MY FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2015

10. Grimes – Art Angels

“Why does anyone like Grimes?” “I…don’t know.” This was a brief but actual exchange I had with a co-worker the day this album came out. Visions and earlier had always come off as a try-hard attempt at weirdness and it never sat right with me. Maybe it was the haircuts. But when I heard the world confusedly trying to make sense of a heavily pop influenced Grimes album, it was enough for me give it a poke. After all, the cross section of weirdo and pop is a sweet spot for me. But as you know, that balance works best when it’s a weirdo exploring the depths of pop music and so much less so when it’s a pop star trying to get weird. Lady Gaga, Miley, even Sia, they’re all pop stars first who are coating it on thick with the weird—it’s kind of icky. Grimes, hardly a pop star, and someone who never seemed comfortable in full on strangeness, was able to reel it in and polish it up with some pop sensibilities. The result is something that feels freeing and fun. She is experimenting with different voices and noises and feels, but it’s all kept on track with a single and powerful vision for the album—hard fought feminism. This record wasn’t on my radar at all until the day it came out, so it’s been one of my most surprising enjoyments this year.

9. Miguel – Wildheart

I see Miguel often being billed as an R&B artist and I guess that’s acceptable. If you take what he’s singing about and how he’s singing it, on the surface it could be perceived that way. But I don’t quite feel comfortable reducing this album to that. He’s done things on Wildheart that R&B has traditionally been void of. Most importantly, instead of every song feeling like a macho brag about his sexual encounters, he’s turned the same stories into tales of sex-positive experiences. Even with his most explicit lyrics, nothing is being sexualized for sake of sensationalized romance novel type fiction. Instead, it’s humanity and respect and care, all in spite of the explicitness—which when you remove all that gross stuff, what’s explicit about it anyway? It’s something to be happy about and embrace. Feelings!
I also just adore what’s being done musically on this album. Risks were taken and he peeked out just enough from his zone to do something that ended in ultimate reward. About half of this record has the feel of a dude who found a guitar and wanted to play arena rock riffs but only had a bedroom amp. And then went for it anyway. The other half is synthed out and dark. It’s an interesting balance but certainly a fitting one for what Miguel is doing in his disruption of R&B.
As a side-note, Miguel is just insanely cool and this album does nothing if not drive that home.

8. Jaime xx – In Colour

In Colour is a fantastic ride that is perfectly paced and has impeccably placed flares of different sizes and forms consistently appearing at just the right times. In a snapshot of this, the opening “Gosh” spends the majority of the song building off of shuffling drum loops, slowly getting louder and more intense. Right at the point of questioning where this is going a swelling and haunting high pitched caw flys over the bassy foundation and transforms the song completely. The whole album is structured in this way, essentially. Fast forward 8 more songs from the opener, after you’ve been become fairly comfortable in the sparks of delight, and you’re hit with “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”. On first listen this sticks out from the rest of the album—in a good way—but it does feel unlike the rest. It’s an insane party jam featuring Young Thug and Popcaan and a soul sample and it gets you hype—a very different emotion from the rest of the album. Alone, it’s fantastic but an incorrect glimpse at what this album is. In context it serves as one massive flare to balance the whole album out. I mean, who hides a party track 9 songs in? It’s not used gratuitously, it’s specifically in there to torch some oxygen into the hot air balloon before the ride comes down. For an album with a little bit of loud and little bit of soft, a little bit of surprise and a little bit of familiar, a little bit of sadness and a little bit of happiness, it creates a gleefully unpredictable yet extremely balanced listen.

7. Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp

Not to be unfair to this album by any means, but I do have a relatively soft spot for the kind-voiced female singer gently-but-occasionally-less-gently caroling over some crunchy but simple guitar chords. It’s probably what drew me in, but alone, it’s not enough to make a great album. Ivy Tripp is intentionally simple in many ways. Musically, there are few overdubs—at times a single instrument carrying a full song. Melodies are unpretentious and lyrics—while actually pretty inventive and charismatic—are fairly plainly articulated. So what is it about this album that works so well? It’s feel. The vibes and character are palpable. Strong late summer and early fall moods. Strong 90s sense. An uncanny feel of the natural world. The things I attribute to its simplicity are not downsides, they’re building blocks for the bigger feel. They also make for an album that is empty of gimmicks and thus some extreme staying power. This was a common player in my listening rotation since it’s early April release. By comparison, Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit is an album that is relatively alike in a kind voice and guitar crunch kind of way, but it completely wore on me before we got to the middle of the year and I wound up kind of losing all interest in Barnett completely. Why? The dedication to simplicity was not as strong and the cute won over too often. See, cute fades. Ivy Tripp lives forever.

