Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky has deeply permeated rap music in the past decade. Sly represents the underdog tough guy that every up and coming rapper wants to associate himself with. Here are seven great songs with seven great Rocky references. If you think of any more, shoot me an email.
- Jay Z – IZZO
Cops wanna knock me, D.A. wanna box me in, but somehow I beat the charges like Rocky
- A$AP Rocky – Out of this world
Thinking of a Lambo, Bathing Ape camo, play with the money, turn Rocky into Rambo
- Dangerdoom – Bada Bing
Look like Apollo Creed after he fought with Rocky
- Dem Franchise Boyz – Lean Wit It Rock Wit It
I bounce in the club so the hos call me Rocky
- Waka Flocka Flame – For My Dawgs
I feel like Rocky when he fought Apollo Creed
- J Cole – Sideline Story
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Don’t you know I be in France where they throw they hands like Pacquiao. Not for my looks, cause my hooks can knock Rocky out.
- Andre Nickatina – Crackin’ like Pastachios
Smack you like I’m Puffer Lang
This year, we at WAMH decided to put together a list of our favorite albums that came out in the past year. There was a lot of variety between the 6 individual lists that were used to make up the year end list but at least the top 8 or 10 records represent some sort of consensus. So here it is:
T-25. The Caretaker – An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
“In describing this album to me, Hope Wen said “I feel like I am listening to ghosts as they ballroom dance, but it isn’t frightening, and almost warm.” I think that’s an accurate description. Conceived as a way of capturing the experience of Alzheimer’s, Leyland Kirby looped old early 20th century ballroom recordings together to construct this album. What makes it seem so important is how effectively it goes from moments of sonic clarity to moments of little more than record hiss. But more than that, this is a beautiful record, one that’s as listenable and immersive as an experimental record can possibly be.” – Spencer Adams
T-25. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo
T-23. The Black Keys – El Camino
“It’s comforting that someone is still making music that sounds like this—and making it well. There’s no gimmick—it’s rock, it’s straightforward, it’s fun, and it makes me pretend I’m the guy from the “Lonely Boy” video when I’m alone in my car. The little sticker on the front of the CD doesn’t talk about hit singles or collaborators or glowing NPR reviews—it just says “Play It Loud”. That’s a sentiment I can get behind.” – Leah Fine
T-23. Marissa Nadler – Marissa Nadler
T-21. Atlas Sound – Parallax
“Incredibly prolific, self-avowedly monomaniacal, and outspoken to a fault, Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox never does anything halfway. It’s unsurprising, then, that when he records solo under the name Atlas Sound, he goes all the way solo. Cox wrote, composed and recorded everything on the third Atlas Sound album, Parallax, on twenty-one different instruments, ranging from Telecaster to rhythm box to “collage.” This level of control allows Cox to go wherever he wants with his music, and on Parallax, he’s chosen to travel inward. The record takes the listener on a sonic and emotional journey into Cox’s interior landscape, with results that are often beautiful, sometimes difficult, and always interesting.” Taken from a review by Cara Giamo ’11
T-21. Krallice – Diotima
“Perhaps I overrate this album because it was the first metal album I got really, really into. Maybe it’s not quite next-Dead As Dreams good like I imagine it to be. With some distance, perhaps I won’t consider this the best metal album of the year. But for now, I know I’d rather be listening to Krallice than any other metal band on the planet. Diotima still sends chills down my spine every time I listen to it. It’s the type of album that’s constantly unveiling some new facet (I remember the first time I noticed the precision with which the bass guitar weaves in and out of the album’s layers of pitch blackness). In a year where black metal made significant strides in terms of entering into the indie consciousness, Diotima, for my money, was the darkest, most despairing, and ultimately most heart-racingly thrilling black metal album of them all.” – Spencer Adams
T-18. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
“Covering The Pop Group and Big Black this year, St. Vincent showed that she’s a total badass, a quality that all the indie dudes crushing on her might not recognize. But it’s not like she doesn’t have a badass strain in her own music. The songs on Strange Mercy might not bleed with the same force of EMA’s new album or pummel like Fucked Up does, but they’re mighty dark. The complaint I heard leveled against this album when it was reviewed on stereogum was that, as good as the songs are, St. Vincent never lets loose. I think that’s flat out wrong. She sounds angry and unleashed with the best of them, for my money. And it’s easy for us indie types to focus on songcraft, texture, and stuff like that but let’s not forget that what she does with a guitar is pretty killer also.” – Spencer Adams
T-18. Tom Waits – Bad As Me
“Of all the oldies continuing to release new material – Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, the always shitty U2, etc. – Tom Waits is the one who still has the most to offer. He sounded aged in the 70s and 80s so now that he actually is, his underground wisdom and general whiskey and cigarettes tinged badassery feel all the more poignant.” – Spencer Adams
T – 18. John Luther Adams – Four Thousand Holes
“It’s a contemporary classical piece for piano, percussion, and electronics based on the chords from “A Day in the Life.” Listen with headphones.” – Chris Spaide
17. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
“Before this album was released, Fleet Foxes were quickly becoming one of those bands that I had really liked once upon a time but now mostly skipped when they came up on shuffle. Helplessness Blues helped me remember why I’d liked them so much in the first place. Sure, some of the cheesiness (“I was brought up believing I was somehow unique/Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes..) gets to me, but the straight-up prettiness more than makes up for it.” – Leah Fine
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGhtk0jdFGc (watch the music video. It’s awesome)
T-15. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
“It seems like just about every British music blog and magazine has given album of the year nods to Let England Shake. And with good reason. Even for someone like me who’s never really vibed to PJ Harvey before, this bitter political screed is immediately striking. It’s arguably a bit over the top in places but it more than makes up for that with dark humor (as in the repetition of the line “what if I take my problems to the United Nations?”) and a murky atmosphere (particularly on “All and Everyone” and “In the Dark Places”) that feels reminiscent of the Bonnie Prince Billy’s classic I See a Darkness.” – Spencer Adams
T-15. Mates of State – Mountaintops
“SOMEONE has to rep that awesome Mates of State album.” – Wesley Straton
14. Okkervil River – I Am Very Far
“This came out at more or less the same time as the Fleet Foxes album, which was sort of a bummer because it didn’t get much attention. The details make this album—the cassette-player solo on “Piratess” or the gorgeous backup vocals on “Hanging from a Hit”—but it’s also just sort of generally badass and dark in an unimposing, genuine way.” – Leah Fine
13. Drake – Take Care
Hey look. It’s Jimmy Brooks!
