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Archive | December, 2014

Movie Breakdown: Unbroken (Noah)

December 24, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Let’s just say that the only reason I slogged my way through the rain to sit and watch Angelina Jolie’s newest bit of Oscar bait was because some chubby bunnies in North Korea decided to continue being assholes. Thanks a lot fascism for proving that amidst a world of change there’s always some consistency.

The Reality:

Unbroken is an above average bit of Oscar bait sandwiched between two glistening pieces of turd. The true story of Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) is a pretty amazing, Hollywood-ready bit of narrative. Zamperini was an Olympic runner who signed up for WWII, made waves as an outstanding bombardier, was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean, drifted around on a raft for three months before being captured by the Japanese and shipped from POW camp to POW camp getting the shit abused out of him all the way. It’s a story of survival, of, ahem, unbroken spirit, and of one kid who went through a shit storm and came out the other side a new man. Or it should be that story.

When Jolie’s film (scripted by The Coen Bros., amongst many) is firing on all cylinders it’s exciting and heart-wrenching and beautifully acted by a troupe of talented young Brits (with reasonable American accents). The cinematography (by frequent Coen-Bro-collaborator Roger Deakin) is glorious and at times, this film stands up to the rightfully classic WWII epic Empire of the Sun. And in the middle hour and a half – raft time and POW time and a little bit of time where Zamperini holds a large log for a while – this is exactly what’s occurring and I thought to myself “Huh, maybe I do enjoy the silky marshmallowy goodness of Oscar bait.”

For some reason though, Jolie, even with a veritable army of talented writer types, can’t seem to figure out how to end this film (let alone start it, as Unbroken for the first twenty or so minutes plays out like a WWII version of Forrest Gump). Though the film is called Unbroken, the almost-last shot of the film, with Zamperini blankly staring into the camera as a cargo plan cruises above him, seems to point out that Mr. Zamperini was indeed broken by his experiences in the war. That, like any normal human being put through the months and years of torture that he did, his brain is a PTSD-addled bit of mush and that it will take years and years of introspection and professional help until he’s able to stare into the face of the world and feel okay. Which is fine, realistic even, but Jolie, being a perhaps bad director, decides to clog the tube of honesty with a heaping pile of title cards that duly explain that Zamperini – later, after the budget for this film dried up it seems – became Unbroken and did a bunch of stuff with the Japanese who’d imprisoned and tortured him. And this, this is not okay. Why make a two and half hour film and then when you get to the most important part of the whole fucking thing, just have your editor scrawl some shit on a computer screen and call it an ending? Oh wait, oh wait, that’s not what Jolie did, instead she first had her editor scrawl some shit on some title cards and then for bonus fun she had the holiday pianist from Macy’s pick his favorite elevator music track and have it lightly playing under a clip of the real Louis Zamperini carrying the Olympic torch through Japan. At which point the part of my brain that thinks critically imploded and I was left a drooling vegetable.

I hope this movie gets nominated for “Best Middle Section Surrounded By Forty Minutes of Film That Will Make You Feel Like You Just Beer-Bonged A Shit Taco, Yes, Technology Has Improved To Where You Can Now Beer-Bong Solid Matter, Frat Guys Are Fucking Stoked.” You know, if that’s a category this year.

The Lesson:

Fuck you, North Korea.

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Movie Breakdown: The Gambler

December 22, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Mark Wahlberg is The Gambler.  The trailers have made the movie look like a gnarlier version of Rounders.  I approve.

The Reality:

I’m not at all sure why Rupert Wyatt’s latest film is titled The Gambler, as it doesn’t contain any actual gambling.  Sure, Mark Wahlberg stares a dealer or four in the eye and makes some bets, but these moments happen so quickly that his character doesn’t even bother with sitting down.  No, the movie should have been called The Rambler since that’s just about the only thing Wahlberg or anyone else does.  Personally, I love a good ramble, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of anything that was thrown my way.  I think Wahlberg is sad and/or angry because he is or isn’t a gambler?  Also, one of the “bad guys” is tired, so he would like to start an avocado farm?  And what about the basketball player that keeps saying he has a knee?  I don’t know.  I went for high stakes gambling and all I got was a bunch of people incoherently talking about their lives and how they may or may not matter.  Don’t see The Gambler unless you have “fuck you” money and time.

The Lesson:

Insert witty pun about gambling.

