Tag Archives: The Black Angels

Land Of Talk’s ‘Life After Youth’ Is Aaron’s Top Album Of 2017

Land Of Talk — Life After Youth

Land Of Talk — Life After Youth

Another year deep into pursuing my Before They Die concert list meant hunting down another batch of classic artists (Bettye Lavette, Bon Jovi, Deep Purple, Elvis Costello, k.d. lang, Nazareth, Neil Diamond) as well as reunited acts I never thought I’d get to see live (Crash Vegas, Front 242, Midnight Oil, Northern Pikes, X).

While this was wonderful for my concert diary, it left me further adrift than ever from the contemporary music critic zeitgeist when it came to 2017 albums. I never heard the Jlin or SZA records, Vince Staples and LCD Soundsystem have done better in the past, The National, The xx and Father John Misty didn’t move me at all, and I’m starting to suspect everyone has been tricked by St. Vincent.

That said, as always, there remained a lot of good music to consume this year.

While rock music, or at least what a lot of mainstream music outlets consider “rock” music is increasingly terrible, the rich underground realm of rawk-to-hard rock remains ripping and vibrant, perhaps moreso because of its underdog status. I gave a lot of time this year to records from Mothership, Bloodclot, Danko Jones, Dead Quiet, Municipal Waste and Ruby The Hatchet. There are a lot of bands out there who still know how to rock. Don’t accept knock-offs.

I has some interesting bubbling under records this year, too. The duet covers record from Flo Morrissey and Matthew E. White was pretty compelling and almost made my top ten until I realized I didn’t like any of the White-fronted songs. In somewhat similar circumstances, I realized I really only liked two or three songs from each of the Kendrick Lamar and Kacy & Clayton records, which kept them bubbling under.

In another thematic group, the Charlotte Gainsbourg was a surprising mood piece that had a hold on me for awhile. Her album sonically complimented a pair of dance records from Quebec by Le Couleur and Marie Davidson that absolutely would have made my 2017 list if they hadn’t been released in October 2016, making them just too far out of the ’17 window for me to feel comfortable including them.

While all these albums were great, the ones below I enjoyed even more.

Here’s my official Top 10 album list for 2017:

10) Michael Nau — The Load

To put how I came to appreciate The Load in context one has to first understand how I consume new music. One of the ways is to put new albums on my phone to listen to when I walk to work each day. At one point this fall I had The Load in rotation along with a Pop Goes The ’70s box set full of hit songs from that era. When I punched through these songs on random I could almost not tell the difference between the Nau songs and the deeper cuts from the 70s box. That’s not to say The Load is some anachronistic retro project so much as it’s one that the best moments — “Diamond Anyway,” “Big Wind No Sail” — have a timeless quality that pushes them above something simply in the now.

Listen to “Big Wind, No Sail”

9) The Dears — Times Infinity Volume Two

Sometimes I over-correct for my loyalties. The Dears are probably the band I’ve seen perform most live, they probably officially qualify as “friends” (in 20+ years of doing this I only have about a dozen proper musician friends), and in general I consider them musically above reproach. The result of this often means I’m particularly tough on The Dears when it comes to exercises like year-end lists and such. After all, if they’re friends, that’s a strong bias against rational analysis. But fuck all that. Times Infinity Volume Two is a quality record. Sure it’s a little less turbulent and dramatic than those early Dears albums everyone loves, but “Guns Or Knives,” “All The Hail Marys” and “Taking It To The Grave” ably match anything the band has done in the past.

Listen to “Guns Or Knives”

8) Doom Side Of The Moon — Doom Side Of The Moon

The best part about Doom Side Of The Moon’s stoner rock reimagining of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon isn’t the actual recording (which is a fine, slightly beefed up, and very faithful series of covers), it’s the perspective it brought. I abandoned Dark Side Of The Moon long ago, a casualty of classic rock radio overplaying and relentless anniversary edition reissues making me reflexively turn elsewhere. What these things did was cause me to ignore the actual thematic and conceptual quality of Dark Side‘s songs. “Money,” “Time,” “Us And Them,” those are all deep, brilliant songs, and it took someone else doing them for me to truly realize this. Propelled in part by this record I ended up going on a bit of a Pink Floyd jag this year. I checked out the righteous Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and I spent a whole lot of time with The Early Years 1965-1972 box set. A lot of that journey can be attributed to a dude from The Sword and his buddies deciding they needed to record a heavier version of “Brain Damage.”

Watch “Time”

7) RF Shannon — Jaguar Palace

When I initially tweaked to Jaguar Palace it was because I thought it sounded like an early album from The Verve mixed in with some On The Beach-era Neil Young and maybe some Calexico. None of that has changed and it remains a wicked, dry desert heat of a trip.

