Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mixtape For A Crush

Two things before I get to this final mixtape of 2011: 1) For the sake of full disclosure, during the weekends I usually put BriPod on shuffle to see how many of the 12,000 songs I can get through before Monday. 2) Today was my last day of work until the New Year. These are two facts that are seemingly unrelated but need to be shared before this next thing. So the song to come on upon finishing the last thing I needed to do before essentially, "calling it a year," was The Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up." Well, first it got me thinking about how awesome The Prodigy was. But then I thought of how appropriate this song was for that moment. From what I remember, when asked what the title meant, Keith Flint was notorious for telling the press that it was just some dumb phrase that meant letting  loose and going crazy. Admittedly, I may or may not have just made that up. In all honesty, I'm not sure if Keith Flint ever really said that or if it was Liam or Maxim that said it -- remember, I'm a big Prodigy fan (Music For The Jilted Generation is easily one of my favorite albums of the 90's.) Or maybe it wasn't even said at all. But in my mind, that was what the title meant. Like instead of saying "Time to get my groove on!" one could yell out "Time to smack my bitch up!" Well anyway, that was one of my first thoughts when leaving work today...that and "How the hell did George Michael's 'Freedom '90' get stuck in my head? I don't even have any George Michael on BriPod?!"

All goofiness aside, this last mixtape came to be because of a dare. I had recently posted that Band Of Horses' "No One's Gonna Love You" is a surefire inclusion if I was a to make a mix for a crush. My friend, Amber called me on it and pretty much challenged me to come up with my "Top 10 songs to give a crush on a mixtape." Well, she didn't really challenge me...she was more interested in what I would come up with. Whatever my motivation was, after giving it some serious thought, here we are, a week later with my perfect playlist for that special someone, whoever she may be. A little New Wave, a little indie, a little pop, and even a hair metal ballad for good measure.

Mixtape For A Crush
(This playlist is also up on Spotify: Mixtape For A Crush)

1. The Magnetic Fields, "The Book Of Love": I always found Stephin Meritt's songwriting to be clever and witty and, yes, at times really funny. What I like about this song, other than the fact that I sound exactly like Stephin Meritt when I sing along to it (no, really, I totally do), is the simplicity of the line "I love it when you sing to me. You can sing most anything." In one sense, I'm a living High Fidelity character because I always wanted to have a girl sing to me. Even if she had a terrible voice, the sappy part of me would kind of love it.

2. Band Of Horses, "No One's Gonna Love You": This song might be a little aggressive for just a crush. I mean that, not in the "blow your speakers and puncture your eardrums"-sort of way, but more in the "whoa...pump the breaks"-variety of "aggressive." But sometimes even crushes can be intense. Luckily, Ben Bridwell sings the lyric, "no one's gonna love you more than I do" in such a sweet tenor that it's able to come across as charming romantic hyperbole.

3. INXS, "Never Tear Us Apart": The first tape I ever bought with my own money was Kick by INXS. To this day, it's still one of my all-time favorite albums. "Never Tear Us Apart" is high on the melodrama scale with its swelling strings and syrupy sax solo. But it also has the kind of lyrics that "High School Brian" would've scribbled onto a note to give a girl after school. And when this song ended up on the tape that I'd pass to the girl (yes, along with the note with the scribbled lyrics), it helped that Michael Hutchence sang it with such believable conviction that he made for a very worthy stand-in.

4. Bat For Lashes & Beck, "Let's Get Lost": Yes, I realize this song is on one of the Twilight movies. No, I've never seen any of them and no, I have zero intention of ever seeing any of them. But the soundtracks are decent. Anyway, this song is on here for just one lyric: "Just for tonight, darling. Let's get lost." Even "Cynical Brian" can get all mushy after hearing a line like that.

5. Yaz, "Only You": Some songs on this list really need no explanation. This is one of those songs. I can see someone getting all misty-eyed at Alison Moyet's almost gut-wrenching delivery, just letting the song's title hang there at the tip of her lips almost as if she wanted to take it back the second she sings it. Rumor has it that after leaving Depeche Mode, Vince Clarke offered to remain the band's songwriter with this being his first post-departure contribution. Instead, it became Yaz's first song. Just imagine, if Depeche Mode had done "Only You." But alas, we're left with this version...not a bad fate after all.

6. The Cure, "Lovesong": I'm willing to bet that there are people who have used these lyrics, rewritten in a letter, word-for-word and passed it off as their own thoughts. And why not? Robert Smith really does come up with a template for the perfect love note. Now if only we can all collectively unhear 311's desecration of this song.

7. Cheap Trick, "The Flame": This is a totally sappy pop ballad. And I'll be honest, it used to be a guilty pleasure. But I've seen Cheap Trick do this song live fairly recently, and goddamnit, Robin Zander hits those high notes flawlessly. Now, I don't care who knows it- I love this song.

8. Mr. Big, "To Be With You": I'm a child of the 80's. While that means I grew up listening to some awesome New Wave, I also absorbed a ton of hair metal. And I'd be a giant liar if I said I didn't love power ballads. Even ones that didn't have that much power. "To Be With You" is far superior to Extreme's "More Than Words" (sorry, Nuno) because of that sing-along chorus...oh and because of the handclaps. If you were a girl I hung out with in high school and had a crush on, you definitely received a mixtape with this song on it.

