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2013 SOTO Staff Picks

December 18, 2013

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It wouldn’t be fun if only I just rambled along about what I liked this year, so I reached out to my very diverse staff for their Top 5 Albums of 2013.  I think you’ll see that the SOTO clan like a lot of different things.  Enjoy.

You know what can, sometimes, kind of blow? Getting old. Yup, watching the old life clock tick on by, the responsibilities of life pile around your ears, those precious moments when you could just wile away an hour or five listening to a handful of new records. Well kiddies, those days are dead. Nowadays I’m happy if I can listen to the new Lil’ Wayne single more than a few times when I’m driving to the gym to work my gut out with my trainer Francis. What I’m getting at here is that though I wish my list was full of a shocking selection of diverse and mind-expanding music, well, it’s not. I stand by each and all of these picks but I can’t say I did the extra work this year to blow any minds.

Forgive me, and enjoy.

5. The National – If I Stay Here, Trouble Will Find Me
4. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
3. Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin
2. Fuzz – S/T
1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires Of The City

In keeping with my column, I fully intended to select nothing but chick-fronted albums in 2013. Laura Marling was one of my most-streamed, and my girl Neko’s latest was an insta-fave. But once I got back to looking at things, I realized my list was a little more eclectic than anticipated. Vampire Weekend never ceases to be the catchiest around, and Local Natives continue to lyrically break my heart with everything they put out. And there’s nothing like a little Washed Out to soundtrack a Sunday afternoon. Notable mention? Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds stopped by KCRW, resulting in a record store day release that I haven’t stopped listening (and crying) to since purchasing.

Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle
Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
Washed Out – Paracosm
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires Of The City
Local Natives – Hummingbird

I see it this way … 2010 was the first date, 2011 was the good times, 2012 was the breakup, and 2013 was when music took some “me” time. That does not mean this year did not generate some great or even classic records, it does mean that there was some experimentation that may or may not have worked out so well; see Drumgasm. That being said, there was still plenty of illuminations happening all over the musical cosmos in 2013. Labels like Chapter Music and Paradise of Bachelors killed it this year, as did Bedroom Suck and Fire Records. Though some more successful than others, 2013 saw artists and bands the world over restate time honored sounds and genres.

5. Fat History Month – Bad History Month (Exploding In Sound)
4. The Stevens – A History Of Hygiene (Chapter Music)
3. Purling Hiss – Water On Mars (Drag City)
2. Dick Diver – Calendar Days (Chapter Music)
1. Steve Gunn – Time Off (Paradise of Bachelors)

When I received my assignment to pick my Top 5 albums for the year, I thought that It would be a piece of cake: “5 albums? No problem.” But then I started to recall the various new releases from this year and felt twinges of panic and regret: “Who do I choose ? Who do I leave off the list ?”. I don’t have a complicated system for deciding on favorites; it usually comes down to what I listened to the most.  The focus for my 2013 Top 5 are all Austin-based artists, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy records from bands from other places. This year was also a fantastic year for some outstanding releases from some of my favorite local bands. They all share a common love for melodies, harmonies, and top notch songwriting.

Royal Forest – Spillway
Black Books – Black Books
Wiretree – Get Up
The Zoltars – Walking Through The Dark
Yum – Take My Blue / Santiago Dietche – Waxing And Roaring (tie)

This year there have been some amazing metal releases, I am not even giving lip service about my genre, it has been incredible the caliber of albums coming out, and to narrow it down to five, I had to switch a few things around from other lists I have made. Excluding Dillinger Escape Plan, Cult of Luna, Arsis, Black Dahlia Murder and All Pigs Must Die is heart wrenching, but these five bands have created some of the best music metal has heard in two decades. From noisy extremes like Nails, to groove laden jams on the new Clutch album, and the rebirth of the dormant Carcass to win the top spot on every list I have done.  So let it be written, so let it be done, the best metal albums of the year are:

5. Nails – Abandon All Life (Southern Lord)
4. Kvelertak – Meir (Roadrunner)
3. Clutch – Earth Rocker (Weathermaker)
2. Protest The Hero – Volition (Razor And Tie)
1. Carcass – Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast)

Hey, everybody! It may surprise you that here in my natural habitat of the music blog, I am supremely uncomfortable making lists.  Yes, I listen to a lot of music, and yes, there is stuff I like more than other stuff, but really when it comes down to taking my favorite albums from an entire year and ranking them on such a fine gradient, I just get miserable and ambivalent.  There was a lot of great hip hop produced this year and these are all great albums, and these are only in an order because John Laird forced me to do it.

