Tag Archives: music

Tunes of the Month – January

We’re opening twenty-sixteen’s Tunes of the Month feature by keeping it local! Here are five recent tracks that we’ve been digging, all by Bay Area artists.

The Y Axes – “Meteorite”
San Francisco’s The Y Axes are following up 2014’s excellent Sunglasses & Solar Flares, as well as a victory in the first ever Idle Time Tune Tournament, with a new album later this year. “Meteorite” is the first single, and from the fiery opening drumbeat, these guys seem poised to stage a power-pop atmospheric reentry of epic proportions.

How refreshing that “space” can be a musical descriptor beyond references to jam-band synths, noodly electronics, or nebulous clouds of fuzz.* The Y Axes like to remind us that their brand of cosmic rock is from the future; thank goodness that time-and-spacefaring bands still like to dance. And rip out crazy guitar riffs. And belt out melodies that get stuck in your head for days. Check it out – you’ll see.

And then check out The Y Axes headlining The Winter Wizard Formal at Milk this Friday, January 29th. It’s the official “Meteorite” release, and figures to be the best sci-fi and sorcery mash-up this side of a San Diego summer.

*just about everyone here would like it to be known that we enjoy synths, electronics, and walls of sound. we just don’t think those bands should have a monopoly on the term “spacey.” oh, but we still don’t like jam bands. Continue reading Tunes of the Month – January

The Immortal Iron List of Forgotten Wonders: 2015

In much the same way that The Holy Bee weighed in on some of The Institute’s Favorite 40 selections, IP has put together a brief list of choice musical releases from 2015. This could easily be subtitled, “Eff You Guys: If I Was Invited to the Party.” – MMDG

Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp

The emo days of Waxahatchee are fading away as she experiments with riskier production, straying from guitars in favor of synthesizers on several tracks. Her songwriting works surprisingly well with an expanded sound pallette. It also doesn’t hurt that Ivy Tripp has some of her best songs yet. As always, any artist who wanders too near to emo territory will tend to get left behind come award season. Nonetheless Waxahatchee exceeds any genre comparisons and is an artist any discerning music fan should give a try. Continue reading The Immortal Iron List of Forgotten Wonders: 2015

2015: Idle Time’s Favorite Forty

Fifteen years ago, the seeds of Idle Time were sown via sheets of legal paper surreptitiously circulating among three bored co-workers. Top 5 lists, inspired by a mutual love of High Fidelity (one of the few things we could ever agree on), typically about music, gave way to mix CDs, which in turn evolved into the first “Best Of” compilations in December of 2002.

Our roster has grown over the years and, since we all ostensibly like each other, we’ve tinkered with our ranking format on virtually every list for the sole purpose of cutting down on the amount of friendship-jeopardizing disputes. For 2015, we rolled out one of our most egalitarian systems ever.

Look for the bee!
Look for the bee!

Five Idlers, including one newcomer, each with eight selections apiece, have assembled our Favorite Forty in Music for the year that was. The ranking process was still somewhat contentious (we have to argue about something), but at least we have a List. And, despite The Holy Bee’s celebrated farewell to music ranking (I’ll paraphrase: “I’m done listening to shit I don’t like.”), we were able to coax a few spins out of him to provide some additional sidebar comments. It’s a nice reminder that we don’t always agree on what is deserving of an Idle Time accolade.

So, without any further ado, here be the forty albums that we’ve been all about in twenty-fifteen.

Favorites 2015: #40-31 | Accolades Home

An Orange & Black Advantage

Every Dragging Handclap

This show was on my calendar long before the particulars of the World Series schedule had been settled. So it just magically slotted itself on the night when I needed it most. Between Sunday’s game five and tonight’s game six. On a Monday when I couldn’t do anything but clench my fists in anticipation, still riding the wave of euphoria from Bumgarner’s legendary performance and distracted by the promise of a clinching win at Kauffmann. I was energized from the minute I woke up. And The Rural Alberta Advantage are all about channeling energy. The show was Bumgarner-esque.

Amy Cole felt the band’s electricity align with the orange & black voltage surging through the City. “One more win, right? The fucking World Series? Do you know how long it’s been since the [Blue] Jays have even been in a World Series?”