9. The Lemonheads, "Into Your Arms": Remember when Evan Dando was the next big alt rock pin-up? Yeah, that was a while ago. This song is from that time. If someone's never heard this song before it could still pass for a current indie pop love song. It just sounds timeless mainly because of its heartfelt sentiment.

10. Modern English, "I Melt With You": This one may be forever linked to the 80's but this time that isn't such a bad thing. It's been used over and over again in commercials (Burger King? Really?) but it still can't take away from the sudden rush of lovesick nervousness of that chorus ("I'll stop the world and melt with you.")

11. The Divine Comedy, "At The Indie Disco": I couldn't resist. I just have to include this. At first listen, "At The Indie Disco" sounds more like it's a love note to Britpop (and a little New Wave) namedropping Blur, Morrissey, and The Cure. But as the song progresses it becomes clear that it's also a love song to a crush. The real kicker though is the line "she makes my heart beat the same way / as at the start of 'Blue Monday.'" Isn't that what all of us are looking for, after all?

There you have it. Sometimes romantic, at times sappy, but always catchy. Have a listen and swoon.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Only 25! - Part 2 (#10 - #1)

Wow, look...three Random Ramblings entries in three consecutive days! I must admit, I can get used to doing this a bit more often. Maybe posting a bit more regularly will be my New Year's Resolution for 2012.

So let's get this list done. Last night, I posted the first part of my Top 25 Albums of 2011. Check it out here. Or just scroll down and take a peek at #25 to #11. This time out for the Top 10, not only will there be some videos and such, but I've got an Mixtape and a Spotify playlist to share both featuring a track off of each of the Top 25. And to think, I'm doing this all while watching a My So-Called Life marathon on the Sundance Channel. Rayanne Graff 4 Life!

Let's get to it:

DJ Brian L.'s Top 25 Albums of 2011 (#10 - #1)

10. Ruin 1 - Elite Gymnastics
 Out of my entire Top 25, and really out of all the music I absorbed in the last year, Elite Gymnastics was the one band that completely took me off-guard. With both Pitchfork and Stereogum praising them, and with a name like that, I expected another in a long line of almost forgettable lo-fi chilwave acts. What we get is the complete opposite. Ruin 1 is the more striking half of their dual EP (released together as Ruin.) Where its second part slows things down, Ruin 1 is constant movement. The Minneapolis duo keeps the vocals at a safe distance, filling their songs with huge, industrialized beats made to induce a sweaty dancefloor rather than hipster swaying. While some chillwavers are content floating into the background, Elite Gymnastics makes music that demands attention.

9. New Brigade - Iceage
Four kids from Denmark, not even old enough to legally drink in the States, make a raw blend of 3 kinds of punk prefixes (post-, death-, and goth-) and come up sounding like disciples of Joy Division except with a non-existent attention span. Iceage hammers through a dozen songs in just a shade under 25 minutes. Even when they reach a blistering speed, they manage to do so while never sounding rushed.

  Iceage - Broken Bone by What's Your Rupture?

8. Sound Kapital - Handsome Furs
This is the Handsome Furs album that makes it easier to almost ignore Dan Boeckner's past. Not that I want to forget Wolf Parade, after all, they were one of my favorite indie rock bands of the last few years. But since they're on hiatus, Handsome Furs, a.k.a. Boeckner and his wife, Alexei Perry, have explored their electro-pop leanings. With Sound Kapital, everything has finally fallen into place. The songs are sturdy, inescapably catchy while still showcasing some rock muscle and being irresistibly danceable. 

7. Hurry Up, We're Dreaming - M83
Everyone will point out the huge ambitions behind Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. It's a daunting challenge enduring a double album of arena-sized dreampop. And Anthony Gonzalez doesn't hold back piling on layers upon layers of synths whose starry-eyed haze easily swell into a crystalline shimmer. The only real obstacle is Gonzalez's vocals, a yelp that sometimes overreaches but by the second half of the album eases into form keeping up just fine with the music's heavenly arrangements.

6. Past Life Martyred Saints - EMA
Erika M. Anderson is one of those rare artists who is tough to pin down. On her debut album as EMA, one can spot the raw-nerved emotion of someone like PJ Harvey or Patti Smith but that's just part of what makes Past Life Martyred Saints such an engrossing listen. Experimental in a way where no digital trickery is needed, EMA's songs are wounded and scuffed-up going from deeply confessional to the occasional 90's guitar chug. At either gear, Anderson's vocals remain bare as can be- shifting from scarred to scared with equal conviction. 


5. Cherish The Light Years - Cold Cave
If there was any album to come out this year that would be considered a no-brainer to make it onto my list this would be it. Cold Cave already won me over with their 2009 album, Love Comes Close- a great collection of dark, and at times, noisy synthpop. Cherish The Light Years improves on its predecessor slightly smoothing out some of its rough edges to great results. I once described this album to a friend as a mixture of Depeche Mode, The Cure, and Pretty Hate Machine-era Nine Inch Nails. His response to that was: "Well, then Cold Cave must be your favorite band right now." I can't say I disagree. 

