Desert Daze 2018: A stacked lineup & new location for one of California’s premier boutique festivals

Desert Daze 2018 - Phase FourPhoto by David Evanko // Written by Kevin Quandt //

Desert Daze //
Moreno Beach – Lake Perris, CA‎
October 12th-14th, 2018 //

It was really only a matter of time before Desert Daze outgrew its home of the past two years, as it was evident The Institute of Mentalphysics in Joshua Tree had reached peak capacity in 2017 (read our review here).

So, it was no surprise to longtime attendees when a new location was announced, coupled with a talent roster that proved growth was in the works, and a recipe for something special was concocted. Desert Daze founder Phil Pirrone and his team at Moon Block had slyly put together one of the banner rock lineups on U.S. soil in many moons.

Did this signal the next fad in rock ‘n’ roll? Was this a strong thesis in the argument that boutique music festivals would start to rule the landscape as the behemoths dealt with homogenization?

I’m sure there could be convincing cases made for both, but at the end of the day, word of mouth had worked its magic and the event was “movin’ on up.”

Early reports from events held on the new site have been rolling in, lauding Moreno Beach as a scenic little slice of nature hidden in the hills above Moreno Valley. Though many will miss the magic that can only be found in Joshua Tree, there are a multitude of amenities that will make the three-plus days a little bit easier for attendees, such as permanent bathrooms and showers, more grassy and shaded areas, and plenty of accessible parking for both campers and day attendees alike.

There’s also a smorgasbord of VIP add-ons if you’re looking for a touch of luxury in between sets, as the Beach Club will offer some top-notch perks if that’s your thing. Meanwhile, there have been some other shifts in the event as it eases into a new home.

Desert Daze 2018 - Lake Perris


Lake Perris

Pirrone has recently stated in interviews that the music schedule this year will start a tad later each day to allow attendees to properly enjoy Lake Perris’ natural beauty. What better way to prepare for some long nights of blistering music than with a daytime boat excursion or a hike into the surrounding hills?

Now, onto the real reason we’re going to Desert Daze: the music. As has been the trend for many years, Moon Block continues to up the ante with another stacked roster, and with a larger capacity and budget, they went all-in on with three packed days and nights.

The top of the poster is simply bananas as we see this past decade’s psych-pop torchbearers, Tame Impala, top Friday’s billing with fellow neo-psychedelia Aussies, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, holding down Saturday’s headline slot.

Lastly, the Irish shoegaze demigods My Bloody Valentine will be bringing their wall of sound to the outdoor areas of Southern California. Fans can expect a smattering of new songs as the band has been unleashing fresh material most of this year.

As we take a peek further down the lineup, we see some rarities in the form of Ty Segall and White Fence, Jarvis Cocker Introducing Jarv Is… and Mercury Rev performing all of Deserter’s Songs. Never one to exclude stellar international acts, Desert Daze will also boast Boogarins from Brazil, Ukraine’s DakhaBrakha and the first U.S. show by English space-rockers Ulrika Spacek on Saturday.

A deeper dive into three international acts can be found below.

Kikagaku Moyo


Kikagaku Moyo

The Holydrug Couple: It has been more than three years since the Chilean duo graced the states with live shows, and what better locale for their return. Holydrug Couple write some seriously dreamy psych-pop that will fit perfectly into the festival’s new landscape, literally. Expect to hear songs from their expansive catalog, with an emphasis on new tracks off their Sacred Bones release Hyper Super Mega. The band is celebrating its 10-year anniversary, so make sure to welcome Ives Sepúlveda and Manuel Parra warmly.

Kikagaku Moyo: Over the past year, this Japanese psych-rock outfit has been turning heads in some serious ways as they deliver a truly authentic sound. They hit a few smaller fests like Pickathon and have been gaining steam as the psych flag-bearer from the Far East. Their use of sitar and other less-traditional rock instrumentation has only helped garner a truly unique sound. Their 2016 release House in the Tall Grass is sure to get you pumped for their multiple sets at Desert Daze.

IDLES: While Desert Daze has a decided niche for all things rock, this year’s event sees the inclusion of slightly more punk-leaning artists in the form of UK’s own IDLES. Coming off a banner summer season, this whirlwind live act was much talked about at Primavera Sound and Rock Werchter for its raucous performances. Their second LP Joy Is an Act of Resistance, which came out in August, only cements that there is indeed still life in angst-ridden guitar rock. See ya in the pit for this one.

Want to go to Desert Daze? Tickets are still available for $299, or you could win a pair of tickets by submitting your full name and email below.

Contest ends this Friday at 3 p.m.


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FYF Fest cancels 2018 edition in stunning move

FYF Fest 2018

FYF Fest //
Exposition Park – Los Angeles
July 21st-22nd, 2018 //

In some stunning news on a Sunday, Goldenvoice has announced that the 2018 edition of FYF Fest has been canceled.

Just five weeks after revealing a female-focused lineup that saw Florence + The Machine and Janet Jackson booked as headliners, the renowned Southern California concert promoter has shockingly pulled the plug on the longtime LA music festival, explaining via its social media channels that organizers were “unable to present an experience on par with the expectations of our loyal fans and the Los Angeles music community this year.”

After expanding to three days last year, FYF was scaling back to two for its 15th installment this July, but as Billboard first reported, low ticket sales forced “the difficult decision” to be made with more than two months to go.

However, former Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus, who was set to perform at FYF this year with his band The Jicks, put the blame squarely on himself and other artists, citing the need for better songwriting.

Whether you agree with Malkmus or not (or you’re just bummed to hear about the shutdown like us), uncertainty surrounded FYF’s 2018 return after the festival quickly became mired in controversy when sexual misconduct allegations involving its original founder Sean Carlson surfaced in November. And even though Goldenvoice had already bought out Carlson’s stake to acquire sole ownership of the event and had veteran booking agent Jennifer Yacoubian in charge of securing talent, it wasn’t enough in the end to entice fans to shell out $249 for a GA weekend pass (or a whopping $549 for VIP). If you did buy one, fear not — ticket holders will receive full refunds over the next few days, so you’ll get your money back soon.

The news, however, raises bigger questions about the future of music festivals in the U.S. as the marketplace becomes more competitive and oversaturated. Because now that FYF’s own future is looking rather bleak, there’s really no telling where the industry goes from here.

FYF Fest - 2018 lineup

FYF Fest moves back to two days with Florence + The Machine, Janet Jackson headlining in 2018

FYF Fest - 2018 lineup

FYF Fest //
Exposition Park – Los Angeles
July 21st-22nd, 2018 //

After expanding to three days for the first time last summer and facing a widely publicized sexual misconduct scandal involving its original founder Sean Carlson just several months ago, FYF Fest has made its 2018 return official with another buzzworthy lineup.

But FYF’s announcement for its 15th edition doesn’t come without some noteworthy changes. The LA festival, for one, is moving back to two days this July, and with longtime Goldenvoice booking agent Jennifer Yacoubian now in charge of securing talent, it’s going in a somewhat different direction with this year’s roster.

