2013 Clownies

Remember, these are the best that I listened to and reviewed, not that were released in 2013. Eligible candidates run from The [Sister-In-Law] Christmas Coalition to Sweet Relief: A Benefit For Victoria Williams.

Album Of The Year – The Silent Majority by Life, Sex & Death
Did you know I gave Magical Mystery Tour five clowns? I didn’t remember that, either. A re-review of Satchel’s The Family also came in at five clowns, but I remember liking that less than I remember liking it back in the day, if you follow. The Silent Majority, another re-review, was the highlight of the year.

Artist Of The Year – Screaming Trees
Could have been Los Lobos, too, as I basically reviewed both bands’ excellent discographies over the course of the year.

Song Of The Year – “Julie Paradise” by Screaming Trees
Nothing jumped out from reviewing the mixes, so I’m going off of memory and calling it the final track on Screaming Trees’ Sweet Oblivion. Two categories for the boys from Ellensburg, nice job.


Fat Clown’s Best Albums Of 2013

I only reviewed three 2013 albums in 2013 itself, but have reviewed four more since 2014 began. So I’m going to bend my normal rules and include those here, where I present the seven best albums of 2013.

1.5 Clowns

7. Pearl Jam – Lighting Bolt
Pearl Jam’s worst album, hands down.

2 Clowns
6. The Airborne Toxic Event – Such Hot Blood
My how the mighty have fallen, as most of these songs are complete snoozers.

5. Four Tet – Beautiful Rewind
A mixed bag of bleeps and bloops. So close and yet so far from being a very good album.

3.5 Clowns
4. Alice In Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
I remember liking this four clowns worth. I must have reviewed during a critical phase. Anyway, Alice In Chains has still got it, and there are a few excellent tracks here.

4 Clowns
3. Reign Of Fury – World Detonation
As long as we’re going to revisit pop of the 1980’s under the guise of hipster alternative, let’s bring back mid-80’s thrash as well.

2. Lucius – Wildewoman
Would have benefited from better production, but out of the current crop of Brooklyn hipster music, this has some of the best songs. Both of these four clown reviews were gifts from KEN.

4.5 Clowns
1. Polyrhytmics – Libra Stripes
Surprising no one, my new favorite band, the funksters from Seattle, Polyrhythmics, takes home the best album of 2013.

The Fat Clown Mixes Of 2013

Ho gawd, yes, 2013. Still. I keep getting worse and worse at this timeliness thing, huh?

All right, here we go, the two mixes I put together for my sisters-in-law this year (I think I managed to get it to them by MLK day, for the record) and the one I made for everybody else.

The People’s Mix:

  1. Heart Attack – Low Vs Diamond
  2. The Return Of… – Satchel
  3. In Pieces – Torche
  4. I Got Loaded – Los Lobos
  5. Plastic – Spiderbait
  6. Gold Guns Girls – Metric
  7. Pig Brag Crack – Sax Ruins
  8. Let Me Come Back – Girls Against Boys
  9. Is This Music? – Teenage Fanclub
  10. Merry Go Round – Buffalo Tom
  11. Run A Mile – BR549
  12. Tarbelly And Featherfoot – Lou Reed
  13. Ladyboy’s Night At The Cultural Relativism Saloon – Farmers Market
  14. Don’t Darlene – Rocket From The Crypt
  15. School’s For Fools – Life, Sex & Death
  16. Gyroscope – Dismemberment Plan
  17. This Moment – Matthew Sweet
  18. Breath On A Window – Alice In Chains
  19. Blow ‘Em Off – Monster Magnet
  20. No One Knows – Screaming Trees

Volume K:

  1. Heart Attack – Low Vs Diamond
  2. Timeless – The Airborne Toxic Event
  3. I Got Loaded – Los Lobos
  4. Inside – Toad The Wet Sprocket
  5. Who Do You Love – Bo Diddley
  6. Hello, Goodbye – The Beatles
  7. Pet Rock – Teenage Fanclub
  8. Plastic – Spiderbait
  9. 7 Seas – Girls Against Boys
  10. State Of Love And Trust – Pearl Jam
  11. Don’t Darlene – Rocket From The Crypt
  12. Gyroscope – Dismemberment Plan
  13. Blow ‘Em Off – Monster Magnet
  14. Nearly Lost You – Screaming Trees
  15. This Moment – Matthew Sweet
  16. The Ice & The Storm – My Brightest Diamond
  17. For So Long – Satchel

Volume S:

  1. Rock & Roll Music – The Beatles
  2. Heavy – Eleven
  3. Reverse Inverted – Torche
  4. Black Balloon – Monster Magnet
  5. Come On, Let’s Go – Los Lobos
  6. Fuckin’ Shit Ass – Life, Sex & Death
  7. You Are Invited – Dismemberment Plan
  8. What You Do To Me – Teenage Fanclub
  9. Frying Pan – Evan Dando
  10. Before I Sleep – Mazzy Star
  11. Takin’ It Back – Satchel
  12. Would? – Alice In Chains
  13. Don’t Forget Sister – Low Vs Diamond
  14. Main Road – Lucinda Williams
  15. 18 And Life – Skid Row
  16. Get Down – Girls Against Boys
  17. Inside A Boy – My Brightest Diamond
  18. Butterfly – Screaming Trees

Polyrhythmics: Libra Stripes

polyrhythmics-libra-coverWell here’s an experience I haven’t had in ages. Washing dishes the other night, and I didn’t want to listen to any of the things I had queued up for review on this blog. So I just flip on the tiny radio we’ve got behind the sink and start fiddling around on the FM band looking for something new and unfamiliar. Down at the bottom end of the dial, I feel at first like I’ve tuned into some Latino station, which fits the mood, so I go with it. As time goes on, I realize I’m dancing to a great song and I feel like I must be listening to some Caribbean music or Afropop or something. So right before the song ends I realize I live in a magic age and have a device in my pocket that will listen to the music and tell me what it is. Again, convinced this is an equatorial pop group of some kind, I proclaim that wherever this band is playing on my birthday this year, that’s where I want to be. Well turns out the band’s from right here in Seattle (and I was probably just dialed into KEXP) because I had been listening to Polyrhythmics’ “Chingador.”

And the rest is history. I downloaded this on Xbox Music and remain a huge fan. An eight-piece, the band augments guitar, drums and bass with keys and several horns and sometimes flute). I would call them World-influenced funk, but that’s because I’m an Ugly American and don’t really do a good job of differentiating between different parts of the non-U.S. “World.”

Suffice it to say, the beats are deliciously complex yet danceable. The band’s prime skills are in laying down the beat and writing a killer head on top of it. They pass the solos around like any funk band, but that’s not what keeps me coming back (save those of guitarist Ben Bloom because wow). Instead, what makes Polyrhythmics great are those great heads along with how well they pull them off as a band. They play amazingly tight for three people, much less eight, and they way they layer with each other is pretty much perfect (check out the tasty way they come back from the breakdown in “Retrobotic”).

The collection of songs and their sequencing is just about all you could ask for, too. They hit you with some hard, choppy funk like “Chingador,” but then there are slower grooves like “Snake In The Grass” and “Skin The Fat,” too. There isn’t a song on here I don’t love, though it took me a while with “Moon Cabbage.” And that’s one of my main complaints, that song should not be third. It’s easily the worst song here and is the one with the least pop. Tough one to have in that showcase slot.

The production is excellent, and I can’t wait to see if they can pull it off live at Tractor Tavern on March 29. I strongly recommend you listen to these guys. They’re the early front-runner for my 2014 Clownies.

Mix: “Libra Stripes,” “Chingador,” “Bobo,” “Retrobotic”
– “Pupusa Strut,” “Moon Cabbage,” “Snake In The Grass,” “Skin The Fat,” “Mr. Wasabi Rides Again”
Song Notes: After the jump
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Waxahatchee: “Hollow Bedroom”

This song was supposed to be reviewed in the Xbox Music Best Of 2013 playlist, but I couldn’t get it to download until much later.

