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Brett’s Best Music of the First Quarter: 2012

New music comes at us fast.  If an idiom for the ears existed similar to drinking from a fire hose then I would try to act smart and type it here.  I would consider myself an addict to new releases. Betty Ford does not have a program for these ears.  I try to go into every listen with an open mind.  After the last track is played I always try to leave time for reflection.  As I sit here and reflect on my internal listening system I discover some standard habits that I would like to share with you.  Bringing these behaviors to light is somewhat of a healing process for me.  These are the steps I have identified that I routinely make to show how much I really like an album.

The Stinker:
I am proud to be a contributor to this blog, because we do not post on Stinkers.  I hate negative posts. There is too much other good music to write about and I would rather promote the good rather than the bad.  The Stinker gets played one time.  Most of the time this is my fault.  I go into the digital purchase knowing that it really is not my thing, but buy into the hype.  The more blogs that post about it the more I feel like I have to give it a shot. Just so I can make it completely clear, this was not the case with Lana Del Rey.  I thought she sucked all along and still believe that her music is atrocious.  As I digress, I tend to believe that hype gets the best of my addiction and always treat it as a learning experience. The album grows old and becomes irrelevant in the depths of my iTunes library.

The Oneder:
Yes, this is a direct reference from the Tom Hanks film ‘That Thing You Do!’. While these cats might have appeared to be more than a one hit wonder, they were not.  The movie was named after the song that made them relevant and the only track that viewers of this film remember.  The Oneder is tricky.  Typically, I hear the first single from my friends on Sirius XMU.  I dig into it and turn it up every time it comes up in my car.  My next step is to track when the band’s LP is going to be released. Often, a month passes and excitement hits me as I awake on that Tuesday morning. The Oneder is like that friend who comes up big in the beginning and then leeches off you until you realize that they suck.  The Oneder gets a few opportunities to be heard, but with every play I realize that the only song that matters is the one that you heard from the beginning. I appreciate the efforts of the Oneder, but do not purchase its next release.

The Transfer:
This is where we start to dig into the good. The Transfer is relevant, but it works to earn my respect.  Simply put, this album entertained me enough times that I decided to transfer it over to my iPhone.  I need to this album with me at all times.  Whether I play it in my car, at work, or am introducing it to a friend the Transfer needs to be mobile.  I made a huge mistake that I will soon correct when I upgrade my iPhone.  Opting to save $100 I went with the 16 gb version.  This is just not nearly enough space for addicts like myself.  I want to be able to store Transfers both new and old.  Managing my Transfers is one of the most difficult parts of my week because I always have to make cuts.  Cutting a former Transfer does not mean I am done with it, however it just means that there is something newer out there that needs time.  Right Peyton?

The Memento:
This is a record where possessing a digital ownership feels hollow.  This record has grown on me and grown with me.  This is an album that I can hear the next song beginning while the current is ending.  The Memento is taken under consideration when building my best of list at the end of the year.  These records are called the Memento because it has earned a vinyl purchase. These records are typically heard and obtained in the digital format initially, but are good enough to justify the double purchase. Mementos never grow old. They gain credibility over time.  These are the records that I hope to introduce to my children.  I own an entire shelf filled with Mementos.  They all have stories and have earned added value in time.  These might not be the best recordings to the majority, but are the most meaningful to me personally.  They are a collection of souvenirs through song.  A powerful reminder for why I listen to so much music.

As we close the doors on the first quarter of 2012 I wanted to take a step back and reflect on what I consider Transfer worthy and potentially Memento earning.  These 12 recordings left the biggest impact on me during my listening experience in Q1.  I have covered most of them on this blog, but believe they deserve one more opportunity to be recognized as we quickly move towards the first half of the year.  Take a second to slow down and enjoy a snippet of what I have been holding on to this year.

Daniel Rossen: Silent Hour / Golden Mile EP – “Golden Mile”

Doe Paoro: Slow to Love – “I’ll Go Blind”

Hospitality: Hospitality – “Betty Wang”

Jessie Baylin: Little Spark – “Love is Wasted on Lovers”

Nite Jewel: One Second of Love – “Autograph”

Oberhofer: Time Capsules II – “Heart”

Written by Brett McGrath


Brett’s Top 10 Albums of 2011

10. Cold CaveCherish the Light Years

The title of this album suggests that there is glimmering feeling transmitted when you push play.  After opening track “The Great Pan is Dead” entered my brain for the first time, I quickly realized that the light years were being cherished because they did not exist. This album is for a dimly lit room with plenty of space to get up and bang out. The quest for one shining moment is the message that I am left with every time I listen to this record. This record leaves me empty in a good way.  I feel like I am stuck in the mines of Chile, face full of dust, yearning for salvation.  The fact that I enjoy this dark musical dungeon is reason alone why Cherish the Light Years makes this list.  As I look around my apartment I find a handful of light builds that need to be replaced.  I think it can wait.

