Song of the Day 03/21/12: s/s/s - "Museum Day"


What you are about to hear is one of the most insane collaborations you'll ever come across. s/s/s is a side project of big name artists -- but not ones that you would normally find working together. The three "s"' stand for Sufjan Stevens, Son Lux, and Serengeti. The project's first debut EP is called Beak and Claw and you can download the whole on iTunes right now. If you thought Sufjan's work in Age of Adz was bizarre, you'll really get a kick out of Beak and Claw. He's back using that Auto-Tune again, but this time he's got underground rapper Serengeti spitting verses for him -- so I suppose it makes a little bit more sense. Either way, I'm seriously loving the sound of this project. Check out "Museum Day" below:

Song of the Day 03/20/12: The Shins - "40 Mark Stresse"


It's official. The Shins are back and they don't suck. Even after seeing these guys perform last year at DeLuna in Florida with their new band members, I still had major doubts about the band's comeback. It was just too long of a wait -- I've changed a lot in the past 5 years and perhaps even grown up a bit. However, with Port of Morrow, it's clear that the band has done a bit of growing up too. "40 Mark Stresse" is one of my favorite songs off the album. That falsetto chorus gets me every time -- I just love the melody and the chords and the ambient background vocals filling the mix. Check it out below:


Song of the Day 03/16/12: Lana Del Rey - "Lolita"


I know talking about Lana Del Rey is SO two months ago, but I have to mention how amazing the song "Lolita" is from the Deluxe Edition of her debut album Born To Die. It's got to be one of my favorite songs of hers and I'm pretty amazed that they cut this track instead of ones like "Radio" and "This Is What Makes Us Girls". I'm not sure if I really got to mention in my review that posted on Relevant, but I should mention that I really do enjoy a lot of the album. Unlike a lot of the indie publications that have pushed away the songstress as quickly as they accepted her, her album and that unique sound that the producers have crafted has really grown on me. Take a listen below:


Song of the Day 03/11/12: Andrew Bird - "Desperation Breeds..."

Andrew Bird, the now-famous multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter indie extravaganza, just released his new album Break It Yourself and it's already making a name for itself.

There's countless musicians out there who have love affairs with loop pedals, but to me, Andrew Bird is really the only who's mattered. His seventh studio doesn't make any huge jumps in style or instrumentation -- Bird still finds plenty of inspiration in folky acoustic guitars, quiet percussion, and wailing violins. But in Break It Yourself, Bird seems more confident than ever before. His melodies are stronger, his voice more expressive, and his arrangements more daring. Check out the opening track from the album, "Desperation Breeds..." below:


Song of the Day 03/07/12: Beach House - "Myth"

I know I like just featured these guys and you've probably already heard this song, but there is such a thing as buzz-worthy. Therefore I present to you the new track from Beach House entitled "Myth" coming off their upcoming album Bloom. "Myth" doesn't find the band moving in any drastic new directions sound-wise, but it definitely is proof that Beach House is interested in beefing up their sound a bit. The drums, synths, and bass seem to pack a little more punch this time around and everything feels fuller and more fleshed out. The song is catchy, which is to be expected -- but it's also got a certain finesse to it in that it feels leaner and more concise compared to previous Beach House songs of this kind. I'm really liking it and I'm excited to hear where the band goes with some of the non-single tracks as well.

Take a listen below:


Song of the Day 03/06/12: Lambchop - "Gone Tomorrow"


I have no idea how a band Lambchop has flown under the radar the way they have. The recently released album, Mr. M, is the first I've heard of the alternative country/lounge/soul band -- but they've been putting albums out since 1994, this being their 11th. Coming at the album with very little background knowledge of the band, I've really found a lot of the sounds and styles the album is playing with to feel quite refreshing.

The album dives into the styles of smooth lounge music and baroque pop, bringing a collective of string and horn players to the mix. "Gone Tomorrow" is the album's single, but "If Not I'll Just Die", the album's opener, is easily my favorite. Like most of the songs on Mr. M, the song is downtempo and has a lulling lounge feel -- as do frontman Kurt Wagner's casual vocal deliveries. It's the kind of song to wake up to -- easy on the ears and quietly soothing.


