Ryan’s Music Picks ☔️ 31 August 2017

 

Arcade Fire – Everything Now (Apple Music, Spotify)
The new Arcade Fire has a track produced by Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk and a track produced by Geoff Barrow of Portishead. Both tracks (Everything Now and Creature Comfort, respectively) are among some of the best Arcade Fire songs. The album has some weird moments, and specifically all of the Infinite Content tracks can get a bit of grating. I get where they’re going with it, but the whole thing’s a bit heavyhanded. The album loops almost perfectly, and definitely gains from repeated listens.

B12 – Electro Soma (Apple Music, Spotify)
Electronic music has a come a long way, but this album from 1993 still has a lot to offer. It’s not the lush spa version of ambient music that we expect in 2017 (there’s plenty of heavy beats), but it’s a rad throwback time.

Bodies of Water – Spear in the City (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Nobody makes music like Bodies of Water does. They have a sound rooted in Gospel music, but have branched pretty far from what you’d expect. They’re reverent and soul-searching and they keep you thirsty for more. This album doesn’t hit the heights that some of Bodies of Water’s previous album does, but it plunges some depths that have been heretofore untouched. Recommended.

The Books – Lost and Safe (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
I’ve been a big fan of this album for a really long time. It’s weird. It’s mostly sample-based, with cello and guitar. I find it soothing, though I’m not sure everyone will.

Chris Thile – Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1 (Apple Music, Spotify)
Sometimes you want some Bach played on mandolin. A little bluegrass in your baroque, you know?

Do Pas O – Join the Fucking Drum Circle (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
The drummer from DFA’s new Guerilla Toss, Do Pas O (real name Peter Negroponte) has put together a noisy, wonky collection of tracks guaranteed to brighten your day and send you down a bizarre path.

Frankie Rose – Cage Tropical (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
I can’t believe I missed this when it came out. Frankie Rose has a signature sound that combines low-down home-made reverb-drenched shoegaze with cosmic space sounds, but in a less self-conscious way than guys like M83 does. It’s beautiful.

Karen Gwyer – Rembo (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Karen Gwyer makes techno music. Like, no other genre modifiers. I mean, it’s got some ambient sounds, and little elements of microhouse, but mostly it’s just good, solid techno.

Lee Bozeman – The Majesty of the Flesh (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Lee Bozeman is an orthodox priest, and has also been in rock bands for 25+ years. It’s an interesting balance, and this four song EP also rides on that balance of serving God and being fully human. It rocks.

Odd Nosdam – LIF (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
I keep gravitating to ambient music made from cut up guitar noise. Odd Nosdam somehow dumps tons of emotion into his compositions and I keep coming back for more.

Petracovitch – Blue Cotton Skin (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
This is another album that’s I’ve known for a really long time. It’s quiet, haunting synthpop and it sticks around for years. I was reminded about this album when I woke up recently, having heard the song Nighttime in a dream. So, uh, I guess watch out for that.

Photay – Onism (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Holy crap, this one snuck up on me! It’s killer left-field grooves with a polyrhythmic flavor and international instrumentation. This one’s very likely to go on the year-end list.

Sam O.B. – Positive Noise (Apple Music, Spotify)
Vaporwave has been a thing for a bit now, and it’s cool to see it begin to bleed into other genres. This is basically vaporwave R&B, with filtered but not sampled vocals, and a vhs-degraded new jack swing feel.

Sandro Perri – Plays Polmo Polpo (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Sandro Perri IS Polmo Polpo–it’s his former electronic music pseudonym. This album is his transition from the organic beats of Polmo Polpo to the lush acousticism of the music under his given name. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned how much I like acoustic versions of electronic songs, but here’s a big reason why.

Stereolab – Dots and Loops (Apple Music, Spotify)
Bro, do you even listen to Stereolab? They’re one of those bands who I can see myself getting stuck in, to the point that I just listen to only their albums for several years. They’ve got a range, and their gorgeous experimentalism is unparalleled. They veer from motorik krautrock to french ye-ye pop to weird 22nd century lounge songs, sometimes on just a single song. They’re the best.

ZGTO – A Piece of the Geto (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
A combo made up of techno pro Shigeto and rap group Zelooperz, the raps on this album are as important a rhythmic element as the off the wall beats. It’s not safe for work or kids, but it is safe for bumping loudly in your headphones or your car.

Ryan’s Music Picks 🌞 23 August 2017

The Knocks & Skylar Spence Present Amelia Airhorn (Soundcloud, FREE DOWNLOAD)
Skylar Spence is formerly known on the internet as Saint Pepsi, and he has always been someone who seeks out and samples perfect and mostly forgotten grooves and brings them forwards to the internet age. With DJ/Remixers The Knocks, they’ve created a sonic journey through legendary disco NYC perfect for these dog days of the summer.

Beacon – Escapements (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
It’s cool to see genres start to blend in ways that were unthinkable when I was a kid but seem totally obvious now. Beacon merge ambient soundscapes and skittering electronics with soulful white R&B singing, kinda like vocal house in the early 90s, but this time in slow motion and with added warmth/claustrophobia.

