Favorite Albums Of The Year(So Far) : Oneohtrix Point Never’s ‘Good Time’ S/T

I came to Oneohtrix Point Never around 3 years ago. I think I’d avoided them because Pitchfork was telling me that I should love them. Of course I’m going to go against that urge to listen and absolutely NOT take advice from a bunch of pretentious music critics catering to the “what’s happening now” crowd. This mindset is dangerous, ignorant, and just plain wrong, especially when I suppose I’m somewhat of an amateur music critic myself. I mean, I could never write for a ‘zine of any kind. I write in a much more personal way than any respectable magazine could tolerate.

Anyways, I’m getting off point here(yes, there’s a point.)

So back to OPN…I finally jumped into Daniel Lopatin’s world in the fall of 2014. Since Boards of Canada were now on Warp Records and Lopatin was on Warp Records I thought I should at least give him a shot. I bought R Plus Seven and immediately felt my mind warp in a significantly unnatural way. Oneohtrix Point Never’s music, to my ears, felt like stepping inside someone’s skull and walking thru their thoughts and secrets. Songs were more like impressionistic paintings relating hopes, fears, daydreams, and nightmares in these aural tapestries. I hadn’t been that excited about a band since Boards of Canada’s Music Has The Right To Children cracked open my head and rewired my brain. This electronic music wasn’t purposed for the dancefloor. It was made to help you connect with the universe and engage with the world around you. R Plus Seven was catnip for this Midwestern curmudgeon introvert.

Of course I fell right into a OPN wormhole. I began grabbing as many records as I could. Betrayed In The Octagon, Drawn and Quartered, Russian Mind, Returnal, and Replica were all immediately snagged up. All were these same but different musical worlds. Earlier records were more fractured new age and psychedelic ambient than the later stuff, which delved into more modern and percussive sounds.

This same year was the year I discovered the wonderful world of panic attacks and anxiety. Discovering Oneohtrix Point Never this year seemed to be sort of a blessing in disguise as I found real solace in these albums. Amidst the noise, chaos, and manic sonic explosions I found a center where I could calm down. My wife had started a new job earlier in 2014 and she’d begun traveling, which left me at home making sure all three kids were getting up for school, getting homework done, my oldest was getting to band camp and work on time and all the while working 8 hours and hoping the children were doing what they were supposed to be doing at home when they were off for summer vacation.

Oneohtrix Point Never provided a sonic place I could escape to and realign my head.

Suffice it to say, I will always have a soft spot for Daniel Lopatin and OPN. 2015s Garden Of Delete was one of my favorite records that year and felt like a total reimagining of Lopatin as a composer and electronic musician. It was hard to imagine where he could even go from there. Turns out film scoring was where he was going, and it was a brilliant step.

I still have yet to see The Safdie Brothers’ Good Time, but if Lopatin’s score is any indication it’s an absolute adrenaline-fueled psychedelic trip through New York City. I haven’t seen any of The Safdie Brothers’ previous films, and if I’m being honest I had no idea who they were before I’d read Oneohtrix Point Never was scoring their movie. I figure if Daniel Lopatin is good with them then so am I.

The soundtrack. If I didn’t know it was a soundtrack to a film I would’ve easily believed this to be just a new OPN album. It comes together beautifully as a sonic journey. There’s a few moments of dialogue, but that doesn’t feel that out of place for OPN. It has moments of tension and noisy chaos that comes with the territory, but there’s also moments of musical beauty. Something like “The Acid Hits” proposes to the listener pyramid-like sounds stacked upon each other, while “Leaving The Park” harkens back to earlier OPN musical adventures. It flutters and bounces like music to some ancient video game.

Even with all the impressive sounds and musical moods on this album, my standout track is the final one. “The Pure And The Damned” stands completely on its own as this fractured and beautiful pop song. It’s a piano-driven song sung by Iggy Pop. “The pure always act for love/The damned always act from love” Pop sings as he talks about going to a place where “we can pet the crocodiles”. It’s a bizarre and tender track. I can only imagine after seeing the film that it will mean that much more. I honestly love this song.

I don’t know if this would be a great place for the uninitiated to start or not, but once you have been initiated you must find your way to this record. It’s essential OPN.

 

JHubner73 Presents: Favorite Albums of 2016 Top 10

You know, I never thought I could look forward to a year ending as much as I’m looking forward to 2016 ending. It’s been a pretty lousy year; political bullshittery, musical geniuses passing on before their time, so many tragedies worldwide(too many to name here), and just a general feeling of existential malaise that at times it felt hard to even swallow. There were a few bright spots, though. Lots of great entertainment to take us out of the sludge, even for just a handful of episodes or a couple hours in a darkened cinema. Stranger Things, Mr. Robot, Luke Cage, Captain America: Civil War, X Men: Apocalypse, Dr. Strange, and a handful more of films and television that gave my brain somewhere to go besides the current state of reality. But the most important thing, the reason we’ve all gathered here today, is the records that filled the space between my ears and calmed those existential fears. Despite the burning bag of shit on our metaphorical porch that 2016 was, it was a phenomenal year for music. You disagree? Well, I can’t help you. Grab a cookie and another cup of coffee and show yourself out the door. The rest of us have some records to talk about.

I don’t dip into pop charts too much, so if you notice albums by Solange, Frank Ocean, Blood Orange, Childish Gambino, Beyonce, and Kanye missing from the list it’s because I’ve built a wall around myself and keep to my own musical proclivities. I know all of the above mentioned have put out pretty astonishing albums this year and I plan on getting to them. But for now, welcome to my year-in-review.

