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Class of 2014: A Look Back

It seems like with each new year, the “Class of…” project gets stronger. That’s pretty much by design, though when I first introduced the Class of 2014 I wasn’t so confident it was going to work out. The Class of 2013 had set the bar almost impossibly high, what with now household names like Haim, Chvrches, Little Green Cars and Savages all part of that universe. Yet this past year’s group of 10 artists not only managed to hold their own, but one in particular rode the train to stardom and the third biggest selling record of 2014. And to think that when I made the introduction last Januaryu nobody had any idea who this artist was, to the point where a show was booked for a tiny 350 capacity venue and it took awhile to sell out. I’ll tell you all about that, and recap how the other nine artists in the Class of 2014 did after the jump!

Listmas 2014: The Top 50 Albums of the Year [#10-1]

This is it! The final post of 2014 also marks the conclusion of Listmas and specifically this Top 50 Albums of 2014 countdown. It’s been a long road with plenty of bumps and delays along the way, but we’ve finally reached the peak of this imaginary mountain. At this point I’d like to give a special thank you to everyone who read something, clicked on something or downloaded something here at Faronheit over 2014. All of the content that’s posted here is for you to discover and enjoy, and I’m grateful for anyone who visits with that intention. It hasn’t been the best year for the site content-wise, but the hope is to generate more and return to form in 2015. Typically I’d tease a bunch of new features and exciting things in development for next year, but honestly most of that stuff either gains no traction or simply falls off never to be heard from again, so let’s just stick to the mantra of more everything and go from there.

So what can I say about these Top 10 Albums of 2014? Well, like the other entries in this list, there’s plenty of variety in terms of genre and style. It goes from weird to fun to noisy to sexy to relaxing to adventurous and back again. If you’ve been following me on Instagram these last few weeks, you’ve been given access to an early preview of the eclectic Top 5, though I can assure you that #6-10 are as equally exciting and wonderful. And hey, while I wasn’t able to write a lot of album and show reviews this year, some of the ones I did write about make an appearance here. Also worth mentioning: a particular pair of artists who are members of my Class of 2014 had an exceptionally great year, helping to continue to support that program. So I’m not going to spend any extra time talking this up. Please join me past the jump for the big reveal of my absolute favorite albums of the year.

Previously: [#50-41] [#40-31] [#30-21] [#20-11]

Listmas 2014: The Top 50 Albums of the Year [#50-41]

This is the big one. Well to be more accurate, this is the START of the big one. The Top 50 Albums countdown is the cornerstone of Listmas every year, and the 2014 version is looking pretty stellar. Before we begin, let me quickly go over the basic ground rules to help explain the rankings and how records qualified for this list. Any full length record released in the United States over the course of the 2014 calendar year was eligible for inclusion. EPs are not eligible (sorry Royksopp & Robyn), nor are soundtracks (sorry Mica Levi and the Under the Skin OST), mixtapes and “Various Artists” song collections. It’s equal parts funny and sad to me that at the start of the 2013 Top 50 Albums countdown, I mentioned that the site had fallen off the wagon in terms of album reviews for that year, but promised that “in 2014, things are going to be different!” They actually were different in that the total number of album reviews declined yet again. There’s a myriad of excuses I can claim contributed to that problem, including some serious bouts with writer’s block and having a lot more general life responsibilities on my plate that snatched away the free time I’d normally spend writing. Ultimately though, I didn’t push myself hard enough to get things written and published in a timely fashion. I’ve actually got a handful of unfinished album reviews from across the year that I kept delaying until they were forgotten about. They’re all way past expiration date now, but maybe I’ll use pieces of those writings in the short capsules for each record on this list. When you really think about it, the Top 50 Albums countdown is pretty much just a mini-review marathon anyway. Almost all of these you’ll be seeing and reading about for the very first time on the site, so enjoy the surprise and suspense of what might be on the way this week. Today I’m happy to kick things off with the very first of five installments. Take a hop, skip and the jump to check out my Top 50 Albums of 2014: #50-41!