Cécile Corbel – Arrietty (Original Soundtrack) (Apple Music)
Arrietty is maybe a lesser Studio Ghibli film but it’s definitely got its charms, and a big one is this unexpected harp-based soundtrack. The story is that French singer/harpist Cécile Corbel had some promo albums left, so she hand-addressed one to Studio Ghibli, which caught the eye of producer Toshio Suzuki just as he was thinking through how to do the music for The Secret World of Arrietty.

Clams Casino – Instrumental Mixtape 4 (Apple Music [sampler EP], Spotify [sampler EP], FREE DOWNLOAD)
I love rap music a lot, but sometimes what I love even more than rap music is rap instrumentals. Clams Casino’s instrumentals are definitely a far cry from a sample + a drum machine origins of rap instrumentals–they’re noisy and enveloping, with tons of reverb and unexpected textures. They wrap me up and make me feel things. Also the full download has the instrumental version of Clams Casino’s killer remix of Sia’s Elastic Heart, which is incredible but feels much more full of doom and destruction without Sia’s voice.

Ebo Taylor – Love & Death (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
My pal @the_shrillest turned me on to this album when he tweeted: “At 74, with an entire life in the rearview, the highlife king dropped a perfect album” and I don’t know if I have much to add other than highlife is possibly one of the top genres of music that exist and if you’re not hip to it, now’s the time.

Gloryhammer – Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards (Apple Music, Spotify)
Look, man, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s a band called Gloryhammer, and the album is called Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards and if that isn’t enough for you, I’m not sure what I can do to get you into this. It’s symphonic space metal about wizard battles that’s in continuity with the space wizard stories they sing about in their other albums, okay? There’s a song called “An Evil Wizard Does a Quest” and another one called “Victorious Eagle Warfare”, do you need me to spell this out for you?

Jonathan Coulton – Solid State (Apple Music, Spotify)
Internet dude, songwriter of the songs that GladOS sings in the Portal games, JoCo has a new one that’s also loosely a scifi rock opera with its own graphic novel. And the graphic novel is all-caps GOOD. Listen to me and the boys talk about the comic book on episode 94 of Four Color Commentary at about an hour in.

Psychic Temple – IV (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Chris Schlarb is Psychic Temple’s mastermind, cult leader, and, this time around, lead singer. This album is getting lots of “Steely Dan in 2017” comparisons and they work because they imply both songwriting skill and instrumental prowess. Schlarb doesn’t hold back when it comes to collaborators, inviting disparate players together to form an unrivaled and totally killer studio crew. They even made a (short) documentary about the making of this album that’s worth seeing. Watch out, these songs seem unassuming at first listen, but once they get implanted, you’ll find them popping up and you’ll be drawn back in, over and over.

Richard Edwards – Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
The first solo album from the former leader of Margaret and the Nuclear So and So’s, Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset, is sweet and sour and not just a little wistful. It’s sonically lush and lyrically heartbreaking, and it leans towards that LA country sound but with a vulnerability atypical of the genre.

Sleep Party People – Lingering (Apple Music, Spotify)
The work of a single imaginitive Danish dude named Brian Batz, Sleep Party People fit into that genre that we used to call synthpop but now is evangelized by the likes of CHVRCHES and Purity Ring. This album only gingerly encourages you to dance while pushing the sonic boundaries of these totally sing-along-able songs.

Tall Tall Trees – Freedays (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Maybe one of my favorite albums of the year so far. The first track, Backroads, is so, so good. And the album proceeds from there, continuing to draw you in and enrapture you with its beauty and soul. It’s hard to believe that a lot of the sounds on this album come from multitracked, effects-laden banjo. No, really. It’s AMAZING.

Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestite (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
I’ve always had this weird affinity for music that you can move from one genre to another simply based on the volume your headphones are at. There’s a particular crushing electronic metal noise produced on this EP that is soothing and calming at low volumes but brutal and cathartic at louder volumes. Plus, French horn.

Ryan’s Music Picks 💎 27 July 2017

I’m way behind. This list was compiled about a week and a half after my last proper music picks email/post. This might be a more slapdash post; I’m aiming for one-sentence album descriptions. I’m trying to exorcise this albums from my mental backlog. A lot of music has come out since I put this group of albums together–I have two other lists sitting, waiting to be written up as well. Hopefully they get out faster than this one did.

Steven Universe, Vol. 1 (Apple Music, Spotify)
Not only is it the best animated show ever, but it’s produced at least 8 songs which I require for sustained living.

Jay Som – Everybody Works (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
This is just so good, there’s so many excellent moments in this delightfully surprising album.

Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up (Apple Music, Spotify)
I’m a huge fan of Fleet Foxes and I’m not yet convinced of this album’s greatness, but to be honest I haven’t listened to it in a cabin in the woods either.

