2020 Jan-March: “Cause I’m not sleeping. The weight of that weekend. As long as I’m breathing”

This is a tough one to write.
Normally I would be overly excited for all the new music and concerts in the new year. I have to be honest that it has been especially difficult to deal with these surreal times. Live music and new sounds is integral for me.

April-May has always been the most lively of months as the bands from SXSW start to sprinkle northwards on their tours. Sadly all festivals and live gatherings have been affected. I’m currently diving hard into every band that was supposed to play live during SXSW and I’ll be composing a playlist soon.

I urge you to support musicians during this difficult time by buying their albums and when this whole mess is over, celebrate loudly with them.

Here are some current musical avenues that has been keeping me afloat:
Ben Gibbard’s daily live streams really helped me the 1st week in quarantine

Amanda Shires has been doing livestreams and Jason Isbell dropped in on one to play a killer Radiohead cover.

Rev. Vince Anderson and his Love Choir has been doing Union Pool every Monday night for 24 years. He live streamed the last one.

La BlogothequeStay at Home” series on Instagram at 2 p.m.

Vulture’s list

 

Here’s my first playlist of this year’s newest releases.

Some highlights:

Austra is finally back with a new album. Their album Future Politics was my #1 in 2017

Beach Bunny dropped a new album and I was quite excited to see them last week :<   But catch em tonight Sat 4/4 at 10 EST at the UnCancelled Music Festival among many other great bands for the next week!

Caribou is back.  and it’s different.  and I’m liking it.

Play Celeste’s Stop This Flame at maximum volume.

Dan Deacon’s new album is becoming one of the best of 2020 so far.

Hayley Williams’ Simmer is already going to be 1 of my favorite songs of the year.

Juana Molina is back and as weird as ever

Elizabeth Powell’s Land of Talk comes out with a new album May 15. Been loving them for awhile. If the new single is any indication, it’s going to be a gem.

Really digging the third doom punk album by Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs.

New Soccer Mommy so far sounds pretty great.

Was supposed to catch U.S. Girls in May. The new album will tide me over.

“I’m okay, but I do miss you

 

Stay safe out there.
Pablo

 

Caroline Polachek Acoustic

Caroline played an intimate solo piano set in support of her new album Pang. The show was quite a contrast to the elaborate production at Bowery last year and the night before at Warsaw. I’ve already given my accolades on her album giving it the #1 slot for both song and album on my best of list. This performance was very special and quite magical the way her songs translated acoustically. Although the album came out in 2019 I finally got my hands on the vinyl release which was held up due to manufacturing  issues. No videos were allowed but below is a clip that comes close to capturing the performance. And be sure to check out her 1st TV appearance on Jimmy Kimmel.

Charles Bissel live


 
Keeping Folks Waiting Since 1989.
I have been waiting for a looooooong time for a new Wrens album. The band has been discussing their anticipated follow-up to 2003’s The Meadowlands for so long, it’s become a running joke. That album is on my all time best and I consider it a masterpiece, so anything, ANYTHING that they release will be welcomed.  Charles posted that he would be playing at an unlikely location, Kate Werble’s Gallery to support Beth Campbell’s show. Needless to say I sprinted there to listen to anything new. He played about 4.5 new songs that are supposedly off the new album. It wasn’t polished and assisted with looping petals, but I liked where it was going. However, I won’t get excited until I get the physical vinyl in my hands. 2019 was their 30th anniversary and last time I saw them was multiple times in one day 10 years ago, as I didn’t know when they would play again.

My Top Songs of 2019

20. “Darjeeling”Barrie
19. “Rocket Fuel”DJ Shadow, De La Soul
18. “Lover”Noah Gunderson
17. “Darkness & Cold”Purple Mountains
16. “Kids in the Dark”Bat For Lashes
15. “Wasted Nun”Cherry Glazer
14. “Pink & Blue”Tycho, Saint Sinner, RAC
13. “Bruise”Yumi Zouma
12. “Ultrafiche of You”Com Truise
11. “Everyday”Weyes Blood
10. “Easy”Chaud
9. “Saying Goodbye”J.S. Ondara
8. “Con Altura”ROSALÍA, J Balvin, El Guinicho
7. “Not”Big Thief
6. “No Way Sit Back”And The Kids
5. “Harmony Hall”Vampire Weekend
4. “Far From Born Again”Alex Cameron
3. “Uncomfortably Numb”American Football
2. “Blood of the Fang”clipping.
1. “Pang”Caroline Palochek

Listen to the rest of the top 100 songs here on Spotify
Doublehalo best of 2019 

There was so much great music this year, its almost impossible to fit it all onto an arbitrarily numbered list.
Here’s another playlist of all the amazing tunes I also absolutely loved

More from 2019

Best Band Name Award: Ringo Deathstarr

If you liked the bands and hopefully introduced to new sounds, go and support them! Buy their music, merch, or better yet, see them live!

Happy New Year !!!
Very exited for what the next decade will bring.
As always, thanks for listening

My Best Albums of 2019

10. Purple Mountains – Self-Titled 
Heartbreak, grief, and disappointment. David Berman comes back after a long hiatus and then leaves us forever. The world will miss you.

9. Anamanaguchi – [USA] 
Bitpop, chiptune, digital soundjams. I never want to leave the video game world they created.

8. Freddie Gibbs, Madlib – Bandana
What do you expect when Freddie & Madlib get together? They just bring the best out of each other. Gritty and smooth at the same time.

7. Lightning Bolt – Sonic Citadel
Loud and punishing but still fun and melodic. Move fast, break everything. We need more intensity in this world. This band brings it.

6. Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
Ambitious baroque pop with incredible production. Natalie Mering creates a fantasy full of magic and daydreams. Album is so lush you can feel it.