12. The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck
“As far as WAMH (myself included) is concerned, The Mountain Goats can do no wrong. John Darnielle was writing hit records on Zopilote Machine and he still is now. And if you think there’s nothing new here, look no further than “High Hawk Season”, one of the best barbershop quartet anthems I’ve heard in years.” – Spencer Adams
11. Beirut – The Rip Tide
“Beirut was one of many bands I was more or less apathetic towards before this year. Zach Condon’s voice was always just a bit too maudlin and warbly for my taste, and his gypsy circus songs only aggravated its extravagance. But this album gets it right—the unmistakable voice is still here, of course, but the straightforward sentiment and execution of these songs balances it perfectly.” – Leah Fine
10. Real Estate – Days
“I was pretty convinced I hated this album when it came out. It seemed like yet another chill, breezy, and altogether vapid indie release (see Era Extrana, Underneath the Pine, Within and Without, etc.). But ultimately, I caved and decided to give this one a second chance. And boy has it been worth it. While chill and breezy, Real Estate go so far beyond their trendy, indie peers by not being at all vapid. This sentimental look at careless suburban life (which is much better and far less preachy than last year’s The Suburbs) contains some of the best images indie lyricisim had to offer this year (ie “aimless drives through green aisles”, “see the cars on the 95/cutting through like a sharpened knife”), images that resonated oh so deeply with a lifetime suburban kid like me. As I’ve driven around Northern Virginia (suburbia USA for those not familiar) in the past few days, no music has resonated more than that on Days.” – Spencer Adams
9. Frank Ocean – Nostalgia/Ultra
“Until Tyler the Creator and his crew of insolent teen buddies grow up, Frank Ocean will continue to be the only important, interesting Odd Future dude. This guy has the OF swag in that his music sounds troubled, vulnerable, and uncomfortable. But it’s lightyears ahead of Goblin, Bastard, Radical, and even Earl because it builds its swag on subtlety. The way Frank Ocean brags about his car like only a hip-hop dude can as a way of building up to a fantastical suicide, the way “American Wedding” seems sort of like Kanye’s “Hell of a Life” until you realize that his one day bride is a grad student in the midst of writing a term paper on hijab, the way “Novacane” uses its title image as a metaphor for the numbing effects that sex has on a med student paying for college by doing porn and the loving narrator who’s caught up in her cocaine-fueled lifestyle – this stuff has a novelist’s eye for poignant details. That’s why it’s so swagged out.” – Spencer Adams
T-7. EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints
“IMO, this was the year’s best guitar-driven album. Erika M. Anderson’s sounds so full of raw pain throughout this album that you can’t help but cringe each time you listen. But where this album truly bleeds, what makes it so visceral and hard to bear, is how submissive it is. EMA’s been abused, finds herself addicted to drugs, and watches the struggles of her friends, and just seems to accept it all. Nothing hurts as bad as the much talked about line in the song’s emotional centerpiece (“Marked”): “I wish that every time you touched me left a mark.” It’s easy to be turned off by the sentiments expressed, and the lifestyle captured on Past Life, but for anyone with a tolerance for experiencing pain through their favorite art, this album is pretty unparalleled.” – Spencer Adams
T-7. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
“Sometimes while listening to this album I just want to pinch his ears and tell him to speak up and stop mumbling, dammit. But then that drum machine kicks and the songs open up and it turns out Mr. Mumbles was justified all along.” – Leah Fine
6. James Blake – James Blake
“This seems to be the year’s great love-it-or-hate-it record. In fact, there’s perhaps more partisanship over this record in the indiesphere right now than there is in congress. I, for one, count myself as one of those who find this record to be a revolutionary reinvention of singer-songwriter music, one that relies as much on sonic manipulation as songcraft. James Blake has an inexplicably soulful voice and what makes this record so daring in my mind, is how willing he is to play with, affect, and manipulate it. It’ll be interesting to see 1) where JB goes from here and 2) whether this record proves to be as gamechanging as people like me think it is.” – Spencer Adams
5. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up
“Two of the best albums of last year were Janelle Monae’s maximalist pop masterpiece The Archandroid and Flying Lotus’s futuristic electrojazz Cosmogramma. These two records themselves hardly line up at all, Janelle Monae’s being immediate, poppy, and readymade for mainstream success while FlyLo’s was difficult, intricately layered, and somewhat downbeat. Shabazz Palaces (fronted by a renewed Butterfly now going by the name Palaceer Lazomo) manages to meld the best qualities from these two disparate 2010 masterpieces into the year’s best hip-hop album, an afrofuturistic work that combines some of the most forward-thinking hip-hop beats of all time with sharp lyricism, and an immediately striking pop-jazz energy.” – Spencer Adams
4. The Weeknd – House of Balloons
