30. Youth Lagoon - Wondrous Bughouse
This is one of those sophomore albums that is much better than the first, where the first was considered by most music critics as a masterpiece, but you won't find it anywhere near any year-end lists. Trevor Powers, the man behind Youth lagoon, has created a wonderful psychedelic trip here, so much more enjoyable than his dull bedroom pop album that everyone else loved.
Samuel Beam ha been making beautiful music for a decade now and, though it all is unmistakably Beam, every album seems to have its own unique feel. This one is no different. I have slept with it and dreamed with it until I couldn't deny the magic floating toward me.
Amber Webber and Joshua Wells are both members of Black Mountain, an amazing guitar driven rock wondershow. This is their side project and it focuses a little more on a synth driven techno dream. Some of it kind of devolves into sappy yearning wanton bliss but some of it will just blow your socks off.
This album is a trip, the glitchy trapeze act weaving its way under your skin. Matthew Barnes has tapped into some goodness here and I can't help but follow along.
I've been loving these guys forever. They're from Alaska, up there near Sarah Palin or something. God, Imagine what type of person she would be if this was her favorite band. For this album they pare up with Danger Mouse and he gives their rock a little more bounce in its step.
Patricia Hall and Ian Hicks are Soft Metals. Who are they? I don't know, never heard of them before and by the look of it, hardly anyone seems to have heard of them, too. But I somehow found it because it was similar to other music that I liked and even if their groovy pop doesn't jump out at you as the most original piece of music ever, there's still something about it that grabs my heart. I feel young again when I listen to it.
Katie Crutchfield is awesome. At first I thought that she really sounded a lot like Chan Marshall, with the same kind of energy that we heard from those early Cat Power records. Then I thought that it was a little more like Jenny Lewis, from that era when I thought Rilo Kiley was the greatest band on the planet. The point of these comparisons isn't that she is some sort of replica of these two great musicians, although that wouldn't be terrible. It's because I want you to understand that this woman has some serious mojo and she's going to live up there with the best of them.
Here you go. Some nice hippy rock for all you old-timers out there who thought there would never be great rock like there was in the 70s. Kurt Vile puts them all to shame. He's a master. So just turn it up loud and drown in the wonder of it.
I have always loved Swedish pop music for some reason, probably because there's some pretty damn good musicians coming out of Sweden nowadays. This band takes me back to high school, you know. They've got that late 80s/early 90s schtick going and I just can't get enough of it. Blissful.
This is one of those albums that you just can't shake and it mostly comes down to the perfect placement of all the parts. Will Wiesenfeld is the type of musician who was probably a mathematician in a past life and now he gets to put all that logic into wonderful arrangements that take over our landscape.
I know that I already said that one of the musicians on this list comes from the seventies but I forgot about these guys. This is the direct spirit of the Rolling Stones, you know back when the Rolling Stones were good, and if those guys were actually dead then I would say that these guys are the reincarnation of the Rolling Stones. Maybe the Rolling Stones actually died ages ago and the facade that we see nowadays are clones that were created so that the record company who owned the Rolling Stones could still get rich off of them. Well, hopefully that same record company has the rights to Foxygen because they might get as big as the Rolling Stones.
Every year I have to indulge my morose nature and contemplate the darker portions of my life. During those moments it helps for me to find beautiful music that really works its way down, so that I can really get into a sentimental mood. I guess this is the emo album of the year for me. I love Elena Tonra's voice.
Straight Rockabilly, although they probably hate getting categorized in such a minimal way, so I'll simply say that Ford and the Sound Outside have such an incredible energy that I want to know them, like they just seem like genuine people. Now, I'm never going to get to know them in real life, so this is the next best thing.
Another Swedish pop star! Yaaaaaaay! I could listen to them all day. Plus Ane Brun does an amazing cover of Built To Spill's song "I Would Hurt A Fly". Um, that alone would get her on this list.
I know that Daft Punk has this reputation as one of the greatest club bands ever. I know that if you really know dance music then you are aware of Daft Punk's genius. I know all of that but for some reason, I have never gotten caught up in any of it. Now, I haven't been to one of their shows, although I have heard them through my own stereo, and still I just didn't get it really. Well, now that they've conquered the planet with this album and everyone loves them...I get it.