Listmas 2014: The Top 50 Songs of the Year [#10-1]

Here at Faronheit, nothing is ever truly off limits. Musically, I mean. The primary goal is to help you uncover the absolute best that music has to offer. Sometimes that takes things to a really obscure, underground place, and sometimes it’s the opposite and revels in the mainstream. Listen closely before passing judgment on anything, no matter if it’s a local band you’ve never heard of or a new Katy Perry song. Even an artist you actively dislike might somehow release something that catches your ear and makes you question everything you’ve ever known. For example, a few years back I heard a brand new song on the radio that to my ears sounded halfway decent. Imagine my shock upon being told it was a Hanson song. Not like a 1996 Hanson song, but a 2010 Hanson song. Do I like Hanson more now as a result? Not really, but I suppose I respect them more than I did before. So keep (or start) listening to any and all kinds of music that you can get your hands on, because even the darkest corners may contain some hidden gems. With that, I’m pleased to introduce the final installment of The Top 50 Songs of 2014. The first 40 songs were all fantastic, but what’s below is the cream of the crop. What you see and discover here could very well confound your expectations and disturb you to your very core. Or perhaps after listening to all of these songs you’ll give an understanding nod. There’s a little something for lovers of just about any music genre, but of course feel free to disagree with any or all of the choices as this is totally subjective. In case you missed them, here are links to all the other parts of the countdown:

And so without further ado, please join me past the jump for my Top 10 Songs of 2014.

Listmas 2014: The Top 50 Songs of the Year [#20-11]

Electronica. Indie pop. Synth pop. Experimental pop. Punk rock. Psych rock. Indie rock. R&B. You can find all of these genres and more in this next installment of Faronheit’s Top 50 Songs of 2014! Thus far, we’ve journeyed through three previous sets of 10 songs, and should you have missed them, why all you have to do is click these individual links to be taken there instantly: [#50-41] [#40-31] [#30-21]

Of course if you’d like to see all of the Top 50 Songs posts with a single click, simply choose this link. We’ve got two more rounds left, including this one right here, so follow me even further down the rabbit hole as digging continues toward the Top 10 Songs of the year. For the moment, click past the jump for #20-11!

Listmas 2014: The Top 50 Songs of the Year [#30-21]

In the formidable challenge that is counting down the Top 50 Songs of 2014, today is the day we reach the halfway point and then keep going. The songs are getting progressively better, more epic, catchier, and more emotional. That’s how lists like this work. I hope you’ve enjoyed what’s already been covered in the previous two installments. Click here to see #50-41 in the countdown. Click here to see #40-31. Is there a theme to the set of 10 songs featured in this particular post? Not that I’ve been able to discern. You’ll find a couple of hip hop tracks, a couple of R&B cuts, a couple of synth pop numbers, and some other things that can sometimes feel like they’re straight out of left field. It’s nice to get a little unpredictable from time to time. So here we go: The Top 50 Songs of 2014 #30-21!

Listmas 2014: The Top 50 Songs of the Year [#40-31]

This Top 50 Songs list is not organized in any other way than by perceived order of excellence, so when you have a look at the set of 10 below, you may be surprised at how thematically related almost all of them are to one another. It was a total fluke things worked out like that, and in fact I didn’t even notice myself until writing up this introduction. The overarching theme is love, whether you’re falling into it, out of it, or somewhere in between, which is a subject matter as old as music itself. I just looked it up, and apparently about 60% of all songs written today are about love, so I guess the similarities aren’t all that shocking after all. Anyways, let’s get right into it, shall we? This freight train keeps rolling on with #40-31 of the Top 50 Songs of 2014! Oh, and in case you missed it, here’s #50-41.

