Summer 2013 Albums Preview from The Inlander

dsc00474The Inlander put together a little summer albums preview. I wrote about the new Jimmy Eat World and The Lonely Island records. Check it out.


Courtney Marie Andrews Feature From The Inlander

Young Blood

By 18, Courtney Marie Andrews was a music industry vet

Courtney Marie Andrews is a freak among us. Where most teenagers have suffered through the agony of reading book reports in English class — sweat forming on the back of necks as they stumble through Twain, Fitzgerald or Salinger — Andrews started writing songs at 13 and began gigging a few years later. The indie-folk songwriter even had her first well-received album out (2008’s Urban Myths) by the time she was 18.

But even Andrews is still confused by how she did it. Onstage, she was willing to open her soul up to the world, yet she insists that in the day-to-day schooling grind she was a nervous wreck — just like the rest of us.

“I would definitely say I’m much better at getting in front of an audience and singing as opposed to talking,” she says, “When I was 14 or 15, I was one of the kids in class who was really afraid in front of people.”

Despite being the runt at the music venues around Phoenix, Ariz., Andrews’ wide-eyed innocence made her impervious to feeling like the outsider among older musicians.

“I’m sure it seemed weird to other people, but it didn’t seem weird to me. ’Cause when you love to do something you don’t really think about it. You just do it because it’s what you know.”

Andrews’ sound has grown fuller and richer over the years. She says her music’s evolution actually has nothing to do with how she sings or plays, but rather how she senses the music around her.

“When you start to know what sound is. You can’t really hear things well. You can’t really make out differences.” Continue reading

Top 50 Albums of ’00s (20-11)

And the beat goes on…and the beat goes on…

(For those who need to catch up: #50-41, #40-31, & #30-21.)

20. The Stage Names – Okkervil River

Being an actor isn’t all glitz and glamor, or at least so says Okkervil River. Over the course of nine tracks Will Scheff and company use their linguistic brand of indie rock to spin stories of the terror of the spotlight (“A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene”), the hollowness of womanizing (“A Girl In Port”), and the loneliness of forced attention (“Plus Ones”). All the while the poetic lyrics are carried by rock orchestrations that match the mood of each tune to a T. The Stage Names feels like a novel masquerading as an album and even though the last chapter ends triumphantly on “John Allyn Smith Sails,” you’re left wanting more. Luckily this is one story that can be heard again and again without ever growing sick of it.

(Full review here.)

19. Makers – Rocky Votolato

The tradition of singer-songwriters has always thrived off deep ties to regions and their natural essence. Countless albums have been distilled the heart of the deep south, northeast, and the mid-western plains, but the northwest has often gone largely overlooked. Rocky Votolato’s Makers fills this gap in the American tapestry, proving the region is more than just the stereotypical coffee drinking indie grungers. “White Daisy Passing” captures the serene delicacy of the majestic pines surrounding calm, cool Pacific streams, while many others (like “Where We Left Off”) capture the powerful beauty in the ominous darkness of rain clouds. All the while Volotato’s soothing croon takes the listener away from whatever reality they are at and transports them, even if only for a few short tunes, to his world.

18. The Artist In The Ambulance – Thrice

There is nothing light about Thrice’s The Artist In The Ambulance. It is the absolute antithesis of heavy melodicism. The music has a gravitas about it, coming on thick and unrelenting, yet everything still manages to have a hook. Considering these two world are often dichotomous, Thrice really achieves something by achieving the perfect balance. But beyond the album’s instrumental fortitude, lie lyrics that don’t pull punches while discussing political climates, American greed, and the complete loss of hope. “Cold Cash And Colder Hearts” is a scathing rebuke of the lifestyle of the United States and the neglect of the Third World. Even in it’s brightest moments, like on “Stare At The Sun” and “The Artist In The Ambulance,” Thrice drives home an underlying message of wasted moments that could have be spent doing something meaningful. The Artist In The Ambulance can kick your ass, get stuck in your head, and make you think. It’s not everyday that trio works in synergy.

17. Funeral – Arcade Fire

Music doesn’t get more joyous than Funeral. While the lyrical picture the album paints is certainly bleak, it holds the feeling of a soulful and lively congregation singing their hearts out to the rafters. Mixing together a cornucopia of sounds, song after song on Funeral carries an anthemic weight. What starts with the uplifting “Neighborhood 1 – Tunnels” carries through to soaring “Wake Up” and gradeous epic “Rebellion (Lies).” It is music that makes people smile through their tears. Raise you’re hands to the sky, rejoice, and sing along.

