Saturday, January 7, 2012

Margot and the Nuclear So and So's: "Prozac Rock" from upcoming Rot Gut, Domestic

Margot & The Nuclear So and So's is new to me, but I'll be checking out some more of their music. First thing: there's no Margot. Members are:

Richard Edwards- vocals, guitar
Tyler Watkins- bass, vocals
Erik Kang- violin, lap steel, guitar
Brian Deck- drums
Chris Fry- drums
Ronnie Kwasman- guitar
Cameron McGill- keyboards, vocals, harmonica
Gary Vermillion- more drums

Second thing, it's some pretty good punk. Third thing, they're from Chicago or Indianapolis, depending I suppose on the day of the week.

I recently received a link to "Prozac Rock", the first single off their upcoming album Rot Gut, Domestic, which will be released 3/20 on their own Mariel Recording Company:

Prozac Rock by MargotCloud

You can buy it on iTunes and Amazon and a limited edition 7-inch is available in the band's webstore.

Margot and the Nukes Website

New Singles To Start the Year

Here are some new singles from a few bands we follow:

Winnipeg, Canada's uber talented Hipster Death Squad offers "Good Times Again" as a free download. The guy is unsigned, so everyone's A&R guys are not earning their keep.

Twitter ( @HpstrDthSqd )

And someone's A&R people are doing the right job, because Seattle's Hardly Art has La Sera on their roster. La Sera is the delightful side project of Katy Goodman of Vivian Girls. And we have this new song from Ms Goodman, "Please Be My Third Eye" --
La Sera - Please Be My Third Eye by The 405
Hardly Art will release the band's sophomore release, Sees the Light, later this year.

Aloha Tigers are a dream pop band from Bloomington, Illinois, consisting of consisting of singer/multi-intrumentalist Nick Aister and producer Michael Wharfield. Their new single is "The Kind of Girl U Like". It is being released by Scottish label Kirkcudbright Tape Club. The guys have recorded a self-titled EP as well.
Aloha Tigers - The Kind of Girl U Like by kirkcudbrighttapeclub
The band is offering some free downloads at this Reverbnation link.

We highlighted Glasgow darkwave band Aggi Doom a few moths ago. Here is their cover of "Boys are Boys" by '60s proto-punk band The Monks. This version is called "Boys Are Boys (and girls are choice)". If you like it, it is a free download:

Aggi Doom is Claudia Nova (vocals, keyboard),
Hillary Van Scoy (vocals, guitar), Joan Sweeney (vocals, bass), and Scott Caruth (vocals, drums). The are associated with the We Can Still Picnic collective that includes Wake the President, POST and other bands I've written about here. And while we're at it, "Loving Kind" is set for release in May:


The Mallard, from San Francisco, is releasing an album, Yes On Blood, early this year on Castle Face Records, and we are anticipating good things. In advance of that release, we have the single "Vines":
Vines by The Mallard

The Mallard is comprised of Greer McGettrick (guitar/vocals) and Dylan Tidyman-Jones (drums/vocals) and Dylan Edrich (bass). Their music is a garage/psych rock. There are several more songs at the Soundcloud link below. Here is "I Listen to Lyrics Last" --
I listen to Lyrics Last by The Mallard


Here is a nicely building track of electro-rock called "Zut Alors" from Edinburgh's My Tiny Robots--
Zut Alors by My Tiny Robots

My Tiny Robots are Gareth Anderson, Dylan Childs, Ryan Marinello, and Russell Williams. Their label is Wood Thief Recordings.

And here is the excellent November 2011 release, "Guild of Giants"--


Friday, January 6, 2012

WYMA Favorite Music of 2011 (hl)

I'm doing this list in ascending order, you know, for dramatic effect. I hope all the video embeds don't bog down the speed, but all that sort of crap is outside my sphere of cognition. Here's a list of albums that I loved, but aren't on the list:

Rival Schools -- Pedals
Future of the Left -- Polymers are Forever (EP)
Dropkick Murphys -- Going Out In Style
The Dodos -- No Color
David Bazan -- Strange Negotiations
Touche Amore -- Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me
Unknown Mortal Orchestra -- Unknown Mortal Orchestra

So here's the list:

25 (Tie) The Fucking Cops – Fuck You Up With Some Truth (EP) and Pujol – Nasty, Brutish & Short (EP)

I’ll be damned if I can’t get past the first freaking entry and I’m already cheating. Thing is, these are EPs anyway, so from a quantity standpoint, they only add up to one proper album anyway. Honestly, both of these records are so irresistible that leaving one of them out would pretty much make me sad. If you value my opinion at all, and there’s no reason you should except for the fact that I’m right, you need to own both of these.

Cleveland’s The Fucking Cops make crunchy, angsty punk with a pop groove. Check out “For Whom the Taco Bell Tows”, a nearly perfect punk song (with a lead that sounds straight off of Copper Blue) – definitely one of my favorite tracks of oh-11.

WYMA Review

I learned about Nashville’s Daniel Pujol and his self-named band from a post of John’s earlier this year, and their garage fuzz has been in steady rotation since. If, as the record’s title suggests, this is the soundtrack to a Hobbesian state of nature, sign my ass up.

John's note on Pujol

24. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light

You know, maybe it says more about me and my pedestrian tastes that I’d rank an album this good, by a band as groundbreaking as TVOTR, as my number 24. I chose the video for “Caffeinated Consciousness” because it is one of the best showcases of the prodigious talent of bassist Gerard Smith, who died last April.

23. Male Bonding – Endless Now

This English three-piece (a 4 piece live) plays a straight ahead, airy punk music that’s exploding with hooks, and drummer Robin Silas Christian gives it all a nice orthopedic crunch. Their last album, Nothing Hurts, was one of my favorites of last year, and they surely haven’t forgotten anything or wussed out at all. The band has posted a nice series of live videos of a bunch of songs from the new album on Youtube. Here are a couple of my favorites:

WYMA Review

22. Mikal Cronin – Mikal Cronin

I’d have thought the property values in the San Francisco area would be too high to support the number of garages necessary for the sheer volume of terrific music pouring out of the Bay Area. Mikal Cronin is the latest product of this fecundity, and yes, I just said fecundity, which is a nasty word just to even look at. This album is pure pop music, and noisier than hell. Last year when I listed Mikal’s good buddy Ty Segall for his excellent album Melted, I mentioned that his tune “Girlfriend” might well be the song of the year. I think the same can be suggested of the track below – “Apathy”. Really, can a song be much more perfect?

