to the rest of us through albums.


17. Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid1fdb235cd3b4727bcd4a2c24995f1454_6
I honestly haven’t listened to this album in a few years but still had no problem putting it in the Top 20 – I still love it that much. I got hooked with the incredible catchiness of singles “Cold War” and “Tightrope” and stayed for the incredible variety that the rest of the album employed. There are tracks with Of Montreal, Fleet Foxes-esque folk via Deep Cotton, poppy tracks, slower tracks, experimental tracks; you name it and this album probably has it. It’s the album that breathed new life into the pop/RnB concept album, setting a new standard on how they’re judged. Plus, it’s a ton of fun to listen to. Always love that in an album.


16. Tame Impala – Lonerism
36f82082Question: How do you make “psych rock” cool for young people trying to get away from their classic rock upbringing while also bringing in classic rock kids into the indie scene? Answer: you introduce them to this album, or, let them live their own damn lives, you creep. Stock full of Beatles, Pink Floyd and self-referential Led Zeppelin charm, this is the gateway that I’m sure many high-schoolers saw into the magical, mystical world of this crazy thing called “indie rock.” Well, now Tame Impala are bonafide festival headliners, bringing in new fans of the yellow-tinged rock n roll that they’re famous for bringing back. Snark aside, this album is good.


15. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
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I don’t really know what to say about this record. This is probably Deerhunter’s most popular album. Totally loved by tons of people. It’s got some damn good songs on it; that’s what I can say. I remember there was one fall/winter day in 2010 where I only listened to the song “Helicopter.” Seriously, at a certain point I was like “alright, this is my life now.” A perfect balance of delicate and brash in the songwriting. Wish there was a bit more noise, but that’s all good. And of course there’s “He Would Have Laughed,” the tribute to the late Jay Reatard that gets me every time. If you haven’t listened to this album, go get into it.


14. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
Dirty-Projectors-Swing-Lo-Magellan
While revisiting records from the last five years to make this list, I went in with hesitance towards Swing Lo Magellan. I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps it could have been because I listened to Bitte Orca so much more than this one and that one is more finely tuned; but still, this album is pretty fantastic. It’s got more accessible songs on here while still cramming in that undeniable Dirty Projectors wit and charm. It also really personifies the band, showing some of the conversation behind some of the otherworldly harmonies by including little snippets of studio talk and bits of imperfection in the recording. That might have been it, actually. There are bits of imperfection, compared to Bitte Orca, which was built off of perfection. The imperfectness of this record is actually really appealing now and fun to smile and laugh to.


13. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires Of The Citypackshot
Let’s start this anecdote with a prediction: Vampire Weekend will be voted as one of, if not the most important band birthed from the extremely formative period of the late 00s and early 10s music scene. They’re clearly super important to me and a bunch of other people my age. I feel as though Vampire Weekend never “sold out” either, which is a qualm that a ton of at-one-point-budding indie bands face once they become bigger and start seeing that big money come in. Whereas Contra was a building block record for the band, proving that they could overcome the “sophomore slump,” Modern Vampires is more of the crowning achievement of VW’s songwriting and instrumental progress. It has so much more dimension than the other records, but it still carries that lightweight, breathability that the other records had as well. This record also introduced young twenty-somethings to other side of the growing up song, the “slow-builder/life-examiner.” We see this in “Hannah Hunt.” Being a post-grad isn’t all about having a fun time. It’s a time for thinking, too. A bridge into adulthood. Cmon now, no one wants to listen to that. Well, now you do. Thanks, Vampy.


12. Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me
joanna-newsom-have-one-on-me
Clocking in at around 2 hours over three LPs, Have One On Me is a marathon of an album. Truth be told, I’ve only listened to it once all the way through. I made a day out of it, honestly: I put the LP on and I sat in a chair while it played in my room. I’m sure I had a glass of water with me, maybe a sandwich at some point. This album might be huge, but it’s meant to be consumed whole. Or at least, to get the full experience it would be good to experience it all the way through at least once, like a piece of classical music or jazz odyssey. Folk records just aren’t being made like this anymore and they weren’t before either- it is pretty much just Newsom, weaving wondrous tales with her harp, piano and fairy-like voice. This shit is my jam.

 


11. Destroyer – Kaputt
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I gotta be honest – I’ve probably listened to this album the least out of all of the records on this list, but after listening to it more and more as I’ve narrowed down my selection, the higher it’s climbed. Every time I listen it’s like I’m settling into a bubble bath, with Dan Bejar creepily, yet appropriately, singing to me from across the lengthy hotel suite bathroom. The instrumentals are plush and blemish-free, yet smarmy and sound like they could pick your pocket with the slightest of hands. It reminds me of the character James Wait from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Galápagos. I read someone’s negative review of this album saying that “they didn’t like their pop to have delusions of grandeur.” Well why not? It’s pop music! It’s supposed to be the biggest thing possible, occupying giant spaces and achieving things that normal music couldn’t dream of reaching. This album is huge, outrageous, but lovely. The richness gets to its head, but it’s a cool enough guy to let it all slide.

