Los Grillos Year in Review–A Toast to Favorites from 2011

It’s time to close out another year at los grillos with a toast to the albums that most perked up our antennae. Using a  selection process in which the main criteria was the number of repeat listens an album inspired, a large group of contenders was narrowed to a top 11. Although this list pays homage to Spinal Tap, it leaves out a number of great bands about which we had some nice things to say over the course of the year. At any rate, here’s to some of our favorite music from 2011 and the artists that created it. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have…

 

Girls’ second lp, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, delivers stadium-sized, laser-light-show-ready anthems filtered through an in-the-basement-style production that, rather than reducing the album’s ambition, amplifies it through the intimacy of the recording. The opposite of a sophomore slump, this is the sound of a band getting better by leaps and bounds.

 

With The World, The Flesh, The Devil, classic metal revivalists In Solitude invoke the spirit of Iron Maiden with dual guitar leads and galloping bass, and enigmatic singer Hornper’s cry-of-warning vocals, paired with the lean riffage of guitarists Niklas Lindström and Henrik Palm, brings to mind the best of eighties metal masters Riot.

In Solitude “Serpents Are Rising” by Metal Blade Records

 

The War On Drugs’ Slave Ambient offers narcotic yet propulsive tracks on an album that reaches beyond the melodic, folk-rock fuzz of the band’s earlier work toward something no less infectious but more epic in scope. Atmospheric and anthemic, songwriter/frontman Granduciel’s songs often feel quietly cinematic, like soft goodbyes and late-night drives.

Come to the City by DOJAGSC

 

On Peer Amid, Swedish experimental rockers The Skull Defekts hook up with legendary Lungfish singer Daniel Higgs, and together they grind out some seriously ominous grooves that will bore inside your head and take over, leaving you at the mercy of a dark, pounding album that is dense, menacing and heavy.

 

Centro-matic’s Candidate Waltz, an album of nine pop gems that are simultaneously pared down to their core melodies and filled out with subtle production layers, is the sound of a band that, after 15 years, continues to grow. Similar to a number of artists on this year’s list, Centro-matic has created another new career high by managing to remain true to their sound while exploring new ideas.

Only In My Double Mind by Centro-matic

 

Like Will Johnson and Centro-matic, this year Eric Bachmann has, with Crooked Fingers’ Breaks In The Armor, put together a collection of impeccably crafted tunes that draw from the best of his talents. Built on evocative lyrical imagery and affecting arrangements delivered in a world-weary yet resolute voice, Bachmann’s latest is the beautifully rendered work of an immensely talented songwriter.

Crooked Fingers – Typhoon by MergeRecords

 

Richard Buckner emerged this year from a long absence to deliver Our Blood, an album that blends his country roots and pop sensibilities with his more experimental urges, providing a deeply layered musical foundation for his distinctive baritone and darkly poetic lyrics. Well worth the wait.

 

Relatively recent los grillos discovery Daniel Knox is a Chicago musician and composer of dark balladry whose latest album, Evryman For Himself, spins Waits-ian yarns of life’s outsiders, outcasts and would-be iconoclasts with a rich, resonant voice. The album manages to be both unsettling and affecting, humorous and harrowing, like a Bukowski poem or a Carver story adapted for the screen by David Lynch.

Ghostsong by Daniel Knox by PMA

 

OBN III’s, a sort of Texas garage/punk supergroup led by Orville Bateman Neeley III of Denton’s Bad Sports, also includes folks from Austin’s A Giant Dog and The Strange Boys. And they live up to the supergroup notion with The One And Only, a no-holds-barred, relentless, rockin’ good time of an album. Take what you hear on this recording, throw in some reckless abandon, cheap beer and a sweat-soaked club, and crank it all into the red to get an idea of what these guys are like live. Not to be missed.

 

A scorching slab of doom metal, YOB’s Atma is built with thick, rumbling riffs and thunderous, deeply resonate percussion, and the songs are stretched to mind-absorbing lengths without sacrificing melody, creating an album that is earth-shakingly, soul-stirringly heavy.

