My favorite albums of 2010

Here are my favorite albums of 2010. In all cases, these are the albums I spent the most time with. Sure most of these are on other lists as well, and many of you are hip to how good the Kanye, Big Boi and Deerhunter albums are, but go ahead and spend a little time with the White Denim album. The White Denim album is hosted on their website and fans can download and contribute an amount of their choice. It is a great, great record that should not be overlooked. The No Age and Abe Vigoda albums both feature two bands transitioning from their punk roots to more of a shoegazey, layered sound. In both cases, they absolutely nailed it and have released the best records of each band’s career.

Without further adieu, here is my list. Enjoy, and have a safe and fun holiday season.

No Age : Everything in Between

No Age | Dusted

Deer Hunter : Halcyon Digest

Deer Hunter | He Would Have Laughed

Abe Vigoda : Crush

Abe Vigoda | November

Fang Island : Fang Island

Fang Island | Davey Crockett

Kanye West : My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Kanye West | So Appalled

Big Boi : Sir Lucious Left Foot The Son of Chico Dusty

Big Boi | Follow Us

White Denim : Last Day of Summer

White Denim | If You’re Changing

Roots Manuva Meets Wrongtom : Duppy Writer

Roots Manuva Meets Wrongtom | Lick Up Ya Foot

Broken Social Scene : Forgiveness Rock Record

Broken Social Scene | Texico Bitches

The National : High Violet

The National | Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks


Fang Island & Matt and Kim Show Review

Waiting for Fang Island to take the stage Monday night was like waiting to open a new present. As a newly minted Fang Island fan, I paid my $25 and showed up at the Paramount on September 28th specifically to see Fang Island, the opener, with the idea that I would hang around to take in the headliner, Matt and Kim.
This was my second show of the month of September; the first was seeing Pavement at the Paramount on September 6th which for me, makes this an exceptionally action packed month.

Fang Island rocked so hard I thought my head would explode. It is no understatement to say that they blew me away. Loud, melodic, hopeful and triumphant. Grinning from ear to ear throughout the set I was sure I looked a fool, or at the very least creepily happy. I suddenly realized I had become that creepy old guy bouncing alone at the concert in a sea of twenty something fans. As it was a school night, I can’t attribute the smile to any debauchery or Bacchanalia, just a deep appreciation for the music and the lift of the melody.

Fang Island

Little did I know that Matt and Kim would be co-conspirators in a mission to permanently disfigure my face into a shit eating feline grin.
From the moment Matt and Kim took the stage, I couldn’t take my eyes off them. They had me. As sickeningly saccharine as this sounds, Matt and Kim are CUTE, all caps. Sidenote, I think they are married. To each other. How cute is that? Kim plays drums and Matt plays everything else. They position themselves at the front of the stage allowing everyone a great view of their handsome selves. Kim, who by the way is the only person in attendance that had a bigger smile than me, played with fearless and reckless abandon. The joy was contagious. Occasionally, Matt and Kim would punctuate the end of a song by standing on their respective stools or seats with a fist in the air! RAWK!

Matt and Kim
Their songs are spirited, upbeat and anthemic. You can’t help but be drawn in. Being at their show leaves you with the feeling that you are part of something bigger than just seeing a band perform live. Matt and Kim are certainly not the only band to have this connection with their fans, but for me it felt visceral and real.

Bottom line. If you want to have fun, go see Fang Island or Matt and Kim. A warning though, your face may hurt as a result of the permasmile.

Fang Island – Fang Island Album Review

Fang Island are 5 piece out of New York, by way of Rhode Island. Zack Bolotin turned me on to them, and I can’t thank him enough.

Fang Island describes their sound as “a bunch of friends high-fiving each other”. I have also heard it described as “triumphant rock”. Both labels are certainly appropriate. This is an album of fun, accessible, inclusive ROCK anthems. Great Styx-like harmony vocals, fantastic riffs, and scorching guitar solos.

I played it for my wife and her friend this morning, and they were not into it. At all. Me, I can’t get enough. It’s far and away my favorite album of 2010. My only complaint is that it is not long enough!

If you live in Seattle, they are playing at the Showbox on 9/28. I can’t wait.



Bad Dreams

When was the last time you had a bad dream? For me it’s been years. Probably not since I was a youth, have I had one. I still remember some of the worst ones, and those dreams can still give me the chills as they wrap me in a blanket of loneliness and fear.

As an adult, I tend to dwell, grind and ruminate on things while I lie in bed, before I drift off to sleep. It’s true, that these thoughts aren’t bad dreams (or dreams at all), but they do prohibit me from getting to sleep. As a kid, getting to sleep isn’t the problem. It’s the bad dreams that creep into ones mind that disturb our slumber that cause the problem. Later in life, as an adult, the bad dreams about “bad people” have left me, but the thoughts about the reality of life and the suffering of humanity stay with me and are very real.