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CBK Best of the Decade So Far #30-21

 

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30. Saintseneca – Dark Arc

urlThis is another record I didn’t expect to like as much as I did, but here I am, listing it among modern greats Destroyer & Chromatics. A small band from Ohio, Saintseneca makes some sort of folk-punk/pop punk/indie rock hybrid that I don’t want to put a label on. Short and simple: their songs are anthemic, expertly arranged & performed and uniquely crafted. Some songs can be quaint and vulnerable while others are valiant and bombastic, with explosive instrumental cacophonies and bold vocals. This record is beautiful. Please listen to it.

 

29. Chromatics – Kill For Love

CHROMATICS-KILL-FOR-LOVE-575x575Have you been reading through this list but you’ve been pining for some vibes? Well here we are, one of the vibiest records here. This steely masterpiece sees Chromatics at the top of their game, making music unlike all else but clearly pulling inspiration from obvious sources: italo-disco, Bruce Springsteen, 80s films and synth pop. The imagery on this is crystal clear and plays out like a film, especially in the second half with all the atmospheric instrumental tracks. Everything on here is purposeful: every note is where it should be and its perfection is blatant. As my dad said: “that was the wildest Neil Young cover I’ve ever heard.”

 

28. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time

71uBobrG7KL._SL1400_When you name your album “It’s Album Time,” you better have something good up your sleeve, or else you’re going to come off as a sleazy hack promising something you can’t own up to. Thankfully, Todd Terje brings it all on his debut record, slinging hot, bubbling grooves all over the place to turn any space into a makeshift dance floor. But maybe you don’t want a dance floor, but a high speed, romantic car chase scene from a European movie. Well it’ll house that for you to. With It’s Album Time, it is not just album time- it’s your time. (Jeeeez why.)

 

27. The Caretaker – An Empty Bliss Beyond This World

the-caretaker-an-empty-bliss-beyond-this-worldOh well would you look at that – the namesake of the title of my blog. Sure, this music could have come out way back in the day and it’s being re-purposed, but it’s being reformatted to evoke totally new emotions. The album starts off with its most accessible tracks, ones with bumbling little melodies, bougie horns, melancholic piano and a right amount of dust crackle. But as the tracks progress, the melodies start drifting further and further away, slowly being consumed by analog fuzz and endless echo chambers. The previously relaxing lobby jazz music has descended into madness, devoured by amnesia and confusion. The obvious Shining references are there, which are completely valid. By the end, the melodies return as if the process is beginning to start all over again.

 

26. Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe

doc069.11183v4Welcome to your moment of respite after the harrowing tales from the haunted ballroom. Barwick’s music is also haunted, but of a different kind. Decaying memories and a desperate longing for the past plagues The Caretaker’s music, while Barwick’s ethereal drones are composed of beautiful choruses, made from mostly her own voice repeated over itself. This album has a lot of additional instrumentation and vocalists (Jonsí from Sigur Ros) too, compared to her other works and they all play together perfectly. It’s a crystalline swarm of sound, pirouetting around your mind, pristine and shining.

 

25. Women – Public Strain

women_public_strain_1283353281I still haven’t heard anything quite like this record yet, besides of course the work from Viet Cong, the new project from the Women guys. I have yet to hear a record that’s this skeletal and jarring, something that sounds like it’s loosely bound together with barbed wire, something so bleak and nasty. It’s like as if catchy rock music got transcoded through the Necronomicon or something. It’s droning, it’s monotonous with rotten notes, dissonance and eerie feedback abound. Find me something like this and I’ll thank you endlessly. But for now, it’s just this record.

 

24. Jai Paul – Jai Paul Demos

xl-recordings-releases-statement-confirming-jai-paul-leak-0This is the only record on this list that’s an unofficial release. I’m not even sure this counts as an “album.” The story behind this one is that someone got into mysterious UK singer Jai Paul’s computer and put whatever work he had together into an album and put it on Bandcamp. XL Records & Paul came out to say that this is not an official release and it was taken down immediately. Now it’s a bit hard to find, but if you do find it, cherish it. Ultra-futuristic pop music with glitchy, maxed out instrumentals, mashed with odd samples coming at you at whip fast speed. Sounds just pop out of nothing, but everything is appropriate in it’s outrageousness. We need more material, Paul. What on earth could you be doing right now??

 

23. Deafheaven – Sunbather

Deafheaven-Sunbather1Behold, the majesty, the thunder, the trident of destiny, and the harbinger of judgment – Sunbather. Now, some metal purists are probably like “haha look at this guy.” First off, I feel like I don’t have that many metal purist friends, who are the only people who read these anyways, so whatever. This was my introduction to things vaguely “metal” and I’m still just dipping my toes in, but this I can get into. The wretched, terrifying vocals are backed up by brilliant hurricanes of guitar noise and thunderous drums, delving into realms of shoegaze and noise rock. There are also interlude tracks, something like breaths of air during a giant storm. It’s a majestic beast, this record, and I love it a lot.

