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.

June 22, 2013 Drop Box Notes

Well, I’m back after a busy graduation season with some notes for last months drop box offerings and a little preview of the July drop box. As always, these are in no particular order even though I now number the selections to make it easier for you to find.

Mikal-Cronin-MCIIFirst of all, you really should check out Mikal Cronin‘s latest release aptly titled MCII. Cronin is better known for his frequent associations with garage rocker Ty Segal ( a frequent drop in the box) as well as recording with another of other indie garage bands including the Okie Dokie, Epsilons, Party Fowl and Moonhearts. This is garage pop reminiscent of the early 80’s garage pop scene that included Lets Active and the dBs. I have know doubt that this record will end up on a number of trendy publication year end best of lists, but really, this record will belong there. These are well constructed sonic garage pop songs, with beautiful arrangements, catchy chorus and memorable melodies. You’ll find something comfortably familiar with these songs, but it is because the balance of power and pop is so perfect, this will end up as the soundtrack for your summer days. Try the amazing “Peace of Mind” for the softer side of the spectrum, “Change” for the rockier end, and “I’m Done Running From You” for that song that will have you singing along. Really, not a bad song on the record. Have at it.

Ty Segal - Ty Rex 2Speaking of Ty Segal, for Record Store Day, Ty releases Ty Rex 2, a 7″ with two Marc Bolan and T. Rex covers: the early track “Cat Black (The Wizard’s Hat)” b/w the Electric Warrior cut “The Motivator.” For those of us old enough to recall T.Rex ( most of you will have heard “Get It On ( Bang A Gong)” (See it here:http://youtu.be/19IqwU3itFk ) as well as the other updated hits “Children of the Revolution” and “20th Century Boy”), Ty brings some freshness to these songs, particular on “Motivator”, which crunches under Ty’s deft playing. Worth a listen.

Ty Segal and Mikal Cronin - Reverse Shark AttackAnd finally, as it seems this is Mikal and Ty’s month, try Ty Segal and Mikal Cronin together on Reverse Shark Attack. This record was recorded in 2009 as a vinyl only release which quickly sold out and then re-released last year. This is Cramps styled garage-fuzz played at punk rock pace. Noisy best describes what is going on, and I loved every minute. Awesome!. Try” Ramona”, “I Wear Black” and “Doctor Doctor”. Furious, baby!.

Husker Du were one of my all time favorite bands along with the previously mentioned Replacements, dBs, The Jam, Stiff Little Fingers, The Clash, and XTC. There you have it – my all time best of list. Sure I have a number of other favorite bands and records, but none even approach the awe (great word), I have for the recordings by these bands. Over time, bands and artists that I thought might end up here have taken divergent paths that moved them down a few rungs on my mental list of all time greatest. I’m thinking Elvis Costello here. For the first 10 years of Elvis’ career I was on board, but his miss-steps after Almost Blue (his last great complete record) were too numerous to hang in the game and my interest waned. I guess that is the great mystery of the mystical connection that music plays in a life. I associate events in my life with music. “I’ve Been Waiting” by Matthew Sweet was played at my wedding and at various reflection points I associate these bands and their shows ( all of who I have seen live) with the onset of the great adventures and first steps into adulthood.

Husker Du - Amusement EPAnyway, back to Husker Du who for record store day earlier this year (April 20) released their first single from 1980, “Amusement”/“Statues” as a double 7-inch with “Writer’s Cramp” and “Let’s Go Die,” the other two songs recorded at the same time for what was initially planned to be a self-released 10-inch. But costs forced the band to opt for the two-song 7-inch that was eventually released. “Amusement,” “Writer’s Cramp,” and “Let’s Go Die” were remastered from “a first-generation sub-master,” because the originals are long gone. “Statues” was reworked from the original recording from the board at the old Minneapolis venue Duffy’s, where it was recorded. The double 7-inch was limited limited to 4,000 copies. This is an interesting artifact, because “Writer’s Cramp” and “Let’s Go Die” were recorded with the band at a crossroads and who were, at that time also vying for a recording contract with Twintone Records who eventually signed the Replacements over them. Here the Husker’s are experimenting with a poppier sound that Bob Mould would eventually find again after Husker Du disbanded and he started Sugar. Try – Them All!