Being the father of young children, I am at times awoken by my kid or kids crying in the middle of the night.

Earlier this week, my oldest daughter, Cecelia (Cece) who is 6, came into our room at 3:45 AM and woke me up crying. She could barely talk, she was so scared.

Me : “ What is it honey”
Cece : Crying. Barely audible. “Daddy, I had a bad dream”
Me : “Come in to bed, and I will hold you”

As she lay in my arms with tears slowly streaming down her face, she tried to gather herself and explain her nightmare to me.

Cece : “Daddy, I dreamed about a robber.”
Me : “It’s okay honey, you’re safe now”.
Cece (choking back tears, getting a little hysterical): “It’s just that once the dream comes into my mind, I can’t get it out”

Three days later, I can’t stop thinking about Cece’s comment of not being able to “get the dream out”. I feel sad and empathize with her because I can relate to what she was going through. I have been there. I think we all have. To have the desire, the absolute need to get a thought or dream out of your head, because it is affecting you so negatively.

I also felt a sense of pride at her ability to convey her thoughts and feelings so succinctly, at 3:45 AM, no less.
For kids its bad dreams about a robber, or a monster. For adults, its worries about money, relationships, family and work. Is that the human condition? Our thoughts, dreams, desires and worries come to us most vividly during our slumber?

Here’s hoping that everyone sleeps well tonight.

Big Boi Sir Lucious Left Foot The Son of Chico Dusty Album Review

Ahhh Yes. A hip-hop album that captures the listener and keeps them engaged for the entire album. Yup, that’s right. Just throw this on and listen to the end, then repeat.

Big Boi’s first solo release is catchy, arty and most of all fun. Great snappy beats with an emphasis on the low end married with Big Boi’s funny, witty and smart verses make this album a must-have summer fun fest from start to finish.

Singles “Shutterbug” and “Tangerine” are infectious bangers that will have you reaching for the repeat button.

Have a listen.



Nas and Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley – Distant Relatives Album Review

Nas and Damian have put together a fantastic, collaborative, concept album about Africa -the continent that both artists point to as their ancestral and cultural homeland. “Distant Relatives” is a great album, which blends elements of reggae and hip-hop to create a polished, foot-tapping, hybrid sound. Proceeds from album sales will help fund schools that Nasir and Damian plan to construct in Africa.

The first single, “As We Enter” is super-catchy, and is backed by a groovy, Mulatu Atske sample. This song is pure fire, and bound to be a favorite. Also check out “Leaders” and “Friends”. Great message, great tunes. Enjoy.

As We Enter



Last Month a Yogi Changed My Life

Beginning on March 1st, I began my first ever Bikram 30 Day Challenge. 30 days later and about 10 lbs lighter, I completed the challenge. What exactly is a 30 Day Challenge, you ask? Well, it is the commitment to doing Bikram Yoga for 30 consecutive days – 26 postures in a room heated to 105 degrees for a duration of 90 minutes. The actual yoga is the easy part (sorta). The hard part is the time management. Being a husband, father and employee, it is difficult to schedule 90 (more like 120) minutes of your own time, every day without affecting those closest to you. I owe a huge thank you to Jamie for being so flexible and supportive during the challenge.

My biggest take away from the challenge was that it was okay to let things go, or rather I was forced to let things go, and for 90 minutes a day to solely focus on one thing – being in the room. For me that was a huge challenge. I often brought my thoughts into the room with me, and constantly battled with putting outside thoughts (work, life, etc.) aside and concentrating on practicing yoga.
Big thanks to the teachers and everyone associated with Bikram Yoga at the Sweatbox for their guidance and instruction during the challenge. While I won’t be practicing every day, I hope to at least make it twice a week.
While I am at it, here are some things I have learned along the way:

  • Don’t do yoga on a full stomach. Even if it is Indian Food. You will feel like puking.
  • Don’t do yoga when you have not eaten anything at all that day. You will see stars and get very dizzy. You will come close to keeling over.

Brand New Heavies – Heavy Rhyme Experience Vol. 1

I have been meaning to finish up this blog post for some time, and with the recent tragic news concerning Guru, I wanted to get this out today. Listen to the MP3s, leave a comment if you are so inclined and send some positive vibes Guru’s way.

I have two college friends to thank for my introduction to the Brand New Heavies and specifically, the landmark album, Heavy Rhyme Experience Vol. 1. It was the summer of 1993 and I dropped in on Billy Ray and Brownie’s Brighton Bachelor Pad and was greeted by B. Ray, “Yo, check this out. Hip-hop backed by a live band.” At the time this was revolutionary. He threw on the disk, and I was instantly hooked. I think the first cut he played for me was The Pharcyde’s“Soul Flower”. To say it moved me is an understatement. After leaving their apartment, I made my way to Newbury Comics in two shakes of a rabbit’s tail and had that disk in my Discman before you could say “Boo”. To rap and hip-hop fans, the album now holds legendary status. It features a who’s who of golden-age underground rappers, backed by the tightest, funkiest, band around – The Brand New Heavies. Since this release, there have of course been additional live band/hip-hop collaborations, but nothing like Heavy Rhyme Vol.1. It’s now been 18 years since the release, and all I have to say is, can we PLEASE have a Vol.2?

