Just as we promised, we're back with the next single from Yuck's upcoming EP, Southern Skies, the appropriately-titled "Another One." And true to form, it took longer to appear here than it ever should have. One day perhaps we'll blog in a timely fashion, and there will be much rejoicing. And on that day, maybe we'll also figure out why I keep referring to myself as we. It is going to be a FUN day, that's for sure.
Anyway, I dig "Another One" quite a lot. It reminds me a bit of "Middle Sea" from Glow & Behold. Check it out:
Yuck continue their makeover into a prettier version of themselves on "Athena," the first new music we've heard from the band since their 2013 sophomore LP, Glow & Behold. If there were any doubts left over the direction the band wanted to take (minus former lead singer Daniel Blumberg), "Athena" seems to settle it. While the raucous energy of "Holing Out" and "Operation" (from the band's debut) is still my preferred Yuck-direction, I dig this new tune. I actually think it gets better on repeated listens, so if it's not your thing right away, give it another shot or two.
If you'd like more of "Athena" in your life than a Soundcloud stream, the band is preparing a new EP, Southern Skies, for release in the spring. And be sure to check back here in a few days (maybe even tomorrow, if I'm feeling ambitious!) for the another track from that forthcoming release.
My son is a colossal grump when it comes to getting his diaper changed. Lots of crying/whining, lots of angry pelvic thrusting, and lots of alligator death rolling. Either the child is actively trying to kill himself on an almost daily basis, or he has no concept of heights. One would think he'd be born with that instinct, so...I think we got a broken one.
Anyway, I make all kinds of ridiculous noises to distract him from his daily corkscrew into Limbo. For months I sang a version of the Spider-Man theme that sounded like Peter Griffin speaking Italian. But mostly, and for God knows what reason, I usually slip into 90s/00s pop music.
First, there was DMX. Most parents try to soothe their fussy babies with a lullaby. I chose to mock mine with gangster rap: "Y'all gon' make me lose my mind, up in here, up in here":
For whatever inexplicable reason, it never seemed to calm him down.
Then (and this one is truly puzzling to me), I switched to Enrique Iglesias:
I think I was going for some kind of "You can turn, you can cry, but you can't escape your diaper change" angle. I don't know. Side note: It's disturbing how often I find myself humming any Enrique Iglesias single. That dude has wedged into my mind like the invasion of Normandy.
My son has been babbling for a long time, but now that he's over a year old, they're starting to sound like real words. So, during today's meltdown on the changing table, he suddenly looked at me and picked his own pop song to sing: "Bye bye bye!"
He's probably disappointed I didn't take the hint.
Here at Given and Taken in Ink, we have a long and storied history of vaguely stalker-ish interactions with William Fitzsimmons. First there was the initial discovery: A friend of my wife (prior to our meeting) found him for her by, I think, simply doing an Internet search for "bearded musicians." They exchanged a few emails, probably about how beards and music are awesome things. But then she met me and realized that bearded men with no musical talent are OK too.
All was quiet on the William Fitzsimmons front, until few years later, when we ran into him in one of Chicago's airports. Of course my wife immediately noticed the bearded man with a guitar in a crowded airport. "I think that's William Fitzsimmons," she whispered. We awkwardly stopped him to say hello and snap a picture, two Pennsylvanians with a former Pennsylvanian (Fitzsimmons lives in Illinois now). He made a joke about feeling like a rockstar, I accidentally insulted him; good times were had by all.
Then, we saw him again at Radio City Music Hall after an Iron & Wine show. ("Is that William Fitzsimmons?" "I think that's William Fitzsimmons!" "I can't believe we ran into him again.") But thinking that two chance encounters crossed too far into stalkerland, we didn't actually approach him. It began to feel like wherever we went, William Fitzsimmons was there. Come to think of it, maybe he is following us! I mean, that could be a thing, right? Bearded Musician Won't Stop Photobombing Random Philadelphia Couple...Details at 11:00. Rick Williams needs to get on this.
Anyway, here's his new song, "Fortune." I'm almost a little surprised it isn't written about us:
And here's the official video:
William Fitzsimmons' new album, Lions, is out today via Nettwerk Records.