6. Vulfpeck – Thrill Of The Arts

Thrill Of The Arts truly doesn’t sound like anything else I’ve heard this year (or any year.) If pressed to describe Vulfpeck I’d probably say they are a funk band, which sounds corny—I know—but they’re not. They’ve traded the inherent cheesiness of white guys who like funk music for a brand of hyper self-awareness which instead of trying to avoid the cheesiness—which can in itself be a damaging maneuver—they kind of lean into it a bit. It never feels trivial or stupid. You feel in on the party and the joke. Whatever they are crafting, they are sharing it openly with you and it’s hard to not join in let alone scoff. The lyrics are nothing but fun and the spirit of the album is certainly that of a good time. It’s enjoyable from beginning to end no matter how you cut it. But what makes this album incredible is the mixing of the enjoyable with the impressive. And for all the enjoyment, there is still more impressiveness. The musicianship is absolutely through the roof. I mean, truly fantastic and complex compositions with impeccable playing. They were each studio musicians for Vulf Records prior to forming this group, so their interest in insane compositions and their ability to execute them is no surprise. Still, it’s the integration of humor and self-awareness with their super-human musicality that make this album the special something it is.
This album came out of nowhere for me. Like, truly, thin air. And I became obsessed with it instantly and haven’t stopped listening. As I do with all music obsessions I began to research them and find anything I could about them. Everything I learned about them made me fall in love even more and made this album sound even better than the last time I had listened. If you’re looking for a starting place for some auxiliary efforts to this album, check out their YouTube channel or read up on their Sleepify album and tour. Knowing that these guys are kooks and geniuses had made my experience with them all the better.

5. Tobias Jesso Jr. – Goon

One of the things I really love about this album is its emotional punch despite or perhaps in part of its lack of frills. It’s a well composed and produced album, yes, but it’s not the focus. It’s entirely centered around the song writing, which reads as classic, tested, and true. Songs oscillate between sad and sadder, the themes of love, loss, or moving on recur often, and each of the stops along the way are truly moving. It’s really an album full of feeling. As a man who likes feeling feelings and more pointedly, a sap with a baby, I cried at lines from “Just A Dream” like “I can’t explain the world to you / I can’t explain the things that people choose to do / There’s a thing called hate and there’s a thing called love too / Like the love I have for your Mom and for you.” I’m not sure I heard a lyric more directed at me all year. And now it feels like this album will be part of our family for a long time.
Alongside all that emotion, Goon gives a fairly heavy nod to the vibes crafted by the 60s and 70s balladeer. For that, it’s hard to not be reminded of our favorite mythic voices. In some ways he sounds like the scientific hybrid of Lennon and McCartney, but take your pick from the time and I’m sure you could find a trace of them in this album. This to say, what Tobias Jesso Jr. is doing is not unheard of nor is the sound of it unheard. It’s just not the part that matters most. This album is a special because of his strides—goonish as they are—in expressing real feelings.

4. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

To start things off with a divisive statement—but one I totally believe—those who don’t like Father John Misty just don’t get it. And if they claim to get it but are annoyed by it, then they definitely don’t get it.  Josh Tillman, never mind for the moment what he’s doing musically, has found himself caught in the middle of a deep satire of the music industry, millennial tendencies, people on the internet, and people in general. The star of his own movie. He plays the part of Father John Misty so well that it’s understandable that people wouldn’t get it, or worse, wouldn’t even care to parse out what’s real and what’s commentary. Which is the ultimate shame, because not only is what he’s doing painfully hilarious, but ultimately, incredibly introspective. What is boasted as a position of being above, well, everything, comes from a place of self-loathing. As does much of his other takes. His on stage banter, his interviews, even his Instagram account all perpetuate this bit through his asinine character. It’s not until his music do we get to chip a little bit away from the facade. He still puts on the pomp but pieces of honesty creep out.
I Love You, Honeybear is an album of love songs he wrote after experiencing love and challenging himself to talk about it in a way that wasn’t stupid or by rote. The character allows him be incredibly vulnerable without every seeming so. If anything, he remains unfairly cool. I mean, he called his album I Love You, Honeybear and no one is blinking. The challenge of talking about love in a way that is fair and real is very much not easy. If you’ve experienced love, marriage, or both, he taps into feelings and scenarios that aren’t easy to articulate. My wife makes it a point to note that she chokes up every time he sings “You left a note in your perfect script / ‘Stay as long as you want’ and I haven’t left your bed since.” That lump in your throat feeling is real. But it’s not just the lovey obsession that comes with being in love, it’s also the darker side. “Why the long face, jerkoff? / Your chance has been taken. Good one.” he sings to a guy hitting on his wife in the bar. The defensiveness you feel when you’re in love manifests in ways that makes your chest puff out and you want to take on the world because it’s worth doing. That feeling is real, too.
I pushed off a chance to talk about what this album is doing musically, and it would be robbing it to not gush over it. This album is sonically fantastic. The compositions are well-layered and complimentary to his beautiful and steady voice. The seriousness of the strings and horns and piano—truly orchestral—make for a surprisingly appropriate if also humorous backdrop to his biting lyrics sung in a seductive manner. That this years funniest album could also be the sweetest is unorthodox, but of course it would be Father John Misty to do it.

3. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Sufjan Stevens is one of treasures of modern music. His work is impressive, expansive, and consistent—always pushing off from where his last album left us and diving into something unpredictable. Carrie & Lowell is no different. After years of experimenting with maximalist electronic orchestra sounds, he shrunk down to something as lean as we’ve heard from him yet. Seriously, it makes Seven Swans sound like a marching band. It’s poetic that he did so to take on his most tremendous subject—his relationship with his mother in the wake of her death. Sufjan beautifully and heartbreakingly tells the story of his mother leaving his family when he was a child and all of the effects that had on him throughout this album. In his making peace of not only her death but also an honest attempt to forgive her, we’re right there with him. It’s uncomfortable how close he lets us in. You easily share his sadness and you feel his pain. “Fuck me I’m falling apart” is the saddening cry of a desperate man at a breaking point. It’s feels unfair to be allowed to be so close to all of this.
It’s endearing, although painful, that Sufjan the adult still longs for what Sufjan the child did—his mother’s attention. A chance to know her. He never hates her though. His sadness never turns to vitriol. “I forgive you mother, I can hear you / And I long to be near you / But every road leads to an end / yes, every road leads to an end.” All life, all pain, all suffering, it all ends.

2. Tame Impala – Currents

When Lonerism came out I had said that it was the Tame Impala album that I had been waiting for. And at the time it was. But when Currents came out I realized that it had been the Tame Impala album I was actually waiting for. I had never really been able to shake the apathy I felt about the psychedelic guitar vibes of all their past albums. There is something about that sound that just cannot escape parody for me. The alarmingly different sounds on Currents tickled me. It felt like the Tame Impala I knew, but bigger, better, weirder. It’s interesting how it dwarfed his past albums—albums that are unique and complex—to make them look quaint by comparison. It’s the sign of someone hitting their stride, finding their clearest vision. I didn’t once think how much he sounds like John Lennon. Not because he doesn’t, but it wasn’t even something that registered amidst what the rest of the album was pulling together and mixing around.
Musically, this might be the juiciest treat of the year. There’s no shortage of sounds that I have no identifiable source for. Keyboards sound like guitars and vice versa. Plus, keeping in mind that Tame Impala is just one little Kevin Parker in isolation, the wall of sound that this album builds is astonishing. It’s huge and powerful. This album brought an excitement not just to the future of Tame Impala, but the future of independent bedroom recorded music.