 

22. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

artworks-000004505455-u23ggy-cropGotta give credit where credit is due. Even though I don’t really listen to this album as much anymore, the quality of these songs is heavenly. The entire thing is gorgeous, beautiful, magnificent, etc, etc, etc. It’s inspirational, lush and expertly crafted. Every time I listen to it I enjoy it. I could say it’s timeless. It’s ambitious, with long song lengths and varied instrumentation, all while keeping the focus on acoustic, folky sounds, resulting in a majestic product that’s really once in a lifetime. We’ll see. This album is really good.

 

21. Mac DeMarco – 2

3613474955-1This record may have brought on the advent of the rock n roll goofball in acceptable, mainstream society, which I’m all for. Huge indie rock before this prided itself on astute college boys like Vampire Weekend and Grizzly Bear. But then comes Mac DeMarco, a self-described river person, with his wackily tuned guitars and laid back gait, coming to show you a good time and maybe sing you a love song or two. Sometimes you just gotta kickback, have a brew or two and enjoy some good ole rock n roll. This is what this record is for.

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CBK Best of the Decade So Far: #40-31

 

giphy2Welcome to part 2 of the journey through my favorites from the past five years! You can check out the previous 10 records here! Hope you enjoy!

40. Oneohtrix Point Never – Replica

oneoh624The last item I talked about featured Oneohtrix and now we have his 2011 album Replica, an electronic album comprised of micro samples from a bunch of VHS tapes, but It’s clearly more complicated than that. The whole feel of this album makes the listener feel like they’re being engulfed by outdated technology, like the gadgets that are piling up around us are constantly becoming obsolete, eventually burying us all in an electronic tomb. OPN is SO good at conveying that idea in the simple, eerie loops of his music. Unsettling yet comforting at the same time. So bizarre.

 

39. Sufjan Stevens – All Delighted People EP

Sufjan-Stevens-All-Delighted-People-Album-ArtFor a long time I had said that this was Sufjan Stevens’ best work, but now with Carrie & Lowell, I have to reconsider. Anyways, in the scope of Stevens’ unique trajectory, I feel as though this album carries all of his crazy music man ideas the best in one place. There are the futuristic synth pop jams from Age of Adz; there are the more intimate singer songwriter moments; the grander, folkier times; and then the grandest moments of them all – two songs over 10 minutes, cramming tons and tons of ideas into one song, my favorite being “All Delighted People.” I’m all about getting it all, so a sampler platter that isn’t a greatest hits from crazy music genius Sufjan is nice.

 

38. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

the-suburbsArcade Fire was the band that got me into this whole “indie rock” mess in the first place. I’m sure I would have gotten onto it eventually, but if it weren’t for this silly Canadian band I might have still been listening to exclusively Led Zeppelin and Rush right now, which honestly doesn’t sound too bad. However, this trajectory was from Funeral, though The Suburbs did get super amped to be alive and in high school, which was a pretty interesting effect. A great mixture of wistful, driving, fun, serious and catchy tracks from modern indie’s most beloved.

 

37. Burial – Kindred EP

burial-kindred-epChoosing which Burial I wanted to be represented here was a tough one and even thought of combining them since they’re all so short, but then I remembered the thrill that “Ashtray Wasp” is on this EP. This song is about two or three songs altogether, going from the usual two step beat + hypnotic ambiance that Burial is known for, then evolving into a totally different combination of two step + hypnotic, rainy ambiance. The whole EP is urgent, dark and driving, something that Burial is so dang good at. His other two EPs from this decade, Street Halo and Rough Sleeper are fantastic as well.

 

36. Neon Indian – Era Extraña

Neon-Indian-Era-ExtrañaThis is another record I’d like to say was pretty overlooked when it arrived in 2011. Neon Indian’s sophomore record Era Extraña might have been overlooked due to it’s lack of pop immediacy that its former surged in, but I think some of the hooks, melodies & textures on this record are phenomenal. It’s a weird, psychedelic, retro-futuristic good time in my book and one of the highest points in the chillwave timeline from this decade. He has a new album coming out this year – let’s hope it continues his streak of great records.

 

 

35. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music

GSljxAw hell yeah – y’all knew this one was coming. The ultimate breakout record from one of the decade’s hottest rappers and musical/political minds, Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music, is by far one of the best-balanced hip hop records in a long time. The balance of course is that of fun, badassery, wordplay, politics, message, and musical quality, which it succeeds in all categories. It got Mike together with El-P, which we all know yielding Run The Jewels. A seriously important milestone for hip hop in this decade for sure.

 

 

34. Real Estate – Days

Real-estate-DaysI saw Real Estate play in a gorgeous church at 2am at SXSW 2014. They were the last band to play on a seven or eight-band bill, all high profile names of varying styles stacking together in this old church. With that information in mind, hopefully the scene of a bunch of bros wearing sports jerseys, backwards hats and board shorts jumping up and telling everyone to dance in the aisles during “All The Same” will be shocking. This is the band that brought the chill to the masses, unfortunately creating a trend of ultra-lazy music in other bands, but spurned a revolution of cool among its listeners, yielding bros demanding people dance in a church at 2am.

