Todd’s Lazy 2015 Year In Review

Chris was correct in his “Year in Review” post. We have been very lazy bloggers as of late. We cruised right along from 2011-2014 with great content and ideas. 2015? Not so much. New work responsibilities, family commitments and a growing addiction to endless AppleTV content caused my lapse in quality posts. I’ll do better in 2016.  Well, I’ll do better in 2016 IF … HBO quits making excellent TV programming. Seriously, have you seen The Leftovers? Best show of 2015. Hands down. Indisputable. Conversation over. There’s no need to bother arguing with me in the comments section. I won’t entertain any opposing viewpoints.

Let’s get back on track. Since you all read Chris’s post you already know about all the great music that came out last year. Well, at least the music that we consider great. I’d just like to add a few of my 2015 highlights.

Favorite Concert Experience of 2015

Best Concert Venue On Earth

Best Concert Venue On Earth

Best Coast with Bully at First Avenue in Minneapolis.

This marked the second year in a row that the wife and I made the pilgrimage to First Avenue for a show.

Todd being his "Best Self"

Todd being his “Best Self”

We caught a top notch Tegan and Sara set there in 2014. I feel like making the trek to First Ave should be a required annual event for us because, as my wife says, “Todd’s his Best Self at First Avenue.”  She’s right. You basically can’t wipe the smile off my face or stop my singing along during a concert at First Avenue. Let’s delve into reasons why I’m “My Best Self” at First Avenue shall we?

 

Reason 1: The shows that we’ve seen at First Ave have been by bands that rank highly in my personal favorite list.

Reason 2: There’s a lot of nostalgia that comes along standing where Prince once stood in the movie Purple Rain, especially for a Prince uber-fan like me.

Reason 3: The crowds at both shows were predominantly female, making viewing the stage an effortless task for a ridiculously average heighted male like me.

Reason 4: Booze.

My girl Beth ruling the stage.

My girl Beth ruling the stage.

So at this particular concert, a tipsy Todd towered over a sea of singing ladies while witnessing a face melting set by Bully (A band whose Bully EP you may remember was #18 in my Best of 2014 list) and a stellar set by Best Coast (A band whose lead singer, Bethany Cosentino, is my rock and roll girlfriend/crush.) It was an experience that will be hard to top. You have a lot to live up to Future 2016 Concerts.

Favorite/Most Embarrassing Fanboy Moment of 2015

I love going to the small venue shows in Iowa City. It can be a strange experience though. At these concerts, you’ll often see people you may consider rock stars walking around like regular citizens or even worse, selling their own merch!

Take Small Black for instance, I listen to all their albums and watch every one of their music videos or live clips on YouTube. To me, these guys are as famous as Led Zeppelin or Aerosmith. You can’t blame a guy for being a little star-struck when he saunters up to the bar for a beer and rubs elbows with the lead singer of the band he’s about to see right?

This is what I would have liked to have happened after I realized I was belly up to the bar with Small Black frontman Josh Kolenik:

  1. I say something not moronic or cringe-worthy so he would know that I recognized him.
  2. Complement him on his new album and previous works especially the Moon Killer Mixtape.
  3. Buy him a cocktail and have an in-depth discussion about what it’s like to be in an indie rock band in this strange era of the music industry.
  4. Ask him what it was like working with Heems from Das Racist. That guy seems crazy.

What did I do? I pulled off the awkward head knod. Shame…Shame…Shame.Shame-Bell-Lady-From-Game-Thrones

Favorite Fanboy Redemption Moment of 2015

My Small Black Poster- Such a Fanboy

My Small Black Poster- Such a Fanboy

After the Small Black show was over, I grabbed one of the show posters that were tacked up around the Mill and got Josh to sign one while they were packing up their gear. That’s right! They pack up their own shit! If I was a more thoughtful fan I would have offered to carry a few keyboards or a drum set out to the truck for them as a show of gratitude.

And Finally, My Favorite Albums of 2015

  1. Kurt Vile, b’lieve I’m goin down
  2. Small Black, Best Blues
  3. Neon Indian, Vega Intl. Night School
  4. Jamie XX, In Colour
  5. Bully, Feels Like
  6. Nic Hessler, Soft Connections
  7. Tame Impala, Currents
  8. CHVRCHES, Every Open Eye
  9. Best Coast, California Nights
  10. Florence + The Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
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My 2015 Yearbook (will you sign it?)

chris and travis after seeing death grips

JUNE: Chris and Travis survived Death Grips. No small feat.

2015 was my quietest year in terms of blogging since Todd and I started Music or Space Shuttle? in late 2011, but it’s not for lack of outstanding experiences around music. The blogging part of my brain just got really lazy.

But after the holidays ran their course, I looked back at the great music that came out in ’15, and the various photos and videos I shot at concerts big and small, and decided I should package it all together. Even if no one else looks at this, it will serve to remind myself just how much fun it is to stay up late for a weeknight show in Iowa City or drive a few hours to St. Louis for a wonderful night at the Pageant or join up with my Riot crew to make Chicago our home for a few days to do a proper festival.

January 20
Bjork, the band formerly known as Viet Cong, and Sleater-Kinney all decide to drop new music on us. The Bjork album is beautiful; the Viet Cong release is brutal (in a great way); the Sleater-Kinney album didn’t suck as I feared it might and landed on my top 10 of 2015 at #7.

February 10
I did not like Fleet Foxes. At all. But I kinda like what this Father John Misty guy is doing on his own. Yeah. His latest LP, I Love You, Honeybear, held much more than the SiriusXMU staple “Bored in the USA.” “Chateau Lobby #4” and “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me” and “The Ideal Husband” are personal favorites, but really it’s an album you can enjoy front to back (even the electronic song grew on me). By year’s end, I rated it #3 among 2015 releases.

