Posted by: cousinbrandon | December 19, 2013

“The Mixes” Series: Positive and Negative, 2013

Musically, I don’t know how best to describe 2013 other than to say that it was, well, above average. I realize that’s a less than enthusiastic summation of this past year’s output, but albums on the whole seemed to suffer. Yes, there were plenty of great songs that emerged, which is pretty much always the case. But like I’ve said in years’ past, there were a bevy of records in 2013 that lacked “staying power.” In other words, there wasn’t a whole lot of “great” in 2013. This doesn’t mean, however, there was no great; there was.

Maybe it was my fault? I mean, 2013 was an odd year, to say the least. Aside from getting hitched (which was, of course, the highlight of my year), a lot of, well, terrible things happened. I’m not convinced it has a damn thing to do with the whole “13” business, as that’s plain ridiculous. Rather, a shitstorm of bad news came down upon my collective family. I suppose the abundance of awful would have been enough to reflect nothing but sad bastard selections for my mixes, but that wasn’t the case at all. The music was independent of the bad tidings, and, in fact, provided an escape as opposed to a hole to climb deeper within.

Last year was dominated by what I referred to as “Garage Pop.” This year was certainly a bit more eclectic, despite an even greater influx of Doom Metal, Hip Hop and New Wave circa 1982. The other common thread that seemed to dominate 2013 was “older” bands releasing new — and very good — records. In other words, I don’t think 2013 was flooded by strong debut records, but by established bands either returning to form or continuing their habit of releasing grade-A material. Well, except for one band, that is, who blew the fucking doors off everything.

So, without further adieu, here’s a look back at the music that did its thing in 2013…

Album Cover of the Year:

SavagesSilence Yourself

Best Vocal Moments of the Year:

Of Montreal – “Imbecile Rages” (At the 3:27 mark of the closing track of Lousy with Sylvianbriar, I nearly lost my mind. Kevin Barnes’ sustaining note of the word “anymore” is beyond piercing; it’s astounding. He holds (and affects) it for a mind-blowing 16 seconds. To say I’ve listened to it repeatedly is a wild understatement.)

Connections – “Finally” (It’s not that this song featured a stand-out moment, per se; rather, it’s that Connections immediately channel Guided By Voices better than, well, Guided By Voices on their debut, Private Airplane.)

Song I Heard Once and New Immediately It Would Be On My Year-End List:

Swearin’ – “Dust in the Gold Sack” (You can check out the studio version — the one that’s on my actual mix — below.)

Most Overrated Record(s) of the Year Based On the Critics’ Picks:

Kanye WestYeezus (To be fair, I can only assume this is among the most overrated records of 2013, as I haven’t heard it and have no intention to.)

Okkervil River The Silver Gymnasium (Are you fucking shitting me, Magnet?! There’s one good song on this record. The rest is a total snooze. I adore Magnet, which is what makes their choice of Album of the Year so depressing.)

Worst Comeback Record By a Band Whose Comeback Record I Was Highly Anticipating:

The Dismemberment Plan – Uncanney Valley (What an unbelievable piece of dogshit!)

Video of the Year:

Arcade Fire – “Afterlife

Ten Honorable Mentions of 2013 (in Alphabetical Order):

The Baptist GeneralsJackleg Devotional to the Heart
California XCalifornia X
Mikal CroninMCII
DeerhunterMonomania
FIDLARFIDLAR
The NationalTrouble Will Find Me
The Octopus ProjectFever Forms
Palma Violets180
TelekinesisDormarion
UpsetShe’s Gone

Top Ten Records of 2013:

10. Lady Lamb the BeekeeperRipely Pine

9. Throwing MusesPurgatory/Paradise

8. Swearin’Surfing Strange

7. Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City

6. WaxahatcheeCerulean Salt

5. Of MontrealLousy with Sylvianbriar

4. The MenNew Moon

3. Arcade FireReflektor

2. ConnectionsBody Language

1. ConnectionsPrivate Airplane

Wait a minute. Did Cousin Brandon really just list two records by the same band as his best and second best records of the year? He sure as hell did!

Columbus, Ohio’s Connections absolutely killed it in 2013. Their debut record, Private Airplane, was as old-school Guided By Voices as a band can get without actually being GBV. It had all of the GBV anthemic staples, in that the album was both fuzzed out and wrought with singalongs and hooks. Body Language was nearly as perfect, but I had to give the edge to their debut in that it was the first of the two I heard, and I was floored instantly. Connections completely spit in the face of my diatribe above, in that I declared this the year of established bands. I’m completely happy to contradict myself in this case, though, as I would officially consider these albums “great.”

As is my way, I made two CDs worth of music this year, which once again forced me to leave several well-deserving candidates behind. I listened to an absolute shit-ton of albums I listened to this year before narrowing them down to the 26 and 22 finalists on Positive and Negative, respectively. Interestingly (and perhaps for the first time ever), both mixes open with an identical band, then close with an identical band.

As for the tracks below, I linked to studio versions of the songs and some live/alternate versions of the songs that actually appears on the mix, either because I couldn’t find the studio version or simply really enjoyed the live performance. For instance, I linked to the studio version of “Imbecile Rages” above, yet went with a live performance below. For some reason I couldn’t find any version of Upset’s “About Me,” so I spit on you, Internet. Again, apologies to all of those great, great songs I had to omit for the sake of space. Do better, Technology!

With that, I give you the 48 songs that comprise my 2013 mixes…


Positive front cover.


Positive interior artwork.


Negative front cover.


Negative interior artwork.