21. Colin Bugbee -- Hallé (EP)

I downloaded this intense and beautiful seven song ep for free from Colin’s Bandcamp page a couple of months ago, and reviewed it here in November. Since then it’s been played in my family’s house or car about seventeen times a day, and no one’s even beginning to get tired of it. If the young Alabama singer-songwriter’s marketing plan was to offer something for free that would make people line up in advance to pay good money for his next record, well, it worked with me. There’s no reason to miss this terrific record – it’s still available for free download here.

Here’s my favorite tune, “21 Overnight”:

20. The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck

I’ve probably said a half dozen times on this site that with very few exceptions, I don’t listen to contemporary music for the lyrics. That rule doesn’t apply to John Darnielle. When I was a kid our basal readers for English class had lyrics by Dylan and Lennon/McCartney right beside poems by Auden and Yeats. The “cool” stuff made for a great intro to the “old” stuff, and opened doors to writing and art that likely would have remained shut. I think Darnielle’s writing does the same sort of thing. But I don’t want to understate, by ignoring it, the quality of the music on this album. These are bracing, beautiful songs, and you can hear the expanded role of Jon Wurster as this magnificent band continues to evolve. Check out this live performance from an appearance on Letterman earlier this year.

19. Russian Circles – Empros

Geneva, the 2009 effort from this fascinating, primarily instrumental trio from Chicago, was one of my favorite albums that year (although I didn’t pick it up until January of 2010). Empros, released in late October of this year, is even better. It’s more aggressive, and yet more accessible. The opener, “309”, is flat out thrilling, leaving you at the edge of your seat as the rest of the album unfolds. Oh, and there are vocals near the end, so I guess the overused term “post-rock” no longer applies. I think they’re now “post-post-rock” or something. This live video doesn’t have the sound quality of the studio version, but it’s worth it to see drummer Dave Turncrantz at work. Imagine, though, playing this on a good stereo cranked to the point where that kickdrum is nearly tearing your woofers a new one.

18. Machine Head – Unto the Locust

Nearly 20 years in, the prodigal, recovering nu-metallists have released their second album in a row of malicious, virtuosic mayhem. To call them bombastic is to mark them with high praise. Bombastic, you say? How about album opener “I Am Hell”, divided into three movements and subtitled “Sonata in C#”? Damn straight it’s awesome. Here’s the official video for “Locust”. It’s, err, pretty heavy.

17. Gauntlet Hair – Gauntlet Hair

I walked into Schoolkids Records one Friday a couple of months ago and started whining to my friend John K. about not having bought anything decent in a good while. Always ready with the excellent recommendation, John hooked me up with this terrific album. I reviewed it here last month. Heavy on atmosphere and effects pedals, but still unmistakably guitar-and-drums, this is a refreshingly different and original band. It’s also a band with one of the best and most hilarious videos of the year.

Gauntlet Hair - Top Bunk. from Neighborhood Watch on Vimeo.

WYMA Review

16. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient

This album has found its way onto three of our four year-end lists, and I damned sure can’t improve on the praise already bestowed on this excellent band and album.

15. Mastodon – The Hunter

I didn’t review this album because even though I bought it the day it was released, there were already a thousand reviews out there saying pretty much what needed to be said and then some. The same can be said of its appearance on all the year-end lists. It’s enough to get one all existentialist, as in, if someone farts at a Mastodon show, can it be smelled? Hey, it wasn’t Leviathan, but it’s still a very fine record – made all the finer by lyrics like “I killed a man ‘cos he killed my goat.”

14. Centro-matic – Candidate Waltz

Goddamned groupthink on this blog – every last one of us put this album on our list. I guess we can defend ourselves by noting that this was the only album on each list, and also by pointing to the fact that a common, deep love for this all-time great band had a lot to do with bringing us together as chums many years before our fearless leader John gave birth to this blog. By the way, if you’ve never seen this band live, you need to put it on your bucket list right above opening day starter for your favorite baseball team.

13. Joyce Manor – Joyce Manor

This first album from the Long Beach, California four piece is 10 songs clocking in at just under 19 minutes – a minimalist punk approach that has provoked a maximalist buzz, including being named Album of the Year by the staff at the excellent It’s a nice accolade, and well-deserved. This record is pretty well close to perfect – with loud ripping guitars exploding with hooks, and songs that stay around just long enough. I’ve seen a lot of comparisons to Jawbreaker, but for me it evokes early Weezer. Check out the epic (3 minutes!) album closer “Constant Headache”, and then the brilliant “Beach Community”.

12. The Bloody Hollies – Yours Until the Bitter End

In his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon observed that “[h]istory is indeed little more than the register of crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.” If Gibbon were to chronicle the inexorable decline and fall of our own culture, he would ask: “Why in Sam Hell isn’t “I Dream of Bees” the national anthem of the United States of America? That song is fookin nasty.” Right on, Ed. Right on.

WYMA Review

11. We are Augustines – Rise Ye Sunken Ships

This was supposed to have been the second album of Billy McCarthy’s old band, Pela, whose first record, Anytown Graffiti, was one of the best of the last decade (Scott shares this opinion with me, which makes me right). I think Billy McCarthy has a singular ability to capture a life experience in a piece of music with an emotional insistence that’s neither cloying nor excessively sentimental. And that’s true even without knowing the staggering backstory of what he’s overcome to be able to realize his vision. The song below, “Book of James”, is about Billy’s brother. Below that is a beautiful cover of a tune from the first Crooked Fingers record (it’s on the album).

10. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo

The utter scrumtrulescence of this album is well-chronicled by Scott and Jim.

9. WU LYF – Go Tell Fire To the Mountain

Don’t let the canny self-promotion by this Manchester, UK four-piece sour your first impression. They back it all up with a sound that’s so completely original that the only band I can think of to compare it to is Gauntlet Hair – oh yeah, and Gauntlet Hair didn’t even have an album when this was released. Completists will be happy to learn that the CD comes with lyrics, and that the lyrics are, in fact, in English. They did a great version of one of their best songs on Letterman two nights ago.

WYMA review

8. 40 Watt Sun – The Inside Room

The ink’s not dry on my review of this album. It’s like, I don’t know, metal for adults, if that can be said without sounding like Beavis and Butthead. Come on, give it a try.

7. Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler / The Dream

John Dwyer has now officially surpassed the surpassing work he did in the Coachwhips. This is the second album of the year for this SanFran band, and their 8th full-length in five years. It’s psychedelic punk at its most irresistible. It has the energy of a live show, and yet the production does all the right things at all the right times; viz, Dwyer’s guitar leads in “Contraption/Soul Desert” and the popping bass of Petey Dammit! on album closer “Heavy Doctor.”

6. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

What can I say new about this band or this album? It was Pitchfork’s AOTY, and when it’s not straying dangerously close to 70s softrock, it’s pretty much overwhelming.

5. The Twilight Singers – Dynamite Steps

Greg Dulli is a national treasure. Is there anyone who, through stories of sleazeballs and skanks we’d never open the front door for, tells us more about ourselves? I don’t mean to get all aesthetic or anything, but he’s kind of like rock music’s Fritz Lang. And I struggle to identify a single weak album in more than 20 years of output. Dynamite Steps might not go down in history as the finest hour of the Twilight Singers (see Blackberry Belle), but it’s a towering achievement and, as usual with Dulli, better than pretty much anything else out there.

WYMA Review

4. Red Fang – Murder the Mountains

The second album from this Portland band establishes them as a standard bearer for the old school, 70’s style riff-metal. There are no elves, knights or necromancers (well, almost none) – just a lot of shotgunning PBRs and healthy American destruction. If you haven’t bought a metal album for awhile because you think it’s become all growling and burstbeats, this album will bring you back.

WYMA Review

3. Restorations – Restorations

Yeah, this Philadelphia band’s album is number 3, not number 1, but if I had to recommend one 2011 record to all my friends, whether they preferred metal or pop, hip hop or electronic crap, this would be it. My compliments to the excellent label Tiny Engines for recognizing something that’s pretty much objectively great. And despite whatever I wrote above, I’m pretty sure this is my favorite song of 2011.

And here, unfortunately, is the only decent quality video of the band that I can find. Another great song.

WYMA Review

2. Fucked Up – David Comes to Life

This CD slid into my car stereo’s number 6 slot the day it was released, and it’s still there. I’ve heard complaints about it being too long, and of course the non-believers whine about the vocals, but mark my words, in 28 years we’ll think of this album the way we think of Zen Arcade today. And Zen Arcade is my favorite record.

1. Yob – Atma

I get lost in this record. I can’t explain it.

WYMA Review

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Black Whales -- Video Release Party Tonight

Seattle psych/powerpop group Black Whales is headlining a show at Neumos on Capitol Hill in Seattle tonight to celebrate the release of their new video for "Elephant #2". The song has been included on KEXP's Music That Matters Podcast and is included on Black Whales' June LP, Shangri-La Indeed.

The band plays a great, crunchy brand of rock and are an entertaining live act. Any locals should consider this event a great way to kick off the year.

Especially for those who can't attend, here is the video:

By way of background, here is a link to our June review of the album.


WYMA Favorite Music of 2011 (John)

Here's my "Top 25" (only because I just don't have the time or energy to do 50). This was harder to do than it's ever been, and frankly I nearly gave up and just threw them all out there alphabetically. Most of Rocksteady's disclaimers apply to me as well - if you asked me again in a week, the rankings might be different, and there is admittedly a lot of good music I just didn't have the time to give proper attention (or any attention). It was just about a year ago that I reached out to Rocksteady, JD and Hardy. The request was nebulous: "hey, want to help me write a music blog? You don't have to review anything you don't like and you have complete control over what, when and how much you write." To my great joy, they all three assented and have supplied some of my favorite recommendations over the last year. From the comments I've received, it seems they've done the same for our readers, too.

The reviews we've linked to should contain links themselves which will allow you to find the artists' websites, soundcloud pages, etc. where you can listen to more, usually download a track or two for free, and buy it. Or you can go to your local record store... like Grimey's (and check out their 2011 favorites for a few more suggestions).

1. Centro-matic - Candidate Waltz: My favorite record since Love You Just The Same from these guys, I'll just point you to my review and ask: Too effusive? WYMA Review.

2. Boston Spaceships - Let It Beard: It was the best thing of the six records that Bob Pollard Rock Industries put out this year. Keeping the customers satisfied is a high priority, and nothing works quite like a double album full of the four P's, humor and great guest spots by fellow rock travelers like J Mascis and Steve Wynn. Chris Slusarenko has made the transition from playing in a GbV cover band to co-writing a sprawling collection of 29 songs, every single one of which is listenable and most of which are delightful… and John Moen’s power rock drumming helps the band bring back memories of a time when rock could fill arenas with bands from Boston who made you think of Spaceships… “Let it beard, let it beard, let it beard, and get all weird…” Well said, as usual. WYMA Review.

3. Jim Lauderdale - Reason And Rhyme: A musician's musician, a songwriter's songwriter, a leader of a regular country music revue and sometime radio host, it would seem Jim Lauderdale has more on his plate than one man could handle. And yet he was able to find the time to sit down and write another album (bluegrass this time) with lyricist Robert Hunter and put together a crack bluegrass band. Is there a place where the Carter Family meets the Grateful Dead? If there is, this is it. Not a meandering jam band uttering the same old standards with a watered-down boogie, but a crisp bluegrass band with a super-talented lead man, playing smartly-written turns on Americana. WYMA Review.

4. David Kilgour & The Heavy Eights - Left By Soft: While my fellow bloggers gave (and deservedly so) massive praise to the Bats record, I want to call attention to the other corner of the New Zealand guitar rock pantheon, David Kilgour of The Clean. I loved this record when it came out and as I listened to other things, I sort of put it aside. When I took some of the earlier stuff out to listen in December, this thing just moved right back up – where it belongs. The guitars on “Diamond Mine” are pure joy. WYMA Review. When I reviewed it, there were no videos available. They’ve since released this one:

5. The Semis - Decapitator Blues: This is a hardworking and talented Florida band, playing everything from sunny power pop to full-on Stones raunch, that really ought to be better known. If anybody from a label reads this list, get down to Tampa and see if there is some apparent reason Billy Summers isn't already famous. Because reckoning by his music, he should be. WYMA Review.

