January 11, 2014 Dropbox Notes

Welcome to another year of Dropbox Notes ! This month’s offerings are the best of last year, i.e. my favorite records from 2013.

In the past, I have posted my best albums of [insert year] list with little regard to the order on that list. That is, I just posted my favorite records of the previous year in an approximation of what I liked the best. This year, I struggled to try to get through at least the first 30 albums in order of how good I thought they were; how much I enjoyed listening to them, and how likely I would go back and play them after not listening to them for a year.

That qualifier – whether you would go back and listen to a record after a year of not playing the album – appears (at least to me) to be the real test of a list like this. In the past, most of the other lists I have reviewed (you can find some at rocklist.net) from some of my favorite magazines have not contemplated the long term impact of the records they claim are the best and greatest of the year. Some magazines do a better job of this (and I am confident it is completely unintentional) than others.

For example, looking back just 5 years to 2008, compare these two top 20 lists from Q Magazine and Spin:

Q Magazine 2008 Top 20

1. Kings of Leon – Only By The Night
2. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
3. Coldplay – Viva la Vida
4. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
5. Glasvegas – Glasvegas
6. Duffy – Rockferry
7. TV On the Radio – Dear, Science
8. Elbow – Seldom Seen Kid
9. Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely
10. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!
11. Sigur Rós – Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust
12. Keane – Perfect Symmetry
13. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
14. Kaiser Chiefs – Off With Their Heads
15. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III
16. Hot Chip – Made In the Dark
17. Adele – 19
18. British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?
19. Goldfrapp – Seventh Tree
20. Gaslight Anthem – ‘59 Sound

Spin 2008 Top 20

  1. TV On the Radio – Dear Science
  2. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III
  3. Portishead – Third
  4. Fucked Up – Chemistry of Common Life
  5. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
  6. Santogold – Santogold
  7. Deerhunter – Microcastle
  8. Hot Chip – Made In the Dark
  9. Coldplay – Viva la Vida
  10. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
  11. Elbow – Seldom Seen Kid
  12. Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Pt 1: 4th World War
  13. No Age – Nouns
  14. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
  15. Beck – Modern Guilt
  16. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges
  17. Roots – Rising Down
  18. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!
  19. Okkervil River – Stand Ins
  20. Gnarls Barkley – Odd Couple

There is a little overlap on these two lists but on average from the Q Magazine list, I would listen to 5/20 (25%) and from the Spin list I would listen to 4/20 (20%). Can you guess which records I’d probably revisit?

With this personal observation i.e. that there are very few records that I would continue to play after a gap of a year, this list is prepared with that objective also in mind – looking forward 1 year from now.

And perhaps that is the goal of this “Best of 2013” list – to check back in a year and see how many of the 100 listed here you would go back and listen to in 2015.

With that said, here is my list of the BEST OF 2013 (all capitals because I am shouting):

