Here’s a Spotify link that includes most of these songs, for your listening pleasure:
1. Cass McCombs - County Line
I most certainly listened to this song more than any other this year. There are no words, really.
2. Bill Callahan - Riding for the Feeling
This song is squinted eyes gazing slowly across a dusty prairie, a single tear rolling down one cheek, insides churning with equal parts steely resolve and bottomless heartbreak.
3. Fruit Bats - You’re Too Weird
Though I was not involved in the creation of this perfect pop song (I most certainly wouldn’t include it on this list had I been) I had the pleasure of performing it many times, all around the world, never once tiring of it.
4. James Blake - I Never Learnt to Share
This is the only song on this list of which I can say “I honestly have never heard anything that sounds remotely like this.”
5. Tune-Yards - Bizness
Just fucking unstoppable woman-power.
6. St. Vincent - Cruel
The most incredible combination of catchy and WTF on wax this year - that guitar solo, that syncopation, that disco beat!
7. Au Ras Au Ras - Jon
A rusty canteen filled with pure, distilled nostalgia, falling from a great height and knocking you unconscious.
8.AgesAndAges - No Nostalgia
I saw this song performed live something like 20 times this year and bobbed my head like a grinning idiot each time.
9. Vetiver - It’s Beyond Me
One of the the 11 perfect songs on a perfect record, I get lost in this one every time.
10. Eleanor Friedberger - My Mistakes
Never has one song made me want to root for somebody more.
11. ARP - From a Balcony Overlooking the Sea
Could have been one of the better tracks on “Another Green World.”
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr - We Almost Lost Detroit
The only thing I don’t like about this bulldozing cover of the Gil Scott-Heron classic is the fact that they excised the third verse.
13. Dolorean - Country Clutter
Dear ex: Fuck. You.
14. Wilco - Art of Almost
"I wish the rest of the Wilco album was like that insane first song" -everybody
15. The Strokes - Under Cover of Darkness
So I was the only person that was into the Strokes reunion, huh?
16. Twin Shadow - When We’re Dancing
Makes me want to slow dance with someone completely out of my league.
17. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Ffunny Ffrends
Warm, familiar, thick, alien, familiar.
18. Gang Gang Dance - Romance Layers
1991 Paula Abdul as covered by Hot Chip in a Bristol shipyard.
19. Real Estate - All the Same
The last and best song on their fantastic “Days,” it’s even better because it starts… to…… slow………down……………….
20. PJ Harvey - The Glorious Land
"What is the glorious fruit of our land?/The fruit is deformed children." JESUS. (also, bugle)
21. Disappears - Revisiting
15 minutes of unstoppable, monolithic scuzzkraut from darkest Chicago.
22. Laura Veirs - Prairie Lullabye
Hands-down the vocal performance of the year.
23. The Rosebuds - Come Visit Me
Post-breakup sex as disco anthem. We’ve all been there. Or something.
24. Junior Boys - Itchy Fingers
Just a good, damn weird way to open a record.
25. Toro y Moi - Still Sound
The funkiest jam on an album lousy with ‘em.
26. Iron and Wine - Godless Brother in Love
God, this is pretty.
27. TV On The Radio - Will Do
A great track from a very underrated record.
28. Cults - Never Saw the Point
This record was ultimately a bit too cutesy for me, but I massively enjoy it in small doses, like this one.
29. The Veils - The Stars Came Out Once The Lights Went Out
The first mention of an iPhone in an indie rock song that I’m aware of.
30. Cornershop - Topknot
So weird! So funky! Yes!
1. Vetiver - The Errant Charm
Effortless, moving, sonically perfect record from the most elegant purveyors of low-key pop on the scene today. Long one of my favorite bands, Vetiver’s latest record stood head and shoulders above anything for me this year.
2. Toro y Moi - Underneath the Pine
Last year: one of chill wave’s brightest hopes, with a good-not-great debut LP under his belt. This year: studio whiz kid creates a Stevie Wonder/Prince hybrid dance masterpiece all by himself. Fairly astonishing.
3. BIll Callahan - Apocalypse
Mr. Consistency nearly tops himself yet again with this starkly playful record. “Riding for the Feeling” crushed me nearly every day this year, as I listened to it nearly that often. “You liked that song because it was good” - BC at Pickathon this year. Truth.