02/12 Album of the Month: Perfume Genius

Perfume Genius - Put Your Back N 2 It

It's been a while since I've really enjoyed an album like Put Your Back N 2 It. Blatantly sentimental, Perfume Genius' emotions are all on display in both the music and the words here. Lead singer Mike Hadreas' vocals tremble and shake ala Conor O'Berst, but the emotions feel so incredibly authentic and real. Production-wise, Perfume Genius has moved away from the hazy bedroom-pop of his previous album and given us something tangible and in-your-face to wrap our minds around. Fortunately, the project is well-suited for the new full-realized sound, allowing the emotive vocals to find a proper match in the bigger feel of the accompanying sounds. Check out the track "Dark Parts" from the album below:


Song of the Day 02/29/12: Future Islands - "Balance"

Future Islands is a synthpop trio from Baltimore who released their third LP On The Water just last year. It's one of the albums from last year that I never got around to giving a proper listen to. Now that I have, I am really enjoying the band's effortless songwriting and production. The song "Balance", which is the album's single, features this great synth melody that sounds like a dolphin cry scooping up out of the ocean. When the drum machine and wobbling bass line kick in though, it's pure 80s New Wave bliss. I think I might actually enjoy this album even more than Destroyer's awesome take on the genre from last year. Listen to "Balance" below:


Song of the Day 02/28/12: Mister Heavenly - "I Am A Hologram"

Mister Heavenly is a supergroup formed from members of the popular indie bands Islands, Man Man, and Modest Mouse. Not only are these guys a supergroup, they also had Michael Cera as their touring bassist last year. Doesn't get much more "super" than that. Fortunately, these guys are a really solid group also. "I Am A Hologram" is my favorite song off their debut 2011 album Out Of Love. The song features some awesome lyrics and some great group vocals too. These guys are pretty lighthearted and fun most of the time, which is something of a rarity among supergroups of this type. Check out the song below:


Song of the Day 02/27/12: Gorillaz - "DoYaThing"

This song is the newest collaboration in the monthly Converse music project, which has been pretty hit or miss so far. But here, we've got Gorillaz, James Murphy (ala LCD Soundsystem), and Andre 3000 (ala OutKast) putting together a track that puts the strongest points of character, skill, and personality from all three of these artists to great use. The music itself sounds like a Gorillaz song -- fun, bouncy, and cartoonish. The song really kicks into gear though when Andre 3000 gets his hands on it though. His flow is smooth and insanely fast -- such a perfect addition to the song's zany personality. He ends the song repeating the line, "Can we get the OutKast album now?" He's just kidding, but I really wish he weren't.


Song of the Day 02/26/12: Nicolas Jaar - "Space Is Only Noise If You Can See"


Nicolas Jaar is an electronic musician that produces ambient, sparse music that is totally weird, but is just plain cool. In contrast to last year's James Blake, Nicolas Jaar's take on dub-infused art pop feels a bit more lighthearted and playful. "Space Is Only Noise If You Can See" bounces along with it's vintage drum samples, analogue synth sound, and Jaar's low awkward voice. It's not for everyone, but there's just something about this song that I find really charming. This song is from his 2011 full-length album Space Is Only Noise, but the artist also recently put out a two-song EP called Don't Break My Love that you can stream here.


Song of the Day 2/25/12: Ra Ra Riot - "Too Dramatic"

I got my first exposure to this five-piece indie band last year when I covered them with Paste at the DeLuna Beach Festival in Florida and was really impressed by the band's live energy. Ra Ra Riot is straight-forward indie pop band with a baroque-pop feel thanks to the presence of cellist Alexandra Lawn and violinist Rebecca Zeller. "Too Dramatic" was one that was particularly catchy that I remember from the set and it comes off their 2010 album The Orchard. You'll hear a lot of Dirty Projectors-esque falsettos and four-on-the-floor beats on the record -- but sometimes that's totally what I'm feelin. A band that plays with baroque pop, oddball vocals, and upbeat rhythm sections seem like almost too good to be true.


Song of the Day 2/24/12: Beach House - "Used To Be"

The guy-girl duo that made "chill-wave" something that wasn't detestable just unofficially announced their new album Bloom, which is allegedly hitting shelves on May 15th. So in anticipation of hearing what the group is up to next, I chose their 2010 song "Used To Be" as my Song of the Day today. It's got this hooky melody that is so poppy it might as well come from a Katy Perry song -- but lead singer Victoria Legrand's smoky voice makes the thing sound like a nostalgic dream. The entire record Teen Dream is highly recommended (not to be confused with Teenage Dream).


