long time coming

Hello again, you few, but loyal readers. I'm just stopping in to post a few links and make some empty promises. The second half of my semester turned out to be rather busy and the blog got pushed into some dark, dusty corner.

I'll start off with some shameless self-promotion: cCoOmMpPuUtTeErR iIsS aA rRoOoOmM with j.s. makkos is completely finished and I'm headed to Cleveland later today for our small and unofficial CD release show. If you are in the area, check out languagefoundry.org for more information. I'll have another track or two up on my Virb account within the next week or so (virb.com/wherethereisfire) and sometime in the next month there will be some means of purchasing the album online through Paypal if you are interested. In other Where There is Fire We Will Carry Gasoline news, Neal and I will may be doing some recording in the next week, so look for a track or two from that vein on the Virb as well.

My best of 2007 list is in the works and will be up sometime in January. If you are itching to find out what could be on my list, a friend of mine from State College has list up and a few of his albums will definitely be on my list as well.

[link] britches11596 - Top 20 Albums of 2007

Neal has also had a few posts on his blog over the past month or so that you should check out, especially if you are into noise (Pink and Brown, Lucky Dragons, etc).

[link] (kidsmoke) - Neal's mp3 blog


the music, as opposed to the blog

As many of you know, I also compose music under the name Where There is Fire We Will Carry Gasoline. I've had an album (Computer is a Room) in the works with a poet from Cleveland - j.s. makkos, and it's now finished, slated for release sometime in November. Anyway, I have a song up on my Virb now, so if you are into spoken word backed by ambient electronica, then you definitely need to listen. If not, you should probably still check it out.

[link] Where There is Fire We Will Carry Gasoline on Virb
[link] Language Foundry - Cleveland arts collective which j.s. is involved with


in rainbows

I'll have a full review of this up within a week or so ... I've got a lot of chewing to do. Inititally (with the 6 or so listens I've had so far), I really like the album. I realize many people paid for this download via the website and you can too if you like (inrainbows.com), but for those that want to judge it before they decide to drop $81 on the discbox (it's looking more and more like I will when I have $81 to spend) and don't feel like going through the site ... here are two links to download the zip of the 10 160 Kbps mp3s:


By the way, the bridge of "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" really sounds like Broken Social Scene. Did anyone else find themselves making the eerie comparison on the first listen?


andrew bird

Everyone's favorite whistling violinist played the State Theatre here in State College on Monday night. I can't really comment too much on the show because I was only able to catch the last 30 minutes, but what I did see was definitely worth my money. Andrew Bird is still on tour and I'd recommend going to see him if he's coming through your area. If you haven't heard Mr. Bird, check out "Heretics" off his most recent release, Armchair Apocrypha.

[mp3] Andrew Bird - Heretics



Associations like "the next Bob Dylan" have been thrown around about Matthew Houck, and his new album Pride is another step in that direction. He calls himself (and friends) Phosphorescent - if there has ever been a more eerily dead-on band name, I can't think of it right now. Phosphorescent evokes eerily warm and beautiful folk anthems from the dark world around, not unlike the natural phenomenon of the same name. The organic, wonderfully minimal folk accompaniment envelopes and intertwines with Houck's frailly stoic voice sitting somewhere between campfire improvisation and the soundtrack to soaring through the clouds in a dream. My attempts to explain the truly magnificent feeling of Pride can't even do it justice. You'll have to hear for yourself - it will be released on October 23 via Dead Oceans.

[mp3] Phosphorescent - A Picture of Of Our Torn Up Praise from the forthcoming Pride

Phosphorescent also did a Daytrotter session back in May and there are four tracks available for download; you should read the interview as well. Also, sorry about the lack of posts this week. If you accept excuses ... exams.


