Posts filed under ‘Bands We Like’

JudyJams’ Top Album Picks for 2011

I decided to forgo my picks for Nov/Dec since this close to the end of the year, online music coverage is basically a race to the finish line for top 10 lists. I’ve spent the past few weeks revisiting my favorite albums, many of which I have highlighted in my picks throughout the year. Here is what I came up with, and I apologize for going a little overboard in the descriptions of the Top 5:

1. Washed OutWithin and Without
(Image via SubPop.com)
This record received so much gushing press before its release that I almost didn’t bother listening. I’m so glad that I didn’t trust my instincts. Washed Out’s debut is a well-balanced, perfectly graceful album that I want to listen to over and over again. In the coldest months of January, I’ll be grateful to have such relaxing, summer songs on my iPod as I trudge through the snow.
2. Bon Iver– S/T

Image via minnesota.publicradio.org

This man can really do no wrong in my eyes (perhaps the last song on this album was WAY too ‘80’s for me, but I can overlook it). It was thought that nothing could satisfy fans after such a powerful debut like For Emma…, but the self-titled follow-up really hit the mark. It was a slow burn for me, but it really hit home after I saw him live over the summer. I love when artists mix things up a little bit from album to album, and I see Justin Vernon doing that for the rest of his career.

3. Toro Y MoiUnderneath the Pine

Image via Stereogum.com

Toro Y Moi’s sophomore album is exactly the type of music that I needed when it came out: fun, quirky, and a good time every time. Each time I listen, I discover another song that I love. His mix of dancey, disco-influenced songs combined with smooth electro pop beats is expertly constructed.
4. SBTRKT-S/T
(Image via Sbtrkt.com)
An eclectic mix of a record that pairs the British DJ’s beats perfectly with a range of vocalists, including most notably Little Dragon‘s Yukimi Nagano on the song “Wildfire.” To me, this is one of the successful DJ/electronic/vocal combo albums of the year, even though SBTRKT is sure to be overshadowed by the likes of James Blake and Burial.

5. Wye OakCivilian

Image via Tumblr.com

After hearing so much about this band, I had to hang my head in shame when I discovered how far behind I was. Civilian was one of the best indie-rock records I have heard all year. It is an album on which literally EVERY song is good. The dual male/female vocalist pairing, with a heavy emphasis on dark harmonies, hits all the right notes for me.

6. Zola JesusConatus

Image via Wikipedia.org

After teasing us with a dark and wonderful EP last year showcasing her beautiful (classically trained) voice, Zola Jesus finally released her full length and I haven’t stopped listening since.

7. tUnE-yArDs whokill

Image via Amazon.com

Merrill Garbus is my hero, and “Bizness” is one of the best songs of the year, hands down.

8. The AntlersBurst Apart

Image via Amazon.com

A very successful sophomore effort that made me go back and reconsider the debut.

9. Wild Flag– S/T

Image via Wikipedia.org

These ladies rule my world. Nothing will ever replace Sleater-Kinney, but this record comes pretty damn close.

10. Peaking Lights936

Image via Gorilla Vs Bear.net

This was my “ignore-everyone-on-the -subway-and-enjoy-beautiful-music” record. It worked out very nicely.

(Honorable mentions after the jump) (more…)

December 6, 2011 at 4:47 pm Leave a comment

JudyJams Oct 2011 Picks: Edie Sedgwick, Future Islands, Dum Dum Girls, Twin Sister

Fall is in full swing on the East Coast, and although it has been a schizophrenic season (it’s about to snow here!), we’re happy to be putting on our sweaters and drinking hot chocolate. What I always enjoy about Fall the most, apart from the over-use of pumpkin in every food item, is the downpour of new releases:

1. Edie SedgewickLove Gets Lovelier Every Day

Image via Dischord.com

Seeing this in my inbox filled me with the kind of happiness that only records from Dischord can offer. I was late in the game to discovering this band, and never really got into DC staple El Guapo (lead singer Justin Moyer’s other, more well-known Dischord band). To tell you the truth, I found the whole “cross-dressing as Edie Sedgwick on stage” thing rather bizarre. Bu the music is so good. It just doesn’t matter. If you’re a big Dischord fan like me, and miss Q & Not U terribly, this is not to be ignored. I’ve included the wonderfully weird video for the lead single “Silver Bullets” just to convince you how worth your time Edie Sedgwick is:

2. Future Islands– On the Water

Album cover image via FutureIslands.com

Future Islands is yet another band that I’ve been rather blatant about my love for. Their debut Thrill Jockey full length In The Evening Air continues to have a steady rotation on my iPod over a year later. Their sophomore follow up On The Water is a worthy successor, with songs like “Where I Found You” and “Before the Bridge,” that give the listener an intense need to dance. You can preview all the tracks here.

3. Dum Dum Girls Only in Dreams

Image Via Wearedumdumgirls.com

If you haven’t heard of these ladies, then you’ve been under your rock for way too long. Last year’s debut I Will Be managed to stand out in the crowd amid a girl group onslaught (we’re not complaining!), with catchy, upbeat  songs like “It Only Takes One Night.” Their follow-up Only in Dreams continues the trend. My favorite track on this album so far is “Bedroom Eyes,” which you can listen to here, along with several other new tracks.

4. Twin SisterIn Heaven

Image via Twinsistermusic.com

After putting out two excellent EPs out, Twin Sister left us in wont for a solid full length to bite our teeth into. They have delivered with In Heaven, which gives them room to show their vast range. They waver between sweet upbeat indie pop, and slower, retro-ballads with a late 50’s-early 60’s influence. If you’re unfamiliar, you can listen to the new single “Bad Street” here, and please do check out the video of one of my favorites off of the 2010 EP Color Your Life, called “All Around and Away We Go”:

Only four picks this month, but the month is almost over and there are more to come. Enjoy the rest of your October!

October 29, 2011 at 11:23 am Leave a comment

CMJ Preview 2011

It’s that time of year again, perhaps one of the busiest music moments in NYC: CMJ. Hopefully you’ll get out there and see some shows! If you’re not getting a badge for some industry-related reason, or you’re not getting a discount, don’t buy one! Just buy tickets to individual shows! Here are some suggestions of whom to see, with some brief descriptions:

1. Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Image via Stereogum.com

Amid much internet buzz, the New Zealand band Unknown Mortal Orchestra are dipping their toes in the US touring scene with a big stop at CMJ 2011. They are sure to be one of the “must see” bands this year, and with such a catchy single like “FFunny Frends” it’s hard to imagine that the hype is wrong. The full album sounds like a lost Beatles B-side compilation from the Sgt Pepper era. See them live several times this week: Thursday Oct 20th in the afternoon at the Puma Store, and in the evening at Cantora Labs Smartlounge, and Saturday Oct 22nd at Brooklyn Bowl.

2. Small Black

Album cover via Small Black Blog

Small Black stood out among the throngs of bands trying to be heard during SXSW this year, so I’m very grateful that they will be playing (multiple times) at CMJ this year. Their debut album came out last year and they have been touring ever since, spreading the good, fuzzy electro-pop vibes around town. See them live in NY this week: Wednesday Oct 19th at Cantoras’ Labs Smartlounge, on Thursday Oct 20th at Tillman’s, and on Saturday Oct 22nd at both Mercury Lounge and Pianos. (The last two are late night shows so drink your coffee if you want to attend.)

3. Metronomy

Image of Metronomy via RcrdLabel.com

I’m still kicking myself with regret that I missed Metronomy’s past few NY shows, especially the free summer show at South Street Seaport. Luckily, the British band is back and gracing us with their presence this CMJ. I’ve been a fan since their second full length, Nights Out, came onto my radar,  and while I haven’t heard this year’s release (The English Riviera) I can only imagine it will be more of the same upbeat dance-rock. See them live on Thursday Oct 20th at Music Hall of Williamsburg.

