Friday, December 31, 2010

Top 10 Albums of 2010...According to Tim

2010 was a good year for indie music. It was very difficult to narrow down the year's best output to just 10 albums, but below are the 10 albums that made a lasting impact on me. As you can see, I left out albums from LCD Soundsystem, Sleigh Bells, Joanna Newsom, and The Drums. Although all of these albums were quite good, and I enjoyed them a lot, they just didn't make the cut.

10. The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild
Hunt - Dead Oceans Records | The Tallest Man on Earth is the moniker of folk musician Kristian Matsson, who hails from Leksand, Sweden. In October, I purchased his five-song EP titled Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird and was immediately struck by the incredible song-writing and poetic lyrics. This led me to get a hold of The Wild Hunt LP, which was released in April. I was not disappointed! The LP contains eleven stripped down folk songs that highlight Kristian's vocals and acoustic guitar playing. The vocal lines and lyrics on the album remind me of Bob Dylan's best folk music from the early 1960's. But instead of just copying Bob Dylan, the music and lyrics have amazing depth that demand repeat listens.

9. The National - High Violet - 4AD Recordings | The National's Boxer was one of my favorite albums of 2007. I had very high expectations for their new release, and I think this made it very difficult for me to place this album very high on my top 10 list. As opposed to Boxer, which opened up with the highly energetic yet contemplative track "Fake Empire", High Violet begins with heavily distorted base pedal notes on the guitar and lead singer Matt Berninger singing "It's a terrible love that I'm walking with spiders". Overall, I found High Violet a darker and more demanding listen than The Boxer. But in the end, I found myself enjoying it more and more the more I played it. It has been said before, but The National have a great early-morning, post-drinking binge sound that comes through brilliantly throughout this album.

8. The New Pornographers - Together - Matador Records | Is it possible to write smart pop songs better than this? Doubt it! The Canadian super-group returned in force with Together, with A.C. Newman and Destroyer (Dan Bejar) teaming up to write 12 outstanding pop songs. My favorites are "Crash Years", which features Neko Case's powerful vocals, "Valkyrie in the Roller Disco", and "A Bite Out of My Bed" which features a trumpet cameo from Zach Condon of Beirut.

7. The Vampire Weekend - Contra - XL Recordings |
Led by lead singer Ezra Koenig, New York based indie-rock band Vampire Weekend put in an excellent sophomore effort with Contra. Self-professed as specialists in "Upper West Side Soweto" music, Contra does a great job of mixing quirky lyrics, with up-beat melodies and luscious instrumentation. Even after hearing this album more than a dozen times, it's hard to discern any deeper meaning in the lyrics, but who cares! With music that sounds this good, just turn it up an enjoy.

6. Spoon - Transference - Merge Records | This album could have been aptly titled "Another Side of Spoon". Coming off their brilliant and heavily-produced 2007 release Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Transference features a different Spoon sound: raw and fiery. While the songs are much more stripped down, they contain just as much depth as anything Spoon has put out in the past. Transference contained my favorite musical moment of 2010: about halfway into the track "Who Makes Your Money". Check it out!

5. Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz - Asthmatic Kitty | Sufjan Stevens, the amazingly creative singer-songwriter from Detroit, Michigan, put out a great album this year in The Age of Adz. In past albums such as Michigan (2003) and Illinois (2005), Sufjan's songs spoke of love, lost, and economic decline through vast stories that often contained multiple characters and historical figures. The Age of Adz is a grand departure from these past albums in that the songs are in the first person, providing a more direct connection to Sufjan and his thoughts. This is not the most accessible of Sufjan's albums, so I wouldn't recommend it to people who are new to his music, but it has more depth and raw emotion than anything he has done before.

4. Beach House - Teen Dream - Sub Pop | This album came out in the early days of 2010, but it had such big impact on me that I had to put it on my top 10 list. Teen Dream is the third album put out by the Baltimore indie pop duo Beach House, and my first introduction to their work. From the melodic counterpoint of the first track "Zebra", to the dreamy zig zags of "Norway", Teen Dream works as a complete album, with a surreal, dreamy feel throughout. I've heard some complain that this album would put them to sleep. I disagree. This album has such a great sound to it, that I can't help but listen to it over and over again.

3. Surfer Blood - Astro Coast - Kanine | Surfer Blood has to be my pick for the best new band of 2010. These young University of Florida students have guitars and they know how to use them. I can't remember the last time guitars sounded this good. Track after track, they pop out amazing guitar riffs, which just want me to turn up the volume. I can't wait to hear more stuff from these guys in 2011.

2. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest - 4AD Recordings | This album was the biggest surprise for me this year. Being my first introduction to Deerhunter, I had no idea what to expect. What I discovered was a band that combined an amazing late-night, hazy sound reminiscent of the best of the Velvet Underground with a guitar rock sense reminiscent of Spoon. Not only does Halcyon Digest have a great cohesive sound, which may be the result of mixer Ben Allen (who also worked on Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion), but it also contains some immensely creative song-writing. I had to put this album at the top of my list.

1. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs - Merge Records| This is a stunning third album by the Canadian indie-music supergroup. I was taken away by their debut album Funeral (2004), which contained stomping anthem after stomping anthem of emotion. Their second album, Neon Bible (2007), left me perplexed. Instead of honing their large sound, Neon Bible's dark, melancholic anthems began to feel heavy and tiresome. The Suburbs, however, is an unqualified return to form. The album's songs are inspired by two of the band members' upbringing in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. Over the course of the album's 16 tracks, we travel through the desolate streets, shopping malls, and highways of the suburbs. Paired with Arcade Fire's crafty melodies and non-stop energy, this is my favorite album of 2010.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Best Albums of 2010, in a single post...

With a different post each day, it can be kinda unwieldy to read them all. So here's a post with links to each post.

You can also capture all 'Best Of 2010' posts on one page by clicking here or the tags at the bottom of each post.

10. Vampire Weekend - Contra
9. Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
8. Sleigh Bells - Treats
7. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
6. Versus - One the Ones and Threes
5. Girl Talk - All Day
4. New Pornographers - Together
3. Spoon - Transference
2. The Roots - How I Got Over
1. Janelle Monae - The Archandroid

Best Albums of 2010 No 1 - Janelle Monae's The Archandroid

2010 was a year of some pretty exceptional music acorss genres and styles. But for me, I found none as interesting or as remarkable as Janelle Monae's The Archandroid. A stunning debut album from someone with so much ambition, desire and promise, it's hard not to laud her for this album while eagerly waiting for her next album.

Monae's tales of android Cindy Mayweather in a society that's gone awry are compelling. But it's Monae and her influences that cause you to take notice. She's aping James Brown, Prince, Bowie, George Clinton, Lauryn Hill, sometimes mixing them all up together. On Neon Valley Street, she could be any current R&B diva, singing sweetly; but then she starts rapping through a computer voice.

The first half, with songs like Faster, Dance or Die, and the infectious Tightrope, you see Big Boi and the rest of that Atlanta sound influence. She culls from sci fi as much as her parents 70s vinyl (the MJ influence is heavy too... Locked Inside sounds like an extra from the Off The Wall sessions). The second half is more tender, more classic neo soul, with exciting rock and funk elements.

If Janelle Monae is within 100 miles of your city, go see her show. It's a 1000 times more mind blowing than the album, with dancers, live instrumentation, and Monae's electric stage presence.