10. Causa Sui : Return To Sky

dsc05070Denmark’s Causa Sui are like this wellspring of individual talent that somehow through a higher power came together and make amazing, mind-altering albums. Return To Sky is their most pared down, honed-in record to date with 5 songs that range from riff-heavy grooves to dreamy soundscapes. When I spoke to Jonas Munk earlier in the year, he said of Return To Sky, “One thing we all agreed on this time was that this should be a shorter ride.” It may be shorter, but it’s in no way lesser in the Causa Sui canon. “Dust Meridian”, “Mondo Buzzo”, “The Source”, “Dawn Passage” and “Return To Sky” sound like free form jams, but there’s a continuity to them that allow the songs to flow beautifully.

Lost in the desert? Return To Sky can be your enlightened soundtrack for the journey.

9. Wild Nothing : Life Of Pause

dsc05072Jack Tatum’s Wild Nothing has been a favorite of mine since the beautiful Nocturne back in 2012. I also quite dug his Empty Estate EP from 2013. It was weird and a little all over the place. It showed that Tatum was the kind of musician that had quite a few tricks up his sleeve and didn’t want to be pigeonholed as just a purveyor of dream-y, shoe-y, gaze-y pop. Life Of Pause is the proper follow-up to Nocturne and it shows a guy busting his head open and dumping its contents onto tape(or hard drive). Pop excursions, post-punk bounciness, and even elements of art rock come to the surface. The album opens with the exquisite “Reichpop”, an ode to avante classical composer Steve Reich and from there anything goes. Elsewhere, “A Woman’s Wisdom” has the feel of a classic 80s radio hit and “Japanese Alice” pulls off some serious Wire vibes. “TV Queen” is grandiose melodrama with hints of Saga and Tatum’s own Nocturne.

With studio help from Medicine’s Brad Laner on guitar and Peter, Bjorn, and John’s John Eriksson on drums, as well as tight production by Thom Monahan Life Of Pause feels like a next level kind of pop album.

8. Jakob Skott : All The Colours Of The Dust

dsc05073Jakob Skott has become a new favorite of mine in the last two years. His records as front man(away from his drumming duties in Causa Sui) have become these worlds themselves. Wavy synths blip and bleep as Skott builds these massive drums around the analog language he makes with his synthesizers. This year’s All The Colours Of The Dust is this groovy masterpiece where man and machine collide and create noisy tropical grooves. “Age Of Isotopes” is 12 minutes of Bitches Brew-like noise and neo-futuristic computer funk. This is interstellar mind melting right here. “The Variable” is a great balance of soaring melody and jazz fusion drum excursions that in my mind didn’t exist until Skott created it two years ago on Amor Fati.

All The Colours Of The Dust continues Jakob Skott’s spree of heady space jams and moves his synth/drum art to the next level.

7. Thug Entrancer : Arcology

dsc05076To my ears Ryan McRyhew, aka Thug Entrancer, is taking electronic music to a new level. Sure, an album like Arcology falls under categories like house, techno, and EDM, but he’s curating worlds, ideas, and emotions within the grooves and rhythms. I picked up his album Death After Life last year and I thought it was a brilliant piece of electronic music. Arcology is a masterful follow up that has a narrative to follow. McRyhew pieces together an album through a patchwork of flawless production and engaging songs. “Curaga/Low-Life” is uplifting and bright in a chromed-out kind of way, while “Ronin” sweeps you up in its urgency. “Bronze” makes you feel like your falling through space, all the while still retaining the house/techno groove.

Arcology is an album that deserves more love.

6. Victims : Form Hell

dsc05077Victims is a collaboration between film composer Timothy Fife and Video Nasties’ member Chris Livengood. It’s an album that came from out of nowhere and pretty much blew my mind. It’s two tracks laid out on a 10″ that I wish would never end every time I listen to it. A heady mixture of primo-era Tangerine Dream(think Phaedra and Rubycon as told through the imagination of two guys brought up on sleazy 80s horror.) Fife and Livengood aren’t a couple of hacks pretending to be a couple German synth Gods from the 70s and Walter Rizatti. No, they’ve got chops all their own and use them fully on this mini-LP. “Profecy” wavers and slithers like some new age serpent swallowing up your bad karma. Then “Cleonova” gets sickly sleazy in the best way possible. The synths are so thick and gooey you’d need a hot knife to cut through them. It sounds like a cross between the intro to some grimy Betamax copy of a Gorgon video release and the score to some long forgotten Abel Ferrara flick. There’s still plenty of space exploration to be had to this one as well.

Timothy Fife has his debut solo album coming out through Death Waltz Originals in early 2017. It’s called Black Carbon. Here’s to Victims putting out a full-length as well in 2017. Form Hell is a must for any synth geeks out there.

5. Videodrones : Mondo Ferox

dsc05078Speaking of Betamax sleaze, Videodrones is a musical project dedicated to those late night flicks you’d watch when mom and dad went to bed. Those seedy backroom rentals(no, not those backrooms) that you weren’t sure if you should watch them or not. But someone gave you a list of “Video Nasties” and a bunch of those movies are there on the back wall to rent. So why not?

Okay, so Mondo Ferox is much more than sleazy synth. Imagine the Phase IV soundtrack mixed with Lucifer Rising and Walter Rizatti’s more somber tones. That’s a little of what you get on Videodrones debut. This Danish duo revel in the bubbly sounds of pure analog synth and it’s a glorious thing. “Main Titles” growls and sneers like some ancient creature emerging from the mist, while “Blood Brew” twinkles and bubbles like a dying star. “Theme From Mondo Ferox” has a Goblin feel, like something you might’ve heard in Dawn of the Dead. “Stalker State” sounds like you’re passing some great vessel in the blackest of space.