Pick Your Poison: Monday 11-3-14

It’s been a minute since I’ve given a full update on the Class of 2014 project, and I’m sure a lot has happened since the last time. Exactly what qualifies as a lot? Well let me attempt to break most, if not all of it down, and then you be the judge. Let’s start with FKA twigs, because she’s had a lot going for her in the last couple of months. Outside of her personal life where she’s dating Robert Pattinson (which has resulted in some controversy), she’s put out two videos recently. The first is called “#throughglass,” and it’s a 2 minute concept film shot entirely using Google Glass. twigs directed it herself, and it’s soundtracked by some remixed versions of her songs. Beyond that, she’s also put out a video for an actual single, the appropriately titled “Video Girl.” The plot to that one essentially involves dancing on top of a prisoner about to get a lethal injection, so that’s fun. Thirdly, I do want to mention that FKA twigs will also be performing on The Tonight Show on Tuesday. It’ll be her US television debut, so don’t miss it! Next up is GEMS. There hasn’t been a whole lot of news from their camp recently, though they continue to tour relentlessly and are likely recording their debut full length whenever they’re not on the road. Technically speaking they’re still supporting the Medusa EP, which came out almost a year ago. In conjunction with that, the band did release a brand new video for the song “Sinking Stone,” so check that out. Over in Saint Pepsi’s camp, controversy! Well, in the sense where I guess he’s finally received some sort of cease and desist order from the brand that bears half of his name, meaning he might have to change to something else very soon. Details have been very vague on this, really just amounting to a Twitter name change and some associated tweets suggesting that he may no longer be allowed to keep the Saint Pepsi name. But on the plus side, he’s signed to Carpark Records, released a great single “Fiona Coyne” with the b-side “Fall Harder,” with a new full length to come in 2015. He’s also been working on some new singles, one of which is a collaboration with Maxo called “Celebrate Me” that has some association with Sour Patch Kids. He’ll also be releasing two new songs as part of Polyvinyl Records’ 4-track singles series, where they send an artist a 4-track cassette recorder and ask them to put two new songs to tape. No word yet on what those new songs will be, but if you want to subscribe and get a fresh 7″ record in your mailbox once a month for a full year, go here to learn more. As far as Royal Blood goes, since my last update they’ve released their debut album, played at Lollapalooza and a bunch of other festivals, and have basically become pretty popular with the alternative rock sector. They’ll be returning to Chicago at the start of December to play a special holiday show at House of Blues with Rise Against that’s already sold out. At the start of last month, they released a video for their song “Ten Tonne Skeleton,” so check that out if you’re at all interested. They also played their single “Figure It Out” on Late Night with Seth Meyers a couple of weeks back, so that’s cool too. What else can I tell you about? Banks released her debut album Goddess since my last update. It is delightful and you should pick up a copy if you haven’t already. A lot of people have started to catch on to her in the last couple of months, and her sold out show at Metro in Chicago had some of the loudest and most obsessive fans I’ve encountered in awhile. But as far as the breakout star of 2014 goes, Sam Smith is quickly gaining accolades and earning respect from fellow musicians, fans and celebrities alike. To put his meteoric rise to fame in perspective, in one year he’s gone from playing 300 capacity venues to 7,000 capacity venues. Not only that, but he’s headlining the annual holiday shows for some big Top 40 and Adult Contemporary radio stations, which I guess says a lot too. If you ask me he’s become the male version of Adele, so that’s understandably great. There’s other stuff going on with the remaining Class of 2014 artists, but honestly this has gotten so long I don’t want to keep going. So I’ll share more in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, please enjoy this week starting edition of Pick Your Poison. There’s some great tracks in this set from Cariad Harmon, Dave McPherson, Glyphs, Life Leone and My Pleasure. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream tracks from The 1975, Communions, Elephant Micah, SQURL, TALA and others.

Cariad Harmon – Every Time

Dave McPherson – Memories Become Enemies

Faux Effet – Gedn

Figgy – You Were Mine (Daniel. T. Remix)

George Ezra – Budapest (Creange Remix)