In fact, Goldenvoice, which teamed up with Carlson as FYF co-promoters in 2011 and are currently the event’s sole owners, has taken some heat in recent years for its festival bills lacking female artists, and it appears Paul Tollett and company have gotten the message pretty loud and clear by billing Florence + the Machine and Janet Jackson as headliners.

Although last year’s installment of FYF had a good amount of female representation between Missy Elliott, Björk, Erykah Badu, Solange, Angel Olsen, Kehlani and some others, it seems as if Goldenvoice has made even more of a point to continue that trend in 2018, marking the first performance at the festival for either headliner and Jackson’s only scheduled show in LA as of right now.

Meanwhile, FYF has some other major gets to hang its hat on, including My Bloody Valentine, who will be playing their only West Coast date of the year, as well as the debuts of Future, The xx, St. Vincent, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kali Uchis. Of course, many fans of the festival will also be excited to see another crowd favorite listed on the lineup in The Breeders, while other names that are worth noting include Amber Mark, Car Seat Headrest, Daniel Caesar, Daphni, Destroyer, Glassjaw, Mount Kimbie, Nils Frahm, Protomartyr, Rhye, serpentwithfeet, Skepta, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Sudan Archives, The Internet, U.S. Girls and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Check out the poster above for the rest of the lineup.

FYF will be back at Exposition Park for a fifth straight year despite our hopes that it would return to LA State Historic Park following a three-year, $20-million renovation project that saw it reopen last April and host KCRW’s inaugural Skyline festival (read our review here). Alas, that unfortunately won’t be the case as festivalgoers will have to endure Expo Park’s unforgiving landscape of mostly asphalt and concrete (we just wish there was more green grass to roam — that’s all).

Weekend passes to FYF will be sold for $249, with single-day passes also available for $149 and weekend VIP passes available for $549. Tickets can be purchased starting next Friday, April 6th at 12 p.m. here. American Express Card Members will be able to purchase passes before the general public has a chance to, beginning Tuesday, April 3rd at 10 a.m. through Thursday, April 5th at 10 p.m. PT.

Ready for the “best weekend of summer” to return? Check out our past FYF coverage here.

FYF Fest 2018

Lo Moon are officially LA’s newest buzz band after their sold-out show at the Troubadour

Lo MoonBy Josh Herwitt //

Lo Moon with Psychic Twin //
Troubadour – West Hollywood, CA
November 16th, 2017 //

If there’s one public radio station in Los Angeles that always seems to have its finger on the pulse of all things music, it’s KCRW.

The NPR member station broadcasting from Santa Monica College has long had a penchant for discovering some of today’s most buzzworthy bands, and since 1977, its signature music program “Morning Becomes Eclectic” has played an instrumental role in maintaining what has been a strong track record for years. In fact, quite a few up-and-coming acts have come out of KCRW’s own backyard, whether it has been indie-rock groups like Silverlake’s Local Natives or solo artists such as Inglewood-bred jazz virtuoso Kamasi Washington.

But the latest group from the City of Angels to catch the station’s eye has been Lo Moon, the atmospheric, yet soulful indie-electronic trio that has only officially released three songs to date. One of them is called “Thorns”, which opened their sold-out show last Thursday at the Troubadour. With KCRW sponsoring the event, Illinois native/now LA transplant Erin Fein’s dreamy, synth-pop project Psychic Twin paved the way for the evening’s headliner, as a half-empty room prior to 9 p.m. turned into a crowded one 30 minutes later.

Despite what they call home right now, Lo Moon don’t consider themselves an “LA band,” at least not yet. All three full-time members — Matt Lowell (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Crisanta Baker (bass, keyboards, vocals) and Sam Stewart (guitar, keyboards, vocals) — arrived in LA from different parts of the world and wrote most of their forthcoming debut LP that’s due out next year in Seattle, a city Lowell says helped shape the album’s overall sound.

Lo Moon

Lo Moon, sonically, can be somewhat difficult to pin down. With a range of influences, their music has drawn comparisons to many of the UK’s biggest bands: Talk Talk, Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, Radiohead, Massive Attack and The xx, among others. That’s certainly some impressive company to be mentioned in when you get right down to it, especially for a band that took several months to unveil its second song. But Lo Moon have much more than just comparisons to hang their hat on at this point. The three-piece, for one, has inked a deal with Columbia Records and gotten the attention of former Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla, who has since signed on to produce its first full length.

Lately though, Lowell, Baker, Stewart and touring member Sterling Laws (drums) have been hitting the road with some pretty big names, including AIR (read our show review here) and Phoenix, with shows lined up next month as support for London Grammar, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy and The War on Drugs. With those kind of opportunities this early in the band’s career, don’t be surprised if you find Lo Moon listed on the 2018 Coachella lineup in January.

Back at the Troubadour, Lo Moon ran through a number of tracks that we can expect to hear on their upcoming release, performing “The Right Thing” for the first time before closing the set on a high note with “This Is It”, their sophomore single that you could mistake for a Peter Gabriel song if you didn’t know any better. There’s no question Lowell and company have an affinity for synthesizers, and the limited studio material they’ve revealed so far suggests that. But what also makes them stand out is Lowell himself, who offered a poignant solo rendition on the piano titled “All In” to kick off the band’s brief encore.

Of course, as Lo Moon fans know or will come to know, the show couldn’t have ended without the song that started it all: “Loveless”. The sprawling, seven-minute anthem, which hooked a major record label, an A-list producer and listeners all over the world, is what initially put the threesome on the map, and with Laws’ drum rolls delivering one powerful crescendo after the next down the stretch, the crowd came visibly alive like it hadn’t all night. Sure, this may only be the beginning for these guys, but LA’s newest buzz band knows how to shoot for the moon.

Setlist:
Thorns
The Right Thing (live debut)
Wonderful Life
TTMYMO
Real Love
My Money
Camouflage
This Is It

Encore:
All In (Matt Lowell solo on piano)
Loveless

Showbams’ top tracks of 2013

Best-tracks-post

Sometimes the more music you listen to, the feeling of missing out on a song or an album can make you feel a little neurotic. You simply can’t give every piece of good music it’s proper due. So when it comes to picking your favorite songs, a safe bet is to pick the songs that not only soundtracked your year but also helped define it.

Showbams presents our Contributor top tracks of 2013. What are your favorite tracks of this dwindling year? Holler with links in the comment section…


James Blake at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19. Photo by Marc Fong.

James Blake at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/20. Photo by Marc Fong.

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

01. James Blake – “Retrograde”
“Retrograde” perfectly represents the state of music in 2013, providing an amalgamation of cutting edge electronic, bass & R&B sensibilities. Also, the track is hauntingly memorable — How many contemporaries can use their pitch-shifting croon-hum as a low melodic layer like this? Lyrically, manipulative seduction is the center piece as Blake propositions his subject, asking to “show me where you fit.” Retrograde means ‘moving backwards’, and the theme is splendidly represented in the song’s payoff through elongated synth that modulates enough to sound like slow degradation.