Read our June 2010 review of the Archandroid here.

Buy Janelle Monae's The Archandroid at the Amazon mp3 store

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Best Albums of 2010 - The ones I liked but not enough to be in the Top 10

There were two full scoops of albums I thought were interesting or amazing, but not amazing enough to be in my Top 10 for the year. These are albums I encourage you to pick up, explore, fall in love with, put on a mixtape. They are albums that fill in the space of a year that my Top 10 could not.

They are indeed excellent albums

J Cole's Friday Night Lights mixtape - In a year of uninteresting hip hop, here is J Cole making me believe in genre that most years I write off for dead. Aggressive on delivery he owns every minute of this mixtape.

Sky Larkin's Kaleide - Brainy, wordy indie pop rock band from Leeds. Katie Harkin's voice is worth the album alone, but there's so much energy here you'll stick around again and again.

Broken Social Scene's Forgiveness Rock Record - Just a fun dance record. I love Texico Bitches, mostly for the ram ma lam ma ding dong.

Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings' I Learned The Hard Way - Whoa. Don't ever cross Sharon Jones. She will eat your punk ass for dinner, then write an incredible sould song about what a dog you are. And The Dap Kings will be there to back her up.

Shelby Lynne's Tears, Lies and Alibis See above about Sharon Jones. But instead of soul, insert Loretta Lynne country song instead.

Dum Dum Girls' I Will Be - Catchy lo fi fuzzy girl group pop. What's not to like?

Arcade Fire's The Suburbs - Tales of lonely suburban life from that band you used to like until your mom started liking them. Obligatory inclusion? Possibly. But that doesn't not make it a compelling and interesting record.

Best Coast's Crazy For You - Sunny, surfy, lo fi weed rock. You will get a contact buzz reading their twitter. You'll feel euporic just listening to these happy songs.

The Drums' s/t - Surf rock meets the Smiths. That is, dark moody lyrics about love over dreamy surfing guitars.

Superchunk's Majesty Shredding - 10 years since their last album, and Mac and the gang haven't mellowed one bit (insert obligatory slack motherfucker joke here). I think it sounds more like a kicked up Portastatic, since no one can be 19 forever. But damn if this entire album doesn't make you want to pogo around.

Best Albums of 2010, No 2 - The Roots' How I Got Over

There are no bad Roots records. There are only ones that don't appeal to you. Like that underground spaced out sound? You're probably an Illadelph Halflife. The rockier side of live instrumentation hip hop? Phrenology. Aggressive no holds barred We're The greatest boasting? Well, that's Things Fall Apart.

?uestlove even took umbrage with haters this summer on Twitter, essentially saying over a series of posts that each album is different and if you don't like it, tough.

So it would seem fitting that with How I Got Over, a collective that's been together for over 20 years turns in an album more introspective than the rest. For that's what happens when you get old, you get prone to take stock.

How I Got Over is more thematically consistent than any other work they've put out. It's dark and Black Thought is going places that hit as hard as ?uestlove on that kit. The stellar Dear God 2.0 is an anthem for urban recession sufferers (backed by a sample from Jim James of Monsters of Folk), a prayer to God to fix the world he's let go completely awry. "Why is the world ugly when You made it in your image? And why is living life such a fight to the finish?" The Roots are like a hip hop version of Springsteen on this album. But instead of speaking to a Jersey working class, it's Philly black inner city that frames it. HIGO at each turn perfectly captures what it means to work extra hard and try and live right and still feel like you're three steps behind. On Walk Alone, our hero walks alone, cos he's always been alone.

There are no clever by half rhymes here (sorry Drake and Weezy fans). A tip to Julliard is about all you'll get. This realism in hiphop trend (see J Cole, Wale to some extent) is refreshing. On Now Or Never, Black Thought grapples with the success and questions of if he deserved it "What's the saying, bygone be bygones? Niggas who used to be the underdogs now icons." (I mean, you are on TV every night, so it's a fair question).

There's no need to discuss the musical chops. Every Roots album is flawless in that regard, and this is no exception. A perfectionist, ?uestlove produced all but one of the tracks, and there's not a note or high hat out of place. The echoes and haunting piano keys match perfectly. And the collab with James on Dear God 2.0 and Joanna Newsom on Right On shows that after 20 years there are still ways to innovate and stay fresh (Though the Bon Iver/ Kanye cowork on Monster and Lost in the Woods is AMAZING).

You shouldn't own this album because it's the best hip hop album out this year. You should own it because it's hands down a classic.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Best Albums of 2010, No 3 - Spoon's Transference

When Britt Daniel's mother listened to Transference, she worried that Spoon might be going too metal.

Maybe not metal, but Transference is an album that sees Daniel and company finally let go, strip everything down and get incredibly loose ("pure Spoon" Daniel says of it). Where Gimme Fiction is a shining example of tightly wound perfect indie collegiate radio rock, and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is a classic that improved the previous formula, Transference gets rid of all that and sticks to a few chords here and there. It's a return to that sparse sound of Girls Can Tell, but from a band that's more assured of where it's been and where it's going.

At turns it sounds remarkably unfinished (indeed, five of the 11 tracks are unpolished demos, a testament to Spoon's musicianship). But not unfinished in a Michael Jackson leftover kind of way. Just very raw. Raw in the way each song assaults. You might feel violated by Written in Reverse, and I'm pretty sure the piano did since its banged to kingdom come.

It's raw in the lyrics. "No one else remembers my name. Just those parts that I play" Daniel sighs in the closer Nobody Gets Me But You. And the title of "Is Love Forever" kinda says it all.

But it's that rawness and essentially freedom that has seen Spoon evolve to the band it is on Transference. He still likes his corny but endearing ballads (Goodnight Laura < Black Like Me < Fitted Shirt). And they still get plenty funky and obscure. What exactly is "Who Makes Your Money" about anyway?

Over it all, one thing is for certain - Transference is pure Spoon.

Buy Spoon's Transference at the Amazon mp3 Store

The Year in Music...According to Zak

So…2010. Let’s see, it was hands down the most emotional year of my life. The year with the greatest ups and worst downs I have ever experienced. So one would imagine with those emotions flowing that I would have identified with a number of albums…after all one could argue that music is best experienced at heightened emotional times. However, 2010 proved to be a year of really great albums that I loved…yet only a few connected emotionally with me. None of these records however, stood out as a clear number one. If I were to revisit this list tomorrow, I may change the order again. Quite frankly, my top five from last year would be ahead of all of these from this year. Yes, there were songs on these records that moved me…I mean like you feel it in the gut…but none of the “albums” did that. They were all really great…but none were exceptional to me this year. Anyway…here they are and my thoughts and a quote from a song…one that for me resonated with me.

10. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

The Arcade Fire returns with a record that REALLY wants to be Funeral. It tries to grow and up and mature and all the things you are supposed to do…but it fails a bit towards the end. Don’t get me wrong…it has it’s moments. “Suburban War” and “Ready to Start” are definitely grown up versions of “Wake Up,” and “Neighborhood #3,” respectively. But as The Suburbs reaches it’s final tracks, I’m just left feeling less than satisfied.

