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2015 SOTO Staff Picks

December 30, 2015


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.


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


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 5

December 3, 2015


This is it!  The end of my Top 50 Songs of 2015.  Dive into the final 10 tracks and then let me know your thoughts.  Enjoy.

PS – You can check out the entire song list on one page here, or the majority of it (47/50 tracks) on Spotify right here.

PS – Look for my Top 25 albums and my Austin Essentials mix next week.

- 50-41
- 40-31
- 30-21
- 20-21

10)  :Chairlift – Ch-Ching:  I never would have guessed that Chairlift had something this edgy in them.  I hope there’s more of the same to come.  From the land of one-off tracks (though I assume it’ll pop up on an album next year).

09)  :Tame Impala – Let It Happen:  This is such a sprawling, wonderful number from Tame Impala.  If I were to rank out all of their songs, I’d put this somewhere near the top.  From Currents.

08)  :Ratatat – Cream On Chrome:  While I’ve been a fan of Ratatat for a long time, this is the first song of theirs that I’ve truly been crazy about.  It’s so very groovy.  From Magnifique.

07)  :Annabel – Having It All:  Earlier in the year my care-level in regards to the resurgence of emo was roughly a 6/10. This Annabel track is what shoved it to 10/10.  It’s just about perfect.  From Having It All.

06)  :Speedy Ortiz – Raising The Skate:  When I ran into front-lady Sadie Dupuis at Fun Fun Fun Fest I had the urge to nervously ramble about how much I love this track and how I think it’s Speedy Ortiz’s most complete sounding effort, but instead I just played it cool and helped her find the bathroom.  Nailed it!  From Foil Deer.

05)  :Sheer Mag – Button Up:  This fuzzy, Thin Lizzy-esque song from Sheer Mag is just about as infectious as it gets.  I blame Christina Halladay’s rad voice.  And the rad guitar riffs.  And all the other rad bits, too.  From the II 7″.

04)  :Built To Spill – Living Zoo:  I don’t remember the last time that Built To Spill sounded so inspired.  The build-up at the beginning of this is something I’ll never tire of.  From Untethered Moon.

03)  :Ought – Beautiful Blue Sky:  Yes, there’s a strong Talking Heads vibe at play here.  Yes, this song is rather pretentious.  Regardless, not much else has captivated me quite like it has over the course of numerous listens.  Good work, Ought.  From Sun Coming Down.

02)  :Kendrick Lamar – Alright:  If I were to sort this list based on “times played” then it’s likely that this hope-themed track would have landed at #1.  It’s one of Kendrick Lamar’s best. From To Pimp A Butterfly.

01)  :Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian At Best:  I like that most artists these days feel lifted out of the 90s, but it’s probably time for everyone to shift gears.  This Courtney Barnett song is as good as that throwback sound is going to get.  Even the video is 90s perfect.  Also, I think “Put me on a pedestal, and I’ll only disappoint you” might be one of my favorite lines ever.  From Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit.

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Quickdraw: Tame Impala, Eternal Summers, M.I.A., Part Time, Sharon Van Etten

May 11, 2015


Music!  Enjoy.

:Tame Impala – Eventually:  Tame Impala seem to be rolling like Modest Mouse recently did and just continuously leaking songs from their new album.  I dig it.  This fourth “single” may be my favorite yet.  Currents is due out July 17.  See the band at ACL in October.

:Eternal Summers – Come Alive:  Here’s a new bit of well crafted pop from Eternal Summers.  I just know their upcoming LP is going to be great, so you should really make sure to scribble down a note to seek it out.  Gold And Stone is due out June 2 via Kanine Records.

:M.I.A. – Platforms:  Over the weekend M.I.A. let this demo out of her grasp.  It’s a fairly reserved effort sound-wise, but she makes the song shine with some solid songwriting.  I assume a new album will be announced at some point this year.

:Part Time – Pussy Of My Dreams:  First of all, it’s fine if you spend a few minutes giggling at the fact that this song is called Pussy Of My Dreams.  I certainly did.  Secondly, Part Time sound more playful than ever here, and I like it.  Virgo’s Maze is due out June 16 via Burger Records.

:Sharon Van Etten -  Just Like Blood:  Just in case you need a shot of sophistication today, here’s a beautiful new song from the one and only Sharon Van Etten.  She makes me want to be a better adult.  The I Don’t Want To Let You Down EP is due out June 9 via Jagjaguwar.

