Our Best of 2016 (Part 1)

To round out 2016, WKDU DJs wrote about their music memories of the year. We’ll share some each day until New Year’s Eve. Here are the first two, and stay tuned for more tomorrow!

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Nick Manna’s Favorite Music of 2015

— by Nick Manna

Year-end lists are fun, in theory. Often they seem to be a practice in confirmation bias. So instead of listing albums you may or may not have heard, here are some unforgettable experiences from this year. I wish I could include about 40 more things. Maybe you’ll find something you like. Maybe you were there. Hopefully you’ll be there next time.

Hop Along – Painted ShutPainted Shut cover art
Painted Shut is Hop Along’s third album, and they take a huge leap. Frances Quinlan touched on very emotional subject matter in previous work, but brings it together with superior musicianship in a more cohesive effort on Painted Shut. Quinlan’s voice steals the show, but the guitar work of Joe Reinhart moves to the foreground at points. I feel as though I am doing the album a disservice if I try to multitask while listening. I stop to make sure I don’t miss the transcendent moments, which are shockingly frequent. Some are big, like Reinhart’s soaring solo in “Texas Funeral.” Some are smaller, like Quinlan’s delivery of the word “sun” toward to the end of “Horseshoe Crabs.” During “Happy to See Me,” I always think back to the performances at Union Transfer and Philamoca – Quinlan standing alone on stage, armed with a quiet guitar and mic, a silent crowd transfixed. I heard “Waitress” before the album’s release, and I knew it was special, but never could I have known that every song on the Painted Shut would grab me in a way that few other songs ever have and never let go.

Radiator Hospital, Quarterbacks, and Girlpool at Hazel House: January 11, 2015
Sam Cook-Parrot performed two solo Radiator Hospital shows at Hazel House early this year – once supporting Yowler, and once supporting Quarterbacks, as Radiator Hospital are wont to do. On this January night, Girlpool opened the show. They sat in the bay window with an acoustic guitar and bass and delivered their fantastic songs in the most intimate setting imaginable. They even played their heartbreaking cover of RH’s “Cut Your Bangs” – the only time I have seen them play it. Dean of Quarterbacks was up next and played a quick and witty set of songs that were on his self-titled album. Finally Sam came up and played the best Radiator Hospital set I have seen. He asked for a song to play and we suggested “I’m All Right,” which is a very important song to me. He delivered it flawlessly, before finishing with the agonizing “Shut Up and Deal.” Just listen to the last 30 seconds of that song and then imagine it being screamed, perfectly, right in front of your face. Everyone in the living room was in shock.

Fred Thomas
Fred released one of my favorite albums of the year, All Are Saved, and went on a couple of tours to promote it. I had not heard any of his music before this, but it seemed that All Are Saved had a more official release. His lyrics are smart, poetic, and thought-provoking. He played a show at LAVA space in May with Quarterbacks and Radiator Hospital, and seeing him perform “Bed Bugs” by himself in this bare space, and adding lines as he saw fit, felt like the absolutely perfect way to listen to music. He played LAVA again in November, noting something like “Here I am, approaching my 40th birthday, eating a burrito and playing music in anarchist bookstore, and I couldn’t be happier.” Thirty or so people were at the show. Bonny Doon played too, and I felt incredibly lucky: having the chance to stand feet away from my favorite artists while they perform down the street from my home is a true blessing.

Goodbye Party at Kat Frat: July 8, 2015
We got to this show early, so we walked down to Clark Park and had some ice cream sandwiches. Small Wonder played a great solo set before the Goodbye Party set up their gear. This was their first full-band show in a basement. The Goodbye Party is led by Mikey from the Ambulars, and comprised of Sam from Radiator Hospital, Joey from Pinkwash, Kyle from Swearin’, and Chrissy from Thin Lips – a West Philly all-star ensemble. I felt as though I was continuously hit by a wall of sound, instruments and voices (Sam singing back-up) in perfect harmony with each other. Goodbye Party’s album, Silver Blues, is fairly quiet. The band plays the more upbeat songs, but “Louder than Summer” left me frozen in place. Here I was, in a basement in West Philly with about 20 other people, flooded with sound beautiful and full enough to fill a theater. I could hardly believe what happened that night.