JD Samson has such wonderful energy. Coming from Le Tigre and a collaboration with Kathleen Hanna brought Samson along an amazing road toward creating music and art with a defining purpose. Whenever I hear anything about MEN and their activities, I want some of it.
I love this groovy blend of jazz and hip-hop. There's a need for grandstanding and anger in the rap world but it's so wonderful to find a gentle rhythm that soothes your soul. It's my soul music.
I've been listening to Calexico for ages. Fifteen, twenty years following the swaying groove of these country-ish masters. Well, I must say that I have to put Algiers at the top of them. It seems like this band just continues to make great music. It doesn't get old for them. They must really love making music to keep it going like this.
Emiliana Torrini is not from Sweden but she is one of my favorite musicians. I have loved her stuff since I saw her perform with Thievery Corporation a decade ago. She is so full of light that whenever you listen, you simply feel blessed to have the opportunity. Hopefully she continues to bring joy to the world. We all need this kind of magic. And she is from Iceland, which isn't Sweden but seems like it when you try to find it on a map.
The pop record of the year. It has the bounce that makes you move your shoulders anytime, no matter where you are. Over the past few years, Chazwick Bradley Bundick has developed into a master. I've always enjoyed what he brought to the table but with this album, I'm simply devouring it and asking for seconds.
Such quiet emotional resonance with every note. Karaindrou makes music for the cinema and this live concert album is a broad collection of her repertoire. They do a great job of capturing the beauty of the concert, even if you catch a cough from the audience at times. It's such an alluring and beautiful collection of music that takes you places beyond this mundane world.
More Swedish pop music. Junip is Jose Gonzalez's bigger band project. If you don't know who Jose Gonzalez is then you should learn more about him. He's a absolute genius on the guitar and his voice is amazing. Also, this album has the best song of the year, "Line Of Fire".
Some artists have been around for such a long time that they are so mature in their creativity that you just accept that every new offering is going to be more wonderful than whatever came before it. This is a gift, to continue to grow as a human being is the real challenge in life. Bonobo is following this artistic journey.
James Blake has this unique ability to make profound electronic music that is so big and so full of huge beats but also so soft at the same time. His last album wallowed more in the quiet, where his voice was a dynamic presence that couldn't be denied. With Overgrown, Blake has elevated the beatitude into a massive outcome that manages to also cherish the gentler side of life, as well.
There are dance albums that speak to you. When I mean you, I mean each person has a trigger inside them that registers the beat in such a way that you can't deny that your body needs the sound. As soon as I heard Classix I immediately wished I was on a dance floor. The very first beat worms its way right into my heart and lifts my head with open arms to the sky.
These beats that Austra provide are slightly different than what I just talked about above. Yeah, they make you move and they weave through you in a magical way but the difference with Austra is Katie Stelmanis. Her voice is a perfect blend with this version of electronica. When I say perfect, I mean perfect.
We saw CocoRosie at the Belly Up in Solana Beach (which is one of the greatest places to see a band BTW) and it turned out to be one of the greatest live performances ever. I was absolutely blown away. The reason is that sisters, Bianca and Sierra Casady don't just make music, they put their hearts into everything that they do. You cannot escape the beautiful energy that they provide to the world. We are so fortunate to have them during our lifetimes. Cherish them.
This is the most pleasant album of the year. Such a magical blend of pop-rock that you can't help but smile when you hear their music. Catchy, lovely, fun, endearing. Small Black is on the map.
Alt-J has crossed over. It didn't take long for the world to fall in love with them. I'm right there with everyone else. These guys really make amazing music and Joe Newman's unique voice is crazy good. Hard to believe that An Awesome Wave is their first album. When you listen it just feels like the music is flawless, like they either are produced with perfection or they are simply that good. I hope that it's the latter because I can't wait for more.
Every year, there is one album that absolutely registers with my soul. It's as if that album was made exactly for me for where I am at this moment in time. I never know why or how it is going to happen. I can't predict whether it will be rock or hip-hop or downtempo or country or jazz or a gentle blend of electronic music that will knock your socks off. Whatever it is and where ever it comes from, I only know that I will love it forever and it will always bring me back to the beauty I experienced during that time in my life. Thank you Blue Hawaii for all that you give.
(Check the player to the right for a playlist of all this wonderful music)