4. Twin Shadow - Forget
This deeply funky record (produced by Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear) took me a bit by surprise this year. Supremely pleasant in a retro sort of way, yet oddly modern. Like an indie rock version of the album “1999” as reimagined by Bryan Ferry.
5. Au Ras Au Ras - s/t
My friend Tess, until now most known from her stint drumming for New Orleans bands such as Deadboy + Elephantman and Generationals, took everybody by surprise by releasing this achingly personal yet catchy record of barely glimpsed memories and longing. Devastating disc.
6. Real Estate - Days
This initially sounded like lightweight fluff to me, but gradually wormed its way deeply into my brain. I’m completely in its throes now. If I’d discovered this a few months earlier it might well be toughing it out for the #2 spot. Jangle done in the best way possible.
7. Destroyer - Kaputt
What else is there to say about this record? Dan Bejar does it again, this time in 1983. Impossible to dislike.
8. Cass McCombs - Wit’s End
The brainiest, gloomiest, funniest songwriter working today releases his brainiest, gloomiest, and funniest record yet. Almost unrelentingly bleak. Features my favorite song of this year, as well as the last several years, “County Line.”
9. Hooray for Earth - True Loves
Had never heard of these guys; randomly caught them opening for Architecture in Helsinki. Gloriously noisy, drum machine laden dark indie pop from the scuzziest Brooklyn street imaginable. A fantastic listen.
10. Stephen Malkmus + Jicks - Mirror Traffic
Out of nowhere, SM bangs out his finest solo record yet. Glorious production, glorious songs. It’s often easy to take this guy for granted; albums like this make that harder to do.
11. Eleanor Friedberger - Last Summer
Having always been a casual (as opposed to dedicated) fan of Fiery Furnaces, I was shocked to find myself playing the absolute crap out of this delightful disc. Hilarious, witty, straightforward, and deeply poppy, I like this more than anything Ms Friedberger has done with her actual band. Here’s to many more solo records from her.
12. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Indie’s folk darlings could have made a carbon copy of their debut and coasted their way to continued success; instead they made a dark, often stark, challenging second record that absolutely crushes their debut in scope and ambition. Damn proud of this band for doing it their way and doing it right.
13. James Blake - s/t
Looking back, it’s trendy to call James Blake the latest overhyped UK sensation, riding the crest of the dubstep wave. To say that would be to ignore just how finely crafted this record is, how deliciously odd the thick arrangements are, and how Mr. Blake dances on top of it all with his deeply evocative voice. A triumph that makes me desperately hungry to find out where he goes next.
14. Gold Leaves - The Ornament
Grant Olson of Arthur and Yu strikes out on his own, crafting a gloriously expansive tribute to the Wall of Sound, and Lee Hazelwood. Fairly irresistible from the first listen. On a personal note, I had the honor and pleasure of playing guitar in this band on their European tour in support of this record; it was some of the most rewarding music making I’ve participated in for a while.
15. Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact
This massively hyped Brooklyn band’s debut record left me fairly cold, and my anticipation level for this disc was almost immeasurably low as a result. How surprised I was to find out that they’d leapfrogged over themselves with this endlessly creative record. Using early 90s R&B production as a sonic palette (it works, trust me), none of these songs sound anything like anything I’d ever heard before. I keep hearing new things every time I listen.
16. Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo
Perfect attitude, perfect sounds. This record makes you feel cool when you listen to it.
17. Maymay - And So I Place You In The Setting Sun
My old bandmate from Loch Lomond (and current roommate, for those curious), Laurel Simmons, blew my socks off with this, her first solo disc. It’s so sad, so pretty, and so hopeful. Her singing is a revelation, and the music that surrounds it is just gorgeous. Hard to find; a must hear.
18. The Field - Looping State of Mind
I wasn’t ever a huge fan of this Swedish purveyor of minimalist techno, but this album takes his subtle, small, precise sound and blows the doors off it. It’s instantly catchy, but still features the innovatively insidious repletion of his older work.
19. Gem Club - Breakers
This record is so low-key and quiet that it will make absolutely no impression upon you unless you give it your undivided attention, which I did a few months ago in Salt Lake City when I accidentally took a nap to it. Just piano, voice, and a few airy additional instruments. WONDERFUL songs. It’s heavenly. Maybe my favorite quiet record of the year.
20. Zombi - Escape Velocity
This duo continues its winning streak of records that sound like chase scenes from futuristic spy movies that don’t exist. Great for driving fast and smoking French cigarettes.