02. Disclosure – “When A Fire Starts To Burn”
The mantra of the year, “When A Fire Starts To Burn” can ignite a party or help work get done faster. Somehow the motivational speech sample never tires, and it’s one of the only samples on Settle, proving the keen production sense Guy and Howard Lawrence have ingrained in them. The simple four on the floor house beat slightly evolves every 16 bars, allowing the sample to dominate throughout. An instant classic, it’s a track that uses long-used underground themes and brings them to the forefront as Disclosure continues to explode with popularity.


03. Arcade Fire – “Afterlife”
The penultimate song from Reflektor explicitly stares death in the face and dares you to live. More than any other song on the record, “Afterlife” successfully digs into the idea of what happens when we die in Arcade Fire’s serious, intense style. The song offers multiple rhetorical questions that function as a challenge. Our time is finite, and love should be the focus. “It’s just an afterlife with you…”


04. Foals – “Milk & Black Spiders”
So much of Foals’ music is about being on the verge of total loss, although the message is almost always vague. A far cry from yelling at “Cassius” that she’s “second best”, “Milk & Black Spiders” centers on the idea of confidence in finding the right mate and openly admitting it. Found in an album full of potential top tracks, this cut contains the best moment of the album at about 3:30. Is it hyperbole to consider this one of the most euphoric crescendo of all time?


05. my bloody valentine – “in another way”
To be truly understood, my bloody valentine needs to be felt, not only heard. To experience MBV live or in the comfort of your living space like the Maxwell Guy is encouraged (although it may be too late to catch them live). The sound is jarring at first, but upon adapting to the volume level, “in another way” transforms into magnificent hypnotism once the first major chords hit. It’s like a persistent, awesome airplane is taking off in your face, in a very good way…

06. Baths – “No Eyes”
07. Vampire Weekend – “Hannah Hunt”
08. Kanye West feat. Frank Ocean – “New Slaves”
09. The National – “I Need My Girl”
10. Rhye – “Open”
11. Volcano Choir – “Byegone”
12. Phosphorescent – “Song For Zula”
13. Run the Jewels – “Job Well Done (feat. Until the Ribbon Breaks)”
14. Mount Kimbie – “Made To Stray”
15. Kurt Vile – “Wakin on a Pretty Day”
16. Darkside – “Paper Trails”
17. Autre Ne Veut – “Play by Play”
18. Jon Hopkins – “Breath This Air”
19. Haim – “Falling”
20. Bill Callahan – “Small Plane”


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

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

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

01. Vampire Weekend – “Unbelievers”
Far from the New England prep rock of their previous two albums, the boys of Vampire Weekend explore new territory both in songwriting and soundscape on their 2013 release Modern Vampires of the City. This breakout pop gem explores the frivolity of faith, dissecting spirituality in the context of a contemporary domestic relationship. Paying homage to blissful rockabilly melodies executed by such greats as Buddy Holly and the Crickets and Jerry Lee Lewis, Vampire Weekend put a current spin on an archetypal pop formula, composing easily one of the best tracks of 2013.


02. Big Black Delta – “Side of the Road”
Jonathan Bates, of Mellowdrone fame, delivers one of the catchiest terrestrial dance jams of 2013 with the lead single off of his debut album, Big Black Delta. A solo project, Bates performs the entire song through layers of modified vocals, electronic improvisation and innovatively tracked percussion. He succeeds in developing an addictive one man dance party that’s just as entertaining to see live as it is to listen to on record and calls for near immediate loops of repetitive play.


03. Disclosure -“F For You”
UK sibling duo Disclosure deliver one of the hardest hitting and simplistically rendered club hits of 2013 with “F For You.” Stripping away frivolous electronic production, they find success in a modest deep house composition featuring a pulsating baseline, repetitive chorus and a stylistically pert, finger-snapping beat. The song’s sassy subject matter and infectious groove are bound to get any dance floor moving and set the song apart as a standout hit on the band’s 2013 debut album.


04. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Sacrilege”
Departing from their traditionally art punk mold, the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s burst back on the scene with the first single off of their fourth studio album, Mosquito. Highlighting rooted soul riffs and Karen O’s bluesy wails, the beat driven arrangement pays homage to the band’s time spent writing and recording in New Orleans. The track in a fiery choral cameo by the Broadway Inspirational Voices Choir and serves as the band’s rousing call to arms for their alternative counterparts. The song exemplifies the band’s successful feat in retaining some of the genres fearlessness and artistic credulity as well as their willingness to step outside of the convoluted mainstream box.


05. Holy Ghost! – “Dumb Disco Ideas”
Often compared to fellow DFA records’ flagship artist LCD Soundsystem, Holy Ghost! assumed the label’s inherent responsibility of producing the next wave of synth-pop super hits with their 2013 album Dynamics. The most comparable track, coming in the form of this funk laden jam, draws directly from the genre-defining record label’s indisputable formula for discotheque domination. Rhythmically resonating with old and new fans alike, Holy Ghost! seamlessly transitioned into their new reign of the DFA universe with this stand out party anthem that floored live music venues and festival stages, all summer long.

06. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky”
07. Atoms for Peace – “Default”
08. Arcade Fire – “Here Comes the Nighttime”
09. Toro Y Moi – “Say That”
10. Empire of the Sun – “Alive”
11. Cut Copy – “Free Your Mind”
12. STRFKR – “While I’m Alive”
13. Jagwar Ma – “Man I Need”
14. Phoenix – “S.O.S. in Bel Air”
15. Washed Out – “All I Know”
16. Kanye West – “Black Skinhead”
17. CSS – “Into the Sun”
18. Devendra Banhart – “You’re Fine Petting Duck”
19. Wild Belle – “Another Girl”
20. The Strokes – “One Way Trigger”


Palma Violets at The Independent 4/23. Photo by James Nagel.

Palma Violets at The Independent 4/23. Photo by James Nagel.

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

01. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky”
When the ‘Song of the Summer’ (sorry “Blurred Lines”) is as thoroughly enjoyable as this interstellar first single off of RAM, you know you won’t get nearly as tired of it as past summertime jams. “Get Lucky” is still is as fresh as the first time it was debuted on a Saturday night at Coachella, eventually ruling airwaves across multiple genres all over the globe. This track has it all; from a space disco groove that rivals any legendary disco jam to the sultry vocals of the multi-talented Pharrell Williams. Was it the single that most fans were expecting? Probably not, but lends even more to the production and writing talent of these two mysterious French robots that most of us know by the name of Daft Punk. Though we haven’t seen how it’ll shake out on stage, if ever, it is sure to be on repeat for the foreseeable future. 


02. Foxygen – “No Destruction”
What a fun slice of American tinged psych-pop these young San Franciscans delivered this year. Sure this band has had a rough year on the road, but these issues never diminished their stellar sophomore release, spotlighted by this rousing tale of youthful urban life and love. Dylan-esque crooning coupled with phrasing that would make Ray Davies blush lends a nod to some of rocks legends in the form of “No Destruction”. Every listen also shines more light on the storyboard that these lyrics build, adding another key component to Foxygen’s success.  