dan deacon + girl talk @ 2640 space

Gregg Gillis, or as we know him - Girl Talk, should be everyone's hero. A couple months ago, he began to get enough requests for Girl Talk gigs that he decided to leave his biomedical cubicle for good. Now you can see him, fully bearded and behind his laptop, any night of the week ... like this past Tuesday, with Dan Deacon and White Williams. Baltimore electronica superstar Dan Deacon and Girl Talk (I won't comment on White since I've never seen or heard him - arrived too late on Tuesday) are hell of a combination for a show, especially if you like being drenched in sweat and completely exhausted from dancing when the night's up. Tuesday night's show was no exception. I'm not exactly sure what the deal is with the 2640 space, but it's a church about 3 blocks from landmark Baltimore venue, Ottobar. The show was promoted by Wham City, Monozine, and the tickets were sold through MissionTix (an Ottobar related entity), so if you're familiar with the Baltimore scene at all ... that's a bit of weird cooperation going on, but they show went great and Beach House and Grizzly Bear will be playing the 2640 space on October 13th. I don't really have too much to say about Girl Talk or Deacon, other than, if you don't listen to both of them, start now, because they will both change your life forever.

[mp3] Girl Talk - Smash Your Head
[mp3] Dan Deacon - Crystal Cat


dirty projectors + jens lekman

East Coast nomads turn international superstars saw the release of their newest, and most conceptually imaginative release, last week on Dead Oceans. Rise Above rose out of the at first outlandish idea of doing some Black Flag covers completely from memory. No tabs, no lyrics sheets, no re-listening, so at 11 tracks strong, Rise Above is much more a re-imagined album built from the cassette tapes still echoing in mastermind and frontman Dave Longstreth's head. You can hear the signature mix of avant garde, punk, folk, and so much more that makes up The Dirty Projector's sound in "Depression" from Rise Above. Be sure to visit their myspace for info on their current tour and where to pick up the new album.

[mp3]The Dirty Projectors - Depression

Swedish crooner Jens Lekman's second studio effort, Night Falls Over Kortedala, is due out October 9 in the US on Secretly Canadian. The new record seems a bit more upbeat and orchestrated ... I kind of liked sad, sappy Jens a little better but I'll get used to it. Here's "I'm Leaving You Because I don't Love You" off the new album filled with great samples, plunky piano, and a faint, but funky bassline. Oh and of course, Jens' wonderful and distinctive voice.

[mp3]Jens Lekman - I'm Leaving You Because I Don't Love You

Around America: Help This Guy Out

So one of my friends here in State College has been asking around this week if anyone in our circle of friends could drive him to Wilkes Barre to pick up a guy he knows that is traveling around America and documenting his journey on a video blog. I'm not sure who he convinced to go earlier today, but the alleged traveler, Matt, is here in State College tonight. One of the aims of his project is to disprove that the blogging/internet community is a closed, exclusive, and unfriendly one. I'm going to meet him in an hour or so, and I'd be grateful if you would check out his website. If you can help him on his journey, please do - he's a great guy with an outstanding vision.

[link] Around America in 2.0 >> About
[link] Matt's Flickr Photos


READ, LOOK, we're back + Whartscape Photos

I would like to apologize to the 10 of you that have been asking me when I am going to update the blog and my incessant answer of "oh, in a week or two." Well this week is the week that I shall be returning to the weekly post (if not more). I figured I'd make it more of an occasion and change up the layout a bit too.

I decided to start using my flickr account, and to streamline things, I'm going to start embedding slideshows of my show pictures with the use of a really cool widget called PictoBrowser. I am kind of in love with how sleek it looks and how much easier it is that me having to put in each picture in explain it. If you guys as readers don't like it, post a comment and I'll look for a different photo posting solution.

Whartscape (July 19-21, 2007)



I know its late..but here it is!!!

Whartscape music festival is Wham City's contribution to Baltimore's larger Artscape festivities. If you haven't heard of Wham City (which is unlikely because they've been gaining notoriety like wildfire) they are a art collective out of Baltimore. Started by Dan Deacon, Wham City has been hosting absurdest art events for more than a few years now. So, as almost all other Wham City events, Whartscape was hot, loud, intense and AWESOME! There is no way Sean and I could do all of the bands justice even if we had got to see them all but here are the many, many highlights of the weekend.


Sean And I showed up just before Wzt Hearts started their set. If you haven't heard of Wzt Hearts any you are any kind of a fan of noise music you should check them out. As if two laptops blipping, bleeping, buzzing and blurring isn't enough to make you feel like your tripping in some kind of weird hyper modern wasteland, then add some pounding drums and hoots and hollers that sound like you've stumbled upon a tribal gathering, and the total effect is one that will make your hairs stand up on end. Wzt Hearts really feels like modern music being made in response to modern times. Oh and did I mention their set was great?