21. Arp - The Soft Wave
This album almost shamelessly rips off the Cluster/early Kraftwerk school of German electronic music, and then whacks you in the face with the most spot-on Eno impression you’ve ever hear. But that’s completely okay with me - who else is doing that right now?
22. Cornershop - And the Double ‘o’ Groove Of
Near-forgotten 90s one hit wonders (“Brimful of Asha,” anyone?), who I’ve stubbornly insisted upon following due to their almost flawless sense of quality control, emerge completely out of left field with this surprising and effective collaboration with Punjab singer Bubbley Kaur. This shit is funky. This shit makes me want to dance near to women but not touch them. This shit makes me hungry for Indian food.
23. The Rosebuds - Loud Planes Fly Low
Sonically dense, immaculately written record by one of indie rock’s true under-the-radar fliers. Danceable and nearly unbearably sad, this is one of the best divorce records I’ve ever heard.
24. Hauschka - Salon des Amateurs
A record that sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Dance music created with prepared piano. The live show, which I caught at Holocene this year, is a true brain-melter.
25. Tune-Yards - whokill
A hugely anticipated album for me (mostly due to her absolutely phenomenal, unmissable live show) was a sliiiiiight disappointment to me once it finally emerged - but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t utterly rule (it does). A victim of impossibly high expectations on my part, this record still pushes all the right buttons.
26. Wild Flag - s/t
Will you be mad at me if I softly whisper that I like this more than any Sleater-Kinney record? Pure rock ferocity by four of the best in the business.
27. Iron and Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean
People complain that Iron & Wine lost their intimate charm when they went bigscreen, production-wise, on “The Shepherds’ Dog” and this, its followup (and - gasp! - their major label debut). I disagree-I think that’s when they finally became interesting. This album is a fine, fine approximation of early 70s pop, peppered with some truly strange Afropop-inspired moments. Step off, haters.
28. Lake - Giving & Receiving
Yet another nearly perfect pop record by one of the most underrated bands working today. I will adore everything this band ever does.
29. Bachelorette - s/t
The latest by New Zealand’s finest purveyor of stoned one-woman electronic pop, this record is her darkest and starkest yet. I miss some of the technicolor textures of her last couple of records, but hey, when you’ve got a voice and aesthetic like Annabel Alpers, you can’t really go wrong.
30. Dear Reader - Idealistic Animals
Preternaturally talented Berliner-by-way-of-South-Africa Cheri MacNeil crafted this impossibly dense and compelling record with Ramona Falls/Menomena mastermind Brent Knopf. It’s pretty endlessly fascinating, whether you concentrate on her unearthly singing voice or the never-ending restlessness of the arrangements.
Fruit Bats are about to get all international on your ass. Here’s what it’s looking like:
25-Nov-11 GBR London - Hoxton
26-Nov-11 NEL Utrecht - Le Guess Who Festival
27-Nov-11 NEL Ottersum - Roepaen
28-Nov-11 NEL Amsterdam - Paradiso
29-Nov-11 DEN Copenhagen - Ideal Bar (Vega)
30-Nov-11 SWE Malmo - Debaser Malmo + Gold Leaves (solo)
01-Dec-11 SWE Stockholm - Debaser Slussen + Gold Leaves (solo)
02-Dec-11 SWE Gothenburg - Truckstop Alaska + Gold Leaves (solo)
04-Dec-11 GER Hamburg - Molotow + Gold Leaves (solo)
05-Dec-11 GER Berlin - Comet Club + Gold Leaves (solo)
06-Dec-11 GER Leipzig - Horns Erben + Gold Leaves (solo)
07-Dec-11 AUT Vienna - b72 + Gold Leaves (solo)
08-Dec-11 GER Munich - Sunny Red @ Feierwerk + Gold Leaves (solo)
09-Dec-11 SUI Zurich - Mascotte + Gold Leaves (solo)
10-Dec-11 FRA Paris - Petit Bain + Gold Leaves (solo)
11-Dec-11 BEL Antwerp - Trix Bar + Gold Leaves (solo)
Hey folks, I’ll going to be all over the place really soon! Here’s the what the Fruit Bats itinerary currently looks like. Super stoked to be playing with the Decemberists in August and Vetiver in September. West coast dates and UK/EU tour to follow in October and November.
