Friday, December 27, 2013

Matt Brusky's Top 10 Albums and Favorite Songs of 2013

Matt Brusky’s Top Ten Albums 2013

      1. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City

    3. Parquet Courts – Light It Up (Dec. 2012) &Tally All the Things That You Broke (EP)
4. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
5. Deerhunter – Monomania

      6. Thee Oh’ Sees - Floating Coffin

 7. Ty Segall - Sleeper

      8. Turf War – The Great Escape (EP)

      9. Foxygen - We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors  of Peace & Magic
10. The Derevolutions – Living In The Pop World


Top Songs of 2013

Top 10 for 2013, by Gian ("John") the sound guy for Frank's Power Plant

Hi everyone, looking forward to seeing you all at Frank's on Sunday for the big party. I'll be there helping out with getting peoples' phones and ipods and whatnot hooked up to the sound system, and we'll have the turntables set up for you too.
As usual when confronted with some geeky listmaking chore, I threw myself into it with obsessive abandon, going through my CD and vinyl collections as well as my shopping list (physical and digital) and ending up with a list of 80-some titles, numerous of which I don't actually own yet. As a sound guy, much of what I buy (or sometimes get for free) is either from a locals or an out-of-towners who are unsigned or signed to an obscure record label, so there is a preponderance of such music on my list. But hey, that's what I ended up spending my money on instead of Waxahatchee. Some albums I've sampled really ought to be at the top (Speedy Ortiz, Psychic by Darkside, RJD2...) but I can't quite do that yet...
To assist in the process of understanding my list, I have added notes on the album's genre and availability (local, downloadable, etc).
In the process of rearranging my Top 10 by gut, three titles were removed as they are not full albums: 3 of Swords by The 57s (MKE) (melodic 70s punk/hard rock), Demos by Straya ( ) (agile indie with virtuosic fingerstyle guitar and odd time signatures), and How To Find Light by Scowler (MKE) (post-hardcore). In the process, other titles switched places as they ended up fighting for higher spots. Putting these lists together forces you to reconsider how important some musical elements really are to you.

1. Shiloh - Mrs. ( )
At first blush, Mrs. seems like just another twee-indie pop record with jangly guitars, glockenspiels and slacker vocals...and though it has all these things it uses them in much more interesting ways than any of their peers. Weaving around the finely-crafted pop songs and wistful coming-of-age mood are seemingly endless musical left-turns that never seem showy or overly cerebral. The drum performance is particularly masterful, shifting the grooves in surprising ways and creating "riffs" as memorable as the vocal hooks. It brings to mind albums as diverse as Transmissions From The Satellite HeartThe Ugly Organ and Contra...and the more you listen to it the more you realize that these similarities are more than just skin deep.

2. Vic Mensa - Innanetape (free download mixtape)
The perfect combination of all the best styles and eras of hip-hop...from old school beats and soul samples to breezy psychedelic washes a la early Outkast...from natural soul vocalizing and Drake-style introspection to the claustrophobic experimentalism of Death Grips.

3. Like Like The The The Death - Cave Jenny (MKE)
Unpredictable noise-rock with dueling guitars and catchy hooks.

4. Calliope - Calliope (MKE)
Nick Cavey Southern Gothic rock with trashy organs, harmonica, and little dabs of psychedelia, '60s R&B and shoegazing arena rock.

5. Against The Grain - Surrounded By Snakes (Self Destructo Records)
Detroit speedrock chock-full of bluesy riffs, Thin Lizzy harmonized guitar melodies and Zeke-style drunken Southern punk attitude.

6. Cloud Rat - Moksha (Halo of Flies Records)
Few records this year combined chaotic, dissonant brutality and melodic beauty as effectively...every riff, groove, and cadence serves the song, and these songs never veer into the structural randomness that plagues extreme metal. It must also be one of the most stylistically wide albums of its genre ever recorded, encompassing well-chosen sound effects, a spooky "ballad" with a Lisa Gerard angle to it, and a Neil Young cover without either seeming out of place. Even an overly long ambient piece at the end can't diminish the emotional power of the 22 minutes that precede it.