4. Wild Flag - Wild Flag
With all due respect to The Dead Weather, Wild Flag is the best indie rock supergroup. Period. Yes, it was inevitable that they'd be awesome since the band is comprised of former members of Helium, The Minders, and the sorely-missed Sleater-Kinney. But when they join forces, they're musically unstoppable seamlessly meshing Janet Weiss' thunderous drumming with Rebeca Cole's psych rock keyboard drones, Mary Timony's guitar-god tendencies and Carrie Brownstein's rockstar kicks. It's the kind of album you'd expect from them knowing each of their former gigs, but it still has the ability to melt faces in the process. 

3. Conatus - Zola Jesus
Nika Roza Danilova has a towering voice. It grabbed attention last year with her two EPs (Stridulum and Valusia) released under Zola Jesus. With Conatus her soaring, eyeliner-smeared goth pop becomes soul-crushingy gorgeous as synths pulse and shiver while that powerful voice remains firmly intact. 

2.  The Big Roar - The Joy Formidable
The Big Roar could have easily topped this list if it was based solely on the number of times I listened to an album. If there was a way to wear out MP3s the way tapes get worn out, then this album would suffer that fate. I just recently got The Big Roar on vinyl and I listen to it way more than my other records. That's how addictive this is. It's no secret how obsessed I am with this band having seen them in small clubs and in a large arena never sounding out of place in either venue. The Joy Formidable seem out to redefine the power trio but instead of virtuoso-like noodling, the Welsh band uses effects pedals and breathtaking volume to their advantage. Musically, they share the same DNA as Lush and Sonic Youth only with stadium-sized aspirations. Thankfully, The Big Roar lives up to its title.

1. Skying - The Horrors
It's hard to believe that this is the same band whose first album, 2007's Strange House, was an almost campy take on gothy garage punk. Back then they were messy and messed-up sounding like they could implode at any given minute. Luckily, The Horrors were able move on from their trainwreck-ready ways and focus more on their music. On Skying the band seemingly absorbs everything that preceded them, borrowing elements of psych rock, shoegaze, Kraut rock, and even hints of New Wave and transforming it into something singularly their own. 

As promised, here's an Mixtape of 25 songs from the Top 25.

And here is a Spotify Playlist as well: 25 Selections From the Top 25 Albums

There you have it- The Soundtrack to my 2011. Another potentially great year of music is almost upon us and I'm ready for some new sounds and some new obsessions. One more mixtape to share before heading to the land called New Jersey for the holidays. Here's a spoiler: It's a Mixtape For A Crush. Sappy songs forthcoming. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Only 25! - Part 1 (#25 - #11)

Alright, so I'm very motivated right now to finish my 2011 best of lists. That and I kind of want to read who everyone else is picking as their favorites of the past year. Sure, I'm willing to bet money that stuff I hated will get picked-- that's right, I'm looking at you, Bon Iver and you too, Fleet Foxes; yes and even you, Fucked Up. I don't know what it is, but their albums had no bearing in my life this year. It's no coincidence that 2011 was the year that I exorcised most all folky indie rock from BriPod. But it was also the year that my gothy side became too much to ignore. I think I may have even kept pointing out to everyone how a lot of the cool music to come out this year seemed a bit more goth. And yes, I realize that that's coming from the guy with a pretty intense collection of Cure records (both vinyl and CDs) and more than a handful of :wumpscut: albums. But I'm sticking to it.

Last year, I went a bit overboard and did my Top 50 Albums of 2010. I'll admit it was tougher for me to pick 50 great albums from this year. That's not to say that everything that came out last year was a bit better (OK, maybe that is part of the reason) but it's also because I found myself listening to things a bit more excessively. So the list might seem a bit streamlined but it's definitely not due to lack of quality music, just an overabundance of songs that called for my constant attention.

Before getting to the actual list, a couple of honorable mentions. First, I have to come out and say it: I really loved the Foo Fighters' last album, Wasting Light. Just the best straightforward rock record of the year. I'm actually ashamed of the fact that I haven't listened to it as much as I have, compared to the albums that made this list. Grohl is great. 'Nuff said. Also, I loved the hell out of the Beastie Boys' Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. Not many people did, but I thought it was their best since Check Your Head.

Now, onto the list:

DJ Brian L.'s Top 25 Albums of 2011 (#25 - #11)

25. Ninth - Peter Murphy
I swear, it's just a coincidence that all my goth talk this year was not some sort of elaborate plan to put a Peter Murphy on my best albums list. Yes, I am playing favoritism here a little. In my defense, this is his best album since Holy Smoke. But it's that voice that still takes center stage. Aged gracefully after all these years, as if we'd expect anything less from him.

24. Hearts - I Break Horses
I have a soft spot for Swedish indie pop. But I have an even softer soft spot for dreampop. I Break Horses fits the bill for being both of those and they do it very well. Shimmering and hypnotic, Hearts is this year's Teen Dream.

