Category Archives: all tiny creatures

Top Ten Albums of 2011

I’m still on holiday, so to test out this list and make sure I’m good with it, I made a playlist of one song from each album and am playing it in my mom’s den with her listening in, offering her opinions, it’s an interesting way to get final feedback on a list.

Looking at the list, the genres represented are interesting, and suprisingly well grouped: 1-2 lyrically and sonicly rich delicate albums, 3-5 punkish albums, 6-8 post rock & other atmospheric albums, 9 country with a punk-ish flare, 10 indie-folk/indie-pop. I saw 8 out of the 10 bands play this year. There is only one I’ve never seen live.

Mount Moriah, Cat's Cradle, Carrboro NC, 11/12/10

1. Mount Moriah – Mount Moriah – After I bought this album at the CD release, I put it on for the car ride home and listened with the windows down. I arrived at my house on a cool night with owls hooting in the background and listened to the last tracks there in the drive, unable to turn off the car before the album’s end. It was the perfect first listen for the album. And since then it has, easily, been the album that I’ve listened to and loved the most this year. Every time I listen I find a new turn of phrase or string of notes to lose myself in. Just gorgeous. Best local album of the year; my favorite album of the year. Stand out song: Everyone else will say “Lament” or “The Reckoning”, I’ll go with “Plane.”

The Low Anthem, Local 506, Chapel Hill NC, 09/18/11

2. The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh – The thing I keep coming back to about this album is how it creates space. You can hear the deep breath at the end of a phrase, the echo of sound. The album cover and posters were beautifully letter pressed and have a beautifully tactile deminisions. Complete fitting for this album where you really feel like you can almost run your hand over the sounds. Just stunning. Stand out track: “Ghost Woman Blues”

Restorations, Cave, Chapel Hill NC, 10/25/11

3. Restorations – Restorations – I haven’t seen this album on many end of year list, mores the pity, because it is freaking stellar. Can You See The Sunset, one of the few blogs to list the album simply said “Resto-fucking-rations! Is it post-hardcore? Is it Americana? Is it indie-pop? Yes.” That’s pretty much it. Punk rock for people who don’t listen to much punk anymore. Literate, smart, driving, wonderful. Stand out track: “When Your Older”

Dave Hause, Local 506, Chapel Hill NC, 09/14/11

4. Dave Hause – Resolutions – Dave Hause’s voice reminds me of all my favorite parts of living in the Mid-Atlantic, not nearly enough to want to move back there, but it’s a good reminder. There are so many punk rock folks making folk-ish americana-ish albums that it seems almost too worn, that you forget the real beauty of the genre. This is an album that will make you remember why it works. Great backing band, beautiful songs, just great. Stand out track: “Time Will Tell” or “C’mon Kid”

Des Ark, Nightlight, Chapel Hill NC, 03/10/11

5. Des Ark – Don’t Rock The Boat, Sink The Fucker – The first time I listened to this album, I couldn’t really hear it as an album, great songs but I couldn’t find the thread. The more I listened, though, the more I fell for the tracking, the way the songs play off each other and play with tempo and dissonance from one song to another and within each song. The whole albums works like a single song, rewarding many listens. Stand out track: “Bonne Chance Asshole”

6. The Besnard Lakes – You Live In The City – It’s only a 4 song EP. And it’s perfect. If you’ve been looking at my favorite albums lists for a while, you know I love this band. Thier album The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse was my favorite album of 2007: dark and rich and apocolyptic. In this 2011 album they take a turn for the peaceful. This is the best soundtrack for getting lost in headlights and a cool sky on a narrow road. This is the only album on the list where I’ve never seen the band playlive. I’d drive at least 100 miles todo so, with this EP playing all the way there. Stand out track: “Some Colour in the Sky”

7. Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care – The one thing that I still think Exposions in the Sky does better than any other post-rock band is the slow build. There is a moment and a tension in each track of building until that last piece comes in, and every time that last piece slides into place it feels like peace. Always so beautiful. Stand out track: “Be Comfortable, Creature”

All Tiny Creatures, Pour House, Hopscotch, 09/09/10

8. All Tiny Creatures- Harbors – All Tiny Creatures is all my favorite things about post-roock and all my favorite things about indie-pop in one beautiful atmospheric swirl. It’s music I get lost in. What really makes it work for me are the close repetitions, the short loops, that create a drone, a static, almost, in the back of the tracks. Stand out track: “Cargo Maps”