In a year when a show like Stranger Things has put classic synth scores back in our collective minds, Videodrones’ Mondo Ferox feels like an album that came from the era they’re trying to recreate. It feels like a time capsule album, dug out from muddied earth after 35 years in the soil.

4. Explosions In The Sky : The Wilderness

dsc05080Explosions In The Sky didn’t exactly rebuild their sound from the ground up, but after 2011s Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, the Texas band took a break from their wide-eyed, cinemascope song composing and scored a couple indie flicks. On their return to album making they’ve found a more direct sound. The Wilderness is more glitchy, electronic, and harsher in sound, but beautiful nonetheless.

“Wilderness” has a mechanical quality to it, like it’s an AI version of their more organic take on post-rock. It explodes into a rapturous conclusion. “Disintegration Anxiety” takes the Texas big sky sound and turns it into circuitry and urgency. “Logic of a Dream” is majestic in the overwhelming beauty it creates.

Explosions In The Sky have figured out how to take their already much beloved sound and revitalize it and make it sound new. The Wilderness is a breathtaking listen.

3. Preoccupations : Preoccupations

dsc05081Preoccupations self-titled debut pulls you in at the very beginning and doesn’t let you go until the last song ends. It’s exhilarating and unapologetic in its darkness, but they somehow find a way to make anxiety into something uplifting. They took a year of bad juju and documented it in the Canadian wilderness and gave the results to us.

“Anxiety” quivers and quakes like Bauhaus on a bender. It’s a cavernous song that mixes the dark mood of goth with more radio-friendly world of 80s alternative. “Memory” is an epic trek through moss-covered guitar riffs and dreamy synths. The band get help from Handsome Furs/Divine Fits dude Dan Boeckner on some great vocals mid-way through the song. This song is what’s so great about Preoccupations; they let themselves indulge. They slink around in the darkness, pop out for some sunlight, then let the song dissipate in a sea of white noise all the while never allowing the song to feel tired. The album from start to finish is engaging, no matter how down in the doldrums it gets. “Degraded” is as close to a pop song as Preoccupations get, with pulsating bass and drums and bristling guitar notes.

A band that can survive a name change(Preoccupations was formerly Viet Cong) and come back even stronger than before gets my love. It helps that their album is pretty damn amazing.

2. SURVIVE : RR7349

dsc05090So yes, without Netflix’ Stranger Things this record wouldn’t even be on this list. In fact, I’d probably still have no idea who the hell SURVIVE is. After devouring that entire show in two days I’d fallen deeply in love with the show’s score(and Winona Ryder of course…again.) My son even looked at me after we started up episode 5 or 6 and said “Too bad this soundtrack isn’t on vinyl.” Of course that soundtrack is on vinyl now(I own both volumes, natch.) Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein did an amazing job cobbling together this synth heavy score for the Duffer Bros Netflix hit, and thanks to the exposure the show gave these two they put out their band’s new album RR7349 with a new army of fans waiting to lap it up like kitties to a bowl of milk.

The album is darker than Stranger Things. It’s filled with more electronic vibes than just heavy synth splashes. Electronic beats collide with swaths of synthesizers and dark wave noise. “A.H.B.” starts in a sea of synthetic distortion before coming in like the theme from some mid-80s sci fi film. “Wardenclyffe” seems to be this whole other sound itself. Mixing equal parts Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, and something completely original, the song is alien yet familiar. “Low Fog” sounds like old school Oneohtrix Point Never, all drone-y dissonance and calm dread.

Is this album everyone’s taste? No. But for those who have the palate, it’s an uncompromising meal.

This leads us to my favorite album of the year. From the first time I heard it back in the spring I knew it would be in my top 5. It had that “thing” about it. As the year went along it kept in my rotation regularly and never wavered. It’s just hands down an epic rock and roll album. Black Mountain’s IV is a barn burner of the highest order.

dsc05082From the space-y, epic, and nearly 9 minute opener “Mothers Of The Sun” to the punky and fist pumping “Florian Saucer Attack” and the majestic pop beauty of “Crucify Me”, IV pretty much has it all. I don’t think anyone put out a rock and roll record nearly as good as this album this year, or last year for that matter. The thing about Black Mountain is that while they may wear their influences proudly on their sleeves they never imitate. They run those prog, punk, and classic rock influences through the Black Mountain machine and it comes out the other end completely and wholly it’s own thing. It took me a few years to completely embrace these Canadian rock and roll philistines. In fact, it took completely falling for Jeremy Schmidt’s Sinoia Caves back in 2014 to go back to revisit Black Mountain. Once I did it was all over. IV shows a band that has the juice to keep going for years. “Space to Bakersfield, are you listening?” I don’t know if Bakersfield is listening guys, but I sure am.

Despite it being a shit year, as always great music kept me going. Let’s hope for a less gnarly 2017, ehh? Merry Christmas, Happy New Years, Happy Holidays, etc, etc, etc…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Broken hearts make it rain” : A Look At Radiohead’s ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’