03. Foals – “My Number”
I’m not sure exactly when Foals became masters of catchy song structures, but many are happy to hear this British act upping their game to dazzling new heights. The formula of placing the hook early in the track is part of the key, and this is not to mention the amazing returns to said hook while balancing afro-inspired guitar lines, piercing melodies and unpredictable rhythm shifts. “My Number” signifies the next era for Foals while displaying they are ready to leave the clubs to larger theaters while bearing the banner of Bono-esque grandeur in the face of a changing landscape in popular rock music. 


04. King Krule – “Baby Blue”
Young Archie Marshall has come along way for a 19 year old Brit with a refreshing spin on bedroom-produced darkwave music. Though in all honesty, King Krule can not be defined as he bends genre lines all over his debut LP, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon. Archie’s unique vocal stylings paint a brilliantly simple portrait of love lost over a stripped down production that is akin to the muted style that launched acts like the XX and Toro Y Moi. The baritone delivery pitches and bends on the singer’s whim over gentle guitar flourishes and minimal beat production equally something fully unique. In an age of EDM maximalism, it’s tracks like this that demonstrate the idea of ‘less is more.’ 


05. London Grammar – “Hey Now”
London Grammar may not be an artist that the majority are familiar with, but a head-turning debut LP released in the fall has garnered this trip-hop trio much deserved attention. Hannah Reid’s vocals soar all over this chilled-out track that slowly builds to a mellow peak that could remind you of early Zero 7 (the Sia years). A feature on Disclosure’s album closer and vocal comparisons to Jessie Ware are promising signs for these up-and-comers that understand restraint can be extremely powerful as demonstrated in this powerful single.  

06. Arcade Fire – “Afterlife”
07. Parquet Courts – “Stoned and Starving”
08. Palma Violets – “Best of Friends”
09. Kanye West feat. Frank Ocean – “New Slaves”
10. Jake Bugg – “Lightning Bolt”
11. A$AP Ferg feat. A$AP Rocky – “Shabba”
12. HAIM – “The Wire”
13. Queens of the Stone Age – “My God is the Sun”
14. Vampire Weekend – “Diane Young”
15. The National – “Humiliation”
16. Ducktails – “The Flower Lane”
17. Deerhunter – “Dream Captain”
18. Jon Hopkins – “Open Eye Signal”
19. iceage – “Ecstasy”
20. White Fence – “Pink Gorilla”


Holy Ghost! at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19.

Holy Ghost! at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19.

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

01. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky”    
The summer anthem is just too good to be denied the number one spot. With Nile Rodgers laying down the funk chords on guitar and Pharrell Williams’s resurgence back on the scene with smooth croons, it gives the song has some serious lasting power.


02. Kurt Vile – “Wakin On a Pretty Day”
Best morning song ever besides Dylan’s “New Morning”? I absolutely love waking up to this song — it’s bright, catchy guitar licks are matched perfectly with Vile’s earnest lyrics about solitude, yet he’s optimistic about this pretty day. 


03. Foals – “My Number”  
This song come firing out of the gates with infectious dance grooves that are nearly impossible to not move your feet to. The hypnotizing multi-guitar work is such a great complement to the vocals on this should-be hit single.


04. Jagwar Ma – “Come Save Me”
If the Beach Boys started to make electrified, psychedelic dance songs then I suspect it would sound a lot like this. These Australian rockers put together one hell of a dream-like track this year.


05. Superhuman Happiness – “Sentimental Pieces”
One of the most fun and creative songs I’ve heard in a long while. The way they combine dance grooves, hand claps, piano work, and some serious vocal harmonizing is quite impressive.

06. Holy Ghost! – “Dumb Disco Ideas”
07. Earl Sweatshirt – “Chum”
08. White Denim – “Pretty Green”
09. Sigur Rós – “Isjaki”
10. Phosphorescent – “Song for Zula”
11. Youth Lagoon – “Mute”
12. Savages – “She Will”
13. Anders Osborne – “Peace”
14. Ty Segall – “Sleeper”
15. Atoms for Peace – “Judge, Jury, and Executioner”
16. Jim James – “Know Til Now”
17. Deerhunter – “Back to the Middle”
18. Johnathon Wilson – “Moses Pain”
19. Bonobo –  “Cirrus”
20. Darkside – “Paper Trails”


Washed Out at First City Festival 8/24. Photo by Marc Fong.

Washed Out at First City Festival 8/24. Photo by Marc Fong.

Kevin Raos // Columnist // @Semirec

01. Vampire Weekend – “Hannah Hunt”
The best song, on perhaps the best album of the year, “Hannah Hunt” is an instant classic. Modern Vampires of the City is littered with tracks that will be considered amongst Vampire Weekend’s best, and “Hannah Hunt” leads the pack. Despite the lack of “quirkiness” that Vampire Weekend is sometimes known for, the track gently builds the listener up to one of the most jubilant climaxes found on any record this year.


02. Youth Lagoon – “Raspberry Cane”
Another song that builds you up and sweeps you off your feet, “Raspberry Cane” is a bright spot on Wondrous Bughouse, a sophomore effort that fell slightly short of expectations. Hauntingly fascinating and beautifully psychedelic, this song takes the listener on a musical journey.  


03. Arcade Fire – “Afterlife”
“Afterlife” is a song that took a few years to see the light of day. When it was released, Win Butler commented on the history of this song, saying it began “with a Haitian percussion loop we recorded way back at the end of the The Suburbs tour and “took a while to get the chorus right.” Enter producer James Murphy and the result is an extremely danceable synth-pop tune that is up there with the year’s pedigree.


04. Rhye – “Open”
Passion oozes from this song. Simple and pure love in it’s most basic form. Lyrics, musicianship and delivery make this track one of the most soothing songs of the year. Turn this on,  embrace those you love, and all will be right in the world if only for a couple minutes.


05. Washed Out – “It All Feels Right”
The title of this song says it best. Washed Out’s sunbathed reverb vibes can instantly transport you to a beach and put a beverage in your hand. Fact. Move aside “Get Lucky”, this was the summer anthem of 2013 on my stereo.

06. Major Lazer – “Get Free”
07. Wild Belle – “Keep You”
08. Holy Ghost! – “Dumb Disco Ideas”
09. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Sacrilege”
10. James Blake – “Retrograde”
11. Phosphorescent – “The Quotidian Beasts”
12. Daft Punk – “Instant Crush”
13. Boards of Canada – “Nothing is Real”
14. Mikal Cronin – “Weight”
15. Sigur Rós – “Brennisteinn”
16. Kurt Vile – “Wakin on a Pretty Day”
17. Phoenix – “Trying to Be Cool”
18. Foxygen – “San Francisco”
19. Junip – “Line of Fire”
20. Disclosure – “White Noise (feat. AlunaGeorge)”


Cut Copy at Fox Theater Oakland 11/02. Photo by James Nagel.