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Quickdraw: Titus Andronicus, Dog Party, Sweet John Bloom, Tame Impala, Leon Bridges

May 4, 2015

1 Comment

Music!  Enjoy.

:Titus Andronicus – Dimed Out:  Titus Andronicus are back with a new album that’s reportedly a 28-song, 93-minute rock opera.  It sounds insane, so I want and need it now.  This first single is a raucous beast.  The Most Lamentable Tragedy is due out July 28 via Merge.

:Dog Party – Peanut Butter Dream:  Back in 2013 Dog Party put out a pretty solid album by the name of Lost Control.  This fuzzy gem has me thinking the follow-up will be better.  Vol. 4 is due out June 16 via Burger Records/Asian Man Records.

:Sweet John Bloom – Tell Me:  This blip of a song (it’s barely a minute and a half long) is pretty damn infectious.  I have high hopes for Sweet John Bloom’s upcoming album, which is titled Weird Prayer and is due out in June via Tiny Engines.

:Tame Impala – Disciples:  A request for a new Tame Impala track went out during a Reddit AMA, and the band delivered.  How nice.  As for this song, it’s a shimmering pop effort that will leave you wanting more.  Currents will be out later this year via Interscope.

:Leon Bridges – River:  Here’s the latest work of beauty from Leon Bridges.  I’m not sure he has it in him to create anything that isn’t stunning.  Coming Home is due out June 23 via Columbia.  See him at Stubb’s on May 11 with Lord Huron.

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

April 6, 2015


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: Tame Impala, Mikal Cronin, Death Cab For Cutie, Braids, Girlpool

March 12, 2015


Music!  Enjoy.

:Tame Impala – Let It Happen:  This nearly eight-minuter from Tame Impala immediately slapped a smile on my life.  Not only is it rad and groovy as hell, but it officially means a new album from the band will be out at some point later this year.  Hooray!  See them play at Levitation in May.

:Mikal Cronin – ii) Gold:  Mikal Cronin let this one go earlier this week.  As is always the case with his material, it’s loaded with the perfect amount of noise, catchy bits and sincere lyrics.  Someone get his new album ASAP.  MCIII will be released on May 5 via Merge.

:Death Cab For Cutie – The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive:  While I really dig this track and think it’s the best thing I’ve heard from Death Cab For Cutie in a long while, I’m still not overly excited about their upcoming album.  Big ups to the band though for churning out such a kinetic single.  Kintsugi is due out March 31 via Atlantic.

:Braids – Taste:  Not that I hated the first single (Miniskirt – it’s here) off of Braids’ new album, but I just couldn’t get into it.  This track though, it’s a beautifully crafted gem.  Raphaelle Standell sounds as good as she ever has here.  Deep In The Iris is due out April 28 via Arbutus.  See them at Stubb’s (with Purity Ring) on May 23.

:Girlpool – Ideal World:  “Tranquilize me with your ideal world.”  This plodding track from Girlpool isn’t exactly a ray of sunshine, but I think you’ll like it.  Before The World Was Big will be released on June 2 via Wichita Recordings.

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Stream This

July 25, 2014


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


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

ALBUM OF THE WEEK ➡ Jenny Lewis – The Voyager

Hooray For Earth – Racy
The Muffs – Whoop De Doo
Tame Impala – Live Versions EP
Shabazz Palaces – Lese Majesty
Wildest Dreams – Self Titled
Bear In Heaven – Time Is Over One Day Old
Dana Buoy – Preacher EP



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Stream This

February 1, 2013


The SOTO inbox is always full of cool stuff that never gets to see the light of day on the actual site, and I’d like to change that.  So, every Friday I’ll be posting the best album streams and videos that were sent my way during the week.  Take a scroll and find something worth remembering.


Veronica Falls – Waiting For Something To Happen
Feeding People – Island Universe
Alexander Spit – A Breathtaking Trip To That Otherside
Companion – Self Titled
Buke And Gase – General Dome
Dog Bite – Velvet Changes
Black Books – Aquarena EP
Eels – Wonderful, Glorious
Matt Pond – The Lives Inside The Lines In Your Hand
Jim James – Regions Of Light And Sound Of God
Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
Guards – In Guards We Trust
Night Beds – Country Sleep
Amateur Best – No Thrills
Dark Star – News From Nowhere


The Tontons play Stubb’s tonight with the Couch and Emily Wells.  Their Bones 7″ is available now.

