The Sweetest, Snobbiest Albums of 2015

danieltalsky | Albums,Best of the Year | Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

These were the albums that rocked me this year.  Special thanks to Sean Glenn for his help and free labor with the sweet, sweet day-glo cover graphics.

10. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color


Alabama Shakes were a damn good blues rock outfit with a unique and androgynous female singer but nothing that would make you drop your drink.  Then they evidently decided to craft something extraordinary.  The guitar sound is luscious and confident, dare I say, stanky?  It’s like Al Green meets Houses of the Holy-era Led Zeppelin?  This album will make your day.

Hard to pick a song since the styles are all over the map, but I'll pick the mellow and sweet "Guess Who" for it's utterly delicious guitar sound:

9. Shamir – Ratchet


Shamir has a really fruity countertenor singing voice.  So, growing up in the shitty part of Las Vegas, a few people have had to find out the hard way that he’s a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.  He’s also a black belt in confident brattiness.  At twenty-one, he’s a fully formed artist.

He’s luminous in interviews.  He’s friendly, funny, sweet, and smart.  And his act is dope.  It’s a kind of hybrid modern electronic disco base, and then he sets you down easy with some mellow ballads at the end.  This year it was voted most-likely-to-make-me-stand-up-from-the-computer-chair-and-shake-my-ass.

I will share with you the voted-most-likely-to-make-me-shake-my-ass-in-my-living-room "Call It Off":

8. Viet Cong – Viet Cong


I don’t know, spend a minute on Wikipedia before you go pick a band name, ok? Viet Cong turned out a really badass psychedelic noise-rock album for a debut album. They’re young guys and the term Viet Cong just sounded cool to them, I’m guessing. So I feel bad for them that the debate about it bit them so hard. It got them some attention but it detracted from the smear of grey, beige, and bright Day-Glo green that make up their music. Their debut is imaginative and powerful. I want to go back and listen to some Velvet Underground and some early Pink Floyd though. The closer, Death, is quite a ride.

Addendum: Evidently they did decide to change their name but the new name is still TBA.

I present the mighty 11-minute epic album closer "Death":

7. Empress Of – Her


There’s a quiet, self-empowered party happening. You can dance to it but only move your toes and elbows and eyelids. Lorely Rodriguez is doing something special here. She has the vocal timing of a rapper, and she engineered absolutely everything about this album. I feel inspired every time I listen to it.

There’s songs about being surprised that you could let another human being really satisfy you, and there’s songs about not needing anyone else and being devoted to only satisfying yourself. Somehow they go together perfectly on this album.

The effortlessly beautiful and exciting "Standard" is what really does it for me:

6. Jamie XX – In Colour


Jamie XX was already half of one indie-famous band (he gentle, intimate singing of The XX), so it’s almost unfair that he’d come up with a totally different project and have it turn super successful. He’d always been a DJ, and in his live shows he started to develop his own style of dance music that blended turntablism with a variety of hip-hop and dance traditions.

The variety and beauty of this album is overwhelming, and it makes use of the best headphones or speakers you could possibly put it on. It’s an album to soundtrack the best moments in your life, when you just found out something lifechanging and you’re driving up Lake Shore Drive from the south in Chicago to start a new existence and you see the skyline suddenly loom above you.

The song "Gosh" is the song that really made me say, "Oh My Gosh":

5. Bjork – Vulnicura


I thought Bjork had made her last really incredible album. I was wrong. When I’m prepared for it, I listen to this album, and it blows me away anew each time. I went to see her in concert for the first time on this tour and it’s one of the best shows I’ve been to. She had a line of string musicians on stage, and behind them, a visualization of the incredibly complex electronic drum pulsations that make up the songs. It let you see the inner gears of each song, like a live version of the Song Exploder podcast (a podcast for which artists deconstruct a song and talk about its evolution).

A lot was made of her “diaristic” tone (which is seriously just annoying sexism). I just like to think of this album as a bookend to her 2001 album, Vespertine, on which she tells the story of falling in love with her (at the time soon-to-be) husband, artist Matthew Barney. Two or three albums and children later she’s now telling the story of the dissolution of that relationship–and it is crushing.

I probably only listened to the album 5 total times this year, because that’s all I could handle, but every time I listened to it, I let it wash over me and I was impressed anew.

Here's the short, emotionally-raw, "History of Touches":

4. Hop Along – Painted Shut


No one sings like Frances Quinlan. She alternates between a Janice Joplin-like scream-moan, a Tiny Tim-like falsetto, and her regular power-rock chest voice. It’s an impressive toolset and she uses it for telling some killer stories.