So what gives? Radiohead emerge from a five year hibernation and give us their most lush, dense, and downright beautiful album since In Rainbows and it doesn’t even end up on your year end favorite list? What the hell, Hubner? You’re the first to get all stupid and fanboy when they drop a crumb on the sidewalk. You’re all starry-eyed at their strange, alien-esque Flying Lotus-pandering King Of Limbs and Yorke’s electronic noodling and strange means of delivering the music to the people(torrents, flash drives sealed in Jello molds, blackbirds dropping 8-tracks from the sky.) You’re go-to “greatest band ever next to Wilco and AC/DC” just laid their hearts out for you on beautiful wax and exquisite Stanley Donwood artwork and you can’t even put them in the top 25 favorite albums of the year??? What the hell is wrong with you? Do you want to make Thom cry? – voice in my head that sounds like me

dsc05067You know, I’m not sure I have an answer for that. So what gives? I don’t quite know what gives. I mean, I heard the exquisite “Burn The Witch” at the beginning of summer and felt I’d heard what was sure to be the beginnings of the next great Radiohead album. Greenwood’s string arrangements, Thom’s dark and foreboding vocals and lyrics, and of course the rest of the Radiohead crew doing their thing made this song feel like a grand musical announcment. “A low flying panic attack” embedded into my brain is the tag line of the summer. Then they released “Daydreaming” and that crushed me. Such a beautiful, lamenting song. Yorke hasn’t sounded that grounded and vulnerable in a song for years. The Paul Thomas Anderson-directed video was an existential trip as Thom walked through a succession of doors that, to me at least, represented points in ones life and where we come and go, arrive and leave, and eventually curl up and crawl back into the primordial ooze at the end of it all(I could be wrong, though.) Hell, even their unused Bond theme “Spectre” was absolutely brilliant. Very George Martin, “Live And Let Die”-esque, if you ask me. Then, on some random summer Sunday I downloaded the album as soon as it was available and listened to it three times in a row.

Just utter brilliance.

dsc05065“Burn The Witch”, “Daydreaming”, “Deck’s Dark”, “Desert Island Disk”, “Ful Stop”, “Present Tense”, “Identikit”, and “True Love Waits” are some of the best songs Radiohead have written and put to tape, and yet I didn’t even include them on my list. Why? I guess the easiest answer is that I just stopped listening to it and it sort of fell through the cracks. There was that thing with the first vinyl copy I received sounding like absolute shit. I know, that shouldn’t have ruined me of the album as a whole, but dammit we’re not talking about some indie band using beer money to get some records pressed at a questionable pressing plant in Peoria, Illinois. We’re talking about fucking Radiohead. XL Recordings, Nigel Godrich, and one of the biggest and most powerful bands in the world and they send me a shit pressing of their new album? Yeah, I guess that sort of soured me of this exquisitely delicate record that I’d been anticipating and pining for since February of 2011 when King Of Limbs arrived in a surprise blur of electronic weirdness.

Even though the lists have been made and I’ve made my painstaking decisions I still wanted to give my overview of A Moon Shaped Pool, so I’ve been sitting down and digging into this record the last week or two. I did drop the cash on the special edition of this album(mainly for Donwood’s brilliant art, but new heavyweight vinyl of the album helped) and the vinyl sounds much better.

I think Radiohead have elevated to some other musical existence. I think they started the elevation with Kid A and have been moving onward and upward ever since. With each record since 2000 Radiohead seems to be attempting to one up themselves. Never satisfied with the status quo or the typical “rock band” thing, they push themselves to learn new technologies, take their songs apart and rebuild them, and give us(and themselves) something new each time out. Sometimes, like on Hail To The Thief and In Rainbows, they seem to be taking the classic approach to the band and songwriting relationship. But listen a little closer and you’ll hear things aren’t quite as they seem.

dsc05063I feel like A Moon Shaped Pool is the most similar to an album like In Rainbows. Rainbows captured that great rock and roll(“Bodysnatchers”, “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi”, “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”) band that we all fell for in the mid-90s, but it also showed them advancing the rock approach with ghostly nuance and this almost crystalline perfection(“Faust Arp”, “Nude”, “House of Cards”.) I felt it was the best Radiohead album since OK Computer(no disrespect to the Kid A and Amnesiac fanatics.) But now with A Moon Shaped Pool the band has come full circle. It’s this intimate and dark record that despite it’s dense sonics and meticulously engineered sound is probably the most earthbound and human piece of art Radiohead have given us.

There’s still the trademark Thom Yorke-isms like paranoia in regards to privacy and politicians(“Burn The Witch”, “Ful Stop”, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief”), but there’s some really heartbreaking songs here as well. “Daydreaming”, “Glass Eyes”, “Desert Island Disk”, “Identikit”, and “Present Tense” are some of the most personal and relatable lyrics Thom Yorke has penned. When he sings a line like “Broken hearts make it rain” or “I won’t get heavy/Don’t get heavy/Keep it light/and Keep it moving/I am doing/ No harm/ As my world/Comes crashing down”, you don’t feel like it’s coming from some guy obsessed with science fiction and machines taking over. You get the feeling this is a guy going through some stuff. I’ve always admired Yorke’s lyrics. He’s always had this knack for creating vivid and striking images with his words. Here, he’s putting a bunch of pain and loss out there. His best yet.

dsc05064Musically Johnny Greenwood is taking his musical worlds of film scoring and Radiohead and putting them together beautifully for the first time as well. His string arrangements and orchestral arranging here are on par with the best. Radiohead have always been a band that felt orchestral, with layers of electronics and synths creating this wall of sound on their albums over the years. Greenwood has put his orchestral leanings to good use on A Moon Shaped Pool. Tracks like “Burn The Witch”, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief”, and “The Numbers” are ornamented beautifully by Greenwood’s arrangements.

A Moon Shaped Pool is Radiohead putting all of their musical magic into full swing. It’s also a humbling record. The shadow of loss and death do linger just outside the studio doors here. With the passing of producer Nigel Godrich’ father taking place during the production of the album, as well the disintegration of Thom Yorke’s 20 year relationship with his partner Rachel Owen playing heavily on the lyrics and overall mood, you know know you’re not in for some good time rock and roll. But for me, hearing true vulnerability in these songs is what makes this album so special. I loved King of Limbs. LOVED it. I think the alien aspect of it is what was so genius. The meticulous clicking and clacking and the jerky rhythms and detached ghostly vocals made for this out-of-body experience when listening. It was an escape. A Moon Shaped Pool can certainly be an escape, but there’s a rope tethering you to reality on this record. You can float amongst the dark clouds and booming strings and shaky vocals, but if you look up you can still see some light and friendly but wary eyes looking down upon you. They beckon you to come and feel something with them when you’re done. But only when you’re ready.

