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Top Films Of 2013

January 14, 2014

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This bit of fun is coming to you a little later than usual, and it’s because I was waiting for Her and trying to see a few other films I had missed.  It sort of worked out, as I managed to pretty much catch everything I wanted to except for Captain Phillips, Blue Jasmine, and The Spectacular Now.  Oh well.  In any case, allow Noah and myself to each run down what we thought were the Top 10 Films of 2013.  Enjoy.

John’s Top 10 Films Of 2013

10) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

I was totally surprised by not only how much I loved this movie, but the way it stuck with me long after I had left the theater.  This film is the Empire Strikes Back of the Hunger Games series.

09) Grand Piano

Elijah Wood stars in this 2013 Fantastic Fest standout that I thought was one of the more outright entertaining and memorable thrillers I’d seen in quite a while.

08) This Is The End

Normally a movie packed with inside jokes and bits that never seem to end isn’t worth your time, but this one is totally spectacular.

07) American Hustle

Just a total mess of a film with a ridiculous story and even more ridiculous characters, but I loved it.

06) The World’s End

Edgar Wright absolutely nailed the finale to the Corentto Trilogy.  I’m going to greatly miss the output that results from Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost working together.

05) Mud

There were some great coming of age movies in 2013, but this one was the absolute best.

04) Her

When it comes to love stories, rarely does it get better than what Spike Jonze did with this film.  I’ll definitely be pulling for Scarlett Johnansson come nomination time.

03) Before Midnight

I’ve been following the story of Jesse and Celine for nearly 20 years, and this was a more than fitting way to bring everything to a close.  Thank you, Richard Linklater.

02) Wolf Of Wall Street

There’s not a lot of story or character development to be had in this Scorsese flick, but who cares!  It just wants to show you what real excess and greed looks like, and it does just that until you’re exhausted from it all.  I had a blast watching it.

01) Gravity

Alfonso Cuaron is now responsible for two of my favorite movies ever – this one and Children Of Men.  Not only is he a brilliant storyteller, but what he puts on the screen never fails to completely dazzle me.  On a related note, this and not The Blind Side is the best thing Sandra Bullock has ever done.

Before I go, big ups to 12 Years A Slave, Nebraska, Dallas Buyers Club, Blackfish, and Inside Llewyn Davis for being superb films that I can’t ever imagine watching again.  Also, much love to some other flicks that entertained me a lot in 2013 – Riddick, Pacific Rim, Fast And Furious 6, Iron Man 3, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Drinking Buddies, Man Of Tai Chi, Journey To The West, Big Bad Wolves, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, Oblivion, You’re Next, Side Effects, Trance and The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug.  Oh, and for good measure, know that I dug the coming of age-themed The Way Way Back, Stoker, and The Kings Of Summer, and that I adored the love stories in Warm Bodies, Mood Indigo, and About Time.

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Noah’s Top 10 Films Of 2013

Let’s say this: I had a pretty shitty year in the theater. Not because I wasn’t wowed and astounded by a hefty selection of films, but because life, sweet, soul-crushing life, and all the myriad responsibilities that come with it. I saw far below 50 films this year, and to be quite honest, my dedication to really getting out there and seeing everything only flared to life as the year crumbled to a quiet stop.

Look at this list though! Look at those directors! When’s the last time when my entire End ‘o’ Year Spectacular was filled with only movies but masters of the medium? Scorcese! Coens! Greengrass! It’s a veritable who’s who of film geniuses (and Seth Rogen), all on one list!

What does this mean? It was a pretty killer year for cinema. Oh, sure, Hollywood continues it’s unmitigated spiral in to video game dynamics and tear-jerking schlock, but somehow, someway, all of these amazing creators were able to do just that this year, push through the shit and get it done.

Somebody please, wheel 2014 in.

10) Captain Phillips, d. Paul Greengrass

Captain Phillips has a lot of things going for it – amazing action, a beautiful nuanced telling of this crazy story, some of the best Somali pirate acting of all time – but without the directorial skill of Greengrass and the heart-wrenching performance by Tom Hanks, it’d be just another pirate movie.

09) Blue Jasmine, d. Woody Allen

Woody Allen won’t ever be “Woody Allen” again, but if he continues to make films like this in the twilight of his life, sign me up. Cate Blanchett is brilliant, sad, and evil in this teary-eyed comedy about the rich getting poorer.

08) Pacific Rim, d. Guillermo del Toro

No other film entertained me more this year. No other film made me pump my fist with glee more. No other film had sword fighting robots squaring off with hammer-headed monsters.

07) This Is The End, d. Seth Rogen

Seth Rogen is the real deal. We all know that now.

06) 12 Years A Slave, d. Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen’s sashay in to Hollywood is 94 percent brilliant, 6 percent near-brilliant, 100 percent Chiwetel Ejiofor. This is the type of performance that everyone at the Oscars will tell their friends they thought deserved to win.

