TLW’s Best Albums of 2013: 1-10

Posted in Music on December 23rd, 2013 by Nick

Last week, I posted TLW’s Best Albums of 2013, numbers 11-20. Here, I stop procrastinating and finish it off. As always – holler back. Lets talk musics.

10: Major Lazer – Free the Universe220px-Major_Lazer_-_Free_the_Universe
There’s a lot of fun to be had on a Major Lazer album. The electronic dancehall DJ project from producer Diplo offers something for everyone: reggae, hip-hop, EDM, dubstep, you name it. And the list of guest stars he collaborates with is pretty cuckoo nutsos, too: Bruno Mars, Peaches, Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, Dirty Projectors’ Amber Coffman, Wyclef Jean, Shaggy, Danielle Haim, Ms. Dynamite and more. Like other Lazer releases, Free the Universe undulates to and fro, surging with energy and thumping beats, pinballing from one genre to the next as each track passes by. Plug in your best speakers and party.

9. Tomahawk – Oddfellows220px-Cover_art_for_Tomahawk's_album_'Oddfellows'
Mike Patton came back this year. (This entry should end here with no further explanation.) You might remember Patton from Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, or from his many, many film scores over the years (when does this guy sleep?), but Tomahawk is perhaps my favorite non-Faith No More project of his. Oddfellows was one of the best (Alt-) Rock albums of the year. Sure, diehards might find it to be a little too accessible for Patton, but that in no way means it doesn’t rock. Hard. Look no further than “Stone Letter,” “South Paw,” and “White Hats/Black Hats” for proof of that.

8. Capital Cities – In a Tidal Wave of Mystery220px-In_a_Tidal_Wave_of_Mystery_by_Capital_Cities_artwork
This indie pop band from Los Angeles (formed by Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian) might have been one of my favorite live shows this year. It’s an ecstasy-filled danceparty of epic proportions: hand claps, dance lessons, trumpet solos, lights, raving, and pimp 80’s jackets. You don’t leave a Capital Cities show not covered in your own sweat. “Safe and Sound” took a while to permeate throughout the Web, but with consistent touring and great word of mouth, the band attracted some deserved attention this year that should help catapult them in ’14. But don’t let that stop you from listening to them now.

7. Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends220px-Portugal_The_Man_Evil_Friends
There’s just something so sincere about Portugal. The Man. Their entire package is like a warm blanket of comforting goodness – their lyrics and melodies joining together to create indie-rock perfection. For a band that’s only been kicking since 2004, the fact that Evil Friends is their 7th album is super ambitious, and makes me feel horrible about how I spend my own time. This album is a grand slam and other sports references, too. With help from producer Danger Mouse (Yahtzee!), Portugal. The Man has delivered one of the most consistent start-to-finish albums of the year.  It’s challenging to recommend songs here because they’re all so damn snazzy. And that’s a great sign.

6. Lorde – Pure Heroine220px-Lorde_Pure_Heroine
The Lorde and savior of Pop in 2013. Lorde is so refreshing for so many reasons. It’s cool that such a young artist can make a splash on the scene while staying true to herself at the same time. Lorde is like Pop’s darker, hipper cousin who still made her way into the mainstream…and frankly, it’s great that youngsters have Lorde around among the sea of Mileys and Katys. You’ve heard “Royals,” but Pure Heroine has so much more to offer (“Tennis Court,” “Team,” “White Teeth Teens”), with each song accurately portraying her calm and collected demeanor over thumping beats and searing synths. I hope where she goes next will be just as exciting as her debut.

5. Holy Ghost! – Dynamics220px-Holy_Ghost!_-_Dynamics
Synthpop and electronic acts have made the 80’s cool again, but it was Holy Ghost! that perfected the decade’s revival this year.  Some of the tracks drop listeners right back into 1986 (“It Must Be the Weather,” “I Wanna Be Your Hand,” “Don’t Look Down”), while others tie in contemporary sounds to keep the album grounded (“Dance A Little Closer,” “Bridge and Tunnel”).  As a whole, it’s a massive, era-spanning behemoth that’ll make you feel both nostalgic and with it. When an album’s slower jams are just as strong, if not stronger than its energy-infused ragers, you’ve got a real winner.

