We are officially shutting down. This site is now archived.
What a horrible year for new music. There were quite a few albums I was looking forward to (The Antlers, Fanfarlo, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Lily Allen, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Beck, Lykke Li, Wooden Wand, How to Dress Well, The Rentals, Alt-J) that just completely disappointed me. Especially you, Wooden Wand. Get it together. You were going to be my new favorite band.
These are the albums that I enjoyed. There is no order, because none of them were outstanding enough to be given a rank:
Andrew Bird – Things Are Really Great Here, Sort of… – This is an album of covers of Handsome Family songs. It’s an Andrew Bird country album. I like Andrew Bird, and I’ve been going through a big country phase, so I enjoyed this. It also led me to explore the Handsome Family’s albums, which I just couldn’t get into.
Slow Club – Complete Surrender – I hadn’t been a big fan of Slow Club in the past, but this is very nice and R&B-like. I’m pretty sure this is not what their other albums sounded like.
Allo Darlin’ – We Come From the Same Place – I liked Allo Darlin’s last album too. This is more of the same. They have a really good bassist, and that goes along way with me.
Chet Faker – Built on Glass It took me awhile, but I found my sexy album for 2014. This is what How to Dress Well could sound like if they decided to focus on melody.
Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music – Every best of list has this one on it. It’s pretty good. It’s edgy enough that you can listen to country music without feeling like you are listening to country music.
Benjamin Booker – Benjamin Booker – I think DP would like this album. It’s aggressive bluesy rock n roll. This guy can yell, and sometimes you need that.
LVL UP – Hoodwink’d – This gets a mention just because the lyrics reference the Silver Jews. At first I thought that the album was supposed to be all cut up, but now I think my copy is just bad. Anyway, I’ve got at least 7 songs that are whole, and I like pretty much all of them. It’s got a nice 90s sound.
Sun Kil Moon – Benji – Now everyone who knows me knows that I love sincerity in my pop music. If the lyrics are so sincere that you just want to cringe yourself into a ball, then I am right there. Sun Kil Moon is like the indie Counting Crows. This guy is pouring his heart out there on every song. He likes to make mention that he’s the kind of guy who writes songs and goes on tour and connects with his audience. There’s even a song about the Newtown massacre, that gets stuck in my head sometimes. I’m cringing just thinking about it.
Time for the annual post! I hope I get a lot of comment spam!
I’ve become a lot more aggressive in my music ratings. I don’t have a lot of time, and you don’t get a lot of chances.
Here’s my top albums.
1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
Worst album title. Worst name for a band. Far and away the best album of the year. It came out in January or February, and the CD is still in my car stereo today. Well, a copy of the CD, because who puts the actual CD in their car stereo? Dave. I bet Dave does. I’m not going to judge if this is the best Vampire Weekend album, as I think they are all excellent. It’s quite a feat for a band to release three albums and not have any of them be a dud. On Modern Vampires, they eschew the South African Graceland-esque guitar that formed the basis of their sound on the first two albums, and nothing is the worse for wear. Vampire Weekend may be the best band recording with regularity today.
2. Wooden Wand – Blood Oaths of the New Blues
This may have come out in 2012. I heard it for the first time in 2013, so it’s here. I still remember where I first heard it. I was parked outside of Mater Dolorosa Church after voting, and I got into the car as the second half of the first song, No Bed for Beattle Wand/Days Gone By, came on the radio. I sat there and listened to the whole thing before driving off. I then called up WTUL to ask who the artist was. Calling up WTUL to ask who the artist is is just about my favorite thing in the world to do. I love those stoned kids. Anyway, the stoned kid said it was “Woolen Bob.” I ended up having to search for the “I gave it too much gas and I flooded it” line because “Woolen Bob” returned a lot of results about blankets, and the chorus of “days gone by” was just a little too common. I got the album and discovered that the first song was eleven minutes long and included a great deal of droning repetition, so I put it aside for a long time. For some reason, I decided to give it another shot, I don’t remember why or when, and Outsider Blues got its hooks in me, and I kept listening. I even got Leslie to admit that it was pretty good, which I consider one of my major victories of the year.
3. Rhye – Woman
I need one sexy album every year, or I feel I’ve died a little inside. In the past I’ve had The XX and Justin Timberlake, and this year I have Rhye. I think I love a male falsetto almost as much as I love a baritone.
4. Phosphorescent – Muchacho
This year I discovered I was not the only person in the world who likes Phosphorescent when Brent K. asked me for their album. I think this may be Phosphorescent’s best album. Song for Zula is just wonderful. I’ve been into peaceful music this year. Nice pretty songs. Phophorescent has really helped me out in that department.
5. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
I’ve listened to this album pretty consistently throughout the year. I don’t think I’ve ever skipped it when it comes up on a shuffle. It reminds me of early Liz Phair, without all the sex. Thoughtful lyrics, almost catchy tunes, scratchy semi-tuneless voice. Good stuff.
6. Kurt Vile – Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze
Kurt Vile is still doing his thing. If anyone wants to explain to me why I enjoy these 10 minute lazy stoner songs, please let me know. Shame Chamber and Goldentone are just great. I went to his show at One Eyed-Jacks this year. I was in the front row. I haven’t been in the front row of a concert since I was 19 years old. It was fantastic. It was crowded, but I could see everything, and I didn’t have to deal with dummies dancing into me, since everyone was all pushed up close. My friends were a few rows back and had a miserable time. Once I accepted that I wasn’t going anywhere, I could have stayed all night.
7. The Mountain Goats – All Hail West Texas
I like the Mountain Goats. There’s a lot of good songs on this album. I’m going to assume that there is some story behind this album that I am not aware of. It sounds like it was recorded in Daniel Johnston’s garage. The Mountain Goats are really good at making little short story songs. I really enjoy the one about the teenagers who have a death metal band, and the one about the high school running back who injures his knee and starts selling acid.
8. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
Yep, it’s a The National album. This band is great at making this album.
Random Notes on Other Notable Albums of 2013:
The Arcade Fire – Reflecktor
Fire your producer, Arcade Fire. There is a saxophone part on the chorus of the title track that is just awesome. There’s another part towards the end where it comes in again. The only problem is that it is buried way in the back of the mix. Bring it to the front, and that song is fantastic. Include more of it on the whole album, and the whole album is so much better.
Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the More I Fight, the More I Love You
Fire your producer, Neko Case. Someone should have told you that the a cappella parts of this album kill an otherwise solid effort. That song about the kid in the airport in Hawaii is just the worst.
Okkervil River – The Silver Gymnasium
A concept album about growing up in New Hampshire? Sounds good to me! Try a little harder next time, will you? Making your songs sound like 80s radio songs is an understandable stylistic choice, but you have to be able to execute it.
The Dodos – Carrier
I love Visiter. You’re just not showing me enough to continue believing in you.
Bill Callahan – Dream River
I don’t care what Brent Koster says, you keep on mumbling and rocking that flute.
Camper Van Beethoven – La Costa Perdida
I went to go see Camper Van Beethoven perform Key Lime Pie in its entirety, and then Cracker performed Low. It was a great show. I think that was this year. It may have been last year. Doesn’t matter. That concert got me excited that a new Camper Van Beethoven album might be okay. It’s not.
Houndmouth – From the Hills Below the City and Mount Moriah – Miracle Temple
I think my favorite magazine is Garden & Gun. It’s about Fine Living in the South. Their music section is good if you are looking for decent modern country/blues music. I found the Alabama Shakes from them last year, and I found Houndmouth and Mount Moriah from them this year. Both of these bands are straight up country albums, a genre that I have found myself liking a lot more than I have in the past. Maybe I am becoming a little lazy in my evaluation of music. Houndmouth is a little rougher and makes good use of a male and female singer, kinda of like Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs. Mount Moriah is just the female Dolly Parton voice doing solid country songs. Julian loves Mount Moriah. He dances whenever they come on. I prefer the Houndmouth album, but who am I to deny my son’s choice.
Here’s my Best Songs of 2013. I can’t say I put a lot of thought into the order after #25 or so.