James Irwin – Shabbytown (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Some dang songs that just decide to plant themselves inside of you while you are distracted by the fantastic production.

The Drums – Abysmal Thoughts (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Another member of the secret Joy Electric cabal, Johnny Pierce really excells at songs that sound upbeat and positive until you really dig into the lyrical content.

Marty Robbins – Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Cowboy songs, man. They’re coming back. Thanks to Jason Opus for the heads up on this gem.

Eamon Fogerty – Progressive Bedroom (Bandcamp)
At some point, people decided that jazzy, overly complex light rock sound that Steely Dan pioneered needed to be updated with 2017 sounds. Turns out they were right.

Amber Coffman – City of No Reply (Apple Music, Spotify)
THE VOICE from Dirty Projectors venturing out on her own and bringing pop to the forefront without losing the weirdness.

WHY? – Moh Lhean (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
WHY? has always tugged heartstrings but now they add some space and weave a web. I’d lost track of WHY? and I’m glad to have found them again.

Marnie – Strange Words and Weird Wars (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
She’s the voice you remember from Ladytron, sticking with synths but sounding fresh and killer.

Michael Nau – Some Twist (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Throwback hazy laidback singer-songwriter fare, like something that should be played through carpeted speakers in a hotel lounge.

Lo-Fi-Fnk – Nightclub Nirvana (Apple Music, Spotify)
Lo-Fi-Fnk started out on the same path as Hot Chip and then diverged towards dancefloor pop and never looked back.

Oceanator – Oceanator (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Guitar-led rock that keeps things interesting and gives you feelings.

∆aimon – Amen EP (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Electro-goth that crushes you with beats.

Toro y Moi – Causers of This (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Can you call a seven-year-old album a classic? This album makes the case for “yes”.

Ryan’s Playlist Picks 🌤 28 June 2017

A lot of the time I listen to music in my car, I just shuffle my entire library and see what comes up. I like the idea of just having what is essentially a Ryan radio station, made up of just music I’ve added to my library. That said, I’ve always been a bit paranoid about Apple’s shuffle feature. It seems to have a recency bias, and doesn’t ever seem truly random. Stuff that’s getting promoted by iTunes tends to pop up on shuffle more frequently, and I am pretty sure it seems to prefer songs I’ve listened to a lot. I guess that’s better for the listener than something truly completely random–it seems random but is familiar enough that it feels like my phone just gets me.

Anyway, this is a playlist of songs that, with the exception of track 1, came up randomly in this exact order on my phone last night and this morning. I think it’s a pretty wide variety of artists, but it works remarkably well as a single musical object.

  1. Backroads by Tall Tall Trees
  2. Places by Georgie James
  3. Open by Com Truise
  4. Colluding Oligarchs by Shabazz Palaces
  5. Falling by Morella’s Forest
  6. Drifter In the Dark by Ween
  7. Surge by Above & Beyond
  8. Pictures of Matchstick Men (Mono Version) by Status Quo
  9. Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect by The Decemberists
  10. Strength by Fraunhofer Diffraction
  11. Bad Friend by Bon Voyage
  12. Red Hot Drops by Chad VanGaalen
  13. Working for Vacation by Cibo Matto
  14. Zeeman Effect by Melodium
  15. Bulletproof by La Roux
  16. clouds & Rain by Zac Love

I hope you like it! It’s good for driving and doesn’t have any bad words.

Ryan’s Music Picks ☁️ 5 June 2017

Here’s a bunch of albums that have fallen in my lap. A lot of them are pretty dark; some are quiet and some are noisy. It’s a weird bunch of albums–there’s something for everyone.

Back to the Future the Ride – Health on Earth (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
BTTFTR make some of my favorite sounds on the earth. He constructs pavilions and landscapes and entire planets with of machine echos and other noise. It gets to my soul and into my being in a way that few things do. Pay what you want (including free!) on Bandcamp.

Danger – 太鼓 (Drum) (Apple Music, Spotify)
I’d lost track of Danger and was excited when they popped up on my tumblr feed, of all places. It’s a mysterious French electronic music band that anticipated the whole vaporwave thing and have now fully embraced that aesthetic. Expect post-apocalyptic music that travels between looped easy-listening spa music samples, heavy glitchy drums, and that incredible 80s cop movie soundtrack synthesizer sound.

Elder – Reflections of a Floating World (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
If there’s one thing you’ve learned of my music tastes by now, it’s that I like my metal to be sludge-laden, doom-heavy, and with plenty of shredding. Elder hits most of these, and has the southern charm and slow-motion chug that can only come from heat and humidity. It’s awesome.

Formation – Look at the Powerful People (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
When I first listened to Formation, I nearly wrote them off as a LCD Soundsystem soundalike. While they definitely are cut from the same cloth as LCD, this is a group of young positive dudes from London, not some world-weary old school hipsters from NYC. The songcraft is light and fun, with some elements of the manual and a good amount of posi-core and late night parties. I love this album.