05) Her, d. Spike Jonze

They just don’t make films like this anymore. Well, except for Her. Stuffed with ideas, talky, beautiful beyond belief – this is a modern love story. I will now start the time until the next Spike Jonze flick.

04) Wolf Of Wall Street, d. Martin Scorcese

No movie stunned me more this year. Excessive and brutal, somehow hilarious and sadly, intentionally-hollow all at the same time. Leonardo DiCaprio gives the best performance of his career and somehow a 72-year old Scorsese just keeps getting better.

03) American Hustle, d. David O. Russell

David O. Russell takes on the late 70s. Magic happens.

02) Gravity, d. Alfonso Cuaron

Dear Mr. Cuaron, thank you for remembering that films can be powerful and entertaining.

01) Inside Llewyn Davis, d. The Coen Brothers

Sigh, a perfect movie about failing. I wish the Coen Brothers made one movie a week.

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Top 25 Albums Of 2013: Part 3

December 13, 2013

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This is it! I’m done listing things for you people. If you’re curious about what the staff loved, look for an all-inclusive post next week!  Enjoy.

05) Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires Of The City

If I were to jot down a list of my biggest surprises of 2013, Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires Of The City would be at the top.  I’ll forever feel sort of silly for assuming they could never be this good.

:Vampire Weekend – Step:

04) Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe

Chvrches were pretty much all the rage this year, and it’s easy to see why when listening to The Bones Of What You Believe.  There’s just not a bad song anywhere on it.

:Chvrches – Recover:

03) Veronica Falls – Waiting For Something To Happen

I’ve listened to Waiting For Something To Happen at least once a week since it was released back in February.  I love the songwriting.  Also, I think there’s only a handful of indie pop acts that can claim to be as infectious as Veronica Falls.

:Veronica Falls – Buried Alive:

02) Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana

Speedy Ortiz’s Major Arcana is a sloppy slice of 90s alt-rock, and I absolutely love it to no end.  I only wish I had managed to give the band more love on SOTO throughout the year.

:Speedy Ortiz – Tiger Tank:

01) Mikal Cronin – MCII

Mikal Cronin dominated my 2013 with MCII.  From front to back the album is nothing but one stellar pop rock song after another, and it pretty much made me a forever fan of Mikal’s.  Here’s hoping a follow-up isn’t too far away.

:Mikal Cronin – Shout It Out:

5 Honorable Mentions:
Bleached – Ride Your Heart
Quasi – Mole City
Mirror Travel – Mexico
Russian Circles – Memorial
Action Bronson – Blue Chips 2

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Top 25 Albums Of 2013: Part 2

December 12, 2013

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Here’s another 10 of my favorite albums of 2013.  Jump back tomorrow for the top five on my list!  Enjoy.

15) Polica – Shulamith

If you’re pessimistic and happen to remember how high my expectations were for Polica’s Shulamith, then you might look at this “middle of the pack” placement and call the album a disappointment.  Believe me though, that would be silly.  Lots of great tracks to be had on this one.

:Polica – Chain My Name:

14) The Mantles – Long Enough To Leave

If I had things my way, everyone would start including the Mantles in the first wave of bands that roll out of their mouth whenever the Bay Area comes up in conversation.  Long Enough To Leave is loaded with very catchy retro pop tunes.

:The Mantles – Hello:

13) The Octopus Project – Fever Forms

The Octopus Project have long been a solid act, but I think Fever Forms is proof that they’re actually a great one.  I’m excited to see where they go from here.

:The Octopus Project – Whitby:

12) Diarrhea Planet – I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams

Only one album in 2013 actually made me want to throw up rock horns in a non-ironic way, and it was Diarrhea Planet’s I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams.  Listen loud.

:Diarrhea Planet – Separations:

11) Haim – Days Are Gone

The girls in Haim have been making music for most of their lives, so of course Days Are Gone is packed with some of 2013′s better crafted pop songs.  On another note, this album is a sing-a-long lovers dream.

:Haim – The Wire:

10) A Giant Dog – Bone

Pop punk is fun stuff, but I usually wear the albums out and then promptly shuffle on to something else.  This didn’t happen with A Giant Dog’s Bone though, the songs are too good to just let go of.

:A Giant Dog – All I Wanted:

09) Kanye West – Yeezus

Kanye West’s Yeezus is such an intense album that I can’t listen to it on a regular basis.  With that being said, I think it’s a stellar piece of work from one of the biggest, most interesting pop stars on the planet.

:Kanye West – New Slaves:

08) Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin

Thee Oh Sees release so much music that I always move on to whatever new thing they’re doing instead of allowing the “old” effort to settle.  Floating Coffin managed to hook me though, and I plan on jamming the gloriously kinetic album for years to come.

:Thee Oh Sees – Maze Francier:

07) FIDLAR – Self Titled

FIDLAR seem like an act that could fizzle out at any moment, so I’ve been loving them while I can.  Their self titled debut is as catchy and loud as I hoped it would be when the band first popped up on my radar last year.