Cut Copy at Fox Theater Oakland 11/02. Photo by James Nagel.

Brooks Rocco // Columnist // @brooksrocco

01. Jagwar Ma – “Uncertainty”
In the wholly subjective exercise of selecting a favorite song of a year, one must consider one’s most notable experiences, focusing upon those driven by the most notable soundtracks. 2013’s best dance party, in my little sphere of dominion, was Jagwar Ma’s headlining set at Rickshaw Stop, and it was the song ‘Uncertainty’ that made me most notably lose control of my senses. Even upon sober reflection, the song (defining the tone of the album it appears on) is a sledgehammer of a good time, a song that revels in the Clichés that in an earlier year would have manifested in sardonic irony. It’s finally time to embrace what works, and in doing so, create the future that pushes towards the goal: a musical tribute to our ecstatic humanity, as we remain fueled by uncertainties.


02. Deafheaven – “Dream House”
In some ways, “Dream House” is the end of black metal. It’s been a long time coming though, with American kids raised on the stuff tilting their combo amps backward, screaming their fresh-faced idolatry for the legends that dared to not give a fuck. With the pink Pitchfork kiss of approval, black metal has become another texture in the tech-savvy hipster’s chest, to be yanked out when the time is appropriate (then and only then!). ‘Dream House’ is the black metal song that everyone can agree on. Euronymous is Dead. Long live Black Metal.


03. Cave – “Arrow’s Myth”
Shifting space, coagulating color, sound, motion; breaking barriers, and driving the motorized swirl ever farther, Cave returned in 2013 with some of their most funky and delicately harmonious hues yet. Once again they delivered just the right the stuff we all need—imbalance your chemicals (whatever that means to you), throw on “Arrow’s Myth”, and wrap your head around whatever comes natural. If it feels good, right?


04. Carcass – “A Congealed Clot of Blood”
I got a little worried when I found out Andy Sneap was producing the followup to Carcass’ swan song, Surgical Steel, as said producer is the type of surgeon to sterilize all his instruments thoroughly before performing his delicate incisions. Fortunately, this sublime return to force by the UK legends is necrotising death metal masterpiece; ‘A Congealed Clot of Blood’ worthy amongst their greatest.


05. my bloody valentine – “in another way”
I wasn’t listening to Loveless in the 90’s like it was my religion. In my erumpent musical debut, I was blasting stuff like Emperor, Dissection, Meshuggah; bands louder, noisier, and far, far more unsettling than My Bloody Valentine. But for a lot of people, MBV were the anti-music of their spheres. That said, the night m b v dropped, I got sucked into the tornado along with everyone else.  A cursory pirated listen and I was in. ‘in another way’ was the tune that made me whip out the plastic capital and order the wax. Full disclosure for Mr. Shields: it was that guitar.  How did you…

06. RP Boo – “Invisibu Boogie!”

07. Dispirit – “All Paths End The Same”

08. David Bowie – “Where Are We Now?”

09. Föllakzoid – “9”

10. Foals – “Late Night”

11. Thee Oh Sees – “No Spell”

12. Mikal Cronin – “Shout It Out”

13. The Five Eyes – “HEY HEY NSA (Tinfoil in Every Hat)”

14. The Knife – “Old Dreams Waiting to be Realized”

15. Kanye West – “On Sight”

16. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – “Desert Ceremony”

17. Parquet Courts – “Master of My Craft”

18. Cut Copy – “Free Your Mind”

19. Anthroprophh – “Hermit”

20. Telekinesis – “Power Lines”


MS MR at The Independent 6/16. Photo by James Nagel.

MS MR at The Independent 6/16. Photo by James Nagel.

Nikki De Martini // Columnist & Photographer // @SweetSoundBites

01. M.I.A. –  “Y.A.L.A.”
Seducingly rhythmic percussion loops, heavy dropping bass lines and a shining bratty-tude mock US society fads on this effortless dance track from my favorite Sri Lankan West-Londoner. M.I.A.’s signature ballsy Bollywood flavor minus the familiarity of foghorns will make you want to get up and dance before realizing what she’s singing about sets in and when it does, this track gets even better. “Y.A.L.A.” makes me wonder why Interscope Records repeatedly shelved her 4th album for not being “dark” or “controversial” enough.


 
02. RAC Featuring Kelle Okereke and MNDR – “Let Go”
As a fan of MNDR for years and a Bloc Party fan for even longer, this collaborative RAC track won me over since the very first time hearing it — the emotionally charged lyrics paired with it’s uplifting melody just melt into one so well.


 
03. MS MR – “Hurricane”
Easily one of my favorite tracks off of their breakthrough debut album, the first single “Hurricane” showcases the multitude of MS MR’s talents to a tee with rich, relatable lyrics and an underlying electro-pop essence wrapped up and delivered in a neat indie rock fashion.


 
04. Arctic Monkeys – “Do I Wanna Know?”
It’s heavy drums, low bass chords and dirty guitar licks reminiscent of The Black Keys are that draw me to this song. Then the lyrics hit and that was it. Every time I hear this song I turn it up and sing along.


 
05. Schoolboy Q Featuring Kendrick Lamar – “Collard Greens”
The catchy hooks and layered verses are a throw back to old school “dirty” rap yet remain fresh, leaving me hungry for more Kendrick Lamar!  


 
06. Lana Del Rey – “Summertime Sadness” (Cedric Gervais remix)
07. LORDE – “Team”
08. Cage the Elephant – “It’s Just Forever (featuring Alison Mosshart)”
09. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Wedding Song”
10. Queens of the Stone Age – “Sat by the Ocean”
11. Jay Z – “Tom Ford”
12. Little Boots – “Strangers”
13. Portugal the Man – “Purple Yellow Red and Blue”
14. VV Brown – “Apple”
15. Sleigh Bells – “Bitter Rivals”
16. Broken Bells – “Holding on for Life”
17. NONONO – “Pumping Blood”
18. CSS – “Hangover”
19. Atlas Genius – “Electric”
20. Smallpools – “Dreaming”


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.

Pedro Paredes // Photographer // @pedropar

01. Atoms for Peace – “Before Your Very Eyes”
Every great album needs an opening song worthy of it, and “Before Your Very Eyes” gives just that to the supergroup formed by members of Radiohead (Thom Yorke, Nigel Godrich), Red Hot Chili Peppers (Flea), Beck (Joey Waronker) and Forro in The Dark (Mauro Refosco). With dense, steady percussions, electronic arrangements, a simple guitar section, and the soft sound of Thom Yorke’s voice, this song walks to the beat of life and death, joy and sorrow, and begins the path for one of the best albums of 2013.


02. Vampire Weekend – “Obvious Bicycle”
Vampire Weekend’s first song of their amazing Modern Vampires of the City sets the mood for an album that takes a different route from their previous work, with a warmer, more mature sound. A beautiful song for a beautiful album.   


03. James Blake – “Retrograde”
Melodic Bass Music are the words James Blake chose to describe his work, and “Retrograde” seems to fit that description quite well. It’s a love song for the future, coming from the darkness of the dawn.


03. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Jubilee Street”
Nick Cave is a natural storyteller that makes use of his musical talent to make any story come alive (his music scores for films like ‘The Assassination of Jesse James’ or ‘The Proposition’ are enough to prove my point)  Jubilee Street starts simple, growing in complexity in the subtlest of ways, beautifully contained under the spell of Nick Cave’s voice.


05. Blood Orange – “It is What it Is”
“It is What it Is” is exactly what it should be — Deliciously elegant, precise, presenting a new version of 80’s pop-reset. This song is the cherry on top of one of the best albums of 2013.

06. Mutual Benefit – “Golden Wake”
07. Arcade Fire – “Here Comes the Night Time”
08. Daft Punk – “Instant Crush”
09. Lorde – “Royals”
10. William Tyler – “Cadillac Dessert”
11. Kurt Vile – “Wakin on a Pretty Day”
12. Phosphorescent – “Ride On/Right On”
13. Deerhunter – “Back to the Middle”
14. Darkside – “Paper Trails”
15. Nine Inch Nails – “Copy of A”
16. Parquet Courts – “Stoned and Starving”
17. Low – “Plastic Cup”
18. Blue Hawaii – “Try To Be”
19. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Despair”
20. Foxygen – “No Destruction”

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

10 Reasons to say ‘Fuck Yeah’ at FYF Fest 2013

FYF-Fest-2013_postPhotos by Mike Frash // Written by Mike Frash & Kevin Quandt //

FYF Fest //
LA State Historic Park – Los Angeles
August 24th-25th, 2013 //

FYF Fest has earned a rare new title in the Southern California region as the “new Coachella.” Even though many attendees may balk at this tag, it is an endearing way of stating this is fresh, new territory for independent music.

In its 10th year of existence, the event has grown out of the former Echo Park venues to a multi-day romp across thrilling genres of alternative music held at Los Angeles Historic Park. This convenient, downtown-esque locale offers great skyline views and a manageable, if not slightly dusty, venue that allows attendees the opportunity to experience more acts than your average 10,000-plus event.

With a vast array of attractive, buzzed-about artists gracing the FYF’s four stages, here are 10 acts to focus your valuable concert time on for the fest’s 2013 edition.


My Bloody Valentine
Sunday • 10:45 • Carrie Stage

If there is one show where earplugs may be a good idea, it’s Kevin Shields and MBV. Spinal Tap “volume at 11” jokes aside, this will be a triumphant return to the stage and a region for the Irish alt-noise kings and queens. Even more thrilling than their live return to the US is the fact that they will be playing a ton of new music to longtime and new fans alike off this year’s magnificent release m b v. Expect some gems off of Loveless and Isn’t Anything mixed in for good measure. What a perfectly blistering manner to bring the festival to a close on Sunday, even if you hear ringing in your ears on Monday. -KQ



Death Grips
Saturday • 11:05 • Miranda Stage

After a head-scratching ‘performance’ surrounding Lollapalooza in past weeks, the only thing to expect is the unexpected from the Sacramento doom-hop act Death Grips. This line-blurring act featuring Zach Hill and Stefan “MC Ride” have been making waves for a couple of years, and have cemented themselves as a ground-breaking live act committed to off kilter beats and aggressive hip-hop vocals growled over the top. With some new music trickling out this week, it’s sure to create a ton of buzz among festival goers. Well, that is if they show. -KQ



TV on the Radio
Saturday • 9:15 • Carrie Stage

TV on the Radio have released one new song, “Mercy”, in late July, but there are no confirmed plans for a fifth studio album at the moment. In fact, it’s the first music TVOTR has created and shared since bassist Gerard Smith passed away in 2011, and it’s confirmed this excellent new cut and a second unreleased track titled “Million Miles” will be issued by David Sitek’s label Federal Prism. Sitek has grown to be one of the best producers in music over the past 10 years, helping to churn out gems from Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars, Foals, Santigold, Beady Eye and of course, TV on the Radio. Might the group produce their next record under Federal Prism? Let’s hope these new songs and this FYF set inspire the creative juices. FYF and its patrons are getting a one-off treat since this is the only performance on the group’s calendar, and it’s only their second performance since touring in support of Nine Types of Light. -MF



Flume  
Sunday • 7:25 • Samantha’s Tent

Harley Streten is an Australian electronic musician that is just about the fastest rising DJ on the planet. Performing under the moniker Flume, Streten’s meteoric rise began when his self titled LP dropped in late 2012, jumping to the top of the Australian charts. At 21 years old, Flume exudes cross-genre originality in his music, mashing together elements of dance, R&B and hip-hop. And on his forthcoming swing through the U.S. starting this weekend, Flume will introduce Americans to the “Prism Tour”. Streten calls it a “bigger, grander show”, and by the looks of it, the stage production is now fitting of his music. He DJs from atop a large prism that looks like it will blow minds live, while live visuals and stage lighting layer visuals appropriately. Flume fully controls the ‘power’ of the complete audio-visual performance, as the visuals are tied into each change he makes behind the deck. Looks (and sounds) pretty awesome. -MF



Holy Ghost!
Sunday • 11 • Charlotte Stage

Holy Ghost! seem to be on the cusp of getting much bigger — and for good reason. The Brooklyn duo has James Murphy’s DFA label on their back, their second LP Dynamics will be unleashed September 10th, and singles “Dumb Disco Ideas” and “Okay” indicate said album will provide fire. Sophomore slump be damned. FYF will provide the premiere performance of the “Dynamics Tour 2013” — but unfortunately this raging electro-pop disco dance party is pitted directly against My Bloody Valentine to end the weekend. Those that can’t stop moving their feet come Sunday’s finale should head to the Charlotte Stage. -MF



No Age  
Sunday • 6:05 • Charlotte Stage

Randy and Dean return to FYF after a glaring absence last year, this from an act that has been a constant over the past decade in the Los Angeles underground music scene. After a quiet 2012, the experimental art-punk duo are amped and ready to hit the road hard to close out this year, touring behind An Object, their latest Sub Pop release. Though some may be bummed that Foxygen had to cancel in order to gain No Age, this duo is sure to kick up a dust storm by the throngs of young kids who have gravitated to these guys over the years, likely through their involvement with LA all-ages, and alcohol/drug free venue called The Smell. Don’t expect your average rock show by two guys who thrive on doing things a bit differently. — KEVIN QUANDT



Dan Deacon
Saturday • 8:45 • Charlotte Stage

A Dan Deacon show isn’t simply a live electronic music performance — it’s an interactive experience that forces all those present to be a part of it. He remixes all sorts of pop-culture like a sword-wielding ninja, almost exclusively curating upbeat energy. Deacon’s live production consistently thrives off tension and release, but so very differently than other EDM artists. There aren’t big drops, but a hodgepodge of hyperactive sounds that draw from the musical stratosphere, then shift after four or eight measures. It’s a mad, glorious, engaging dance party that deserves, at minimum, a 20 minute stop by. -MF



Mac DeMarco
Sunday • 3:35 • Miranda Stage

Need a little break from the craziness of hardcore and garage rock? Might we suggest you spend a little time with Canadian jangle-slacker Mac DeMarco and band. His infectious surf-rock influenced pop songs are sublime slices of the stony life-lessons and nuggets of young wisdom, all crooned over guitars oozing a stylized chorus effect. Mac’s stage presence alone is worth a trip to the Miranda Stage at 3:55 on Sunday. Fun fact: Mac will be following Johnathan Richman, a stated influence on the young Canadian and his quirky music. -KQ



Washed Out  
Sunday • 8:30 • Charlotte Stage

The evolution of Ernest Greene will be on full, blooming display as Washed Out begin touring in support of Paracosm this weekend. Washed Out began as Greene’s computer-based bedroom project, but to make touring a reality in support of his first LP Within and Without, he turned the touring group into a foursome with the aim of performing the material live through a mix of MIDI pads and live instrumentation.