Watch “Hotevilla”

6) The Black Angels — Death Song

The Black Angels are probably to 2017 what Jane’s Addiction were to 1990 what with the band’s festival/community building in the psych rock scene being comparable to the coming together of tribes Perry Farrell created in the alt era. That’s all noble stuff, but sometimes it means we take for granted the most important attribute of The Black Angels — the music. Death Song refines the band’s sound somewhat. There are a few less trance rock rumbles made for highway driving and less time travel indignations about the Vietnam War and Nixon and whatever, but the core of what makes The Black Angels great, the shimmering textures and dark menace of songs like “Estimate” and “Comanche Moon” remains.

Watch “Half Believing”

5) Run The Jewels — RTJ3

I know Run The Jewels appeal to me because of an age thing. Run The Jewels are old (like me). And they still rap (remember that?). With rhymes and lyrics and insightful observations and such. How they’ve managed to trick the kids into liking them in genre that, with a few exceptions, has been reduced to grunting, dumb catchphrases and Soundcloud beats that make no sense, is beyond me. But I’m there for ’em.

Watch “Legend Has It”

4) Tennis — Yours Conditionally

The last thing I expected from 2017 was to be thoroughly enamoured by Tennis’ Yours Conditionally. And yet, here we are. Yours Conditionally wonderfully navigates Fleetwood Mac-ian pop and girl group soul with a savvy and groove that’s hard to turn away from. Highlights: “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar,” “Modern Woman,” “Baby Don’t Believe.”

Watch “Modern Woman”

3) The Horrors — V

The Horrors continue their inscrutable ways on V. Are they goth? Electro? Brit pop? Psych? New wave? I don’t know. But what I do know is that whatever it is it’s mighty compelling. “Press Enter To Exit,” “Point Of No Reply” and the oddly buoyant “Something To Remember Me By” rise above the moodier moments on the rest of the album.

Watch “Something To Remember Me By”

2) King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard — Flying Microtonal Banana

2017 was the year my deep name-based bias against King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard was broken and it was all because of Flying Microtonal Banana. Sure, the band released something like 18 other concept albums/sonic exercises this year, but it was this album that struck me the hardest. Feature track “Rattlesnake” has the best groove of any rock song this year, “Billabong Valley” is an exotic adventure, and “Open Water,” a rather dark jam about drowning, could be the perfect theme song for speed boat racing if nobody paid close attention to the lyrics.

Watch “Rattlesnake”

1) Land Of Talk — Life After Youth

Life After Youth was the only album I kept on my phone for the entire year, a rare feat considering how quickly I churn through records when listening that way. One of the great joys I took from LOT leader Elizabeth Powell’s new album was in not knowing what the record was about. I didn’t read any interviews or liner notes or lyric sheets, but just dove in. I knew it was a bit of a comeback album, seven years on from her last record. And I knew that “life,” with all its chaotic speed bumps, was the reason why it took so long to become a reality. But beyond that it was a blank slate. What I found were layers of intrigue. In not knowing exactly what the songs were about, I was able to form my own narratives, contemplate my own plots behind these songs and the whole listening experience felt like a throwback to a simpler time.

Oddly, there’s no single song or couple of songs I can point to and go this makes the album. “Heartcore” is certainly compelling indie romance rock, “What Was I Thinking” has a universal life lesson quality, and iTunes says I listened to “This Time” 26 times. These could all represent highlight moments, but it’s really more about the whole. What Powell has created is a musical meditation on life which reveals something new each and every listen.

Watch “This Time”

Other album lists…

2016 Top Ten — Daniel Romano‘s Mosey is #1
2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart is #1
2014 Top Ten — Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is #1
2013 Top Ten — M.I.A.’s Matangi is #1
2012 Top Ten — Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon is #1
2011 Top Ten — Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On is #1
2010 Top Ten — The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream is #1
2009 Top Ten — Gallows’ Grey Britain is #1
2008 Top Ten — Portishead’s Third is #1
2007 Top Ten — Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock is #1
2006 Top Ten — My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse is #1
2005 Top Ten — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl is #1
2004 Top Ten — Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry is #1
2003 Top Ten — The Dears’ No Cities Left is #1
2002 Top Ten — Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me is #1
2001 Top Ten — Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow is #1
2000 Top Ten — Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness is #1
1999 Top Ten — The Boo Radleys’ Kingsize is #1
1998 Top Ten — Baxter’s Baxter is #1
1996 Top Ten — Tricky’s Maxinquaye is #1

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Aaron’s Top Albums Of 2010

The Black Angels' Phosphene Dream

The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream

This is my official Top 10 album list for 2010:

10. Arcade Fire The Suburbs

This made the list at #10 because of a begrudging acknowledgement that, yes, technically it’s a very good album. I can’t, however, shake the notion that the subject matter (restless youth, suburban angst) is something that pop-punkers have been singing about for 25 years. Which makes it not nearly as brave and world-shattering a concept as many would suggest.