1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

In a 2015 that was filled with a saddening amount of unrest and disparity across America highlighted by the injustices and inequalities within race, gender, socio-economics, Kendrick Lamar became a voice—the voice—for this moment in time. And boy, did he have a lot to say. I was drawn to To Pimp A Butterfly immediately simply for that reason. It was impressive how Kendrick used his popularity to get up on his bigger-than-the-next-guy’s soapbox and challenge us by speaking from a place that demanded more. Coming off good kid, m.A.A.d city, it would have been easy to put out an album that did none of that and he probably would have had had a successful run with it. But to push himself farther than he’d pushed before and insist the world be moved by it as well puts this album and himself in another league. I know by some measure it’s probably unfair, but I’ve come to expect more from rap albums than any other genre. There is the most potential to represent the under-priveledged in a way that can demand attention. I think we are living in a world that can be changed from the socially-conscious mind and it actually makes me upset when I feel like opportunity is missed. “So you better go hard every time you jump on wax.” There’s more to be worried about than money and make believe beefs. When I watched Kendrick preform “i” on SNL I had the distinct feeling that rap music was being changed forever. It’s still the most electrifying TV music performance I’ve ever seen.
There’s been much to say about the “blackness” of this album. “I’m African American, I’m African / I’m black as the heart of a fuckin’ Aryan.” My heart cramps every time I hear this lyric. I feel conflicted about my ability and place to talk about this, but I want to identify that yes, this album is black. And a black album is the album we needed most this year. Something to represent the under-represented. A voice for the black teenagers who were beat by cops at a pool party. A voice for Freddie Gray. For Michael Brown. Eric Garner. A voice for the black lives matter protestors. “Lookin’ at the world like “Where do we go?” N***a, and we hate po po / wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho’” he sings in “Alright.” The world is angry as hell and right they are. But Kendrick doesn’t leave us with anger alone. It’s a powerful agent, but it’s not the complete answer. He also teaches self-love. We have to love ourselves first if we expect to love anything else. Protestors adopted the “We gon’ be alright” hook from the same song to be used as a protest chant and sang it like a choir in the streets. That’s far more powerful than anger alone.
Kendrick has described himself as a writer over a rapper. His ability as each is obvious one this album. Each song is filled with moving phrasing that speaks on an incredibly vast set of themes. If you’ve never read his lyrics, I recommend it. No line or rhyme is wasted, he’s really packing it in. It’s entirely awe-inspiring to feel the depths of even a single line. The complexities and mastery within the lyrics are matched by brilliantly composed music that is as transformative as any other aspect of the album. I heard some discord from rap fans around the sound of the album due to it’s drastic departure from the sound of previous albums. There’s no club bangers on To Pimp A Butterfly. Which was intentional. Kendrick felt conflicted about how songs like “Swimming Pools (Drank)” had been appropriated as bro party anthems—missing the message about the effects of alcoholism. Not that the music on TPAB isn’t fun, but I think it’s much harder to play a free-jazz track in a club. To an extent, it’s protecting the sanctity of his message.
I don’t rate albums—and no one would care if I did—but push me, and this album is a 10/10. What else can be said of an album that is nominated for a grammy, ranked best album of 2015 by Pitchfork, features the president’s favorite song of the year, has been performed on Colbert and Ellen, performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, and performed by protestors in the streets? Its reach knows no bounds. Its impact is ceiling-less. Its message is one of celebration in spite of suffering. I may never hear anything better than this album and I welcome any artist to challenge that.

Honorable Mentions:

Givers – New Kingdom

Narrowly missing the ol’ top ten. As good as ever with this expansion into the darkness.

mewithoutYou – Pale Horses

Got me all excited because it sounds like the mewithoutYou I feel in love with in high school. The world agrees of its goodness as it earned them their first Pitchfork review in their 15 years of doin’ it.

Hop Along – Painted Shut

Something amazing from something amazing.

Battles – La Di Da Di

As weird and punchy as I could have hoped for. An improvement to Gloss Drop in the post Mirrored world.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love

Warm and fuzzed, catchy melodies for days and nights, lots to love.

Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down

The constant hitmaker does it again. Classic Kurt doing all the classic Kurt stuff you know and love.

Over It

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Got stinkier with every listen to the point where I couldn’t even try. I can’t make sense of all of the love for her and this album. It feels so trite and basic.

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

I was unsure of this on first listen and then liked it a lot and then became unsure of it again and now I don’t like it at all. The song that was in the end of the Transparent episode when Joshy stuffs his face with meats is pretty good.

Leon Bridges – Coming Home

Feels so much like a parody that I can’t accept it as being genuine. It’s so precious, but I can’t do it. The high waisted pants may have to do with this.

Ryan Adams – 1989

Hey, this is kind of cool for me not liking either of these artists. Hey, this sucks and Ryan Adams is a goober. That’s how that went.

Sun Kil Moon  – Universal Themes

You know, just one year ago I was naming Benji my favorite album of the year. How did this happen? This album is like, very bad. He’s kind of a turd and I think that left me feeling gross.

 

Better Late Than Never

The National

So, The National was famous for boring me for many years. But I listened to Trouble Will Find Me a lot this year and now I think they are great. His voice is :guy-pizza-box-kissing-fingers:.

Run The Jewels

 I just totally goofed up on this one and flat out missed them when they put out RTJ 1&2. I started listening to RTJ2 this summer and woke up to the incredible force they are. Put RTJ3 in my “Peeing With Excitement” albums of 2016 (I hope).

