Friday Playlist: (Mostly) New Stuff

Happy Friday, everybody. Please enjoy today's Friday playlist, which is made up of songs from (mostly) new (or at least somewhat recent) releases.

  1. Yeasayer - "Ambling Alp"
    Yeasayer has really embraced their inner Animal Collective on their new album (and on some songs, their inner Justin Timberlake). The result is a much more light-hearted album than their last outing, full of happy dance numbers like this one.

  2. Freelance Whales - "The Great Estates"
    Another album recommendation from my brother. This is a quiet, pretty album full of quiet, pretty songs. The instrumentation (hello, banjo!) calls to mind Sufjan Stevens for me, and the vocals remind me of Postal Service, but their overall sound isn't really like either of them. If you like this, check out the Lounge Act they did on WOXY recently.

  3. Stardeath And White Dwarfs - "New Heat"
    You can definitely hear the musical family resemblance between this band's lead singer Dennis Coyne and his more famous uncle Wayne, but don't write these guys off as a case of musical nepotism. Sure, they probably wouldn't be opening for the Flaming Lips otherwise, but they still put out a really weird, enjoyable psychedelic album that's worth several listens.

  4. Rifle Recoil - "Lonely Sailor"
    Another brother-based recommendation, this one-man band originally from Arlington, VA (though he seems to have relocated to Brooklyn, NY) records songs based on simple musical loops, beatboxing, falsetto vocals, and a playful lyrical sensibility. As an aspiring one-man band myself, this album reminded me that you can do a lot with a few simple parts.

  5. Massive Attack - "Pray For Rain"
    I've never really gotten into Massive Attack before, and their new EP is no exception. However, this song is a real standout, featuring vocals from TV On The Radio's Tunde Adebimpe. A nice slow burn of a song.

  6. Songs - "Farmacy"
    With their Google-proof name and spared-every-expense web site, Songs is apparently relying on talent alone to get some name recognition. Fortunately, they've got talent, even if they never stretch much beyond their comfort zone of Modern Lovers-style 3-chord ditties with half-spoken, half-sung vocals.

  7. The Very Best - "Warm Heart Of Africa"
    On their new album, The Very Best rely less on samples and covers and more on original material than they did on their 2008 mixtape, and the result is pretty great. Pitchfork calls it a "global-pop" album, but don't let that scare you off, it's really just an album of great music pulling from different styles than what your typical indie-rock band is ripping off. This song, a collaboration with Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig, is a definite stand-out.

  8. Beck - "Sisters Of Mercy"
    I finally got around to listening to some of Beck's Record Club recordings, which he calls "an informal meeting of various musicians to record an album in a day." The musicians don't rehearse before hand nor work out arrangements, they just get in the studio and do an original take on the source material. One of the albums they tackled is Leonard Cohen's debut album, "Songs of Leonard Cohen." The results are a little hit or miss (as you might expect), but this one really nails the feel of the original while still sounding fresh. Contributors include MGMT, Devendra Banhart, and more, though I'm not entirely sure who's doing what.

  9. Ghostland Observatory - "Freehart Lover"
    I forget who told me about this band, but if you've ever wondered what Daft Punk might sound like with a Chris Cornell sound-alike singing lead vocals, here's your chance to find out. Nothing really new going on here, but it's a good listen if you need a late afternoon pick-me-up.

  10. Vampire Weekend - "White Sky"
    The band everyone loves to hate is back with a new album, and it's actually really good. If you hated them before, this won't change your mind. If you liked them before, you'll like this. Pretty simple.
So what else is new? What's come out so far in 2010 that's floating your boat? Tell me in the comments.


Reading Roundup

Here are some lists & articles you may have missed.

Happy Monday!


Friday Playlist: The Best Albums Of The Aughts You've Never Heard*

*Unless of course, you have.

Happy New Year, everybody. In this, the first week of the teens, I figured I'd do like everybody else is doing and make a best-of list. But this isn't your typical year- or decade-end best-of list. This one is a tribute to those albums that you may have overlooked over the past 10 years. These albums were not by Spoon, or Arcade Fire, or Radiohead, or Outkast. They're not even by The Strokes or Animal Collective! This doesn't mean they're so obscure or indie that you've never heard (or heard of) them, it just means that these albums didn't really garner all the press and adoration that their more famous chronological neighbors did. And I'm here to correct that. For today's playlist, I've picked one track from each album, but I'm giving you a "hear also" tip for each one in the writeup in case you want to do some research on your own.