“Years down the line, this might end up being considered the year’s Important Album (see the AV Club article on the subject). Despite coming out of nowhere, The Weeknd’s first mixtape of the year seemed about as universally beloved as is possible in today’s musical world, while pointing towards an entirely new indie-indebted way of constructing R&B (this is surely the most gamechanging R&B record since Voodoo). By year end, every indie kid and their grandmother was bumping this, and The Weeknd was featured on Drake’s also much-beloved album. And all from a guy who writes songs that are about as dark and depraved as the parties and underworlds featured in Gaspar Noe’s last two films. As at least one commentator I’ve read has said, more than anything, what makes House of Balloons so incredibly listenable is just how good it sounds. The production is pitch perfect, the vocals are smooth, and the hooks are endlessly rewarding.” – Spencer Adams
3. tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l
“Our favorite five college alum since Elliott Smith, Merrill Garbus is both an electric performer and an unsurprisingly smart purveyor of hipster angst. Don’t shrug at the words “hipster angst.” This isn’t the mindless rich kid angst that Sofia Coppolla so loves to capture in her movies. Rather, w h o k i l l is a deeply political and sociological album. Garbus is perceptive, frustrated, confused, and more than anything else she sounds refreshingly alive as she struggles with her own observations.” – Spencer Adams
2. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
“No one can genre-flip better than Justin Vernon can. From For Emma to a foray into auto-tune and Kanye to the Twilight soundtrack to ‘80s schlock, Bon Iver makes everything work. On listening to this album, suddenly I think I like, or at least vaguely understand, Bonnie Raitt and Bruce Hornsby. Plus Holocene is just beautiful and nerdily named and its repeated “I was not magnificent” shows just how quietly brilliant Vernon’s lyrics can be when they’re comprehendible.” – Leah Fine
1. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
“I’d be completely fine if this synth-and-saxaphone 1980’s revival deal passed without further contributions to the genre, and substantial moments of this album wouldn’t seem out of place on the Breakfast Club soundtrack. That said, if anyone could make me appreciate this sort of music, it’d be M83. The openness and triumphant spirit of this album take something [in my opinion] painfully dated and make it timeless.” – Leah Fine
“This album is my church!” – Spencer Adams
1. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
2. EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints
3. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up
4. Krallice – Diotima
5. tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l
6. The Caretaker - An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
7. Real Estate – Days
8. James Blake – James Blake
9. Frank Ocean – Nostalgia/Ultra
10. Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
11. Youth Lagoon - The Year of Hibernation
12. The Weeknd – House of Balloons
13. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
14. Tombs – Path of Totality
15. Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972
1. The Weeknd – House of Balloons/Thursday
2. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
3. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
4. Atlas Sound – Parallax
5. Marissa Nadler – Marissa Nadler
6. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo/So Outta Reach EP
7. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
8. A$AP Rocky – Livelovea$ap
9. The Field – Looping State of Mind
10. Drake – Take Care
11. Real Estate – Days
12. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up
13. EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints
14. Ty Segall – Goodbye Bread
15. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
James Blake – James Blake
John Luther Adams – Four Thousand Holes
Tom Waits – Bad As Me
tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l
Drake – Take Care
EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints
Frank Ocean – Nostalgia/Ultra
Quatuor Ebene – Fiction
Real Estate – Days
Bjork – Biophilia
The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck
Steve Reich – WTC 9/11, Mallet Quartet, Dance Patterns
The Weeknd – House of Balloons
WU Lyf – Go Tell Fire to the Mountain
T-1. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
T-1. Shabazz Palaces - Black Up
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Destroyer – Kaputt
Frank Ocean – Nostalgia/Ultra
Gil Scott-Heron vs. Jamie xx – We’re New Here
Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
James Blake – James Blake
Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde
The Weeknd – House of Balloons
1. The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck
2. Mates of State – Mountaintops
3. tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l
4. Beirut – The Rip Tide
5. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
1. Okkervil River – I Am Very Far
T-2. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
T-2. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
T-4. Beirut – The Rip Tide
T-4. The Black Keys – El Camino
T-4. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
7. Cults – Cults
I had a hard time putting this album on my list just because it doesn’t feel like a 2011 release—the slow trickle of singles and the slow build of hype makes it feel like Cults have been around forever. And any time another one of those singles appeared, I expected to dislike it—this isn’t my kind of music. It’s too sweet and glockenspiely. And yet, song after song, month after month, blog post after blog post, Cults stuck with me. I guess there’s just enough vengefulness to balance out the cute.
8. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light
TV on the Radio has always appealed to me most with their slower, heavier songs, so Dear Science’s upbeat schizophrenia didn’t really do it for me. Nine Types of Light takes the songs that worked—“DlZ”, “Family Tree”—and more or less makes a whole album out of them. “Will Do” and “You” are right in my comfort zone—but then they swing a left hook with “Caffeinated Consciousness” and make me wonder why I ever doubted them at all.
9. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
10. The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh
It’s hard to call this album one of the best of the year, because the Low Anthem’s studio albums have never really lived up to the potential they show in their live performances. They’ve heavily emphasized how this album was recorded in an abandoned pasta sauce factory, but it leaves everything sounding a bit hollow and grating. Still, this album succeeds for its pure loveliness and creativity—the Low Anthem may be NPR fodder, with their singing saws and clarinets and folksy sensibilities, but they do seem genuine.
We at WAMH will be posting our big end of year list sometime in the next few weeks. Very little, if any, metal will show up on that list. But that doesn’t mean metal is a worthless, avoid-at-all-costs genre. It’s actually one of the most rich, expansive, and complex genres of pop music going right now. For that reason, I’ve decided to take on the role of metal enthusiast at WAMH and put together a list of the top 20 metal albums of the year. Here it is:
20. Ampere - Like Shadows (this is actually more of a screamo/hardcore release but it’s still really awesome and the band is pretty local (I think at least one of the members went to Hampshire back in the 90s))
19. Machine Head - Unto the Locust
18. Toxic Holocaust - Conjure and Command
17. Yob - Atma
16. Rwake - Rest
15. SubRosa - No Help for the Mighty Ones
Easily the year’s best female-fronted metal album, No Help for the Mighty Ones is like a doomy, more metal version of the music made by early 90s female alt rock greats. It definitely stands as one of the most melodic and accessible albums on this list.
14. Ulcerate - The Destroyers of All
I have a tough time getting really into Death Metal. To me, it tends to be flat, less dark and despairing than black metal, less fast and furious than grindcore, and less melodic and riffy than sludge and doom. That being said, there are a few death metal records, like Ulcerate’s The Destroyers of All, that I find myself rather enjoying. What makes this album great in my mind is that it operates with a sense of chaos and anarchy, much like my favorite metal album of last year, Deathspell Omega’sParacletus. Also, the dudes in Ulcerate are from New Zealand which is cool/interesting/unique.
13. Black Tusk - Set the Dial
I’ll admit, no sludge album this year came close to matching Kylesa’s superb Spiral Shadow, one that remains a year later, one of my favorite standby records. Black Tusk’s Set the Dial is nonetheless deserving of a crown for being at the forefront of 2011 sludge. The band finds their own unique place in the current Southern sludge landscape because of their own hardcore-inspired spin on the genre. This is a louder, faster album than you’d expect from a sludge band, but it maintains the sharp melodic sense and penchant for powerful, distorted guitar riffs that makes sludge one of the most exciting subgenres in current underground metal.
12. In Solitude - The World, the Flesh, the Devil
For those who can’t get into most extreme metal but love bands like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest, In Solitude is the band for you. The World, The Flesh, the Devil is classic meat and potatoes heavy metal, executed perfectly.
11. Liturgy - Aesthetica
With the possible exception of Wolves in the Throne Room, Liturgy is probably the band on this list that’s most well known in the indie world. Heck, Liturgy’s hatred-inspiring frontman was buds with Ezra Koenig at Columbia. The “This is just hipster metal” authenticity complaints that so many haters have leveled against the band seem silly to me. Aesthetica is a furious, propulsive beast that could make even the dullest, most tedious moments and tasks feel urgent. Listening to this album in a physics lab this summer, I constantly felt as though a SWAT team was right around the corner. And for that, every second of this album’s run time kicks ass in the most metal way possible.
10. KEN Mode - Venerable
I could see Venerable being well-received by folks who don’t necessarily care for metal in general. Melodic and bursting with noise-rock energy, it’s a wonderfully addictive album that falls in line with the likes of Super Ae and Wonderful Rainbow.
9. Peste Noire - L’Ordure a l’etat Pur
Peste Noire sounds like a band of drunken French hooligans. They’re the most reliably fun black metal band I know of and sound just as hellishly goofy on L’Ordure a l’etat Pur as they always have. Perhaps it’s good that I don’t speak French b/c I doubt I really want to hear the band’s supposedly over-nationalistic, somewhat irresponsible lyrics. On a purely musical level though, I’ll eat up any new PN release at this point.
8. Blut Aus Nord - 777Sect/777Desanctification
If Liturgy soundtracked a Hollywood action movie, Wolves in the Throne Room a night in a haunted cathedral, and Peste Noire the only bar open all night in Hell, perhaps Blut Aus Nord would be best suited to soundtrack an evening spent wading through a murky swamp. I mean that in the best way possible. BAN make grisly, uncomfortable music that moves forward slowly while wallowing in its own murky atmosphere. 777Sect the first album in a trilogy and BAN’s first album of 2011, hones in on this aesthetic as well as any of their work ever has. But it’s their more recent record, 777Desanctification that really earned the band this spot. While still entrenched in the band’s swampy aesthetic, the album is startlingly unusual. For half a track to open the album, you could almost call the music funky. This paves the way for black metal backed by an electroindustrial sound that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard employed in good metal before. It’s damn exciting to see longtime black metal vets so thoroughly push their sound in a new direction.
7. Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestial Lineage
It’s weird to think that a black metal act got an 8.6/BNM on P4K, an A on the AV Club, and were featured in a New Yorker article. But hopefully now the indie kids will start to take more notice of bands like Wolves in the Throne Room. The band’s brand of black metal is epic in the same way GY!BE’s brand of indie kid beloved post-rock is and pounds listeners into submission in the same way that Lightning Bolt do.
6. Primordial - Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand
A lot of the albums on this list take a while to unfold (it’s in the nature of black metal especially, for the textured despair to only resonate after quite a few listens). Redemption at the Puritan’s Hands strikes at the heart from its very first moments. In front of a heavy classic metal attack, the vocals here boom with all the force of Zeus, carrying this album and lending added gravitas to the epic lyrics.
5. Amebix - Sonic Mass
I hadn’t heard of crust punk pioneers, Amebix, before this fall. I’ve still yet to listen to Arise! or Monolith, the legendary albums that the band made their name on in the 80s. So the argument over whether Sonic Mass is real authentic Amebix or just some Killing Joke-copping sign of a rusty, aged band is lost to me. As a newcomer, all I hear in Sonic Mass is some of the year’s best punk/metal. Like Circle of Ouroborus’s Eleven Fingers, this is as much a punk/post-punk album as it is metal, but it rocks nonetheless and for the first album from Amebix since 1987, it sounds mighty fresh and invigorating.
4. Trap Them - Darker Handcraft
I can’t claim to know what the line between grindcore and hardcore is (if any really exists). This sounds more to me like Trash Talk than Pig Destroyer or Napalm Death. And what really makes it stand out, putting in Trash Talk’s territory, is the expert melodic sensibilities the band has. “The Facts” has the best hook I’ve heard in a extreme tune (metal or hardcore) all year. The second half of the album becomes homogenously grindcore-y (in no way a gripe, it’s still pretty intense stuff) but for much ofDarker Handcraft, Trap Them throw out hooks left and right to guide their assault.
3. Circle of Ouroborus - Eleven Fingers
Crossing Joy Division-style post-punk with black metal was an act of pure genius. These disparate music styles share an intense darkness that works to meld them seamlessly together on Circle of Ouroborus’s Eleven Fingers. Unyieldingly bleak,Eleven Fingers sounds as much like punk’s big buzz album of the year (Iceage’s New Brigade) as it does like black metal’s (Wolves in the Throne Room’s Celestial Lineage). I guess then that of all the album’s on this list, this is the one I’d most recommend to those typically resistant to the genre. Circle of Ouroborus have, in actuality, managed to craft, to my mind, the best homage to Joy Division since Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights.
2. Tombs - Path of Totality
Not to be confused with Korn’s dubstep album The Path of Totality (likely the closest competition Lulu has for the worst album of 2011 crown), Tombs’s Path of Totality is awesome. Not falling easily into any metal subgenre, it might be the most indescribable album on that list, which is a large reason it works so well. For any fans of loud, mean experimental music, this record comes highly recommended.
1. Krallice - Diotima
Perhaps I overrate this album because it was the first metal album I got really, really into. Maybe it’s not quite next-Dead As Dreams good like I imagine it to be. With some distance, perhaps I won’t consider this the best metal album of the year. But for now, I know I’d rather be listening to Krallice than any other metal band on the planet. Diotima still sends chills down my spine every time I listen to it. It’s the type of album that’s constantly unveiling some new facet (I remember the first time I noticed the precision with which the bass guitar weaves in and out of the album’s layers of pitch blackness). In a year where black metal made significant strides in terms of entering into the indie consciousness, Diotima, for my money, was the darkest, most despairing, and ultimately most heart-racingly thrilling black metal album of them all.
Here’s WAMH’s first list of the season as put together but Tony Russo (of the class of 2015). It’s a list of the best reissues of the year and a pretty damn good one at that.
For me, reissues are a matter of rediscovery. A good reissue is not made by adding an extra layer of production, or releasing studio outtakes, but about injecting something old into my life and thereby making it somehow new again. So as enjoyable as it is to listen to a reissued, remastered Liquid Swords on vinyl—or the SuperDeluxe version of Nevermind or another vinyl issuing of Dark Side—these are albums I’d felt were already immortalized. With that in mind, here is my list of the 10 best reissues of 2011, followed by release year
- 1. The Beach Boys – The SMiLE Sessions (Recorded 1966-7)
This should be on the top of every album of the year list for reasons that are clear after listening, but its hybrid new-ness puts it in a reissue category.
- 2. Talk Talk – Laughing Stock (1991)
- 3. The Dismemberment Plan – Emergency & I (1999)
Unlike some reissues, the bonus tracks flow perfectly with the rest.
- 4. The Olivia Tremor Control – Music from the Unrealized Film Script, Dusk at Cubist Castle (1996)
The Jesus Mary & Chain – Psychocandy (1985)
A beautiful combination of noise and melody.
Archers of Loaf – Icky Mettle (1993)
Ride – Nowhere (1991)
Loveless gets all the love, yet this shoegaze album is nearly as great.
Ty Segall – Single 2007-2010
It is not new music & not quite a reissue, but deserving of a spot nonetheless.
MF Doom – Operation: Doomsday (1999)
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971)
Ok. This is a classic, immortal album, but the lyricism altogether too relevant in our tumultuous times.