Quick answer: twenty-one years. Fun answer: not as long…

View original post 293 more words

Record Store Day Sucks

Every Dragging Handclap

I stood in that damn line, and nothing. That sea of people swept through the aisles in a mad rush, grabbing anything and everything that had the RSD label. Despite being maybe 100-people deep, I still missed out on all the LCD boxsets. I left Amoeba without spending a dime, on principle.

At one point, I just stood on the upper level, staring down at the chaos in the aisles below. One girl, couldn’t have been more than sixteen, stood in the eye of the hurricane with tears streaming down her face. Happy Record Store Day.

Within minutes, eBay was full of those boxsets. Upwards of 200 bucks. My disdain grows.

View original post 294 more words

Contest: Make Me a Mixtape 2012

Help me cross the finish line in this year’s Giant Race and win this limited edition “K Pack” poster!

Last year’s mixtape contest turned out even better than I had hoped. Although I didn’t make it through the entire entrant-created playlist, I am happy to report that I didn’t have to skip over a single track. Cade I. took home the Brian Wilson bobblehead thanks to the timely finish-line fist-pumper “Danger Zone” and Anthony E.’s stupid Spongebob theme song suggestion never made it into the rotation. [Although: my iTunes recently fished out that Painty the Pirate song for a Genius playlist built around The Decemberists’ “We Both Go Down Together.” Clearly the mischievous Apple AI isn’t bound to my iPod’s circuitry.)

Entering is easy: submit a song for my half-marathon playlist. I start the race, hit shuffle, and go. If your song is playing when I cross the finish line in AT&T Park, you win. This year’s prize is the “K Pack” promo given away at the recent Frank Sinatra tribute night. The only other way to get your hands on this sexy 16 x 20 poster is by scouring eBay, and them’s dangerous waters, matey.

Send one song selection to mdigino@gmail.com and I’ll add it to the playlist. I’ll announce the winner (and winning finish-line song) on the evening of Sunday, September 16th.

Another look at the fineprint:

  • Songs should be energetic and appropriately charged for running. I reserve the right to skip any song that is making me want to stop moving. Or a song that might incite me to dropkick my shuffle in the direction of Alcatraz (so please pick something other than “Church on White,” Erik).
  • Songs need to be five minutes or less. Sorry, Rob, can’t accept that Digitalism remix this time around.
  • I’m taking the first 40 song requests, and after that the contest is locked.
  • I’ll definitely be padding out the playlist with some songs of my own choosing, but if one of my picks is the last thing I’m listening to, I’ll award the prize to the most recent reader-nominated song that comes up in the shuffle.
  • If your song choice is obscure and I don’t have it, and it can’t be tracked down via all the usual outlets (iTunes, emusic, etc.), you may have to send it to me. After securing all the appropriate permissions, of course.
  • If someone already recommended your pick, I’ll email you back for a second choice.
  • If the prize needs to be shipped, winner is responsible for shipping costs.

Good luck!

Idle Time’s Ultimate Mixtape: YOU Rank the Top Ten!

…and then there were ten.

Idle Time started celebrating its tenth birthday back in January with a renewed commitment to honoring Will’s promise of a follow-up to 2009’s Decades book. “Next year,” he proclaimed, “500 Favorite Tracks!”

An entire post could be dedicated to the several failed attempts and guideline revisions that ultimately produced nothing more than rabid controversy and a graveyard of abandoned Google docs. We tried, but no amount of compromise or ranking modification could elicit anything close to a list we felt good about. “I don’t think you even know what a song is!” concluded one “meeting.”

Then this past January, with goodwill at its highest, Will picked the scab and suggested a fourth attempt at a list of favorite tunes. This time, however, the parameters were different, and the enthusiasm renewed. Our favorite songs from the Idle Time decade, 2002-2011. And the Ultimate Mixtape was born.

Hundreds of plastic-coated playing cards, dozens of Sharpies, and hours upon hours on barstools and in backrooms around Sacramento raging, rouletting, and ranking. We came up with more ad hoc rules and conditions than a D&D campaign, and ended up winnowing it down, just last week, to our Top 100 tracks.