1. Open – Rhye
2. Outsider Blues – Wooden Wand
3. Step – Vampire Weekend
4. Royals – Lorde
5. Song for Zula – Phosphorescent
6. Swan Dive – Waxahatchee
7. Ragtime – Neko Case
8. Eleonora – Laura Stevenson
9. Shame Chamber – Kurt Vile
10. Everlasting Arms – Vampire Weekend
11. Pink-Slips – Okkervil River
12. Pink Rabbits – The National
13. Unbelievers – Vampire Weekend
14. Muchacho’s Tune – Phosphorescent
15. Color in Your Cheeks – The Mountain Goats
16. November 2011 – Moonface
17. Local Girl – Neko Case
18. Come Down the Coast – Camper Van Beethoven
19. This Lonely Morning – Best Coast
20. Sink, Swim – Laura Stevenson
21. Here Comes The Night Time – Arcade Fire
22. Demons – The National
23. Obvious Bicycle – Vampire Weekend
24. Lips and Limbs – Waxahatchee
25. Terror in the Canyons (The Wounded Master) – Phosphorescent
26. Small Plane – Bill Callahan
27. 3 Days – Rhye
28. Suicide Girl – Belle & Sebastian
29. Durga II – Generationals
30. No Bed for Beatle Wand / Days This Long – Wooden Wand
31. White Teeth Teens – Lorde
32. Different Day – Jason Isbell
33. Byegone – Volcano Choir
34. Finger Back – Vampire Weekend
35. The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton – The Mountain Goats
36. Don’t Lie – Vampire Weekend
37. Snowflakes Are Dancing – Kurt Vile
38. Gig Life – The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die
39. I Tell Myself Everything – The Blow
40. Goldtone – Kurt Vile
41. Plenty of Girls in the Sea – MGMT
42. Joan of Arc – Arcade Fire
43. Southern Colorado Song – Wooden Wand
44. Don’t Swallow the Cap – The National
45. Singers and the Endless Song – Iron & Wine
46. Penitentiary – Houndmouth
47. Afterlife – Arcade Fire
48. Au Revoir (Adios) – The Front Bottoms
49. Reflektor – Arcade Fire
50. Night Still Comes – Neko Case
Because for some reason BK likes a list with no repeated artists, here’s that list. It pretty much cuts it in half.
1. Open – Rhye
2. Outsider Blues – Wooden Wand
3. Step – Vampire Weekend
4. Royals – Lorde
5. Song for Zula – Phosphorescent
6. Swan Dive – Waxahatchee
7. Ragtime – Neko Case
8. Eleonora – Laura Stevenson
9. Shame Chamber – Kurt Vile
10. Pink-Slips – Okkervil River
11. Pink Rabbits – The National
12. Color in Your Cheeks – The Mountain Goats
13. November 2011 – Moonface
14. Come Down the Coast – Camper Van Beethoven
15. This Lonely Morning – Best Coast
16. Here Comes The Night Time – Arcade Fire
17. Small Plane – Bill Callahan
18. Suicide Girl – Belle & Sebastian
19. Durga II – Generationals
20. Different Day – Jason Isbell
21. Byegone – Volcano Choir
22. Gig Life – The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die
23. I Tell Myself Everything – The Blow
24. Plenty of Girls in the Sea – MGMT
25. Singers and the Endless Song – Iron & Wine
26. Penitentiary – Houndmouth
27. Au Revoir (Adios) – The Front Bottoms
Apparently the only thing elbuzzard.com is going to be used for is to post a Best Music list once a year, so that Jimmy Valentine can find it 6 months later. I’m ok with that.
Here’s my Best Albums of 2012:
1. Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself – This is Andrew Bird’s best album since The Mysterious Production of Eggs. It’s also the only album that I really listened to consistently throughout the whole year. The others’ popularity came and went of the course of the year.
2. Feufollet – En Couleurs – Yes, it’s a zydeco album. Yes, it’s in Cajun French. Yes, it did not come out in 2012, that’s just when I discovered it. I listened to this repeatedly while I dug up my backyard and worked on my shed. It’s great digging in the backyard music.
3. Christeene – Waste Up, Kneez Down – For some reason, I thought I had put this on last year’s best of list, but it did in fact come out in 2012. Maybe it was on my mid-year best of list. No matter. I’m not just putting this on here for Paul’s sake, I do actually think it is my third favorite album of 2012. I love the corny, in-your-face music, especially on Bustin’ Brown.
4. Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls – I was really into this album when it came out early in the year. I had read an article in Garden & Gun about them, and then all of a sudden they were everywhere. Now, at the end of the year, I haven’t listened to them in months, or heard about the band anywhere. I did give the album a re-listen a little while ago, and it’s a good album.
5. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar – Country music from Sweden or some other Norse country. Emmylou is great song.
6. Theresa Andersson – Street Parade – I didn’t care for this at first, I thought it was slow and boring. It crept up on me though, mostly as I listened to it as background music at work and I found myself liking parts of the album that I didn’t like before.
7. Dr. John – Locked Down – Koster claims that this is just a Dr. John album at it’s core. He’s right, but Dr. John has been putting out a lot of uninspired albums for many years. This is a Dr. John album in the vein of Desitively Bonnaroo and Gris-Gris. In other words, good Dr. John the Night Tripper, not bad Dr. John and The Studio Musicians Sing All the NOLA Standards Again.