Clocking in at 111 seconds, this is a female’s gravelly voice and two guitars, one more distorted than the other, playing basically arpeggiated chords, and then some gradually ascending, and then sometimes she mixes it up with some descending, power chords.

It’s pleasant enough, but I’m not aching to hear more. It’s a pretty big win for new music lately for it not to cause a strong negative reaction in me, so you could almost give it a full heart based on that, but no, open.

Reign Of Fury: World Detonation

You could look at this album’s cover art, listen to the record, and be forgiven for thinking that it was circa 1988. Lyrics and artwork about nuclear holocaust, anthropomorphic demon on the cover, sharply-pointed font, and eight roughly five- to eight-minute thrash rhapsodies…apart from a minute or so of Cookie Monster death metal vocals, Reign Of Fury makes no effort to incorporate anything from the last 25 years into their 2013 release.

And that’s all good because the album’s all good. I mean, it’s a bit weird that you would look back at 80’s era Testament and Metallica and think, “Yeah, we can outdo that.” Because, no, you can’t, and no, this doesn’t. But still, this proves that there are a ton of great songs from that canon that haven’t been written yet and, hell, let’s go ahead and release them as an album. They do a hell of a job with it and I can’t find much to criticize.

It’s good enough that I’m tempted to give it 4.5 clowns, but…well, I feel you could avoid veering into the faster/darker/eviller/lessMelodicer tunnel that metal’s gone down in the past two decades and still find some way to move the genre forward. With their debut album, they’ve shown that they mastered the genre as it was at its apex. I’ll be here for their next releases to see if they can show us a better way forward for metal from that point than that which we’ve taken.

One lingering question I have is whether or not this is a Christian rock band. I can’t find any explicit evidence that they are, but there’s an awful lot of discussion of God and Jesus and heaven and hell in the lyrics (see song notes below for more). Of course, with metal, it’s tough to tell, because you can write about gods, sacrifice, death, war, legends, seven sons, elven rings, and so on, even before you get to Revelations-style stuff, and it can still sound very cool as long as it’s not super overt. (For overt, see Tourniquet.)

– “Infernal Conflict,” “Envy The Dead,” “Heaven Awaits – Hell Takes,” “Born To Die,” “World Detonation,” “Vile Submission,” “The Hound”
– “Goodbye Mother Earth”
Filed Between: Steve Reich (You Are (Variations)) and Brian Reitzell (30 Days Of Night Soundtrack)
Song Notes: After the jump
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Playlist Review: Xbox Music’s Best Of 2013

I don’t expect an all-encompassing best of list to suit my tastes that well, but this compilation by Xbox Music is pretty disappointing. This makes me sound old, but I feel like music is in a pretty sad state in 2013. The best stuff being made is the Top 40 R&B, dance, hip-hop, pop, etc. The rock and indie scenes are decimated. Brooklyn’s full of hipsters who have re-discovered 1983 and just decided to recreate it on their iPad and release it as something new. But all I hear is Cutting Crew outtakes.

Also everything is mixed way too loud/hot. I’m sick of hearing it and you’re sick of hearing about it, so here’s my track by track breakdown.

