Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Best Albums of 2018

Happy New Year! With work on the upcoming Audra album, other musical projects and life in general, free time has been scarce around these parts. Our apologies for the lack of new content on the site... but here is the feature that we've prepared for all year: The Best Albums of 2018: our 9th Annual Edition. A huge thank you to all of the good people that contributed the lists below. Each person selected & ranked their 10 favorite albums, and then we've compiled a track from each in a Spotify playlist (it's all the way at the bottom of this post). As always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions. Let us know whose list you relate to the most and please share your own Top Ten with us. Okay here we go - The Best Albums of 2018 - Bret & sarahQ

Bret Helm
Life on this Planet | Audra

10. Steve Perry - Traces
09. Preoccupations - New Material
08. Devon Welsh - Dream Songs
07. James - Living in Extraordinary Times
06. Lycia - In Flickers
05. Wax Idols - Happy Ending
04. Robyn - Honey
03. Hilary Woods - Colt
02. Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour
01. Suede - The Blue Hour

About My #1Suede is a rarity. Very few bands can return from a break-up and produce work that can proudly stand alongside their best. Along with 2013's Bloodsports and 2016's Night Thoughts, Suede have been nothing short of brilliant in their second run. And now this - The Blue Hour. Upon first listen, it doesn't have the immediately-accessible singles ala "Trash" or "The Drowners" - however it has the true 'you need to listen to it in its entirety' album experience. I liken it to a blend of the lush grandiosity of their sophomore album Dog Man Star with the ambition, continuity and intensity of Pink Floyd's The Wall. The Blue Hour really clicked for me while accompanying a reading of the autobiography of Suede's Brett Anderson - an absolutely stunning memoir on his years leading up to the success of the band. Understanding his life a bit better peeled back the layers of not only this album, but his (and the band's) entire catalog.

I'd also like to take a moment to reflect on a few other albums I selected. If you missed my discourse on the new (and apparently final) Wax Idols' album, please spend a moment here. You may be asking yourself, ''Is the #10 pick the same Steve Perry that fronted Journey?" Hell yeah, it is. I'd also recommend you to read about the backstory of that album's creation and then listen to a song like "No More Cryin'" or "We're Still Here" - way emotional. Lycia's In Flickers could possibly be my favorite of theirs. And I can't say enough about the greatness of Kacey Musgraves' third LP. Golden Hour very well may have clocked in the most listens of anything on my list - it's only been 5 years since her debut, so it's going to be exciting to witness her continuing musical trajectory.

"You're never alone, your life is golden. Golden." (from Suede's "Life is Golden")

Sarah Quarrie Helm
Life on this Planet

10. Robyn - Honey
09. Them Are Us Too - Amends
08. IAMX - Alive in New Light
07. ACTORS - It Will Come to You
06. Preoccupations - New Material
05. Lycia - In Flickers
04. Still Corners - Slow Air
03. Mitski - Be the Cowboy
02. First Aid Kit - Ruins
01. Anna Calvi - Hunter

About My #1: Anna Calvi's third album Hunter charges head first out of the gate. Her voice is one of the most expressive you will come by. Whether she is vocally gliding with vulnerability or howling with dominance, every song is a powerful statement channeling masculinity and femininity as fluid sensuality. Boldly composed and cinematically arranged, you'll find yourself humming these melodies and relating to emotions beyond the bounds of stereotypical gender roles. This album makes me want to wear red, drink red wine and enjoy being an intricate Person.

Sean Benham
Chicago, Illinois

10. Cat Power - Wanderer
09. Yo La Tengo - There's a Riot Going On
08. Snail Mail - Lush
07. MGMT - Little Dark Age
06. Vinyl Williams - Opal
05. CUTS - A Gradual Decline
04. Sunstack Jones - s/t
03. Soccer Mommy - Clean
02. Beak> - >>>
01. Film School - Bright to Death

About My #1I started following Film School in 2003 when their Alwaysnever EP came out. I would consider this band the second wave of shoegaze rock. The track "Ms Connection" at the time was nothing less great than material written by bands like Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine in the early 90s. By 2011 I assumed this band had finished, but over the past couple of years they resurrected themselves on Instagram and started shooting photos of practices and studio material, so I knew something was up! Eight years later since Fission, they’ve released an epic piece of work. While I consider Fission their weakest album, Bright to Death set themselves back on course and has the greatness of Hideout and their 2006 self-titled debut.