 

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Music Monday 5.24.10 – 5.16.11

Well, it’s been a full year of doing these little old Music Monday posts. I started making posters for my “most listened to artist for the week (according to last.fm)” one year ago, and for 52 weeks have made something every Monday. I decided to make a collage of the work, much as I did the last time. It’s nice to see everything all next to each other and see how I evolved, or what waves of style I went though, or better, the waves of music I had interest in.
However, I think this is going to be the end of Music Monday if not forever then at least for a while. I sort of like doing things with a definitive start and end, and a year is a pretty good time to round things out. It’s been great, but I don’t want to be locked down to doing this anymore on a week to week basis. There’s many more projects I’ll probably work myself into, and I’m excited to do something completely different. Or maybe something terribly similar. Who knows.

Music Monday 1.3.11 The Tallest Man On Earth

Still very obsessed with The Tallest Man On Earth and so I made a companion piece to the poster I made last week. It’s like a night and day thing. A land and sea thing. You can see that though, I mean, obviously. But yea, this guy is incredible, every song is incredible, and I’m just wrapped up in all of it.

Listened to Real Estate for the first time in a while this past week. That was a huge album for me in 2010, which I would have easily put on the best of the year list, but it actually came out in 2009. Still, a really fantastic album that is surprisingly appropriate for every season of the year.

I wonder if next week will be a 3rd poster for TTMON…. do people abbreviate it like that? Sorry, I’m tired.

Music Monday 12.27.10 The Tallest Man On Earth

I contemplated listening to The Tallest Man On Earth many times and never got around to it, and this week I finally put and end to that, simultaneously ending one of my worst, and making one of my best decisions. I guess I just pegged him as something different, a bit more average. But this is some of the most incredible songwriting I’ve heard in a long while. I’m really blown away by his latest abum The Wild Hunt, which features, like the rest of his recordings just guitar and voice. But for being so minimal, it’s really cavernous in the way it sounds. He throws in these melodies and little vocal reflections that you could never anticipate, and that keeps everything very exciting. The obvious comparison to Bob Dylan is truer than most Dylan comparisons, and if someone’s going to carry that cross, I’d be fine with it being Kristian.

If you’re wondering if you should listen to him, you absolutely should. So glad I squeezed this in before the year’s end. Happy listening.

Music Monday 12.13.10 Vince Guaraldi

Vince Guaraldi is infamous for scoring the music for the Peanuts movies and television specials, not the least of which being A Charlie Brown Christmas, which just so happens to have become synonymous with Christmas itself, putting Vince Guaraldi in that category as well. This album is perhaps the most perfect Christmas music ever made. It’s at heart a jazz album, though I don’t think it’s recognized as one. Mostly because it’s voice is so much louder than just that. If this can’t get you in the Christmas mood, you’re a hopeless grinch. This is one of the most classic albums of any genre, of any time, and the fact that it’s a Christmas album just gives us something to look forward to every year.

This is an absolute must own album. We’ve still got a few more weeks before Christmas, and you should be playing this throughout.

Sufjan Steven’s Songs For Christmas is the new classic, and between these two you should be set on appropriate Christmas music for life.

Anyway, the iconic Christmas-tree-in-need-of-love seemed to be the perfect subject for this poster.
I know these next few days can be very stressful, but try to relax and enjoy this very special time of year.

Music Monday 12.6.10 Sufjan Stevens

So here’s another embarrassingly late Music Monday post with none other than our boy Sufjan Stevens. I’d be lying if I said I don’t eagerly wait until Dec. 1st to appropriately break out his Songs For Christmas. Talk about a collection; this guy put out a BOX SET of Christmas music. Over the past few years it has become the soundtrack of my Decembers, and have the intention for it to be that way for years to come. Let’s face it, he’s a king, and this should come as no surprise to anyone. If you don’t have this, well, you’re on the internet, fix that problem.

Also got into The Hellacopters this week. It’s some good old rock music that sort of makes you feel like a cool guy listening to it. I mean, this is the most pathetic description ever. Just think MC5 or something like that.

Music Monday 11.29.10 Kanye West

So upon the recommendation of just about everyone, I gave Kanye West’s new album a few more listens. I’m not exactly sure how my tone came off a few weeks ago so I want to make this clear: I think this a good album, and probably one of the better of the year. But I don’t think it’s this year’s best… I don’t even think it’s his best. But it is good. There’s something to it, that you can get behind the songs that you don’t even really like that much. I think it’s a creative album by most standards, but not all. It’s funny to me that it’s getting showered with the compliments of how unique it is, but in comparison to some truly unique acts, I think it still falls short.
Again though, it’s good.

