JHubner73 Presents : Favorite Soundtracks of 2017

Over the last few years the film score has become very important to me. It was always there, even from a little kid getting goosebumps thanks to John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Danny Elfman, and Ennio Morricone, the film score was making its mark on me whether I realized it or not. But just within the last few years I’ve started going back to old horror soundtracks and then new ones and saw such a vast and overwhelmingly beautiful musical world where I could get lost in. Whether it was a progressive rock band, a guy with a synthesizer, or a full orchestra, these composers and musicians not only made the film they were scoring that much better but many stand on their own as impeccable musical art that begs to be played both in context and out of context of the films they were made for.

Not only has it been a great year of music from some of my favorite artists and bands, it’s been a pretty stellar year for film scores and soundtracks. Two of my favorites in a really long time came out this year(well, I bought them this year anyways.) So some of these may not have been released in 2017, but they did come into my possession in 2017. Whether they be reissues or I just happened to stumble upon them finally, these are soundtracks that came into my life this year and I’m very thankful for that.


10. The Void by Jeremy Gillespie and Brian Wiacek and Various Artists

I think Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie’s The Void was one of the biggest horror film surprises for me this year. It was a low budget, mostly practical effects-filled occult-heavy hard doom flick that in all regards shouldn’t have worked but it did. It did because these guys were pulling from the likes of Clive Barker, HP Lovecraft, John Carpenter, and even Ridley Scott(definitely some Alien love here.) They hit the mood just right, both stylistically, visually, and aurally. The sound design was perfect and the NIN-meets-Ennio Morricone-meets-John Cage soundtrack was a huge part in giving this little, freaky horror film the push it needed into future cult classic territory.

9. Suspiria by Goblin

I know, I know, why didn’t I own this already? It’s an absolute stone cold classic, right? It’s the score to Dario Argento’s masterpiece, right? It’s fucking Goblin, right? Well, while I am quite aware of how great this album is(as well as the film, ya dingus) I never got around to picking up a copy. I’d see OG pressings here and there but never dropped the cash for one or for any of the reissues. Then Death Waltz/Mondo announced they were putting out a reissue at Beyond Fest. I was sweating and panting as I looked at its majestic beauty online. Of course I wasn’t going to be at Beyond Fest so I missed out. But alas, they were selling a limited amount on their webstore so not all hope was lost. Then the goddamn thing sold in like a minute. Good for Mondo, not so good for Johnny Midwest(that’s me.) Fear not, readers. Mondo threw a couple in LIght In The Attic’s direction and I was able to get a copy thanks to my local brick and mortar. I spun it twice last night and it was amazing. And look at that album art by Randy Ortiz. Absolutely amazing.

8. The Thing by Ennio Morricone

I have to admit that the score to John Carpenter’s The Thing was the last thing I noticed about it. This movie scarred me when I saw it as a kid. The kennel scene still burns brightly in my cerebral cortex as one of the most disturbing childhood movie memories(besides Leonard Part 6 of course.) Going back to The Thing as an adult I’m still enthralled with the effects and the Agatha Christie via Sergio Leone via Invasion of the Body Snatchers cinema gumbo Carpenter offered up, but Morricone’s score is a new highlight for me. There’s so much nuance and quiet dread in there that never made its mark before when I was still a pre-teen. Thanks to Waxwork Records I was able to snag a copy of their reissue, complete with absolutely stunning artwork by Justin Erickson of Phantom City Creative. It’s such an underrated masterpiece.

7. Christine by John Carpenter

Another Carpenter classic that far exceeded Stephen King’s source material, this film oozed Carpenter’s stylized camera work and dread-filled synth work. The movie was a fun 80s gem and Keith Gordon’s scene-chewing performance was worth the price of admission alone. I hadn’t really thought much about the movie for quite a few years, until this year when it was announced Varese Sarabande was reissuing the soundtrack. Of course I picked it up on blue-colored vinyl and was immediately taken aback by just how good it was. It sort of feels like an outlier in the Carpenter/Howarth canon. It’s more subtle and quiet than previous work. It sounds darker and more minimalistic than what came before(and after, really.) When I put it on this year I was instantly reminded of the more recent work of Zombi’s Steve Moore. His The Guest S/T owes a big debt to Christine. At least that’s what my ears hear.

6. Before The Flood by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Mogwai, and Gustavo Santaolalla

A soundtrack to a documentary that I really should watch but I just haven’t gotten to it yet. Still, I knew I’d want it with the Reznor/Ross team and Mogwai both contributing. It’s a 3LP set worth of compositions and incidental music for the Leonard DiCaprio-produced doc about climate change. It was directed by actor Fisher Stevens and the score is subtle but moving. Everyone here works well together to make a well-blended collection of pieces that I’m sure help push the narrative along quite nicely in the film. I can say it’s a great listen. Despite the length, it runs along nicely and it holds up to Mogwai and the Reznor/Ross team’s best.

5. Mayhem by Steve Moore

Steve Moore continues to push his film scoring work to bigger heights. His score to 2015s The Mind’s Eye was an impeccable collection of moody synth and this year’s Mayhem is no different. Well, actually it is. Moore has pushed his film music into newer territory with Mayhem, bringing in 80s techno rhythms at times and pushed into more of a pop-centric vibe. It works incredibly well, and I think establishes Moore as one the premier indie film composers working today.

4. Hyper Light Drifter by Disasterpeace

Hyper Light Drifter is a soundtrack to a video game I’ve never played, but that’s okay. You know why? Because the masterful score by Disasterpeace is really all I need. It’s a 4LP behemoth and it’s a sensory overload in the vein of his excellent work on Fez. He works within the realm of chiptune which adds both a child-like wonder and overwhelming nostalgia to everything he does. With the sound of early 80s all over this, you feel like your back in the neon decade watching Saturday morning cartoons and playing on your Commodore 64. But Rich Vreeland isn’t just some nostalgia guy. The work he creates is very serious and can evoke emotions just like someone working with the full symphony. Hyper Light Drifter might just be his masterpiece.

3. Blade Runner 2049 by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch

I know I’ll get a lot of flack for saying this, but I was a hell of a lot more hyped about seeing Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins'(his cinematography was as integral as the direction) Blade Runner 2049 than I was Rian Johnson’s Star Wars : The Last Jedi this year. Maybe it was the 37 years in-between, the mystique of the project, or the stellar group involved in bringing that world back to life, but the idea of heading back to that dystopic future seemed like a fitting way to close out 2017(after seeing the newest trailers for The Last Jedi I’m officially at peak hype level now.)

Besides the actors, writers, director, and DP, I was extremely thrilled to hear that Villeneuve also had his composing collaborator Johann Johannsson signed on to score the film. As October got closer and closer the story had changed a bit. It was reported Johannsson was going to share scoring duties with heavyweight Hans Zimmer. While I wasn’t too disappointed, I had hoped Zimmer was going to leave his over-the-top style from the Nolan, Miller, and Snyder films at the studio door, in lieu of something a little darker and more restrained.

Well by now you know that Johannsson was completely off the project by the end of it all and Zimmer took the reigns, with help from Benjamin Wallfisch. What started out as disappointing news and a general bummer turned 180 degrees once I heard the score for the first time. Zimmer and Wallfisch created a moody, melancholy, and spatial musical world for Officer K, Deckard, and Luv to come alive in. There are no huge blasts of over-the-top drama. Hans Zimmer pays tribute lovingly to Vangelis’ original and perfect score while still adding a more modern, darker feel. A post-modern dystopian symphony to get lost in.

2. The Girl With All The Gifts by Cristobal Tapia De Veer

Another cinematic treat this year was The Girl With All The Gifts. A different take on the virus apocalypse that was part 28 Days Later and part road movie, but with a precocious teen at the center. Besides the unique take on a well used story, the score by Cristobal Tapia De Veer was an absolute brilliant outing. Part electronic, part voice, but all so one of a kind. There’s something very alien about the use of voice and rhythm throughout, giving the whole thing a very ghostly feel. Part Mica Levi and part OPN, but very much its own beast. An absolute gem.