:FIDLAR – Cheap Beer:

06) Sigur Ros – Kveikur

I didn’t think Sigur Ros had a bombastic post rock album in them at this point, but Kveikur is just that.  If their last few efforts were too far out in left field for you, then this one should win you back.

:Sigur Ros – Kveikur:

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Top 25 Albums Of 2013: Part 1

December 11, 2013

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Because I want to makes sure you know I listen to too much music, here’s another year-end list.  This time it covers the albums I couldn’t take off repeat when I wasn’t pouring over various singles.  The countdown will come to a conclusion on Friday!  Enjoy.

25) Chelsea Light Moving – Self Titled

Thurston Moore’s new band put out their self titled debut in the first part of 2013, and I’ve been listening to it fairly often ever since.  It’s a meaty, noisy indie rock effort that gets better the more time you spend with it.

:Chelsea Light Moving – Burroughs:

24) Thao And The Get Down Stay Down – We The Common

We The Common didn’t resonate with me as much as Thao’s previous two albums, but I still find it to be a really good effort.  She continues to be one of my favorite songwriters.

:Thao And The Get Down Stay Down – We The Common:

23) Marnie Stern – The Chronicles Of Marnia

Despite being a long-time fan of Marnie Stern, The Chronicles Of Marnia is the first album of hers that I’ve fully liked.  Probably because it’s easily her most focused effort to date.

Check out the album here.

22) The Men – New Moon

I know everyone prefers the Men’s heavier efforts, but I adore the almost folkish indie rock sound that makes up New Moon.  Don’t be afraid to toss on headphones for this one.

:The Men – The Seeds:

21) Grape St. – A Date With You

A good chunk of my 2013 was spent singing-a-long with Grape St’s A Date With You.  The Austin act sure knows how to put together a catchy garage rock tune.

:Grape St – A Date With You:

20) Terry Malts – Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere

Terry Malts’ Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere took a few listens for me to completely warm up to it, but once I did I never wanted to let go.  If you like fuzzed-out pop punk, then you need this album.

:Terry Malts – I Was Not There:

19) White Denim – Corsicana Lemonade

Even if you’re not a big fan of White Denim, you have to appreciate how hard they work to constantly expand their sound.  Corsicana Lemonade is really nice step forward for them.

:White Denim – At Night In Dreams:

18) Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister

Weird Sister is one of the more scatterbrained, largely crazy indie pop efforts of 2013, but it works.  Here’s hoping Joanna Gruesome never change.

:Joanna Gruesome – Sugarcrush:

17) Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace And Magic

Foxygen’s poor/bizarre live showings seem to have soured most people’s opinion of the band, and that’s just too bad.  We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace And Magic is a really good album that proudly showcases the band’s various influences.

:Foxygen – On Blue Mountain:

16) Bosnian Rainbows – Self Titled

Omar Rodriquez-Lopez (The Mars Volta) and Teri Gender Bender (Le Butcherettes) are at the center of Bosnian Rainbows, and their self titled debut is full of well crafted alt-rock gems.  Still not sure how I feel about their name, though.

:Bosnian Rainbows – Morning Sickness:

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Top 50 Songs Of 2013: Part 5

December 6, 2013

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Well, this is the end of it.  Feel free to comment and mention anything I may have missed.  Otherwise, take in all the songs, and then join me next Wednesday through Friday for my Top 25 Albums of 2013.  Enjoy.

PS – You can check out 47 of the 50 tracks on this list on Spotify here.

10)  :Jonny Fritz – Ain’t It Your Birthday:  If I were doing a list of the year’s most fun songs, there’s a good chance I would slap this in the #1 spot.  Jonny Fritz is a rad dude.  From Dad Country.

09)  :Veronica Falls – Buried Alive:  This song is so hopelessly romantic.  And well made.  And catchy.  And just awesome.  I’ve actually listened to it so much that I’m surprised I didn’t burn myself out on it.  From Waiting For Something To Happen.

08)  :Quasi – You Can Stay But You Gotta Go:  The return of Quasi was fronted by this wonderfully sloppy 90s-ish indie rock track.  It deserves to be played at a volume that might get you evicted.  From Mole City.

07)  :Ellie Goulding – Tessellate (Alt-J Cover):  This is actually the second year in a row that Ellie Goulding has landed a one-off cover in the top 10 of my song list.  If you ask me, that probably means she should hurry up and do a covers album.

06)  :Haim – The Wire:  I know everyone digs Falling, but this is the song that made me appreciate/love Haim.  It’s like Shania Twain meets arena rock, which is weird but apparently what I’ve always wanted.  From Days Are Gone.

05)  :Diarrhea Planet – Separations:  Yes, the name Diarrhea Planet is silly.  Now with that out of the way, please allow this song to rock your soul.  From I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams.

04)  :Yuck – Middle Sea:  Yuck lost a frontman and then just continued on like it was nothing.  That’s impressive.  I think this is one of the best songs in their catalog.  From Glow And Behold.