We've covered enough bands from Glasgow that you might be tempted to think GTI is based there. We're not, but thankfully that doesn't stem the tide of new tunes from that area. It's been almost two years since we last heard from Holy Esque, and I couldn't be happier that they're putting out new music. No one else sounds like frontman Pat Hynes, and the band sounds as good as they did in 2012. The sound is a little more refined on "Silences" (they've grown, after all), but still retains the tenacity that made early singles like "Rose" and "Ladybird Love" so interesting.
"Silences" reminds me a bit of the stuff that got popular for a bit in the mid 2000s. I was DJing at a community radio station in New Jersey then, and remember thinking how interesting it was that all these bands from New York and the UK were emerging in this trans-oceanic scene that wasn't localized to one particular place. If you had any interest in either the mainstream version of the post punk revival or its rougher edges, it didn't matter; this was a good time to be a music fan.
Unfortunately, that scene only lasted a few years, so in some ways Holy Esque is a band outside its time. But with a little luck and more songs like "Silences," maybe we'll see a post punk revival-revival. I'm down for it; who else is with me?
Holy Esque - "Silences":
And here's the official video:
Perhaps if I had not taken almost two months away from the music blogging biz, I might have posted Owen's new video for "Bad Blood" in a more timely fashion. But, alas, no.
Here you are, just the same:
Owen's most recent LP, L'Ami du Peuple, was one of the finest albums of 2013, and I strongly urge you to throw your money at it. (People still do that, right?)
Also, I love the brief shot of Hebronix's Unreal in the record store. Check that one out, too.
Writing the annual list for the top songs in a year always reminds me how much of a miserable bastard I am. Just look at this list: Seven of the top ten songs are slow! Lists like these always tend to reveal more about the writer than they do about the songs themselves, and mine is no different. This was a hectic year, filled with catastrophe and upheaval on a global scale as well as personally. But rather than mirror that chaos, I will look back on this list as the songs that helped reveal a calmer, gentler path.
I'm exceptionally happy to see Phosphorescent's "Song for Zula" getting so much end-of-year praise. It's a wonderful piece of songwriting, and the fact that it's being recognized now is reassuring in a year that saw Miley Cyrus' antics as the biggest story in music. Or one that saw Beyonce describe herself as "brave" for releasing an album. (Ma'am, you released an album; you didn't save someone from a burning building.)
But as inspiring as "Song for Zula" was, it still wasn't my top song of the year. No, that title belongs to "the kind of song that makes other songs not matter." Running Red Lights released "Mulberry Love" in late summer this year, a prelude to their upcoming album There's a Bluebird in My Heart (due next month!), and for about a week I didn't listen to anything else. "Mulberry Love" was a breath of air in a year of troubles; it was a reminder of something better - not over some wished-for horizon, but right here and now.
But these are just two of 50 great songs released in 2013. Check out the entire list on Spotify (or scroll down to the player below).
Given and Taken in Ink's Top 50 Songs of 2013:
50. Dr. Dog - The Truth
49. Air Marshal Landing - Move With You
48. Porcelain Raft - Cluster
47. Steven A. Clark - Bounty
46. The Dodos - Transformer
45. Tristen - No One's Gonna Know
44. Cayucas - Cayucos
43. Local Natives - Breakers
42. Franz Ferdinand - Bullet
41. Queens of the Stone Age - If I Had a Tail
40. Radical Face - Chains
39. Clear - Sunlight
38. Burning Jet Black - The Brutal Beyond
37. No Monster Club - (I Think You Could Only Get Away With This Carry On When You're In) The Sun
36. Stone Cold Fox - Seventeen
35. Ivan & Alyosha - Running for Cover
34. The City and Horses - Cool Joe
33. alansmithee - Surplus
32. Woodpigeon - Red Rover, Red Rover
31. Best Coast - This Lonely Morning
30. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Nightwater Girlfriend
29. Caveman - In the City
28. Volcano Choir - Tiderays
27. Little Tybee - For Distant Viewing
26. Yo La Tengo - Ohm
25. Neil McSweeney - Be Your Own Dog
24. Deerhunter - Back to the Middle
23. ARMS - Comfort
22. Josh Ritter - In Your Arms Again
21. Vampire Weekend - Unbelievers
20. Savages - Shut Up
19. Kurt Vile - Wakin on a Pretty Day
18. The Strokes - 50/50
17. Okkervil River - On a Balcony
16. The National - Graceless
15. The Deadline Shakes - Bright Spot in a Bad Year
14. Mikal Cronin - Peace of Mind
13. Divine Fits - Chained to Love
12. Hebronix - Viral
11. Neko Case - Calling Cards
10. Rilo Kiley - Let Me Back In
9. Frightened Rabbit - The Oil Slick
8. The Lonely Wild - The Sun As It Comes
7. City Reign - Anchor
6. Jason Isbell - Yvette
5. Owen - I Got High
4. Laura Marling - Take the Night Off / I Was an Eagle [they flow right into each other]
3. Yuck - Middle Sea
2. Phosphorescent - Song for Zula
1. Running Red Lights - Mulberry Love
Ah, 2013. How unusual of a year you've been. I barely remember you, and yet I have so many memories within you. So many people have remarked how you were a glut of great new music, but I experienced you in a different way. Instead of being overwhelmed by your volume, this year's best albums were like lightning in a storm; flashpoints in milieu thick with life experiences unrelated to music.
