The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2014

St. Vincent at Fox Theatre Oakland // Showbams' Photo of the Year, by Pedro


St. Vincent at Fox Theater Oakland // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by Pedro Paredes

Ah, year-end lists — they’re an exercise in subjectivity and personal experience if there has ever been one. But what better way is there to learn from each other and discover some great new music while capping off the year and beginning anew?

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2014.

The 25 Best Live Music Acts of 2014
Showbams’ Top 50 Albums of 2014

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2014:


Darkside at The Fillmore

Darkside at The Fillmore // Photo by James Nagel

Mike Frash // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Darkside at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – January 24th
Looking at my top five shows list for 2014, it appears I favor the weird, ya know, the good weird. This Darkside performance, the only SF show ever (for now) since Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington have put the project on indefinite hold, had patrons at The Fillmore in SF breathing and moving in unison. There was a magical feeling in the air as the hybrid of electronic and organic played out wonderfully with the duo tipping their hat to the past and setting a new standard for the brave new future of live music.

2. Panda Bear at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – May 22nd
3. tUnE-yArDs at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – June 6th
4. Phish at MGM Grand – Las Vegas, NV – October 31st
5. Volcano Choir at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – January 21st

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
Ever since Jamie and Mikey blew my mind performing Run the Jewels almost in its entirety at The Independent in August of 2013, I’ve been a loyal RTJ soldier. And without taking a break, El Producto and Killer Mike stepped it up to an even higher plateau with their production precision, an uncanny balance of fun and intense, while lyrically honing more on the important issues of our time. Sensing the unstoppable momentum, Run the Jewels are already heading back into the studio for Run the Jewels 3. When Mike was recently asked if they’d continue to name their albums numerically, he said “Why not?!? Zeppelin did it!” Exactly. Say it with me now: Festival headliners circa 2016?

2. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3. D’Angelo – Black Messiah
4. Aphex TwinSyro
5. The Antlers – Familiars

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Sturgill Simpson – “Turtles All the Way Down”
This is country music turned on its head, while staying mostly true to the hallmarks of the genre. Lyrically subversive while instrumentally emotive to the core, this song kept me coming back throughout 2014. It’s positive message of love winning over all else is certainly timeless, but when was the last time you heard a country tune tell a story of mind over matter transcendence? “There’s a gateway in our minds that leads somewhere out there, far beyond this place / Where reptile aliens made of light, cut you up and pull out all your pain.” Stirgill Simpson is as progressive as you can get within the realm of Americana, urging the listener to both think and feel.

2. St. Vincent – “Digital Witness”
3. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
4. FKA twigs – “Two Weeks”
5. Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” feat. Kendrick Lamar


Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails // Photo by Rob Sheridan for NIN.com

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Nine Inch Nails & Soundgarden at Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO – July 21st
What a dream come true. Having the opportunity to see two of my favorite childhood bands at one of the best venues in the country would be hard to beat any year, let alone in 2014. Sharing the bill with Soundgarden on this tour, Trent Reznor made the most of a minimalist stage setup and trimmed-down lineup of sidekicks. Of the four shows (Red Rocks, Chula Vista, Irvine and Hollywood) I saw on this tour, this one felt particularly special. If this was one of the last times I ever got to see Nine Inch Nails perform live, it was a night I will never forget.

2. Jack White at The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – June 10th
3. Cinquanta featuring Puscifer, A Perfect Circle and Failure at The Greek Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – May 10th
4. Queens of the Stone Age at The Forum – Los Angeles, CA – October 31st
5. Tool at Valley View Casino Center – San Diego, CA – March 16th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. The Black KeysTurn Blue
Akron’s favorite rockers answered the call this year, following up their Grammy-winning album El Camino with arguably their most ambitious effort to date — especially when you consider the turmoil that surrounded Dan Auerbach’s life at the time of its recording. Over the last five years, the Keys have become one of rock’s biggest bands, but they haven’t stopped taking risks as a result. Turn Blue dabbles in a myriad of styles, from the psychedelic sound of Pink Floyd on its opening track “Weight of Love” to the hip-hop groove on “10 Lovers.” For as many critics as they have, Auerbach and Patrick Carney have come a long way since their early years as strictly a blues duo.

2. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3. Jack WhiteLazaretto
4. Aphex TwinSyro
5. Death from Above 1979The Physical World

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Jack White – “High Ball Stepper”
Jack White seems to be on another level these days. The former White Stripe has grown into one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most exciting talents, and this blues-heavy, instrumental track showcases that better than any other offering on Lazaretto. White’s ferocious guitar riffs dominate the tune, taking listeners on an emotional roller coaster from start to finish. And when he plays “High Ball Stepper” live, the song takes on a new whole life of its own.

2. Foo Fighters – “Something for Nothing”
3. Interpol – “All the Rage Back Home”
4. TV on the Radio – “Happy Idiot”
5. Tycho – “Awake”


Jack White at BGCA // Photo by

Jack White at Bill Graham Civic // Photo by David James Swanson

Steven Wandrey // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Jack White at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – August 22nd
From the dramatic curtain drop that slammed into high-octane rock, this show never let off the gas. Even with a bum ankle, Jack White stalked the stage and held power over the crowd. When the slowest moments of a show are White Stripes ballads that you’re giddy to hear and the other half of the show is headbanging, guitar-slinging rock, it’s easy to see how this show cemented itself as the best of 2014.

2. Atomic Bomb! The Music of William Onyeabor at The Warfield – San Francisco, CA – May 6th
3. The War on Drugs at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – April 1st
4. Run the Jewels at Mezzanine – San Francisco, CA – November 14th
5. Duck Sauce at Outside Lands Music Festival – August 9th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Flying LotusYou’re Dead!
This album makes me feel like I’m actually traveling through the underworld to the land of the dead. From front to back, the first thing that caught me about this album was its consistent message. Steven Ellison has an inviting sense of storytelling that’s infused with hip-hop but touches on an array of different music styles, involving a star-studded cast of guests, including Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat and Snoop Dog. I have a feeling Flying Lotus is on the forefront of creative hip-hop and that this album will prove to be influential down the line. More importantly, I just love listening to it. Taking wild turns from frenetic to serene, listening to this album from start to finish is a journey.

2. Aphex TwinSyro
3. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
4. Future IslandsSingles
5. Tweedy – Sukierae

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Run the Jewels – “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”
The minimalist production and deep, rumbling bass frequencies have helped this track become my No. 1 listened to on the album and also No. 1 for the year. The complimentary flow that El-P and Killer Mike have together is on display in this track. This cut has infected my brain like a virus (the good kind?), and I just can’t get enough.

2. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
3. Sam Smith – “I’m Not the Only One”
4. Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
5. Perfume Genius – “Queen”


Future Islands at The Chapel // Photo by

Future Islands at The Chapel // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Future Islands at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 12th
It’s been a banner year for the Baltimore darlings we have grown to love as Future Islands. Breaking through the underground touring circuit to being a highly sought-after festival act was quick and clean as the passionate stage performance of Samuel Harrington could not be ignored by growing audiences. A packed Gobi Tent was eating from the frontman’s palm as Herrington poured himself out on stage, belting out a set heavy on new tracks and old favorites. It was a pivotal point where both the band and audience knew that Future Islands had arrived at the next stage of their career.

2. The Cure at BottleRock Napa Valley – Napa, CA – May 30th
3. Phish at MGM Grand Arena – Las Vegas, NV – October 31st
4. Connan Mockasin at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – May 15th
5. Deerhoof at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – November 18th 

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream 
Adam Granduciel had one helluva 2014 to brag about. His third studio album Lost in the Dream was an overwhelming success, and all for good reason as the lush waves of rock swell over the listener like a warm Christmas sweater, just less ugly than the one you wore to that one party. “Under the Pressure” opens this release in epic fashion and does not let up from there. Guitar rock is not dead!

2. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
3. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
4. D’Angelo – Black Messiah 
5. White Fence – For the Recently Found Innocent  

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
Steven Ellison’s left-field meditation on death, as demonstrated on 2014’s release You’re Dead!, is not for everyone and is more about the full album than the sum of its parts (tracks). However, there is one shining beacon of a collaboration that could not be cast aside in the form of “Never Catch Me”. The partnership of one of the hottest MCs with one of the most sought-after producers was meant to be a brutally infectious slice of off-kilter street music. 

2. Caribou – “Can’t Do Without You”
3. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
4. Beck – “Blue Moon”
5. Ariel Pink – “Put Your Number in My Phone”


Ryan Adams at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2014

Ryan Adams at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2014 // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Pete Mauch // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Phish at MGM Grand – Las Vegas, NV – October 31st
Phish has made the tradition of covering other artists albums on Halloween, and this year they completely outdid themselves by covering essentially an album of only narrative and spooky sounds. The Disney-produced album The Thrilling and Chilling Sounds of the Taunted House was turned into a rock opera of sorts as Trey and company worked through completely new songs based off just minimal sounds, but the night didn’t just end there. The band played this rock opera sandwiched between two very strong sets of original Phish songs that could have held its own alone.

2. Lettuce’s Late Night in Red Barn at Summer Camp Music Festival – Chillicothe, IL – May 22nd
3. Future Islands at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 12th
4. Ryan Adams at The Fox Theater Pomona – Pomona, CA – October 11th
5. Todd Terje at FYF Fest – Los Angeles – August 24th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
When someone as prolific as Ryan Adams puts out a new record, you buy that record and you listen intently. The songs in his first self-titled album may seem simple at first listen, but they stay with you in the back of your mind until you just can’t take it and you re-listen again and again. This is exactly how what I’ve been doing the past few months since the release. Songs like “Gimme Something Good” and “Am I Safe” prove once again that Adams is still on top of his game.

2. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3. moe. – No Guts, No Glory
4. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
5. Greensky Bluegrass – If Sorrows Swim

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
“People change / You know but some people never do / You know when people change, they gain a piece but they lose one too.” These lyrics are so uplifting and real, and the music to accompany these amazing lyrics ties the emotion perfectly together.

2. The War on Drugs – “Under the Pressure”
3. The Barr Brothers – “Come in the Water”
4. Temples – “Shelter Song”
5. Caribou – “Can’t Do Without You”


Old Crow Medicine Show at The Regency // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Old Crow Medicine Show at The Regency // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Pedro Paredes // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Darkside at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – January 24th
The album Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington put together in 2013 was a delight for the ears, but with the show they played at The Fillmore, they were going after every sense in your body. Jaar once said that Darkside’s music was more experiential rather than musical, and they surely succeeded in delivering one of the best musical experiences to all the lucky attendants on that cold January night.

2. Future Islands at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – April 10th
3. St. Vincent at The Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – March 22nd
4. James Blake at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – December 7th
5. Old Crow Medicine Show at The Masonic – San Francisco, CA – September 20th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. BeckMorning Phase
Beck’s Morning Phase follows the same breezy style as Sea Change, but the latter’s serenity seems to come from darker places. Morning Phase is, as the title suggests, a bit brighter and sets the tone for all the good things yet to come.

2. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
3. Real EstateAtlas
4. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
5. Perfume Genius – Too Bright

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. alt-J – “Nara”
It is hard to isolate “Nara” as the best song of Alt-J’s latest album This is All Yours since the story told in it is not exclusive to that song and it comes back in different sections of the album (as well as in some of the musical arrangements). But “Nara”, a song about love, deserves to be listened again and again. The 2:58 mark is bliss to my ears.

2. tUnE-yArDs – “Water Fountain”
3. Run the Jewels – “Love Again”
4. Perfume Genius – “Fool”
5. Angel Olsen – “Hi-Five”


St. Vincent at Fox Theater Oakland // Photo by

St. Vincent at Fox Theater Oakland // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Nine Inch Nails & Soundgarden at Shoreline Amphitheatre – Mountain View, CA – August 24th
I had never seen either band live before and based on my experience, it was like they had never broken up or aged since the ’90s. Amazing stage/light shows to go along with what was hands down my most eagerly anticipated show of the year.

2. Cibo Matto at Slim’s – San Francisco, CA – February 26th
3. American Football at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – December 12th
4. Failure at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – May 14th
5. Crosses at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – March 30th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. St. VincentSt. Vincent
This album comes off like a chameleon, with many shifts but always staying very characteristically St. Vincent. I feel that she is one of the more important artists to come around over the last few years, and I am excited to see what she does next.

2. Nothing – Guilty of Everything
3. BeckMorning Phase
4. Fugazi – First Demo
5. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Spoon – “Do You”
Spoon have a knack for throwing a good toe tapper in their albums. This song is short and sweet, and you cannot help but get caught up in its infectiousness.  

2. Ryan Adams – “Give Me Something Good”
3. St. Vincent – “Prince Johnny”
4. TV on the Radio – “Could You”
5. Nothing – “Bent Nail”


Arcade Fire at Shoreline Amphitheater // Photo by Justin Yee

Arcade Fire at Shoreline Amphitheater // Photo by Justin Yee

Justin Yee // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1) Future Islands at South by Southwest (Cheer Up Charlie’s) – Austin, TX – March 13th
2) Arcade Fire at Shoreline Amphitheatre – Mountain View, CA – July 30th
3) Chromeo at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – April 12th
4) James Blake at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – December 7th
5) Outkast at Treasure Island Music Festival – San Francisco, CA – October 18th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1) Future IslandsSingles
2) The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3) ODESZA – In Return
4) Flying LotusYou’re Dead!
5) CaribouOur Love

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1) Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
2) Chromeo – “Come Alive” feat. Toro y Moi
3) Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” feat. Kendrick Lamar
4) Chet Faker – “1998”
5) Mac Demarco – “Let Her Go”


James Blake at The Chapel //

James Blake at The Chapel // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Eric Shaden // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. James Blake at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – December 7th
I feel bad telling friends about how great this show was since so few people were able to get tickets. An intimate venue hosting such a phenomenal artist was a no-brainer for my top pick. James covered hits from his albums as well as debuted new tracks and an incredible interlude of house jams. I just wish more friends could have seen this!

2. Chromeo at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – April 12th
3. Todd Terje at FYF Fest – Los Angeles, CA – August 24th
4. tUnE-yArDs at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – June 6th
5. Holy Ghost! at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – San Francisco, CA – April 30th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
What else can be said about this album that hasn’t been covered already? An outstanding sequel to Run the Jewels that expands on the original with top-notch production and punishing delivery from El-P and Killer Mike. Without a doubt my top choice of the year.

2. Syd Arthur – A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble
3. D’Angelo – Black Messiah 
4. Sinkane – Mean Love
5. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. D’Angelo – “Sugah Daddy”
I imagine D’Angelo coming back with his long-awaited album in December showed which writers/blogs/etc. wrote their “Best of the Year” lists early. His style of soulful R&B is sorely needed, and “Sugah Daddy” is my favorite from the album. Looking forward to his tour in 2015!

