Ryan’s Music Picks 🌲 8 December 2016

Quick update for the rest of the year: after this, sometime in the next week or so-ish, I’ll do a roundup of Christmas music. It might be an extra long one, because I have feelings about Christmas music. If you’re curious to see, you can click here for 3 pages to links to Christmas music from my old blog. (Sorry, some of the links will be dead. The internet is in a constant state of decay.)

After the Christmas roundup, I’m thinking about doing a year-end list of my favorite albums. (I gave up making a list of the “best” albums years ago, because I can’t be trusted to be objective about art.) After that, who knows what’s going to happen in 2017?

Scholastics – Live From the Library, Volume VII (Soundcloud, Podcast/Download)
My good friend Ezekiel makes mixes that give me feelings. This one is emotional on both ends of the spectrum: on one end acknowledging how a lot of us have felt in the wake of the election and its aftermath, and on the other end reminding the listener that there is joy still inherent in life that shouldn’t be neglected.

Damien Jurado & Richard Swift – Other People’s Songs, Volume 1 (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
In case you haven’t been following singer-songwriter Damien Jurado’s career over the last 5 years, he has brought forth a series of albums with a cultish, we’ll-form-a-commune-and-live-off-the-land appeal, aided by weirdo church basement assistance from Richard Swift. This album of covers predates all of these albums, and was originally released in 2010, when they began to draft their plan for the albums that they’ve since released. I said in 2011 that it contains “the best damn cover of a Kraftwerk song I’ve ever heard” and that’s still true.

Coins – Daft Science (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
This album is a mashup album of 9 Beastie Boys tracks with beats constructed from Daft Punk samples. It feels obvious and groundbreaking at the same time, and is a hell of a calling card for sample-master Coins. This music taps into that pure party joy that both the Beasties and the Robots can deliver like no other. I could do with more sample diversity (fewer Around the World samples would be nice) but overall this is killer. It’s not available for download anymore because of obvious rights issues, but, uh, well, maybe click this link if you can’t resist.

Air Credits – Broadcasted (Bandcamp, aircredits.org)
Air Credits is Chicago rapper SHOWYOUSUCK with production from legendary internet mashup kings The Hood Internet. The beats on this album bang; they’re a nice mix of sample-based, synthy, and experimental, with a neck-snapping amount of head nodding. But more surprising to me is MC ShowYouSuck’s brainy and complex verses which trade heavily in deep pop culture references that pay off more than just some hashtag rap. I mean, the first track mentions both The Craft and Daft Punk right off the bat. All I Need Pt 2 is a full-on jam, and it’s not even close to the only one on this excellent album.

Brother, Sister – Brother, Sister (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
It must be tough to operate in a genre (ornate chamber pop, in this case) so heavily dominated by a few pretty popular bands. It’s almost impossible to talk about Brother, Sister without referencing Grizzly Bear or Fleet Foxes, for instance. I mean, if you like those bands, dive into this by all means, you’ll love it. But those comparisons miss the baroque country elements of this music, or the choral arrangements that are not at all like the harmonies in those other bands. This is pastoral music to be enjoyed out of doors or at least with a scarf (ironically, this band is from Southern California). It’s beautiful and intricate and dense and rewarding on multiple listens.

Sleigh Bells – Jessica Rabbit (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Sleigh Bells are the most metal pop music, or the most pop metal band in existance. I love them to an unreasonable degree, even in the face of this, their most experimental album yet. Refusing to rest on their tried-and-true formula of killer guitar riffs + huge beats + pop vocal hooks, some of these tracks don’t even have guitars! Beats are still here, and some songs (It’s Just Us Now is a standout) still bring the crunch I love from them, but there’s a lot of pop experimentation that push this album more towards noise pop and experimental pop music than I had ever expected. Once I got over the sadness over their lack of killer riffs, a lot of these songs have grown on me significantly. I can’t wait to see how this trickles down into mainstream pop music.

Childish Gambino – “Awaken My Love” (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Donald Glover channels Sly and the Family Stone and brings the funk noise forward to the post-rap era. Believe the hype, this is great.

Tiny EP Corner

It’s been a while since I did one of these.