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Movie Breakdown: Big Eyes

December 22, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Tim Burton ditches Johnny Depp (finally) and goes “normal” in order to tell the story of artist Margaret Keane and her doozy of a husband, Walter.

The Reality:

While I really appreciate that Big Eyes is Tim Burton’s first film in a long while that doesn’t scream TIM BURTON, that’s not enough to keep me from scoring it as just another average effort from the famed director.  Burton certainly picked a great story to adapt, as what transpired between Margaret and Walter Keane is wildly interesting, but his telling of it is done in such an uneven and fairly bland fashion that I probably would have been just as satisfied reading the couple’s Wikipedia page.  Even Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams, who overall turn in good performances, often have moments where they seem aware that what they’re doing is just filler until the next “important” scene comes along.  For a film with such a great story to explore, I looked at my watch far too often.

At the end of the day, Big Eyes is far from bad, but it’s lacking the right mix of details to make it something worth calling great.  If you see the film, matinee it.

The Lesson:

Come on, Timbo!  I know you still got a great film in you somewhere.

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Movie Breakdown: Exodus: Gods And Kings

December 11, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Ridley Scott tells the tale of Moses.

The Reality:

Exodus: Gods And Kings (or as I like to call it, Moses Rises) is a mess of a film.  Ridley Scott succeeds at delivering a visual spectacle, but he falls flat with everything else – the pacing is clunky and tedious, the casting doesn’t feel right (who the hell hired John Turturro to portray a Pharaoh?) and the story itself just isn’t told in an interesting or entertaining way.  How disappointing.  I advise that you skip it.

The Lesson:

Nice try, I guess.

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Movie Breakdown: The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies

December 11, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Peter Jackson concludes his bloated, but entertaining adaptation of The Hobbit with The Battle Of The Five Armies.  The film looks like an action-heavy time.

The Reality:

Naturally, whether or not you should rush out to see The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies greatly depends on you.

If you’re like me and happen to be a diehard fan of what Peter Jackson has done with J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, then you’ll find that The Battle Of The Five Armies is an epic experience that’s a more than fitting end to The Hobbit Trilogy.  Hooray!

On the flip side of that, if you haven’t been particularly enamored with Jackson’s take on The Hobbit, then you should know that The Battle Of The Five Armies is not a marked improvement over previous entries An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation Of Smaug.  Just like those two films, it’s riddled with too many shoehorned Lord Of The Rings tie-ins, a gluttony of CG, a slew of oddly timed jokes and numerous side stories that never really go anywhere.  Bummer!

So, in other words, super fans will find a lot to enjoy in The Battle Of The Five Armies, but those of you who’ve long been on the fence in regards to Jackson’s super-expanded adaptation of The Hobbit probably won’t be too impressed.

The Lesson:

Hey Pete, I liked it.

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2014 SOTO Staff Picks

December 11, 2014

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I’ve rambled on long enough about the music I liked in 2014.  Here are the staff’s picks.  Enjoy.

Turns out that aside from the crippling bodily ailments and the inability to control my bladder, getting older has made me absolutely awful at listening to music. Don’t hate haters, I’ve just gotten over the hump of 30 and all of sudden I just can’t focus enough to listen to a whole album. Blame it on the SNES I brought home for my girlfriend’s birthday, blame it on the imposition of real life, blame it on the encroaching approach of a potent mix of early onset dementia and Adult ADHD – I’ve just been really bad at music listening this year. Thus, my teensy tiny list of music is culled from a pond not nearly as large as I’d hoped it to be. That said, the music I liked, I loved and that’s the music that ended up below.

Parkay Quarts – Content Nausea
Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
Caribou – Our Love
Vince Staples – Hell Can Wait
Perfume Genius – Too Bright

Since 2010, rock music hasn’t changed all that much. There’s presently a general look back to past niche musics from the 1960′s onward. But through the nostalgia haze, there are a great deal of both old and new artists finding new latitudes. Here’s my major jams this year.

1. Thurston Moore – The Best Day (Matador)
2. David Kilgour & The Heavy Eights – End Times Undone (Merge)
3. Steve Gunn – Way out Weather (PoB)
4. Datashock – Keine Oase in Sicht (Dekorder)
5. William Tyler – Lost Colony (Merge)

I’ve been staring at my 2014 list like a student procrastinating on their end of the semester term paper.  I go back and forth on who to include, who to leave out, and recalling releases (d’oh!) I never got around to checking out. There are also the nagging doubts such as wondering if I gave an album enough listens to put it on my list. Like last year my list focuses on my local Austin favorites. Narrowing it down to the Top 5 wasn’t easy but I stand by my choices of my faves that earned multiple listens. So many good bands to choose from but oh what a problem to have, right?