Fraunhofer Diffraction – Threads of Fate (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
No joke one of my favorite things is when someone recommends an album to me because they think I’ll like it. That’s exactly what happened this and they recommender was right on. They’re dark, gothy electronic music that veers towards hardcore. It reminds me of a less caustic Atari Teenage Riot, or a less mopey Cold Cave. It alternates hot and heavy or cold and dark, but never lets up.

Johnny Jewel – Windswept (Apple Music, Spotify, Buy the digital copy for $1)
Johnny Jewel might be a genius. He excels on using a guitar and a synthesizer to get the exact mood that you need to wistfully sit on your hood in an empty parking lot late at night. He knows how to manipulate that mood to push you towards love or paranoia. Some of the music on this album is in the new Twin Peaks show, too, so obviously he knows how to make music for black lodges and red rooms and damn fine coffee too.

King Tarahumara – The Mystic Mixtape Trilogy (Apple Music: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Spotify: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Bandcamp)
King Tarahumara is Kevin Robinson (formerly of Viva Voce) and a friend of his making weird psychedelic dub cutups. It’s esoteric and kinda noisy, with toasting en Español dripped over the top. Robinson’s funk and pop tendencies push the music into evolving weirdo jams rather than unlistenable tape splices, and it gets deeper with subsequent listens. My favorite chapter is 2 (Turquoise), but the whole thing works quite well in sequence. Pay what you want (including free!) on Bandcamp.

King Tubby Meets Scientist In a Revival Dub (Apple Music, Spotify)
King Tubby is one of the unquestionable originators of the Jamaican Dub sound (along with Lee Scratch Perry), and Scientist was his student. This album is a soundsystem battle alternating between King Tubby and Scientist, each of them one-upping the previous track. Expect that heavy bass roll and that laid back beat in the music of the future.

Monster Rally & Rumtum (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp (old version missing last 3 tracks))
Not unlike King Tubby and Scientist, Monster Rally and Rumtum are two producers who rely heavily on samples, and this is a collaborative album between them. Monster Rally brings his trademark exotica samples and animal sounds, and Rumtum slides in with driving hip hop beats and some beeps and boops. It’s an excellent match.

Radioactive Man – Luxury Sky Garden (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
I’m mostly bad at electronic music genres. There are words and phrases that indicate to me that I’ll typically like a particular piece of electronic music, but most of the time, after I find something I like, I’m hard pressed to call it a thing that others will recognize as a specific genre. So Radioactive Man is the non-Andrew Weatherall half of Two Lone Swordsmen (his name is Keith Tenniswood), and he makes music with lots of synthesizer sounds, acid loops, and microhouse beats. It’s techno? or acid house? maybe you could call it electro? Like I said, I’m bad at electronic music genres but I know what I like.

TOPS – Sugar at the Gate (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Finding out about a previously-unheard female-fronted dream pop band is always exciting to me. TOPS gets a good dreamy feel and adds a guitar-based funky element, like the Phoenix album Alphabetical. It’s classic pop rock at its best.

Wavves – You’re Welcome (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
That Wavves has sustained a bratty, snotty, DGAF attitude so long in his career without becoming a parody of himself is a feat. That fact that each album keeps that fun feel with increasing sonic depth is really impressive. It’s 100% summer jams that get good and weird and sound awesome and don’t care.

Ryan’s Music Picks 🌸 25 May 2017

Looks like I’ve shifted to roughly monthly for these. Thanks for your patience. This is a lot of music that fits well into the late spring season (an important time for music, IMO). There are 3 different albums from 1968-69 in here this time, and a bunch of baroquely complex pop. That’s just what happens in the spring.

Benjamin Clementine – At Least For Now (Apple Music, Spotify)
I discovered Benjamin Clementine thanks to this post on MetaFilter. He’s pretty much a straight-up genius, making incredible piano songs that are equal parts rambling and purely pop. I keep getting lost in his songs and I love it.

David Axelrod – Songs of Innocence (Apple Music, Spotify)
This 1968 album is legendary. It’s been sampled tons of times, and it truly is gorgeous. I know how this sounds, but it’s kind of a jazz rock odyssey, with horns and chimes and drums. It’s definitely a music nerd album, but it’s also a gateway drug, so watch out.

Kendrick Lamar – DAMN. (Apple Music, Spotify)
I’m late to the game on this album and on Kendrick in general. I would say he’s unequivocally the best rapper alive if Run The Jewels weren’t around, but he’s defintely operating on a different level than most rappers out there. If he’s this good now, I can’t imagine what’s going to happen when he’s the age of the RTJ dudes.

The Mountain Goats – Goths (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
John Darnielle hasn’t been shy about how much he loves heavy metal and black metal, and it’s led his trademark wordy guitar-driven story songs to veer down a dark path. Goths is darker and heavier than most Mountain Goats albums, with songs that highlight the inherent ridiculousness of the goth lifestyle by taking it deadly seriously.