7. Woe - Withdrawal (Candlelight Records)
Now that Deafheaven is on so many year-end lists, it has become controversial in the metal community all over again. But this record delivers where that one falls short, incapable of being called anything but black metal yet introducing unique new compositional elements.

8. Space Collector - Space Collector (MKE)
Stoner rock/jazz fusion/Polvo-style noise-pop.

9. Barrence Whitfield and the Savages - Dig Thy Savage Soul (Bloodshot Records)
Old school soul with dashes of filthy garage rock...a return to form from one of the greats of the original mid-'80s soul revival.

10. Wisconsin Beef Commission - Drankin' Songs (MKE)
Long-awaited recording by this cowpunk trio...certainly not as insane as their live show but it hits you with one short-sharp shock after another.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 - Tom's Top Ten

In no particular order, these are the tunes that worked their way most into my year:

1. Okkervil River - The Silver Gymnasium

So this is Will Sheff's album about growing up. It helps that he made an 8-bit videogame to accompany the whole thing. It's the record I returned to most during the year. Past Okkervil records have taken me time to absorb, but this registered right away. I like to imagine the band playing in my living room, ala the wonderful Tiny Desk Concert above.

2. PHOX - Confetti
A bunch of friends from Baraboo, WI get together and record sprawling pop songs with piano, banjo, electronics and clarinet solos... Yes, it's overly ambitious, but Monica Martin's beautiful vocals hold it all together.

3. Ian Ball - Unfold Yourself

The guy from Gomez - not the low gravelly voice Revo-LU-tionary Kind guy, not the goofy-Jouh-Lennon-looking guy, the OTHER singer - makes a solo album heavy on synths and pure pop. He financed this through a PledgeMusic campaign, and apparently didn't have any money left over for videos.

4. Jason Isbell - Southeastern
From the Capital-S South, Jason Isbell quit drinking Jack, moved to Nashville and settled down with a wife. The Ex DB Trucker's music is a little more heartfelt, a little more tender. In a good way. He's apparently establishing his grown-up Southern bona-fides by playing Garden and Gun magazine sponsored events.

5. The Weeks - Dear Bo Jackson
Let's keep it in the South. The Weeks look like goofball dirtbag teenage delinquents, but play like polished pros. Mississippi Y'allternitive rock.

6. The Fatty Acids - Bolero
A Hot Milwaukee Mess. Awesome 70's tech video to boot. A little more to it than one might think on multiple listens, but yeah, pretty much just a party.

7. Lorde - Pure Heroine
My daughter and the whole of pop culture and I all agree on Lorde. (I have to look past some of the Depeche Mode drum machines she must have picked up at the '80 flea market) But don't you want teenagers making pop music with lyrics like "I'm kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air"? I do. Go girl(s)!

8. Foxygen - We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
At their best when barely holding together multiple influences, references and time changes in a single song. Great show in Milwaukee early this year.

9. Volcano Choir - Repave
OK, so mostly the swelling arena choruses of "Byegone" and the oddly mesmerizing fluorescent tube tree video...

10. Phosphorescent - Muchacho
OK, so mostly the endearing "Song for Zula" and the way it sticks inside my head.

  • Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
  • Lucious - Wildewoman
  • Valerie June - Pushing on a Stone
  • James Blake - Overgrown
  • The Olms - s/t
  • Jake Bugg - Lightning Bolt (single)
  • Jagwar Ma - Howlin'

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tim's Top 10 Albums of 2013

These are the albums I enjoyed the most:

10. BOAT - Pretend To Be Brave

Favorite tracks: Sharpshooters, The Big The Bright, With The Sea At My Back

09. Yo La Tengo - Fade

Favorite tracks: Ohm, Is That Enough, Before We Run


08. Majical Cloudz - Impersonator

Favorite tracks: This Is Magic, Bugs Don't Buzz, Mister

07. Phosphorescent - Muchacho

Favorite Tracks: Song For Zulu, A Charm / A Blade, Terror In The Canyons, Muchacho's Tune

