A Very Good Year


Music is fun again isn’t it?  I’ve had a blast listening, reading, researching and sharing a ton of great sounds with you this year.  I decided I’m not going to waste your time with a bunch of numbered lists and explanations of my favorite records of 2011.  Instead, I thought I’d put them down for you, in no particular order, without regard for genre or style.   Just a list of a handful of killer records.  Treat yo’ self 2012 and pick some of these up.  You can thank me later.

ASAP Rocky- LiveloveA$AP– Harlem’s newest phenom doing his east coast meets Houston thing over Clams Casino’s space case beats.

Signals Midwest– Latitudes and Longitudes–  Ohio stood up and represented on this one, for real though.

Deer Tick- Divine ProvidenceThese Rhode Island weirdos do things one way and one way only.  Over the top.  Best live band to come through my city this year.

Kendrick Lamar- Section.80- The west coast has a new king.

Foo Fighers- Wasting Light– The post-Nirvana band that nobody imagined would still be rocking this hard after nearly 20 years in the game.

Jay-Z and Kanye West-Watch The Throne– This is what it sounds like when you trap two of hip hop’s most prolific voices in a studio and turn them loose.

The Black Keys– El Camino– Dangermouse grabs the reigns and The Black Keys pump out one of the coolest, most fun rock and roll records of the year.

Real Estate– Days– The easy, breezy sound of slacker-rock at its finest.  Pavement for kids who have no idea what Pavement sounds like.

Stalley- Lincoln Way Nights– Easily one of my favorite hip hop records of the year.  He calls it “intelligent trunk music”.  Enough said.

Rival Schools- Pedals– Walter and the boys can do no wrong, and prove it on their stellar second record.

Shooter Jennings &  Hierophant– Black Ribbons- This one is equal parts Pink Floyd, STP and Waylon all rolled into one crazy story narrated by Stephen King.

The Weeknd- House of Balloons/Thursday/Echoes of Silence (3 EP series)-  Canadian crooner who captures MJ’s vocal frailty and every ounce of Prince’s inner pervert.

Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire- Lost In Translation- Since I’m a sucker for a lyricist there was none greater than eX in 2011.  He’s smart, mean, gritty and NYC to his core.

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks- Mirror Traffic–  This dude is straight-up funky…and I dig it.

Mariachi El Bronx– II- LA punks who do authentic mariachi as well as they do LA punk.

The Doppelgangaz– Lone Sharks–  Can’t say enough to spread the Doppel Gospel.  These guys bleed east coast hip hop.

The Horrible Crowes- Elsie- Brian Fallon is carrying the torch for the new wave of blue collar rock and roll.

Joyce Manor- Self-Titled- A sloppy, yet strangely cohesive disaster of a record.

Hanni El Khatib- Will the Guns Come Out- Solid, riff-heavy rock and roll from a rather mysterious bay-area Californian.

Destroyer- Kaputt- 80’s sounding record full of music for the morning after.

Black Lips- Arabia Mountain- Mark Ronson tries to steer these southern mad-men towards sanity, results vary.

Drake- Take CareThe kid sings more than he raps on this one.  Yet when he raps he’s meaner than ever.

Gameday Regulars– But It’s Hell In The Hallway–  No nonsense, Bronx punk and roll.  Take it straight, no chaser.

My Morning Jacket- Circuital-  Arguably the best live band on the planet bottles some of that up and puts it on wax.

I’m sure I missed a million wonderful recordings.  Feel free to comment and let me know what I should have been listening to.  Happy new year and as long and you keep reading and discovering new music with me, I’ll keep ranting and raving.  2012, here we come.  Word up.

**Honorable Mentions:  Yelawolf-Radioactive, Banner Pilot- Heart Beats Pacific, Bayside- Killing Time, Childish Gambino- Camp, Curren$y- Weekend At Burnies, I Am The Avalanche- Avalanche United, Elzhi- Elmatic and Bon Iver- Self Titled


Pay The Man

I’m glad people dismiss Asher Roth as a frat-boy and a one-trick pony.  It makes releases like Pabst & Jazz that much sweeter.  I’m not sure how many verses this Pennsylvania ginger has to rip for people to give him his due.  And the best part is, I’m not sure he gives a fuck.   Put the hate for “I Love College” aside and press play.

This releases pairs Ash with Blended Babies, a Chicago production team that’s heavy on the boom-bap, but keeps things cool with plenty of horns and offbeat percussion like early Common Sense.  Chuck Inglish from The Cool Kids also gets behind the boards for a few of the tape’s busier, west-coast kissed tracks.   There’s a handful of guests, but it’s clearly all about Asher.

The Eminem tag is finally gone.  The one-hit-wonder label never stuck.  There’s a string of dope mixtapes out there to prove what Asher is all about.  And that’s wordplay, weed and wit.   This late 2011 release is gunning for my top ten list, most certainly.