9. Band Of Horses Infinite Arms

I haven’t listened to this album since 2010 and I see no reason to do so now.

8. Gord Downie And The Country Miracles The Grand Bounce

I’ve always had a tremendous appreciation for Gord Downie’s solo records. After all, to eschew his easy cash register gig in The Tragically Hip to do something like record freak-out hash rock poetry with Dale Morningstar (Coke Machine Glow, 2001) is incredibly bold. The thing is, as Hip albums become increasingly infrequent, Downie’s complimentary solo records are regressing to the mean in terms of musical adventure. And while The Grand Bounce has its moments — “The Drowning Machine,” in particular, reveals Downie’s often hidden dark side — I can’t help but feel it’s the beginning of Downie’s solo output oscillating towards the bar blues he’s better known for.

7. Black Mountain Wilderness Heart

It’s vitally important that Black Mountain exist. After all, without them there’d be a generation of Broken Social Scene-weaned hipsters who’d never think to listen to their dad’s old Zeppelin, Sabbath and Deep Purple albums.

6. The Schomberg Fair Gospel

In truth, it’s the idea of The Schomberg Fair — a punk-powered, banjo-plucking, hallelujah-hollerin’ rock revival — that I appreciated more than the actual music they released. This #6 spot is probably more about hope than actual love for Gospel.

5. Sunfields Palace In The Sun

The subtle charms of this soft-ish rock album from sometimes-Dears member Jason Kent certainly won me over at the time. In the end though I mostly cared about a song called “Desert Son.” If I redid this list today the album would probably be lower.

4. The Black Keys Brothers

Over it.

3. Gorillaz Plastic Beach

It took me almost a decade to realize that Gorillaz — a joke band made up of cartoon characters — was just as good as (and perhaps even better than) Damon Albarn’s other band, Blur. Granted, it took an album with outsized cameos from Snoop Dogg, Bobby Womack and Little Dragon to figure this out, but the fact I even got there is what really matters. “Stylo” is one of the best play-it-really-loud songs I’ve heard in ages and “Empire Ants,” my favourite from Plastic Beach, inflames the imagination.

2. The Besnard Lakes The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night

The initial reason why I loved Are The Roaring Night was because my hockey team went on a huge winning streak when I’d listen to “Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent Pt. 2: The Innocent” as a psyche up song before each game. Gifts like these from the Hockey Gods need to be supported, after all. More recently, though, I’ve been reading a lot of John le Carré books. And while this has given me a suspicious fear of the United States and the nagging sensation that everyone you look up to will invariably let you down, it’s also done a lot to romance the whole idea of Cold War spies and their “tradecraft.” So now when I listen to Are The Roaring Night I not only enjoy the music on it’s surface sonic level, but I can also dig deeper into the loose spy concept/narrative that’s going on in the record as I peruse German daily newspapers waiting for coded messages from Czech operatives.

 

1. The Black Angels Phosphene Dream

When I looked back at this list and saw the #1 my first instinct was, “Why?” So I listened to it again and reconfirmed that, yeah, this is one badass record. Now, my loyalty to the album isn’t so strong that I wouldn’t consider flipping it with the Besnard album if I redid this today, but “Entrance Song,” “Bad Vibrations” and “Phosphene Dream” all explore that darker, more dangerous side of psyche rock I find so exciting.

Other album lists…

2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart is #1
2014 Top Ten — Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is #1
2013 Top Ten — M.I.A.’s Matangi is #1
2012 Top Ten — Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon is #1
2011 Top Ten — Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On is #1
2010 Top Ten — The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream is #1
2009 Top Ten — Gallows’ Grey Britain is #1
2008 Top Ten — Portishead’s Third is #1
2007 Top Ten — Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock is #1
2006 Top Ten — My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse is #1
2005 Top Ten — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl is #1
2004 Top Ten — Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry is #1
2003 Top Ten — The Dears’ No Cities Left is #1
2002 Top Ten — Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me is #1
2001 Top Ten — Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow is #1
2000 Top Ten — Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness is #1
1999 Top Ten — The Boo Radleys’ Kingsize is #1
1998 Top Ten — Baxter’s Baxter is #1
1996 Top Ten — Tricky’s Maxinquaye is #1

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M.I.A.’s Matangi Is Aaron’s Top Album For 2013

M.I.A.'s Matangi

M.I.A.’s Matangi

This is my official Top Ten album list for 2013:

10. Elephant Stone Elephant Stone

One of the themes that appears to have emerged from my favourite albums this year is appreciation for the latest crop of jean-jacketed psych rock. This Elephant Stone record exemplifies that perfectly, drifting between Brit-pop and something more kaleidoscopic thanks to Rishi Dhir’s deft use of the sitar in various places.

