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2015 SOTO Staff Picks

December 30, 2015

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Hey!  Here’s what the SOTO staff dug this year.  Enjoy.

Here you go!

1. Tobias Gesso Jr. – Goon

2. Shamir – Ratchet

3. Tame Impala – Currents

4. Mild High Club – Timeline

5. Ultimate Painting – Green Lanes

Assembled from my list other list of Best Albums of 2015, I wanted to give the fine SOTO readers who may not be into metal a little taste of what some of the borderline metal albums this year achieved. These bands can be classified as metal, but in reality when the non-metalhead hears these records will think, “I can understand the words,” and “They are actually singing a melody,” so I call this list the Best Non-Metal Metal Albums of the Year … enjoy!

5. Clutch – Psychic Warfare (Weathermaker)

The decision to stick with a more rock based approach for Clutch worked on Earth Rocker, and Psychic Warfare presents more of that same powerful attitude and emphasis on their abilities to write strong hooks and lyrically profound jams. A balanced album that seamlessly continues the trajectory of the band gives us some great new singable tunes … and, of course, mentions Texas (so I have to love it even more).

4. Soilwork – The Ride Majestic (Nuclear Blast)

At some point Soilwork will write a terrible record – but The Ride Majestic is not that record. I am astounded by Soilwork’s ability to continually write albums that stretch what they do as a band, yet somehow fit perfectly into their catalog. This record has everything for the Euro-metalcore fan to celebrate.

3. Refused – Freedom (Epitaph)

While watching Refused on their reunion tour at Fun Fun Fun Fest, not one of their diehard fans could have possibly guessed that they could even put together another album, let alone a release as striking as Freedom. Almost two decades have passed since their ‘final’ album, The Shape of Punk to Come, and all we wanted was perfection. In many ways, Dennis Lyxzen and company have not only succeeded, but essentially created an album that did exactly what it needed to do: began the next era of punk to come.

2. Intronaut – The Direction of Last Things (Century Media)

The strange thing here is, whereas failing to pin down Paradise Lost made me move away from them, Intronaut’s similarly diverse catalog feels like a creative continuation, rather than a struggle to find a place amongst the ferns. The Direction of Last Things‘ breadth will surprise even the most hardened critic. If you aren’t BTBAM, prog metal is not an easy thing to make palatable – yet this record is undeniable.

1. Baroness – Purple (Abraxan Hymns)

Unlike the rest of the modern metal world, I did not hold Baroness’ last album in the highest regard. There were some great moments, but it was a double album that could have been boiled down to one spectacular album. So much has transpired for the band since then – setting aside the bus crash and the fallout of having to relearn how to do even menial tasks, rebuilding a band after two core members cannot continue must be daunting. After getting on the road and touring for a year with a new rhythm section, the iron seemed hot enough to get the recording going. As we hear the pieces of Purple, all that has transpired falls into the rear view. When consumed in full? Enlightened, transcendental, and mature beyond their years, Baroness’ Purple grows in stature with every listen. Heavier than the last two records, but with more subtle strides in structure, this is as close as we may get to a perfect album. Baroness tapped into something I hope they can channel for many years to come.

Enjoy!

1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

2. Vince Staples – Summertime ’06

3. Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside

4. Fashawn – The Ecology

5. Lizzo – Big GRRRL, Small World

1. Kurt Vile – B’lieve I’m Goin Down (Matador)

I’ve jammed this more than any other 2015 release. Vile’s songs are intriguing, yet detached. BIGD manages to say a lot about us as people and our continued course towards ultimate self involvement/destruction. It’s Vile’s own cosmic navel gazing that somehow speaks for the mass of all lost human beings looking for recognition while yearning to be left alone.

2. Dean McPhee – Fatima’s Hand (Hood Faire)

Over the course of Fatima’s Hand and its five meditative (and fully improvised) tracks, you are offered a range of solar spirituals. The depth and variance guitarist Dean McPhee is able to achieve with just a Telecaster, some pedals, and an amp deserves serious accolades.

3. Sun City Girls – Torch of the Mystics (Abduction Records)

Richard Bishop, Alan Bishop, and Charles Gocher’s finest moment gets its first reissue since 1993! Whether you consider it an underground footnote or THE best album released in the 1990s (which this writer does,) it’s easy to be pumped to not have to pay $150 for the original 1990 Marjora release on vinyl. Now Space Prophet Dogon can be jammed on wax for $17 thanks to Abduction Records.

