Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Best of 2014 Lists That We Recommend

     This post identifies other blogs that assembled “Best of 2014” lists, where we benefitted from those lists. After reviewing as many of the “Best of 2014” posts as we could find, we have a better appreciation for what 2014 had to offer. The Indie Obsessive collection would include more than 62 songs if we were to restart, but we are happy with the collection as it stands (and somewhat proud of certain discoveries, such as The Mispers).

     Here are the lists we recommend:
    1. Of course, the Indie Obsessive list is recommended. It starts at:

     2. Music for Ants
        Top 25 Albums - http://musicforants.tumblr.com/post/104941854612/musicforants-coms-albums-of-2014
     The top album on the list was from Spoon.

         Top 50 Songs - http://musicforants.tumblr.com/post/105362499417/musicforants-best-songs-of-2014-list

     3. Pitchfork 
        Top 100 songs - http://pitchfork.com/features/staff-lists/9555-the-100-best-tracks-of-2014/10/
        Top 50 Albums - http://pitchfork.com/features/staff-lists/9558-the-50-best-albums-of-2014/5 - The 2014 album of War on Drugs was ranked third.

         Pitchfork Reader Polls:
           Albums http://pitchfork.com/features/staff-lists/9568-2014-readers-poll-results/

     4. A launch point of lists by Triple J Unearthed - http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/bestof/14/

     5. Surviving the Golden Age – Top 50 Songs

     6. Dots & Dashes’ First Transmissions of 2014. This list is Synth Pop-heavy.
http://dotsanddashes.co.uk/features/dots-and-dashes-first-transmissions-of-2014-1-5/

     7. Faronheit http://faronheit.com/2014/12/listmas-2014-the-top-50-songs-of-the-year-10-1/#more-4812  Number 15 is “Repeat Pleasure” by How to Dress Well


     8. A Launch point for lists of KEXP

     9. Amazon
        Top 50 Songs CLICK HERE
         Top 50 Albums CLICK HERE

     10. Rolling Stone
         Top 50 Songs CLICK HERE
         Top 50 Albums CLICK HERE

     11. Launch point for lists by the Canadian Music Blog

     12. The Sound of Confusion
        Top 25 Songs 
The top ranked song is “I Won't Leave You in the Dark” by Broken Records. While we enjoy that song, our favorite by Broken Records is “Toska.”


     13. Little Indie Blogs

     14. Wondering Sound  

     15. We Are Going Solo - 20 Albums

     16. The Top 100 Songs of The Bins

Music Releases with Proper Timing

     This post features recently released songs that we enjoy and are appropriate to the New Year holiday. But it begins with a collection of screen captures from social media sites acknowledging Indie Obsessive. Yes, it’s blatant self-adulation, but we promise to limit this to one time per calendar year (unless it happens more often).


     Brooke Fraser dropped her album “Brutal Romantic” last month. The final track on the album is “New Year’s Eve.” Unlike most songs about that day, it is not celebratory. Instead, it's a reflective song that begins with the sentiment of it being a loud year, so quiet is needed.  Fraser is from New Zealand, but she appears to have gravitated to Los Angeles. She will visit The Independent in San Francisco on January 26, 2015. Time to buy tickets. 
      “New Year’s Eve” by Brooke Fraser


     Changing the course, we have “Drinking Song (Party 1)” from Detroit’s Andy and the Pandy’s. The song hit Soundcloud today; nicely played guys. The members include Andy Maitland, Neall Gleason, Nick Adkins, Dave Daniele, Marcus Baron, Ed Sitek, and Brad Collier.
     “Drinking Song (Party 1)” by Andy and the Pandy’s (the song is available as a free download (Name Your Own Price) via Noisetrade or the Bandcamp site that is included below the song). 


     “New Year's Eve” by MØ. We’re not normally fans of the MØ sound. But we enjoyed this one with the first listen. For at least today, this is a free download. 