Rob Clark
Rockford, Illinois

10. Shame - Songs of Praise
08. Ezra Furman - Transangelic Exodus
07. Death Cab for Cutie - Thank You for Today
06. Wye Oak - The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs
05. GoGo Penguin - A Humdrum Star
04. Belly - DOVE
03. Frank Turner - Be More Kind
02. Angelique Kidjo - Remain in Light
01. LOCKS - Skeletal Blues

About My #1Gloriously acoustic murder ballads and death shanties from an English/Irish London-based four piece band likely as influenced by Tom Waits as Nick Cave. They had me under their spell with my first listen to the song, “Skin,” but every song on this album is a gothic-blues gem.

Keith Creighton
Seattle, Washington

09. Halo Circus - Robots and Wranglers
08. Steven Page - Discipline: Heal Thy Self Pt. II
07. The Interrupters - Fight the Good Fight
06. Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper - A Star is Born OST
05. Paul McCartney - Egypt Station
04. The Motels - The Last Beautiful Days
02. Smoking Popes - Into the Agony
01. Johnny Marr - Call the Comet

About My #1With Moz totally off the deep end, I no longer care that The Smiths are never, ever, ever getting back together. Marr more than made up for it with an absolutely smashing album that scratches the itch for fans wanting new albums by The Chameleons, Whipping Boy or the Comsat Angels more than anything Smithsish. He's really found his voice as a lead singer and while there's no earworm single on this album, the whole listen is a perfect ride featuring enough twists and turns to keep you hooked from first track to last without tuning out or clicking elsewhere. 

I just noticed that six of my ten selections feature artists working outside of the bands or platforms that made them famous: Brücken and Froese are from Propaganda and Tangerine Dream respectively; Halo Circus features Allison Iraheta who has been one of the most exciting singers to emerge from American Idol. Page's prolific solo work totally eclipses the post-Page albums by Barenaked Ladies. Laura Jane Grace signed to alt country powerhouse Bloodshot Records only to release one of the most visceral punk albums of her career (three Against Me! albums have topped my year end lists in their respective years). 

Other notable mentions this year: worthy returns by Belly (Dove) and Culture Club (Life actually one-ups the beloved/derided Arctic Monkeys' Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino album as a dreamy lounge fest). The Reverend Horton Heat recently released Whole New Life, their best album since the Al Jourgensen-produced Liquor in the Front.

John Magness
Uttoxeter, England

10. Okkervil River - In the Rainbow Rain
09. Blossoms - Cool Like You
08. Manic Street Preachers - Resistance is Futile
07. Tunng - Songs You Make at Night
06. James - Living in Extraordinary Times
05. The Magic Numbers - Outsiders
04. Jools Holland & Marc Almond - A Lovely Life to Live
03. Tracey Thorn - Record
02. Paul Weller - True Meanings
01. Young Gun Silver Fox - AM Waves

About My #1When we contributed our Best of 2018 So Far back in June it came as a bit of a shock that I hadn't actually been listening to much new stuff so the list was more like a list of what I'd listened to that was released in 2018 rather than a "best of." I started using Apple Music a lot more to listen to things I'd heard or read about. I first heard Blossoms in Jack Wills and "Shazammed" it. I first read about Young Gun Silver Fox in Record Collector magazine. AM Waves gives the game away with the title. It's as if the last 40 years never happened. If this had been declared a lost classic recorded in 1977 and finally seeing the light of day you wouldn't be surprised. It breaks no new ground whatsoever. There are traces of the Doobie Brothers and Hall & Oates throughout and I love the album because of it. It was a pretty difficult decision to place it above Paul Weller but I think the Modfather will make it onto a few lists so YGSF got the final vote.

Mike Keddy
Western Massachusetts

10. Interpol - Marauder
09. Pinkshinyultrablast - Miserable Miracles
07. Beach House - 7
06. Sons of Kemet - Your Queen is a Reptile
05. Preoccupations - New Material
04. Kids See Ghosts - s/t
03. Mildlife - Phase
02. Landing - Bells in New Towns
01. Khruangbin - Con Todo el Mundo

About My #1Khruangbin’s (pronounced Krung bin) Con Todo El Mundo has gone wire to wire as my favorite release from 2018. My number two came close but it was this one that I just listened to more and will be the record I immediately think of when I look back on 2018. A superb listen all the way through. I have yet to tire of this record and I can’t imagine that happening anytime soon. Check it out.

