Weird little Icelandic gnome…and friend of Damn Ugly Photography…Ryan Karazija is finishing up the second Low Roar album and he’s got a Pledge Music page up and running to him with the costs. If any of you remember how amazing the first album was, then you’ll probably wanna get in line for his new music. I don’t need to go on and on about how talented Ryan is…I’ve said it all before…but he always manages to take my breath away with his musical ability, his lyrical phrasing, and how he can turn your head inside out in five minutes through one of his songs.
The new album is called “0” and will be released this summer, but please…head over to his Pledge Music page and lock in your purchase today! Only 12 bucks gets you the download, but for $25, Ryan will personally scribble his name on an actual Old Skool CD…and lick the stamps himself to get the thing off to you…all the way from Reykjavík!!!
Ryan’s apparently too bloody busy to send me anything downloadable from the new record, but here are a couple of videos of new music, including ‘Home From Home’, a killer song he did with Neil Davidge…the mega-producer behind Massive Attack’s album Mezzanine…on Neil’s new record, ‘Slo Light’, as well as a performance recorded on a street somewhere in Poland…
The other day, a friend pointed out that this past year the usual high output of songs that got put up on The List was decidedly less than past years, to which I replied, yes…the necessity to work from time to time had certainly put a crimp in my ability to give away my usual amount of free music, but what did get tossed up was of such high quality as they more than made up for the diminished quantity. And with that in mind, here are the best of the best…the Songs of the Year…
Ryan Karazija didn’t just come up with the best song this past year, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t also have the best album, too. I could have put any one of the twelve tracks from the album on the annual list…they are all that good…and it’s only a coincidence that ‘Give Up’ is the first track on the album. I’ve already yelled at you guys enough to BUY THIS RECORD, but if you haven’t, do it now! And mark your calenders kids, cuz Ryan’s gonna be taking a flight from Iceland over to New York to play a gig at Piano’s January 19 and MilkBoy in Philly on January 22nd.
If not for Low Roar, Cameras would have certainly been sitting on the top of the heap this year. I’ve played ‘Polarise’ so often, I’m pretty sure even Camille is getting sick of it! Nothing like a wall of hard-to-understand, harmonic, atmospheric, shoegazey melodies to win my heart.
We all should have a dose of sweaty, angst-ridden rock to wake us up from time to time. They’re almost unheard of over here, but these four Scottish lads are burning up the clubs in Great Britain. Powerful, lotsa fun and yes…very sweaty!
#4. BIRD CALL
The Ballad Of New York
DOWNLOAD: The Ballad Of New York
I swear Chiara Angelicola may have been plucked out of a Jazz Club from the 50’s and transported to the Here & Now to remind us what real music is like. She’s got a voice that can drop so low it will rattle your bones…and then outta nowhere she’ll crack a high note that will give you goosebumps. The Ballad Of New York is going to be on her next album, but in the meantime she’s got a lot more sitting over at iTunes just waiting for you to enjoy.
There’s just something so comfortably reassuring about the way Cass McCombs sings. From the very first time I heard ‘The Same Thing’ I was won over. The melody, the slightly syncopated vocal style, the sad/lazy way it made me feel…it all works.
Another strong contender for my favorite album this year was Civilian by the Baltimore duo, Wye Oak. It’s a noisy mashup filled with masterful guitar work, shoegazey distortion, wonderful storytelling and Jenn Wasner’s languid voice holding it all together. It’s another record that you should seriously consider buying!
We’ve been friends for quite a while and I even shot her album cover earlier this year, but when Gabrielle Aimée sent me ‘Have You Ever’ I was knocked out. I had never heard her slide into such a bluesy place and be so damned sexy on a song before, and the vibrato from the Farfisa-like organ transported me back in time.
Kate Tucker has been a staple on The List from the moment we first heard her with the Sons of Sweden and since then we’ve followed her from Seattle to Ohio to New York and now to Nashville, so when she recorded an EP with Nic Danielson as K+Nikku we were on board. I’ve been goofin’ on her…calling her Katemau5…because of the slightly electronic edge to the EP, but she knows I love her…
The Pack A.D. is Becky Black & Maya Miller and they’re a hard-hitting garage duo outta Vancouver B.C. that has released four albums of stripped-down, pissed-off, dirty punk rock…and they’re bloody great! ‘Sirens’ is off of their latest release, Unpersons.
