Monday, December 30, 2013

What I was listening to in 2013

Someone once said, "Music is the soundtrack to our lives."  With 2013 drawing to a close, I find myself reflecting on the music I discovered and listened to this year.  Here's a list of the bands and artists that provided the soundtrack to 2013 for me.

1.) Youth Lagoon.  I picked up Youth Lagoon's record "Wondrous Bughouse" at Origami Vinyl in LA, and was hooked.  Their first record "The Year of Hibernation" is even better.  It's thoughtful, melodic music that deals with loneliness, inspiration, and snake hunting.

2.) The Mountain Goats.  The Mountain Goats have made a shit-load of records, and this year, I found myself listening to their album "The Life of the World to Come" over and over.  Each song is based on a Bible verse, and it deals with themes of death, faith, love, and loss in a simple and earnest way.  I think I especially resonated with this album because this year, I started having serious conversations with my parents about faith.  Even though I'm sort of an agnostic, we even started doing a Bible study together.

3.) The Minutemen.  Earlier this year, I had the privilege of seeing Mike Watt and his band The Missingmen perform at The Continental Room in Fullerton.  Watt was a founding member of the The Minutemen.  They came out of the early 80s punk scene, but their songs transcend traditional punk.  They are short explosions of creativity and emotion.

4.) Hott MT.  On Fridays, I DJ at Mulberry St. Ristorante in downtown Fullerton, and almost every week, I find myself playing a little pink 45 record by the band Hott MT called "Never Hate Again."  I may be a little biased regarding this band because my former roommate Adam Ashe is in it.  But they have an awesome sound, and this song features Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne.  There's a funny story with the song.  The members of Hott MT took a road trip to Oklahoma to find Wayne Coyne's house and give him a present.  Not only did Coyne accept the present, he invited this unknown band to stay at this house and record a song and a music video.  

5.) Thao & The Get Down Stay Down.  My friend Becky Holt (an amazing musician in her own right) introduced me to this band, and this album "We the Common."  It's a soulful, rocking set of songs about women living in a correctional facility, led by a short Vietmanese-American lady named Thao Nguyen.

6.) The Audacity.  I've been a fan of the Fullerton-based punk band The Audacity for many years, since their first album "Power Drowning" was released on Fullerton's own Burger Records.  Since that record, they have made two more, each more complex (and catchy) than the last: Mellow Cruisers and Butter Knife.  The Audacity always make me smile.

7.) The Middle Class.  Speaking of Fullerton bands, The Middle Class (arguably the first hardcore band in southern California) recently reunited and played some fantastic shows this year.  My friend Mike Atta (who runs Out of Vogue store) in downtown Fullerton is the guitarist for The Middle Class, whose ultra-fast songs and poetic lyrics seem as fresh today as when they were first recorded in the late 70s and early 80s.

8.) David Bazan.  When I was a young college student going to a small private Christian University in Seattle, Washington, a little band called Pedro the Lion were my "gateway drug" into indie music.  Since I first heard them in 1998, I have been a fan and follower of the career of Pedro the Lion, and (after their break-up) frontman David Bazan.  His second solo album, "Curse Your Branches" is a catchy and introspective exploration of spirituality, booze, and family.  It's heavy, but very good.

9.) Hunx and his Punx.  2013 was the year I discovered my first openly gay punk band, Hunx and his Punx.  In a year that saw the overturn of Califoria's discriminatory Prop 8, Hunx and his Punx provided a nice soundtrack of unabashed same-sex love and celebration.

10.) Los Tigres del Norte.  2013 has been a year of debate over immigration reform, and the band Los Tigres del Norte has provided me with a window into the Mexican-American immigrant experience.  My favorite song by them is "La Jaula de Oro (The Golden Cage)" which is the most honest and heartbreaking songs about this topic I've ever heard.  I think every American should listen to this song.  

For those of you who don't speak Spanish, I recorded my own version in both English and Spanish.

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