Glyphs – Out to Sea

Kentish Fire – In Our Band

Larry g(EE) – Take You Home Tonight

Life Leone – I Can’t Say No

Lutonomy – Neon Lightswitch

Mattson 2 – Dif Juz

My Pleasure – Living With You

Una Lux – Black Carbon

Pick Your Poison: Monday 6-23-14

Class of 2014 update! It’s been a short while since I’ve done one of these, so let’s take a look at how some of the 10 artists that are part of this year’s class are doing. Why not start with the biggest success story of them all, Mr. Sam Smith of course. His record In the Lonely Hour came out last week, and while it’s too early to tell what the sales figures are like, early estimates are looking great. His latest single “Stay With Me” is burning a hole through radios around the world, and some are calling him the male version of Adele. Here’s 27 Reasons Sam Smith Is The Angelic Voice The World Needs Right Now. Additionally, there’s been some great interviews with Smith to promote the record, including one that discusses his sexual orientation. Oh yeah, and then there was the time he covered Whitney Houston for a SiriusXM session. Pretty great. As far as FKA twigs goes, since my last report she’s announced her debut full length will be titled LP1 and has set a release date of August 12th. Ellie Goulding premiered a new single called “Two Weeks” on BBC Radio 1 the other day, and you can hear the new track here, just skip to the 30 minute mark. This September, Banks will be releasing her debut album Goddess, which I mentioned in my last Class of 2014 update. What’s new since then is that she’s released another song/video from the record called “Drowning.” So definitely watch that if you haven’t done so already. She’s also announced a fall U.S. tour in support of the album, including a stop in Chicago at Metro on October 7th. Tickets are on sale now. Speaking of tours, SAINT PEPSI is out on one with Painted Palms right now, and will in fact be stopping by the Empty Bottle in Chicago this Friday. Tickets are $10 in advance, so get on that. And while he released the Gin City EP back in February, earlier this month he did a pretty great remix of the TEEN track “Not For Long” that’s worth listening to. So that’s about all the updates I’ve got for you at the moment. In less than a month, it’s going to be like a Class of 2014 convention out at the Pitchfork Music Festival, with sets from FKA twigs, Kelela, Mas Ysa and Perfect Pussy. Needless to say, I’ll be covering that and am tremendously excited about it. Maybe I’ll even get lucky and some interviews will take place. More on all of that as it develops. Meanwhile, here’s today’s edition of Pick Your Poison, hot off the presses for you. Great tracks today come from Anamanaguchi, Brooklynn, The Holy Coast, Moska, and Oh, Be Clever. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from Crater, Gold-Bears, Slow Magic, Snakeships, White Lung and Zola Jesus.

Ambassadeurs – Hide and Seek

Anamanaguchi – Pop It

Andrea Balency – You’ve Never Been Alone (Radio Edit)

Aria Perez – American Latino

Brooklynn – Mile High

The Holy Coast – The Highest Love

Luka – Lowdown

Marcus Jakes – Reasons

Moska – Duma

Oh, Be Clever – Lost You

PHANTOM – Wild Escape (Original Mix)

VIRGO – Tides of Neptune (EYEDRESS Remix)

Pick Your Poison: Wednesday 4-30-14

Class of 2014 update! It’s been a little while since I’ve done one of these, so as we wrap up the first quarter of the year now’s as good of a time as any to reflect a little bit on how things are going with some of the 10 artists I chose to significantly raise their profiles this year. Let’s break this down alphabetically, meaning we’ll start with Banks. She’s just unleashed a new single called “Goddess,” which is definitely worth checking out. It’s the title track from her forthcoming album, expected to be released on September 9th via Harvest Records. You can preorder the 18 track deluxe version on iTunes right now. GEMS continue to work on their debut LP, but seem to be spending a lot of time on the road touring as well. They’ve actually played three shows in Chicago over the last three months, including dates with Classixx and Tycho. Honestly, when I saw them in February their live show could have used some improvement, so with any luck extensive touring has only helped. As you may have seen yesterday, Kelela just put out a new track called “Want It” that’s a collaboration with Chicago’s own Tink as part of the “Songs from Scratch” series by Yours Truly. With any luck, it’s a prelude to new material that will be out later this year. Looking forward to her set at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival as well. Speaking of live sets, while I missed Lo-Fang when he came through Chicago opening for Lorde earlier this spring, he’ll be rolling back through town this Friday night for a headlining show at Schubas. Tickets are $12 and I encourage you to join me if you can. Perfect Pussy continue their whirlwind 2014 by contributing a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Candy’s Room” to Rookie Magazine as the “theme song” for their new issue. That’s just one of many higher profile things the band has done of late. Their debut album Say Yes to Love received a wealth of positive attention, and I’ll be reviewing it myself in the next week or less. Royal Blood continue to plug away at their debut full length, but I did hear their single “Out of the Black” on the radio a couple of times in the last month or so. It’s an early sign of bigger things to come, and Lollapalooza this August will be one of them. Saint Pepsi released his Gin City EP at the end of February, and will be going on tour with Painted Palms this summer. That includes a stop in Chicago at the Empty Bottle on June 27th, which you can bet I’ll be at. Should be a lot of fun. Last but absolutely not least, there’s Sam Smith. At the start of 2014 he was scheduled to play a show in March at Subterranean in Chicago, which has about a 300 capacity. By February the show was moved to the 1,000 capacity Vic Theatre due to demand. Then SNL asked him to perform on the same night as the Chicago show, so it was postponed to the end of April. The additional exposure turned the rescheduled show into a sell out. To say the guy’s profile is on the rise would be an understatement. He’s a fantastic performer and sounds even better live than he does on record. At the Chicago show, girls were screaming like he marked the second coming of The Beatles. Most waited around to try and meet him afterwards, and eventually security was forced to turn about half of them away because it was all too much. And to think his album doesn’t come out until June! People are going to completely flip out, more than they are already. So 25% of the way through the year, how is the Class of 2014 doing? So far, so good if you ask me. Let’s keep it going for the next 9 months! Now then, as to today’s Pick Your Poison. There’s some good tracks in the mix from EVVY, The Hudson Branch, Lily and the Tigers, Sam Roberts Band and Shane Gamble. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, don’t miss streaming songs from Chance the Rapper, Donovan Blanc, Hooray for Earth, Megan Bonnell (covering Bob Dylan) and remixes from Julia Holter and Mogwai.

