Archive for the ‘album review’ Category

The 50 best albums of 2011

Friday, December 16th, 2011

It’s well-documented that I’m a huge, hopeless music geek, and I love lists. So even though I spent three pages in The Bulletin’s GO! Magazine pontificating about my favorite records of 2011, I still can’t resist the urge to (A) rank them, and (B) get them all in one place online. So here we are.

Below, find my best effort at a list of my 50 favorite records of the past year, with a few words about several of them. For some, you’ll see no words where it looks like there should be words, and maybe I’ll fill those in sometime, but for now, I’m all typed out.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading. And truly: I could talk about this kind of stuff all day, and would love to hear from you in the comments!

50. Holcombe Waller, “Into the Dark Unknown” (Napoleon)
49. White Fence, “Is Growing Faith” (Woodsist)
48. Wilco, “The Whole Love” (dBpm)
47. Telekinesis, “12 Desperate Straight Lines” (Merge)
46. Chris Thile & Michael Daves, “Sleep With One Eye Open” (Nonesuch)
45. The Very Best, “Super Mom” (self-released)
44. Mogwai, “Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will” (Subpop)
43. Jonny, “Jonny” (Merge)
42. Gui Boratto, “III” (Kompakt)
41. Ryan Adams, “Ashes & Fire” (Pax Am)

40. Grails, “Deep Politics” (Temporary Residence)
39. Beyonce, “4″ (Columbia)
38. The Felice Brothers, “Celebration, Florida” (Fat Possum)
37. Das Racist, “Relax” (Greedhead)
36. Jovontaes, “Things Are Different Here” (Hello Sunshine)
35. Big K.R.I.T., “Return of 4Eva” (self-released)
34. Veronica Falls, “Veronica Falls” (Slumberland)
33. Real Estate, “Days” (Domino)
32. Wooden Shjips, “West” (Thrill Jockey)
31. Givers, “In Light” (Glassnote)

30. Clams Casino, “Instrumentals” (self-released)
As underground hip-hop’s current “it” producer, Mike Volpe is the man behind the syrupy sound of Lil B, A$AP Rocky and other rappers du jour. But on this free mixtape (and his “Rainforest” EP), those guys are nowhere to be found, giving Volpe’s ambling beats and blurry samples space to unfold in slow motion and mushroom into the staticky sky.

29. Com Truise, “Galactic Melt” (Ghostly International)

28. Tim Hecker, “Ravedeath 1972″ (Kranky)
Canadian ambient adventurer Tim Hecker’s 2011 album is a sonic monument to the quickening battle between warm, organic lifeblood — music — and the cold, digital sheen that envelops it more completely every day. At first listen, “Ravedeath” is a rippling wash of synthesized noise, sometimes sublime, sometimes harsh. But beneath the studio effects lives an Icelandic church organ that swells and sighs proudly and beautifully, as if trapped under ice and fighting to breathe.

27. Apex Manor, “The Year of Magical Drinking” (Merge)

26. Serengeti, “Family & Friends” (anticon.)
Buzzy and a bit bent, Serengeti’s introspective, observational rap style and warm, poppy beats fly in the face of hip-hop conventions: They feel like a welcoming hug and a long, deep conversation.

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Sorta local: Loch Lomond, Water & Bodies have new albums out today

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

For years, Frequency has been following the careers of Portland-based bands Loch Lomond and Water & Bodies, thanks mostly to their Bend connections. Loch Lomond is fronted by Bend native Ritchie Young, and fellow Bendite Dave Depper plays alongside him. Similarly, Water & Bodies’ Beau Kuther comes from our humble burg. (His brother Kelsey recently left the band.) You can read our past coverage of both bands by clicking their names: Loch Lomond | Water & Bodies.

Today, both add a new album to their discography. Let’s take them in alphabetical order:

Loch Lomond
“Little Me Will Start A Storm” (Tender Loving Empire)

Loch Lomond’s “Little Me Will Start A Storm” begins with two of Ritchie Young’s finest songs yet: the plucky “Blue Lead Fences” and the first single “Elephants & Little Girls,” with its gentle melody and choral swells. (Download “Elephants” here.) The rest of the album features all of Loch Lomond’s trademark traits, most notably Young’s dramatic, porcelain voice, which floats above the band’s lissome blend of folk, pop and chamber music as if powered by pure helium. Loch Lomond stretches and swirls a bit on the gorgeous “Earth Has Moved Again,” experiments with kitchen-sink sounds in the clanky “Water in Astoria,” and takes a simple tack for “Egg Song” until about halfway through, when the tune opens up into a sweeping choral number fit for a concert hall. As with the band’s previous work, Young’s songs on “Storm” are oddly interesting and unpredictable things, and the band itself is a perfectly capable bunch of pickers. But the star of Loch Lomond’s show is, as always, a collection of stirring voices that sets this band apart from its peers.

Loch Lomond will play in Bend on March 7 at the Tower Theatre, with Damien Jurado and Viva Voce. More info is here.

Water & Bodies
“Light Year” (EYOS Records)

In a world/town/scene that increasingly values a wallflower quality in its music (think: shoegaze eyes, ironic awkwardness, affected restraint), Water & Bodies buck the trend, bashing out flashy alt-rock songs that demand attention. “Light Year” recalls the indie/emo landscape of the 1990s, when bands like Saves the Day and The Get Up Kids spiced their punk rock with the kind of massive hooks you expect from Weezer songs. The album’s first two tracks — “Celebration Song” and “Free World” — reveal a band unafraid of aural drama, where insistent drums, roiling rock riffs and soaring vocals collide with striking effect. And the roller-coaster synth hook and inspirational message of the third song, “Moments in a Life,” are tailor-made for the climactic scene of a big-budget film. “Light Year” sags a bit in its middle passage (“Echoes” is a little too post-Silverchair MTV Buzz Bin and the title track seems half-baked), but beginning with the chugging, catchy “1980,” Water & Bodies finishes strong, establishing itself as a band that not only demands attention, but also deserves it.

Water & Bodies will play in Bend on March 5 at Silver Moon Brewing & Taproom with Tango Alpha Tango and Ex-Cowboys. More info is here.

Review: Wilco, “Wilco (the Album)”

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

Wilco

It’s a very good time in the Wilco camp. The Chicago band’s new album sold nearly 100,000 copies in its first week to debut at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart.

It’s also appearing on many lists of the best music released so far in 2009, a hot topic here at Frequency over the past few days.

It wasn’t on my list, but not because I think it’s bad. In fact, I think it’s a step in the right direction from what I believe is one of the world’s very best rock bands.

For me, “Wilco (the Album)” is all about taking the good with the not-great-but-not-bad-either.

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