In the past few months, I have had the chance to see music from Australia, France, and Canada, in addition to the Texas, New York, and LA-based acts that typically come through. That’s been nice.
Gojira were very polite, which stood in contrast to their precise and pulverizing metal. Their French accents were cute. I don’t know if Courtney Barnett spoke or sang or mumbled or what, but whatever it was I couldn’t understand it but totally loved it (as always). Crystal Castles were Canadian, and I also saw Phantogram. Both were about as antiseptic as expected.
Along with Barnett, the Sound on Sound Fest one-day pass also provided close access to a rock legend (Bob Mould) and a local legend (Explosions in the Sky). The latter was the clear highlight of the fall for live music. These guys’ near-telepathic chemistry and their mastery of dynamics was put over the top by the coolest light show I have ever seen (thanks, weather).
Personally, it has been a crushing few months, but discovering new music and seeing old favorites is a helpful tonic. Listen to some of what I have been listening to, if you d/care.
I stumbled upon the meaning of adult life 9 years ago.
Not that I actually figured out much about what it all means. But my daughter, the one who’s unloading the dishwasher while I write this, was born and I was struck with the sudden epiphany of accountability.
Lots of regrets.
Relentless pacing and emotional inventory.
Hammock has spent the last 11 years soundtracking those kind of moments for thousands of completely unrelated stories from completely divergent individuals. J Edward Keyes writes “one of the most remarkable things about the Nashville duo Hammock has been their ability to almost uncannily translate the pulse and fiber of human emotion into actual chords and melodies.”
I don’t want to go into the details… The music tells the story. Throughout our body of work, we’ve lived with ghosts, not disembodied spirits, but the ghost-like memories of those who disappeared. We’ve composed and sung songs to the dearly departed, passed over into oblivion with hymns of finite longing. All the while inhabiting our own impermanence… in endless distraction from the whole catastrophe… Until it all became too much. It was time to face life on life’s terms. – Marc Byrd
As Hammock, Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson have very quietly built one of the most-enviable back catalogs in post-rock music. Transcending even the limits of the genre, the Nashville-based duo even hint at the possibilities of pop success beyond wordless soundscapes. Download this now! It’s free!
2013 was a pretty phenomenal year for music. So good, in fact, that when making this list I had to ask some hard questions about some of my favorite artists. Take The National, for instance, is #8 Trouble Will Find Me an example of mature, remarkably consistent song craft or is it more of the same from a band some of my friends insist is boring midtempo rock for white people?
Phoenix, another reliable list standby, fell out of the list completely when I realized that beyond the buoyant “Entertainment” and the even brighter, better second single “Trying To Be Cool” (sans R. Kelly version), I couldn’t really remember any of the songs from Bankrupt!. I probably ranked Volcano Choir too high at #6, but only because Repave only has 8 tracks and is way better than any side project has any right to be.
Arcade Fire, despite inspired production and subverting expectations, slid out of the top 10 and into honorable mention where the band sits alongside CHVRCHES who put out an excellent debut album but couldn’t edge out wordless brilliance from #10 Explosions In The Sky and #9 Gold Panda. Even Hammock, an automatic qualifier in my Top Ten, slid into honorable mention status. Not because Oblivion Hymns isn’t a great record but because it isn’t quite on the level of last year’s decade-defining Departure Songs.
10. Explosions In The Sky with David Wingo Prince Avalanche (Temporary Residence)
For many people, movies are as sacred as a church experience. So with that in mind this album is a widescreen, spiritually inclined and expertly composed dose of inspiration for the agnostic cinemaphile in all of us.
9. Gold PandaHalf of Where You Are (Ghostly International)
If I had known that a laptop would be the key to discovering the secrets of the universe, I probably would’ve paid more attention in Basic Computer Skills.
8. The NationalTrouble Will Find Me (4AD)
I know getting older means being target-marketed by retailers and insurance PR firms, but when a band sings about my inner turmoil, I don’t mind one bit. We are all hurtling towards the end, might as well be in the boat together.
7. Neko CaseThe Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (Anti-)
I can’t play this record with the kids in the car, but it is likely the best and boldest statement album you’ll hear this year. I’ve been a fan ever since I watched Case outshine Mellencamp, Tweedy and T-Bone Burnett in Golden Gate Park at dusk.
6. Volcano ChoirRepave (Jagjaguwar)
“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?”
― Ernest Hemingway
5. WaxahatcheeCerulean Salt (Don Giovanni)
Re-purposing grunge tricks like verses-chorus-verse and bass-drums-vocals, Katie Crutchfield’s solo project sounds like the work of a bonafide ROCK band in a year of anthemic EDM and indie-folk-minimalism.
4. Jars of ClayInland (Gray Matters)
It’s hard to believe that this is the same band who put out the Frail demo that some Wheaton college kids passed on to my friends and I at our Christian high school in Moscow, Russia. Jars of Clay have put out back to back indie pop classics and all signs point forward. Free of the CCM machine, the band fronted by Dan Haseltine, activist-vegan-author, seems to have struck a new vein of deep, courageous gold.
3. Wild CubYouth (Big Light/Mom+Pop)
If we’re going to get technical about things, this record was first released in 2012 and then will be re-released in 2014. But let’s not get hung up on silly details, Youth is a smashing debut album (recorded on a four track tape recorder) that announces itself with crisp, immediately singable songs that will haunt the listener all winter and spring. Maybe summer too.
2. Shout Out LoudsOptica (Merge)
“Losing sucks, and especially to the Jets.” -Tom Brady. “I don’t care what anyone says, every Shout Out Louds album is stupid good.” – Ryan Townsend.
1. Local NativesHummingbird (FrenchKiss)
Look for a full length post on this album tomorrow!
Tonight features a couple of short-form music videos that make me sort of nostalgic for the days when music videos were a cultural force. Check out the appropriately stunning “I Could Hear the Water at the Edge of All Things” from Hammock and director Alex Amoling. It’s a cinematic journey into chaos and destruction that will nonetheless feel strangely familiar to anyone balancing work, family and money problems. We continue to eagerly anticipate Oblivion Hymns, which comes out Nov. 26th. Pre-order here.
After that, take a peep at The 1975’s old school, frenetic take on the classic formula tour footage video with “Head.Cars.Bending.”
Life is full of surprising beauty if you look hard enough. If that seemingly trivial statement wasn’t at least a little bit true than the post-rock lushness conjured up by Hammock probably wouldn’t make your little grinch heart feel something more than post-modern alienation. Furthermore, if you pre-order you can choose from a variety of options to help you feel a little less hopeless.
Maybe I have a problem. I’m always thinking about the future, sometimes absent in the present. This is a song to bring me back to life in the now. Hammock are a band for the past, present and future. All at once.