Jai Paul – 2013 Leak (DOWNLOAD)
This album appeared unexpectedly in 2013, basically inventing the surprise album release. The Fader recaps what happened in this recent article. It turns out that it was an unauthorized leak, and, though it was unbelievably well-received, it caused the already-introverted Jai Paul to go into hiding, and he hasn’t released any more music under his own name since. But it’s an incredible mix of beats, samples, and guitar-based pop.

Marina and the Diamonds – FROOT (Apple Music, Spotify)
It’s understandable that Marina Diamandis has a cult of personality among teen girls on tumblr. Her songs have a strong emotional element, unstoppable pop tendencies, and anthemically address issues people like tumblr teen ladies are also dealing with.

TW Walsh – Terrible Freedom (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
TW Walsh has released two of my favorite albums in the last two years. He writes devastating songs and keeps it experimental without getting too weird. TW is in a new band, called Lo Tom, with David Bazan and Jason Martin (of Starflyer 59) and you better believe I’m going to talk about that album once it comes out.

Leon – Bird World (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
Leon is well known on weird twitter as leyawn, and though he’s mostly good at sick burns and excellent jokes, he composes as well. He’s created a fun soundtrack to an imaginary game that’s equal parts Super NES platformer, a Playstation JRPG, and an 80s Studio Ghibli film.

John Fahey – The Yellow Princess (Apple Music, Spotify)
Another album from the late 60s, this one is literally a whole album of acoustic guitar improvisation. It’s basically the original one, though. Classic.

Collin Strange – How I Creep (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
This is 4 tracks making up 31 minutes of driving, violent techno, like angry synthesizers and drum machines having a fight club.

Wintergatan – Wintergatan (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
I found Wintergatan thanks to this youtube video. He has a penchant for making syncopated pieces played by oddly automated instruments, and though his album is a bit more complexly produced than the music in that video, it’s no less entrancing.

The Zombies – Odyssey and Oracle (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp)
The third late-60s album in this collection, this one is absolutely the MOST legendary. You’ve definitely heard several of these songs on movie soundtracks, I know I have. This is the perfect album to blast on a day off while spring turns into summer.

Ryan’s Music Picks 🍔 12 April 2017

Whew, it’s been more than a month since my last one of these. I had nearly 30 albums stockpiled in my working playlist, and I’ve cut it down to 11, but I probably will have more next week or the week after.

Mastodon – Emperor of Sand (Apple Music, Spotify)
At what point do we just crown Mastodon as kings of metal? Do they have to take out Metallica in a fistfight? Does Kanye have to rush the stage during the Grammies and announce that he’s going to let you finish but Mastodon is the greatest metal band of all time?

Geotic – Abysma (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Geotic is the name of the alleged side project from Will Wiesenfeld, who has also released his intricate bedroom/laptop experimental electonic music as Baths. I say alleged because, at this point, there are more Geotic albums than there are Baths album. This is the closest his two projects have come to crossing over, as previous Geotic releases were strictly ambient affairs, whereas this gorgeous piece of work has beats, moments of pop, and even vocals. It still has the patented Will Wiesenfeld touch, which is the ability to get you directly in the feels and install itself there.

Monster Movie – Keep the Voices Distant (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Monster Movie is pure shoegaze and I love it. It’s totally sing-along-able kinda bummed out songs, drenched in reverb and noise, with a emphasis on epic choruses and guitars making noise. Monster Movie are masters and this album is here to wrap you up in sound.

Unwed Sailor – Take A Minute EP (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
I’ve been a big fan of Unwed Sailor’s instrumental jams since the early 2000s but haven’t heard much from him recently. This EP brings back the touchstones of Unwed Sailor of old: syncopated drums and quiet guitar and chimes, with a bit more density than the old stuff, and some synthesizers too. It’s perfect driving music for these beautiful spring days we’re having in So Cal.

Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Brutal and crushing in a soul-rending kind of way. I mean, we’ve all had days like that, right? Just the feeling that nothing’s going right and everything is garbage. I believe in many things including hope, but there are days that just suck, man. And it’s nice to have a band like Inter Arma who has been there too. Self-care on days like that is important. Sometimes you need a good cry, or a quiet evening with a nice book, and sometimes you need the most punishing black metal imaginable to remind you that, yeah, you’re not alone and other people have bad days but they survive and darn it, you will too.

Jean-Michel Blais & CFCF – Cascades (Apple Music, Spotify)
Music for quiet contemplation that might bleed over into the transcendent. It’s solo piano compositions front and center, with CFCF’s electronic sounds playing in the edges. This type of duo is really a novel concept to me, as the non-piano sounds really heighten the drama and push things to the next level for me. A meditative album, to be sure, but one that moves. Fans of Philip Glass and Steve Reich will really enjoy where this goes.

Sin Fang Bous – Clangour (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Maybe I’m just out of the loop, but I don’t think we get so many of these kitchen-sink bedroom pop albums anymore. You know, the kind where one person constructs the whole thing and throws in every instrument and sound they can find, just burying some achingly twee pop songs underneath toy pianos and recordings of wind in the trees. This is adorable and precious and, well, I guess I cannot fairly judge the level of irony here, but I like to think it’s super sincere.