As Greene continues down the chill-wave path he helped start, he’s clearly gravitating toward creating sounds live as opposed to playing a software plugin — a recording method that will only make his live shows better with time. -MF



Baroness
Sunday • 7:05 • Miranda Stage 

It’s been a long and dangerous road for Baroness the past few years after their tour bus careened off the road in England, injuring many of the members. Though there was some personnel changes before the band got things up and running again, they have sludged on, bringing their white-hot brand of progressive metal to the throngs. The heavy metal sound that Baroness brews up is a quintessential part of the variety that FYF curates, so take a chance and see something that will shake you to the core. -KQ

FYF

MIDTERM REPORT: Best Albums of 2013

BEST-ALBUMS-so-far-2013Photos by Marc Fong and Mike Frash

Is 2013 the year digital dance music makes the big leap, fully taking over the Top 40 but also ingraining itself into the hearts of critics? Daft Punk made all the noise as the year was young, but young EDM-upstarts Disclosure, Flume & Jagwar Ma have all made an impact on the Bam Team.

That stated, the musical output in 2013 so far is pretty damn strong overall. And just think, we will be hearing new LPs from Arcade Fire, Earl Sweatshirt, Washed Out, Ty Segall, Franz Ferdinand, Nine Inch Nails, Arctic Monkeys, Holy Ghost!, Chvrches, and many more still. Take a gander at our favorite albums of the year as of July 17, 2013 – What are we missing?

*Any album released in the US in the year 2013 is eligible for Best Albums of 2013.
**Check out all of our music reviews from 2013.

Vampire Weekend

Mike Frash
1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
2. Disclosure – Settle
3. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
4. James Blake – Overgrown
5. Foals – Holy Fire
6. Flume – Flume
7. Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
8. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
9. Jagwar Ma – Howlin
10. Baths – Obsidian

Phoenix

Molly Kish
1. Atoms For Peace – AMOK
2. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
3. Disclosure – Settle
4. Toro Y Moi – Anything In Return
5. Phoenix – Bankrupt!
6. STRFKR – Miracle Mile
7. Devandra Banhart – Mala
8. Major Lazer – Free the Universe 
9. Cold War Kids – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts
10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito

Thee-oh-Sees

Kevin Quandt
1. my bloody valentine – m b v
2. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
3. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
4. Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze
5. Thee oh Sees – Floating Coffin
6. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
7. Disclosure – Settle
8. Rhye – Woman
9. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
10. A$AP Rocky – Long Live A$AP

Sigur-Ros

Pete Mauch
1. Sigur Ros – Kveikur

2. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
3. Superhuman Happiness – Hands
4. Foals – Holy Fire
5. Boards of Canada – Tomorrows Harvest
6. Deerhunter – Monomania
7. Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse
8. Bonobo – The North Borders
9. Kurt Vile and The Violators – Walkin’ On A Pretty Daze
10. Disclosure – Settle

Toro Y Moi

Kevin Raos
1. Toro Y Moi – Anything In Return
2. Rhye – Woman
3. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
4. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
5. Sigur Ros – Kveikur
6. Foals – Holy Fire
7. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
8. Camera Obscura – Camera Obscura
9. Atoms for Peace – AMOK
10. Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends

Classixx

Sean Little
1. Flume – Flume
2. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
3. Classixx – Hanging Gardens
4. Jessie Ware – Devotion
5. Hanni El Kattib – Head In The Dirt
6. Disclosure – Settle
7. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
8. Empire of the Sun – Ice on the Dune
9. Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends
10. DJ Koze – Amygdala

Starfucker5

Eric Shaden
1.  Jagwar Ma – Howlin
2.  James Blake – Overgrown
3.  Daft Punk – Random Access Memories  
4.  Starfucker – Miracle Mile
5.  Disclosure – Settle
6.  Phoenix – Bankrupt!
7.  Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
8.  Autre Ne Veut – Anxiety 
9.  Major Lazer – Free the Universe 
10. Thundercat – Apocalypse 

MS MR
Nikki De Martini
1. MS MR – Secondhand Rapture
2. Deap Vally – Sistrionix
3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito
4: CSS – Planta 
5: Little Boots – Nocturnes
6. Portugal The Man – Evil Friends 
7. Cold War Kids – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts
8. Kanye West – Yeezus
9. Great Gatsby Soundtrack
10. Sigur Ros – Kveikur

New Music Tuesday: My Bloody Valentine • Eels • Frightened Rabbit • The Bronx • Unknown Mortal Orchestra • Jim James • Thao and The Get Down Stay Down

My Bloody Valentine - m b v

Every Tuesday, we focus on new music releases by naming our top tracks, album highlights, lowlights and important takeaways for select albums.


My Bloody Valentinem b v

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Only Tomorrow”
“If This and Yes”
“In Another Way”

Album Highlights: Much like the bulk of My Bloody Valentine’s catalog, this album feels like a grouping of EPs, which could be due to the lengthy history of this album. The first 3 tracks sound like they may have been from some of the sessions from the mid-nineties that have only now seen light of day. The second trio of songs bring you back to earth with a heavy dose of pop-tinged shoegaze, almost a contemplative section of soaring harmonies brought by Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher. The last three songs are serious. This is likely the “new” sound of MBV, which is a little more straight ahead than what we are used to. Songs like “in another way” may sound tame with it’s 4/4 drum beat to some aficionados, but there is enough tweaking with the timing to make it purely MBV. Then to close the album with “wonder 2” is just a stroke of brilliance, as this track is the real deal; an otherworldly rapture of drums, synths and distorted vocals.

Album Lowlight: Very few. The hardcore fans will like it, but potentially grumble as there isn’t any astounding departure of the MBV sound.

Takeaway: It’s been a long time coming for this release, almost 22 years to be exact, and it certainly does not disappoint on any level. Truly jumping back in where they left off when no follow-up materialized after Loveless shows the dedication Shields has to the fuzzy auditory landscape he meticulously crafts. A gem to be enjoyed via one’s best pair of headphones, and hopefully live this year.

~Kevin Quandt

Download My Bloody Valentine’s new record m b v at the band’s website (pay what you want).