In no particular order, I present to you :

The Sour Notes – Do What May
Abram Shook – Sun Marquee
Alex Napping – This Is Not A Bedroom
She Sir – Go Guitars
Shivery Shakes – Three Waves and A Shake

Honorable Mentions: The Ugly Beats – Brand New Day, Roger Sellers – Primitives, Genuine Leather – Losers

Compared to last year, 2014 left much to be desired when it comes to the sheer number of amazing releases. 2013 offered probably 15 to 20 “crap your pants while listening best record of the century” type stuff but then after that it sort of fell short in the real meat of the pack by not having a lot to deepen the core of metal. The reverse of which is true this year, I have attached to a few records as rising to the tippy top of the heap, but the real glory came in the form of the fat of the genre, so many decent albums from so many artists, many debuts, but several just continuations on great careers, but few to get all wigged out about.

My Top 5 you can see here are pretty clear choices though when you look at what they accomplished on these albums, Devn Townsend Project made two albums into one, and continued the story or Ziltoid the Omniscient, Anaal Nathrakh did what they do, but better, Job for a Cowboy somehow made bass a relevant instrument in death metal, At the Gates reunited after 900 years and proved they still have it, and Black Crown Initiate stole the show with their debut mixing death metal and melodic anthems into something technically proficient and sufficiently mind blowing. I was not let down this year, but I know I will be surprised in a few years with what I actually retained from 2014, not sure if you would agree, but that’s how I see things …

5. Devin Townsend Project – Ziltoid 2 (Century Media)
4. Anaal Nathrakh – Desideratum (Metal Blade)
3. Job For A Cowboy – Sun Eater (Metal Blade)
2. At The Gates – At War With Reality (Century Media)
1. Black Crown Initiate – The Wreckage Of Stars (eOne Entertainment)

I guess I’ll start by saying that 2014 hasn’t been an amazing year for hip hop, but it hasn’t been a completely terrible one either.  Here are my choices for the best releases this year, in no particular order:

Open Mike Eagle – Dark Comedy
Run The Jewels – RTJ2
Vince Staples – Hell Can Wait
Big K.R.I.T. – Cadillactica
Shabazz Palaces – Lese Majaesty

T’was a solid year for melancholy songs. Albums that truly destroyed the center of the cardiovascular system were aplenty. We’re living in a golden age of audio misery! There were SO MANY great releases that dehydrated our tear ducts but since you, the readers, are demanding a definitive ranking of the saddest albums of the year, so be it. I’ve done the requisite soul searching and came up with this predominantly lady-heavy list of my fav weepers of the year. They are full of gut wrenchers, soul crushers … and they are all fantastic. Way to bring the pain this year, ladies!

1: Beck – Morning Phase
2. Lykke Li – I Never Learn
3. Divorcee – Self Titled
4. Jenny Lewis – The Voyager
5. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Best Reissue: American Football – Self Titled

Narrowing down my top albums is a tortuous process. I’m an old-school guy. I still listen to entire albums from start to finish and only occasionally opt for a playlist of singles. Immersing yourself in an album is the most satisfying way way to connect with the music. So I get really dialed into my favorite albums each year, which makes narrowing down the lot a difficult task.

Before we get to my top five, let’s take a minute to recognized the amazing amount of quality music released this year by 12XU. It was far and away the top Austin label in 2014. They featured not only one of my top artists (The Dead Space) and but also three others in my top 10 (Flesh Lights, Jonly Bonly, The Gotobeds).

1) Ghetto Ghouls – Self Titled
2) The Dead Space – Faker
3) Protomartyr – Under Color of Official Right
4) Ex Hex – Rips
5) OBN IIIs – Third Time To Harm

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Movie Breakdown: Top Five

December 10, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Chris Rock stars in Top Five, a film that he wrote and directed.  It looks kind of funny.