Friday, July 29, 2011 A Club, Spokane WA w/Ages and Ages & Blitzen Trapper
Saturday, July 30, 2011 BellTower, Pullman WA
Tuesday, August 2, 2011 Easy Street (Queen Anne), Seattle WA - Record release day in-store @ 7PM
Wednesday, August 3, 2011 Music Millennium, Portland OR
Friday, August 5, 2011 Pickathon Festival, Happy Valley OR
Saturday, August 6, 2011 Pickathon Festival, Happy Valley OR
Monday, August 22, 2011 Marymoor Park, Redmond WA w/ The Decemberists
Tuesday, August 23, 2011 Malkin Bowl, Vancouver Canada w/ The Decemberists
Saturday, September 3, 2011 Gorge Ampitheatre, Gorge WA - DMB Caravan at the Gorge
Tuesday, September 6, 2011 First Avenue, Minneapolis MN w/ Vetiver & Two Gallants
Wednesday, September 7, 2011 The Mill, Iowa City IA w/ Vetiver
Thursday, September 8, 2011 Lincoln Hall (IL), Chicago IL w/ Vetiver
Friday, September 9, 2011 Southgate House, Newport KY w/ Vetiver
Saturday, September 10, 2011 Mr. Smalls, Pittsburgh PA w/ Vetiver
Sunday, September 11, 2011 Tiger Mountain & Truck Festival, Big Indian NY w/ Vetiver
Monday, September 12, 2011 Middle East, Cambridge MA w/ Vetiver
Tuesday, September 13, 2011 Bowery Ballroom, The, New York City NY w/ Vetiver
Wednesday, September 14, 2011 First Unitarian Church, Philadelphia PA w/ Vetiver
Thursday, September 15, 2011 Black Cat, Washington DC w/ Vetiver All Ages!
Saturday, September 17, 2011 Motor Co, Durham NC w/ Vetiver
Monday, September 19, 2011 Off Broadway, St Louis MO w/ Vetiver
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 Jackpot Saloon, Lawrence KS w/ Vetiver
Thursday, September 22, 2011 Bluebird Theater - (CO), Denver CO w/ Vetiver
Saturday, September 24, 2011 Urban Lounge, Salt Lake City UT w/ Vetiver
With all of the projects I have going on at the moment, I’m going to attempt to consolidate everything I’ve been doing into this one page. The latest news, without further ado:
I’m beyond thrilled to announce that I have joined the Fruit Bats, with whom I will be performing keyboards, guitar, and backing vocals. I’ve been a major fan of this band since forever and joining them is a serious Make-A-Wish Foundation kind of moment for me. The Fruit Bats are releasing a new record, “Tripper,” 8/2 on Sub Pop. It’s AWESOME. I’ll be touring all over the freaking place soon afterwards. Dates will be up here as I find out about them.
A few weeks ago, I released my first solo record, “The Ram Project.” If you’re just tuning in now, the story is that I re-recorded Paul McCartney’s second solo record, “Ram,” all by myself in my spare bedroom over the course of 30 days. We had a CD release show at the Doug Fir last week and it went spectacularly (how awesome was it? Jandek was there. I’m not making this up). You can read more about this project here, and if you’d like to buy the record, click here. And become a fan on Facebook here.
A few months ago I also joined forces with another Portland band, Monarques. We spent a few weeks in the studio with the fabulous Beau Raymond and recorded our debut record. It was really fun - I got to use a really nice grand piano, and even got to play my trusty old Farfisa on a bunch of songs. The record just came back from being mastered in Sweden by Henrik Jonsson, who has mastered albums by everyone from Bob Dylan to Peter, Bjorn and John to ABBA to Camera Obscura. It sounds fairly incredible. I have a feeling people will be hearing a lot about this record in a few months. Look for some Monarques shows here and there this summer.
Bringing things full circle: some of you may remember that I used to be in a band called The Village Green. We were only around from 2004-2006, recorded an EP and a full-length album (available on Amazon for 91 cents!) and certainly had some ups and downs, breaking up in a spectacular post-Sasquatch Festival flameout, but everybody is older and wiser now and we all love each other all over again. So much so, in fact, that we’ve decided to record a new album, which is happening in June. Even better, we’ve scheduled a reunion show at Rontoms for 6/12. We’re all busy people, so I don’t know how often you’re going to get a chance to see us do this. Please come on out!
And finally, I’ve broken ground on my first album of original material. The goal is to have this puppy completely written and at least partly recorded by the end of summer. We’ll see how that goes. Stay tuned!