Positive (The Best “Fast” Tracks of 2013):

1. The Octopus Project – “Mmkit” (Fever Forms)
2. California X – “Mummy” (California X)
3. Connections – “Aimless” (Body Language)
4. The Thermals – “Born to Kill” (Desperate Ground)
5. Palma Violets – “Johnny Bagga’ Donuts” (180)
6. Upset – “She’s Gone” (She’s Gone)
7. Swearin’ – “Dust In the Gold Sack” (Surfing Strange)
8. FIDLAR – “Wake Bake Skate” (FIDLAR)
9. Wavves – “Gimme a Knife” (Afraid of Heights)
10. The Men – “Electric” (New Moon)
11. Deerhunter – “Monomania” (Monomania)
12. Iceage – “Rodfaestet” (Iceage)
13. Guided By Voices – “Xeno Pariah” (English Little League)
14. Wimps – “Nap” (Repeat)
15. Chastity Belt – “James Dean” (No Regerts)
16. Throwing Muses – “Sleepwalking 1” (Purgatory/Paradise)
17. The Joy Formidable – “Cholla” (Wolf’s Law)
18. Grooms – “Iskra Goodbye” (Infinity Caller)
19. Hospital Ships – “Joan of Arc” (Destruction In Yr Soul)
20. Superchunk – “Trees of Barcelona” (I Hate Music)
21. Mikal Cronin – “Shout It Out” (MCII)
22. Eleanor Friedberger – “Stare At the Sun” (Personal Record)
23. Vampire Weekend – “Diane Young” (Modern Vampires of the City)
24. Of Montreal – “Triumph of Disintegration” (Lousy with Sylvianbriar)
25. The Baptist Generals – “Broken Glass” (Jackleg Devotional to the Heart)
26. Arcade Fire – “Here Come the Night Time” (Reflektor)

Negative (The Best “Slow” Tracks of 2013):

1. The Octopus Project – “Sharpteeth” (Fever Forms)
2. Connections – “Mall Lights” (Private Airplane)
3. The Thermals – “The Howl of the Winds” (Desperate Ground)
4. Upset – “About Me” (She’s Gone)
5. Guided By Voices – “Islands (She Talks In Rainbows)” (English Little League)
6. Lady Lamb the Beekeeper – “Crane Your Neck” (Ripely Pine)
7. Saint Rich – “You Ain’t Worth the Night” (Beyond the Drone)
8. Okkervil River – “White” (The Silver Gymnasium)
9. Islands – “Becoming the Gunship” (Ski Mask)
10. Rogue Wave – “Used to It” (Nightingale Floors)
11. Waxahatchee – “Lively” (Cerulean Salt)
12. Throwing Muses – “Triangle Quantico” (Purgatory/Paradise)
13. Crystal Stilts – “Nature Noir” (Nature Noir)
14. Hospital Ships – “Come Back to Life” (Destruction In Yr Soul)
15. The National – “I Should Live in Salt” (Trouble Will Find Me)
16. Swearin’ – “Loretta’s Flowers” (Surfing Strange)
17. The Baptist Generals – “Floating” (Jackleg Devotional to the Heart)
18. Dr. Dog – “Too Weak to Ramble” (B-Room)
19. Telekinesis – “Symphony” (Dormarion)
20. Of Montreal – “Imbecile Rages” (Lousy with Sylvianbriar) (NOTE: Go to 3:57 in the video link.)
21. Mikal Cronin – “Piano Mantra” (MCII)
22. Arcade Fire – “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” (Reflektor)

Well, folks, that’ll do it for 2013. A shit-ton of work, as always, went into this year’s edition. Now, I demand you do the following four things:

  1. In the comments section, let me know your picks for the best songs, records, and anything else music of 2013. What did I miss? What do you violently disagree with? What are you wholeheartedly in agreement with?
  2. Should you choose to (or if you have already) put together a Best of 2013 disc of your own, by all means send me a copy of the disc, or at the very least a track listing. I’ll do my best to post them on my blog.
  3. If you’re feeling nostalgic, go back and check out my Best of… mixes from 20122011, 2010, 2009, etc.
  4. You’ve got Twitter, Facebook, and a thousand other social media outlets at your disposal. Share this with the world, even if you only have two Twitter followers (and one of them is me).
  5. UPDATE: I’m on Spotify now, and I’ve actually curated this year’s mixes there. You can find me under the name “Jewdy Blume.” Shocking, no? I may get around to posting all of my past mixes there at some point.

Until the Best of 2014, have at it, you vultures!

BD

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Posted by: cousinbrandon | April 16, 2013

Versus: The Poetry of Cousin Brandon

I was living in Boston (Somerville, actually, near Davis Square) when 9/11 happened. I had been there for one week at that point, having just moved there to start my Master’s program at Emerson College. Classes started on Monday, September 10, 2001. On the morning of September 11, there were no classes. There were no trains. There was no traffic.

There was television. There were phone calls. There was the fear of the inevitable.

After several hours I made my way out of the apartment I shared with two other roommates. I needed space from us and the upstairs neighbors huddled around the TV, waiting to breathe, wondering if Boston was next. We were, like everyone else, terrified, and I couldn’t look anymore.

Emerson re-opened the next day. Moving to Boston was culture shock enough that I didn’t walk into class that morning with the “everything is different now” attitude that most people seemed to possess. My world was already different now; this was something else. This was surreal. This was make-believe.

We didn’t talk about literature in my first class that morning; instead, I’m sure we discussed what every other class discussed.

In the days that followed, even the New York Times was flooded with what I can only call “bad poetry” in response to the attacks. As someone pursuing my MFA in creative writing, I was obviously interested in the literary and artistic aftermath of 9/11. And, frankly, it was awful. It was sentimental and sappy. It was filled with a sense of immediacy in an attempt to capture the visceral response of what had happened as opposed to incorporating any real perspective. It needed to breathe, so to speak. It wasn’t poetry so much as an emotional diatribe. I disliked it so much that I swore I’d never write any sort of 9/11 poem.

And then, in 2011, 10 years after the attacks, I changed my mind.

Hang in there, Boston.