The Reatards – Teenage Hate
So bad it is good.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard – Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version
Technically this hasn’t come out yet, but I expect my ODB love to be rekindled by a cappella versions of “Brooklyn Zoo.”
With December right around the corner and winter vacation inching ever closer, I can tell you precisely what excites me most about the end-of-year holiday season: lists. Sure, I’ll get presents and see family and be treated to pies and cakes and maybe even go to some sort of New Year’s party this year. But, for me, all that pales in comparison to the excitement I get reading through myriad lists summarizing the best that the arts had to offer this past year. It’s news to few who know me that Los Campesinos!’s Hold On Now Youngster is among my all-time favorite records. It’s a vibrant, energetic record with plenty of sing-along moments and just the right amount of glockenspiel. But what really gets me every time when I listen to that record is just how well these people embody the nerdy, obsessive indie kid persona that so thoroughly defines me. And perhaps the greatest example of this is on the song “My Year in Lists.” The idea of making a song that explicitly name checks end of year listmaking is so specifically an indie kid thing that you just know how firmly entrenched the dude(ttes) in Los Campesinos! are in nerdy indie culture. “On your request, I compile a list of my top five resolutions for this year.” Plenty of folks make resolutions but it would take real dorks to feel the need to organize these resolutions neatly into a best-of list.
Yes, end of year listmaking is a definite part of indie culture. Mine the comments section for sites like Stereogum and AV Club and you’ll notice many a commenter talking about their end of year lists. Sites got so antsy this year that midyear lists started to pop up in more than just a few places. And trust me, nothing gets people bitching and moaning about P4K quite like the publication’s various end of year or best of decade lists. If Bon Iver goes #1 this year, any of you who like that record (which is indeed quite good) will surely have to put up with the “You just like that b/c Pitchfork said it was the best record of the year. Such critical groupthink going on around that record. I don’t get it, it’s so boring” comments for months and perhaps even years to come (look up Brandon Stosuy’s article on why MBDTF wasn’t actually that good and you’ll know what I’m talking about).
I think I’m in the upper echelon of list obsessives. I have spent the past month listening to every record I even remotely enjoyed from this past year in the hopes of maybe coming up with some best of list. What I come up with will likely include upwards of 75 albums, each one of which will be explicitly ranked. I can tell you my top 5 at this point (M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming at 1, EMA’s Past Life Martyred Saints at 2, Shabazz Palaces’ Black Up at 3, Krallice’s Diotima at 4, and tUnE-yArDs’ w h o k I l l at 5) but beyond that, I will legitimately stress out over where to rank the 70 some odd records that I include. I will actually get upset with myself over how to reconcile my love for a particular record with the fact that it’s barely squeaking into the top 50 on my list. And this is just my album list; my song list will spark even more internal battles. I can do movie lists without too much trouble b/c I only see so many in a year but the current pop music landscape is so expansive that I just have no control over my own listmaking compulsions. And beyond listmaking, I will content myself with reading and rereading lists from P4K, Stereogum, The AV Club, Tinymixtapes, and whatever other sources of lists I can find for weeks to come. I will likely stay up until 1 AM eastern time (when P4K publishes new material) every night the week their lists come out to see where each individual song and record places. I have even attempted to get other WAMHers to submit end of year album lists with the hopes of putting together a comprehensive end of year list to represent WAMH as a whole. I really do have a problem and I know that.
The probably is almost surely an innate thing, not just something I’ve picked up as I’ve delved into the world of music nerdery. I can remember making “favorite _____ of all-time” as early as when I was 8 (I think my favorite song at that point was “All the Small Things” but I definitely also had like a top 20 or 30 list beyond that). And I have been consistently ranking things ever since. Though not an especially clean person, I think I lean towards the personality type that’s neurotic, unspontaneous, likes plans, and needs to categorize. My relationship with music is truly an obsessive one and that manifests itself in my need to rank and organize music. Lists are a way of thinking about music neatly and concretely. The desire for neatness, concreteness, and organization is likely common among blog readers and writers as it takes a sort of compulsive neurotic obsessiveness to care about pop music as much as these people do. The same innate factors that drive many people into music nerdery likely are what compel these same people to make lists.
For all their tidiness, lists are of course difficult, incomplete things. That’s why they spark so much angry commentary. There’s too much music in the world these days for any one list to comprehensively cover every worthwhile release from any given year, yet alone any given decade. My own lists will stay away for the most part from breezy, mellow, chill indie pop while including quite a lot of aging indie vets and quite a lot of music that employs screaming, howling, and growling in its vocals as opposed to conventional singing. I know going into my listreading that likely only one writer that I read will include Trap Them in their list which seems completely insane to me. But then again, I’m sure friends who see my lists will ask me where Real Estate is. Comprehensive lists are just so damn difficult to make. I’ve been attempting a best albums of the 2000s list and a best albums of the 90s list for upwards of a year at this point and the same thing has happened with both. As I’ve listened through the music I have, I’ve continued discovering more and more music that I was missing. These lists have been scrapped for now but I’ll surely feel compelled to look back at them soon enough. Heaven for me would be a place where I could concretely rank my favorite songs and albums of all time without constantly second guessing myself.