5. Alex Cameron – Miami Memory
A slight departure from his previous 2 albums that I loved, Miami Memory celebrates a 70’s soft rock sound. Alex does a good job of painting different personas but this release has an obvious lean into his own life with actress Jemima Kirke. The album is tender, playful and triumphant. The entertaining narrator explores love and masculinity through his male perspective by the use of witty pop songs. The way Alex expresses himself and doesn’t shy away from anything is admirable and alarming. The album is a non romantic celebration of love and truth. His live shows match his jubilation with a compelling on-stage persona and delightful dance moves. One of the most entertaining shows of the year.

4. black midi – Schlagenheim
Despite being named after a dense computer crashing composition, this uk-based debut album only borrows the disorienting feeling that the music genre produces. It is explosive, energetic and challenging. The band takes cues from mathematical noise rock and experimental post punk but fuse these genres into something bizarre and new. Because there are familiar musical qualities one can latch on to, when the band goes anarchistic into uncharted dark inhuman sounds there is still a sense of control in the uncontrollable. The album is full of detours but always returns to a creative center. The album is bold and reckless balancing vulnerability and chaos.

 3. Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!
The sixth studio album is full of her best melodies to date. Blending allusive and romantic songs for this modern age we live in. Much like how the painter Rockwell depicted American life in highly stylized scenes, Del Ray depicts moments of old Hollywood, summertime and hope weaving them into a atmospheric personification of the American Dream. There is a Hemingway-esque quality to the songs with deliberate syllables and sounds which heighten the emotional tension contained within. It’s an honest masterpiece full unfiltered beauty, emotion and heartbreak.

2. clipping. – There Existed an Addiction to Blood
Clipping. always hits my “best of” lists, but this is the first time the band has delivered an album full of deep and powerful cuts. This release takes cues and draws inspiration from elements of horror and the occult. With this diabolical theme, Daveed and company is able to use anxiety to heighten the intensity of the songs. There Existed an Addiction to Blood has several layers of meaning seeping throughout, from invoking fear of your fellow man to exposing how we are all under siege. The album is a manifestation of the seemingly nightmarish times we seem to living in and the band’s sounds and lyrics invite this confrontation. The final 18 minutes is the sound of a piano burning (created by avant-garde Annea Lockwood) and it is a fitting end for such an apocalyptical album. A final scene that we would expect from a journey full of horror, pain and rage. The vinyl design on this release also matches the mood of the album.

 1. Caroline Palochek – Pang
Caroline Palochek has an uncanny ability to lure you into her unique musical world. Pang is her first album under her own name since ending Chairlift and although apprehensive at first, Caroline delivered a wondrous art pop album. She takes you on a journey from sweeping symphonic songs to intricate and delicate melodies. The album had its share of tension, pain and remorse but also intense bliss. Her enchanting voice guides you through such varied songs that can be natural or synthetic. Pang has such a musical range and is full of new surprises on every listen.

 

2019 Concert spotlights.

The Memorable

Daughters at Warsaw
I didn’t see how it was possible for Daughters to capture the intense mood and sense of dread that is found on their latest album. Listening to You Won’t Get What You Want drags you to such a state of unease anxiety, that a live setting would feel awkward. Boy was I wrong. The band pulled off the complicated abstract shrills in front of a ravenous crowd. The energy was palpable and downright scary being surrounded by possessed bodies.

clipping. at Zone One
Clipping previewed their new album to the smaller stage at Elsewhere. They played a tight set of their experimental hip-hop, including some of from their yet to be released There Existed an Addiction to Blood. Sharp dynamics and a great crowd.

Caoline Polachek at Bowery Ballroom
I was excited to see a live performance by Caroline as I was already immersed in the world of her new album Pang. The new songs came alive and made me appreciate them in an entirely different light. Her stage presence and visual backdrops were beautiful and technically clever. She plays again in January.

Ken Stringfellow at Mercury Lounge
Touched came out on a dubious release date of 9/11/2001. A day for me filled with confusion and sadness. Despite the timing, Ken’s album came out it exactly at the time we needed. The album was filled with songs of grief and healing. I was unsure of many things that week including whether anything would be back to normal. When Ken decided to play in NY nine days later it was the beginning of a return to something familiar and feeling safe. As the city still smoldered, Ken played an emotional set to about 50 people that were encapsulated with sadness but also needed some comfort. For Mercury Lounge’s 25th Anniversary Ken revisited Touched to reconnect with a city and to bring songs of the celebration of life, renewal, resilience and joy.

Youth Code at Elsewhere
Youth Code gave one of their best performances I’ve seen from them and gave one of the most intense shows of the year. They brought a total assault with their relentless energy. The set was full of their aggressive tracks as well as unveiling some incredible new ones.

Honorable Mentions

JPGMAFIA at Music Hall of Williamsburg
Sold out, sweaty, frenetic show. A one man tour de force who did not disappoint.

The Forgettable

Health at Elsewhere
I was very excited to catch HEALTH live supporting their solid V4. Slaves of Fear. However the lack of charisma and energy made the show boring, especially after being upstaged by openers Youth Code. HEALTH shows usually contain an intensity that makes their music even more captivating. They played one of the best shows ever at Market Hotel in 2016 but this show was a far departure from that. The sound, performance and crowd never really reached the frenetic pace you’d expect. They closed the evening with Youth Code coming out to play Innocence (my fav song of 2018) and was the only redeeming moment by blasting out the best closer of any show.

Black Midi at Warsaw
I unfortunately had to walk out on Black Midi. The sound at Warsaw was terrible and the live performance was bland and sloppy. Disappointed that the band couldn’t match the beautiful elements found on Schlagenheim, one of my favorite albums of this year.