December 30, 2011

omg-nyc's guest list of 2011

To conclude my year end countdown of 2011, I've asked some of my closest audiophiles for their favorites from the past 12 months. Thank you all for the continuous support and here is to a fantastic 2012.

St. Lucia at Tameney Hall
The Strokes at Madison Square Garden
TV on the Radio at Williamsburg Waterfront
!!! at 285 Kent
Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Terminal 5

01 M83 | Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
02 Jay-Z & Kanye West | Watch the Throne
03 Weekend | Sports
04 The Rapture | In the Grace of Your Love
05 Radiohead | King of Limbs

01 Holy Ghost | "Some Children"
02 Tyler, the Creator | "Yonkers"
03 TV on the Radio | "Repetition"
04 Metronomy | "The Look"
05 Battles | "Ice Cream"

A perfect wake-up jam must be neither too fast nor too slow. This is why it's generally best to go epic. Pop-music affords that quite easily. When getting up in the morning, a favorite strategy of mine is to pretend I'm in a music video (Britney Spears' Lucky is the VERY BEST for this but this ain't an All Time list so). Start off lip syncing and end dancing. Trust me you won't miss whatever lame default beep you were using.

10. Drake | Headlines"
Sometimes it's nice to remind yourself first thing in the morning that it's compliments you may be too strung out on.

09. Jay-Z & Kanye West | "No Church in the Wild"

08. The Book of Mormon Soundtrack | "I Believe"
This. Shit. Is. FUNNY.

07. Taylor Swift | "Better Than Revenge"

06. Fleet Foxes | Battery Kinzie"
Every once in a while Marc can convince me to appreciate a song that wasn't entirely made up by robots. Thanks Marc!

05. Britney Spears | "How I Roll"
Best song off of Femme Fatale which is difficult. Have all your fantasies about a conversation with Miss Spears 9000 come true!

04. The Strokes | "Under the Cover of Darkness"

03. Rihanna | "You Da One"
Dis bish does it again. I only chose this over We Found Love because it's easier to do tha dougie to.

02. Katy Perry | "E. T."

01. Beyonce | "Countdown"
Choosing a favorite song off of Four is damn near impossible. Best Thing I Never Had, Party, I Was Here and of course Love on Top are all flaw-free. But I had to ultimately go with Countdown because that first verse is just DAMNtastic. Also you know who this song is about, which makes it almost TOO awesome. Get outta bed girl! Go find yourself a Hov before the world ends!

Alex Turner | "Piledriver Waltz"
The songs he did for the film Submarine are my favorites from him since the first Arctic Monkeys album.
James Blake | "The Wilhelm Scream"
I don't think he's that consistent, but everything he's put out has some brilliant moments.
Panda Bear | "Last Night at the Jetty"
Can't decide whether this, "You Can Count On Me", or "Surfer's Hymn" is my favorite from Tomboy.

Real Estate | "Green Aisles"
Favorite song of the year.

The-Dream | "Nothing But Love (Demo)"
He gave this song to Beyonce, but I really like Dream singing it with that new jack drum machine. 

Tyler, the Creator | "Yonkers"
Watching him blow up instantly when this hit YouTube was really cool.

The Weeknd | "The Morning"
Great hangover music.

Wilco | "One Sunday Morning"
One of Wilco's best songs in the last ten years. Jeff Tweedy at his best can just bowl you over.

Yuck | "Get Away"
I really don't care if these guys ever evolve as a band. I need this kind of rock and roll in my life.

Zomby | "Natalia's Song"
Helped tide me over while waiting for Burial to put out more stuff.

Bon Iver | Bon Iver
I bet a shitload of high school kids lost their virginity to this.

Panda Bear | Tomboy
Somehow underrated.

Real Estate | Days
Instant slack classic.

Shabazz Palaces | Black Up
Sounds like it's from a different fresh.

Yuck | Yuck
The 1990s.

The Dismemberment Plan at Paradise Rock Club (1/28)
I could not believe how tight and energetic these guys were. Best crowd energy I've ever seen at the Paradise...and it was for a reunion show. People rushing the stage for "Ice of Boston" was rad.

The Olivia Tremor Control at Brighton Music Hall (9/19)
Their attention to re-creating all the sounds their songs was incredible. A few of them were playing 3-4 instruments on certain songs.

TV on the Radio at Pitchfork Music Festival (7/17)
So soulful. Perfect end to a long day in the sun.

The National at Bank of America Pavilion (9/9)
Got to see one of my favorite bands (and a hell of a live band) on the waterfront on my birthday...can't ask for more than that.

OFWGKTA at Paradise Rock Club (5/12)
Their energy was off the charts. Rap shows generally are pretty predictable but OF keeps you on your toes.