“They said the past won't rest, Until we jump the fence and leave it behind”

9. Girl Talk – All Day

The DP nailed it on this one…to not like this record is to not like music. I mean, it’s the most damn likeable thing I’ve heard in years. It’s like skate and space on steroids. The regulars are there…Jay, Lil Wayne, Ludacris, Neil Diamond...and although I think it is a bit passé to end with “Imagine” it is tons of fun to try and figure out which Miami Sound Machine that is.

(no quote would be appropriate…but the key track is definitely “Triple Double.”)

8. The National – High Violet

The National return with a sonically astounding album. Start to finish, I cannot fault the feel of this album. It feels and sounds amazing. However, lyrically, I am not sure it is their best work. During the brilliance of this album, we have to “walk with spiders” “cover me with rag and bones,” and most disturbing “eat your brains.” So I don’t know what to do with this. The Runaway is one of their best…hands down…but I am left wanting a bit more.

“I never thought about love, when I thought about home.”

7. Kissaway Trail - Sleep Mountain

The type of band we all love (at least the DP does), one that wants to be the Arcade Fire. Great anthems fill this record and lyrically it is brilliant. I don’t know anything about this band…and I bought it on a whim in Orlando, with thoughts of yellowbirds, solely based on the album artwork. And I fell in love with the sound.

“It’s not how we planned it to be, maybe this year will be better.”

6. Local Natives – Gorilla Minor

An outstanding debut! Local Natives bring stripped down rock with haunting lyrics and make you want to sing along. I loved everything about this record…the feel, the sound, the lyrics…start to finish a solid debut from a band that somehow weaves the feel of those great late 90’s indie rock records with an urgency to push forward. My only complaint is that it is a bit similar throughout...which turns out to be a good thing. For goodness sake, it’s nice to know what to expect.

“Memory tells me that these times are worth working for.”

5. Spoon – Transference

An early 2010 release that hung around all year long. “Got Nuffin,” “Written in Reverse,” and “Goodnight Laura” found their way onto almost every mix I made this year. And as album it clearly stands out as one of Spoon’s best. They have found their way as a mainstay in my collection with an exceptional back catalog and a superb record in Transference.

“And you close your eyes and slow yourself and let your worry leave you and let go of it all just for this evening .”

4. Tokyo Police Club – Champ

The most geographically confused band I have ever known comes back with a bang. The most emjoyable record of the year for me. Nothing to heavy lyrically and the songs are put together much more sophisticatedly than on Elephant Shell. Champ finds the boys experiencing some more heartbreak but in a very Weezer sort of way. Like you can’t feel to bad for them because they are having so much fun.

“But the big bad years are gone yeah, the big bad years are done and gone away”

3. Kanye West –My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

It’s all been said about this record…I mean it really has. I wanted to not like it. I made the mistake of reading all the reviews, including Pitchforks grossly overrated 10.0, and I wanted to not like it. I wanted to find fault in it. I wanted to rip on his 4 minute ending to “The Runaway” with the auto-tune way past any point of understanding but then I heard it in headphones and realized The Beatles wished they could have pulled this off with St. Peppers. And ending with the Bon Iver track...I learned to just let it be what it is. One of the greatest accomplishments in pop music.

“I'm up in the woods, I'm down on my mind I'm building a sill to slow down the time” or Kanye’s take, “I'm lost in the world, I'm down for the time, I'm new to the city, Down for the night”

2. Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More

A great debut…I mean this band has the makings of an amazing future. Lyrically the best record I heard all year. Hands down. At times they are part Avett Brothers, other times they are closer to the Fleet Foxes…but his voice, delivery, and lyrics may be closer to Conor Oberst. The opening track “Sigh No More,” is so much like a Fleet Foxes song it could end up on their next record…yet midway through the record we find “Little Lion Man,” a radio friendly track with banjos, only to find our way back to being reminded that we are “not alone in this” on the brilliant, “Timshel”

“Where you invest your love, you invest your life”

1. Band of Horses – Infinite Arms

Let me start by saying that I overplayed this record…grossly overplayed. Almost enough to make me not want to put it here. But once I walked away from it…and listened to it for what it is it became crystal clear. Here is one of my favorite bands putting out a near perfect record. I can’t not put it at number one. From Ben’s lyrics on the opening track screaming “I don’t ever wanna come back home” to the closing notes where he whispers, “We could live by our own laws in favor” it was the closest thing to describing my year.

“On my way back home, a chance I thought of, oh my favorite song where I'd gone wrong.”

Monday, December 20, 2010

Best Albums of 2010, No 4 - The New Pornographers' Together

The first time I heard this album was at listening party in a crowded bar in a pretty popular bar in DC, with what can only be described as two New Pornographers super fans. Suffice to say not in the most ideal conditions.

Among all that noise were the incredible sounds of a pretty amazing album. Catchy and upbeat, what's not to like?

Over 12 songs and 45 minutes, AC Newman tries to cram as much bombastic power pop goodness as possible. And with his army of golden voices he largely succeeds.

Dan Bejar's Silver Jenny Dollar is glorious and chipper and love note, just kinda bouncing along not headed anywhere in particular (especially when he chases the beat and growls "I love you"). If You Can't See My Mirrors is also cheery beyond belief. Indeed, every single song here (even the downtempo Valkyrie in The Roller Disco) is relentlessly happy.

But it's Neko Case's big gun vocals on Crash Years and My Shepherd that sell this album. She's more reserved than Middle Cyclone, but she infuses both with sweetness. Try not singing along when they come on.

There is no doubt in my mind you will instantly fall in love with this album and keep coming back to it again and again.

Buy The New Pornographers' Together at the Amazon mp3 Store

Friday, December 17, 2010

Best Albums of 2010, No 5 - Girl Talk's All Day

To not like Girl Talk is to essentially say you have zero affection for any Billboard Top 200 hit across any genre for the past 40 years.

A bold claim for sure, but it's right. Gregg Gillis cratedigs and samples nearly two and a half generations of music to deliver All Day, the successor to the immensely popular and aprty all the time ridiculous album Feed The Animals.

The schtick and formula are the same to some degree with any Girl Talk album. Take a dozen tracks you already know, chop, layer, mash em together and voila.

But Gillis has gone over the top with All Day. Each of his albums are getting progressively longer, with All Day 20 minutes longer than Feed the Animals and almost double the length of Night Ripper.

They're also incredibly more complex, more sonically dense, more meticulous, each mashup more thematically consistent. Ludacris over Black Sabbath, doesn't just fit, after a few listens, you almost can't imagine the two songs as individuals again. Modern English and Jay-Z, bleeding into Lennon's Imagine reinforce this underlying thread that all pop music shares.

The jokes are still there, subtle but funny if you catch them. Wale's Pretty Girls over Beck's Loser is one of the funniest about DC's most famous perennial comeupper. ODB over Radiohead's Creep is brilliant.

If you haven't gotten a ticket to see Girl Talk on this tour, do it now. What is amazing on your iPod will make your head explode live.

Download Girl Talk's All Day for free from Illegal Art

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Best Albums of 2010, No 6 - Versus' On The Ones and Threes

2010 twas the year for fogey indie rock. Pavement got back together (and then not). Dismemberment Plan is touring again. Superchunk put out an impressive album. Apparently being over 40 doesn't affect your ability to rock out.