Song of the Day 2/23/12: Reptar - "Stuck In My ID"

This dance-pop band from Athens, GA just announced the release of their debut album Body Faucet, which is hitting shelves on May 1st. Whether or not they will be the next big thing in dance-rock is still up in the air at this point -- all I know is this song is irresistibly catchy and fun. After getting off a big tour with Foster the People last year, I can't help but think they've got some big things in store for 2012.


Song of the Day 2/22/12: Carter Tanton - "Murderous Joy"


Carter Tanton is a singer-songwriter that's just getting back into the world of music again after exiting his band Tulsa a few years ago. The single off his debut solo record from last year "Murderous Joy" is an infectious little pop gem that ended up being one of my favorite songs from 2011. There was something just so timeless about the simple vocal melodies and glistening acoustic guitars -- this thing could have been from just about any decade between the 60s and now. While I found myself not being in love with the rest of his album, Freeclouds, "Murderous Joy" is an simply irresistible. Enjoy below:


Song of the Day 2/21/12: Matt Elliott - "Dust Flesh and Bones"


Matt Elliott's recently released album is my first experience with his dirty, acoustic border music, but the dude has been making studio records for years now -- both under his own name and the moniker Third Eye Foundation. "Dust Flesh and Bones", off the record The Broken Man, sounds exactly how you'd expect a song with a title like that to sound. Spanish guitar picking sets the stage for Elliott's deep Leonard Cohen-esque grumble to suck you into his dark world of somber emotion and painful remorse. Each section of this multi-part song is equally impressive and imaginative -- it's all a mark of an artist at the top of his game. Check it out below:


Song of the Day 2/20/12: Ivan and Alyosha - "Living For Someone"

Ivan and Alyosha is a band I came across last year when they did an amazing NPR Tiny Desk performance. Their West cost folk-pop is nothing new, but it's hard to deny when they pull it off this smoothly. They released an EP called Fathers Be Kind that was one of my favorite EPs of the year -- finding a comfy soft spot between the Fleet Foxes first album and a more mainstream acoustic pop sound. "Living For Someone" has some really hopeful lyrics about living simply and loving the people around you. It's a rarity in our cynical world. All in all, it's my idea of totally agreeable and pleasant music, which definitely has a place in my music library.

Here's to hoping for a full length release from these guys later this year.


Best Albums of 2011

This is going up really late, but with all the great music that was released in 2011, I feel like it woud've been a crime to not finish what I had started. It's been an awesome year for me personally and I've gotten some really great chances to write for some bigger publications. Currently I'm freelancing for Paste Magazine, Prefix, and Relevant Magazine -- with more on the way hopefully.

As for The Feedback Loop, I have some exciting things planned for 2012, so stay tuned. Below is my final list. Feel free to tell me what music you liked from 2011 in the comments below!

25 TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light
24 Little Dragon - Ritual Union
23 Big K.R.I.T. - Return of 4Eva
22 Destroyer - Kaputt
21 John Mark McMillan - Economy
20 Grouper - A I A / Alien Observer
19 Bon Iver - Bon Iver
18 Florence + The Machine - Ceremonials
17 Jonny Greenwood - Norwegian Wood OST
16 Iron and Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean
15 James Blake - James Blake
14 Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
13 CunninLynguists - Oneirology
12 Radiohead - King of Limbs
11 Colin Stetson - New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges
10 The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow
9 My Brightest Diamond - All Things Will Unwind
8 Lia Ices - Grown Unknown
7 Rustie - Glass Swords
6 St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
5 The Roots - undun
4 My Morning Jacket - Circuital
3 Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
2 PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
1 M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

Best Albums of 2011: #1

M83 - Midnight City

If there's one thing I've noticed about my listening habits in the past couple years it's that I don't have the same musical endurance I used to have. It might be that I listen to a lot more music than I used to or it might be that we all have a certain degree of ADD from using the internet too much. Either way, I've found that I often spend huge amounts of time with the first half of albums and tend to neglect the latter half. As sort of a resolution to that, I've really begun to love the shorter length of EPs -- four or five tracks that I can really get a good grip on and know inside and out.

It was strange then when I realized that the massive double-album Hurry Up, We're Dreaming was, without a doubt, my favorite album of 2011.