     “New Year” by K. Anderson. Anderson is based in London. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

“Riviera” by Veople – A Song Review

     In terms of preparation, some posts seem to write themselves. Typically, that sentence is appropriate when we are writing about a song that triggered an immediate reaction that is considered blogworthy. On the other hand, for “Riviera” by Veople, the sentence is appropriate because there is so little available about the band and the song. Here’s what we know:
     1. Veople is the Australian duo of Jay Jermyn and Dakota (Matt Powell). They are based in Brisbane. They describe themselves as “Two friends getting together for a weekend to write, record and drink beer.”
     2. The debut single, “Riviera,” was released on December 21, 2014. They describe the song as, “Written and recorded over one weekend with dead mobiles and no internet.” It will be interesting to hear what they will do when they spend more time with a song.

     “Riviera” by Veople

Saturday, December 27, 2014

“When Will We Be Free?” by Young Lions - A Song Review

     Young Lions dropped a video for a single that will be on their upcoming album “Blue Isla.” The song is entitled “When Will We Be Free?” and its message is that people tend to be prisoners of a pattern of life because it's normal and right to do so. “We live and we die, we love and we fight, because it’s normal; because it’s right.” The protagonist declares that he’s not a prisoner and the neighborhood follows him in his escape from the chains.
     “When We Will Be Free?” improves upon the formula of “Kings and Queens” and “Closer to the Edge” by Jared Leto’s band 30 Seconds to Mars. The song by Young Lions uses the backing choir more effectively and adds a distortion-free guitar to the mix.  
     Young Lions is a five-member band based in Brisbane, Australia. The members are Zach Britt, Morgan Castle, Kyle Morris, Daniel Lechmere and Matt Gibson.



     “When Will We Be Free?” by Young Lions - The song intro loses its significance without the video. 


Lyrics to “When We Will Be Free?”
They came in the night and
signed away our lives,
Is this normal?
Is it right?
We live and we die,
we love and we fight.
Because it’s normal,
because it’s right.
I know that I’m not a prisoner
When will we be free?
Be the light in the dark,
'cause we fell so far
Open up your heart, I know it’s hard
but it’s normal
and it’s right
and I need you by my side
For the sunset in the sky,
and the bright blue in your eyes.
What a beautiful normal, this is right
and I know that I’m not a prisoner
When will we be free?
And we’re sick of the chains
This won’t happen again
From north to south,
from east to west,
hold your hands up in the air
When will we be free?
From the north to the south,
from the east to the west
When will we be free?

Female Dominant Vocals – December 2014

     The last post around the theme of female vocalization was in April. The hiatus was not a result of a lack of strong candidates for the category. Just the opposite - 2014 had more than its share of blogworthy Indie music carried by a female lead singer. Here are four more songs, although two are from artists who were previously introduced to Indie Obsessive.

     One new-comer to Indie Obsessive is Alex Winston. She identifies her hometown as Detroit, Michigan and her current location as New York City. Her song “Careless” was released earlier this month. It has more of an Ellie Goulding feel to it than her earlier work, but includes features that distinguish Winston. In “Careless,” our favorite feature is the vocal layering that starts at the 3:10 mark.
     “Careless” by Alex Winston


     In April 2014, we posted the “Night” by Adna, an artist based in Germany (Berlin), but originally from Gothenburg, Sweden. Adna is preparing for the 2015 release of a second album, which is likely to be led by “Living.”
     “Living” by Adna


     Rae Morris is also looking forward to a 2015 album release. “Unguarded” will be har debut album, which will include “Under the Shadows.” Like Adna, she was 19 when we posted an earlier song, but may be 20 now. Morris is based in Blackpool.
      “Under the Shadows” by Rae Morris


     Jennie Abrahamson was born in the small town of Savar in northern Sweden.
     “War” by Jennie Abrahamson