So, in no particular order, here we go (more goodies below the playlist!)...

  • Miike Snow - Miike Snow [2009]
    The Swedish production team Bloodshy & Avant (who have produced and written songs for Britney Spears, J-Lo, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, et. al.) teamed up with singer/songwriter Andrew Wyatt to create an album of nearly perfectly crafted pop songs with killer beats and bizarre lyrics. Hear also: "Sans Soleil"

  • Mother Mother - O My Heart [2008]
    Canadian band Mother Mother dropped one of 2008's catchiest albums with this Pixies-influenced, high-harmonied, fast-drummed, oft-syncopated album. The songs here are worlds better than on their debut Touch Up. If you get a chance to see these guys live, don't miss it, they're a lot of fun, and they can actually reproduce those ridiculous harmonies in a live setting! Hear also: "Burning Pile"

  • Twinemen - Twinemen [2002]
    Q: What do you get when you take 2/3 of Morphine and add them to singer Laurie Sargent? A: The Twinemen, one of the most underrated bands of the Aughts. Combining smoky saxophone licks, droning bass lines, and hypnotic vocals, this album managed to completely transcend my expectations of a "post-Morphine side band." And their other 2 albums are pretty great, too. Hear also: "Who's Gonna Sing"

  • Super Furry Animals - Rings Around The World [2001]
    Wikipedia describes this Welsh band's fifth album as "an eclectic record incorporating pop, prog, punk, jungle, electronica, techno and death metal." I would have to agree. This was an eye-opening album for me; I had rarely (if ever before) heard one album successfully encompass so many styles without sounding kitschy or turning into a joke. But these guys pulled it off, and then began their long slow descent into mediocrity (only this year have they started to turn things around). Hear also: "(Drawing) Rings Around The World"

  • Six By Seven - The Way I Feel Today [2002]
    These hard-rocking Brits manage to mix real emotions with hard-driving droney guitar rock without turning the whole thing into some sort of emo-metal crapfest. This song is a bit on their quieter side, but that doesn't make it rock any less. They released something like 6 albums in the Aughts, but this one is by far my favorite. Hear also: "American Beer"

  • Beulah - The Coast Is Never Clear [2001]
    Members of the infamous Elephant Six Collective, Beulah came gently roaring out of the late 90's on a wave of lo-fi pop songs. They did some of their best work in the early aughts before disbanding in 2004. But before they went, they left us with some real pop masterpieces, including nearly every track on this horn-laden album.
    Hear also: "Popular Mechanics For Lovers"

  • Spiritualized - Let It Come Down [2001]
    While never quite recapturing the psychedelic glory of 1997's Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, Spiritualized still put out some quality work in the Aughts, and I think this album was the most quality of all. It's got a cleaner, more streamlined sound than a lot of their stuff, and the vocals are more prevalent, which means that (despite his sometimes shaky singing voice) singer Jason Pierce's emotional range really shines through, to great effect. Hear also: "Lord Can You Hear Me"

  • Badly Drawn Boy - Have You Fed The Fish? [2002]
    You've no doubt heard his work on the About A Boy soundtrack, but if that's been your only exposure to Badly Drawn Boy, do yourself a favor and check out this brilliant album. According to Wikipedia, this album featured "an increasingly mainstream pop sound which was not welcomed by all critics." Well, those critics should get their heads out of the sand, because this album is incredibly rewarding. It's a playful somewhat-concept album with resurfacing themes and lyrical leitmotifs that will keep your brain occupied while the rest of you is contentedly humming along. Hear also: "You Were Right"

  • Gomez - In Our Gun [2002]
    Most Gomez fans will tell you that this is the album that doesn't sound anything like Gomez. It's also the last one before their slow but steady decline to the shell of a band they are today. This album is much more produced than their previous efforts, featuring multi-layered keyboard tracks, a harder-edged sound, and some of the catchiest riffs they ever wrote. If you're just getting into Gomez, start at the beginning and stop here. Hear also: "Ballad Of Nice & Easy"

  • Say Hi To Your Mom - Impeccable Blahs [2006]
    Although the band (well, really one guy) has since changed its name to the more grown-up sounding "Say Hi," they still put out great lo-fi emo songs about stuff that nerds care about. On the subject of this album, Wikipedia says: "Their fourth release, Impeccable Blahs, was written almost entirely about vampires, though Star Trek is also mentioned." 'Nuff said. Hear also: "These Fangs"