The idea for this poster came from the couple of Egyptian references Kanye makes on the song Monster, which I just couldn’t get enough of. You may also notice this is in the style of the last poster I did for him. I don’t know if it makes sense to say this or not, but the album sounds very black and red to me, and I think it would be cool to do a few more that fit this style of illustration.

Kirby’s dad lent me a few albums that he loves, that he thought I might enjoy, one of which being Eat A Peach by The Allman Brothers Band. He had told us that he wanted their song Blue Sky to play at his funeral. And even though that’s strangely sort of morbid to think of at this point, the song is pretty awesome, and would probably be the coolest funeral song ever. This album is southern rock, perhaps at it’s finest.

Brick + Mortar, who I know I’ve talked about before, are just one of the most creative and talented bands out there right now. They are emerging from the Asbury/New Jersey music scene and gaining a lot of deserving recognition and respect. If you have the chance to catch these guys, I would certainly not miss the opportunity. I actually had the fortune of seeing them twice over this Thanksgiving break. Once at The Stone Pony, and two nights later at a bar in Seaside. It was awesome to see that even in two completely different venues, one with a stage and an intense sound system, and the other with neither, they still performed great and made each environment work for them. I took some video of them from The Stone Pony, and I think it’s best you check them out. John Tacon is an absolute crazy person on the drums.

Music Monday 11.21.10 Squeeze

So I know this is more than a little overdue, and I know it’s far from being a Monday, but hey, some weeks are just like that. So let’s get to it…

About two weeks ago I was lucky enough to pick up the vinyl of a favorite record of mine, Squeeze’s Singles 45′s and Under. It’s basically a collection of some hits from Squeeze, but unlike some singles compilations, this one was released by the band, which always seems to make it more legitimate. Regardless, this album is really filled with songs that honestly get better every time I listen to them. The back half of this record keeps getting better and better and it ends with Annie Get Your Gun which I could probably listen to on repeat for an hour.

It’s sort of funny because Squeeze just put out a new album (new recordings of old songs) on XOXO records, home to River City Extension. Glenn Tilbrook has taking a liking to the band, and actually sings on one of their songs. I’m hoping that sooner of later our paths cross, because you know, that would be awesome.

This poster was strongly influenced (okay, almost entirely) by their song Black Coffee In Bed, which if you aren’t familiar with, please check it out now.

Music Monday 11.15.10 Kanye West

I’m not the biggest Kanye West fan, to the point now, where I’m not sure if I’m a fan at all. I liked his first album, and the next two each a little less than the one before, and didn’t even listen to his last album at all. So when I heard he had a new album coming out, I wondered what I had missed in the few years I spent away from him. This new album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was greeted with some early praises, and I had been seeing a slew of people give it praises I could tell were hyperbolic before I even listened to it. There was no way this could be the best album of the decade. Unless you were starting a new decade from the day you heard it. Maybe then. I don’t want to knock Kanye too much, because I think he’s a decently skilled lyricist and his samples are usually interesting, and this album really isn’t bad, but I will say I think he’s way past his prime, and also a jackass.

Nonetheless, in thinking about him more than I have in a long time, I realized that everything about his persona, and his iconic personality, would make for a great poster. So this idea came to me and I went with it.

Also noteworthy is Good Old War’s self titled album. I’m actually happy that this album feels like a continuation of their last. They’re clearly good at what they do, and that’s what I want to hear them doing. Some bands need to realize this and accept it, Good Old War seems to have done both.

Music Monday 11.8.10 M. Ward

M. Ward’s Post War is a phenomenal album. I’m forgetting which song, but one from that album came onto my iPod early in the week, and it just did me so right, that I got into a bit of an M. Ward groove that lasted the next few days. While all of his albums are great, Transistor Radio and Transfiguration Of Vincent, being in the top three, nothing beats Post War. If you don’t listen, that’s the place to start. But also, why aren’t you listening already?

I got Cee Lo’s new album this week. Something I was certainly looking forward to. Unlike most mainstream pop records, this actually packs a few punches and delivers on more than the single. I think we can all agree Cee Lo has been pretty impressive on anything he’s worked on, and this is really no different.

I picked up Scout Niblett’s record The Fool Can Die Now this weekend mainly because I was drawn to the cover, but also because I saw Will Oldham had some work on the album, and that was good enough for me. The songs where he sings certainly shine, but the whole thing ain’t bad.

Music Monday 11.1.10 Sufjan Stevens

Surprise, surprise, surprise. Sufjan’s yet again at the top of my listening charts this week. The fact that he was a discography the size of the real Illinois certainly helps, but it’s mostly because by the time I’m done listening to to one album, I want to move onto another. This process can go on for sometime as he’s got quite the range of albums stylistically.

