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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Some recent doodles

Doodles from the bottom my work legal pad. Usually the more doodles on the page means I spent more time on hold or waiting for conference calls to start.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My 2012 Half Way Point Top 20 Albums

My 2012 Half Way Point Top 20 Albums

We're halfway through 2012, which seems like a good point to start trying to wrangle my music purchases and put together a list of favorite albums of the year so far. Outside of the first three, the actual ranking positions are still pretty fluid. There will be a lot jockeying for position over the next six months as I relisten to albums and reevaluate. So far this has been a strong year for new music - the quality of all 20 albums is strong enough that I'd be happy to see all of them in my final year end list. 

1. NADA SURF - the Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy (Barsuk Records) For album number seven Nada Surf don't alter their pop formula - they just refine it. Everything I love about Nada Surf is here: ringing guitars, wonderfully catchy hooks, compelling lyrics, and Matthew Caws's charismatic vocals. But the band hit a bit of a rut on the last few albums and the songs sounded a bit too samey. This time the songwriting is a bit more distinctive and the songs sound fresh and more enthusiastic, which is enough to make this my favorite album by them and the record I've played the most this year.

2. the CLOUD NOTHINGS – Attack On Memory (Carpark) Attack on Memory is an aggressive big guitar pop album with the melodic intensity greatly turned up from the band's first 2 releases. They play with the force of a hardcore record, but the hooks are huge and despite the wall of noise (thanks in part to Steve Albini working the boards) they never forget the pop songwriting basics. The album greatly reminds me of Hope Is Important/100 Broken Windows era Idlewild (especially in Dylan Baldi's vocals) with it's high energy angst delivered via a tight batch of pushed to 11 pop songs.
3. MARK LANEGAN - Blues Funeral (4AD) Blues Funeral is dingy, dark, and exactly what I want from the gravelly voiced former Screaming Trees frontman. But this time along with the brooding blues dirges he excels at he widens his palette with post-punk synths and electronic drums, which makes the album infinitely more interesting than anything's he done previously. Whether it's the slow burners, the pounding rockers, or the groove heavy electronic numbers there's a sinister tone that pulls everything together into one cohesive piece. For me this album delivers on the feeling I always hope for a Nick Cave record but never quite get

4. CHUCK PROPHET - Temple Beautiful (Yep Roc) The 12th solo album from the San Francisco singer/songwriter (and former Green on Red frontman) reminds me of an Americana Ray Davies meets Alejandro Escovedo (which makes sense since Prophet co-wrote all of and played on my favorite Alejandro album, Real Animal) with a bit of the barroom rocker side of Tom Petty.

5. the WELL WISHERS – Dreaming of the West Coast (the Well Wishers) Classic power pop from the Bay area that works the same territory as Velvet Crush, Material Issue, and the Posies. Big choruses, crunching guitars, and an embarrassment of riches in the melody department.

6. LEE RANALDO - Between The Times & the Tides (Matador) Renaldo is more straight-ahead rock/pop focused on his first post Sonic Youth solo album, but there's still enough guitar experimentation and sonic twists that it's obvious where he came from. Lee's vocal range is limited, but he plays to his strengths and has made an album that could almost be called mainstream. He knows how to write great hooks and surrounds them with unexpected flourishes and diverse sounds, resulting in a record that I keep coming back to.

7. SAINT ETIENNE - Words and Music by Saint Etienne (Universal UK) St Etienne's first album in 7 years is an electronic love letter to the enthusiasm of being a music fan. The record is filled with slickly produced dance floor Europop in the same arena Kylie, Robyn, and Annie work in, but with a warmth those artists don't have. The songs are personal and reflective, but the choruses sparkle, the beats pulsate, and Sarah Cracknell's voice is in top form.

8. DAVID MYHR - Soundshine (Strong Melody Productions) The bright, shimmering power pop from the former frontman for Sweden's Merrymakers is the perfect soundtrack for Summer. Think of the more buoyant songs from Jellyfish, Dodgy, and Fountains of Wayne and you have an idea what sound David works (and excels) in.

