March & April Music Awesomeness

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Where did the month of April go?  It seemed to slip away from me.  Before I knew it, the month was half over and I had not written a blog about the new music I listened to in March.  So I scrapped the idea of a March blog and decided to do a two month music spectacular!  Though there isn’t nearly as much new music on this list as one would think; some new releases I listened to in March really ate up a lot of my listening time and are still prominently placed atop my listening list.

Over the past two months I don’t have an album that was my favorite, but all of the albums I listened to in March are easily my favorites of the year so far.  Just a lot of solid releases that I keep coming back to on an almost daily basis and most likely I will keep coming back to these albums as the year trudges on.  So without further ado:

  • Heron Oblivion – Heron Oblivion – described as psychedelic folk-rock, which admittedly is a genre I know very little about; this band and album comes across as something far more potent than any folk band would think of putting out. This is their debut album with members from a handful of other psych folk-rock bands.  Meg Baird is the singer and drummer, providing both an angelic voice and a steady backbeat for guitarists Noel von Harmonson and Charlie Saufley to showcase their playing abilities, which is typically bouncing solos off of one another while bassist Evan Miller locks in with Baird to provide a powerful, steady groove.  These four combined make a very moody, dynamic album that provides a fantastic listen and I’m guessing a great live show.
  • Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression – I have always known who Iggy Pop is and what his contributions to the punk and for that matter music scene in general, have meant. Yet I have never delved into his catalog as one should.  When I read that he was collaborating with Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Ages), I knew I had to listen.  Rounding out the album with Dean Freitas (Queens of the Stone Ages) and Matt Helders (Arctic Monkeys), the trio provides a lush sonic soundscape that allows Iggy Pop to move freely lyrically and tonally.  I found the album to be much more subdued than anticipated and I think it permits for a more retrospective look back at Iggy Pop’s career.  If this is indeed Pop’s final album, it is one hell of a way to go out.
  • Santigold – 99 Cents – an easily accessible, fun, and playful listen that has pop hooks littered throughout the album. Versatile song writing that weaves different genres of music together for a very cohesive sounding record.
  • White Denim – Stiff – the Austin, Texas based band is back with their sixth studio album and it is a doozy. The nine song album is over before you know it as the energetic songs flow seamlessly from one track to another.  Their intricate playing keeping the listeners attention so that you don’t miss the nuance of the notes being put forth.

Other things that have come across my sonic radar this month:

As I said before, I didn’t listen to much else other than what’s above, but there was time to listen to Prince.  A genuine, one of a kind artist that will certainly be missed, but whose legacy will carry on for future generations to appreciate.

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February Music

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My favorite album for the month of February was the band Yuck’s newest release, Stranger Things.  This is the bands third album, second without lead singer and founding member Daniel Blumberg.  Having only listened to their first album sometime in the past, and enjoying it, I was delighted to find out that they had a new release.  I have found Stranger Things to be a very accessible listen, with the perfect mix of pop melodies and fuzzed out guitars; harkening back to 90’s bands such as Pavement and the Pixies.

Other albums released in February that I got to listen to were:

  • Benji Hughes – Songs in the Key of Animals – a singer/songwriter, with a history of jingle writing, whose second album’s first half showcases his lightheartedness with a breezy, summer vibe that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I found the back half of the album to be the pared down, straight forward type of songwriting that I prefer.
  • The Frights – You Are Going To Hate This – trio that blends punk, surfer, and indie rock together into a cohesive sound that is all their own. Having never been much of a punk listener, I thought that this was a solid album, and clocking in at only thirty-three minutes, a quick listen.
  • KING MUD – Victory Motel Sessions – a dirty blues rock duo comprised by two musicians from bands I had never heard of before; but after listening to the album, I will definitely seek them out. Recorded in only five days allows the album to capture the rawness and intensity of the group.  Perfect album to listen to on a Saturday afternoon with a beer in one hand and a joint in the other.
  • Sunflower Bean – Human Ceremony – young, as in not old enough to buy beer young, trio out of Brooklyn that thoroughly impresses on their debut album. The musicianship is top notch and would be able to pass as a band that has been around awhile.  The future for these kids is very bright.

Other things that have come across my sonic radar this month:

  • Bad Bad Hats – Psychic Reader – debut album from a Minnesota trio that offers up lo-fi pop rock songs.
  • King Tuff – Was Dead – a recommended listen from Matt Norlander, is the debut album of musician Kyle Thomas from 2008. Filled with an array of catchy tunes, this album showcases the songwriting prowess of Thomas that he was unable to put forth in the many other projects he has been a part of.
  • The Velvet Underground – after watching the second episode of HBO’s new show Vinyl, in which Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground make an appearance, I had to go on a Velvet Underground binge. This is one of my favorite bands and I feel that sometimes they, and Lou Reed in particular, are underrated for their contributions and influences to music and bands around the world.  They are unabashedly themselves, putting forth art that is truly their own and not caving to any pressures to make their music more accessible for a wider audience.  Either you like it or you don’t and Lou Reed doesn’t care either way.
  • The Weeknd – Beauty Behind the Madness – admittedly I knew very little about The Weeknd up until a few months ago. I thought that this was a group and was a little surprised to find out that The Weeknd is just one dude.  I was introduced to this album by my fiancée who had it playing in her car non-stop.  After a few listens through I found myself humming to songs while at work and now understand what all the fuss has been about.