Anyway, some of you may know that the name “Sufjan” means “comes with a sword.” And that is the key to this poster. Sufjan’s sword is certainly not literal, but it is absolutely metaphorical.

I also finally got a chance to see Local Natives this past week. And boy oh boy, really glad that happened. They said the first time they played Philly it was for 2 people at The Khyber… all things considered, what an enormous way they’ve come. The Troc was packed to the brim, and it was shaking at times. I would certainly do your best to see them anytime you can.

Music Monday 10.25.10 Sufjan Stevens

It comes as no surprise that Sufjan Stevens has been dominating most of what I listen to these days and it’s because I genuinely can’t get enough of it. I’ve been oscillating between his two newest albums All Delighted People EP and The Age Of Adz, and all I can say is that I’m impressed. I don’t think he needs much campaigning on my part, but man, those two albums are certainly some of the best of the year, and just add to his grandeur. I hope you’ve had the pleasure of seeing some videos of his new tour, or maybe you’ve even got to see it live, but that’s where the sunglasses come in to play. I’ve been seeing him wear these in quite a few videos, and to me, they summed up a lot of what The Age Of Adz sounds like.

The Neville Brothers got 3 plays, which was their rendition of Way Down In The Hole for the season three opening of The Wire, which all came in a row, because I think that’s my favorite of all the seasons. But I also think which ever season I’m currently watching is my favorite. So, who knows.

Music Monday 10.18.10 The Black Keys

I’m just loving everything about The Black Keys lately. It’s bluesy, riff heavy, and you actually feel cooler just listening to it. I have to put the windows down and turn the music up anytime I’m listening to them in the car. It’s funny how certain music has that command, and these guys are one of those bands. I have to admit, I was sort of late on this band, not really listening to them until this summer when I heard them on a hot ride into Philadelphia with Mike in Wechter’s old truck. That sort of seemed like the perfect setting for them. Their latest album Brothers is definitely one of the best releases this year.

Another band I’m late to the game on is Miniature Tigers. I finally wised up and checked them out this week and was so glad I did. River City Extension is playing with them tomorrow night in Brooklyn, and if you like either of those bands and can make it out, that’s a show not to miss.

Black Churches. One of my favorite bands, some of my favorite people, and another band where the windows go down and the volume goes up. These guys have been blessed with the strange ability to write a song better than the last one they wrote. Sort of unfair for the rest of us, but so long as they’re continuing writing music, I’ll be benefiting in some way.

Ba Babes just released their new EP called Hate The Beach which they have put online for free. If I were you, I’d download that right now. It’s classified in my iTunes as “garage wave” which is a pretty decent indicator of what you’re going to get. These guys are doing it the right way, and I expect big things from them. They have a split cassette with Dark Surfers coming out on Cassanova Cassettes very soon. Stay peeled for that one.

Music Monday 10.11.10 The Avett Brothers

It’s funny to me that in all these times of doing Music Mondays I’ve yet to make a poster for the band that I love more than any other; The Avett Brothers. These guys just released their third live album, Live, Vol. 3. and as far as their live albums go, this one is the one. For a band who’s become known for their live show, it does a really nice job of putting a bow on it. I’m going to refrain from saying something like “you can feel the energy” but let’s just if I had a cooler way to say it I would. And I pretty much already did. This band can really do no wrong, and this is just another example of how true that really is.

Music Monday 10.4.10 Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens released another album. Am I surprised? Well actually, surprisingly, no. By now I’m not surprised by anything he does, or how, or when he does it. He’s producing such a high quantity of quality. So much on both accounts that it’s left him fairly unparalleled. The Age Of Adz is his latest; a proper full length (his first since Illinois some could argue) and it’s on a different page from anything we’ve heard yet. It’s Enjoy Your Rabbit meets The BQE meets All Delighted People. But more importantly it’s just really good. I’m certain that we’ll be teaching Sufjan Stevens to our future music majors of the world, and I’m even more certain we’ll be hearing Chicago at high school football games half time shows in 2050. Probably sooner. I’m sure it’s already happened.

Anyway, I wanted to make something that touched on not only the very electronic side of Sufjan, but also the colorful and layered nature to all his music.