Which is true of one of my all time favorite bands, Versus (thanks to former Teenbeat label mate Tracy Shedd and Ft Lowell Record HMFIC James Tritten for introducing me to them and their music). It's been 10 years since they put out Hurrah, and the return with On The Ones and Threes is magnificent. Older, wiser and darker, the album doesn't lack any of the energy from their earlier albums.

Nu Skin indulges in a delightful guitar solo half way through that just gets louder and more destructive, falling apart before coming back together for the last verse. It keeps up with Cicada and Invincible Hero, but it's Fontaine Toups sweet singing that surprises and balances Richard Baly. Pink Valhalla is dreamy and morbid: "So step into the twilight/There's nothing left to lose/I can live forever." And then they go full pop with Scientists, a song that will make you a believer.

I hope I can be as good in a decade.

Buy Versus' On The Ones and Threes from the Amazon mp3 Store

Monday, December 13, 2010

Best Albums of 2010, No 7 - Kanye West's My Beautifu Dark Twisted Fantasy

Has there been a more eagerly anticipated, blogged about, loved album this year than Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy? And it's only been out for three weeks!

After the Taylor Swift fiasco, Kanye hunkered down in his Hawaii studios set about his road to redemption. He invited his big brother Jay, and every other manner of person to rhyme/sing on his album. John Legend, Nicki Minaj, Pusha T, Rick Ross, even Bon Iver (which is just bizzare, but works so well).

But it's impossible to seperate that incident from him, and it's impossible to seperate him from his music. The album is intensely personal, fiercely defiant, and at every turn remarakbly brilliant. Where 808s and Heartbreaks was an mess, here Kanye brings back the laser like precision and sonic exploration of Graduation. No Kraftwerk or video game sounds here.

POWER, which might be the most impressive single this year, is dense with chants, hand claps and a thudding bass and gnarling guitar. West has never been in this territory over four albums. All of the Lights stands out for some of the most ornate orchestra (Violins! French Horns! Drum Circles!). Even his return to sped up soul samples with Devil in a New Dress (Mayfield!!!) seems less about his talent behind the board than behind the mic. He's raw here opening up and letting every emotion out ("She says she loves me for me, could you be more phony?"). West out raps virtually everyone who comes to play on this album (though Minaj's Monster line proves she's got something to say. Pink Friday proves it's just not much).

For a man with an ego as outsized as Kanye West, MBDTF is that perfect complimentary album. To not like Kanye West cos of who or what he does misses the point. He's back to making some of the most interesting music out.

Buy Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy at Amazon mp3 Store

Best Albums of 2010, No 8 - Sleigh Bells' Treats

The first indicator that Sleigh Bells had a bonafide hit with Treats was my oldest son's reaction. The distortion, the noise, the chanting, the cheering... he loved it. For a 7 year old, this was the best kind of music: messy, loud and rhythmic. After listening to the album all summer, he knows all the guitar sounds, all the drum thumps, all the over the top call and responses. It comes up on shuffle and he asks for me to turn it up.

Which is good, cos I feel the same way. Sleigh Bells turned in an album chock block full of what can only be described as cheer rock. You feel guilty for liking it. And when people describe it as difficult, I find it odd. Because everyone I've ever played it for immediately likes it.

LA Times described it best: "It sounds bad in a way that suggests Rick Rubin fell asleep on a hundred-grand mixing board and pushed every fader to “11.”"

The assualt is brief, only 33 minutes over 11 songs. And they're not breaking new ground lyrically. A/B Machines might be my favorite, but the cheeky lines on a sun washed out Rill Rill are the best ("Wonder what your boyfriend thinks about your braces").

This album is fun and a guilty pleasure in every sense. Grab it now and blow a speaker.

Buy Sleigh Bells' Treats from Amazon mp3 Store

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Best Albums of 2010, No 9 - Surfer Blood's Astro Coast

2010 was some sort of Southern California beach party, soundtracked by what seemd like a never ending string of lazy, hazy surf music. Surfer Blood kicked it off and had what might be considered a teenage boy's best year ever. Non stop touring (I saw them once as openers, the next two times as headliners in the span of a three months) and an upgrade to major label status with Warner. Not bad for a mostly under-21 group of guys from South Florida.

There's much to like here. Big noisy guitar sounds and relentless drumming shoehorned against the love turned bitter lyrics of Floating Vibes, or forlorning in general of Take It Easy.

Yeah, someone fell in love with Weezer's Blue album (they closed out one of their sets with a cover of the Sweater Song).

The single Swim is alone worth the price of admission. Awash in those effect pedal big guitars, and John Paul Pitts "oh oh oh" will have you drumming along at your desk.

I worry that Surfer Blood will lose the carefree attitude and freedom to drift that's so apparent on Astro Coast (Slow Jabroni and Twin Peaks just kind of wander along). As long as they keep having fun, I'll buy their next album.

Buy Surfer Blood's Astro Coast at Amazon's mp3 Store

Monday, December 6, 2010

Best Albums of 2010, No 10 - Vampire Weekend's Contra

"In December, drinking horchata, I look psychotic in balaclava."

And with that, the preppiest boys in indie rock start out their sophomore effort, making impossible rhymes with impossible words over impossibly infectious beats.

There's been a lot of growing up since Vampire Weekend dropped their self titled debut two years ago. They've toned down the Paul Simon Graceland aping, fleshed out their sound more and turned in an album of stories about what are essentially little preppy white boys and white girls growing up disassociated and disaffected.

Their characters are the douchebags you went to college with, the Diplomat's Son, the guy who still hangs around the same club, the girl who is principled enough to eat fake Philly cheesesteaks but use chemically abhorrent real toothpaste. And just for shits and giggles is the incredible two and half minute romp Cousins.

This album is fun, overly intelligent effort. Sometimes I wish they'd stop trying so hard to be clever by half and work on making excellent music. Contra comes pretty close to that request.

Buy Vampire Weekend's Contra at Amazon's mp3 Store

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Best EP of 2010 - Cassis Orange

I'm behind the ball on this Best of 2010 Album thing, but I had a free minute, and thought I'd drop out what I thought was the best EP of 2010.

Admittedly, I'm jaded. Autumn Ehinger of Cassis Orange is a friend, but her songs of love and lonlieness penned about her time in Japan are four of the most excellent tracks you will hear all year. "I don't want you to call me/I just want you to want to" she sings above the sweetest tinkling on her keyboard.

Other Runners up
Telekinesis, Parallel Seismic Conspiracies - A hint of what MBL will deliver on his sophomore effort from Merge next year, Dirty Thing.

Pains of Being Pure At Heart, Say No To Love 7 - This band is getting stronger and stronger, refining that 80s sound, like Pretty in Pink all grown up.

Ft Lowell Records FLR001 through FLR004 - Ft Lowell records have put out a series of really strong 7 inches this year, from Arizona and Tucson bands you probably never heard of, but should invest the $5 and get them. Dead Western Plains, ... music video, Wet and Reckless, Young Mothers and Tracy Shedd round out an incredible start for a first year label.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What We Are Listening To - The Drums s/t

I wish I could say I came across The Drums s/t album through some awesome bar playing it in Boston (though a lot of restaurants brought it musically), but a simple 140 character suggestion from Amazon mp3 was the selling point for me "Suggested if you like the Smiths, Surfer Blood, driving up the coast."