03)  :Chvrches – Recover:  The Mother We Share is a great track (that ranked high on my song list last year), but part of me feels like this is Chvrches’ best single.  Such synth-pop goodness.  From The Bones Of What You Believe.

02)  :Mikal Cronin – Shout It Out:  I was so very close to putting this Mikal Cronin gem in the top spot.  It really is one of the better pop rock songs to come along over the last year or three.  From MCII.

01)  :Vampire Weekend – Step:  It wasn’t until I sat down to do this list that I realized just how much I adore this Vampire Weekend track.  I think it’s an endlessly impressive piece of pop music that’s totally deserving of all the time and attention you can spare.  From Modern Vampires Of The City.

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Top 50 Songs Of 2013: Part 4

December 5, 2013

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We’re now down to the final 20 songs!  Ah!  Enjoy.

20)  :Minks – Margot:  I know some folks weren’t a fan of Minks cleaning up their sound, but I thought it was an alright move.  This song in particular is great and reminds me of early 2000s indie pop.  From Tides End.

19)  :Okkervil River – It Was My Season:  As I said when this made my Austin Essentials list, it’s that one song Okkervil River seem to have on every album that I can’t get enough of.  From The Silver Gymnasium.

18)  :Parquet Courts – You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now:  To be honest, I totally didn’t get all the love for Parquet Courts until this song came along.  I appreciate its adequate amount of snarl.  From the Tally All The Things That You Broke EP.

17)  :A Giant Dog – All I Wanted:  Austin’s finest pop punk band is A Giant Dog, and I think this is their best song.  It rocks and does well to show off Sabrina Ellis’ stellar voice.  From Bone.

16)  :Wavves – Demon To Lean On:  I didn’t at all think Wavves would ever turn into a 90s-esque alt-rock band, but here they are doing it and doing it well.  I approve.  From Afraid Of Heights.

15)  :White Denim – At Night In Dreams:  The heaviest song on White Denim’s 2013 effort is also my favorite from it.  I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to blow out my speakers via this track.  From Corsicana Lemonade.

14)  :Swearin’ – Watered Down:  I love any sort of indie rock that feels lifted out of the 90s, so I was hooked on this pretty much immediately.  Be warned, Swearin’ will make you want to dig up tons of old records.    From Surfing Strange.

13)  :Four Fists – MMMMMHMMMMM:  POS and Astronautalis as one act?  Yes.  Forever.  If we’re lucky, this rad track is just the beginning of something awesome.  From Four Fists’ self titled 7″ single.

12)  :Polica – Chain My Name:  Earlier this year I couldn’t wait to get a hold of Polica’s sophomore effort, and it was largely because of this track.  It’s super dancey and completely set on never leaving your head.  From Shulamith.

11)  :Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener:  This wordy number from Courtney Barnett was a favorite of mine before I was even done listening to it for the first time.  She’s a fantastic storyteller.  From the A Sea Of Split Peas EP.

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Top 50 Songs Of 2013: Part 3

December 4, 2013

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We’re now firmly in the mid-section of this list.  I hope that so far you’ve been digging it and have maybe found some new stuff.  Let me know if you have any guesses on what will be in the top spot!  Enjoy.

30)  :Action Bronson – The Rockers (Featuring Wiz Khalifa):  Out of the ton of good stuff that Action Bronson released in 2013, this track is my favorite.  He sounds great in it, and I especially dig the Wiz Khalifa verse.  From the SAAAB Stories EP.

29)  :Phantogram – Celebrating Nothing:  At some point in 2014 I’m going to finally get a new Phantogram album.  Until then, I’ll just let this gem swirl around in my head.  From their self titled EP.

28)  :Divine Fits – Ain’t That The Way:  If you ask me, this is the best Spoon cover that Divine Fits have ever done.  Ha!  Seriously though, it’s a pretty great pop song.  From the Ain’t That The Way/Chained To Love digital single.

27)  :M.I.A. – Y.A.L.A.:  Another year, another great single from M.I.A.  She may be a bit unhinged, but her work is consistently interesting and worth your time.  From Matangi.

26)  :Joanna Gruesome – Sugarcrush:  This infectious piece of noise pop has been a favorite of mine for months.  Also, as a Joanna Newsom fan, I’m admittedly a sucker for the name Joanna Gruesome.  From Weird Sister.

25)  :The Orwells – Other Voices:  While the hard working, fresh out of high school dudes in the Orwells make me feel lazy and old, I can’t help but dig their music.  This rock tune is as catchy as it gets.  From the Other Voices EP.

24)  :Son Lux – Lost It To Trying:  This song is definitely Sigur Ros-light, but I think that actually makes me like it more.  Toss on headphones or just crank your stereo, either approach works well with Son Lux.  From Lanterns.

23)  :The Men – The Seeds (Acoustic Version):  The original version of this track is rather nice, but I think the acoustic take really makes for something special.  It’s definitely my favorite song by the Men.  From the Campfire Songs EP.