However, I found a sense of freedom in the epic scale of the album. Instead of a tightly-knit album of songs, I discovered a lot of space to get lost in the music. Instrumental tracks wandered and grew, only to fade out in the end, while songs like "Midnight City" and "OK Pal" burst with life and celebration. Unlike so many other indie releases these days, it's gestures were grand and majestic, not subtle in any way. While I've found that I enjoy listening to smaller amounts of music in repeated listening times in my day-to-day life, albums like Hurry Up, We're Dreaming and my favorite album from 2010, Sufjan Steven's Age of Adz prove to me that big concepts and ambitious expressions still move me most.

To read more of what I've written on the album, click here and here.

Best Tracks: "Intro (feat. Zola Jesus)", "Midnight City"


Best Albums of 2011: #2

PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

You don't have to look very far to see that the modern day Western peace movements are partisan politics at best or nonexistent at worst. Sadly, it's beginning to feel like in the Western world the idea of being at perpetual war has become a part of our cultural psyche. Every once and a while, though, a piece of art, film, or music can move people in their serious and somber portrayals of war. In the past it's been films like Schindler's List, Apocalypse Now, or The Hurt Locker -- films that show the tragic effects of war for what they are rather than falling back on typical anti-war rhetoric. For me, PJ Harvey's Let England Shake was this 2011's case against violence and warfare.

In each of these daringly simple, but masterful songs, the singer-songwriting veteran takes a step back from personal dramas to create her magnum opus of sorts. From the opening titular track on, PJ Harvey had me hooked to her idiosyncratic vocal deliveries and sparse arrangements -- a stunning exercise in controlled creativity and an example of a musician and songwriter at the top of her game. More than anything else though, as the war in Afghanistan drags on and U.S. military bases continue to pop up all over the world, I can't help but turn to my own country that I love and wonder if we need our own PJ Harvey to finally wake up.

Read my full review here.

Best Tracks: "Let England Shake", "The Words That Maketh Murder"


Best Albums of 2011: #3

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

If there's one thing that can really turn me off from any music publication, it's got to be when albums get discredited simply because it's not the band's first album. Not surprisingly, I sort of did the same thing when I first heard Helplessness Blues. At first I wavered as to whether or not I preferred the simplicity of heart in Fleet Foxes' debut self-titled album over the emotional complexity in Helplessness Blues. I reasoned that perhaps Fleet Foxes were biting off more than they could chew -- that maybe they should stick to singing about furry animals and sunrises. That is, until the Occupy movement hit the streets in every major city in country, young people took over the Republican Party behind a 76-year old libertarian named Ron Paul, and every able-bodied Internet user regardless of political affiliation took up arms against the Internet censorship bill, SOPA.

Not to say that Helplessness Blues is at all a political album. Instead, it's music about desiring to be a part of something bigger than yourself; part of a movement. It rightly reaches back to the Joan Baezs and John Lennons of the original youth movement of the 60s for inspiration both musically and thematically -- attempting to inspire people to dare be more than consumers of materialism. When Paste assembled a list called the 10 Anthems For Our Generation and put the titular track from Fleet Foxes' album at #1 over songs by Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, and The National, they were totally 100% correct.

Best Tracks: "Helplessness Blues", "Grown Ocean"


Best Albums of 2011: #4

My Morning Jacket - Circuital

There are only a few bands who, in my mind, can still pull off the whole rock band thing these days. Foo Fighters, The National, maybe The Black Keys come to mind -- but few bands can claim the energy and raw musical expertise without a smirk or a wink, especially rock bands of the independent persuasion. But My Morning Jacket's new album Circuital proves that their take on 90s indie rock is the real thing. Having released their first album in 1998, these guys know their stuff and their return to form shows their perfection of the form.

Circuital is one of those rare albums where every single track is absolutely required and non-skippable. From the old-school heaviness of "Victory Dance" to the upbeat indie rock hit "Circuital", Circuital has the emotional punch of their early albums and the relevancy of Z. The strong hooks, thoughtful lyrics, and MMJ's undeniable musicianship all add up to something refreshingly familiar: a classic good album that is easily one of the best of the year.