Tales From The Dropbox Best Albums of 2013

  1. Savages – Silence Yourself
  2. FIDLAR – FIDLAR
  3. Pacific Air – Stop Talking
  4. Guards – In Guards We Trust
  5. The Men – New Moon
  6. Arctic Monkeys – A.M.
  7. Kurt Vile – Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze
  8. Paper Lions – My Friends
  9. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
  10. Palma Violets – 180
  11. Fuzz – Fuzz
  12. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
  13. Paper Aeroplanes – Little Letters
  14. Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe
  15. Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana
  16. Pure Love – Anthems
  17. California X – California X
  18. Foals – Holy Fire
  19. Future Of The Left – How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident
  20. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
  21. Mikal Cronin – MCII
  22. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of The City
  23. Starflyer 59 – IAMACEO
  24. Miles Kane – Don’t Forget Who You Are
  25. Lydia – Devil
  26. London Grammar – If You Wait
  27. Royal Bangs – Brass
  28. Upset – She’s Gone
  29. Waaves – Afraid of Heights
  30. Deerhunter – Monomania
  31. The Julie Ruin – Run Fast
  32. Jagwar Ma – Howlin’
  33. Haim – Days are Gone
  34. Bad Sports – Bras
  35. Bastille – Bad Blood
  36. My Bloody Valentine – m b v
  37. Deap Valley – Sistrionics
  38. So So Glos – Blowout
  39. Wooden Shjips – Back To Land
  40. Drenge – Drenge
  41. Hookworms – Pearl Mystic
  42. These New Puritans – Field Of Reeds
  43. The Knife – Shaking The Habitual
  44. Julia Holter – Loud City Song
  45. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
  46. Iceage – You’re Nothing
  47. Yo La Tengo – Fade
  48. Superchunk – I Hate Music
  49. Volcano Choir – Repave
  50. Phoenix – Bankrupt!
  51. Purling Hiss – Water on Mars
  52. Roshambo – Lonesome Men From The Woods
  53. Pissed Jeans – Honeys
  54. Queens of The Stoneage – Like Clockwork
  55. Phosphorescent – Muchacho
  56. Local Natives – Hummingbird
  57. Factory Floor – Factory Floor
  58. Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
  59. Riots  – Time For Truth
  60. Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation
  61. Fall Out Boy – Save Rock And Roll
  62. Forest Swords – Engravings
  63. James Blake – Overgrown
  64. Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin
  65. Mutual Benefit – Loves Crushing Diamond
  66. Strypes – Snapshot
  67. Acres of Lions – Home(s)
  68. Daughter – If You Leave
  69. Grouper – The Man Who Died in His Boat
  70. Ballet – I Blame Society
  71. Tegan and Sara – Hearthrob
  72. Peace – In Love [Deluxe Edition
  73. Taymir – Phosphene
  74. Chastity Belt – Ne Regerts
  75. Auto Defiance – Running on The Edge
  76. Jimmy Eat World – Damage
  77. Courtney Barnett – The Double EP – A Sea Of Split Peas
  78. Dirtbombs – Consistency Is The Enemy
  79. Fitz & The Tantrums – More Than Just A Dream
  80. Hungary Kids of Hungary – You’re A Shadow
  81. Imperial State Electric – Reptile Brain Music
  82. Iron Chic – The Constant One
  83. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time
  84. Matt Pond – The Lives Inside The Lines In Your Hand
  85. Jake Bugg – Shangri La
  86. Murder By Death – As You Wish Kickstarter Covers
  87. Cage the Elephant – Melophobia
  88. Teen Agers – I Hate It
  89. Beware of Darkness – Orthodox
  90. Super Happy Fun Club – All Funned Up
  91. Middle Class Rut – Pick Up Your Head
  92. Banquets – Banquets
  93. Cults – Static
  94. RVIVR – The Beauty Between
  95. Exxonvaldes – Lights
  96. Mama Kin – The Magician’s Daughter
  97. Swearin’ – Surfing Strange
  98. Dead Sons – The Hollers And The Hymns
  99. Growlers – Not. Psych!
  100. Guster – Live With The Redacted Symphony

I’ll add the covers if I get a chance, but otherwise enjoy the list. Part 1 of the list ( 1-50) dropped today. I’ll drop part 2 (51-100) around February 1, so a slightly shorter turnaround this month/

Let me know if you think I’ve missed something, or your thoughts on the list. If you have a list you’d like to share – post a comment or send me the list and I’ll post it.

Until later alligator! I wish you all a terrific and happy 2014. Peace out.

May 5, 2013 Drop Box Notes Update

Virginmarys King of ConflictThe Virginmarys are three-piece rock band from Macclesfield, England who formed in 2006 but 7 years later release their debut LP Kings of Conflict following the release of several EPs that were generally well received. This band is a good example of the new model for releases – most bands get to put out a couple of singles and EPs in order to test the waters before a record company commits to a full length release. This is not to say that Virginmarys are novices having played the Download Festival in 2010 as well as supporting a variety of UK based bands such as my favorites Ash and We Are Scientists as well as Slash, Eagles of Death Metal and Feeder. So, where do they fit in the musical genre mix? Probably more metal than alternative, the key to this band is really that they have updated the 70’s metal sound with catchy melodic songs that rock in the same way that Billy Talent and the aforementioned Ash do – they are anthems of teen angst that you don’t mind singing along with. Overall, a nice change of pace. Try: “Dead Man’s Shoes”, “Bang Bang Bang” and the stripped version of “Just A Ride.”

Wheeler Brothers Gold Boots GlitterBet you never thought you would find a country record in the drop box. Sure there were hints with alt-country offerings such as Old 97s and Wilco appearing with some regularity, but Austin Texas’ Wheeler Brothers is much closer in sound to country than alternative. However, unlike traditional country albums, Gold Boots Glitter is a breath of fresh air in a stale scene. I was genuinely surprised by the atmospheric quality to some of these songs, the grit on Nolan Wheeler’s vocals, and the great harmonies throughout the record. Don’t let the country label sway you from picking up this gem. There are plenty of tunes to peak your interest and the record is diverse. The three Wheeler siblings (Nolan, Tyler and Patrick) started playing music with guitarist Danny Matthews while attending Louisiana State University, joining up with high-school buddy A.J. Molyneaux when they returned to Austin. The product of these tight knit relationships is found in the spectacularly smooth back-up vocals and harmonies.  Start with “Straight and Steady”, You Got A Lot of Love” and “You Like.” Truly a gem.