The Towers, In Boston

We sit motionless, slack-jawed, scattered
about the living room, glued
to the reverberating hum
of the television screen as we watch
the Towers burn. Nobody moves.
Nobody can move. We watch
people emerge from the tidal wave
of smoke – some swallowed up
completely, some just beyond its grasp.
They run like Hollywood cutouts
from the Blob, from a swarm of ants,
from birds. We watch them run.
We watch their faces painted grey
in rubble and ash scream out loud
for no one, for anyone. We watch them
stumble and trample the bodies
of others. We watch some of them
stand still. We watch some of them
twisting in mid-air, appendages
circling wildly as though exercising
their amped musculature
on machines that don’t exist.
We watch this dying for hours.
We watch this dying for days
until we finally dare to move,
step outside the miasma
of our own gasps and fling ourselves
into the streets of downtown Boston,
tip-toeing through the Commons,
tilting our heads slowly forward
as we spy down Boylston,
down Newbury and Beacon,
moving like this amidst the church bells
until finally we are looking up
at the blue sky empty of everything
but birds beating their black wings
against it – looking at Hancock Place,
at the Federal Reserve Bank Building,
at Prudential Tower, and asking, When?

BD

Posted by: cousinbrandon | February 1, 2013

Versus: The Poetry of Cousin Brandon

With the exception of Chicago and Boston, I’ve hated every place I’ve ever lived while actually living in that place. I say with the exception of Chicago because, even then, I loved it, and even now it remains my favorite US city. In the case of Boston, I never felt comfortable there, and today I still feel zero sense of longing for that town. (My apologies, Bostonians, but I find it to be an awful, stick-up-its-ass, racist, impossible-to-find-your-way-around kind of city.) In the case of the rest of the cities I’ve called home — Santa Fe, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and, of course, Harrisburg, PA — there is a certain nostalgia that pretties them up for me, despite my never loving any of them when I lived inside their respective dorms, apartments, and houses.

Philadelphia was just “Filthydelphia,” a place that reeked of piss and was littered with trashy streets and even trashier people. Pittsburgh was cold and unwelcoming. It was grey and confusing. It was in a cloud of anesthesia not provided by the old steel mills. Harrisburg? Please. It’s where I came from. It was equal parts suburban bullshit and inner-city crime haven. In fact (and this still may be the case), it had more crime per capita than Philadelphia! It was uncultured and tiny and dull. The people had no stories. There was no sense of adventure — of where people had been, or even where they wanted to go. It was a weigh station for mediocrity.

And then, finally, there was Santa Fe. I moved there at 21, poised to finish my degree in creative writing at the now defunct College of Santa Fe. It was 1996, and at that point “going west” was everything to me. The idea of leaving Harrisburg and its cold winters and shitty bars and shittier people and shittiest culture behind for the warmth and comfort of New Mexico was something preposterous, yet happening. I made that happen. I completed all the paperwork. I applied. I was accepted. And without ever having visited or even been to the state of New Mexico, and without knowing a single person there, I went. I didn’t so much leave Harrisburg as I left a trail of fire and skid marks in my wake. I couldn’t wait to begin the life that I knew I’d always wanted. I couldn’t wait to be “home.”

Pfft. Home. Not even. Aside from meeting a guy that very first day in Santa Fe who, even now, 17 years later, I consider my honorary younger brother, it was a bust. Not the faculty, mind you. Hell, I’ve written glowingly and spoken lovingly of the wonderful poet Greg Glazner, whose work still moves me now. No, not that. It was just — well — Santa Fe that failed me. I just never fit there, or it never fit me. As a college student with little money, I couldn’t find my way among the visiting celebrities and artists who adorned the Plaza, nor among the working class New Mexicans who, frankly, seemed undeniably lazy and careless. Yes, I had friends and peers who I absolutely loved, but the town itself wasn’t what I thought it would be. Not at all. It was like something out of a movie — like some kind of island with a bubble surrounding it from the outside world. It was quirky, yes, but that somehow managed to make it unreal and, therefore, phony. It just wasn’t me. And after two years in Santa Fe, I was, once again, gone.

But that’s the thing with nostalgia. It creeps up on you when you least expect it and goddamn if it isn’t powerful. Just ask Don Draper. For me it was about six months ago, as I was re-reading Greg’s book From the Iron Chair. I’d not read it for some time, yet immediately there I was, back in Santa Fe, among the arroyos and the lightning storms and the mountains and the black night skies littered with stars wildly bright. And just then I realized, god, how much I’ve missed it. I realized, too, that 21-year-old me wasn’t ready for Santa Fe. That is, 21-year-old me couldn’t appreciate it properly, and was instead just another nomad wandering the American west. It’s good, then, that we grow older, because it allows us to see things not as they were, but as we were. You don’t need to go west to find that kind of space; you simply need to stand still.

Remembering Santa Fe

I re-read my professor’s book
lifted from the bookstore
my first semester in Santa Fe –
when I tucked it deep inside
my waistband and bolted
for the exit – and only now
do I discover what beauties
I didn’t even know I loved,
tracing my finger over the raised
bump of every letter as though
a palimpsest, as though
tracing a street map
of Santa Fe itself.

I am in
the Plaza now. I am on
St. Michael’s Boulevard,
on Canyon Road,
on Cerillos.

I am wandering
the Agua Fria schoolyard,
stilled by the arms of tall grass
that envelop me before driving
the hot miles out of town
to Albuquerque on I-25,
past mountains, past
Indian casinos that pop up
sparingly in the redbrown
glaze of desert.

I am walking
within the walls of the arroyos
sick for water, filled
with the promise of death
for whatever Loon
or Ring-necked Pheasant
may have thought to sidle up
and stick its long beak
into the chipped rock-face
teeming with dust.

I breathe
in deep the Piñon and listen
as bats chirp invisibly
through the towerless backdrop, wings
slicing through the void
of New Mexican sky,
waiting at any moment
for me to stop reading
and give back to the world
what I called my own, but wasn’t.