4. Emil and Friends

Image of Emil & Friends via Cantora Records

A relatively new band on my radar, Emil and Friends are another CMJ buzz band on the precipice of breaking out. Fronted by Emil Howard (and starring other “friends”), you can tell that the project is good-natured fun, not a serious hit machine. The music has a summery, chilled out indie-rock feel without being too saccharine. See them live Friday Oct 21 at Bowery Ballroom and Saturday Oct 22 at The Delancey.

5. Mice Parade

Image of Mice Parade via Fat Cat

It’s hard to believe that Mice Parade has been making music since 1998, because every new album that comes out sounds fresh and modern. Their newest, What It Means to be Left-Handed, came out last year and is more of the sweet, playful, multi-layered indie rock that we know and love. See them live on Wednesday, October 19th at Mercury Lounge.

Check out the full schedule here and make your own plan for the week! There are a ton of other bands I would recommend but due to my slacking, it’s almost time for shows tonight. Enjoy!

October 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm Leave a comment

JudyJams Sept 2011 Picks: Wild Flag, Sbtrkt, The Pack ad, and more!

Back to School time is actually my return to Picks time. I confess, I’ve been a summer slacker but I’m gearing up for the Fall music rush. This month’s picks are girl-power-heavy:

1. Wild Flag– S/T

Image via MergeRecords.com

It should come as no surprise that I’m excited about this record coming out on Merge next week, September 13th. I’ve heard several songs from the album and have the 7″ with “Glass Tambourine” so I’m pretty much sold. If you aren’t, check out this really neat album trailer video that they put together:

2. Sbtrkt– S/T

Image via sbtrkt.com

I discovered this album while it was playing at Soundfix, one of my favorite local record stores. I had heard so much about Sbrtrkt but never actually heard it; it was the right timing, and I purchased immediately. No regrets: it’s like the perfect combo between James Blake and Nightmares on Wax. The album features guest singers Yukimi Nagano of Little Dragon, Roses Gabor, Sampha, and Jessie Ware.

3. The Pack  a.d.Unpersons

Image via MintRecords.com

More girl power! This one in the form of duo The Pack ad, whose fourth album is out on Mint Records on September 14th. They define the word “badass” and are like a tougher female version of the Black Keys. For those fans of modern sounding classic rock (sung by women!).

4. Jacuzzi BoysGlazin’

Image via HardlyArt

If their band name is not a riff on Beach Boys, I will eat my hat. They sound like a more garage-rock take on the CA band’s first songs. There are even some more spaced-out tunes that recall early David Bowie (see “Silver Sphere (Death Dream)” for a good example). Definitely something for everything surf rock/guitar rock fan out there.

5. Talk Normal

Image via The Fader.com

Talk Normal doesn’t actually have a current release coming out, but there has been so much buzz about them recently that I’m betting they will announce something soon. They also fit very well into the “girl power” theme of this post, with a few exceptions (Jacuzzi Boys ahem ahem). Talk Normal are considered part of the “no-wave” genre, and the band consists of drummer/vocalist Andrya Ambro and guitarist/vocalist Sarah Register.  They’ve been touring non-stop with the likes of Weekend, Tara Jane ONeil, and even the legendary Wire, so keep an eye out for some stops near you.


September 8, 2011 at 4:12 pm Leave a comment

Ra Ra Riot at Prospect Park Bandshell

Ra Ra Riot at Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park

JudyJams and I were recently treated to VIP entrance to Celebrate Brooklyn (thanks Loukin Company!) where we got to be front and center for Ra Ra Riot on August 5. It started off in an awesome way when the stage darkened and the band came on to the deafening sounds of Slayer’s “Raining Blood.” They then launched into a great set full of songs from albums  The Rhumb Line and The Orchard.
You could tell the band was having so much fun, with lead singer Wes Miles commenting numerous times how excited they were to be playing here, at their biggest headlining show, especially because he lived down the street. He also mentioned this was probably the longest set they’d ever played, and his enthusiasm continued right to the end when he jumped off stage and ran through the audience, slapping hands with anyone who offered theirs. His enthusiasm was definitely contagious, as the rest of the band and the crowd were just as exuberant as he was. Their encore included a pretty fabulous version of Steve Winwood’s “Valerie,” the only cover song of the night. They are a great live band, and here’s hoping their next album is as great as The Rhumb Line.


