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45 Songs in [mumble mumble mumble] Days, 2015: #5 "Title Track (There Is A Light)" by The Hotelier* Coming back to this listicle silliness, next up we… - Sam Hutcheson - Google+
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45 Songs in [mumble mumble mumble] Days, 2015: #3 "Dimed Out," by Titus Andronicus Give Pat Stickles credit, man. The man isn't afraid of a stretch goal.… - Sam Hutcheson - Google+
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45 Songs in 45 Days, 2015: #1 "Flagship" by Jason Isbell Two years ago Jason sort of snuck up on us out of nowhere with what amounts to a perfect Outlaw… - Sam Hutcheson - Google+
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45 Songs in [mumble mumble mumble] Days, 2015: #4
"December Is The Longest Month" by Chumped

Let us talk for a minute about pop punk. Punk-pop. Power punk. Whatever. That thing that Superchunk did near perfectly. That thing that Green Day did pretty well. That thing that Blink-182 did. It's a beautiful thing, pop punk. When done right, it is quite possibly my most favorite music thing. It's just so, so tasty good!

Now granted, when done wrong, it's shit. Like, Saves The Day and Fall Out Boy bad. Super terrible emo boy bad. But when it's done right? Oh man, when it's done right...

Chumped does it right. Chumped does it damned near perfectly. Like, I'm thinking their debut, Teenage Retirement, is at least as good as Superchunk's self-titled debut. Better, actually. It's really more like prime mid-90s Superchunk good. Like, Foolish good. Chumped does it that good.

Seriously, son. I don't levy glowing comparisons to my super favorite band of all time at the drop of a hat, right? You gotta do something noticable to get me to say you remind me in a good way of Superchunk. Chumped reminds me in a good way of Superchunk.

Teenage Retirement was released in November of 2014, following on the heels of a couple of high quality EPs. It's lead track, "December Is The Longest Month," kicks off with a couple measures fuzzed out guitar intro and feedback before dropping into a fretboard slide. A few plucked notes before Anika Pyle's vocals slip in. I challenge anyone to listen to that 30 seconds and not think of Foolish and Strings era Superchunk. Four minutes later we move into the album's "single", "Hot 97 Summer Jam" and the brilliance starts all over again.

There is not a bad track on this album. There is not a misstep on this album. This album is perfect. This album makes me reconsider my general lack of faith in the kids today. This album makes me wonder if the humanity has a future that doesn't deserve to burn to ash in an ever expanding sun. This album is my happy place.

So of course Chumped went on "indefinite hiatus" in October while Kyle runs off to pursue the dreaded "other interests." Fuck you world. Fuck you and your fucking fuck, world. Fucker.

The video link is to one of those full album playlists the kids are doing on the YouTubes these days. Fucking kids and their fucking YouTubes. It opens with "December." Obviously.

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45 Songs in [mumble mumble mumble] Days, 2015: #3
"Dimed Out," by Titus Andronicus

Give Pat Stickles credit, man. The man isn't afraid of a stretch goal. Coming off of 2010's The Monitor and 2012's equally shambolic if less cohesive Local Business, the instinct might have been to reign in some of the rambling pretense that has defined Titus Andronicus' career to date. But be honest; do you really think a post-punk outfit named after Shakespeare's most notoriously horrific and difficult tragedy is going to reign it in?

The Monitor was an hour-plus long double-disc rock opera about romance, moving away from home to go to college, and general dysphoria, built around the rather over the top metaphor of the American Civil War. It was bold, brilliant, and utterly unapologetic for its own hubris. TA tamped it down a little with the 2012 follow up. Shaving 15 minutes off of the run time and generally avoiding concept conciets or over-arching metaphors, I guess they were saving up their energies.

The Most Lamentable Tragedy is a double down on black. It's a triple dog dare right back at your face. It is a 90+ minute, "three disc set" concept piece broken into five "Acts". The conceit this time is Stickle's (manic?) depression and general anxieties. It is a behemoth of an album, and not for the faint of heart to attempt. That said, if you give it a go, you should find something worthwhile somewhere in its gurgling under-belly.

I'm not sure it's possible to release an hour and a half of new material at one go and not have some of it be lacking. Or, at least, not have some of it fail to hit with every audience member, all the time. Lamentable Tragedy is just too big to not have a few moments where even the biggest of fans think "really, Pat?" That said, I have the album firmly entrenched in my #3 slot for the year. Existing fans will love getting lost in the swirling anarchy of Titus being Titus, all over again. New fans...