Avalon Emerson – Narcissus in Retrograde (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
I found out about Avalon Emerson when a friend tweeted a link to this Resident Advisor article and I was not disappointed when I finally looked up and jumped into her most recent EP of house tracks. It’s nicely bleepy with an honest heart at their core. These songs are working with you–they want to make your day better and help you get things done. Give in to them.

Ducky – Don’t Give Up Yet (Soundcloud, Apple Music, Spotify)
This and the next two tiny EPs are from Secret Sounds, home to Ryan Hemsworth’s friends tracks that he likes. Ducky’s EP is careful and alive, remniscent of the glory days of lap-pop before the Postal Service blew the genre apart. There’s a club sensibility to these in a theoretical way–they’d be bangers live but I bet you’d somehow have more fun with this album in your headphones by yourself on a bus or in a library.

Happy Doghouse – Above The Stars (Soundcloud, Apple Music, Spotify)
These are still electronic pop tracks, but they’re guitar-heavy in basically the opposite way that Sleigh Bells is. The guitar is a friend, a companion used to carry the tracks, not rip them open and set them on fire. This feels personal, like I’ve eavesdropped on an album recorded between friends.

Celadon City – Summeryoung (Soundcloud, Apple Music, Spotify)
I’ve written before of my love for video game soundtracks as well as the work of popular commercial and podcast soundtrack band Lullatone. This hits right in that sweet spot. It feels adorably plucked from the garden and like the product of a console’s particular chipset at the same time. If a handheld video game system made an album in an xylophone tree, it might sound just like this.

Ryan’s Music Picks 23 November 2016

It’s been a bit. I’m sure you’re getting lots of emails about black friday deals, but I though you might want some good driving music. I took (am taking?) a break from Twitter and did some stuff with my family. This week we drove up to the Sierras for a family camp, and then took a detour through Yosemite on the way home. Here’s some of what we listened to:

The Blind Boys of Alabama – Atom Bomb (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
I love gospel music, and this Blind Boys album combines their classic gospel harmony sound with some pretty fun covers, including a Fatboy Slim cover featuring Gift of Gab. It’s a great way to start a car trip.

Justice – Woman (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Justice is one of my favorite French electronic music duos (along with Daft Punk and Air), and I think they’ve gotten better with each album. Though they have mostly abandoned the dirty, noisy version of French Touch house music that made them huge, their focus on combining 70s rock and disco continues to pay off. A perfect steering wheel tapper for LA traffic.

Monster Rally – Mystery Cove (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
I love Monster Rally. It’s the ideal combination of kitsch, beats and vintage soundscapes from the 50s and 60s exotica records. I could listen to it all day, and it’s mellow enough that my kids can fall asleep to it while I drive through the dairies between Bakersfield and Fresno.

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Fleet Foxes’ music is perfect for the California mountains. I know all of the words to their debut and to this album, so it’s a no brainer for driving music while I’m going up and down twisty mountain roads. Rumor has it that they have a new album, and I hope it continues the combination of gruff pastorality with song structure experimentation.

Circle of Birds – Circle of Birds EP (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
A gorgeous tiny instrumental EP from some people in Ester Drang and Unwed Sailor, from 14 years ago. Have you even driven into Yosemite valley from the 41? You go through a long tunnel through a mountain and then pop out with a incredible, majestic view of Bridal Veil Falls, El Capitan, and Half Dome. It’s breathtaking. This three-song EP is some good music for experiencing that.

Calexico – Feast of Wire (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
We drove home through the breadbasket of California and Calexico captures the feeling of those rolling hills and wide expanses populated by orchards, cows and tractors.

Ryan’s Music Picks: 7 November 2016

It’s election week this week, and I am stressed. I’m not going to bring politics into this email list, but if you’re curious, you can take a look at my twitter. So, with stress comes plenty of beautiful, mostly instrumental music for me. Check it out:

Delicate Steve – Positive Force (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
This album is therapy. This is the album I reach for when I need comfort, when I am stressed. Delicate Steve’s lyrical guitar playing taps into some sort of emotional lock down in my lizard brain, and it allows me to just stop freaking out better than any other musical force I’ve found. Seriously, it’s one of the most aptly named albums on earth.

Casino Versus Japan – Frozen Geometry (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
This guy has been making quiet, extremely relaxed albums for 15+ years now, but it’s been a while since the last one. So he’s given us 80 tracks of hazy perfection, with some synthesizers in places, some guitars in others, but pure space heart distributed throughout. This is a “wrap you up in a blanket with sound” kind of album, which is exactly what you need sometimes.