Numbers 100 through eleven are ranked, but this time we’re leaving the endgame decision up to the world at large. We’re inviting the extended Idle Time family to vote on the Top 10. We have a pretty good idea as to how this list would shape up if left in our hands, but we’re more excited to see how it shapes up in your hands. So help us out, please. Choose your favorite song from the remaining finalists and vote in the poll at the end of this post. Use the Spotify playlist and Soundcloud links (while they last; most are not from licensed sources and Spotify sucks) to refresh your memories or listen for the first time. Then stay tuned for the published list of all 100 songs, with plenty of added surprises, sometime this winter.

Songs are listed here in order of release. Some exceptions were made for songs either released officially in 2002, or included on studio albums after 2001.

  • “Fell in Love with a Girl” – The White Stripes (2001)
  • “Jesus, etc.” – Wilco (2001)
  • “Grace Cathedral Hill” – The Decemberists (2002)
  • “The Way We Get By” – Spoon (2002)
  • “Heartbeats” – The Knife (2003)
  • “Hearts of Oak” – Ted Leo and The Pharmacists (2003)
  • “Take Me Out” – Franz Ferdinand (2004)
  • “The Rat” – The Walkmen (2004)
  • “All My Friends” – LCD Soundsystem (2007)
  • “In the New Year” – The Walkmen (2008)

Ice Choir – Afar

A few years ago Rex declared the 80’s music resurgence over. I’m not sure if this was just wishful thinking, or if he was responding to the development of acts like Surfer Blood and Animal Collective, whose influences were leaning increasingly towards the quirky, off-kilter melody-makers of the 90’s. (Either way, he successfully prophesied the appearance of Portlandia and reappearance of shitty boy bands.) And while it was true that the 80’s pop scene had been stripmined and recycled for all it was worth (“leg warmers are so over! Again!”), I am happy to report that there are still a few bands in twenty-twelve that aren’t ready to move on.

Ice Choir is a side project of Kurt Feldman, drummer for Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and unabashed 80’s synth enthusiast. Their debut LP, Afar, is nouveau new wave that could have just as easily been made by an opening act for Spandau Ballet or The Human League. Hell, it could be Spandau Ballet. Despite being more of a love letter to a Golden Era of pop music than a distinct new direction for an established musician (one of the record’s saving graces), Afar still feels less like an homage and more like a genuine trip back in time.

They’ve followed up last year’s excellent “Two Rings” single with eight more tracks, any one of which would work perfectly in that Electric Dreams remake you’re working on.

When he heard this album in my car, Isey assumed that it was a record from the 80’s. Twin Shadow is George Lewis, Jr., and he’s all over the internet remixing any and every dance song released in the last three years. Search for that YouTube video of you on the trampoline: there’s probably a Twin Shadow remix. He’s also found time to produce his second LP of 80’s-affected romance. “Five Seconds” is the first single.

I saw these guys open for Frankie Rose back when they were still called Dive (earlier this year) and had a hard time believing any of them were even alive in the 80’s. Doesn’t matter, of course, since any age is a good age to become Cure-obssessed. I mean, I didn’t even listen to The Cure in the 80’s.

Radio Silence

A decade ago, in one of the first music-related missives disseminated from the then three-person collective that was Idle Time, Will wrote, “Rock & Roll has retarded our lives!” Individually, we had all led lives influenced and informed by musical exposure and experience. As a group, we suddenly knew no other way of communicating or interacting if not cross-referenced with album highlights or mixtape battles.

Our stories collided. The music-informed past that had shaped our feverish present became part of an ongoing anthology that we’re still trying to properly collate. Will and his graveyard restaurant shifts that became a tip-money pipeline to The Beat for whatever import CD singles he could get his hands on. Rex and I on middle of the night twin-bridge drives home during the mad years when we believed in the promise of every opening band and lived off plastic cups filled with cheap beer. Handstamps overlap. And Isey — the crown jewel of his blog oeuvre is his coming-of-age autobiography signposted by memorable tracks of the 90’s.

When it comes to stories about music or, more specifically, stories about lives affected by music, we can put aside petty genre debates. We get it. We appreciate it. Nick Hornby is a bit of a hero around these parts, High Fidelity practically scripture.

The first issue of Bay Area-based Radio Silence hit stands earlier this summer. The premise of “Literature and Rock & Roll” is a bit misleading. This volume features poems, stories, and interviews, but the highlights are biographical anecdotes from people (far cooler than us) with lives appropriately affected and influenced. A.E. Stallings, for example, who arrived in Athens, Georgia, fresh out of high school in 1986.

