Ty Segall

The glory that is Sasquatch

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Currently thousands of good-time hungry people are assembling for the weekend that is Sasquatch, and I could not be any more bummed about it. For the first time in 5 years, I, sadly, am not among them.

It’s pretty difficult for me to write those words (especially because for the first time since I’ve been going, my boy Ty Segall will be there, sludging out with Fuzz), but work and financial obligations have left it impossible for me to join in on the fun this year. And by fun I mean MOST FUN THING THAT WILL HAPPEN IN 2015.

An exaggeration, you may think to yourself? Hardly. In fact, over the course of the last five phenomenally awesome Squatches, I’ve only found myself not having fun once, and that was because Mayer Hawthorne was on the stage, inappropriately acting like the most important guy in the world. And ya know, come to think of it, I was still definitely having a good time at that moment, despite his bro-iness. Because Sasquatch is a non-stop zone of euphoria. It’s nearly impossible to lose the smile from your face while you’re Gorge-side, from the second you join the miles-long car line into camping til the “it’s too damn bright outside!” morning you drag yourself out of George, WA, five days later.

And this year’s gonna be better than ever. With everyone from St. Vincent to Schoolboy Q to Robert flippin’ Plant showing up, fans are gonna get washed over with beautiful music from every genre out there. So why not savor what I’m missing out on by creating the playlist to end all playlists?!

Behold, samplings from every band I know I’d be jamming/freaking out to this weekend. It’s by far the longest musicboots playlist ever compiled, but that’s extremely fitting, considering the festival (and its enormous offering of delicious music) it’s based on.

Dig in.

Best of ’14

As we begin wrapping up this emotional and absurd year, it’s nice to turn your brain off from the news and wrap it around the amazing music 2014 created, instead.

Whittling what I considered the top albums of the year down to 10 wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be, especially after Run the Jewels dropped their phenom of a sophomore LP in October. Some of the albums, like Lost in the Dream and Sunbathing Animal, were surprise additions, especially since I couldn’t get fully into the former until about a month ago, but it just reminds me every recording needs at least a handful of listens before they’re written off.

But here they are – the albums and musicians who settled themselves into my mind the best this year. Be sure to let me know what you think! There’s clearly nothing I like more than hearing what everyone else has been listening to. 🙂

10. The War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream

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Definitely the road trip record of the year, Lost in the Dream does a great job of pushing you forward. There’s plenty of steady, uptempo beats in there to keep you going, and it’s lush with savory rhythm. But these instrumentals, combined with frontman Adam Granduciel’s everyman vocals, also inspire you to take pause and really invest yourself in the songs. So keep your eyes on the road and just let this lovely album complement everything you’re passing by.

9. Amen Dunes – Love

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This terrific LP is equal parts airy/solid as a rock. Damon McMahon brought in collaborators on piano, guitar and drums to craft a truly pretty album that is gorgeous without the lipstick and hairspray and high heels. Rather, it’s an au naturel work that flourishes where it should and is the essential soundtrack to a rainy Sunday afternoon.

8. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal

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These Brooklyn boys just landed themselves the title of SPIN’s Band of the Year, and after seeing their electric, smart and energetic set at last spring’s Sasquatch!, it makes plenty of sense. They did release another album, Content Nausea, just six months after Sunbathing Animal, but it’s their first of 2014 that really established the group for me. It’s one that mirrors early Magazine or Talking Heads, with a polished yet slightly more rockin’ edge.

7. Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste

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Oh sweet Azealia, how we’ve missed you so. Her firecracker attitude meshes just fine with her darling vocals and lightning fast delivery on this long-awaited debut, and she’s got it all backed with lusciously danceable beats. She had me at “212”, of course, and did a fantastic job of building around that song with plenty of tracks that rival it.

6. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

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While my thoughts on modern country music remain the same, I was still FLOORED when I learned of Sturgill Simpson and his old school country ways. The man embodies outlaw country much as Waylon, Merle, Kris and Johnny did back in the ’70s, and he clearly does it without effort. It’s refreshing as hell to hear someone bringing back the original meaning of country music to the genre.

5. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

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St. Vincent may have merely remained on the outskirts of my radar with her first four albums, even though one of these was with mastermind David Byrne, but there was no way to deny her my time once she released this self-titled gem. Rightfully quirky and captivating, St. Vincent is a marvel of a record that challenges all musicians to step up their game and embrace sounds of the future.

4. Benjamin Booker – Benjamin Booker

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Talk about an introduction. On his self-titled debut, Benjamin Booker paid no apology to anyone and just went about creating an explosive album all his own. Dripping with beautiful punk and blues and soul, this LP told tales of sadness and reinvention. A truly impressive piece of work sung through Booker’s appealing yet scraggly vocals.

3. TV on the Radio – Seeds

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Never has TV on the Radio done me wrong with an album, and it’s remarkable they remain as innovative from each one to the next as they have, time and again. Seeds is just as uniquely catchy as anything TVOTR has ever done, but it’s got heart, and reads like the mindset of any driven human being out there. In essence, this album leaves you feeling it was written as the score for your every day, and won’t stop from you bursting out of your chair and launching into dance whenever the music so inspires you.