Ben Dorenfeld:
Byrds of Paradise | Teenage Symphonies
P.S. Eliot | Sadie
The Men | Leave Home
Big Eyes | Hard Life
The Creamers | Slow Burn
Julianna Barwick | The Magic Place
Heavy Times | Jacker
Night Manager | Ghost
Scapegoat | S/T
Tycho | Dive

Kenny Vennard:
I should preface this by saying that I love pop music and electronic music. I also love good music. These are some of my favorite collections of music from this past year. Hopefully you'll find something you've never heard of. Or maybe you'll give another listen to something you have heard before, or at least heard of. Or don't! It's whatever!

10 Icona Pop | Nights Like This
For those of us already pining for the follow-up to Robyn's amazing Body Talk albums, Icona Pop is here to whet our appetites with some of the finest Swedish pop tracks released this year. Patrick Berger (the man behind Robyn's massive "Dancing On My own") produces "Manners", the breakout single. The tracks are brash and pulsating, and vocally the girls evoke the anthemic tones of fellow female duo Tegan & Sara, but you'll swear that they brought Karin Andersson in to sing back-up here and there. I'm eager for a proper LP from them.

09. Labyrinth Ear | Oak
Labyrinth Ear is a London-based duo making atmospheric, sparkly, sinister synthpop. If this sounds like your thing, download the Oak EP for free on their website and give it a whirl. All of the songs are great, but I have a personal affinity towards "Snow White", a warbling and haunting take on the title character's song “I’m Wishing” in the classic Disney film. It's not nearly as corny as it sounds, I promise.

08. Sky Ferreira | As If!
This EP is all over the place, but so is Sky Ferreira. She's a 19 year old Calvin Klein model that has producers like Bloodshy & Avant and Greg Kurstin churning out amazing pop music for her. Bloodshy & Avant, said to be responsible for her discovery on MySpace a few years back, are a tough production duo to beat. However, it's Kurstin who produces the stand-out track here with "99 Tears", which is easily one of my favorite songs of the year.

07. Austra | Feel It Break
I don't want to compare Austra to the myriad of other artists that I consider sonically similar because it would undermine the creativity in this album, which is distinctly different from those other efforts. Katie Stelmanis perches her operatic voice in the front and center of each track, which allows the nuances of the crisp and understated electronic production behind her to really expand without becoming too brooding. This album is masterfully done and wonderfully evocative.

06. The Weeknd | House Of Balloon
You've heard it by now, so I won't go into detail about it, but this is just a great debut effort. I will say that Abel Tesfaye has, to me, one of the most iconic new voices this side of the aughts, and his brutally honest depiction of a lifestyle that isn't always as glamorous as it seems has an undeniably sharp edge, yet remains refreshingly heartfelt. I felt like a total bad-ass The first time I heard the transition from the title track into the menacing "Glass Table Girls", and I am definitely not a total bad-ass. So. There’s that.

05. Twin Sister | In Heaven
There is something really magical to me about the charm and warmth that these tracks possess. The production is fun and intricate, while the compositions are nostalgic and earnest.  I love that this group was brave enough (not to mention patient enough) to take the time to make the music they wanted to make instead of riding the "buzz wave". The result is divine.

04. GusGus | Arabian Horse
If you like GusGus already, you know that this is their best album in a long time, if not ever. If you don't like GusGus already, or if you don't know them, this is a great introduction. Imagine what a spooky, emotive dance album that was recorded in a cottage in Iceland might sound like. Got it? This is that album, and it is amazing. Was that an accordion? Is that an accordion tugging at my heart strings in a house song right now? Yes, it is. And it is amazing. AMAZING.

03. Will Young | Echoes
This is one of the most straight-forward, cohesive, dreamy adult pop albums since Kylie Minogue's Aphrodite was released last year. Minogue’s collection was the dance party, whereas Echoes is the lonely drive home afterwards. Richard X reigns in his visionary production skills to create a subtle and sophisticated synthesized soundscape for Will to croon and belt over. This is easily Will's most focused and personal album, and therefore his best.

02. Britney Spears | Femme Fatale
I love Britney Spears. There, I said it. But I'm not putting this year's Femme Fatale on my list for that reason alone. I also love Björk, but this year's Biophilia is not on this list (bu that's another story for another time). On her newest effort, Britney and her team show a real hunger to push the boundaries of mainstream pop music yet again (Spears did it once before back in 2007 when the critically praised but poorly promoted electropop masterpiece Blackout changed the entire landscape of the genre), and most of the time they succeed.

The big difference between this project and Blackout is the cohesion you'll find here, which can be credited to the the involvement of hit makers Dr. Luke and Max Martin. Of course, it wouldn’t be a (good) Britney album without a Bloodshy & Avant appearance ("Toxic", "Radar"). The result of their efforts on this go-around is the groundbreaking “How I Roll”, which was recently named Rolling Stone's favorite song of the year.