Hop Along went from a band I listened to a couple of times and thought of as kind of anonymous rock—to the only band I could listen to for a months. I went and watched every live performance I could find on YouTube because Frances genuinely brings some new type of howl to every vocal performance.

On the most obvious level they’re a modern Philadelphia art-grunge band with an interesting singer. On the next level though, they have a perfect way of burying the lede in every song. The songs all start out a little boring because it’s their way to build up to the payoff. So it’s not like you hear the beginning of a song and think, “Oh, I’m gonna like this!” It’s more like you get to the crescendo and finally realize where it was going all along and you say, “Ohhhhhhhh.” Then you sing that hook to yourself in the shower and you can’t remember what song it went to-even if you listen to the beginning of every song on the album.

In the song "Waitress", she sings about being a waitress in a diner and seeing someone who probably knew her and "the worst possible version of what I'd done" and then just hangs around long after closing.  "The world's grown so small and embarrassing" she sings.  Boy do I know that feeling:

3. Vince Staples – Summertime ‘06


“I feel like ‘Fuck Versace’, they rapin' nigga's pockets.” said Vince Staples, on his song Lift Me Up. Somebody had to say it.

If you’re not used to listening to rap, and the roughness of its themes sometimes, then this album could be a hard listen. But it’s a worthwhile listen, and an inspiring one.

Vince Staples grew up in the rough neighborhood of Ramona Park in California Over rough, thick, sexy, thrumming beats, Vince tells the stories about growing up there and his lifechanging summer in 2006 when he got more involved in making music than gangs.

Vince’s last album Hell Can Wait, was about being a kid in Ramona Park and had unbelievably creepy and astounding songs like Screen Door, describing what it felt like to be a little kid with drug dealer parents and wondering “Who’s that peepin’ through the screen door?” This guy can tell a story and he tells them with such dark straight-faced dexterity.

So, in Summertime ‘06 he broadens the scope. Ice Cube told similar gang stories, connecting them to political and race realities, but Vince doesn’t try to make it all sound so cool. He’s not selling it as a lifestyle. As an example, the song Jump Off The Roof is one of the best songs on the album. He’s talking in first person about coming off crack cocaine and considering jumping off the roof just to feel alive. It’s an exciting song and I originally thought he was in some way glorifying this nihlistic mentality…until I read in an interview that it’s paraphrased from things his dad said to him while high while he was a kid.

Vince Staples never cracks a smile. He just spits his stories and paints these vivid dark pictures… I’m pretty sure there’s hope in there somewhere, but it’s admittedly buried a little deep.

On three let's "Jump Off the Roof":

2. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear


I tried to listen to solo albums released by J. Tillman. Mostly it’s a depressing snooze fest comprised of monotone songs sung in a hushed way to gentle guitar music. That’s why it was so shocking when Father John Misty emerged as if a new man, with his “first” album Fear Fun a few years ago. I guess it’s technically the same human being.

Suddenly there was a howling wolf of a mad lunatic crooner, alternating between full throated singing and the sweetest falsettos behind rich orchestration. Now he’s back with his second album. He’s more in love, and more powerful, and meaner. He’s daring you to guess when he’s in character and when he’s not. I’ve got him figured out, though; he’s both, all the time.

He’s not just a musician. He’s a modern warlock of song. He’s the trickster spirit of the Rat Pack. These two albums are classics and when your kids come across them twenty years from now they’ll ask you you ever heard of him and you’ll smile knowingly.

Lastly, let’s address the charges of misogyny. My guess is that people are talking primarily about the song The Night Josh Tillman Came to our Apartment in which he spits venom (perhaps in a character) about someone he has a great deal of disdain for. It’s all been dismantled in think-pieces far better than I care to, but here’s some good parsing by NPR, The 405, and IndyWeek. I think misogyny is something Josh Tillman is struggling with, and not something he accepts within himself in an unexamined way. Sure there’s mysogyny, but there’s self-hate for it, too, and he’s not sure what to do about it. This his version of the old Nirvana chestnut “Love myself / better than you / I know it’s wrong / but what should I do?”

"Strange Encounter" has everything, soaring vocals, odd guitar, massive orchestration, the whole package:

1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly


Yeah, what else could the top spot be? I’ve read so many think-pieces about this album my head spins. Even backlash think-pieces that talk about how weird and difficult, thus, overrated it is. But hey, let’s not kid ourselves, the same think-pieces and praise went to Stevie Wonder’s jazzier, more difficult albums, and that doesn’t change the fact that they’re towering masterpieces on the whole.