9. Midlake Antiphon

I wavered numerous times about putting Antiphon on the list because there’s no real anchor moment that I love. But the album’s subtle Moody Blues-meets-Pink Floyd vibe has a beguiling effect and I found myself going back to it a surprising amount.

8. Murray Lightburn Mass: Light

The other major theme that appears from this year’s list revolves around adventure and experimentation. We’re not talking Wire magazine-style experimentation, rather it’s about relatively conventional musicians doing something bold and brave. The Dears’ lead singer Murray Lightburn’s album Mass:Light certainly fits that description. For a guy known for epic rock songs to switch up and make a one-man electro record that doesn’t blow is an achievement.

7. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats Mind Control

A sludgy triangulation of early Sabbath, Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter and the Harvard Psilocybin Project, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats’ Mind Control represented a rare spot of true danger.

6. D-Sisive The D.ark Tape

It’d be easy to pass off D-Sisive’s The D.ark Tape as another “indie rapper has sour grapes” album, but that does this record a tremendous disservice. The D.ark Tape is a diary of frustration, loss, false hope and failed promise. Through it all, though, D-Sisive remains defiant, lashing out at critics, biters, haters and anyone else in his line of fire. Which is exactly the fighting spirit you want him to have.

5. Kanye West Yeezus

I hate myself for putting this on the list, but there are so many fascinating things about Yeezus. The lyrics are ridiculous, the production borders on bizarre and Kanye’s peculiar sense of self-worth is head-shaking. But for a mainstream pop-rap album this is worlds removed from anything else that came out this year. And it’s that audacity, that oddly guileless sonic adventuring that I appreciate.

4. The Highest Order If It’s Real

For most of this year I thought The Highest Order’s If It’s Real was my #1 album and it’s only on deeper scrutiny where it’s dropped down just a bit. The cosmic Unintended-style country rock supplied here by Simone Schmidt and her gang hits all my trip-out buttons, but the individual songs are a bit less successful than the “vibe.” That said, being in the neighbourhood of perfect is still a great place to be.

3. Austra Olympia

My three favourite Depeche Mode albums are Black Celebration, Music For The Masses and Violator. Those three albums define that band and they’re the blueprint for a certain melancholy dance-your-pain-away sort of electronic music that’s just so moving. On Olympia‘s best moments I get that same swirling, twirling feeling.

2. The Black Angels Indigo Meadow

The Black Angels’ Indigo Meadow pretty much defines the term “psychedelic outlaw” music.

1. M.I.A. Matangi

M.I.A.’s  Matangi was the only album put out this year by a pop star that had any streak of rebellion. It’s actually embarrassing when you compare her to other contemporary pop stars and starlets (Bieber, Drake, Thicke, Perry, Spears, Gaga, etc). For the most part they stand for nothing. Or, at best, some conveniently benign social and/or charitable cause. I’m not 100 per cent with everything Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam stands for, but at least she stands up for something. She takes sides and does so without fear. I love that.

It also doesn’t hurt Matangi‘s production is so contemporary and worldly. There’s no other album I heard this year that feels this “now.”

Other album lists…

2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart is #1
2014 Top Ten — Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is #1
2013 Top Ten — M.I.A.’s Matangi is #1
2012 Top Ten — Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon is #1
2011 Top Ten — Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On is #1
2010 Top Ten — The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream is #1
2009 Top Ten — Gallows’ Grey Britain is #1
2008 Top Ten — Portishead’s Third is #1
2007 Top Ten — Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock is #1
2006 Top Ten — My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse is #1
2005 Top Ten — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl is #1
2004 Top Ten — Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry is #1
2003 Top Ten — The Dears’ No Cities Left is #1
2002 Top Ten — Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me is #1
2001 Top Ten — Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow is #1
2000 Top Ten — Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness is #1
1999 Top Ten — The Boo Radleys’ Kingsize is #1
1998 Top Ten — Baxter’s Baxter is #1
1996 Top Ten — Tricky’s Maxinquaye is #1

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The Black Angels & Crime And The City Solution Album Reviews

Black Angels' Indigo Meadow

Black Angels’ Indigo Meadow

There’ve been a heap of good records released recently for the jean jacket ‘n’ airbrushed van art crowd and two of them have been The Black AngelsIndigo Meadow and Crime & The City Solution‘s American Twilight.

I reviewed both of those albums over at Spinner.

To read about The Black Angels’ Indigo Meadow go here.

To read about Crime & The City Solution’s American Twilight go here.

 

 

 

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