And now, my favorite score of the year:

Arrival by Johann Johannsson

Arrival is one of a handful of recent science fiction films that I think have retooled the genre and have breathed new life into the science fiction world. It wasn’t concerned with reeling in teenagers or people that need things spelled out for them. It took adult themes, complex storylines, and incredible visuals and created a truly emotional, thought-provoking film. So much of that was pushed forward by Johann Johannsson’s thoughtful and intricate score. He uses an orchestra like one may use a synthesizer. It’s not a conventional score, but it’s filled with so many eerie dynamics that you can’t help but get pulled into the world it makes. It’s like Steve Reich wrote a symphony for whales, with it to be played underwater. It’s mysterious, spatial, and at so many points absolutely beautiful. This is easily one of the most compelling film scores I’ve heard in years.

Last night as I played this for the umpteenth time my son says to me “This part in the movie I cried. It was so sad.” He was referring to the end where Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight” played. If you’re familiar with the film and scene you’ll understand my son’s reaction to the piece and the scene. I cried, too. Richter’s piece plays like bookends for Johannsson’s overall score. They both work together flawlessly, which is why this is my absolute favorite score of the year(at least within the year I bought it, that is.)

There were lots of great soundtracks that I picked up this year. Here’s a few others you should check out if you haven’t(especially that Hellraiser. Damn):

Hellraiser by Christopher Young(reissue)

Southbound by The Gifted

Atomic Blonde by Various Artists

Baby Driver by Various Artists

Watchdogs by Brian Reitzell

Twin Peaks : Fire Walk With Me by Angelo Badalamenti

You’re Next by Various Artists

The Streets Run Red by Timothy Fife and David Ellesmere

Forbidden World by Susan Justin


So the big lists are out of the way. I’ve still got a couple end of year posts I’m going to share. Keep checking back. And go pick up some albums, guys and gals!

Jhubner73 Presents : Favorite Albums of 2017

It seems we’ve come to the end of another year. I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a rough one. Between mass shootings, political insanity, and a cavernous divide that seems to just keep widening between people that at one time would never allow ideological differences get between them personally, I’m feeling psychically, mentally, and physically beat down. Fortunately for me(and maybe you, too), it’s been a really great year for music in my world. There have been some great records dropped from the ether to help me get through these complicated times. They’ve allowed me moments of solace and escape. At times they’ve recharged my brain and spirit and have even given me glimpses of hope that despite the topsy-turvy, Bizarro world we’re currently in that we all may find a place of peace to get back to and maybe find some middle ground.

At the very least, we can throw on a record, grab a couple beers, and hash this shit out.

I don’t know how you fared this year musically, but for me it’s been a pretty amazing year. So amazing that putting this list together has been a hard one. There are a couple truly standout records to my ears, but as a whole I’ve loved so many albums with equal vigor. So as my mom used to say, “Well shit or get off the pot.” I’m gettin’, ma. I’m gettin’!

 

25. Delia Gonzalez : Horse Follows Darkness

DFA artist Delia Gonzalez makes warm, bubbly synth music while honing artistic, dance floor leanings. According to Gonzalez, the record is ” a modern electronic soundtrack for the Revisionist Western film genre.” It’s sort of like Suzanne Ciani making the score to McCabe and Mrs. Miller. A unique take on modern electronic music.

 

24. Blanck Mass : World Eater

How can you not like a band called Fuck Buttons? I mean, the guys that decided to go with that name have to be alright dudes. Benjamin John Power is one half of Fuck Buttons, and when he’s not making grating noise in that outfit he’s making grating noise as Blanck Mass. World Eater is his most accessible record to date, mixing techno, noise, and even hints of electro pop. Dig into this.

 

23. Primus : The Desaturating Seven

Primus continues to do that Primus thing on The Desaturating Seven, which is to mix up King Crimson, Frank Zappa, and R. Crumb into a musical stew that may smell kind of weird but once you get a taste you’ll keep coming back for more.

 

22. LCD Soundsystem : American Dream

If you’re going to retire your band and even go so far as to have a goodbye show at Madison Square Garden and then decide a couple years later that you want to get the band back together you better make damn sure that your welcome back album is damn good. James Murphy knew he’d get some slack for pulling a stunt like that, but American Dream isn’t just okay. It’s primo LCD Soundsystem. Welcome back, indeed.

 

21. Spoon : Hot Thoughts

Spoon, more than any band that came up in the early aughts in that coveted and revered time in indie rock, have continued to evolve and hone their sound. They still have that pop edge to them, but seem to be taking their songs in a more dance-infused territory. Hot Thoughts is an all-out pop record that feels like it could be their breakthrough mainstream album. Whether that will be the case or not only time will tell, but one thing is for sure which is this Texas band can write one hell of a groove.

 

20. John Carpenter : Movie Themes: 1974-1998

I love seeing John Carpenter find a new artistic outlet. Not that making music is new to him, but for so long he seemed to be the jaded, non-working auteur that would pretty much sell any rights off to whomever as long as he got his share. Ever since he started making records with his son and God son that creative fire seems to be stoked in him once again. Movie Themes: 1974-1998 sees Carpenter revisiting some of his most famous and even not-so famous film scores and reimagining with new ears and instruments. The results are pretty amazing.

 

19. Astral TV : Chrystal Shores

There’s an overwhelming warmth and vastness that emanates from Astral TV’s Chrystal Shores. Their name alone evokes space and time, and their sound only lives up to those lofty images. It’s new age music for the modern psychedelic age. Synths and crystalline guitars weave and mesh together beautifully to create a soundtrack for existential pondering.

 

18. Beach Fossils : Somersault

Beach Fossils started out creating dusty, 4AD-leaning pop songs that felt perfect for long car rides and romantic navel-gazing while looking out on some nondescript sunset. They could’ve continued to make lo-fi records like that and kept a core group of reminiscing guys and gals happy. Instead, they took some time and retooled their sound and expanded their songs sonically and made a great indie pop record. Long car rides and romantic navel-gazing are still welcomed, but not required.

 

17. Billow Observatory : II: Plains/Patterns

Billow Observatory work not only in these new age sounds, but they also work in vast open spaces that allow those sounds to expand and retract with each successive listen. Their first album was this monolithic expanse of distant synths and guitar that allowed you to get lost inside for however long you allowed yourself. On their new album II: Plains/Patterns, those cavernous spaces still exist but feel warmer and there seems to be more light allowed in. It’s like a shoegaze band was sucked into a black hole and what emerges on the other side is something wholly new and exquisite.

 

16. Moon Duo : Occult Architecture Vol. 2

Moon Duo have always dabbled in the darkness, creating a space-out, psychedelic boogie that is equal parts ZZ Top and Suicide. On their part 2 of the Occult Architecture series they’ve decided to let some light in. It’s an eye and ear-opening listen, with the band looking on the lighter side to stunning effect.

 

15. Carlton Melton : Hidden Lights

Hidden Lights is an appetizer for what’s to come from Carlton Melton in 2018. As far as appetizers go, it’s an absolute delight. Mind-expanding psych and heady drones that keep you pondering and reaching for answers to the bigger questions.

 

14. Com Truise : Iteration

By far the best Com Truise to date. Seth Haley has whittled down the hard techno vibes of earlier Com Truise records and made a tight, melody-driven album. Iteration is the perfect late night drive soundtrack.

 

13. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile : Lotta Sea Lice

The low key vibes of Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile coming together on a collaborative record seems like something that would be mentioned to a friend in a beer-soaked evening as a great idea, but an idea that would probably never happen. Well that idea turned to reality and let me tell you it’s one hell of a record. Hooky pop slung by two of the great songwriters working today. This record is a joy to spin.

 

12. Protomartyr : Relatives In Descent

Protomartyr is like this street-level,  back alley version of The National. There’s something darkly gallant about their poetic and often melodic post-punk songs. Each record has gotten both clearer and obtuse. Relatives In Descent doesn’t quite perfect or one-up their last record The Agent Intellect more than it keeps that angst in motion. That’s not a bad thing in my book.