23. Lights And Offerings - Mirrors
I openly admit that I'm a total child of the 80's. So it's safe to say that I get annoyed when I see the term "synthpop" getting tossed about. I've seen it used both when it's appropriate (see: Neon Indian) and inappropriate, as is the case with, say, Com Truise who has more in common with the freak prog jamming of Battles than they do with the sleek electro of OMD. Thankfully, a band like UK's Mirrors can restore my faith in synthpop. Classic, yet at the same time cheekily futuristic, Mirrors' greatest strength isn't just looking suave but in putting as much emphasis on the "pop" as they do with the "synth."

22. An Open Door - Soft Kill
This is one album that I'm sure many will overlook. Soft Kill definitely plays up to my love of post punk and dark pop.  Fitting, since half the duo, the appropriately-named, Toby Grave, had just dissolved his former band, the dank, Joy Division-esque, Blessure Grave. Instead of making the move for full-on, shiny dance pop,  Grave and his wife, Shiloh Alia, are most comfortable lurking in the shadows. With An Open Door their music remains spiky yet darkly romantic.

21. Visits - Tammar
This one will be the toughest to write about. Mainly because I honestly know nothing about this band. I stumbled onto them thanks to a blog....or maybe someone (or more accurately, something) I follow on Twitter. Either way, I came across the track, "The Last Line" and it floored me. A little bit post punk, a little Krautrock, and a little Madchester- all things that I can't resist, all wrapped together on one song. As for the rest of Visits, the Indiana-based five piece (thanks, Pitchfork) manages to maintain a spacey, hypnotic groove giving songs enough room to build to soaring crescendos.   

20. Scarlet - 2:54
This band is my most recent obsession. 2:54 is a pair of sisters named after a specific moment in a Melvins song. How badass is that? I don't even like the Melvins and I'm already hooked to this. But seriously, this 4-song EP is instantly addictive. Smoky, fuzzed out indie rock like a sultry Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or PJ Harvey at her most seductive.

19. Zonoscope - Cut Copy
I'm thankful for a band like Cut Copy. Not only because I can brag about seeing them live when no one knew who they were (they were opening for Franz Ferdinand, at the time), but they're probably the only indie-electro band that has gotten bigger not by relying on a scuzzy lo-fi sound but by keeping their focus on actual pop songs that just happen to sparkle. On Zonoscope the Australian band keeps their cool not fussing over outdoing a smash ("Lights & Music") and making should-be pop gems like "Need You Now" and "Blink And You'll Miss A Revolution" sound effortlessly cool.

18. What Did You Expect From The Vaccines - The Vaccines
I like The Vaccines for the same reasons I liked The Strokes when I first heard them. They're scrappy but a little messy and they've got punchy, songs. What Did You Expect is all catchy garage pop capable of swelling to a noisy racket. And with only two songs passing the 4 minute mark, The Vaccines make the most of their time getting to the point quickly and confidently.

17. Burst Apart - The Antlers
Whenever I read that a band's next album is going to be "more electronic" I get a little nervous. It worked wonders for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, whose turn towards glitzy electro rock fit them like a glove, but the results can also be a bit shaky as they were for dapper post punks, Editors. Surprisingly, the move works well for Brooklyn's The Antlers. They could have easily fallen into the sappy pop territory (like Postal Service ripoffs, Owl City) but instead the synths add an icy texture giving more warmth and emotional weight to Peter Silberman's awesome falsetto.

16. Belong - The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
Their name may still cry out "WE'RE TWEE!" And with song titles like "Heart In Your Heartbreak" and "Girls Of 1000 Dreams" they're a bit guilty of living up to that tag. But for every sugary sweet chorus - and there are a lot on this album- the band balances it out with a constant rush of fuzzy guitars that seemingly come in right as things are about get a little too cute.

15. Wounded Rhymes - Lykke Li
Lykke Li grew up. I remember seeing her the first time she came through Boston supporting her debut album, Youth Novels. Back then she was decked out in a hoodie about two sizes too big for her tiny frame. Then I saw her during her most recent tour and the difference was light and day. This time she was bathed in bright lights sashaying in a tight black dress as flowy curtains adorned the stage. But honestly, one listen to Wounded Rhymes and the change doesn't seem so drastic. She gives 60's pop a dark twist but also seems coy and seductive especially on the steamy "Get Some" where she calls herself "your prostitute" before claiming "you're gonna get some." To Lykke Li, that's both a come-on and a threat.

14. Cat's Eyes - Cat's Eyes
Cat's Eyes is the collaborative side-project of Faris Badwan, lead singer of The Horrors, and Canadian opera singer and multi-instrumentalist, Rachel Zeffira. Based on that description alone, this sounds like the makings of a disaster. Instead, their great self-titled album is a rather surprising throwback to pop music of the past with influences mined from the 50's and 60's, Go-Going like Nancy Sinatra one minute  ("Face In The Crowd") and sounding like a theme song to a spy thriller the next ("Bandit").

13. Colour Trip - Ringo Deathstarr
Austin's awesomely-named noise-pop trio, Ringo Deathstarr wears their influences on their sleeve. Their first proper full-length, Colour Trip, is practically a love letter to shoegaze forefathers, The Jesus And Mary Chain complete with loads of feedback, distortion, and hazy vocals. And since My Bloody Valentine's long-fabled follow-up to Loveless keeps getting farther away, Ringo Deathstarr fills the gap with this collection of blissed-out near-perfection.  