Young Dreams Between PlacesBergen, Norway’s Young Dreams channel Brian Wilson through a modern electronic pop sound. Led by vocalist Mathias Tellez, Young Dreams on Between Places revisits the Beach Boys as filtered through early Yeasayer and Vampire Weekend. Once you hear the opener “Footprints” you’ll get where this record is heading. If you loved the Beach Boys “sound” then you will not be disappointed by Between Places. Try “Footprints” “Fog of War” and “The Girl Who Taught Me To Drink And Fight.”

Dead Sons The Hollers & HymnsFormed from the ashes of the once awesome Milburn, Sheffield England’s Dead Sons are part of the new-psychedelia movement along with Tame Impala but tend to fall somewhere between The Arctic Monkeys and Queens Of The Stone Age. It may be because vocalist Tom Rowley sings very much like the Monkey’s vocalist Alex Turner but in sound there is something swampier and dark going on more akin to 80’s band the Southern Death Cult better known as the Cult. Often described as desert rock, on The Hollers and the Hymns, which is the Dead Sons debut, the label is a little dubious, as this record rocks like a mother. Try “Junk Room”, “Quest For The Fire”, and “The Hollers and The Hymns.

Because They Can AliveIf you thought dropping the Wheeler Brothers record was unusual, Aussie pop rock Because They Can is a first as well. Falling on the poppier side of the pop-punk equation and marketed in Australia as a “boy band”, there is something different about the songs appearing on the 8 track EP, Alive. Look, the suits the band wears are a little too obvious as is the band’s name which is a reference to Hanson’s second album Because They Can, but the catchiness of these songs is undeniable. Because They Can videos are almost unwatchable because of the manufactured appeal (for example see : “It’s Not About You” (http://youtu.be/jFNplCTmmqs ) but if you close your eyes and just listen, Alive is full of songs in the same vein as San Cisco from last year – good solid songs that belong on radio somewhere. Lots of bounce. Try” It’s Not About You”, Alive” and the acoustic “I Wish I Knew”.  

Leagues-You-Belong-HereThe Nashville indie scene is heating up. I know – who knew that in the home of all things country, that there was an indie scene. Well, now you do, and it is sparking. On You Belong Here, the debut by Leagues, the band explores what dance rock would sound like filtered through americana. Vocalist Thad Cockerell has a very broad vocal range with a pleasant falsetto that drives this collection of electro-pop influenced songs that have distinctive and well written lyrics. You will be singing along from the first track “Spotlight” with its crisp guitar work and precision drumming. Perhaps that is what this trio distinct – these are well crafted songs that Thad Cockrell, guitarist Tyler Burkum , and drummer Jeremy Luito have taken great care to perfect. There is an Arcade Fire feel to his record, so if that is in your sweet spot, pick this up. Try” Spotlight”, “Magic” and “Haunted”.

Lydia DevilOne of my favorites from this month’s selections is Gilbert, Arizona’s Lydia and their latest record Devil. This is definitely a left turn for the band formed in 2003 who on previous releases explored the darker side of indie rock with substantially gloomier lyrics. The band, formed in 2003, has had some member shifts in the past couple of years, but on Devil, the band, primarily vocalist Leighton Antelman, seems to be at peace with the transitions having moved on from what was a fairly acrimonious split with founding member and guitarist Steve McGraw as well as with Mindy White who left the band in 2010 to form States with two former members of Copeland, Bryan and Stephen Laurenson. So what about the music? Well, like Copeland, this is melodic indie rock which is more guitar driven then past releases but still not that fast. Think of this as a down tempo All American Rejects with catchy choruses oft repeated without the up tempo numbers. See? I guess I am a sucker for songs that slow burn and then shift after a minute such as “Runaway” which starts acoustic and slow and then after the first chorus, picks up the pace, becoming joyous and uplifting as the song progresses. There is much to enjoy on this LP, so give it a chance to win you over. Try” Runaway”, “Knee Deep” and “From A Tire Swing.”