Going from the grungy goodness of The Pack A.D. to Sherlock’s Daughter shoegazing their way through ‘Reprise’ might be a bit jarring, but I’ve had their EP near the top of my iTunes folder all year and there was no chance it wasn’t making it on this list. Call it nonsensical aural wallpaper if you must, but Tanya Horo’s voice always has a calming effect on me…like a neural tranquilizer…I can feel any tension I’m feeling fall away as soon as she whispers in my ear…
We’ve come to the end, but I’ve turned it up to “11” and hearing Chaz Tolliver channel Mick Jagger one more time seems like a perfect way to close out this years Best Of List. The Booze play boogie-rock that can’t help but make you think of the early Stones and The Kinks, and Tolliver seems to have mastered the fine art of Jagger-esque posing…in a good way!
Most of you know that Audrye Sessions was one of my favorite bands of the past few years. Audrye Sessions are no more. Low Roar is Ryan Karazija. Ryan Karazija is Low Roar. Ryan moved to Iceland, the winter was dark, and he wrote a record. I have been dropping snippets from what he’s been working on for months, but I just spent the past hour listening to the final result…and it’s fucking awesome. He’s carefully composed a beautifully reflective, dark and brooding collection of stories that captured his feelings throughout that dark winter. This is no rock-n-roll record…the twelve songs are almost confessional and listening to them made me feel a bit like a voyeur…as though I was intruding on something profoundly personal. There were times when I got chills from the power of his soaring, chantlike vocals. This is a must-own album. You can buy it exclusively over at Tonequake Records…I suggest kicking in an extra 2 bucks for the alac (Apple lossless) cd quality download! And if you haven’t done so already, you can also pick up An Otherwise Perfect Day, the final EP from Audrye Sessions, for only 3 bucks. You can follow Low Roar on facebook.
BONUS…Here’s a stripped-down video version of ‘Patience’…..
I’ve obviously been slackin’ off on my Song of the Day duties, but life and work have gotten in the way recently. So when I saw that Ryan had dropped a little video on YouTube of one of the many throwaway songs he’s recorded for the upcoming Low Roar album, I figured I could take a few minutes to quickly shotgun it out to you guys. Nice way to end a rainy Friday. You can check out more of what Ryan’s been doing with Low Roar over on his Facebook Page
Since Audrye Sessions packed it in last year, frontman Ryan Karazija moved to Iceland, got married to a lovely Icelandic lass, and spent a lotta long, cold, dark Icelandic nights writing news songs. Cold, dark, moody songs. And after trying out a few names for his new project, he’s settled on one that perfectly matches the feeling these songs evoke…Low Roar. Monastically holed up in an igloo with little more to eat than dried reindeer meat and the occasional sick Puffin that dropped outta the sky, he put together a collection of beautifully crafted stories, then went into the studio and with that remarkable voice of his, set them to music, playing all of the instruments and handling the production himself (with his friend and Audrye Sessions producer Andrew Scheps doing the mixing). Ryan told me today that the as-yet untitled album will be out in a month, he’ll be playing in California in August, and if he gets enough demand, will try to get to New York, too. Let’s help him out…head on over to the Low Roar Facebook Page and hit the “LIKE” button.
Finally, here’s Ryan doing an acoustic version of another of the new songs, ‘Help Me’…..
With that little rant outta the way, I’ve culled through everything I tossed out over the past 12 months, tried to keep it real by touchin’ on all the food groups, and finally come up with a pretty good mix of indie, guitar-strummin’, singer/songwriter, power-poppy, electronica and alt-rock goodness. And I gotta say, it was bloody hard this year to keep it to only ten choices! Each year, it always amazes me at the sheer quality of the music I stumble upon that quite frankly, most people will never even hear! Cee Lo may get 50 million YouTube views and Kanye is washing the road grime off of his Lamborghini with Cristal, but I’m still gonna champion these performers because they’re turning out music I can actually listen to!
So even though this will undoubtedly be looked upon by some as yet another full-of-shit Top Ten list…I give you…..
The Damn Ugly Photography Top Ten Songs From 2010!!!
10. JOHANNA AND THE DUSTY FLOOR
Love Is A Breakable Thing
The theatrical, Joy Division-like fuzzy vibe these guys have working must have been catchy, ‘cuz a lotta you wrote thankful notes to me back in February and said you coughed up a few bucks to buy the EP. You can follow INU over at Inu Music.