January Jams

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After finishing my year end music blog in December, I went about telling friends over the holidays about it and a common refrain was that they didn’t know what was out there for new music and new bands.  So I decided that along with my yearly blog of music, I would try to do a monthly one as well; highlighting new albums from that month and any other previously released albums that I have listened to or come across. Besides my year end blog, I intermittently blog about music, unless I am particularly moved by and a band or an album.

The biggest album for the month of January is easily David Bowie’s final masterpiece Blackstar.  If you don’t know about this record, I am just going to assume you have been in a coma or hiding in your fallout shelter.  Bowie does not disappoint on this release as he weaves new and old sounds together creating a record that breathes fresh air, yet still sounds familiar with the rest of his discography.  With Bowie’s passing, listeners should also delve into the entirety of his work; a refreshing reminder of what a true artist/musician is all about.

Other albums released in January that I got to listen to were:

  • Brothers Osborne – Pawn Shop – duo that plays solid retro, country-rock you’re not likely to find amongst all the bro-country that dominates country radio airwaves these days.
  • Chairlift – Moth – an indie/pop duo in the vein of Phantogram with more of an artsy vibe.
  • Savages – Adore Life – all female Brit band’s second album centered on love’s good and bad sides. Don’t let that description throw you, this album will punch you in the face and then help you off the ground.
  • Tortoise – The Catastrophist – an instrumental band that blends an array of styles to create a sound that is all their own.

Other things that have come across my sonic radar:

  • Cage the Elephant – Tell Me I’m Pretty – go listen to this album if you haven’t already. Very solid album from a band I have grown fonder of with each release.
  • Daughn Gibson – Carnation – the newest release from the singer/songwriter that slipped through the cracks of my listening adventure last year. Though he goes in a different direction from his previous album, Gibson is great at creating a moody listening landscape that keeps the listener captivated.
  • Foo Fighters – Saint Cecilia EP – another one that I didn’t get around to listening to last year. Though just 18 minutes long, it is a pleasant listen with songs that sound like the Foo Fighters, but not recent Foo’s’ material.
  • Humphrey Lyttelton – a British jazz trumpeter and band leader that I was introduced to by the John Lennon biography I am currently reading. Lyttelton is cited as an early influence on a young Lennon.

New Year’s Day

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As I lay on “big blue” (an affectionate title given to the couch by someone who had been swallowed up by its comfort) with a never ceasing headache and a general malaise that would cripple most humans, brought upon by doing things that most thirty-five year old adults shouldn’t be doing, it dawned on me that New Year’s Day was at one time my favorite holiday.

I would say it was probably around the ages of eight to eleven.  Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Self, how is it possible for an elementary age boy to like New Year’s Day more than Christmas?”  Back before the days of the BCS or the College Football Playoff, all of the big bowl games were played on January 1st.  What a dream come true for a kid who loves college football, games starting at 11am or noon and going all day long on multiple channels.  It was the closest college football had to the opening round of March Madness.  So not only was I on vacation from school, had a new batch of toys from Christmas, I also had a slew of football games to watch in one day.

I am certain that my routine was me being up at 7am, so I could get in as much time with my new toys as possible; usually consisting of some sort of video game.  In the midst of all the fun, Mom would typically whip up some sort of hearty breakfast.  Generally my parents would have a few people over on New Year’s Eve, so there was always an abundance of leftover appetizers to snack on throughout the day.  My chair of choice in those days was the single seater closest to the television.  In order to be facing the television so as not to crank my neck, I would contort my body in ways that would automatically put me in the office of the chiropractor these days.  As an adult, I am amazed that my parents, most likely a little hungover, would let me commandeer the television for an entire day in order to watch football and not force me outside to play in the snow in order for them to get some reprieve from my fandom.

Fast forward to the present New Year’s Day and I find myself lying there, in and out of slumber, trying to watch Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.  Sadly, Notre Dame loses the only bowl game of the day that holds any intrigue for me and I move onto binge watching Breaking Bad.  No more does New Year’s Day hold the lofty placement it once did and a little bit of my childhood slips away with it.

