It’s hard to believe that we’ve been at this for just a little over two years now. We’ve Light Asylumed, Diamond Ringed, Sea Wolfed, Death Cabbed, Best Coasted, and Ariel Pink’d. We’ve muckraked, Siriused, indie rock playlisted, photographed, bitched, busted, apologized, been apologized to, misspelled, mis-heard, revealed and ultimately tried really hard to be just us. So thanks to all of our regular readers. We said it at the beginning; we aren’t professionals, we’re fans. We may not be perfect some of the time, but we appreciate your hanging with us through it all. So back to not-so-serious business!
I’ve put together my favorites of last year – both from 2010 and what I like to call my “rescovery” tracks, music I had never heard before or rediscovered after a long time. Our first COLORCAST combines the two. Listen and/or download it after the jump and read the track by track commentary.
Also, for our Seattle friends, I will be DJing this coming Thursday, January 13th at PONY. I will have limited quantities of my fanzine which accompanies the CD hard copy of our first COLORCAST.
Here’s our first COLORCAST
1. Light Asylum | A Certain Person – As I wrote earlier this year, I stumbled on this after being late to their impromptu show at Pony in Seattle. I bought their IN TENSION tour ep. From what I have gathered, these are demos. James Murphy is apparently slated to bring some of his magic to Light Asylum in the near future. He says they need some work, but I love the rawness of this early stuff and I hope he keeps some of it rough; it really lends itself to what Shannon and Bruno are doing. Ssshhh, my secret is that I have a bigger crush on Light Asylum than any person in the last ten years. Now you know the secret, oh damn. That photo up there is me and Shannon at the 2010 Treasure Island Music Festival where she was performing with !!!.
2. Wild Nothing | Bored Games – Anyone who has heard this album knows it’s a gem. This song was on repeat all year for me and I still haven’t tired of them. It’s heartfelt and emotional in the simplest way. “Where are you going? Can I go with you? I don’t feel right when you’re not here” is about the best delivered lyric of the year over the rolling Cure-like guitar. It feels like a happy kind of pain, like choosing something, or someone that’s bad for you. The only other lyric in the song? ” I know you’re bad, it’s why I like you.” I like it.
3. Best Coast | Our Deal – I love this girl so much. She sings about her cat, being lazy and weed in pretty much every song on the album, but this one strikes the best because of the Wall of Sound production and girl group oohs and ahhs. The whole album tends to repeat a consistent theme. Have ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love with – and then couldn’t stop the repeating thoughts after it falls apart? That’s what CRAZY FOR YOU is, the thoughts that won’t stop. Good thing Beth has Snacks the Cat and lots of weed!
4. The Caravelles | Hey Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind – While we’re on the subject of Wall of Sound, this one really has some crazy swirls of constant gorgeousness layered in the background which make this one really special. Our dear friend and producer Erik Blood pointed out that this is only a two part harmony on the vocals, it’s that background which makes it sound like something else. Fun fact, these girls were office friends who cut this single and had very little other work which apparently wasn’t half as good as this song.
5. Mina | Breve Amore – Mina is an Italian treasure whose career spans four decades. Even if you don’t understand Italian, you can hear the longing and emotion in her songs, and this one is a real stand out for me. If you get a chance, head over to youtube and check out any black and white MINA video you can find. I promise she will blow your mind!
6. Barbara Lewis | How Can I Tell? – I’m a pushover for strings and this one has some of the best I have ever heard. You could mistake this for Dusty Springfield if you didn’t know better. This one touches on the abandon one finds when they find “the one.” Miss Lewis is responsible for one of the best songs ever written, “Hello Stranger” which I bet you’ve heard in one form or another. She also is known for being one of the few artists from the girl group era who wrote her own music. No Brill Building for Barbara Lewis, apparently!
7. Washed Out | You’ll See It – I was OB-SODDING-SESSED with this song this year. It “officially” came out in 2009, but my vinyl copy says 2010, so I included it here. It also is a left turn for this mix. This sun drenched gem has too much of everything right, reverb, distortion, buried vocals and sequenced lines which make you want to grab your boogie board and head for the beach. File under Chillwave, if you want; I’m trying not to buy into any more genres right now. I file under perfect, old fashioned pop music.
8. Diamond Rings | Something Else – My friend Corey was spot on about Diamond Rings. John O’Regan is onto something, and as enjoyable as the album is, “Something Else” stands out as one of the strongest “singles” I’ve heard in years. Think “Regret” by New Order, “Babies” by Pulp or Blur’s “Coffee and TV” kind of good. The chorus is pretty much my life’s story with finding that not-so-perfect someone. At least I have my cat and a bag of weed.