Jaymz Todd
Phoenix, Arizona

10. De Lux - More Disco Songs About Love
09. Ava Luna - Moon 2
08. Estelle - Lovers Rock
07. Richard Swift - The Hex
06. Young Fathers - Cocoa Sugar
05. Leon Bridges - Good Thing
04. Goat Girl - s/t
03. James - Living in Extraordinary Times
02. Robyn - Honey
01. SSION - O

About My #1Throwing homage to the 80’s and 90’s cool of yesteryear, ‘O’, the third ‘official’ full-length album from audio-visual maestro Cody Critcheloe’s long running musical project, SSION, pulls out a tsunami of colorful textures and paints them in a darkly melancholic sludge of gloss.

The album plays like the best haphazard musical selections from a jukebox opening with a sweet & gloomy retelling of Roy Orbison’s "As Big As I Can Dream," then quickly jumps into the Madonna worship dance pop brilliance of "Comeback" and 180s to a quick punk-infused cover of the Germ’s “Forming” – and that’s in the first seven minutes. After which the album mixes in a generous helping of dance-punk, noise-pop, glo-fi, queerpop, freak-folk and 90s alternative thrash (with special appearances from Ariel Pink, Devendra Banhart, Sky Ferreira, Hole’s Patty Schemel, Róisín Murphy and MNDR). There’s something to be said about the layering of atmospherics on this album and the textures throughout. With every listen you can hear a new pocket of sound, a joke or an underlying conversation. Through it all the songs remain unforgettable, energetic and ridiculously tongue-in-cheek.

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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Planet Rotations #256: Goth / Industrial / Post-Punk 2018 Part 1

In the age of digital music, we tend to skip through albums, listening to one or two tracks - missing some of the deeper cuts that may be brilliant. We are huge fans of the album format, and love to experience the entire collection the way the artist intended. Listening to one or two songs is like randomly reading a few chapters of a book and expecting to understand the completed work. Like all music lovers, we love to share what we're listening to and discover some new things from friends.

As per tradition, Sarah and I are immersed in a total Goth listening fest for the month of October. Below you will find 20 albums that we've listened to over the last 20 days, photographed from our Vinyl & CD collection. You'll also notice a Spotify player at the bottom, which features a song pick from each album for the both of us. This is an ongoing playlist that you can follow directly on Spotify. Some songs are inevitably not available in their database, so we encourage you to seek those out elsewhere. Please put your own lists in the comments below, or interact at the Life on this Planet Facebook.

1. Lycia - Ionia
Bret's song pick: Desert
Sarah's song pick: Ionia

2. Killing Joke - Brighter Than a Thousand Suns
Bret's song pick: Adorations
Sarah's song pick: Sanity

3. The Chameleons - Script of the Bridge
Bret's song pick: Second Skin
Sarah's song pick: Up the Down Escalator

4. The Southern Death Cult - s/t
Bret's song pick: Moya
Sarah's song pick: Fatman

5. My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult - I See Good Spirits and I See Bad Spirits
Bret's song pick: And This Is What the Devil Does
Sarah's song pick: These Remains

6. Dead Can Dance - Within the Realm of a Dying Sun
Bret's song pick: Dawn of the Iconoclast
Sarah's song pick: Cantara

7. Skinny Puppy - Rabies
Bret's song pick: Worlock
Sarah's song pick: Rodent

8. Siouxsie and the Banshees - Peepshow
Bret's song pick: The Last Beat of My Heart
Sarah's song pick: The Killing Jar

9. Virgin Prunes - If I Die... I Die
Bret's song pick: Walls of Jericho (n/a on Spotify)
Sarah's song pick: Baby Turns Blue

10. Red Temple Spirits - Dancing to Restore an Eclipsed Moon
Bret's song pick: Electric Flowers (n/a on Spotify)
Sarah's song pick: Dark Spirits

11. The Lost Boys Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Bret's song pick: I Still Believe (Tim Cappello)
Sarah's song pick: Cry Little Sister

12. Gene Loves Jezebel - Immigrant
Bret's song pick: Shame
Sarah's song pick: Always a Flame

13. This Mortal Coil - It'll End in Tears
Bret's song pick: Holocaust
Sarah's song pick: Song to the Siren

14. The Glove - Blue Sunshine
Bret's song pick: Like an Animal
Sarah's song pick: Punish Me with Kisses

15. Ministry - Twitch
Bret's song pick: All Day Remix
Sarah's song pick: Over the Shoulder

16. Human Drama - Feel
Bret's song pick: The Waiting Hour
Sarah's song pick: I Could Be a Killer

17. Daucus Karota (Rozz Williams) - Shrine EP
Bret's song pick: The Stranger (n/a on Spotify)
Sarah's song pick: Angel (n/a on Spotify)

18. The Sisterhood - Gift
Bret's song pick: Giving Ground (n/a on Spotify)
Sarah's song pick: Colours (n/a on Spotify)

19. Bauhaus - Swing the Heartache: The BBC Sessions
Bret's song pick: Party of the First Part (n/a on Spotify)
Sarah's song pick: Ziggy Stardust

20. Audra - Going to the Theatre
Bret's song pick: There Are No Snakes in Heaven
Sarah's song pick: Don't End This Time

Listen to our ongoing Planet Rotations Playlist!