  1. Can’t Hold Us (feat. Ray Dalton) – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – I can’t stand Macklemore, but I do like this song. But even then, I just like the singing, so I guess that means I just like Ray Dalton. Also my UW alumni magazine says Ryan Lewis is a pop music icon, but I don’t think they know what “icon” means.
  2. The Wire – Haim – This doesn’t have to be recorded this hot. Totally mid-80’s. And just the same line over and over. Totally sucks.
  3. Diane Young – Vampire Weekend – Why is this recorded so hot? Fine song, but argh so nutsy sounds like crap.
  4. Hold On, We’re Going Home – Drake – Maybe my favorite song on the mix. But still too fucking hot.
  5. My Number – Foals – So 80’s. Kinda surprised I left it as open. Blegh. Naw, it’s going to broken. Sucks.
  6. Closer – Tegan And Sara – So 80’s. I feel like this band is capable of so much more, but I’m not really an expert. Terrible. Lots of “oohh oohhh ooohh ooh” lyrics. And there’s that rapid squeaky vocal rise on the end of a ton of their lines, including “closer,” and that is super annoying.
  7. Get Lucky (feat. Pharrell Williams) – Daft Punk – When this song was blowing up this summer, one of my friends noted, “This song is so simple and straightforward. Can’t you imagine just anybody doing it? The only reason it’s huge is because Daft Punk did it.” I totally agree. But I also still really like it. Cognitive Dissonance. But there’s a craft here that extends beyond the simple song. The sounds are really well crafted and the way they weave in and out is expertly done. The rhythm is simple and repetitive, but I feel like there was a ton of love put into programming it perfectly right down to the microsecond so that certain parts of the track hit just a titch earlier than others…just perfectly to cause your body to move. It’s those kinds of details that cause this to be elevated above the pre-programmed track on your Casio keyboard.
  8. Q.U.E.E.N. (feat. Erykah Badu) – Janelle Monáe – Given how huge Janelle Monáe is, I can’t believe there’s not a less boring song they could have picked for this. Just leaves me meh. At least until the rap. Hate the “even if it makes others uncomfortable” part.
  9. Shuggie – Foxygen – Laid back crooning. Pretty cool. Too hot, but that’s a little under the radar. Reminds me of some old school vocalist.
  10. Follow Your Arrow – Kacey Musgraves – SUCKS! I think she just needs to hang out with better people who allow her a little wiggle room between prude and drunk. How does something this stupid become a massive hit? Just because of cutesie references to gay love and marijuana being okay? HATE!
  11. Sirens – Pearl Jam – Argh, one of the worst from their album. And it’s like 5:40? Good lord. Reviewed.
  12. Easy Easy – King Krule – snot nosed brit. laid back. just him and a guitar. gawd guitar is so refreshing in 2013.
  13. Open Ended Life – The Avett Brothers – I listened to this album right when it came out due to liking one other Avett Brothers song. I didn’t like it. Spending some more time with this, it is a well-written song, but his voice drives me insane-o here. Late move to full as I’m listening to it loud.
  14. The Stars (Are Out Tonight) – David Bowie – Pretty much standard David Bowie. Why are so many lyrics on this playlist just “ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo?” I kinda like this song, but Bowie’s presentation often leaves me a little cold, it’s a bit too buttoned up British straight.
  15. The One That Got Away – The Civil Wars – I find The Civil Wars too repetitive and long, a problem exacerbated by their ridiculously slow tempi, but I do like the first half of most of their songs. This is 3.5 minutes, but only needs to be about 2.5. The ridiculous bridge is just them dragging things out to reach some magical length that they think is worthy of a song.
  16. Wakin On A Pretty Day – Kurt Vile – 9.5 minutes. Amazingly doesn’t seem that long. Seems long, just not that long. Which is even more surprising because he doesn’t cover a lot of ground. I do like it, though. You know, this is like one of those long Neil Young songs from On The Beach.
  17. 25 Bucks (feat. Purity Ring) – Danny Brown – He seems to be restrained with the sung-chorus thing here. Plus it’s a bit slower and longer and doesn’t repeat at each run, so it doesn’t get as worn thin.
  18. Weight – Mikal Cronin – Pretty good, upbeat, straightforward singer songwriter stuff, but less acoustic guitar than you associate with that genre. More keys and drums driving things (machine?). Multi-tracked vox.
  19. Holy Grail – Jay-Z – Sophomoric. You can’t pull this off, Jay-Z. First of all, too much with the chorus…too many times. Second, you can’t pull of these lyrics: “I just can’t crack your code/One day your screaming you love me loud/The next day you’re so cold.” No, no, no. You are not getting the runaround from ladies the way a high school boy does, and even if one were to try that you wouldn’t have time for it. Finally, you can’t pull off the lyrics about how you can’t take your daughter for a walk because paparazzi, even if you do brush the lyrics aside immediately afterwards. You hardly have to parent. You probably have at least two live-in nannies. Nobody is feeling sorry for you because you can’t take your daughter for a walk. If you wanted, you could buy a private island and walk your daughter all around that island with nobody to bother you.