 

sleater kinney in concert

Once they went on hiatus, Sleater-Kinney was one of those “never saw ’em live” bands. Until 2015. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

February 13
You know those lists you make if you’re a nerd? One of those lists is “Bands I Never Got to See, Goddammit” and mine is painful to read. (The Nirvana entry is the worst.) But here’s the thing: in 2015, I got to cross off a couple of names. The first one: Sleater-Kinney, who played a pretty-close-to-dream setlist at the Slowdown (a pretty cool club in Omaha). Janet pounded her kit, Carrie punctuated her riffs with amazing high leg kicks, and Corin’s voice was in good form. To my surprise they played one of my favorite S-K songs (“Oh!”), and the songs that sounded so good on the new album also sounded great live. And “Dig Me Out” was so great.

March 16
Kendrick Lamar drops To Pimp a Butterfly. I immediately liked “Alright,” and also found plenty to like throughout the lenghty LP. Is it OK that I prefer good kid m.A.A.d city, though? Not trying to take a hipster stance here; I just find myself listening to more songs from the previous album when I want to queue up some Kendrick. (Tobias Jesso Jr. put out Goon a day later. Not as good as TPAB, but good all the same.)

March 19(ish)
Jenny Death, the second part of Death Grips’ double album The Powers That B, leaks online. I’m sure I waited until the album was officially released at month’s end to obtain these songs. Anyway, I put Jenny Death at #10 on my top albums of 2015 list.

March 24
Courtney Barnett will be a 2016 entry in the “From the MoSS? Pit” series; Sam, Travis, and our friend Ian from the Riot Fest crew are joining me at First Avenue in April 2016 to see her do her thing. (I swear I’m going to get better about timely posts about concerts.) We will all be enjoying songs from the album she put out on this day, which ended up at #4 on my top albums of 2015 list.

April 2
Mission Creek show #1: Real Estate. I’d seen them the year before at Pitchfork, and the venue (outdoors, summer) and the time of day (late afternoon, sun lazily going down) were perfect for the band’s aesthetic. But they put on a nice nighttime show in the Englert Theatre, as it turns out. Their sound is so clean, so pure. Nice way to open my trifecta of 2015 Mission Creek shows, and it was the lone show of the festival that brought together me, my MoSS? boys Todd and Sam, and our honorary MoSS? brother Travis.

April 3
Mission Creek show #2: Shovels & Rope. This was year 2 of what might be an annual tradition, if Mission Creek keeps up its booking pattern: me and my bestie Sondra taking in the Friday night Englert show. (She went to Sleigh Bells while 8.5 months pregnant…that’s concert cred I don’t think I could attain even if I had the proper lady parts.) The first year it was The Head and the Heart, which we both looked forward to with crazy anticipation. This time around, though, neither of us were all that familiar with S&R (read: I glanced at their bio, listened to a couple of tracks online, figured Sondra would like them, bought the tickets). I think I can speak for the both of us in saying that S&R cleared the high bar set by Head/Heart. Those two are pure joy on stage (and, as we plunged into their discography, on record, too) and clearly enjoy making music together (and human beings, as it was announced that Cary Ann Hearst was pregnant). It might take a reunited Civil Wars to raise the stakes in 2016…

April 5
Mission Creek show #3: Father John Misty with opener King Tuff. OK, so the opening act set off the fire alarm when the singer’s leather jacket met up with the stage pyrotechnics, and yet King Tuff was easily the SECOND-hottest act to grace the Englert stage that night. Josh Tillman has it goin’ on, folks. He pretty much owned the room with his soulful vocals, slinky moves, and damn great songs. Even the cheesy neon backdrop worked. I was comfortably seated about halfway back, which was probably good because his magnetic charm had quite the effect on fans closer to the stage. My ancedotal evidence: one of my former work colleagues ended up burying her face into his shirt. It’s funny, partly because this is totally a Brittany B move, but also because it conjured up imagery of Veronica wiping Jesus’ face, and is it any surprise that a Father John Misty moment would relate to religion somehow? Anyway, a great way to close 2015 Mission Creek; I think I would rate this show as my favorite MC show so far, ever.

May 29
Jamie xx releases In Colour, which, after much internal debate, emerged as my favorite album of 2015. For most of the final third of the year, I had Beach House’s Depression Cherry in the top spot, but in the end, I found myself more satisfied with the front-to-back listening experience In Colour provides. “Girl” and “Seesaw” are my two clear favorites, but there’s not a song on here that I feel like skipping when I put on the album. (Sure, I wouldn’t include the instrumental interludes if I were curating a mixtape, but within the context of the album, they too are fantastic.) I am aware that Jamie xx has been involved in my album of the year three times in the past seven (2009 and 2012 with the xx), and what can I say? They are absolutely genius, and Jamie perhaps stepped up as the mastermind behind the magic with this solo-branded effort.

 

tame impala in concert

Tame Impala was fuckin groovy live. Another killer show at the Pageant in STL. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

June 1
Tame Impala turns the Pageant in St. Louis into the coolest kaleidoscope ever. We (Travis and I) had nice seats in the center balcony, and we enjoyed some good pizza and beer across the street before the show. Every time I go to the Pageant, I leave wishing such a venue existed in Iowa City (its capacity of 2300 surpasses the Englert’s 725, and the Pageant sound is immaculate in my experiences) and, more importantly, that such a venue could receive proper support in Iowa City. Would 2,000 people show up for Tame Impala in Iowa City, especially if the show weren’t scheduled during the week of Mission Creek?