 

33. Beach House – Bloom

Beach-House-BloomMarvel at the only band with two records on this list – Beach House. There were a few groups that had doubles on this list through the creation process, but this one was always going to make it on there. This record is more of an extension off of Teen Dream their record from 2010, with similar, syrupy melodies & instrumentation, but damn I can’t say that I don’t LOVE that about them. This album has a lot more gimmicky hooks on the tracks to make them standout, but by being surrounded by such quality songwriting makes them all okay.

 

32. The Weeknd – House Of Balloons

TheWeeknd_HouseOfBalloonsI love it when a record surprises me with how much I like it after the first listen. This record came out around the end of my high school career, where my music taste was slowly blooming into being more inclusive. Before this, I had never really considered pop/RnB/hip hop to be in my favorites of all time, but the magic of The Weeknd swayed me otherwise. Man, his voice is so dang good and silky smooth, plus all the instrumentals on this album are memorable and include TWO Beach House samples. The obvious highlight of his career so far.

 

31. Laurel Halo – Quarantine

df57eb59It makes me sad that people probably forgot about this album after it came out in 2012. I can’t see how it would be easy to forget about with a cover like that, but something tells me that Laurel Halo’s current incarnation of more straightforward, techno-leaning mutant house is more popular than the spaced-out, unsettlingly futuristic dystopia she created on this album. Halo’s vocals here are pretty abrasive, purposefully jutting out in the mix, flat and angular, fixed between dreamy, buzzing/orbiting electronics. It’s a psychedelic, electronic odyssey that I haven’t managed to find anything similar to. Maybe the closest thing would be some moments on Björk’s latest, Vulnicura. It’s like being in a pristine, sleek space station and you just so happen to be the only alive passenger on board; surrounded by marvels of technology and science but on the brink of death. Just perfect.

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CBK Best of the Decade So Far: #50-41

CBK DECADE Welcome to Combo Breaker Kid’s retrospective of the decade so far – my favorite records from 2010-2014. I’ve been toying around with the idea to make a list like this for a while now, mostly for my own personal nostalgia quencher. What better way to rediscover albums that I enjoyed in high school by pitting them against records I enjoyed in college and then make a list out of all of them? This was also a good way to reevaluate the “best of” lists I made from these years to see which albums really stuck with me and which ones kind of fell to the wayside.

I’m really proud of this list and I think it’s a pretty complete summation of my music taste in this moment and a snapshot of how it’s developed over the past five years. These five years have been pretty busy, too: two graduations, a big move, my first love, two jobs that made me listen to music, loads of new friends, etc. Lots of development here. But not just me personally, but the music industry as a whole has radically changed in five short years: “true” indie music is barely a thing anymore, streaming battles between corporations, hype cycles spin much faster now, and so much more. Things overall seem like they’re going so fast.

By taking the time to re-listen to all the albums on this list, I was able to slow my own listening processes down a bit, which was really refreshing. I’ve been working on this for about two months now, so it’s not something I just whipped up in a weekend. It was seriously a difficult trial to narrow down only 50 records from the past five years to highlight on this list. As you’ll immediately see below, I couldn’t find just 50. I’m weak. Hope you enjoy!

(51.) Gorillaz – Plastic Beach

standard-emailnewlUnfortunately this one got bumped out of the #50 spot, but I still wanted to write a little something on it since it was in the selection process up until the very end. Gorillaz are the only band on this list that I’ve liked since middle school and this album is the first one from this decade that I was legitimately on the edge of my seat for. I remember going out and buying the CD the day it came out and being delighted that my favorite band at the time had not let me down. I feel like my mind has this record’s nostalgia factor turned up pretty high, but it’s still a real good listen.

50. Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972

tumblr_n0jlgnV6S31su17npo2_1280I got into this album during the dregs of my senior year of high school after seeing the massive praise it received on basically every music blog I followed at the time. The mix of airy, ambient textures with the definite piano instrumentation motif, I loved how relaxing some songs on this record were. I even submitted my AP Psych class to listen to “In The Air III” for a presentation about brain auditory functions. I owe it to this record for getting me into more ambient music, which I thank it dutifully for.

49. Clams Casino – Instrumental Mixtape

tumblr_lldmnxhvNu1qbw47xo1_500The patron saint of the ‘10s cloud rap movement, Clams Casino single-handedly made some of the most ear-catching instrumentals of the year so far in an extremely short amount of time. The lavish, bass heavy production was the sound of the first few years, with artists like A$AP Rocky, Lil B, ScHoolboy Q and countless others gaining tons of blog attraction, mostly in part for the great Clams instrumentals. I haven’t heard anything recently that got as big as this early stuff did, but I hope something comes along.

48. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

4e6c6fb2Oh how the mighty have fallen. I ranked this record as my favorite of 2013, but clearly it hasn’t stood the test of time. At the time, though, it was a euphoric blast of fun – a brand new taste of Daft Punk after so many years of waiting! What could be better? Well, I guess since Daft Punk stuck around to make a biopic about themselves and starred in a Tidal commercial, the mysterious freshness kind of disappeared. There are great songs on here, but sometimes the cheese factor overloads my senses and feels aged poorly, even after two years. Still a fantastic return from a much-beloved band, though.