6. JEFF The Brotherhood - We Are The Champions: Heirs to the Stooges/Ramones “school” of rock so stupid it’s smart. Or so smart, it's stupid... They throw a little bit of Beach Boys-style harmonies in, too. Part of a burgeoning garage/punk scene based in Nashville consisting of bands like Turbo Fruits, Pujol and the Ettes, and benefiting from a part time association with Jack White’s Third Man Studio, JEFF the Brotherhood just keep getting better. WYMA Feature. Here's a later video for a long single they released on Third Man Records... that's Jack on keyboards:

7. WATERS - Out In The Light: To be honest, I never heard (or remember hearing) Port O’Brien, Van Pierszalowski’s previous band. But I’m glad he broke it up so he could make this record… very much in the indie spirit of bands like the Pixies – terrific guitars. WYMA Review.

8. Circus Devils - Capsized! And so begins the flood of Robert Pollard projects. He made our 2011 so much better than it would otherwise have been, and he did it seemingly effortlessly. Circus Devils is an outlet for Bob’s wicked sense of humor and darker musical impulses… if you’re not familiar, this is a great place to start (and of course, you ought to proceed immediately to the great Harold Pig Memorial). WYMA Review.

9. Mars Classroom - New Theory of Everything: Pollard plus Big Dipper (Gary Waleik) plus Pell Mell (Robert Beerman) equals ridiculously catchy indie rock. This record consisted of jangly power pop, wistful ballads, a terrific rhythm section, a variety of great guitar sounds and one of Pollard’s best vocal turns ever. WYMA Review.

10. The Lifeguards - Waving At The Astronauts: Pollard plus Doug Gillard equals Lifeguards, a band that embodies in its name Pollard and Gillard’s apparent fixation on the concept of the hero. Quoting myself (I think I can do that, it’s my blog): Pollard and Gillard are clearly interested in the concept of the hero: astronauts, volunteer firemen, lifeguards... and I would put them in that category, at least in spirit, for doing their part to save rock's flaming ass from itself. While the industry continues to founder and lurch from one kid-friendly trend to another, there are guys like Pollard and Gillard, working in places like Dayton, Ohio, to deliver rock excellence to folks like us. Speak kindly is the least I could do. WYMA Review.

11. Robert Pollard - Space City Kicks: Maybe the best example of all four P’s released by Mr. Pollard this year, this record is short but sweet (and also salty). In my review I cited influences from Roky Erickson, Bowie, Beefheart and The Who. Synthesis can be fun! WYMA Review.

12. Robert Pollard - Lord Of The Birdcage: This was billed as “Robert Pollard’s poetry put to music”. You could definitely sense the poetic impulse and how it affected the song structure. While his lyrics are always a strong point, I think he intended these to stand either with or without music, and they do. “I tried to stop the rock. You can’t stop the rock.” WYMA Review.

13. The Black Keys - El Camino: More Nashvillians making great down and dirty rock and roll. I like the glam sounds, and the Danger Mouse input. I’ve been “on board” for the whole ride with these guys, ever since one of my old buddies at Grimey’s pushed the vinyl copy of The Big Come-Up my way. We didn’t review this record on WYMA, but everybody else did, and there was plenty of publicity.

14. Booker T. Jones - The Road From Memphis: How this record, featuring a dream collaboration of Booker with The Roots, Dennis Coffey on guitar and a guest lineup of indie rock and soul greats, flew under the radar is a mystery to me. There should always be a place in the world for music this good. My favorite song is “Progress” – it really swings and Jim James (My Morning Jacket) is clearly enjoying the opportunity to work with these guys. But there are a lot of highlights – a nice soul workout “Down in Memphis” featuring Sharon Jones and Matt Berninger, and "The Bronx", with Lou Reed on vocals, among them. WYMA Review.

15. Yuck - Yuck: Great young British band on Fat Possum puts together one of those records. You know those records? "This sounds like... it sounds like..." and to finish the sentence you're coming up with Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, Sonic Youth... If you haven’t heard one of those in a while, get to know this one. Charming and well-played, it held up very well over the course of the year. WYMA Review.

16. The Feelies - Here Before: As with any band reunion after a long time apart, there are questions – the Feelies themselves ask if the “Time is Right”… and the answer is yes. It’s both unexpected and wonderful to have had R.E.M., The Bats, David Kilgour and The Feelies all release good guitar rock albums in 2011. WYMA Review.

17. The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar: I like the truth in packaging of the album title. Almost every song builds up to a roar, with the drums and guitars turned way up. It almost has to be that way to supply proper backing to Ritzy Bryan’s voice. They rock ridiculously hard- check out this live clip of “A Heavy Abacus”! WYMA Review.

18. Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will: Here’s the point at which I thank our resident Scots-phile, Rocksteady74, for letting me carry on about Mogwai. So, thanks. Mogwai haven’t disappointed me yet. Every one of their records has contained a new favorite song of mine… here it’s “San Pedro”. WYMA Review.

19. Glen Campbell - Ghost On The Canvas: The debt that any current rock singer or songwriter owes to Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb is hard to calculate, but not often acknowledged. Campbell's Farewell Tour has given a lot of folks the opportunity to do this, and the results are magnificent. Campbell has been a top session singer and guitar player in both rock and country (once touring with the Beach Boys as a fill-in for Brian Wilson), a TV and movie star, but on this record he received support from a lot of the artists he helped pave the way for… and he covered a Guided by Voices song! My favorite track on here – and the one to buy if you only have 99 cents – is a cover of Teddy Thompson’s “In My Arms”. It’s upbeat, really beautifully sung, and features guitar pyrotechnics by Campbell, Dick Dale and Chris Isaak. We didn’t review it on WYMA. Maybe we should have… Glen Campbell Website.

20. Tom Waits - Bad As Me: Just a wonderful record. Waits gets inside his characters and the songs that result are rich, full and very entertaining. Collaborating with David Hidalgo was a great idea… there’s always seemed to be a certain kinship between the sounds of Waits and Los Lobos. WYMA Review.

21. Richard Buckner - Our Blood: A typical, which is to say, outstanding and affecting, album from Richard Buckner. He's so consistent and his songcraft is so strong that he is one of the few artists whose work I will purchase before listening. Here's a link to an earlier post I put up to announce the release.

22. Joe Henry - Reverie: I wrote our review on this record and I will point out that it was not an easy record to get into. You know how you trust certain artists? Henry is somebody you can absolutely trust. If he wants to go in a new direction - say, from blues influenced singer to blues singer, go with him. The trip is a rewarding one. The themes on this record vary from old jazz to Delta blues to Bogart, Cooper or Fonda movie soundtracks - fitting for an artist who steeps himself in the history of "old L.A." WYMA Review.

