Thursday, December 31, 2009

Stew's Top Ten Albums of 2009

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Electro-Pop
Part 2 of my year end lists. Here are the albums I enjoyed the most this year. I'm not a critic, I'm a fan. So I don't claim these albums are the "Best" of 2009; they're just the ones I liked best. Click play to rock out. If you like what you hear, click the album title to go to the albums' lala page where you can listen to the whole thing and buy the mp3 album.

Joy - Phish
OK, there's nothing groundbreaking here. But here's what you get: ten painstakingly well-crafted songs, Trey singing in tune, and the return of Phish. The title track's chorus sums up the album, Phish's relationship with their fans, and hell, maybe even the quartet's entire career: we want you to be happy/don't live inside the gloom/we want you to be happy/come step outside your room/we want you to be happy/'cause this is your song too. This is your song too!

Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures
By far the heaviest thing on this list. I'm still a fan of some solid hard rock, there just isn't much good stuff getting made these days (where have you gone, Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine?). Them Crooked Vultures proves that you can still make a killer heavy album that is commercially relevant, even if it took three of the best rockers in the game to pull it off.
No One Loves Me And Neither Do I
New Fang

I and Love and You - The Avett Brothers
Folk rock goodness. The Avett Brothers signed a major label record deal and brought in the legendary Rick Rubin to produce their new album. The result is a set of heartfelt lyrics, perfectly produced and sung by guys who can really belt it out. Aside from Kick Drum Heart, the band kinda pushed their punk leanings aside, but this fact doesn't detract from a fantastic album.
And It Spread
Kick Drum Heart

Humbug - Arctic Monkeys
An awesome left turn from these British bad boys. Darker, slower, more brooding than their first two albums. The musicianship is still perfect though, which is the secret behind the Monkeys' don't-give-a-shit appearance. And Alex Turner's cockney's sneer is in full force here, even if he's not quite as mad as he used to be. Millions of dollars will do that to you.
Crying Lightning

Animal - Miike Snow
A lot of fun. Probably too simple for music critics to embrace, but just what I'm looking for when I'm ready to have a good time. Animal, Silvia, and Black and Blue all could've been in my top ten songs. Let the electro-pop begin!

Seek Magic - Memory Tapes
My "thank Pitchfork!" album of the year. So obscure I never would have found it without the help of the snobs over on Wabansia Street. Memory Tapes is electro-pop, but much more dense and exploratory than the rest of the stuff I heard this year. Davye Hawk weaves just enough of a common thread through each of his tracks to keep things cohesive while still exploring multiple styles within one song. Amazing.
Green Knight
Graphics (edit)

xx - The xx
I like the term art pop for this hard-to-define album. It's miles away from what I normally listen to, but it's too good to be ignored. The vocal interplay is great, the simplistic arrangements are incredible and the overall sound is unique. Not bad for a bunch of 20 year olds. Sexiest album of the year.

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - Phoenix
Phoenix takes The Great Leap Forward. Every song is perfect, and the first two songs are so perfect it's not even fair. Thomas Mars' vocal inflection and delivery lends a uniqueness to each note that I really enjoy. Replay value x1000. I'll still be listening in a decade.
Love Like a Sunset

The Satanic Satanist - Portugal. The Man
Critics like to talk about albums where ever note sounds as if the band agonized over until it was just right (with Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest being the poster child for this). But what about when a band makes an album that streamlines and distills their earlier work down to its essence, to the point where not a single note is wasted? That's what you hear when you listen to The Satanic Satanist: a band the used to really stretch out and jam on their albums has decided to tighten up, crossfade the tracks, give it to you straight, and maintain the album's momentum so that when it ends you sigh and say, "I'm really glad I listened to the whole thing."
People Say
Work All Day
Do You

Manners - Passion Pit
If you don't like falsetto, I'm sorry. Rob, Kevin, and I decided we liked Passion Pit somewhere back in February, and I was eagerly awaiting their debut full-length album when it dropped. I wasn't expecting it to be so polished, for them to sound like a band, not a talented guy in his basement. Layers upon layers of sound to the point where each song sounds like a celebration. And it is: Manners is my favorite album of the year because it makes me smile and want to listen to the whole thing again each time I hear it. From the bounce of Little Secrets to the Longing of Til Kingdom Come to the incomparable Sleepyhead, every note is affected with so much, well, passion, that you just can't ignore. My favorite album of 2009.
Moth's Wings
The Reeling

Probably harder to pick these twenty than the top ten. In no particular order:

Veckatimest - Grizzly Bear, Cosmic Egg - Wolfmother, The Resurrectionists/Night Raider - Crippled Black Phoenix (Pink Floyd rides again), Noble Beast - Andrew Bird, Cage the Elephant - Cage the Elephant, Farm - Dinosaur Jr. (I Don't Want to Go There is the guitar solo of the year), Horehound - The Dead Weather, Blakroc - Blakroc, Us - Brother Ali, The Blueprint 3 - Jay-Z, Attention Deficit - Wale, Only Built for Cuban Linx Part II - Raekwon the Chef, Bromst - Dan Deacon, Ambivalence Avenue - Bibio, Ad Explorata - Sound Tribe Sector 9, No More Stories... - Mew, Real Estate - Real Estate, The Resistance - Muse, Keep it Hid - Dan Auerbach, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand

And because I don't like everything, three albums that critics loved and I didn't:

Embryonic - The Flaming Lips
If you can, listen to this album all the way through and then immediately put on the Lips' album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. You'll understand why I don't like this disc.

