Posted in Listed

Favourite Albums of 2019

5.  Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains:  The music world lost a lot of great musicians in 2019 including David Berman of Purple Mountains.  This was my first introduction to the man’s music and was touched by many of the lyrics contained here.  Knowing what happened to Berman soon after release makes some of the songs hard to listen to but this is part of his legacy that he passed on to us. Purple Mountains touches on many of the emotions we all feel from time to time and let’s us know we are not alone. This album will live on for a very long time.

4.  Robert Forster – Inferno:  Another long running musician that I was really hearing for the first time in 2019.  Ex of the much-loved Go-Betweens, Forster doesn’t sound dissimilar to Leonard Cohen and at times on tracks like “The Morning” and “Life Has Turned A Page” he offers much wisdom.  Like Cohen, Forster’s music is mature and on the cover he looks dapper as hell.  We can still aspire to be this cool.

3.  Vampire Weekend – Father Of The Bride:  This came out in May and was ready made for the summer. More complex musically than past releases and adding in a few cameos, most notably from Danielle Haim, this continues to increase the range of Vampire Weekend releases.  Many gems to be found here including “Sunflower”, “How Long”, and especially our song of the year – “Harmony Hall”.  Like most albums at 18 tracks long, there are a few that can be skipped but those are relatively few on an album that can be played on repeat for several hours.

2.  Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!:  This album is getting lots of love even from people who don’t normally show it to Del Rey. Admittedly, the last few albums can be a bit hit and miss at times but this one never lags and distills the best of her sound onto 12 songs. “Venice Bitch” was a favourite from last year and “Mariners Apartment Complex” sounds like a movie in four minutes. “California” and “The Greatest” are timeless tracks that could have been released at any time in the last 40 years.  This is Lana Del Rey’s best album.

1.  Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel:  It’s not very often a straight up rock record gets us this excited but Dublin’s Fontaines D.C. delivered blow after blow on their debut.  It’s amazing that this literary band released poem collections before forming a band, as they seem ready made for the big stages in the UK. “Hurricane Laughter”, “Chequeless Reckless”, and “Boys In The Better Land” are a roar heard across the world as people keep falling for the band’s charms.  This is the best rock album we’ve heard in years.

Posted in Listed

10 Favourite Songs of 2019

10. Lala Lala & WHY? – Siren 042:  A few Lala Lala tracks caught our ear in 2018 but not like this one with WHY?.  The atmosphere on “Siren 042” is a bit sad as Lala Lala apologizes and explains herself in the lyrics but at the same time loses her personality as she makes changes.  This got played a lot in the early mornings.

9. Loma – Half Silences:  The sound is haunting when members from Shearwater and Cross Records get together to record.  The only thing that would make this track better is extending the first instrumental passage for a few more minutes before the vocals appear. This is also our favourite video of 2019.

8. Bleached – Shitty Ballet:  After the release of their debut in 2013, we lost track of Bleached until this first track from their latest album was released in April. The band has a knack of getting songs lodged in the head and this one was no different as we sang, “don’t want to pretend it’s OK when it’s not” throughout the year.

7. Lizzo (Feat. Missy Elliott) – Tempo:  Easily one of the coolest tracks of the year. The steady groove never gets too hyped but always keeps the head nodding along. Lizzo has received all kinds of attention in 2019 and when you can get the queen Missy Elliott on your track, you know you’re doing something right.

6. Sharon Van Etten – Seventeen:  When Van Etten released her newest album, this is the track that everyone latched onto.  It sounds like a female Bruce Springsteen looking back on her younger self while screaming that “I know what you’re going to be”.  In this case, that’s a great place to be.

5.  Billie Eilish & Justin Bieber – bad guy:  Always liked this track but our ears really perked up on the Interrupters version which made us go back and listen to the original even more.  Eilish’s vocals are hushed like she’s hiding in a closet while the simple beat gives Bieber room to really roll with a great vocal performance.

4. Fontaines D.C. – Boys In The Better Land:  Hearing the slower “Roy’s Tune” did not prepare us for this energetic anthem that blared out of our car speakers all summer. Name checking James Joyce, this one also had us Googling what “only smokes Carrolls” means.  This one makes us believe that the (rock) kids are alright.

3. Haim – Summer Girl:  An early morning drive to work and hearing this on CBC Radio 2 had us hooked immediately. Missed this one for the summer but it made our autumn a lot brighter with the mesmerizing saxophone hook.  Almost makes us want to book a trip to LA and have this on repeat.