It was indeed a very bad day when Audrye Sessions announced a few months back that they were packing it in…we were crying like babies here at The List…but back in May when Ryan sent me this song we were amped by the frenzy of fun ‘Bad Day’ laid down and so looking forward to more from would end up being the final ‘sessions’. But Ryan assures me his new EP will be out this month and you all know I’ll have a taste when it becomes available!
I loved Portishead, so it was natural I was gonna love Phantogram. The sad, drowsy guitars, the scratchy backtrack and even Sarah Barthel’s voice that’s a dead ringer for Beth Gibbons…’When I’m Small’ had me swaying side-to-side back in January. Check out Phantogram over on MySpace
6. ANDREW BELLE (featuring KATIE HERZIG)
I first found out about Andrew Belle after seeing Katie Herzig (#3 on the list this year) in concert and ‘Static Waves’, the duo they did together, showed up on The List in October. You can follow Andrew Belle on his MySpace Page or over on his website
The first time I heard ‘Changing Your Mind’, it gave me an ache in the back of my throat…the kind of heartfelt ache that convinced me even back then that it was bound for the end of the year list. You can’t fake this kind of soulful singing. Check out Bob Schneider on his MySpace page.
I never knew when I went to see Brandi Carlile I’d come away with a bunch of CD’s from Katie Herzig, but that’s why we go to see live music, right? You never know who’s gonna pop up and grab you! Katie is a special talent and you can follow her on her website or over on MySpace
There was far less electronica on The List this year, but my love of dream-pop and the fact that this song stayed at the very top of my iTunes folder all year ensured it a spot near the top of this years list. And I could listen to Alejandra and Claudia Deheza trade off harmonies all day and night! Get more SVIIB on MySpace or on their Website
Over the past few months, Nadia has become BFF’s with The List…we even shot her new album cover package…so ya can’t be too surprised to find her sitting on top of this years heap, and nobody deserves it more! She’s such an amazingly gifted songwriter and that strong, expressive voice can melt even the hardest heart. Her second album, The Ocean Master, is due to be released this Spring…in fact, she and Harvey are in Wales mixing the record it as I type this…so please, head on over to her facebook page for more information.
OK…let’s step back from yesterday’s exercise in shameless self-promotion and get back to why we’re all really here…to get some new music for your iTunes folder!!!
After the new website went live yesterday, I sent Ryan Karazija the link telling him that his band, Audrye Sessions, was chewing up some serious bandwidth in the ‘Famous People’ gallery. Ryan got back to me late last night with a gift…a leak from their new album. ‘Bad Day’ is a revelation…unlike the guitar-driven Audyre Sessions I know…it’s simply beautiful…like a pastoral journey that floats in on a warm breeze but steadily builds to a frenzied & joyous drum-banging, anthemic crescendo. Few songs get me hooked as quickly as this one did and honestly, I can’t wait to hear more. No word on when Ryan and the Gang plan the next release, but stay close…I’ll let ya know…and in the meantime, check ’em out on MySpace
And it even comes with
a trippy YouTube Video…
Another year is over and another decade done and all that’s left for me now is to cook down the music I’ve served up over the past twelve months into an easily digestible, playlist-sized morsel. God…even after all the years I’ve been doing this, it’s still not easy. With all of the inspiringly good music that came out this past year, the wrap-up could have easily been 30 songs long, so I’ll apologize up front if you felt Carbon Leaf or Blitzen Trapper or Wye Oak should have been recognized, but I had to swing the axe on something, otherwise why have an end-of-the-year list at all?!! Surprisingly, none of my faves showed up on lists compiled by Rolling Stone, Spin or any of the other ‘big’ name music mags. Well…NME did have The Horrors ‘Sea Within A Sea’ at #2…does that make me a little bit mainstream?!! And it might sound melodramatic, but many of these songs have become touchstones to my life…they jog my increasingly bad memory and remind me of how I was feeling, who I was with and what I was doing. As I sat here editing down the list and listening to these all again, it was as though I was watching the year musically speed past me…bringing it all back again as the melodies filled me up. So here they are…my favorites songs of 2009……
There was absolutely zero chance this wasn’t gonna be my number one song this year. From the first time I heard it leap outta my Sirius while listening to Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel I was sold. Ryan Karazija has been compared to everyone from Bono to Thom Yorke, but the simple fact is his voice is an amazing instrument all it’s own, his timing and phrasing are extraordinary and he’s backed up with three of the most talented young musicians I’ve seen in years! And the cherry on top was that I got to shoot them when they were in New York back in March! Their self-titled debut album came out in October and you can check them out on their MySpace page
The one thing that nobody should ever have to witness is me singing, but this is the one song this year that I find myself harmonizing with (horribly) whenever it plays! Rachel Stolte’s trembling, trilling yet powerful vocals send shivers up my spine and the wall of fuzzy noise that accompanies her gets me swaying from the jump. Great Northern dropped “Remind Me Where The Light Is” in April…check ’em out on their MySpace page
Yup…those three goofballs from Leeds who studied the Nirvana songbook easily grabbed the #3 spot on The List with ‘My Rock & Roll’, certainly the most glorious rock anthem of the year. I found ’em on MySpace…where else?!!