12. I Am Very Far - Okkervil River
2011 was the year that I cut out Indie Folk from my life. One band that managed to avoid the Great Folk Purge is Okkervil River. On I Am Very Far, Will Sheff can still spin a tale, but now the band's musical palette has more in common with the big rock aspirations of Arcade Fire and Wilco and less with the flowery harmonies of Fleet Foxes. A great release from a band that has only gotten better with time. 

11. Blood Pressures - The Kills
The Kills is one of very few bands who was introduced to me by MTV. Believe it or not, it was their video for "Fried My Little Brains" that got played on Subterranean many years ago. I was instantly hooked. On  Blood Pressures, the duo of Jamie Hince and the electrifying, Alison Mosshart make their biggest-sounding album yet. An impressive feat for a band that's as stripped down as it gets. And just like their live shows, with Blood Pressures all they need is a drum machine, guitars, vocals, and a whole lot of sexual tension to make their infectious gutter blues come to life.

So there you have it. The first part of my Top 25 Albums of 2011. Hopefully, the motivation stays alive so we can get through the Top 10 tomorrow. Well, at least, that's the aim since I was met with a recent challenge from a friend to come up with a Mixtape For A Crush...and well, I can't back down from a challenge like that. Be'll be more Random Ramblings in these next few days than there has been in a while.

Friday, December 16, 2011

11-11 Mixtape

It's that special time of year. The holidays are upon us and the year is winding down. That can only mean one thing: It's time for everyone to share their Best of lists. I hate to admit it but it has taken the better part of the last week or so to compile my year-end favorites. Last year, I got ambitious and laid out my Top 50 Albums of 2010. And as much as I wanted to pick my 50 favorite albums of this year, I had to come to the conclusion that this year was filled with a ton of obsessions and repeated listens. That being said, I'm cutting down my albums list by half. Yeah, it was a tough decision but it had to be done. More on that in the next Random Ramblings post but for this one, I'll be sharing my Top 11 songs of 2011. And like I do every year, it's here in mixtape form. Let's count 'em down!

11-11 Mixtape
Also, check out the Spotify link to this mixtape here 11 in 11

11. "3 Sisters" Puerto Rico Flowers
This definitely won't be the first time I make this claim, but 2011 was the year that I embraced my goth leanings a bit more. Sure, I always rocked the eyeliner but it seemed indie was getting a bit darker, as well. And this band was evidence of that. Pitchfork reviewed Puerto Rico Flowers' great album, 7, and made the comparison to Bauhaus and The Cure. That's all I needed to hear. John Sharkey III, former singer of Philadelphia noise-rockers, Clockcleaner (don't worry, I've never heard of them either), flexes his Ian Curtis-like baritone on this while a rumbling bassline and atmospheric synths slither underneath. The result is what I'd imagine Depeche Mode would sound like if they tried to cover The Cure's "Fascination Street" - which is to say, it's awesome.

  Puerto Rico Flowers - 3 Sisters by Fan Death Records

10. "Stay Away" Charli XCX
I swear, I don't get all my music taste from Pitchfork. It just seems that way sometimes. From what I just recently learned, Charli XCX is a 19-year-old British electropop artist who is self-described as "dark pop." One listen to "Stay Away" and it's clear that that description is pretty accurate. I'll admit, it was a tough choice as to which song to include on this mixtape since her second single, the equally awesome and very Ladytron-like, "Nuclear Seasons" has been on constant rotation on BriPod, but the slightly stuttering rhythm of "Stay Away" edges it out. Oh and that midsong rap most definitely reminds me of T'Pau's sole hit, "Heart and Soul."

9. "Broken Record" Katy B
I'm a sucker for dance pop. There I admit it. It shouldn't come as a shock though, since the song that topped my 2010 mixtape was Robyn's "Dancing On My Own." But since she didn't put out anything new this year, I had to look elsewhere for my pop fix. And that's how I came across Katy B. "Broken Record" starts off pretty normally- throbbing bass, cooing vocals- then after 30 seconds, the chorus kicks in like fireworks with shards of jungle and yes, even a hint of dubstep (the UK version not the meatheaded US version, a.k.a. "Brostep.") It's the kind of chorus you need to hear again and luckily it happens a minute later. Oh and the song ends with the sound of crackling vinyl.

8. "Back In Bloom" SULK
Sometimes honesty is the best policy. So I'll come clean on this one: SULK is a very recent discovery for me. As in, I just heard them for the first time maybe a month ago. From what I'm told, and I won't swear that this is truth, but SULK is a London band that arose from the ashes of The Ruling Class who, incidentally was also a recent discovery. What I know about The Ruling Class is that they had a very awesome Stone Roses sounding song called "If You Wonder" that's also worth searching for. Anyway, SULK's "Back In Bloom" still has hints of that psychedelic Britpop, Madchester sound but with a layer of shimmering shoegaze thrown on top of it. This song is proof that guitars should always sound like they're aiming skyward.