Kendrick Lamar is a vocal performer and writer par excellence, with his finger on the pulse of humanity. Sometimes he can be too ham-handed (How Much a Dollar Cost). Sometimes he can be too thorny and abstruse. Fine. No one else came close to reaching so high this year musically, against unbelievably high expectations, and came up with something that everyone had to admit was a stunning statement.

Partially because the video is so good, I think "Alright" is the perfect song to feature:

And last, but not least:

Extremely Honorable Mentions:

U.S. Girls – Half Free: Growling and purring rock that’s a little Liz Phair-ey and all cool.
Pond – Man It Feels Like Space Again: Modern groovy psychadelic rock
Neon Indian – VEGA INTL. Night School: So ugly it’s beautiful synth rock in an 80’s palette
Czarface – Every Hero Needs A Villian: Kaleidoscopic old-school rap done right with enough cleverness in one song to fill out ten albums.
FKA twigs – M3LL155X EP: Something amazing to hold us over until her next album.
Carly Rae Jepsen – E•MO•TION: Tiny, perfect pop jewel.
Joanna Newsom – Divers: Our reigning queen of poetry and world creation graces us with another towering work it will take years to fully parse.
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell: Sufjan quietly and meditatively muses on finally losing his addict mother.
I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside – Earl Sweatshirt: A quiet masterpiece of elegant poetic misanthropy.
Young Thug – Barter 6: Whatever Lil’ Wayne did right, Young Thug does better
Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass: Lush orchestration and great songwriting

Stuff I Wish I’d Had Time To Listen To More:

Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp
Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer
Surf – Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment
Deerhunter – Fading Frontier
Lanal Del Rey – Honeymoon
Blackalicious – Imani Vol. 1

Stuff That’s Very Much Not Here On Purpose:

All The Drake

The Sweetest, Snobbiest Albums of 2014

danieltalsky | Albums,Best of the Year | Monday, December 29th, 2014

These are the ten albums that came out in 2014 that I consider essential.  These are the albums that outlined the shape of music for me.  All of them I listened to dozens of times.  Sometimes I just had to go see them do it in person.

I would love for you to get a taste of these albums, and roll them around on your tongue.  It was a good year.


10. The Clientele – Suburban Light

I would have never guessed this album would have been on this list when I first heard it. I would have never guessed it would have edged out a similarly beautiful and gentle album by a band I love, Real Estate. But I have a feeling this album is going to be soundtracking my rainy Tuesday nights for many years to come.

Listen to the infinitely mellow Reflections After Jane:

And the slightly more rocking Joseph Cornell (which makes me sing the line "If we're on Delancey Street…" every time I walk down Delancey Street:



9. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

In an interview, the producer said a rough sound was so important to Angel Olsen that they didn't use any mic that cost more $100. They did a good job. Burn Your Fire For No Witness sounds vital and passionate. Angel's voice smolders with desperation and feeling. The guitars crunch with sweet menace. A good portion of these songs could fairly be called timeless.

I think the best introduction to the album is its magnificent one-two punch of it's opening two songs.  First the plaintive Unfucktheworld:

And then the howler Forgiven/Forgotten:



8. Run The Jewels – RTJ2

Do me a favor if you like rap. Play the new Wu-Tang album, and make a tic mark every time you hear someone rap something amazing that makes you want to repeat it to another person wide-eyed in amazement that another human being came up with that. Then play RTJ2 right after it and do the same thing. My guess is you’re going to end up with 8000% more tick marks on the RTJ2 side. Listen to two guys who are just realizing they’re getting the first real chance to shine after working at it for 20 years and they’re not going to let this chance slip through their fingers. Hear totally new ways to shit talk. Hear Killer Mike open up the album by squealing, “I’m finna bang this bitch the fuck out!” and then he promptly does.

Even if you don't like rap, try the relaxed but still great wordplay of All My Life:

And my favorite song on the album is Early, where Killer Mike describes an encounter with police.  It gives me chills:



7. Sia – 1000 Forms of Fear

This is not my favorite Sia album. That would be her dark 2001 masterpiece, Healing Is Difficult, a fun, jazzy, dark-pop masterpiece that almost everyone in the world slept on. 1000 Forms of Fear is much more a pop album, with at least one certified major hit in Chandelier. As a part of Sia's committment to use visual replacements for herself in all of the visual material for this album, an insanely talented 11 year old dancer serves as a stand-in for her in the Chandelier video. The video is a little shocking and you should watch it right now:

That song aside, Sia has a majestic and elastic voice and a unique gift for writing evocative songs. I think my favorite is the smoky torch song Straight for the Knife, which probably could have been rocked by Dusty Springfield:



6. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

The Against Me! lead singer used to present as a man. Now she sings and lives as a woman. I have an unprecedented number of people in my life who decided to transition to living as a woman and I'm guessing they all identify with the lyric: "You want them to notice the ragged ends of your summer dress. You want them to see you just like any other girl. They just see a faggot." Transgender Dysphoria is a term psychologists use to describe someone unhappy with the gender they were assigned. Against Me! tells the story pretty well in the pop-post-punk idiom. These are some thrilling songs.

