The Sweetest, Snobbiest Albums of 2021

In 2021: I moved from New York City to a cozy suburb of Chicago and experienced a cavalcade of isolation and personal disasters, so it’s unsurprising that my everyday musical tastes got very comfort-music-y and I embraced a lot of Dad-rock I had once rejected. Was The Arcade Fire’s album The Suburbs a little on-the-nose? Apparently not.

It’s odd, I didn’t deeply connect with the albums released in 2021.

I liked and was fascinated by several for sure, but most of what blew me away was not released in 2021, so I’m really focusing on what I personally listened to the most, with NO idea that these are THE BEST. I instead want to highlight some albums that got a little less attention this year that I thought were worth a listen.

With those provisos in place, here, in no particular order, are the sweetest, snobbiest albums of 2021:

Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg

How the hell do I sell people on this?! It’s a hard sell! It’s aimless (but good) guitar strumming over laconic talk-singing by a smartass white lady.

BUT! The guitar music is good and has its own propulsion, and provides counterpoint to Florence Shaw’s calm and knowing talk-singing.

AND! Let’s get this 100% clear: she is hilarious. Like constantly hilarious. She drops a never-ending bone-dry commentary on life filled with little acidic bon mots without a chorus in sight. On one level she’s just nattering on like someone’s cynical aunt:

Will there be a hairdryer in my state room or should I bring one?
What about shampoo?
Will we be able to have laundry done on the ship?
And what are the prices?
Are thеre some kind of revеrse platforms, shoes that make you go into the ground more?
Make you reach a lower level?
Would you choose a dentist with a messy back garden like that?
I don’t think so

BUT! as she natters on, you begin to see shape in her endless wit. A worldview. A place you want to live; the guitar jangles on. I love it. I aspire to be so cool. And no, I wouldn’t choose a dentist with a messy back garden.

Villagers – Fever Dreams

This was the indie symphonic prog record of my dreams. Just when Jim James stopped making great solo albums and went back to making mediocre My Morning Jacket albums, there’s Villagers to pick up the slack of making heartfelt, plainly spoken and richly ornamented pop music to keep life sweet.

I notably discovered this album by being fascinated by the excellent cover of a giant magical bear resting(/creeping) by the poolside, and knew I had to know what was in the box.

What’s in the box is a lovingly crafted indie rock friend.

Kissed Her Little Sister – sleeping giant

I have been following this dude since he blew me away with his first album, now available only on Bandcamp. He was mixing his weirdo falsetto with heavy distortion, some turntablism and electronic experimentation to match some of the best of Four Tet, They Might Be Giants, Blockhead, Dan Deacon or anyone who makes super interesting chopped-and-screwed-nerd music. A couple of the best examples of this early genius is the nutso beat box masterpiece “My Dreams are Television” or his bizarre mashup of actual Pink Floyd samples and Johnny Cash vibes in the twisted cover of “Cocaine“.

He’s too restless and uncompromising an artist to keep doing the same type of stuff, and his new album is an explosion of electronic music and hyper-pop-freak-folk. My favorite songs on his new album are the wordless ones like “way to go“, “morning never come“, and “hush“. He’s bringing much more electronic music innovation into the party like a Chris Clark or Jamie XX. His songs keep surprising you throughout their length. This album is restless, exciting, and worth some of your time.

Helado Negro – Far In

This is an album of such smooth and aching beauty. This is an album that can engulf me. Roberto Carlos Lange’s voice and delivery is in a class of its own, uniquely Latin, uniquely smooth, uniquely expressive. The final four song suite on the album is almost impossibly lovely and atmospheric. Roberto’s voice sounds like a woodwind instrument and they pair it with actual woodwinds, digital filigrees, and heavily processed drum sounds to great effect.

Mexican Institute of Sound – Distrito Federal

I bet the Mexican Institute of Sound loves the Latin Playboys’ song “Same Brown Earth” where a symphony of car horns is the primary instrument, judging by their song “El Antídoto“. They take that vibe and make a giant, electro-funky party out of it. There is not a bad track on here, and you could make a whole real party out of this while you make red pozole like me and my friend Chris did.

Mariah the Scientist – RY RY WORLD

Her voice is beautiful, and she sings about dark themes, which puts here in the same damn lane as SZA, Kehlani, and probably 20 other neo-soul-R&B ladies out there already killing it.

So what does Mariah the Scientist bring to the table that they don’t?