4. Joshua Abrams – Magnetoception (Eremite)

It’s not often that a double LP of extended ensemble performances can be so damned captivating. With his magical guimbri in tow, Abrams and crew are to put it mildly, fucking killing it. This side of music has not sounded this fresh and appealing in a long damned time. Abrams is proving that solar/fire music can and will last way beyond its original purveyors.

5. Jack DeJohnette – Made In Chicago

The best jazz release this year by a mile. Recorded in 2013 at Chicago’s Millennium Park, it features pieces by DeJohnette, Mitchell, and Threadgill as well as improvised group pieces – all of them stunning. Even as each of these players age, their work continues to be timeless and endlessly inventive.

With honorable mentions to Lithuania, Metz, Beach Slang, Mike Krol, OBN IIIs and Sweet Talk, I give you my five favorite albums of the year:

1. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

2. Girl Band – Holding Hands With Jamie

3. Bop English – Constant Bop

4. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love

5. Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect

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Top 25 Albums Of 2015: Part 2

December 11, 2015

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Here are the final 10 entries in my Top 25 Albums of 2015 list!  You can see the whole thing on one page here.  Also, a Spotify playlist of most of the albums can be found here.  Enjoy.

PS – Just in cased you missed my Top 50 Songs of 2015, that list can be found here.

10) Bop English – Constant Bop

Constant Bop is my favorite album to come out of Austin this year.  I adore White Denim and want frontman James Petralli to get things back underway there, but I hope he doesn’t take too long to roll out another Bob English effort.

:Bop English – Dani’s Blues (It Was Beyond Our Control):

09) Youth Lagoon – Savage Hills Ballroom

It took me a few months to get around to giving Youth Lagoon’s Savage Hills Ballroom my full attention, but once I did it pulled me in and refused to let go.  It’s a sprawling effort that’s best experienced via headphones.

:Youth Lagoon – The Knower:

08) FIDLAR – Too

FIDLAR’s Too is a worthy follow-up to their 2013 self titled debut.  I love how sloppy, scatterbrained and loud it is.

:FIDLAR – 40oz. On Repeat:

07) Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly has grown on me more and more as the year has gone on.  At first I liked about half of its songs, and now I think that from front to back it’s an experience that shouldn’t be missed.

:Kendrick Lamar – Alright:

06) Annabel – Having It All

Whether or not you’re a fan of emo music, you should give Annabel’s Having It All a shot.  It’s really well crafted and the songwriting is fantastic.

:Annabel – Having It All:

05) Tame Impala – Currents

Currents is another stellar set of tracks from Tame Impala.  Now if only I could decide whether it’s their weirdest album or their most accessible.  It might actually be both.

:Tame Impala – Let It Happen:

04) Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

Courtney Barnett is a woman with a lot on her mind, and she shows it all throughout Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit.  It’s such a charming, interesting album.

:Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian At Best:

03) Screaming Females – Rose Mountain

Every single song on Rose Mountain is fantastic.  I really thought the album would serve as Screaming Females’ big break, but the band seems to still be flying under the radar.  That’s all wrong.  They deserve all the love!

:Screaming Females – Criminal Image:

02) Doomtree – All Hands

Doomtree really hit it out the park with All Hands.  If you like intense, anthemic, energetic, brainy hip hop, then you need to make sure that the Minneapolis collective’s latest effort is in your rotation.

:Doomtree – .38 Airweight:

01) Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love

I was packing totally unreasonable expectations for Sleater-Kinney’s No Cities To Love – their first album in a decade – and it not only managed to impress the hell out of me, but it kept me engaged for nearly the entire year (it came out in January).  That means every other album released in 2015 had the chance to dethrone No Cities To Love, and it never happened.  SK forever!

:Sleater-Kinney – A New Wave:

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Top 50 Songs Of 2015: Part 4

December 3, 2015

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We’re nearing the end of my Top 50 Songs of 2015 list!  Ah!  Check out entries 20-11 down below.  Enjoy.

- 50-41
- 40-31
- 30-21

20)  :FIDLAR – 40oz. On Repeat:  There’s a pretty solid chance that this FIDLAR track is the year’s most relatable song.  Now, let’s have drink some alcohol, it’ll make us who we really want to be.  From Too.

19)  :Screaming Females – Criminal Image:  This is one of my favorite Screaming Females tunes.  It’s got a big, meaty riff and frontwoman Marissa Paternoster sounds indestructible.  From Rose Mountain.

