LIST: DS Top Albums of 2012

2012 TOP ALBUMS

2012 felt like somewhat of a mixed bag of musical lollies with our favourites encompassing americana, power pop, 80s synth, indie and many shades of psychedelia. The only thing that tied them all together was the strong streak of melody that each was built on. Even in the case of someone like Neil Young & Crazy Horse it was Young’s incredible weaving of musical notes on Old Black that made that record such a delight. Hopefully there will be a few surprises scattered across our list which will send you down another musical rabbit hole to find out if we are onto something… Hopefully we are.

30-21

20-11

10-1

square-600-11Charlie Horse – I Hope I’m Not A Monster

square-600-16Deep Sea Arcade – Outlands

LOWER PLENTYLower Plenty – Hard Rubbish

square-600-15Dinosaur Jr – I Bet On Sky

square-600-13Lee Ranaldo – Between The Times & The Tides

UnknownNeil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill

square-600-17Lawrence Arabia – The Sparrow

square-600Lambchop – Mr. M

square-600-14Suzy Connolly – Night Larks

square-600-12Father John Misty – Dear Fun

ALBUM REVIEW: The Soft Pack | Strapped

by Chris Familton

The LA quartet return with their sophomore album that finds them throwing more influences into the mix while still maintaining their highly melodic indie rock sound. Strapped feels like a step up for a band that specialized in efficient garage rock dispatches and even though they have softened their rawer edges they have compensated by dialing in more expansive textures and song structures making Strapped more laid-back and less frenetic than their debut.

Opener Saratoga recalls the vocal melodies of The Stone Roses, highlighting some new variations in Matt Lamkin’s vocal style while saxophone is another great addition that features on half of the album’s twelve tracks. The result sounds like a collision between The Smiths and The Stooges’ Steve Mackay. Elsewhere, dreamy synths take the lead on Tallboy and they head into tropical guitar pop territory on the crisp and smooth Bobby Brown. Thankfully though they have kept their diversification in check and wisely included enough bristling three minute post-Strokes guitar songs to satiate fans of the first album making this a highly enjoyable snapshot of The Soft Pack, past and present.

this review was first published on FasterLouder

New Releases | October 6th 2012

NEW RELEASES

This week sees a handful of noteworthy album releases with the most prominent being the new Tame Impala LP Lonerism. The hype has been building for this one for a while now and on early listens it doesn’t disappoint. There is a huge widescreen sound happening with Kevin Parker’s trademark psych signature all over the guitars, drums and increasingly – synths.

San Diego’s The Soft Pack release Strapped this week, the follow-up to their brilliant self titled album that made the upper reaches of our ‘best of ‘list for 2010. Strapped finds them in the same indie agit-rock vein with some new wave-ish diversions and experimentations.

Moon Duo is another project for Ripley Johnson of Wooden Shjips fame and though they are working in a very similar area to his day band the duo use synths and some brighter and twitchier textures to create some fantastic droning psych rock. Think a modernist boogie take on Suicide. We’ll have a full review of the new record up soon.

For those who appreciate quality americana, Iris DeMent has a new record out. Sing The Delta is her first LP in 16 years and finds her in fine form with her country twang venturing into some wonderful southern soul territory.

Check out the Rdio streams of all this week’s featured new releases:

NEWS: The Soft Pack announce new album details

The Soft Pack’s 2010 self-titled album was one of my favourites of that year so I’m pretty excited that the quartet have a new album Strapped out on September 25th via Mexican Summer. You can check out the first single Saratoga below.

Track Listing:

1. Saratoga
2. Second Look
3. They Say
4. Tallboy
5. Bobby Brown
6. Chinatown
7. Ray’s Mistake
8. Oxford Ave.
9. Everything I Know
10. Head on Ice
11. Bound to Fall
12. Captain Ace

ds…twenty five – our favourite releases of 2010

That’s it then, 2010 done and dusted and although it wasn’t the best year ever for new music there were some damn fine records released. This year we’re seeing an even more eclectic mix of flavours coming through from witch house, minimal electronica, americana, experimental and the all encompassing indie tag. Have a look at what we loved through the year, click on the covers for linked reviews and please leave comments and let us know your faves…

2010 has also been another stellar year for reissues, remasters and deluxe versions and honourable mentions must go to:

  • David Bowie | Station To Station
  • The Rolling Stones | Exile On Main Street
  • Iggy Pop & James Williamson | KIll City
  • Dexys Midnight Runners | Searching For The Lost Soul Rebels
  • Frankie Goes To Hollywood | Welcome To The Pleasuredome
  • The Cure | Disintegration