I’ve listened to her first album, 2019’s MASTER at least as many times as I’ve listened to SZA’s CTRL and I still can’t quite tell you. She has some kind of knowing way with her phrasing. She’s a sex magnet. What can I say?

I love her, I love her songwriting, I love her sexy, dry delivery, and I’m still not sure why I find her so extraordinary. RY RY WORLD is just not as strong as MASTER is, which I think is an unbelievably slept-on slug of pure dark Frank Ocean-inspired pleasure, but it is still damn good.

Matthew E. White – K Bay

Matthew E. White has a lot of influences. I could list all the “experimental but still truly rockin'” 60’s and 70’s bands or sly singer-songwriters he reminds me of (XTC, T. Rex, Frank Zappa, Randy Newman, Steely Dan, maybe even Billy Joel?), but I won’t because he manages to smash them all into a ball and add something uniquely his own, while keeping it smooth and listenable at all times with his silky baritone and good humor.

Faye Webster – I Know I’m Funny haha

Faye Webster is funny (haha). She’s funny, sly, sultry, and in her own quiet way, majestic. Majestic like Carole King in her elevation of everyday experience. This is probably not her best album, but it is still damn good. Everything about Faye Webster’s style is laid back: her vocal delivery, the chill steel guitar that winds its way around the background, the gently brushed drums. Her wit, however, is sharp, and she manages to uniquely pair wryness with real emotional sincerity.

this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: The Sweetest, Snobbiest Albums of 2021
it's categorized as: Best Albums of the Year, Best of 2021
link to it, please: Sunday, December 5th, 2021

The Sweetest, Snobbiest Albums of 2017

10. Girlpool: Powerplant

If Cobain was alive today, he’d like Girlpool.  Somewhere West of the Vaselines.  Alternately cooing and shredding.  Song: Soup

9. Alex Cameron: Forced Witness:

Alex Cameron plays a character a little like Tom Waits, but less knowing, more confused, more innocent, more loungey, more uses of the word “pussy”.  Song: Chihuahua

8. Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory

I love Vince Staples.  He took some real chances here and made an actually experimental rap album.  Vince Staples is the king of making songs that aren’t what they seem to be about.  It’s fantastic.  Song: Rain Come Down

7. Lorde – Melodrama

Liability was an anthem for me.  A song where if I played it for friends they’d silently listen with me and then look at me and say, “Ow.”

6. Sheer Mag – Need to Feel Your Love

If this was coming out of my transistor radio while I jumped in the lake in cutoffs, I’d feel like life was good.  Song: Expect the Bayonet

5. Cigarettes After Sex – Cigarettes After Sex

Yeah, it’s what it sounds like.  Sade, Goldfrapp, Everything but the Girl.  That kind of stuff, and very well done.  Song: Each Time You Fall in Love

4. Sampha – Process

A vocalist like no other.  A mix of grief, paranoia, and hope, but with a little grime.  Song: Blood on Me [for beats] and Nobody Knows Me Like The Piano (In My Mother’s Home) [for the pure beauty]

3. Sophia Kennedy – Sophia Kennedy

Vivacious, beautiful, honest, original music.  Great percussion and production, great singing, unorthodox songwriting.  Song: Kimono Hill

2. King Kendrick (Pulitzer Recipient) – DAMN.

Kendrick really knows how to make himself a part of the national conversation, that’s for sure.  Three days after this album came out, I walked by a young girl singing, “They won’t take me out my ELEMENT.” and I thought, that’s right, girl.  Plus a U2 feature?!?!?!  He can write his own rules still.  Song: FEAR.

1. Amber Mark – 3:33

I listened to the 7 songs on this album, and their 4 remixes more than any other music this year.  I honestly can’t explain why it has the hold on me that it does, but there is not one wasted or imperfect second on this album.  I never want to skip anything.  It’s hard to think of what to play after it.  A hopeful album dealing with her mother’s death, handled with such ebullient and lovely energy.  It uplifts me every time.  Song: Monsoon

this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: The Sweetest, Snobbiest Albums of 2017
it's categorized as: Albums, Best Albums of the Year, Best Of 2017, Reviews
link to it, please: Thursday, December 28th, 2017

The Sweetest, Snobbiest Albums of 2015

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

this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: The Sweetest, Snobbiest Albums of 2015
it's categorized as: Albums, Best Albums of the Year, Best of 2015, Reviews
link to it, please: Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