23. Laura Stevenson & the Cans - Sit Resist: A truly delightful record from a young artist backed by a talented postpunk band. Which is not to say that it's a postpunk album. It's a singer/songwriter album - by a great vocalist - with a great variety of sounds and tempos. This is a very "human" record, for want of a better descriptor. Do yourself a favor and see what I mean - the video for "The Healthy One" is below. WYMA Review.

24. Apex Manor - The Year Of Magical Drinking: Here's a title that's become less ironic since the album's release, as Apex Manor's website indicates frontman Ross Flournoy has entered treatment in August. I wish him the best and want to once again state for the record that this record joins the Broken West records as some of my favorite pop/rock albums. The guy's really got a way with a song. WYMA Review.

25. Wye Oak - Civilian: Another female vocalist with a big voice and some strong guitar work backing her up... Wye Oak is a Baltimore duo I just discovered this year, and they quickly became a favorite. Wish I could rank this higher... but then I wish I could add the next 20 albums to this list, too. WYMA Review.

Wye Oak - Holy Holy from Merge Records on Vimeo.

HONORABLE MENTION (Really hated to leave these off, or need to spend some more time with 'em - some we wrote about, some we didn't):
David Bazan - Strange Negotiations
Elba - Elba
Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
Gardens - Gardens
Henry's Funeral Shoe - Donkey Jacket
I Was A King - Old Friends
J Mascis - Several Shades of Why
James Pants - James Pants
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - Here We Rest
Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter - Marble Son
Joey Ryan and the Inks - Dennis Lane
Lydia Loveless - Indestructible Machine
R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now
Radio Moscow- The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz
Sad Face - Gosh Darn!
Strong Killings - Strong Killings
The Bats - Free All The Monsters
The Big Sweet - Ultraviolet Rain
The Drive-by Truckers - Go-Go Boots
The Janks - Hands of Time
The Midgetmen - Loud Enough
The Milk Carton Kids - Prologue
The Pack a.d. - Unpersons
The War On Drugs - Slave Ambient
Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Wilco - The Whole Love
Youth Lagoon - The Year of Hibernation

I guess the lesson here, if there is a lesson, is: there is plenty of really good music out there. Don't settle for whatever "the man" wants you to listen to. The gang at WYMA is always happy to help. Thanks so much for reading, and for sharing our site with friends. Here's to even more music and harder decisions in 2012...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

WYMA Favorite Music of 2011 (Rocksteady74)

Here is a completely personal and subjective ranking of the albums I heard this year. Many of them are albums one of us reviewed for this blog; some are not. In compiling the rankings I have a few arbitrary, self-imposed rules. First, I only included albums, not EPs. Second, I didn't include any reissues of single albums (I have included them in the past; as I wrote, these rules are arbitrary). However, I have included a compilation of songs of several different artists previously issued in limited form because it is the first time the songs have been released together and are generally available. I paid no attention to how these albums sold or charted elsewhere. I make no claim that my list is the final word on album rankings for 2011. There are many albums that I haven't heard, or haven't heard enough; if I haven't heard it, I can't rank it. There is more music, and more good music, than any of us can ever experience. My focus is on albums that I enjoy enough to play repeatedly despite having other new music available, rather than attempting to judge objective artistic merit. Further, I tend to focus much of my time for this blog looking for new or emerging bands, so it wouldn't be surprising if I missed a worthy album by an established artist.

I had some intentions of keeping the list short, but I've heard too much music I've liked this year to do that. Moreover, I think that these artists deserve a bit of press. Note that these rankings are a snapshot in time, and could change if I were compiling the list at a different time.

I have provided links to previous WYMA coverage of the albums so you can explore further. In many cases I have embedded a video or sound clip to help you decide whether to explore further. Happy listening!

1. The Bats, Free All the Monsters -- The masters of indie guitar pop are in top form with warm, jangly guitars, memorable melodies and an excellent collection of songs. It earns this lofty spot not only because of its quality, but because I know I will keep listening to it for a very long time (perhaps until the next bats album is released). WYMA Review

2. The Raveonettes, Raven In The Grave -- A slight shift in pace for the Danish duo, but they retain their reverb-heavy sound and back it up with double drums, haunting vocals and their trademark careful production. I could listen to these guys all day; at times, I have. WYMA review

3. PJ Harvey, Let England Shake -- Another masterpiece from one of music's better songwriter/performers. A provocative set of songs presented by Harvey's commanding soprano. [WYMA did not review the album.]

4. Sons and Daughters, Mirror Mirror -- Partially a return to their roots, and partially an expansion of their sound with analog synths and heavy beats. It may not have connected with all the critics, but I think it is brooding masterpiece of rhythms and nightmares. WYMA review

5. Wake the President, Zumutung! -- Heirs to the Josef K, Fire Engines and Orange Juice brand of Scottish pop/rock. For me, the twin brothers have mastered the art of the modern, urban guitar pop song: Not too long, musically engaging, lyrically bittersweet and cynical, with a twist of sinister. There are ten songs and I regard nine of them as first class. If you are signed up for Spotify, give the album a try. WYMA review

6. Veronica Falls, Veronica Falls -- Fuzzy, jangly and distorted guitars, female/male vocals, dark stories and good songcraft. This is a smashing debut. WYMA review

7. The War on Drugs, Slave Ambient -- This is another band that deserves to be much better known. Slave Ambient has crunch, polish, jagged nerves, tension and release and jangle.
WYMA Profile

8. Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers, Luck -- Sometimes raucous Scottish roadhouse blues and sometimes heavy-hearted storytelling, all delivered with a sharp tongue and a sense of humor. This album has a big, bleeding heart and it is all rock and roll. WYMA review

9. Edinburgh School for the Deaf, New Youth Bible -- Shoegaze with a driving rhythm section and a dose of garage rock. They can blast you, dance you ragged or make you cry. WYMA review

10. Bwani Junction, Fully Cocked -- An infectious blend of Scottish guitar pop and world rhythms with songcraft that belies, and swagger that underscores, the band's tender years. And "Two Bridges" is one of the year's best songs. WYMA review

11. King Post Kitsch, The Party's Over -- A delightfully varied, assured and inventive romp across indie rock genres that leaves you hoping KPK (i.e. Charlie Ward) spends less time engineering other artists' albums and more time making his own. WYMA review
King Post Kitsch - Don't You Touch My Fucking Honeytone by Song, by Toad
King Post Kitsch - Walking on Eggshells by Song, by Toad

12. Girls, Father Son Holy Ghost -- As I wrote in my 2010 list, I love this band. To my surprise, I didn't love this album as much as many other fans and reviewers, but I liked it enough to place it on my list.
[WYMA did not review this album as it was reviewed in many other places and was available for streaming by the public.]

