Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Music That Kissed My Ears This Year

Okay, okay.  I know I typically write about film-related things here... but this is my blog and I can write what I wish.  I promise I'll try to tie it into film when I can.  I'm a HUGE music geek.  A hobby of mine is scouring the interwebs for that next amazing musician and listening to it at a minimum of100 times before you even hear whispers of their name.  Okay, I'm a music snob... but I want to share with you what I've listened to this past year, in the hopes that you'll like them too and become fans of some awesome artists.

Daft Punk- Random Access Memories

This is definitely the most mainstream album I fell in love with this year and is likely to be in the top 3 of every major music blogger out there; but it's just a fun ride all the way through.  I had a bit of the 'ole internet fame by making the front page or Reddit upon the album's release when I mashed up the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey against the final track "Conact". Without making a single edit, it synced nearly perfectly.  This is just, all-purpose album.  If I could direct a music video for one track, it'd be "Touch" as I've dreamt up this grand idea of a lifeless woman ballroom dancing with a brain in a jar, hooked up to a computer.  Listen to that track again, and try to tell me that wouldn't be a swell idea.  Favorite track: Doin' it Right featuring Panda Bear.  The story behind it is pretty neat too.  Look it up if you're interested.

Django Django- Django Django
This was a late introduction to me this year.  I first heard this album on a film shoot a few weeks ago and kicked myself for missing them at the same music festival that I met the Avett Brothers (read below), as I've been hearing about them for months.  The album doesn't have a ton of substance, but it's fun music to listen to and reminds me of some weird crossbreed between The Beta Band, Vampire Weekend and Brad Sucks.  This one will for sure continue spinning on my playlists for awhile.  I particularly like "Default", "Hail Bop"and "Waveforms".

Avett Brothers- Magpie and The Dandelion
Aside from getting to film and meet the Avett Brothers this summer at Firefly Music Festival, upgrading me from superfan to groupy status, I just can't help but love their music.  this album took me by surprise the first time I heard it, as it's nearly all ballads, but it's just great music.  It's hard to articulate what it is about them that I like but the NPR release writeup of the album described their music as the soundtrack of "lives lived messily" and I thought that was the most poetic, perfectly-encapsulating and honest way of putting it.  No one lives a perfect life and they're first to admit fault in their music.  But they just ooze with honesty, talent and love for their families.  I just appreciate their values, I suppose.

Luke Howard- Sun, Cloud
Holy crap.  The first time I heard this album, it was a Sunday afternoon in the fall.  My wife and I had just gotten in after driving a few hours up from my mom's house and we were exhausted.  This album knocked us out.  As we fell asleep on the couch, the album penetrated my subconscious and invaded my dreams.  I described the album to people as "an album to cry and fall asleep to".  Upon listening to it, you'll either be totally sedated and entranced, or will weep.  The choice is yours and yours alone, but it's seriously fantastic.


Alexandra Streliski- PIANOSCOPE
This is a compliment to the Luke Howard album.  I put both on a playlist together and listened to it on loop for a few months.  Together, they're writing fuel.  Gorgeous, original songs from the ivory.  Hoping Alexandra spits out a new album soon, as I'm a huge fan.

Charity Children- The Autumn Came
This was a random album I stumbled into on Bandcamp one evening.  It's a short, contained little joy.  It reminds me of a soundtrack to an indie movie.  Favorite track: "World's Tallest Man Meets World's Shortest Man".  And the band (or at least whoever is managing their bandcamp account) is humble to boot.  When I ordered the CD, I asked if they'd sign it.  They did and tossed in a postcard as well.  The horns mixed against the ukelele and her delicate voice make for a perfect storm of happiness.  Listen and your mood will improve, that's the Skubal guarantee.

Josh Garrels- Love & War & The Sea In Between
The dude's melodies are awesome.  Just some catchy indie folk/pop right here.  This one gets a mention, as it served as the soundtrack to us moving and I can't say a bad thing about it, other than I wish the album had more songs in it.

LUM- Glass Hammer

I found this album the same day I came across Josh Garrels' album and served as the second part to our moving soundtrack.  Solid, original music that has high repeatability.  Love it.  It's poppy, with an echoy surf sound, but with its own flavor to it.  Half Way and Conquering Hearts are particular favorites.