Animic – Hannibal (Jupiter Lion Remix)

EVVY – Haze

The Hudson Branch – New Vision of the Sun

Jamie Isaac – Blue Break (Hyetal Remix)

kimono – Specters

Lily and the Tigers – Honey

Maudlin Strangers – Overdose (Bass Science Remix)

PoP Campaign – HAME

Sam Roberts Band – We’re All In This Together

Shane Gamble – Beautiful Work

VesperTown – Royal Flash (Tokyo Hands Remix)

Yuzima – Anarchy

Album Review: Lo-Fang – Blue Film [4AD]

Lo-Fang, aka Matthew Hemerlein, is a very talented guy. His early singles proved as much, showing off a diverse range of styles and instruments, all of which he played himself. Throw in some pretty catchy choruses, and you’ve got all the makings of a superstar. At least that’s what it looks like on paper. He may well rise above the fray and build an audience from the ground up, and having teen wunderkind Lorde in his corner to take him out on tour will undoubtedly help push things in the right direction. What’s unfortunate however is how Hemerlein’s debut album Blue Film turns a promising singer-songwriter and composer into a small disappointment. Turns out when you focus on only one or two aspects of your songs, there are other pieces that suffer.

If Blue Film was an entirely instrumental record, it would have turned out pretty great, what with the very Andrew Bird-like mixture of guitars, violins and synths. That’s the arena where Hemerlein really proves his worth as a musician. The other half of that includes vocals and lyrics, which is where this album really takes a turn for the worse. There are clunky and awkward lines in virtually every single song, and those mouthfuls are akin to someone trying to forcefully connect two puzzle pieces together that do not fit. “I never figured out how to / Unfold your paper cranes / Origami agony,” are kind of strange and ultimately meaningless lines from album opener “Look Away,” though the hook and gorgeous composition do a great job of averting total disaster there. While the nearly seven minutes of “#88” makes it a touch too long to be an official single, it’s one of the few tracks released in advance of the record that does a fantastic job of showing off Hemerlein’s musical diversity and influences. Unforunately it too suffers from a few lines that might as well have been pulled from the book of most commonly used lyrics.

It stands to reason that even the blandest of lyrics can be made better or more colorful by a clear emotional investment from the person singing them. No matter what the subject matter of a song, from reflections on the world around you to the morality of cheating on your significant other to trying to be a better person, it seems like Hemerlein treats everything with a calm and nearly apathetic tone of voice. Even just a hint of genuine passion or the stretching of his vocal range from time to time could have given some extra life to songs that desperately needed it. Then there’s the matter of the two covers on Blue Film, both of which seem like ill-advised choices. The first is “Boris,” from the female duo BOY, which is a very dark song about sexual harassment in the music industry. These women are singing about their experience, but in Hemerlein’s hands the perspective shifts to the creepy guy offering them Codeine. If covering “You’re the One That I Want” from the musical Grease seems like a bad idea for an artist who largely deals with orchestral pop, you’d be correct. Hemerlein slows the tempo down to a delicately composed crawl, which changes the mood from upbeat and fun to downright desperate. It’s fits in perfectly with the rest of the album for that very reason, but it begs the question of why he felt the need to do it in the first place.