Well, maybe start with the lead single from the collection, "Dimed Out." That gives you a starting point that solidly identifies what Titus does, what their sound generally is, and how you might approach finding a way into the swirling mess that is Pat Stickles' creative process. So yeah. Start with "Dimed Out" and go from there.

I'm comfortable saying this one is not as good as The Monitor. But then again, I have that album as the single most vital and necessary release of this decade. So whatever the opposite of "damning with faint praise" might be, don't let that throw you off of this one.
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Sam Hutcheson

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45 Songs in [mumble mumble mumble] Days, 2015: #4 "December Is The Longest Month" by Chumped Let us talk for a minute about pop punk. Punk-pop. Power… - Sam Hutcheson - Google+
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45 Songs in [mumble mumble mumble] Days, 2015: #2 "Blood" by Algiers It's rare that something drops that literally defies categorization. You'll get any… - Sam Hutcheson - Google+
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45 Songs in [mumble mumble mumble] Days, 2015: #5
"Title Track (There Is A Light)" by The Hotelier*

Coming back to this listicle silliness, next up we have another "not really a 2015 release but shut the hell up and listen you pretentious prick" offering. I stumbled on The Hotelier's 2014 release very late last year. Your embrace of this band's sound and style will depend heavily on how much emo you can stand in your pop punk. They're a band of youngish guys singing about love, pain and heartbreak (girls, friends killing themselves, etc) with overly literate lyrics and nods to The Smiths. All layered over crunchy post-punk guitar sounds. So yeah; emo. It happened. It didn't go away. Much like every other genre and sub-genre, if you dig deep enough in there you'll find something worth listening too.

Except crunk. I just do not get crunk. There's nothing good in crunk, man.

2014's Home, Like Noplace Is There sort of broke the band nationally, which led their label** to re-release their 2011 debut It Never Goes Out. Both albums have been steady play options in the shuffle pile for me this year. And because the best music of the year is the music that moves you that year, not necessarily music with a release date with the current four YYYY digits, here they are now.

This is the closing track of the 2011 debut, It Never Goes Out, called "Title Track (There Is A Light.)" No one said the Smiths call backs were subtle, chief.

* The band's name is The Hotelier, not The Hotel Year. Either they changed it or their original 2011 label got it wrong on the release (which would be a good reason to switch labels.)

** Currently they release on Tiny Engines, which is quite possibly the best indie label working today. Just an amazing stable of artists and a run of fantastic releases to rival prime Matador or Merge outputs from the days of yore.

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45 Songs in [mumble mumble mumble] Days, 2015: #3
"Dimed Out," by Titus Andronicus

Give Pat Stickles credit, man. The man isn't afraid of a stretch goal. Coming off of 2010's The Monitor and 2012's equally shambolic Local Business, the instinct might have been to tamp down some of the rambling pretense that has defined Titus Andronicus' career to date. But be honest; do you really think a post-punk outfit named after Shakespeare's most notoriously horrific and difficult tragedy is going to rein it in?

The Monitor was an hour-plus long double-disc rock opera about romance, moving away from home to go to college, and general dysphoria, built around the rather over the top metaphor of the American Civil War. It was bold, brilliant, and utterly unapologetic for its own hubris. TA tamped it down a little with the 2012 follow up, shaving 15 minutes off of the run time and generally avoiding concept conceits or over-arching metaphors. I guess they were saving up their energies.

The Most Lamentable Tragedy is a double down on black. It's a triple dog dare right back at your face. It is a 90+ minute, three disc set concept piece broken into five "Acts". The conceit this time is Stickle's (manic?) depression and general anxieties. It is a behemoth of an album, and not for the faint of heart to attempt. That said, if you give it a go, you should find something worthwhile somewhere in its gurgling under-belly.

I'm not sure it's possible to release an hour and a half of new material at one go and not have some of it be lacking. Or, at least, not have some of it fail to hit with every audience member, all the time. Lamentable Tragedy is just too big to not have a few moments where even the biggest of fans think "really, Pat?" That said, I have the album firmly entrenched in my #3 slot for the year. Existing fans will love getting lost in the swirling anarchy of Titus being Titus, all over again. New fans..?

Well, maybe start with the lead single from the collection, "Dimed Out." That'll give you a starting point that solidly identifies what Titus does, what their sound generally is, and how you might approach finding a way into the swirling mess that is Pat Stickles' creative process.

I'm comfortable saying this one is not as good as The Monitor. But then again, I have that album as the single most vital and necessary release of the decade. So whatever the opposite of "damning with faint praise" might be, don't let that throw you off of this one. So yeah. Start with "Dimed Out" and go from there.