The Reality:

I have mixed feelings about Top Five.  The movie, which follows a burned out comedian as he wanders around New York City, is essentially a crafty mixture of Judd Apatow’s Funny People and Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy, and overall I found it to be charming, refreshing and funny.  However, there are a variety of moments in the film (namely the entire third act) where Chris Rock clearly doesn’t think his audience is with him, so he crams in cliche plot points and bottom of the barrel jokes so that everyone can be certain that they’re watching a CHRIS ROCK MOVIE.  It’s unfortunately jarring, and I can’t help but think about how great Top Five would have been if Rock was a more confident director/writer.  Maybe he’ll get it all figured out someday.

Top Five isn’t amazing, but it’s a solid little film.  Don’t be afraid to check it out.

The Lesson:

Keep at it, Rock.

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Top 25 Albums Of 2014: Part 2

December 10, 2014

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Here are the final 10 selections for my Top 25 Albums of 2014 list!  Be sure to check out PART ONE if you haven’t already.  Enjoy.

10) The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

The War On Drugs’ Lost In The Dream is as dad-rock as it gets, but it’s also the most compelling album of 2014.  Grab some whiskey and give it all your attention.

:The War On Drugs – Red Eyes:

09) Tycho – Awake

Tycho’s Awake is a must-have for fans of instrumental music.  I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent with its post-rock-leaning sound swirling around in my headphones.

:Tycho – Awake:

08) Spoon – They Want My Soul

They Want My Soul is the latest high quality release from Spoon.  I advise that you take a moment to fully appreciate the fact that they’ve been consistently good for roughly TWENTY years.  Wow.

:Spoon – Inside Out:

07) Cloud Nothings – Here And Nowhere Else

I’ve listened to a lot of people ramble on about how “their last album was better” but Here And Nowhere Else is the first time I’ve truly loved something from Cloud Nothings.  There’s not one bad song on the thoroughly 90s-enthused effort.

:Cloud Nothings – I’m Not Part Of Me:

06) Solids – Blame Confusion

From start to finish, Solids’ Blame Confusion is just one lo-fi indie rock gem after another.  It seems unlikely that I’ll ever tire of the album.

:Solids – Traces:

05) Lace Curtains – A Signed Piece Of Paper

With A Signed Piece Of Paper, Michael Coomer (aka Lace Curtains) has further cemented himself as one of my favorite singer/songwriters.  We just get each other.  Or something.  Anyways, have you heard his debut, The Garden Of Joy And The Well Of Loneliness?  It was my #1 album back in 2012.

:Lace Curtains – The Fly:

04) St. Vincent – Self Titled

I’m just about out of ways to praise Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent).  This is the fourth time she’s landed in the Top 5 of my year-end album list.  Is she even capable of putting out something that’s not utterly fantastic?

:St. Vincent – Digital Witness:

03) Tony Molina – Dissed And Dismissed

12 songs, 11 minutes.  Tony Molina’s Dissed And Dismissed may not seem like it has a lot to offer, but it’s actually home to some of the best pop hooks I’ve come across in a long time.  Talk about infectious.

:Tony Molina – Nowhere To Go:

02) Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal

There was a sizable stretch this year where I found myself listening to Parquet Courts’ Sunbathing Animal at least twice a day.  I really think the album features some of the best songs that the band has ever written.

:Parquet Courts – Instant Disassembly:

01) Run The Jewels – RTJ2

OH MY.  Here in the #1 slot of my Top 25 Albums of 2014 is none other than Run The Jewels’ RTJ2!  The explosive duo of Killer Mike and EL-P really hit a home run with their sophomore effort, and we should all celebrate accordingly.

:Run The Jewels – Oh My Darling Don’t Cry:

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Top 25 Albums Of 2014: Part 1

December 9, 2014

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Well friends, I’m just about done with posting the site’s year-end music lists.  Today I have the first part of my Top 25 Albums of 2014 (25-11, plus various Honorable Mentions), tomorrow I’ll have my Top 10 selections, and then on Thursday I’ll have Top 5s from each of SOTO’s contributors.  Whew!  Anyhow, on with the rambling.  Enjoy.

PS – This year’s list is very heavily influenced by how often I revisited an album.

25) Swans – To Be Kind

There’s nothing about Swans’ To Be Kind that’s easy (or it would be ranked way higher), but if you can fully immerse yourself in its sprawling sound, you’ll find that it’s a rather rewarding album.