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

New Gods – A Band Review

     This is the best time of the year for music discovery. Bloggers post their top songs of the year and everyone benefits. Indie Obsessive publishes its list early, so that our focus can turn to benefitting from the efforts of others.
     Our favorite source of breaking Australian music, Triple J Unearthed, put together a number of lists. The lists are accessible at http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/bestof/14/. One is titled “Top Ten Unearthed Tracks You Missed.” One of the ten songs was “Millionaire” by New Gods. We missed it.
     “Millionaire” is a relaxed song with a comforting feel. Comforting, until you listen to the lyrics. The lyrics have a “Cat’s in the Cradle” (Harry Chapin) message to them – a father who has come to the realization that his life’s concentration on hard work limited his time with family. In “Millionaire,” the father appears to be in his final days, “Come over here son, hold my hand; spend a little time with your ol’ man.” Yes, he fondly remembers his wedding day and how he held his wife in his arms while she slept, but he thought about the future and the money. But the song concludes, “I’d take it all back and throw it into the sea.”
     The instruments play a key role in establishing the desired atmosphere for “Millionaire.” It’s tempting to refer to the instrumentation as minimalistic, since a single instrument (the piano) is featured through most of the song and it remains relatively unassuming. But the instrumentation isn’t “stripped to its minimum.” The cello is not essential, but it is powerful. The violin adds to the poignancy of the cello. The rolling cymbal works well with the piano.  
     New Gods is from Melbourne. The members are Adrian Beltrame (guitar), Richard Bradbeer (bass), Dominic Byrne (vocals and guitar), Dale Packard (keys), and Sam Raines (drums). In “Millionaire,” the strings are provided by Sophie di Tempora (vioin) and Jessica Anne Venables (cello).

     “Millionaire” by New Gods

     “I Love You Too” by New Gods

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

“Homecoming #2” by Tiger Lou – A Song Review

     There is something that feels right when a band returns from an extended hiatus with a song entitled “Homecoming #2.” The lyrics include:
Call your friends and have 'em find out
That I am home
I am home.

     Tiger Lou released its third album in 2008 and then went into hibernation, at least seemingly. Those of us who are partial to the “clean” guitar sound, we emphatically state, “Welcome back!”
     The band was formed in Nyköping, Sweden in 2001, but is now based in Stockholm. Assuming that the members didn’t change during the hiatus, Tiger Lou comprises Rasmus Kellerman (vocals, guitar), Mathias Johansson (guitar), Erik Welén (bass) and
Pontus Levahn (drums).

     “Homecoming #2” by Tiger Lou


“Homecoming #2” – The Lyrics
The pouring rain, the intersection
I'm baffled by the colors of this town
Call your friends and have 'em find out
That I am home
I am home

Whatever happened to that Spanish place?
The two-for's and the cheap plastic crates
Remember all the nights we couldn't find
our way home, our way home
Now I'm home, I am home

I fell in love with a perfect storm
I didn't wanna be alone anymore
But she spat me out in May

I took a job in a beat up bar
and fooled around with the daughters of
an alumnus from Del Mar

I tried to write just to keep me sane
but the book with the coffee stains
never grew beyond a page

So when the fire finally broke
it was just another way to choke
and find my way back home

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mikky Ekko and Haerts Visit San Francisco – A Concert Review

     Sure, we were aware that Rihanna selected Mikky Ekko for the male voice in her hit “Stay.” With her notoriety, Rihanna certainly could and would select a voice in which she believed. Moreover, we were aware of and enjoyed Ekko’s song “Smile.” But we may have been the only ones who went to the San Francisco performance at Rickshaw Stop in order to see Haerts. Embarrassingly, the strategy was to take advantage of the opportunity to see Haerts at a small venue and then catch a portion of Mikky Ekko, before leaving early. At least we weren’t too clueless – after Ekko started his performance, we quickly recognized that leaving early would have been a regrettable mistake.
     Haerts and Mikky Ekko were co-headliners. On the day of the concert, we received an email letting us know that Haerts would open that night (never saw that before). The New York band was engaging, energetic and entertaining from the start. But their show-stopper was “All the Days,” one of our favorites from 2013.

     "Giving Up" by HAERTS

     Mikky Ekko was born John Stephen Sudduth. He is originally from Shreveport, Louisiana. As he went through his setlist, there wasn’t a weakness. It was the day before he turned 30 and the audience sang the traditional birthday song; we were TERRIBLE, but that wasn’t his fault. Much to his credit, Ekko was respectful after the audience’s performance, but it was apparent that he wouldn’t hold auditions following the show.
     Ekko’s upper range is impressive, sometimes reaching notes with a purity that reminded listeners of Sam Smith. He was dynamic from start to finish.


