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.