47. White Denim – Last Days Of Summer

The true music taste is coming out with mention this record. White Denim is a criminally overlooked band and this is their best album in a pack of great albums. Each song is a happy burst of sunshine, with killer grooves and an overall relaxed atmosphere. There are some slight math rock/jazz rock elements tucked away in the barbeque-scented melodies, along with definite classic rock influence. Undeniably pleasant and wistful, this record needs to be on your summer playlist.

46. Ovlov – AM

ovlov-670x670Dinosaur Jr./90s noise rock rip off bands are about a dime-a-dozen these days with the advent of labels like Exploding In Sound that pick out all the best ones, such as Ovlov, but this record & band is another story. The shredding on this record is just out of this world, with sludgy, carnal guitar textures and song structures that focus on buildup. All the best songs on the record finish with intense, climactic guitar solos that emotionally guide the listener so perfectly. Unfortunately they don’t exist anymore, but I can surely say that this brought me into the world of local-ish bands and a whole new appreciation for the state of Connecticut.

45. Grimes – Visions

grimes-visionsWhere would indie pop music, or even mainstream pop be in 2015 if it weren’t for Grimes’ smash success Visions? This record may not be the most musically complicated, but it has undoubtedly changed the contours of the indie music scene following its release. This prompted countless reproductions of indie & mainstream synth hybrid records, none of which even come close to the catchiness and effectiveness of this one. Simplicity in this case is key, with unique synth textures that are easy to listen to multiple times, along with ultra-catchy pop melodies and a super unique, pixie-like voice.

 

44. Grouper – A|A – Alien Observer & Dream Loss

Grouper-Alien-ObserverThis double album, along with Ravedeath, 1972, were definitely my introductions to ambient records, with Ravedeath occupying the electronic spectrum and Grouper’s A|A filling the lo-fi singer songwriter type approach. I absolutely adore Grouper’s music, since it’s perfect to zone out to. The muffled, smudged tones all over this record is like being at the bottom of a murky pond: you can only feel shapes around you and your sense of hearing is severely impaired, but you’re at peace surrounded by the warm water. There are some moments of sadness and darkness, but that’s for you to feel around in the depths.

43. Beach Fossils – Clash The Truth

Beach-Fossils-Clash-The-TruthLet’s be honest: the market for lazy, lo-fi indie rock records from this decade is a little too overcrowded. It’s definitely the most popular style I’ve seen in indie rock in recent years, developed by bands like Real Estate and this one here, Beach Fossils, in 2009 & 2010. So what happens when there are too many Stans in your genre pool? Make a record that is so damn catchy, inventive and captures the original aesthetic of the original trend. This record is the epitome of dreamy, lo-fi jangle rock, bringing in plenty of timbre changes in the form of varied instrumentation, guest vocals, interludes & connected tracks.

42. Fear Of Men – Loom

Fear-Of-Men-LoomIt always helps to have a good singer in your band. Now when that fantastic singer is singing great lyrics, that’s another great layer you’ve added there. Now wait a second, are you saying that the mix of great vocals that are saying the great word pairings is actually paired with perfectly arranged instrumentals? Now that blurb is so dang general and pointless, but in the context of this record it’s everything. I don’t know exactly what it is about this band, but every song they write is a 10/10 twee/jangle/indie pop piece of gold.

41. Ford & Lopatin – Channel Pressure

MEX091- Cover 500This record had to have gone under a ton of people’s radars in 2011, which is so sad, because this record is so good. Ford & Lopatin is the pairing of Joel Ford (Airbird) & Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never), resulting in an over the top synth pop epic with OPN’s signature obsession with technology of the past and its relationship with the future. It’s unabashedly 80s, but that’s the point. It sounds like someone’s been trapped in an old TV and each song is a different channel the hero has to escape through to get out, only to find it was all a dream.

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CBK Favorite 30 Tracks of 2015 So Far

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Welcome to another “best of” list feature on this blog. This time it’s gonna be my favorite tracks of 2015 so far. I’ve alphabetized them. Let me know what your favorite songs of 2015 are so that I don’t miss any when the end of the year rolls around!

1. Beck – Dreams
Alright this song is pretty cheesy and a bit lackluster, but I can’t deny Mr. Beck Hanson. It’s pretty heavily produced and doesn’t really have too much signature Beck originality to it, but man am I excited to hear a more upbeat, poppy Beck. What I need now is an album more akin to his singles from 2013, specifically “Defriended.”

2. Björk – Family
At the time of this writing, June 22nd, 2015, this song still gives me goosebumps after repeated listens from half the year. “Family” comes after the massive centerpiece of “Black Lake” on Vulnicura and carries almost more emotional weight, which is accentuated with a bludgeoning, hammer of a beat in the first half of the track, courtesy of assisted production from The Haxan Cloak. The strings on this song are especially elegant and devastating and while they’re paired against the destructive electronics, they still stick out in the immense din. The second half of the song is where washes of synthesized choruses flood the mix, smoothing away the damage done by the first half; much like finding rare sanctuaries of solace among a storm of pain. Truly a beautiful track that will stay with me always.