When perusing bands that were playing about town, at the 40 Watt or the Uptown Lounge, dorm-mates would circle the names of bands we had never heard of. Rumors ran wild, for it was known that R.E.M. sometimes did surprise gigs at local clubs under assumed names. Most of the time, though, if you went out to see an unknown band called Beast Penis, it would end up being Beast Penis. – A.E. Stallings, “Alice in Wonderland”

A better example of an appreciation for “the singer, not the song,” if you will, is a biographical piece by musician Jim White. Despite not being a huge fan of his music, White’s account of mystic salvation on the trail of Cormac McCarthy, “The Bottom,” is easily my favorite entry in this volume. Additionally, Radio Silence is replete with first albums, favorite bands, and primers on everything from New Order to Astral Weeks. Ted Gioia explains why Robert Johnson may have indeed met the devil, and Daniel “Lemony Snicket” Handler sets a short story in Big Sur for his own episode of Kerouacian sadness (with an admittedly forced observation of the rock & roll/literature roadmap). The original version of F.Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby precursor, “Winter Dreams,” is included, along with three poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

In his foreward, editor-in-chief Dan Stone reflects on “the traffic of inspiration and influence” between literature and rock & roll, and the subsequent influence for this magazine and the multimedia exploration of this “exhilarating relationship.” I need little convincing. It wasn’t an English teacher that led me to Hemingway and Orwell; it was The Clash’s “Spanish Bombs.” I may never have heard Charlie Parker if not for James Baldwin. And I now have , following this first issue, a strange compunction to revisit Throwing Muses.

The Walkmen – Heaven

These are the good years

Ah, the best we’ll ever know

These golden light years

As good as that last Radiohead record sounded piped through your headphones, or the way Beats by Dre turns your head into a stadium giveaway when the bass amplification takes over, the best albums beg for speakers and space, people and places. Fill the room.

The latest from The Walkmen, Heaven (Fat Possum), wants so desperately to resonate off your walls. It’s the exultant third album in a trilogy that began with 2008’s seminal You & Me and continued with 2010’s Lisbon. On their first three full-lengths, Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone, Bows + Arrows, and A Hundred Miles Off, the NY band rambled and jangled like downtown drinkers, trading in equal parts arrogance and romantic commiseration. At times they were brilliant (most notably on “We’ve Been Had,” “The Rat,” and “Little House of Savages”), and elsewhere they were raw and unkempt, honing their craft in preparation for this trio of brilliant records.

You & Me‘s beautiful sadness, its heart-rending yearning, is buoyed by an unmistakeable optimism. “In the New Year” dries tears and hugs you around the shoulders. Lisbon is plaintiff searching and life-affirming wandering, even whilst “Stranded” and starry-eyed, on either coast or under foreign skies. Heaven is our reward. Echoes from the prior records remain, but these songs release joy, the way t-shirt weather evenings after days of too much sun have a way of detoxifying tension, anxiety, and any shreds of sadness. Clear the floor, and roll down your car windows. And if you haven’t seen the best live act going right now, find tickets to a Walkmen show this year. There will be no better way to experience the room-filling power of this record — easily the best this year has to offer (and probably the best album of the last two years) — than to be in the same room as the performers.

It almost makes me not to want to link their first single, the title track, here, knowing how much is lost through tinny computer speakers or buffered compression. Promise to listen for real, won’t you? Especially since, as Lazybear predicts, this little tune will be Team USA’s triumphant theme song for this year’s summer games.

As long as you have the stereo cranked and the neighbors over (or pissed off), here are two more recent releases with big sounds and ringing guitars that fill the room, fill your heart, and spill out into the avenues.

Adam Olenius of Shout Out Louds and Markus Krunegård of Laasko form Swedepop magic as We Are Serenades, and their collaborative effort, Criminal Heaven (Cherrytree Records), strikes a balance between orchestral exuberance and delicate Nordic whimsy. “Birds,” the first single, reminds us how much Swedish bands love it when their audience sings along.

With both Bethany Cosentino and Frankie Rose venturing into slightly different musical territory this year, it’s nice that we have Vivian Girl Katy Goodman around to keep the female-fronted fuzzy-dreampop mojo moving. Sees the Light, the second record from her solo project, La Sera, is equal parts 60’s spunk and 70’s punk.