5. Shad – Flying Colours
4. Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady
3. Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap
2. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels
1. Danny Brown – Old

2013 was a big year for pop music. Miley’s tongue was inescapable, British teens ran rampant, and through it all I reveled in the weirdness. The latter half of this year found me really embracing my not-so-guilty pleasure of pure female fronted pop, so I thought I should theme my Top 5 to mainstream pop with female vocalists. Specific enough for ya? But after all, there’s so much of it, sometimes you need a spirit guide. Like Katy Perry–those of you who wrote her off for bubblegum pop need to check out Prism, where her dark side shines and emotions run rampant. And Ariana Grande–the next in line for a breakout from the Disney dynasty actually has the pipes to back it up, and I can’t stop spinning her tracks. Meanwhile, singles shine for Lady Gaga’s Artpop, where any track could be a hit–and Do What U Want is climbing charts for a reason. None of the Lana Del Rey songs on 2013′s Tropico are new–all taken from last year’s Paradise–but these three songs might be her best so far and provide an excellent primer for burgeoning Lana fans. Number one couldn’t go to anyone but Lorde–sure, brush her off as a one hit wonder, but I’d take Tennis and Ribs over Royals any day–it’s an incredible album.

5. Katy Perry – Prism
4. Lady Gaga – Artpop
3. Ariana Grande – Yours Truly
2. Lana Del Rey – Tropico
1. Lorde – Heroine

So 2013 was pretty good year for music, yes? My thirst for catchy punk rock and fuzzy garage rock was quenched throughout the year. There were a bunch of albums I loved that did not make the very top of my list. I’m looking at you Ty Segall, Bad Sports, Mind Spiders, A Giant Dog, and Thee Oh Sees. I love you all but there can only be five:

5. Radioactivity – Radioactivity
4. Vaadat Charigim – The World Is Well Lost
3. Sweet Talk – Pickup Lines
2. Mikal Cronin – MCII
1. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold

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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 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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Stream This

June 7, 2013

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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.

FULL ALBUM STREAMS

Deafheaven – Sunbather
Black Sabbath – 13
Surfer Blood – Pythons
Disclosure – Settle
Hyetal – Modern Worship
Close – Getting Closer
Sonny And The Sunsets – Antenna To The Afterworld
CSS – Planta
Rodan – 15 Quiet Years
Gold Panda – Half Of Where You Live
Airhead – For Years

VIDEOS

Vampire Weekend recently released Modern Vampires Of The City.

Sigur Ros will put out Kveikur on June 18 via XL Recordings.

Gauntlet Hair will set free Stills on July 16 via Dead Oceans.

The Gorgeous Hands released their debut, Tender, last month.

Royal Forest will release Spillway on July 9 via

Cold War Kids’ Dear Miss Lonelyhearts is out now.  They play Stubb’s on August 22.

The XX’s Coexist is out now.

Rathborne will release Soft on July 15 via Dilettante Records.

The Purrs will put out The Boy With Astronaut Eyes on June 18 via Fin Records.

The Boy Least Likely To released The Great Perhaps earlier this year.

Small Multiples released a self titled album last month.

Major Major Major are expected to put out a new EP (with this song on it) sometime later this year.

Morningbell put out Boa Noite last month.

Matthew Squires And The Learning Disorders’ How to Combust Your Life is available now.

Typhoon will put out White Lighter on August 20 via Roll Call Records.

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Stream This

May 10, 2013

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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.