WZT HEARTS - myspace

It seems like every time I see Thank You they get better. Really, I think it just me being too reluctant to open my ears. Thank You's gittery rock knows how to shoot what its aiming at. Thank You's open and spastic but steady sound is just approcahable enough to keep you listening and just wierd enough to keep you interested. They, like so many of the bands at Whartscape, played and awesome set. The stand out of seeing them is definitely their drummer. Never have I seen a lady thrash on drums like Thank You's fine drummer (who's name I cant seem to find anywhere)

THANK YOU - live @ Whartscape (as recorded by Baltimore Taper)

Growing is a aptly named band. Live, their swirling soundscapes, pulse around you and the room seems to be, well, growing. I had seen them once before when they opened for mogwai but their set at Whartscape was significantly different. I remember thinking their set sounded more 'soul of the rainbow' than 'color wheel', although with a band like Growing I'm sure live performances are loose and can sound very different from the records. regardless their set was great and a nice contrast to alot of the more "Baltimore sounding" bands.

GROWING - epochemal renissance (exerpt) (from heart of the rainbow)

Since the first time I saw the sunshine a few years ago a lot of things have happened. They have since released a record on Carpark records and toured around the country. As we all know when you add time and experience you get change and that's exactly what Ecstatic Sunshine has done. This guitar duo's live performances are significantly noiseier, using distortion and looping much more heavily than before. I don't dislike their new sound but it doesn't seem to have the unbridled energy of songs like 'Tuscan'. Having said that, the sound does feel more mature and I'm sure we will only see great sunshiny things form this thrashing duo.

ECSTATIC SUNSHINE - live @ Whartscape (as recorded by Baltimore Taper)

I had been introduced to Soft Circle a few months ago by a friend of mine. I listened to Full Bloom a few times and just found it seeping to me. Full Bloom is a weird yet intensely moving album that is very tribal sounding yet somehow still sounds very urban and modern. His live show is no less engaging than the cd. This Ex-Black Dice member's soundscapes feel like they fill your skull to the brim with some kind of life force. Plus watching a guy play drums, guitar and sing at the same time is always amazing.

SOFT CIRCLE - myspace

more whartscape soon...with real pictures!



So I know neither Sean nor I have posted for quite some time. Keep an eye out for post and pics of Panda Bear, WZT Hearts, Ponytail, The Death Set and Enjoy Your Canary. In the meanwhile check out lost:ghost:records Chris Day recently started lost:ghosts to release limited edition releases by people who make worthwhile music. I would also like to say in a moment of shameless self promotion that the musical escapades of Brendan Sullivan and myself are being released in the form of a self-titled cd-r on lost ghosts. The packaging is all hand printed and is super high quality. Chris is also an amazing artist so check out the lost:ghosts website. You wont be sorry.



The Books & Todd Reynolds

The Books have been one of my favorite artists ever since I heard "enjoy your worries, you may never have them again". They have been on my list of 'artists to see before I die' for quite some time and last night I had that pleasure. They played a great set including my favorite song "Smells Like Content". They also did a fantastic cover of Nick Drake's "Cello Song". Each song had an accompanying video that will be released on DVD by the end of the month. The videos were funny and great, in a really subtle way. The Books are by far one of the most creative acts out there right now, no matter what kind of music you are into. If you are not familiar with their music, do your self a favor and purchase some. And if you are already a fan of The Books, the you know what I'm talking about, and are probably as excited as I am to get my hands on that DVD.

The Books- Smells Like Content live

Todd Reynolds was the opening act. I hadn't heard any of Reynolds music previously, which is basically him playing violin and using a loop pedal. He is a phenomenal violinist, in some ways it reminded me of Eluvium but not as ambient. All I can really say is I didn't think he was spectacular, but Todd Reynolds is definitely worth checking out.

Todd Reynolds- "Walkin'"


decemberist, my brightest diamond, backlog

Here's a backlog of the shows I've been to in the recent past that I haven't posted about and a few pictures/songs for each.