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Of course if I had listened to the song before Googling, it's pretty self-explanatory. 
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45 Songs in [mumble mumble mumble] Days, 2015: #2
"Blood" by Algiers

It's rare that something drops that literally defies categorization. You'll get any number of releases per year where some critic or another will say that about them, but it's usually an exercise in hyperbole in praise of an act working on the edge of a relatively well established genre. Maybe the artist will bring a few selected samplings of other genres in as a mashup or amalgam, but rarely does the process result in something truly new and unique.

And then you have Algiers.

Every listen to this album sends me scurrying off in search of new nomenclature to describe them. I've settled somewhere toward "Dubstep Damaged Negro Spiritual Social Justice Punk" of late. But even that needs clarification. For example, the "dubstep" in question is way more out of the Burial type UK inflection of that genre; it has little to nothing to do with Skrillex. And I'm tempted to drop a "Proto" in front of the "Punk," just to note the distance they put between themselves and even socially interested traditional punk acts like your Anti-Flags or whatnot.

Suffice to say, Algiers is doing something utterly unheard of here. Literally; I've never heard anything like this before. And that's the sort of thing that floors me every time the album spins up.

The track of choice here is "Blood," because it is the first song I heard by them, and I remember clearly sitting at my desk with earphones on and playing it six times on repeat, just trying to fathom what I was hearing. There are plenty other choice cuts on the album - self titled debut, for the record - as well, but I always come back to "Blood."

The embedded video is to a KEXP live set, which kicks off with "Blood" and runs seamlessly into "Black Eunuch" before going to the first extended interview segment.

(EDIT: the seg is to "She Was Not Flying." "Black Eunuch" kicks off the second mini-set after the interview.")

Algeirs isn't a perfect album, but it is a great album. It is a stunning work as an initial release. It's the type of debut you'll remember for years and years to come. Being what it is, there are moments where the band veers a little too far afield, away from the heft of the music and too much into post-grad thesis navel gazing. "Irony. Utility. Pretext." might be a great notion for the close of your dissertation defense, but it's a bit overwrought as a punk rock(?) tune. Of course, the song itself turns out to be pretty great, once you get past the title and concept, but still.

Fact of the matter is, much like Isbell at #1, if you claim to be a fan of the art but haven't had this album in steady rotation since it's release in the spring, I will mentally check you down with the great Cohen aside; "you don't really care for music, do ya?"
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I see what you mean. Listening to the album on Spotify, and I think I'm going to get it for Tyler for Christmas (if I can find it on vinyl, which kids today are inexplicably into). On the question of what to call it: whatever else it is, this is a field holler.
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45 Songs in 45 Days, 2015: #1
"Flagship" by Jason Isbell

Two years ago Jason sort of snuck up on us out of nowhere with what amounts to a perfect Outlaw Country record. While existing fans knew he was insanely talented from his occasional genius with DBT, his solo output to date had been lackluster to say the least. Any post-DBT album might have one or two high quality tunes on it, but rarely did anything approach the sublimity of "Decoration Day" or "Outfit." And typically those one or two better than average tunes were buried in an LP's worth of mostly forgettable filler. But then, out of the blue, he goes and drops Southeastern.

Attribute it to getting clean. Attribute it to his new muse/wife, Amanda Shires. Attribute it to anything you want to really; honestly it doesn't matter. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is the pure, five-star perfection of the hour or so of sound sandwiched between the opening of "Cover Me Up" and the last refrains of "Relatively Easy." And that hour speaks entirely for itself. If you call yourself a fan of music but don't know half of that disc by heart, I question your love of the art.

Following up your masterwork is always a brutal telling. It would be forgivable to rest on the laurels, tour on the near perfection of 2013, and revel in it a bit. Luckily for us, Jason did not do that.

I'm not sure Something More Than Free is as good as the last one, but then again, I'm not sure it's not better. When it first came out, I posted the video for the hauntingly perfect "24 Frames" with the comment "the artist at the height of his powers." I stand by that judgment entirely. In 30 years, people will look back on Jason Isbell's run from the first half of this decade in utter amazement.

This is "Flagship," another personal favorite from an album once again chock to the brim full of them. Could have gone with the title track. Could have gone with "Children of Children."  Could have gone with "Speed Trap Town." That's the thing about brilliant runs of an artist at this height of his powers. Hit random shuffle and you'll be just fine.
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Wow, that was sweet. Good start for this year's list. Maybe a little more variety in the melody but I love the simple, clean sound.
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