22)  :Youth Lagoon – Dropla:  Throughout the year this Youth Lagoon song was one of my go-tos for when I just wanted to kick back and listen to something.  It has such a stellar, well layered arrangement.  From Wondrous Bughouse.

21)  :Lightning Dust – Loaded Gun:  I ended up not loving Lightning Dust’s new synth-enthused sound as much as I thought I would, but I do think this particular song is rad.  Be sure to jam it.  From Fantasy.

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Top 50 Songs Of 2013: Part 2

December 3, 2013

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Because it would just be totally weird to skip part two of my Top 50 Songs Of 2013, here it is.  Enjoy.

40)  :Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Sacrilege:  I can’t at all figure out what overall direction the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are heading in, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.  I gave this weird track a lot of plays in 2013.  From Mosquito.

39)  :Desaparecidos – The Left Is Right:  To be honest, I equally dig each of the four songs that Desaparecidos released this year.  I listed this one simply because it reminds me the most of the band’s 2002 effort, Read Music/Speak Spanish.  From The Left Is Right/Anonymous 7″.

38)  :Terry Malts – I Was Not There:  Terry Malts and this fuzzy pop punk gem of theirs muddled up a good portion of my summer.  Fortunately, I didn’t mind.  At all.  From Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere.

37)  :Eat Skull – Space Academy:  Way back in January I called this Eat Skull effort the first great rock track of 2013, and in the time since then I’ve only grown even more fond of its swirling guitars.  You need this if you like noise.  From III.

36)  :The Callas – Anger:  The great thing about the Callas on this track is that they give you two of the things that tend to make rock n’ roll a lot of fun -  a good hook and shit ton of attitude.  I approve.  From Am I Vertical?.

35)  :Sleigh Bells – You Don’t Get Me Twice:  I thought that perhaps I was done with Sleigh Bells, but then this raucous anthem came along and reminded that when inspired, not many are as fun as they are.  From Bitter Rivals.

34)  :Metronomy – I’m Aquarius:  This might be my favorite Metronomy song ever.  If you can manage to not adore it whenever the “shoop doop” part kicks in, then there might be something wrong with you.  From Love Letters.

33)  :Tennis – Mean Streets:  Tennis have now completely moved away from sounding like they just got off a sail boat, and I love it.  I really didn’t think they had a slinky dance pop number like this one in them.  From the Small Sound EP.

32)  :Tony Molina – Breakin Up:  This little pop tune from Tony Molina is just a minute and half long, but it packs some great songwriting and a really nice guitar solo.  Talk about being efficient.  From the Six Tracks EP.

31)  :Charles Bradley – Strictly Reserved For You:  With Sharon Jones battling cancer, I looked to Charley Bradley for my soul fix, and he didn’t fail me.  This is one of his better songs.  From Victim Of Love.

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Top 50 Songs Of 2013: Part 1

December 2, 2013

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Now that I’ve shared with you my Austin Essentials of the year, it’s time to just talk about singles in general.  As usual, the songs were picked from the large pool of tunes that I shared here at SOTO throughout the course of 2013.  Look for the list of 50 to wrap by Friday.  Enjoy.

50)  :Daft Punk – Get Lucky:  Yes, this is the most over-played song of 2013.  No, I don’t really care.  Daft Punk really nailed it with this earworm of a track, and I’ll probably hum it for the rest of eternity.  From Random Access Memories.

49)  :Black Milk – Sunday’s Best/Monday’s Worst:  Technically this is two songs, but I decided to leave them merged to better help you understand why I think Curtis Cross (aka Black Milk) continues to be one of hip hop’s best storytellers.  From No Poison No Paradise.

48)  :The Tontons – Veida:  The Tontons are from Houston, and I think they’re pretty close to being special.  If I were you, I’d snatch up this shimmering gem and find a seat on their bandwagon now.  From the Veida digital single.

47)  :Anamanaguchi – Planet:  I’m on the fence when it comes to most of Anamanaguchi’s stuff, but this track really works for me.  I think it’s because it has a fleshed out sound and doesn’t just come off as a piece of meme/8-bit fandom.  From Endless Fantasy.

46)  :Phoenix – Entertainment:  Once again Phoenix swept me off my feet with a killer lead single and then promptly tossed me on the ground with a bland album.  Fool me twice, something something.  From the Bankrupt.

45)  :Alpine – Gasoline (Mystery Skulls Remix):  The original version of this Alpine track is good, but it plays kind of small.  I definitely prefer this bigger, more confident take by Mystery Skulls.  This remix is a one-off release.

44)  :Best Coast – I Don’t Know How:  Admittedly, this is one of Best Coast’s more cheesy efforts.  I love it, though, and I have no shame in saying I’ve had some serious sing-a-long sessions with it in the car.  From the Fade Away EP.

43)  :Majical Cloudz – Childhood’s End:  If you want something that’s hauntingly beautiful, then this Majical Cloudz track is for you.  Just be sure to toss on some headphones before hitting play.  From Impersonator.