Only when you’re ready.

Editor’s Note : Reading earlier in the week of the passing of Rachel Owen(Thom Yorke’s ex and mother of his children) to cancer, I felt compelled to jump into this album again. And again. Knowing of the demise of their relationship played heavily on this record, and then hearing of her death made this album that much heavier. Here’s hoping amends were made. RIP

 

Jhubner73 Presents : Favorite Albums of 2016 Part One

There were lots of albums I loved in 2016. Lots. And there were some that I thought I’d love more than I really did. It’s weird how that works sometimes. You’re in a different headspace and next thing you know some synth band from Austin, Texas is making me not all that interested in new records by Wilco and Radiohead. Weird, I know. Anyways, you can’t predict how a record is going to affect you, and this year was no exception.

So here’s part one of my favorite albums of 2016. My top ten to follow.

25. Of Montreal : Innocence Reaches

dsc05022Kevin Barnes marches to the beat of a different drummer. This time around the drummer is probably a drum machine as Barnes takes Of Montreal into the world of electronica with Innocence Reaches. Not as engaging as his last two albums by a long shot, but I still found some bits to love.

24. Pentagram Home Video : Who’s Out There?

dsc05023A Mondotees/Death Waltz Originals release from earlier in the year, this one touts itself as a soundtrack to some lost 80s cult horror film entitled Who’s Out There? It’s not really a soundtrack to anything except the imagination of its creator, a London-based producer/musician who remains solely in the shadows. If you can snag a copy from somewhere in the ether I highly recommend it. It’s creepy, dark synth fun.

23. Umberto : Alienation

dsc05025Matt Hill as Umberto makes sickly synth music that sounds like the score to some heavily redacted Italian horror film from the late 70s. Dark, gothic synth. On his newest record Alienation he takes the sound out of the seedy theater and into the Italian disco. It’s a more dance-y affair, with odes to Depeche Mode and New Order. Still, there’s plenty of sickly sweet synth to love.

22. Diiv : Is The Is Are

dsc05028I’ll never fault an artist for trying too hard, or having more ambition than vision. It takes a lot to put yourself out there so openly. Is The Is Are is Zachary Cole Smith in the throes of artistic overload. It’s an ambitious record that is top heavy and as you dig through the hour plus double LP you start to get a little tired. Had this record been cut down into a lean 40-45 minute album it would’ve been an outstanding record. As it stands, it’s still a damn good mess.

21. LNZNDRF : LNZNDRF

dsc05029What happens when you take a set of twins from The National and the main guy behind Beirut and put them into a band together? Well LNZNDRF, that’s what. It’s not what you’d expect from all involved, and that’s a good thing. It has more in common with NEU! than The National, Kraftwerk than Beirut. Dreamy guitars, driving bass, and motorik beats dominate on this surprise LP.

20. Damien Jurado : Visions of Us on the Land

dsc05030Damien Jurado’s last two records were epic pieces of musical genius. Spiritual journeys soundtracked by music that was part Crazy Horse, Santana, and not of this earth. With Visions of Us on the Land the sound got a little more 16mm and less Cinemascope. The result is another solid record that feels longer than it needs to be. But still, Jurado is one of the best songwriters of his generation.

19. John Carpenter : Lost Themes II

dsc05032The maestro follows up 2015s Lost Themes with a sequel titled Lost Themes II in 2016 and it’s another solid collection of synth rock. Whether it’s as engaging as his classic movie work is up to the listener to decide, but the fact that John Carpenter is making things makes me a happy person.

18. White Denim : Stiff

dsc05035White Denim’s earlier records were almost too technical and showy for their own good. There were hints of the band they’d become, but it almost felt like babysitting your nephew with ADHD. As with their last record Corsicana Lemonade, these Texans have honed in that energy and have learned to control it, giving Stiff their best collection of songs yet. They’ve found that balance between technical skill and from-the-gut groove. Stiff is the loosest record yet.

17. Chris Cohen : As If Apart

dsc05036Chris Cohen comes across as a pretty down beat guy. His vocals are sweet and sleepy and musically he’s a cross between jazzy and lo-fi. It’s like the Vince Guaraldi Trio and Real Estate bonded over some early Kevin Parker demos. There’s a constant feeling of melancholy in his songs, but you never feel bummed. I can’t say the same for Chris, though. As If Apart is a masterful, stoned, bummer record that feels like the calm after you realize there’s nothing you can do to save the relationship.

16. The Claypool Lennon Delirium : Monolith of Phobos

dsc05038Had you told me in the summer of 1991 that Les Claypool would eventually make a psychedelic album with Sean Ono Lennon I’d a told you that you were out of your mind. The same guy that sang songs called “John The Fisherman”, “Too Many Puppies”, “Tommy The Cat”, and “Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers” making an album with the son of John and Yoko Lennon? No way! Had you told me that the album called Monolith of Phobos would not only exist but be damn good, I’d a said you’re nuts. Well, I would’ve been wrong. It does exist and it’s damn good.

15. Landing : Third Sight

dsc05041Landing’s Third Sight is a complex patchwork of woozy, trippy ambient music and heady psych. Lots of synth, looped guitar lines, and vocals that bring to mind My Bloody Valentine and Lush, the record is the band’s debut with Danish record label El Paraiso Records. They’ve already released another album called Complekt, so Landing doesn’t mess around. If you like your music on the atmospheric side of things, then Landing is your thing.