3/31 The Decemberist and My Brightest Diamond
2/17 Anathallo
2/10 Sam Beam and David Bazan
2/9 Yo La Tengo and The Rosebuds

I have to admit I haven't listened to The Decemberists since last September, and that was giving the new record a second and third chance. I used to consider myself a Decemberists fan, and I'd say after this show, I would again. First off, the opened with Shiny and closed with The Tain, my two favorite Decemberists songs. Second, sure you can call them folk, alt-country, etc, etc, but a good deal of this show was straight up rock and roll. This may have been due to the fact I was standing in front of guitarists Chris Funk's amplifier. If you saw the guitar-off spurred by the green screen challenge on the Colbert Report, you might have a better idea of what I'm talking about. Their stage presence made this a great show. Although he had his moments, gone is the Colin Meloy of mostly acoustic historically accurate lullabies. I would not be surprised if their next move was a rock opera. Funk and drummer Nate Query made their way into the crowd near the end of the set, random percussion implements in hand, for some sort of impromptu Battle of Gettysburg re-enactment ... I'm not sure what that was about, but it was funny.

[mp3] The Decemberists - Shiny
[video] Stephen Colbert vs. The Decemberists: 2nd Green Screen Challenge

If you read my top 10 of 2006, you may already realize that I love My Brightest Diamond. Her opening set was absolutely intense. Her voice was unwavering, hitting every note as precisely as the record. Shara Worden was joined by equally energetic drummer and bassist, so three strong, the set lacked the orchestration and sprawling arrangements of Bring Me the Workhorse. Even so, it was nothing short of amazing.

[mp3] My Brightest Diamond - Something of an End

And as I had mentioned ... some backlogging.

I actually got pictures of Anathallo this time in Pittsburgh. Their set was nearly identical to the fall show. There's not much I can really say other than they were great as always.

Sam Beam and David Bazan at Messiah College ... sitting room only. For some reason Sam Beam (of Iron and Wine) thought it would be a good idea to sit. Sure it was more intimate, but rather uncomfortable. The setlist included quite a few songs from the new record due this fall, which sounded very promising. David Bazan (of Pedro the Lion) is so much cooler in the first place. Two covers were the highlight of his set: Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen) and L'Amour Stories (Deerhoof). I asked him to play song A but he dissappointed me.

[video] David Bazan - Hallelujah (live @ Messiah College)
[video] David Bazan - L'Amour Stories (live @ Messiah College)

And then Yo La Tengo ... another record that made my top 10. This was an amazing show - two and a half hours of garage punk, avante garde soundscapes and everything in between. They played a lot from the new record ... pretty much a lot of everything. only they did not play my favorite song - Little Eyes. Even so, they should make the "must see before I die" list for each and every one of you reading this.


download: explosions 9:30 set

NPR's All Songs Considered recorded the entire sets of all three bands at the aforementioned Explosions in the Sky, Eluvium, and Paper Chase show on March 17. You can read my review here and you can stream or download the whole show on the NPR site. The NPR mp3s contain the entirety of each set as one file with no setlist. I've cut the Explosions set up into songs and tagged each one. Each song was cut and re-assigned from the original file, so there was no transcoding back to wav or re-encoding as mp3. Basically, the original sound quality has been maintained for those of you that care. I saw on the Temporary Residence message board that some people were complaining about the sound at the show, but I thought it was great both that night and in the recording. So download, unzip, and enjoy!

1. First Breath After Coma
2. Welcome, Ghosts
3. The Only Moment We Were Alone
4. Greet Death
5. What Do You Go Home To?
6. Your Hand in Mine
7. Catastrophe and Cure
8. Memorial

[zip] Explosions in the Sky - 3/17 @ 9:30 Club (link on Sendspace download page)


The Greatest City In America?

So, there is this bench I can see from my bedroom window and painted on it in old crappy paint it says “BALTIMORE: the greatest city in america”. Im not so sure if I agree with that but Baltimore does have alot to offer in terms of independent music. Although many of the musical acts from baltimore are gaining popularity (most notably Ponytail and Dan Deacon), the majority of the Baltimore scene is still relatively unknown to anyone outside the charm city. Who are just a few of these lesser known? Lets take a look.