3. Braids – Sore Eyes
The newest Braids record is super good. I was never too huge into this band but I found that the straightforward, synth pop sugar rush of this song/record is what I needed to unlock my passion for this band. Now this isn’t just a typical synth pop track off of a typical synth pop record, it’s lyrically dense (see track Miniskirt) and has a killer balance of piano and pulsing electronics, plus great vocals. This track is pretty addicting, which is apt since the lyrical matter is about addictions and watching porn, interestingly enough.

4. Bully – I Remember
I’ve never had a breakup with a long-time significant other, but I feel like this song is the word-for-word description of flipping through a mental photo album from a relationship long past. With great, biting imagery from lines like “I remember the way your sheets smelled,” and “I remember what you do on Christmas,” explaining the deep minutiae that might be forever etched into your brain after a relationship, I’m not sure if I ever want that to happen to me. We’ll see!

5. Chastity Belt – Joke
In my opinion, “Joke” is the track that best showcases Chastity Belt’s skills on their newest record Time To Go Home. The track is slow, catchy and starts off with the phrase “Nothing serious; everything’s a joke.” Other song titles like “Why Try” and “IDC” also develop this slacker pathos, but I feel like this song portrays it the best. The end also has a heavier, jamming part but keeps it concise, feeling like a natural progression rather than a frivolous noise session. I can’t say enough things about this record and band. I can’t wait for more music and the chance to see them live.

6. Chromatics – I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around
Hey remember when we were supposed to get a Chromatics record this year? Well the year’s not over yet, but it was promised in 2015’s first quarter and there’s no word yet besides three singles, which are all pretty good. “I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around” is my personal favorite, since it’s basically a snapshot of what Chromatics are all about. It’s a wistful, driving song about love, but maybe something about “bad” love? A love that changes someone? Something like that. Also, the instrumental is classic Italians Do It Better (their record label) faire, which is something that seems to be only done well by them only. Please Chromatics, let’s get this whole record soon.

7. Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld – The Rest Of Us
I was a fan of Colin Stetson before this record, but with the addition of the stellar violin playing of Sarah Neufeld of Arcade Fire, I’m over the moon. Now this track isn’t the best at showcasing Stetson’s unbelievable skill of the saxophone, but I feel as though this song has the best balance of violin to saxophone, along with best balance of machine-like intensity to eerie uneasiness. Would love to get another record from these two.

8. Downtown Boys – Monstro
“SHE IS BROWN! SHE IS SMART!” Sure, this track cannot apply to me in any way, but the message is still there and super powerful and boy do I appreciate it. I’m not usually into many “protest” bands, matter of fact I can’t really think of any off my head, but I can say Downtown Boys are my favorite. I definitely appreciate this song more after seeing it performed live a multitude of times and getting the whole preface dialogue before it with the rallying saxophone melodies and ecstatic guitars going the entire time. This is the kind of band that needs to get big in the indie scene. There are too many losers that need this kind of message in their music.

9. Drake – Know Yourself
Gotta hand it to “Know Yourself,” the song that single-handedly got me sort of into Drake. I gotta admit, I was never too into him; not really sure why. But I gave If You’re Reading This a chance earlier this year and I’m glad I did so I can get the countless pop culture nuggets this track has already established, such as the legendary beat change and the wise words of  “I was runnin’ thru the six with my woes.” Sure, I’m not too much of a fan of the dialgue at the end, but MAN: this song is hot. I can’t even try and deny it.

10. Elvis Depressedly – New Alhambra
Undoubtedly the best track off the album of the same name, “New Alhambra” is a dreamy, swirling track with a simple melody. There are other quirks about this song that really get me as well, like the strange clipping song effects during the chorus. In fact, I’m not really sure what those are, but they add a lot to the track. It’s also the longest track on the record, which helps elongate the atmosphere to a level that’s recountable.

11. Eskimeaux – The Thunder Answered Back
If you’re noticing a trend here on these track descriptions that goes something like “this song is the best representation of all the ideas on the record” and you’re getting tired of that, then skip this blurb. Short version: it’s a damn good song. Obviously. Long version: this track has so much depth, it’s unbelievable. There are so many things going on in the song: the repeating, muffled vocals in the background, the subtle arpeggiating synth line and group shouting in the climax of the end, and of course the lyrics: “it must feel like fucking hell, to be a patchwork of yourself” being a prime example. Listen to this album.

12. Father John Misty – When You’re Smiling And Astride Me
If you read my album description from a bit ago, you’ll know that this album has sort of worn down on me a bit. Sure, I do really like it, but it’s no longer the pride and joy of my 2015 experience like it was earlier in the year. However, this swooning track right here is still a go-to soundtrack for luxuriously romantic playing out in my head. I feel as though a lot of the love songs on this record have sarcasm slathered on them, but this one is lavishly sincere, in my eyes. Especially with the instrumental. Get me on this gospel train, please.