But this isn’t about the fact that I often have to drive more than 100 miles, sometimes 250, to see the bands I like. It’s about Tame Impala previewing tunes from its forthcoming third album and playing just about every one of my favorite songs from the first two LPs. Travis and I did have to snicker a bit about how seemingly all of Kevin’s lyrics reflect his inability to talk to/score with chicks, which we find highly suspect.

June 23
Kacey Musgraves releases Pageant Material, which lands at #5 on my best of 2015 list, and I nearly flipped a coin between this and Courtney Barnett for #4. The title track lyrics are arguably the most entertaining I heard all year. “Somebody to Love” is a very moving tune that sheds any cowgirl texture and replaces the vibe with a cool drone. And she puts on a hell of a show, which I got to experience later in 2015.

 

June 28
TRIPLE SIX FIVE FORKED TONGUE GET GET GET GET GOT GOT GOT GOT BORN WITH A SKI MASK ON MY FACE I’VE SEEN FOOTAGE I STAY NOIDED HUSTLE BONES COMING OUT MY MOUTH GRAB YOUR FUCKIN CHAIN AND DRAG YOU THROUGH THE PARKING LANE WHILE EVERYONE’S LIKE NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO VISITED TESLA’S GRAVE FOR THE NINTH TIME TODAY SPREAD EAGLE CROSS THE BLAWWWWWWCK UP MY SLEEVES UP MY SLEEVES I BREAK MIRRORS WITH MY FACE IN THE UNITED STATES HALF COCKED FULL TILT RABID DOG FILTH ARRRRGH KNOW WHAT I’M SAYING (FUCK IT) ANKLES TIED TO CINDER BLOCKS AYE AYE I’M BOUNCING IT GOES IT GOES IT GOES IT GOES GUILLOTIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE YUH! YOU’RE FIT TO LEARN ABOUT THE MEANING OF A BEATDOWN MADNESS CHAOS IN THE BRAIN I WANT IT I NEED IT NEED IT TO MAKE ME FEEL HEATED

Yep. Death Grips showed up for a concert and atoned for any previous misses we’d experienced over the past three years. I’m usually too old to get in the mix these days, but yours truly turned back the years (and wore flip-flops like a dumbass…thankfully all my toes survived). Travis also attempted to bring beers into the chaos and I ended up wearing about 89% of my beverage…but it’s all good. Need to do it again soon.

July 16
Wilco puts out a free album that I download and never listen to, not once.

August 28
Beach House releases Depression Cherry, which nearly crossed the finish line in the lead but ended up settling for my #2 album of 2015. All the same, this album and the band’s impeccable back catalog did entice me into an all-nighter trip to STL to see the band live…more on that later.

 

big guitarist

I thought Prop Joe was back from the grave when I attended the Iowa Soul Festival. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

That night, I attend the Iowa Soul Festival in Iowa City to see Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. It’s raining pretty hard. I saw one act with a very large and very talented guitarist, and I heard the Dap-Kings do about five minutes before lightning decided to take over the Iowa skies. No Sharon Jones show for me. Drove home in torrential downpour. Can’t win ’em all.

 

kacey musgraves in concert

Usually I can’t take my real camera to concerts. River Roots Live…not a problem. I love this shot, almost as much as I like Kacey’s music. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

August 29
Family concert night! My better half and our son pile into our friends’ truck and hit River Roots Live over in the Quad Cities. It was $10 to get in (and I think the kids were free?), and Kacey Musgraves was headlining. BBQ stands lined the walkway, and our friends’ two children joined our boy in bouncy house tomfoolery before we all snagged good seats to see Kacey. She was on point, running through the lion’s share of the songs on her two albums. The beer prices actually weren’t bad compared with Riot Fest or Lolla, and the QC has a decent local craft beer selection that was available here. I probably exploited the relatively cheap beer prices to the point of being a bit off-kilter. The evidence of such inebriation existed in a video file (since erased, too bad) where you could clearly hear me “singing” along. Oh god, it was bad. And if you’ve ever seen me participate in karaoke night at the Red Lion in Cedar Rapids, you would know I have no shame.

But I did feel like my photo game was still on point. A photo similar to the one you see above currently sits framed in my basement, awaiting my eventual arrangement of a pop culture-themed room. Seeing as I’m putting out a 2015-in-review piece nearly a month into 2016, you can imagine how soon that room will come together.

 

four dorks at riot fest

My Riot Fest crew. We’re doing it again in 2016. Counting the days. (Photo by Ian Hall)

September 11-13
RIOT FEST. I loved the 2014 version, primarily because I was so excited to see one of the big bands each of the three nights (Slayer, Descendents, The Cure). But this year I found myself looking at three days packed with intriguing artists, rather than playing the waiting game until the headliners finally took the stage. The new location was a vast improvement on the 2014 park. Plus, our crew ended up renting a place that had a rooftop patio, a grill, and a hot tub. Much better than your typical hotel room, especially with six humans sharing the quarters.

DAY ONE: We start with Death, the stars of recent documentary A Band Called Death. These guys still got it, as do the next group we caught, Fishbone. I had seen them twenty-some years before, but I think the intensity level is the same. Angelo Moore was in fine form. Caught Living Colour from a distance, made sure to catch the obligatory “Cult of Personality” before moving along. I split off from the group at some point to catch Anthrax rather than seeing Faith No More. Mistake? If you ask Ian and Travis, yeah, as FNM topped their festival highlights. Instead, I got “Caught in a Mosh”…

IMG_0548While the rest of the crew caught Motorhead (R.I.P. Lemmy), I went over to see Ice Cube, who was reuniting with Ren and Yella to do some classic Straight Outta Compton tunes as part of his set. It was OK, I guess. They cut the songs short to eliminate Eazy’s verses rather than have someone else stand in. I think my favorite part of the set was getting this watercolor-looking photo of a dude’s mohawk standing tall among the smoke wafting through the crowd.

