Billy’s Top 5 — 10.04.16

I’d like to try and get a new, regular/recurring segment off the ground here. Maybe a weekly installment of music I’ve encountered over the previous week that I think people should check out. I’ll try and remain at least somewhat impartial or unbiased in the genres and artists I sample. I’ll attempt to investigate new releases, but I’ll probably throw in at least one throwback shout-out in per list. Maybe something I already love and think others should give a chance, or something that’s older that I was just recently made aware of. We’ll play it by ear, see how it goes, and hope for the best, okay? Pretty much how I glide through life in general, anyway. Here we go!

1. Bon Iver- “666 ʇ

I’ve never been a huge Bon Iver fan. Never owned an album, or even bought a track off of iTunes. They had that one really sad, really big song that every girl I knew at the time claimed was their theme song for Sunday Night Sadness (this is a made-up ritual I’ve just now created to try and pigeonhole an entire gender, and what I’m obviously subscribing to as a stereotypical penchant for making themselves sad on purpose by way of extremely emotive music). Other than that, the only thing I knew about Bon Iver was a bit of a song of theirs being sampled in a track (“Paralyzed”) by Oddisee. They always seemed like a low-fi version of Mumford And Sons, The Lumineers, Of Monsters And Men, Fleet Foxes, or any number of these folk/bluegrass revival acts that sprung up about eight years ago or so. Thus, when I decided I’d check out their latest effort, 22, A Million, I was expecting more of the same. Low-key acoustic guitars, maybe a piano or banjo accompaniment here and there. But I was greeted with an amalgamation of ambient, avant garde pop, with their previous songwriting very subtly, but effectively, worked into the new terrain they’re exploring on this album. A lot of the tracks contain what I can only describe as an “Alvin & The Chipmunks” pitch-shift effect on the vocals that really just does not do it for me. However, for the most part, I was thoroughly surprised and impressed with this album’s contents. This track was standout to me because it felt like the most cohesive, and best payoff as a listener. It maintains its soft feel, and soothing texture throughout while adding instrumentation as the track progresses. This song feels like the memory of lying on your back in the middle of a snow-kissed field, catching snow flakes on your tongue with a loved one while you should be at school.

2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds- “Rings of Saturn

Another example of being aware of, but never an avid fan of an artist or band. I think everyone from my generation would be able to recognize “Red Right Hand” by these guys. Especially if you’ve ever seen the Scream movies (or even Dumb And Dumber). But, beyond that, I’d never really delved into the melancholic, ever evolving sound of NCATBS. I was made aware of their new album that was coming out a few weeks back, and thought I’d give it a shot. After reading the back story of Nick Cave’s teenage son, Arthur, falling to his death in 2015, and hearing one of the lead singles from their latest effort, Skeleton Tree, I was compelled to explore further. Believe it or not (if you’re listening to this track now), this is probably the happiest track on the entire album. Now that you know what Nick went through, it’s probably understandable, right? This entire album is a gut-punch to the feels, and sounds like Tom Waits and David Lynch had a surrogate baby with Sigur Ros, and raised it on a diet of heartbreak and desolation. But in the most beautiful way possible.

3. Every Time I Die- Map Change

Another new album from September, these guys never disappoint me. Growing up, I never got into really heavy music. The closest I got were probably emo bands like My Chemical Romance, or The Used. The older I got, the farther into hardcore, metal, etc. I ventured. By the time I got to ETID, they’d just released their 5th full-length album, New Junk Aesthetic (2009), and I was about 22 years old. I’d heard “The New Black” back in ’05, and it interested me a little (enough to have bought the album from a secondhand CD shop), but it didn’t sink its teeth in until years later. If you’re not familiar, these guys are known for kind of having their own niche in the hardcore/mathcore/metalcore/whatevercore genre(s). Their vocals consist mainly of screams, and the guitars are distorted, and dirty. And I love it. So, when their latest album, Low Teens, dropped last month, I’d already pre-ordered at least one variation of this album. Upon my first listen, everything seemed pretty par-for-the-course ETID, and then I reached the album closer, “Map Change“. Still ETID at its core, something else got thrown in the mix. What could be considered the chorus consists of distorted guitars still, but they’re actually melodic. And Keith (their vocalist) SINGS. WELL. This is quite the departure from their usual sound, but I can’t recommend it enough. It was a hard left turn, and I love it. It’s one of those things where, there’s a good chance it wouldn’t work for anyone else, but because they’re 8 albums into their career and have delivered consistently excellent metal and then give us this track; it’s just gorgeous.

4. SIRES– “She’s Into Me

Formerly known as Dylan Sires & Neighbors, this three-piece from Cedar Falls, Iowa have been opening portals to yesteryear with their old-school pop/rock jams for four years now. Releasing their latest album, Soul For Sale, this month they’ve made a rad music video for the lead single. These guys know how to deliver the right hooks, and make it sound like they had fun delivering them. A couple summers ago, SIRES gathered funds to get them all the way to Japan to do a tour. This will mark their third full length release, and the more I hear from SIRES, and the edgier, and smoother their sound gets, the more I want to hear. Think The Oneders meets The Strokes, and you’ll have some vague idea of the overall sound of SIRES, but they’re seriously in a league all of their own.

5. Shudder To Think– “X-French Tee Shirt

Here’s our first throwback shout-out. In 1994, Shudder To Think released a monster of an album called Pony Express Record. Seemingly not a great title. I went my entire life up until July of 2015 (when the series Wet Hot American Summer hit Netflix) not knowing who Shudder To Think were. Paul Rudd’s character plays a song on an acoustic guitar in one of the later episodes, and I liked it so much I tracked it down on the internet only to it was a one-off written for the series by a one Craig Wedren. I did some more research into Wedren, discovering that he has several soundtrack credits to his name, not to mention a late-80’s and 90’s “post-hardcore” band, Shudder To Think. “X-French Tee Shirt” was my gateway song into this band. I was instantly intrigued, curious, and confused. This was a band that got videos played on MTV in the early 90’s? Awesome! It reminded me of how I felt when I finally dove into Twin Peaks in 2010 and thought, “They aired this on television in 1990?!” Way ahead of its time, underappreciated, and a huge influence on dozens in the same field. Pearl Jam, Deftones, and Incubus have all sited STT as an influence on them, and even covered this song live many times. How I went my entire life without knowing or hearing about STT is a travesty, and I’m disappointed in my peers, as well as myself. I hadn’t bought an album from iTunes in almost a decade I’d wager, but I needed this album in my life. Bad. I instantly fell in love, and I’ve been trying to get other people on the band wagon with me ever since. It’s pretty hit and miss (mostly misses), but I don’t care. I love this album, and pretty much every track on it. If ever asked my opinion, this would definitely be on my “Essential 90’s Albums” list.

That’ll do it for this week! What’d you think of these? Have any suggestions, gripes, or stories of your own with any of these or music in general? Let me know in the comments!

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