2. Caribou – “Our Love”
3. Aphex Twin – “minipops 67 [120.2]”
4. Jungle – “Time”
5. Jamie xx – “Sleep Sound”


High Sierra Music Festival // Photo by Benjamin Wallen

High Sierra Music Festival // Photo by Benjamin Wallen

Benjamin Wallen // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. High Sierra Music Festival – Quincy, CA – July 2nd-5th
2. Paul McCartney at Candlestick Farewell – Candlestick Park – San Francisco, CA – August 14th
3. Jamestown Revival at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – November 28th
4. The String Cheese Incident at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – April 24th
5. Greensky Bluegrass at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – November 14th


Cali-Roots_fix

Scott Martin // San Jose

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. California Roots Music Festival at Monterey Fairgrounds – Monterey, CA – May 23rd-25th
2. Rival Sons, Soft White Sixties & Sir Madam at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – September 25th
3. The Pimps of Joytime at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – February 15th
4. Caravan Palace & Rosin Coven at The Regency Ballroom – San Francisco, CA – April 16th
5. Jackie Greene at The Catalyst Club – Santa Cruz, CA – March 26th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Bears Den – Islands
2. Milky Chance – Sadnecessary
3. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence
4. Mighty Oaks – Howl
5. Solstafir – Otta

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Bears Den – “Agape”
2. Bears Den – “Isaac”
3. Milky Chance – “Down by the River”
4. Mighty Oaks – “The Great Northwest”
5. Crosses – “Bitches Brew”


MIA at BFD // Photo by Marc Fong

MIA at BFD // Photo by Marc Fong

Nikki DeMartini // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. MIA at Shoreline Amphitheatre for BFD 2014 – Mountain View, CA – June 1st
It had been four years since I saw MIA live and even though I’d prefer to see her play her own show rather than a set at a music festival, I was super excited to see her at BFD last summer. It was the first time in nearly 10 years that my cousin and I went to LIFE105’s annual summer show together. We lucked out and upgraded our tickets just in time to see MIA’s performance. Both of us were out of our seats, singing and dancing along to every song as soon as her set started. I was beside myself as MIA herself made her way off the stage, up into the seats of the venue and stopped near our row to spit lyrics as fans gathered and danced around her, myself included. I still can’t believe I danced with MIA!

2. OK Go at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – July 16th
3. Die Antwoord at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – May 22nd
4. Sylvan Esso at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – June 6th
5. MS MR at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – April 15th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
When I covered Sylvan Esso at The Fillmore earlier this year (when they opened for tUnE-yArDs), I had no idea who they were but ended up leaving the show a fan. Their self-titled debut album is an uplifting mix of danceable electropop tracks and indie rock that’s easy to lose yourself in. Their sparkly, layered and melodic sounds translate well whether you’re listening to the album or seeing them live. Sylvan Esso is one of three albums I bought in 2014, and it’s been on repeat ever since I picked it up.

2. Glass Animals – Zaba
3. Die Antwoord – Donker Mag
4. Iggy Azalea – The New Classic
5. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Tove Lo – “Habits (Stay High)”
I really enjoy the simple percussion-driven melody and voluptuous vocals of Tove Lo’s hit single “Habits (Stay High)”. The subtle, yet engaging buildup to her belting, emotionally-charged lyrics has me singing along and turning it up every time I hear it on the radio. While it is very catchy, it’s not a super dancey song. However, it is a great go-to for karaoke. 

2. Die Antwoord – “Rat Trap 666”
3. Sylvan Esso – “Hey Mami”
4. First Aid Kit – “My Silver Lining”
5. The Dead Weather – “Buzzkill(er)”

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

The 25 best live music acts of 2014

Best-Live-Acts-2014_post

It’s that palpable sense of excitement in the crowd, how musicians can seize the moment and make you feel something unexpected or enlightening. Being able to connect with music through a collective experience is breathtaking when it happens, especially when you can tell fellow fans (and sometimes the artists themselves) are affected similarly. Nothing beats a transformative show that takes you to another place — or one that just fucking rocks.

Showbams covered many excellent bands, musicians and DJs throughout 2014 — the following 25 acts are our favorite live performers of the year.

Showbams’ Top 50 Albums of 2014
The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2014

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2014:


25.sylvan_esso

25. Sylvan Esso

Singer Amelia Meath’s voice sparkles with the tone of Feist and the intonation of Regina Spektor, while Nick Sanborn’s live production hits the sweat spot of trending sound in 2014 — the wobbles and looping vocals are somehow familiar and fresh all at once. -Mike Frash, photo by James Nagel


24.Fucked Up

24. Fucked Up

Now, it’s hard to not say that [Damian] Abraham is the show here. Not only because he is a musical madman who would rather be in the pit with his fans than on the stage with his longtime band, but also because frankly, the rest of the band seemed aloof at times. Sure, all but one help in the vocal department, but trying to compete for attention with Abraham would be a futile effort. The frontman, now shirtless (which is tradition), was cruising all over The Indy like a whirlwind. First, he was up in the seats on house right, and the next thing you know, he is having a full-blown mock-luchadore wrestling match with a fan in front of the stage. I kid you not. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Pedro Paredes


23.parquet-courts

23. Parquet Courts

Andrew Savage and his newly-grown Sideshow Bob-esque afro couldn’t help but remark on the younger members of the crowd having the time of their life; “Sure like watching you boys move around out there,” he stated with a smirk. “Stoned and Starving” was oddly missing from the night’s set, possibly a product of not being awarded the headlining set on this night. Whatever, Parquet Courts don’t give a fuck. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Kory Thibeault


22.disclosure

22. Disclosure

It was refreshing to witness intelligent dance music prospering, playing to an enthusiastic & packed Greek Theater Berkeley for the first ever “Wild Life”. Disclosure are revamping contemporary dance music by repurposing past elements into poppy, progressive packages, which is consequently influencing mainstream music in a meaningful way. -Mike Frash, photo by Sam Heller


21.Blood Orange

21. Blood Orange

Dev Hynes and company gifted us with a performance abundant in groove and energy. The crowd intensity quickly translated from the stage onto the entire venue, with the London-native acting as the master of ceremony, surrounded by talent. Samantha Urbani’s (Friends singer and Hynes’ girlfriend) vocals on “It is What It Is” were beautiful and hypnotic, and put the audience in a soothing stage that was only broken when Dev Hynes decided to bring the house down with an explosive version of “Uncle Ace”. -Pedro Paredes, photo by Pedro Paredes


20.deerhoof

20. Deerhoof

The ever evolving musical dialect that Deerhoof have created for them, and them alone is a big takeaway. The four members share a vernacular on stage that only they speak. Greg Saunier’ musical training allow him to ebb and flow with the other members on stage; never playing over Satomi’s dainty vocals while allowing Dietrich to expand on his freakish chords. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Greg RaMar


19.Rubblebucket

19. Rubblebucket

It should be stated that Kalmia Traver is one of the best frontwoman in the business. She truly is the full package as she sings with a rigorous passion, dances joyously, plays baritone sax and wins the adoration of nearly every member of the audience. Her dedication is refreshing and infectious. The group’s sound has evolved to a more varied palette as comparisons to Arcade Fire could begin to fester in one’s mind. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Kory Thibeault


18.Volcano Choir

18. Volcano Choir

It was the minimalist songs, complimented by reverent crowd silence and attention, that were the memorable highlights…attempts at discovering new sound spaces is an absolute success for Volcano Choir, making Bon Iver seem almost boring in retrospect. It’s understandable why Vernon said this might be his new band — Vernon’s claim to fame almost seems superfluous now. -Mike Frash, photo by Chaya Frash


17.connan-mockasin

17. Connan Mockasin

It’s about time that the US markets pay a little more attention to this dream-psych export that has made waves in a handful of international markets, and for good reason. Sure, the likes of Ariel Pink and Animal Collective are hailed as gods in the genre, but Connan has something a little more unique to offer us. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Pedro Paredes


16.Sun-Kil-Moon

16. Sun Kil Moon

Before launching into “I Watched the Film The Song Remains the Same”, something rather extraordinary happened. He looked at a young male fan in the front and asked why he had headphones on his head. Then Kozelek forcefully stated, “You look like a fucking douchebag”, filling the venue with tension and a bit of laughter. This happened right before playing a track about coming to terms with once bullying a kid on the playground in his youth. In the song he discusses the incident, “though I grinned, deep inside I was hurting.” It appears this whole incident was a creative, effective way to foreshadow and show his contradictory nature, as opposed to him being horribly passive aggressive. -Mike Frash, Photo Courtesy of Sun Kil Moon