BD

Posted by: cousinbrandon | January 7, 2013

“The Mixes” Series: Gas and Brake, 2012

If 2011 was the year of female vocalists and fuzzed-out power pop, 2012 was the year of Garage Pop. (Is that even a thing? Who knows.) The point is that there was a massive (and welcome) influx of raw, indie, power pop bands in 2012 who absolutely destroyed my iPod. In fact, in putting these mixes together, I was stunned by the fact that there’s a steady stream of tracks on Gas that could very well have been recorded by the same band. Now, I realize some might argue that similarities of this sort are a bad thing, in that there’s a lack of originality to distinguish one band from the next. But like I always say when it comes to music, good is good. All I care about is the bottom line. I have no problem with a band being derivative provided said band does its thing well. And in the case of 2012, plenty of bands did it well, so much so that I was able to craft a top 20 albums of the year (of sorts).

In addition to the Garage Pop and, once again, strong female vocalists who seemed to rule the 2012 landscape, I’d be remiss if I failed to point out the unbelievably prolific nature of one of my all-time favorite bands, Guided By Voices, who dropped three — three! — new records on our collective asses in 2012. The albums — Let’s Go Eat the Factory, Class Clown Spots a UFO, and The Bears For Lunch (released in that order) — seemed to blend together at times, but I found that somehow comforting. Featuring GBV’s “classic” line-up, all three records managed to capture their early Matador sound so often recognized on, say, Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes. By no means am I saying these new contributions are akin to those classics; rather, there’s a sensibility in these new releases that’s akin to those early releases that put GBV on the indie map. Do I have a favorite among the 2012 triumvirate  Of course. Do I like all three records? Damn straight.

So, without further adieu, here’s a look back at the music that meant something to me in 2012…

The Album Cover of the Year:

Sleigh BellsReign of Terror

28415768_700x700min_1_zps01c49fdd-1_zps8229f845

The Best Vocal Moments/Lyrics of the Year:

Swearin’ – “1” (At the 0:21 mark of the opening track of their self-titled album, I knew Swearin’ had me. There’s 20 seconds of spastic fade in before 23-year-old Allison Crutchfield unleashes the record’s initial lyrics, “Blood on the road / I’m asleep in the back seat.” You can check this track out below.)

Daughn Gibson – “The Day You Were Born” (At 1:27 in, Daughn Gibson sings in his weird, truck driver, country-tinged voice, “Anger, I’ll tear you asunder.” That line stuck with me all year. Both witty and amazing.)

The Song I Heard Once and New Immediately It Would Be On My Year-End List:

The Men – “Open Your Heart” (heard below)

The Most Overrated Record of the Year Based On the Critics’ Picks:

Cat PowerSun

The Four Best Videos of the Year:

Chairlift – “Met Before
El-P – “The Full Retard
Explosions in the Sky – “Postcard From 1952” (Note: the song is from 2011; the video is from 2012)
Aimee Mann – “Labrador

The Top Ten Honorable Mentions of 2012 (in Alphabetical Order):

Angel OlsenHalf Way Home
DustedTotal Dust
Godspeed You! Black EmperorAllelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
Guided By VoicesThe Bears for Lunch
Guided By VicesLet’s Go Eat the Factory
HospitalityHospitality
HowlerAmerica Give Up
JapandroidsCelebration Rock
La SeraSees the Light
SpiritualizedSweet Heart Sweet Light

The Top Ten Records of 2012:

10. AUBoth Lights

AU edit

9. PAWSCokefloat!

PAWS edit

8. Guided By VoicesClass Clown Spots a UFO

Guided-By-Voices-Class-Clown edit

7. Dan DeaconAmerica

dan deacon edit

6. WintersleepHello Hum

wintersleep edit

5. IslandsA Sleep & A Forgetting

islands edit

4. Cloud NothingsAttack on Memory

cloud nothings edit

3. The MenOpen Your Heart

The Men edit

2. Royal HeadacheRoyal Headache

Royal-Headache edit

1. Swearin’Swearin’

Swearin copy

Was the self-titled record by Swearin’ really the best record of 2012? I don’t know. I don’t care, really. All I know is that no other album made me prick up my ears more quickly. Upon my initial listen, I was hooked. The Brooklyn/Philly band had me and never let go. There’s something so completely Doug Martsch-esque of Kyle Gilbride’s vocals, as the record reeks of equal parts Built to Spill and Superchunk. I can’t recommend it enough.

As always, I made two CDs worth of music this year, which meant omitting a lot of deserving candidates. As I do every year, I began putting 2012 music aside in January of 2012. I have no idea how many albums I listened to this year, but I sifted through nearly 7 hours of “Best of” contenders before narrowing it down to the 46/47 finalists on Gas and Brake. Now, why do I write “46/47”? Simple: I cheated. That is, I combined two songs into one for one of the tracks on Gas, because I simply couldn’t conceive of one being there without the other. As far as I’m concerned, “1” and “Here to Hear” by Swearin’ combine to form one fluid track. To omit either one felt like cutting the song in half, and I simply refused to do that.

As for the tracks below, I linked to both the album versions of the songs and some live/alternate versions of the songs that actually appears on the mix, either because I couldn’t find the studio version or simply really enjoyed the live performance. This, as you’ll see, is the case for songs like Dan Deacon’s “USA: I. Is a Monster,” in which I included a gripping live performance of the track. Additionally, I should point out that the link to Dan Deacon’s “USA: III. Rail” on Brake links to the entire USA suite, which makes up the second half of his album. While I only included “Rail” on the mix, I thought it would be nice to link to the entire four-part suite so you can listen to it in its entirety. Again, I apologize to all of those great, great songs I had to omit for the sake of space. It’s a cruel world we live in. Where are those 150-minute blank CDs already?!

With that, I give you the 46/47 songs that comprise my 2012 mixes…

Gas Edit
Gas front cover.

Gas Inside Edit
Gas interior artwork.

Brake Edit
Brake front cover.

Brake Inside Edit
Brake interior artwork.