16. Turn On The Bright Lights – Interpol

With a foreboding instrumental atmosphere and Paul Banks’s monotone drawl, Turn On The Bright Lights gives a voice to a New York City night’s underbelly. The songs aren’t sung as much as coldly emitted, droning on about subways, sex fiends, and senses of separation. There are just enough hints of pep and lyrical slyness to make each song’s distant core engaging. Turn On The Bright Lights makes you wish you never had to go out in natural light again.

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Top 50 Albums of ’00s (30-21)

The further continuation of looking back at the top albums of the 00s. In case you need a recap on the tenants used to make these rankings or missed the previous efforts: #50-41 & #40-31.

30. Delayer – The Heavenly States

If the heart of rock ‘n roll is indeed still beating then Delayer is the blood pumping through it. Devoid of any elaborate frills or gimmicks, The Heavenly States deliver an album that’s a throwback to a more simple and straightforward time before rock splintered into a million different sub-genres. That’s not to say the songs lack variety, quite the contrary (see the hoedown-esque “Never Be Alright” for proof), it’s just there’s an core feeling when you’re listening to Delayer that this is what pure rock should be. Equally mixing dashes of attitude and fun, The Heavenly States sound like the band that should be appointed as the permanent opening act for The Rolling Stones. The only catch is The Stones haven’t released something this good in decades.

(Full review here.)

29. Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand

If Franz Ferdinand’s slickly cool debut album didn’t get you up dancing (or at least vigorously tapping you foot along) then you’re probably a corpse. The rump-shaking possibilities on Franz Ferdinand are endless. You could move with the rhythmic bounce of “Take Me Out,” the guitar non-stop attack of “Jacqueline,” or the bass groove of “Cheating On You,” just to name a few. And there may not be a more wonderfully filthy reason to hit the club dancefloor than the scintillating homoerotic lust ode “Michael.” I hate to steal la line from Lady GaGa to sum up Franz Ferdinand, but f’ it. Just dance.

28. Alkaline Trio – Alkaline Trio

Alkaline Trio might not be a “true” album per say (it’s actually a collection of songs that were previously released by the band on singles or EPs), but that doesn’t preclude it from feeling like one unifed burst of untamed punk bitterness. Matt Skiba’s songs of drowning in booze and heartbreak pierce deep with pointed lyricism as his ripping guitar screams the sentiments even louder. While tracks like “My Friend Peter” and “Cooking Wine” spill over with anger and remorse, but nothing can touch “97” which the most emotionally raw song of the decade. When Skiba throat-destroyingly screams that his ex-love is “a thorn in my side, the size of a Cadillac,” you feel like he means it as much as humanly possible. Alkaline Trio wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve, and that heart is broken, poisoned, and dying.

27. I Am The Movie – Motion City Soundtrack

Apparently OCD is delicious when you put a sugary shell around it. Motion City Soundtracks debut LP is full of bubbly pop melodies and playful synth lines, but it’s singer Justin Pierre’s obsessive-compulsive disorder and the hyper musings which come from it that really carry I Am The Movie. One moment he’s listing a slew of pop culture references that tie together the memory of a relationship (“Perfect Teeth”) and the next he’s spouting specifics about superhero dreams (“Capital H”). The crown jewel in the mix is the undeniable pop perfection of “The Future Freaks Me Out.” Anyone who doesn’t want to bust-a-move when they hear the tune is no one worth associating with. I Am The Movie is so sweet, it makes you glad that there’s no such thing as aural diabetes.

26. Make Up The Breakdown – Hot Hot Heat

It’s really hard to put your finger on just why Make Up The Breakdown is so good. The tight beats? The electrifying keys? Steve Bays’s off-kilter vocals? Truth be told, it’s probably a combo of all those things, but more than anything it’s Dante DeCaro guitar playing. DeCaro takes an approach to the instrument that really sets him apart. On delightful little numbers like “Bandages” and “Oh, Goddamnit” DeCaro’s playing is at times sporadic, jangly, aggressive, and methodic. It makes for a brand of danceable rock that would keep even the hardest hipster on his toes late into the night.

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