Prior to signing with 4AD, Hemerlein was planning to release Blue Film as a mixtape. As most mixtapes are, it probably would have been free. When the label heard what he had put together, they wanted to release it as Hemerlein’s debut album. Hindsight being 20/20, maybe they should have waited for the next batch of songs before trying to provide a proper introduction to Lo-Fang. Surely whatever he does next will be better than this.

Buy Blue Film from 4AD [or iTunes]

Pick Your Poison: Wednesday 2-26-14

Class of 2014 update! If I can do these once a week I absolutely will, though obviously if there’s nothing new to report then I won’t bother. But this is the third week out of the last four that there’s been things going on with class members, so I’m happy to tell you all about it. Let’s start with Saint Pepsi. His new record Gin City came out yesterday, and is available on Bandcamp as a “name your own price” download. Obviously you can get it for free if you want, but I’d encourage you to chip in at least a couple of bucks because it will help. Lo-Fang’s debut album Blue Film was also released yesterday, and you can download it from iTunes or buy a physical copy from 4AD directly. Watch him perform “#88” live on “Letterman”, and catch him on tour with Lorde this spring! Meanwhile, FKA twigs is up to new things, including a collaboration with electronica duo Inc. that’s going to include a 7″ and a zine. Enjoy this video for an untitled song that they worked on together. Last but certainly not least, Perfect Pussy’s album Say Yes to Love will be out on March 18th, but you can hear a gorgeous new song from it called “Interference Fits” over at NPR. If you’re headed to Austin for SXSW in mid-March, don’t miss the band playing all kinds of shows for everyone from Pitchfork to Stereogum to SPIN to NPR. It’s just more evidence this year is going to be a big one for them. This year also might be a big one for some of the artists who are part of today’s Pick Your Poison, one of which also happens to have the word “pussy” in it. Don’t miss tracks today from 100s, Coldair (covering Justin Timberlake), Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., DNKL, Mannequin Pussy, Reptile Youth and Scary People. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from The Faint, Fear of Men, Inventions, The Mary Onettes, MØ, My Morning Jacket (covering Songs: Ohia) and Shamir.

100s – Ten Freaky Hoes

Coldair – Strawberry Bubblegum (Justin Timberlake cover)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – All Your Base

DNKL – Battles

HOTT MT – Kat Kastle

Kitkkola – Problem Time

Mannequin Pussy – Clue Juice

Owl Eyes – Something About Us (Daft Punk cover)

Quiet Marauder – Accidental Voyeur

Ramaj Eroc – One Day at a Time

Reptile Youth – We’re All in Here

Scary People – Chicago!

Universal Thee – Aranis Natas

Utrecht – Too Far (ft. Jakil)

Album Review: Mas Ysa – Worth EP [Downtown]

The journey of Thomas Arsenault and his musical pseudonym Mas Ysa is a strange and interesting one. Without going into too much detail (you can find out more via your favorite search engine), he spent his youth in Canada and Brazil, before eventually making his way to the U.S. for college where he befriended some creative types and really began to play around with instruments and sounds. He’s used those connections and skills to become a legitimate recording artist, complete with a record deal and opening slots for bands like Deerhunter and Purity Ring, before 99% of the world had even heard a single note. It’s impressive, really. Is his status as part of the music world today a result of sheer talent, or simply thanks to who he knows? Well, Arsenault’s debut EP Worth provides a pretty definite answer to that question.

“Why” was the first Mas Ysa song uploaded to Soundcloud last fall for consumption by anyone willing to listen, and the nearly 6.5 minute epic drew quite a bit of the right kind of attention. Given its boundary pushing, devil may care mixture of techno, synth pop, folk and other sounds, it was a breath of fresh air and one hell of a first impression. On the EP itself it comes second, following the brief instrumental intro “Vanya.” Which brings up an important point about construction and sequencing. Worth has the nine song track listing of a full length, but clocks in at just under 30 minutes from start to finish. Five of those nine songs are instrumentals that fall between just under a minute to just over two minutes. It’s easy to think of moments like that as filler, however Arsenault does his best to give each one a unique individual identity that quietly draws your towards it, like a moth to a flame. These small sonic experiments also work as perfect segues between the longer vocal tracks, often mentally preparing you for particular tempos and feelings.