Unconditional Love reminds us that "Even if your love was unconditional, it still wouldn't be enough to save me":

And the title track, Transgender Dysphoria Blues:



5. A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Sea When Absent

There's two particularly thrilling moments for me on Sea When Absent that make it really stand out. One is the first few seconds of the album where a doom-metal crunch fanfare makes you think for one moment that this is going to be a very different kind of album, before the lead singer's angelic voice and 80's synth stabs immediately confuse. The other is about 20 seconds into the second song, titled In Love With Useless (The Timeless Geometry in the Tradition of Passing) where the song breaks and she yelps: "Antipsychotics / Sink to the bottom / Dreams that were buried / Comin' up". The sample of her singing is proccessed in such a way that the moments of quiet are cut off, like someone talking on a bad cell phone signal. The result is exuberant and actually thrilling. This is a beautiful and exquisitely layered album that sounds like nothing else this year.

Byebye, Big Ocean (The End):

Also this:

In Love With Useless (The Timeless Geometry in the Tradition of Passing):



4. Caribou – Our Love

The album starts out with a low-pitched vocal sample of Dan Snaith repeatedly singing, “Can’t do without” about 60 times until another layer of him singing in falsetto, “I can’t do without you” comes in as another layer, and it’s not until almost halfway into the song that the full spectrum of sonic color comes in. Dan Snaith has made several albums as Caribou, each one a new take on his idea of dance music. He’s been more adventurous before, but he’s never made such a consistent and beautiful statement.  If you can, listen to this album on good enough speakers to hear all its amazing studio tricks.

Listen to the mesmerizing album opener Can't Do Without You:

And the closer, the sonic landscape of Your Love Will Set You Free:



3. Cymbals Eat Guitars – LOSE

Joe D'agostino (most Long Island name ever?  probably) opens his song Chambers like this: "The feds closed Silk Road, and I'm out in the cold 'cause I don't know anyone. Lights out in South Beach, coming up on seven weeks, need a pill to sleep so I drive out to Stapleton, but even I'm not dumb enough to enter The Chambers.”  That's just one of his vivid stories about his childhood and fairly fucked up adulthood.  I played this album for a friend and she said, "He has such a pretty voice.  Why can't he sing about something nice?"  In response they sent the following tweet:

The aforementioned Chambers:

And a beautiful ballad called Child Bride where he talks about the moment he realized a young friend of his was going to be fucked up for life, and then how he met her years later at a concert and was bragging about how her new girlfriend "turned her on to crack":



2. Flying Lotus – You're Dead

You ever hear an otherwise good instrumental album ruined by a couple of dunderheaded rap verses that clearly don't belong there. I sure have. (See the first Burial album and many many more.) That's not what happens here, however. Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg(!) and a couple other people add perfect meditations on death to Flying Lotus's expansive compositions. Is this an amazing free Jazz album? A hip hop album? Electronic music by one of the most explosive and inventive electronic music artists? Yes.

If someone showed me an insane audiophile stereo system and said, "What do you want to boom out of this?  You only get one album!"

"You're dead," I'd say.

The album plays like one continuous suite, and most of the songs are under two minutes so it's difficult to pick only a couple of tracks.  Never Catch Me is a great representative track with a good mix of electronic music, jazz, and hip hop, with a great Kendrick Lamar rap about death:

And to show some of the breadth of the album, this later, almost interstitial interlude Turtles:



1. FKA twigs – LP1

Most years I agonize about the best album of the year but not this year. I knew months ago that it would be hard for anything to unseat this minimal R&B masterwork. I like my beats and electronic sounds fierce and asymetrical and challenging. FKA twigs ode to sex, alienation, desperation, and fame is lonely and perfect for every moment of its running time. This is the kind of album you want to blast on a good speaker system with plenty of bass, but works on tinny earbuds just fine. The beats clatter and intrude and seduce but her voice floats above it perfectly, with her own dark and beguiling anthems. One of my favorite songs is Video Girl. She was once, a "Video Girl". She's an unusual and beautiful woman, with unnaturally full lips and slender form. She danced in other artists videos and became semi-famous a first time that way, but she was determined to be known for her own musical work. So when people approached her on the street, recognizing her from the videos, she'd say, "Yeah, I get that all the time, I know I look like her, but it's not me." So the lyric in the song goes, "She's the girl from the video / you're lying, you're lying, you're lying." Now when they stop her and say "hey you're the girl from the video" at least they're talking about HER videos, which are insane.  Now all we need is a James Blake, FKA Twigs collaboration.

