The B List: Top Six of the First Six

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New music is the best. It’s food for your brain, manna for your soul. All you need are open ears, an open mind and an open heart. Don’t let your taste atrophy away as you listen to those same albums from your sonically impressionable years (~ages 12 – 22) over and over, the ones you inevitably wind up fast forwarding through, even your favorite tracks, before they’re over. The new music doesn’t even need to be new, so much as it needs to be new to you. Explore what’s out there. Don’t be satisfied. Ever. A couple weeks ago I was talking to my mother’s 55 year-old cousin-in-law and he’s into Skrillex. To each his own, but that man is young at heart, my friends.

The following is a list of albums that have made their way into my heart this year, many will remain there indefinitely. Also, I like making lists and comparing things.

1. Dr. John – Locked Down [swamp funk meets garage rock]

You wouldn’t think Akron, Ohio would have much to offer New Orleans. But Dan Auerbach (producer; The Black Keys) is the best thing to happen to a Mac Rebennack (aka The Night Tripper aka Dr. John) album in 40 years. A return to form with updated production that preserves New Orleans with just enough gritty garage peppered across the album.

Key Tracks: Locked Down, Revolution, Eleggua

2. Lambchop – Mr. M [ornate, avant-garde, Nashville country]

Lambchop have quietly made some of the best music over the past 20 years. And I do mean quietly. Kurt Wagner and crew return to do what they’ve always done, produce gorgeously arranged music, elegantly embellished with strings, all tied together with Wagner’s emotive whisper. The somber tone of this album (dedicated to the late Vic Chesnutt) is captured perfectly with the video for Gone Tomorrow.

Key Tracks: If Not I’ll Just Die, Gone Tomorrow, Mr. Met

3. Liars – WIXIW [experimental noise rockers go electronic]

One day, Liars might decide to pull an Animal Collective and prove they can make an album of unequaled beauty, but until then these weirdos love being weirdos. This time around, with a brand new sound, they still sound Liars, even without the in-your-face drums and amps. Dark, ambitious, spot-fucking-on.

Key Tracks: Brats, No. 1 Against The Rush, Octagon

4. Punch Brothers – Who’s Feeling Young Now? [bluegrass cum indie rock]

I don’t like bluegrass. I don’t care for the mandolin. Banjo? Not so much. Punch Brothers have proven me wrong. Being wrong has never felt so right. The songwriting is tremendous, the arrangements impeccable, the playing out-of-this-world. Chris Thile (vocals, mandolin) and Noam Pikelny (banjo) have been bestowed upon us by the Graceful Music Gods. Cherish them.

Key Tracks: Movement & Location, Don’t Get Married Without Me, Hundred Dollars

5. Slow Magic – ▲ (Triangle) (EP) [Chillwave epitomized]

These 26 minutes are better than most albums out this year, or most other years for that matter. Imagine Ratatat on some mellow acid. Perfect daytime jams. Perfect nighttime jams. Perfect summertime jams. Perfect jams. Listen to the whole thing. A lot. Then spread the word. A lot.

Key tracks: Corvette Cassette, Toddler Tiger, Sorry Safari

6. Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse [Fuck Your Face]

Ty Segall has released five albums in the last four years…and he just announced another coming out this Fall. An artist’s artist, this man loves his craft. If there is one word to describe this album, it is “Urgency.” Glorious, psychedelic, lo-fi garage bombast, I hear, amongst many other things, early Pink Floyd, punk, garage, metal and distortion pedals. This album is not for medium volume. Clockwise that volume dial, you won’t regret it.

Key tracks: The Tongue, Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart, The Bag I’m In

Memorial Day by Scott Bernstein on Grooveshark

The next dozen:

Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself [brilliant lyricist/multi-instrumentalist’s delicate masterpiece]
Beach House – Bloom [dreams of dreamy dream-pop dreams]
Daniel Rossen – Silent Hour/Golden Mile  [Grizzly Bear/Department of Eagles gorgeous solo EP]
Django Django – Django Django [The Beta Band updated]
Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel… [the chantreuse returns]
Lower Dens – Nootropics [Beach House + krautrock]
Maps & Atlases – Beware and Be Grateful [math rockers figure out the pop equation]
Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again [promising debut from British soul singer]
Port St. Willow – Holiday [sparse atmosphere, ethereal vocals]
Portico Quartet – Portico Quartet [London jazzers diversify their sound with beats]
Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light [space rocker continues to rock space]
The Walkmen – Heaven [great album band releases another great album]

With something so subjective, I hope your own list would be different (though I implore you to check out all of the above). If you can’t come up with a list of your own…get listening! There’s so much good music out there that you are depriving yourself of if you fail to explore.