Chelsea Wolfe will play the Central Presbyterian Church tomorrow night.

Fade is the name of Yo La Tengo’s latest release.

Deep Elm Records recently released Lights & Motion’s Reanimation.

Woodpigeon will release Thumbtacks+Glue on February 26.

Satellite Stories just released a Singles Remixed EP.

Madison will released We’ve Been Nothing on February 5.

Maston will release Shadows on February 12 via Trouble In Mind.

Takka Takka’s AM Landscapes is available now.

Black Moth Super Rainbow play the Mohawk on May 28.  Cobra Juicy is out now.

Tame Impala’s Lonerism is out now.  They play Stubb’s on February 26.

Grizzly Bear’s Shields is currently available.

Deerhoof’s Breakup Song is out now.

The Ruby Suns just released Christopher.

The Trent Reznor-lead How To Destroy Angels will release Welcome Oblivion on march 5.

You can pick up Ra Ra Riot’s Beta Love on Barsuk now.  They play the Belmont on February 20.

This Dana Falconberry video is part of the Transistor Six series.

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Brad’s Top 10 Albums Of 2012

December 19, 2012


2012 – the year in which the Mayans saw it fit to end all days would make a pretty nice conclusion to all things, or well when it comes to music at least. I would gesture it’s been a good year from the fact that I had particular difficulties in narrowing down my favorite releases, and it really has been a good year. Never mind even ranking them, just whittling down to these 10 was a challenge enough. This past year was great in that it saw plenty of newcomers take hold, and even better, the new guys from last year firmly held their places and graduated from being promising newcomers to established powerhouses. Throw in some seasoned players, and you’ve got a year that had one hell of a variety to offer. Yes, it was a good year. Here are my choice choices. In no particular order, of course.

:Beach House – Myth:

:Divine Fits – Would That Not Be Nice:

:Django Django – Life’s A Beach:

:Fanfarlo – Feathers:

:Japandroids – The Night Of Wine And Roses:

:Kids Of 88 – Feel The Love:

:Purity Ring – Fineshrine:

:Tame Impala – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards:

:Tennis – Petition:

:Yellow Ostrich – Marathon Runner:

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Noah’s Top 5 Albums Of 2012

December 13, 2012


Let’s be frank: I’ve been a shitty music reviewer this year. Bogged down with the basic realities of life I’ve spent far too little time chasing the errant strands of my musical obsessions. I relied on unreliable sources and found myself, more often than not, half-assedly listening to popular radio.

Simply put, this isn’t my most complete list. Yes, this is five albums that I’ve loved this year. Five albums that have seen more time on my record player than any other. Five albums that when I look back on 2012 will automatically suck me back in to the vortex.

Drinks up for another one gone and another on its way.

5. Moon Duo – Circles

Moon Duo has been a favorite since their first Kraut-rock rippin’ psych-EP blasted in to my grey matter three or four years ago. I’ll say that Mazes, their first full length strayed too much in to out and out rock ‘n’ roll but oh how the band has returned to form. From the opening, sludgy guitar riff of Sleepwalker, Circles is a perfect combination of everything that went right on their prior and everything they’d forgotten from their first EP. Big and booming with a new found bag of guitar licks lingering throughout every song, Circles is upbeat and unforgivingly Kraut-rock heavy and the combination creates the most surprisingly danceable album I’ve heard all year.

:Moon Duo – Sleepwalker:

4. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold

A late entry in to my musical rotation this year, Parquet Courts are the sneer and swagger that somehow jumped the garage rock ship in 2012. Its punk, it’s garage, it’s a throwback to times less sinister. More and more as the record spins you get a real taste of The Feelies hanging around the edges and the more bands paying homage to those talented boys the better. To be quite honest I couldn’t tell you a single thing about Parquet Courts aside from the fact that this, manic energy bubbling at every corner, is a must listen.