7. "Belong" The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
Brooklyn's The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are one of those bands whose names can sometimes work against them. It just sort of overflows with cuteness. Still, their 2009 self-titled debut album showed that even dreampop can be endearing in that "awww" kind of way. On album #2, producers Flood and Alan Moulder worked the same kind of magic that made the Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream one of the 90's alt-rock classics. On "Belong," it's about balancing that rush of distorted guitars with the chorus that's tailor-made for sing-alongs. And somewhere Billy Corgan is overcome with jealousy.

  The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Belong by Slumberland Records

6. "Pretty Little Hand" earthquake party!
It's not often that I fall for a local Boston band. Sure, I have my favorites like Hallelujah The Hills, The Dents, Neptune, and Autochrome (another recent crush.) But it was different with earthquake party! They're noisy, punky, synthy, and punchy as hell. As a matter of fact, the first time I saw them the guitars and the keyboards were so drenched in distortion that it was difficult to tell them apart. But what worked in their favor was their songs are extremely addictive...and extremely short. Last time I saw them, their set lasted all of 21 minutes. I'm pretty sure they played 10 songs in that span of time. "Pretty Little Hand" comes off their latest cassette release vs. Pizza and it's quite honestly, the most exhilarating and catchy 138 seconds you can ever spend. Just try to resist it.

5. "What About Us" Handsome Furs
I was very upset when I found out that Wolf Parade was going on hiatus. They quickly became one of my favorite bands. Thankfully, in the time both during, and now, after Wolf Parade, Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry have come into their own as Handsome Furs. "What About Us," the lead single from their excellent third album, Sound Kapital, wouldn't sound out of place in a goth/industrial club with it's thumping beat, wheezing synths, and Boeckner's surprisingly restrained vocals almost inviting the listener to go ahead and break his heart. 

  Handsome Furs - What About Us by subpop

4. "The City" Patrick Wolf
This song just screams 80's. And that's not necessarily a bad thing especially when the end result is a song as catchy as "The City." Art school fop, Patrick Wolf knows a thing or two about dramatic glam pop and here he lets some light in and aims big - huge, sunny chorus, fingersnaps, horns, and yes, even a sax solo. It almost works a little too well...

3. "Midnight City" M83
Speaking of the 80's and sax solos, and well, aiming big, Anthony Gonzalez did all of that with his latest opus, the heavenly double-album, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. I still get shocked when I hear "Midnight City" on commercial radio, but if any song deserves to be heard by just about everyone, it's this. What's funny to me is that it's that big synth hook that gets stuck in my head - it makes that Kenny G-worthy sax solo at the end forgivable.

2. "The Great Pan Is Dead" Cold Cave
Cold Cave's last album, Cherish The Light Years is easily in my Top 10 of 2011. It pretty much takes everything that I love and mashes it together. Not since the first time I heard The Faint's Danse Macabre have I fallen instantly in love with an album. But it was Cherish's first single that blew me away. "The Great Pan Is Dead" is a scorching industrial rocker, plan and simple. Grinding guitars, pummeling drums, soaring synths, and Wesley Eisold's deep, dark vocals - to me, it's just instant awesomeness.

  Cold Cave - The Great Pan Is Dead by artsandcraftsmx

1. "Whirring" The Joy Formidable
It's no secret that I'm a bit obsessed with The Joy Formidable (or as I call them, JoyFo.) And honestly, I'm happy that they're getting bigger. Now, if I want to be technical, then I'd point out that "Whirring" first appeared on the band's 2009 EP A Balloon Called Moaning (released in the States in 2010.) However, this version that lands the top spot on the 11-11 Mixtape is from their debut full-length, The Big Roar. The big difference, aside from the better production value, is the added 4 minute storm of noise at the end. I'll admit, at first I thought it was a bit excessive. Then after a few listens, it became my favorite part of the song. Now whenever I hear Ritzy sing "I can see you staying here" for the last time, my first thought is always, "OK, here we go..." because I know what's coming. Honestly, once the double bass kicks in, I want to thrash around and break stuff.

And although the studio version is on the 8tracks Mixtape included above, I thought I'd share their colossal 9-minute performance they did for KEXP. It's mindblowingly awesome!

So there you go. My Top 11 Songs of 2011, naturally named 11-11 Mixtape. Coming soon, my Top 25 Albums of the year gone by. So until then...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

13 Looks like a B

So far, this has been the year where my goth tendencies have been making a sort of comeback. For instance, I recently became obsessed with the band Puerto Rico Flowers solely because Pitchfork compared them to Bauhaus, The Cure, and Depeche Mode. Total no-brainer. But there are times when I just need pop music. That and I just finished Rob Sheffield's Talking To Girls About Duran Duran so I've got pop music and mixtapes in the brain.

Oh and just to clear it up right away: the second use of "cool" in the mixtape's name is meant as a verb.

** I swear, it's just a weird coincidence that this mix is 13 songs long just like the last one I posted here a couple of months ago (Black Eyeliner Goes With Everything) But since we're on the subject of 13, when I was younger and played sports (little league then volleyball when I was in high, really!) I always wore the number 13. Part of the reason was that it's supposedly "bad luck." But the other reason was because I thought it looked like a "B" as in "Brian" as in my first name. Yeah, it was genius, I know. Anyway, onto the tracklist and this time out, notes! Hooray! **

Cool Pop (To Cool People)
1. Miles Kane, "Rearrange": The non Arctic Monkey half of The Last Shadow Puppets. I believe he was also the singer in The Rascals. I'll admit, I'm not familiar with them. But this one off of Miles' latest album, Coulour Of The Trap reminds me of Edwyn Collins' "A Girl Like You"...and that's a good thing.