Video Girl is essential:

And Pendulum encapsulates everything I like about the album.  Its etherial textures, odd rhythms, and sincere singing.  When she sings "I'm a sweet little lovemaker" I believe her:

Ok, now it's time to listen to everyone else's end of year lists, or listen to all 20 songs as a playlist.

some little place to put my ursula rap

danieltalsky | Uncategorized | Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Soundcloud won't let me.

INXS – KICK Makes You Wonder How The Other Half Died

danieltalsky | Albums,My Favorite Things (Classics),Reviews | Monday, July 7th, 2014


I remember when I first pronounced INXS as "incks" in front of someone in my middle school class and was soundly ridiculed. (It's pronounced, har har, "In Excess" for anyone still not in the know.) KICK was one of the first cassettes I purchased and I think it holds up well. They were considered pop-pretty-boys but the songwriting and performance is still vital all these years later. If you're only familiar with the hits, do yourself a favor and get on Spotify (or whatever) and give it a listen.

However, if you already know the album, then you could do worse than to listen to this pretty and understated live cover of THE ENTIRE ALBUM. One of the great things about KICK was Michael Hutchence's unhinged and sexual performances, but Courtney Barnett does a great job of distilling this into a laid-back wistfulness.  She even does the Bob Dylan ripoff flash cards for Mediate.

The Sweetest, Snobbiest Albums of 2013

danieltalsky | Albums,Best of the Year,Reviews | Monday, December 9th, 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, I present my top 10 albums of 2013, starting with number 10:


10. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Hey, I could sure live without hearing "Get Lucky" ever again but this is one amazing album and one amazing experience.  A band that made their fortune on sampling the works of others pulls together an original album with mostly originally performed compositions.  It's a love song to dance music and it is frequently beautiful.

It's hard to pick a song, but I lose myself to dance the most in Lose Yourself To Dance:


9. Savages – Silence Yourself

When I needed to feel tough walking down the street this year I listened to City's Full, which is a woman singing about how she prefers her older female lover to all the "skinny pretty girls".  Also it shreds.  So does the whole album.


8. Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God

Why did I never listen to My Morning Jacket before… oh yeah, the stupid band name. This album made me realize how majestic Jim James is and what a loving songwriter he is.

You could hardly do better than Of The Mother Again:


7. Laura Mvula – Sing To The Moon

A powerful new voice on the music scene making timeless, music like a young, creative Nina Simone.  I wrote more about the album in a recent post.

Green Garden is the stunner:


6. Matthew E. White – Outer Face EP

Another soft voiced guy with super lush arrangements. 5 songs of pure perfection.  I loved his album Big Inner last year, and I'm so glad he decided to cut us off another little slice of his gorgeousness this year.

Listen to his facility with strings and amazing background vocals while he teaches you his Signature Move:


5. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II [Deluxe Edition]

Who knew these guys had such a beautiful album in them. The acoustic versions in the deluxe edition are at least as good as the originals.

Listen to the watery guitars and super-Beatlesy composition in the album opener From The Sun:


4. Rhye – Woman

The album is called Woman but it's sung by Mike Milosh. This is the dead sexiest album that came out all year.  Imagine if Sade put out another classic album but a man fronted it.

It's hard to make a pick for this album but I think I'll settle on Three Days which is all the time they have with each other:


3. Jon Hopkins – Immunity

Electronic music at its most vital, dynamic, and listenable.  Yes, it sounds like Johns Hopkins, the Baltimore university.  You are the first person to notice.

Open Eye Signal shows his approach to crunchy, delicious sound that makes me want to stand up out of my computer chair:


2. Jonathan Wilson – Fanfare

Gorgeous album straight out of nowhere. I'm proud to put this album on my top 10 in a year when it seems like everyone else slept on it.  Crosby and Stills actually play on the album and that gives you some sense of where it's coming from.  Some kind of beautiful Steely Dan shit with great songwriting.