8. Menomena – Moms – It’s a Menomena album. It’s not great, but if you like Menomena, then here’s their album, which sounds just like them.
9. Muse – The 2nd Law – I’m ready to be mocked for including this. This is some seriously corny music. The singer’s falsetto screams make me laugh every time. I would love to hear Muse do a cover of Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime. I grew up on Operation: Mindcrime. I love this over-blown, self-serious crap.
This year’s music had a theme: Get Ready to Be Disappointed by Phoned-In Performances.
Here’s a list of the biggest disappointments:
The xx – Coexist – I have an idea: Let’s take all the dynamism that made the debut album great and cover it up with string sections!
Titus Andronicus – Local Business – I have an idea: Let’s copy Bruce Springsteen because we are from New Jersey and so is he!
How to Dress Well – Total Loss – I have an idea: The record company says we have to make another album, let’s just noodle around in the studio for a couple days.
Frank Ocean – Channel Orange – I have an idea: Let’s get every trendy music blog to rave about Frank Ocean because he signs R&B songs about being gay, and they won’t even notice that the album is actually really shitty, rambling, dull R&B songs about being gay.
The Annual Combo List of our favorite songs, ranked and averaged.
Kent’s Best of:
Legitimately Good Albums
- Okkervil River – I Am Very Far – After two less-than-memorable releases, Okkervil River pulls it together. They’ve finally got the “rock n roll” sound they were trying for on The Stage Names down, yet there is plenty of rambling woe is me Okkervil River songs as well. Pity that the best song, Mermaid, was only released as a single.
- Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo – Brent thought it was odd that I would like this album so much, due to its lyrics of woe, and I thought it was odd that he would like it so much, due to its guitar virtuosity. Kurt Vile does both things really well. I like that the guy has such a terrible voice (All my favorite singers couldn’t sing). I like the too lazy to be punk aesthetic. I like that just about every episode of my new favorite terrible TV show, Revenge, has a song off this album in it.
- Tom Waits – Bad as Me – Like Okkervil River, Tom Waits has been putting out some crummy albums of late. I suppose I shouldn’t say crummy, because Tom Waits and Okkervil River’s crap is way better than most other bands best efforts. Anyway, this is Tom Waits’ best work since Mule Variations. I like the way each song goes in it’s own direction, rather than the unified sound of Real Gone.
Good Albums That Aren’t As Good As The Legitimately Good Albums, But Are Still Pretty Good.
- Generationals – Actor-Caster – Generationals make a strange kind of music. It’s nostalgic pop, but with a synthesizer twinge. It’s like they have taken samples of old music and stitched them together. The guitar sounds like it is straight out of the 60s. The production is great, and they have a great ear for adding odd instruments to the mix without overdoing it. I had 3 chances to go see them this year, and did not make a single one, and I regret that. I think their biggest accomplishment is being a New Orleans band that doesn’t sound like a New Orleans band.
- The Antlers – Burst Apart – Once you make a great concept album, I feel like you have to keep on making concept albums. It just seems weird to not over-analyze an Antlers album as a whole.
- Other Lives – Tamer Animals – Apparently they have another album that sounds just like this one. I must have had it at some point, because Brent has it. Apparently it didn’t survive the yearly purge of crappy music. The three song stretch of Tamer Animals, Bust Bowl III, and Weather is just fantastic reverb-y goodness.
- Yellow Ostrich – The Mistress – I love a lo-fi sound. I love recorded loops. I love harmonies. Naturally, I really enjoy Yellow Ostrich’s weirdo album. All the songs are pretty much the same, but the sound is fantastic.
Albums that have one or two really good songs on them, and a bunch of filler.
- Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
- Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
- EMA – Past Life of Martyred Saints
- The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient
Albums with a great sound that don’t have any great songs on them
- Wu Lyf – Go Tell Fire to the Mountain
- The Dodos – No Color
Album that would have been on this list had Kurt Vile not come around
and said “This is how you do it”
- Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts
5) The Anlers:Burst Apart – Their last album, Hospice, was great, but sounded lousy. This album is good but it sounds great. The Antlers make great songs. Every Nigh My Teeth Are Falling Out. Come on.
4) Lykki Li:Wounded Rhymes – Any of these next three could be my number one album. Lykki Li is like 20 or something. It’s crazy how good these songs are when you consider how young she is. There seems to be a real trend of retreading Phil Spector. But her Sadness is a Blessing is the only take on it that expanded on it in any way. Love Out of Lust is going to be one of my favorite songs as long as I am in love. Rich Kid Blues and Get Some should be on the radio.