Ecstatic Sunshine
Never before has a band been so appropriately named. This guitar duo’s spastic rock is like a tour of the universe. See the meteors crashing into each other? Oh, look at that black hole! And the rings of Saturn! Did you see how quickly that white dwarf imploded? Open you ears to ecstatic sunshine and let them show you around.

[mp3] Ecstatic Sunshine- Little Dipper Big Dipper

Ok, so he’s actually from New Jersey, but he is a favorite in the Baltimore scene. One part rap top 40 radio, one part 8 bit nintendo soundtrack, 100% Dance-until-you-pass-out. Check it out.

[mp3] OCDJ- Pls stp th hstl

You just cant kill a classic. I mean, sure the drum and insanley-distorted-bass thing has been done before, but I mean, so has everything else. Coconuts knows how to bring the heat. From Alex Dundero’s ADD drumming to Jeff Dundas’s slick, kick you in the face bass lines, this duo makes Iggy Pop look like a pussy.

[link] Coconut's myspace

Thrust Lab
Thrust Lab is one of the better IDM groups I have heard in a long time. The beats are tight. The bass lines are fresh. The keys are sweet. Check out “Dance Sweet Dracula” for an example of the way they mix the ever popular 8 bit sound with IDM style.

[link] Thrust Lab's myspace

There are MANY more Baltimore acts that I hope to highlight in the following months. These should suffice to fulfill your ADD, sugar-addicted musical escapades for the time being.



I don't care who you are, you have to admit loop pedals are pretty cool. And when a band actually uses them to their full potential its even better. Now, what if this said band not only knew how to use the pedals they had but had TONS of them. It would probably be a mind bending, head bobbing experience. So Its no surprise that seeing the experimental, noise-rock outfit BATTLES was exactly that. I haven't seen so many gizmos in all my life. BATTLES does what they do well, and with class. Why not have the drums in the front and the guitarist in the back? Why not have the keyboard so close to the drums the drummer can hit it? Why not have the cymbal up as high as it can go? There is really no good reason why people haven't thought of these things sooner, but BATTLES is about as experimental as they come. And best of all, they do it well.

Check out the video for Atlas, and note the cymbal.

[video] Battles - Atlas (youtube)

explosions in the sky 3/17 @ 9:30 club

I ever so affectionately refer to these guys as 'plosions, and I think my subliminal reasoning is that even a name as epic as Explosions in the Sky will not begin to explain them. Their set was absolutely surreal. The show was sold out and the club was packed, but I'm sure these 4 Texans could care less. It seemed that each was completely engulfed in his own construct of an ideal reality, and was expressing that through his instrument. And somehow everything completely matches up, pulling the audience into an amalgamated utopia of their own. I admit their songs are so simple but go so much further beyond the bastardized quiet/loud, crescendo to wall of sound write-off some skeptics give them. I hope others would agree that "Your Hand in Mine" was the highlight of the set. The setlist was comprehensive, and I do not see how anyone could complain about the absence of any song.

Opener, Eluvium, was nearly as impressive. Despite the fact that half his catalog is strictly piano compositions, his live performance built up loop after loop, each managing to float in the balance of the others, comprising more of an ethereal shove than a wall of sound. And then there was The Paper Chase. I do not recommend them whatsoever. Sorry to those that may like them, but I thought their live show was nearly unbearable.

[mp3] Explosions in the Sky - Your Hand in Mine
[mp3] Eluvium - Prelude for Time Feelers


neal is officially on board

Like Sean said in the last post, I'm posting here now, so heads up.


raising expectations ... news

I hope we all agree, although 14 year old girls and their stalkers can tolerate it, myspace is terrible. I can't bring myself to use it very often, much less actually log on. But there is hope! Maybe. So purevolume was obviously a little better, but it never caught on. Now there is VIRB. It just went public, profiles are viewable by non-members, and the invites were done away with and now a limited number of people can join a day. So please, stop clinging to your ad-filled, disorganized, aesthetic nightmare of a myspace and join virb. The layout is so clean and simple; the word just needs spread.

The Where There is Fire We Will Carry Gasoline virb site has a demo recording of a new track - Pitch, Yaw, Roll.

In other news, Neal, of the aforementioned project Where There is Fire We Will Carry Gasoline may be joining me in posting to the blog. He jumped onto the blogging ship a little bit ago with Kid Smoke Kid, and we've talked about making Where There is Fire a 2 contributor blog. So keep an eye out for that.