Austin Lucas, Motorco, Durham NC, 08/27/11

9. Austin Lucas – At Home In This World – I don’t understand why Austin Lucas isn’t a multimillionaire, winning armfuls of CMA awards every year, and playing to giant stadiums of country music fans. If country music is going to improve then this is the way to do it. I could play this whole album for my grandfather and it’d slide right into his collection between the Sunday Morning Singing and the banjo based secular country. Stand out track: “Darkness Out Of Me”

Bombadil Soundcheck, Cat's Cradle, Carrboro NC, 11/12/11

10. Bombadil – All The Rain Promises – Look, I’m 130% biased about this band. I love them. That they managed to make a followup to Tarpits and Canyonlands at all is amazing, that it is delightful and sparse and lovely is an added bonus. Listening to their albums straight through, it is obvious how much they’ve grown as people and as musicians and it is a joy to listen to. Stand out track: “I Will Wait”

Links to all year end coverage:
Year End Concert Stats
Twenty Favorite Photos of 2011
Ten Favorite Shows of 2011
Great Moments of 2011

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Hopscotch Reflections

I saw 49 full or partial sets this year at Hopscotch (if you count the drive-by performance by the Helping Hands Marching Band, literally a drive-by, they played in a truck bed driving around town, I caught then outside of Raleigh Times) and only one repeat band (Des Ark once an acoustic and unamplified show at Lump Gallery, once at Kings for a rock show). Half of the bands I saw were locals (25) and almost exactly half of the bands were bands I’d seen before (22). Those two lists don’t overlap as much as you’d think, actually, I saw 9 local bands I’d not seen before.

Some of the most memorable parts of Hopscotch, for me, were parts that happened not separate from but perhaps adjacent to the music. Long conversations with friends, really getting to know some folks I knew only as acquaintances before, running into people at exactly the right time for a hug or a tear or a high five. If you know me, you know I care about the community and the music of the community in almost equal measure. Last year, mostly because I’d just been here 5 months when Hopscotch rolled around, I felt less ownership. This year, though, I’ve got as many non-musical memories of Hopscotch as musical ones, and that is what it is all about for me.

But on to the photography & music. My favorite photos I shot are in this set
Thursday highlights:
Steve Gunn, Fletcher Opera Hall, Hopscotch, Raleigh NC,09/08/11
Steve Gunn was outstanding; I watched his hands intently during his set and I still don’t understand how one guitar makes all that music. The light setup Xray Eyeballs had at Slim’s was the most beautiful light setup I saw all festival (and so simple). Lower Dens really impressed. And JEFF the Brotherhood completely lived up to my high expectations.

Friday highlights:
The gorgeous bright noon light streaming into The Hive during Tow3rs set.
Last Year's Men, Churchkey/The Layabout Day Party, Slim's, Hopscotch, Raleigh NC, 09/09/11
Last Year’s Men’s set at Slim’s was the best set I’ve seen them play. The delightful confusion created in my brain by going from the Liturgy show to the Mount Moriah show. Frontier Ruckus covering the first verse of “September Gurls.”

Saturday highlights:
JKutchma debuting his full backing band at his day party show. Both times I got to see Des Ark. Superchunk playing “Driveway to Driveway” followed by “Learned to Surf.” Leaning against the wall at Tir Na Nog and disappearing into the music of All Tiny Creatures. Finally getting to see The Prayers & Tears. Bombadil, everything about seeing Bombadil play a full set again and in such a great space. The rickshaw that appeared as if by magic as I left Flechter for my last venue change of the festival (only rickshaw I took all weekend), that ride through Raleigh in the cool night made the whole thing seem enchanted. Then, closing out my festival with a roar with Titus Andronicus.
Titus Andronicus,Tir Na Nog, Hopscotch, Raleigh NC, 09/10/11

But like I said above, Hopscotch in specific, and this music community in general is more than just the music. This year I thought the quality of music was stellar (and better than last year), and I know I felt more a part of it than last year. My favorite thing is that this whole scene is so accessible and so accepting of what everyone brings to the table. I lived in Baltimore and went to shows there and in DC and attaching into the scene in both places was always very difficult for me because it seemed a event based scene. Here, though, it is a relationship based scene. I knew, no lie, 8 people in the area when I moved down. I’ve been in Durham for a year and a half now and it’s pretty safe to say that I could walk into almost any venue on almost any night and run into someone I know at this point. This scene is so excellent because it really is about communities of people, that great art is the byproduct is just a happy amazement.