 

11. Ulrich Schnauss & Jonas Munk : Passage

Another beauty of a record from Azure Vista, this time masters of ambient textures and hazy vibes Ulrich Schnauss and Jonas Munk. Passage is near perfect electronic and ambient music. It’s an exquisite mix of both artists’ solo work, reaching back into Munk’s work in Manual. If you’re looking for good vibes look no further than Passage.

 

10. Tangerine Dream : Quantum Gate

I think Tangerine Dream’s Quantum Gate has been one of the biggest surprises of the year for me. Not that I didn’t think it would be good, but I had no idea it would be this good. When Edgar Froese passed away at the beginning of 2015 I couldn’t imagine the band continuing on at all, but Ulrich Schnauss, Thorsten Quaeschning, and Hoshiko Yamane are keeping the Komische master’s memory and spirit alive and well on the first post-Froese Tangerine Dream record of original material. This is primo TD, but with a more modern take.

 

9. METZ : Strange Peace

Over the course of three albums the Canadian trio METZ have lashed our ears and brains with jagged, distortion-fueled songs that sound battered together more than constructed. Sawtooth tracks bolted together like razor-sharp sheet metal and held together with psychic trauma. After 2015s II it felt like they guys hit a turning point: do they go in more of a pop direction or continue digging a hole to Hell with their instruments. The answer is the excellent Strange Peace, a record that somehow gets louder and more abrasive while also shoving pop hooks in our ears at the same time. The guys had been making music that sounded like it was produced by Steve Albini, so METZ decided this time around to head to Chicago and let the man work his magic in person. As far as rock and roll records go these days, this is one of my favorites.

 

8. Videodrones : Nattens Haevn

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the El Paraiso record label. It’s weird to be a fan of a label, as opposed to bands. But listen, when a label touches on all your musical loves(psych rock, ambient, jazz fusion, acoustic new age, monster guitar riffage, synth/drum freakouts, heavy synth, and generally soundtracks to blow your mind to) becoming a fan of a label is pretty easy. Especially when the label is run by the guys that are making a big portion of all the psyche-melting music.

Videodrones is a two-piece synth freak noise outfit that consists of Causa Sui drummer and main graphic design guy Jakob Skott and synth master/horror hound and Laserblast member Kristoffer Ovesen. 2016s Mondo Ferox was a hazy mix of bubbly synth sound cues, like something you’d hear on an old b-horror movie you’d find on an mildew-y VHS tape in the basement. On this year’s Natten Haeven the guys expanded the sonic palate to more song-constructed music. Less music cues and more arty, expressionistic sound excursions. They still retain that nauseous horror vibe, but it feels more like improvisational freakouts and less like a lost film score. It’s a record I listened to for weeks at a time. Brilliant stuff.

 

7. Pentagram Home Video : The Satanic Path

One of the best musical excursions into the occult you’ll find this year is Pentagram Home Video’s The Satanic Path. On his 2016 Death Waltz release Who’s Out There, this dark musical entity made minimalistic, quaalude-affected satanic techno. It was a slowed-down dance music that was equal parts horror cues and trashy late night dance club come-ons. The Satanic Path goes less for minimal techno and heads right for the jugular. It’s at times a low profile beat accompanied by a pulsating synth and at other times its like Skinny Puppy or Throbbing Gristle soundtracking Rosemary’s Baby. There really is nothing else like Pentagram Home Video out there now. Hail PHV.

 

6. The War On Drugs : A Deeper Understanding

Adam Granduciel has become this sort of hero for the musical outcasts. From Slave Ambient to his newest record as The War On Drugs called A Deeper Understanding, the Philadelphia-by-way-of-Massachusetts singer/songwriter has gone from prodigious auteur shut-in to playing Sunday morning talk shows. Musically it’s not a surprise at all, as Granduciel takes ambient, hazy art rock leanings and mixes them with 80s pop radio sounds to make a very likeable and hummable creation. Despite leaving his indie label for Atlantic Records, Granduciel still seems to be the quirky, uncomfortable rock and roll musician he was 6 years ago. He still suffers panic attacks and heaping amounts of insecurity, but he makes up for it in the sun-bleached songs he makes. A Deeper Understanding is his most accessible, upbeat record to date. He may have left some of those sonic oddities at the studio door that made Lost In The Dream one of my favorite albums in recent years, but A Deeper Understanding still soars above most of what passes for music.

 

5. Causa Sui : Vibraciones Doradas

Causa Sui dropped this mini-album just a couple weeks ago, right under the 2017 wire. It may be a mini-album, but it sounds like a behemoth. Huge riffs, mammoth drumming, slinky bass lines, and ethereal keys all swirl together like a psychedelic confection. Vibraciones Doradas are summer riffs scattered in vast, autumn walks that lead to winter’s desolation. Five tracks of meaty guitar riffs that lead into hazy moments of sonic reflection, only to veer right back into the eye of the storm. The band have also found this sonic sweet spot to where the ferocity of their live performance translates to their studio work now. These songs have a “live wire” feel to them; buzzing and airy like a downed electrical line in the street whipping and flailing about. You can feel those riffs and rhythm section as they pour their way thru the speakers. The Danes do it once again.

 

4. Quaeschning & Schnauss : Synthwaves

Thorsten Quaeschning and Ulrich Schnauss have had a pretty good year. Not only are they two-thirds of Tangerine Dream and released the excellent Quantum Gate, but they collaborated on their own and released the exquisite Synthwaves. In-between TD work, these two would retire to another music studio and work on songs that would end up on this excellent LP. Their TD mentor Edgar Froese does live within the synth lines on a few of these tracks, but Quaeschning & Schnauss make this Azure Vista debut very much their own. Anyone a fan of heavy synth music, Komische, Krautrock, and the Berlin School of Music are doing themselves a disservice by not owning this record. It’s a lush, transcendent musical masterpiece.

 

3. Timothy Fife : Black Carbon

Black Carbon is one of those records that I find it hard to quit listening to. It puts me in such a very specific headspace. There’s a darkness Fife paints on these three tracks that tends to just envelope you and take you along for the ride. Timothy Fife’s work in Victims, as well as his various film scores stretches nicely over the heavy synth landscape from early 70s Komische to more industrial, harsher sound of the 80s and 90s. You need only sit thru the excellent album opener “Sydney At Night” to realize you’re listening to a master of his craft. I was excited for this release from the moment I knew it was coming and I wasn’t disappointed. My expectations were pretty much met and then annihilated.

 

2. Oneohtrix Point Never : Good Time S/T

Daniel Lopatin makes music in a language all his own. It’s this alien dialect that locks in somewhere between ancient drones and kinetic, galactic techno. His music teeters between ambient calm and complete chaos nearly every second, which is why I love his work so much. There is absolutely nothing predictable about it. Oneohtrix Point Never’s musical world seems like a perfect fit for the cinematic world, and within the confines of the Safdie Brothers’ Good Time Lopatin has scored it to reflect the harsh city landscapes of New York while still retaining this very real and emotional center.

This soundtrack feels just as much like the next OPN studio album is it does a score, which is why it’s on my favorite albums list as opposed to my favorite soundtrack list. Lopatin pulled out all the stops on 2015s Garden of Delete, and Good Time feels like this pared-down, street-level version of that record. It wavers in the air at times, it grooves other times, all the while painting a picture of kinetic movement. It would be a gross misjudgement to leave this record as just a film score. It’s much more than that.

 

And number one,

Maine : V

Michel Dupay, aka Maine, works in the analog world in order to make the delicate and Gothic music he creates. V brings to mind visions of cobblestoned streets, vast ocean views, and an air of doomed romanticism in its subtle beats, warm analog synths, and melancholy melodies. It’s a record that possessed me to keep playing it and with each spin I’d find more to love about it. I think if Leonard Cohen had found himself obsessed with pre-1982 synths his compositions would sound a lot like Dupay’s work here. The songs on V evoke in me the same feelings I got the first time I heard tracks like “If It Be Your Will” and “Everybody Knows”. Maine goes for more of a human, ground-level approach to his electronic compositions as opposed to free-floating in space and looking existential dread right in the eye. V is more concerned with long walks in the winter, contemplating love and loss in a quiet seaside pub, and finding a place to fit in right here. This record deals with the micro, not necessarily the macro. I think Dupay’s subte approach is what keeps me coming back to this one. The darkness here is not a supernatural one, and it’s a darkness that promises some light just around the corner.