13. Wax Idols, No Future -- Buzz, clash and fury that doesn't forget the hooks and well turned lyrics. For me, this debut from Heather Fortune and friends is one of the most welcome rock surprises of the year. If you keep an artist-to-watch-for-and-see-live-if-they-come-to-town list, Wax Idols should be on it. Twice. I'm looking forward to the follow up album.
WYMA Review

14. Centro-matic, Candidate Waltz -- Our Blogfather, John Hyland, called it "a terrific rock record that's catchy, crunchy and raucous." I agree, and I found it a very well crafted rock album that gets under your skin and stays there. WYMA Review

15. Milk Maid, Yucca -- Fuzzy, buzzy, noisy bedroom garage rock. The band's sound evokes Guided By Voices and The Jesus and Mary Chain, but in their own loose, one-take style.
WYMA Review

16. Kurt Vile, -- Blissed-out bluesy folk-rock that manages to be lovely while mixing in anger, bitterness and humor. WYMA Review

17. Shimmering Stars, Violent Hearts -- The sound is vintage, with plenty of reverb and harmonies in concise packages; the lyrics have a modern dark tinge. Months later, I still play this album a couple of times a week. Check out the song below (the video is one of my favorites), and seek out "East Van Girls" and "Nervous Breakdown". WYMA review

18. Cults, Cults -- These newcomers deftly avoided the "gimmick" rut with excellent vocals and musicianship, producing an album of songs with enough pop sensibility and sexy swagger to hold up well as the year winds down.
WYMA Review

19. Dum Dum Girls, Only in Dreams -- While their first album was only promising, this album knocked it out of the park on all the relevant criteria. If they want to, this band can be here to stay. It may remind you of The Pretenders but with female backup and the sound tuned more to noise pop than new wave. [WYMA did not review this album as it was reviewed in many other places and was available for streaming by the public.]

20. Seapony, Go With Me -- A perfect summer album of well-crafted guitar pop and winsome female vocals. This band seems to have a keen understanding of the kind of music they like to play and we like to hear.
WYMA Review

21. Crystal Stilts, Love in Oblivion -- Possibly one of the best mixes of shoegaze and garage that you are going to hear. This is another band whose second LP surpasses its first LP. The music more than matches the leather jacket and sunglasses visual vibe. Listen to "Through the Floor", below.
WYMA Review

22. She's Hit, Pleasure -- This album is a scuzzy, dirty, noisy brand of garage rock that has drawn some creative labels, but my favorite probably is "dirty surf". The lads also avoid fights with their label, having formed their own to release their album and works by Jacob Yates and other promising artists. WYMA Review

23. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Belong -- Proving that their debut success was not an outlier, TPOBPAH returned with a sophomore release with a slightly expanded sound, but all of the hooks that grabbed us in their debut. They know what they do well, and they deliver. [WYMA did not review this album as it was reviewed in many other places and was available for streaming by the public.]

24. Craft Spells, Idle Labor -- Jangly, shoegazey guitar pop with summery melodies and baritone vocals. A debut album that has fans clamoring for more.
WYMA Review

25. Tom Waits, Bad As Me -- Our reviewer, Jim Desmond, wrote "it clanks, wails, weeps and rages. If I had to describe it with a simple term, it's a rock'n'roll record. There is a groove, energy and major force to this effort. And even classic rockabilly...."
WYMA Review

26. R.E.M., Collapse Into Now -- Jim Desmond and John Hyland teamed up for our review, which noted "Collapse Into Now ... manages to capture many of the elements that have made the band so beloved, without sounding like a throwback or safe journey on familiar ground." I think it is true that many would rank this album higher if R.E.M. was a new artist to be judged on this work alone, but most compare any new work to past works. I understand, as I struggle with the tendency as well.
WYMA Review

27. We Are Augustines, Rise Ye Sunken Ships -- Rising from the ashes of former band Pela (which was a favorite of mine), Billy and Eric have released a passionate statement of their intent to continue making music while confronting demons and choosing life. And I'm happy for it, and for that.
WYMA Profile

28. Various Artists, The Bristol Reggae Explosion 1978-1983 and The Bristol Reggae Explosion 2 'The 80's' -- The Bristol Archives Records released these compilations of fine, and little known, reggae from the Bristol scene in the late 70s and early 80s. Many of these tracks previously were only available at the merchandise tables at the artist's gigs. It is really fine stuff in a convenient package.
WYMA Alert

29. The Weeknd, House of Balloons -- R&B style vocals from Abel Tesfaye and hip hop/trip hop sounds from Doc McKinney and Illangelo, all in a hazy late night urban package evoking loss, regret, predatory behavior, guilt and survival. It was the first installment of a trilogy completed last month, and all available for free download.
WYMA Alert

30. The Moth & The Mirror, Honestly, This World -- A bold post-punk statement evocative of The Delgados, this all-star collection of Scottish musicians drew rave reviews for this debut in their native UK.
WYMA Review

A few albums that just missed the top 30 this year are, in alphabetical order by band name:
Adele, 21
Admiral Fallow, Boots Met My Face
The Black Whales, Shangri-La Indeed
Dot Dash, Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash
Fair Ohs, Everything Is Dancing
Heavy Times, Jacker
I Build Collapsible Mountains, The Spectator & The Act
The Little Kicks, The Little Kicks
The Loose Salute, Getting Over Being Under
Simon Bish, All Aboard With ...
Thao & Mirah, Thao & Mirah
We Were Promised Jetpacks, In the Pit of the Stomach
Yuck, Yuck

A few of my favorite small labels this year are:
Hardly Art (Seattle)
Slumberland (Oakland)
HoZac (Chicago)
Captured Tracks (Brooklyn)
Re:Peater Records (Glasgow)
Song By Toad (Edinburgh)
We Can Still Picnic (Glasgow)
Fat Cat Records (Brighton)
Bristol Archives Records (Bristol)
Olive Grove Records (Glasgow)
Sways Records (Manchester)
Chemikal Underground (Glasgow)

And thanks to the following bands not (yet) on the year end rankings for keeping me young and engaged (in no particular order):
TV Girl
Radar Eyes
Terry Malts
The Black Tambourines -- Surfy indie rock from the English coast.
The Tamborines
Witch Gardens
Cristina Bautista
We Are John Wean
Colleen Green
My Goodness
The Silver Factory
The Honey Pies
Dignan Porch
Lenzie Moss
Beat Connection
Phil Wilson
The Louche FC
Various Cruelties

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

WYMA Favorite Music of 2011 (JD)

I didn't realize this until I sat down to write about my favorite CDs of the year, but somehow the uncertainty and economic / political international instability of 2011 seems to have pulled me towards artists who have something to say and sing exceptionally well. I've always been one who first looks for the voice, but in 2011 even more so. This year I found a good voice, preferably with good writing, to be just the tonic I need. So you'll see the top of my list dominated by an eclectic mix of truly great and distinctive singers - Ryan Adams, Lisa Hannigan, Polly Jean Harvey, Joe Henry, Ben Knox Miller, Michael Stipe, Tom Waits.