15.sharon-van-etten

15. Sharon Van Etten

Despite her songs being so often daunting and bleak in nature, Van Etten was able to break up the heaviness with the levity of her between song banter. One crowd member shouted to Van Etten that she should do standup comedy, to which Van Etten responded, “So you’re saying my music career is over,” to even more laughter…Songs from her new release are much fuller in comparison to earlier Van Etten offerings and the benefit was instantly felt when performed with her talented band. -Mark E. Ortega, photo by Pedro Paredes


14.The National

14. The National

Grown to be more comfortable with themselves, poised and energetic with precise control, The National’s music is more accessible and impactful than ever before, and the group is pulling it off in front of the biggest audiences of their career. Slowly winning over fans for 15 years, The National have earned it. -Mike Frash, photo by James Nagel


13.Flume

13. Flume

In the past year, Flume’s set has become more sophisticated, led by a restrained approach that intermingles hip-hop, trap, R&B and rap. The drops are inverted in their intensity compared to traditional EDM, offering slight delays and unpredictable syncopation…his ability to curate a festival-sized mega party cannot be questioned at this point. Fortune favors the bold. -Mike Frash, photo by Josh Herwitt


12.Ryan Adams

12. Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams impressed this year with sets laced full of cuts from his remarkable self-titled album, his 14th and newest. At his headlining show at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Adams transitioned his endearing goof-spaz stage banter into an impromptu gem of a song revolving around a someone holding balloons in the back of the show taking place in Golden Gate Park. -Mike Frash, photo by Pedro Paredes


11.Outkast

11. OutKast

OutKast was the reunion tour of the year, hitting a festival in nearly every region of the world. While Big Boi is the consistent, poised professional day after day, his partner André 3000 a bit of a wildcard, as we all witnessed as he turned his back on Coachella audience on opening night. But Dré’s rhymes were clean and on point as he sported a jumpsuit that told you how he really felt night to night. -Mike Frash, photo by Marc Fong


10.future-islands

10. Future Islands

Sam Herring is in no rush, and he takes it slow while the bass line marks a steady beat. He wants the people not just to feel, but to listen as well, and he takes time to give some context before commencing a new song.It became clear that Herring is all about making a connection with the audience…his style seems to draw inspiration from multiple sources, and I can’t help but to be reminded of the insane intensity of Ian Curtis, the shamanic charisma of Jim Morrison, and the storytelling skills of Johnny Cash. -Pedro Paredes, photo by Pedro Paredes


9.darkside

9. DARKSIDE

Simmering melodic-based atmosphere moved to dramatic slow-builds, and Nicolas Jaar would introduce a track along the way — all while creating tension. Then well-deserved bass drops revealed themselves in both sneaky and progressive ways, establishing a prolonged release in the form of the crowd losing their shit to four on the floor house beats and body-shaking bass…One of the most memorable transitions came deep into “Paper Trails” when the drop developed over four quick beats in a measure, from no bass to full on bass domination. It was a striking example of Jaar’s original, crafty abilities in the moment. -Mike Frash, Photo by James Nagel


8.tune-yards

8. tUnE-yArDs

Driven by percussion, vocals and ecstatic hyperactivity, tUnE-yArDs win with a lighthearted, quirky mentality that skewers conformity…this show had all the indications of an essential live performance; the music was thoroughly impacting, and the crowd was completely immersed and wide-eyed throughout, taking in tUnE-yArDs’ breathtaking sonic concoctions. -Mike Frash, photo by Pedro Paredes


7.mac-demarco2

7. Mac Demarco

DeMarco’s fans screamed in sheer delight as he transformed himself into some sort of pop-slacker, earning hoots and howls from a bevy of females in the crowd. His rise to King Weirdo status has been swift, and it’s been for good reason. His likeability, coupled with his unique playing style, is pretty damned infectious, after all. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Pedro Paredes


6.Arcade Fire

6. Arcade Fire

Throughout the Reflektor tour, Arcade Fire premiered a new cover each night. For example, halfway through their epic Coachella set, the band broke into the opening notes of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, only to be joined by Debbie Harry of Blondie fame for this full rendition. Arcade Fire successfully cultivated a party atmosphere, adding to the high level of revelry already there. -Molly Kish, Photo courtesy of Arcade Fire.


5.run-the-jewels

5. Run the Jewels

Much like at a Phish or Die Antwoord audience, most everyone in the room at Run the Jewels was there in “full buy-in” mode, not worried about what someone might think of you by getting a bit too into the moment. Which, when you think about it, is pretty elusive for a rap act that is beloved by the indie blogosphere and its readers. Yet, there is a collective acceptance, a mentality that has bubbled up from impromptu social media memes, gifs and videos that are moving RTJ into mainstream mentality. -Mike Frash, photo by Alfonso Solis


4.st-vincent

4. St. Vincent

Captivating an audience has never been much of an issue for St. Vincent due to the incredible musical talent Annie Clark possesses. Her amazing skills as songwriter, lyricist and guitar-shredding icon are nearly unmatchable in contemporary pop. This tour however is incredibly unique, in that it finally showcases these undeniable aspects of Clark on a grand scale. From the production elements to various costume and instrument changes amidst an encapsulating set design, Clark has finally emerged as a true rock star. -Molly Kish, photo by Pedro Paredes


3.the-war-on-drugs

3. The War on Drugs

Adam Granduciel has arrived to the next level, as The War on Drugs have broken through the underground in a big way with their latest release entitled, Lost in a Dream. The subsequent, and long awaited, tour has been nothing short of fantastic as an expanded band has led to their most sonically pleasing tour to date. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Sterling Munksgard


2.atomic-bomb

2. ATOMIC BOMB! The Music of William Onyeabor

Luaka Bop founder and musical virtuoso David Byrne unearthed Onyeabor’s self-released eight album discography and organized a top secret live music project called “ATOMIC BOMB! The Music of William Onyeabor”, bringing it to life on stage at the Warfield Tuesday for the third time ever.

With an all-star cast of incredible artists, the Atomic Bomb! band took the stage in a handful of lucky cities to provide a near-religious experience (mock-secular program included), reviving the spirit of Onyeabor’s body of work. Lending their various talents to the incredible performance, Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip), Kele Okereke (Bloc Party), Pat Mahoney (LCD Soundsystem), Joshua Redman, Money Mark, The Lijadu Sisters and Sinkane (the musical director) were accompanied by Byrne (along with a full horn section and backing band). -Molly Kish, photo by Marc Fong


1.Jack White

1. Jack White

It’s been Jack White’s year on the live music circuit. His endless Bonnaroo headlining set this year is now a recognizable career milestone based on word of mouth alone. He severely twisted his ankle in SF and kept touring against the advice of his doctor. Jack seemed more focused and engaged than on prior tours, while also appearing authentic, positive, comfortable and likable. Labeled as grumpy, sad and controlling in the past, White embodied the ambassador of fun, and a sharp haircut seemingly signified the “new” Jack White further. The newest item of actual substance is that the man is in the prime of his career, playing truly epic shows, proving to be the biggest rock star in the world with grit night after night. Without question, Jack White is one of the best live artists of 2014 — and now with a humble, inclusive attitude, his stock should only rise further. -Mike Frash, photo by David James Swanson

4.st-vincent2

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

11 songs with finger snaps from the past three years that won’t make you want to jab things in your ears

awsnap

By Mike Frash //

You can’t find a texture bed more minimalist than the repeating finger snap. When you think about it, cavemen and cave women probably made music by pressing their hand digits together.