But as difficult, annoying, and addictive lists are, ultimately they’re awesome. Lists are actually the best. I may now sound like a drug addict trying to defend heroin, but I mean it when I say lists are fun, helpful, and just generally great. They may come from obsessive impulses, but realistically, they’re made to share with friends. They’re made so that we can kill time arguing about or agreeing with somebody’s top 10 and they’re made so that somebody new to the game can have a hand catching up. As an aspiring indie kid my senior year of high school, Pitchfork’s best of decade and best of year lists were the best thing ever. I would go home from school every day and pass so much time going through these lists one by one, listening to every album on them. It was exciting for me to be discovering music that I would have never heard of otherwise. I mean the hip folk my age these days aren’t listening to Gang of Four, Television, Kraftwerk, Another Green World, I See a Darkness, The Dismemberment Plan, Television Personalities, Nurse With Wound, The Pop Group, or Oval. It took lists and the sort of canonization that comes from lists for me to discover these artists/albums. And furthermore, the short blurb writing format that every listmaker uses produces some of the best music writing around. With no room to be analytical, these blurbs can be personal, enlightening, and give the reader a real feel for what an album/song sounds like without seeming dry or pretentious.
So if you find yourself wrapped up in lists this holiday season, don’t feel bad. They’re good family fun for everyone. Make your own, share it with your friends, bitterly compare it with Pitchfork’s and drink some eggnog. Because lists are what the holiday season is really about.
Good afternoon, ladies and gents, and welcome to Homecoming Weekend. The next few days will be full of alum-seeing, fun-having alma mater-singing, and WAMH will be right in the eye of this school-spirited hurricane. Before watching the forces of Good and Eph-vil (don’t blame me, the Official Homecoming T-shirts take the credit for that awful pun) do battle on the gridiron at noon tomorrow, stop by and pick up one or more of our new WAMH shirts, featuring your favorite shade of purple and an elegant headphone-centric design. Stay fresh ta death whilst supporting the Fairest College’s finest radio station!
As dearly as I hold the financial viability of the station, the most important part of the day is FOOTBALL.
Tomorrow is the 125th meeting of Amherst and Williams in the Biggest Little Game in America. The stakes are familiar from last year, though the tables have turned: this time the 6-1 Jeffs host the 7-0 Ephs, with the winner gaining an outright Little Three title, Williams playing for an undefeated season and undisputed NESCAC title, and Amherst looking to spoil Williams’ perfect season and gain a share of the conference title. The NESCAC’s top two offenses will be on the field tomorrow, so expect an exciting affair.
WAMH Sports will be there, doing it live! If you’re in the Pioneer Valley, tune in at 89.3 FM. Everyone can listen to our webcast, which you can access by clicking just to the right of this very post. Kickoff at noon, broadcast to start ten minutes before game-time.
Join WAMH and four fantastic bands for a night of live music this Saturday (9/25)! The show will start at 9 PM in Marsh Ballroom (81 Lessey Street, on Amherst campus). Free show, with a suggested donation of $5 (or, at the very least, buy a cool button). WAMH will be there. Crazy Nick will be there. Will you be there?
Awk-pop pioneers, Northampton’s Bunny’s a Swine
Surf rock meets girl pop with Boston’s You Can Be a Wesley
Northampton’s premiere nerd-synth dance troupe, Tasha Yar
..and of Marsh Coffee Haus fame, Badger Fyre Protection
*Generously brought to you by Student Activities*
Well, really just one. Calvin Johnson, a giant of the underground music scene for nearly 30 years, is, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating here- the Messiah. Johnson is best known as the singer/creative force/hip-swiveler of the lo-fi outfit Beat Happening. Perhaps even more importantly though, he is the founder of Olympia, WA-based K Records, a long-standing bastion for spindly white kids (http://www.krecs.com/html/artists/index.php) with tentative grasps on playing music. K has been “exploding the teenage underground into passionate revolt against the corporate ogre since 1982,” and shows no signs of quelling the revolution anytime soon.
All the greats of 90s underground (and not so underground) have released on K- Sonic Youth, Beck, Built to Spill, Thee Headcoats, and so on. K (and by K, I mean Johnson himself) has been paramount in shaping much of the aesthetics and ethics of lo-fi music, even today. All these songs are from K releases and each of the bands have, in some way, been directly influenced, if not musically then in spirit, by Johnson’s approach to making and distributing music to the aforementioned spindly white kids. Granted, half the bands below include Johnson himself, but, I mean..duh.
Beat Happening “Bewitched”
Always endearing and usually uncomfortably erotic, Beat Happening paved the way for minimalist pop and the at times troublesome “anyone-can-start-a-band” ethos.
Shonen Knife “Flying Jelly Attack”
For 30 years, Shonen Knife has been playing music that can only be equated to the adorableness of this puppy:
I don’t think I have to tell you how rare all-girl punk bands were in 1981, let alone in Japan. These 3 former office clerks mixed the Beatles-influenced J-Pop popular at the time with their adoration of the Ramones, catching the eye of a certain Calvin Johnson all the way over in Olympia, who introduced them to the west with their first US release on K.
Pansy Division “Luv Luv Luv”
I imagine Pansy Division as the gay soundtrack to My So Called Life. Hailing from SF, this band has been a mainstay in the queercore movement since the early 90s. “Luv Luv Luv” is one of their tamest songs, but if you want to get the FULL experience, check out “James Bondage” or “Homo Christmas” (“Don’t be miserable like Morissey/Let me do you underneath the Christmas tree.” Gold.)