 

Honorable Mentions(I really dug these records, too. Honest I did.)

White Hills : Stop Mute Defeat

Real Estate : In Mind

Bell Witch : Mirror Reaper

Beaches : Second of Spring

Auburn Lull : Hypha

Godspeed You! Black Emperor : Luciferian Towers

Grizzly Bear : Painted Ruins

Papir : V

Mogwai : Every Country’s Sun

Mythic Sunship : Land Between Rivers

Big Brave : Ardor

Moon Duo : Occult Architecture Vol.1

Jay Som : Everybody Works

Wojciech Golczewski : The Signal

Alvvays : Antisocialites

Slowdive : Slowdive

Run The Jewels : RTJ3

Queens of the Stone Age : Villains

St. Vincent : Masseduction

Kendrick Lamar : DAMN

Cloud Nothings : Life Without Sound

Antoni Maiovvi : Cuckoo

Black Cube Marriage : Astral Cube

Pentagram Home Video : Library Studies

Jeff Tweedy : Together At Last


There you go, my top 50 albums of the year(well, 25 listed in order with another 25 sort of randomly displayed for you to go “Jesus, do you do anything else?” The answer is no.) It was a great year for music. Thanks for the distraction everyone. It was greatly appreciated. Thank you for your service to mankind.

Up next, my favorite film scores that I picked up in 2017. There are some doozies, guys and gals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favorite Albums Of The Year(So Far) : Oneohtrix Point Never’s ‘Good Time’ S/T

I came to Oneohtrix Point Never around 3 years ago. I think I’d avoided them because Pitchfork was telling me that I should love them. Of course I’m going to go against that urge to listen and absolutely NOT take advice from a bunch of pretentious music critics catering to the “what’s happening now” crowd. This mindset is dangerous, ignorant, and just plain wrong, especially when I suppose I’m somewhat of an amateur music critic myself. I mean, I could never write for a ‘zine of any kind. I write in a much more personal way than any respectable magazine could tolerate.

Anyways, I’m getting off point here(yes, there’s a point.)

So back to OPN…I finally jumped into Daniel Lopatin’s world in the fall of 2014. Since Boards of Canada were now on Warp Records and Lopatin was on Warp Records I thought I should at least give him a shot. I bought R Plus Seven and immediately felt my mind warp in a significantly unnatural way. Oneohtrix Point Never’s music, to my ears, felt like stepping inside someone’s skull and walking thru their thoughts and secrets. Songs were more like impressionistic paintings relating hopes, fears, daydreams, and nightmares in these aural tapestries. I hadn’t been that excited about a band since Boards of Canada’s Music Has The Right To Children cracked open my head and rewired my brain. This electronic music wasn’t purposed for the dancefloor. It was made to help you connect with the universe and engage with the world around you. R Plus Seven was catnip for this Midwestern curmudgeon introvert.

Of course I fell right into a OPN wormhole. I began grabbing as many records as I could. Betrayed In The Octagon, Drawn and Quartered, Russian Mind, Returnal, and Replica were all immediately snagged up. All were these same but different musical worlds. Earlier records were more fractured new age and psychedelic ambient than the later stuff, which delved into more modern and percussive sounds.

This same year was the year I discovered the wonderful world of panic attacks and anxiety. Discovering Oneohtrix Point Never this year seemed to be sort of a blessing in disguise as I found real solace in these albums. Amidst the noise, chaos, and manic sonic explosions I found a center where I could calm down. My wife had started a new job earlier in 2014 and she’d begun traveling, which left me at home making sure all three kids were getting up for school, getting homework done, my oldest was getting to band camp and work on time and all the while working 8 hours and hoping the children were doing what they were supposed to be doing at home when they were off for summer vacation.

Oneohtrix Point Never provided a sonic place I could escape to and realign my head.

Suffice it to say, I will always have a soft spot for Daniel Lopatin and OPN. 2015s Garden Of Delete was one of my favorite records that year and felt like a total reimagining of Lopatin as a composer and electronic musician. It was hard to imagine where he could even go from there. Turns out film scoring was where he was going, and it was a brilliant step.

I still have yet to see The Safdie Brothers’ Good Time, but if Lopatin’s score is any indication it’s an absolute adrenaline-fueled psychedelic trip through New York City. I haven’t seen any of The Safdie Brothers’ previous films, and if I’m being honest I had no idea who they were before I’d read Oneohtrix Point Never was scoring their movie. I figure if Daniel Lopatin is good with them then so am I.

The soundtrack. If I didn’t know it was a soundtrack to a film I would’ve easily believed this to be just a new OPN album. It comes together beautifully as a sonic journey. There’s a few moments of dialogue, but that doesn’t feel that out of place for OPN. It has moments of tension and noisy chaos that comes with the territory, but there’s also moments of musical beauty. Something like “The Acid Hits” proposes to the listener pyramid-like sounds stacked upon each other, while “Leaving The Park” harkens back to earlier OPN musical adventures. It flutters and bounces like music to some ancient video game.

Even with all the impressive sounds and musical moods on this album, my standout track is the final one. “The Pure And The Damned” stands completely on its own as this fractured and beautiful pop song. It’s a piano-driven song sung by Iggy Pop. “The pure always act for love/The damned always act from love” Pop sings as he talks about going to a place where “we can pet the crocodiles”. It’s a bizarre and tender track. I can only imagine after seeing the film that it will mean that much more. I honestly love this song.

I don’t know if this would be a great place for the uninitiated to start or not, but once you have been initiated you must find your way to this record. It’s essential OPN.

 

JHubner73 Presents: Favorite Albums of 2016 Top 10

You know, I never thought I could look forward to a year ending as much as I’m looking forward to 2016 ending. It’s been a pretty lousy year; political bullshittery, musical geniuses passing on before their time, so many tragedies worldwide(too many to name here), and just a general feeling of existential malaise that at times it felt hard to even swallow. There were a few bright spots, though. Lots of great entertainment to take us out of the sludge, even for just a handful of episodes or a couple hours in a darkened cinema. Stranger Things, Mr. Robot, Luke Cage, Captain America: Civil War, X Men: Apocalypse, Dr. Strange, and a handful more of films and television that gave my brain somewhere to go besides the current state of reality. But the most important thing, the reason we’ve all gathered here today, is the records that filled the space between my ears and calmed those existential fears. Despite the burning bag of shit on our metaphorical porch that 2016 was, it was a phenomenal year for music. You disagree? Well, I can’t help you. Grab a cookie and another cup of coffee and show yourself out the door. The rest of us have some records to talk about.

I don’t dip into pop charts too much, so if you notice albums by Solange, Frank Ocean, Blood Orange, Childish Gambino, Beyonce, and Kanye missing from the list it’s because I’ve built a wall around myself and keep to my own musical proclivities. I know all of the above mentioned have put out pretty astonishing albums this year and I plan on getting to them. But for now, welcome to my year-in-review.

10. Causa Sui : Return To Sky

dsc05070Denmark’s Causa Sui are like this wellspring of individual talent that somehow through a higher power came together and make amazing, mind-altering albums. Return To Sky is their most pared down, honed-in record to date with 5 songs that range from riff-heavy grooves to dreamy soundscapes. When I spoke to Jonas Munk earlier in the year, he said of Return To Sky, “One thing we all agreed on this time was that this should be a shorter ride.” It may be shorter, but it’s in no way lesser in the Causa Sui canon. “Dust Meridian”, “Mondo Buzzo”, “The Source”, “Dawn Passage” and “Return To Sky” sound like free form jams, but there’s a continuity to them that allow the songs to flow beautifully.

Lost in the desert? Return To Sky can be your enlightened soundtrack for the journey.