9. No Age | Glittter – I’ve always been a bit of a noise pop fan. Layered and distorted, but beautiful took up a lot of my 90’s in the form of the unfortunately named Shoegazer genre. No Age likes My Bloody Valentine but doesn’t sound like them. But like MBV, they are exploring experimental, yet minimal ways to present pop music. NOUNS is one of my favorite records ever and even though I’m still wrapping myself around EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN, I have huge hopes for these guys.
10. Serena Maneesh | I Just Want To See Your Face – Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Serena Maneesh, but they disappeared right out of sight as soon as their last record came out. This gem was probably my most listened to song of the year, it’s a two minute scorcher which warrants repeat listens. Here’s another record I like but don’t love – that is for now. I remember when Radiohead’s OK COMPUTER came out. I liked it well enough, but it was a couple of years later that I put it on and fell in love for real. And an aside, their show at Seattle’s Triple Door this year was one of the best I saw this year. If you’ve not seen them live, I most highly recommend that you do.
11. Weekend | Age Class – This one hit me like a bus with no brakes; the whole album, SPORTS did as well. Only released in November, it creeped into my top ten of the year. This song warrants their comparisons to Joy Division, but I hear something more original in SPORTS than say Interpol or The Horrors. It’s out there while being firmly grounded. More bands of this ilk should take note; pop music can be dangerous and out of control and I’d like to hear more bands out there lose abandon as these gents have done.
12. Zola Jesus | Sea Talk – More obviously than Weekend has done, Zola Jesus has taken the backbone of Joy Division’s “Atmosphere” and worked it into an unknown Siouxsie number. I usually call bullshit on something like this but “Sea Talk” smacked me upside the head just right. It’s the sound of a relationship cracking and rotting into more of a haunting memory that you’ll never be able to shake. As I listen to more of her material, I hear the sound of a young lady sharing the soundtrack of her life. I predict collaborations with some of the finest established artists and producers who will want to help her grow into an icon. She has the “it” and I can’t wait to hear “it” grow.
13. Mirrors | Broken By Silence – Mirrors were also an extra special find this year. “Broken By Silence” reminds me of “All Day Long” by New Order (Brotherhood) and is authentically old school. Their relationship with the newly rebooted O.M.D. will help them to be heard. Europe and the UK have had the chance, but the US will have to wait, apparently. This is amazing stuff. “Broken By Silence” is the b-side (well I guess you could call it that) of the just as listenable single, “Ways To An End” which I recommend you seek out immediately! Fans of O.M.D., Depeche Mode and New Order will not be let down.
14. Grauzone | Eisbär – This one has a sort of abrasive early new wave feel to it. The lyrics however are kind of heartbreaking. The rough translation is “I’d like to be a polar bear, in the polar cold, then i would never have to scream again, everything would be clear” and repeats at the end, “Polar Bears should never cry.” It’s a sweet sentiment set to a cold, blippy authentic snapshot of European pop from the early 80’s. Paige will testify that this song will earworm you mercilessly.
15. Thee Satisfaction | Reagan – Seattle’s Thee Satisfaction arguably have had the nicest things written about them this year. Unless you’re from Seattle, you aren’t getting what this is about – yet. But you will, I promise. This little song clocks in at about the same length as most of their work to date. Short, relevant and poignant commentary on the struggles of a modern young black woman is a common theme of their work; it puts the listener – black, white, yellow or purple, into a state of curiosity, understanding and awareness of their campaign. I don’t usually like too much social or political commentary in the music I listen to – music is my escape. But the way that Thee Satisfaction, and their contemporaries Shabazz Palaces deliver it, makes me want to know more about them; I hear so many parallels in my own life as a gay man.
16. The Action | Brain – Erik told me about this one. It was in a movie, I don’t remember which one. I’m not really sure what it means either. “Take your brain, it’s time to go..” is catchy as is, and I love this one on repeat as well!
17. Electric Prunes | Holy Are You – Like politics in music, spirituality is another taboo for me, but the instrumentation, particularly the string passages here transcend all that other business. This drips with reverence, yet feels like you should be on LSD whilst listening to it. This has been sampled by many a hip-hop artist and you can expect some sort of mash-upy sound collage by me featuring this song in the coming months. Oh, just listen to it – you’ll see what I mean!
18. Emeralds | Candy Shoppe – This is a come down track for the mix. I don’t know what kind of candy is in this shop, but I bet it’s really yummy!
19. Johann Johannson | End Theme – This one is just syrup. Delicious, sticky syrup. This track is from the soundtrack to a little known short film titled VARMINTS which you should seek out. It’s a cautionary tale of sprawl and the struggle of the little man (or dog, or rabbit or whatever that varmint is in the film.) Johann’s work is modern classical with underlying electronic treatments. This piece wraps up the film into a majestic, Sigur Ros-like anthem. It also wraps up our very first COLORCAST. I’m looking forward to sharing more.