Miles Kane - Don't Forget Who You AreFor those of you who forgot how good the mod scene actually was from a musical perspective, Miles Kane‘s newest record Don’t Forget Who You Are will remind you of the sweetness that was mod inspired. A little bit dangerous, but still making you want to dance, the mod bands balanced the rock and soul perfectly. Brief time trip here: The mod ( stands for modern!) scene in Britain evolved out of the late 60s with the Who, David Bowie (then called David Jones) and the Small Faces (who featured a very young Rod Stewart) which carried forth smart sounding modern music with a sharped dressed man (Think the Who’s “My Generation”) that clashed with the rockabilly/ traditional rock and roll found in artists like Gene Vincent, Jack Scott, Bill Haley, and Buddy Holly from the fifty’s. Hence, in the early 70’s this coalesced into a generational clash between the mods and rockers in the streets of London.

Mod Photo 2Skip forward several years later, and Quadrophenia based upon the Who’s sunning masterwork, as well as the Who bio-movie The Kids Are Alright are released in theaters in 1979. At the tale end of punk, these events coalesce into a massive mod revival with the Jam leading the charge. This is the primary reason that the Jam’s  singer/guitarist Paul Weller is acknowledged as the mod father for today’s generation of bands. Other band emerge during this time including Secret Affair and Merton Parkas, all of whom dress in parkas and drive Vespa scooters in sharp contrast to the rockers who drove Harleys and wore leathers.  This scene will eventually die as the 80’s arrive, only to emerge again in a slightly different form with Oasis, torchbearers for this unique sound. Jump forward to today and Oasis who have long since broken up only to find the brother’s Gallagher in two different bands ( High Flying Birds and Beady Eye) but still with an eye on the ball, both support their prodigy Mile Kane. To be clear, mod as a music form, I believe will always be around in England where kids arrive from the womb with the imprint of this particular sound. It is almost as if, mod, which is a uniquely British sound, comprises the genetic code of a nation.

So, with the brief history lesson over, on Don’t Forget Who You Are, Miles Kane hammers home the message on several levels. On one level, Kane reminds us of the importance of mod as a way of life and also on another level, like punk, a way of being. It is not so much about style anymore, but rather remaining true to a cultural identity.  The record is essentially about carrying forth the message of mod, see for e.g. “Taking Over” and “Bombshells”. This is a great example of where mod lives today, in a young generation, reinterpreting the lessons of the past but bringing it straight forward into the future. All round a great record. Try” Out of Control”, “Tonight” and “Don’t Forget Who You Are.”

Youngblood Hawke - Wake UpI’m always up for a good indie pop record as you might have noticed. (Recall Oh Mercy and Wolf Gang from last year?). LA based synth-pop band Youngbloode Hawke have found the sparkle on their debut with clean upbeat songs containing gang choruses and all the elements for songs that would find a place on most AM radio stations ( do these even exist anymore?). Sometimes the lyrics travel into the absurd, but these misses are few and far between, and overall most of the record works. Sure there are going to be comparisons to Phoenix who occupy this same sonic space, but it hard to not like the uptempo synth-pop put forth by Youngbloode Hawke. Try “Dannyboy”, “Rootless” and “We Come Running”.

Iron and Wine - Ghost on GhostFor those of you whom already like Iron and Wine ( the nom de plume of Samuel Beam), you will already have picked this album up. However, for those of you who are ambivalent about Sam’s prior releases which have been mostly hit and miss for me in the past, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by this latest record. On Ghost on Ghost, the 6th Iron and Wine record, Sam finally finds his groove. The record is an examination of where Sam is at this point in his artistic progression with both nods to his past “Winter’s Prayer” and where he is going, with the catchy “Grace For Saints and Ramblers”. Some will be put off by the varied experiments that make up this record, but for me it resonates with fine crafted songs encompassing more than the Postal Service inspired folk of Sam’s past and traversing new territories, including alt-country and jazz. Try” Grace For Saints and Ramblers”, “Joy” and “Sundown (Back In The Briars)”

Savages - Silence YourselfOn a completely different plane altogether, London’s Savages, (who are playing all the UK festivals this summer) merge Joy Division’s post rock with Siouxsie Sioux sound alike vocals of Jehnny Beth and the intelligence of Gang of Four. This album (like the Mikal Cronin record previously) will end up on a number of best of lists because frankly, there is absolutely no band out there with a sound so firmly rooted in the past but updating the sound for the future of post punk. The guitars shimmer and the lyrics which are heavily punk influenced are driving, urgent, and immediate. This is the next big thing. Silence Yourself is easily the best debut of the year and perhaps the album of the year. Really. Oh, and America will completely miss this. Try “She Will”, “I am Here” and “Hit Me.”