4. The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law220px-Wolf's_Law
The Joy Formidable is the most underrated Rock band that completely deserves more mainstream love. Sure, “Whirring” made a small splash on Modern Rock Radio a couple years back, but the band’s Arena-worthy sound can fill any room, large or small. They’re one of the most energetic live acts I saw this year, and Wolf’s Law has an incredible amount of heart and LOUD GUITARS. Any Rock fan should check out the seven-minute headbanger “Maw Maw Song.”  Bonus points for being a trio and pulling off such an amplified sound. Gold stars for not sounding like any other act out now. These guys have really perfected their own sound and that’s so rare nowadays.

3. Haim – Days Are Gone220px-Haim_-_Days_Are_Gone
Ugh, fine, you guys. Their SNL performance kind of sucked, but this album is a knockout. The three sisters from LA are all multi-instrumentalists and they harmonize like whoa. Like a folky, Fleetwood Mac-ian group of Dixie Chicks. Their influences are all over their sleeves, but that doesn’t discredit them one bit. Days Are Gone is one of those albums I stand so strongly behind. It being one of the year’s best isn’t an opinion of mine really – because it just flat out is. They’ve got a cool alt-rock/folk base, but still sound contemporary in their melodies. Bonus points for Este Haim’s bassface and for flipping off the dude from Los Campesinos. I’ll be perpetually tapping my foot to “The Wire” well into 2014.

2. Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady220px-Jm_theelectriclady_cover   
Listening to Janelle Monáe can be such a powerful and positive experience. Her message, one that our society (and world) really needs right now: love, respect and equality for all. She’s a fierce performer, a vocal perfectionist, and in my opinion, an icon in the making. The Electric Lady brings retro soul and funk back to the playing field, but it doesn’t stop there. Hip-hop, Rock ‘N Roll, R&B…Ms. Monáe does it all. Being the genre-bender that she is, she even got the attention of Prince, who guests on the album’s opener “Givin Em What They Love.” The result is pure auditory bliss. Lady continues her Metropolis concept (it comprises Suites 4 and 5 of a 7-part story) and picks up right where The ArchAndroid left off. There are movers-and-shakers (“The Electric Lady,” “Q.U.E.E.N.”) and jaw-dropping ballads that will tug at your heartstrings (“Primetime,” featuring Miguel, and “What an Experience”). An experience, indeed. Just what great art should be.

1. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork220px-Queens_of_the_Stone_Age_-_…Like_Clockwork
It’s been six long years since Queens of the Stone Age’s last album, Era Vulgaris, but most fans would surely agree that it’s been well worth the wait. Frontman Josh Homme and co. upped their game, adding so much more to their now-renowned desert-stoner rock. “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” and “My God is the Sun” bring a classic Queens vibe, while also being some of the year’s best Rock tracks. But it’s the departures from the norm that really demand your attention. “Kalopsia” starts as a sweet lullaby before exploding into a hailstorm of madness and peacefully segueing back into its ballad form. On “Smooth Sailing,” the band has a shitload of swag. Homme’s lyrics are fun as hell, too: “I’m burning bridges, I destroy the mirage/ Oh, visions of collisions Fuckin ‘bon voyage / I got bruises and hickies, Stitches and scars / Got my own theme music , It plays wherever I are.”

The best track though is “I Appear Missing” – another rock-ballad hybrid. It’s these in-betweens where Queens really shows its strengths. The melodies are tight as hell and transition so quickly, and with tangible emotion at times, too.  The lyrics are dark and personal; morose enough to give you chills. But the track is a masterpiece, and one of the best that Queens of the Stone Age has ever written and recorded. Words can’t do it justice.

This album is a #1 pick for so many reasons: it show’s progression from the rest of the band’s discography, it rocks hard, and it feels deeply personal. That personal side may be bleak at times, but so is life.

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The Joy Formidable Unleashes Fury at New Haven’s Toad’s Place

Posted in Goodies Giveaway, Live Shows, Music on June 18th, 2013 by Nick

the-joy-formidable-corona-capital-1With music currently being dominated by Indie Pop, folky Americana, and Disney Pop bullshit, Rock has once again regrettably taken an unjust spot in the backseat.  Gone is the haydey of early-mid 90’s Hard Rock and Alternative, where loud, deafening guitar-driven bands and artistic, Arena Rock-level acts were a dime a dozen. But fear not: The Joy Formidable is here, and they are exactly what music so desperately needs.