Which are three things I like on an above average basis (the Surfer Blood album is one of the years best and most earnest efforts). Also should be added to that list is dancing. And surf pop.

But these 12 stripped down minimalist synthed songs are fun. Very Pretty in Pink as cowrker said. The handclapping on Skippin Town and the whistling on Let's Go Surfing is fun. And Morrissey he's not. He goes dark but think simpler. "You're my best friend but then you died." "Baby I don't know what to do without your love. Tell me what to do-ooo-oo-oo"

Every song is great though, rising above most other surf pop clogging up this year. Grab the album and pull a few songs off for a mix tape or two.

If you're interested in hitting up their 9:30 club show on 9/12, leave a comment or send me an email.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

2010 Second Quarter Review

I totally slacked on writing this second quarter, which I might try and rectify with a series of reviews because there were some REAL standouts between April and June.

There is one album that I'm omitting: The new Stars record. I haven't had time to digest it and listen. So I'm sure it'll be a part of the third quarter review.

Without further adieu
  • Broken Social Scene's Forgiveness Rock Record This is a really fun dance record. BSS, a band (collective?) that I always found too hard to really get into, delivered in solid form with Forgiveness Rock Record. Texico Bitches is going down as one of my favorite singles of the year. Favorite Tracks - Texico Bitches, Art House Director, Ungrateful Little Father, Highway SLipper Jam
  • Cassis Orange s/t EP Autumn Ehinger, the tiny but awesome one woman force that is Cassis Orange is a friend of the Shake that we met at XX Merge last year (she was covered in pink duct tape, Imperial Teen's No 1 fan). Somehow she's able to capture all her energy and push out on four excellent songs. Lots of pianao, very solid beats, she has an ear for perfect pop.The EP is free at her website, and hopefully she'll do us a solid and play at the ISIS HQ backyard party this summer. Favorite Tracks - Listen Heartbeat, Kotzebue
  • Hold Steady's Heaven Is Whenever Not my favorite album by this band, but I guess like Craig Finn's characters, you can't stay boozy and druggy your whole life. Still anthemic, and still rocking, the departure of Franz Nicolay and his keyboard leaves a noticeable whole. Despite all that, it's still one of the out this past quarter (though don't expect it to make on EoY lists). Favorite Tracks - Heaven Is Whenever, Hurricane J
  • Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid One of my favorite albums for the year. Genre hopping, with rock, funk, hiphop, cabaret (?!) and soul, this is Monae's second and third installment of her ArchAndroid suite. Yeah, the idea is a little out there, but it works. Favorite Tracks - Cold War, Tightrope, Oh Maker
  • The New Pornographers' Together This is my first New Pornographers album, and all it made me want to do is go buy the others. Every song is a pop masterpiece, and I'm firmly in love with Neko Case. My Shepherd, what AC Neman calls his 'torch song' will make you want to cry. Get this album now and put it on repeat. Favorite Tracks - Crash Years, Silver Jenny Dollar, My Shepherd
  • Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings' I Learned The Hard Way You think you got problems? Listen to a little Sharon Jones, and you'll think twice. I Learned the Hard Way is perfect retro soul music, and serves as the perfect stage for Jones' incredible voice and the Dap Kings tight playing. Favorite Tracks - The Game Gets Old, Better Things, She Ain't a Child No More
  • Tokyo Police Club's Champ Another followup effort from a band that I wish had done better. TPC's blast of EP's in 2007 and it's energetic Elephant Shell in 2008 put a lot of hope for a return. They've grown up a bit, and they're still making similar pop, but it lacks the punch of their earlier stuff. Wait Up and Bambi come the closest, and are by and large the standouts on the album. Favorite Tracks - Wait Up (Boots of Danger), Bambi
  • Sleigh Bells' TreatsI don't know how to describe this album. Post apocalyptic cheer rock hip hop? Over distorted dance noise? I tell people it's weird, then play it, and they love it. Super accessible, very very fun. Liek I said on Twitter, perfect for a late night dance party with tons of rose wine. Favorite Tracks - Kids, Run The Heart, A/B Machines
  • The Roots How I Got OverAfter one listen, this is on my shortlist for Album of the Year. If you thought playing late night walk overs for Jimmy Fallon would make them soft, forget it. How I Got Over is the best hip hop album so far this year. Every track is a winner, from start to finish. And things I was sure wouldn't work (Joanna Newsome? Monsters of Folk???) are PERFECT. Am I jocking it hard? Yes, but only because it's THAT GOOD. Dear God 2.0, Web 20/20, Hustla, Walk Alone
  • Shelby Lynne's Tears, Lies and Alibis Since I first listend to I Am Shelby Lynne, I've been in love with her voice. Tears, Lies and Alibis is kinda return to her mix of soul and country, still with that aching voice and love done me wrong songwriting. I think you'll love Shleby
The links are all for Amazon, but you can find most of these artists at eMusic or another online independent retailer.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What We're Listening To - Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid

I remember when neo-soul was a cheap way to lump black artists who were doing things that pushed the boundaries of contemporary R&B and hip hop.

It essentially was indie rock for black people.

RES, the original Black Eyed Peas, Knaan, India. Arie. This is just a sample, but these were artists with little to no commercial appeal, peddling their brand of music to highly educated black 20 somethings.

I blame the movie Love Jones.

So now we have Janelle Monae, who's making records about android uprising and falling in love, garnering 8.5 from the color-phobic Pitchfork, and sampling every single music genre, collaborating with some of ATL's finest.

My friends, this shit is indie (well polished indie, as it's on Bad Boy. If Diddy did any producing, you can tell he restrained). It's a close cousin to what Cee-Lo was doing before he met Danger Mouse.

The middle two parts of her four suite Metropolis story, The Archandroid crams 20 mostly brilliant songs (or song thoughts... Neon Gumbo is a 97 second cascade of blips and sounds) into what should be a double album. It's dizzying and tiring.

You spot influences all over. "Oh Maker" is probably the best Lauryn Hill song that Lauryn Hill never wrote, except it's about robots. "Say You'll Go" is beautiful Stevie Wonder-esque love song. She channels the helluva out of Prince on "Mushrooms and Roses." "Tightrope" could be this summer's jam and YouTube dance sensastion, straight off of Stankonia.

Her inner rock goddes takes hold and she invites Of Montreal to help her rock it on "Make The Bus", but she's capable all by herself on the much better and more resonant "Cold War," borrowing some of Andre 3000's freakiness (and his Bombs over Baghdad drums) with some of her own blend of weird thrown in there.

The concept, like most album themes, kinda gets old. Her voice and the music doesn not.

Seeing as how Outkast isn't putting anything out for a bit, pick this not to hold you over or replace, but to fall in love with, to remind you that weird is good.

Buy Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid from Amazon's MP3 Store

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Post Where We Say Farewell to The Greatest Damn Podcast on the Planet

All good things must come to an end. No not Lost, but one of our dearest friends in this digital world, Shelby of Shifted Sound, is hanging up his podcast hat.

Shelby's show is one of the main reasons I started The Shimmy Shake. He said there was no harm in trying, and that there would always be at least one person reading it.

We've overlapped and turned each other on a lot of bands, we've disagreed on others. But most importantly, we've connected over a shared love of music and giving small bands a little more deserved promotion.

