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.

August 9, 2013 Dropbox Notes

As we approach the dog days of summer, this month’s dropbox echoes, perhaps, this time of the year. There are some summer sunny pop gems sprinkled with a little coolness portending the approach of fall (except for Pop. 1280 which is, frankly deep winter).As J is in the middle of summer school in Santa Barbara, and K is continuing to work at the golf course until he begins at Santa Cruz in September, I’m also cognizant that the dropbox is also reflective of a change in seasons. ( That last sentence was vaguely metaphorical if you ask me).

Boxed Wine - Cheap, FunStarting off with sounds of summer, New Jersey’s Boxed Wine provide that sunny garage pop that will make you tap your feet and sing along to these sunny positive tunes. In short, Boxed Wine is the antidote for the blues. Cheap, Fun, the bands debut LP, carries on the summer dance party with this well-crafted  pop gem. Why this is not on Alt98.7 or KROQ (for those of you who live in LA) is beyond me. The four piece (Chris Mactire (vocals), Ralph Nicastro (guitar) , Mike Cerisano (bass), and Steve McCarthy (drums)), really is a throwback in some ways – a traditional rock quartet lifting early Joe Jackson / Elvis Costello grooves and recombining it with early 80’s new wave. They are self- described as indie pop with dance sensibilities, but the sound is more power pop with dance – think of Grouplove or Walk The Moon’s “Anna Sun.”  Opener “Into the Nite” is stunning in its catchiness and sets the tone for the entire record with all of the songs as enjoyable as the firstl. Sure, as a whole this album, lyrically, is not too weighty, but if you are looking for something to shake off the doldrums, you can’t go wrong here.  Try “Into The Nite”, (http://youtu.be/RI4xQoy6Vo4 ) “On The Run” and “Overboard.”

Buchanan - Human SpringA little different approach to dance pop, Melbourne’s Buchanan on its debut Human Spring, combines the current elements of Australia’s pop scene into club ready guitar pop a la San Cisco and Two Door Cinema Club but Josh Simmons vocals are way smoother. There is definitely a trend developing for this kind of music, and the band already has airplay on Australia’s alternative radio – Triple J. A good change of pace if you are listening to a diet of punk rock and metal. All kidding aside, this record would fit nicely into your growing Australian record collection. Try “Run Faster”(http://youtu.be/Y53zoaFWi64 ), “Human Spring”( http://youtu.be/-fokIF1fhLs ), and “Act Natural.”

Camperdown-OutCamperdown & Out - Couldn't Be BetterSpeaking of Melbourne, Camperdown & Out have just released Couldn’t Be Better which is connected to a different aspect of Australia’s pop scene derived from the same scene that more than 20 years earlier produced the dropbox favorite  – legendary Hoodoo Gurus. Yes, you heard it here first, jangle pop is back. A genre that was in danger of becoming extinct, is finding a rebirth in the recent wave of garage acts. However, the jangle pop variant which was huge on college radio in the late 80’s and best exemplified by Let’s Active, Beat Farmers, The Clean, Fleshtones, and early Smithereens, is beginning to see new life at the fringes of the alt-rock scene. Camperdown & Out are essentially a Melbourne super group – Nathan Roche (Marf Loth), Alex Kiers (Raw Prawn), David Akerman (Dead Farmers) and Chris Shortt (Royal Headache) – formed to pay tribute to their jangle pop heroes and the originators of the genre – The Velvet Underground. The subject matter of the record drifts from the normal boy-girl relationships treading into political social issue territory and literalism e.g. “Manly” is about what you would do in Manly, a beach side suburb – drinking a beer at the pub, walking down the street, sitting in the shade, lying on the sand etc. , and  “Don’t Have a Dog” is about not having a dog…no surprise) which may prevent some listeners from connecting, but I found it an enjoyable turn and worthy of inclusion. Try “Manly” (http://youtu.be/gl77zL8LF40 ) , the Velvet Underground with Lou Reed sounding “Tropics of Capricorn” and “Don’t Have a Dog.”

Chinaski - You Might Like This Better Than MeWho would have thought that there were four bands all named Chinaski that existed on this planet? See if you can guess which one is in the dropbox this month. According to Last.fm

1) Chinaski is a chilean stoner doom psych band from Curico, Chile.

2) Chinaski is a czech pop group formed by a leader Michal Malatný. Playing for years, started as a formal “garage rock group”, nowadays they are a popular pop group in the Czech Republic.

3) Chinaski (Los Angeles) is also a post-grunge group from California

4) Chinaski is also a group from the French Riviera.