And speaking of Michael Stipe, for me 2011 will always be remembered as the year that R.E.M., a favorite band of mine, unexpectedly broke up.

So I'll start my 2011 top 10 LPs with R.E.M.'s final studio record Collapse Into Now. I'll cop to this being a sentimental choice for me, but will state with conviction that if any respected younger artist (say The Arcade Fire or The Dawes) had written this record and done it this well, that effort would have received a bunch of Grammy nominations and been near the top of many music critics' year end top 10 lists.

Collapse Into Now is less a sonic or thematic whole and more a collection of good songs, letting R.E.M. explore the range of styles they've learned to do so very well over the 31 years of their career - and my favorites here include an arena rocker ("Discoverer"), an emotionally touching vocal dominated song with a killer piano melody ("Walk It Back"), a folk-rock gem ("UBerlin") and this harmony-heavy pop symphony "It Happened Today":

Here's the long form review that John Hyland and I co-wrote here when the record was released:

The remainder of my top 10 follows in alpha order. Any song featured here is one of my favorite "singles" of the year.

Ryan Adams. Ashes & Fire. This is the focused and consistently excellent record I had given up on Adams ever making again. Taking 2 years off, being produced by the legendary Glyn Johns, and using a more stripped down approach propelled Adams to finally make full use of his considerable gifts. Ashes & Fire is a soulful and moving collection of songs, each one beautifully performed. The title song (track 2 on this linked stream here) and "Chains of Love" (track 6 here) are both among the very best Adams has ever created:

Here's a video of "Lucky Now" a fine single from Ashes and Fire:

The Black Keys, El Camino. The Akron duo hit the super big time with this collossally fun homage to the 70s - funk, soul, glam rock, garage rock, while keeping with their dirty blues rock history. And they opted for a full band big sound that serves these songs well. The Black Keys realize that Sly and the Family Stone sure as hell didn't make There's A Riot Going On as a duo. The insanely catchy single "Lonely Boy" with its T Rex guitar riffs and its irresistible video are everywhere and deservedly so:

Dolorean, The Unfazed. Al James is a great writer. He has a way of pulling you right in to his stories and melodies, then bam, nails you straight in your heart. Dolorean is a true band which, while steeped in classic masters like Bob Dylan and Neil Young, have their own sound that fits James's songs perfectly. The song "The Unfazed" is near the top of my list for best song I heard this year, link within here where you can listen to this song:

Here's a well done video for the song "Black Hills Gold", the film said to be inspired by the life and fall of Beach Boy Dennis Wilson:

Lisa Hannigan, Passenger. This delightful Irish singer-songwriter has the magic. Passenger is a beautiful voice perfectly delivering a great set of warm, life affirming songs, with tasteful and just right production by Joe Henry. Hannigan's live show at the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland was one of the best shows I saw this year. It's an honor to hear a singer with this talent perform. I know I'll be playing this CD 10 years from now.

It's impossible to get enough of Lisa Hannigan, so you get a second song, the stunner "Little Bird". I shall never utter a bad word about lip synching ever again.

Joe Henry, Reverie. No one in music had a better year than my main man Mr. Joe Henry, with a collection of stellar production efforts (Lisa Hannigan, Over the Rhine, Hugh Laurie, Me'Shell Ndegeocello, Aaron Neville, John Doe ) and this release of his own, Reverie, which stands with his best ever. Reverie drops straight into life as we know it with all its messy immediacy - opportunities arise, time makes sense of much yet complicates everything, you experience sorrow and appreciate love, doors open, dogs bark, things go bang. Joe aims very high, his stated influences on Reverie highly ambitious (Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Max Roach). It encompasses the best of American music - blues, folk, jazz, rock - slyly messy yet remarkably intentional in purpose. Stay with this record as it requires some effort, but what a payoff! Here's a beautiful live recording of "Unspeakable", one of my favorites here, with Joe's crew of first rate musicians:

The Low Anthem, Smart Flesh. I simply love this band's mojo - every member a multi-instrumentalist, playing weird and deep Americana music on antique instruments, with a great singer in Ben Knox Miller. And as serious as they seem on the surface, they are fun, the sheer joy of making music just bursting out of them. Smart Flesh is the Low Anthem's version of a political record, which is to say the politics are not obvious, but more personal yet still somehow big picture. In my perfect world, "Hey All You Hippies" would have been one of the top radio singles of 2011:

PJ Harvey, Let England Shake. You don't have to be a history scholar to appreciate these songs about various moments in British history and how they inform the present day challenges. Hell, you don't even need to pay attention to the lyrics - the huge echoey guitar sounds, taut melodies and Polly Jean Harvey's incredibly fine singing are more than enough to grab and take hold of any serious music fan. Dig this sound:

Let England Shake is the work of a first rate artist at the top of her game - wildly ambitious and unlike anything you've ever heard from PJ Harvey or any other band before. You gotta be pretty cool to bring World War 1 and Eddie Cochran into a song:

Tom Waits, Bad as Me. Even by Tom Waits standards, this record is seriously badass. A bombastic, beautiful, raucous affair with truly great songs. Waits is sneaky, his sharp writing and big heart darting through the high spirited chaos. This record is my 2011 American state of the union address. Beaten down, but defiant and certainly not surrendering, scarred but smarter. Occupy Indestructible Street.

The War on Drugs, Slave Ambient. An ambitious, completely successful rock'n'roll album by a smart band from Philadelphia with a clearly defined sound of its own, strikingly original though drawing from some good sources - psychedelia, Luna, Bob Dylan, Brian Jones, The Feelies, Echo and the Bunnymen. Great live act too. Lead singer Adam Granducel is the real deal - a fine singer, writer, musician, producer. Here's an amateur film set to my favorite song here "Brothers" (love the line "Wondering where my friends are going, and wondering why they didn't take me"), followed by a second video, the band's "official" video of "Baby Missiles".