Folks We Oughta Know – The December Version

     On a semi-regular basis, a post is dedicated to the Indie Folk Genre. Typically, some event triggers the post. That’s not the case here; it’s just overdue.
     “Staying Up” has a musical synergy. That is, if you separate the elements of the song, each one has a relaxed simplicity. The lyrics are thoughtful and, at times, thought provoking. But the lyrics are definitely not complex. The vocalization is soothing, but the range is not demanding. The contribution by the slide guitar involves only a few notes. However, when listening to the song, it’s clear that expertise went into its arrangement and skill went into its performance.
     “Staying Up” was released a few months ago (May) by Wooden Wand, which is the performance name of James Jackson Toth.


     Attic Wolves are from Kansa City. Its members are Nate Heavilin, Caleb Heavilin, Blake Huntington, Matt Richardson, and Logan Wade. Nothing says Folk more loudly than the banjo. Nothing says quality Folk more clearly than a banjo-infused song with numerous changes of pace.  
      "Here's to Looking Back"

     At least for now, Attic Wolves is offering "Here's to Looking Back" as a free download via Noisetrade (price of an email address, but tips appreciated).


     Unlike the first two songs, this one is a throwback. Not in the fishing sense, since it’s a keeper. It’s a throwback in the Facebook sense – this is a good memory. The Acorn released “Restoration” in 2010. It hasn’t grown stale. According to their Facebook page, The Acorn is a Canadian band comprising Rolf Klausener, and an on-going mix of the finest humans, which has includes Adam Saikaley, Pat Johnson, Jeffrey Malecki, Steve Lappano, Jordan Howard, Jeff DeButte, Howie Tsui, Keiko Devaux, Mike Dubue, and Shaun Weadick.
     “Restoration”

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Bird – A Band Review

     According to people who know much more about photography and cinematography than we do, black-and-white imaging is most effective when there is sufficient contrast to allow a person to distinguish features, but with lighting that creates a continuum of gray shades through that contrast. The imaging gives the impression of a monochromatic, often dark, character.
     If you visit the Facebook page or the website of Bird, it is difficult to find anything other than black-and-white photos. That fits well with the music of the Liverpool-based band. The sound is ethereal, so almost by definition it has darkness. But Bird is dynamic, so the sound varies through shades of gray as the band glides through a song. This is perhaps most easily appreciated in the track “The Rain Song,” with its use of heavy percussion that contrasts well with the flowing, melodic vocals.
    The members of Bird are Adele Emmas (lead vocals), Sian Williams (guitar and vocals), Christian Sandford (bass and synth) and Alexis Samata (drums).    

     "The Rain Song" by Bird

     "I Am the Mountain" by Bird

     "A War" by Bird

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

“A History of Reasons” by Cairo – A Song Review

     Cairo recently released a video for the title track of their upcoming album. “A History of Reasons” is scheduled to drop on January 20, 2015. The video is primarily a sequence of people walking away. “I’ma packing and you’re leaving on another red-eye, goodbye.” It sounds and appears to be a song about a relationship that has ended, but the singer chants “I'd do it again.”
     There’s a refreshing clarity in the vocals and instruments of “A History of Reasons.” We appreciate the value of reverb and distortion within many of the songs that are featured in posts of Indie Obsessive, but the crisp and clean presentation in the Cairo song is a treat. The individual guitar notes, the entrance of the violin, the words and even the drum beats are distinguishable. Clarity carries some risk, because it is difficult to mask imperfections when trying to duplicate the performance in a live setting, but we are ready to buy our concert ticket in order to enjoy the attempt.
     Cairo is based in Toronto, Canada. Yes, this is another interesting geographically misdescriptive band name. But this one isn’t based in the U.K. (Bastille, Bombay Bicycle Club, Texas, Lisbon…). The members of Cairo are Nate Daniels (Vocals/Guitar), Matt Sullivan (Drums/Percussion), Caitlin Grieve (Strings/Vocals), Dante Berardi Jr. (Guitar/Vocals/Synth) and Joel Dalton (Bass/Key/Synth).