:Swans – A Little God In My Hands:

24) Interpol – El Pintor

While it’s no Turn On The Bright Lights, I do think that El Pintor is the best thing to come from Interpol in a long while.  Who knew that parting with Carlos D would turn out to be good for the band?!

:Interpol – All The Rage Back Home:

23) Future Islands – Singles

Future Islands’ Singles is one of those albums that I burned out on and then ending up excitedly coming back to.  It’s a pretty great effort, especially if you need something to dramatically dance to.

:Future Islands – Seasons (Waiting On You):

22) Sylvan Esso – Self Titled

Sylvan Esso’s self titled debut is an easily accessible effort that’s loaded with some of the year’s best electronic pop songs.  I often just put it on and let its warm sound fill the room.

:Sylvan Esso – Coffee:

21) Thee Oh Sees – Drop

Just when it looked like Thee Oh Sees were going to take a lengthy break, they released the lively Drop.  I approve of such indecisiveness.  Here’s hoping they continue on maybe going on hiatus.

:Thee Oh Sees – Penetrating Eye:

20) Ty Segall – Manipulator

Manipulator is the culmination of all the various sounds that Ty Segall has churned out over the last few years, and it’s great.  Way to bring everything full circle, Mr. Segall.

:Ty Segall – Susie Thumb:

19) Phantogram – Voices

I can’t say that Voices dominated my time the way that Eyelid Movies did (way back in 2010), but it’s definitely a high quality effort.  Phantogram craft great hooks.

:Phantogram – Fall In Love:

18) S – Cool Choices

Jenn Ghetto (formerly of Carissa’s Wierd) is S, and Cool Choices is her very sincere, introspective album.  She’s got the sort of voice that I can’t help but get hung up on.

:S – Vampires:

17) Mono – Rays Of Darkness/The Last Dawn

Technically, Rays Of Darkness and The Last Dawn are two separate releases, but I still consider them to be a two-disc effort.  As for the actual LPs themselves, I really dig how neither of them feel like the Mono that made the over-orchestrated For My Parents.

:Mono – Recoil, Ignite:

16) Jack White – Lazaretto

I can’t ever make any sense of the things that Jack White says and does these days, but I sure do like his music.  Lazaretto is a boisterous experience.

:Jack White – Lazaretto:

15) Abram Shook – Sun Marquee

Austin’s own Abram Shook put out the immensely pleasing Sun Marquee back in January, and it’s been a favorite of mine ever since.  It’s the kind of breezy, relaxed pop music that’s impossible to not get lost in.

:Abram Shook – Coastal:

14) Tune Yards – Nikki Nack

Nikki Nack is exactly what we’ve all come to want and expect from the talented Merrill Garbus (aka Tune Yards) – it’s creative and a whole lot of fun to listen to.

:Tune Yards – Real Thing:

13) Ex Hex – Rips

I miss Wild Flag, but their disbandment delivered Mary Timony’s equally catchy and rocking Ex Hex AND put Sleater-Kinney back together.  I’ll take that deal any day.

:Ex Hex – Hot And Cold:

12) The Dead Space – Faker

If you are even the slightest fan of post-punk, then you need The Dead Space’s Faker in your life.  There’s not a track on it that isn’t rad.

:The Dead Space – Behind The Wall:

11) Tacocat – NVM

I didn’t pay much attention to Tacocat’s NVM until kind of late in the year, but once I “discovered” it I was forever hooked.  It’s total surf-rock bliss.

:Tacocat – Crimson Wave:

Come back tomorrow for my Top 10 Albums of 2014!

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

To be honest, I could have easily detailed 50 albums this year, but since the bottom 25 slots would have been occupied by the various releases that I liked but didn’t listen to a whole super lot, I figured it was best to hold back.  For fun though, here are the LPs that more than likely would have made an expanded list.

A Sunny Day In Glasgow – Sea When Absent
Alex Napping – This Is Not A Bedroom
Alvvays – Self Titled
Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Ariel Pink – Pom Pom
Coathangers – Suck My Shirt
Cymbals Eat Guitars – Lose
Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita
Equals – Tracts
Eternal Summers – The Drop Beneath
FKA Twigs – LP1
Flesh Lights – Free Yourself
Literature – Chorus
Men – Tomorrow’s Hits
OBN IIIs – Third Time To Harm
Owls – Two
Pompeii – Loom
Ramesh – The King
Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
Thurston Moore – The Best Day
Tontons – Make Out King And Other Stories Of Love
Warpaint – Self Titled
We Were Promised Jetpacks – Unravelling
Wye Oak – Shriek
Yellow Ostrich – Cosmos

Also, for even more fun, here are my five favorite EPs of 2014.