06. Foxygen - We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic

Favorite Tracks: In The Darkness, No Destruction, San Francisco

05. Eat Skull - III

Favorite Tracks: Dead Horses, How Do I Know When To Say Goodnight?, Your Hate

04. Okkervil River - The Silver Gymnasium

Favorite Tracks: Down Down The Deep River, Pink Slips, Black Nemo

03. The National - Trouble Will Find Me

Favorite Tracks: I Should Live In Salt, Graceless, Pink Rabbits

02. Forest Fire - Screens

Favorite Tracks: Waiting In The Night, Yellow Roses, Cold Kind --> Fixation, Annie, Never Far

01. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires Of The City

Favorite Tracks: Obvious Bicycle, Step, Hannah Hunt, Worship You, Ya Hey


Favorite Show: Hospital Ships @ Mad Planet

Show I Was Most Bummed To Have Missed: Dead Milkmen @ Shank Hall

Favorite EP: Five Spanish Songs by Destroyer

Most Impressive Year-End Review: my friend Erik

The Primitive Music Blog of the Future (shameless plug alert): The Lighthouse Flashing

My Songs of 2013 mix available for streaming on 8tracks:
01. Phosphorescent - A Charm / A Blade
02. Amor de Días - Jean's Waving
03. Minks - Romans
04. BOAT - The Big, The Bright
05. Light Heat - Brain To Recorder
06. Vampire Weekend - Worship You
07. Rhye - 3 Days
08. Foxygen - San Francisco
09. Forest Fire - Yellow Roses
10. Okkervil River - Down Down The Deep River
11. Andrew Cedermark - Canis Major
12. Ducktails - Planet Phrom
13. Cass McCombs - Brighter!
14. The National - Pink Rabbits
15. Yo La Tengo - Ohm
16. Majical Cloudz - This Is Magic

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Jorna's Totally Kick-Ass Top 10 of 2013

Jorna’s Totally  Kick-Ass Top 10 of 2013

10 – The Avett Brothers – The Magpie & The Dandelion
 I didn’t truly appreciate these hickster brothers from North Carolina until I saw them perform on New Year’s Eve. They are like country hipster muppets on speed, flying around the stage while they play everything at double the original pace. I am a pretty serious fan of modern bluegrass, and The Avetts have found a decent mix of twang with rock.  Sometimes I feel like they get a little repetitious, churning out albums at full speed, but frankly that’s okay. This one had some good tracks – I like “Open Ended Life” and “Morning Song”, which is quite reminiscent of The Carpenter’s “Life” for me.

9 – Rhye – Woman
This must have been the year of luscious sounding ladies. Like classier slow jamz for women. A bit breathy, “Open” is the perfect track to set off this great collection from Rhye. A little synth, a little bass, a lot of love. Think of this as a great album to play during the dinner you made for that special someone when you hope it ends with breakfast the next morning.

8 – Phosphorescent – Muchacho
I went on a first (and only) date with a guy this summer, and prior to our meeting I had mentioned I really liked “Song for Zulu”. He showed up with the entire Phosphorescent collection burned onto CD for me. Which turned out to be great, as Muchacho spent weeks in my car player. I’m sorry he wasn’t nearly as interesting. The album reminds me of Gotye’s Making Mirrors in which the most popular track is a good stand alone but introduces the listener to a whole new sound. “Song for Zulu” is amazing. But “Muchacho’s Tune” is probably my 2nd fave.

7 – Toro Y Moi – Anything in Return
The closest I’ll get to an EDM pick of the year. More chill than the 2a set at an old school Milwaukee rave, yet more upbeat than The Weeknd. Great getting ready to go out on a Saturday night music. I like this one on repeat as pleasant noise as I do other things… like work. No need to get too involved, just enjoy it. Go straight to “Say That” for a good sample of the album.