Art Brut - Top of The PopsFor those of you who missed Art Brut, a uniquely British indie invention that never made it across the pond, I’ve put in their latest greatest hits record, Top of The Pops, ( a television show they never appeared on as their highest chart single was Number 41) a 2CD collection with the second half devoted to B-sides and rarities. However, stick with the first disc, which will expose you to Art Brut‘s unique form of indie rock with crunchy guitars, oblique lyrics, and all the pieces that make for a fun time. Take this for what it is, a collection of catchy songs, with slightly wonky vocals sung with an English accent, and not really giving a crap about where they fit in the rock and roll pantheon. “My Little Brother” (Just Discovered Rock n’ Roll) aptly sums up Art Brut, a band happy with discovering rock and roll and playing it for laughs. Lead singer and spokesperson Eddie Argos is, like Pete Almquist of the Hives, an energetic personality,with one foot firmly rooted in the past writing for the odd ball in all of us. If you only listen to ” Formed a Band” then you will discover the genius of Art Brut. Try ” Formed a Band”, “St. Pauli” and “Summer Job.”

So So Glos - BlowoutBrooklyn punk rockers The So So Glos second album is a brief, quick paced Beach Boys version of punk rock, with the band falling on the poppier side of what was a dying genre, traveled by other great bands like Chixdiggit!, Homegrown, and Melincolin, that I remember from the 90’s. It may seem retro, but there is life in this record, which for those of you who grew up with sound, will really like the touches and nods to The So So Glos influences, which on this album are early MXPX and Operation Ivy. Brothers Alex and Ryan Levine, their step-brother and drummer Zach Staggers, and guitarist Matt Elkin are a sonic force and Blowout is a good time record. Try” Son of An American”, “Lost Weekend” and “Wrecking Ball.”

Here is the List:

  1. !!! (Chk Chk Chk) – Thr!!!Er [2013]
  2. Airborne Toxic Event – Such Hot Blood [2013
  3. Deerhunter – Monomania [2013]
  4. Iggy and the Stooges – Ready To Die [2013]
  5. Los Campesinos! – A Good Night For A Fistfight [2013]
  6. Mikal Cronin – MCII  [2013]
  7. Savages – Silence Yourself [2CD] [2013]
  8. Sloan – Hardcore [2013]
  9. Titus Andronicus – Record Store Day [2013]
  10. TUSQ – Hailuoto [2013]
  11. Ty Segall – Ty Rex 2 (RSD) [2013]
  12. Vaccines – NME Presents Home Is Where The Start Is Home Demos 2009-2012 [2013]
  13. Youngblood Hawke – Wake Up [2013]
  14. Fitz & The Tantrums – More Than Just a Dream (Deluxe Version) [2013]
  15. Hüsker Dü – Amusement EP (RSD) [2013]
  16. Allison Weiss – Say What You Mean [2013]
  17. Best Coast – Fear My Own Identity (RSD) [2013]
  18. Art Brut – Top of the Pops [2013]
  19. Miles Kane – Don’t Forget Who You Are (iTunes) [2013]
  20. So So Glos – Blowout [2013]
  21. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork [2013]
  22. D.O.T. – Diary [2013]
  23. Killing Joke – The Singles Collection 1979-2012 [2013]
  24. Noah and the Whale – Heart of Nowhere [2013]
  25. A Fragile Tomorrow – Be Nice Be Careful [2013]
  26. Ty Segall & Mikal Cronin – Reverse Shark Attack [2013]
  27. Bicycle Thief – Fields [2013]
  28. City Reign – Another Step [2013]
  29. Guided by Voices – English Little League [2013]
  30. Iron & Wine – Ghost on Ghost [2013]
  31. Ladyfinger (ne) – Errant Forms (Promo) [2013]
  32. Ola Podrida – Ghosts Go Blind [2013]
  33. Plain White T’s – Should’ve Gone to Bed EP [2013]
  34. She & Him – Volume 3 [2013]
  35. Sulk – Graceless [2013]
  36. Titus Andronicus – Record Store Day [2013
  37. Weeks – Dear Bo Jackson [2013]
  38. Youngblood Hawke – Wake Up [2013]
  39. Bass Drum of Death – Bass Drum of Death [2013]
  40. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories [2013]
  41. Exsonvaldes – Lights [2013]
  42. Grandchildren – Golden Age [2013
  43. Kisses – Kids in L.A [2013]
  44. Northcote – Northcote [2013]
  45. Primal Scream – More Light [Japanese Deluxe Edition] [2013]
  46. These New Puritans – Field of Reeds [2013]
  47. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires Of The City [2013]
  48. Vår – No One Dances Quite Like My Brothers [2013]
  49. Wampire – Curiosity [2013]
  50. Airstrip – Willing [2013]
  51. Atlas Genius – When It Was Now [2013]
  52. Auto Defiance – Running On The Edge (Promo) [2013]