9. the dB's - Falling Off the Sky (Bar None Records) The pop gods return with their first album in 25 years (and the first with the original Stamey/Holsapple/Rigby/Holder line-up since 1982's Repercussion). There are elements of everything the individual members have doing over the past two and half decades, yet it still sounds like a cohesive band.

10. LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III - Older Than My Old Man Now (2nd Story Sound Records) As with most of his best records, Loudon sings about mortality, family, memories, and his place in the world with equal parts humor and deeply personal reflection.

11. the MAGNETIC FIELDS - Love at the Bottom of the Sea (Merge) Stephin Merritt returns to synths and more direct songs (well, as much as Stephin Merritt can be direct). It's quirky, catchy, often funny, and always interesting - which is exactly what I want from Magnetic Fields.

12. the SHINS - Port of Morrow (Aural Apothecary/Columbia) James Mercer doesn't reinvent much from previous Shins albums, he just refines the sound a bit, widens the pop references just a smidge, and comes armed with what might be his strongest and most distinctive batch of songs yet.

13. FIRST AID KIT - The Lion's Roar (Wichita) Country rock in the Gram Parsons tradition from 2 Swedish sisters with hauntingly beautiful harmonies.

14. CROCODILES - Endless Flowers (Frenchkiss) Less Echo & the Bunnymen and more Jesus & Mary Chain for the San Diego band's third album of big guitar psychedelia. It's poppy shoegazer stuff - totally retro, but quite enjoyable.

15. NENEH CHERRY & the THING – Cherry Thing (Smalltown Supersound) Neneh teams up with a Scandinavian free-jazz trio for a wonderfully exciting album of originals and covers (Stooges, Don Cherry, Suicide, MF Doom, and Ornette Coleman) that melds avante garde spontaneity and funky grooves, capped off with some of Neneh's loosest vocals ever.

16. LE SERA - Sees the Light (Hardly Art) The 2nd album from Vivian Girls bassist Katy Goodman is a rush of charming indie pop melodies pushed to the next level by her captivating honey sweet vocals.

17. KELLY HOGAN - I Like To Keep Myself In Pain (Anti/Epitaph) On her first solo album in a decade, Kelly effortlessly shifts between traditional country, Americana pop, Adult Contemporary, and songs that sound like they could be standards from several generations earlier.

18. DJANGO DJANGO - Django Django (Because UK) Debut album from a London quartet with armed with a diverse collection of innovative art pop songs big on catchy hooks and toe-tapping melodies.

19. DR JOHN - Locked Down (Nonesuch) - Thanks in part to production from Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, Dr John delivers a surprisingly strong album of funky, gritty blues swamp rock. It somehow sounds current and timeless at the same time and it's the most consistent album he's done in 20 years.

20. CARDINAL - Hymns (Fire) - It took 18 years, but Richard Davies and Eric Matthews finally release the follow up their much loved debut album.

CLOSE BUT NOT QUITE: GUIDED BY VOICES – Let's Go Eat the Factory, the KIK - Springlevend, PAUL WELLER - Sonik Kicks, HOWLER - America Give Up and CATE LE BON - Cyrk were all in close contention for those last two spots.

JUST PICKED UP BUT HAVEN'T LISTENED ENOUGH TO YET TO COMMENT BUT HAVE A GOOD VIBE ALREADY: JD McPHERSON - Signs & Signifiers, SHOES - Ignition, DISAPPEARS - Pre Language. Based on one listen that Shoes album is pretty fantastic.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Crap from the Sketchpad: Charlie Brown's Gotta Rock

One of my go-to's when doodling and I don't know what else to draw are bastardized Charlie Browns. Another go-to is the Black Flag bars logo. Both are easy to draw. Eventually they had to end up in one doodle.

I just learned I can't draw Doc Martens. I've always known I can't draw a convincing Charlie Brown.