2. Lil Nas X (Feat. Billy Ray Cyrus) – Old Town Road:  One late evening on stereogum.com we read about the country chart controversy with “Old Town Road” then watched about 20 TikTok videos afterwards. Being purists, we liked the original better but the Billy Ray Cyrus version is fine too.  The “can’t nobody tell me nothing” is the lyric of the year and the fact that the track gets in and out as fast as possible gives the listener whiplash as they hit the repeat button 5x.

1. Vampire Weekend – Harmony Hall:  This was instantly one of our favourite songs of 2019 from the first time we heard it. Listening to the feature on Song Exploder recently, we got the original meaning of the song slightly wrong the first time around but found the actual meaning of beautiful plantation houses being used for weddings fascinating. The sound recalls early VW tracks but is musically far more complex and nuanced.  It may not be the lyric of the year, see above, but “I don’t want to live like this, but I don’t want to die” is certainly right up there.

Posted in Album Reviews

Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride (2019)

One of my favourite things about any new Vampire Weekend release, is the savage critique that Jim DeRogatis from Sound Opinions levels at it.  While I generally don’t agree with much he says about the band, it is an amusing counterpoint to the near ecstatic reviews the band is used to.  On Father of the Bride, this is no different. With producer and multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij no longer in the band but appearing here, it’s virtually an Ezra Koenig solo effort.  And what an effort.

Once again, the band chose to work with Modern Vampires of the City in demand producer, Ariel Rechtshaid.  Danielle Haim appears throughout the album most notably on the country sounding first track, “Hold You Now” and on what could be a lost Fleetwood Mac number from the 70s, “We Belong Together”. First single, “Harmony Hall” is the standout track from the first half of the album.  Alluding to hate speech appearing in universities, the mostly acoustic verses give way to nice piano bits in the chorus where Koenig makes the, “I don’t want to live like this, but I don’t want to die” lyric sound like an anthem.

Sharing the same name as a Charlie Puth track, “How Long”, has a slinky bassline that powers the music with a killer chorus that could easily be mistaken for the latest slick pop singer on hit radio.  One of the hardest songs here, “Sympathy”, with a vocal that sounds similar to Paul Simon, starts a run of music that is one of the best of the year.  “Stranger” also shares certain Paul Simon vocal influences but this time in a more upbeat, cheerful track.  Coming in at just over two minutes, “Sunflower” and its longer cousin “Flower Moon” both feature Steve Lacy from the band The Internet. “Sunflower” is the strongest of several shorter tracks that appear while the latter has a spoken vocal possibly influenced by Lou Reed.

Coming at eighteen tracks, there are a few slower moments like “Big Blue” that doesn’t leave much of a mark over it’s two minutes and “My Mistake” suffers the same fate. This is minor quibbles on an album that has several runs of great songs.  Coming into summer, this is definitely one to have on for long road trips and days at the beach.  Regardless of what either Sound Opinion guy says, this is one of the best releases thus far of 2019.

9/10

Posted in Album Reviews

Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City (2013)

vampireweekendA few weeks ago I went shopping for business casual shoes. You know, ones that you can wear to work on casual Fridays with jeans? After checking out numerous stores at the mall I soon discovered that those shoes don’t exist anymore, they’ve all been replaced by boat shoes. Even if my anger at this is misguided, I pin most of the blame squarely on Vampire Weekend. The Paul Simon Graceland indebted band burst out of New York in early 2008 with their self-titled debut and while song titles such as “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” made them an easy target of cynical music critics, it was hard to ignore the hooks that drew in many fans. VW deftly sidestepped the sophomore jinx with the even better Contra featuring the undeniable single “Giving Up the Gun”.

A little over five years after their debut, Vampire Weekend is back with Modern Vampires of the City. Leaving behind some of the more worldly aspects of their sound, VW instead goes for a bit more atmosphere on tracks such as “Ya Hey” and “Hudson”. Thankfully they retained their pop smarts which are expertly shown in the string of songs “Unbelievers”, “Step”, and contender for track of the year “Diane Young”. This may be best run of songs on any indie rock album released in recent memory. Somewhere music critic Jim DeRogatis is cringing at the thought but in Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend has released one of the best albums of the year.

8.5/10

Review also found at UMFM.com