5-5) Anberlin - Vital (2012)

I've been a fan of Anberlin since their debut album in 2003. However, for the most part they were just a fringe band for me as I didn't ever dislike any of their songs, but only really liked 2-3 off each album. For the groups I follow, I typically proactively purchase the album before listening as I have confidence in the brand name. I figure even if it sucks, I'm supporting their efforts to release more material in the future which there is a fair chance I will enjoy it. This is how I approached their 6th studio album, Vital, released in 2012. I went in without any expectations and came out of it with my album of the year.
Anberlin is a christian rock group who typically sing about relationships, both spiritual and physical. Things are typically peppy and uplifting. With Vital, they went with a deep thing, focused a little more on the keyboard, and then approached more controversial and political topics. The result is intoxicating, and the album takes you through an emotional roller coaster.
Each track stands out and I love many of them, but one in particular which stands out is 'Modern Age'. While this was released in October, I had it loaded up in my IPOD for the next several months, including over Christmas time when the Newtown School shooting occurred. This affected me more now that I'm a parent, but 'Modern Age' seemed to capture all of my emotions of that moment, even though it was written well in advance of the event. It's toward the end of the album, so you have to wait to get there, but it pays off big time.
The suggested listening is 2012's Vital. In 2013, they released 'Devotion' which is an extended version of Vital. In the event you like Vital, you can check out the additional 7 tracks on Devotion as well. However, I doubt you'll listen to either. You all suck.


5-2) M83

After last week's psychedelic chill, I decided to bring the party back to Music Togetherness by choosing M83 as my returning artist.

I won't say much, other than their sound is a little dark, but at times can be very uplifting, especially the first few tracks on 2011's "Hurry Up We're Dreaming" - which is what I'm asking you to check out. It's a two-disc album, so we'll leave it at that. for "required listening."

David and I saw M83 at The Pageant that year and they pretty much brought the house down in one of the best concerts I've ever been to.

I also enjoy running to "Intro" and especially "Reunion," if you're into that sort of thing, and both have been on my Currently Spinning playlist for more than a year. You already know "Midnight City" if you're familiar with car commercials.

Truthfully, I haven't heard much of their other music, so I will probably look deeper into their catalog this week. You don't have to, but if you decide you like them, feel free to listen on with me.

Oh yeah, and this video is super creepy. 


5-1) Tame Impala

 I was torn on whom to choose for our welcome back to Musictogetherness.  Looking over the many artists we’ve already selected, I must say, we’ve really spanned an incredible amount of genres and decades throughout this process.  A part of me wanted to pick a pioneering artist or an obscure album, but there was one band that was always floating around in my head that I thought would be a good fit.  Tame Impala are in the business of making luscious, psychedelic rock n roll, and business is good.  The kings of modern psych-rock, and Musictogetherness artists, The Flaming Lips have shown their appreciation for the Australian trio by recently covering their songs and having them open for them on tour.

Lead singer Kevin Parker fell in love with the music of Cream and Jefferson Airplane as a teenager, and their influence on the music he makes today is crystal clear. What isn’t crystal clear, though, are the hazy vocals that he cascades over the fuzzy guitars and thumping drums that prevail Tame Impala’s enveloping sound.
The boys from Perth only have two full length LP’s, which will be your required listening.  They are complete thoughts, if you will, meant to be listened to front-to-back and uninterrupted.  When digested in full they paint a magnificent picture.  As a vinyl collector, it's refreshing to hear modern artists still making music geared towards turntables. Enjoy your spacey rock journey.

InnerSpeaker (2010)
Lonerism (2012)



4-9) Bob Marley and the Wailers - Exodus (1977)

There is a common misconception that you have to be under the influence of certain substances in order to enjoy the music of Robert Nesta Marley and that just simply is not true.  Although the use of cannabis is a part of the Rastafari movement which Bob championed, and is prevalent still in the Jamaican community, it is not needed in order to receive a "high" when listening to this incredible album. Reggae music is a genre we have not explored yet on our blog and there is no better place to start than Exodus.

 The album title refers to Bob leaving Jamaica after a failed assassination attempt on him, that was believed to be because of his association with a concert for the then Prime Minister of Jamaica Michael Manley.  He escaped to the Bahamas to recover from his injuries and then lived in England for two years where he recorded this album that speaks of political oppression, Rasta ideals on love and peace, and the human condition.  Reggae music was cultivated out of Jamaica's ska scene and mixed with American r&b from the 60's and has many sub-genres, Exodus is pure Roots Reggae.  Bob was the voice for the poorest of the poor in his native Jamaica but he also spoke for those in Zion (or Africa) where the Rastafari believe paradise to be.  With Exodus, Bob brought reggae music to the world and gave it legitimacy.  It would allow artists like Jimmy Cliff, Lee "Scratch" Perry and original Wailer Peter Tosh to enjoy mild success with international audiences.