Gas (The Best “Fast” Tracks of 2012):

1. AU – “Epic” (Both Lights)
2. King Tuff – “Anthem” (King Tuff)
3. The Men – “Open Your Heart” (Open Your Heart)
4. Mind Spiders – “You Are Dead” (Meltdown)
5. Howler – “This One’s Different” (America Give Up)
6. Japandroids – “Younger Us” (Celebration Rock)
7. Swearin’ – “1” / “Here to Hear” (Swearin’)
8. Royal Headache – “Never Again” (Royal Headache)
9. PAWS – “Bloodline” (Cokefloat!)
10. Titus Andronicus – “Ecce Homo” (Local Business)
11. Cloud Nothings – “Stay Useless” (Attack On Memory)
12. Eternal Summers – “Wonder” (Correct Behavior)
13. The Babies – “Moonlight Mile” (Our House on the Hill)
14. La Sera – “Please Be My Third Eye” (Sees the Light)
15. Hospitality – “Friends of Friends” (Hospitality)
16. The Spinto Band – “Keep Them Alive” (Shy Pursuit)
17. Fang Island – “Asunder” (Major)
18. Whirr – “Home Is Where My Head Is” (Pipe Dreams)
19. Islands – “Never Go Solo” (A Sleep & A Forgetting)
20. Guided By Voices – “Class Clown Spots a UFO” (Class Clown Spots a UFO)
21. The Mountain Goats – “Cry for Judas” (Transcendental Youth)
22. Wintersleep – “In Came the Flood” (Hello Hum)
23. Sleigh Bells – “Born to Lose” (Reign of Terror)
24. Dan Deacon – “USA: I. Is a Monster” (America)

Brake (The Best “Slow” Tracks of 2012):

1. The Men – “Country Song” (Open Your Heart)
2. Daughn Gibson – “Dandelions” (All Hell)
3. Dusted – “Dusted” (Total Dust)
4. The Avett Brothers – “Live and Die” (The Carpenter)
5. Damien Jurado – “So On, Nevada” (Maraqopa)
6. Angel Olsen – “The Waiting” (Half Way Home)
7. The Spinto Band – “Cookie Falls” (Shy Pursuit)
8. La Sera – “I Can’t Keep You In My Mind” (Sees the Light)
9. The Babies – “Mess Me Around” (Our House on the Hill)
10. Swearin’ – “Kenosha” (Swearin’)
11. Royal Headache – “Honey Joy” (Royal Headache)
12. PAWS – “Sore Tummy” (Cokefloat!)
13. Times New Viking – “Middle Class Drags” (Over & Over EP)
14. The Mountain Goats – “Amy aka Spent Gladiator 1” (Transcendental Youth)
15. Divine Fits – “Shivers” (A Thing Called Divine Fits) (NOTE: Here’s the original version of “Shivers” by Boys Next Door.)
16. Wintersleep – “Rapture” (Hello Hum)
17. Guided By Voices – “Waving at Airplanes” (The Bears For Lunch)
18. Islands – “This Is Not a Song” (A Sleep & A Forgetting)
19. AU – “Get Alive” (Both Lights)
20. Heartless Bastards – “Marathon” (Arrow)
21. Screaming Females – “It’s Nice” (Ugly)
22. Dan Deacon – “USA: III. Rail” (America)

Well, folks, that’ll do it for 2012. A shit-ton of work, as always, went into this year’s edition. Now, then, I encourage – nay, demand – you to do four things:

  1. In the comments section, let me know your picks for the best songs, records, and anything else music of 2012. What did I miss? What do you violently disagree with? What are you wholeheartedly in agreement with?
  2. Should you choose to (or if you have already) put together a Best of 2012 disc of your own, by all means send me a copy of the disc, or at the very least a track listing. I’ll do my best to post them on my blog.
  3. If you’re feeling nostalgic, go back and check out my Best of… mixes from 2011, 2010, 2009, etc.
  4. You’ve got Twitter, Facebook, and a thousand other social media outlets at your disposal. Share this with the world, even if you only have two Twitter followers (and one of them is me).

Until the Best of 2013, have at it, you vultures!

BD

Posted by: cousinbrandon | December 17, 2012

The “Miscellaneous” Mixes: This Shitsmas

After last year’s gangbusters mix, Fruitcake & Dreidels, the lady and I decided that we must — must — follow up that masterpiece with yet another collection of holiday-themed weirdness. We were inspired by none other than the great John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, who sadly failed to make the mix despite this banner effort.

So, without further adieu, break out those menorahs and mistletoe!

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This Shitsmas front cover.

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This Shitsmas inside cover.

This Shitsmas:

1. Twisted Sister – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
2. The Ramones – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight)
3. Herzog – “Fuck This Year
4. Pete and the Pirates – “Winter 1
5. Guided By Voices – “God Loves Us
6. Apples In Stereo – “Winter Must Be Cold
7. Superchunk – “Winter Games
8. Weezer – “Holiday
9. Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Annunciation Day / Born On Christmas Day”
10. Fear – “Fuck Christmas
11. Whatever Brains – “Holiday Weekend
12. Archers of Loaf – “Assassination On X-Mas Eve
13. My Morning Jacket – “X-Mas Curtain
14. The Pretenders – “2000 Miles
15. Islands – “Cold Again”
16. Sufjan Stevens – “X-Mas Spirit Catcher
17. Prince – “Another Lonely Christmas
18. Chains of Love – “Strange Grey Days
19. Elvis Presley – “Santa Claus Is Back In Town
20. El Vez – “Feliz Navi-Nada
21. The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Coldest Days
22. The Avett Brothers – “The Once and Future Carpenter
23. Pixies – “Winterlong
24. Mogwai – “Hound of Winter
25. Sufjan Stevens – “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

Well, there you have it: 2012’s audio Advent calendar. Hope this inspires you not to blow your head off this holiday season.

That’ll do it for this year’s mountain of wreaths, trees and yule. Until next time, have at it, you vultures!