FULL ALBUM STREAMS

MS MR – Secondhand Rapture
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires Of The City
Dirty Beaches – Strange Pleasures
Small Black – Limits Of Desire
Peals – Walking Field
Wampire – Curiosity
Eluvium -  Nightmare Ending
Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood – Black Pudding
Pure X – Crawling Up The Strairs
Sam Amidon – Bright Sunny South
Survival – Self Titled
Dungeonesse – Self Titled
Phaseone – If I Tell U
Snowden – No One In Control
Adult – The Way Things Fall
The Features – Self Titled
Saturday Looks Good To Me – One Kiss Ends It All
Luke Rathborne – Last Forgiven
Burnt Ones – You’ll Never Walk Alone
PacificUV – After The Dream You Are Awake

VIDEOS

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Mosquito is out now on Interscope.

Smith Westerns will release Soft Will on June 25 through Mom + Pop.

Alpine’s A Is For Alpine is due out May 21 via Votiv.

Wolf People just recently released Fain on Jagjaguwar.

David Bowie’s The Next Day is out now.

The National will put out Trouble Will Find Me on May 21 via 4AD.

Gary Clark Jr. released Blak And Blu last year.

Queens Of The Stone Age are set to release Like Clockwork on June 4 via Matador.

Deftones have an album out now titled Koi No Yokan.

Girl Names put out The New Life earlier this year on Slumberland.

Wild Moccasins’ Gag Reflections single is out now on New West Records.

Secret Colours will release Peach on May 28.

Theophilus London is expected to put out a new full length later this year.

Cool Ghouls have a self titled album out now on Empty Cellar Records.

Tycho have a 12″ available now titled Fragments.Ascension.

Hands just recently put out Synesthesia on Kill Rock Stars.

Blake Hazard (of the Submarines) will release The Eleanor Islands on July 9.

Coma Cinema’s Posthumous Release is due June 11 via Fork & Spoon Records/Orchid Tapes.

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Quickdraw: Wampire, Vampire Weekend, Majical Cloudz, Virgin Of The Birds, Eluvium

May 6, 2013

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Today’s music was raised by wolves.  Enjoy.

:Wampire – Trains:  I really dig this song.  It’s a breezy, charming pop effort that I imagine will turn the majority of you into Wampire fans.  Here’s hoping their upcoming LP has more of the same.  Curiosity is due out May 14 via Polyvinyl.

:Vampire Weekend – Ya Hey:  I’ll give it up to Vampire Weekend, they’re upcoming album is looking like it will be one of the year’s best pop releases.  Every song released so far has been pretty great.  Modern Vampires Of The City is due out May 14 via XL.

:Majical Cloudz – Bugs Don’t Buzz:  I recently saw Majical Cloudz perform, and it made me realize they shouldn’t be experienced with a crowd.  Their work is intimate stuff, so if you’re going to spend some time with it (and you should), use headphones.  The highly anticipated Impersonator is due out May 21 via Matador.

:Virgin Of The Birds – Make Me A Witch:  Here’s one from an act that’s long been a SOTO favorite.  Main-brain Jon Rooney really knows how to do lo-fi pop, so don’t be surprised when this track quickly wins you over.  The Summer Palace EP is available now on Bandcamp.

:Eluvium – Happiness (Featuring Ira Kaplan Of Yo La Tengo):  This is a beautiful song, but I’ll admit it’s a terrible choice for a post on a Monday.  No one wants to start their week with an intricate eight-minute wad of emotion.  Still, it’s too good to not share.  Nightmare Ending is due out May 14 via Temporary Residence LTD.

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Vampire Weekend

March 19, 2013

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One of my highlights from this year’s SXSW was Vampire Weekend’s set at Stubb’s.  The show was super light and fun, and I thought the new songs sounded really good.  To be honest, it made me wonder why I’ve spent so long just thinking of the band as okay at best.  In any case, they released two singles yesterday.  I posted my favorite, and then put up the semi-video for the other one.  Modern Vampires Of The City is due out May 7 via XL Recordings.  Enjoy.

:Vampire Weekend – Step:  This track isn’t as instantly catchy as some of VW’s previous efforts, but I find it to be so clever and warm that I don’t think it needs a big sing-a-long-worthy hook.  Have fun just listening.

Bonus Video:

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