Monday, December 30, 2013

Top 10 Albums of 2013

There was so much great music this year that it was hard to limit this list to only ten but here are the albums that remained in heavy rotation for me throughout the year.  Enjoy and here’s to another great year of music discovery!

Holopaw – Academy Songs Volume 1 (Misra Records)
For Academy Songs Volume 1, their fourth album, the Florida band led by the gorgeous vocals of John Orth, shifted from the spacey synths and fractured folk of their previous releases to go in a dreamier indie rock direction for their finest album yet.  

Okkervil River – The Silver Gymnasium (ATO Records)
Okkervil River’s new album, The Silver Gymnasium, their debut for new label ATO Records, marks the first time frontman Will Sheff has written about himself in song as he reminisces about growing up in small-town New Hampshire in the 80’s.  Produced by legendary 80’s producer, John Agnello (Cindi Lauper, John Mellencamp), the album evokes nostalgia for cassettes and VCR’s and features additional instrumentation such as sax solos and synths that set the stage for Sheff’s distinct storytelling. 

The Head And the Heart – Let’s Be Still (Sub Pop)
Seattle folk-pop band The Head And The Heart returned with their highly-anticipated sophomore album, Let’s Be Still.  Building off of the momentum and success of their breakout self-titled debut, the new album shows the band branching out to include more electric guitars and dreamy synths to their organic, harmony-rich folk palette to great effect. 

Arcade Fire – Reflektor (Merge Records)
Coming off of their Grammy win, Arcade Fire set the bar even higher with the release of their double-album Reflektor.  The synth and rhythm-driven album was produced by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and exceeds all of the hype. 

Josh Berwanger – Strange Stains (Good Land Records)
Josh Berwanger formerly of early-2000’s indie rock legends, The Anniversary and The Only Children, returned this year after a lengthy hiatus – he coached a high school girls’ basketball team! – with his excellent new album, Strange Stains that showcases his catchy and honest folk-leaning rock-and-roll sound.  

Fourth Of July – Empty Moon (High Dive Records)
Lawrence, Kansas folk rock band Fourth Of July released their excellent third album Empty Moon.  Led by the clever, conversational wordplay of vocalist/guitarist Brendan Hangauer, the album was recorded with Chris Crisci of The Appleseed Cast and with its vivid and honest lyrics, listening is like watching reality TV or secretly reading your best friend’s journal. 

The ACBs – Little Leaves (High Dive Records)
K.C. indie-poppers, The ACBs’ stunning sophomore album, Little Leaves blends strutting bass lines and crisp, jangly guitars with upbeat rhythms and quirky 60’s pop-inspired melodies in two-and-a-half-minute spurts, sounding like The Strokes on a beach blanket. 

Preston Lovinggood – Sun Songs (Communicating Vessels)
The former Wild Sweet Orange frontman released his highly-anticipated debut solo album, Sun Songs which highlighted his genre-defiant folk sound that incorporates everything from chugging acoustic guitars and handclaps to New Wave-inspired synths and ornate blues with haunting, reverb-rich vocals.  Look for a newly recorded companion album Shadow Songs in February.

Signals Midwest – Light On The Lake (Tiny Engines)
Cleveland emo-revivalists returned with their excellent third album Light On The Lake.  Led by fiery singer/guitarist Max Stern, they create a forceful and smart brand of punk rock that blends math-rock time changes and shout-along choruses into their nostalgic anthems that recall everything from Braid, Brandtson and Red Animal War.

Carcass – Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast)
The death metal legends return with their first album since 1996.  Sounding like the logical next step from 1993’s melodic metal masterpiece Heartwork, listening to Surgical Steel is like waking up from a 17 year coma and having never to have experienced nu-metal!    

Monday, December 23, 2013

Top 5 EPs of 2013

Their/They’re/ThereSelf-Titled EP (Polyvinyl Records)

Healing PowerSelf-Titled EP (Broken Circle Records)

Springtime – South Hill EP (Tiny Engines Records)

Dear FawnI Played The Queen EP (Gas Daddy Go! Records)

Bad Bad HatsIt Hurts EP (Afternoon Records)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Free Friday: Cayetana – “Hot Dad Calendar” 7”

The emerging Philly-based all-female punk rock trio Cayetana recently signed with Tiny Engines Records (Dikembe, Signals Midwest, Restorations) and are currently writing and prepping their debut album for release next summer.  In the meantime, they are set to release a 2-song 7” in February, the Hot Dad Calendar 7” is available for pre-order now but you can hear the songs and download them for free (or name-your-price) via the Tiny Engines Bandcamp page right now.
Led by guitarist Augusta Koch’s folky and squeaky (yes, that’s a good thing!) voice, the trio is rounded out by bassist Allegra Anka and drummer Kelly Olsen and create an energetic brand of punk-infused indie rock with fuzzed-out guitars, driving rhythms and insanely catchy melodies.  The 7” features the super-poppy title track with its jangly guitars and crashing cymbals and a re-mastered version of “Ella”, the bouncy standout track from their self-released demo released earlier this year.        
Be sure to catch Cayetana with likeminded acts Waxahatchee and All Dogs as they head out on a tour of the East Coast in January. 

Download the Hot Calendar Dads 7” single here:

For more info: and

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

3 Songs: On Repeat

Lightouts – “Disappear” (Hot on the heels of Want, their impressive debut album released earlier this year, the Brooklyn based fuzz-rock quartet returned this week with a new double A-side single.  The propulsive post-punk of “Disappear” features dueling guitars, a strutting bass line and an arena-worthy catchiness.)