Pogo – Wonderland (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
This little EP has been around for a while. It’s four little dubstep tracks built entirely of samples from Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland (1951). It’s tiny and charming and surprisingly transportative for only 4 tracks constructed from a children’s film. It’s pay-what-you-want on bandcamp!

Douglas Holmquist – PinOut OST (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
I recently discovered PinOut through a friend on twitter. It’s a supremely-addicting combination of pinball and an endless runner-type game, with great Tron aesthetics. The most important element of that Tron feel is the synth-tastic soundtrack from Douglas Holmquist. He absolutely gives Daft Punk a run for their atmospheric money in this gem of a soundtrack.

Geotic – Mend (ONLY ON BANDCAMP)
Geotic is an ambient side project from the guy behind the band Baths, mostly consisting of guitar loops and reverb. It is the most relaxing, put-your-kids-to-bed music the world has ever produced, and I have successfully used it on the iPod in my kids’ room for the last 6 years. It’s pay-what-you-want on bandcamp, and your life should not be complete without listening to this album.

Mesarthim – .- -… … . -. -.-. . (ONLY ON BANDCAMP)
Another total gem from these atmospheric ambient metal dudes. It’s equal parts brutal and beautiful, partially depending how loud it is, and partially based on how well you deal with screaming. I deal well with screaming. Only $1 on bandcamp!

Ryan’s Music Picks: 👻 Halloween 2🎃16 Edition

I made a mixtape! I didn’t expect it to happen after I realized that Traktor for iPad and Apple Music tracks didn’t play well together. But I figured it out. So here it is:

Moon Cities – Silent Sandy Circuitry (PodcastSoundcloudMixcloud)
This is kind of a fall mixtape and kind of a Halloween thing, so beware that it’s not 100% ghost and ghouls. There’s a lot of noise, but it starts with violins. I had fun making it and I think you’ll like it. It’s part of the LAMPSHADE (iTunesRSS) music mix podcast that a friend and I run, which, now that I think about, is about 50% Fall/Halloween mixes anyway.

Other halloween music? My go-to is:

The Chiller (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
The Chiller Part 2: House on Haunted Chill (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
The Chiller III (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
The Chiller IV: Night of the Living Chill (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
This ongoing series of spooky compilations lives somewhere in the lo-fi punk/chillwave continuum of cool internet music. These are all a lot of fun and pretty laid back (hence the name) with instrumentals, skits, honest-to-Skellington songs and pretty Halloweeny vibes without getting gothy. Buried in these four compilations are some songs that will be your mainstay Oct 31 tracks for years to come.

Dope Halloween Fuck (Bandcamp only)
Another, pretty similar compilation that’s a but noisier, a bit lower fidelity, and a bit gothier than The Chiller comps. I once said that this: “…skews nicely lush and lo-fi, like a fourth-hand thrift store version of Pet Sounds outtakes. It’s organic and maybe a little undead like some kind of collective effort of partially-decomposed forest animals.”

Happy Halloween!

Ryan’s Music Picks: 24 October 2016

Halloween’s approaching. I think I’m working on a mix. In fact, don’t be surprised if a lot of stuff you’ve heard here pops into that mix, if I’m able to pull it together in time. Other than that, I’m reveling in the earlier sunsets and the little bits of rain we’re having in So Cal.

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Moon Cities – Golden Ghost Forest (stream/download or subscribe on iTunes)
(Moon Cities is me.) This is a mix I made about 3 years ago for fall-oween times. I think it gets closer to my feelings about the autumn season better than any words can.

John Carpenter – Big Trouble in Little China OST (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
I’m putting this here mostly just because I want to talk about this movie. I first watched it a couple of years ago for my podcast and I was blown away by just how excellent and totally weird it was. I was kinda put off by it at first, but with each subsequent viewing of the movie, I fall more and more in love. It’s got a perfect synths-n-guitars 80s soundtrack, something John Carpenter (who also directed the movie) excels at. Also the theme (aka Pork Chop Express) is just perfect.