Bitte Orca - Dirty Projectors
A couple of good tracks, but nothing that's worthy of inclusion on best of lists.

Merriweather Post Pavilion - Animal Collective
Sorry guys. It's just noise to me.

Happy New Year!


Saturday, December 26, 2009


blind mans boom box

click HERE for a chronological playlist
or save this link for later when you need to get some work done.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Stew's Top Ten Songs of 2009

I get depressed on airplanes. Not really sure why; probably something to do with traveling away from people I care about and feeling isolated despite being in such close quarters with randoms.

And that's when I reach for my ipod. And these are the 2009 songs I'm most likely to put on.

Catchy-ness is a factor here. Hell, two of these songs appeared in commercials this year (bonus points for anyone who can name which two songs in the comments). So here you go, my ultimate playlist of 2009. Some of these bands may pop up in my top albums list next week...

Volume is your friend on these tracks. TURN IT UP!

I Want You Back - Discovery
How better to start a top ten list for the year of Michael Jackson's death than with a cover of arguably his best song? And yes, Discovery recorded this track before MJ died. White boys and auto-tune: who knew?

How to Emcee - Rakim
Rakim explains how its done. As Gabe would say, "Like learning to sculpt from Michaelangelo himself." Old school.

Lucid Dreams - Franz Ferdinand
Franz throws it down with an adventurous late-disc track. Whether or not you like the electronic outro on this track is a matter of personal preference, but the chorus is money for all involved.

Ambling Alp - Yeasayer
I was gonna put Tightrope by the same artist here, but then Ambling Alp came out. Honestly, this song is just better. Makes me really excited for Yeasayer's second LP, out in February. Still, props to Dark Was The Night (where Tightrope appears) for being a really enjoyable charity compiliation.

60 Feet Tall - The Dead Weather
I'm gonna quote my long-lost blog post about Horehound here: "The opening track sounds like it was recorded at Electric Ladyland with the ghost of Jimi Hendrix manning the soundboards. And the building was on fire." No mp3 here, apparently TDW's record company frowns on that stuff.

And now the top five. I make no apologies for these songs being insanely catchy.

Ain't No Rest For The Wicked - Cage the Elephant
Someone told me that this track was actually a cover and that they were tired of bands getting credit for songs they didn't write. I told him I just didn't care. Like Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham, Cage the Elephant announces their presence with authority on their debut album, and this single is the highlight.

1901 - Phoenix
Yeah, this song got a little ubiquitous as the year went along. But that doesn't change the fact that this track is just incredible. Either Lisztomania or 1901 has to be on every best songs list this year. For my money, I'll take 1901.

Little Secrets - Passion Pit
Nate: "Of course you like it, it's like four pop songs in one!" Can't argue with that. The multi-layered nature of Passion Pit's tracks is what I love about them, and Little Secrets is the best example of that. Also their most fun song live. My jam of the summer.

Bicycle - Memory Tapes
Davye Hawk shows a gift for melody on Memory Tapes' stunning debut, Seek Magic. Never is that gift more apparent than on this track, my 2009 "song for driving through the city at night." You know what I'm talking about. The outro reminds me of Hey Jude: repetitive, but so good you just don't want it to end.

While You Wait For The Others - Grizzly Bear
I can't help but gush about this song. It's epic, it's unique, it's sonically flawless, it's staggering live, and yet at it's core it's just a breakup song. Music went a lot of different ways in 2009, but for me, it peaked at the three minute mark of this track.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

Hey all-
Hope everybody is all set for a great holiday season. I've always been a fan of Christmas music. I'm not one of those people who start tuning into 94.9 on November 1st and pump the Christmas Jams for the next month and a half, but right around the holiday I always enjoy listening to some Christmas tunes. With that here are a few of my favorites....

Wishing you and yours the best this Christmas.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

james brown

I saw James Brown.

It was amazing. Most amazing sight I've ever seen. Memphis in May 2006.

check out this footwork

Merry christmas song from James Brown
"James Brown love ya"

Here is the bio of James, born in Barnwell, SC.

I miss the Soul Man.

And now a finale of highlights

Friday, December 18, 2009

Best of 2009

It's a Friday, I have no work today, and I've been listening to music for the past hour.  What better time than to reveal the much awaited list, the best of 09.  I know, you just jumped out of your seat.  Here's part 1, best albums - I'm not putting sound in, I'll do that for songs later.

Best Albums of 09:

5) Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures
I felt like Rock was back with this one - it was grungy and heavy with bass lines, and Dave Grohl was born on a drum set stool and is back there again, the best since Nirvana.

4) Bon Iver - Blood Bank EP
I may take flak for this, but "Woods" is gorgeous.

