Our lovely Assistant Editor-in-Chief, Shannen Gaffney, also writes for Liquid Courage Media. This is their list of the top albums of 2013, co-written with Isabel Imperatore (in alphabetical order).
Allison Weiss – Say What You Mean Allison Weiss’ No Sleep Records release, Say What You Mean, was an uplifting take on the more depressing moments of being a teenager-to-twenty-something. The first track, “Making It Up,” outlined the uncertainties of defining a relationship. Our favorite is the breakup pop tune “How to Be Alone”.
Beyoncé – BEYONCÉ BEYONCE released a self-titled “exclusive visual album” on iTunes in the middle of the night without any previous announcement or promotion. Do I need to say anything else? Videos/tracks to check out: ”XO” and “Blue” (and the entire album).
Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe If we can use the word ‘groovy,’ Blood Orange released one of the grooviest records this year. “You’re Not Good Enough” encompasses everything you’ve ever wanted to say to your ex, and has been stuck in our heads ever since its recent release.
Brick + Mortar – Bangs It’s hard to categorize and describe Brick + Mortar, which is a duo comprised of Brandon Asraf and John Tacon. They combine elements of alternative, electronic, indie, drum and bass, noise-pop, hip-hop, and punk. It’s aggressive, anthemic and catchy. The intense drum and bass parts are overlapped with Brandon’s distinct vocals and instrumentation like synths and guitar. Listen to “Bangs” and “Locked In A Cage” and you’ll understand.
Charli XCX – True Romance Charli XCX was definitely a breakout artist of 2013, and True Romance was one of the best dance pop albums of the year. Her obvious best track was “You – Ha Ha Ha,” but “Take My Hand” and “What I Like” were also equally addictive pop gems.
Twenty years ago, cassette tapes were being replaced by CDs, Drexel’s student-run radio station WKDU 91.7 FM released its last compilation album and some Drexel University students weren’t even born. Now, the student organization will release the newest compilation, “WKDU Live!!!!,”on cassette and digital download on Dec. 14.
WKDU members will unleash never-before-heard sessions with local and national bands by selling 100 limited edition cassette tapes at the R5 Productions Punk Rock Flea Market on Dec. 14 and 15.
As Philadelphia’s only free-format, non-commercial FM station, WKDU hosts radio shows that play all types of music from reggae and jazz to punk and indie. So of course the compilation album has a similar eclectic set of artists, including national acts Deer Tick and Bomb the Music Industry! and local groups like Spraynard and Restorations. Some of the artists who recorded sessions with WKDU also have a history of releasing…
Phantogram’s sold out stop at the Union Transfer on December 6th was part of their highly anticipated tour in support of their latest album, Voices, which is also their first album in four years.
I was pleasantly surprised by opener Until the Ribbon Breaks, the relatively new project of Welshman Pete Lawrie. The act blends electronic elements seen in recent dance music as well as plain old rock influences. At various points during the set Lawrie showed off his talents on the trumpet as well as other instruments, and displayed his versatility in his unique style of music. Welsh’s distorted vocals also added an interesting addition to his somber lyrics. Songs like “2025,” “Romeo,” and “Pressure” won the crowd over. Until the Ribbon Breaks is definitely a band to look out for in 2014, and you should expect to see more news from Lawrie’s project in the future.
Phantogram came on around 11:00 p.m. to an ecstatic crowd. Singer Sarah Barthel’s powerful voice cut through the band’s shoegaze vibes. A chilling rendition of “Mouthful of Diamonds” captivated the audience as well as fanfavorite “When I’m Small”. The quirky “Running From the Cops” featured guitarist Josh Carter taking over vocal duties.
Their latest single, “Black Out Days” showed a different side of the band. The high energy song accompanied by an incredible light show brought the performance up another notch. Barthel took the time between songs to thank the crowd and Philadelphia for consistently being a great place to play. It was visible she and Carter were feeding off the crowd’s energy and were having a great time on stage.
Phantogram played a couple more new songs from Voices including “Never Going Home” and “The Day You Died” before finally ending the set just around midnight.