Hailing from North Wales, England, the band consists of Ritzy Bryan (lead vocals, guitar), Rhydian Dafydd (bass, backing vocals), and Matt Thomas (drums, percussion). Considering the sonic booms that exploded through amps and speakers last night in New Haven, it’s seriously astonishing that just three musicians can make that much magic happen.

The Joy Formidable has been touring for their second full-length for quite some time now (there’s no question that Wolf’s Law is snagging a spot in TLW’s Top 10 this year). The album is exceptionally emotive, yet equally as aggressive; it’s artsy and meaningful; relatable, yet colossal. These juxtapositions only add to the band’s power and potential, and all of this goodness and more oozes throughout their live set.

Having now seen their show in venues both large (Madison Square Garden) and small, there really is no roof that these three can’t tear down. The band’s guitars are shrill and melodic, while Bryan and Dafydd’s harmonies perfectly complement the enormous sound. Simply put: The Joy Formidable can make a whole lot of beautiful noise.

Last night, the trio plowed through songs from both full-lengths, Wolf’s Law and 2011’s The Big Roar. In person, the sound is even larger than on record. The same can be said of Bryan’s vocals – the stage unleashes the rawness in her vocals, as her wide eyes widen even further to make her look borderline manic. She ping-pongs to both sides of the stage, dueling with Dafydd for a bit before heading over Thomas’s side to jam in front of his kit. (Thomas’s drums were set up on the right hand side of the stage. His drums faced his two bandmates instead of the crowd. Interesting!)

The pacing of the set was perfection – the rising and falling energy was quintessential of a band who completely understands how to control their own live experience. The ballad “Silent Treatment” was perfectly sandwiched between rockers like “Austere,” “This Ladder is Ours,” and “Maw Maw Song.” No surprise here, though. When you take a look at tracks like “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade” and “The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie” (both of these also came out to play last night), one can clearly see that The Joy Formidable have mastered the perfect build – an amalgamation of power, sound, energy, and feeling until they allow it to burst at the seams. But only when they’re absolutely ready for it – controlling us, the audience, from up above. It’s all very puppet-mastery. For a band that’s only been around for five years, give or take, what these three accomplish on stage is remarkable.

Though they may not show all their cards up front if you just listen to the radio edit of “Whirring,” say, but make no mistake – The Joy Formidable’s piercing intensity is infectious and will burrow inside you until you’re ready to bow down.

It’s still a great time to be a Rock fan.

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Surprise Goodies Giveaway! The Littlest Winslow has a free copy of Wolf’s Law to give away! The first person to either Tweet TLW or comment on this post on the Facebook Page will receive a free download code for the mp3 album. This begins…uhh…now. So don’t miss out!

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2013 Firefly Lineup Announced: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Chili Peppers, Tom Petty, The Lumineers, and More

Posted in Check It Out!, Music on February 19th, 2013 by Nick

The Firefly Music Festival has released its 2013 lineup for the upcoming second fest taking place June 21-23 at The Woodlands of Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Here’s a screenshot of the full lineup as announced this morning:

*Update* Clearer shot of the lineup, released by Firefly.

FF2
  
And here’s the accompanying video:

More than likely, they’re keeping a headliner under their belts for some unknown reason (to be released on Thursday, when tix are on sale?). Tom Petty and the Chili Peppers seem to be older favorites. Perhaps a more modern/relevant headliner will be announced shortly?

Check out TLW’s post from last year’s Firefly shenanigans, and stay tuned for more Firefly news and discussion soon!

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Music Mondays: The new ‘Joy Formidable’

Posted in Music on January 28th, 2013 by Nick

JoyFormidableWolf_jpg_630x960_q85On The Winslow’s Must List this week is the new record by The Joy Formidable, a Welsh trio currently living in London. They’re an alt-rock band that formed in 2007 and recently had success on modern rock radio with their singles “Whirring” and “Cradle.” Last week the band released their second full-length studio album called Wolf’s Law and it’s just as head-turning as its predecessor, showcasing the band’s pulsing, relentless guitars, airy ambition, and attentiveness to lyrics and melody.

We caught these guys in an opening slot for the Foo Fighters a couple years back and they completely held their own. We were worried their sound wouldn’t translate in a venue as big as Madison Square Garden, but the band’s approach was gutsy, filling the venue with their signature shredding, elongated solos and incessant gong beatings (!). Alas, they’ve earned a special place in my heart and on my iPod.