My son was born in mid-January 2013 under non-routinue circumstances. I remember spending time thinking through which song I'd want to play on the way home from the hospital. But instead, under the stress of his birth and terror of new parenthood, my wife and I went in the opposite direction: Our ride home from the hospital was soundtracked only by silence.
It set the tone for the year at Given and Taken in Ink - moments of flurried activity between periods of prolonged silence. This was the hardest year of GTI's existence, and I'm still not sure what I'm going to do when our domain and hosting subscriptions are up in the spring.
Still, hindsight has a way of revealing the best in things. This really was a great year for music, which I think our annual Best Albums list captures quite nicely. Take a look, take a ride. Hopefully it will not be in silence this time.
Given and Taken in Ink's Top 30 Albums of 2013 (with commentary for #1 through #10):
Glasgow-based The Deadline Shakes don't have an EP or full-length album to their name, yet they have continually impressed critics with a growing list of singles, each better than that which came before it. Here at GTI, we covered the band's debut, "Sweeten the Deal," back in August, but fell woefully short in mentioning the band's subsequent singles, "Don't You Be Too Cool" and "Boy." But December is the month of our redemption, as I'm happy to post The Deadline Shakes' newest single, "Bright Spot in a Bad Year."
With its bright guitars, pretty vocal harmonies, and a catchy-as-hell chorus, it just may be their best work yet.
For me, "Bright Spot in a Bad Year" is so much more than a song; it's a soundtrack. With vocals that come in delicately - almost fragile - the song is much more wistful than its chorus would suggest. There's a sobering practicality to the lyrics: "Anybody with a pulse can feel the pain / But you know that we've gotta get well again / Cause other people need these beds." But it's that big chorus - the bright spot - that sticks out in your mind long after the song is over. There's comfort in that: As bad as your year may have been, it's the memory of the bright spot that will linger.
Keep an eye on these guys - Greg Dingwall (vocals / guitar / keys), Iain McKinstry (guitar), Martin McLeod (bass), and Tom Booth (drums). They're poised to break out in a big way.
I've never really "broken up" with anyone. Even when I was unhappy in a relationship, I'd kinda just let it continue until it finally imploded in on itself. One time I mutually broke up with a girl, then immediately convinced her it was a bad idea, then spent several months in a downward spiral of breakup-dom. Another time I basically convinced a girl to break up with me, even though she didn't want to and I did. (That was probably kinda mean.) Once, in high school, I was asked out and dumped within 24 hours and had no idea why any of it happened.
The reason I bring this up is because today I had to "break up" with not one, but two women (albeit not in the romantic sense). And it was awful. I don't understand why anyone would willingly do this. For years I've felt bad that I never had the guts to end a relationship that needed to be over. Not anymore. It really sucks to end relationships in a clean, mature way.
I prefer the slow death spiral.
What does any of this have to do with Mikal Cronin or "Peace of Mind"? Not much, other than it was the song I chose to soundtrack the lead-up and aftermath of my "breakups." And it's wonderful. Seriously. Probably in the top ten of songs of 2013. (I haven't really begun to think about this, so I could be off. But I'm reasonably sure it's true.)
It also has a video:
Mikal Cronin's new album, MCII, is out now via Merge Records.