9. The Rural Alberta AdvantageDeparting

This album is a void filler.  We all understand what it feels like to be the rebound, but albums like this make it feel comfortable.  Lines like “I will hold you tight enough to crush your veins” in opening track “Two Lovers” sends a gripping message to me.  This album is about loss and The Rural Alberta Advantage brilliantly makes me ok with the topic.  Losing anything in life can be a personal challenge, but songs like “Tornado 87” make it relatable.  There are few records that should be used as medicine or a coping mechanism and Departing certainly is my remedy for any thrashing defeat.  Although the scars of defeat remain, Departing gives us a direction to head in order to mend.

8. The BonesettersSAVAGES!

It is absolute honor to put a local album on my list.  The Bonesetters deserve this one.  Rob’s review was laid out so brilliantly that I can’t possible think of anything more to say about it.  I am so excited to be in the space for this band’s escalation.  The ceiling is high for the Bonesetters, and believe me, we will let you know about their every move.  They have earned it with this initial gift to Indianapolis.

7. The DrumsPortamento

The proud sophomore effort that sings like a plea but is as confident as the class president.  I feel like I am walking the halls of my high school, but the era is the 80s. This album is the answer to all of The Smiths requests from years back.  Lines like “The people look at me with a little sympathy” make me think that The Drums were the underappreciated youth of their respective schooling systems. A subtle popularity to own and I am glad Portamento drives this under the radar status symbol in the proper direction.

6. CultsCults

A book of snippets laid out more like a photo album than a record.  I see before I hear when I visualize this record.  This drastic switch in my experience flips the script while changing my outlook on music.  “Go Outside” was the first song I heard from this record and it has paved the road and painted the lines into my 2012.  The writing is on the wall in lyrics, “You really want to hole up, you really want to stay inside and sleep the light away.”  A relatable situation where Cults step in a presents me with a challenge.  Why not yonder outdoors,  I will turn the page because there are plenty of pretty pictures.

5. GirlsFather, Son, Holy Ghost

The guys from Girls write about relationships. Their debut Album and EP Broken Dream Club taught me this.  These two first releases was the coaching that allowed me to truly appreciate what Girls was all about.  After listening to Father, Son, Holy Ghost for the past few months I feel like I finally understand Girls enough to pass their test. These guys rarely have the answer to their own female problems, but they use music as an elixir.  Song, ‘Die’ yells “No, nothing’s gonna be alright, no we’re all gonna get fucked up tonight, no, nothing’s gonna be okay, no it’s all going down the drain tonight”. Certainly, the remedy to any post relationship blues.

4. YuckYuck

It feels like this album has been with me the longer than any release of the year. It feels like an old pair of ripped jeans that I just can’t part with.  While some doubt the authenticity of Yuck because of their homage to a collection of indie rock forefathers, I continue to feel genuine comfort with each successive spin.  Describing each of their songs might take so long that it puts another hole in my Wranglers.  As the winter continues, Yuck will inevitably provide me warmth.  Even as the oncoming snow storms enter the air, Yuck sews a patch on my jeans as the ball drops on 2011.

3. Smith WesternsDye It Blonde

Smith Westerns grew up a lot with Dye It Blond.  Although, these guys are not of legal drinking age I feel like they are so musically mature that they deserve a free pass in any bar in America.  Dye It Blond is like a fake ID. It not only makes the band look older than they may appear, but also serves as evidence that they belong in the same scene as the older kids.  The guitars on “Still New’”are perfectly placed and layered.  The lyrics of “Imagine Pt. 3” are the work of an old savvy songwriter.  The tips that they convey on “End of the Night” can be used by any man, of any age, regardless of circumstance.  Straight to the point “Oh, it’s the end of the night, it’s the end of the night, are you going to go home?”  I wish I had this kind of courage.  I guess I will listen to Dye It Blonde a couple more times for inspiration.

2. Bon IverBon Iver

It is rare that I describe an album as beautiful, but this is one of those times.  It does not feel right to listen to this record on anything, but vinyl.  It was made for the time.  I feel cold as I listen to every single lyric of Justin Vernon.  Bon Iver released this masterpiece in June, but it is peaking now because it embeds itself in the blistering winter months on the horizon.  The tip of the icicle has yet to be formed for this record for me.  The point is that this album has withstood a half a year and traveled through many different locations on my musical map.  Minnesota, WI, Hinnom, TX, and Lisbon, OH to name a few. Authentic or not these are all places we have all traveled.  This record is just a means to bring us all back these spaces at the same time.  I feel like I am riding in a sled and Bon Iver is the driver.  Who knows where we are heading next?  I have my coat and mittens.  Thrilled to me along for the ride.