 I find it unfortunate that Bob's likeness is plastered all over t-shirts and posters as simply a sales ploy;  pandering to a mindless drug culture. His importance to music and mankind can be felt with every listen to this album.  Time magazine named Exodus the greatest album of the 20th century and I feel it would be doing those who participate in this blog a disservice by not making this required listening. This is also incredible summertime music, perfect for driving with all the windows down and backyard gatherings.

Favorite tracks: Waiting In Vain, Three Little Birds, Natural Mystic


4-8) Punch Brothers - Antifogmatic (2010)

I'm going to have to post on David's pick tonight, but here's mine in the meantime so you all can get started whenever is convenient for you.

This week, I have chosen "Antifogmatic" by the Punch Brothers. I just saw them perform live at Bonnaroo via live webcast over the weekend and they were fabulous. This isn't their newest album, but it features the song that drew me to them in the first place, "Rye Whiskey," which I found on the 2012 Bonnaroo official Spotify playlist. Conveniently, this week marks exactly two years since this album came out.

I was immediately drawn to "Rye Whiskey" because of the song's upbeat nature and down home bluegrass sound. It feels very authentic, like an updated version of the 1800s dittys I was learning when I attempted to learn to play the fiddle. To give you a frame of reference, I've embedded a version of "Old Joe Clark" (one of the songs I learned to play) by a familiar name, the Avett Brothers.

Note its structure and repetitive themes mixed in with lots of improvisation. You can listen to a million different versions of these classics and they never sound the same. That's because while the basic structure of the song remains intact, the words (which some versions leave out completely) and the improvised parts are always unique. Bluegrass is like some forms of jazz in that way. "Rye Whiskey" has a very specific structure. The same sounds throughout the song signal turns. There are distinct parts that are the same in ways, and tweaked for a unique twist in others. It's very "technically on" yet, it still feels laid back and fun.

After making these observations to myself, I found out this weekend while reading up on the band that the Punch Brothers aren't just a progressive bluegrass band - they are classical musicians, which explains a lot, really. I had thought about picking these guys before but on that note, which I found particularly interesting, I decided to take the leap. I don't know what you guys will think about the band or about this album in particular, but I hope it shows you a little something about bluegrass that you can take with you.

A couple of final thoughts -

  • To me, nothing sounds more like "summer music festival" than bluegrass. 
  • If you saw "The Hunger Games," the Punch Brothers contributed the track "Dark Days" to the soundtrack. If you didn't, you should really see the movie and/or read the books, immediately. If you did, bluegrass is definitely District 11&12 type of music.
  • The band gets its name from a Mark Twain short story. No one's last name is actually "Punch."
  • The band is the subject of a documentary called "How to Grow a Band," so if you're interested in them, maybe check that out.
  • "Antifogmatic" is named after a type of 19th-century alcoholic drink that was meant as a cure for the effects of fog and other inclement weather.
Here goes: 


4-7) Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)

Formed out of the ashes of famed Belleville, IL alt-country band Uncle Tupelo, Jeff Tweedy's Wilco is one of the great American bands of the last 20 years. While Uncle Tupelo helped formulate the prototypical alt-country sound, mixing 80's underground indie bands like The Replacements and Husker Du with Hank Williams, Sr. and Woody Guthrie, Wilco took things to a new stratosphere. While the band's debut album A.M. was more standard fare, Tweedy took the Beatles, Beach Boys, and countless other pop bands and swirled them into his Americana sound for the albums Being There and Summerteeth.

When Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was recorded and handed in to his label reps with Warner Music Group, they deemed the album a "career-killer", and refused to release it. Undaunted, Tweedy put the album on the internet, where it was streamed by millions (including me), where it reached classic status. In relation to their previous music, the sound of this album is definitely different. To me, the record has always sounded like switching through static-filled radio stations on the 4th of July. There are more typical (albeit outstanding) songs like "Jesus, Etc". and "Heavy Metal Drummer" (which contains references to Tweedy's youth seeing shows in downtown St. Louis), coupled with more experimental fare like "Radio Cure", "Ashes of American Flags", and the ultimate standout, "Poor Places".

This album has already been deemed one of the greatest of the young century, and I most certainly agree. Wilco would go on to smooth their sound out a bit, more recently, but this album is one of the great examples of  an established band taking a chance, and fans of music reaping the rewards.