2. The Wombats, "1996":  I will always have love for The Wombats. "Let's Dance To Joy Division" found its way onto nearly every mix I made for someone. Their latest is produced by Butch Walker and it's damn good and damn poppy. This one has that kind of chorus that is destined to get stuck in your head.

3. The Cars, "Sad Song": I recently saw The Cars. Not like the time I saw The New Cars which had Todd Rundgren playing the part of Ric Ocasek, this was the actual Cars (minus the dearly departed, Benjamin Orr.) It was like having the soundtrack to my childhood come to life. This is one off their new album, Move Like This, and honestly, it's got all the things that makes Cars songs so great: those wheezing keyboards, handclaps, and an instantly catchy chorus.

4. Mirrors, "Into The Heart": Another band that's pretty much a no-brainer for me to like. It's straightforward synthpop with emphasis on pop. Sort of like OMD if they were fronted by the singer of White Lies.

5. Patrick Wolf, "The City": I try my best to stay away from sax solos. I blame Kenny G for that. Mostly it just sounds cheesy and it's one step closer to being soft rock. Shudder at that thought for a second. This is the very reason that I'm still not sure if I like Destroyer's Kaputt. Anyway, "The City" has a sax solo but it's very forgivable because the song is just so insanely catchy- it practically starts with the chorus plus it has fingersnaps AND handclaps.

6. Oh Land, "We Turn It Up": I saw Oh Land when she opened for OMD. I didn't want to like her but I was completely won over in just 3 songs. It's bubbly dance pop, plain and simple. This one is my favorite mainly because I never remember the title, but I remember the melody of the chorus. That's part of the mission of pop music right there!

7. CSS, "Hits Me Like A Rock": New CSS...shhh, don't tell anyone. But for serious, I saw CSS last month when they co-headlined a show with Sleigh Bells. And yes, it's a well-known fact that I have undying love for Sleigh Bells, but on this night, CSS owned them. All their new songs sounded great and their skinny keyboardist was rocking both a keytar and an L7 t-shirt. Instant crush. Anyway, this is an early contender for the Jam of the Summer. And add to it some guest vocals from Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie and this song is damn near perfect.

8. Friendly Fires, "Hurting": I've always said that in an alternate universe Robyn would be as big of a star as Lady GaGa. Well, in that same alternate universe, Friendly Fires would be as big as Phoenix. Hell, they're already better...that's right I said it. How this song isn't on pop radio is beyond me.

9. Kids Of 88, "Downtown": I admit, I really don't know much of anything about Kids Of 88. Hell, they could be a boy band. All I know is that this song has got lots of swagger and I kind of love it. Man, I'm going to be pissed when I find out they're a boy band.

10. White Sea, "Ladykiller": No, not a Cee Lo Green cover. But perhaps something better. White Sea is Morgan Kibby whose breathy sighs were featured on M83's awesome Saturdays = Youth. Here she gets a chance to flex her vocal chords while showing an unabashed 80's pop influence.

11. Charli XCX, "Jungle (Phaeleh Remix)": Another artist to throw in the "I know nothing about them"-File. I heard her latest single, "Stay Away" for the first time and had to scour the internet to find it. "Stay Away" plays to my love of dark synthpop tipping its hat to T'Pau's "Heart and Soul." "Jungle," however, lives up to its title touching on both jungle (obvi) and rave. It's that kind of song that can become huge overseas but remain somewhat under the radar on these shores.

12. Katy B, "Broken Record": Another UK pop star dabbling in jungle, techno, rave...all of the above and more, really. The chorus of this song is awesome. And I kind of love how Katy sounds like she's singing "Like a broken rip-chord." Then the song ends with the sound of crackling vinyl.

13. Lady GaGa, "Schei├če": Last but most definitely not least. You can't mention pop music without mentioning its current reigning queen diva. And yes, I really do love Born This Way. This one is my favorite, if only for the opening line-- "I can't speak German, but I can if you like."

I actually forgot to post this other mixtape I made on 8tracks. This one is fairly self-explanatory but still pretty awesome if I do say so myself.

I Am A DJ, I Am What I (Over)-Play
1. Warpaint, "Bees"   
2. School Of Seven Bells, "Windstorm"
3. The Radio Dept., "This Time Around"
4. The Raveonettes, "Recharge & Revolt"
5. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, "Belong"
6. Cold Cave, "The Great Pan Is Dead"
7. The Joy Formidable, "I Don't Want to See You Like This"
8. The Vaccines, "Blow It Up"
9. Zola Jesus, "Poor Animal"
10. Robyn, "Dancing On My Own"
11. The Divine Comedy, "At The Indie Disco"

Listen. "Like." Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Eyeliner and mixtapes

Just recently a few people told me that I was responsible for getting them interested in The Joy Formidable. And yes, I do talk about that band a lot and perhaps may even be a little obsessed with them to the point that I've dedicated many a Tweet and Facebook status to the awesomeness of JoyFo (as I like to call them.)