The Sweetest, Snobbiest Albums of 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.

this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: The Sweetest, Snobbiest Albums of 2014
it's categorized as: Albums, Best Albums of the Year, Best of 2014, Reviews
link to it, please: Monday, December 29th, 2014

The Sweetest, Snobbiest Albums of 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!

this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: The Sweetest, Snobbiest Albums of 2013
it's categorized as: Albums, Best Albums of the Year, Best of 2013, Reviews
link to it, please: Monday, December 9th, 2013

The Sweet Snob’s 10 Most Amazing Albums of 2010

Ok, I’d better get this out there, late and incomplete as it is, so I can move on to 2011 already.  I want to write about James Blake and the new Radiohead, but it’s all stuck in my craw until I can present: The Sweet Snob’s 10 Most Amazing Albums of 2010.

I am The Sweet Snob.   I heard a lot of albums this year.  Some really impressed me.

I hungered for them, and I listened over and over, stunned by their value.

I hope you find something you didn’t hear here, and you give it a chance.  I love these albums.

Note that the covers are my blurry, cropped reinterpretations of the album covers in question, but just click on each one to see the real album cover.

Without further delay, I bring you:

#1 Big Boi – The Son of Chico Dusty

Nothing lifted my spirits, and could reliably get me and my woman shaking booty as well as The Son of Chico Dusty.  On Your DJ Ain’t No DJ, Big Boi challenges any rapper to challenge him.  I so wanted to come up with something, just to do it, just to see what he’d say.  But I didn’t.  Big Boi is unassailable.  What am I going to criticize him for?  Being into Jesus and blowjobs at the same time?  Hey, maybe if I got as many blowjobs I’d be more into Jesus myself!  You’re alright with me Big Boi, and next time I see you live, I hope you do 90% Big Boi songs, and don’t lean as hard on the Outkast catalog.  You don’t need to, playa’.

That doesn’t explain why it gets the #1 spot.  It’s not as intelligent as LCD Soundsystem.  It’s not as iconic as Kanye.  But it BUMPS, and in 2010, that’s what I needed.  There’s so many hooks, jumps, bridges, surprises, George Clinton, and lines we repeat to each other as private jokes.  I had a long time this year to listen to this album, and let’s just say it passes the smell test.  When this album comes on, we sing along.

#2 LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening

Yeah, this happened.  You finally charmed me to the bone you bastard, James Murphy, and I’ll never be the same.  You made be believe that a middled aged guy can be a genuine star.  That sometimes the hipsters are right and their flavor of the month really is all that.  That you can make magical music to shake your ass to, and not even sell out.  That you can make a video so funny and creepy it actually goes back in time and makes the song better.

What some people love about LCD Soundsystem is the sonic construction: a mishmash of many dance music forms.  Me, that’s just the frame for James’ warmhearted jokes and really lovely singing.  In Dance Yrself Clean, the album opener, James starts his plaintive verse about friends who are “talking like a jerk because you are an actual jerk, and living proof that sometimes friends are mean”.  If this was the first LCD Soundsystem song you ever heard, you might be surprised at the three minute mark when this epic really kicks in.  He waited three minutes and just strung you along before suddenly you’re in the middle of a passion dance party.  By the time he tells you to “throw your little hands up”, it’s not cause you don’t care, it’s because of a “string of divorces”.

In Pow Pow, he pokes fun at New York art and criticism culture, himself, America lovers, America haters, pretension, Wired Magazine and a bunch of other things.  He does this while also making it danceable and saying POW POW POW POW POW a lot.

Mid-album, he shows convincingly that he’s not the coolest guy he can think of, by singing two painfully-sincere-but-painfully-tongue-in-cheek odes to unrequited love, All I Want and I Can Change.  Can I just say how much more romantic his All I Want is than Radiohead’s All I Need?  Thom Yorke of Radiohead says, “You are all I need, you’re all I need, I’m in the middle of your picture, lying in the reeds.”  James says, “All I want is your pity.  All I want is your bitter tears.”  And you can dance to it.

This is a guy I want to come to my party.  This is a band I finally want to jam with, to mentor me, to jet set with, to follow on twitter even though his updates are mostly about good Japanese food.  I look up to James Murphy.  James Murphy, will you be my friend?  Check this box.