6 – Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
This album came baby, baby, baby right on time! There’s nothing wrong with Vampire Weekend, they are easy to listen to, fun and perfect for a summer party backdrop. They aren’t super deep, despite the self-proclaimed themes of faith and mortality, or maybe that’s just because the lyrics are set against bouncy guitar rhythms and male valley-girl voices. I got hooked by “Diane Young” but “Unbelievers” take a close second spot.

5 – Ra Ra Riot – Beta Love
I want to be friends with the band members and take selfies of us having a great time doing mundane things like “eating at Denny’s – LOL!” or “taking the train!” They just seem fun. And so is Beta Love. Like previous releases, the happy-go-lucky feel of this album makes me want to dance and be 21 again. But only for maybe a long afternoon J Anyway, “Dance With Me” and the title track, “Beta Love” are good places to start your own friendship with Ra Ra Riot.

4 – The Head & The Heart – Let’s Be Still
Nearly two years later, I still have their debut album on my go-to playlist, so I had pretty high hopes for Let’s Be Still. The Head & The Heart are probably my favorite hipsters – they seem to be in awe of their success and grateful for the chance to play cool music that people like. This album moves at a slower pace than their previous one, but shows a maturity to their sound, a greater depth. I guess everyone has to grow up a little sometime. I’m a fan of “Homecoming Heroes”, “My Friends” and of course, “Shake”.

3 – Lorde – Pure Heroine
She’s barely legal to drive a car so what does she know about Maybachs and Cristal? But I don’t care, I’m caught up in a love affair. Lorde blew me away. I first heard “Royals” while shakin’ my ass at La Cage and figured it was some random pop star mix I had missed because I don’t listen to Kiss FM. The next morning I googled the lyrics I could remember and found Pure Gold, I mean, Heroine. Her voice is less powerful than Adele’s yet she still manages to lure you in with low sexy crooning, adding a side of pop to the show. Her age shows at times, like taking down to the “Tennis Courts” and talking it up like ‘yeah’, and I assume she has one of those crystal encrusted cell phone covers. Doesn’t matter – this album is so fabulous. “Royals” was my Fall jam, but I’m partial to “Team”.

2 – The National – Trouble Will Find Me
I’ve put it in second. I feel like a traitor to the most amazing group of artists of my time. I mean, I think these guys are pure genius. There is never a moment when I am not in the mood for dark, brooding, emotional release through their music. After playing “Sorrow” for hours on end as part of an installation at MoMA it was still a part of their live set this summer. Okay, all gushing aside, Trouble Will Find Me is a little slow to grab you but once it does it won’t let go. The first few singles off the album are alright, but once you get in to tracks like “Humiliation”, “This Is the Last Time” and “Pink Rabbits” you realize just how powerful it is. Many thought they couldn’t live up to their High Violet fame. Instead The National dug deeper, continuing to explore their own growth as parents and partners and now famous rock stars. So even in second, they will always be my number one.

1 – Walker Lukens – Devoted
I was on a 3 hour drive in late Spring and was passing time with All Songs Considered when they played this weirdly catchy song called “Lover” by this guy I’d never heard of named Luke Walken? Luke Skywalker? Walker Lukens.  Got home and popped the album up on Spotify, and after a nonstop listening session for about 48 hours I recall emailing a friend saying, “you HAVE to download this guy immediately!” Lukens explores love and love lost, yearning and desire, being let down but not letting it break you. Sounds sappy, I get ya, but trust me on this one. Maybe it was the time in my life that this album came around, or maybe he really is the breakout star of the year. Either way, this folksy at times, pop-y at times, and definitely experimental debut is a great first step for an artist to watch. Listen to the whole thing, again and again, but if you don’t do that, at least check out “Dear Someone” and “Brunch People”.