1. Real EstateDays

Real Estate Days is me.  It is everything I look for in a record and more.  The melodic guitars carry me from beginning to the end.  It is Alpha and the Omega and I’m stuck in between.  They build a comfortable space for me each and every time I reach for a listen.  Tracks like “Green Aisles” challenge me not only to explore myself but my surroundings.  Lyrics “All those wasted miles, all those aimless drives through the green aisles, our careless lifestyle, it was not so unwise, no” provide validity to my own personal cause.  This album teaches me that it is completely acceptable to mess up, because it will point me in another direction.  Days is a seasonal inspiration to me.  Days is my lotion in the sunlight and winter jacket in the snow. It is the perfect protector. It is the compass that directs my next move. This album teaches me to tighten my strings, even if my first attempt is a bit out of tune.

Written by Brett McGrath


Brett’s Top 10 Songs of 2011

10. Ducktails – “Killin’ The Vibe

Real Estate guitarist Mathew Mondanile III dropped his side project Arcade Dynamics in the early hours of 2011.  “Killin’ the Vibe” was a direct challenge to all musicians to continue to create and avoid the static.  The rich tune of repetition coupled with a gripping guitar lick has stuck with me for 12 easy months. You are a brave one Mr. Ducktails and I am glad that I could soar through the year on your wings.  These 12 months have caused me to sit a while and embrace his message.  I am glad I still continue to smile.

9.  Gotye – “Somebody That I Used To Know

The introduction to this man from the land down under was courtesy of my favorite interactive platform of 2011,  My trigger finger swelled as I heard this song.  An easy awesome, every time.  The second verse featuring Kimbra causes euphoria each and every time she hangs from her high register. This duo adds a unifying message to those who have experienced break-up, and it is my prediction that this song will resonate with all Thought on Tracks readers.

8. SBTRKT – “Wildfire

London, producer / musician, Aaron Jerome has struck DJ gold with “Wildfire.”  His selection of up and coming indie songstress, Little Dragon proves not only relevant, but relaxing.  “Wildfire” pulls from all my favorites: sweet female voice with rhythm and blues tendencies, funky bass lines, and enough HQ to make my head explode.  I will continue to vibe out to “Wildfire” as it is a substantial addition to my favorite songs of 2011.

7. Hooray for Earth – “No Love

During a brief chat at White Rabbit Cabaret in Indianapolis, lead singer, Noel Heroux attempted to explain the meaning of this song.  He came up with no answers.  “It just came together, I am not really sure what it means.”  This moment instantly made me love this track even more. An absent meaning that surrounds itself by a blanket of sense.  A warm, unprepared presentation that resonates with the judges.  This tune will always remind me of having my windows down and heading to the boat. No direction, who cares?  Sweet summer, no love is what I need.

6. Cold Cave – “Confetti

New Order and Joy Division are two of my favorite groups of all-time, but new versions of their have been absent in my indie buzz band scene.  Enter Cold Cave with their howling, drum thumping, synth based, goth-pop resurrection of “Confetti.”  This song brings out the best in me.  Substituting my thought from a head bang always proves self-satisfaction.  Seeing this song live at Pitchfork this summer made me completely understand that it owned a special place in the deep, dark bowels of my musical dungeon.

5. M83 – “Midnight City

This song is M83’s finest moment.  It was as if all that Anthony Gonzalez had set out to create culminated with this song.  I waited by my computer for this song to be released and have held on to this ride in the dark ever since.  This song is the perfect mix of shade mixed with the bright lights of an astounding chorus.  I had no hesitations giving Pitchfork a standing ovation for naming “Midnight City” song of the year.  Yes, I will admit it, the city is now officially my church.

4. Yuck – “Get Away

Yuck had the best year for a band that I had no clue about going into 2011 and it started with “Get Away.”  This song is not only stunning, but also meaningful in so many ways.  Here was a band paying homage to indie rock forefathers Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. so brilliantly.  I am still unsure if I like the lyrics or the guitars more.  Does it matter? Hardly, this is classic indie rock and roll.

3. Girls – “Alex

This song is about a girl that I want to marry.  She has black hair, blue eyes, plays in a band, and has a boyfriend. This song is about the perfect woman that is stuck with an undeserving, under appreciating slouch. We have all been through this, but this time I am glad Girls has written us all a handbook on how to capture the flag.

2. Bon Iver – “Towers

“Towers” is never referenced as a top track on the masterpiece that Justin Vernon created for us all this year, but it should be.  To me, this song is about overcoming the obstacles that we all face when dealing with a new relationship.  It is so beautifully spelled out: destruction is the message.  Can we ever really understand how to break down these “Towers” that hinder the pursuit of honesty? Probably not, but at least this is an anthem for someone else who is trying.

1. Real Estate – “It’s Real

This is one of my favorite songs of the past decade.  This song makes me want to put on my headphones, exit my apartment, and explore. From walking on decomposing leaves to skating on a frozen seas,  Real Estate told me to leave the building, regardless, of the elements. With their album Days and especially this song, Real Estate has paved a permanent path for themselves in 2011 and beyond.  “It’s Real” was an introduction to captivating excellence.  This song is a testament that musicians do not to need to get overly complicated with their sound and lyrics to win.  The key here is a mix of simplicity with a theme for time.  As the seasons change, “It’s Real” will remain.

Written by Brett McGrath