#3 Beach House – Teen Dream

This was the real sex album of the year, and it is a dream.  Victoria Legrand is just a powerhouse of a singer, and something like a less pretentious Stevie Nicks!  This album was a creeper.  It was fine and generic-sounding dream pop to me the first few times, but it’s generic only in the way that a true classic is: Like a smooth stone with all the rough edges worn away.

How can I explain how it landed at number three though?  Because it’s just beautiful.

Listen to 10 Mile Stero, a pretty stellar example of the highs and lows the album can hit.  If you don’t feel it from this one song, I would understand, even though I think it’s stellar.

[audio:|titles=Beach House – 10 Mile Stereo]

#4 Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me

We smoked a joint and went the the Joanna Newsom concert.  Joanna was so neurotic and intense that my companion actually had to leave.  Joanna kept flipping her new haircut back and singing like a precocious child alien from another dimension.

This album is #4 just based on the double album of this triple album that I’ve even half digested.  The quotable quotes could fill a whole review.  There’s no one like Joanna and even if you don’t like her, it’s retarded to say she’s not critically relevant.  People are already reverently covering her, and I wait with bated breath to hear what she’ll do next.

I had really eaten and chewed every song on her last masterpiece of an album, Ys long before Have One On Me came out, so I’m just deciding this one was designed to hold me over a little longer.

The obvious choice is the crowdpleaser, Good Intentions Paving Company

[audio:|titles=Joanna Newsom – Good Intentions Paving Company]

#5 The National – High Violet

It’s better than the Arcade Fire album.  By a lot.

#6 How To Dress Well – Can’t See My Own Face: The Eternal Love 2 EP

This is R&B for ghosts, and maybe some living people like me.  Later in the year, How To Dress Well put out a whole album, with all of these EP songs and more, but these are the songs I love.

A friend of mine didn’t like them because, “I don’t like the distortion, even if they’re doing it on purpose.”  They are, Damien, but they play it like an instrument, like Jimi Hendrix.  If Jimi Hendrix were some kind of falsetto ghost.  I never know what to play for people, because Suicide Dream and Mr. By and By are such different songs.  You’ll have to listen to both.

Suicide Dream 2:

[audio:|titles=How To Dress Well – Suicide Dream 2]

Mr. By and By

[audio:|titles=How To Dress Well – Mr. By & By]

#7  The Morning Benders – Big Echo

My girlfriend had to go home after their opening band because her back was really hurting, so she kind of dared me to take the bowl I had in my pocket and smoke it with the band after the show.  I did, they were really nice, and the show was great.  The album is great.  I expect big things from these young men.

To understand what they’re capable of, listen to the astounding Excuses from the album:

[audio:|titles=The Morning Benders – Excuses]

and then listen to their amazing cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams, which is not on the album, but is spectacular enough to recommend them in general:

[audio:|titles=The Morning Benders – Dreams (fleetwood mac cover)]

#8 The Roots – How I Got Over

There’s so many raps on here that are better, stronger, more grown-up, more worthy of scrutiny and quoting, that make me say, “YEAH!” than anything on Kanye’s album.

I submit for your approval, part of a Black Thought verse from Walk Alone:

I go above and beyond, the duty called, truly y’all
Even though they kind of blew me off like a booty call
Asked me if I’m just another moolie or a movie star
Forced to face the music like a graduate of Juilliard
Walk alone, talk alone, get my Charlie Parker on
Make my mark alone, shed light upon the dark alone
Get my sparkle on, it’s a mission I’m embarking on
A kamikaze in the danger zone far from home

Now that’s a rhyme!

Now I’ll give Kanye this, MBDTF has some really rockin’ production.  This roots album is a lot more classic in construction.

Side note: This was the year I finally realized (from watching The Sopranos) that “moolie” referred to the Italian word melanzana (pronounced mu-lin-yon), or eggplant, a racial slur for Africans.

#9 Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

I wanted to leave it off, just because I’m pissed it hit #1 on so many lists, but I can’t.  This album damn well belongs here, and despite its high profile, it’s damn damn good.  Something about it compels me to press play, and it’s got highlights for its highlights.  Truthfully it’s better than #9, but I just can’t bear to place it any higher.

#10 Yellow Ostrich – The Mistress / kissed her little sister – HIGHandLow

These are young lions!  (And grouped together because I discovered them on the same top 10 list, and they’re on the same label.)  I know it’s cheating to group things, but these albums hit me so much at the same time, and so hard and so fast, that I needed them together here, as one.