Today’s offerings are the latest single “This Ladder is Ours” and another track from the new album that caught my ear, “Maw Maw Song.” Wolf’s Law is available now.

Don’t forget – TLW is now on Facebook! Check out the page here and toss us a LIKE! Your Facebook News Feed will be happier. Or something.

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TLW Presents: The Top 10 Albums of 2011

Posted in Music on January 3rd, 2012 by Nick

Hey now – it’s another presumptuous and pretentious Top 10 of 2011 list! Well…yeah. Fuck you. But how can I not? In true Littlest Winslow form, this post is being presented all 2012-style. But hey – last year I posted this in March. (Really, Nick? Fucking March? I couldn’t be bothered to type something up quicker than that? It’s no wonder I have like 10 readers. At least 10!) I’m going to try to keep this short and snappy – and as always – holler at me with your picks or to tell me what an asshole I am.

I’ll put my thing down, flip it, and reverse it.

10. Lady Gaga – Born This Way

It’s hard to leave Gaga off this list. She’s basically like the modern day Madonna – ubiquitous, unavoidable, trend-setting. Although the album A) wasn’t as good as I thought it would be, B) wasn’t as huge as I thought it would be, and C) was slightly too flamboyant, I still have to give the Queen-in-training credit simply for the amount of times I blasted “The Edge of Glory” on repeat in my car while jammin’ to the sweet, sweet sax of Clarence Clemons (RIP). Gaga has staying power, man. You may hate Pop and you may hate her, but she is a head turner. No doubt. Best Tracks: “Marry the Night,” “The Edge of Glory,” “You and I”

 

9. The Decemberists – The King is Dead

The Decemberists are perhaps one of the most consistent bands of our time. Every effort is just as strong as the last. And man, do they pack a punch. All members are multi-instrumentalists and they harmonize like beautiful angels flying oh, so high in the sky. The King is Dead is Indie Folk at its best. In a year that was primarily dominated by Indie Pop and Hard Rock, the Decemberists hold their own here. Ten tracks. Short, sweet, polished. Best Tracks: There are really no throwaways here. However: “Don’t Carry It All,” “Calamity Song,” and “Down by the Water” are a cut above the rest.

 

8. Ida Maria – Katla 

Hands down, the most underrated record of the year. I can’t believe this album didn’t catch here in the states. Katla is fucking badass. Ida Maria showcases her versatility here. From hard rock, to pop, to doowop and swing, to mariachi, to stoner grunge rock…um…you get it already? She’s a Norwegian firecracker who destroyed her debut album with a sophomore effort that is bold, fearless, and in your face. Best Tracks: Look no further than the 9-minute-plus “Devil” to see what she’s capable of. Still hungry? So is she: “I Eat Boys Like You for Breakfast” and “Bad Karma.”

 

7. Wild Flag – Wild Flag

Let’s face it: Carrie Brownstein is the coolest. Besides the fact that she’s a third of one of the raddest riot grrrl/indie rock acts to come out of the Pacific Northwest in the 90′s, and forgetting that she’s now showing off her comedic chops on IFC’s Portlandia, Brownstein and company still have some insane street cred. That’s because the debut album of Wild Flag is completely worthy of any and all of the accoldates its been receiving since its release in September of 2011. Nearly a decade later, Brownstein is still delivering top-notch indie rock full of solid rhythms, tons of keys (!), and bitchin’ riffs. It’s a slow burn that grows on you, and before you know it, you’ll be humming the beats and singing along without the headphones planted firmly in your ears. Best Tracks: “Romance,” “Boom,” “Racehorse.”

 

6. The Black Keys – El Camino

The Black Keys have done it. They’ve tackled mainstream success while still keeping their cred, a feat which lesser bands like Kings of Leon failed miserably at accomplishing. Miiiiserablyyy. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of Brothers, El Camino is incredibly strong. It’s shorter than its predecesssor, sleeker and tighter. A duo going at it alone is always impressive too. You just have to love their vintage garage sound. Best Tracks: “Gold on the Ceiling,” “Run Right Back,” “Lonely Boy.”