9. Wild Nothing : Life Of Pause

dsc05072Jack Tatum’s Wild Nothing has been a favorite of mine since the beautiful Nocturne back in 2012. I also quite dug his Empty Estate EP from 2013. It was weird and a little all over the place. It showed that Tatum was the kind of musician that had quite a few tricks up his sleeve and didn’t want to be pigeonholed as just a purveyor of dream-y, shoe-y, gaze-y pop. Life Of Pause is the proper follow-up to Nocturne and it shows a guy busting his head open and dumping its contents onto tape(or hard drive). Pop excursions, post-punk bounciness, and even elements of art rock come to the surface. The album opens with the exquisite “Reichpop”, an ode to avante classical composer Steve Reich and from there anything goes. Elsewhere, “A Woman’s Wisdom” has the feel of a classic 80s radio hit and “Japanese Alice” pulls off some serious Wire vibes. “TV Queen” is grandiose melodrama with hints of Saga and Tatum’s own Nocturne.

With studio help from Medicine’s Brad Laner on guitar and Peter, Bjorn, and John’s John Eriksson on drums, as well as tight production by Thom Monahan Life Of Pause feels like a next level kind of pop album.

8. Jakob Skott : All The Colours Of The Dust

dsc05073Jakob Skott has become a new favorite of mine in the last two years. His records as front man(away from his drumming duties in Causa Sui) have become these worlds themselves. Wavy synths blip and bleep as Skott builds these massive drums around the analog language he makes with his synthesizers. This year’s All The Colours Of The Dust is this groovy masterpiece where man and machine collide and create noisy tropical grooves. “Age Of Isotopes” is 12 minutes of Bitches Brew-like noise and neo-futuristic computer funk. This is interstellar mind melting right here. “The Variable” is a great balance of soaring melody and jazz fusion drum excursions that in my mind didn’t exist until Skott created it two years ago on Amor Fati.

All The Colours Of The Dust continues Jakob Skott’s spree of heady space jams and moves his synth/drum art to the next level.

7. Thug Entrancer : Arcology

dsc05076To my ears Ryan McRyhew, aka Thug Entrancer, is taking electronic music to a new level. Sure, an album like Arcology falls under categories like house, techno, and EDM, but he’s curating worlds, ideas, and emotions within the grooves and rhythms. I picked up his album Death After Life last year and I thought it was a brilliant piece of electronic music. Arcology is a masterful follow up that has a narrative to follow. McRyhew pieces together an album through a patchwork of flawless production and engaging songs. “Curaga/Low-Life” is uplifting and bright in a chromed-out kind of way, while “Ronin” sweeps you up in its urgency. “Bronze” makes you feel like your falling through space, all the while still retaining the house/techno groove.

Arcology is an album that deserves more love.

6. Victims : Form Hell

dsc05077Victims is a collaboration between film composer Timothy Fife and Video Nasties’ member Chris Livengood. It’s an album that came from out of nowhere and pretty much blew my mind. It’s two tracks laid out on a 10″ that I wish would never end every time I listen to it. A heady mixture of primo-era Tangerine Dream(think Phaedra and Rubycon as told through the imagination of two guys brought up on sleazy 80s horror.) Fife and Livengood aren’t a couple of hacks pretending to be a couple German synth Gods from the 70s and Walter Rizatti. No, they’ve got chops all their own and use them fully on this mini-LP. “Profecy” wavers and slithers like some new age serpent swallowing up your bad karma. Then “Cleonova” gets sickly sleazy in the best way possible. The synths are so thick and gooey you’d need a hot knife to cut through them. It sounds like a cross between the intro to some grimy Betamax copy of a Gorgon video release and the score to some long forgotten Abel Ferrara flick. There’s still plenty of space exploration to be had to this one as well.

Timothy Fife has his debut solo album coming out through Death Waltz Originals in early 2017. It’s called Black Carbon. Here’s to Victims putting out a full-length as well in 2017. Form Hell is a must for any synth geeks out there.

5. Videodrones : Mondo Ferox

dsc05078Speaking of Betamax sleaze, Videodrones is a musical project dedicated to those late night flicks you’d watch when mom and dad went to bed. Those seedy backroom rentals(no, not those backrooms) that you weren’t sure if you should watch them or not. But someone gave you a list of “Video Nasties” and a bunch of those movies are there on the back wall to rent. So why not?

Okay, so Mondo Ferox is much more than sleazy synth. Imagine the Phase IV soundtrack mixed with Lucifer Rising and Walter Rizatti’s more somber tones. That’s a little of what you get on Videodrones debut. This Danish duo revel in the bubbly sounds of pure analog synth and it’s a glorious thing. “Main Titles” growls and sneers like some ancient creature emerging from the mist, while “Blood Brew” twinkles and bubbles like a dying star. “Theme From Mondo Ferox” has a Goblin feel, like something you might’ve heard in Dawn of the Dead. “Stalker State” sounds like you’re passing some great vessel in the blackest of space.

In a year when a show like Stranger Things has put classic synth scores back in our collective minds, Videodrones’ Mondo Ferox feels like an album that came from the era they’re trying to recreate. It feels like a time capsule album, dug out from muddied earth after 35 years in the soil.

4. Explosions In The Sky : The Wilderness

dsc05080Explosions In The Sky didn’t exactly rebuild their sound from the ground up, but after 2011s Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, the Texas band took a break from their wide-eyed, cinemascope song composing and scored a couple indie flicks. On their return to album making they’ve found a more direct sound. The Wilderness is more glitchy, electronic, and harsher in sound, but beautiful nonetheless.

“Wilderness” has a mechanical quality to it, like it’s an AI version of their more organic take on post-rock. It explodes into a rapturous conclusion. “Disintegration Anxiety” takes the Texas big sky sound and turns it into circuitry and urgency. “Logic of a Dream” is majestic in the overwhelming beauty it creates.

Explosions In The Sky have figured out how to take their already much beloved sound and revitalize it and make it sound new. The Wilderness is a breathtaking listen.

3. Preoccupations : Preoccupations

dsc05081Preoccupations self-titled debut pulls you in at the very beginning and doesn’t let you go until the last song ends. It’s exhilarating and unapologetic in its darkness, but they somehow find a way to make anxiety into something uplifting. They took a year of bad juju and documented it in the Canadian wilderness and gave the results to us.

“Anxiety” quivers and quakes like Bauhaus on a bender. It’s a cavernous song that mixes the dark mood of goth with more radio-friendly world of 80s alternative. “Memory” is an epic trek through moss-covered guitar riffs and dreamy synths. The band get help from Handsome Furs/Divine Fits dude Dan Boeckner on some great vocals mid-way through the song. This song is what’s so great about Preoccupations; they let themselves indulge. They slink around in the darkness, pop out for some sunlight, then let the song dissipate in a sea of white noise all the while never allowing the song to feel tired. The album from start to finish is engaging, no matter how down in the doldrums it gets. “Degraded” is as close to a pop song as Preoccupations get, with pulsating bass and drums and bristling guitar notes.

A band that can survive a name change(Preoccupations was formerly Viet Cong) and come back even stronger than before gets my love. It helps that their album is pretty damn amazing.

2. SURVIVE : RR7349

dsc05090So yes, without Netflix’ Stranger Things this record wouldn’t even be on this list. In fact, I’d probably still have no idea who the hell SURVIVE is. After devouring that entire show in two days I’d fallen deeply in love with the show’s score(and Winona Ryder of course…again.) My son even looked at me after we started up episode 5 or 6 and said “Too bad this soundtrack isn’t on vinyl.” Of course that soundtrack is on vinyl now(I own both volumes, natch.) Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein did an amazing job cobbling together this synth heavy score for the Duffer Bros Netflix hit, and thanks to the exposure the show gave these two they put out their band’s new album RR7349 with a new army of fans waiting to lap it up like kitties to a bowl of milk.

The album is darker than Stranger Things. It’s filled with more electronic vibes than just heavy synth splashes. Electronic beats collide with swaths of synthesizers and dark wave noise. “A.H.B.” starts in a sea of synthetic distortion before coming in like the theme from some mid-80s sci fi film. “Wardenclyffe” seems to be this whole other sound itself. Mixing equal parts Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, and something completely original, the song is alien yet familiar. “Low Fog” sounds like old school Oneohtrix Point Never, all drone-y dissonance and calm dread.