:Parquet Courts – Borrowed Time:

3. Belbury Poly – The Belbury Tales

Call me a musical heathen because prior to six months ago I’d never listened to Broadcast. I’ll take it, it’s a grave error, one only remedied by a recommendation to check out this project by the guy who ran Ghost Box records. Somewhere between beat record, found sound and musical odyssey, I don’t know if you can really put a finger on what this eclectic mixture of music is. Cantalus the second track on the album has perhaps the catchiest intro of the year (one I can’t help hearing when the elevator dings each and every morning) and what follows is some stoner haze of high-pitched vocals and near-film soundtracks. It’s bizarre in the best, most listenable way.

:Belbury Poly – Cantalus:

2. The Men – Open Your Heart

A friend of mine picked up The Men’s older Sacred Bones album a while back and I remember he referred to it as “scorched Earth” or something along those lines. I’d given The Men a few listens and they were good, but they almost pushed the limits of my sonic depths, really driving home the desolate post-rock without much of an upbeat resolution. That said, they must of holed up in a dingy cabin and talked the future ’cause Open Your Heart shaves down a bit of the desolation, replacing it with warmth and a yen for good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. Friends of mine, who I force to listen to this album time and time again, often cite Foo Fighters and though Dave Grohl’s little outfit might not be my jam anymore, The Men capture a certain essence of their early days. This is, without any apologies, rock ‘n’ fuckin’ roll, buoyed by an almost punk-rock energy and an excess of heart-felt warmth lost on prior The Men albums. It’s a huge step forward for the group, and to ride the rails of cliche, there’s big, big things ahead for this band.

:The Men – Open Your Heart:

1. Tame Impala – Lonerism

I imagine I’m going to be one of many finishing their lists with Tame Impala’s absolutely brilliant second album this year. Where InnerSpeaker was all about repetitive, blown out psych-jams, Tame Impala have scaled a bit of the noodling nature in trade for a nice, glowing hit of pop. You can hear the remnants of Lennon’s inspiration hanging out in lead singer Kevin Parker’s voice and it rides nicely on the new, sunnier tones. Feels Like We Only Go Backwards has been stuck in the frameworks of my skull for months now, and every time Parker’s croon revs up again, I can’t help but smile.

:Tame Impala – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards:

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Mikela’s Top 5 Albums Of 2012

December 10, 2012


Picking 10 albums from an entire year’s worth of music is no easy feat. Picking 5? Nearly impossible. So in order to offer up my handful of favorites from the Mayan calendar’s final year, I thought long and hard about what impressed me in 2012. And while I could easily have put 25 albums on this list, here are 5 that consistently made their way into my catalog almost instantly. So sit back and listen, and maybe you’ll find some music to help you tune out your family this holiday season.

1. alt-J – An Awesome Wave

I joke about avoiding buzz bands because I’m afraid to be disappointed, and alt-J fell victim to my prejudice. But since discovering this album a few months ago, it’s been a permanent fixture in my repertoire. Sleek, sexy, and Radiohead-esque, this is an album best enjoyed through headphones.

:alt-J – Breezeblocks:

2. Japandroids – Celebration Rock 

It’s hard to argue an album that was more fun than Japandroids’ most recent release. This scream-every-lyric, can’t-help-but-dance-around collection of songs is an instant anti-depressant, turning every gray cloud into a gritty and loud ray of sunshine.

:Japandroids – The Night Of Wine And Roses:

3. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist

First off, I’m not a hip hop girl. But with the sweet and soulful gay marriage anthem Same Love, this Seattle rap/producer duo reeled me in. It was their infectious hooks and slew of guest collaborators that kept me around for more.

:Macklemore And Ryan Lewis – Same Love (Featuring Mary Lambert):

4. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp

I gotta hand it to my girl Sharon Van Etten. She does angst in a heartbreaking way. And while her freshman release was near-perfect, her sophomore release expanded her ability and broke my heart all at the same time.

:Sharon Van Etten – Give Out:

5. Father John Misty – Fear Fun

It has to be said that of all the shows I saw in 2012, Father John Misty was one of the most surprising. A former Fleet Foxes member, Josh Tillman struck me as the kind of guy who would put on a bit of a snoozy show. Yet when he took the stage dancing and prancing, I was sold. His first solo effort is solid, from folky tunes to the foot-stomping Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings.

:Father John Misty – Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings:

Honorable Mentions:

Patrick Watson – Adventures in Your Own Backyard

A hauntingly beautiful effort from this Canadian singer-songwriter.