After hearing Here We Go Magic and Bombino would be touring together this winter, I knew the December 5th show at The Blockley was not one to miss. Though both bands have different sounds, they incorporate a very rhythmic aspect in each of their songs.
Here We Go Magic is a group I only recently got into following their 2012 release A Different Ship. The Brooklyn-based band has received a lot of hype for their sets at Glastonbury and Bonnaroo. What peaked my interest in the band was that the album was produced by longtime Radiohead producer/collaborator Nigel Godrich. The album definitely has his influence clearly rooted in it.
They opened with the first single from A Different Ship, “Make Up Your Mind.” This high energy song featured pulsating guitar riffs and glimmering synth accents. Other cuts from the album like “Hard to Be Close” and “Alone But Moving” also were heard in the set. Towards the end, the band broke out one of their older songs, “Collector,” which got the crowd moving. They went into an extended jam session where each member got to show off with virtuosic solos. It was clear that the members of Here We Go Magic are extremely talented and very encapsulated in their entire performance. The subdued lights on stage added to the very intimate feeling they were going for. Their set ended with “How Do I Know,” a crowd favorite and left the stage with loud applause.
Up next was headliner Bombino in support of his latest album Nomad. Nigerian-born Omara Moctar came onstage dressed in blue robes and an electric green scarf. For the first half, he and his band played in a line at the front of the stage for an acoustic set. Traditional drums were present while Bombino played an acoustic guitar and another member played bass. Bombino does not speak English but he still managed to connect with the crowd through his music.
For the second half, the band switched over to electric instruments where the music switched formats to a more bluesheavy feel. “Amidinine” was a particular favorite of mine as well as “Azamane Tiliade.” The variety in Bombino’s music is what’s most captivating about him. Each song has its own feel while still remaining very true to his sound.
I found out about the Velvet Underground in 1985, at some point after PolyGram issued the VU LP of outtakes. I was a teenager in rural Berks County, partying weekends in a backwoods spot my friends called Alaska. “Stephanie Says” made a lot of sense, but it was White Light/White Heat that made my mind split open. The guitars were insane, beyond what I’d thought possible. I’d only recently heard Sonic Youth’s Bad Moon Rising and couldn’t really explain unconventional tunings. I’d only recently read Howl and had a vague inkling of a beat New York that had been. I knew just enough to hear something remarkable in “Sister Ray.” The junkie sailors and the fellatio were interesting, but it was the industrial groan and squeal of the electronic instruments, like some hellish vacuum cleaner sucking at a soul, and the hollowed snap and tumble of the primitivist drums—those were really interesting. And ecstatic.
Everyone always says that everyone who heard the Velvets went on to start their own band. I didn’t. I kept listening to the Velvets. I bought a cheap cassette reissue of their live 1969 double album. That version of “What Goes On” keeps on going on and going on. Lou Reed’s guitar hit a sweet spot among punk rock snarl, avant-garde repetition (a la Steve Reich), and a zoned-out effect I could feel inside my skull. It’s an anti-aesthetic, full of the sort of cultural collisions that fueled Black Arts poetry in Newark that year and the working class anger of the Detroit rock scene—see the Stooges and the MC5. But the Velvets got there first. “Heroin” came out on Verve, most famous as a jazz label, alongside records by Count Basie and Odetta. Lou scored more than junk in Harlem. Those first three Velvets records — I don’t think there’s any better soundtrack to the violence and weirdness of American life, c. 1966 to 1969. Maybe Coltrane or the Mothers of Invention. But the Velvets could do pop and devotional music and gentle balladry and face-melting noise, often on the same LP side. The Velvets made important music. They deserve an A-Z.
Idle Noise with Mike Eidle and Trixie Noyes plays on WKDU every Wednesday from 7-9a.m. This week they will have a Velvet Underground A-Z exploration of artists, covers, and songs related to the band. You can listen on 91.7 fm or at wkdu.org.
We had the chance to speak with Thomas Warmsley, the bass player and co-founding member of what has been called the best new band in England. Temples have left their home in Kettering, England to come tour the U.S. and they recently played here at Kung Fu Necktie on November 3rd.
VP: Are you having fun in America? Have you been here before?