BD

Posted by: cousinbrandon | November 21, 2012

The Angry(er) Alphabet: Things I Hate, From A to Z (T)

Turkey Day

HappyTurkeyDay

It’s Thanksgiving, you assholes, not “Turkey Day”! What about those families who don’t serve Turkey on Thanksgiving?! (Granted, that’s nothing short of an attack, but you get my point.) The Indians at Plymouth Rock died for this shit. Quit fucking around, America!

Well, that’ll do it for the (long awaited) letter “T.” So, until “U” rises from the ashes like the proverbial Phoenix, have at it, you vultures!

BD

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Are you fucking high?!

I mean, yes, I’m sure you’re literally high, as you’re a group of college students who comprise one of the country’s largest student bodies, at one of the country’s most well-known universities, with one of the country’s biggest party scenes when it comes to college-aged individuals. So, yeah, I fully expect you to be stoned.

Moreover, I would like you to be stoned. That is, I would like to personally stand atop a mound of rocks and pelt you with stones Shirley Jackson-style until you bleed. But rest assured, I won’t be aiming for your head. No, I would instead prefer to have you bend over so I can somehow manage to cram those stones up your asses (which, as it turns out, is where your heads are, so I suppose I would be aiming for your heads) so that you might know what it’s like to be sodomized.

Here’s the thing: you’re trying to save a monster. Or his likeness, anyway. And for what? What could that possibly do for you, a bunch of 18 to 22-year-old kids, who may or may not have even witnessed a winning football season, let alone the a Penn State championship? Hell, were any of you even alive the last time PSU was crowned national champion? My guess is that you ripped enough bong hits to convince yourselves that this would be a good way to get on TV, to promote whatever sad need you have to make is the next teen mom or Snooki or Kardashian. What you fail to realize, though, is that the infamy surrounding Paterno will now be there for all of time, whereas you burnouts are a mere blip on the proverbial zeitgeist. Penn State is the machine, and your beloved JoePa is the ghost that will now haunt it for all of time.

The only thing that binds you stoners to Paterno is the likelihood that you’re A) from Pennsylvania; or B) related to a Penn State alumnus. Well, allow me to let you in on a secret: I’m both A and B, and yet I would never align myself with a person/statue/vigil that symbolized the rape of children.

And by the way, are you dummies so naive as to not even consider that perhaps JoePa was not only covering up these atrocities, but was a part of them? Here was Jerry Sandusky, a former player and longtime friend of Paterno, allegedly sexually abusing children as far back as the 1970s. That’s 40 years ago! And then there’s JoePa, who ran the sidelines at PSU for 61 years, and was privvy to everything Penn State (and, I would imagine) Pennsylvania-related. He knowingly covered up Sandusky’s disgusting body of work, and rewarded him with an office on campus, not to mention access to the Penn State box during games (and Penn State’s children after). He may as well have driven the boys to Sandusky’s house with a note pinned to their chests that said, “Have fun, JS!”

Look, I understand that you’re college students, and you’re of the age and at an institution of higher learning when and where you think you need to “take up a cause.” Fine! Rally to bring our troops home. Support a “Meat is Murder” campaign. Protest animal testing on campus like Brenda Walsh and the gang at California University. Hell, make sure Donna Martin graduates! Really, any of those would be better than clinging for dear life to a statue that has now come to represent evil, greed, sickness, shame and disgrace.

If nothing else, remember one thing: you’re college students! Go smoke a bowl and watch Harold and Kumar do something for the 2,000th time. But if your dedication to the “hero” that was Joe Paterno outshines all else, no problem. I’ll be right over with my bucket of rocks. In the meantime, fire one up. And bend over.

BD

Posted by: cousinbrandon | June 14, 2012

The “Miscellaneous” Mixes: Circa 2011, Utopia and Dystopia

Today I’ve got yet another best of 2011 mix for you, and only 6 months removed from 2011. This one once again comes courtesy of my bestest pal in the great Northwest, Mike, who is situated somewhere between The Killing and the actual setting for Northern Exposure. (Ups to Maurice, Mike!) Mike has previously contibuted Circa mixes (here and here), as well as his John Locke mix. Well, he polished off yet another gem in 2011, this time offering up Utopia and Dystopia.

As I’ve pointed out previously our taste has only grown further apart over the years. (His has gotten considerably worse.) In reviewing this year’s tracklist, we shared five bands/performers (Crystal Stilts, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Wye Oak, Real Estate, and The Antlers), the same total as 2010. Of those five common bands, we have only three shared songs.

Like Cousin Matt, Mike opted to include an introductory note to his mixes. An Artist’s Statement, if you will. Enjoy:

While some see year end mixes as needing to be a “best of” be it song, album, EPs yes/no or LPs etc. I tend to move into another camp.  As someone who has studied and practiced fine arts, one thing that I always loved was curating shows.  Whether these shows came into fruition or remained hypothetical, I love the idea of bringing art work together in one place.  Often, there were artists whose work I loved.   Sometimes there were only a few pieces from an artist  that caught my eye.  Sometimes the artists work that I loved had pieces that were amazing, but I couldn’t necessarily see them fitting within the flow of the gallery space, or it didn’t jive with the other work in the show.  Had I only included work which I thought was the artists “best work”  it just wouldn’t have created a feeling of wholeness and would have instead been disjointed, random and unappealing to the eye.

Since stepping away from the arts, I still wanted to create something similar to those shows I helped to curate…thus CIRCA.  The CIRCA mixes are more of a curation of music that happened that year or close to it.  It is about the flow of each song, as they move in and out of each other.  My hope is that the songs work as a whole while also highlighting them as their own unique entity.  Like at a gallery or museum, one goes from work to work examining each piece, but in the end one leaves having an opinion of the show as a whole.  That is how I want CIRCA to be examined, as a whole, as a sum of the parts, as a curation.

Well said, Mike.

Circa2011Utopia
Utopia front cover.

Circa2011Utopia2
Utopia inside art.

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Dystopia front cover.