Music 2015

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There are so many people that have helped influence and shape the different types of music I listen to.  I like to think that I give every genre a fair listen and then decide if it is for me or not.  I try my best to not have any preconceived notions about a band or style of music and how it will make me feel or what emotions it might elicit.

It all starts with my parents, growing up my Mom listened to country music such as Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, etc. and female pop singers such as Madonna and Whitney Houston.  In the meantime my Dad introduced me to classic rock groups Queen, The Who, and Alice Cooper.  I can still remember being enamored with my parents’ 8-Track collection and thumbing through what they owned and thinking that all of these bands and singers were larger than life.

At the same time, my uncles, who I revered so much because they were only five and six years older than I, were into the hair metal that was so prominent at the time.  Fortunately neither of them had the hair to prove their merit in the scene.  Not that there was any type of scene in Newcomb in the 1980’s.  From them I was introduced to Poison, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, and Motley Crue.

As I moved up through Newcomb Central School I was fortunate to have teachers who had a strong love of music and wanted to share it with their students.  Mr. Stengrevics, the music teacher and conductor of the stage band, played all sorts of music for us that deviated from what was popular at the time.  From him I gained an appreciation, though it would be years before I realized it, for classical, big band, and jazz music.

Mr. Duggan, the business teacher, was a huge Beatles fan who would show us their music and even pull out the guitar to play us a song or two every once in a while.  Mr. Wight, the shop teacher, would let us listen to whatever cassettes he had in his room during his architectural drawing class.  These cassettes contained different songs from Elvis Presley, Three Dog Night, Tommy James & The Shondells, etc.  This gave me an appreciation for genres that I had completely dismissed as a know-it-all teenager.

I like to think that everyone I have come across in this life has helped shape where I am at as a music listener.  I am open to all sorts of suggestions, so if you have one, never be afraid to let me know.

As for the year in music, there were a slew of great albums out there to listen to; I had trouble trying to narrow down my favorite.  Modest Mouse finally returned with their first album in eight years.  My Morning Jacket had a very solid album with The Waterfall.  Alabama Shakes, Courtney Barnett, EL VY and Tame Impala all had albums that I considered my favorite for a spell.  But my favorite album of the year was the sophomore effort from Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear.  I have decided that my criteria for picking my favorite album consists of how many different songs I think could be my favorite off of the album.  And on this album, almost every song was up for consideration as being my favorite.

When I try to describe Father John Misty to people I am not exactly sure how to go about it.  It usually ends up with me describing him as an acid folk, lounge singer and I know that that description doesn’t do it justice.  I Love You, Honeybear is such a raw and emotive album that bares his life and soul to the listener.  As someone who went to school for English, I am particularly drawn to him as a lyricist.  I enjoy that he is unabashed in his word choices and doesn’t try to censor himself for any reason.  Each song on the album is unique and offers a different musical avenue to take your ears down.

Other albums from 2014 that have tickled my eardrum (along with a link to a Spotify playlist with a song from each album that stood out):

Perry’s Playlist 2015

  • Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
  • The Arcs – Yours, Dreamily
  • Beach House – Depression Cherry
  • Beach House – Thank Your Lucky Stars
  • Bully – Feels Like
  • Cage The Elephant – Tell Me I’m Pretty
  • Calexico – Edge of the Sun
  • CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye
  • Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit…
  • The Dead Weather – Dodge and Burn
  • Drenge – Undertow
  • Eagles of Death Metal – Zipper Down
  • EL VY – Return To The Moon
  • Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
  • Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
  • Hanni El Khatib – Moonlight
  • Houndstooth – No News From Home
  • Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
  • Justin Townes Earl – Absent Fathers
  • Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
  • Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m going down…
  • Lana Del Rey – Honeymoon
  • Langhorne Slim – The Spirit Moves
  • Leon Bridges – Coming Home
  • Lieutenant – If I Kill This Thing We’re All Going To Eat For A Week
  • Low – Ones and Sixes
  • Mac Demarco – Another One
  • The Maccabees – Marks To Prove It
  • Marian Hill – Sway
  • Mikal Cronin – MCIII
  • Modest Mouse – Strangers to Ourselves
  • MS MR – How Does It Feel
  • My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall
  • Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass
  • Neon Indian – Vegas Intl. Night School
  • Pile – You’re Better Than This
  • Pops Staples – Don’t Lose This
  • Pond – Man It Feels Like Space Again
  • Seasick Steve – Sonic Soul Surfer
  • Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer
  • Tame Impala – Currents
  • Tanlines – Highlights
  • Turbo Fruits – No Control
  • Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
  • Wilco – Star Wars
  • Will Butler – Policy
  • Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

Let’s Go Mets!

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It’s early October and I find myself in an unfamiliar position; cheering on the New York Mets in the baseball playoffs.  It has been nine long years since the Mets graced the postseason stage.  Back then I had only lived in Albany for a month and was still in my mid-twenties.  I can still picture Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals striking out Carlos Beltran to end game 7 of the National League Championship Series.  That pitch still haunts my dreams and breaks my heart.