25. Spoon | Transference

24. Liars | Sisterworld

23. Wavves | KIng Of The Beach

22. Surf City | Kudos

21. Simon Carter | The Black Book Of The Universe

20. Mount Kimbie | Crooks & Lovers

19. James Blake | Klavierwerke EP

18. Forest Swords | Dagger Paths EP

17. Jeremy Jay | Splash

16. Mark Moldre | The Waiting Room

15. Damien Jurado | Saint Bartlett

14. Deerhunter | Halcyon Digest

13. Gayngs | Relayted

12. Zola Jesus | Stridulum II

11. Wooden Shjips | Vol. 2

10. CocoRosie | Grey Oceans

9. Yeasayer | Odd Blood

8. The Black Keys | Brother

7. Tame Impala | Innerspeaker

6. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti | Before Today

5. Best Coast | Crazy For You

4. Beach House | Teen Dream

3. Die! Die! Die! | Form

2. The Soft Pack | The Soft Pack

1. Arcade Fire | The Suburbs

Mid Year Best Of…

Yep, we’re halfway through 2010 already, crazy huh? For the first few months it seemed like there weren’t many big records coming out that were instantly going to make the end of year best of list but all of a sudden our list in progress started filling up. Here then is a list of 13 releases, in no particular order, that have caught our attention and perhaps deserve yours. Over the next few weeks we’ll post some of the best tracks from these albums.

Drop a comment, we’d love to hear what you’ve been slipping back on the turntable or hitting repeat on the ipod…

Beach House | Teen Dream… A record that carries on from the swoon and sway that the band captured on their previous release Devotion. This just unveils itself more and more with each listen, wallowing in its subtlety and dreaminess.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti | Before Today… A killer album that totally lives up to the blogosphere hype. There are lo-fi elements at work that don’t descend into amateur songwriting. The tunes are complex, the melodies catchy as hell and there is enough chaos and eccentricity to make hypnagogic pop sound compelling rather than a novelty genre.

Liars | Sisterworld… The new album sees the band straightening their sound and investing it with the best elements of their songwriting – tribal drumming, chanted vocals, industrial rhythms, hypnotic bass and no wave guitar. Their best album to date… Read full review


Zola Jesus | Stridulum EP… Appearing like a ghostly Siouxsie she has a haunting, gothic voice that conjures up dark romance and  nice mix of electronics and guitars. Post goth perhaps? Best EP of the year so far…

Tame Impala | Innerspeaker… These young gents from West Australia have far exceeded the promise of their early singles and live shows by releasing a fully formed and sonically adventurous psych rock album. It is packed full of hazy vocals, magical guitar playing and real ‘album’ experience. Tame Impala have taken from the past, updated and reinterpreted it for modern ears. Read full review

Yeasayer | Odd Blood… Pop music in 2010 has become bastardised by hip hop artists mutating dance music to its lowest common denominator or youngsters desperately rehashing power ballads or the worst of the 80s. Yeasayer have taken the sound and scope of 80s pop and in a sense paid tribute to it with complete conviction and infectious results. You won’t find anything as catchy as this in 2010.

Jeremy Jay | Splash… A 26 minute album that stole our ears and burrowed into our hearts . Full of forlorn indie pop songs with hook after hook. If he had got it slightly different it would have been laughable but Jay surfs an effortless wave between Television, Interpol, Pavement and Modest Mouse. Detached cool never sounded so good. Read full review

The Soft Pack | self titled… This was one of the earliest releases in ’10 that hooked us. San Diego lads relocate to LA, take the vacant spot left by The Strokes and get back to basics with garage rock strained through The Cure, The Saints and Spoon. It has all been done before but their simplicity and timeless sound is spot on. Read full review Read interview

The Black Keys | Brothers… Prior to hearing this I was never really a particular fan of their bluesy rock n roll. Brothers changes all that with a change in direction that leaves a deep and soulful imprint on the sound and mood of the album. They invest in some heavy groove workouts throughout that suggest a foray into psychedelic rhythm and blues. Read full review

Forest Swords | Dagger Paths… Another entrant in the hauntology/hypnagogic realm and this is one of the best. Englishman Matthew Barnes combines dub, drone, psych and krautrock into one murky mix that taps into your imagination and your feet equally. It is like the heaviest stoned out wander through your brain… in a good way.