14. MSTRKRFT : Operator

dsc05042Dance music has never really been my thing. Mainly because I don’t dance, or shake my booty, or get down with my bad self. Having said that, MSTRKRFT make dance music that makes me want to be a better booty shaker. Their music is equal parts techno, industrial, and punk. On their new album Operator they’ve broken out the old school analog synths and get down and dirty. It’s a glorious thing.

13. Wilco : Schmilco

dsc05043I never thought the day would come when a Wilco record would end up anywhere below the top five of one of my year-end lists, but here we are. It’s not a bad album at all, but it just didn’t connect with me like past albums(or a good portion of what came out this year.) Still, Schmilco shows a band not willing to settle in to a sound. They’re still doing what they want to do despite what “fans” would like to hear. I gotta respect that.

12. Ashley Bellouin : Ballads

dsc05046Ashley Bellouin’s Ballads is a mix of avante garde composition and dreamy soundscapes. It’s drone-y and art-y, but it takes you on a journey. It’s like an expressionist painting that you stare at and wait for it to tell you something. In just a single, wavering tone it tells you so much.

11. Cymbals Eat Guitars : Pretty Years

dsc05047This nearly made my top ten but got beat out by some Danish dudes, but that doesn’t lessen the greatness of this record. Pretty Years is the best Cymbals Eat Guitars album yet, mixing the dreamy guitar sounds of earlier records with a keen pop sensibility. Where previous albums may have gone too far one way or another, Pretty Years found the perfect balance. The results are a mix of both disenchantment with formative years spent in suburbia and a longing to go back to simpler times. Joseph D’Agostino proves to be one of the best songwriters we’ve got right now.

Coming up: my top 10 albums of the year. Until then, go hang out underneath the mistletoe and see who lays a juicy one on ya!

Jhubner73 Presents : Favorite Soundtracks of 2016

Besides being a pretty amazing year for new albums, there have been some amazing film and television scores that have come out in 2016. Now a couple of the soundtracks I picked up this year technically were released in 2015, but that’s merely a technicality. I bought them and loved them in 2016 so they’re ending up on this year’s list.

Here, without further adieu, is my list of favorite scores of 2016.

10. The Dust Brothers : Fight Club S/T

dsc05012Fight Club hasn’t aged all that well with me. I discussed this in great length just a couple weeks ago, but that was only in an effort to praise just how good the score by Michael Simpson and John King, aka The Dust Brothers was. Due to the film’s dark humor and overall dreary atmosphere the soundtrack needed to facilitate the mood in that direction. The score is like a dark trip-hop album, with bits of light and gallows humor dispersed throughout. If it wasn’t called Fight Club S/T it could just be considered a great trip-hop album. The Dust Brothers are no strangers to creating mood through a musical patchwork of loops and samples, and here they work to make David Fincher’s cult hit much better than it really was.

9. Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL : Batman V Superman : Dawn Of Justice S/T

dsc05018I’ll be perfectly honest here, the only reason I bought this album was because of my 11-year old son. We saw the movie in the theater and he was much more of a fan than I was. When the record was released I had no intention of buying it, but when he saw it he was like “That would be great to have, wouldn’t it?” I can’t deny my son’s enthusiasm for vinyl buying, so I chucked the $35 at my local record store guy and grumbled to myself as I walked to my car. Truth be told, it’s a pretty amazing score on its own. Zimmer knows how to create mood for a film, and with Junkie XL adding a bit of ADHD energy to the whole affair it turns out to be a damn good score. It’s sprawled across five sides of vinyl, with the 6th side being a killer etching.

Be prepared to have some serious play fighting in the living room and some fist-to-pillow violence when you play this one in the house.

8. Mogwai : Atomic S/T

dsc05021Mogwai have found something that can keep them working until they want to retire: film scoring. If they grow tired of trying to reinvent what they started nearly 20 years ago they can write someone else’s vision. Atomic is the score to a documentary about the bombs being dropped on Japan and it paints a subtle musical interpretation of the film’s darker themes. With their score of Les Revenents and the new Leonardo DiCaprio documentary Before The Flood, in which they collaborate with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, they show that they’re far more than purveyors of the post-rock crown. In fact, they’ve melted the crown down and made really nice cufflinks out of it. Something they can wear when they’re nominated for their first ‘Best Film Score’ award.

7. Kreng : Camino S/T

dsc05020I first heard Kreng, aka Pepijn Caudron, last year when he created one of my favorite scores for the horror/comedy Cooties. This year he scored the thriller Camino. I have not seen Camino, but if the score is any indication it’s one hell of a ride. Kreng shifted gears this time around and went for a more orchestral sound, leaving the trip-hop vibes for another project. There’s lots of shrieking strings and tense use of sound effects, with an overall heavy vibe. Kreng has become one of my favorite composers and I look forward to whatever he has coming up next.

6. Kurt Stenzel : Jodorowsky’s Dune S/T

dsc05017Kurt Stenzel created an intimate synth score for Frank Pavich’s doc about the Alexander Jodorowsky’s doomed attempt at bringing Frank Herbert’s Dune to life. Stenzel uses pieces of conversation from the film and works them in seamlessly to space-y synth and guitar that at times almost feels mystical in its use. It’s an existential trip that I think Jodorowsky would be quite fond of, if he hasn’t yet heard it.

5. Various Artists : Lost Highway S/T

dsc05019I think it’s safe to say that David Lynch’s Lost Highway was one of the most batshit crazy films of the nineties, and one of Lynch’s most absurd films(that’s saying a lot, people.) But if you looked past the doppleganger twists, noir-in-Hell story, and Robert Blake’s frightening makeup the movie had a pretty solid soundtrack. Bowie, Trent Reznor, Smashing Pumpkins, Lou Reed, NIN, and Angelo Badalamenti. The soundtrack was produced by Reznor and it has the flavor Reznor holed up in a house freaking out. It’s great having this thing finally available on vinyl.