  • The Fiery Furnaces - Gallowsbird's Bark [2003]
    Before they went crazy and started recording albums with their grandmother, those wacky Friedberger siblings used to put out really-bizarre-but-still-listenable-and-actually-pretty-great albums. While not as weird as their second album, this one still has plenty of weird to go around, but also plenty of folk-influenced songsmithing. I dare you not to sing along to this track. Hear also: "Asthma Attack"

  • The Sleepy Jackson - Lovers [2003]
    The All Music Guide describes this album as "
    a jukebox loaded with 35 years worth of trippy pop moments," and since those guys are pros, I'll just steal their words and say that I agree. There's something on here for fans of just about anything, from George Harrison to the Flaming Lips to (very) early Wilco. Each song is more or less from a different genre, so it was hard to pick one that was in any way emblematic of the album. So I just picked one I liked. Hear also: "Vampire Racecourse"

  • The Thermals - The Body, The Blood, The Machine [2006]
    A pop-punk concept album about religion? With heavily political overtones? That doesn't suck? Yes, yes, and yes said the Thermals, on this, their best album. This collection of 3- and 4-minute ditties about losing, finding, and dealing with your faith is one of the catchiest albums of the Aughts, even if Hutch Harris's voice is something of an acquired taste. There is no song on this album that I skip on a regular basis. Hear also: "A Pillar Of Salt"

  • Liars - Drum's Not Dead [2006]
    I will not pretend to understand what this album is about. This album is beautiful, noisy, a little frightening, dark, ethereal, and really just kind of amazing. Don't pick it up expecting songs you can latch on to easily, or expecting a lot of words to guide you through, or really expecting anything. Just turn off the lights, throw this on, and enjoy the ride. Hear also: "Visit From Drum"

  • The Coup - Pick A Bigger Weapon [2006]
    This album has it all. Great beats, smooth flows, hyper-intelligent lyrics that go by so fast you don't even realize you've just gotten a people's history of [various subject matters] until it's all over because you were too busy bopping along to the funk samples in the background. Sample lyric: "When I'm running from the police/I don't have to rush/I'm so dope I just jump/In the toilet and flush." Sounds silly until you realize it's brilliant. Hear also: "I Love Boosters!"

  • Cloud Cult - The Meaning of 8 [2007]
    In addition to being the most ecologically friendly indie rock band ever, Cloud Cult writes beautiful little pop songs that are, for the most part, surprisingly sad behind all the silver linings. Before they found fame with that esurance video, the majority of this band's output was a response to the untimely death of band founder Craig Minowa's infant son in 2002. This album is no exception, and while it has some of their most serious songs, it also has some of their most beautiful. Hear also: "Chain Reaction"

  • Menomena - Friend and Foe [2007]
    Building on the "this music was made by sentient robots" vibe of their first album, but going deeper and darker, Menomena laid down some of their catchiest and most challenging songs on this album, and the result is an album that thoroughly rewards repeated listens and an ear for details. I haven't been this impressed by a trio of musicians since Morphine. Hear also: "Evil Bee"

  • Johnson & Jonson - Johnson & Jonson [2008]
    Another intelligent hip-hop album from 2 guys that seriously know how to rock a sample. The beats are a great mix of funk, soul, rock, and good old-fashioned psychedelci hip-hop. This would be a great party album if the lyrics didn't warrant so much attention and close listening. Hear also: "Hold On John"

  • El Guincho - Alegranza [2008]
    This album got a lot of comparisons to Panda Bear's Person Pitch, but there's one really important difference: this one's 100x more fun. It's got the same trippy reverbed-out vibe in some places, but it's also got weird chants, crazy Spanish instrumental bits, what sounds like tribal beats, and a bunch more stuff thrown in for good measure. This album is kind of like the auditory version of a night at a carnival. Hear also: "Fata Morgana"

  • The Earlies - The Enemy Chorus [2007]
    This album kind of reminds me of Menomena's Friend and Foe (see above) in that it was a bit of a departure from what I thought this band was all about based on their first album, but it was also a really great album that built on some of their best traits and went deeper (and darker). There's a lot of multi-layered sonic weirdness going on here, but they (usually) all add up to some really cool aural landscapes (and some great songwriting to boot). Hear also: "When The Wind Blows"
What's the best album of the Aughts that didn't get any attention (or at least not the attention it deserved)? Tell me in the comments, and happy new year!