Shows of the Year:

The National – Milwaukee, WI & Richmond, VA
The Head & The Heart – Richmond, VA
Chatham County Line – Ashland, VA

Songs of the Year:

Avicii - Wake Me Up (yeah, the video was f'd up, but the track is awesome)
Miley Cyrus - We Can't Stop (say what you will, but you know you liked it. And it is pure poetic genius, Shakespearean really - "we run things, things don't run we...")
Lorde - Royals 
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Man on Fire
Washed Out - All I Know
Stephen Colbert dancing to Get Lucky

Friday, December 6, 2013

Welcome & The Rules: Please Read! (Thanks)

Welcome to the Milwaukee 2013 Top 10 Albums of the Year! We are glad you stopped by - whether it be to post your own awesome list of the year's best releases or to browse and see what you might have missed. No matter your reason, we sure hope you'll join us on Sunday, December 29th at 8p for the Official Milwaukee 2013 Top 10 Albums of the Year party at Frank's Power Plant in Bayview. And follow us on twitter at @top10MKE.

If you are here to post, we ask that you follow a few simple guidelines. Yeah, yeah, nobody likes rules (they cramp our style, too!) but we want to hear your thoughts on the best of 2013, not 1985 and flight pants. So, without further ado, here are a few suggestions to guide you...


1. Albums of must have a release date between November 1 2012 & January 1 2014 - Always rule #1, and it will be the hardest to follow. Go ahead, complain away that you "haven't even listened to 10 albums this year" and we'll direct you to the other complainers who "can't pick just 10"! Listen, we know you recently discovered how awesome The Rolling Stones "Exile on Main St." is, but doesn't mean it is new music. Sorry. Good sources for verifying album release date: &  itunes. 

2. Every selection should be accompanied with a short yet thoughtful explanation-'s totally fine to post your list without descriptions... it's also fine for us to assume that you are a robot who has picked your albums solely based on what they scored on Pitchfork or Spin. 

3. NO GREATEST HITS ALBUMS!!!-  Deal breaker. Just can't do it. There is yet to be a compelling case for why a greatest hits album should count as anything other than a self-indulgent money grab.  Exhibit A-'Smashmouth's Greatest Hits': 20 tracks with exactly 3 hits on's crazy

4. Leaked albums -  Now that Spotify has solved the issue of internet piracy this shouldn't be an issue...right?  In the event this is not the case...should you hear something that happens to have a release date of 2014 through scrupulous or unscrupulous means...that works....just try not to post it on both your 2013 and 2014 list... cool?

5. Audio & Visual Aids -  Album Covers, embedded video, album inspired art....whatever you need to make your point.  Links are cool, and a great way for someone to waste an entire afternoon when they should be focusing on their mundane desk job. Help your fellow music fans out and post cool things. Or, if you are like some of us - technologically illiterate - you can make us feel inferior with your savvy mastery of the tubes!

6. Debate is encouraged - This is all about diversity of opinion & it's definitely a good thing to encourage your fellow armchair music snobs with positive comments but you have to admit - a good challenge never goes unanswered. Maybe some of you liked the live telecast of The Sound of Music, others may have rightly hated it, but that's what's great about this country - posting anonymous comments on a blog with no real repercussions. However, if things get out of line we will step in as the Troll Ref.  Because this is supposed to be fun, people.

7. Honorable mentions, other lists & music related year end observations extremely encouraged- best shows, most anticipated music for 2014, biggest disappointments, best app, etc etc, etc Other lists and posts are interesting & highly encouraged. 

8. PLEASE share this with your music loving friends- Everyone's invited to participate.  Everyone's invited to the listening party.  (doesn't matter if we know you or not...we want your list....we want you to come to the listening party!) Seriously. Sharing is caring. So is drinking beer and reading other people's lists posted on the wall of Frank's Power Plant on December 29th.

9. In order to be taken seriously your list must be posted in a timely fashion- Good rule of thumb would be to get yours up by the Top Ten Party Dec 29.  You're totally free to put it up after that.  I'm sure people will pretend they saw it.

10.  And finally, "Any fool can make a rule and every fool will mind it!" - Yes...rule #10=forget the rules.  I read that whole thing and now it means nothing...don't think of it as wasting your time as much as testing your patience....if you read that whole thing you must be pretty patient....You passed the test!

Happy posting!