 

The album of 2011 that I continue to play over and over is one that came as a complete surprise because I’d heard nothing of the band before first hitting play and had no expectations, but from its opening notes I was hooked by Um Futuro Inteiro, the second album from Brazilian musician Bonifrate. A folk/psych/pop treasure in any language, Um Futuro Inteiro recalls the best of the genre, from George Harrison to the bands that came out of the Elephant 6 Collective to like-minded contemporaries such as Dr. Dog. Ultimately, Bonifrate has created a masterful album that is quietly hopeful about what’s ahead yet reflective of what’s been left behind, like the slow burn of nostalgia tempered by the headrush that comes with sudden joy.

 

And that wraps it up for another los grillos year-end list. We’ll catch you on the other side of 2011 with some more words about music. Until then, rock it!

Los Grillos Year in Review–Missed Hits, Side 2

Yesterday we posted Side 1 of just a few of the hits los grillos missed writing about this year. Today we flip to Missed Hits, Side 2, starting with a reissue of Starfuckers 1990 album Metallic Diseases (cover art pictured above)…

I missed Italian band Starfuckers’ Metallic Diseases when it landed 20 or so years ago, and I might have missed this reissue from Holy Mountain if I hadn’t spent a lazy Friday afternoon hanging with the fantastic folks at Trailer Space Records when Spot gave it a spin. Listening now to its Stooges meets Suicide blend of punk and noise, its hard to believe this wasn’t bigger back in the day of its initial release. Now that it’s back, fans of noise rock should definitely pick up a copy.

 Originally released by Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace label back in 2010, Luke Roberts’ debut album, Big Bell and Dime Songs, was picked up and given a broader release by Thrill Jockey this year, and deservedly so. Fans of restless troubadours who lay bare their troubled souls through sparse, intimate recordings won’t want to miss these songs the artist calls, “poems that I didn’t feel comfortable not reciting before I go.”

Luke Roberts – Dime Song (full band version) by Thrill Jockey Records

 Austin’s Strange Boys get a little less strange on Live Music, an almost shockingly cleaned up recording compared to past albums. And though some folks bemoan the scrubbing away of clanging, banging guitars, I dig the addition of piano and how the washing away of the grime lets the songwriting shine on this collection of songs that recall classic Americana.

 Revered New Zealand guitarist David Kilgour (The Clean) quietly dropped his latest, Left by Soft, recorded with his band The Heavy Eights, via Merge earlier this year, and it’s another collection of pristine, essentially perfect, yet unassuming pop songs from a guy who’s been doing it for over three decades.

 Eyewash Silver from King Blood is another album that had a limited run in 2010 but was picked up for a (slightly) larger release in 2011, this time by Permanent Records. This one might be gone again already, so if you’re a fan of blow-your-fucking-mind, acid-fried, psych-guitar squall, don’t hesitate to grab a copy of this one if you stumble across it.

King Blood – End of a Primitive by permanentrecords

 The Archer & The Owle from Thou was released by Robotic Empire back in August but came to the attention of los grillos through Brandon Stosuy’s ‘Top 40 Metal Albums of 2011’ list (for his Pitchfork Show No Mercy column). Stosuy calls it, quite aptly, “sky-melting…” and “…incredibly well wrought, anthemic, and, somehow, life-affirming.” That got me listening, and I’m glad I did. Worth it alone for the cover of Nirvana’s “Something In The Way”.

THOU – Voices In The Wilderness by RoboticEmpire

And so, despite barely scratching the surface of all that we missed writing about this year, the needle grooves out on Side 2 of los grillos’ Missed Hits. Check us out next week when we plan to post some of our favorites from the artists about whom we did manage to cough up a few words. Until then, rock it!

Los Grillos Year in Review–Missed Hits, Side 1

As another year rolls towards its end, it’s time for los grillos to reflect not only on the artists, songs and albums we had time to write some words about but also the countless many we didn’t have time to write about–we are, after all, but a few crickets chirping in vast field of music. Our biggest hits for the year will be posted soon, but until then, here are some hits we missed, jotted down as they occurred to us, and starting with the excellent Alvarius B. album Baroque Primitiva (cd cover art pictured above)…

Baroque Primitiva is the 6th solo album from Alvarius B., the solo moniker for legendary Sun City Girl Alan Bishop. Music critic Byron Coley calls it a “deep swim through mysterious waters…filled with gorgeous lo-fi blends of vocals, guitar, bass and keys.”

Alvarius B. – “You Only Live Twice” – Baroque Primitiva by elnicho-experimental

 The Men Leave Home brings the noise late 8os/early 90s indie/underground style in the vein of such greats as Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Mudhoney, and Scratch Acid. Available from the always excellent Sacred Bones label.