I know you want to guess Number 1 or Number 2, but its number 3 in the list and it is a darn good rock record. I’m not to sure about calling it post-grunge. Does this even make sense? So a grunge band formed after the death of the genre is considered post-grunge. Grunge may have died, but how does this explain post-hardcore, where hardcore never died? Say what you mean.  I’d characterize this more like pop-grunge. Apparently, a few people have read the works of Charles Bukowski. In this case, this is a non-metal rock record with some grunge flashes, such as the opening to the burner “I Will” which leads off You Might Like This Better Than Me. Don’t be fooled with the timing of this release. You Might Like This Better Than Me isa reissue of Chinaski’s second LP which was originally released in 2001. The band was killed in the death to grunge movement and the post Gilmore Girls backlash which played a couple of tracks from the record. (See how I did that – Post-Gilmore Girls). This fits nicely into the early 2000’s guitar rock/college rock with bands like the Refreshments. Its a record I missed, and in places sounds a little dated, but still has loads of charm. Try “I Will”, “Our Song” and “Even Now.”

Electric Soft Parade - IDIOTSI miss Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood, better known as Fountains of Wayne. Well, I shxx you not, The Electric Soft Parade could be a light version of Fountains of Wayne. On Idiots, the Electric Soft Parade traverse the same musical notes as what appeared on Fountains of Wayne’s  Welcome Interstate Managers, the breakout album that produced “Stacy’s Mom” and “Hackensack”. Apparently being copyists, does not please everyone. The reviewer at NME gave this a 6/10 claiming “[s]adly there’s a deal-breaking second half to this album, exemplified by a regrettable harmony overload on the cloyingly twee meltdown ‘Mr Mitchell’, a song so drippy it’s as unlistenable as a million malfunctioning taps.” So, one duff track – and that’s the deal breaker. As I’ve reiterated elsewhere, anytime you traverse into Beatles territory, you are going to get the critical slogging as most reviewers will claim that everything the Beatles wrote was gold straight from the King’s anus. Ah… that is not the point. This is a good album with a few songs you’ll play repeatedly, and like 99 percent of the other albums in your collection, you’ll largely forget.. The White brothers, Tom and Alex, are not reinventing the wheel on Idiots – their fourth album. The band which was hugely popular in England upon the release of their debut in 2002 (Holes in The Walls) dropped off the face of the earth by 2004 with troubles at the record label and a significant change in sound. The formula is simple: Successful radio band = same sound on every record. People want to hear what makes them comfortable. Few bands are successful at changing their sound and still keeping their audience. Thought cloud opens up to reveal: Rolling Stones had a freaking disco period, Neil Young had a bizarre electronic period, U2  had a dismal dance period and R.E.M. had a dramatic lack of good songs period, etc. So, on balance, there are some pop gems on Idiots, so enjoy those. Try ”The Sun Never Sets Around Here,”, “Summertime In My Heart” and “Never Again.”

Jagwar Ma - HowlinAs you might have already noticed, everything old becomes new again. With the resurgence of Stone Roses as a touring act, it was inevitable that some band would pick up on how good the original baggy/ Madchester scene of the early 90’s was and bring it back to life. Jagwar Ma have accomplished that feat  on their debut Howlin and people are noticing (see Noel Gallagher on Jagwar Ma: http://www.nme.com/news/temples/70028  ). Jagwar Ma is based in Sydney Australia and the duo has the knack for capturing the intersection of the best Manchester had to offer, without sounding like a poor version. Gabriel Winterfield and Jono Ma play tight grooves, the lyrics are glassy eyed and not too serious, but the groove rules on this record. Try: “The Throw” (http://youtu.be/1vU6a7Haw78 ), “Come Save Me” and “Uncertain.”

It Hugs Back - Recommended RecordYou just have to know that if a member of Wire is involved with a record, that it is likely to be….well, awesome! Coming in at a blistering 35 minutes, and filled with Lo-fi psych pop ( like Tame Impala) and shoegazing (nods to the Catherine Wheel), Matthew Simms ( guitarist for Wire) side project, It Hugs Back, should be a full time occupation. On this record it is all about pacing – one song launches into the next and at the end you are exhausted. Recommended Record is the third release from the quartet and traverse quite a wide range of music. Think of it as a singles collection from the 90’s. You can spot the influences but in many ways this is a better record than some of the touchstones you could identify. Try “Go Magic”, “Teenage Hands”( Here it is live @ The Lexington, London March 21, 2013: http://youtu.be/FwpWIPOyzS4 ) and the early Replacements, styled “Big Sighs.”