Music Monday 9.13.10 Weezer

I first heard Weezer in the summer before my freshman year of high school when I saw the video for Hash Pipe when it was fresh on MTV. I remember loving that they looked like nerds and thinking it was just the coolest thing ever. There was more to it than the pop punk I had been listening to, but still had an edge that made it cool. After that, I got my hands on the Blue album, and from there I was set. A year later Maladroit came out, and I remember buying that from a kid I went to school with who bought it but didn’t like it, and was willing to sell it to me for $5. I bought all the Weezer shirts Hot Topic was carrying at the time, one that looked like it was a shirt for a metal band, and the other which had a photo from the Keep Fishin’ video, which was the band posing with all the muppets. You really have no idea how cool I felt.

Anyway, the Blue album and Maladroit completely set the tone for my relationship with Weezer. Since then, I’ve gone both backwards and forwards in their catalogue making myself familiar with all their albums. I find that most people say they like Weezer and quickly follow that up with “Just Blue and Pinkerton,” and for whatever reason, that always bothers me a little. The more and more I listen to Weezer, I come to the realization that I actually do genuinely like them, not out of nostalgia, but because I like the songs. I’m accepting the fact that I’m not a casual listener, but instead a legitimate one.

Weezer has no doubt gotten worse over the recent years, and the albums have gotten cornier and cornier, but the truth of the matter is, if they have a new album, I will be listening to it, forming my opinion, and trying to come up with where I will place it in the inescapable album ranking list. (For those of you interested; Maladroit > Blue > Pinkerton > Green > Make Believe > Hurley > Red >>> Raditude.)

So when I set out to make this poster it took me a while to figure out the approach I wanted to take, but I finally arrived on this idea. For a band who is so often defined and dissected by their albums (whether it be which ones are classic or which ones are just plain awful) what better way to represent them then by there iconic (for better; Blue, Green, Red, or for worse, Raditude, Hurley, Make Believe….leave your own list in the comments) album covers?

By the way, Hurley is actually decent.

Music Monday 8.30.10 Hop Along

I had the pleasure of seeing Hop Along this week when they played with my buddies Secret Mountains. All I can say is this band keeps getting better and better. Their latest EP, Wretches, a 3 song, nearly 23 minute motion, is in my opinion their best yet. Second Voice, is the better half of this record clocking in around 11 minutes,  is probably my favorite song, not only on the album, but in their full catalog of songs. ALSO, Frances is no doubt an alien… because there’s no way a human’s voice can do the things hers can. She pieced together a little band, dropped “Queen Ansleis” and is now a full on rock band. Best thing she could have done for herself.  Pretty amazing live show, the sound is just THICK.

Paul Simon gets me every once and while with one of his records, and this weekend Graceland was just doing it all for me. Such a really great record.

No Age. Get their new record. Just get it, and listen to it. Better than Nouns. I have to say, I was really really impressed with it. These guys success story is also pretty off the wall, but good for them.

Dungen was sounding perfect to me this week. Which honestly, I have a really hard time getting into their songs some times, so I was glad that it all seemed to be fitting into the grooves. I have a feeling if I saw these guys live, my opinion on them would change completely. But for now, they are sitting plain and fancy in my book.

Feel free to add me on last.fm.

Music Monday 8.23.10 Sufjan Stevens

This week I got one of the greatest surprises one can get: news that Sufjan Stevens is recording a new album. But instead of “recording” it was “recorded” and “snuck one up on us”. He released an EP on Friday called All Delighted People which definitely delighted all people. Maybe those in the serious know had heard about this, but to me it came as a complete surprise, which is of course something he would do, all of the sudden just drop something on everyone that no one knew about. It’s 8 songs and around 60 minutes, which is a completely legitimate new release. Something we’ve been waiting for for quite some time, and let me say, this delivers. Sufjan has elevated to new grounds and is truly on maestro status. He is by far one of the most insane songwriters of our time, and will be held close to the heart by many for years and years and years to come.

I saw the video for the song Drugs by Ratatat and thought it was absolutely genius, (and I liked the song too) so I got this album. If you’ve EVER looked for any kind of stock photography, please watch this video, I promise you will get a kick out of it. I’ve never listened to these guys before, so I have nothing to compare it to, but it’s very fun to me.

Belle And Sebastian have been doing me quite right recently. I hadn’t listened to them in so long and I forgot how good they are. I mean, seriously, some of their songs are unbelievable. They have a new album coming out this fall and I have to say, I’m feeling pretty excited for it for whatever reason.

I also listened to Peter Bjorn & John this week for the first time in a few years, and Writer’s Block is still a good album. I really over listened to it when it came out, and need some serious time away from it, but some things you just cannot deny, and this album is one of them.