The Men – Bataille by sacredbones

Also from Sacred Bones this year is the latest from Amen Dunes, Through Donkey Jaw. This full-length follow up to last year’s excellent ep Murder Dull Mind, builds on that album’s sparse, intimate psych/folk with more fully realized songs.

Amen Dunes – Christopher by sacredbones

On his eponymous debut, out via Trouble In Mind, Mikal Cronin, friend of and frequent collaborator with Ty Segall, steps out with his own album of melodic, hook-filled psych-pop.

Mikal Cronin – Apathy by PressWolfPR

Originally funded through a Kickstarter campaign, Briarwood, the debut album of ballroom brawlers and ballers from singer/songwriter James Jackson Toth’s full band collective Wooden Wand and the Briarwood Virgins, got an official release from London’s Fire Records. A must for fans of folkies who turn up the amps and let their Neil Yound and Crazy Horse flag fly.

Wooden Wand – Motel Stationary by FIRE RECORDS

Open Letter to Diarrhea Planet: Dear Dudes whose band I stopped recommending to my friends because I got tired of qualifying my recommendation with an apology for your horrible name,

Please change your fucking band name. No one likes it, and no one likes saying it. Everyone who writes about your band says things like, “great band, terrible name.” Folks say, “great band” because they like your two-minute, shout-along, fist-pumping, beer-swilling blasts of pop/punk. They say, “terrible name” because, well, you named your band Diarrhea Planet. To make this change a bit easier for you, allow me to suggest the name Loose Jewels. There are a couple of benefits to this name. First, it would allow you to change your name without having to redo the cover art for your debut album; instead of a horrible band name, you would now simply have a horrible album name. Secondly, you would no longer be named Diarrhea Planet.

Sincerely,

los grillos

Diarrhea Planet – Warm Ridin’ by BurgerRecords

 

And that wraps it up for Missed Hits, Side 1. Tune in tomorrow when the record flips to Side 2. And look for our year end ‘best of’ lists next week. Until then…

Low ‘Christmas’

When one thinks of Christmas music, one likely doesn’t think of a band that typically plays glacially slow-paced songs that sound more haunted than holly jolly, especially when that band’s name is Low and it’s label’s name is Kranky–names that don’t exactly scream Christmas cheer. Yet, it is the Low album, Christmas, originally released by Kranky in 1999, that I reach for first when I’m able to squeeze something Christmas-y of my own choosing between my wife’s repeat plays of Merry Christmas from Bing Crosby.

One reason for this is opening track “Just Like Christmas,” a surprisingly upbeat, jangly little tune that gets me in a merry Christmas mood more than any other seasonal song I know. That said, Low fanatics and the generally depressed shouldn’t be too thrown by this because Low also brings its own particular band of gravitas to a few more originals as well as some Christmas standards, including “Little Drummer Boy,” “Blue Christmas,” and “Silent Night,” creating a sedate, somber, yet somehow celebratory album for the lonely, dark, early morning hours just before Santa empties his sleigh and heads north towards home, and the sun dawns on another Christmas day.

Christmas is available at Low’s website here (as is the new 7″ Christmas single “Santa’s Coming Over,” which includes a digital download and an ornament).

Reigning Sound ‘Abdication…For Your Love’

Reigning Sound, garage/punk legend Greg Cartwright’s post-Oblivians project, has been releasing albums of solid, soulful garage rock since 2001’s Break Up, Break Down, to an ever-expanding base of loyal fans, the latest of which is 2009’s Love and Curses. Now from Reigning sound, in conjunction with Scion A/V and in time for Christmas, comes for all ye faithful the free mini-lp, Abdication–For Your Love. The eight tracks here, five of which were recorded and produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, offer up plenty of rock ‘n’ roll rave ups (“Lyin’ Girl,” “Watching My Baby”) and a bit of blue-eyed balladry (“Eve”). There’s likely not an up-and-coming garage rocker out there today who hasn’t been influenced by Cartwright, but for the uninitiated, this free ep is as good a place to start as any before working your way through a career that includes multiple bands and countless great tunes.

Abdication…For Your Love is available now for free download via Scion A/V. Check it out here.

And here’s a song for the season from Reigning Sound…