3) Cults:Cults – Okay, I take that back. I think the Cults reference the Spector sound and they do some good stuff with it indirectly. Go Outside is one of my favorite songs of the year, which is unfortunate because it was released last year. The album is 2011 however, and songs like You Know What I Mean and Bumper grew on me all year. Kent hit the head on the nail. This is next what seems to be a constant line of noise guy/girl singer bands (Sleigh Bells, Crystal Castles).
2) Generationals:Actor-Castor/Trust – I’m lopping together the EP and the album because both were excellent. I wanted like the dickens to put as my number one entry. But the only problem with this band – it’s fundamental to them and I don’t think they should change it – their lyrics don’t mean anything to me. So you have these unbelievably songs and pretty good production, but the words don’t take me anywhere. Which is a shame. It was by far the best tunes of the year in my opinion. Yes, I just said tunes.
1) Okkervil River:I Am Very Far/Mermaid – I love this band, and this is their best work since Black Sheep Boy. Also, as Kent pointed out to me last month, the Mermaid Single is a real piece of work too. Will Scheff is kind of a jerk, as I learned this year. But I will take his lyrics over almost anyone at this point. And they take enough left turns musically to make it an interesting album in that regard as well.
Find this same information here, at Brent’s blog: http://iloveyou2themax.blogspot.com/2011/12/best-albums-of-2011.html
Still to come: The Best Songs of 2011 List
Something happened with elbuzzard.com’s theme. I’ve been running this site for a long time, and while I do keep it upgraded, I think it had been upgraded one too many times, and finally required a clean install.
Of course, this comes right during Carnival, when all my free time is spent on other activities, so we’ll have to make do with the default WordPress theme for now. Perhaps my Lenten resolution will be to devote more time to good ol’ elbuzzard.com, which had fallen into neglect recently. Facebook killed the personal blogs.
Time for the annual tradition. The best music you’ve never heard rated by Kent and Brent, who have deemed themselves some kind of critics worthy of being listened to.
11) Sufjan Stevens – All Delighted People EP
Sufjan Stevens put out this EP, and then he put out an electronic LP. Everyone loves the electronic one. I don’t get it. This EP is the best thing Sufjan Stevens has ever done. Maybe I should now offer up that I don’t really care for Sufjan Stevens. But this is a collection of needlessly long songs that still somehow won me over. How did he do it? I don’t know. The title track is particularly good. Anyone who wonders what Simon and Grafunkel’s “Sound of Silence” would be like if it was spread out over a start-and-stop over-orchestrated eleven minute song. Wonder no more.
Best Song: All Delighted People (Original Version)
10) Phosphorescent – Here’s to Taking It Easy.
This is a band that I have always listened to once, and put down. I never really gave them a shot. But this album is a) perfectly named, and b) really beautiful. It’s just standard alt-country fare, and the lead singer sounds like a wiener. But they do what they do very well. And I like to listen to them while I do my dishes. And look out the window. And dream about what I’m going to do when Chelsey gets out of jail.
Best Song: The Mermaid Parade
9) Vampire Weekend – Contra
This should probably be higher, but it’s no longer summer, and I am only able to appreciate Vampire Weekend in the sun. This was my favorite car album. Driving around, listening to “Run”, or “I Think Ur a Contra” were some of the best moments of my summer. My one regret is that I never got to listen to them on a beach this year. Actually I have two regrets. I wish “Holiday” had not been co-opted by Tommy Hilfigger, or whoever the fuck that is with the car and the table and the driving dog. I hate the people in those ads. I hate the people in all ads that have to do with name bands that one could find in a department store. What fantasy are you selling? There’s a polo ad on right now that is just so dumb. There’s a recession, and it’s about this douchebag who plays polo, and yachts and all this rich shit. Fuck you, polo guy, there’s double digit unemployment. We would all like to burn your boat to the ground and eat you. Well, maybe not all of us.
Best Song: Taxi Cab
8 ) Charlotte Gainsbourg – IRM
More remarkable than the fact that I like this album is the fact that Beck produced it, and I like this album. I haven’t like anything Beck has done in like 8 years. I just assumed he was lousy now. But this album is a) terrific, and b) sounds like Beck produced it. He’s all over it. And CG is very smouldery on it. This album is really sexy, and it sounds like it was carefully made. What more can you ask for?
Best Song: Heaven Can Wait (featuring Beck!!)
So Leslie and I spent New Year’s Day in the Touro ER after I sliced my thumb open with a box cutter.
Click more for the gory results.