Lilah Rose – “Christmas Spirit” (West Coast electro-pop producer uses her gorgeous voice as an instrument with layers of haunting and mesmerizing loops and shimmering synths to create an aching Christmas song for the lonely.  Look for her highly-anticipated debut album, Poltergeist to be released next year.)

Snowflake – “Hurricane” (Snowflake is the art-rock solo project of well-regarded producer/mixer D. James Goodwin (Kaki King, Norah Jones, Devo) who recently self-released his self-recorded debut, We All Grow Toward The Sea.  Innfluenced by the moody, cinematic post-rock of Mogwai and the grandiose psych-rock of Pink Floyd, he has created a collection of nine fully formed song-scapes that will win you over instantly.)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Isaac Joel – "Until I Find You" EP

Isaac Joel is the solo recording moniker of Isaac Karns, a founding member of Cincinnati psych-pop band Pomegranates/Healing Power.  Today marks the release of his new EP, Until I Find You, via CHOW, the Cincinnati based CDR label run by artist Paul Coors.  The 5-song EP expounds on the synth-heavy and pop-leaning footsteps of Healing Power.    
The EP opens with the short instrumental, “Constant Companion Theme (Goodbye)”, a nod to a recent Healing Power song written by Karns.  The standout first single, “Lost Highway Blues” follows with Isaac’s soulful falsetto, a danceable beat and layers of reverb-rich guitars.  Another standout, “Take Care Of” is a pretty acoustic folk tune with an inspiring message highlighted by fluttering violin as well as additional vocals from constant collaborator Caleb Groh and some operatic female vocals from Briana Nicole Kelly.  Next, “Slow Motion Waves” lives up to its name creating a floating, dream-like atmosphere with dripping synths and cascading guitars.  Closing out the EP is the beautiful “Return To Me” with its plodding electronic beat and pleading vocals.   
For fans of the Pomegranates it was sad to see the band dissolve late last month but most of the members are continuing on with their respective solo projects and Isaac’s new Until I Find You EP definitely fills the void. 

Stream “Lost Highway Blues” here:

Download the Until I Find You EP here:

For more info:

Friday, December 13, 2013

Free Friday: Eenie Meenie Records Holiday Mix 2013

Los Angeles indie label Eenie Meenie Records is in the holiday spirit and have just released a 5-song Holiday Mix as a free download via their Bandcamp page. 
Blue-Eyed Son gives “White Christmas” a sunny, laid back beach vibe with handclaps and ukulele to open the EP.  Led by Shon Sullivan’s booming Bowie-like baritone, Goldenboy tackles “O’ Holy Night” with cyclical guitars and soaring synths.  Garage-punk trio Old Monk contributes an infectious, classic rock-indebted original, “Holiday” that comes complete with a vintage organ freakout.  From Bubblegum To Sky, the one man band of Mario Hernandez, gives the Wham classic, “Last Christmas” a reverb-rich 50’s rock makeover.  Closing out the EP is “Deer Socks”, a fun instrumental original from Twisty, the synth-driven side project of Old Monk bassist  Tsugumi Takashi. 
Listen here:

For more info:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

3 Songs: On Repeat

Their/They’re/There – “New Blood” (New project from Evan Weiss of Into It. Over it., Mike Kinsella (Owen, Owls, Cap'n Jazz, American Football) and Matthew Frank of Loose Lips Sink Ships.  Analog Weekend, their second EP, is out now via a split release from Polyvinyl and Topshelf Records.  Intricate and pointy math-rock guitar goodness abounds on these three catchy, emo-tinged anthems that were recorded by Ed Rose and also features piano by James Dewees of The Get Up Kids and Reggie and the Full Effect.)  

The Blank Tapes – “No Gifts This Xmas” (Matt Adams and his band just released a self-deprecating Christmas song as a tribute to all those on the “naughty” list complete with tons of sleigh bells, a surf rock guitar solo and of course his unique, skewed 60’s pop sense.  Their latest album, the sunny Vacation was released earlier this year via Oakland's Antenna Farm Records.)

The New Royales – “Fell In Love With A Girl” (The highly-eclectic multi-national quartet is set to release Freedom’s For The Brave: The Mixtape on January 14th, a covers album that highlights their many influences, including their unique takes on tracks by Depeche Mode, The Zombies, Jefferson Airplane and more.  Also included is their throbbing dance-rock spin on the White Stripes’ classic heard here.)

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

3 Songs: On Repeat

Healing Power – “Heartache” (The Cincinnati-based psychedelic dream-pop band formerly known as the Pomegranates recently played their final show as a band but not before issuing their final release, a self-titled EP out now via Broken Circle Records.  The 4-song EP includes a revved-up surf-rock reimagining of “Surfing The Human Heart”, the outstanding ballad-esque closing track from last year’s Heaven along with the propulsive and passionate new love song, “Heartache”.)

Dott – “Talk To You” (Led by vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Anna McCarthy, the Galway, Ireland based quartet create a catchy brand of garage-rock with swooning girl group melodies and guitars that alternate between twinkling and fuzzed out on Swoon, their aptly-titled debut album out now via Graveface Records.  A rumbling bass line and sweet vocals break through the squeals of feedback on the standout 90’s indebted track here.)

Brad Laner – “Be Gone” (A tribal-like rhythm, warped droning organs and bursts of strange noises highlight the first single’s 60’s psych-pop sound which is taken from, Nearest Suns, the third solo album from the former founder of 90’s rock band Medicine, out now on Hometapes Records.)