Bikini Kill “Feels Blind”
Perhaps now more famous as the synthstress of electropunk band Le Tigre, Kathleen Hannah has humble beginnings in Olympia as being the leader of, like, a revolution. Directly influenced by the DIY attitude Calvin Johnson and K helped cultivate, the riotgrrl movement really gained momentum during the legendary International Pop Underground Convention in 1991.
Halo Benders “Halo Bender”
Johnson and Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch seem like an unlikely duo: Johnson’s dry, (ironically?) masculine voice and Martsch’s helium whine; Johnson’s staunch rejection of silly things like chords and Martsch’s commitment to reviving the indie guitar solo; not to mention Johnson’s strange wit and Martsch’s post-teenage angst. Despite, or perhaps because of these differences, it all works together beautifully.
All Girl Summer Fun Band “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Troublemaker”
Refer to above puppy, if their name doesn’t say it all. Twee nearly to the point of a diabetic coma, this Portland, OR band isn’t into frills or thrills, just playing earnestly sweet music to bop your head along to. So, we’ll part on this super-happy-fun-shiny-time song:
(audio starts a few seconds in)
further reading: Our Band Could Be Your Life (Beat Happening chapter), Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music, Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture
further listening: Dub Narcotic Sound System (an indie-funk Johnson endeavor), Go Team (sans “!” a ramshackle band of artists, with Tobi Vail-later of Bikini Kill- and Johnson as the core duo. Mostly instrumental, encouraging the listener to “make up their own words”), D+ (Bret Lunsford of Beat Happening and Karl Blau, another K artist, playing sweet, witty gems).
Next to love, both requited and not, Jesus is the most frequent subject of songs.* And let me tell you, there are some pretty amazing songs about Jesus, the Messiah, Jehovah, Son of God, what have you. Even though writing a song about Jesus may seem simple, it is an art that few master. Here are a few key criteria:
1. A stringed instrument of some sort- acoustic guitar, harp, banjo; anything that will give the song a spiritual, other-worldly effect. However, in all cases, this may be substituted with a tambourine.
2. Sincerity (but not too much). Any schmuck can strum an acoustic guitar and hum a ditty about The Almighty, or scream-o about their disillusionment with religion, but neither are much fun to listen to. A good song about Jesus can’t be blasphemous or condescending- but a little cheekiness goes a long way.
3. You know the letter “g”? WELL, FORGET IT.
4. A rambling melody- something you can snap your fingers, tap your toes, or walk through a hot and sandy desert for weeks to. Basically, a melody that will help ease your earthly worries. After all, isn’t that what Jesus is all about?
(*Based upon my own research. Please don’t fact check me.)
Mahalia Jackson “How I Got Over”
Let’s start with a classic- a true gospel song written in 1951 and made famous by Mahalia Jackson (and, later Aretha Franklin). Jackson was born in New Orleans but built her decade-spanning career out of Sweet Home Chicago. In 1951, she became the first gospel singer to ever perform at Carnegie Hall, helping her earn the undisputed title as the Queen of Gospel. Her clenched eyes, the call and response from the audience, the sporadic, uncontrollable clapping- this performance should give you chills. Oh! And her voice.
Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs “Gettin’ High for Jesus”
Though her mastery of twangy blues belies her English origins, Ms. Golightly knows a thing or two about preachin’ to the choir. If you ain’t willing to get high for Jesus, then who would you get high for?
June Carter Cash “Will the Circle be Unbroken”
While we’re pokin’ around this genre, we mine as well pluck out this song from June Carter Cash’s fantastic 1999 album Press On (though, it’s more famously known as being performed by The Carter Family). While gospel songs in the black community tend to be forceful and almost overwhelmingly cathartic, country gospel songs are often softer, a bit more pensive and solitary, but nonetheless powerful.
Calvin Johnson (ft. Beth Ditto) “Lightnin’ Rod for Jesus”
Calvin Johnson doesn’t have a voice that’s akin to..well..anything. But his lumbering half-croon fits this a cappella song perfectly. And Beth Ditto, well, she was born with a voice for singin’ about Jesus- but she chose evil (queercore dance parties) over good. Thank God.
Spacemen 3 “Walkin with Jesus”
For a band whose ethos was “taking drugs to make music to take drugs to,” you might wonder what these neo-physchdelia chaps have to do with Jesus. Well, nothing. But this song manages to use even less chords than your average Ramones song and still be outrageously good. The wall of noise unexpectedly draws you in as you try to unearth what’s going on (which turns out, is not a whole lot).
*The Muslims (now The Soft Pack) have a great cover of this song too!
Now spread the gospel and post some of your favorites!
In the words of the Black Keys’ manager, “This could become a rad viral hit!” Too many dangerously pretentious (ergo, right in hipsterdom’s hive-minded wheelhouse) talking points to list: The blues goes postmodern? Does the presence of a lip-syncing plushie dinosaur make this postmisogynistic (right, there’s a dinosaur puppet and girls in bikinis). Ugh, I just started to list the talking points. Is this blog as self-aware as the Black Keys? Christ, more talking points. Just watch the video:
Here’s hoping that this video gets enough press that it doesn’t need Kanye’s help at the video awards.