TW: Yea, it’s the first time any of us have played music in America. In England it’s quite a landmark thing to come over to the states and play. Yea, it’s been quite a special trip, I guess, to come out here and do that. I think every venue has its own atmosphere and every country has its own kind of way of doing things, and different audiences. It’s really exciting and we’re having a great time; taking it all in.
VP: What do you miss about your home?
TW: I don’t know, I mean when you go on tour you kind of expect to leave all of your home comforts behind. I think we all enjoy the fact that we’re not home in Kettering, where we all live. It’s kind of like a world away from where we’re from. I think we kind of embrace the fact that it’s a little bit alien and different. It’s all part of the trip really.
VP: Who is your all time favorite producer and why?
TW: (laughs) Tricky question, because we have so many… I don’t know, I mean Phil Spector for us is such a big name and his whole style and way of doing things in the studio is kind of a real institution. He has such a signature sound – signature meaning the reverb and other elements. It kind of takes it away from being familiar, in terms of sound.
Jack Nitzsche as well, I guess he falls under the Phil Spector umbrella. I think between the two of them, they had something really special.
He worked with The Rolling Stones, the orchestrations on there and their records. He always worked very closely with the artists he was recording with. He played on the record as well and having that kind of involvement blurs the line between artist and producer. Most of us in Temples think it’s very important to embrace both because we are fans of producers as well as bands and artists.
VP: What artists have you been listening to lately?
TW: Umm, yea well we listen to quite a lot.
VP: Well what about in the past few days?
TW: We’ve been listening to Atom Heart Mother, the Pink Floyd album, if you know that one. And there’s a band that just released a single, they’re called Telegram. We’ve been touring with them in England and they have a song called “Follow,” which is their debut single. Since we’ve toured with them we’ve had the pleasure of getting to listen to them every night. We’re really big fans of what they’re doing. So I guess that’s one old and one new?
VP: What is your musical guilty pleasure?
TW: I guess, film soundtracks are always a strange one that people either love or hate. We really enjoy listening to some kind of more cinematic sounding music. We try to play our music so that it kind of transposes visually. And like, Ennio Morricone, he does soundtracks. Oh and like Goblin, as well, they’re like an Italian prog band that did some soundtracks in the seventies as well. It’s kind of slightly weird and you know that’s a little bit different from your normal rock band.
VP: Who would be your dream collaboration?
TW: Well we’re from the Midlands and not too far away in a place called Rugby is where Sonic Boom from Spacemen 3 is based. And yea, we’re all really big fans of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum. He has his own studio as well. He creates some really interesting sounds in the studio and we’d like to, one day, perhaps, collaborate with him. Peter Kember is his name, but his nickname is Sonic Boom. But yea, really spacey and almost like soundscape and noise. There’s something quite simple and charming about his recordings.
VP: In your song “Shelter Song,” the lyrics mention reading poetry aloud; who are your favorite poets?
TW: James wrote the lyrics… but yea William Blake is great, if you like reading and stuff. I think it is part of your admission into music that deals with consciousness, that you read, “The Doors of Perception” and “Heaven and Hell”.
VP: How do you prepare yourself for a live show? Any weird rituals?
TW: (laughs) Not especially. I’m kind of torn between just saying anything; making something up, and just being honest. We always sing as much possible and do three part harmonies. We like to sing some songs by The Byrds and we usually fight over who sings David Crosby’s harmony. That’s always the best.
VP: I was wondering just now, have you ever tried meditation?
TW: Um, not yet. I think we all kind of meditate in our own way. That’s not meditating explicitly but yea. I think you have to be in the right mindset when you go on stage and stuff, so I think everyone has their own way, perhaps, of meditating.
VP: What’s coming up in the future for Temples?
TW: We just announced that we will be releasing our album, Sun Structures, in February. I think it’s February the 10th. We announced it online yesterday actually, so it’s really excited for us. All this year we’ve been recording in between touring, and it’s great to finally have a record. So that’s in February. And I think we’re coming back over to the states again in like March or April as well, so we’re really looking forward to coming back over here once the album’s been released. We can’t wait for everyone to hear it, since everyone’s only heard the singles and what’s online. It will be great for everyone to hear the full spectrum of music that we play.