The mellow, horse-clop percussion masterpiece Cecil Taylor.  I love the way he sings, "I'm just another heart and set of eyes, looking for a miracle" and all the crazy little details and effects:


1. Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap

This high schooler made the lushest, cleverest, most touching rap album imaginable. Look, if you just can't handle Chancellor's voice I assure you it can grow on you. I thought Joey Bada$$ was coming up with amazing lyrics for a 17 year old but he's got nothing on the twisty, loving wordplay of Chance.

Also, the mixtape is TOTALLY FREE so there's no reason not to add this album to your collection.  I think his style, his weird sqwawk of an ad-lib, his sweetness, and his clever rhymes are best illustrated by Cocoa Butter Kisses.  My little sister hates it because of the cough noises but I think it's adorable:


Kanye West – Yeezus: Made so many end of year lists but there's just too many dumb ass lyrics and ok I'll say it: the music isn't as innovative as people are saying.

My Bloody Valentine – mbv: Never quite got Loveless, and don't quite get mbv.

Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze: Dude is starting to put me to sleep.

Janelle Monae – Electric Lady: She's amazing but something is off about this album.

COMFORT FOOD LIST: (stuff I really enjoyed and listened to a lot but can't unseat the top ten)

Young Galaxy – Ultramarine: I would never have thought I would have loved these well-crafted pop songs as much as I ended up. They are perfection and all the music videos contrast by being odd and ugly.

Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City: In which Vampire Weekend prove to the world that they weren't just a knockoff of the Graceland album and actually make their own singular and beautiful music.

The Belle Game – Ritual. Tradition. Habit.: They call themselves "dark-pop". For me it's just like musical comfort food. Passionate singing and jangly rock guitar.

Deerhunter – Monomania: I think I'm finally a Deerhunter fan.

Vondelpark – Seabed: Muaic to make out to as you drift off to sleep with your lover.

Phosphorescent – Muchacho: A wonderful, wonderful album from a great new voice in music.


Bill Callahan – Dream River

Mikal Cronin – MCII

Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt

Disclosure – Settle

Ty Segall – Sleeper

Ka – The Night's Gambit

Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven

Danny Brown – OLD

Late Addendum: Extra thanks to Sean Glenn for doing the awesome picture frame graphics for all the albums!

The Gorgeous Power of Laura Mvula

danieltalsky | Albums | Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Laura Mvula - Sing to the Moon


You may be excited about the new Janelle Monae, and you should be, it's amazing. But you were going to listen to that anyway.

You might not have heard the astounding debut of Laura Mvula, however, and I recommend you do.  Laura sings songs I would play for my (imaginary) children, and we'd listen to the songs over and over until the LP wore through.  Laura takes a few phrases and then stacks them layer by layer to make a musical tower out of them.

Sing to the Moon has its strengths and weaknesses, but at its best it is utterly timeless.  Like, Nina Simone timeless.  This is one of those albums where I feel confident in hyperbole because I'm going to play you a few songs and I feel like they stand on their own for pure "wow" factor.

First of all, Green Garden, a love song so magnificent I need to listen to it almost every day.  Only a few lines, but she does the most with them.

Then only Laura could make an angry song like That's Alright so exultant.  She "could never be what you want and that's alright" but she'd like to ask "who made you the center of the universe?"

Lastly, I Don't Know What The Weather Will Be, the classic theme of love that fears commitment, made romantic as only Miss Mvula could:

The Spell of Civilian

danieltalsky | My Favorite Things (Classics) | Saturday, September 7th, 2013

Sye Oak - Civilian

Civilian came out in early 2011, and since then it's become like a broken-in leather shoe that fits me so perfectly that I can slip it on when I want to go down to the Bodega for a coconut water to soothe a hangover, but it still looks good enough on me that I can wear them out on a date.  This is a metaphor.  Wye Oak's Civilian is actually an album.

Civilian opens to sounds somewhere between the chatter and clatter of a party and the tuning of an orchestra and washes into the gentleness of Two Small Deaths.  Jen Wasner's voice and gentle arpeggiated guitar create a warm wash of sound.  Then she begins her story with:

Two small deaths happened today

With that she builds slowly to the crescendo in the song Civilian, and then takes the rest of the album to set me back down on earth.  The production is like watercolor pencil, distinct in some places, fading into a wash of muted colors in others.  It's the kind of sound that wraps itself all the way around me.

This is the kind of album some would call "overproduced" but I would probably call "well-produced".  It's hard to believe this rich wall of sound is played by two people.  Jen Wasner sings and plays guitar (and I think it's fair to say she shreds when she needs to), and Andy Stack does percussion and everything else.

