Top 10 Albums of 2013

MIA - MATANGI10. Matangi – M.I.A.

Bangers, bangers, and more bangers. M.I.A.’s Matangi is unrelentingly frenetic, even for her. While the album focuses heavily on extravagance, she remains the only artist who can spit about xenophobia, feminism, refugees, and the exodus, and still weave it together to sound like a nonstop party.

Said the Whale - Hawaii9. Hawaiii – Said the Whale

In Hawaiii, Said the Whale creates a veritable musical grab bag. “More Than This” relies on little more than some piano chords and vocal harmonizing. “I Love You” sounds like a modern reimagining of “My Sharona.” “Resolutions” ends with a rapped outro (for some reason). Through it all, Said the Whale maintains its defining indie pop sweetness. Instead of feeling like a scattered mess, Said the Whale manages to be a rare specimen – a pop-friendly indie rock band that’s unafraid to take some wild swings for the hell of it.

Swearin' - Surfing Strange8. Surfing Strange – Swearin’

Surfing Strange is the best ’90s underground rock album of 2013. It’s a shame Swearin’ wasn’t around to open for Pavement at some NorCal dive back in the day. Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride swap lead vocal duties and lines of disenchantment over a bed of distorted dissonance without losing a sense of melodicism. It’s ugly and snarling in all the right ways.

Tancred - S/T7. S/T – Tancred

S/T isn’t just another album for Tancred – it’s a complete reinvention. While Jess Abbott’s first Tancred album, Capes, was pure hushed and minimal (to the point of being tiny) indie song craft, S/T is a lively pop rock record flush with exuberance. Songs like “The Ring” and “Indiana” surge with catchy energy and lyrics of soured relationships. Musical quantum leaps aren’t supposed to sound this smooth, effortless, and natural.

Wimps - Repeat6. Repeat – Wimps

Repeat is the adult-made, kick ass version of every awful adolescent punk album. You know the ones… when ragtag groups of misfits first pick up instruments and try to play, but the only material they have to write songs about is the relative trivialities of their day-to-day existence: Sleeping in, hating school, pizza, and staying forever young and vital. Wimps takes that formula, adds sharper musical skills, and applies it to adult parallels: Naps, hating work, the importance of not eating expired food, and growing old and getting boring. Thankfully, Rachel Ratner’s bratty singing and lyrics dripping with sarcastic wit prove that Repeat isn’t fully grown up.

Mansions Doom Loop5. Doom Loop – Mansions

From the opening aural bombardment of “Climbers,” Doom Loop unleashes a steady stream of fuzzy bass, overdriven guitar, and seething fury. Christopher Browder’s lyrics about unraveling relationships and communication breakdowns perfectly suit his voice, which can go from conveying withheld emotions to sonic fits of angst at the proverbial flip of a switch. While there are plenty of things Browder can bemoan, the quality of Doom Loop is certainly not one of them.

The Thermals - Desperate Ground4. Desperate Ground – The Thermals

After releasing 2010’s Personal Life, its kindest and most polished record, The Thermals got brutal and raw on Desperate Ground. The album is somewhat of a throwback – mixing the aggression and venom of The Body, the Blood, the Machine with the unhinged punk instrumental edge of More Parts Per Million. Hutch Harris lyrically hacks and slices his way through song after song about vicious killing (divinely ordained or otherwise) and bellows each of his impassioned creeds to the heavens.

Colleen Green - Sock It to Me3. Sock It to Me – Colleen Green

Colleen Green is bored and enamored. On Sock It to Me, she delivers bursts of sunny, smitten lo-fi rock with a blissfully stoned detachment. With little more than some bar chords and a drum machine, Green creates unbelievably catchy, upbeat ditties (“Only One,” “Number One,” etc.) and a couple deliciously dark, brooding tunes (“Sock It to Me” and “Close to You”). It’s daydream music for the smitten souls of summer.

Waxahatchee - Cerulean Salt2. Cerulean Salt – Waxahatchee

Fragility does not beget weakness. Waxahatchee’s Cerulean Salt showcases delicate strength at its most emotionally cutting. There’s a sense of Southern sorrow at the root of many of Katie Crutchfield stripped down tunes, but she never feels crushed under their weight; instead opting for a steadfast resilience. She’ll find a way to leave gracefully… or she’ll escape.

Lorde - Pure Heroine1. Pure Heroine – Lorde

There’s a deep-seeded sense of isolation that permeates Lorde’s sterling debut LP Pure Heroine. The roots of the seclusion are multifaceted: Growing up in a remote locale (New Zealand), general teenage angst (being an actual teenager), and an element of musical separation. But Lorde’s outsider mentality pushes the pop paradigm forward. With layered snaps, claps, and her deep, dramatic voice, Lorde forges a new brand of minimalist electronic pop that, compared to the rest of the radio-friendly landscape, sounds jarringly sparse. And yet each of Pure Heroine’s isolationist anthems shines more than any of the overproduced status quo. As she defiantly proclaims on the album’s finale, “Let ‘em talk cause we’re dancing in this world alone.”