13. Grimes – Realiti
Technically, this song is a Oblivion-era b-side but I’ll let it pass as a 2015 track. The reason I like this song so much is that it’s a breath of fresh air after the festival fuel blast of “Go,” Grimes’ last song she put out. I like the song, it just doesn’t fit into the Grimes “traditional canon,” if you will. I’m all for artists expanding and experimenting with their sound, but I guess in this case I’m just selfish. This song is lovely and I can dance to it with my girlfriend like her previous material, so I’m really okay with it.

14. Holly Herndon – An Exit (ft. Amnesia Scanner)
If you’ve ever wondered what an existential panic sounded like, I feel like this is pretty close. One of my friends said that this song should be used for psychological torture. Whenever I think I’m not going to let this song get the best of me, it gets the best of me. My stomach gets in knots, my fingers lock up, my joints strain… the list goes on. Something about the urgency paired with this chord progression is just downright mind-bending. This is one of the most powerful, original and fantastic songs on this list; a true example of what Herndon and her music is about.

15. Hop Along – Texas Funeral
It was really tough trying to pick one ultimate standout track from this near-perfect album. But the anthemic line of “none of this is gonna happen to me within my lifetime” won the battle. Hop Along is too good of a band not to know about. Just listen to this song and you’ll know.

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Holy Ghost! – “I Wanted To Tell Her (ft. Nancy Whang & Juan Maclean)” (Ministry cover)

This song is everything I love about Holy Ghost! and The Juan MacLean.

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CBK Favorite 15 Albums of 2015 So Far

This is a list of albums I think you should listen to but hey what do I know?

1. Ava Luna – Infinite House
Gonna start off with some immediate praise: man, do I love this band! This record might not be as immediately strange and janky as Ava Luna’s last record, Electric Balloon, but it pours on what the band does best: blend silky-smooth grooves in with jagged riffs and artful experimentation. If you know me, you know that I love the grooves and riffs. Woah, here we go – an album that I really like.

2. Björk – Vulnicura
Earlier this year when Vulnicura came out and I was on a complete Björk high, I played her 1997 album, Homogenic, in the car with my friend on the way to a party. My friend hadn’t really listened to Björk before and I explained that she just released a new album that I’m obsessed with and this is one of her older ones. He was shocked to find that Homogenic came out in 1997, since it apparently sounded “so futuristic.” I’d like to think that the same scenario might play out in 2033 with people thinking that this album sounds so futuristic, which is does. Through the assisted production of Arca & Haxan Cloak along with her marvelous ear and talent as a backdrop, Björk was able to once again create an album that definitely seems rooted in 2015, but contains sonic traces of things that sound like they were brought back from a time machine. I’m not even going to get into the songwriting since I don’t want to crawl under my bed and writhe for a few hours. It’s too nice out. This was by far my most anticipated record of 2015 before the year began and it is currently my ultimate favorite. It’ll be tough for anything to beat it.

3. Chastity Belt – Time To Go Home
Hey. I graduated college. You know what album was there for me every step of the way? Well, not this one completely, but it was there for the final stretch. This record has a ton of fun, lazy melodies that are easy enough to put on at hangouts, but also to self-reflect to. Lots of these songs have to do with partying hard, but there’s a second side of this fun, throw caution to the wind type song that has to do with how you feel afterwards: should I keep boozing it up on weekends after I graduate? Am I going to continue having this much fun or should I live it up while I still can? Can I control myself? It’s introspective records like these that really got to me in my last year of college and hey here I am now. Unemployed.

4. Colin Stetson & Laura Neufeld – Never Were The Way She Was
I’ve been fond of Stetson’s music before this release but this is definitely the first record I’ve really clicked with on a personal level. This is definitely thanks to the wonderful violin playing of Laura Neufeld, which adds another dimension to the mechanical, vaguely human skronking and chugging of Stetson’s incredible saxophone playing. Even though Stetson is able to add multiple melodies to his own playing alone, the additional counterpoint of Neufeld’s violin provides a varied experience among Stetson’s previous discography. A good example of this would be on the track “The Dark Hug Of Time” where Neufeld’s violin is providing a sonic backdrop to Stetson’s mutated saxophone shrieks, playing out like a strange film scene in my mind. Check this one out for sure.

5. Eskimeaux – O.K.
This is probably the newest album to join the Top 15 at this point in the year but oh boy does it deserve to be there. I associate Eskimeaux with recent, NY-based acts such as Mitski, Porches., and Frankie Cosmos, which is appropriate because they all share members//tour together. I also associate them because it’s powerful, exposed music that a twenty-something like me can really identify with. Musically, it’s lush and varied, yielding bold, instrumentally dense tracks along with bare, solo acoustic songs, similar to last year’s albums from Mitski and Frankie Cosmos, another parallel. This formula is clearly working on me.

6. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
I’ve listened to this album the most this year so far, by far. I kind of got sick of it. In fact, listening to it now as I write this little blurb, I’m still a little sick of it. Isn’t that a shame? Well, back in January-March, this album was my obsession. It embodied my sad, vitamin D deprived soul in the harshest winter I’ve ever experienced. This album seriously had it all: it’s got the sappy love songs, it’s got the sappy sad songs, the goofy tracks, the sap tracks, etc. Also, musically, c’mon now. It’s gorgeous. It’s definitely got some rust on it now that I’m checking it out again, but it’s still healthily in the Top 15.

7. Holly Herndon – Platform
Ever wonder what music of the future sounds like? Or rather, music centered on problems that feel like the future but are closer than they appear? Herndon’s second album delves deeper into humanity’s complicated relationship with developing technology, specifically computers and the internet, along with its impact on art as a whole. Music wise, it’s a treacherous journey through vocal manipulations, warped field recordings, anxious electronics and one lone ASMR track. It’s like a glorious chorus of the future straight into your brain from your tablet device.

8. Hop Along – Painted Shut
Before this album came out, I was really worried that it wouldn’t live up to my massive expectations following their 2012 album, Get Disowned. But I should have known, with a voice like Francis Quinlan, there’s no way anyone can have their expectations let down.  You can’t doubt the majesty and power of that voice. It’s seriously out of this world and the first thing I tell people about Hop Along, usually paired with “yo you GOTTA listen to this.” It’s got some catchy riffs, too! I love this album so much.

9. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
What can be said about this album that hasn’t been already said? There are classes based on analyzing this album, for goodness sake. I guess in my own words, I can say it’s a magnificent triumph for so many different dimensions of music and life. It’s socially conscious without being lamely preaching, the instrumentals are lush, inventive, and shows a mind that was organically brought up on positive influences and wants to continue being a positive influence for his community & the world. A must-listen for fans of all types of music.

10. Krill – A Distant Fist Unclenching
Really didn’t expect to like this one as much as I do. I surely enjoyed their previous LP but this one really connected with me on a deeper level. I think it was definitely in part to the massive album centerpiece track “Tiger” which I’ve already geeked out about to many friends. Another factor was seeing them live to realize that they easily translate the sound from their record to the live space – it sounded just like the record with all the great nuances with playing in a live space. It was wonderful.

11. Mount Eerie – Sauna
Sometimes when I’m nostalgic for the brutal, seemingly-never ending winter that we were put through this year, I just put this on because 1. I listened to this album a bunch at the beginning of the year when times were frozen and because 2. it literally sounds like the fierce forces of nature coming together to wipe out whatever shred of hope you still had in your body. There are pristine moments, where things are quiet and the snow is falling softly, but there are others where the wind is ripping at your face and you feel like you can’t see a foot in front of you. It’s a massive experience, especially the two drone tracks on here. Truly the full Mount Eerie experience.

12. Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper
Not really sure what to say about this one, honestly. There’s actually a good deal about this album that I wish were different. I wish there weren’t the 30-second interlude tracks that have great song names. Shadow of the Colossus? That’s my favorite video game. So epic- if could have been a sweeping, epic track. Davy Jones’ Locker? With the deep, murky synths on this record it could have had some aquatic samples in there. Where are tracks like “Untying the Knot” that were on his teaser EP from 2014? But clearly, the things I like about this album do outweigh a lot of my complaints enough to put it in my Top 15. I really like the fat, jiggly synths used on this album, especially on the tracks “Boys Latin” and the ethereal moments like on “Tropic of Cancer” and “Lonely Wanderer.” It’s no Person Pitch or even Tomboy; but I’ll definitely take it.

13. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
Oh man, oh my.  I don’t think I was emotionally ready for this record when I first listened to it. I’m being completely honest when I say that; the first time I listened it washed over me like nothing had happened. However, one night when I decided to listen again, I stopped everything I was doing and just listened. Then I teared up. Then I went to bed. It really tore me apart. I’m not used to Sufjan doing that to me. I’ve gotten used to Sufjan being bombastic and colorful on albums like Age of Adz and All Delighted People. Not even his two state albums encroach this emotional territory. It’s so clearly about his life experiences that you’re sucked in, like looking at a sentimental photo album of his life. Woof, man. Woof. That’s all I gotta say.

14. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
Definitely one of the grooviest albums on this list. I seriously didn’t have many expectations for this album since UMO’s first two albums yielded a few great singles and nothing more. What we got on this one were a few great singles and a bunch of other equally good tracks. This album is a swirling, soggy dream of psychedelia and boy am I into it. When tracks are effortlessly stuck in my head for days, I’d say something has gone right.

15. Viet Cong – Viet Cong
Calgary-based band Viet Cong’s debut EP, simply titled Cassette, was my favorite EP of 2014, so I had high hopes for their debut album, especially since this band is the product of the dissolution of another one of my favorite bands, Women. Well, in June of 2015, I still have not found a flaw in this record. If you’re looking for thunderous yet jangly post punk songs, have this be your first pick.

+ 1: Sunflower Bean – Show Me Your Seven Secrets EP
I don’t normally rank EPs along with albums in my top album lists, but this EP would be up there for sure. Yeah, 2/3 of the songs on this EP have been released before, but damn. They’re some really good songs. And they’re really sweet people.

 

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