  20. Overgrown – James Blake – Basically like every other James Blake song. Sounds great. but too long and repetitive.
  21. Tennis Court – Lorde – ugh boring. repetitive. do not get the hype.
  22. Chum – Earl Sweatshirt – Verse about him missing his dad makes me sad.
  23. Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke – The only thing I can think of when this song is Robin Thicke -> Alan Thicke -> Kirk Cameron -> Bananas are proof of God. Douchetastic.
  24. Turn It Around – Lucius – reviewed
  25. The Monster – Eminem – Very good but has that problem with hip-hop where the chorus is just repeated too often. And it’s one of those choruses that is like the same melodic line four times in a row. Ugh. Also big surprise is that this song is about him.
  26. Open – Rhye – On the 80’s tip, isn’t this just Sade?
  27. Take The Night Off – Laura Marling – Reminds me a lot of Kelly Joe Phelps.
  28. Daedalus (What We Have) – San Fermin – One of our haunts in Cambridge. Very slow. Cool orchestration with horns and chorus. Low voice sings almost deadpan throughout. Putting as full mostly out of intrigue.
  29. I Should Live In Salt – The National – Something just a little off with the delivery/rhythms here, but it’s pretty good. It’s in like 17.
  30. Wake Me Up (Radio Edit) – Avicii – Well hasn’t this been done a hundred times already? So I guess this guy is a DJ and the singer is another person (Aloe Blacc, who I swear I’ve heard elsewhere.) Anyway, the DJ stuff seems a-ite, but the vox and guitar really bug me.
  31. Here Comes The Night Time – Arcade Fire – too hot. A bunch of decent but not great songs from bands I’ve heard countless amazing things about. This is one of them. Also 6.5 minutes, wtf?
  32. Ride On / Right On – Phosphorescent – Just as laid back and hippie as you’d expect from the title. Sounds like jangling spurs.
  33. We Can’t Stop – Miley Cyrus – I want the popular shit to be good. Like Madonna or Lady Gaga. This is shite, though. Amazing production…amazing. Like, the studio work is fucking textbook. So good. The song and performance are complete shit. God what stupid lyrics.
  34. The Mother We Share – CHVRCHES – 80’s again. Lots of “oo oo ooo oo” lyrics. But a sweet little hooky song.
  35. Latch – Disclosure – oh god hate so bad. worst song on playlist. makes me angry in first few seconds.
  36. Suit & Tie – Justin Timberlake – Like this, I want the popular shit to be good like this. Though this is way too long and recorded TOO FUCKING HOT! Rapper is Jay-Z.
  37. Wildest Moments – Jessie Ware – Just like Lorde and the other one on here that sounds like Lorde. London Grammar? hate.
  38. Keep Your Eyes Peeled – Queens Of The Stone Age – blegh. these guys used to be so good.
  39. Chamakay – Blood Orange – Reminds me of Frank Ocean. Very breathy vox. Definitely in that mid-80’s vibe, but this one I really like. I’m going to try not to think too hard about it before I start to hate it. Tasty bass line at about 0:55.
  40. Hey Now – London Grammar – boring, oh so 80’s.
  41. Drop The Game – Flume – Meh. Loses despite his awesome name.
  42. Do What U Want – Lady Gaga – Not her best stuff. The “do what we want” is kind of a theme, huh? “Follow Your Arrow,” “We Can’t Stop,” “Do What U Want.” “No invitations, it’s a private party.” If it’s a private party then you do need invitations. still squeaks into full heart territory. I feel like it’s Drake helping out. It’s R. Kelly.
  43. Do I Wanna Know? – Arctic Monkeys – Kinda black keys rip-off-y. Still like my fave thing I’ve ever heard by these guys so fine full heart.
  44. She Will – Savages – Aggressive and punky. Somewhat intrigued, though I’m not crazy about it. Distorted.
  45. Born To Die – King Khan And the Shrines – Kinda dirty punk, like the vox are delivered totally lazy. A cleaned-up version of Sub Pop’s METZ. This is pretty cool. Got some nice horn sounds. And it’s produced really well, doesn’t sound too hot finally. I’ll move it into full because I do want to hear more of them.
  46. Stoked And Broke – FIDLAR – bratty snot nosed punk. I have to be in the right mood.
  47. Stoned And Starving – Parquet Courts – It’s about being stoned and starving. Too long for the content, but I like what’s there and on a mix like this I want to be generous about what … nah, f it, it’s an open heart.
  48. Man – Neko Case – A defense of men, boys, testosterone. Kinda clunks, but the strident guitar part is awesome. Might be full if not for the lyrics, which don’t resonate for me, and which don’t fit the rhythm the content wants them to have. There’s this part near the end, where it builds with a fast delivery, an f-bomb, crescendo, and then there’s a bit pause and she’s only got two words left (“showed you”) to spread out over several bars and it does not work.
  49. I Come From The Mountain – The Oh Sees – Noisy melodic punk. Okay.
  50. Black Skinhead – Kanye West – So how come Kanye can pull off the angry but Jay-Z can’t? Kanye’s more wiry. Jay-Z is kinda large and in charge. These are cultivated images, but the fact that Jay-Z has cultivated his business man king-like image means he CAN’T BITCH ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO TAKE HIS DAUGHTER FOR A WALK. Kanye and Eminem can, though. Because they’ve never let that chip get off of their shoulder.