And lately, finger snapping has bubbled up from the underground as dance producers have come to dominate modern pop production. And it’s everywhere. So, here are some songs from the past 30 months or so that have finger snaps and likely won’t make you want to project sharpened pencils in your ear hole. Unless you’re a rock purist — then you’ll probably hate this shit.

11. Glass Animals – “Gooey”



Glass Animals might have goofier lyrics than alt-J and Phish combined, but their sexy-smooth lounge rock is catching on. This finger snap in “Gooey” is more like a jangly clap-snap, but it counts.


10. Run The Jewels – “Sea Legs”



I try to infuse Killer Mike & El-P’s partnership Run the Jewels into most conversations, so why not find a way to get them on this snap list. Snaps only bookend “Sea Legs”, but look, I’m just trying to promote Meow the Jewels. Let’s make this happen.


9. Autre Ne Veut – “Counting”



Arthur Ashin’s falsetto-led future pop channels pain and chaos into a tight, emotive package with “Counting”, using brass and guitar as accent elements while the percussion, including (yes) snaps, dominate the mix.


8. Tinashe, Schoolboy Q – “2 On”

Tinashe released her likable first record in October 2014, and with “2 On”, she takes traditional male language and seemingly repackages it into “break-the-glass-ceiling” R&B-rap rhyming, that is until Schoolboy Q sets everything (unfortunately) back to normal with his opening line, “Uh, pull your panties down from under you, beat that pussy up, make you wanna holler Q.” Still, it’s a pretty addictive track.


7. How To Dress Well – “& It Was U”


Tom Krell is adept at letting his voice carry the emotional weight of his music, and none of his songs show this better than the snap-dominated “& It Was U”.


6. Classixx – “Dominoes”



Electronic music this silky and easy to digest puts it in the cross hairs of where pop is going, and the duo’s live show is a euphoric good time. Classixx will be at Treasure Island Music Festival 2014 in SF.


5. Perfume Genius – “Fool”

The new record from Perfume Genius is a gem, and Mike Hadreas gives a heaven’s call of a bellow in the middle of “Fool”, all while using snaps to keep the tune grounded.


4. DJ Koze – “Amydala (feat. Milosh)



If you never got around to listening to DJ Koze’s 2013 masterpiece Amydgala, get on that. The song “Amydala” features Milosh (the singer from Rhye), whose voice blends with all the musical elements on this driving track. Look for the snaps to add another layer on the back third.


3. Darkside – “Paper Trails”



The magical collaboration between Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington may be on hiatus (read our review here from their only SF show), but we can still revisit one of the best songs from 2013, which keeps its methodical pace with a snap (or at least a modulated clap that sounds like a snap).


2. Lorde – “Royals”

To not include Lorde’s wubby, snap-paced “Royals” in this list would be playing hipster-devil’s advocate. Lorde’s music is much better than most radio fodder (ahem Foster The People and Robin Thicke). And how is she only 17 still? She’s tracking ahead of Madonna in her influence on the pop landscape.


1. Dillon Francis feat. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – “Without You”



DF + TEED combined forces for this 2013 insta-classic that uses finger snaps as the critical, minimalist linchpin for the inverted drop.

BONUS: We can’t forget the Super Mario Theme finger snap guy:

WKEND MIXTAPE // V3

WKEND-MIXTAPE3

This week we have DJ Snake’s debut on BBC’s Essential Mix, a beautiful mix from Darkside, and Fatboy Slim’s warm up mix for his Brazil tour.

DJ-Snake

DJ SnakeEssential Mix (BBC Radio 1 / Jan 2014)



Paris-based DJ Snake debuts on BBC Radio 1’s Essential Mix as part of their Future Stars showcase, and it definitely lives up to the title. His strong track selection and tight mixing make this one worth a listen. Tracks from Drake, Omar Suleyman, Janet Jackson, Diplo, Daft Punk, Aaliyah show up as well as DJ Snake’s own remix of AlunaGeorge and collaborations with Flosstradamus, Dillon Francis, and Alesia.


Darkside

DarksideModcast #173



Dave Harrington, guitarist and one-half of Darkside, has put together a mix for Australia’s Modular People label. A beautiful collection of tracks show up from David Lynch, Gang Gang Dance, The Knife, Nick Drake, Frankie Rose — a perfect background to our recent rainy weather.


Fatboy-Slim

Fatboy SlimBrasil Warm Up Mix



Our final entry is from Fatboy Slim, who just released this mix as a warm up to his coming tour of Brazil. Energetic mixing and an upbeat tracklist are featured here including The Clash, Chocolate Puma, Robbie Rivera, Talking Heads, Armand Van Helden, John Acquaviva, and Fatboy Slim himself. Enjoy!

DARKSIDE reward the patient at The Fillmore

Nico

Photos by James Nagel // Written by Mike Frash //

DARKSIDE with High Water //
The Fillmore — San Francisco
January 24, 2014 //

Word is out on 24-year-old pioneering electronic musician Nicolas Jaar and what he does live. Improvising and looping live instrumentals to craft ambient soundscapes, experimental downtempo beats & ruminative house, Jaar is the king of control, doing it all with a healthy dose of patience.

Teaming up with college friend Dave Harrington to form DARKSIDE presented a new challenge for the Chilean born man that calls Brooklyn home — Jaar had never worked with electric guitar. Nico first brought Harrington into the fold to support his 2011 album Space Is Only Noise on the road, giving the two ample time to test an intermingling of electronic music and the instrument that signifies rock & roll.

On their first US tour as DARKSIDE, Nicolas Jaar & Dave Harrington together are monumental in their minimalist approach to sound, progressive in form, and mind-blowing in combination with suitable visual production.

DARKSIDE

In true SF fashion, fog filled the stage and the front of the Fillmore prior to the show’s start, and it was still there after the first song, a 22 minute “Freak, Go Home”. The first recognizable part of the track didn’t begin until about 12 minutes in.

In many ways, DARKSIDE function as a jamband. Harrington recently explained to LA Weekly, “…what we do every night is so steeped in improvisation, and that’s what is exciting for us…Once we get through the two or three minutes that we planned, that song will probably go on for another ten or fifteen, and then we take it in whatever direction we see fit at the moment.”

Throughout the evening, the duo played only a handful of recognizable songs, proving improv is more important than preplanning. While improvisation is often a jamband’s calling card, the aspect of this Fillmore performance that was most reminiscent of a good jamband proved to be DARKSIDE’s expert use of tension and release.

Simmering melodic-based atmosphere moved to dramatic slow builds, Jaar would introduce a track along the way — all creating tension. Then well-deserved bass drops revealed themselves in both sneaky and progressive ways, establishing a prolonged release in the form of the crowd losing their shit to four on the floor house beats and body-shaking bass. While jambands release the stress with instrumental jamming, DARKSIDE rewards with a bass-heavy house.

One of the most memorable transitions came deep into “Paper Trails” when the drop developed over four quick beats in a measure, from no bass to full on bass domination. It was a striking example of Jaar’s original, crafty abilities in the moment.

Darkside_vortex

The stage visuals added a positive impact to the overall experience, working ideally with this 21st Century jamband. DARKSIDE used smoke & mirrors to breathtaking effect, creating semi-optical illusions that were most entrancing at the more intense sections of the show.

The lighting was deliberate and paced on track with the methodical yet improvisational nature of the show. It began with contrast-heavy black and white, the two performers backlit by spotlights. An orange hue arrived mid-show, then blue took over for a bit. Banks of floodlights were timed to a big drop during an elongated, magnificent “Paper Trails”, but the effect I referred to as the “Eye of Sauron” stole the show.

A large mirror hanging above the stage was angled toward Jaar for much of the concert, refracting light onto the true right of the stage. But the mirror unsuspectedly swung toward the stage, and once swirling fog spewed around it and a spotlight from the back of the house was pointed directly at it, a portal-like wormhole to another dimension panned back and forth over the crowd. It was trippy, heady, the kind of thing you would expect from a band like STS9. It was pretty amazing.