Speedy Ortiz – Real Hair EP
Diarrhea Planet – Aliens In The Outfield EP
White Reaper – Self Titled EP
Otis The Destroyer – Dark Arts EP
Whiite Walls – Self Titled EP

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Top 50 Songs Of 2014: Part 5

December 5, 2014

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The end.  If you missed any part of this countdown, I’ve neatly arranged all of the tracks on one page right HERE.  Enjoy.

10)  :Run The Jewels – Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck) (Featuring Zack De La Rocha):  Killer Mike and El-P each turn in rad work here, but it’s actually Zack Del La Rocha that makes this Run The Jewels track something worth championing forever.  From RTJ 2.

09)  :FKA Twigs – Two Weeks:  Despite listening to this an enormous amount of times, it’s still a song that forcefully grabs and holds my attention.   FKA Twigs is one of music’s best new voices.  From LP1.

08)  :St. Vincent – Digital Witness:  Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) is steadily pulling in a more mainstream audience, and I’m all about it.  The world is a better place with avant-pop gems like this one challenging the ears of the masses.  From her self titled album.

07)  :Interpol – All The Rage Back Home:  After Interpol released a couple of mediocre LPs and lost bassist Carlos D, I just knew I was done with them.  Or not.  This track is an inspired effort that has me once again confidently perched on their bandwagon.  From El Pintor.

06)  :Leon Bridges – Coming Home:  Leon Bridges has yet to “officially” put out anything, but he’s already one of my favorite soul artists.  That’s just how amazing this song is.  Keep an eye out for him in 2015.

05)  :Sharon Van Etten – Every Time The Sun Comes Up:  There’s something about Sharon Van Etten being blatantly snarky that I can’t help but find endlessly pleasing.  I’ll never get tired of this slow-burner.  From Are We There.

04)  :Ought – Habit:  Admittedly, this wordy, vocally uneven slice of art-rock is a a bit odd, but if you give it a real shot you’ll find that it’s one of the most engaging experiences of the year.  From More Than Any Other Day.

03)  :Speedy Ortiz – American Horror:  If you ask me, the best of the 90s revivalist bunch is most definitely Speedy Ortiz.  I mean, just listen to this song, it’s perfect.  From the Real Hair EP.

02)  :Parquet Courts – Instant Disassembly:  I know Parquet Courts are adored for blistering faces, but I think this lackadaisically-paced track is the best thing they’ve ever done.  I love the rambly vocals and brainy lyrics.  From Sunbathing Animal.

01)  :Spoon – Inside Out:  Here it is, my #1 song of 2014.  Congrats to the mighty Spoon!  They have a ton of great music in their repertoire, but this immaculate track really is some next level stuff for them.  Good on the two-decade old band for still pushing themselves to evolve and get better.  From They Want My Soul.

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Top 50 Songs Of 2014: Part 4

December 4, 2014

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We’re nearing the end of my Top 50 Songs of 2014 list!  Look for the final ten songs tomorrow.  For fun, here’s parts ONE, TWO and THREE.  Enjoy.

20)  :Cherry Glazerr – Had Ten Dollaz:  Cherry Glazerr are a really young trio (two of them aren’t even 18) who are already way cooler than any of us will ever be.  If you don’t believe me, just listen to this attitude-laced gem.  From the Had Ten Dollaz single.

19)  :Deleted Scenes – You Get To Say Whatever You Want:  This song is so emotive that it’ll either pull you out of a funk or completely toss you into one.  I love it.  Deleted Scenes are the best.  From Lithium Burn.

18)  :Dana Falconberry – Palmless:  Austin’s own singer/songwriter extraordinaire Dana Falconberry collaborated with Spoon’s Jim Eno on this track.  It’s a pretty spectacular listen on all fronts.  From Public Hi-Fi Sessions 02.

17)  :Little Big League – Property Line:  I’m all about the 90s revival that’s currently underway, but even if I wasn’t I think I’d still dig this Little Big League track.  It’s just about as sincere as can be.  From Tropical Jinx.