We tried in vain to get a cab. At one point we were outside a prison, so we asked one of the guards entering the facility if she knew if cabs trafficked this area. Her response: “You don’t want to get a cab around here.” Um, Uber? Can you come get us? (And within a minute, our Uber arrived. Nice.) The hot tub felt awesome.

DAY TWO: Was pleased to discover FIDLAR at this fest. They were a lot of fun, especially the part where one of the band members crowd-surfed and then upon returning to the stage was pretty much tackled by security, much to the puzzlement/anger of his bandmates. To be fair he did look like your average Riot Fest whippersnapper.

Travis and I checked out Swervedriver, although it was a tad depressing when we got there, like two minutes before the band was scheduled to go on, and yet we were able to get within a row of the front rail. I did think they were an odd booking compared with the rest of the bill, and it was an early set, but come on. Thankfully the place filled up to a respectable level once they started playing. I was happy with the music, anyway.

the damned

Captain Sensible (left) looking good as one would expect. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

Ran over to the other side of the park to catch Captain Sensible and the Damned. I kinda get Swervedriver being forced to play an early slot, but I really thought the Damned at Riot Fest would land a later, more high-profile spot. But oh well, I found myself a good spot on Sensible’s side of the stage and pogo’d around for an hour. Neat neat neat!

Then it was back to the other side again to meet up with the crew at Thurston Moore Band. It was cool to see Deb Googe play live again (not nearly as magical as the My Bloody Valentine show, but still…) as well as Thurston’s apparent hetero life partner Steve Shelley. Thurston got himself off for 45 minutes to mixed reviews (in other words, Rog hated it, Ian loved it, Trav liked/loved it, I was good with it).

fans young and old at Echo and the Bunnymen

Fans young and old dig Echo and the Bunnymen. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

After getting a bite to eat, we all watched Echo and the Bunnymen, which was fun for the whole family. Then Roger and I camped out on the Rancid side of the park, and got up in the mix when it was time for …And Out Come the Wolves, played in its entirety. It was a lot of fun to shout along with “Olympia, WA” and “Timebomb” and “Alleyways and Avenues” and “Ruby Soho” and “Roots Radical” and all the rest. And wouldn’t you know it, I once again ended up running into the Brothers Warden at a concert/festival. They also enjoyed the glory that is a Rancid pit.

I watched Iggy Pop and his hot dog skin from a distance to close out the night.

DAY THREE: After all the joking we’d done about bees at Riot Fest this year and the year previous, it finally came back to bite me…well, sting me, I guess. I caught a jab in the back during the De La Soul set. Pos, Dove, and Mace had us moving like crazy, which stirred up the bees, and one flew up the back of my shirt and couldn’t get out, so STING. I put on a brave face and didn’t complain about it (much).

Roger and I endured a horrible set by Kongos in order to sprint to the gate when the Kongos crowd dispersed. We had different motives, to a degree: I desperately wanted to be up close and personal for Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Rog was dead-set on front-and-center action for THE D (which I was excited about as well). We got up to the second row of people, and then a guy asked who was here to see Rod y Gab, and when I shouted “ME” he traded me his spot on the rail. And after some Kongos fans got picks and setlists or whatever, they vacated the rail and Rog was in. We were dead-fucking-center, and both Rod y Gab and THE D delivered. So worth sitting through that Kongos crap. We did pass the time high-fiving the crowd surfers who had been pulled over the rail one stage over during the Andrew WK set. I found a new way to amuse myself: every time I extended my hand for the five, I also yelled out, “YOU DID IT!” About half the time the person on the other end of the handslap was like “FUCK YEAH I DID DO IT!”; about 30 percent of the time, the person was all like “Um, thanks, wait, what?”; the other 20 percent were pretty much all “FUCK YOU, DICK.” It was fun.

rodrigo y gabriela

Two thrashers on acoustic guitars easily won over the Riot Fest crowd. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

If you’re not familiar with this duo, but you watched Breaking Bad, then you sorta know their music. Go listen to “Diablo Rojo” or “Vikingman” or their cover of Metallica’s “Orion”…or better yet, just go to YouTube and search for some of their live work. They like to cover thrash metal in their flamenco-inspired way, and they did just that at Riot Fest, with a medley of Metallica and Megadeth tunes. At one point, as Rodrigo took up a stance to give his strings a good workout, I yelled from the front row, “YEAH RODRRRRRRRRIGO!” and he looked down at me, gave me a slight nod, turned back to his fretboard, and went to town. I AM A FUCKING NERD BUT SO WHAT RODRIGO GAVE ME THE NOD!!!!!

tenacious d

KG and Jack in all their glory. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

So yeah, we had prime spots for Tenacious D, right next to a guy who pulled a Chris move (me in the third person, yep) and had been on the rail for eight hours waiting for The D. (I did that for the Cure in 2014.) It was a lot of fun, kicking off with “Tribute” and getting most every song you’d expect to hear, I suppose, although I really could have used a rendition of “Lee” somewhere in the set. And I had another interactive moment a la Rodrigo, this time with Jables. Song gets over, we’re all clapping, Jack looks down at the crowd, locks eyes with me. Now with Rodrigo, it all went smoothly, but I initiated that one. This time, I was put on the spot. And like a deer in headlights, I got run over.

I gave him a dorky smile and a big ol’ thumbs-up.

And he furrowed his brow, shrugged, made a face that you can only interpret as “um, okaaaayyyy,” and our moment ended. #isuck

tenacious d guitar pick

The pick of destiny, right?