Infinity Shred – Long Distance (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
Speaking of synths-n-guitars, Infinity Shred take that classic formula and tweak it a bit by adding a Commodore 64 and focusing heavily on the atmospheric post-rock (think Explosions in the Sky, but on a space station). They’re also bros with Anamanaguchi, which explains how bits of pure/glitch pop find their way into these devastating, spacey epics. (It looks like this is pay-what-you-want on bandcamp right now! I don’t know how long that will last!)

NxWorries – Yes Lawd! (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
Leave it to two very right now music makers (singer Anderson .Paak and beatmaker/rapper Knxwledge) to put together an album that follows up the perfect glitchy improvised R&B of Jamie Lidell’s first album better than he or anyone else has ever been able to. The beats here hit hard but migrate and stutter just enough to feel alive and a little unpredictable, and each track contain more vocal hooks and innovation than 5 or 6 Drake tracks. This is totally not appropriate for kids, and that bums me out because these grooves are unstoppable otherwise.

The Growlers – City Club (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
They call their genre “beach goth” and, sure. I mean, that works, I guess. It’s buzzy and jangly and kinda hubby rock and roll that’s catchy as all hell. It’s dark but not, like, menacing. It’s kinda gothy, I guess, but in a laid back, ‘we made tiki drinks with black rum’ kind of way. This is basically the musical equivalent of Gravity Falls.

Equip – I Dreamed of a Palace in the Sky (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
It’s weird how there’s an entire genre of music in 2016 that can be described as “soundtrack to imaginary JRPG that sounds like you downloaded over Limewire”. Maybe the weird part is that I have an entire collection of albums that hit that sweet spot but each of them do it differently and all of them are perfect. Anyway you could get lost in this album and end up on some kind of airship with a mage and a paladin or something, so be careful.

Earthly – Days (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
Speaking (as I was) about albums that are spiritual sequels of other, completely unrelated albums (see the NxWorries album above), plunderphonics albums like this one didn’t exist before The Avalanches showed up in 2001 with Since I Left You. This one really takes things a step beyond The Avalanches or even Animal Collective have done with its sampledelica: the songs are constructed using the in between sounds of samples. Like, we’re not hearing the actual samples, but the bits you trim off each side of the sample to tighten it up. Earthly have taken audio trimmings, the chaff of samples, and constructed incredible tunes out of it. I’m mesmerized.

The Radio Dept. – Running Out of Love (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
These guys have been making perfectly constructed political synth pop for ages. It’s upbeat but mostly very seriously built, with just the right tones and pads and beats. It’s got precisely what each song needs, like The Radio Dept. have songwriting down to a beautiful science.

Julia Kent – Asperities (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
Speaking of beautiful science, composer and cellist Julia Kent’s music is a perfect mixture of looped cello, and other both organic and electronic sounds, combined to be gorgeous and affecting and a little bit dangerous. If you think modern classical music is either all weird noises or movie soundtracks, you owe it to your finer sensibilities to check this out.

The Pipettes – We Are The Pipettes (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
How on earth is this album 10 years old?! I felt old as hell when I realized that. The Pipettes were an only-kind-of-ironic revival of classic 50s close-harmony girl group pop with some real earworm songs that even now, ten years later, I can’t get them out of my head. This might make you break out in song or dance, or both. Be careful.

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TINY EP CORNER
Tiny EPs are little three to six song albums that don’t usually last more than 10-20 minutes but are just so immaculate that I can’t stop listening to them. I’ve written about some before (Leno Lovecraft, Qrion) but now I’m giving them their own corner.

In Love With A Ghost – Let’s Go (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
Four songs that combine beats and piano with vocal sounds and ASMR sounds like rain and pages turning. It’s just so cozy and pretty–this is literally perfect headphone music. (pay-what-you-want on bandcamp!)

Vapor Lanes – Hieratic Teen (Bandcamp only)
Sweeping noise that lives and burrows deep inside you. But it’s not menacing as it takes over your body, the noise just knows that your heart is its only true home. Once inside, you feel it slowly replacing your neurons but you can’t fight it. The noise is part of you now, and you corrupt it just as it purifies you, never equalling out but finding a weird type of balance, leading to a whole new type of being.

Moon Racer – Moon Racer (Bandcamp only)
One way to hear this is as some direct-to-tape keyboard demos, but please please don’t listen to it that way. This is the heart of a child, fed through the noise-being who lives in your heart, dreaming of rainbows and glitter and Aladdin and Gremlins on VHS.