18)  :Modest Mouse – Lampshades On Fire:  Out of all the quality songs on Modest Mouse’s latest album, this one is my favorite.  For whatever reason, I dig that it essentially sounds like Dashboard: Part 2.  From Strangers To Ourselves.

17)  :Conner Youngblood – Stockholm:  This track from Conner Youngblood is hypnotizing.  You just have to love the way he uses the harp here.  From The Generation Of Lift EP.

16)  :Leon Bridges – River:  Leon Bridges absolutely blew up this year, and I like to think it was largely because of this stunning slow burner.  What a song.  From Coming Home.

15)  :Bop English – Dani’s Blues (It Was Beyond Our Control):  James Petralli (of White Denim fame) is Bop English.  There’s a playful, retro pop sound on display here that’s really great.  From Constant Bop.

14)  :Diet Cig – Harvard:  Diet Cig’s front-lady Alex Luciano is in full-on bitter mode throughout this track, and it’s fantastic.  I hope she never loses that sarcastic edge of hers.  From the Over Easy EP.

13)  :Titus Andronicus – Dimed Out:  Whenever I want to jump around like a madman in my living room, I put on this sloppy jam from Titus Andronicus.  It’s such a raucous good time.  From The Most Lamentable Tragedy.

12)  :Mos Def – Sensei On The Block (Featuring Ski Beatz):  This song is vintage Mos Def (in the best of ways), and it totally makes me yearn for his pre-Yasiin Bey days.  From the land of one-off tracks.

11)  :Purity Ring – Push Pull:  I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about Purity Ring’s sophomore album – some of it works for me, some of it doesn’t.  This beautiful number is definitely the best track on it.  From Another Eternity.

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Show Of The Week

October 14, 2015

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There’s plenty of shows worth paying to get into this week (see below for that list), but there’s no real reason to get all caught up in that when you can see local wonders Bop English and Good Field for FREE at ABGB on Friday.  Bang.

If you don’t already know, Bop English is James Petralli (of White Denim), and his debut LP, Constant Bop, is one of my favorite releases of the year.  Good Field also recently put out a super solid album titled Future Me.  So, that’s two high quality bands playing all sorts of fresh material.  Be there.  Starts at 9pm.

More recommendations!

Tonight:
- Battles, Buke and Gase at the Mohawk
- Dead Meadow, Lord Buffalo, Holy Wave, Greenbeard at Empire Control Room
- Xetas, Flesh Lights, False Idol, Space Battle, Kevin O’Neal Fitzsimmons at Beerland
- Garbage, Torres at Stubb’s
- Say Hi, Telekinesis at Stubb’s

Thursday:
- Grape St., Growl, Major Major Major, AMA, Magic Rockers of Texas at Cheer Up Charlies

Friday:
- Small Black, Painted Palms at The Sidewinder
- Jr Jr, Hippo Campus at the Mohawk

Saturday:
- Quiet Company, Stukenberg, Chakra Khan, Letting Up Despite Great Faults at The Sidewinder
- Widowspeak at Lamberts
- Octopus Project, Crooks on Tape, Bob Schriner at the Mohawk
- Technicolor Hearts, Pageantry, Botany at the Mohawk
- Computer Magic at Stubb’s

Sunday:
- Red Fang, Whores, Wild Throne at the Mohawk
- The Polyphonic Spree at Emo’s
- Loretta Lynn at ACL Live at the Moody Theater

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Stream This

April 10, 2015

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From the depths of the SOTO inbox, I present to you your weekly serving of the latest and greatest album streams and videos.  Enjoy.

FULL ALBUM STREAMS

Please note that the majority of the streams expire as soon as the albums are released, so don’t wait too long to check them out.

ALBUM OF THE WEEK ➡ Bop English – Constant Bop

Lowin – Royal Jelly EP
Wire – Self Titled
Calexico – Edge Of The Sun
Kathryn Calder – Self Titled
John Andrews And The Yawn – Bit By The Fang
Moon King – Secret Life
UnWed – Raise The Kids
Ava Luna – Infinite House
Alexei Shishkin – The Dog Tape
Chris Farren – Where U Are EP
Suuns And Jerusalem In My Heart – Self Titled
Avid Dancer – 1st Bath
Telepathic – Powers Of Ten EP
Cold Mallman – Everything Aflutter
Darkness Falls – Dance And Cry

MUSIC VIDEOS

⬆ VIDEO OF THE WEEK ⬆
Lightning Bolt

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Quickdraw: Bop English, Tame Impala, Annabel, Speedy Ortiz, Part Time

April 6, 2015

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Music!  Enjoy.