The strange part though, was that of the people who mentioned the whole JoyFo thing, none of them has ever gotten a mixtape (or technically, a mix CD) from me. Obviously, I was that guy among my friends who always made mixtapes if for no other reason than to share some of my current obsessions with others. The coolest part of sharing a mix with someone is when they come back to me and point out the one song that they loved. For some reason, it was always the song on the mix I loved most, which usually meant "Dominos" from The Big Pink.

So in the spirit of the mixtape and because I'm a bit of a music nerd, here's something I put together on which is a pretty neat site that a friend recently recommended to me. Chances are this won't be the first mixtape I'll be posting up here.

Sometimes, I just have to embrace my inner goth. It's a tag I haven't been able to shake. Thankfully, it's becoming a bit easier these days since a lot of indie bands have also been going in a dark pop route. This first mix, then, pulls together some of my favorite acts that make donning eyeliner and dressing in black fashionable again. Coincidentally there just happens to be 13 songs on this mix.

Black Eyeliner Goes With Everything
1. Esben and the Witch: "Chorea"
2. Zola Jesus: "Lightstick"
3. Austra: "Beat And The Pulse"
4. Bat For Lashes: "Strangelove" (Depeche Mode cover)
5. Andre Obin: "The Arsonist"
6. Ladytron: "Ace Of Hz"
7. Light Asylum: "Skullfuct"
8. Handsome Furs: "What About Us"
9. Cold Cave: "Villains Of The Moon"
10. Soft Kill: "From This Point"
11. Abe Vigoda: "Dream Of My Love (Chasing After You)"
12. Principe Valiente: "New Life"
13. O. Children: "Dead Disco Dancer"

Friday, March 25, 2011

[STREAM] Cold Cave: "Cherish The Light Years" (2011)

I think it's safe to say that after hearing "The Great Pan Is Dead," the first single from Cold Cave's forthcoming album, Cherish The Light Years (due out on Matador Records on April 5th), they instantly became my obsession. Hell, I was already hooked when I heard Love Comes Close, but with "The Great Pan..." they turned everything up to 11-- industrialized guitars, New Wave synths, and gothy vocals. Now, I have the privilege of sharing Cherish The Light Years for all to take a listen. It's dark, it's dancey, and yes, it's awesome. It's got elements of everything thing I love-- Depeche Mode, New Order, The Cure, and Nine Inch Nails all wrapped into one. It should come as no surprise that this album will soon be a staple during my DJ gigs. Clearly a front-runner for my favorite of 2011.

Enough chatter, just listen:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Oh My Goth!

Is it me or have things been getting a bit gothy lately?  Sometimes it's as subtle as a Cocteau Twins reference here (Warpaint) or a guest spot from Robert Smith there (the awesome Crystal Castles collaboration, "Not In Love.") But there have also been more obvious nods to all things dark and brooding, whether done right by bands like Abe Vigoda -- who switched gears from noise punk shrieks to the synthed-up melodrama of last year's excellent Crush -- or when things go horribly wrong (that's right, She Wants Revenge, I'm referring to you!) 

What's even more shocking is that there are some really good goth-leaning acts that have gotten plenty of love from more than just a few indie blogs. Could goth possibly become hip? And no, I don't mean like in a fashionable way thanks to those dumb vampire movies that I refuse to acknowledge...but in a cool way that could possibly lead to high school kids discovering Bauhaus or the Sisters Of Mercy or Nick Cave. If only...

Anyway, since I'm into making lists, here's one highlighting some of this new wave of indie goth:

Esben and The Witch

Hailing from Brighton, England, this 3-piece builds their songs out of eerie, unsettling soundscapes. To say their sound is otherworldly is a bit of an understatement. Psychedelic and haunting all at once, it's the siren song voice of Rachel Davies that is most striking. 

 Cold Cave

Just like Esben and The Witch, Cold Cave is on Matador Records which apparently is the new home for goth. At this point, I wouldn't even blink an eye if tomorrow I find out that Matador will be reissuing Flesh For Lulu's classic albums (those would be Long Live The New Flesh and Big Fun City Blue Sisters Swing, by the way.) Anyway, this is one of those bands that I didn't want to like. But then I heard "Love Comes Close" and I just couldn't resist. I mean come on: it's dancey, electro-goth! It practically comes with eyeliner. Seriously, just try to resist:

Cold Cave has a new album due out on April 5th called, Cherish The Light Years. They just released its first single, "The Great Pan Is Dead" and yes, I have to say, it's downright addictive. Electro goth rock minus the cheesy Crow-like imagery. Totally worth trading an email for the song. Pick it up below or at the band's website:


Light Asylum

Last, but certainly not least, Light Asylum. They're a recent discovery and one I honestly don't know too much about. All I do know is that singer, Shannon Funchess (who you might recognize from !!!) has got one of the most captivating voices I've heard in a while. She's got power in those pipes. Her voice reminds me of Alison Moyet...yes, that good. And honestly, this song, "Dark Allies" wouldn't seem out of place played on an industrial night maybe even followed up by some Front 242 (I'd suggest "Tragedy For You.")