I can't say yet whether I think this album will age as well as the aforementioned Blackout has, but time will tell (and I do think that it will at least come very close). Is Britney a particularly good singer (or dancer [anymore], at that)? When the music is this good, it really doesn't matter.

01. Azari & III | Azari & III
Okay guys, this is an important record. I think what I like most about this album is that it reminds me of what it was like to discover electronic music in the first place. It revisits a time when techno and house music were just emerging from the underground to find their place in the mainstream world, but also finds moments to infuse updated and innovative production into the mix. Sonically the group travels from spaced-out synth instrumentals reminiscent of some of the earliest electronic music, to eclectic echoes and growls over house beats that call to mind the white label records of the early 1990s, and even into a modern big beat frenzy on the wonderful "Undecided". The album sprawls out like a map of Electronica, and these guys have evidently seen every corner of it. But don't call it retro. This music has modern ideas for the modern music listener. 

Vocalists Starving Yet Full and Fritz Helder share duties wailing, warbling, crooning and sassing their way around Dinamo Azari and Alexander III's productions, which are so masterful that I would not be surprised if we see them start churning out tracks for the likes of Britney and Rihanna in a few years. For now, though, we are lucky enough to be treated to a lush and expansive homage to the music they love, which in the process has yielded new music that I love.

Some of electronic music’s opponents have argued for decades now that it universally lacks a human element. A soul, even. And yes, listening to the ongoing bastardization of electronic music by way of major labels and the general masses’ relentlessly bad taste in "popular" music, one might be lead to believe that any soul the genre may have had has since been zapped out of it. But Azari & III have successfully enforced an organic approach to making music that is, by definition, manufactured. Perhaps the most important aspect of this record for me, then, is that it proves not only that electronic music has had soul all along, but also that it is not going anywhere.

December 23, 2011

omg-nyc's albums of 2011

Continuing with my end of the year lists, here are my favorite albums of 2011. I'll finish things up next week with guest lists, but in the mean time Happy Holidays!

10. The Weeknd | House of Balloons
Almost over night, The Weeknd became 2011's big name in post-dubstep R&B. Spitting stylized rhymes over warped Beach House samples and embodying the essence of elusive and ever so smooth textures, the Toronto crew set forth an enigma that filed the black and white shadows and smoke filled beats of this self release mix-tape with uncanny ambition and strokes of genius that left the biggest names in the game wishing they could reach the level of this soulful conundrum. Silky smooth vocals over boisterous bass lines have become signature moves and although a lesser follow-up emerged later in the year (Echoes of Silence withstanding), the sultry swagger put forth is still grabbing attention.

09. Girls | Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Christopher Owens will be the first to admit that Girls is the ultimate nostalgia ridden rock band in recent years. Rollicking riffs recalling the 1950s underline the duo's expansive follow-up to their impressive debut and displays the group reaching to new heights as showcased in the scorching "Die" and the shuffling "Alex" and "Love Like a River". Yet it's the classic crooning in "Vomit" that really displays the tremendous growth the band has made in such a short amount of time. While old school vices are certainly a prominent presence in the band's day to day life style which are clearly hinted at numerous times in Owens' lyrics, the bouncy and youthful flow of each track ads to the ambiance and mystery of any great rock and roll band.

08. WU LYF | Go Tell Fire to the Mountain
Early comparisons to Wolf Parade and Explosions in the Sky almost neglect the true originality of these Manchester natives who are daring enough to name themselves for Lucifer and greet listeners with a mighty howl worthy of any basement and far from the rungs of Radio City where the later comparison played a milestone performance earlier this year. Towering guitars are battered amongst vocals sifted through gravel as leader Ellery Roberts bellows over marching drums that come together at all the right moments before falling apart into intimate grooves all of which scream for camraderie and cult like tendencies that sit quite well with the trends of 2011.

07. James Blake | James Blake
Anyone who spent the year listening to this record through earbuds or laptop speakers has done themselves an incredible disservice. The majesty of Blake's songwriting skills might have actually been the biggest surprise on this record as his bombastic bass, warped beats, and suspended angelic vocals allowed for so much open space that his lyrics were able to fill an incredible void. The haunting crevices of emptiness, vacuum sucked emotions and brought frenzied distilled warbled production to the forefront and showcased that not only is Blake able to carry the weight of comparisons to the legendary electronic acts of Burial and Aphex Twin, but also prove that covering Joni Mitchell and Feist is right up his alley as well.