Best Tracks: "Victory Dance", "Holdin On To Black Metal"


Best Albums of 2011: #5

The Roots - undun

In an interview with AdWeek, drummer ?uestlove said, in talking about their new album, that "I definitely feel like How I Got Over was our first record, and now Undun is our second album." In many ways, I can see why he says that. As they settled down as the Jimmy Fallon late night band, How I Got Over felt like a reinvention of The Roots -- a simplified and refined version of themselves. In undun, they pursue a more complex conceptual topic, but still keep the beats simple and raw.

When ?uestlove would later say that this is the best Roots album yet, he really wasn't kidding. Black Thoughts' flow has never been better and the guest spots by Big K.R.I.T., Greg Porn, and Dice Raw are perfectly integrated. The conceptual material of the album doesn't feel like anything new -- after all, how many rappers have made albums about growing up in the hood and entering a life of crime? Yet, The Roots still give the story their own existential, cringe-free spin and produce what is in my mind the best rap album of the year. The Roots' ability to continue to refine their sound and push forward creatively is kind of mind-blowing to think about considering undun is their 11th studio album. If undun is a sign, they show no sign of slowing down any time soon.

Best Tracks: "Make My", "Tip the Scale"


Best Albums of 2011: #6

St. Vincent - Strange Mercy

Annie Clark has always been able to find way creative ways about talking about herself in her music. She seems to have an understanding of her own identity and her relationships that have inspired some pretty nifty metaphors: the actor, the tiger, the cheerleader, the surgeon -- she's always been able to avoid lyrical cliches. These can be found all over Strange Mercy. In fact, Annie might be at her best here lyrically, tying together themes of femininity, sexuality, and youthfulness all into one cohesive expression. Add in her music video for "Cruel" where she is kidnapped and forced into being a housewife and you've got a pretty unique statement on gender roles and female identity.

But in Strange Mercy, Clark has really managed to take her music to another level. Her guitar-playing has become as idiosyncratic as her unique vocal style and taken on a voice of its own. When she rips into deep electric guitar hooks behind her singing "I don't want to be a cheerleader anymore", Clark has found a way to express herself musically as effectively as she does lyrically. It's a thrilling achievement for St. Vincent, but most of all, it's just plain fun to listen to.

Best Tracks: "Cruel", "Surgeon"

Best Albums of 2011: #7

Rustie - Glass Swords

I really never thought an instrumental electronic album like Glass Swords could make it to the top of my end-of-year list -- I just tend to not have the patience for this kind of stuff. Looking to expand my musical palette a bit, though, I did my best to give the debut album from newcomer Rustie a try. Quite surprisingly, I found myself totally addicted the sounds and styles Rustie plays with in Glass Swords. Influences from across the electronic music spectrum make it into Glass Swords and the result is a dizzying blend of styles that only a young producer like Rustie could pull off.

It's heavy on samples, 8-bit synths, and even cheesy guitar solos -- indulgent and maximalist in every meaning of the words. In "Hover Traps" Rustie matches a slap bass guitar with a sample of Navi from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time -- in "Globes" he sounds like a bit like the German electronic duo Digitalism, but "City Star" might as well be the backing track for the best Rick Ross song he never rapped over. Genres, subgenres, labels... throw it all out the window: Rustie is the definitive electronic release of 2011 -- a snapshot of electronic music in 2011 and what the genre has to offer.

Best Tracks: "Glass Swords", "Ultra Thizz"


Best Albums of 2011: #8

Lia Ices - Grown Unknown

Every once and a while an album will come along that revives my faith in the traditional singer-songwriter. I understand that a girl singing and strumming an acoustic guitar isn't exactly everyone's cup of tea these days, but among new releases from crowd-favorites like Feist, Lia Ices easily stood out as a unique voice in the genre. Grown Unknown is only her sophomore album, but it already sounds like a mature musical statement from the young artist.

Somber and solitude -- Grown Unknown was the perfect winter album for early 2011. Sparse instrumentation surround Ices' chilling vocals, but every bit of it purposeful and important. As much as a quiet album like this one can, Grown Unknown managed to surprise me with each track. Whether its the hand claps in the title track, the string flourishes in "Ice Wine", or the guest spot by Justin Vernon in "Daphne", the album seemed to offer compelling production choices at every turn. The problem with lists like these is that its so easy to forget about last January -- especially a quiet album like this one. Even still, Lia Ices' voice struck a chord with me that kept me returning to the album over and over throughout the course of the entire year.

Best Tracks: "Daphne", "Grown Unknown"