42)  :Savages – She Will:  This song is so intense that sometimes when I listen to it I worry that Savages will show up at my door and yell at me for not rocking hard enough.  From Silence Yourself.

41)  :The Appleseed Cast – Great Lake Derelict:  It’s kind of amazing how quickly this track can put me in a mood to listen to nothing but post-rock all day.  It’s good for the world that The Appleseed Cast are still a quality act.  From Illumination Ritual.

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Top 10 Films Of 2012

January 11, 2013

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2012 was a good year for film.  I ended up seeing 126 releases, and I have to admit that the majority of them were far from terrible.  This, of course, made crafting a Top 10 fairly difficult, but I gave it my best shot.  Just a heads up, below the main section of this article you’ll find some mini-lists.  Read on!

10) The Avengers

I feel like some people are afraid to put this movie on their year-end list.  It’s like the 1.5 billion dollars it made worldwide is now suddenly shameful.  I, however, still think of The Avengers as an amazing achievement.  The movie is an outright great time, and I have a feeling that it will be influencing comic book adaptations for years to come.  Way to be, Joss Whedon.

09) Beasts Of The Southern Wild

Much has been made of this little effort that plays big, and the hype is certainly warranted.  Quvenzhane Wallis, who is now the youngest person to ever be nominated for an Academy Award, is so good that you walk away from the movie wishing you could spend more time with her.

08) Life Of Pi

If I didn’t already think that Ang Lee was a talented director, his work on Life Of Pi would have quickly remedied that particular train of thought.  He really did craft a beautiful, inspiring film out a book that seemed nearly impossible to adapt.  I can’t wait to own it.

07) Silver Linings Playbook

David O. Russell should win an award just for landing Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook.  The manic chemistry between their characters made for one of the more fascinating things I saw in a theater in 2012.

06) Lincoln

I was not at all interested in seeing Lincoln.  I thought the trailers were boring, and despite my fondness for Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis, I just couldn’t get excited about the film.  And then, I saw it, and what I found was that it’s actually a superbly crafted effort.  To be honest, I’m still buzzing about it.

05) Argo

The best decision Ben Affleck ever made was to start directing films.  The guy is so very good at it, and with Argo, which is certainly his best effort to date, I think it’s time to consider him to be one of the best directors working.  This movie had me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

04) Seven Psychopaths

I love In Bruges so much that I went into Martin McDonagh’s follow-up with expectations so high that I was sure I’d be disappointed.  But I wasn’t.  Seven Psychopaths is so very clever and hilarious, and I’m anxious to have it in my library for viewing whenever i please.  Side note, if Colin Farrell would exclusively work with McDonagh, the world would be a better place.

03) Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino is the most entertaining bastard on the face of this planet, and Django Unchained is proof of that.  The damn thing is just insanely fun.  When I wasn’t laughing, I was cheering, and when I was doing either of those things, it meant the credits were on and I wanted the movie to immediately start over.

02) Cabin In The Woods

Some would say that The Avengers is the nerd film of the year, but I think it’s actually Cabin In The Woods.  There are so many clever references to catch, and then there’s the fact that it’s filled with a slew of moments so gloriously geeky that you can’t help but loudly celebrate throughout the entire movie.

01) Zero Dark Thirty

I was blown away by Kathryn Bigelow’s follow up to The Hurt Locker.  The movie is just a mammoth effort that’s so very heavy and intense, but yet there isn’t a single moment where you want to bow out.  Like the driven CIA operative that Jessica Chastain plays, you feel determined (and maybe even obligated) to see how the hunt for Osama bin Laden ends.  And speaking of the end.  The way Zero Dark Thirty comes to a close will stick with me until the day I’m gone.  Just an all around brilliant film.

5 Honorable Mentions
Skyfall
Bernie
Looper
Holy Motors
The Grey

5 Solid Films That Were Almost Spectacular
The Dark Knight Rises
Prometheus
Cloud Atlas
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Hunger Games

5 Smaller Films You Need To Seek Out
Sleepwalk With Me
The Sessions
Goon
Fat Kid Rules The World
Safety Not Guaranteed

5 Worst Films Of 2012
Not Fade Away
Snow White And The Huntsman
The Comedy
Wrong
Battleship

Unfairly Shit On Movie Of 2012
John Carter

Biggest Surprise Of 2012
21 Jump Street

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Top 25 Albums Of 2012: Part 5

December 7, 2012

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And then it was the end.  You guys now have my Top 50 Songs of 2012 and my Top 25 Albums of 2012.  Hooray for sharing!  Anyhow, I’m off to take a break.  The rest of the SOTO staff will be posting their 2012 favorites next week, so if you’re not listed out, come on back by.

For good measure in regards to my album list, I easily could have spewed out 50 releases, but I realized that half of those would have been albums that I only listen to when I’m in a particular mood.  In other words, they’re not immediately accessible, and that to me knocks them down a notch.  So, if you’re looking for 25 releases that you can immediately dive into and love, this is the place to be.  Enjoy.