But after The D played their final note and left the stage, one of the security staff, with whom we made conversation throughout the afternoon/evening between sets, scooped up a guitar pick KG had attempted to throw the crowd. The fans were losing their shit trying to get it, but he told the adoring masses, “Nope, I gotta hook up my guy right here,” and handed me the pick. He must have recognized me from Lolla 2013 and Riot 2014; I honestly did recognize him. The guy who had waited eight hours on the rail was choking back tears of agony when he saw the pick enter my grasp; it must have KILLED him to see me then give it to Rog, the true D disciple.

Then the Prodigy played to close out the night and we all went back to the pad and the next day we returned to our miserable lives. Although my co-workers couldn’t help but notice the post-Riot Fest mood enhancement, at least for a few days. I could tell they liked my stories a lot; I should be sure to nag them to read Music or Space Shuttle?!

September 25
Chvrches releases Every Open Eye, a solid follow-up to the beloved The Bones of What You Believe. Didn’t instantly grab me the way the debut did, but it was a “grower” that settled in at #8 on my best of 2015 list. I would go on to see them twice in the span of 15 days…with mixed results.

But the bigger news from this day…

ride performing live

Another “I’ll never see this band” band crossed off the list. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

RIDE. Todd and I trekked over to Chicago to see the shoegazers do their thing at the Riviera. To actually hear songs from Nowhere was a dream come true. “Seagull” might be the best live song I’ve ever experienced. So intense. Mixed in some great tracks from Going Blank Again and Chelsea Girl, along with the one really cool song from Tarantula. Blissfully shoegazed, Todd and I retreated to the ‘burbs and found a bar with like a zillion beers from which to choose, along with the 10+% Not Your Father’s Root Beer (aka Headache in a Goblet). Kinda wish I’d stayed in Chicago another night, as Alcest played on the 26th, but alas, it was not to be. But I did have another concert to attend this weekend…

 

beach house in concert

Beach House. The visuals are as dreamy as the music. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

September 27
I shared a FB photo of Beach House that had been posted by the Pageant, one of those deals where “share this and you’ll be entered into a drawing for 2 free tix!!!!1” which, of course, I didn’t win. But Sam saw my share and was like, “Hey, I know the show’s on a Sunday night and it’s all the way down in STL and you have to work at 8 am on Monday morning but if you really want to go I’d probably be down with that.”

Red Bull was purchased. I drove to Sam’s place. Sam drove us to STL. We hit the pizza/beer place across the street. Jessica Pratt provided some decent opener tunes. And then Beach House rewarded our all-nighter trip with that special band of intense chill that I love so much. Kinda cool that they opened with a couple of tunes from their first album, including “Master of None,” which the Weeknd used masterfully on his first mixtape. And of course we got “Sparks” and “Levitation” and “Space Song” from Depression Cherry and “Wild” and “Wishes” from Bloom and it was all pretty much beautiful. Then Sam drove us home, with me catching ZZZZZs from probably about Canton until Iowa City. Then I drove home, got another three hours of sleep, and went to work. (And probably got home from work that evening and went straight to bed.)

October 2
Deafheaven releases New Bermuda. When they released Sunbather, I thought it was pretty cool from a musical standpoint but wasn’t big on the vocals. But then I saw them at Pitchfork in 2014, and was converted. I looked forward to the new album, and was not disappointed. I put it at #9 on my best of 2015 list.

 

October 9
Usually the University of Iowa Homecoming concert elicits yawns. Not this year. Chvrches played a free show on the Pentacrest. Thankfully the Soul Festival weather didn’t ruin this Pentacrest show. Will and I had tickets to see the band two weeks later in Kansas City, but we decided to hit this show as well, seeing as it was free and all. (Glad we did, as you’ll read in the October 23 entry.) The new songs sounded great, and they played a good deal of the first album, saving “The Mother We Share” for the end. Will was fading fast toward the end of the show, but that song perked him up. I hope to see them at an indoor venue not named the Uptown Theatre in Kansas City.

bully in concert

Bully pretty much owned the Mill. (Photo by Todd Larsen)

October 10
Bully at the Mill. I know it was Homecoming weekend at the UI and there were a lot of stupid things happening in town that night, but there should have been WAAAAAAY more people at the Bully concert. Thankfully me, Todd, and Jess weren’t among the poor saps who missed out on a great rock show. I must admit I don’t listen to the Bully album all that often but man did those songs work in a live setting.

One of the opening bands was called Heat. Not The Heat. Not El Heat, like what the Miami Heat put on their jerseys to celebrate Latino culture. Just…Heat. Like the De Niro/Pacino(/Kilmer?) movie. And that’s all I have to say about that.

October 16
Neon Indian releases VEGA INTL. Night School. Worth the four-year wait? Well, it was really good. “The Glitzy Hive” should have been the biggest song in the world, and tunes such as “Smut!” and “Slumlord” were top-notch. I’ve got this at #6 on the best of 2015 list.

 

chvrches in kansas city

Chvrches in Kansas City’s Uptown Theatre: It looks way better than it sounded. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

October 23
Will and I go see Chvrches for the second time in two weeks. It might seem funny that a band like Chvrches could possibly be too loud, but it was unbearable. And of course I forgot to bring earplugs for Will, so imagine the agony he was enduring if I thought it was too loud. We stuck it out for maybe five or six songs before we left. Even out in the parking lot across the street, we were physically assaulted by the sound. You could feel the vibrations. This theatre was maybe a little bigger than the Englert; no need to have the shit that loud. If nothing else, Will did get a sweet poster from the merch table. I told him to consider it a souvenir from the Iowa City show, and that we’d never speak of the Uptown Theatre ever again. On the plus side, the family enjoyed the rest of the weekend in KC, hitting the Plaza, eating Jack Stack BBQ, and taking in Science City at Union Station.

small black in concert

Small Black returns to Iowa City as headliners. Deserved headliners, I should say. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

November 3
Small Black returns to Iowa City, playing a show at the Mill. Last time they were in town, they opened for Washed Out; this time, they topped the bill. They did quite well as the headliner. The most recent album, Best Blues, is pretty great, right up there with Limits of Desire, in my book. We even had a chance to chat briefly with Josh Kolenik. Cool guy. Hope he experiences bigger and better things in the future.