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PS: I should hopefully be giving you another of these Sunday night (30 October), chock full of Halloween music and maybe even with a new mixtape from yours truly.

Ryan’s Music Picks: 12 October 2016

I love the fall. We barely get any in So Cal, but even October demonstrates slight changes from the usual 100% sun situation we have. Specifically, the evenings begin to cool down, the leaves start getting crunchy, and the spiders come out. Seriously, we get lots of dang spiders in the trees, but the evenings start to become bearable and it’s really the best time for laid-back psychedelic music with a dark edge. That extremely nebulous collection of adjectives is probably my favorite genre of music, and that’s pretty much all I have for you this week:

Eola – Dang (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
This is absolutely my favorite album that I’ve stumbled upon recently. I saw it described on twitter as “lo-fi droney gospel” and I flipped out–I am the exact target market for that. It’s gorgeous and meditative at times, and playful and honestly pretty dorky at other times. But I’m in love hardcore with this record. I will be listening to list for a while.

k-os – Atlantis – Hymns for Disco (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
The first track comes out of the gate with a solid throwback hip hop vibe, but the rest of this album is, uh, kind of a rap album. It’s rap with plenty of the same influence that gives Mos Def and Gorillaz their sound. It’s a perfect balance of fun, massive pop choruses and head-nodding verses like Chance the Rapper exhibits, but with much more of a rock vibe and some new wave/electro influence (there’s definitely some Cameo in there, I think). Start with Sunday Morningand enjoy from there.

Helado Negro – Private Energy (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
I have a confession: I love Helado Negro’s music. I mean, I guess it’s not much of a confession, but every single thing that Roberto Lange has released as Helado Negro has gripped me and I am a buy-every-album fan for life at this point. This album, his fifth full-length (there are also several EPs), really exhibits his growth in songcraft. There’s still the dense electro-acoustic production, and the psychedelic interludes, but everything (even the songs en Español) are so much more singalongable this time around.

Simian – We Are Your Friends (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
If you’ve heard any mid-2000s dance music, chances are you’ve heard Justice’s world-beating remix of the title track of this album. Simian was so consumed by that remix and their subsequent success in the dance world that they broke up as a band, reformed as Simian Mobile Disco, and continue to put out solid EDM. But this album is incredible and pretty singular. Balancing big chorus-heavy British pop songwriting with heavy big beat production, every track has hit potential. This is a blast-it-at-full-volume album for sure.

Brothertiger – Out of Touch (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
Chillwave never really went away, it’s just that everyone realized how close it was to electronic pop with that New Order/The Cure vibe that it all just sort of got absorbed into synthesizer pop and stopped being treated as a separate genre. Brothertiger has some emo influence but fits beautifully into that John Hughes movie soundtrack sound with a croon that makes me assume he’s got a hell of a haircut. This is super great, and best put to use as 100% perfect romantic evening music.

Night Auditor – Drugz (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
Three tracks of exceptional funk that contains every crucial element: rubbery synth bass, unironic saxophone solos, Nile Rodgers-style guitar, heavy use of the ride cymbal, and upper-register “oooooooo”s. Refreshing, perfect and something you’ll be hitting repeat on. (pay what you want–including $0–on bandcamp)

Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve – The Soft Bounce (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
I don’t know how I missed this earlier this year. Half of Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve is legendary DJ Erol Alkan, well known for his “reworks” of music from Justice, Death from Above 1979 and the like. He’s also considered one of the best DJs of this short century. In fact, BTWS has remixed too, but this is, finally, their debut album. Balanced between an A-side of electro-pop with psychedelic elements and a B-side of psych tracks packed with electronics, this album is exactly my bag. It’s actually not at all a dance album, but right in line with something that Alkan’s DJ sets have always hinted at. I love it when dance music artists decide to write songs and this album is a perfect example of why.

Negative Gemini – Body Work (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
Building from the dual sources of downtempo rave and slinky R&B, Negative Gemini crafts songs with 2016 production values and structure but a very 1998 aesthetic. It’s all somehow really gothy and poppy at the same time, like some kind of lost CD-ROM soundtrack that can summon the ghost of 1996 Madonna.

