Just in case you were comfortably moving on from a challenging 2016, Idle Time begs your attention one last time as we post our sixteenth annual retrospective, highlighting the albums that meant the most to us over the last twelve months. When we started this little clubhouse of chicanery, it was music that brought us together and, now, more than fifteen years later, as our roster expands and our scope broadens, the unifying power of music seems more important than ever.
In a year muddied by fear, confusion, and destructive ethnocentrism throughout our country and the world, it seems only appropriate that this year’s list of Favorite Albums ended up being our most diverse to date. Nine different countries are featured, and three different languages, with almost half of the albums originating outside of the U.S. Perhaps even more significantly, thirteen of the forty performers are female artists or bands fronted by women. More genres are represented, and we even have our first appearance of an original soundtrack. Take that, twenty-sixteen.
Eight Idlers contributed to this list, including the return of ghostyorb, and the first-time participation of IP, MeanOldPig, and LDG. We don’t always agree on the albums (although this year it came pretty damn close), but we do agree on the fact that, in an outright rejection of the too-many-cooks adage, this might very well be our finest list to date. And the proof is in the playlist. As you browse through the rankings and the blurbs (I use the term “blurb” loosely; since HolyBee’s departure from regular participation, several contributors have been making claims to the King of Verbosity mantle), check out the four Mixcloud mixes for an audio tour through the favorite forty.
Favorites 2016: 40-31 | Accolades Home
Fueled by bourbon and nog, last night Playlist By Committee slipped into the spirit of the holiday and formulated a playlist encompassing not just the favorite Christmas songs by the usual committee, but the entire Idle Time family.
Continue reading PBC: X-Mas Edition
Playlist By Committee is a subdivision of the Institute of Idle Time dedicated to the preservation of the mixtape format. Each month, four governing members and one guest contributor choose a theme and each pick five songs that best correspond to that theme. The songs are then reviewed and ranked by the committee, with the the top songs being added until an 80 minute blank CD is filled. The list is then published via Mixcloud for the listening pleasure of all who seek it. This is our 7th playlist.
As an only child, sharing hasn’t always been my strong suit, but it has always been a cornerstone of the Institute of Idle Time. Even in the early days of IT, when it was just holybeeofephesus, MMDG and djlazybear passing around playlist ideas on e-mails and binder paper, IT has been about the joy of giving and discovering something new. Ironically, I get super protective of the music I like because I feel it says something about me as an individual, but most of the songs I love were (and continue to be) shared with me by my fellow Idlers.
For me, good music only gets better if I hear about it from one of my friends. Yes, songs can become personal mantras and anthems, but they can just as powerfully connect you to another person and a certain time and place in your life. Arcade Fire’s Funeral is an amazing record in its own right, but I love it because my friends and I would have huge air-instrument jam sessions to “Rebellion” on the way home from high school. I probably wouldn’t like Katy Perry as much as I do if my friend Kim hadn’t dragged me to see Part of Me, in theaters, in 3D (she cried when Katy and Russell Brand split up, and she had already seen it, no joke). There’s a song by Will Johnston called “Nothing But Godzillas,” where Johnson explains that “most the time that [things] ain’t shared, they’re only half as good.” I wouldn’t seek this tune out on my own because I’m not into country, but because it was shown to me by WH, it’s something I recognize as beautiful and inspiring.
In fact, the person who got me into following music was none other than djlazybear, a member of the Old Guard, who fed me mixtapes and compilations when I was an awkward 8th grader and needed means of escaping the trivia of teenage life. That simple act of sharing not only provided entertainment, but it is the catalyst moment that would eventually lead me to joining IT. The power of sharing cannot be denied.
Continue reading PBC #7: Secret Santa
Yesterday I woke up for work before the sun did. Traffic guards are back on duty at every corner and the local roving Pokemon trainers seem to be going to bed at a reasonable hour. I’m two weeks removed from the last disappointing Hollywood “blockbuster” I’d care to spend money on, and I’ve attended my last outdoor festival of the year (jury’s still out on you, Treasure Island). Summer is officially over.