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Paramore Recap for Rolling Stone

Paramore Key
I wrote a recap of Paramore’s tour kickoff concert at KeyArena. It’s the first thing I’ve written for Rolling Stone. So that’s cool. Check it out.

Sum 41 Feature From The Inlander

Sum 41I wrote an essay about my undying love for pop punk based around Sum 41’s latest tour. Check it out.

2011 Christmas Tracks From The Inlander

A Very [ _______ ] Christmas

Another holiday season brings another set of holiday singles. Here they are: the good, the bad and the Bieber.

The bitter chill in the air and the ornamentation adorning more and more households each day can only mean one thing — it’s time, once again, for our favorite pop stars to churn out some easy Christmas cash-ins! Venture if you will on this bountiful sleigh ride of Christmas tracks that 2011 has brought.

Justin Bieber – “Mistletoe”

The Canadian money-making automaton now has a Christmas album, Under the Mistletoe, ripe for pre-tween consumption. The album’s single, “Mistletoe,” is an original by production team the Messengers. Surprisingly, it’s not Bieber’s traditional brand of highly produced dance-pop. Instead, it’s in the vein of Jason Mraz (ahem, rip-off), accompanied by a sparse combo of sleigh bells and acoustic guitar. The lyrics are somewhat confounding. There’s definitely a parallel made between the “miracle” of kissing his “shorty” and the birth of Jesus. Additionally, there are “chestnuts roasting like a hot July” (because that’s a thing we do in July?) and the “word on the street, Santa’s coming tonight” (your street informants suck, Justin). While Bieber gets more vitriol than he deserves, “Mistletoe” only has the potential to spawn more haters.

Scott Weiland – “Winter Wonderland”

Scott Weiland has a Christmas album (The Most Wonderful Time of the Year). There’s a 40- to 95-percent chance that Scott Weiland is unaware of this. The notoriously drug-addled frontman of Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver sounds positively sloshed on this version of “Winter Wonderland.” There’s nothing rock ’n’ roll about the arrangement. Instead, it attempts a more classic, lounge-singer vibe. It falls flat. The track’s lifelessness makes it seem like Weiland rolled into the studio and somebody handed him a sheet of lyrics and told him “Here, sing this.” Any Spokanite found listening to this over the Bing Crosby rendition should be jailed. Continue reading

Awesome As Fuck – Green Day

Why does Awesome As Fuck exist?

Green Day already released a great live album — 2005’s Bullet In A Bible — and have only released one studio album since. Considering that album, 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown was by far the worst LP of the band’s career, another live album seems unnecessary beyond recording a few career-spanning cuts yet to be captured live.

And yet, here we are.

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Top 10 Songs of 2010

Songs. 2010 had a lot of them. Here are the 10 best, along a pithy reason as to why it’s on the list.

10. “Fuck You” – Cee-Lo You

Why it’s here: For the simple fact that any list without it would seem incomplete.

It’s shock value gimmickry prevents it from ranking higher, but on the strength of the musical orchestration alone it had to be here.

9. “Her Words Destroyed My Planet” – Motion City Soundtrack

Why it’s here: The combo of the guitar line and the effect used on the screams during the interlude lead.

Whatever producer Mark Hoppus did, the result is best single sound of the year.

8. “I Don’t Believe You” – The Thermals

Why it’s here: Bratty brilliance.

Heck, the song doesn’t even really fit with the other tracks on Personal Life, but it’s so snotty and brash that it doesn’t matter.

7. “You Wouldn’t Have to Ask” – Bad Books

Why it’s here: One word – Efficiency.

1:53 is all this slice of of flawless pop rock needs.

6. “Fragments” – Rocky Votolato

Why it’s here: Simple deconstructionism.

Votolato’s song about the troubled pieces that make up the mind is layered with luscious detail, but strip that all away and the core of Rocky’s voice and guitar is all that’s really needed to connect emotionally.

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My Dinosaur Life – Motion City Soundtrack

So yeah…don’t judge an album by it’s cover.

I cannot deny that when I first heard Motion City Soundtrack’s newest album would be called My Dinosaur Life and saw its kiddie cartoon-y cover, my heart sank a little. I fear that MCS might have jumped the musical shark (a la Weezer) and had decided to regress in emotional maturity and overall quality.

Thankfully, I was wrong. My Dinosaur Life not a sign of musical decay. In fact, it’s the band’s best album since their fabulously stellar debut LP I Am The Movie, and the band’s most mature album to date.

To say My Dinosaur Life is kind of catchy is akin to saying LeBron James is kind of a good athlete. The hooks on the album burrow into the listener’s skull like a diamond coated drill bit. Oddly enough, it’s not an immediate impact. On first listen the album seemed pretty unspectacular in this sense, but by the third listen I knew all the choruses and couldn’t shake them from my noggin.
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