:Patrick Watson – Words In The Fire:

Tame Impala – Lonerism

An album that feels like it should have come out years ago. 1/2 Beatles, 1/4 Miike Snow, and 1/4 Dr. Dog, I loved it.

:Tame Impala – Elephant:

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Top 25 Albums Of 2012: Part 4

December 6, 2012


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 50 Songs Of 2012: Part 5

November 30, 2012


It’s Friday, which means we have arrived at the end of my Top 50 Songs Of 2012 list!  I hope you’ve had a good time perusing the previous 40.  In case you somehow missed this little bit of info, I chose the songs from the 400+ tracks that I shared around here throughout the last 11 months.  Enjoy.

10)  :Icona Pop – I Love It:  Much of my 2012 was spent looking to this electropop number for a burst of fun.  I just kind of adore how obnoxious it is.  From the Nights Like This EP.

09)  :Japandroids – The House That Heaven Built:  I think it’s safe to say that with this song, Japandroids are now officially the band everyone looks to when they’re in need of an anthem.  From Celebration Rock.

08)  :David Byrne And St. Vincent – Who:  This track is focused pop madness, and to be honest, that’s exactly what I was hoping the David Byrne/St. Vincent collaboration would unleash onto the world.  From Love This Giant.

07)  :Ellie Goulding – High For This (The Weeknd Cover):  Every year there’s a cover that I can’t get enough of, and in 2012 it was Ellie’s sensual take on this Weeknd track.  I highly recommend headphones.  And booze.

06)  :TV Girl – I Wonder Who She’s Kissing Now:  There’s going to come a year where I don’t get an incredibly catchy and charming retro pop track from TV Girl, and then I’ll immediately become cranky and constantly reference the “good old days.”  From The Wild, The Innocent, The TV Shuffle.

05)  :Tame Impala – Elephant:  Of the 50 songs on this list, this is my favorite to try and ruin my speakers with.  It’s actually flaunting some attitude, which is something I didn’t think Tame Impala had in them.  From Lonerism.

04)  :MS MR – Hurricane:  2012 featured a ton of good music that was 90s-enthused, so you know it means something when I say that I found this MS MR song to be the best of the bunch.  From the Candy Bar Creep Show EP.

03)  :Dum Dum Girls – Lord Knows:  This band is so very good, and it’s all because Dee Dee continues to be one of the best songwriters around.  Just listen to the lyrics in this incredible song for proof.  From the End Of Daze EP.

02)  :Twin Shadow – Five Seconds:  I wanted to not use the word “infectious” anywhere in this list, but that’s just exactly what this 80s throwback is.  Good luck trying to ever escape its grasp.  From Confess.

01)  :Purity Ring – Fineshrine:  When I sat down to map out this year’s 50 songs, I already knew what would be in this spot.  That’s actually never happened before, and I give all the credit to Purity Ring, who created a song that’s as fantastic as can be on all fronts.  I will love this track forever.  From Shrines.

PS – You can check out the entire list on one page here, or the majority of the songs here on Spotify.

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Stream This

November 9, 2012


The SOTO inbox is always full of cool stuff that never gets to see the light of day on the actual site, and I’d like to change that.  So, every Friday I’ll be posting the best album streams and videos that were sent my way during the week.  Take a scroll and find something worth remembering.


How To Destroy Angels – An Omen
El Ten Eleven – Transitions
Social Studies – Developer
Vinyl Williams – Lemniscate
The Babies – Our House On The Hill
El Perro Del Mar – Pale Fire
Deftones – Koi No Yokan
Crystal Castles – (III)


Arms have an album titled Summer Skills that’s out now.

Jon Hillcoat (The Road) helped direct this video for IO Echo.  The band has an album due out next year.

Icky Blossoms play Emo’s East on November 28 with The Faint.  Their self titled debut is out now.

The Joy Formidable will release Wolf’s Law on January 22 via Canvasback Music/Atlantic Records.

Tame Impala’s Lonerism is available now.

Jonti currently has a new album titled Sine + Moon that’s out now.

Phantogram recently released an EP titled Nightlife.

Correatown’s Pleiades is currently available.

Columbia will release Wild Belle’s debut, Isles, early next year.

Dumbo Gets Mad will release Quantum Leap sometime in 2013.

The Luyas recently released Animator.

Jeff The Brotherhood’s Hypnotic Nights is out now.

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