Blind Slime – True Country (BandcampApple MusicSpotify)
Nothing makes me feel more Halloweeny than some slow burn throwback psychedelic music. Seriously. Blind Slime is seriously chill but with an edge of creeping menace that fits perfectly with southern California’s too-hot October evenings.

Ryan’s Music Picks: 30 September 2016

It’s a short one this week. I switched from Spotify over to Apple Music and have been working on syncing my library and uploading the stuff that Apple Music lacks (Alan Braxe & Fred Falke’s Rubicon should never leave my phone) but it’s pretty sweet. Here’s some stuff I’ve stumbled upon this week.

Master Boot Record – C​:​\​>CHKDSK /F (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
Bandcamp’s front page has this feed of recent purchases from all around their site. It’s a clever way to see what’s big on Bandcamp at any given moment, and it’s a rad way to find new weird stuff. I totally judged this band by their name (my second favorite partitioning scheme after GUID Partition Table) and cover alone and I scored. It’s chiptune/synth metal with no vocals but plenty of slams. This costs 1 euro on bandcamp, or like $1.16. It’s absolutely worth it.

Barcelona – Zero One Infinity (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
Remember when nerd rock wasn’t just songs about video games? Barcelona (not that Barcelona) make synthy, Beach Boys-influenced power pop (we called it Geek Rock back in the day) about guessing passwords and debugging software. Bugs is a guaranteed software engineer anthem, but I Have The Password To Your Shell Account is one of my favorite songs of all time.

Balún – La Nueva Ciudad single (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
I’m a huge fan of this band. They make soothing twinkly dream pop with hushed vocals en Español that is just so pure and laid back. They’re a musical refuge for me, to be honest. I Kickstarted their newest album (so new it’s not out yet) and this is the first single from it. And it’s perfect.

Kornél Kovács – The Bells (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
I have a soft spot in my heart for space disco/tech house type dance music. It’s not really that danceable, but it’s typically so intricate that my brain latches on and I’m sucked in. The best of this stuff sounds totally futuristic but still has that throwback vibe somehow. I’m enamored by this album and it’s happy-go-lucky attitude.

Ryan’s Music Picks: 23 September 2016

This last weekend was my ten-year anniversary with my wife. We took a weekend off, then came home to a bout of nasty stomach flu that rotated to each member of the family. I’m still recovering. So the picks this week are a combination of two very different themes: disco for our fun weekend escape and sad bastard music for the 💩🚽.

Todd Terje & the Olsens – The Big Cover Up (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
Only a guy who makes untouchable space disco could put together a live band and make disco sound so perfectly 2016. This exuberant album is pure joy from start to finish.

Jacob 2-2 – Cabazon EP (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
This weekend was my first time visiting the Cabezon dinosaurs, something I’d been looking forward to doing for quite some time. They’ve rested in my subconscious for a long time thanks to movies like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure or The Wizard, and seeing them up close in person was pretty neat. Jacob 2-2‘s Boards of Canada-esque ep definitely captures to nostalgic feel of visiting these weird old concrete dinosaurs right off the freeway in the desert in California. (if you want to pay $0, it’s free on bandcamp, too!)

Classixx – Faraway Reach (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
Taking the “let’s pack our sophomore album with as many guests as we can get” approach, Classixx has taken their signature smooth electro-disco sound and injected it with sings like the guy from Passion Pit and T-Pain, believe it or not. The song craft here is excellent, with big sparkly choruses like you’d expect from Carly Rae, and the production has an almost-subversive vaporwave thing going on that keeps it interesting.

Advance Base – Nephew in the Wild (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
When I’m feeling bad, whether physically or emotionally, sad bastard music is the number one curative I know of. I’ve been listening to Owen Ashworth’s music since he first started recording as Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, and his heartfelt, honest songwriting puts him in a class with guys like John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats, David Bazan, and Damien Jurado. This album, his latest, is soothing in its sadness. It feels homemade and slightly ramshackle, but so earnest and with a story to tell.

dating – Please Be Quiet, I’m Very Interesting (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
On a lark, a pal on twitter stumbled upon this band while searching for unused band names. It’s noisy, heavy, and heartfelt shoegaze sometimes bordering on doom metal. In fact, listening to it a different way, you could take this as a screamo band who dove heavily into the noise-rock/shoegaze sound. It works either way and it works WELL. I’ll be rocking this one for a while. (also free if you choose to pay $0 on bandcamp)

The Frightnrs – Nothing More to Say (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
When my pal Evan told me I needed to check out a band that was making old-school reggae, I immediately got concerned. I mean, we all lived through Matisyahu, we should all be wary of “roots reggae” bands by this point. But The Frightnrs aren’t even really making reggae at all – this is more like a fresh take on the porto-reggae of dancehall and rocksteady, but with throwback production values and classic sounds. The band is half dopey-looking white guys, but they’re signed to Daptone records, so I think this is the best possible scenario to create throwback Jamaican tunes.