 

the bright light social hour in concert

The Bright Light Social Hour provided yet another reason to hang out at the Mill during the autumn of 2015. (Photo by Christopher Clair)

November 15
The Bright Light Social Hour met arguably their biggest fan (Ian, from my Riot Fest crew) in Iowa City on this night. I’m sure they made a few more diehard fans with their scorching performance.

 

st louis symphony

St. Louis Symphony prepares to perform works by John Williams. It was really cool.

December 12
Six days before Episode VII: The Force Awakens opened, I had the pleasure of watching/hearing the St. Louis Symphony perform selected works by John Williams. So we got to hear some tunes from Jurassic Park, Home Alone, the Harry Potter films, Catch Me If You Can, The Cowboys, Superman, and, of course, the Star Wars saga. Probably the coolest moment for me, aside from the main Star Wars theme, was a song from Episode I: The Phantom Menace, believe it or not. It was from the Darth Maul/Qui-Gon Jinn/Obi-Wan Kenobi lightsaber duel scene; the symphony was joined by a choir that provided the vocal portion of the score. It was incredible, that song, the whole concert. The conductor was an absolute showman; his between-song banter was outstanding. An interesting way to close out my 2015 live music calendar.

And The Force Awakens lived up to, nay, surpassed my expectations. Can’t wait to see Episode VIII, but that’s something like 18 months away! Guess I’ll have to go see some more concerts in the meantime. Already got tickets for Courtney Barnett, The Cure, and Riot Fest 2016…

To recap, my top 10 albums of 2015:

Jamie xx, In Colour

Beach House, Depression Cherry

Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear

Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think…

Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material

Neon Indian, VEGA INTL. Night School

Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love

Chvrches, Every Open Eye

Deafheaven, New Bermuda

Death Grips, Jenny Death

MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: June 2014

june 14

Side A: Chris’ Picks

Side B: Todd’s Picks

Best albums of 2013: No. 11-20 (with playlist!)

The Music or Space Shuttle? braintrust rolls out its top albums of 2013 this week! Today we start with our individual picks for #11-20, with playlists sampling each group of 10. We’ll reveal our top 10 throughout the week, culminating with our top pick on Friday, Dec. 20.

Todd’s #11-20

20. Ejecta, Dominae

19. Lily and Madeleine, The Weight of the Globe

18. Savages, Silence Yourself

17. Thee Oh Sees, Floating Coffin

16. Free Time, Free Time

15. Ducktails, The Flower Lane

14. Swearin’, Surfin’ Strange

13. Deap Vally, Sistronix

12. Small Black, Limits of Desire

11. Bleached, Ride Your Heart

Chris’ #11-20

20. Best Coast, Fade Away

19. Ashley Monroe, Like a Rose

18. The Field, Cupid’s Head

17. Four Tet, Beautiful Rewind

16. Thee Oh Sees, Floating Coffin

15. Cut Copy, Free Your Mind

14. Haim, Days Are Gone

13. Veronica Falls, Waiting for Something to Happen

12. Mikal Cronin, MCII

11. Weekend, Jinx

MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: July 2013

108

Side A : Todd’s Picks

Side B : Chris’ Picks

MoSS? Presents: The Best 13 Albums of 2013…So Far

2013

At the beginning of June, many music sites started posting their “Best Albums of the Year So Far” lists. They considered June 1st the perfect time do so. It being the halfway point of the year and all. Well, we here at Music or Space Shuttle? actually own and know how to operate a calendar. Bear with me here, I’m going to do some math. You see, there are actually twelve months in a year. The halfway point would be after six months. That would make the the end of June or early July the perfect time for a “Best Albums of the Year So Far” list. Enough snark. Let’s get to the list!

deap-vally-get-deap-epDeap Vally, Get Deap! EPGet Deap! is probably my biggest guilty pleasure record this year. The rock duo’s EP is four songs of dirtyDeap+Vally+DeapVally guitars,  screaming vocals and questionable feminine hygiene. Don’t get me wrong, I’m crushing hard on the both of them. They’re like a cross between PJ Harvey, The White Stripes and Led Zeppelin. Hoping they come to the area for a live show soon. I may just run away with them. –T

Key Track(s) – “Lies”, “Gonna Make My Own Money”


dtDucktails, The Flower Lane – This one surprised me. I was never a big fan of Ducktails in the past. The last LP was fine but never really kept my interest. Pitchfork streamed this record for free last prior to the release and I couldn’t stop playing it. The mastermind behind Ducktails is the guitarist for Real Estate so there are some similarities between the two but this record stands up well on its own. Chris’ former pretend girlfriend Madeline Follin from Cults even makes a cameo on my favorite song from the record “Sedan Magic.” They were in Iowa City in April and put on a great show. Chris wrote about it here. -T

Key Track(s) – “Sedan Magic”


m b v album cover

My Bloody Valentine, m b v – What was almost as unbelievable as the release of a new My Bloody Valentine album is the fact that somehow it was not an absolute letdown. In fact, it was brilliant. The first three songs sound like a natural continuation of LovelessThe middle third reminds me of stuff the band released on the various EPs from 1988 to 1991. And the final third showed where the band could go if it damn well wanted: jungle beats, devilish swirls of guitar, soaring synths. A longer examination of an instant classic can be found in a post from February. –C