You have no excuse not to listen to these albums, since you can listen to them both in their entirety on Bandcamp, as well as buy the albums on a “pay what you want” basis.

Ok, so Yellow Ostrich is sort of a heartfelt, choral rock and roll.  The best way to grok them is listen to the amazing trilogy of songs: WHALE, Hate me Soon, and Hold On in succession.  If you like anything like The Love Language, Animal Collective or Grizzly Bear, then do yourself a favor and be the first person on your block to hear this album.   Sure it’s a little twee, but they can rock.

[audio:|titles=Yellow Ostrich – WHALE]

[audio:|titles=Yellow Ostrich – Hate Me Soon]

[audio:|titles=Yellow Ostrich – Hold On]

kissed her little sister is similarly lo-fi, and has a similarly gentle-punk-rockiness to him, but I consider this the more edgy musically of the two.

And, since you can listen to the whole album on bandcamp for free, I recommend you do so.  My favorites are cocaine, discotheque dialect, my dreams are televisions, and he walked on the water.

Honorable Mentions

These albums are really damn good, but either I didn’t get the time to hear them enough, or they they were brilliant in places but not enough to vault them up into the stratosphere for all time.

Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul

Mark Linklous of Sparklehorse killed himself with a shotgun last year, and now this insane collaboration with a bunch of big name indie artists is finally officially out

Real Estate – Real Estate

Beach guitar perfection.  This is music so soft and gentle it would bear you away on a cloud.  Sort of like Bill Evans piano playing.  It could sound like background music, but listen to it 100 times and it will never get old.  You’ll always be able to lay on your bed and listen to the whole album while you daydream.

Glasser – Ring

Percussion, singing, and hooting.  This is a magical album.  Somehow it didn’t push enough boundaries to be a top 10 album.  It didn’t capture 2010.  But it is good.  It is damn good.  There’s echoes of Kate Bush in here, but more symphonic, less dorky.

Avey Tare – Down There

Animal Collective released a powerhouse of an album last year in Merriweather Post Pavilion.  I would have thought it would have been a wonderful year for Avey Tare, but I guess it kinda kicked his ass.  Down There is not the same kind of masterwork as MPP, but Avey shows that he’s more than a one-trick pony.  For such a creative guy with the bleeps and bloops and shouts, it’s good to see that he can just sing his damn heart out, and create the sonic landscape of the swamp as he can the wide open fields and skies.  It is also just a DAMN good album.

Balam Acab – See Birds EP

An album I first thought unremarkable, I grew to love.  It is quiet, liquid music for loving lizards.  What do you say about an album like this?  It bubbles over you with just the weight of mossy water.

Freddie Gibbs – Str8 Killa EP

I needed to believe that midwesterners could rap too.  Freddie Gibbs is one of my favorite rappers, and as soon as he learns how to rub two hooks together, he’s going to be huge.  People talk about how he can slip effortlessly between regular and doubletime rap. and I actually had to listen after reading about it, just to realize that’s what he’s doing.  His subject matter is hardly creative (weed, grinding, etc.) but he still inspires me somehow.  The album was a little overstuffed, but the EP is sublime.

this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: The Sweet Snob’s 10 Most Amazing Albums of 2010
it's categorized as: Albums, Best Albums of the Year, Best of 2010, Reviews
link to it, please: Monday, February 21st, 2011

Return to 2007 #6 – Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog

I’m returning to 2007 to see how my Best Albums of 2007 list has fared this year before tackling the best of 2008.

Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog

My review from the tinyblog:

If folk music has a future, this is it. Here’s a guy pulling together the history of country music, indie music, rock music and folk music. What he makes doesn’t sound futuristic, it sounds like American music at it’s best. I could still be listening to this album when I’m sixty.

Sam Beam has a beautiful voice, I’ll give him that. I was never so impressed by him before, as it sounded like just another pretty voiced folk music guy. It really takes more than that to impress me. M. Ward did it last year with Post-War, winning me over with his sheer brilliant songwriting and explosively pretty guitar interludes. This year Sam Beam is the man to win me over, but for different reasons.

First of all, this is not just a guy with a guitar. This is an incredibly rich and harmonious instrumentation: organs, steel guitars, an amazing mix of different percussion elements, and even a few electronic sounds thrown in there. But, it doesn’t jar, and the whole album has a rich, unified sound. When I close my eyes and listen to this album it’s like a golden grahams commercial, with pouring streams of honey colliding mid-air with tiny crunchy graham crackers. This is not a gimmick, this is a serious album. Whatever he was going for sonically, he nailed it on every track.