4-6) Beastie Boys - Ill Communication (1994)

The Beastie Boys are the best. Music was not a big part of my childhood, outside of listening to Y98 in my mother’s car and my dad’s brief country music career. My first exposure to music was watching MTV with Andrew, and at that time the Sabotage video was on every countdown every day. From then on, the Beastie Boys have been there for me. I remember Diane Holden introducing me to the Anthology album, rockin out to What’cha want in the Tropical Sno hut, listening to Intergalactic everyday on my way to golf practice, participating in a mosh pit to Fight for your Right at my wedding, and having them as my go to jukebox group (along with Rage)! On MTV’s Say What Karaoke, they had a wheel they would spin to determine what song they had to sing. They had some really hard songs like REM’s It’s the End of the World, and then easy ones like Enter Sandman. I remember seeing Intergalactic on it one day and I committed myself to memorizing the entire track, just in case I ever ended up on the show.
The passing of Adam Yauch saddened me deeply and I felt it was appropriate to dedicate a week to them in this forum. I know I wrote an article during our hiatus, but wanted something a bit more official.
I chose Ill Communication for a few reasons. First, it was the first album of theirs I was exposed to and I can still remember how happy the album made me the first time I heard it. Second, it has elements of all of their eras and talents. It has some tracks which represent their early work in Tough Guy and Get it Together. It has many Jazz Funk tracks like Sabrosa, Futterman’s Rule, Ricky's Theme, and Shambala. Then it has some of my favorite rap tracks in Flute Loop, Root Down, The Update, Bodisattva Vow, Sure Shot, and Sabotage.
I really love all of their work, but I also especially love To the 5 Boroughs and my 2011 runner up album of the year in Hot Sauce Committee Part 2. While I have focused on Ill Communication, I would really like this week to be a tribute to all of the groups work, so please join me in celebrating the genius that Mike D, Ad-rock, and the late MCA have spent the last 33 years compiling for us.


4-5) Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine (1989)

After finally getting around to watching The Social Network one night, which is another gem in David Fincher's filmography, I also took away from it the great marriage of David's images and Trent Reznor's score. Reznor, along with Atticus Ross, weaved an extremely effective mixture of synthesized and mechanical with the haunting and reflective pieces that punctuated the tone of every key scene.  Trent has set aside Nine Inch Nails indefinitely to pursue this opportunity to score films, although you could argue all of NIN's albums are, intentional or not, film scores unto themselves.

While working as a janitor in a Cleveland recording studio, Trent began recording the demos that would eventually be fleshed out into Pretty Hate Machine.  Since he recorded during studio downtime it was hard to find musicians, so he ended up playing all of the instruments himself. The album you'll be listening to this week signaled the beginning of a steady rise for NIN and industrial music in the U.S.  Some of you are already familiar with NIN but my pick of this album is for those who aren't; it gives a pretty clear mission statement of what NIN is all about and, with only 10 tracks, it doesn't bog down.  Lyrically the album is brooding, political, and unflinching in the way it depicts the greed in our society.  Musically it is undeniably catchy and dance-worthy at times which makes for a distinctly unique listening experience.  I am really interested to see where this album takes all of you mentally, especially after loud repeated listenings, which I highly suggest.  Pretty Hate Machine resonates very strongly for me, even after 20 years, its tone and themes are timeless.

The video below is absurd and incredible.  It perfectly displays how NIN were briefly able to permeate the pop music scene with Trent's glossy, dance beats.  Watch as the clueless hipsters dance to Trent's bleak lyrics. Pure genius.


4-4) Of Monsters and Men -My Head is an Animal (2012)

This is a group I just happened to stumble upon thanks to Spotify. I was looking under new releases and trying out different albums when I listened to the first track on “My Head is an Animal.” “Dirty Paws” instantly drew me in with lead female singer Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir’s voice. I know what you are thinking….a name like that must be Icelandic, and you would be right. Of Monsters and Men is an alternative folk sextet, the group was originally a bunch of solo acts until they all collaborated and ended up winning Iceland’s annual battle of the bands in 2010. From there they grew instant fame in their native land, and soon appealed to American audiences.

 Icelandic music to me makes me think of Bjork first and foremost. You can hear hints of Bjork in the group’s music especially from Nanna whose overall annunciation and tone remind me of her. The male vocalist Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson’s voice took a little bit of getting used to for me, but it definitely grew on me after repeat listens. The songs all seem to be about nature and mystical fantasy worlds which for me is a nice getaway for my thoughts to take me to a more serene place. There have been comparisons for the group to such bands as Arcade Fire, and Mumford & Sons. I by no means find the band to be extremely unique, they do however meet a lot of the criteria I look for in a group, and kind of fill my folk void until Fleet Foxes come out with another album. I think you will all really enjoy parts of this album and I can hopefully make some of you fans just like me. Here’s hoping they go on to big success and put out many more albums to come.

I also posted a  video of their song "Little Talks" live. To me they sound awesome, and it only makes me want to see them in concert all the more.