Continuing on the subject on our band Where There is Fire ..., I don't really have a news and progress outlet other than this blog right now, since I'm too annoyed to do anything with the myspace. This will change because of the virb page which I plan to use in full. Continuing ... on the web front, a formal website for the project may be in the makings, including a store with upcoming releases. I am doing a collaborative piece with Cleveland poet, Joe Makkos which will release in mid April. I am also working on another project remixing Baltimore's Maps (formerly Joseph Albers Experiment) songs which should release in April or May. Where There is Fire We Will Carry Gasoline's first formal album might begin recording this summer and release ... eventually. More news to come. And I promise I'll just mention it in the future as opposed to using the blog for news itself.

Also to come in the blog: one or two more looks back to 2006 and the best of the best that didn't make my top ten, and the worst of the worst.

Upcoming Album Reviews: Arcade Fire - Neon Bible, Lovedrug - Everything Starts Where It Ends, and Lewis & Clarke - Blasts of Holy Birth.


Hass Been's and To Be's #1

Two of the worst albums of 2006:
The Knife - Deep Cuts, Silent Shout
80's throwback is one thing, but traveling back in time, making an album with the best coked out B-rate producer you can find, and then traveling back to the future and releasing it in 2006 is another. I mean sure it's poppy in a 1986 sense, but I can't sense a modern element of creativity in it at all. I never even took the time to listen to Silent Shout in its entirety, but I'm sure it's terrible. I don't get it ... but I can find a small amount of respect for The Knife by the fact that Jose Gonzalez covered "Heartbeats" which is a phenomenal song. I just wish he wrote it.

Will be on top 10 lists in 2007:
LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver (March 13, 2007)
They're back and better than ever. Some songs are in the typical LCD style: short, noxious, and to the point. But for the most part this album sprawls. Everything is climactic and has epic buildups. And every single layer has intense attention to detail. Every loop and synth in this album is tweaked to perfection and it is catchy. Unexpectedly catchy ... when was the last time you heard a 6 minute song that completely held your attention span? "Someone Great" is one of my favorites down to every last sample, filter sweep, and synth tweak.

And don't you dare compare LCD Soundsystem to The Knife. Because there is no comparison worth considering.

LCD Soundsystem - Someone Great
(yousendit valid until 2/17)

Read my best of 2006 if you didn't yet ... it's right down there vvv


Best of 2006 ... finally

Choosing the 10 best albums of the calendar year of 2006, or any year for that matter, is an extremely fickle beast. There are albums I absolutely adore that aren’t particularly innovative or overly creative and there are albums that are musically revolutionary that I didn’t care for. The moral of the story is, what conditions do you set “best” relative to? I ended up evaluating albums with a balance of subjective and objective criteria.

I thought some of the highly lauded albums of the past year were a great deal smoke and fog. Return to Cookie Mountain (TV on the Radio) is an example of an album that was great, but in a lot of ways, I saw it as a sophomore slump. In the case of Ys (Joanna Newsom), there was an enormous growth musically and compositionally, but the non-orchestrated “Monkey and Bear” (EDIT - I meant "Sawdust and Diamonds," thanks for pointing that out to me Kleeb) stood out to me as the strongest song on the album. Broken Boy Soldiers (The Raconteurs) was an onslaught of great songs, but it was just another Jack White project, falling short of The White Stripes. And the list goes on, varying from person to person…

This monotony, repetition, and overexertion is obvious on a lot of albums, but the subjectivity lies in the interpretation of where these qualities are positive and progressive. Quite of few of the albums from my possibles list several posts ago fall into this grey area. Some emerged from it, and others still wallow in it. Within the next couple of weeks I’ll evaluate some of these albums that didn’t make the cut and why. Now on to the albums that made it.