4. Ben Lovett : Synchronicity S/T

dsc05014I hadn’t heard of the film prior to seeing that it’s score was being released by Mondotees/Death Waltz, but all it took were a couple snippets on Soundcloud for me to engage my Paypal acct into buying mode. The score is exquisitely classic neo-futuristic synth. A cross between classics like Vangelis and Tangerine Dream with some more modern touches, in-particular Sinoia Caves work on the Beyond The Black Rainbow. Lovett made the film much better than it deserved to be. It wasn’t horrible, but too convoluted for its own good(great casting though, with Michael Ironside and AJ Bowen in supporting roles.) If you like listening to Blade Runner as much as watching it, you should already own this score.

3. Cliff Martinez : The Neon Demon S/T

dsc05013Cliff Martinez can do no wrong in my eyes. His work only elevates whatever film it’s accompanying. He’s created this symbiotic relationship with director Nicolas Winding Refn, much like he did with Steven Soderbergh, where everything work together and becomes all the better by that artistic relationship. The Neon Demon is over-the-top and over indulgent, but that’s how it should be. Any kind of restraint and it just wouldn’t work as well. Martinez turns the score into a thumping techno musical world where dream and reality collide and embrace, bleeding all over each other. It’s his most intense score yet.

2. Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein : Stranger Things S/T Volume 1 and 2

dsc05009This will be the last you hear me utter “Stranger Things” for the rest of the year. I’m sure once season 2 hits I’ll start yacking about this show again, but until then this is it. The Duffer Bros locked into something with their debut show that a whole hell of a lot of us absorbed and took in like clean oxygen after being under a heavy quilt for too long. It was a refreshing take on the 80s kid films where everyone wasn’t a model and happy endings weren’t always a given. Stranger Things took the “rag tag group of outsiders” storyline and gave it new life with some new faces and some underused ones as well. Science fiction colliding with horror colliding with friendship created this year’s best television. To authenticate the nostalgia factor the Duffer Bros tapped Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein of Austin synth band SURVIVE to score their Netflix original series. The results? Classic 80s sound with deft modern touches. The score grabbed me before I saw a single shot of the actual show. The opening credits scene with the pulsating synthesizer hooked me instantly. The show could’ve been just okay and I would’ve continued on because of that music. Fortunately the show was spot-on.

Truly top notch.

And last but not least, the best among a sea of best: Mac Quayle : Mr. Robot S/T Volume 1 and 2

dsc05008No show surprised me more than Sam Esmail’s Mr. Robot. Both season 1 and 2 were original pieces of television, putting the dark world that David Fincher has created in cinema and put it smack dab on cable TV(it’s on USA Network.) One of the most important aspects of the show is the music. It creates this world of musical ones and zeros that go to enhance the paranoid world of our protagonist Elliot Alderson. The music is this electronic pulse that seems to push the characters along in strange and dark places. You don’t know who to trust or what to believe is reality and what is part of the character’s failing mind. Mac Quayle’s scoring technique takes a few cues from the Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross playbook, using vintage sound and posing them in a modern world of tech geeks and international computer hacking. Quayle works subtly. It works so well that you don’t notice how good it is till you can enjoy the score completely on its own. It’s a riveting musical world that would appeal to electronic music fans and fans of background noise while you study or melt into the furniture.

Mac Quayle takes the prize as far as I’m concerned. Can’t wait to see what he does from here.


I bought a lot of soundtracks this year, and none were disappointing. These were the 10 that I obsessed over the most, but here’s a few more that were pretty great.

Angelo Badalamenti : Twin Peaks S/T – David Lynch. Angelo Badalamenti. Agent Cooper. ‘Nuff said.

Daredevil S/T : John Palesano and Jessica Jones S/T : Sean Callery – Arrived late into the year, but incredible scores to some more amazing television. Plus bonus for some incredible artwork.

Atticus and Leopold Ross & Bobby Krlic : Almost Holy S/T – Intense score for the intense doc Almost Holy about a priest trying to save drug-addled teens in the streets of Mariupol, Ukraine. The score has the electronic leanings of the Ross bros with Krlic’s darker, gothic tones of The Haxan Cloak.

Howard Shore : Nightcrawler S/T – Score for the 2015 thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo. Released this year through Invada Records, this score stands out as a more leaner, grittier sound than Shore has done in the past.

Brad Fiedel : The Terminator S/T – C’mon, why wouldn’t this end up on a list of favorite scores? It’s been long out-of-print, so some geniuses decided to put it back out on vinyl because they knew suckers like me would buy it up. They were right. I did. And I have no regrets. Fiedel knocked it out of the park with this one. Don’t agree? Then “f**k you, a**hole”.

Up next: Favorite records of 2016(numbers 25-11)

 

 

 

 

 

Favorite Music Videos of the Year(is that still a thing?)

“Favorite Videos of the Year”. That statement seems so antiquated nowadays. Do you remember back in the day when there was music television? You know, MTV and VH1? If you’re not familiar, they were these cable networks that used to play nothing but music videos made by artists to compliment the music they made and put out on records, cassettes, and CDs(yes, they put music out digitally, too. But by the time that happened music television was nothing more than 24-hr reality tv.) For some it was “Hey, let the music speak for itself. Don’t show me what I’m supposed to feel when I hear “Rockit”, okay?” For others it was a deeper way to enjoy the music. It was a beautiful coming together of the art of music and the art of film.

