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.


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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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.

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