Key track(s) – “in another way,” “wonder 2”


2012PalmaViolets180Press171212

Palma Violets, 180 – When I hear hype surrounding bands like Arctic Monkeys or the Vaccines or the like, I give their records a spin and often come away disappointed. This isn’t at all what I thought I would hear! Yet when I listened to a band that lacked the “next big thing” tag, one called Palma Violets, lo and behold, there it was! 180 is the album I’d always thought I’d hear from the buzz bands. “No-frills” rock, but punctuated with a charismatic singer and nice use of keyboard among the garage rock sounds. I’m starting to rethink my declaration of seeing Wild Belle instead of these guys at Lolla. –C

Key track: “Best of Friends”


rhye

Rhye, Woman – Reminiscent of The Weeknd in a couple of ways: one, is the singer a guy or a girl (answer: guy); two, regardless, this is really freakin’ great. Slinky, sexy, smooth as silk. “The Fall” is a vocal treasure, while “Last Dance” parts the smoky haze of the record for a few minutes to allow for moments of upbeat groove. While the vocals are natural to pair with slow and low tempo, it’s the juxtaposition of the emotion against the more up-tempo instrumentation that keep this collection from coming off as one-note. The comparisons to Sade and the xx are fair both in terms of similar sound and similar quality. –C

Key track: “The Fall”


Savages-Silence-Yourself

Savages, Silence Yourself – The savage (ahem) rumble of the drums and bass is what does it for me when it comes to Savages’ music. Of course, that alone isn’t going to get the job done, and thankfully the vocals and guitar work provide sharp contrast. That’s not to say the drumming is some sort of sloppy, tribal, Meg White-kind of stuff (which I like as well, in that context); Fay Milton snaps off precise snare hits and provides a tight, fast backbone. Anyway, this is what you get when you get four people dedicated to art but aren’t afraid to also make tight, listenable songs in the process. –C

Key track(s): “Shut Up”


srSigur Ros, Kveikur – I love that one of the coolest, heaviest records of the year was created by three dudes from Iceland, including the pixie-like Jonsi. It’s not like the band had to reinvent itself to sound this way; songs from the early albums have been intense, bordering on metallic at times. Even on the relatively chill album ( ), they showed they could deconstruct into harsh madness (“Untitled 8,” anyone?). As one reviewer put it, perhaps Georg (bass) and Orri (drums) were sick of never getting any credit, and just went buck wild on all our asses. It worked. –C

Key track: “Brennisteinn”


umojacketv1Small Black, Limits of Desire – I had big hopes for this album after loving their first full length album New Chain and subsequent Moon Killer MixTape. After the first listen, I was less than impressed. Maybe it was their bizarre album cover. Maybe it was because the chillwave vibes of the first album were mostly gone and what was left was mainly a synth pop record. It took a few additional listens for me to remember, “I f’ing love synth pop records!” -T

Key Track(s) – “No Stranger”


tsTegan and Sara, Heartthrob – This one is a shoo-in for a #2 spot on my overall Best of 2013 list since their previous two records had that title in 2007 and 2009. This time the ladies changed up their style a bit and released this synth-pop gem. It took me a few listens to warm up to the new direction. At first, it seemed like an attempt to cash in with a Katy Perry-ish type record. Hidden behind those up-beat hooks they have some seriously dark and painful lyrics. In a way it is a perfect pop record but with some depth behind it. -T

Key Track(s) – “How Come You Don’t Want Me”, “Closer”


Thee-Oh-Sees-Floating-Coffin

Thee Oh Sees, Floating Coffin – Let’s say Tame Impala had a love-child band with one of those garage rock groups you might find on an old Lenny Kaye Nuggets compilation. Sounds as dreamy as chocolate and peanut butter coming together, no? Thee Oh Sees pretty much sounds like the spawn of the aforementioned scenario, doing its thing at an incredibly prolific rate, to boot. Floating Coffin seems like their fourth album in three years–probably because it is!–and each output continues to satisfy. Not only is there energy galore in the tunes, you won’t find a much better use of the vocal weapons “Whoooo!” and “Owwwwww!” anywhere. –C

Key track: “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster”


torres

Torres, Torres – I know I’m supposed to use these single paragraphs to sing the praises of our favorite albums thus far in 2013, but with Torres, I’m having trouble pinpointing. Perhaps it’s the way her voice melts throughout the opening song, “Mother Earth, Father God.” Or the lyric “Honey, while you were ashing in your coffee, I was thinking about telling you what you’ve done to me” on “Honey.” Or how there is a sinister element to her songs. Or how the chorus just falls out of her mouth so wonderfully on “Jealousy and I.” Or that someone named Mackenzie Scott decided, “You know what? I’m going to go by the moniker ‘Torres’!” (shrug) Oh, look what I just did. I guess it’s all pretty great. –C

Key track: “Jealousy and I”


vw

Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City – This might be the year that Vampire Weekend finally drops its bridesmaid status on my end-of-year lists and moves up one slot to the top. (Finished second to Portishead in 2008; Crystal Castles in 2010.) The tracks that came out early (“Unbelievers,” “Diane Young,” and “Step”) are fantastic (“Step” in particular), and songs on the second half of the album (“Worship You,” “Finger Back,” “Hudson,” and even the quirky “Ya Hey”) get better with each listen. The esoteric lyrics are still here, but the most moving words come on “Step,” where Ezra declares “I feel it in my bones” and “I can’t do it alone.” –C