Ash and Queens big man Action Bronson going for it…

This one is strictly business.

The Gift of Youth


I love the city of Philadelphia.  I hate the sports teams….all of them.  But the city is great.  There’s a strong sense of community.  Fantastic venues.  Really tasty food.  Not only is it rad, but it holds the distinct title of the being the city of my birth.  Safe to say I’ve always had a soft spot for Philly bands.

Tonight’s noise comes to you via Philadelphia and New Jersey.  Young Statues is the the brain child of singer Carmen Cirignano.  He took his ideas on a road trip to Athens, Georgia where he and a few friends began recording songs.  Those song structures came back to NJ, where they were molded into what I have now been playing non-stop for the past few days.  Young Statues is the type of debut that demands a second and third listen.  I was shocked that it was the bands first record.  There’s not a ton of shimmer and shine, or obnoxious perfection here. It’s nothing more than a sturdy debut from a band with dangerous potential.

Young Statues boast a confident record collection.  There’s a touch of Dawes.  A nod to Nada Surf.  There’s the obvious love of Death Cab For Cutie.  Yet amidst all that influence there’s a fresh, new band begging for the spotlight.  The harmonies click and soar, the guitars crest and crash and while the angst and heartbreak gets a tad repetitive, never once throughout the records eleven tracks are there many moments of boredom.

This record sounds like moment when things come together.  Cold weather.  Warm lips.  Foggy glasses.  Enjoy.

Gang Mentality


Here’s a happy story for you on this lovely Christmas day-afternoon.  Los Angeles’s Grouplove came together as organically as their name suggests. Imagine what your music would sound like if you and your artist friends packed up and left Manhattan for the Greek island of Crete.  While attending a summer art residency you meet the rest of your would-be band mates while painting and enjoying the best things a foreign coast has to offer.  The resulting sound would come from a place of peace, love and understanding.  Enter Grouplove.

This bands power comes from their ability to channel that spirit of packing up and hitting the road.  Maybe you end up around the globe, or maybe at your grandma’s for a long weekend.  Either way, the sound is meant for that exploration.  At first listen you’d think the band is striving for some sort of indie-folk perfection like Arcade Fire.  Good thing it’s way too much of a mess for that.  That sloppiness is why I love it so much.  There’s punk in this sunshiny mess, like a boy-girl channeling of Frank Turner with a hookah, and it’s a blast.

Be sure to check out their fantastic album, Never Trust a Happy Song.  Enjoy.  Thanks for reading and happy holidays.

The Ghostly Parts

The Doppelgangaz are a team from NYC doing things the rough and gritty way of the upstart mc.  They’re not with anybody, cause’ nobody is with them…not even their own mothers.  And although they’re as volatile as Walter Lee Younger, they’re as smooth as Billy Dee.  They craft hard tracks by pairing razor-sharp viscous raps, with heady, forward production that reminds me of Cincinnati’s Hi-Tek sprinkled with a little Ski-Beatz.

They represent all things NY, evident in their fantastic hometown videos.  If there’s an award for creepy and absurd outfits, the Doppelgangaz take the cake with the black cloaks over top of baggy cargos, skateboard tees and Jordans.  MC’s EP and Matter OV Fact manage to stomp out any and all doubt after a mere fifteen seconds from any track on Lone Sharks their tremendous debut.  If you don’t feel “At Night”, you’re reading the wrong blog.

This record snaps and pops like the golden age from front to back, but doesn’t wallow in the glimmer of the past.  It rips through right now with a DIY feel that’s finally getting some shine amongst critics and fans who stepped away from the magazines a few years ago and put their fucking ears to the pavement.  Pour out a little….rubbing alcohol?!?!?

Ultimately Independent


Nothing beats a solid crew.  Team dynamic is what makes hip hop so fantastic.  Just mash-up a bunch of mc’s and let them develop into some weird musical superpower of styles and personalities paging wu-tang.  There’s really nothing better.  California’s Living Legends is the epitome of rap Voltron.  The nine man collective has sold a ton of records the last few years with nothing but hustle behind them.

Living Legend Eligh’s recent release Therapy at 3 is a testament to what he knows best…hip hop and Los Angeles.  His mind goes on and on over top of dizzying west coast confusion courtesy of Amp Live from Zion I.  The record sounds like a personal project with unlimited freedom, jazzy and heavy as one.  Eligh’s rapid, start-stop flow is similar to Atlanta’s Big Boi.  The mix is something that works well.

He’s experienced enough to understand how to take the listener on a ride rather than waste time boring us.  On Therapy at 3 you’re climbing into a passenger side space odyssey.  There’s a ton of Dilla influence on this too.

I’ll admit, the chorus of this one didn’t catch me, but the verses and visuals certainly do.  See for yourself.