When I put it on my headphones for a long train ride, I never regret it.  Ever.  And then what seems like a few minutes later I think, "Aw man, it's already over.  What do I follow that with?"  (Answer: Dum Dum Girls' End of Days EP).

The Alter shows off Jen's watery, Hendrix-like guitar playing

Dog's Eyes is one of the most playful tracks on the album, showing the big changes in feeling an dynamic even in a single song with guitar that's sometimes playful and sometimes lands like a crunching, squealing weight on your head.

Civilian is the core of the album, it's crescendo, showing all of Jen's delicacy and sonic wailing wall.  I almost hate to include it out of context but it's a damn good song.

Holy Holy is all swollen with a soft passion, and I think where Jen does her best singing on the song.  She sounds almost like a modern Stevie Nicks here.  Possibly my favorite song on the album.

Doubt?  The tender sign-off to the album.  I love how it ends on this note of tender reassurance:

10 Amazing Jimi Hendrix Deep Cuts

danieltalsky | My Favorite Things (Classics),Reviews,Songs | Thursday, March 28th, 2013


I'd like to do a little write-up in honor of the new album of mostly new and restored recordings of Jimi Hendrix. I have been a Hendrix fan for many years and have always felt like we were kindred spirits. I'd like to take a moment and talk about the Hendrix road less traveled  The deep cuts. The amazing songs that no one knows about, presented in roughly chronological order.  Of course this is not a real top 10, but I couldn't resist the urge to go for the cheap "listicle" format.  People will read the top ten of anything.

Songs I will not be including: Foxy Lady, Manic Depression, Fire, Purple Haze, The Wind Cries Mary, Castles Made of Sand, Crosstown Traffic, or Voodoo Chile (Slight Return). Those songs are amazing, everyone's heard them.

Because of his hits, people consider Jimi some kind of superhuman voodoo sex machine (which he probably was), but these cuts point out the sweet, loving sci-fi nerd deep within Jimi. This is the Jimi I've always seen.

1. May This Be Love

This is Jimi's ode to daydreaming, and is basically a love song to an inner spiritual guide he calls "Waterfall". This originally only appeared on the US and not the UK versions of Are You Experienced, making it an ideal deep cut. Featuring some of the amazing, watery, mellow guitar Jimi excelled at. There's a plodding, thick drumbeat wherein he tells "Waterfall" why he thinks it is so damn groovy, and then an impassioned defense of daydreamers. Gorgeous and uplifting from the first moment to the last.

2. Wait Until Tomorrow

Jimi shows up atop a ladder to elope with his love, Dolly Mae, and she tells him that she thinks they should think about it one more day. With predictably fatal results.

3. Up From The Skies

This is Jimi's plea for aliens to contact him. Mitch Mitchell drops in a soft-brushed drumbeat while Jimi plays some of the grooviest and subtlest guitar while he tells the aliens that he wants to "hear and see everything". I said it was groovy and I meant it.

4. Little Miss Lover

Why this wasn't a single, I have no idea, since to me it stands right along other, more famous barn burners like Foxy Lady or Fire. This is, in my mind, the sexiest Hendrix song ever recorded.

5. Bold as Love

God knows how many drugs Jimi was on when he came up with the concept for the album Axis: Bold as Love. There's a line in Bold as Love (the song) where Jimi says, "I'm bold as love, just ask the axis," so presumably the title of the album (Axis: Bold As Love) is the response in screenplay format. Jimi goes through the colors a couple of times in the lyrics, and then finally, at the end, explodes into one of psychedelic rock's formative moments when he blows the whole world's mind by pioneering the "phase effect". I wish you could be high on LSD for just… just the four minutes and 12 seconds it takes to play this song so you could really, you know, get it man. And then get back to work cause it's not fucking 1967 anymore. Yeah.

6. Burning of the Midnight Lamp

Jimi Hendrix was so far out that he actually thought this paon to the depths of inner loneliness was going to be a hit song. It is a sincere and beautiful song with heartfelt lyrics describing his isolation at the time. It's a great song, I think, but the kids don't run out and buy albums written by Debbie Downer.