SF must have been good to DARKSIDE, as we were treated with not one, but two encores. After another ambient, slow building stretch of sound, the crowd showed their love in unison, impressing Jaar to grab his microphone stand one more time. “Golden Arrow” then appeared out of the ether to finish the evening with the long opening track from Psychic.

DARKSIDE provided an experimental aural journey, one that paid off by being as patient as the musicians on stage.

Nico and Dave probably won’t have dance-heads following them from city to city like the Grateful Dead or Phish, but they’re certainly worth seeing more than once.

Showbams’ 40 best albums of 2013

Best-Albums-of-2013

“Best of” lists are always subjective, and this one is no anomaly. When it comes to the best albums of any given year, we can most likely agree that the best records are excellent from beginning to end — no “skip ahead” songs — and that groundbreaking new music can emerge from any genre.

At the same time, we imprint music on moments in our lives, and this will always influence personal taste. Combine these past influences with modern streaming capabilities in 2013, where new records are now accessible before an album release date, and our collective creation and criticism of music begins to transform, adapt and influence more rapidly.

Here are our most addictive albums of 2013, the records we couldn’t stop spinning.

01. Arcade FireReflektor
02. DisclosureSettle
03. Atoms For PeaceAmok
04. FoalsHoly Fire
05. Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City
06. Daft PunkRandom Access Memories
07. Kurt VileWakin On a Pretty Daze
08. James BlakeOvergrown
09. White DenimCorsicana Lemonade
10. Toro Y MoiAnything In Return

11. RhyeWoman
12. DarksidePsychic
13. Boards of CanadaTomorrow’s Harvest
14. The NationalTrouble Will Find Me
15. My Bloody Valentinem b v
16. Sigur RósKveikur
17. Parquet CourtsLight Up Gold
18. Danny BrownOld
19. Holy Ghost!Dynamics
20. Jagwar MaHowlin

21. Run the Jewels (El-P & Killer Mike) – Run the Jewels
22. Washed OutParacosm
23. ClassixxHanging Gardens
24. Hanni El KhatibHead In The Dirt
25. Queens of the Stone Age…Like Clockwork
26. The StrokesComedown Machine
27. Thee Oh SeesFloating Coffin
28. Volcano ChoirRepave
29. A$AP RockyLONG.LIVE.A$AP
30. Anders OsbornePeace

31. Jon HopkinsImmunity
32. Yeah Yeah YeahsMosquito
33. King Krule6 Feet Beneath The Moon
34. Kanye WestYeezus
35. Mount KimbieCold Spring Fault Less Youth
36. Superhuman Happiness – Hands
37. BonoboThe North Borders
38. Tyler, the CreatorWolf
39. PhoenixBankrupt!
40. PhosphorescentMuchacho


Vampire Weekend at Fox Theater Oakland 4/17. Photo by Marc Fong.


Vampire Weekend at Fox Theater Oakland 4/17. Photo by Marc Fong.

Mike Frash // Founder, Editor, Columnist // @MikeFrash

Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City
1The focus on larger themes of mortality and spirituality in Modern Vampires of the City have catapulted this indie group from angst-ridden collegians to mainstream players — and in the process Ezra Koenig and company crafted an American classic. Compulsively listenable, this record matured with age in 2013, just like the artistic path Vampire Weekend seem to be on. The album continuously waxes poetically about death and higher powers, and “Unbelievers” sums it up best: “Girl you and I will die unbelievers, bound to the tracks of the train.” The ambiguousness is biting, as it is tough to tell if the statement is earnest atheism or harsh criticism of Godless existence. In “Step”, we’re told, “Wisdom’s a gift but you’ll trade it for youth, age is an honor it’s still not the truth…we know the true death, the true way of all flesh. Everyone’s dying, but girl – you’re not old yet.” Even “Dianne Young” is a double entendre for ‘dying young’. Every track is filled with high-level substance lyrically, but sonically it’s multi-faceted as well, melding baroque sensibilities and African grooves at a wonderfully variant pace throughout. Ultimately, it’s a supremely empowering coming of age album from Vampire Weekend, one that stares mortality in the face while celebrating time’s finite quality.

Run the Jewels (El-P & Killer Mike)Run the Jewels
2Early in Run The Jewels, Killer Mike announces, “Producer gave me a beat, said it’s the ‘beat of the year’, I said ‘El-P didn’t do it, so get the fuck outa here.’ El-P, the sole producer of rap music’s most dynamic duo, bases his production in captivating weirdness, micro-sampling everything from classic organ to nintendo glitch sounds to electric guitar, building epic beats for Killer Mike & El-P to deliver clever rhymes, based both in reality and playful hyperbole. One of Run The Jewels’ greatest successes is that it can be both funny and deadly serious within the same song, and often within in the same flow or line at times. So motherfuckin’ grimy, “Job Well Done” highlights how successfully dolphin sounds can contrast with aggressive lyricism, for example. Killer Mike broaches serious topics, bringing up the “elephant in the room” whenever possible, and EL-P is hyperactive and light-hearted as he spits his ‘future shit’. Put these two together and you have the best hip hop album in years.

FoalsHoly Fire
3The beauty is in the build with Foals, and that is the case with Holy Fire more than prior album as the UK-based festival-headliners-in-the-making have largely abandoned their post-dance punk sound aesthetic for a more ballad-based approach. Sure, “My Number” and “Providence” continue the upbeat, math rock-dance-freak-outs, but overall Foals have centered their 2013 record around patient song development in order to establish more memorable, ecstatic moments. “Milk & Black Spiders” does just that, taking a full three minutes and forty five seconds to reach it’s blissful summit. “Late Night” is a harrowing slow burner, repeating the line, “Calling out your name,” asking for the subject of the song to “Stay with me.” Lead singer Yannis Philippakis’ impassioned vocals, paired with Foals’ guitar interplay and non-standard rhythms make Foals a unique force in the world of modern rock.

The NationalTrouble Will Find Me
4Matt Berninger has a way with words — who else could make the phrase “full of punks and cannonballers” sound eloquent and measured in the track “I Need My Girl”? The National thrives on non-literal lyricism, but the instrumental elements from The National in Trouble Will Find Me prop the singing up on a pedestal better than prior records. Void of any filler, this contemplative record easily allows the listener to take their own meaning from any given track, applying it internally. The first half impresses quickly with “I Should Live In Salt” through “Sea Of Love”, but it is the second half that solidifies the effort as The National’s best work to date. An album that also gets more addictive with subsequent listens, Trouble Will Find Me works well as both a “pick me up” record and one to embrace life’s good times, an odd duality indeed.

Volcano ChoirRepave
5Who needs Bon Iver when Justin Vernon is making music like he has with The Shouting Matches and Volcano Choir in 2013? Vernon, the creative centerpiece behind Bon Iver, announced while promoting Repave that Volcano Choir is his new band. Arguably, this is a genius move, as Vernon is exhibiting a higher level of confidence and innovation with this possibly permanent collaboration with members of Collections of Colonies of Bees. Repave traverses a path that balances grandiose and minimalism, choosing off-beat, unexpectedly contrasting moments to ‘drop the sound hammer’ in both “Comrade” and “Byegone”. “Drop the sound hammer” refers to the mesmerizing technique Volcano choir uses to quickly transition from falsetto-based minimalist intros into hard-hitting Philip Glass-like synth blasts and authoritative drums. I’m fine with Vernon considering himself a legend, as long as he continues creating music with cryptic, poetic lyrics and the progressive intermingling of intense and soothing sounds.