August 15, 2011 at 5:21 pm Leave a comment

JudyJams’ mid-Summer 2011 picks

The picks have trailed off in the last few months, and I apologize for that. We were just too busy going to shows and going to brunch! I’m going to do a little summary of what I’ve been listening to and loving, and will pick up the picks regularly next month!

1. Beirut– The Rip Tide

Album cover image via beirutband.com

Our love of Beirut has been well documented on this blog, but not until recently did I feel as strongly as DevoLT and Lindsarella did. The new album, and seeing him live a couple months ago, convinced me of just how great the man (boy) really is. The Rip Tide does not contain a single dud; check out “Santa Fe,” which is my favorite track so far. You can listen to some tracks for free here.

2. Washed Out- Within and Without

Washed out album cover via SubPop.com

This album was so widely anticipated that the hype almost turned me off completely. I’m glad that I gave it a fair shot, however, because it definitely exceeded expectations. A main act in the “chillwave” scene, Washed Out is made up of Ernest Greene’s calming voice and smooth, even-keeled production. Check out one of my fave songs, “Eyes Be Closed,” here.

3. Gardens & Villa, S/T

Album cover via G&V bandcamp page

Gardens & Villa was brought to my attention by a reliable friend who has excellent taste. The band, who released their debut on Secretly Canadian earlier this month, plays a quirky combo of pop and darker electro-indie. Check out some of the tracks here for a preview.

4.Grooms, Prom

Album cover image via Kanine Records

This is Brooklyn-based band Grooms’ second album, and it has succeeded in putting them officially on the map. Their sound is a mashup of harder indie-rock with swirling pop sensibilities; the mixture is aided by the trading off of vocals between members Travis Johnson (guitar) and Emily Ambrusco (bass). You can hear songs here.

July 29, 2011 at 3:01 pm Leave a comment

Why I Heart the Thermals

While I have to give credit to an ex-boyfriend for introducing me to the Thermals’ music, luckily I haven’t held it against the band. Anyway, it would be my loss. The Thermals, who hail from Portland, OR, came on the scene in 2002 and released their debut album, More Parts Per Million in 2003. Things really got heated up in 2006 with their album The Body, The Blood, The Machine, an instant classic. Their latest album, Personal Life, came out last year on Kill Rock Stars. Band leader Hutch Harris writes the music, sings and plays guitar, while longtime collaborator Kathy Foster plays bass and current drummer Westin Glass keeps the beat. But all that is neither here nor there.

The point is, the Thermals make indie punk pop rock music that while maintaining a solid, catchy beat that makes sure your feet keep moving, also assaults your brain with challenging ideas and thoughtful notions. Their music, to put it plainly, is fun and intelligent. As soon as I hear the opening hooks to songs like “A Pillar of Salt” or “Now We Can See” my heart widens and I can’t help but grin. There’s a time and place for depressing, introspective shoegazer music, but honey, this ain’t that. It makes me want to jump up and down as I contemplate the fucked-upedness that is religion, politics, and real life. And maybe scream a little.

Check out this video for “A Pillar of Salt”:

Their live show is a thing of high energy beauty and at this point I can’t even remember all the times that I’ve seen them. But I recently added one more to the list, when they played a sold out show at the Bell House on July 3.

The Thermals at the Bell House, July 3, 2011

More images from that show after the jump.

(more…)

July 25, 2011 at 3:20 pm Leave a comment

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