As a postscript: Alan Braxe & Fred Falke’s track, Rubicon, is on neither Spotify or iTunes or Bandcamp. How is this possible?

Ryan’s Music Picks: 14 September 2016

I haven’t written in a couple of weeks. Life’s been getting in the way, but music that I want to talk about keeps piling up. I need to get some of this out of my system, so here’s a bunch of stuff that’s come across my plate lately:

clipping. – Splendor & Misery ​(BandcampiTunesSpotify)
This is a hell of an incredible album. It’s a dark afrofuturist science fiction story, told by insanely precise, heavily rhythmic raps over avant-noise soundscapes. It’s unquestionably the evolution of noise-hop, and a clear next step from the noisy Cannibal Ox – The Cold Vein (iTunesSpotify), and afrofuturist scifi rap of Deltron 3030 (BandcampiTunesSpotify). There’s a Vigenère cipher embedded in one of the tracks, that’s probably one of the more obvious deeper meanings buried in this story. It’s kind of crazy to think that Tony award winning rapper Daveed Diggs (from Hamilton, he originated the dual role of Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson) left the insanely-successful musical to release this album and tour. I’ll be honest with you, this can be pretty grating at times, and I’m not using ‘noise’ as a descriptor to talk about staticky music or whatever. This is a co-release between Subpop Records (who have released albums from Nirvana, the Shins, the Postal Service, and Fleet Foxes) and Deathbomb Arc, who specialize in weirdo sound collage, noise-punk and drone music (of course I own a lot of their music on CD and limited edition vinyl). So the fact that DBA had a hand in the release of this album should be an indicator that they’re not afraid to make your ears bleed in a ‘drill a spike into your brain’ kind of way. The album’s also killer in a good way, so I guess your milage may vary. Not appropriate for kids.

Saint Etienne – Foxbase Alpha (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
It has taken me a long time to get into Saint Etienne. I remember in the early 2000s, doing music research online, they (and this album) kept coming up in the “recommended if you like” column of various sites I frequented, but I just never could get into it. They sounded hopelessly dated to my pretty immature ears in 2002, but this 25-year-old-album sounds amazingly fresh in 2016. Foxbase Alpha is a combination of incredibly-smooth, mellow vocals, early hip hop beats, and low key groovy baselines that just plant themselves in your brain. It’s super chill and has mellowed and gotten classier with age.

Shirley Collins – Sweet England (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
There’s something magical to me about folk music from the British Isles. I was raised in a family with some Irish heritage (but not really enough to trace to a source) so it manifested in just generally being into Irish and British folk music. I discovered the music of Shirley Collins a few years ago when Colin Meloy (of the Decemberists) recorded a tour-only EP of her music, which is not available for download anywhere officially (but it can be found…). She was/is part of the British folk revival and she documented, arranged and recorded a lot of folk tunes that really should be considered classics. I picked this collection because it has Charlie, one of my favorite of her tunes, but I really could just listen to her recordings on repeat for days.

Leno Lovecraft – Platinum Planet (SoundcloudiTunesSpotify)
Sometimes, bro, you just need bright pink, ultra-glossy electronic grooves to get you out of a rut. Leno Lovecraft split the difference between that chill Saint Etienne sound and the sparkling Sonic the Hedgehog soundtrack in a way that’s ultra-listenable. You might listen to this EP a lot of times in a row, which I don’t think is a bad thing at all. IT’S ALSO FREE AT SECRET SOUNDS.