05) The Sword – Apocryphon

I thought the Sword’s last release, Warp Riders, was pretty fantastic, but Apocryphon is worlds better.  The album isn’t even what I’d consider metal, it’s just high quality rock n’ roll, and we all need that in our lives.

:The Sword – Eyes Of The Stormwitch:

04) Terry Malts – Killing Time

Slumberland put out a lot of nice albums this year, but the one that I felt stood above the rest was Terry Malts’ Killing Time.  It’s awesomely overloaded with fuzzed-out, two minute-ish punk jams that make you want to get up and go.

:Terry Malts – I Do:

03) Purity Ring – Shrines

I had very high expectations for Shrines, and Purity Ring actually managed to meet them.  Even after what seems to be a million listens, this album still sounds fresh and futuristic to me.   Wear headphones, friends.

:Purity Ring – Belispeak:

02) Japandroids – Celebration Rock

If you can listen to Celebration Rock and not immediately want to set out on a drunken, caution-free adventure with whoever happens to be around you at that moment, then you’re dead.  No one inspires like this duo does.

:Japandroids – The Night Of Wine And Roses:

01) Lace Curtains – The Garden Of Joy And The Well Of Loneliness

Well, this is it.  We have arrived at my favorite album of 2012, and it comes via a side project of Michael Coomer (from Austin’s Harlem).  The Garden Of Joy And The Well Of Loneliness is full of fantastic songwriting, and I’ve spent a lot of time just lost in each of its 10 tracks.  If only all pop music was this memorable.

:Lace Curtains – High Fantasy:

PS – I had a few other albums floating around in my head, so I made some mini-lists for fun.

5 Albums That Would Have Made The List Had I Done A Top 30
Dan Deacon – America
Reptar – Body Faucet
Titus Andronicus – Local Business
Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse
Frankie Rose – Interstellar

5 Great Albums That Require Patience
Mono – For My Parents
Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man
Beach House – Bloom
Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn’t
The Walkmen – Heaven

5 Great Austin Releases That Didn’t Make The Top 25
Dana Falconberry – Leelanau
The Calm Blue Sea – Arrivals And Depatures
Heartless Bastards – Arrow
Shearwater – Animal Joy
Letting Up Despite Great Faults – Untogether

Top 5 EPs
Icona Pop – Iconic
MS MR – Candy Bar Creep Show
Dum Dum Girls – End Of Daze
Rubblebucket – Oversaturated
FIDLAR – Don’t Try

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Top 25 Albums Of 2012: Part 4

December 6, 2012

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Well, here’s the fourth part of Top 25 Albums of 2012.  We’re so close to the top!  By this time tomorrow you’ll know all the songs and albums that I loved in 2012.  Whew!  I’m ready for a break.

As I’ve said, I easily could have listed 50 releases, but I realized that half of those would have been albums that I only listen to when I’m in a particular mood.  In other words, they’re not immediately accessible, and that to me knocks them down a notch.  So, if you’re looking for 25 releases that you can immediately dive into and love, this is the place to be.  Enjoy.

10) Tame Impala – Lonerism

Of the 25 albums that made my year-end list, it was Lonerism that took me the longest to love.  For the first slew of play-throughs I just couldn’t stop comparing it to the stellar Innerspeaker (2010), but now I’ve come to see (and greatly appreciate) that it’s just a more challenging listen.

:Tame Impala – Apocalypse Dreams:

09) Cat Power – Sun

I really want to high five Cat Power for Sun.  It feels like a well crafted combination of the various sounds she’s had over the last 17 years, and I greatly dig it.  It’ll be interesting to see if she holds onto this approach or just moves on to something entirely different.

:Cat Power – Ruin:

08) POS – We Don’t Even Live Here

We Don’t Even Live Here is a nifty album.  There are more than enough politically-charged messages that can be found throughout its 11 tracks, but the LP is also a big, fun listen.  Thank whoever that POS is smart enough to know that trying to say something important doesn’t need to be an obnoxious endeavor.

:POS – Bumper:

07) Lee Fields And The Expressions – Faithful Man

Every year there’s a soul-oriented effort that I want to champion forever, and this time around it came from Lee Fields And The Expressions.  These guys are a wild bunch, and I loved frequently revisiting Faithful Man in 2012.

:Lee Fields And The Expressions – I Still Got It:

06) Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel

I don’t know how she does it, but Fiona Apple is able to live up to super high expectations every single time she puts out an album.  Maybe such a winning streak and the amount of pressure that comes with it is why she always seems to be on the fritz.  Feel free to take a break now, Fiona.

:Fiona Apple – Werewolf:

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Top 25 Albums Of 2012: Part 3

December 5, 2012

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Because at least two of you asked for it, here’s the third part of my Top 25 Albums of 2012.  As I’ve said, I easily could have listed 50 releases, but I realized that half of those would have been albums that I only listen to when I’m in a particular mood.  In other words, they’re not immediately accessible, and that to me knocks them down a notch.  So, if you’re looking for 25 releases that you can immediately dive into and love, this is the place to be.  Enjoy.