Puling Hiss Water On MarsWhat started off as the solo side-project of Mike Polizze, then the guitarist of Philadelphia free-form heavy rock outfit, Birds of Maya, Purling Hiss has evolved into a power trio, with drummer Mike Sneeringer and bassist Kiel Everett, adding muscle to the project. Water on Mars is the band’s third release but unlike the other bedroom releases, this is a significant upgrade in sound. Like other Philadelphia cohorts, Kurt Vile and The War on Drugs, Purling Hiss’ sound falls somewhere along the continuum between Bleach era Nirvana and Bug era Dinosaur Jr. (who they sound very similar partly because Polizze sounds like J Mascias) and the guitar intonation is reflective of Dinosaur Jr.. It is difficult to deny the likeability of the riffage produced by Polizze who used to also played guitar for Grand Funk Railroad! I was caught off guard when I first heard “Mercury Retrograde” which has the same vibe as Kurt Vile, but unlike Kurt Vile, traverses the noisier side of the indie rock spectrum with a few jam band elements, but as Purling Hiss says, on “Rat Race” “everyone wants to have a good time” – I do and I did. Try “She Calms Me Down”, “Mercury Retrograde” and “The Harrowing Wind.”

Rival Schools FoundThe drop box also finds the release this month of Rival Schools “lost second album” found that was supposed to have been released 10 years ago, but finally sees the light of day. A little background may be helpful. Rival Schools formed in New York in 1999 and were originally signed to Photo Finish Records, featuring Walter Schreifels on vocals and guitar, Ian Love on guitar, Cache Tolman on bass guitar; and Sam Siegler on drums. Rival Schools were a hardcore ‘supergroup’ as all of the members were alumni of such ’80s and ’90s hardcore bands as Gorilla Biscuits (Schreifels), CIV (Siegler), Youth of Today (Schreifels and Siegler) and Iceburn (Tolman).The band’s name (and that of their first LP) comes from the Capcom fighting game, Rival Schools: United By Fate. So where does Found fit is the picture? The original band broke up in 2003, just prior to the release of this record when Ian Love left the band. As time has passed, the band briefly reunited with Love on guitar, but as of the release of the record, April 9, 2013, the band is touring as a three piece. For a band of hardcore legends, Found represents an interesting shift in sound, that nearly 10 years after the original planned release sounds fresh and relevant in the punk rock pantheon. To be clear, for those of you reading the notes, for me, punk rock is not hardcore (neither the hardcore punk nor the bastardized dance version either). Punk rock is characterized by short sharp songs with a definitive garage rooted sound, free of effeminate vocals and guitar solos, without the roaring vocals found in hardcore and with a verse chorus verse ( see Nirvana was correct) song structure. If we work with this simple definition, then you can see how various bands fit in this structure, and Rival Schools is a great example. I bought the debut and I would have bought this record the first time around if it had seen the light of day. So here you go, a fully realized punk rock record that captures a band in the middle of where it started and where it is today ( check out 2011’s Pedals). Try ”Missing Glider”, “Indisposable Heroes” and the cover of the Buzzcock’s “Why Can’t I Touch It”

Satan Takes A Holiday Who Do You VoodooI probably would have put Sweden’s Satan Takes A Holiday (“Satan”) in the drop box for the name alone. Satan Takes a Holiday is also the name of an album of evocative, “lost” songs by Anton Szandor LaVey, founder and former high priest of the Church of Satan. However, on Who Do You Voodoo, Satan, revisits the same territory as the Hives and like all Swedish bands does it with great style and energy. Satan Takes a Holiday Band PictureThis is 60s garage, punk and rock’n’roll in the same vain as Danko Jones and the Hives making for a great live show. You will not be able to get enough of this. Try “Who Do You Voodoo” (http://youtu.be/1H3WcMAWTi8 ) ( Check out this live show at Mods vs. Rockers Stockholm: http://youtu.be/47XFPJmaVwM ), “Karma Babe” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”

Thee Oh Sees Floating CoffinKeeping with the garage rock and roll theme but more on the garage side than the rock side is Thee Oh Sees new record Floating Coffin. Thee Oh Sees are prolific. As I covered the San Francisco based band’s background last time with the release of Putifiers II, I’ll stick to this record, which picks up where Putrifier’s did – straight forward garage punk rock played at full speed with all the psychedelic fuzziness now polished and incorporated into what may be the finest of the 15 albums released by the band. John Dwyer is a master of the sonic shift and the band is a full examination of the lo-fi garage movement. This is best exemplified on the stellar “ Toe Cutter/Thumb Buster”. The lyrics which tend to the dark side and sometimes mumbled, make for a difficult exploration but patience is not only a virtue but is rewarded on tracks like “No Spell” and Strwaberries 1+2”. Try“I Come From The Mountain”, “Toe Cutter/Thumb Buster” and “Night Crawaler.”