Sidekicks, Cayetana, and All Dogs at Golden Tea House: January 24, 2015 Sidekicks had, by this point, outgrown house shows, but came back just for fun. All Dogs were my favorite band to have yet to release an album at that point, and Cayetana had one of my favorites of 2014. Minutes before doors opened, hundreds of people crowded the block and began to flow into the house – I was a lucky one who made it in. “Who Let the Dogs Out” played over the PA before All Dogs’s set. This was a special show. They played some classics, some unreleased songs, and finished with Nirvana’s Breed (noted as “Kid Rock” on their setlists). Cayetana performed a stellar set as always, before the Sidekicks nearly tore the house down. Forty-five minutes of blistering rock (including a break for “1940’s Fighter Jet”) had me moving to the back for fear of my safety by the end, though it didn’t get too bad. Golden Tea House stopped doing shows just days later.

Also Memorable:
Seeing Weezer play the Blue Album and Pinkerton, in full, back-to-back nights at Riot Fest Toronto
Sufjan Stevens’s latest album, Carrie and Lowell, and his somber performance at Academy of Music
The output of Maryn Jones: Yowler – Yowler / All Dogs – Kicking Every Day / Saintseneca – Such Things
The music video for “Bad Ideas” by Saintseneca
Eskimeaux – O.K.

Glasses’ Top Albums of 2015

by Sam Robinson

 

Does anybody listen to music anymore? Or do we just kind of pretend to have listened to the latest high-concept journalism-bait records and quote bot-generated thinkpieces about them to impress our friends who have also only pretended to listen to the albums in question. Last year I tried listening to music, and only came up with ten items to fill my listicle’s distended sac. So I gave up on that. Below are six albums I heard about in passing from cool people in 2015 – I hope you get invited to some killer New Year’s parties to quote these reviews at.

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6. Black Wing…Is Doomed 

From the ashes of Dan Barrett’s (Have a Nice Life, Giles Corey, Married), failed Drive-inspired synthpop project, Dan Barrett and the Cruisers, comes a bombastic, pop tinged electronic romp through the mind of one of the most exciting musicians working in shoegaze today. The effects driven guitars may be gone from this record, but there is no absence of emotional soundscapes in their wake. Heavily processed synth drum kits scintillate across the soundstage and vocal tracks dip into hyper-compressed clipping collages that can best be described as aural car wrecks. This might not be a strictly shoegaze record, but Barrett’s pedigree still manages to shine through.

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5 Riffs That Humans Wrote

Good day, readers. Inspired by fellow DJ Nick Myers’ late-night accusation that “all the good riffs have been written,” I give to you 5 examples of perfect riffage that will hopefully inspire the guitarists in all of us to turn up the ol’ Peavey and make something beautiful.

While this list is far from comprehensive (and totally ignores guitar solos, a totally different concept that I hope to address in a future post), I hope that it provides a good sampling of riffs for your heads to bang to.

A note: Two of these groups are playing shows in Philadelphia tonight, and if you have Facebook and a nose for guitars and basements, I bet you can find them.

 1. Sleep – Holy Mountain 

The lonely, droopy guitar line at the 4 minute mark is my jam. Last heard on John Sinclair’s show “Cosmic Debris.”

 2. Painted Ship – And She Said Yes 

Painted Ship were a legendary garage punk band from Vancouver. Active from 1965-68, they put out several dynamite 45s. 1966’s “And She Said Yes” was a ripping B-side. No bassist and a hollering lead singer is clearly the way to do things.

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Rock Bottom Radio’s top albums of 2014

Tweens at the Barbary
Tweens at the Barbary in Philly

Rock Bottom Radio is Shannen Gaffney. She is WKDU’s PR director and will host two radio programs beginning January 2015.

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Nick Manna’s Top Albums of 2014

Photo courtesy of BrooklynVegan
Radiator Hospital live in NY at Glasslands; Photo courtesy of BrooklynVegan

Nick Manna will host a weekly program called Roadrunner beginning January 2015. Here are his favorite albums of the year from bottom to top:

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Dr. Plotkin’s Majikal List X-Perience: Top albums of 2014 and more

2014 was an excellent year in music and I couldn’t just write about all my favorite albums this year or I would end up talking forever. Instead, I broke this post down into five expositions on my favorite albums and short blurbs about some other ones. Finally, I couldn’t just sit back and not mention some of the great albums I’ve been digging on this year just because they didn’t come out in the last 12 months, so I threw a final couple of sentences at the page hoping they’d stick.

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