Mix: “Hold On, We’re Doing Home” (Drake), “Get Lucky (feat. Pharrell Williams)” (Daft Punk)
– “Can’t Hold Us (feat. Ray Dalton)” (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis), “Shuggie” (Foxygen), “Easy Easy” (King Krule), “Open Ended Life” (The Avett Brothers), “The One That Got Away” (The Civil Wars), “Wakin On A Pretty Day” (Kurt Vile), “Weight” (Mikal Cronin), “25 Bucks (feat. Purity Ring)” (Danny Brown), “Overgrown” (James Blake), “Chum” (Earl Sweatshirt), “Turn It Around” (Lucius), “The Monster” (Eminem), “Daedalus (What We Have)” (San Fermin), “I Should Live In Salt” (The National), “Here Comes The Night Time” (Arcade Fire), “Ride On / Right On” (Phosphorescent), “The Mother We Share” (CHVRCHES), “Chamakay” (Blood Orange), “Do What You Want” (Lady Gaga), “Born To Die” (King Khan & The Shrines),”Do I Wanna Know?” (Arctic Monkeys), “Born To Die” (King Khan & The Shrines), “Black Skinhead” (Kanye West)
– “Diane Young” (Vampire Weekend), “Q.U.E.E.N. (feat. Erykah Badu)” (Janelle Monáe), “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” (David Bowie), “Take The Night Off” (Laura Marling), “Suit & Tie” (Justin Timberlake), “She Will” (Savages), “Stoked And Broke” (FIDLAR), “Stoned And Starving” (Parquet Courts), “Man” (Neko Case), “I Come From The Mountains” (The Oh Sees)
– “The Wire” (Haim), “My Number” (Foals), “Closer” (Tegan And Sara), “Follow Your Arrow” (Kacey Musgraves), “Holy Grail” (Jay-Z), “Tennis Court” (Lorde), “Blurred Lines” (Robin Thicke), “Open” (Rhye), “Wake Me Up (Radio Edit)” (Avicii), “We Can’t Stop” (Miley Cyrus), “Latch” (Disclosure), “Wildest Moments” (Jessie Ware), “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” (Queens Of The Stone Age), “Hey Now” (London Grammar), “Drop The Game” (Flume)