Priests – Nothing Feels Natural (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
It’s…interesting what passes as punk in the year of our lord 2017. Pitchfork, and iTunes, etc. call Priests a punk band, and, well, I mean, okay sure. They rock, they’re snotty. The tempos are fast and it feels like it’s a no-frills guitar/bass/drums setup (but I think I hear some saxophone peaking around the corners?). But I guess punk has meant so many things over the years that we need more words for it. Priests harken back partially to punk’s New York origins and roots in surf, but there’s also a lot of bleed into what I would personally classify more as New Wave. Anyway, genre classifications aside, this album makes me want to give people the middle finger, which is, I think, a sign of a good punk album.

Teengirl Fantasy – 8AM (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Teengirl Fantasy is what it sounds like when you take all of the pop elements out of pop songs. It’s like listening to Britney Spears through a wormhole. Imagine if you somehow became just slightly out of sync with our dimension but realized that you’d left Rihanna playing. All of the pieces of radio-ready dance pop music is there, just assembled by timeless beings with no concept of the self or something.

Pallbearer – Heartless (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Pallbearer is the band my dad imagines when I describe the darkest of the black metal (see Inter Arma, above) to him. It’s got crunch and riffs, but the singing has harmonies, and there are tons of guitar solos. Like, Pink Floyd levels of guitar noodling. It’s got a bent for the old school and the theatric, but it’s still heavy metal, just a bit too slow for headbanging.

Dosh & Ghostband – Def Kith II: The Price is Ill (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Imagine if you had a epic cage match showdown between a bunch of drum machines, synths and arpeggiators. Fights rise, and fall, opponents get tossed out of the ring only to come back and grab the feet of the champs or hand up folding chairs in a moment of chaos. That’s what’s happening here, and we get to sit back and enjoy these machines fighting in lockstep with each other.

Anamanaguchi – Capsule Silence XXIV (DOWNLOAD, Spotify)
Somehow I didn’t fully process what was happening with Anamanaguchi’s weird Capsule Silence video game until recently, but it looks like they have given us between 16 and 35 tracks that represent demos, experiments, b-sides and other detritus from the last couple of years. I feel like this is a housecleaning of sorts before the finally release their next album.

Ryan’s Music Picks 👽 10 March 2017

The theme of these picks is “dreamlike” in the sense that they are transportative, slightly off-kilter, and a little unworldly. This week is full of slow-burn jams with varying levels of dance-floor, headphone, stadium, and sitting-alone-in-a-dark-room listenability.

Landlady – The World is a Loud Place (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Classic psychedelic rock in a 70s but not self-serious early 2000s way. This album makes me ready for summer right now, as do all the blockbuster movies coming out (as well as global climate issues). It rocks in a gorgeously sunny way, all wide open and happy.

Money Mark – Push the Button (Apple Music, Spotify)
Money Mark is considered the fifth Beastie Boy (after the 3 originals and Mix Master Mike). He’s a synthesizer fanatic who has been recording gloriously funky keyboard songs for years. His music is a half-and-half combination of instrumental hip hop vamps and totally chill indie pop (back when indie pop meant “I don’t know really how to classify this but it’s cute and good, you know?”). This album, which turns 20 next year, is very much a 90s college rock album, but it still feels fresh and brings the jams.

Grails – Chalice Hymnal (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
This album is a pretty heavy album, but it’s not really metal at all. On the surface, it’s droney instrumental jams with curious instrumentation and noodly fuzz guitars. Underneath is a sinister undercurrent of magic that runs so deep that if you told me that the music wasn’t so much played as it was conjured into being by a dark wizard, I would just shrug.

Roman GianArthur – Ok Lady (FREE DOWNLOAD, Apple Music, Spotify)
One of the things I have always appreciated about Radiohead is their rhythm section. The drums and bass in their music (not just the instrumentation but the lines, the groove) is always what has set them apart from their imitators. Roman GianArthur, guitarist for Janelle Monáe and Wondaland, has tapped into the underlying grooves in a handful of Radiohead songs and brought them out with full Prince-style guitars and Wondaland production. Paranoid Android works as art-damaged funk as well as All I Need works as a slow jam. But No Surprises (featuring the android queen herself) is unstoppable in this tragi-romantic incarnation, and High and Dry has never had never had so much heart and soul. Fans of R&B and fans of Radiohead need this in their lives.

In Love with a Ghost – Healing (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
In Love with a Ghost is ASMR pop. It’s a mix of ambient sounds and video game and/or soundtrack but not at all vaporwave. It doesn’t feel like it’s distorted through a corrupted rar file, it feels like it’s being played out of your PC speakers or your crappy earbuds at 1 in the morning. This album is a loose narrative about a couple of witches who meet and become friends in a forest, which adds a both charming and spooky RPG element to the music.