Brand New Heavies featuring Gang Starr | It’s Getting Hectic

Brand New Heavies featuring The Pharcyde | Soul Flower

Spoon – Transference Album Review

With Spoon’s seventh album, this Austin-based band departs from their previous release, “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga” by limiting the layered sound and accompanying horns that contributed to its greatness. “Transference” retains Spoon’s signature piano and stabbing guitars but casts this sound in a more understated context. At times this album feels like you are listening to an intimate bedroom recording or a demo and not a finished album. This works for me, as I like the intimacy that this creates with the listener. For some, “Transference” may need some time to grow on you (and your ears). Others, like myself, may respond to it immediately. It is the first entry on my list for albums of the year (2010). Sure we can debate the merits of where this album ranks in the overall Spoon catalog, but for the moment, listen to the MP3s and be thankful for 15 years (and counting) of Spoon.

Spoon | Who Makes Your Money

Spoon | Written in Reverse

My Favorite Albums of 2009

Hey everyone. Here it is. What you’ve all been waiting for, my favorite albums of 2009. The first four on my list I have reviewed previously on this blog and have linked to those reviews.

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion
The xx – xx
Mos Def – The Ecstatic
Get Busy Commitee – Uzi Does It

Animal Collective – Fall Be Kind EP

Love these guys. This EP feels like a natural extension to MPP. The songs on this EP really have that classic Animal Collective epic, dramatic feel to them. The MP3 that I have posted below features the first ever authorized Grateful Dead sample. See if you can figure out the song. Phil Lesh sings the lead. Leave a comment with your guess. I think I just outed myself as a Grateful Dead fan – something Ryan Adams and I have in common.

Animal Collective | What Would I Want Sky

Deer Tick – Born on Flag Day

A little piece of country-folk-indie-Americana right out of Rhode Island. I heard that Deer Tick evolved from a bedroom project of one John McCauley, into what is now a full-fledged band. McCauley sings with a very distinctive rough and gruff voice, that really lends itself to the country vibe of the music. Hailing from Massachusetts, I take special pride in a band coming out of New England and I look forward to future releases.

Deer Tick | Little White Lies

Built to Spill – There Is No Enemy

With “There Is No Enemy”, Built to Spill has released an album that is right up there with “Perfect From Now On” and “Keep It Like a Secret.” Yes, it is that good. Gorgeous melodies, strong rhythms and Doug Martsch’s fantastic guitar playing. Some of my best memories are seeing these guys over the years. I haven’t seen them perform live since ’99, I am due!

Built to Spill | Life’s a Dream

Girls – Album

This album got a lot of play this year. It is a gorgeous album of dreamy, ethereal, California pop. It feels like Brian Wilson or Panda Bear could have possibly had a hand in this. My whole family dug this album, especially the kids. A few months ago, while driving in the car Cece shushed Maya because she was talking to loudly while we were listening to Girls. Sounds exactly like something I would have done to my sister back in the day.

Girls | Hellhole Ratface

Neko Case – Middle Cyclone

In case you have been living under a rock, Neko Case has a stunning voice. It seems to hover above her music, which creates a haunting, otherworldly effect. With this album, Neko continues to redefine country music on her own terms and in many ways has created her own sub-genre of country.

Neko Case | Fever

Japandroids – Post Nothing

With just a guitar (and lots of pedals) and drums, these guys produce one hell of a sound. Rooted in garage-rock, but more complex with their use of noise. Yes, they are loud, but inside of the noise, exist some really incredible melodies. I saw these guys back in November and they put on a fantastic show, one which I highly recommend.

Japandroids | Young Hearts Spark Fire

Buju Banton – Rasta Got Soul

This album by Buju Banton really surprised me. It is a fantastic roots-reggae album. I realize many will disagree, but I like it better than “‘Til Shiloh.” Buju’s enthusiasm on this album is boundless.

Buju Banton | Rastafari

Handsome Furs – Face Control

Handsome Furs is the husband and wife team of Dan Boeckner (of Wolf Parade) and Alexei Perry. Together they create high-energy, electro-punk (is that even a genre?) that is catchy and infectious and danceable.

Handsome Furs | All We Want, Baby, Is Everything

The Big Pink – A Brief History of Love

For some reason The Big Pink (isn’t that a Band album) remind me of the The xx. Both are youngsters from the UK, that create dreamy, electro-pop songs that stick to your ribs. This is a great album, noisy at times, but with enough melodies to have you tapping your toes and singing along. Listen to Dominos (MP3 below) and get a taste of what The Big Pink is all about.

The Big Pink | Dominos