 

5. Foster the People – Torches

Man, did I drag my feet on this one. I didn’t want to like it when I heard it, and hell, once I started digging it I still didn’t want to include it on this list. This is clearly the trendy/hipster portion of this countdown. But damn-it-all-to-hell! Have you heard “Pumped Up Kicks”? Of course, you have! How could you have escaped it? It was probably one of the best singles of the year, as well. That song infested my brain, nearly rotting my insides. What should’ve been a one-hit-wonder was backed by an amazing, catchy, addicting, guilty-pleasure-inducing collection of indie-pop melodies that turned out to be irresistable. Best Tracks: “Pumped Up Kicks,” “Houdini,” “Helena Beat.”

 

4. Adele – 21

There’s just something about the simplicity of a girl and her piano. What can be said about Adele that hasn’t been uttered already since the debut of 19? That voice! If you’ve ever heard her open her mouth and haven’t been totally enthralled, you’re dead inside. Sure, it’s an album mostly filled with ballads, which may or may not be your thang, but you’ve got to respect talent. And Adele’s got plenty of it. I’m eagerly anticipating every step of her musical journey. Best Tracks: “Rolling in the Deep” (duh), “Set Fire to the Rain,” “Someone Like You.”

 

3. The Joy Formidable – A Balloon Called Moaning

Hailing from North Wales, The Joy Formidable is a relatively new band that released one of the best alternative rock albums of the last decade. OK…so it’s technically a mini-album (their actual debut The Big Roar hits the U.S. in March). Still, The Joy Formidable’s instrumentation, lyrics, and huuuge sound comes from a power-charged trio led by the pint-sized frontwoman Ritzy Bryan. The sound is just as epic live, even in an arena setting – a platform where smaller bands sometimes get drowned out (Dave Grohl heard them on the radio and nabbed them as an opener for the Foo’s Wasting Light tour). From start to finish, A Balloon Called Moaning amps you up. It’s a record that just excited the hell out of me this year. Best Tracks: “Whirring,” “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade,” “Cradle.”

 

2. Architecture in Helsinki – Moment Bends

If Ida Maria’s Katla was the most underrated record of the year, Architecture in Helsinki is the most underrated band of the year. Moment Bends was released quietly in May here in the states and is probably the best Pop album in the year. Hell, it almost made the #1 spot. It’s a disc you play from start-to-finish. Good for parties, work and the car! Bonus. This five-some boasts a group of talented musicians that even rock such rarities as the glockenspiel and melodica. Horns and keys ablaze, just like in previous endeavors, Architecture’s 2011 release is non-stop fun and their live show backs it up entirely. Best Tracks: “Escapee” was easily one of my favorite songs of the year, “Contact High,” “Desert Island.”

 

1. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

Although I put heavy weight on an album’s personal affect on me, whether lyrically or musically, I still believe that the best albums of the year should at least capture a portion of the zeitgeist. Sure, many of the albums on this list may not have accomplished that, but I still feel strongly that the best music of the year should have accomplished something. They should turn heads, be respected equally by critics and fans alike, and be created passionately and honestly. Wasting Light is a great example of this criteria and completely deserves a spot in any Top 10 of 2011 list. Dave Grohl and the Foos went old school on this one, recording the album in Grohl’s garage using entirely analogue equipment until the post-mastering stage. They brought in Butch Vig to produce (Garbage drummer, Producer of Nevermind and countless other records), and had guest musicians such as Bob Mould (Hüsker Dü) and Krist Novoselic (Nirvana). They even tossed a piece of the original master tape into every unit sold (style points!). All of these cool technicalities aside, the album just fucking rocks. It’s one of the loudest and proudest of the Foo Fighters’ career and by far, the best Rock record of the year. The album had a nice blend of radio friendly singles, such as “Rope” and “Walk,” while going balls-out heavy on “White Limo” and “Bridge Burning.” Because of this blend of artistry, production, and killer material, Wasting Light is The Littlest Winslow’s #1 album of the year. Best Tracks: All of ‘em.

As if this wasn’t long enough…here are a few honorable mentions that would’ve made the cut had I had the patience to put together a Top 20:

The Parlor Mob – Dogs
Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde
The Rapture – In the Grace of Your Love
Holy Ghost – Holy Ghost
Cults – Cults
Dum Dum Girls – Only in Dreams
Yuck – Yuck
Mr. Heavenly – Out of Love
Florence and the Machine – Ceremonials

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