7. 1983 … (A Merman I Should Turn To Be) / Moon Turn The Tides … gently gently away

I'm pretty sure this song actually made a label suit actually cry at one point. It's a 14 minute multi-movement sci-fi epic about retreating to an undersea realm because of the horrors of war and includes a several minute long tone-poem depicting reality underwater. In the first movement (up to about the 3 minute mark) Jimi describes the sad state the world has got itself into and why the powers that be don't think going underwater is a viable idea. Then in the next movement, Jimi describes his lover and he making love in the sand as they prepare to say goodbye to the world they've known. Then, at about the four and a half mark, a soundscape begins as they go down into the sea with all kinds of eerie sounds. At the 6 minute mark, guitar and melody begin to come back including a drum solo (8 minute mark) and really gorgeous little bass solo played by Jimi himself (9:30). At about the 11 minute mark the next movement begins where Jimi and his love are now under water going deeper and deeper, chilling with Neptune and various mermaids and such. Hey this didn't turn out so bad after all. Finally in the last minute or so Jimi sends us out with one last shredding guitar solo which ends in oscillating bird sounding electronic noises which lead into (if you want extra credit) the next song, a one minute set of oscillating tones called Moon, Turn The Tides … gently gently away. Whew. And they pressed this to wax! In 1968!

8. Power of Love

By this point The Jimi Hendrix experience was over, and Jimi was jamming with blues great Buddy Miles. He owed the label one album and gave them Band of Gypsys, taken from two nights of recordings on New Years Eve '69/'70 at the Fillmore East here in New York City. I put this song on a mix-tape for a 4 year old once, and didn't have any idea what he was talking about when he referred to "the jellyfish song". Well, eventually I finally caught that part of the lyrics:

It's so groovy to float around sometimes
Even a jelly fish will tell you that
I said floatation is groovy, and easy
Even a jelly fish will agree to that
Yeah, but that old jelly fish
Been floatin' around so long
Lord he ain't got a bone in his jelly back
Floatin' every day and every night
Ridin' high is a risk
Sometimes the wind ain't right

Don't get put off by the pyrotechnics that start the song, it settles into a deep blues groove as he lays out the power of love. One of my all time favorite Jimi Hendrix songs.

9. My Friend

A world-weary Hendrix wrote one of the most hilarious of his songs, about being out on the road. The conversation in the beginning is simulated, and you can even hear Hendrix himself jabbering a little in the background pretending to be a regular joe at one of his shows. A the beginning of the song, a lady of the night (bourbon and coke possessed words) recognizes him and says "haven't I seen you somewhere in hell?" and "before [he] can ask, 'was it the east or west side?'" he's run over by her cart. In the third act he "just got out of a Scandinavian jail, and I'm on way back home to you". Then, he ruefully reminds us in the refrain that his only friend talks, sees, looks and feels like you, and you do just the same as him. What happened to "waterfall" right? I truly love this song, and if there was any justice in the world it would be in every karaoke book in the world.

10. Angel

I will end with a beautiful love song about an angel.

Parenthetical Girls and Glockabelle at Bowery Electric were Awesome!

danieltalsky | Concerts,Reviews | Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

parenthetical drummer wp

I liked but never quite got into Parenthetical Girls, but when my friend Glockabelle told me she was opening for them I thought I'd give it a shot.

Glockabelle is Annabelle Cazes and whatever awesome musicians she happens to be working with.  She plays everything from surf rock to classical on her Glockenspiel, and then plays twin little keyboards and sings in French.  Her stage banter is awesome, she'll say, "This is a song about a gazelle" and then launch into madness.  Here's two great samples:

We stayed for Parenthetical Girls and they blew us away.  Lead singer Zac Pennington is a charismatic demon and stood on amps, came out into the crowd, and performed all over the venue.  It's a good thing he has a long mic cord.  In the most intense moment, he came over to the bench we were standing on, grabbed a rolldown movie screen, and pulled it down in front of us so only me and a couple of other people could see him performing for a few minutes.  It was so amazing and intimate that I couldn't resist giving his scrawny arm a little kiss.

It's been a long time since I saw a show with such panache and engagement.  Their recordings don't quite capture the same spirit but have a listen anyway!  Check out the amazing song The Pornographer and its (NSFW if armpit hair is not cool at your work) video:

Anyway, thanks to Glockabelle and Parenthetical Girls for an amazing New York experience!

parenthetical zac wp

Never Trust a Man With a Butter Knife, a Plastic Butter Knife

danieltalsky | Reviews,Songs,Uncategorized | Saturday, January 5th, 2013


  1. I'm starting to warm up to this whole new Big Boi album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
  2. This song Gossip is straight up amazing.
  3. How high was this man when he made up the part about never trusting a man with a plastic butter knife.

I'm actually posting this song because none of the versions of it online have the "plastic butter knife" lead out.  Also everyone should listen to it.  And then the whole album.  Cause I said so.

[audio:|titles=Big Boi – Gossip]
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