One of the things that did bug me during Hopscotch was how many people didn’t look familiar, at all. During his set Jason Kutchma put out a call, a reminder, that great music is happening here all the time, not just during the big festival. That’s what I’d like to be able to convince everyone of. There is great music almost every night. And it is so easy to become a part of it all: go out. Talk to people. Pick a venue where you saw good shows at Hopscotch or a venue in Durham or one in Chapel Hill and just go. Go two nights, maybe three nights in a week .Talk to the door person, the bartender, the other regulars, the bands. At any place in the area, if you did that three nights in a week, you’d be welcomed as a local. I mentioned that this is a relationship based scene. That means it’s easy. You show up, and chat. That’s all. And, hey if you need to know someone at a show, hit up one of the shows I’ve got listed on my calendar and come up and say hi to me. I’ll be the one drinking either Diet Coke or Club Soda, wearing my camera on my wrist instead of around my neck, and taking pictures primarily using the viewscreen instead of the eyepiece. I don’t bite.

There are all kinds of great shows coming up just this month alone. Basically the whole week of 9/18-9/24 will be outstanding. In that week I’ll get to see: The Low Anthem & William Elliott Whitmore at Local 506, Jim Ward at 506, Fleet Foxes & The Walkmen at the Amphitheater, maybe squeeze in the end of Midtown Dickens’ set at Pinhook, Megafaun’s CD release w/ The Prayers and Tears opening at the Cradle, then the 24th will cap it all w/ insanity – Pride, a Duke Football game, Motorco’s birthday show of Cracker, with Red Collar & Almost People opening, and Pinhook for The Butchies w/ Pink Flag opening. That day of the 24th will be, like, everything I love in one packed day. (and then I’m sleeping)

Full list of all the Hopscotch coverage from this blog here

Top Shows of 2010: A Category All Their Own

I’ve seen some blogs list individual festival sets as concerts on their top shows roundups. But for me, while festivals are full of great individual performances, it’s hard for me to single out any one set from a festival because part of the glory is that it is just so much music, packed into a short time that you are almost overwhelmed.
So instead, here are the top 3 festivals I went to this year. I can’t compare them to individual sets and I can’t break then apart, so here they are in their own list.

Troika Music Festival, Durham, NC, 11/04-11/06 – From Birds & Arrows set to open the festival to Hammer No More The Fingers set to close the festival, it was just a solidly good time. I didn’t see a bad set all weekend. More than just the music, though, this festival was a celebration of local music scene. Well put together and smoothly run. Full-venues while still feeling very friendly. A+ – will attend again. Highlights: Mosadi Music, Django Haskins doing most of his set completely unplugged & standing on a chair, walking from Minor Stars to Dillon Fence to Onward, Soldiers for a great 1-2-3 punch, Free Electric State, Chatham County Line, Last Year’s Men, Hammer No More The Fingers.

All Tiny Creatures, Pour House, Hopscotch, 09/09/10

Hopscotch Music Festival, Raleigh, NC, 09/09-09/11 – It’s been a couple of months since Hopscotch and my favorite thing about it is that no one I talk to about it has the same highlights. The day parties gave great exposure to local bands and had some of the best sets of the festival. It was perfectly diverse with more than enough space to find new favorites and hear old ones. My highlights. All Tiny Creatures, Lucero, The Beast, Bellafea, Hog, Red Collar, Aquarelle, Balmorhea, Bear in Heaven, Tortoise.

Free Electric State, This Machine Kills Cancer

This Machine Kills Cancer, Durham, NC, 06/19 – The morning of this I had a flat and then had too go to work for 4 hours, but still, with a donut on my back tire, I made it to this show for almost the full day. It was hotter than blazes and it was perfect. I didn’t see a bad set. And it can’t really be summed up by listing highlighted sets. This was a day of music about the power of a strong community. It was glorious.

Night One

Well that was fun. Doing it all again starting in about, oh, 3 hours.

American Aquarium & Caitlin Cary, Lincoln, Hopscotch, 09/09/10

All Tiny Creatures, Pour House, Hopscotch, 09/09/10

John Howie Jr & The Rosewood Bluff, Lincoln, Hopscotch, 09/09/10