Beyond the complex narrative that is “Why,” the other three “main” songs do a fantastic job of painting a full picture of Arsenault’s skill set. “Years” closes out the EP, and is the polar opposite of the frantic energy found at the beginning. It is a sparse and haunting ballad that makes full use of Arsenault’s often quivering and wounded vocals. “Life Way Up From” does something very similar, but twists ever so slightly towards the instrumentally weird, a move made with such confidence and intention that by the time you really notice you’re already too emotionally invested to resist. By contrast, “Shame” has echoes of “Why,” particularly in its forceful vocals and brisk pace, but the overall approach is less about holding on for the ride and more about introspection.

Perhaps the best thing about the Worth EP is how it comes across as fully realized by its creator. That clarity of vision is something that most artists struggle with early on in their careers, so it’s a great sign that Arsenault has a such a steady hold on it from the get-go. Let’s hope he keeps it going for the next release.

Buy the Worth EP from Amazon

Pick Your Poison: Wednesday 2-19-14

Class of 2014 update! Every time I think there won’t be anything to report over the course of a week, suddenly a bunch of stuff happens and there’s plenty to report. So let me start today with Mas Ysa. His debut EP Worth came out a couple weeks ago and is streaming on Spotify. Or buy it from iTunes or Amazon or something. As I also mentioned on Monday, he’ll be performing at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. So that’s something to get excited about. Next up, SAINT PEPSI. His record Gin City will be released next week, however you can stream a brand new song called “Baby” from it in the Soundcloud section after the jump. Speaking of streaming things and albums out next week, Lo-Fang’s Blue Film is now streaming in full over at Of course I’m going to advise you to check that out. Last but not least, Syracuse punk band Perfect Pussy unleashed their video for the song “I” just the other day. It’s fun and shows off a little of what their crazy live show is like. Not only that, but they also unveiled a limited special edition box set of their forthcoming record Say Yes to Love (out March 18th) that features clear vinyl with singer Meredith Graves’ blood mixed in, among other items. They held it to only 180 units, and it sold out pretty quickly. So you (and I) can’t get a copy unless we find one for sale on eBay or something. It might make for a great collector’s item down the line. Anyways, that’s all I’ve got from the Class of 2014 for now. I’ll have another update for you in a week or two, along with reviews of the new albums on the way from SAINT PEPSI and Lo-Fang. In the meantime, let’s look at today’s Pick Your Poison. Good stuff in this set from Benbrick, Bent Denim, Earl Boykins, Japanther, Low Pros, Owls of the Swamp and PT Walkley. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream tracks from Amen Dunes, Cousins, King Dude & Chelsea Wolfe, Miniature Tigers, Modern Rivals, Odonis Odonis (covering Johnny Cash), and SAINT PEPSI.

Bad Suns – Cardiac Arrest (WoodysProduce Remix)

Benbrick – Forever Holding On

Bent Denim – Fuel

Chance Waters – Bonnie

Earl Boykins – Doves

French Horn Rebellion & Savoir Adore – The Fire (Rubber Ross Remix)

Hotlane – On My Own (Radio Mix)

Japanther – Do It (Don’t Try)

Low Pros – 100 Bottles (ft. Travi$ Scott)

Mahayla – Just Call

Owls of the Swamp – Garden

PT Walkley – Leeches

Velcro – City of Angels


Class of 2014: 10 Artists to Watch

The “Class of” project originated at the start of 2012, as I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s attempting to figure out exactly what there was to look forward to in the coming year. Always on the prowl for the next big thing, there was a lot to be excited about. So I decided to choose a manageable 10 artists whose career I would keep close tabs on throughout the next 12 months. When that turned out well, thanks in no small part to now nearly household names such as Frank Ocean and Grimes, the hope was to keep going. 2013 was going to be bigger and better than the previous year, and by all accounts that turned out to be true. Haim, Chvrches and Savages turned out to be the heaviest of the heavy hitters, though in the end nobody really performed poorly. In fact, last year’s class was so successful, I had concerns about 2014. How do you improve on near perfection? The short answer is, you don’t. You close your eyes, keep going, and pray for the best. And truly, I do believe that the Class of 2014 is filled with the best that music has to offer (that I’m aware of). These ten artists are interesting, innovative and actually pretty fun when you get down to it, and I anticipate greater realms of success for each one in the coming year. So join me after the jump, and allow me to introduce you to the Class of 2014!

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