There’s a certain member of The List who has told me in no uncertain terms that if ‘Quiet Dog’ didn’t make the Songs of the Year List, I would no longer be welcome at her dinner table! Well…she didn’t hafta threaten holding back food to get me to put this thing on, ‘cuz when I saw Mos Def do ‘Quiet Dog’ on Letterman I was instantly maintainin’ the rock and I don’t stop! Mos Def is the King of Kool…and he’s on MySpace
Just imagine…if it hadn’t been for me tossing and turning from a wicked case of insomnia and then switching on Kimmel I probably never would have known who Anya Marina was, but even in my sleep-deprived state I knew she was the real deal and in an incredibly short time she has rocketed to the top of the indie pile with the kitten-sexy ‘Move You’. In fact, she’s so damned good that she stole the show from headliner Emiliana Torrini when they played the Highline Ballroom this Summer! ‘Move You’ is off of her second album, Slow & Steady Seduction, Phase II and you can hear more on her MySpace Page
So what if Metric are electronically-driven popsters from Canada? Every time Emily Haines’ pleading, raspy vocal cries, “Gimme sympathy!”, it pulls at my heart! It’s just one of those perfectly hook-filled pop songs that I find myself humming long after it’s over and what can be wrong with that?!! Head on over to their MySpace page and listen to a bit more.
Few bands blew up as big as Band Of Skulls did this past year. Besides touring the World in the summer, they also killed it at the Lollapalooza festival and just when they thought things might die down a bit, one of their songs was featured in the blockbuster movie, ‘Twilight – New Moon’…not bad for a group who last year at this time were still playing skeevy clubs in London and only had a couple of EP’s under their belts! Hit ’em on MySpace
Karin Dreijer Andersson’s solo experiment, Fever Ray, caught even the most diehard fans of The Knife off guard. Where The Knife could wander off into an electronic miasma of utter weirdness, Andersson’s icy-cool vocals, haunting melodies and slickly-produced musical constructions created a surprisingly approachable, yet intensely primal, world of minimalism and harmony…while still remaining pretty damned weird! Hear more Fever Ray on their MySpace Page or over on the Official Website
Kate’s new album, White Horses, isn’t due out ’til next Spring, but I’ve been giving out tastes for most of the year! A document of heartache, lost love and rebirth, it’s an intensely personal diary that she presents with an anguish-filled urgency that you feel from the first few notes. Kate’s a friend of The List, and I’m expecting you all to pre-order a limited edition signed and numbered copy of White Horses (Release date: March 2010), and Kate will send you a free gift! Just go the the ‘NEWS’ section on Kate’s Website for details, and then check her out on MySpace
The Idle Hands were basically unknown, but they turned a lotta heads at SXSW this year when they debuted a bunch of the new stuff they’ve been working on, including this Nihilistically re-worked version of ‘Loaded’, for an as-yet unnamed new album. All you Emo Boys and Backpack Kids can check out more songs over on MySpace
What’s a list without a bit of Goth?!! Sure, they wear a lotta eye makeup and they’re probably very full of themselves (I mean, just look at how they pose!), but so did Bauhaus and these guys are the closest thing to that late-great band there is! For those of us with a penchant for gloomy poetics, Faris Badwan’s vocals come across like the like the bastard-child of Peter Murphy and Ian Curtis…just the kinda thing you need to listen to as your life slips away from you…..visit their MySpace page or their website for more.
This was the very first Song of the Day when I moved The List from the e-mail distribution to the blog and it has remained one of the most-played songs I’ve come across all year. Seattle-based Eric Elbogen performs as Say Hi, recording albums out of his home, playing a majority of the instruments and vocals. He is often compared to such disparate artists as Belle & Sebastian, The Beatles, The Strokes, Interpol and Gary Numan and since 2002 has put out a pretty damned impressive body of work…visit his MySpace page to hear more.