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Dystopia inside art.

[Note: the cover art features the photography of our mutual friend, Louise Ingalls Sturges, whose kick-ass blog you can find here. Also, I have to apologize for the weird sizing of the images. Photobucket pretty much sucks ass.]

Circa 2011, Utopia:

1. Crystal Stilts – “Sycamore Tree” (In Love With Oblivion)
2. Atlas Sound – “Lightworks” (Parallax)
3. PJ Harvey – “In the Dark Places” (Let England Shake)
4. Caroline Smith & The Good Night Sleeps – “Tanktop” (Little Wind)
5. Cymbals Eat Guitars – “Definite Darkness” (Lenses Alien)
6. Thee Oh Sees – “Carrion Crawler” (Carrion Crawler/The Dream)
7. Obits – “I Want Results” (Moody, Standard and Poor)
8. Black Lips – “Mr. Driver” (Arabia Mountain)
9. Ty Segall – “Imaginary Person” (Goodbye Bread)
10. Veronica Falls – “Beachy Head” (Veronica Falls)
11. Fungi Girls – “Hevrole” (Some Easy Magic)
12. White Fence – “Art Investor Collector” (Is Growing Faith)
13. Coke Weed – “Not My Old Man” (Volume One)
14. Shimmering Stars – “I’m Gonna Try” (Violent Hearts)
15. Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter – “Come to Mary” (Marble Son)
16. The Barr Brothers – “Beggar In the Morning” (The Barr Brothers)
17. The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Stamp” (Departing)
18. Typhoon – “Summer Home” (A New Kind of House EP)
19. Wye Oak – “Civilian” (Civilian)
20. The Caulfied Sisters – “I See Your Face” (Two Songs from Mohawk Single)

Circa 2011, Dystopia:

1. Big Spider’s Back – “Secret Chiefs” (Memory Man)
2. Loch Lomond – “Elephants and Little Girls” (Little Me Will Start a Storm)
3. Real Estate – “It’s Real” (Days)
4. Toro Y Moi – “Still Sound” (Underneath the Pine)
5. Destroyer – “Chinatown” (Kaputt)
6. Nurses – “Fever Dreams” (Dracula)
7. Pure X – “Easy” (Pleasure)
8. Other Lives – “For 12” (Tamer Animals)
9. The Antlers – “I Don’t Want Love” (Burst Apart)
10. Panda Bear – “Slow Motion” (Tomboy)
11. Ravenna Woods – “Graves” (Valley of the Headless Men)
12. Craft Spells – “Party Talk” (Idle Labor)
13. White Denim – “Drug” (D)
14. Milagres – “Glowing Mouth” (Glowing Mouth)
15. Sports – “Prizefighter” (Sports)
16. Deerhoof – “The Merry Barracks” (Deerhoof vs. Evil)
17. Blood Orange – “Sutphin Boulevard” (Coastal Grooves)
18. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Ffunny Ffriends” (Unknown Mortal Orchestra)
19. Weekend – “Hazel” (Red EP)
20. Widowspeak – “Puritan” (Widowspeak)

Well, there you have it. Yet another year-end collection to grace these here pages. Thanks a heap to Mike for taking the time to put this beast together. Until next time, have at it, you vultures!

BD

Posted by: cousinbrandon | May 23, 2012

The “Miscellaneous” Mixes: The Best of 2011

It’s once again time for Cousin Matt’s Best of 2011 mix. He’s the guy who did this in 2010, did this in 2009, this in 2008, this in 2007, and so on. In any event, here’s this year’s self-titled “Letter from the Editor!” with an omission here or there:

It’s that time of year again, when I open myself up to the ridicule of others by distributing my favorite songs (and albums) of the year. Oh, and I also attempt to make “cover art” (in Word). So go ahead, poke your fun. Laught at the fonts, giggle over the layout, whisper about the nerdiness of the whole thing.

When you’re done, open it up and breathe in the wonderment that is my Best of 2011.

This is my completely subjective take on what stoked my aural fire this past year in music. You may not agree with all of it — well, you may not agree with any of it. If that’s the case, please pass it on to a friend, or dispose of it responsibly.

Just a few quick notes about the comp, since no one probably reads these liner notes anymore. And if you want even more jaw-dropping insight from yours truly, check out my blog.

Like, wow, a new design! Sure it’s totally 80’s, but it wasn’t intentional. I didn’t set out to make an “80’s” theme, it just sorta morphed into it, so I kept going. Still, I like how it turned out since it’s vastly different from years past. Also, the design of it took no inspiration from the fact that Barcade is now here and hep (total coincidence), or that there’s a song on Disc 2 called “Video Games.” And speaking of…

The Lana Del Rey explanation… Some of you may have seen the quite sultry (and possibly overhyped? Still TBD) Lana Del Rey completely fumble her big break on SNL. Based on people’s resulting backlash and everything that’s been written about her since, it’d be easy for my (or anyone’s) interest to wane. But I base this compilation on the feelings I had about the songs throughout the year, and the longevity they’re able to maintain. It is where it is for a reason, and it’s staying there. Besides, the public scolding of LDR happened in 2012, not 2011.

Okay, that’ll do it for this year. As always, thanks for listening.

Until next year,

Top 12 Albums of 2011:

#12 – The Double Cross by Sloan
#11 – Wounded Rhymes by Lykke Li
#10 – Actor-Caster by Generationals
#9 – Megafaun by Megafaun
#8 – Motorcar by New God
#7 – Dress Like Your Idols by BOAT
#6 – Within and Without by Washed Out
#5 – Zonoscope by Cut Copy
#4 – What Did You Expect From the Vaccines? by The Vaccines
#3 – David Comes to Life by Fucked Up
#2 – Cape Dory by Tennis
#1 – Father, Son, Holy Ghost by Girls

As is always the case with Cousin Matt’s year-end mixes, this is a “countdown” as opposed to a compilation. (Again, Track 1, in this case, is his 43rd favorite song of the year.)