10 More Favorites:

The Baseball Project, Volume 2: High and Inside. To paraphrase my favorite political quote of the year (thank you Barney Frank!), I did not think I'd lived a good enough life to be rewarded with a song about my Detroit Tiger hero Mark Fidyrich, with Steve Wynn, Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey all playing guitar on it. An album full of true and wildly entertaining stories about baseball set to jangly Rickenbacker guitars. Pop open a beer while you listen to Volume 2: High and Inside and you have all of life's best things right there all rolled into one!

The Bats, Free All The Monsters. This extraordinary New Zealand jangle pop band has been around nearly as long as R.E.M., though toiling in relative obscurity. It's the rhythms of this band that have always appealed to me. They start with a foundation of the Velvet Underground, then push the beathard while layering up shimmering guitar lines, steadily building with some tension/release structure. Free All the Monsters contains consistently good songs that hold up with anything The Bats have ever done, pretty remarkable for a band that has been around for 3 decades. I absolutely love the sound of this CD. Here's "In the Subway":

Charles Bradley, No Time For Dreaming. Powerhouse performer, amazing life story, soul music to the core. No self-conscious retro- or trendy neo-soul here. No sir, Mr. Bradley is the real deal, the genuine article soul singer.

WYMA's earlier feature story on Charles Bradley:

Glen Campbell, Ghost on the Canvas. I apologize if I am bringing down the "cool" factor of this blog, but hey there is a great Guided by Voices cover here:

Glen Campbell is one of the great country and pop vocalists of all time, and one who has always had a keen ear for a fine song. Due to serious illness, he knew Ghost on the Canvas would be his final CD, but there's no self-pity or mawkish sentiment here. Instead, we have a proud artist pushing himself to make one last great record, and instead of settling for predictable material, he stretches to take on a collection of terrific songs by an eclectic group of his fans - including the Dandy Warhols, Dick Dale, Jakob Dylan, Robert Pollard, and this great title track from Paul Westerberg:

Centro-Matic, Candidate Waltz. John Hyland, our WYMA founder and leader, turned me onto this band many years ago. This record goes for more unabashed pop hooks than this band is known for, and has an all for the love of rock'n'roll spirit. There is a distinctive sound to this band in all its ragged glory that I really dig. I love the chaotic beautiful noise that Will Johnson makes on guitar.

Cowboy Junkies, Demons.
The Cowboy Junkies were friends of Vic Chesnutt and had wanted to record with him, so it is not shocking they made an entire album of covers of Vic's songs. But being close to Vic Chesnutt and his music made this a risky project. Given how strong Vic's work is, why do a full album of cover songs following his suicide? But they approached it perfectly - digging deep into the emotions of the songs but feeling absolutely free to interpret them. And the Cowboy Junkies are nothing if not great interpreters. Margo Timmins rich alto voice lends great weight to Vic's words. And especially when Michael Timmins turns it loose on guitar on songs like "Ladle" and "Strange Language", these versions soar. But the biggest risk they took was in covering "Flirted With You All My Life", Vic's meditation on death. I can't imagine a more effective tribute to Vic Chesnutt than this vocal performance by his friend Ms. Timmins:

The Decemberists, The King is Dead. Portland's beloved, literary folk-rock nice guys and girl beat the rush to the R.E.M. tributes by enlisting Peter Buck (and Gillian Welch) to help them make what sounds like their version of Reckoning, and I mean that as a very high compliment. The King Is Dead has a loose, rural, organic sound on the surface, but underneath is very careful craft. My favorite recording ever from this band.

Feist, Metals. Rather than try to capitalize on her 2008 smash single and hit album, Feist waited 3 years to release this far less commercial follow up. Metals is a record of depth and beauty, outstanding musicianship and arrangements, with some heavy explorations of life, love and the natural world. Leslie Feist is a terrific singer and stretches herself as a writer and performer on these songs. Her voice is so good and sense of melody so keen that on first listen you are unlikely to grasp the depth and subtleties of these songs.

My Morning Jacket, Circuital. A longtime WYMA favorite, known for its epic live performances, MMJ is a surprisingly experimental and ambitious studio band. Circuital is a joyride - melodic, whip smart, fun, super accessible but anything but predictable. When this single "Holding on To Black Metal" comes on the radio, anybody touching the buttons in my car is going to be slapped down:

Parson Red Heads, Yearling.
Along with Lisa Hannigan and the Black Keys, my uplift mojo record of the year. Catchy as all get out pure pop, joyous 3-4 part harmonies, terrific guitar lines, classic and modern at the same time. The Byrds reinvented for 2011.

Parson Red Heads leader Evan Way is wise beyond his years, a thoughtful young man with great integrity. Good people gravitate to him - Yearling was expertly co-produced and mixed with just the right touch by jangle pop godfather Chris Stamey with help from Mitch Easter. The sky is the limit for this hard working group whose live shows are becoming stunningly strong, each showcasing brand new songs that continue the band's growth.

Our earlier feature story on the Parson Red Heads:

Kurt Vile, Smoke Ring for My Halo. Don't let any categorizing of this CD as an acoustic singer-songwriter affair fool you - this haunting and beautiful collection is tough as nails. Vile, a former member of The War on Drugs (see their entry above), is a terrific singer and guitar player. This record well deserves all the critical hype associated with it. I've sent many people to the record store for this one and they all thank me later. Really cool psychedelic folk music. I don't know what they are putting in the water in Philadelphia, but I want some.

Our Best of 2011 Bonus Track:

R.E.M. left us with a 40-song retrospective Past Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011, which even if you own all their stuff is worth getting just for the insightful and entertaining liner notes from the band members, and their fantastic final single "We All Go Back To Where We Belong". This video is a live film of a fan of theirs, actress Kirsten Dunst, hearing the song for the first time.

My article on this blog about R.E.M.'s legacy is here:

Thanks for reading our blog; please keep it up and tell your friends. We are having a lot of fun here.
My fellow WYMA writers will each follow up with their lists on successive days this week, theirs sure to be far more interesting and less mainstream than mine. Be sure to tune in every day.
Don't forget about the comments section, we like hearing from you, unless you think we suck.
Happy New Year!