EelsWonderful, Glorious

3-BamsTop Tracks:
“Bombs Away”
“Peach Blossom”
“New Alphabet”

Album Highlights: Wonderful, Glorious, the 10th studio album by Eels and first since 2010, doesn’t break much new ground but keeps a good thing going. Eels mastermind Mark Oliver Everett (aka E) has been around the block and has had his share of heartbreak, which is a common theme in his music. Wonderful, Glorious, however, has a much more optimistic outlook compared to previous work. He even sings about tiger lilies and marigolds in the song “Peach Blossom.”

Album Lowlight: It probably won’t win over any Eels fans who were on the fringe, although it will please diehard fans. Eels just continue doing what they’ve done best for over a decade: creating introspective indie albums with a side of gritty blues. If nothing else, this album is the next chapter in the fascinating life of Everett. It’s as self-reflective and heart-wrenching, yet liberating as ever.

Takeaway: E’s pain and heartbreak still comes through on this album, yet there is positivity and hopefulness that shines through the bleak cloud cover. This self-reflection and balance between anguish and hope provide a captivating dynamic. E said it best on the track “New Alphabet”: “You know what, I’m in a good mood today. Well I’m so happy it’s not yesterday.”

Well, I am in a good mood today, too — for I have just listened to this record. You should, too.

~Kevin Raos


Frightened RabbitPedestrian Verse

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Late March, Death March”
“Housing (In/Out)”
“State Hospital”

Album Highlight: Rhythmically feverish, “Housing (In/Out)” is quintessential Frightened Rabbit and is perfectly placed at the midway point of the album’s narrative. Reflecting upon the style most fans of the band are familiar with while expanding upon their talent as songwriters, this two-part track bookends the strongest section of the album with catchy guitar riffs and a relentless drum beat.

Album Lowlight: “Oil Slick” is an unnecessary and uncharacteristically cheesy love song. With an album already accomplishing a full circle of emotions without compromising the artistic integrity of the band, this track comes off as a last ditch attempt for air play. It would’ve served better as a b-side or bonus track.

Takeaway: From the initial notes, you are aware that “State Hospital” is going to have an epic build up and musical evolution. Lyrically documenting the journey of a journey from pain to redemption, the drum beat guides you throughout the track until it triumphantly crescendos into an explosive finale filled with soaring vocals, a huge chorus and an effortless fade into the emotionally charged ballad.

~Molly Kish


The BronxThe Bronx (IV)

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Under The Rabbit”
“Life Less Ordinary”
“Too Many Devils”

Album Highlight: With The Bronx IV, The Bronx are back to its roots, but show more maturity and depth than in its previous offerings, especially in the vocal department. Singer Matt Caughthran sounds much more polished now; he’s actually able to hit notes without breaking into screams to cover up range. His voice and the band’s sound still has a hardcore edge to it, but now legitimate melody comes into play, making it much more approachable to someone not accustom to the band or hardcore in general. “Style Over Everything” is a good example of the back and forth the band delivers between melody and straightforward, ass-kicking hardcore punk.

Album Lowlight: The only downside to the album was some of the songs felt a bit forced in trying to call back to past Bronx albums, and it seemed to trip up the flow of the album at times, especially when I really started to get into hearing the maturity and growth in other songs.

Takeaway: I’ll admit that after hearing the brilliance of Mariachi El Bronx, I wasn’t sure how I would accept a new album after all these years. I feared that it would try too hard to show that the band hadn’t forgotten its hardcore roots by trying too hard to be all heavy guitars and screams all the time, but this album shows remarkable maturity and growth for a band that is talented enough to be two successful bands at the same time. Personal favorites on this album are “Under The Rabbit” (which reminds me of their earlier albums the most), “Life Less Ordinary” (which has a Mariachi El Bronx vocal feel to it), “Too Many Devils,” “Pilot Light,” and “Along for The Ride.” Overall it’s a great album and worth picking up if you’re a slightly more melodic hardcore fan or just a fan of The Bronx in general.

~Sean Little


Unknown Mortal OrchestraII

4.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Faded in the Morning”
“From the Sun”
“Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)”

Album Highlight: This one is a keeper. UMO’s second record balances catchy psych-pop songs like “From the Sun” with tracks that are dominated by thrashing electric guitar. “Faded in the Morning” combines the psych-pop and guitar work to the most optimal balance. “So Good at Being in Trouble” is a timeless Motown baby-maker.

Album Lowlight: The closing ballad “Secret Xtians” is a bit lackluster. The tracks dominated by electric guitar can do no wrong; Ruban Nielson should allow his guitar hero-tendencies to take over.

Takeaway: There is some early Syd Barrett/Pink Floyd influence in UMO’s second record, but the more recent album often more cohesive than that of Piper at the Gates of Dawn. The one-two punch of upbeat tracks “The Opposite of Afternoon” and “No Need for a Leader” could be the strongest part of the LP. Unknown Mortal Orchestra is a top live act to see in 2013.

~Mike Frash


Jim JamesRegions of Light and Sound of God

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Know til Now”
“Dear One”
“A New Life”

Album Highlights: As Always, Jim James’ vocals are outstanding and truly shine on his debut solo album. The record is full of many different textures throughout, including full string arrangements and keyboards that gel perfectly together with his angelic voice.

Album Lowlight: I understand that James is getting very spiritual with his writing, but his lyrics are a little to “Bible-Pushing” for me. He based this album off the graphic novel “God’s Man” by Lynn Ward, so I get what he is after. I just feel he might have tried a little too hard.

Takeaway: James made himself a very beautiful album here that I can see myself playing on Sunday mornings or maybe for a sunset, but I don’t see it getting in the Friday rotation. I’m glad that James created this album as an outlet for his work with My Morning Jacket because you can sense this a very personal album for him. I can definitely enjoy this album at the right time and place.

~Pete Mauch


Thao and The Get Down Stay DownWe the Common

3-BamsTop Tracks:
“We The Common (For Valerie Bolden)”
“Holy Roller”
“Kindness Be Conceived”

Album Highlight: Thao Nguyen is ready for the spotlight and radio-play with the release of We the Common. The album’s title track “We the Common (For Valerie Bolden)” will be a hit — and for a good reason. The track plays on multiple genres successfully, weaving together bluegrass, alt-rock beat transitions and poppy, Regina Spektor-like accessible lyrics. By the time the refrain kicks in (“Whooo-a-hooo, haha), it becomes easy to speculate that Thao and The Get Down Stay Down could have a big year.

Album Lowlight: The latter half of We the Common contains clunkers like “Clouds For Brains” and “Age of Ice.” The first half of the record is solid.

Takeaway: One of San Francisco’s finest is about to hit the national stage, but the record is pretty hit or miss. “City,” “Holy Roller” and “Kindness Be Conceived” are delightful songs, but many of the others feel forced and a bit kitschy. The record has its moments and a huge one in “We the Common (For Valerie Bolden) that will put Thao Nguyen on the map.

~Mike Frash