1. Tortoise – A Lazarus Taxon

Highlight Songs: Gamera, Why We Fight

Excuse my semi-stereotypical simile, but Tortoise is to me like Dave Matthews Band is to a frat boy. Anything can be set to Tortoise, immediately mesh, and be enhanced. A Lazarus Taxon is 3 discs and a DVD, which some might argue exempts it from the top albums list, but not for me. Additionally it’s a sort of best of, b-sides, and remix compilation. I don’t care. Tortoise is some of the most simplistically creative, complexly droning, and absolutely inspired music to stem from the constant evolution of “rock” over the past 15 years. Sitting at the other end of the spectrum from Talk Talk in the genesis of post rock, you can’t get more original than Tortoise. This entire set is anthemic in the most non-anthemic way possible. There’s a theme song for any and everything within there 3 discs.

2. Chad VanGaalen – Skelliconnection

Highlight Songs: Flower Gardens, Gubbish

I have a feeling that Chad Vangaalen is that guy who sits in his basement studio and records music he thinks no one else will like. His music is really weird, but also quirky, ingeniously poppy, and haunting. Skelliconnection makes such a mess of genres that I have no idea what to classify it as other than indie (becoming more indescript, day by day, 10 years and running). Everything about this album has a soundtrack feel to it, but I have no idea what the movie could even be about. Every time I hear something new from Chad it makes excited to hear what he’ll be doing next. His progression is intriguing; I feel that the only thing in common between some of his songs is hearing his voice, but yet there is definitely some sort of non-precise common thread between his songs … moreso lyrically, but also musically.

3. Thom Yorke – The Eraser

Highlight Songs: Atoms for Peace, Harrowdown Hill

No. This is not just a solid album without the rest of Radiohead. It’s a unique stage where Thom can showcase his oddity in a semi-divergent manner from the outlet of Radiohead. In case you didn’t notice in your unenchanted listening to this album of Radiohead minus most of the musical component, the vocals are nearly devoid of the effects and reverb present in the majority of Radiohead tracks. Thom’s voice is truly amazing on “Atoms for Peace,” an element that never rears its head in such a way within the entity of Radiohead. Pads, guitars, and beats are all glitchy, hauntingly melodic, and lie in a perfect balance of mechanized and organic. The personal implications of this album for myself are huge … also being a self-proclaimed artist of the “laptop rock” variety. I see no reason why everyone shouldn’t love this album.

4. Jeremy Enigk – World Waits

Highlight Songs: A New Beginning/Been Here Before, Cannons

Enigk’s voice is one of my all time favorites. Everywhere in between his whispered lullabies and strained, impassioned cries, he never ceases to throw his entire self into vocal expression. Moving past the vocals, the entire album sounds meticulously and carefully orchestrated. Attention to no detail is spared … and this vigilance is well heard. The opening track “A New Beginning” is a great testament to my former observation. It’s completely rocking out; you can feel the emotion. On a sidenote: Enigk was featured in “O, Porcupine” off mewithoutYou’s lastest record, and the way he sings make we wonder what’s to come from Enigk. His vocals are blood-chilling, and I hope to hear him sing in the same manner in the near future on new material.

5. My Brightest Diamond – Bring Me The Workhorse

Highlight Songs: Golden Star, Magic Rabbit

I didn’t hear even a hint of any indication of a female Jeff Buckley in any of the background vocals on Sufjan Steven’s Illinoise, but apparently it was hiding in there somewhere. When you give Shara Worden, of slight Illinoisemaker fame, the spotlight, the comparison to Buckley becomes obvious. A classically trained composer and opera singer doesn’t seem to out of place on the ever eclectic Asthmatic Kitty label, but Worden definitely sets herself apart. Obviously indie and operatic, her sound begs so many descriptions. The certain depth and darkness of her voice is what pulls in the Buckley comparison, and it is definitely well merited. The album sounds big, maybe a bit overproduced, but I’d say it’s a great and captivating sound for a debut. I, for one, am hooked and can’t wait to hear more.

6. Yo La Tengo – I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass

Highlight Songs: Black Flowers, The Story of Yo La Tengo

I have to admit that any Yo La Tengo album released will make my top 10 for that year. They can’t do wrong. And they’ve enhanced this addition to your collection with attractive 10 and 11 minute bookends to make it all the better. A long, sprawling last track is a given for many bands like Yo La Tengo, and although the first track my seem unnecessary in length, it is completely unobtrusive to the album. All tracks are fashioned in the beautifully quirky Yo La Tengo fashion sitting somewhere between sleepily ambient and sugar-sweet pop. If there was ever a band that combined equal parts Broken Social Scene, Belle & Sebastian, Brian Eno, and Elliott Smith, and made a perfect album, that album would have been I Am Not Afraid…. I feel a lot of familiarity and done before vibe (by both YLT and others) in this album, but it’s in an extremely positive way. In so many ways it is a perfect album where so many others have fallen one step short.