:Bop English – Struck Matches:  Of the three singles that have been released off of the debut LP from Bop English (James Petralli of White Denim), this one is my favorite.  I love the way it moves.  Constant Bop is due out April 21 via Downtown Records.

:Tame Impala – ‘Cause I’m A Man:  Over the weekend Tame Impala officially announced a new album and released this “official” single.  It’s a psychedelic slow burner that’s worth all your attention.  Currents will be out later this year via Interscope.

:Annabel – Everything:  Overall, the return of emo continues to somewhat baffle me, but I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t like some of what’s come out of the genre’s comeback.  For instance, this Annabel track, which feels super genuine and is just about perfect.  Having It All is expected to be released in May via Tiny Engines.

:Speedy Ortiz – Puffer:  If you’ve been wanting to hear something different from Speedy Ortiz, then you should give this song a listen.  It’s less of an off-kilter anthem and more of an alt-rock crawler.  Foil Deer will be released on April 21 via Carpark.

:Part Time – Fallin’ 4 U:  This lo-fi pop tune from Part Time is so great.  For whatever reason I find it to be rather whimsical, and then there’s the way that I have yet to be able to get it out of my head.  Virgo’s Maze is due out May 19 via Burger Records.

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Quickdraw: Speedy Ortiz, Bop English, Eternal Summers, The Helio Sequence, Modest Mouse

March 5, 2015

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Music!  Enjoy.

:Speedy Oritz – The Graduates:  This is the second single from Speedy Ortiz‘s sophomore effort.  The LP is starting to look like it won’t be anything but off-kilter anthems, and that’s totally fine by me.  Look for Foil Deer on April 21 via Carpark Records.  The band will play Red 7 on May 15.

:Bop English – Sentimental Wilderness:  Just in case you missed this bit of info when I posted it a while back, Bop English is the solo moniker of White Denim’s James Petralli.  I think you’re going to love the playful but intricate arrangement that drives this song (I certainly do).  Constant Bop is due out April 14 via Downtown Records.

:Eternal Summers – Together Or Alone:  The Drop Beneath came out just last year, but Eternal Summers have already put together a follow-up.  Judging by this track, they’ve found a nice balance between the sheen of their recent work and the lo-fi ways of their earlier efforts.  Cool.  Gold And Stone is due out June 2 via Kanine Records.

:The Helio Sequence – Stoic Resemblance:  Indie stalwarts The Helio Sequence have readied their sixth full length.  As you’ve probably already guessed (since the duo are so amazingly consistent), everything about this track is as crisp as can be.  The band’s self titled album will be released on May 18 via Sub Pop.

:Modest Mouse – Of Course We Know:  I believe this heavy slow burner is the fifth song that has been set free in anticipation of Modest Mouse’s new album.  Not sure I can recall another time where a high profile release has had so many official “leaks.”  Strangers To Ourselves is due out March 17 via Epic.

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Quickdraw: Bop English, Colleen Green, American Wrestlers, Diet Cig, Hurry

January 29, 2015

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Music!  Enjoy.

:Bop English – Dani’s Blues (It Was Beyond Our Control):  Here’s the first single from Bop English, a new project from White Denim’s James Petralli.  It’s expansive, quirky and instantly likeable stuff.  Constant Bop is due out April 14 via Downtown Records.

:Colleen Green – TV:  Those of you who’ve long desired something to help explain your love of TV, this one is for you.  Be sure to thank Colleen Green by seeking out her new album, I Want To Grow Up, when it gets released on February 24 via Hardly Art.

:American Wrestlers – Kelly:  The press release for this song says it has “shimmering charm” and I totally agree.  I’m definitely interested in hearing whatever else American Wrestlers have to offer.  Look for the act’s self titled debut on April 7 via Fat Possum.

:Diet Cig – Harvard:  The lyrics in this new one from Diet Cig become increasingly direct, so by the time it ends my face is always completely cringed.  I like that.  In fact, I want more.  The Over Easy EP will be released on February 24 via Father/Daughter Records.

:Hurry – Shake It Off:  I came across Hurry in Pitchfork’s “tracks” section the other day, and I’m really pumped that I did.  This song of theirs is power pop perfection.  You can find it on Strength In Weakness, a six band split benefiting United Cerebral Palsy.

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