Raymond Scott – Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
You have absolutely heard the first track on this compilation of jazz composer and bandleader Raymond Scott’s popular work. It was under license to Warner Brothers during the heyday of the Looney Tunes, so the piece Powerhouse has been interpolated into quite a few classic Bugs Bunny, et al cartoons. Animaniacs even did a riff on it, using a re-orchestrated version of Powerhouse. Raymond Scott is someone I’m comfortable calling a great American composer, and his later work and experimentation with early electronic music have endeared me even further. One of his key focuses in this work and others was to bring music into the mundane everyday and to turn the mundane everyday into something musical. A ton of the music here has names that describe a specific scene, and a lot of it borders of musique concrete before it morphs into a more traditional (but extremely precise, not unlike Daveed Diggs raps) jazz number. This is another one of those things that works perfectly just playing all day for me.

evax – Parking Lot Music (BandcampiTunes, Spotify)
This is one of my all-time favorite albums, and an important one in my personal growth as a music listener. Parking Lot Music was the first album I got into where I discovered that calm, relaxing music could be more interesting than as just something to help you fall asleep. The beats here are too interesting for sleep, and the soundscapes built by the mostly-digital sounds calmly usher you to a place where you can put your feet up and sip some Lacroix or whatever. Also, it’s worth noting that e
vax is the non-guitar half of another of my favorite bands, Ratatat (their new album Magnifique (iTunesSpotify) is rad af).

Okay, so it’s not really that many more albums, but it’s the longest email I’ve sent. See you next week. 💖

Ryan’s Music Picks: 31 August 2016

Fischerspooner – Odyssey (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
It was hard to avoid Fischerspooner for a period of time in 2001-2002. They were everywhere and it seemed like everyone was talking about them. Their first album went crazy on the backs of licensed tracks (Emerge was in so many movies and TV shows) and with the reputation of their insane live stage shows. But their sophomore album really contains the best songwriting and production out of the duo. Tracks like Just Let GoNever Win, and We Need A Warare just aggressive enough, with comfortingly menacing electronic production that helped everyone freaking out about “electroclash” realize that it just meant harder synth pop and the gateway to electronic music finally going mainstream.

James Irwin – Unreal (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
Hushed, perfectly constructed pop songs that are uplifting in the same way that a cool beer on a warm evening can be. I just want to wrap myself up in this album and let it soothe me. Highly recommended.

Rival Consoles – Night Melody (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
I have a real thing for music that exists in the place between pure compositional experimentation, ambient field recordings, and solid jams. Some of my favorite music starts discordantly and slowly coalesces into something that really inhabits my head and gets me moving. Rival Consoles has such an ability, and his music has been something I’ve only discovered recently. This is your guaranteed productivity music of the week.

Viridi OST –  Michael Bell (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
The Viridi app/game (iOS, Android, Steam) is a virtual succulent garden that you have to weed and occasionally water. It’s extremely mellow and very low-maintence; I treat it like a little zone of calm on my phone and computer. Aiding the low-poly plant visuals is a perfectly quiet, twinkly soundtrack that puts me perfectly at ease. It’s chiming and mellow like a low-key Lullatone track (and honestly owes a sonic texture debt to them) but it is a excellent respite from a hectic day.

​Yumi Zouma – Yoncalla (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
​Like me, the people in Yumi Zouma are big fans of Air France and other balearic Swedes from the Sincerely Yours record label. Like SY, YZ has mastered the art of chill pop songs that sound timeless but are still unmistakably modern. Fans of Carly Rae Jepsen’s new album (and B sides!) will absolutely find things they like here.

Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
Wolf Alice is what you get when you combine a love of Kate Bush, 90s grunge and 2000s Hot Topic goth rock with a classic 70s rock swagger. Ignore the singles and go straight for You’re a Germ for the secret gateway into this band, it’s easily the most fun singalong at the very least.

The Avalanches – BBC Essentials Mix (STREAM)
The last time that The Avalanches did a BBC mix was 15 years ago. I still listen to that one regularly. This one is pretty different but still sounds classically Avalanches: it has that combination of forgotten funk gems, weirdo novelty albums and solid modern jams so heavily intertwined that the tracklist is indecipherable and borderline useless. They also use one of my favorite field recordings ever: Postal Workers Canceling Stamps at the University of Ghana Post Office 

Vapor Lanes – aum ovata #1 [mix] (STREAM)
This is a late night mix that really works better the darker the night is. It’s the kind of thing that might be perfect for listening to in bed when you don’t want to do anything but you can’t really fall asleep. Beware though, because it might end up with you deciding to feel productive at 2 in the morning.