Is this album everyone’s taste? No. But for those who have the palate, it’s an uncompromising meal.

This leads us to my favorite album of the year. From the first time I heard it back in the spring I knew it would be in my top 5. It had that “thing” about it. As the year went along it kept in my rotation regularly and never wavered. It’s just hands down an epic rock and roll album. Black Mountain’s IV is a barn burner of the highest order.

dsc05082From the space-y, epic, and nearly 9 minute opener “Mothers Of The Sun” to the punky and fist pumping “Florian Saucer Attack” and the majestic pop beauty of “Crucify Me”, IV pretty much has it all. I don’t think anyone put out a rock and roll record nearly as good as this album this year, or last year for that matter. The thing about Black Mountain is that while they may wear their influences proudly on their sleeves they never imitate. They run those prog, punk, and classic rock influences through the Black Mountain machine and it comes out the other end completely and wholly it’s own thing. It took me a few years to completely embrace these Canadian rock and roll philistines. In fact, it took completely falling for Jeremy Schmidt’s Sinoia Caves back in 2014 to go back to revisit Black Mountain. Once I did it was all over. IV shows a band that has the juice to keep going for years. “Space to Bakersfield, are you listening?” I don’t know if Bakersfield is listening guys, but I sure am.

Despite it being a shit year, as always great music kept me going. Let’s hope for a less gnarly 2017, ehh? Merry Christmas, Happy New Years, Happy Holidays, etc, etc, etc…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Broken hearts make it rain” : A Look At Radiohead’s ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’

So what gives? Radiohead emerge from a five year hibernation and give us their most lush, dense, and downright beautiful album since In Rainbows and it doesn’t even end up on your year end favorite list? What the hell, Hubner? You’re the first to get all stupid and fanboy when they drop a crumb on the sidewalk. You’re all starry-eyed at their strange, alien-esque Flying Lotus-pandering King Of Limbs and Yorke’s electronic noodling and strange means of delivering the music to the people(torrents, flash drives sealed in Jello molds, blackbirds dropping 8-tracks from the sky.) You’re go-to “greatest band ever next to Wilco and AC/DC” just laid their hearts out for you on beautiful wax and exquisite Stanley Donwood artwork and you can’t even put them in the top 25 favorite albums of the year??? What the hell is wrong with you? Do you want to make Thom cry? – voice in my head that sounds like me

dsc05067You know, I’m not sure I have an answer for that. So what gives? I don’t quite know what gives. I mean, I heard the exquisite “Burn The Witch” at the beginning of summer and felt I’d heard what was sure to be the beginnings of the next great Radiohead album. Greenwood’s string arrangements, Thom’s dark and foreboding vocals and lyrics, and of course the rest of the Radiohead crew doing their thing made this song feel like a grand musical announcment. “A low flying panic attack” embedded into my brain is the tag line of the summer. Then they released “Daydreaming” and that crushed me. Such a beautiful, lamenting song. Yorke hasn’t sounded that grounded and vulnerable in a song for years. The Paul Thomas Anderson-directed video was an existential trip as Thom walked through a succession of doors that, to me at least, represented points in ones life and where we come and go, arrive and leave, and eventually curl up and crawl back into the primordial ooze at the end of it all(I could be wrong, though.) Hell, even their unused Bond theme “Spectre” was absolutely brilliant. Very George Martin, “Live And Let Die”-esque, if you ask me. Then, on some random summer Sunday I downloaded the album as soon as it was available and listened to it three times in a row.

Just utter brilliance.

dsc05065“Burn The Witch”, “Daydreaming”, “Deck’s Dark”, “Desert Island Disk”, “Ful Stop”, “Present Tense”, “Identikit”, and “True Love Waits” are some of the best songs Radiohead have written and put to tape, and yet I didn’t even include them on my list. Why? I guess the easiest answer is that I just stopped listening to it and it sort of fell through the cracks. There was that thing with the first vinyl copy I received sounding like absolute shit. I know, that shouldn’t have ruined me of the album as a whole, but dammit we’re not talking about some indie band using beer money to get some records pressed at a questionable pressing plant in Peoria, Illinois. We’re talking about fucking Radiohead. XL Recordings, Nigel Godrich, and one of the biggest and most powerful bands in the world and they send me a shit pressing of their new album? Yeah, I guess that sort of soured me of this exquisitely delicate record that I’d been anticipating and pining for since February of 2011 when King Of Limbs arrived in a surprise blur of electronic weirdness.

Even though the lists have been made and I’ve made my painstaking decisions I still wanted to give my overview of A Moon Shaped Pool, so I’ve been sitting down and digging into this record the last week or two. I did drop the cash on the special edition of this album(mainly for Donwood’s brilliant art, but new heavyweight vinyl of the album helped) and the vinyl sounds much better.

I think Radiohead have elevated to some other musical existence. I think they started the elevation with Kid A and have been moving onward and upward ever since. With each record since 2000 Radiohead seems to be attempting to one up themselves. Never satisfied with the status quo or the typical “rock band” thing, they push themselves to learn new technologies, take their songs apart and rebuild them, and give us(and themselves) something new each time out. Sometimes, like on Hail To The Thief and In Rainbows, they seem to be taking the classic approach to the band and songwriting relationship. But listen a little closer and you’ll hear things aren’t quite as they seem.

dsc05063I feel like A Moon Shaped Pool is the most similar to an album like In Rainbows. Rainbows captured that great rock and roll(“Bodysnatchers”, “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi”, “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”) band that we all fell for in the mid-90s, but it also showed them advancing the rock approach with ghostly nuance and this almost crystalline perfection(“Faust Arp”, “Nude”, “House of Cards”.) I felt it was the best Radiohead album since OK Computer(no disrespect to the Kid A and Amnesiac fanatics.) But now with A Moon Shaped Pool the band has come full circle. It’s this intimate and dark record that despite it’s dense sonics and meticulously engineered sound is probably the most earthbound and human piece of art Radiohead have given us.

There’s still the trademark Thom Yorke-isms like paranoia in regards to privacy and politicians(“Burn The Witch”, “Ful Stop”, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief”), but there’s some really heartbreaking songs here as well. “Daydreaming”, “Glass Eyes”, “Desert Island Disk”, “Identikit”, and “Present Tense” are some of the most personal and relatable lyrics Thom Yorke has penned. When he sings a line like “Broken hearts make it rain” or “I won’t get heavy/Don’t get heavy/Keep it light/and Keep it moving/I am doing/ No harm/ As my world/Comes crashing down”, you don’t feel like it’s coming from some guy obsessed with science fiction and machines taking over. You get the feeling this is a guy going through some stuff. I’ve always admired Yorke’s lyrics. He’s always had this knack for creating vivid and striking images with his words. Here, he’s putting a bunch of pain and loss out there. His best yet.

dsc05064Musically Johnny Greenwood is taking his musical worlds of film scoring and Radiohead and putting them together beautifully for the first time as well. His string arrangements and orchestral arranging here are on par with the best. Radiohead have always been a band that felt orchestral, with layers of electronics and synths creating this wall of sound on their albums over the years. Greenwood has put his orchestral leanings to good use on A Moon Shaped Pool. Tracks like “Burn The Witch”, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief”, and “The Numbers” are ornamented beautifully by Greenwood’s arrangements.

A Moon Shaped Pool is Radiohead putting all of their musical magic into full swing. It’s also a humbling record. The shadow of loss and death do linger just outside the studio doors here. With the passing of producer Nigel Godrich’ father taking place during the production of the album, as well the disintegration of Thom Yorke’s 20 year relationship with his partner Rachel Owen playing heavily on the lyrics and overall mood, you know know you’re not in for some good time rock and roll. But for me, hearing true vulnerability in these songs is what makes this album so special. I loved King of Limbs. LOVED it. I think the alien aspect of it is what was so genius. The meticulous clicking and clacking and the jerky rhythms and detached ghostly vocals made for this out-of-body experience when listening. It was an escape. A Moon Shaped Pool can certainly be an escape, but there’s a rope tethering you to reality on this record. You can float amongst the dark clouds and booming strings and shaky vocals, but if you look up you can still see some light and friendly but wary eyes looking down upon you. They beckon you to come and feel something with them when you’re done. But only when you’re ready.