Chvrches- The Bones of What You Believe

This album will forever remind me of the time I learned the basics of color grading on DaVinci Resolve.  I've been working through the post on a short film for a friend of mine and for some reason, this album was always on while I worked on it.  I'd heard an alternative version "The Mother We Share" months ago and had it cycling through my playlists since.  When I heard the album in full, it was a real treat.

The Haxan Cloak- Excavation
Here's my curve ball.  I could picture this as the soundtrack to Chuck Palahniuk's mind.  The album is something straight out of a nightmare.  It's moody, atmospheric tones laid thick in a soundscape that tickles my ear drums... and something I totally wouldn't listen to often.  I've only listened to it a couple times, but I had such an emotional reaction to it that I had to put it as an honorable mention.  If you've got writer's block and you're looking for some dark inspiration, hit this one up.  And apparently, the album's not on their bandcamp page anymore... so here's the Spotify link.

Turquoise Summers- A Touch of Turquoise
In a time where all of this funk/disco revival is on the rise, most of it starts to sound the same after awhile.  Well, Turquoise Summers and Shook (of whom you'll read about below) are the exception.  This album is just fun to listen to.  It has an early 90's west coast hip hop type of vibe to it and I love that.

Wallpaper.- Ricky Reed Is Real
I don't know how Wallpaper. isn't famous and his music infectiously sneaking into the playlists of every frat party in America.  I've described his music as white people dance music; the Andrew W.K. of hiphop.  He skates a fine line between making radio-worthy pop music while at the same time making fun of that very genre.  I keep hoping one day I'll hear a track of his on the radio.  Give him a listen and tell your friends.

Poolside- Pacific Standard Time
This one's cheating... as I've been listening to it since last year.  But if you're unfamiliar with them, I want you to know that this is one of my favorite listen through albums I own.  They've got such a fun sound that reminds me of being on vacation in Jamaica.  Enjoy it.

Hunter Hunted- Keep Together
I'm happy to see they've begun getting radio play.  I'm a bit of a music snob when it comes to finding music early, and usually by the time it hits the radio, I've overplayed it and I've moved on with my life, but these guys just keep going.  Strong EP and I can't wait to hear the full album.

PHOX- Confetti
I stumbled across these guys on Bandcamp in April or May.  The gem of the EP is "Slow Motion", which they blew out of the water on the iTunes music festival this fall.  What's cool is that they're not too far away from me, up in Baraboo, Wisconsin.  I'd love to shoot a music video with them, as they seem like a hive of ubertalent that could make my brain melt with inspiration.

Shook- The Rise And Fall EP
The EP speaks for itself.  Their music's got this funky dance vibe, but has originality behind it and is just a fun one to put on in the background.  Playlist mashup bonus points putting this on the same list as Daft Punk, Chromeo and Turquoise Summers.

Eli "Paperboy" Reed- WooHoo
This track punched me in the face this past spring when I first heard it.  This guy's a relatively undiscovered talent who's got the science and alchemy of vintage sound mastering perfected.  This one deviates a bit from his other tracks and appeals more towards a younger crowd but hopefully that's what he needs to become known.  I had a vivid image of this track being used against a season promo for an HBO series.  It's just got that "it's coming, new season, more excitement, more twists" type of vibe they love.  I was hedging my bets on it serving as the track for a new Boardwalk Empire promo when that premiered this fall, but no luck.  Maybe next year!

Frightened Rabbit- The Woodpile
It kills me that I've never seen Frightened Rabbit.  I drove 3 hours in a snow storm up to Chicago, back when I was living in Lafayette.  When we arrived, we were first in line, waiting outside in the snow for an hour.  Finally a fella comes out and informs us that the concert sold out; despite being assured that it wouldn't.  And now they're a well-known band and it's hard to catch wind of their shows before they sell out.  Some day!  Either way, I loved this single when it came out, especially with the video.

James Blackshaw- Fix
This was a song I had on loop when I was working late nights at the office on a big project and it kept me sedated enough from tearing the flesh off my face every time my Premiere project crashed because it was so bloated and unstable with all kinds of mixed media and formats.  Thanks for helping me keep my face intact, James.

So this rounds out the year for me.  Hopefully you've found a few choice tracks to add to your collection.  I could keep going but these particular tracks were my main jams, as the kids say.  Hopefully this becomes a consistent thing I can release each year!

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