I'll miss Shelby's weekly show. If you haven't gotten a chance, drop by and leave a not of appreciation...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Singled Out - Young Mother's Living In The Graveyard

Since James over at Ft Lowell Records first told us about Young Mothers, with that awesome little living room performance video on YouTube, we've been firmly in their corner.

So when we got our FLR001 7 inch this week, we were pleased to find some Young Mothers' bonus material in there, a little four song EP. And though all four songs are great (I Just Wanna Know! is as perfect as lemonade in summer), it's the closing "Living In The Graveyard" that really brings it. Zachary Bennet-Toporek is singing his heart out, but the band sounds very tight. Very polished production goes a long way.

The guys were kind enough to give us permission to post the song, so we'll keep it up here for two weeks or so. We definitely recommend checking them out.

And if you haven't purchased the 7 inch, then why not? Both of those tracks are great as well.

Listen to Young Mothers' 'Living in The Graveyard.'

Buy 'Come On, The Cross' from Ft Lowell Records

Preorder 'Come On, The Cross 7 Inch' from Amazon

Monday, April 19, 2010

What Apps We're Playing With - Cardinal by assn

Last week I went to this conference, essentially a learning session/have fun meetup for iPhone and other mobile platform developers (but mostly iPhone).

If you go to conferences, you should almost always follow the associated Twitter hashtag. Because you'll probably won't get to interact with everyone there, and since these things and Twitter are all about self promotion and sharing ideas, they work really well together.

As was such the case with @smixx and @assn_ca, a Calgary developer. I was reading over some tweets, and I came across one where he said he was giving away his Cardinal app in the iTunes store.

Cardinal is a TERRIFFIC app for sharing what you're listening to with your Twitter or Facebook followers. Starting the app up shows what's currently pumping in your earphones, even a bit of cover art. Another tap and you're sending on a little pregenerated tweet. Or if you're like me, you're editing it up a bit. And it does it all with an iTunes link so you can buy it. it's all very seamless and very smooth.

I use a lot, but I always found it kinda cumbersome. I had to search for what I was listening to, then pick it, then generate some text. Cardinal is like, but better. Not because it's native, but because it's much more intuitive, much more tied into the entire iPhone experience.

Now, I know some of you have beef with iTunes, and that's totally fair and understood. But consider this. It's an iPhone app. I would LOVE to have links to Amazon or eMusic, or AmieStreet or CD BABY orinsound, but I can't buy music on my iPhone from any of those sites.

And since a majority of iPhone users purchase music on their devices as opposed to in the store (and that iTunes is still the biggest digital music retailer on the block), it's a tighter and better intergration. Linking to iTunes in this case is a great idea. There's a greater chance that people will buy music this way, compensating artists and labels (even shitty arti$ts and labels).

assn has the app for free for the next four days (normally $2, a very small price for something very cool). Pick it up and show us what you're listening to.

Check out Cardinal in the iTunes App Store (this should just open a web page)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Favorite Spoon Song...

I think I love Black Like Me more than any other Spoon song. I always think this band's at its best when it's at its most tender.

And that lyric - "Street tar in summer will do a job on your sole/soul". It makes me want to fucking weep.

I'm pretty sure Britt Daniel is speaking gibberish most of the time. But that song reaches into my soul and grabs me.

Thanks a bunch.


Spoon's philosophy on pianos. When you think you have enough, you totally need at least one more. I count three.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Un billet...

Well, this is a helluva problem to have.

The nice people at Merge Records blessed us with two tickets to the sold out Spoon concert tonight in Oakland at the Fox Theatre.

I'm out in the SF Bay area for work so one of the tickets is claimed for. But if you're a reader of this blog and want to meet up with me tonight for the show and a beer, send me an email.

Much love to Lindsey at Merge for picking us to win the tickets (and also Mirla and Christina and everyone else there cos you all are the AWESOME).

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What We're Listening To - Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings' I Learned The Hard Way

When I listen to Sharon Jones, one of the questions I always myself is, "Exactly how deep is the well of spurned love?"

Apparently pretty fucking deep.

Sharon Jones and Dap Kings don't grow so much as polish and evolve with their latest release, "I Learned The Hard Way." I almost like this album more than 100 Days, and I absolutely LOVED that album.

It's almost as if Sharon's mellowed a bit. Not so much in the lyrics ("I've got better things to do than remember you") but more in the vocal intensity. Before it was almost as if she was channeling so much of that feeling through her voice, it felt aggressive. But songs like "Give It Back" and the title track are calm, though sharp and pointed. Listen to that plaintive call in "Mama Don't Like My Man." assisted by only a guitar and some backup vocals, she births a classic as good as anything coming off of Motown or Stax in the 70s. Her voice is an instrument every bit as integral as those Dap Kings horns.

And whoa. The Dap Kings sound tighter than ever. There isn't a horn out of place, a drum beat off time, or a guitar lick out of sync. "The Reason" a 2 1/2 minute instrumental track is proof of how amazing this band is.

if you've ever wondered what the fuss is about, now is the time to discover Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

2010 First Quarter Review

With 25 percent of the year come and gone, I've listened to some pretty solid music (even stuff I haven't taken the time to memorialize on here, which I should do, because it helps keep me sharp on the writing and gives you all something to mock me over).

So in no particular order, here's a list (with some minor commentary) of some of the better music I've picked up from January 1 to March 31, 2010. For the most part, these are new releases. But I'll denote those that aren't (not that it matters, but it does for EoY lists and things like that).
  • Surfer Blood's Astro Coast - I'm still not sold that this album is the second coming of whatever. It's good, and the more I listen to it the more I like it. But it kinda grinds on me afterwhile. But it's happy and poppy enough, so that's worth something.

  • Ted Leo and The Pharmacists' The Brutalists Bricks - Anthems and energy galore. Start your day here

  • Young Mothers Come On, The Cross 7"

  • Vampire Weekend's Contra - I'm officially a full on lover of this album. And I've also started dropping the redic term Contra into conversation to describe a hottie.

  • The Rosebuds' Daytrotter Session

  • Shearwater's The Golden Archipelago

  • The Bird and The Bee's Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1 (A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates)

  • Aziz Ansari's Intimate Moments For A Sensual Evening - A comedy album shouldn't count. But geez, if he isn't HYSTERICAL.

  • The Soft Pack's s/t album - Of all the shitty surf music that seems to be leaking onto the indie scene right now, I'm in love with this band. Punk, not too aggressive, fun.

  • Spoon's Transference - I was lukewarm to this album, but it's definitely hooked me. A sparse classic as always.

  • Shout Out Louds' Work - This will come up and I'll go, who is that? And I'm always surprised at how good it is.

And here are the previous releases:
  • Asobi Seksu's Citrus

  • Spoon's Girls Can Tell

  • Kid Sister's Super High Shine EP

  • Various Artists' Sub Pop Cybersex Digital Sampler v. 2.10

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What We're Listening To - She & Him's Volume 2

For the past two weeks, I've been listening to what easily is my album of the year.

I may not have gotten into the groove that was Vol 1, but Vol 2 has me hooked.

Zooey's sweet, sugary, candy coated piercing vocals. Her cooing on Thieves can only be matched by her indomitable songwriting prowess.

Coupled with M. Ward's fuzzy, Phil Spector lite production values. Yes, he's pining for a time on the musical spectrum that literally existed for half a second. But just because your mark of perfection is tiny doesn't mean you shouldn't try to aim for it. Because my friend, he hit it.