Where did I fall in the great music video debate you wonder? Well, since my parents never got cable at our house, MTV was something I longed for throughout my formative years. The best I got was Friday Night Videos on of course Friday nights on NBC. Only then could I see videos from Prince, Ratt, Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot, and Van Halen. I loved going over to friends houses that had cable, especially on Saturday nights because then I could stay up and watch Headbanger’s Ball. I never did get to enjoy 120 Minutes as that was on late Sunday nights(I did have a friend that would record videos for me and give me the tape on Monday morning at school…God that sounds pathetic.) I love(and still do) the idea of an artist turning their song into a short film. Sure, there were plenty of horrible videos made in every genre. Usually though if the video was trash the song usually was, too. I don’t know how many of my favorite videos were ideas from the artists I loved or just some pitch man. I guess it doesn’t matter, really. If it worked it worked.

Nowadays the music video networks are basically Youtube and Vevo. It is what it is. Artists are still making cool videos, so I’ll watch ’em where I can. Here’s a few I thought were worthy of multiple watches.

Oneohtrix Point Never : “Sticky Drama”

A mix of Lord of the Flies, The Toxic Avenger, and Sixteen Candles. Daniel Lopatin, I like your kind of weird.

 

Tame Impala : “The Less I Know The Better”

It seems that with every video Tame Impala releases, they get stranger and creepier. That really surprises me, especially with how laid back and easy going Kevin Parker is. I guess it’s true what they say, you gotta keep your eye on the quiet ones. Either way, the giant ape always gets the girl.

 

Built To Spill : “Never Be The Same”

What’s not to like about a video with Doug Martsch taking acting lessons from some bearded thespian? Is it weird Hairy Canary ends up naked at the end in order for Doug to have the cool threads? Not at all.

 

Mark Ronson : “Uptown Funk(featuring Bruno Mars)”

It’s old school, it’s fun, and it’s funky(in an uptown kind of way.) Why not?

 

Viet Cong : “Continental Shelf”

Here’s one of those instances where the video captures the vibe of the song really well. Grainy film, bizarre, arty shots, and eerie vibe overall. I love this band, this song, and this video.

 

Colleen : “I’m Kin”

A very cool, old school visual extravaganza that doesn’t get in the way of the experience of the song. It’s just what this video needs.

 

Panda Bear : “Boys Latin”

Watching a Disney feature tripping on LSD. Maybe that’s what this video is. I don’t know. But it’s cool.

 

Unknown Mortal Orchestra : “Multi-Love”

Another old school visual extravaganza. Love the trippy aspect of this video and the late 60s Pink Floyd aesthetic of the visuals.

 

The Soft Moon : “Wasting”

The Soft Moon are a visual band anyways, using lighting and stage set up as an integral part of their live shows, so for them to make a cool video isn’t surprising. And come on, Robert Forster. It’s a no brainer.

 

Courtney Barnett : “Pedestrian At Best”

I liked Courtney Barnett’s album this year. It wasn’t one I listened to a whole lot, but I dug it. But this video is great, as is the crunchy and rough-around-the-edges tune. Plus, a sad clown.

 

Lower Dens : “To Die In LA”

Great song from an underrated album. Has that 80s vibe all over it. One of the more cinematic videos of the year.

 

Of Montreal : “Bassem Sabry”

Paper mache masks, trippy visuals, and Kevin Barnes. It’s like his version of Lucifer Rising. You go, Kevin.

 

Deerhunter : “Breaker”

No frills. Just a beautiful video of the band. Perfect compliment to a beautiful song.

 

Action Bronson : “Baby Blue”

Just beginning to appreciate this guy. Killer tune and a great video.

 

Slayer : “Repentless”

Slayer’s old. Prison is scary. Lots of blood. And Machete. That is all.

 

Herbie Hancock : “Rockit”

You needn’t ask why.

 

 

 

 

Afterthought Part Two : Pinkish Black’s ‘Bottom of the Morning’

Pinkish Black’s Bottom of the Morning is one of those albums you need a few listens with before you can start to truly appreciate what they’ve created. I’m not familiar with their previous records, but this one is a full-on synth/drum goth album. Bottom of the Morning also includes vocals from keyboardist Daron Beck, which push this album to the next level. His baritone is really quite wonderful, somewhere between Ian Curtis and Peter Murphy but with more focus than either. Musically this album is a decent amount of Zombi’s synth/drum duo interplay, but less space-y and futuristic vibes. This record is dark sounds from the dark places of our minds. It’s less sci-fi and more doom and gloom horror. It’s an end of the world party and this is the soundtrack.

“Brown Rainbow”, “Special Dark”, “I’m All Gone”, “Burn My Body”, and “Everything Must Go” never waver when telling their tales of death and end of times tales, but they’re never done in some maudlin way. The music grooves and moves throughout, like an episode of Creature Feature soundtracked by the grooviest ghouls you’d ever meet. “I’m All Gone” especially has an almost strut to it as the synths turn cold and black in the air around you. “Burn My Body” tells the tale of the last man alive aboard a sinking ship inhabited by thousands of flesh-eating rats. His final plea? “Burn my body.”

I didn’t say it was uplifting, but I’m definitely saying it’s good.

The 9 1/2 minute title track has an almost jazz quality to it’s swinging rhythm. Strange enough it sounds like something you would’ve heard on a segment on Sesame Street back in the 70s. The piano line throughout is that bridge back to childhood I think. There’s an instrumental track towards the end called “The Master Is Away” that is quite lovely and menacing all in the same 5 minutes.

I had just become aware of Pinkish Black in November, with the album being released quite appropriately on October 31st. I didn’t get my hands on the album until a week or so before Thanksgiving, so I hadn’t had enough time with it to solidify in my brain. But it’s definitely made an impression on me. A band I will keep following from here on out.

IMG_1225