Blanck Mass – World Eater (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Blanck Mass make music similar to Grails in the sense that it feels heavy without being, like, actually metal-style heavy. But this time all the arcane dimensions are being opened by machines who have gained sentience.

David Bazan – Care (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
This is the erstwhile Pedro the Lion lead singer’s first album with producer Richard Swift, and it sounds like both of them bonded over their love of synthesizers and decided they should make a Yaz record. Actually, like the lyrics, the music is still unmistakably Bazan: bleak with glimmers of hope (but not too much). This time there’s no guitar, just synths and drum machines and flawless songs.

CAPSULE – Wave Runner (Apple Music, Spotify)
I mentioned stadiums, right? Electronic dance music is what we have instead of arena rock in 2017. CAPSULE infuses j-pop with killer drops, and counts the dudes from Anamanaguchi among its biggest fans.

The Octopus Project & Black Moth Super Rainbow – The House of Apples & Eyeballs (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
This insane almalgamation is a team-up album between a psych rock group (the Octopus Project) and total synth weirdos (Black Moth Super Rainbow) and it’s just a blast of bright, candy-flavored light right into your earholes. Yeah, it also might induce synesthesia.

Artificial Fear – LoZ: Metal (Bandcamp)
So I hear some sort of new Legend of Zelda-playing device came out. I hear it’s awesome. But is it as awesome as classic Legend of Zelda music played in a symphonic metal style? I’ll let you be the judge.

Playlists:

Ryan’s Music Picks ✈️ 20 February 2017

It’s been a while, huh? A lot of stuff happened since my last one of these: Trump became president, my youngest daughter turned one, I turned 34. I’ve been listening to a ton of music and making lots of mental notes and aspirational playlists for this email, but nothing has been actually written down until right now. I just got off a plane not too long ago during which I read (more Cryptonomicon–I’m nowhere near the end still) and so I thought I’d just give you what I listened to in the air and the train ride to my hotel. It’s mostly instrumental and relatively chill because I have travel anxiety and can’t listen to music with words while I read. I’ll also throw in a few albums I can’t help but mention because how much I like them.

Plane Inst:

Balmorhea – Stranger (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Less “epic” than some other Texas-based sweeping instrumental music, Balmorhea (say bal-mor-ayy) is syncopated and soothing with interesting instrumentation like piano and cello. It hasn’t been commodified and added to commercials or movie soundtracks yet, but it’s certainly ripe for that kind of exploitation.

Frankie Rose – Interstellar (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
My take-off music. Having travel anxiety but also a working understanding of aerodynamics (not a useful one, just enough to make me annoying), I’m cool with airplanes and takeoffs and landings, but I still get kind of worked up during a take off. Having good launch music does help with that, and Interstellar is amazing, driving dream rock, with a good balance of a killer rhythm section and floaty vocals/guitars/synths. Highly recommended. I own this album on vinyl!

This Will Destroy You – Another Language (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
I’m just getting into these guys. They have that loud/quiet dynamic like Explosions in the Sky, but it’s darker and broodier when quiet, and has way more of the slams when loud. Killer.

The Mercury Program – New Myths EP (Bandcamp, Apple Music)
One my favorite and first instrumental rock bands, which led me to telling people that I was “way into post-rock” for a few years, which, uh, I don’t even know what that means at this point. Their trademark is delayed guitars and overactive drums and this EP, their first recording since 2009, is right on par with their classics from the early 2000s (which I recommend you also get into).

Teen Daze – Themes for Dying Earth (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
I’m a huge fan of Teen Daze, in spite of their (his, really) pretty kinda played-out name. It’s like a sea of warm waves and boops with icebergs of perfect pop floating by you occasionally. Super soothing but not boring or too spa-music-like.

Nanook of the North – The Täby Tapes (Apple Music, Spotify)
Adorable early-2000s indie pop that’s lushly produced and has back and forth boy/girl vocals. Opus recently tweeted his 13-year-old review of this album and I’m so glad he did, it’s still great.

A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Sea When Absent (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
This is one of those albums that sounds totally different depending on if it’s being played loudly or quietly. If you crank it up, it’s punishing guitars and stadium synthesizers but, if you turn it down, it’s hushed vocals adrift in a sea of noise and tamborine. Don’t ask me how it works.

Other Cool Stuff that I Wanted to Tell You About (quick shots)

Sinkane – Life & Livin’ It (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Sinkane makes music that triangulates a ton of music I love and then turns it into something astonishingly new. There’s elements of so much good stuff here, but it’s the heart that wins out and really holds everything together. The grooves are unstoppable, no question, but the real humanity in this music grabs you and doesn’t let go.

Delicate Steve – This Is Steve (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
Instrumental guitar-fronted rock where the guitar functions as much as the lead singer as the main instrument. Delicate Steve plays the most lyrical guitar in the galaxy, and he rocks harder on this album than on any of his (spectacular) previous releases.