Only when you’re ready.

Editor’s Note : Reading earlier in the week of the passing of Rachel Owen(Thom Yorke’s ex and mother of his children) to cancer, I felt compelled to jump into this album again. And again. Knowing of the demise of their relationship played heavily on this record, and then hearing of her death made this album that much heavier. Here’s hoping amends were made. RIP

 

Jhubner73 Presents : Favorite Albums of 2016 Part One

There were lots of albums I loved in 2016. Lots. And there were some that I thought I’d love more than I really did. It’s weird how that works sometimes. You’re in a different headspace and next thing you know some synth band from Austin, Texas is making me not all that interested in new records by Wilco and Radiohead. Weird, I know. Anyways, you can’t predict how a record is going to affect you, and this year was no exception.

So here’s part one of my favorite albums of 2016. My top ten to follow.

25. Of Montreal : Innocence Reaches

dsc05022Kevin Barnes marches to the beat of a different drummer. This time around the drummer is probably a drum machine as Barnes takes Of Montreal into the world of electronica with Innocence Reaches. Not as engaging as his last two albums by a long shot, but I still found some bits to love.

24. Pentagram Home Video : Who’s Out There?

dsc05023A Mondotees/Death Waltz Originals release from earlier in the year, this one touts itself as a soundtrack to some lost 80s cult horror film entitled Who’s Out There? It’s not really a soundtrack to anything except the imagination of its creator, a London-based producer/musician who remains solely in the shadows. If you can snag a copy from somewhere in the ether I highly recommend it. It’s creepy, dark synth fun.

23. Umberto : Alienation

dsc05025Matt Hill as Umberto makes sickly synth music that sounds like the score to some heavily redacted Italian horror film from the late 70s. Dark, gothic synth. On his newest record Alienation he takes the sound out of the seedy theater and into the Italian disco. It’s a more dance-y affair, with odes to Depeche Mode and New Order. Still, there’s plenty of sickly sweet synth to love.

22. Diiv : Is The Is Are

dsc05028I’ll never fault an artist for trying too hard, or having more ambition than vision. It takes a lot to put yourself out there so openly. Is The Is Are is Zachary Cole Smith in the throes of artistic overload. It’s an ambitious record that is top heavy and as you dig through the hour plus double LP you start to get a little tired. Had this record been cut down into a lean 40-45 minute album it would’ve been an outstanding record. As it stands, it’s still a damn good mess.

21. LNZNDRF : LNZNDRF

dsc05029What happens when you take a set of twins from The National and the main guy behind Beirut and put them into a band together? Well LNZNDRF, that’s what. It’s not what you’d expect from all involved, and that’s a good thing. It has more in common with NEU! than The National, Kraftwerk than Beirut. Dreamy guitars, driving bass, and motorik beats dominate on this surprise LP.

20. Damien Jurado : Visions of Us on the Land

dsc05030Damien Jurado’s last two records were epic pieces of musical genius. Spiritual journeys soundtracked by music that was part Crazy Horse, Santana, and not of this earth. With Visions of Us on the Land the sound got a little more 16mm and less Cinemascope. The result is another solid record that feels longer than it needs to be. But still, Jurado is one of the best songwriters of his generation.

19. John Carpenter : Lost Themes II

dsc05032The maestro follows up 2015s Lost Themes with a sequel titled Lost Themes II in 2016 and it’s another solid collection of synth rock. Whether it’s as engaging as his classic movie work is up to the listener to decide, but the fact that John Carpenter is making things makes me a happy person.

18. White Denim : Stiff

dsc05035White Denim’s earlier records were almost too technical and showy for their own good. There were hints of the band they’d become, but it almost felt like babysitting your nephew with ADHD. As with their last record Corsicana Lemonade, these Texans have honed in that energy and have learned to control it, giving Stiff their best collection of songs yet. They’ve found that balance between technical skill and from-the-gut groove. Stiff is the loosest record yet.

17. Chris Cohen : As If Apart

dsc05036Chris Cohen comes across as a pretty down beat guy. His vocals are sweet and sleepy and musically he’s a cross between jazzy and lo-fi. It’s like the Vince Guaraldi Trio and Real Estate bonded over some early Kevin Parker demos. There’s a constant feeling of melancholy in his songs, but you never feel bummed. I can’t say the same for Chris, though. As If Apart is a masterful, stoned, bummer record that feels like the calm after you realize there’s nothing you can do to save the relationship.

16. The Claypool Lennon Delirium : Monolith of Phobos

dsc05038Had you told me in the summer of 1991 that Les Claypool would eventually make a psychedelic album with Sean Ono Lennon I’d a told you that you were out of your mind. The same guy that sang songs called “John The Fisherman”, “Too Many Puppies”, “Tommy The Cat”, and “Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers” making an album with the son of John and Yoko Lennon? No way! Had you told me that the album called Monolith of Phobos would not only exist but be damn good, I’d a said you’re nuts. Well, I would’ve been wrong. It does exist and it’s damn good.

15. Landing : Third Sight

dsc05041Landing’s Third Sight is a complex patchwork of woozy, trippy ambient music and heady psych. Lots of synth, looped guitar lines, and vocals that bring to mind My Bloody Valentine and Lush, the record is the band’s debut with Danish record label El Paraiso Records. They’ve already released another album called Complekt, so Landing doesn’t mess around. If you like your music on the atmospheric side of things, then Landing is your thing.

14. MSTRKRFT : Operator

dsc05042Dance music has never really been my thing. Mainly because I don’t dance, or shake my booty, or get down with my bad self. Having said that, MSTRKRFT make dance music that makes me want to be a better booty shaker. Their music is equal parts techno, industrial, and punk. On their new album Operator they’ve broken out the old school analog synths and get down and dirty. It’s a glorious thing.

13. Wilco : Schmilco

dsc05043I never thought the day would come when a Wilco record would end up anywhere below the top five of one of my year-end lists, but here we are. It’s not a bad album at all, but it just didn’t connect with me like past albums(or a good portion of what came out this year.) Still, Schmilco shows a band not willing to settle in to a sound. They’re still doing what they want to do despite what “fans” would like to hear. I gotta respect that.

12. Ashley Bellouin : Ballads

dsc05046Ashley Bellouin’s Ballads is a mix of avante garde composition and dreamy soundscapes. It’s drone-y and art-y, but it takes you on a journey. It’s like an expressionist painting that you stare at and wait for it to tell you something. In just a single, wavering tone it tells you so much.

11. Cymbals Eat Guitars : Pretty Years

dsc05047This nearly made my top ten but got beat out by some Danish dudes, but that doesn’t lessen the greatness of this record. Pretty Years is the best Cymbals Eat Guitars album yet, mixing the dreamy guitar sounds of earlier records with a keen pop sensibility. Where previous albums may have gone too far one way or another, Pretty Years found the perfect balance. The results are a mix of both disenchantment with formative years spent in suburbia and a longing to go back to simpler times. Joseph D’Agostino proves to be one of the best songwriters we’ve got right now.

Coming up: my top 10 albums of the year. Until then, go hang out underneath the mistletoe and see who lays a juicy one on ya!

Jhubner73 Presents : Favorite Soundtracks of 2016

Besides being a pretty amazing year for new albums, there have been some amazing film and television scores that have come out in 2016. Now a couple of the soundtracks I picked up this year technically were released in 2015, but that’s merely a technicality. I bought them and loved them in 2016 so they’re ending up on this year’s list.

Here, without further adieu, is my list of favorite scores of 2016.

10. The Dust Brothers : Fight Club S/T

dsc05012Fight Club hasn’t aged all that well with me. I discussed this in great length just a couple weeks ago, but that was only in an effort to praise just how good the score by Michael Simpson and John King, aka The Dust Brothers was. Due to the film’s dark humor and overall dreary atmosphere the soundtrack needed to facilitate the mood in that direction. The score is like a dark trip-hop album, with bits of light and gallows humor dispersed throughout. If it wasn’t called Fight Club S/T it could just be considered a great trip-hop album. The Dust Brothers are no strangers to creating mood through a musical patchwork of loops and samples, and here they work to make David Fincher’s cult hit much better than it really was.

9. Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL : Batman V Superman : Dawn Of Justice S/T

dsc05018I’ll be perfectly honest here, the only reason I bought this album was because of my 11-year old son. We saw the movie in the theater and he was much more of a fan than I was. When the record was released I had no intention of buying it, but when he saw it he was like “That would be great to have, wouldn’t it?” I can’t deny my son’s enthusiasm for vinyl buying, so I chucked the $35 at my local record store guy and grumbled to myself as I walked to my car. Truth be told, it’s a pretty amazing score on its own. Zimmer knows how to create mood for a film, and with Junkie XL adding a bit of ADHD energy to the whole affair it turns out to be a damn good score. It’s sprawled across five sides of vinyl, with the 6th side being a killer etching.

Be prepared to have some serious play fighting in the living room and some fist-to-pillow violence when you play this one in the house.

8. Mogwai : Atomic S/T

dsc05021Mogwai have found something that can keep them working until they want to retire: film scoring. If they grow tired of trying to reinvent what they started nearly 20 years ago they can write someone else’s vision. Atomic is the score to a documentary about the bombs being dropped on Japan and it paints a subtle musical interpretation of the film’s darker themes. With their score of Les Revenents and the new Leonardo DiCaprio documentary Before The Flood, in which they collaborate with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, they show that they’re far more than purveyors of the post-rock crown. In fact, they’ve melted the crown down and made really nice cufflinks out of it. Something they can wear when they’re nominated for their first ‘Best Film Score’ award.

7. Kreng : Camino S/T

dsc05020I first heard Kreng, aka Pepijn Caudron, last year when he created one of my favorite scores for the horror/comedy Cooties. This year he scored the thriller Camino. I have not seen Camino, but if the score is any indication it’s one hell of a ride. Kreng shifted gears this time around and went for a more orchestral sound, leaving the trip-hop vibes for another project. There’s lots of shrieking strings and tense use of sound effects, with an overall heavy vibe. Kreng has become one of my favorite composers and I look forward to whatever he has coming up next.

6. Kurt Stenzel : Jodorowsky’s Dune S/T

dsc05017Kurt Stenzel created an intimate synth score for Frank Pavich’s doc about the Alexander Jodorowsky’s doomed attempt at bringing Frank Herbert’s Dune to life. Stenzel uses pieces of conversation from the film and works them in seamlessly to space-y synth and guitar that at times almost feels mystical in its use. It’s an existential trip that I think Jodorowsky would be quite fond of, if he hasn’t yet heard it.

5. Various Artists : Lost Highway S/T

dsc05019I think it’s safe to say that David Lynch’s Lost Highway was one of the most batshit crazy films of the nineties, and one of Lynch’s most absurd films(that’s saying a lot, people.) But if you looked past the doppleganger twists, noir-in-Hell story, and Robert Blake’s frightening makeup the movie had a pretty solid soundtrack. Bowie, Trent Reznor, Smashing Pumpkins, Lou Reed, NIN, and Angelo Badalamenti. The soundtrack was produced by Reznor and it has the flavor Reznor holed up in a house freaking out. It’s great having this thing finally available on vinyl.

4. Ben Lovett : Synchronicity S/T

dsc05014I hadn’t heard of the film prior to seeing that it’s score was being released by Mondotees/Death Waltz, but all it took were a couple snippets on Soundcloud for me to engage my Paypal acct into buying mode. The score is exquisitely classic neo-futuristic synth. A cross between classics like Vangelis and Tangerine Dream with some more modern touches, in-particular Sinoia Caves work on the Beyond The Black Rainbow. Lovett made the film much better than it deserved to be. It wasn’t horrible, but too convoluted for its own good(great casting though, with Michael Ironside and AJ Bowen in supporting roles.) If you like listening to Blade Runner as much as watching it, you should already own this score.

3. Cliff Martinez : The Neon Demon S/T

dsc05013Cliff Martinez can do no wrong in my eyes. His work only elevates whatever film it’s accompanying. He’s created this symbiotic relationship with director Nicolas Winding Refn, much like he did with Steven Soderbergh, where everything work together and becomes all the better by that artistic relationship. The Neon Demon is over-the-top and over indulgent, but that’s how it should be. Any kind of restraint and it just wouldn’t work as well. Martinez turns the score into a thumping techno musical world where dream and reality collide and embrace, bleeding all over each other. It’s his most intense score yet.

2. Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein : Stranger Things S/T Volume 1 and 2

dsc05009This will be the last you hear me utter “Stranger Things” for the rest of the year. I’m sure once season 2 hits I’ll start yacking about this show again, but until then this is it. The Duffer Bros locked into something with their debut show that a whole hell of a lot of us absorbed and took in like clean oxygen after being under a heavy quilt for too long. It was a refreshing take on the 80s kid films where everyone wasn’t a model and happy endings weren’t always a given. Stranger Things took the “rag tag group of outsiders” storyline and gave it new life with some new faces and some underused ones as well. Science fiction colliding with horror colliding with friendship created this year’s best television. To authenticate the nostalgia factor the Duffer Bros tapped Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein of Austin synth band SURVIVE to score their Netflix original series. The results? Classic 80s sound with deft modern touches. The score grabbed me before I saw a single shot of the actual show. The opening credits scene with the pulsating synthesizer hooked me instantly. The show could’ve been just okay and I would’ve continued on because of that music. Fortunately the show was spot-on.

Truly top notch.

And last but not least, the best among a sea of best: Mac Quayle : Mr. Robot S/T Volume 1 and 2

dsc05008No show surprised me more than Sam Esmail’s Mr. Robot. Both season 1 and 2 were original pieces of television, putting the dark world that David Fincher has created in cinema and put it smack dab on cable TV(it’s on USA Network.) One of the most important aspects of the show is the music. It creates this world of musical ones and zeros that go to enhance the paranoid world of our protagonist Elliot Alderson. The music is this electronic pulse that seems to push the characters along in strange and dark places. You don’t know who to trust or what to believe is reality and what is part of the character’s failing mind. Mac Quayle’s scoring technique takes a few cues from the Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross playbook, using vintage sound and posing them in a modern world of tech geeks and international computer hacking. Quayle works subtly. It works so well that you don’t notice how good it is till you can enjoy the score completely on its own. It’s a riveting musical world that would appeal to electronic music fans and fans of background noise while you study or melt into the furniture.

Mac Quayle takes the prize as far as I’m concerned. Can’t wait to see what he does from here.


I bought a lot of soundtracks this year, and none were disappointing. These were the 10 that I obsessed over the most, but here’s a few more that were pretty great.

Angelo Badalamenti : Twin Peaks S/T – David Lynch. Angelo Badalamenti. Agent Cooper. ‘Nuff said.

Daredevil S/T : John Palesano and Jessica Jones S/T : Sean Callery – Arrived late into the year, but incredible scores to some more amazing television. Plus bonus for some incredible artwork.

Atticus and Leopold Ross & Bobby Krlic : Almost Holy S/T – Intense score for the intense doc Almost Holy about a priest trying to save drug-addled teens in the streets of Mariupol, Ukraine. The score has the electronic leanings of the Ross bros with Krlic’s darker, gothic tones of The Haxan Cloak.

Howard Shore : Nightcrawler S/T – Score for the 2015 thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo. Released this year through Invada Records, this score stands out as a more leaner, grittier sound than Shore has done in the past.

Brad Fiedel : The Terminator S/T – C’mon, why wouldn’t this end up on a list of favorite scores? It’s been long out-of-print, so some geniuses decided to put it back out on vinyl because they knew suckers like me would buy it up. They were right. I did. And I have no regrets. Fiedel knocked it out of the park with this one. Don’t agree? Then “f**k you, a**hole”.

Up next: Favorite records of 2016(numbers 25-11)