06. tUnE-yArDs | W H O K I L L
Through intricate loops of horn blasts, punching percussion, sqwaks, and steely guitar, Merrill Garbus produced a cacophony of tribal beats and worldly jams for one of the most infectious records of the years that simply screams 'party' with more enthusiasm than any other record this year. Her unique ability to create monumental moments that seem to climax into euphoria just before crumbling back into non-sequitar jams draws easy comparisons to Dirty Projects' 2009 classic Bitte Orca. However, the tribal tendencies exhuded by Garbus seem to end those comparisons in an immediate fashion. While Dirty Projectors exhibit a more invitation only sound, tUnE-yArDs live by the more the merrier attitude. Garnished in face paint and eccentric outfits (which many audience members replicate), Garbus has invited everyone to the party and serves as a great reminder that there is plenty worth gathering about and making some serious commotion along the way.

05. Real Estate | Days
On their sophomore record, Brooklyn-via-New Jersey upstarts Real Estate put some polish on their lackadaisical rhythms and set their guitars on cruise control for countless wasted miles. Sun-soaked intertwining guitars and simple melodies evoke soft spoken 70s rock and quintessential indie rock while hopelessly embracing the nostalgia of endless suburban settings. Tranquil and flowing vocals spill over effortlessly cool guitar licks that somehow never seem to grow repetitive and offer some of the most breezy songs of the year fit for all of your aimless drives.

04. Iceage | New Brigade
With slashing guitars that echo Wire and Gang of Four, these Danish teens broke onto the scene in 2011 before anyone even knew what they looked like or could figure out that the band name was actually just one word. Known for their abbrasive, loud, short (hell, the album doesn't even crack 25 minutes), and often bloody live performances, the hardcore quartet made quite the name for themselves and even landed a spot opening for Fucked Up on one of their first U.S. shows. Without giving anyone a second to breathe, they reinvigorated gloomy post-punk with a fresh D.I.Y. twist and in a year in which there was plenty to rebel against, helped give punk rock a refreshing face-lift.

03. Panda Bear | Tomboy
By now it should come to no surprise that Noah Lennox (better known as Animal Collective's Panda Bear) is a true master of sonic texture and layering sample over sample to create some of the most hymnal and sharp drones in indie music. Ditching the sprawl of Person Pitch's epic track lengths in favor for some more traditional times, Panda Bear was able to achieve some of the most mutilating sonic compositions of the year. Reverb soaked guitar drenched skewed sampled and still allowed for Panda Bear to be as questioning and charismatic as ever before, while still sailing forth into uncharted territory. More accessible pop opportunities that exist on his previous releases (both solo and as part of the collective) are not as apparent as one might have expected, this album is truly for the patient listener, however if you think you can guess what Lennox is going to do next, you have a lot to learn.

02. M83 | Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
Anthony Gonzalez did not do himself any favors when he described his new album as "very, very, very epic" months before it was officially released. However, when lead single "Midnight City" hit the internet this summer, he seemed to turn any doubters into believers and when the double album dropped this fall, anyone still on the fence seemed to leap over in excitement. Combining soaring shoegaze guitars reminiscent from his early (and also phenomenal) work and the recent styles that reflected John Hughes' film soundtracks, Gonzalez and company complied over twenty intergalactic jams that launch listeners into the cosmos without retreading on a single note from the past. Upon first listen, a friend said to me "I wouldn't be surprised if this launches them to the next level" and that is exactly what this album has done.

01. Fleet Foxes | Helplessness Blues
"I'll have so much to tell you about" only begins to describe the journey Fleet Foxes set out to embark upon this year with the release of their second record. The liner notes describe ring leader Robin Pecknold as a 'prophet' and after joining the band's celestial voyage through the lens of a wide-eyed walker wandering towards the dawn, it is difficult to argue this statement. Even with a band as profound as Fleet Foxes, the gang is still full of wonder and uncertainty that fulfills the listener with incredible amounts of hope and aspiration that the wonders of an illustrious rock band seem to be the furthest thing from their minds. Dreams of working til you're sore and soon owning the store are not those typically associated with the most promising musical group in recent time, however that seems to be where Fleet Foxes separate themselves from the rest of the pack. These woodsman are still longing for a person as bewildered by the world and as full of imagination as they are and they present their joyous ambitions through golden autumnal melodies and voices as pristine as the lights hung in the night sky.

December 16, 2011

omgnyc's songs of 2011

I'm kicking off my end of the year countdowns with my favorite songs of 2011. My favorite albums and guest lists will come in the following weeks. Thank you so much for reading this year!

December 8, 2011

Keep Shelly in Athens - "Struggle With Yourself"

Check out the track "Struggle With Yourself" from Grecian duo Keep Shelly in Athens. The song comes from the band's recent release, Campus Martius E.P., which dropped earlier this week via Planet Mu.

Keep Shelly in Athens - Struggle With Yourself by Keep Shelly in Athens

December 2, 2011

Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror

Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror from Mom+Pop on Vimeo.

Sleigh Bells have announced the follow up to one of my favorite albums last year. Watch the teaser for their sophomore record, Reign of Terror, via Stereogum.