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The Best of 2011 front cover.

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The Best of 2011 back cover.

The Best of 2011 (Disc 1):

1. Japanther – “First of All” (Beets, Limes & Rice)
2. Cloud Nothings – “Should Have” (Cloud Nothings)
3. Sloan – “Green Gardens, Cold Montreal” (The Double Cross)
4. Youth Lagoon – “Posters” (The Year of Hibernation)
5. Royal Bangs – “Bad News, Strange Luck” (Flux Outside)
6. Manchester Orchestra – “Pensacola” (Simple Math)
7. The Strokes – “Two Kinds of Happiness” (Angles)
8. Pterodactyl – “Searchers” (Spills Out)
9. Liam Finn – “Cold Feet” (FOMO)
10. Fleet Foxes – “Helplessness Blues” (Helplessness Blues)
11. New God – “On and Off” (Motorcar)
12. Telekinesis – “Please Ask For Help” (12 Desperate Straight Lines)
13. Akron/Family – “Island” (Akron/Family II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT)
14. Smith Westerns – “Weekend” (Dye It Blonde)
15. Cults – “You Know What I Mean” (Cults)
16. Mogwai – “San Pedro” (Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will)
17. The Dears – “5 Chords” (Degeneration Street)
18. Deerhoof – “Secret Mobilization” (Deerhoof vs. Evil)
19. Generationals – “I Promise” (Actor-Caster)
20. BOAT – “Forever In Armitron” (Dress Like Your Idols)
21. Megafaun – “Resurrection” (Megafaun)
22. My Morning Jacket – “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)” (Circuital)
23. Male Bonding – “Channeling Your Fears” (Endless Now)

The Best of 2011 (Disc 2):

1. James Blake – “I Never Learnt to Share” (James Blake)
2. Cut Copy – “This Is All We’ve Got” (Zonoscope)
3. Ezra Furman & The Harpoons – “Wild Rosemarie” (Mysterious Power)
4. St. Vincent – “Cruel” (Strange Mercy)
5. Wild Flag – “Future Crimes” (Wild Flag)
6. Portugal. The Man – “So American” (In the Mountain In the Cloud)
7. We Are Augustines – “Juarez” (Rise Ye Sunken Ships)
8. Real Estate – “It’s Real” (Days)
9. Dum Dum Girls – “Bedroom Eyes” (Only In Dreams)
10. Tapes ‘n Tapes – “Freak Out” (Outside)
11. Lykke Li – “Sadness Is a Blessing” (Wounded Rhymes)
12. Washed Out – “Before” (Within and Without)
13. Eleanor Friedberger – “I Won’t Fall Apart On You Tonight” (Last Summer)
14. We Were Promised Jetpacks – “Sore Thumb” (In the Pit of the Stomach)
15. The Vaccines – “Norgaard” (What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?)
16. Tennis – “South Carolina” (Cape Dory)
17. Wye Oak – “Civilian” (Civilian)
18. Fucked Up – “One More Night” (David Comes to Life)
19. Lana Del Ray – “Video Games” (Single)
20. Girls – “Vomit” (Father, Son, Holy Ghost)

As always, we had some crossover selections on our respective mixes, such as “Future Crimes,” “It’s Real,” “I Won’t Fall Apart On You Tonight” and “Civilian.” Other bands we had in common were Cloud Nothings, Fleet Foxes, Male Bonding, Tapes ‘n Tapes, Tennis and Fucked Up.

Well, it looks like that’ll do it. My thanks once more to Cousin Matt for his annual Best of mix, a tradition that now dates back for a decade between the two of us. Can’t believe we’re not both dead yet.

Until next time, have at it, you vultures!

BD

Posted by: cousinbrandon | May 8, 2012

The “Miscellaneous” Mixes: 111

Today’s mix comes courtesy of my lady, Michelle, whose other mixes (like this one) you can find scattered about the site. This mix represents her best of 2011 (much like my own), only she took a different approach. Her goal was to represent her favorite albums of the year by choosing the first tracks from her favorites, respectively. That, then, is where the 111 title came from (1 = track 1; 11 = 2011). Clever, no?

Now, I should point out that she and I have debated this approach over and over again, as I believe that a best of the year mix should encapsulate one’s favorite songs of the year as opposed to one’s favorite albums. In other words, a great song can come from a terrible album, just as a strong album can contains several decent tracks with no real stand-out. Additionally, this approach limits one’s ability in that EPs, for example, are thrown to the wolves, which is a damn shame considering that some of the best songs from any given year appear on EPs. All the same, this is her mix, not mine, and I have no choice but to allow it despite my arguing with the concept. Fortunately, the mix itself is strong, and we even have several crossover tracks that appeared on both her mix and my own.

By the way, it’s May of 2012. Timely? Nah. Awesome? Absolutely.

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111 cover.

111:

1. Wild Flag – “Romance
2. Tapes ‘n Tapes – “Badaboom
3. Atlas Sound – “The Shakes
4. The Antlers – “I Don’t Want Love
5. Iron & Wine – “Walking Far From Home
6. Bill Callahan – “Drover
7. Fleet Foxes – “Montezuma
8. Akron/Family – “Silly Bears
9. Hospital Ships – “Love or Death
10. Cloud Nothings – “Understand At All
11. Gold-Bears – “Record Store
12. Yuck – “Get Away
13. An Horse – “Dressed Sharply
14. Cults – “Abducted
15. Those Darlins – “Screws Get Loose
16. Girls – “Honey Bunny
17. Tennis – “Take Me Somewhere
18. Dan Mangan – “About as Helpful as You can be Without Being Any Help at All
19. Bird of Youth – “Right on Red
20. Eleanor Friedberger – “My Mistakes
21. PJ Harvey – “Let England Shake
22. Beirut – “A Candle’s Fire

Thanks again to the lady for contributing yet another fine mix to the cause. Until next time, have at it, you vultures!

CB

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