06. Darkside – Psychic
07. James Blake – Overgrown
08. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
09. Rhye – Woman
10. Disclosure – Settle
11. Kurt Vile – Wakin On a Pretty Daze
12. My Bloody Valentine – m b v
13. Atoms for Peace – Amok
14. Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
15. Washed Out – Paracosm
16. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
17. Bonobo – The North Borders
18. Phosphorescent – Muchacho
19. Jagwar Ma – Howlin
20. John Vanderslice – Dagger Beach


Atoms For Peace at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19. Photo by Marc Fong.


Atoms for Peace at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19. Photo by Marc Fong.

Molly Kish // Artist Relations Manager, Columnist // @MollyKish

Atoms For PeaceAmok
1Alternative Rock super group Atoms for Peace delivered one of the most evocative, skillfully executed and notable debuts of 2013, completely as expected. Bringing together some of the most innovative, iconic and artistically defining tastemakers of the past two decades (most notably Thom Yorke & Flea), Atoms for Peace composed a near-perfect representation of contemporary sound evolution. Touring this past year promoting Amok through intermittent concert dates and festival-headlining performances, Atoms for Peace captivated live audiences on a global scale while generating critical acclaim, and for good reason.

Toro Y MoiAnything in Return
2Drawing artistic influence from elements of 90s dance music while paying homage to the iconic hip hop sounds of the era, Chaz Bundick departed from his signature “chillwave” style to compose his third studio album, Anything in Return. Revisiting harder house elements from his 2010 debut Causers of This, Bundick taps into a funky soundscape filled with intensified vocals and hard hitting jam-based percussion. Paying homage to legendary producer J Dilla, Anything in Return touches upon intimate subject matter while remaining accessibly pop-driven, delivering Bundick’s “biggest sounding” album to date.

DisclosureSettle
3UK sibling duo Disclosure was one of the most successful breakout acts of the past year, largely in part to the global commercial appeal of their debut album, Settle. Mixing the perfect blend of R&B vocals, UK garage, two step and deep house cuts, Settle is a seamless composition of dance floor ready hits. Disclosure’s first full length succeeded in curating a sound both primed for the band’s spellbinding live improvisation and the album’s inevitable mainstream sampling and remixes.

Daft PunkRandom Access Memories
4Preceding its April release date with a show-stopping album trailer debut at Coachella (and nationally syndicated on Saturday Night Live) and a video website series presented by The Creators Project, Daft Punk set the bar early this year for the future of mainstream album promotional campaigns. Defying the expectations of their devoted fan base along with the speculatory opinions of many EDM counterparts, Random Access Memories marks the band’s groundbreaking introduction of live musicians into their otherwise strictly electronic body of work. Their most successful album to date, Random Access Memories is a definitive album that highlights the robots’ personal influence, and the effect is a lasting impact on popular music.

Arcade FireReflektor
5Arcade Fire’s Reflektor serves as a testament to their creative ingenuity as a modern art rock group. Its evolutionary sound was produced by nu-disco vanguard James Murphy and features collaborations with David Bowie, Kid Koala and an armada of additional percussionists and recording personnel. Promoted and released through an ingenious guerrilla marketing campaign, intriguing the attention of a frothing worldwide audience.

06. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
07. Kanye West – Yeezus
08. Washed Out – Paracosm
09. Holy Ghost – Dynamics
10. Phoenix – Bankrupt!
11. Devendra Banhart – Mala
12. Major Lazer – Free The Universe
13. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito
14. Starfucker – Miracle Mile
15. Cut Copy – Free Your Mind
16. Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
17. Classixx – Hanging Gardens
18. The Strokes – Comedown Machine
19. St. Lucia – When The Night
20. Jay Z – Magna Carta


Thee Oh Sees at Phono Del Sol 7/13. Photo by Mike Frash.


Thee Oh Sees at Phono Del Sol 7/13. Photo by Mike Frash.

Kevin Quandt // Assistant Editor, Columnist // @KJQuandt

Parquet CourtsLight Up Gold
1In a year with many strong rookie efforts (Haim, Disclosure, Lorde, etc.), it was this Brooklyn quartet that rejuvenated garage-tinged, punk rock with a blisteringly fierce debut LP, Light Up Gold. Opening track “Master of My Craft” lets us know we are in for one helluva a ride and it doesn’t let up in the least as Andrew Savage belts out anthems full of modern tales of urban decay and the slacker lifestyle. This we do-whatever-the-fuck-we-want mentality was also clearly present on a recently released EP entitled Tally All the Things That You Broke, which was equally as impressive as the full length. Alas, all is not lost when it comes to irreverent rock music in a sea of shiny synths and EDM takeovers. 

My Bloody Valentinem b v
2If this album was a person, it could legally drink in this country. Now, after that fact settles in, we can concentrate on how impressive m b v actually is. Kevin Shields and cohorts took 22 years to deliver this baby and it is chock-full of all the aural beauty that made these shoegaze legends modern rock royalty a couple of decades ago. Standout final track “wonder 2” is a whirling dervish of otherworldly drums, guitars and distorted vocals, slowly building into one serious rapture. Attention to detail is not lost on this album as meticulous craftsmanship is ever-present, especially when listened to fully, or in the distinct ‘3 EP’ structure that m b v is recorded in. All I ask Kevin Shields is that I don’t have to wait till I’m almost 50 years old to hear another new release from My Bloody Valentine.

Arcade FireReflektor
3There’s little surprise that this ‘double’ release ended in my, and many others, top albums list. Why? Because Arcade Fire make great albums, and I enjoy great albums. The grab bag of influences on this album is truly startling and lends much to it’s overall success whether it be deep Haitian rhythms or the the electro-dance production of James Murphy. With so many standout tracks, it really makes you wonder what they are putting in the water up in Canada. “Joan of Arc”, “Normal Person”, “Afterlife” and so many others create something fully unique and fully Arcade Fire. 

Boards of CanadaTomorrow’s Harvest
4It was a bit of a long wait for fans of BoC, but well worth the interesting journey that was to become Tomorrow’s Harvest and it’s unique marketing campaign which precluded the June release. Not much has changed from the ambient electronic soundscapes that put these Scots on the map nearly two decades ago. What makes Boards so significant is their knowledge of analogue gear they use to transform sound into warm ambience that is loaded with emotion, complexity and cinematic themes. Songs like “Nothing Is Real” fully demonstrate their textbook mix of instrumentation and warm, vintage synths which gracefully paint a picture of the natural world which we live in. It’s albums like this which should make every listener wanna go out and spend four figures on some serious headphones, and Boards of Canada wouldn’t object.

Thee Oh SeesFloating Coffin
5It’s been a long time coming for the San Francisco garage titans that, most popularly, go by Thee Oh Sees. John Dwyer once used this moniker as his solo effort, but eventually became his primary effort, eventually growing from one man to a full blown band. Floating Coffin shows a shifting of the tide as the once tin-can recording sound has matured to a sonic boom of heavy guitar, driving rhythm and quintessential weirdo vocal. All these elements, and many more, equated to the most comprehensive sounding release in their extensive discography. “Come From the Mountain” opens this album with atomic bomb-shredding guitar and doesn’t really relent from this style till the soothing album closer, “Minotaur”. What’s most profound about Floating Coffin is that they have arrived with a permanent lineup, a better produced sound and a band mentality that creates a more unified front as opposed to it being solely Dwyer’s project. Oh yeah, they are also straight bananas on stage.

06. Disclosure – Settle
07. King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath the Moon
08. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
09. Atoms for Peace – Amok
10. Tyler, the Creator – Wolf
11. Jon Hopkins – Immunity
12. Kurt Vile – Wakin On a Pretty Daze
13. Rhye – Woman
14. Danny Brown – Old 
15. David Bowie – The Next Day
16. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires in the City
17. White Denim – Corsica Lemonade
18. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
19. Pickwick – Can’t Talk Medicine
20. Mount Kimbie – Cold Spring Fault Less Youth


White Denim at Bill Graham Civic Center 10/31. Photo by James Nagel.