7. The Flaming Lips – At War With The Mystics

Highlight Songs: Free Radicals, The W.A.N.D.

At War With The Mystics is much more than mediocre, and if you don’t think much of it, it’s because you liked Yoshimi and The Soft Bulletin too much. This album was released at the wrong time, preventing a lot of people from appreciating the genius that At War With The Mystics is. It was just the right amount of time for the timelessness of the previous two albums to sink in and dictate the mindset that the next Flaming Lips album needed to be interpolated precisely from the progression from Soft Bulletin to Yoshimi. The Flaming Lips went out on a limb and exceeded the parameters of the interpolation by far. People weren’t ready for this and all but rejected the new album. I venture to say that it is a damn solid album, creatively, musically, and lyrically. Soon enough people will learn that if you expect much of The Flaming Lips, you’re going to be let down. They never do what you think, and that’s one reason they are so damn good.

8. Anathallo – Floating World

Highlight Songs: Dokkoise House (with face covered), The Bruised Reed

These Michigan Boys have done it again. It’s been a while since their last release, but it was well worth the wait. Super-saturation of emotion has been a common thread in my analysis of 2006’s top albums, and this is yet another album that invades that list. It quite possibly could be at the top of the list, and if you have ever seen Anathallo live, you can be the judge. Japanese proverbs, chain clinking, some orchestration, harp, and female vocals aside, this is just another Anathallo album, but they are great at what they do. Four part harmonies, enchanting melodies and countermelodies stacked teeteringly high, atypical percussion, and a horn section reminiscent of nameless fugues and dirges are all still omnipresent and better than ever. In short, the sound sits somewhere between atypical and typical, which I think perfectly describes Anathallo.

9. The Long Winters – Putting the Days to Bed

Highlight Songs: Teaspoon, Ultimatum

I didn’t think the delicate and carefully crafted “Ultimatum” could get any better then the version on the identically named EP in late 2005. Somehow, by way of baring no holds and a mysterious method of “rockification”, John Roderick made this song better. I guess you can do that when you hole up for a year or so like he did to make the new album. And I’m glad he did because if there’s an album I would say defines straight up indie rock and roll at this present moment, it would be Putting the Days to Bed. I really can’t think of much else to say about this album other than the fact that it’s nearly perfectly crafted upbeat rock that will put me (and I hope you too) in a good mood, anytime, anywhere.

10. Most Serene Republic – Phages

Highlight Songs: You’re Not an Astronaut, Anhoi Polloi

This is a tour EP. I didn’t realize it until I was tracking down the artwork to post with this review, at which point I had to add this aside. With 8 tracks and 30+ minutes it might as well be an album, because I’m counting it as one for this list. I haven’t specifically discussed drumming on an album, but I will begin on Phages with the drumming. Frantic, sub-divided, intense, but never excessive. Tony Nesbitt-Larking replaces drummer Adam Nimmo from the previous album and continues to build on the spastic percussion of Underwater Cinematographer. On Arts and Crafts, one would assume Most Serene Republic sounds similar to label definers Broken Social Scene and Stars, and one would assume correctly. But the drum work on this album sets Most Serene Republic apart from the sound they would otherwise be pigeonholed in. This is a truly unique and epic album; keep an eye on Most Serene Republic.

If there is demand, I can make a zip file with all of my 2006 highlight tracks and post it. I do not have time to upload or find links for individual tracks. If you would like the zip file with the 20 highlight tracks, leave a comment and I’ll post it in the near future (It will actual be in the next week if there’s demand, I promise).


yes, i am lazy

I think I'll have my top 10 of 2006 posted in the next day or two. I may not include the standard album covers and links in the interest of time. I will try to include an mp3 for my favorite song or 2 on the album.

Also coming soon: 2007 is way better than 2006 already. Good stuff has leaked and I'll post a few tracks.