Neil Cicierega – Mouth Moods (Download/Stream)
On one level, this is a mixtape of funny, “bad” mashups of songs that are so popular that you probably know the words even if you haven’t heard them in a decade and never made any effort to learn the words. On another level, this is a brilliant, brain-destroying lesson in recontextualization and post-post-modernism. If you have not, definitely check out the two previous releases in this series: Mouth Sounds and Mouth Silence.

I tried a thing:

Top 12 Albums 2016

12_2016

Here’s my Favorite 12 Albums of 2016.

12 because 10 isn’t ever enough, and “favorite” (as opposed to “best”) because objectivity in art is impossible.

There are a lot of albums from 2016 that I didn’t listen to, and a lot of other albums that I heard once but never spent time with, so expect plenty of 2016 music to trickle out here in the next several months. I don’t make definitive lists because I change my mind too much, but this is stuff I have listened to the most over the last year.

(presented in alphabetical order)

The Avalanches – Wildflower (Apple Music, Spotify)
(from Ryan’s Music Picks: 11 July 2016) This is only their second proper album but so far I love it, from the Biz Markie song The Noisy Eater to some of the quieter interlude bits. It’s heavy-sampled and heavily tropical with that same perfect nostalgia/sadness feeling that Pet Sounds really perfectly handles. This was the band I discovered when I first got into new music after high school and they remain one of my favorites of all time.

Beyonce – Lemonade (iTunes (for purchase)Tidal)
A ton of amazing music was released this year. When it comes to Tidal-exclusives from legendary artists, Beyonce has Kanye beat, hands down. It’s packed with perfect tracks that push the boundaries of pop music into new and exciting places. It’s pretty inescapable and that’s for good reason.

Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book (DatPiff, Apple Music, Spotify)
I mentioned Kanye above, and Chance had a crucial role in the single best Kanye song from this year, but then his 3rd mixtape (album? I get that it’s…not, but maybe we should just call them albums at this point?) blew The Life of Pablo out of the water. Chance stretches his style in this mixtape, trying different styles and cadences while he matches with his guests. His voice is versatile, both as a rapper and singer as well as his voice as a writer. His exuberance is infectious, and this mixtape gets better with each listen.

clipping. – Splendor & Misery (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
(from Ryan’s Music Picks 14 September 2016) 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, and afrofuturist scifi rap of Deltron 3030.

DM Stith – Pigeonheart (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
(from Ryan’s Music Picks: 1 August 2016) This is, without question, a headphones album. I tried listening to it a few times this week in the car with kids and playing out of the speaker of my phone and I was not moved. Then, after the kids were all asleep, I donned my preferred listening headphones (Sony MDRZX110 – less than $15 on Amazon) and this album exploded before me into sound-shapes and mind-colors or something. Stith’s trademark haunting ghost vocals are there, backed by a dazzling array of sounds both organic and synthetic. This album is deep, unfolding with multiple listens, and it somehow stays unpredictable, like some sort of weird audio fractal. Highly recommended.

Eola – Dang (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
(from Ryan’s Music Picks: 12 October 2016) 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 this for a while.

Helado Negro – Private Energy (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
(from Ryan’s Music Picks: 12 October 2016) 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.

Jamila Woods – HEAVN (only on Soundcloud)
(from Ryan’s Music Picks: 18 July 2016) If, like me, you’re into Chance The Rapper, you probably will recognize Jamila Woods’ voice. She is the driving force of Sunday Candy and Blessings (I) and her solo album is incredible even given the high expectations I had going into it. It turns out that she is a poet and playwright in her spare time, and that’s hardly a surprise after listening to the album. It’s a free download from soundcloud and you should absolutely not sleep on this.

Justice – Woman (Apple Music, Spotify)
(from Ryan’s Music Picks 23 November 2016) 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.

Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3 (free download on runthejewels.com, Apple Music, Spotify)
With this third album, Mike and El have cemented themselves in the list of greatest rap duos of all time. They’re still angry and they drop more knowledge in a verse than most rappers do in a whole album. El-P’s production is still singularly top-notch and neck-snapping, too. It’s the kind of album that you put on when you need to feel like you can throw refrigerators through walls.

Sound of Ceres – Nostalgia for Infinity (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
It’s weird how sometimes you find a band who make music just for you. Sound of Ceres hits that sweet spot for me that’s right between tiki-bar-era tropical exotica, shoegaze with whispery feminine vocals, warm ambient noise, and perfect-chorus pop songwriting. The music is so inviting, and it reaches right into my heart like little else. I want to live inside of their songs.

TW Walsh – Fruitless Research (Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotify)
TW Walsh is a hell of a songwriter, and I’ve been a big fan of his work with Pedro the Lion, with David Bazan, with The Soft Drugs, and on his solo albums. But this time, he’s augmented his sound with some noisy synths and other experimental elements, and it really makes a big difference to me. The sonic textures on this album really highlight his songwriting skills and production knowledge. I bought this on tape and couldn’t stop listening for months.