15) Tennis – Young & Old

I didn’t expect to like this album as much as I did.  There are so many great songs on it, and I think that (for me, anyway) it establishes Tennis as one of the best pop acts currently working.

:Tennis – Petition:

14) The White Wires – WWIII

Even if I had wanted to, there was no escaping the garage rock glory of WWIII.  It’s loaded with so many hooks that the White Wires could cut a bunch out, and they’d still be providing an album that’s catchier than any of us deserve.

:The White Wires – Let’s Start Over Again:

13) Twin Shadow – Confess

To be honest, I figured I’d listen to Confess and just repeatedly skip to Five Seconds while ignoring the rest of the songs on the album.  But that didn’t happen.  In fact, the “skip” button never even came into play.

:Twin Shadow – Golden Light:

12) The Eastern Sea – Plague

Austin’s the Eastern Sea have been slowly assembling all the right pieces for years, and Plague is them (finally) putting everything together.  I can’t wait to see where they go from here.

:The Eastern Sea – A Lie:

11) Jack White – Blunderbuss

While Blunderbuss may sound exactly how you’d expect a Jack White solo album to sound, it’s still a pretty great effort.  If we’re lucky, we’ll get a follow-up sooner rather than later.

:Jack White – Missing Pieces:

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Top 25 Albums Of 2012: Part 2

December 4, 2012

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And just like that, we’ve arrived at the second part of my Top 25 Albums of 2012.  As I’ve said, I easily could have listed 50 releases, but I realized that half of those would have been albums that I only listen to when I’m in a particular mood.  In other words, they’re not immediately accessible, and that to me knocks them down a notch.  So, if you’re looking for 25 releases that you can immediately dive into and love, this is the place to be.  Enjoy.

20) Why? – Mumps, etc

There are few things better than listening to Yoni Wolf as he unloads a lyrical collage of images right onto your brain.  Oh, you don’t want to pay attention?  That’s OK.  There’s also plenty to sing-a-long with.

:Why? – White English:

19) Thee Oh Sees – Putrifiers II

Whenever I hear anything off this album, I immediately want to be in a sweaty club somewhere watching Thee Oh Sees play.  Putrifiers II is a fantastically fuzzed-out blast.

:Thee Oh Sees – Flood’s New Light:

18) Dinosaur Jr. – I Bet On Sky

I love that Dinosaur Jr. are still cranking out quality albums.  Those guys definitely have the right to just sit on a couch somewhere, and yet they’re out and about rocking harder than most of us ever will.

:Dinosaur Jr. – Pierce The Morning Rain:

17) Yellow Ostrich – Strange Land

Strange Land didn’t hit me like last year’s The Mistress did, but it does feature a nice step forward sound-wise for the band, and there are some really fantastic tracks on it.

:Yellow Ostrich – The Shakedown:

16) The Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

I’m not sure the Dirty Projectors will ever really be easily accessible, but I do think that Swing Lo Magellan is them actually giving it a shot.  The album is loud, oddly hooky, and just so very interesting to listen to.

:The Dirty Projectors – Offspring Are Blank:

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Top 25 Albums Of 2012: Part 1

December 3, 2012

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Now that I’ve run down my 50 favorite songs of the year, it’s time to move onto my Top 25 Albums of 2012.  I easily could have listed 50 here, too, but I realized that half of those would have been albums that I only listen to when I’m in a particular mood.  In other words, they’re not immediately accessible, and that to me knocks them down a notch.  So, if you’re looking for 25 releases that you can immediately dive into and love, this is the place to be.  Enjoy.

25) Tim Fite – Ain’t Ain’t Ain’t

Tim Fite is a man with a million neat things floating around in his head, and I love listening to him try to bring some of those ideas into the real world.  You’ll dig Ain’t Ain’t Ain’t if you like your albums to be full of songs that each have their own sound.

:Tim Fite – Joyriding:

24) Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls

I really thought this much-hyped album was going to have a couple of great singles, and then a lot of filler.  Nope.  It’s an effortlessly inspired modern soul/southern rock effort that’s a great listen from start to finish.  Alabama Shakes are the real deal.

:Alabama Shakes – I Found You:

23) Pujol – United States Of Being

I don’t know how many times this year that I sang along with this effort from Pujol.  It’s a raucous album that’s also surprisingly smart, so while you’ve got the volume cranked, be sure to pay some attention to the lyrics.

:Pujol – Providence:

22) Santigold – Master Of My Make Believe

What a fun album this turned out to be.  I’ll admit that the eternity it took Santigold to put together a sophomore effort had me doubting that it would be a good release, but she pulled it off.  Kudos to her.

:Santigold – Disparate Youth:

21) Chairlift – Something

Just when you think a band is about to only be remembered for an iPod commercial, they come out with an album that features a sizeable jump in quality.  Something has made Chairlift into an act that I will now always pay attention to.

:Chairlift – Sidewalk Safari:

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