16)  :Diarrhea Planet – Spooners:  ”It’s all about the drugs, money, power, and getting off.”  Well said, Diarrhea Planet.  Well said.  From the Aliens In The Outfield EP.

15)  :Sheer Mag – What You Want:  I stumbled across this riffy piece of retro rock back in October and I’ve been jamming it (probably too much) ever since.  If you’re not on Sheer Mag’s bandwagon, you should be.  From the band’s debut 7″.

14)  :Tune Yards – Real Thing:  This track is Merrill Garbus (aka Tune Yards) throwing everything at a wall and somehow having all of it stick.  Hard not to be impressed, you know?  From Nikki Nack.

13)  :Dum Dum Girls – Rimbaud Eyes:  I have a variety of mixed feelings about the latest Dum Dum Girls’ album, but I can’t really complain since it features this immaculate pop tune.  From Too True.

12)  :Cloud Nothings – I’m Not Part Of Me:  Here’s my favorite single off of the album that Cloud Nothings put out earlier this year.  The 90s-rock lover in me just can’t get enough of it.  From Here And Nowhere Else.

11)  :Mikal Cronin – Soul In Motion:  Mikal Cronin knew that not putting out any new music in 2014 would hurt my feelings, so he contributed this fantastic song to Famous Class’ 7″ series.  What a guy!  From LAMC #11.

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Top 50 Songs Of 2014: Part 3

December 3, 2014

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We’ve now arrived at the middle section of my Top 50 Songs of 2014.  Check out Part ONE & TWO if you haven’t already.  Otherwise, get on with cruising today’s list!  Enjoy.

30)  :The Dead Space – Behind The Wall:  Pretty much all of my dark-corner-brooding in 2014 was done while listening to this stellar piece of post-punk from Austin’s own The Dead Space.  From Faker.

29)  :We Were Promised Jetpacks – I Keep It Composed:  This swirling song reinvigorated my love for We Were Promised Jetpacks.  I’m honestly not sure they’ve ever sounded as good as they do here.  From Unraveling.

28)  :Angel Olsen – Forgiven-Forgotten:  While I like Angel Olsen’s slower and more intimate material, I found myself coming back to this little rocker of hers the most.  From Burn Your Fire For No Witness.

27)  :Shannon And The Clams – Mama:  This Shannon And The Clams song is splendid and permanently on my go-to list for whenever I’m in the mood for soul/doo-wop-enthused music.  From the band’s split with Guantanamo Baywatch.

26)  :Saint Pepsi – Fiona Coyne:  My “song of the summer” this year was definitely this Saint Pepsi track.  It’s immensely catchy.  And danceable.  And super fun.  From the Fiona Coyne single.

25)  :Tennis – I’m Callin’:  I love this song for two reasons.  1) It’s wonderfully easy on the ears.  2) It fully completes Tennis‘ transition from lo-fi indie band to full on pop act.  Not sure they could have done it any smoother.  From Ritual In Repeat.

24)  :Screaming Females – Wishing Well:  Screaming Females usually go right after your face, but for this track they decided to dial things back a bit.  It worked.  In fact, I think this is probably their best song.  From the Wishing Well single.

23)  :Phantogram – Fall In Love:  Phantogram blew up in 2014, and it was partly because of this single.  To be honest, I think it ranks a little lower than some of their older songs, but I still love it.  From Voices.

22)  :The War On Drugs – Red Eyes:  The War On Drugs really got me with this track.  I had only ever just appreciated them and their Springsteen-ish ways, but this is so damn good that they’re now a favorite of mine.  From Lost In The Dream.

21)  :Future Islands – Seasons (Waiting On You):  This fantastic synth-pop song totally helped Future Islands wrangle in just under a bazillion new fans.  Good for them.  They deserve it.  From Singles.

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Top 50 Songs Of 2014: Part 2

December 2, 2014

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Boom.  Here’s part two of my Top 50 Songs of 2014.  If you missed the first installment, check it out here.  The other parts will arrive each day this week!  Enjoy.

40)  :Braid – No Coast:  It was the arrival of this anthemic track that pushed me from curious to excited about Braid reuniting for a new full length (their first in 16 years).  From No Coast.

39)  :Eternal Summers – Gouge:  I’ve had this shoegazey number on repeat for just about the entirety of 2014.  I definitely think it’s Eternal Summers’ best song (so far).  From The Drop Beneath.