I’m always fascinated by Sarah Negahdari’s voice…at times it’s like Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but then she’ll get all introspective and moody like Tanya Donelly from Belly and just when you think she can’t morph into something else, she’ll do a mash-up of Patti Smith and Yoko Ono!!! It’s her trilling, high-register vocals that drive this L.A.-based power trio like a buzz saw on steroids. Their new album, Spells, dropped October 6th, and you can head over and make friends on MySpace
Even more tough-girl vocals from Sarah Daly, the lead singer of London-based post punk pop band, Scanners. Daly’s femme fatale swagger…part Karen O, part Chrissie Hynde…fits in perfectly with the eerie vibe on ‘Salvation’, with it’s dark harmonies that overlay a haunting melody. They’re set to release their second album, Submarine, in February on Dim Mak, but for now, check ’em out on MySpace
It’s kinda fitting that we come to the end of a list of the year’s best songs with a band that doesn’t even exist any more. The Sun were a collective of crazy talented musicians from Columbus, Ohio who packed it in back in January, but before they left, they finished Don’t Let Your Baby Have All The Fun that you can download gratis over at their old label, Rock Proper. And if you like following dead bands, head over to their MySpace page and ask ’em to get back together again, but to maybe come up with a better name!
Well…that’s it for another year. I hope you’re all enjoying yourselves! As for me…Hell, I just wanna be a rock star…..!!!
Finally, we went back down to the studio, but even though we were running late and the band had to get back into Manhattan for a radio interview, I had one more idea I wanted to pull off…and a ‘mistake’ made it even better. When we were setting up the shot, my first exposure was overexposed about three stops and the grey balance was all effed up…but it was cool, so we left it alone…
So yesterday, on the hottest day of the year, I took Audrye Sessions up on a rooftop in Brooklyn for an impromptu photo shoot on one of their few days off while crisscrossing the country on the tour for their album. I hooked up with the band through a series of cool coincidences when I made ‘Turn Me Off’ the Song of the Day a month ago. After my post, a friend of mine saw that Black Seal Records had linked Damn Ugly Photography on their own blog…and a few e-mails later we were up on the roof cooking our asses off!
And before you all chime in to point out the obvious, yes…the above photo is an homage to the famous Art Kane shot of The Who…..
‘Where You’ll Find Me’ is another gem off of their self-titled album and another example of just how amazing lead singer Ryan Karazija’s voice really is. The song starts off with him softly leading you into what sounds like just another ballad, but about a minute in the orchestral flourishes and glorious harmonics take you to a much grander place and his soaring vocals, trembling with hurt, rising to a beautiful falsetto, will give you shivers. If you didn’t take my advice the first time, do it now…buy this album! It’s only $5.99 on iTunes…that’s not even a sandwich…and it’ll make you feel a lot better.
I’ll give up a few more shots from the day later on, but for now why dont’cha head on over to MySpace and show the band some love?!! They’re playing a sold-out show tonight at Bowery Ballroom and are on tour through June (with Manchester Orchestra) so if they’re playing where you live, give ’em a look…and tell ’em you’re friends Of Damn Ugly Photography!
Full credit for today’s song goes to Channel 25 on my Sirius Radio…the Little Steven Underground Garage channel…I’ve been listening to so much great new stuff over there lately that I’ve barely had to look at the online indie music blogs to find anything worth tossing out to you leeches! Audrye Sessions is an Oakland quartet who just dropped their self-titled debut last month and have been getting major notices for the raw, emotional quality to their songs, but especially for lead singer Ryan Karazija’s amazing vocals which one minute can resemble Bono with his plaintive, suggestive cries, then he’ll slide into a Thom Yorke vibe with a wailing falsetto. And any U2 reference you notice might have something to do with the fact that the album was produced by Andrew Scheps, who has previously worked with Bono and the boys….as well as the Chili Peppers, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash and an armload of other A-List acts. The gorgeously anthemic ‘Turn Me Off’, with it’s wall of crystal-clear guitars and crashing drums, was written after Karazija saw a television show where returning Iraqi-War veterens talked about being “so messed up that you want to be shut off”. The rest of the album covers all the musical food-groups, from power-pop and guitar-heavy arena rock, to deeply introspective ballads. This is one extremely impressive debut! Check out Audrye Sessions over on their MySpace page.