In full awareness that there’s tons of music out there I haven’t heard, here’s a “short” list of honorable mentions from my 6 months of digging:

Aaron Freeman (aka Geen Ween), Aesop Rock, Air, Alabama Shakes, Brad Mehldau, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Chromatics, Damon Albarn, Dent May, El-P, Eletric Guest (Danger Mouse produced), Father John Misty (ex-Fleet Foxes), Field Music, fun., Gaz Coombes (ex-Supergrass), Hot Chip, Jack White, Japandroids, Kelly Hogan, Made in Heights, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Norah Jones (Danger Mouse produced), Para One, Santigold, Sigur Ros, Sun Kil Moon, The Future Sound of London, The Men, The Shins, The Tallest Man On Earth, White Fence

What have I missed? If you’re holding (tunes), let me know in the comments.

And finally, here’s a list of bands that have albums due out in the next several months that I am eagerly anticipating:

Animal Collective (September), Grizzly Bear (September), Dirty Projectors (July), Marco Benevento (September), Jens Lekman (September), Tame Impala (not soon enough), Black Star, David Byrne + St. Vincent (September), Blur (maybe?) and hopefully Yo La Tengo (they’ve been tweeting from the studio)

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5 thoughts on “The B List: Top Six of the First Six

  1. Jeffrey Greenblatt Reply

    Great list Jon.

    Here’s my Top 6 Of The First 6

    1 – Dr. John – Locked Down
    2 – Dr. Dog – Be The Void
    3 – Father John Misty – S/T
    4 – Diamond Rugs – S/T
    5 – Beachwood Sparks – The Tarnished Gold

    Honorable Mention: Bruce Springsteen, Fist Aid Kit, Alabama Shakes, M. Ward, Justin Townes Earle, The Shins, New Multitudes

  2. Eddie East Reply

    I’m loving the new Shins album, in addition to what you have posted.

    • McL Reply

      not sure why I thought Pond came out last year, else that’d’ve been a part (loved your post yesterday). and somehow Dr. Dog slipped past me?

      most importantly….FLORATONE II?!?!?! How did I not know that existed…that might’ve even made the Top 6. Can’t wait to snag that.

      definitely more than a few on your list I’ve meant to and/or will be checking out, as well.

      your partner in musicology,

  3. JBL Reply

    Tough to narrow to six, but I’ll try… and in no particular order…

    White Fence “Family Perfume Vol. 1 and 2”
    Technically two albums, but who is counting. There’s a bunch of weird stuff here.

    Ty Segall & White Fence “Hair”
    I could’ve chose Slaughterhouse, but I’ve listened to this one more. It will be the annual Ty Segall placeholder for the time being.

    Royal Baths “Better Luck Next Life”
    It’s dark and hypnotic. Being from Memphis, this is the perfect album to watch Fedex planes float across midtown.

    King Tuff “King Tuff”
    Maybe it’s just because its summer, but I’m wearing this album out right now. Super catchy and suitable for most summer situations.

    Justin Townes Earl “Nothing’s Going To Change the Way You Feel About Me Now”
    Singer songwriters? Ugh… but this is awesome… just like the rest of his albums

    The Intelligence “Everybody’s Got It Easy But Me”
    Just starting to dig into this one, but I believe it has staying power. Side project related to Thee Oh Sees.

    Honorable mentions:
    Andre Williams & the Sadies “Day and Night” – Andre Williams “Hoods and Shade” – Lucero “Women and Work” – Spiritualized “Sweet Heart Sweet Light” – Terry Malts “Killing Time” – Ty Segall Band “Slaughterhouse” – Here We Go Magic “A Different Ship” – Howlin’ Rain “The Russian Wilds” – Nice Face “Horizon Lines” – Hacienda “Shakedown” – Diamond Rugs “S/T” – Bill Baird “Career” – Spacin’ “Deep Thuds”

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