White Denim at Bill Graham Civic Center 10/31. Photo by James Nagel.

Pete Mauch // Festival Manager & Columnist // @PeteMauch

Arcade FireReflektor
1All-star collaboration of these Canadian rockers and producer James Murphy proved a success with their fourth release. The album, filled with instant hits like “Reflektor” and “Here Comes the Night Time”, is heavily influenced by traditional Haitian music that adds a deep rhythm to the elongated grooves, but the real treat is how its all tied together. Arcade Fire let loose on Reflektor, finding comfort in initiating a party atmosphere while staying confident with a dash of weirdness.

Jagwar MaHowlin
2There seems to be a psychedelic air blowing in Australia these days, and Jagwar Ma’s debut album is filled with trippy yet danceable songs like the opening pair “What Love” and “Uncertainty”. “Come Save Me” evokes a dream land where the Beach Boys created acid-dance music. This album is gonna get a lot of play on Friday nights for many years to come.

White DenimCorsicana Lemonade
3These Texas rockers put out an intense album in 2013 filled with screaming guitar solos layered over intense time signatures and wailing vocals, but White Denim makes it all sound so simple. Songs like “Pretty Green” and “Cheer Up/Blues Ending” are straight up rocking songs, rooted in the genre’s past while offering a progressive take at where rock is heading. It never hurts to have Jeff Tweedy producing as well.

Daft PunkRandom Access Memories
4The instantly classic single “Get Lucky”, the summer anthem of 2013, is still hyper-catchy, but “Instant Crush”, “Lose Yourself to Dance” & “Doin’ It Right” succeed as pleasantly repetitious tunes that represent a variety of decades. What makes Random Access Memories work completely is all the mellow cuts, perfect for bedtime or a drive down the coast. The music lesson that is “Giorgio by Moroder” just takes off after the ballsy call to include an interview with Giorgio Morodor before launching into an exploratory space jam. 

Anders OsbornePeace 
5Underground New Orleans guitar slayer Anders Osborne released a very impressive long player, filled with deep personal songs that are truly outstanding. Title track “Sentimental Times” showcases Osbornes’ brilliant songwriting, and his guitar work is simply phenomenal and engrossing. Personal favorite “Sara Anne” begins with a reggae feel that builds into a great bouncy song that has me repeating it often.

06. Kurt Vile – Wakin On a Pretty Daze
07. Atoms For Peace – Amok
08. Sigur Rós – Kveikur
09. Superhuman Happiness – Hands
10. Foals – Holy Fire
11. Holy Ghost! – Dynamics
12. Jonathan Wilson – Fanfare
13. Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse
14. Darkside – Psychic
15. Bonobo – The North Borders
16. Phosphorescent – Muchacho
17. Savages – Silence Yourself
18. Deerhunter – Monomania
19. Ty Segall – Sleeper
20. Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God


Toro Y Moi at Fox Theater Oakland 11/15.


Toro Y Moi at Fox Theater Oakland 11/15. Photo by James Nagel.

Kevin Raos // Columnist // @Semirec

Toro Y MoiAnything in Return
1Toro Y Moi just keeps getting better and better with subsequent listens. Part dance, part melancholy electro, Anything in Return strikes many different chords. From feelings of longing and romance, to coming to terms with growing up, Anything in Return ranges the emotionally gamut. This album stood the test of time in 2013, being one the first albums of 2013 to make a dramatic impact, then remaining front of mind come Christmas time.

RhyeWoman
2Woman is the mellow album of the year — If you need to relax, fall asleep, or just chill out, this is the album for you. A go-to in the bedroom, Rhye’s Woman also has the uncanny ability to cradle and comfort you from start to finish. Equally as good in a live setting, Woman proves excellent musicianship can flourish in downtempo form. The record’s male vocalist, Milosh, also released an excellent solo record titled “Jetlag” in late 2013 that clicks at a slightly faster tempo.

White DenimCorsicana Lemonade
3Funky, fresh and just downright dirty, the guys from Austin can bring the heat. Corsicana Lemonade is an album that might not make many end of the year album lists, but it should not be overlooked. Cool and collected while still being rhythmically aggressive, Corsicana Lemonade pushes forward an innovative rock sound that should make The Black Keys nervous their throne is currently up for grabs.

Danny BrownOld
4Danny Brown’s Old creates a new genre of hip hop, one with an electronic psyche. Old may offend some and be lost on others, but Brown’s distinctive voice and tongue-flaunting rhymes constitute a “grower”. Here we have a rapper who isn’t afraid to talk about more than banging it out in the streets, and all together Brown breathes more fresh air into a hip hop landscape that has been seeing a resurgence the past few years.

Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City
5It’s tough to deny that indie kings Vampire Weekend are on top of their game right now. If you haven’t heard of these A-Punks that escaped from Cape Cod, you surely have been living under a rock. With Modern Vampires of the City, an already huge band has gotten huger, blasting off into new territory more than in previous efforts. Did I mention they shout out Oakland and Alameda, too?

06. Foals – Holy Fire
07. Sigur Rós – Kveikur
08. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
09. Atoms For Peace – Amok
10. Disclosure – Settle
11. James Blake – Overgrown
12. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
13. Darkside – Psychic
14. Kurt Vile – Wakin On a Pretty Daze
15. Jon Hopkins – Immunity
16. Camera Obscura – Desire Lines
17. Wild Belle – Idles
18. Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks
19. Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe
20. Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle


Classixx at Fox Theater Oakland 11/15. Photo by James Nagel.


Classixx at Fox Theater Oakland 11/15. Photo by James Nagel.

Sean Little // Columnist // @Splittle

FoalsHoly Fire
1Foals have made their best album to date with Holy Fire. It’s a wall of sonic noise mixed with strong doses of angst that starts with “Prelude” and continues to pin listeners to their seats until the last track. The British quintet have produced my number one record of the year, and their live performance is one to see if you haven’t.

ClassixxHanging Gardens
2Classixx made a superb album here. Being a primarily electronic poduction group, their skills show something much deeper and diverse as they move from bouncey disco tracks to deeper, more evocative tracks like “Borderline” where they showcase their ability to craft a tune that hits heart strings and nods heads. Classixx are vastly underrated and should be given a serious listen, even by non-electronic fans.

DisclosureSettle
3What can be said that hasn’t already about this brotherly duo? They hit the scene hard and made a lot of people snap their heads in their direction. Their production quality and use of instruments in their sets has turned many notions of a “DJ” set on its head and opened the doors for a whole new type of set that calls to the crowd more. This album is full of gems that will surely go down in dance history as classics.

Hanni El KhatibHead In The Dirt
4Hanni grew up immensely since his last album and really fine-tuned his sound. This is a pure rock album with no pretense. If you arere tired of pop rock bands trying to make the next iPod commercial-worthy track and long for a record that slaps you in the face to wake you up while still being a tad gentle about it, this is the one for you.

A$AP RockyLONG.LIVE.A$AP
5Hip Hop has fallen to the wayside in years past as electronic has made its resurgence. Fans have grown weary of the over-produced, same old lyric songs that most artists offer. A$AP though brings in, what I consider to be the finest hip hop album of the year. Production by Skrillex, and cameos by Florence Welch, Drake, and Birdyman attest to his range not just as a rapper but as a producer and curator as well.

06. James Blake – Overgrown
07. Queens of the Stoneage – …Like Clockwork
08. The Strokes – Comedown Machine
09. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
10. DJ Koze – Amygdala
11. Atlas Genius – When It Was Now
12. Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends
13. Bass Drum of Death – S/T
14. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito
15. MS MR – Second Hand Rapture
16. Tesla Boy – The Universe Made of Darkness
17. Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
18. Cut Copy – Free Your Mind
19. Ryan Hemsworth – Guilt Trips
20. The Weeknd – Kiss Land