Next, this is some real, mature songwriting. You want to impress me? Write a song called Resurrection Fern and don’t make it painfully obvious.

If you like your music straight-up beautiful and that’s your highest ethic, then this album would have been #1 for you this year.

My Sweet Snob Commentary, a year later:

I sent the song Lovesong of the Buzzard to a friend in a mix CD and she said, “If I were stranded on a desert island with only that song, I’d be happy with that.”

It’s true, this is an album you can listen to a lot, and I don’t know if I’ve found the bottom of its well of beauty. It’s at once serene and exciting.

Sam Beam’s sweet whispery voice goes down easy, sure, but this album alternately coos and clatters and he leaves little treasures in every song.

Lovesong of the Buzzard (I probably would pick a different song if I only had one, myself):


House by the Sea:


this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: Return to 2007 #6 – Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog
it's categorized as: Albums, Best Albums of the Year, Reviews
link to it, please: Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Return to 2007 #7 – The National – Boxer

I’m returning to 2007 to see how my Best Albums of 2007 list has fared this year before tackling the best of 2008.

My review from the tinyblog:

Okay, I’m always going to be tempted to call them The Nationals, or American Mary, which they almost called themselves back in 2001.When I first heard this album I thought it was pretty boring. I thought their 2003 album, Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers was way more inspiring.

It has grown on me, though. I’ll admit, my top 4 songs carry the whole album, but those songs are great! This guy reminds me vocally of The Magnetic Fields, but without so much of the debauch sexual brokenness. The National is so much more Springsteenlike: political, a little defeated, pretty damn rockin’. By the time they shout, accusingly: “You get mistaken for strangers by your own friends!”, I’m hooked.

One of the songs I love is Racing Like a Pro.  For days I had this in my head: “Your mind is racing like a pronoun.” I thought for days about what such a lyric might mean, so impressed by it. Like, which pronoun? Did pronouns race? But no, that’s not The National’s style. The girl in the song’s mind is racing like a pro, now. Oh god, that was a million years ago.

My Sweet Snob Commentary, a year later:

It’s possible this one is a keeper.  There’s always a Sunday late afternoon time doing errands where this is the perfect soundtrack to “last night before the work week”.  The National’s older albums don’t even do it for me as much.  The National is the new soundtrack of being a half-awake city dweller.  And… if you live in the city you almost have to be that some of the time.  Even the I’m-so-aware-yoga-mommies of Seattle go around in a daze from the sheer weight of rules and schedules city life forces us into.

Racing Like a Pro(noun):


Mistaken for Strangers:


this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: Return to 2007 #7 – The National – Boxer
it's categorized as: Albums, Best Albums of the Year, Reviews
link to it, please: Sunday, December 7th, 2008

Return to 2007 #8 – Amy Winehouse – Back to Black

I’m returning to 2007 to see how my Best Albums of 2007 list has fared this year before tackling the best of 2008.

My review from the tinyblog:

There is just no doubt that Amy Winehouse is a tremendous talent. I think that her bizarre life and substance abuse have somehow sullied her musical legacy in some people’s eyes, but that’s like saying Billie Holliday’s musical legacy is somehow sullied because of her personal problems, and that’s absurd. And yes, I think they approach being in the same league.

Amy is a songwriter and vocalist of the highest order. Her dark vision of the world matches her life, and it’s as if a motown great of the 60’s was transported to the present. If Amy survives her vices and personal problems and keeps making music like this, she will undoubtedly be considered one of the greatest pop female vocalists of all times. I tend to like Neko Case’s less universal, more symbolic style of songwriting, but they are both very similar to me in terms of being the female vocalists that I’ll chastise kids for not knowing about when I’m 60.

I did like Rehab and You Know I’m No Good when they came out, but the songs that I just find amazing these days are Me and Mr. Jones and Tears Dry on Their Own.

She shares a band with the similarly spectacular Sharon Jones (the Dap-Kings) and their new albums are remarkably comparable. I didn’t hear Sharon’s new album until pretty recently so it hasn’t had as much time to grow on me, but to me, Sharon Jones fell short of the almost explosive brilliance of the best of Amy Winehouse. Maybe another dozen listens will change my mind. I don’t care, I’m glad music like this is getting made today. This is a dirty, dirty, beautiful album.