3) Pearl Jam - Backspacer
Yes, I really do think this is one of their best albums, especially of the past 10 years.  There are a lot of really, really good songs, especially the first half of the album with "Got Some" and "Amongst the Waves."

2) Passion Pit - Manners
No album has been as fun and energetic than Manners.  One second I'm chilling to it, the next minute it makes me want to go run 5 miles (Little Secrets has been on my 'run' playlist all year).  Plus, they don't mess around with their bass lines, which gives it that good umph that every pop-dance-funk album needs (look at Radiohead's bass lines, for me they make a world of difference).  I had the highest of expectations when I saw them in concert, and it they did not disappoint at all - one of the best, similar to Girl Talk.

1) Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion
This album gave me a better appreciation for progressive and 'exploratory' music and all music in general.  It made me give other music a second listen, because after listening to MPP about 900 times, I heard something new or found something different I liked every time, it's just that good.  Weird 5/4 tempos, intros that lasted way too long but somehow fit, repeated choruses that didn't get old. There was not a better effort at creating something completely unique and different this year.

REMIX! Remix! remix!

Here's a sweet set of Dirty South remixes for your Friday enjoyment:

(Player deleted so it doesn't start making noise every time someone visits the blog. Click the link below if you want to get down.)

Notable remixers featured on this mixtape: El-P (track 1), Memory Tapes (track 3), Flying Lotus (track 8), Prefuse 73 (track 10), and HEALTH (track 15). This mixtape is part of the promo for a new PSP game called Beaterator. It looks pretty excellent. If you have a PSP and like to make dope beats you might put this on your Christmas list.

The full page for this mixtape where you can see all the remixers and download a couple tracks can be found here.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Helluva Year for Bon Iver (sorry stew)

I'm saving my best of the decade post til next week or so, but first, my best of 2009. And while this was a pretty sweet year for music (as this blog is a testament to), as far as impact goes, few artists had more than Bon Iver (although something similar could be said about Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective). A critically acclaimed full length album For Emma, Forever Ago released in 2008 continued to climb, he released an equally sweet bonus EP Blood Bank in 2009, as well as launched a successful post-rock collaboration Volcano Choir. Quite a year for a guy who secluded himself in the northwoods of Wisconsin for a winter.

Have a listen to all of it, it's pretty good winter music. Some tracks not to miss are Skinny Love, Blood Bank, Island, IS, and Woods/Still.

Enjoy. See yall Xmas eve.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Lead Singer: Alex Elbert
11 Members
Ensemble Group/60's Revival
Played their 1st show in 07
Started releasing music this past year
Thats all I know....

If this intrigued you as much as it did me, be sure to go here and watch their wild videos....

Edward Sharpe Videos

Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did.
- Ben

mo diplo

Sunday, December 13, 2009

baile funk

read the previous post 1st then watch this
this encompasses the early on funk rap scene that is hard to get good quality except for just gettting the plain ole album or cd
slum rap does not get high quality you tube coverage and video
in my search of Brazilian Funk, the stuff that is going down in the clubs left and right, i found many blank areas. the music is hard to come by it seems but i know it is gold
here is one that is a gateway until i find what i am looking for

Funkiest Fight Song Ever.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sound Tribe Sector 9 - Ad Explorata

STS9 is back with their second album in as many years. Ad Explorata is a fitting name for the LP, as Murph and the boys continue to explore the limits of their genre bending style of instrumental music. The opening track, Phoneme, is a slow building gem of ambient goodness, while other tracks like EHM and Atlas approach an almost industrial sound. Overall, the album is more hard edged than their older work, but it is a natural progression from last year's Peaceblaster.

Stream Ad Explorata here

Buy Ad Explorata here


What I love about this band, however, is their live shows. You just can't grasp how much power they can put behind these tracks on stage until you see it for yourself. The studio may allow the fellas to try new things and create new sounds, but seeing a group of musicians pull off such a decidedly electronic sound mostly using real instruments is a thing of beauty. And now, ten years into their career, the band has a large and diverse catalog of music that they aren't afraid to dig deep into during their sets. They don't play two sets anymore (I think they shed the jam band moniker with Peaceblaster), but they still cram a lot of goodness into one show. Luke, Steve, and I were lucky enough to see them on Halloween this year. Here's what it looked like:

Like I said, more hard edged than it used to be. LEDs in your face!

And here's a sweet little STS9 music player where you can sample some tracks off the new album, some live stuff, some remixes, and anything else STS9:


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Real Estate

Finally...something a little less douchey from the Jersey shore.
This is Real Estate. They make good chill music. They make good chill music with lyrics. They also make good chill music to listen to when snowed-in or defrosting.

This is their self-titled album. give it a spin.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009


In the spirit of the 18 inches of white fluffy stuff that allowed me and everyone else in the Mad City to sleep in and watch DVD's all day today....

they just don't make stuff like this anymore....

Sunday, December 6, 2009

armand van helden & A-TRAK

duck sauce!

Big ups to Columbia and Charleston

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Yeasayer - Ambling Alp video

Great song, pretty damn outrageous video. (Office warning: there is nudity in this video). Yeasayer's second album, Odd Blood, drops February 9, 2010.

Stick up for yourself, son!