Mark Moldre | The Waiting Room… Equal parts, Wilco, Eels, Sparklehorse and the gentler side of Tom Waits – there are sepia-tinged universal themes at work in The Waiting Room that conjure up feelings of nostalgia, loss, love and optimism and Moldre has captured the mood of the human soul with great artistic clarity. Read full review

CocoRosie | Grey Oceans… Impossible to describe these two sisters but they incorporate opera, hip hop, nursery rhyme, minimalism and folk into possibly the most original and hypnotic music you will hear this year. Obtuse yet captivating and accessible.

Deepchord Presents Echospace | Liumin… There has been much electronic music that has excited me this year, much of it on the dubstep and dub techno tip. DPE mixz field recordings with smeared and stretched electronica like some doom dream that you can’t escape. They are working in the same area as Burial yet they still carve out their own dread laden synth niche.

INTERVIEW: THE SOFT PACK

written by Chris Familton

The Soft Pack are currently riding the buzz band wave that has been generated around them for the last few months and they have responded to the hype in the best possible way by releasing an album that stands as one of the highlights of 2010 so far.

To back up the release and justify the blog space they have inhabited, the quartet have been touring for the last two and a half months and giving their new fans the chance to experience the songs up loud and in person. According to a low-key David Lantzman [bassist] the tour has been going really well though it has been hard work and a Catch 22 experience at times.

“Touring a lot does wear on the psyche a bit from not sleeping too much. Playing shows is fun but everything else can be a bit of a drag. Each element of it has its ups and downs. It’s great playing exciting shows but it sucks being away from home, not sleeping and getting sick. It’s great being home writing and recording and being able to cook in a kitchen and hang with your friends but it sucks when you want to be out on the road playing shows.”

The Soft Pack were formed in 2007 by singer Matt Lamkin and guitarist Matty McLoughlin and after meeting Lantzman and drummer Brian Hill and changing their name from The Muslims they really began to find their feet as a democratic group of musicians.

“It has been somewhat of an evolution, there was an adjustment period and we are still even going through that in terms of writing together and collaborating as a foursome. I think a song on the album that encompasses that kind of idea of working together would be Pull Out. That song came out of nowhere just jamming and swapping instruments. I feel like that was a turning point in our writing process. That was an important point for the band in terms of reaching a cohesiveness and understanding how to write and play together and it was the most exciting point for us making this record. It was such an easy song to write but we couldn’t have done that song in the beginning, we’ve come a long way going through all the other songs and playing and writing together for months. When we got to that point we really got each other,” explains Lantzman.

The other important moment in the career of the band was their move up the west coast to LA from their hometown San Diego. While both cities have great local scenes the move was clearly a big part of the band gaining more attention and being able to hook up with other like-minded acts.

“We moved to LA for reasons having to do with work and wanting a change of pace. We grew up in San Diego so we weren’t trying to leave there, we were a San Diego band from when we started. San Diego’s got a great scene, we’re actually on tour with a great band from there called Beaters. There is a good scene where we are living in LA at the moment. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti are one of my favourite bands right now as well as Night Jewel, Dunes and Pearl Harbor. I’d say LA’s doing pretty well musically at the moment,” says Lantzman.

Though it seems like the band have only just arrived on the scene with their self titled album, they are already working on songs for its followup and should be test driving some of them live later in the year.

“We recorded this record in August so we’ve been thinking ahead, We had some time off in the holidays so we got a lot of new stuff together. We’ve tested a few out live but this tour is more about playing stuff from the record. When we get back home we’ll flesh things out a bit more and we’ll start playing them live. We started playing the songs off this album long before we recorded them and I’m sure that is going to happen with the next one too,” Lantzman says.

If you haven’t heard The Soft Pack yet then two songs you should start with are the brilliant and quite different Answer To Yourself and Mexico. The first of the two surges along like a lost gem from The Saints and was written while the band were on tour. “Me and Matty were playing and I came up with the bassline and he came up with the chord progression and we just recorded it on a voice mail answer phone, thats how a lot of stuff happens. explains Lantzman.

Mexico was actually one of the first songs we did together as a foursome and then we kinda forgot about it until we rehashed some demos. A lot of the stuff we play pretty fast and we were excited about that one because it was catchy, slower and a change of pace – kind of like a summer song. We’re not completely tied to the blaring loud fast thing, we’re up for other stuff. It just kind of came out, it wasn’t a conscious thing,” he says.

Something about The Soft Pack suggests that they will stick around for the long haul. There is no distraction with fashion articles or magazine covers to deter them from focusing on their music and if they can equal or improve on this latest album then we are all in for something special.

This interview first appeared on FasterLouder