What I'm saying is this. I'm a convert. They've done it for me. I looked at my iTunes playlist count and I can only imagine that to hit such a number over the past two weeks I must've been listening to this album on repeat in my bed while I sleep.

She & Him are rocking my ears, my heart and my soul. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Labeled - Fort Lowell Records' James Tritten

We've known Jimmy for what seems like forever. he's one of these guys you don't envy, but definitely got a little bit of the jealousy for. He used to book bands (Candy Gram Booking). He was in an awesome band (Audio Explorations... check out the sonic Florida summer that is Ginnie Springs). he's married to a beautiful and awesome musician (Tracy Shedd. And that line from High Fidelity about being married to a musician is totally true. You want that life).

So when Jimmy (or James... who the hell calls him James?) said he was starting a label, one that only did 7 inch singles no doubt, I felt that little twinge. But mostly I was excited. Cos everything this guy does is cool.

We Singled Out Fort Lowell Records first release a few days ago. Young Mothers is good. And for $5 you should totally order one. The best damn podcast in the entire world, Shifted Sound, played the awesome B-Side Good Swords on Episode 194

Jimmy was kind enough to answer some questions about Fort Lowell Records for us, which again, was very awesome. You gotta love this guy. But you will definitely love the music his label is putting out.

Pre-Order FLR001 and check out the rest of the Fort Lowell Roster

Name and age: James Tritten, 34
Title: El Patrón
Location: Tucson AZ
Years running: 0.25 Years

Shimmy Shake: So how did this all start?

During the first weekend of December 2009, I was home sick all weekend, which actually ended up extending into having to call off of work on the following Monday. Most people in the world are able to curl up in bed, zoning out to the television or a movie when they are sick. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), I don't own a television, so I curl up on the couch and zone out to music. Something came over me to dive into my 7inch collection, pulling from collections of Sarah Records, Figurehead, Pop Narchotics, SpinArt, Decorder Ring Records, and some favorite bands from back east like Common Thread, Jennyanykind, The Damnbuilders, and Charlene. It quickly rekindled my old passion for 7inch records, and memories like when I used to take weekend drives from Jacksonville to Orlando, FL, to go shopping at Bad Moon Records. They always seemed to have the best 7inch records to offer.

There was a time in the early-mid '90s when having a 7inch record out was a really big thing for a young band. In fact, it was a goal that most of us would strive for. It dawned on me that this had gone away on some levels in the music community. I am not saying the 7inch record is dead, because I have been buying them for all of these years since. But that desire to have a 7inch record released for a young band seems to have gone away on some levels. At least in Tucson, AZ, there are very very few bands that have 7inch records out, and no one seems to be pushing to get bands released on 7inch records, or vinyl at that. So, I figured this would be a great way for me to give back to the city of Tucson.

Shake: What's the genesis behind Fort Lowell Records?

Tritten: My wife and I moved to Tucson, AZ, back in 2006. We fell in love with the community here because of how supportive it is of the arts. There is so much activity and support; you sometimes feel you are living in a big city. However, everyone knows everyone, which keep things closely connected like a small town. In many ways, it is truly the best of both worlds.

Tucson is very proud and supportive of Tucson, and for good reasons. There are a lot of great artists, musicians, people, and just things in general happening here in Tucson. I have had it in mind for the past three years that I wanted to do more to give back to the community. So, that weekend in December as I was trying to regain my health as I listened through my own record collection, the idea of Fort Lowell Records came to me and all of a sudden I knew my place in this city. I have always had friends tell me I need to do something that introduced others to new music. I have thought about opening a record store many times. I have thought about DJing at a club or radio station. Heck, I used to be a booking agent and put young bands on the road for others to learn about them. But this idea makes the most sense to me. I love vinyl records, I love music, and I love Tucson!

Shake: Where did the name come from?

Tritten: Fort Lowell is an area of Tucson that I like quite a bit. It was actually an old Army post in an area that was once considered outside the city. These days, Tucson has expanded so much that Fort Lowell is actually now part of the central district. There is a beautiful park around the old fort, and the historic buildings with original adobe are completely unlike any other historic area I have seen before (coming from the East Coast). I also wanted to give some sort of reference to Tucson with the name, and the idea of Cactus Records just made me laugh too hard. Fort Lowell itself was used more for providing supplies and support to others, which is what I see Fort Lowell Records doing for the music community.

Shake: What's your mission/belief statement?

Tritten: Music sounds better 7 inches at a time.

Shake: What do you hope to accomplish?

Tritten: I want to document what is going on here in Tucson and show it to the world. There are a lot of great artists in the city of Tucson, but more importantly, there is a great community here. Those who have been to Tucson know it and understand it. But unfortunately, Tucson is a little out of the way for everyone to come visit and learn about our great city. Fort Lowell Records will make the great music of Tucson available for everyone to experience without having to leave their living room, or car, or desk, or wherever they choose to listen to music.

I want to create great art and design with Fort Lowell Records. I am extremely particular with this, especially with records. Some of my favorite artwork for records has been with Command Records and Blue Note Records. I love the fact that you can honestly pick up any record on either of those labels, and you know what label it is on without having to look. That is branding; that is style. 4AD is the same way. This is a goal of mine with Fort Lowell Records.

To achieve this, I decided I needed to find one photographer for myself to work with for all artwork. I personally will be managing the graphic design for each release, which will begin to keep the look very similar. Alaina Brownell, a local photographer from Tucson, has signed on as our official photographer. We will be using her imagery for all releases, establishing the similarity between each release that I am looking for. Alaina's style of photography goes hand in hand with my style of design. I also love the fact that she is a Tucson native, and she only works with film... "analog photos!" This is very appropriate for a Tucson-based vinyl-only record label!

A close friend, Loreto Echevarria, who is a local fashion stylist here in Tucson, introduced Alaina to me. We have also decided to bring Loreto on board with Fort Lowell Records as well, to help coordinate the selection of photographic imagery with each release. Loreto's energy really contributes to the creative process. In addition, her and Alaina's friendship, along with our artists and myself, has already established a family element to Fort Lowell that I was hoping for.

I personally reached out to clamdiggin, simply for admiration of what they do. They are a design company that produces their own clothing, posters, artwork, personal accessories, etc. They work with Urban Outfitters on various projects, as well as host their own art openings from time to time for their own work. I simply offered clamdiggin the opportunity to manage the artwork for the B-side label on the vinyl record itself for each release. I gave them full control over this because I trust and believe in them. I want to promote what they are doing and give them another outlet to do more. I simply love their work, and I am proud to have them as part of the Fort Lowell Family.

Lastly... I simply want more vinyl to be produced in the world, especially to be a part of my own personal record collection, so... I figured I would just put it out there myself!

Shake: Why only vinyl?

Tritten: The act of listening to a vinyl record is an interactive experience and it does not allow for the music to simply be background ambiance. The limited time length causes the artist to truly focus on the arrangement of their music, and what songs work best together and fit on each side. In the case with 7inch records, the focus is even tighter, limiting the artist to only one or two songs per side, as well as the traditional emphasis on side A being the "hit" and side B being the "left over" track. I also find that the warmth of a vinyl adds a mysterious third party production element that is a final touch of magic to a record that the artists, engineers, or producer can't replicate. Lastly, the large format art work is much more complimenting to all of the hard work that went into writing and recording the music within. Vinyl records are a work of art, and anyone that appreciates music as art, and not just something to fill a silence, understands the significance of everything that vinyl records represent.