Key track(s): Pretty much all of them


waxahatchee-cerulean-saltWaxahatchee, Cerulean Salt – Waxahatchee is the solo project of songwriter Katie Crutchfield and is for the most part very simple. One vocal, one guitar and occasionally some drums. The songs ebb and flow from soft acoustic to droning distortion filled guitars and her vocals float effortlessly overtop all of them. I started listening to Cerulean Salt a few weeks after the new My Bloody Valentine record was released. Like anything else that was released post   m b v,  I assumed I would be over it quickly and back listening to the masters of shoegaze. I was wrong. I was stuck on this album almost as long as I was on m b v. It was tough picking a “key track” for this one because this is one of those rare records that I find all the songs to be equally as good. Take a listen to “Peace and Quiet” below and judge for yourself. -T

Key Track(s) – “Peace and Quiet”

MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: March 2013

112

Side A : Todd’s Picks

1. Palma Violets, “Best of Friends”

2. Waxahatchee, “Peace and Quite”

3. Parquet Courts, “Stoned and Starving”

4. Foxygen, “Shuggie”

5. Small Black, “Free at Dawn”

Side B : Chris’ Picks

1. Alpine, “Gasoline”

2. Cotillon, “Talk to Her”

3. Fantasmas, “No Soul”

4. Kate Boy, “In Your Eyes”

5. Vampire Weekend, “Step”

MoSS? Presents… Albums to Watch for in 2013

Albums 2013

Seems like every website is putting together a guide for upcoming album releases in 2013. Why should MoSS? be any different? We aren’t going to bore you with an endless list of shitty albums coming out this year. Instead, we are just going to share a few of our most anticipated albums.

Todd’s Most Anticipated Albums of 2013

January is a big month for me because four albums I’ve been not so patiently waiting for are being released.

Free Energy, Lovesign [Free People]. This one’s a real guilty pleasure for me. The songs can be sort of cheesy but they are catchy as hell and these guys don’t try to be anything but straight up rock and roll.

Bleeding Rainbow, Yeah Right [Kanine]. The band formerly known as Reading Rainbow.  I guess if you name your band after a beloved PBS children’s show, you can expect lawyers to come knocking at some point. Anyway, they are back with their 2nd LP. It was supposed to be released in October 2012 but was pushed back. I am hoping the delay wasn’t because the record sucks.

Local Natives, Hummingbird [Frenchkiss/Infectious]. Another group hoping to avoid a sophomore slump. I’ve heard two songs from it and both are pretty good. If the rest of the album is as good, then they should have a record of the year contender on their hands.

Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob [Warner]. I really loved the last two Tegan and Sara albums. The ladies released a single “Closer” from Heartthrob last fall and they revealed a much more dance/pop oriented sound. At first I hated it. Eventually, as my family (and its placement in my Top 10 Songs of 2012) can tell you , I wore that MP3 out.

There are a few albums I’m excited about being released this spring. The album I am most anxious for is…

Youth Lagoon, Wondrous Bughouse [Fat Possum]. I missed the boat way back in 2011. Youth Lagoon’s first LP, The Year of Hibernation, came across my desk at MoSS? HQ but I ignored it. Since then, I have listened to that record more often than several of my Top 10 of 2011 selections. Maybe this one will make the 2013 Top 10.

Other releases I’m hoping for…

Phoenix, TBA [Glassnote] 

Neon Indian, TBA [Mexican Summer]

I Break Horses, TBA [Bella Union]

Small Black, TBA [Jagjaguwar]

Release I am always hoping for but will probably never happen…

Pixies, TBA [4AD]

Chris’ Most Anticipated Albums of 2013

I don’t know why I am buying into Kevin Shields’ promises anymore, but supposedly we are getting a new My Bloody Valentine album sometime soon. Of course, Shields said it would be out before calendar year 2012 concluded. And he’s said numerous times before that something would soon follow up the 1991 masterpiece Loveless. Yep, the 1991 album. But there seems to be some concrete talk this time. Bassist Debbie Googe spoke about the album, even though she made it sound as though Kevin is channeling his inner Billy Corgan and handling a lot of the instrumentation himself. And one of these times it has to be the real thing, right? So I’ve got this to look forward to…possibly all year long (and beyond).

Also:

Toro y Moi, Anything in Return (January 22). I really liked Causers of This but was slightly disappointed by the 2011 release Underneath the Pine. I’m hoping for a return to greatness with Anything in Return.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, II (February 5). I loved UMO’s first album in 2011; here’s hoping album No. 2 is even better. Led Zeppelin and Crystal Castles set the bar pretty high for albums titled II, though (as did Chicago, for that matter).

Iceage, You’re Nothing (February 19). Another band that released a wonderful, economic debut in 2011. Frankly, if Iceage simply releases another 12-song, 24-minute blast of dark punk, I’ll be satisfied.

Junip, TBA (April 23). Jose Gonzalez never fails to deliver.

The Weeknd, TBA (?????). If you believe his Twitter feed, Abel is dropping a new album in 2013. I’m still a huge fan of House of Balloons and found the other two parts of Trilogy to be interesting at worst and quite excellent at times, so I’m in on more Weeknd.

Also, without comment:

The Joy Formidable, Wolf’s Law (January 22)

Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob (January 29)

Sally Shapiro, Somewhere Else (February 26)

Rhye, Woman (March 5)

Marnie Stern, The Chronicles of Marnia (March 19)

Best Music of 2011: #4

Todd: Small Black, Moon Killer

What a surprise this record was. Not the typical chillwave record I was expecting. They brought in Heems from Das Racist and used a variety of samples to create this unique, free release. Check out the title track.

 

Washed Out, Within and WithoutChris: Washed Out, Within and Without

Amazing growth from the Life of Leisure EP to this full-length. Chillwave might be a lazy label or an overgrown neighborhood in the music world, but Washed Out embodies everything right about it. Listen to “Amor Fati,” one of several standout tracks on this release. (And Washed Out: Come to Iowa City! Mission Creek!)