All-About - Suburban HeartMaybe its time for a missive about the transitory nature of bands and music. New York based, Zac Coe, nee’ of Fast Forward which had a life span of about a minute but left some great tracks, has moved on with a self-produced, self-released, and apparently, self-played album under the name The All-About entitled Suburban Heart.Here is an autoharp version of title track “Suburban Heart” (http://youtu.be/Gy0ztcNxORA played by Coe in what looks like his bedroom. These are pure pop tunes, with just enough variation to avoid the disease of repetition. These are definitely songs for summer. Try “Nashville”, “Suburban Heart” and “Heat Wave.”

Animal Flag - The Sounds Of SleepAnother one man band, Matthew Politoski, aka Animal Flag, on his second long player, The Sounds of Sleep, picks up where his debut from last year left off. If you recall, Everything Will Be Okay (2012) ended up in my Top 100 albums of last year with the brilliant song “The Management of Grief” making my singles playlist. If you recall this is essentially electronic folk music utilizing a sound collage technique. If you like the album, check out Animal Flag’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/animalflag/posts/526741247374579 to give it a shout out. I am amazed by the quality of these recordings as the technology available today produces studio quality recordings – without a studio. So, Try “You Will Always Wonder”, “Wake Up in Heaven” and “Trap of Time.”

So, that should give you a good start until the next update, and hopefully you’ll have a chance to explore some of the many gems in this month’s box. To point you a little deeper into the list, try the Dandy Warhol’s, Teardrop Explodes, Devo, and Chixdiggit! reissues as well as Wilco’s all cover songs live show.

Here is this month’s list:

  1. Boxed Wine – Cheap, Fun [2013]
  2. Buchanan – Human Spring [2013]
  3. Camperdown & Out – Couldn’t Be Better [2013]
  4. Chinaski – You Might Like This Better Than Me [2013]
  5. Electric Soft Parade – IDIOTS [2013]
  6. Jagwar Ma – Howlin  [2CD] [2013]
  7. It Hugs Back – Recommended Record [2013]
  8. All-About – Suburban Heart [2013]
  9. Animal Flag – The Sounds Of Sleep [2013]
  10. Bronze Radio Return – Up, On And Over [2013]
  11. Wilco – Roadcase 018 [2013]
  12. Computers – Love Triangles Hate Squares [2013]
  13. Mama Kin – The Magician’s Daughter [2013]
  14. Makeshift Innocence – Yours To Keep [2013]
  15. Little Children – Falling [2013]
  16. Little Children – In Hau [2013]
  17. Deap Vally – Sistrionix [2013]
  18. Daughn Gibson – Me Moan [2013]
  19. Throwing Up – Over You [2013]
  20. Wiretree – Get Up [2013]
  21. Traindodge – Supernatural Disasters [2013]
  22. Shivas – Whiteout [2013]
  23. Sugar Stems – Can’t Wait [2013]
  24. Superchunk – Me & You & Jackie Mittoo bw Sunset Arcade [2013]
  25. Tallhart – We Are The Same [2013]
  26. Teardrop Explodes – Wilder [Deluxe Edition] [2013]
  27. Leash – We Need To Talk [2013]
  28. Matt Nathanson – The Last Of The Great Pretenders [2013]
  29. Scott & Charlene’s Wedding – Any Port in a Storm [2013]
  30. Love Language – Ruby Red [2013]
  31. I Is Another – I Is Another [2013]
  32. Young Statues – Age Isn’t Ours EP [2013]
  33. World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Whenever If Ever [2013]
  34. Spider Bags – Singles [2013]
  35. Coke Weed – Back to Soft [2013]
  36. Primitives – Lovely [25th Anniversary Edition] [2013]
  37. Devo – Hardcore [2013]
  38. Autoheart – Punch [2013]
  39. Banquets – Banquets [2013]
  40. Pond – Hobo Rocket [2013]
  41. Pop. 1280 – Imps of Perversion [2013]
  42. Blood Arm – Infinite Nights [2013]
  43. Chewing on Tinfoil – Marrowbone Lane [2013]
  44. Chixdiggit! – Double Diggits! [2013]
  45. Dandy Warhols – 13 Tales From Urban Bohemia (Thirteenth Anniversary Edition) [2CD] [2013]
  46. Cobalt Cranes – Head In The Clouds [2013]
  47. Crystal Head – Crystal Head [2013]
  48. Valleys – Are You Going to Stand There and Talk Weird All Night [2013]
  49. Super Happy Fun Club – All Funned Up [2013]
  50. Driver Friendly – Peaks and Valleys EP [2013]