If you already love this album, she just finally released her first album, Frank, in the US. It’s no Back to Black, but it’s still awesome.

My Sweet Snob Commentary, a year later:

Oh how I wish that Amy Winehouse had somehow got her shit together and was on her way to becoming the modern Aretha Franklin-like soul powerhouse of a generation.  Instead she actually did go to rehab a few times, her husband went to prison, and her life generally went to shit.  If she comes out with a new album in the next two years… well, let’s just say I don’t think it’s going to happen.

This album is pretty timeless on its own though.  Let’s just put the hits aside and talk about some of the other phenomenal songs.  For my money, I’d go with Tears Dry On Their Own and the astounding Some Unholy War.

If you really don’t feel like you can live without a dusky-voiced damaged British soul singer, you could always try Adele.

Some Unholy War:


and the super-tuff Me and Mr. Jones, she’s pissed because she missed the Slick Rick gig, but she’ll let him make it up to her:


this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: Return to 2007 #8 – Amy Winehouse – Back to Black
it's categorized as: Albums, Best Albums of the Year, Reviews
link to it, please: Saturday, December 6th, 2008

Return to 2007 #9 – Minus the Bear – Planet of Ice

I’m returning to 2007 to see how my Best Albums of 2007 list has fared this year before tackling the best of 2008.

My review from the tinyblog:

The only person I know who was into Minus the Bear before this album doesn’t like this album. She says it sounds like “something you’d hear on the END“, basically generic alterna-rock. I listened to one of their older albums and it sounds just as much like it would fit in there.

In spite of that, I love this album and can’t get enough of it. I have to admit, part of that is because it’s so blandly listenable. The lyrics are poetic and evoke some sort of strange medieval journey. They’ve been compared to older prog rock like Rush or Yes, but I like how much less cheesy it is. There’s some amazing guitar work, and the whole thing has a bit of an epic feel, but they don’t do any 13 minute solos or anything. It just keeps moving and I feel a little twinge of regret when the journey is over and have to decide if I just want to play it again or not.

The vocalist, Jake Snyder, has a damn fine voice, and just keeps it easygoing and a little mysterious. I don’t know what these songs are about exactly and he seems to like it that way.

They’re local boys, and when this album was released, they did the record release party at the laserama here in Seattle with a little custom laser show. I remember thinking that was cool when it came out, but now that I’m into the album I’m kicking myself that I didn’t get to see it. The Planet of Ice Laser Show would have been awesome.

My Sweet Snob Commentary, a year later:

Yes, this one is still a major comfort-food album, and to this day I still wish I could have seen the laser show.

I think I get the album a little more now.  I think I was unduly influenced by the mountainous album cover and first moments of the album.  When I originally reviewed it, I said I didn’t really know what the album was about, and now I think I have a much better idea.  I thought the album was about some kind of quest on a planet of ice.  I don’t think so anymore.

In the excellent HBO drama, Six Feet Under, there’s a scene where one of the main characters has just begun dating after the death of his wife.  He befriends a hot yoga instructor who also has a young kid.  When he gets a little too needy on the independent single mother, she disdainfully puts him in his place.  He goes home and lays in his bed, and the camera pans out from his bed, showing it as it is in his mind: in an endless icy field, populated by no one.

This is the planet of ice Minus the Bear is singing about.  Most of the songs are frankly kind of chauvinistic, with some pretty old-fashioned ideas about male/female relationships.  There’s a thread of masculine nobility throughout, but also a yearning for real human relationships that really fit, and not glorified romantic business relationships as in Dr. L’ling:

Don’t give me no hand-me-down love
It don’t wear the same
I want love that looks good on
With a fit that screams my name
Yeah, I was afraid

Of becoming a casual business man
On matters of the heart
Of becoming a casual business man
Or something even worse

I still love it’s intricate, prog-inspired guitar work, and so now I understand why I liked the album’s world-weary lyrical tone.  They’re not going on a quest, they’re just sick of what’s been going on.

The lyrics I quoted are from Dr. L’ling:


and the totally lovely Ice Monster:


this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: Return to 2007 #9 – Minus the Bear – Planet of Ice
it's categorized as: Albums, Best Albums of the Year, Reviews
link to it, please: Thursday, December 4th, 2008
Next Page »

Powered by WordPress | Theme by Daniel Talsky via Roy Tanck's "Tranquility White"