But not before we queue up one more quick hit of tunes. August’s Tunes of the Month features recent songs from five leading ladies that call to mind beach bonfires and late dawns, winsome smiles and ten-week crushes, and all the speaker crackle and headphone buzz that energize us every summer.
Ette – “Attack of the Glam Soul Cheerleaders (Pt. 1 & 2)”
Seems like nobody knows how to turn overcast skies and marine layer mist into sunshine and fun better than a Scottish pop band. Ette’s debut LP, Homemade Lemonade, is a welcome successor to similarly upbeat charmers by the likes of Teenage Fanclub and Camera Obscura. This track is the lead single from the album, and figures to get a lot of L-O-V-E on all my future summer playlists. Lead singer, songwriter, and keyboardist Carla Easton has a great interview on the Bandcamp blog, including an anecdote about discovering an inspiring collection of Cookies hits at a record shop in Edinburgh. Continue reading Tunes of the Month – August
These last few months have been spent reminiscing over fifteen years of list-making, CD-stomping, and favorite music lobbying, while revisiting lots of Idle Time-approved bands in the process. As luck would have it, some of those artists have made recent returns to the studio, and our early working lists of favorite recordings has us partying like it’s 2004. May’s Tunes of the Month is a rousing Welcome Back, featuring new songs by veteran bands, some of whom have been riding the wave from cassette mixtaping to CD playlist-burning through online Mixcloud streaming. The more things change, and all that…
Speaking of Mixcloud, bookmark Idle Time’s new page, future home of all of these playlists, from the five-track Tunes of the Month mini-jams to the LP-length Playlist By Committee compilations.
The Thermals – “Hey You”
The new Thermals’ LP, We Disappear, is their best since ’06’s The Body, The Blood, The Machine and one of my favorite releases in the young year. This single, taken from the album, is major standout, and it even got a sweet 7″ release for Record Store Day (the B-side is killer too). And, by the way, kee-rist. Y’all are one of the best punk bands of our generation. Put out some more seven-inches fer crying out loud. Continue reading Tunes of the Month – May
It’s no secret that Idle Time has a serious crush on Swedish music. And it was only a matter of time before our five-track Tunes of the Month feature propped up some new songs from that magical, shimmery land of pop perfection. I would seriously be fine blogging five new Scandinavian tunes every month, but there are other people round these parts who have a say, and, sure… other bands who can hold their own against the best Sweden has to offer. But, for now, Happy April, and more Swedes, please.
Listen to the whole eighteen-minute jam via Idle Time’s newly minted Mixcloud account, or stream the tunes individually below.
Continue reading Tunes of the Month – April
When most folks think about DFA Records and 2016, there is really just one major news story that comes to mind. Hell, it might just be the music story of the year. And as excited as we all are to see James Murphy et al back in the studio and back on stage, we can’t let that overshadow the fact that his record label is absolutely killing it this year. And it’s only March.
So for our Tunes of the Month, here are five recently released or preview tracks from the Brooklyn label that, incidentally, just like Idle Time, is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary this year.
Essaie Pas – “Le Port du Masque Est de Rigueur”
Essaie Pas is a French-Canadian dark disco duo comprised of Pierre Guerineau and the exquisite Marie Davidson. I pride myself on my passable linguistics skills, as well as the fact that I can converse in two different Romance languages. French, though? I can’t pronounce half the songs on their new album, Demain Est Une Autre Nuit, and I sure as hell can’t understand the lyrics. And I think that’s what makes it so damn alluring. I take my minimal dance music with a heavy dose of mystery, and this track is the spookiest.
Continue reading Tunes of the Month – March
It’s Noise Pop week here in the Bay Area, so our February edition of Tunes of the Month highlight acts you can find performing at various venues in SF and Oakland. Be sure to check out the full schedule here.
Hamilton Leithauser & Paul Maroon – “Immediately Alone”
I miss The Walkmen. Like a lot. But original members Hamilton Leithauser and Paul Maroon are still cranking out quality music while their main band is hopefully just in cryostasis. “Immediately Alone” is the first track these two have put out that absolutely soars in the same way many of the best Walkmen tracks have. Leithauser’s pipes are an American treasure.
Continue reading Tunes of the Month – February