2. Ty Segall – Manipulator

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No surprise Ty made the list, and not just because I love him so. Manipulator is the garage rock virtuoso’s most refined to date, and is chock full of delicious reworks of all kinds of ’70s rock. Segall shines best on this release as he reinvents glam, melding it nicely with the kind of sounds invented by The Kinks.

1. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2

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Allow me to be so bold as to say RTJ2 is the definition of rap. Not of the many variations today’s rap holds, nor of yesterday’s and all its innovation, but of where the genre should be, following decades of development. Killer Mike and El-P cover all the bases with this intelligent record, delivering their rhymes with genius consideration and propping them up with style of every flavor. Their collaborations were jaw-dropping (Zack de la Rocha, Travis Barker, etc.), and the inclusion of extreme talent such as Gangsta Boo was brilliant. I applaud these guys for just about every second this album is made of.

Honorable Mention: The Growlers – Chinese Fountain; Woods – With Light and With Love

Ty Segall – Manipulator

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Grade: A

This time around, Ty Segall decided to slow down and actually take some time to make a record. So instead of following his usual break-neck speed routine, Segall spent almost a year writing and recording Manipulator, and of course it paid off. The album is by far his most polished and satisfyingly vivacious work to date.

Don’t mistake the idea of polished to mean Segall’s latest is soft, or conservatively constructed. There’s still plenty of erratic shift in style and sound in almost every song on there, and the number of surprise riffs featured are enough to make you feel like a kid at Christmas.

Manipulator, which shuffles its way through British Invasion rock to the early days of heavy metal and glittery glam, is also nice and hook-heavy, leaving its catchy tunes bopping around in your mind for days.

This is especially true for its title track, which Segall just released an interactive video for this week. Directed by Matt Yoka, who Segall met while the two were freshmen at the University of California, “Manipulator” allows its viewers to assemble Segall’s surroundings to their liking as the video plays out. While watching you can even change the channel on the TV in the singer’s bedroom, and the fact that Timothy Leary is an option on the screen further perpetuates the psychedelic nature of the vibrant video.

There’s also “The Faker”, an assuredly rockin’ number that almost hints at early Queens of the Stone Age. And don’t skip the sonic charm of “It’s Over” and “Susie Thumb”, both featuring strong instrument breaks made up of the sexiest in drum vs. guitar battles.

On the more mellow side is the album’s closer, “Stick Around”, a track that feels a slight evolution from Segall’s last solo effort, the acoustic-driven Sleeper. The track is made up of precise riffage backed by piano, and lyrics such as “Well come on/come on down/yeah stick around/we are here/let’s make a sound/you know we gonna stick around”. Yes, yes you are, Segall. We couldn’t be happier for it.

It’s exciting to add this this jewel of an album to my always growing Segall collection, and it seems the doors are wide open for his next move. Maybe his extremely prolific personality will kick back in and we’ll get three or more greats from him in the next couple years. For now, I’ll just remain deeply content with the rewarding enormity of Manipulator.

In the meantime, watch below as Segall and his devoted backup band of Mikal Cronin (bass), Emily Rose Epstein (drums) and Charles Mootheart (guitar) slay “Feel” during their performance on Conan last month:

Ty Segall is the best

One of the biggest benefits to being a Ty Segall fan comes in that you will never be left waiting more than 10 months or so for his newest musical endeavor. And whatever it may be, there’s a solid guarantee it will be different from the last. Not so different that it separates itself from Segall’s trademark, garage-based, scuzzy style, but distinct enough to stand out as yet another breakthrough from the 27-year-old genius.

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Since 2009 Segall has released nine full-length albums, either as a solo artist, with the help of his loyal band or as a collaboration with others. Going solo he got started with Burger Records and Goner Records, but has done much of his work since on Drag City. This includes his release last week of Manipulator, his tenth, to date – stay tuned next week for a full review of that terrific new one.

With each release Segall takes steps into new territory, and what’s even more phenomenal than the amount of music he churns out is the quality of each record. Each one features retro touches of fierce guitar work, but contains the kinds of savvy beats and grooves that declare them his own. The majority of his tunes are fun-lovin’ pounders of rock rhythm, and they flourish with a cocky, punk attitude that enlivens your own soul as you headbang along.

Never has it seemed the guitarist was hoping to even make money off his records. Rather, from the few times I’ve been lucky enough to meet him, it’s as if he was just bursting with ideas for music and wanted nothing more than to share them with anyone willing to listen. He’s also got a fantastic sense of humor, and honestly seems as if he doesn’t even know what a monster of a talent he is. And that is why I adore him so.

Watch below as he gets ganged up on by a carload of bad news characters, in the video for “The Man Man”, off his recent solo Sleeper, and be sure to check out one of my all time faves, “Sad Fuzz” on this week’s playlist.