Shake: What do I need to know about vinyl before digging in?

Tritten: I think the only thing to truly worry about is that your electric bill has been paid in full so your turntable will work! :)

Seriously, there really isn't anything to "know" that will keep you from enjoying records. One of my favorite things to do is buy a record from a band that I have never heard of. This really puts the emphasis on the overall vinyl packaging itself, which can be very rewarding. I personally have a tremendous amount of respect for packaging. I have been introduced to new sounds / new music many times with records that I normally would not have thought to buy, just because of their packaging. I remember a Bluetip 7inch from Dischord Records (No.111) I bought in 1998 just because of the beautiful blue vinyl and the vellum packaging. I kind of knew what to expect since it was on Dischord, which was not a label I frequently bought from back then, but then fell in love because of the entire experience with the release. I guess I would advise that you go into purchasing records with an open mind. Sometimes it is not just about the music, and that is okay. You may find yourself appreciating a new sound because of other elements of the release that attracted you. That is one of my favorite experiences with vinyl records.

Shake: What's the deal with the weights and colors?

Tritten: There is a school of thought that the colored vinyl is actually not as good of a quality as the black. I honestly don't know the answer to this, nor do I really care. In fact, I am always more excited when I get a record on colored vinyl. It adds to the overall excitement, presenting an attention to detail that you can't experience with any other form of release. As for the weight, heavier is better, but it would not stop me from buying a record if it was not released on a heavier weight vinyl. I have seen some record labels actually give options of different weights with a release. When this is the case, I would recommend going for the heavier weight. But I have also seen where they give options of heavier weight or colored, and in that case... I would go for the colored!

Shake: Young Mothers sound fantastic. What sound are you looking for?

Tritten: I am more interested in documenting the scene of Tucson than a particular sound. I suppose overall I want to stay near by the Indie Rock/Pop sound, but I am open to almost anything. The music does need to hit me, though. I do need to actually like what the band is doing. But fortunately, I like a lot of different styles of music, and different sounds. That is another goal for Fort Lowell Records: to introduce people to new styles of music they had never heard of. I feel there are a lot of great styles of music being represented in Tucson that not everyone is aware of. Someone may decide they like the first few releases from Fort Lowell Records and want to start buying everything in the catalog. Somewhere down the line, I may choose to put out something that is much harder in style than previously releases, and that record alone could end up introducing that listener to something that would not have normally invested in; much like the Bluetip record for myself back in 1998.

Shake: What are some other bands on the horizon?

Tritten: FLR002 (Fort Lowell Records #2) is going to be with a band called video? (their name includes the "..." and the "?"). video? is about to put out their third full length album, and I thought it would be a great compliment to have a 7inch record go along with the full length. Fort Lowell is not involved in releasing the full length, but we are releasing the first single from their new records, called "I'm Afraid of Everything." It is a sweet jam with a killer beat! It is the kind of song that is going to get the kids off their seats and onto the dance floor! I frequently put it on early in the morning when I am ironing my clothes and dance around the living room listening to it! And the best part is, the B-side does not stop! It too has an infectious groove!

Young Mothers, who will be the first release for Fort Lowell, has decided to use the 7inch to release two exclusive tracks. They too have a new release of their own coming out that coincides with the 7inch. Young Mothers' front man, Zach Toporek, told me the 7inch record release came at a good time for them. They had a handful of songs they were going to record, and out of those songs two of them just did not fit with the others for their EP. Zach came to our home to demo the two songs, "Come On, The Cross" and "Good Swords," for my wife and I, solo acoustic. We all agreed immediately that these songs from Young Mothers would be perfect for a 7inch Record, and for the first Fort Lowell Records release. The music is already at the manufacturer, and the test pressing should be arriving in a few weeks. We all can't wait to get this out!

In addition to Young Mothers and video?, I knew that I wanted to include Tracy Shedd with the Fort Lowell Records family. When her best friend, Emily Wilder (cover star of Tracy Shedd's last Teenbeat album, Cigarettes & Smoke Machines, and director of the latest music video for Tracy Shedd's song "City At Night" from her new release on Eskimo Kiss Records called EP88), gave us a copy of her new band, Wet & Reckless. Immediately, we knew that Tracy Shedd and Wet & Reckless needed to do some sort of split release together in the future. So when the idea of starting Fort Lowell Records came about, we immediately decided that Fort Lowell would be the ones to release this split. Tracy and Emily have been collaborating together for many years with their art, and we are very excited to make this release part of the Fort Lowell catalog.

Other than that, I am actively listening to bands around Tucson and going to see as many of their live shows as possible. However, being that Fort Lowell is a 'Record' Label, even if I am excited about the band's live performance, their recordings need to capture my attention as well. I am very happy with the opening line up for Fort Lowell Records, so I need to direct my immediate attention toward getting these records out first. There are plenty of great bands in Tucson to work with, and if I could release everyone of them, I would. So, spread the word about Fort Lowell and help us sell these records. The faster we sell the first few releases, the fast we will start putting more out. The more records we can sell, the more bands we can support. It's that simple.

Shake: What are some of your favorite recent releases?

Tritten: I just discovered another new Vinyl Only Label, Us Two Records from Dallas, TX. Alan and John are focused toward putting out splits with various bands. Their first release is with El Paso Hot Button and Lipstick Terror, and I love it! It is a great package altogether, and the music is alive and fresh. Us Two Records' release drove me to purchase El Paso Hot Button's full length, and now they are one of my favorite bands out now. I also recently discovered the label True Panther Sounds, and immediately fell in love with the band Girls and their new album called Album. I am very impressed with the new Fever Ray record, as well as Fin Fang Foom and Mercury Program (both on Lovitt Records). The Flaming Lips' album Embryonic is also a very impressive package; Double Colored Vinyl, one Blue, one Yellow. Japandroids is a great new duet that I am in love with! They are actually about to release a series of limited 7inch Records, rather than a new album. I have already pre-ordered the first one!

Shake: What's an album you find yourself always going back to?

Tritten: Sunday Puncher - For Your Everchanging World (Turnbuckle Records). It's everything I ever wanted in a record. It's thought provoking. It's challenging. It's unique and fresh. There is a passion in the performance you don't often hear / feel. When I am at my lowest point, it's the record I like to put on to pull me out of my whole. When I am at my highest point, it's the record I put on to celebrate. If there were a dream record for me to put out, it would sound like this one.

Shake: Where do you see FLR in 1 year? 5 years?

One year: I would like to have four records released by the end of 2010. I believe this is possible. It will take the support of others to make this happen, but I believe there are enough people excited about Fort Lowell Records and Tucson, AZ, to do so.

Five years: My goal is to be able to release one record a month. At this time, I really do want to keep with 7inch records only, and twelve in a year seems like a reasonable achievement. I have also had thoughts of releasing a series of split 7inch records with one Tucson band, and one national band. I would like to get involved with hosting CMJ or SXSW Showcases for Fort Lowell artists, something I was successful with when I was a booking agent. There are so many possibilities. For now, I will simply be excited to get through the first year.