38)  :Letting Up Despite Great Faults – Wrapped:  This fantastic slice of dream pop is from one of my favorite bands in Austin, Letting Up Despite Great Faults.  It’ll make you dance (and maybe cry a little).  From Neon.

37)  :Mas Ysa – Shame:  Thomas Arseneault (aka Mas Ysa) churns out some really interesting stuff.  For instance, this synthy gem is somehow both very calculated and super raw.  From The Worth EP.

36)  :Alvvays – Archie, Marry Me:  Sure, Alvvays is a pretty silly name, but that doesn’t mean this song isn’t one of the best lo-fi pop efforts of the year.  From the band’s self titled album.

35)  :Pillar Point – Eyeballs:  I’m not sure that Scott Reitherman (formerly of Throw Me The Statue and now the main brain behind Pillar Point) has ever made a song that I didn’t like.  The guy sure knows how to craft quality pop music.  From the band’s self titled album.

34)  :Cymbals Eat Guitars – Chambers:  If you’ve ever wanted to hear Cymbals Eat Guitars as a full-on accessible rock act, then this is the song you’ve been looking for.  It’s a good sound for them.  From Lose.

33)  :Ariel Pink – Put Your Number In My Phone:  When it comes to Ariel Pink, I’m always impressed with the way he’s able to craft that one single every release that’s a total ear-pleaser.  I think he does it on purpose so it’s easier to dive into the bizarro creations that usually fill out his albums.  From Pom Pom.

32)  :Sylvan Esso – Coffee:  For a while I thought MS MR’s fancy remix of this track was unbeatable, but in the end I found myself partial to the minimalistic sound of Sylvan Esso’s original take.  From the band’s self titled album.

31)  :Weaves – Shithole:  Every time I listen to this song I immediately want to travel back to the 90s so that I can be angsty about having to exist in the 90s.  Thanks for that, Weaves.  From the Shithole single.

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Top 50 Songs Of 2014: Part 1

December 1, 2014

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Hey there, let’s begin running down my Top 50 Songs of 2014 (there will be one part each day through this Friday).  As is always the case, the list is comprised of music I’ve shared here at SOTO throughout the year.  Enjoy.

PS – If you missed my 2014 Austin Essentials, all three of those volumes are now on one page right HERE.

50)  :Lana Del Rey – West Coast:  Yeah yeah, I know, Lana Del Rey has big lips and no one (publicly) likes her, but I don’t care, this Dan Auerbach-produced track is great.  Total smokey, moody goodness.  From Ultaviolence.

49)  :Slow Magic – Hold Still:  This one from Slow Magic features what’s probably my favorite “wait for it” moment of 2014.  If the final 30 seconds don’t make you want to move, then you might be dead.  From How To Run Away.

48)  :Joanna Gruesome – Psykick Espionage:  Noisy and infectious.  That’s definitely the best way to describe this track from the one and only Joanna Gruesome.  From the band’s split 7″ with Perfect Pussy.

47)  :White Reaper – Half Bad:  There’s so much energy and enthusiasm packed into this ripper from White Reaper that it’s become one of my go-tos for whenever I need a pick-me-up.  From the band’s self titled EP.

46)  :Sleater-Kinney – Bury Our Friends:  Sleater-Kinney are back and they’ve still got it!  Not that I’m in any way surprised, of course – Corin, Carrie and Janet are pure magic when they’re together.  From No Cities To Love.

45)  :Perfume Genius – Queen:  While I didn’t find Perfume Genius’ latest album to be for me, I do love this song.  It’s a powerful listen that grabs you and never lets go.  From Too Bright.

44)  :How To Dress Well – Repeat Pleasure:  This impeccably crafted track is no & It Was You, but I do think it’s the most accessible that Tom Krell (aka How To Dress Well) has ever been.  From What Is This Heart.

43)  :Sophie – Lemonade:  Of all the songs that will appear on my Top 50 list, this pop blip from Sophie is the one I expect to divide people the most.  It’s a weird and obnoxious earworm.  From the Lemonade/Hard single.

42)  :New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers:  There was a stretch this year where I just about wore out this gloriously upbeat track from New Pornographers.  Talk about power pop perfection.  From Brill Bruisers.

41)  :Terry Malts – Let You In:  Another year, another fuzzed out track from Terry Malts that’s really difficult to get out of my head.  Things could be worse, I suppose.  From the Insides EP.

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