Going into this season I thought that the Mets would finish around .500 and if a few things broke their way, perhaps challenge for a Wild Card playoff spot.  But then the Mets came along and blew away those expectations.  And it was nice to see the front office make the necessary moves needed in July to propel them to the point they are at now.  After years of belt tightening by management due to the Bernie Madoff scandal, perhaps the purse strings will continue to be loosened.

Through parts of August and September the Mets showed that they could be one of the better teams in baseball when everything is clicking.  I am hoping that for one more month they can be the best team in baseball and bring home that elusive World Series title; their first since 1986.

After the 2006 NLCS, I thought that the future was extremely bright for the Mets; but then they fell apart the next two seasons when they were poised to be one of the best teams in baseball.  The lesson I learned from that debacle was not to bank on making the postseason every season, even when you think that the team you are cheering on is an elite team.  So even though the future once again looks bright for the Mets, it is not guaranteed.  I’ll try to enjoy these playoffs as much as possible and hopefully with the Mets winning the championship.

Let’s Go Mets!

2014 Music

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The older I get, the more I realize that there is so much music in the world that I will never get to hear.  In my younger days, the scope of my listening was quite narrow compared to now.  I still devoured a lot of music, but was quick to dismiss certain types or genres of music because I didn’t know any better.  Now that my horizons have broadened sonically, I don’t have as much time in my personal life to listen to everything that has been offered.  This saddens me, but it shall not deter my quest to listen to it all.

I can never bring myself to do a top whatever # list.  I definitely have certain albums that I prefer to others I have listened to, but could never come up with any argument as to why one is listened to more than another.  At one time or another every new album I listened to this year was my favorite for a particular period of time.

Last year I went with an album that I didn’t expect to fall in love with; however, no one ever plans to fall in love with a person or thing.  This year an album I fully expected to be one I would gravitate towards was my most listened to album for 2014.

Jack White’s album Lazaretto was the album that I listened to most; though St. Vincent’s effort this year was a close second.  When Jack White released his first solo album, Blunderbuss, it was my favorite album of 2012.  With his second solo effort I think he has furthered his craftsmanship.  For Blunderbuss, White employed two separate bands to record and tour with at the same time.  This time around he has whittled the two down to one and found a more focused sound with the band.  Instead of noticing the contrast between the acoustic band and the rocking band, the songs on Lazaretto have a better flow as White and the band excel as a cohesive unit.

Upon first hearing the lead single “High Ball Stepper”, I thought it was an odd choice.  No other artist comes to mind that has released their first single off an album that contained no lyrics.  After a few listens of that crunchy, fuzz soaked guitar riff, I realized there was no need for lyrics as that riff would become imprinted on my brain.

To me, the standout track on Lazaretto is “Would You Fight For My Love?”.  The opening tom groove laid down by drummer Ben Blackwell gives way to what is a haunting set of ooh’s, that sprinkle in and out throughout the song, sets the tone for this ominous sounding number.  As the song slowly gains steam and builds to the chorus, White lets us know that he has loved, lost, and is willing to fight for love he lost, but is she?

Throughout Lazaretto one can hear Jack White’s multi colored palette of musical influences, ranging from blues, rock, country, bluegrass, etc.  I really believe that the paring down to one band greatly aids in the improvement from Blunderbuss.  It is a fuller sounding record that pushes White to his limits creatively and musically. This makes for a pleasurable listen that never leaves one bored.

Other albums from 2014 that have tickled my eardrum (along with a link to a Spotify playlist with a song from each album that stood out):

Perry’s Playlist 2014

  • Alt-J – This Is All Yours
  • Beck – Morning Phase
  • Benjamin Booker – Benjamin Booker
  • Blonde Redhead – Barragan
  • The Bots – Pink Palms
  • Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
  • Coldplay – Ghost Stories
  • Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World
  • FKA twigs – LP1
  • Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways
  • Future Islands – Singles
  • Jack White – Lazaretto
  • Julian Casablancas & the Voidz – Tyranny
  • The Kooks – Listen
  • Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence
  • Live – The Turn
  • Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
  • Perfume Genius – Too Bright
  • Pontiak – Innocence
  • Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
  • Vincent – St. Vincent
  • Shovels & Rope – Swimmin’ Time
  • Spoon – They Want My Soul
  • Strand of Oaks – Heal
  • Temples – Sun Structures
  • Tom Petty – Hypnotic Eye
  • TV On the Radio – Seeds
  • U2 – Songs of Innocence
  • The War on Drugs – Lost In The Dream
  • Warpaint – Warpaint
  • White Lung – Deep Fantasy
  • Woods – With Light and with Love
  • Wye Oak – Shriek