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Roadkill Ghost Choir Visit San Francisco – A Concert Review


Contributor: Clark G. 
     For weeks we looked forward to our first visit to The Milk Bar in San Francisco to see Roadkill Ghost Choir. Roadkill is an alternative rock band from Florida with a definite southern influence. Then, on the day of the concert, the worst storm in the last 60 years hit the Bay Area. Everyone told us not to risk the drive from the South Bay. But did we listen? No, and I'm glad we didn't.  We would have missed one of the best experiences in music, the chance to see a great band at a very small venue.

      Walking into The Milk Bar you get the feeling the place could do with a makeover. There's a long bar on the left and plastic covered booths on the right. But in the back, in what feels like a separate room, is a small stage and a dance floor. To see a concert there is like being a special guest at a private performance. At first you might think the acoustics are poor, but in fact, they are quite good and the sound levels were adjusted perfectly.
     Roadkill took the stage at about 10:00 pm, after the very entertaining band "Babes," an alternative rock band from Los Angeles. Roadkill played an assortment of songs from their two albums "In Tongues" and "Beggars Guild." All the songs featured very creative lead guitar arrangements with healthy doses of banjo and steel guitar, and all were anchored by the Tom Petty-like voice of lead singer Andrew Shepard.
     After their performance, the band gathered in the bar to mingle with the small group of people who had braved the weather to see the show. A nice way to end the evening - if you like Southern Rock, definitely check out this band. 
Roadkill Ghost Choir are:
     Andrew Shepard on rhythm guitar and vocals
     Zach Shepard on bass
     Maxx Shepard on drums
     Kiffy Meyers on steel guitar and banjo
     Stephen Garza on lead guitar
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/roadkillghostchoir
     "Slow Knife" (Note: this song is in the Indie Obsessive Top 25 for 2014.)

     "HWY"

     "Down & Out"

   

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Best Songs of 2014 - Songs 1-10

     Each December, the music blogosphere overflows with “best of” lists. We try to visit as many as time allows, because the December onslaught is a great vehicle for discovering music that would otherwise have been missed. During the year, the volume of interesting songs is so great that the expression “drinking from the fire hose” is appropriate.  
     Indie Obsessive is using the same ranking algorithm as last year:
Surely, we all recognize that the complex portion of the algorithm is an adaptation of the well-known arbitrage pricing approach developed in 1973 by Fisher Black and Myron Scholes. We suspect you use this formula for all of your arbitrage-related endeavors, just like us. However, the complex portion is multiplied by “0,” so the complex portion is irrelevant to the outcome.

          Consequently, the ranking of a particular song is based on its value of P, where P is personal “preference.” Pretty simple – if we like a song slightly more than another song, it ranks higher. The flaw in the process is that the P value for a song is dependent upon our mood at the time, so the order of songs is likely to change from day to day. But while the order may change, the songs remain on the list, so you probably don’t care.

      1. "Moosehead" by SPIES - It's a combination of factors that give this song the edge, including lyrics that are sometimes meaningless and other times thought provoking: 
My mind is a six story building with suits
and dresses upon dresses entering in.
My mind is a freight train of thought that…


      2. "Leave the Door Wide Open" by NO


     3. “Wolf” by Mammals - This is a song with very different first and second halves.


      4. “Looking Too Closely” by Fink - It wasn't until we saw Fink in concert that we realized that a voice can have charisma.


     5. "Seasons (Waiting on You)” by Future Islands


       6. “Get Hurt” by Gaslight Anthem – The band leaves its comfort zone (unfortunately under the urging of a divorce).


      7. “Brother” by The Mispers


      8. "Burn this House” by Mwansa


     9. “We Never Win” by Whales in Cubicles - Every legitimate list must have at least one anthematic song. Here’s ours.


     10. “Steam” by Green Stone Garden


Next 10 - Songs 11 through 20 – CLICK HERE

Songs 21 through 30 – CLICK HERE
Songs 31 through 40 – CLICK HERE
Songs 41 through 50 – CLICK HERE
Songs 51 through 62 – CLICK HERE