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

AUDRA - The Fourth Album: Vinyl & CD Indiegogo Campaign

The stars have aligned and my band Audra is hard at work recording our first album in 10 years! We are reaching out to our fans to help in the physical production of a very special collection of songs. With your help, we will be releasing our first ever vinyl album - which will be available in 3 colors - including an Indiegogo Exclusive Edition limited to only 50. We've also opened up the vaults to share some really fun Audra collectibles & experiences. Find out how you can be a part of it right now, or keep on reading below. Thanks for your support! - Bret

About The Band

Audra was formed in 1991 by brothers Bret & Bart Helm in Mesa, Arizona. We have since released 3 full-length albums (2 via Projekt Records) and have a new album set to be self-released in early 2019 (featuring a guest appearance by Mike VanPortfleet of Lycia). Over the years, Audra has performed alongside Peter Murphy, The Mission, Gene Loves Jezebel, Nitzer Ebb, AFI, She Wants Revenge, Concrete Blonde, New Model Army and many others.
With the release of 2009's Everything Changes, we decided to go back to the DIY approach to making music that launched our career in the early 90s. We don't have a label that handles the manufacturing, distribution and all of the other things that go into releasing music. This is a labor of love and often doesn't yield any type of financial return. We create music because we love to - and as cliche as it may sound, we have to.

The New Album

In the years where Audra may have seemed dormant, we have always been writing songs. Back in July 2018, we entered the studio with the intention of recording 2 songs, but after the first session with engineer Joshua Rozenboom we realized that we needed to go all-in and make an entire album. By the time this campaign goes live, we have recorded the 9 songs that will comprise the album. There are still several components to finish the process, such as overdubbing, mixing, mastering, artwork design and the physical production of the CDs and vinyl.
We will keep you updated with journal entries, behind-the-scenes photos & video clips of our progress through these stages here on the Updates section of our Indiegogo page.
We'll also be revealing song titles + the album title throughout the 30 days of this campaign. We are so incredibly excited to share these new songs with you!

Where Your Contributions Will Go + What You'll Receive

Your contributions will go towards the following:
  • Mastering. This is a process that happens after the recording & mixing have concluded. It enhances the overall sonic quality.
  • Vinyl & CD manufacturing. Jackets, sleeves, booklets, records, CDs - all of that good stuff!
  • If we exceed our goal, we plan on printing up a new run of T-shirts, reissuing our long out-of-print first album and maybe hitting the road for some live dates.
  • If we don't meet our goal? We will work very hard to make sure this album is still released in the formats described. All money raised will go directly towards the items listed above.
You can contribute any amount by clicking on the pink 'Back It' button or by selecting one or more of the perks that we are offering:
  • 3 different color vinyl editions. Black, clear and a smoky Indiegogo Exclusive that is limited to only 50 copies. We'll also have a small run of CDs.
  • As one of our Indiegogo supporters, you will receive the album before it is made available to the general public.
  • Handwritten lyrics, rare T-shirts and band-worn outfits.
  • The drum machine used on the first two Audra albums & live shows up until the Fall of 2002.
  • A guitar amp used during the recording of the Going to the Theatre album.
  • Tickets to an advance album listening party that features an acoustic performance + Q&A session with the band.
  • A chance to have Audra remix your song or record a cover version of a song of your choice.
  • Lots more! We had a lot of fun brainstorming and putting these perks together to make this a really cool experience for all of us.

Other Ways You Can Help

Please help us spread the word by using the share buttons here on our page. We only have 30 days to make this happen, so we would greatly appreciate any extra exposure.
And if you'd like to contribute to the campaign without purchasing any of our perks, you can do that by clicking the pink 'Back It' button and entering any amount you'd like.

Here's the link again: The Audra Indiegogo Campaign Page
Thank you so very much for your support! - Bret, Bart and Jason
Bart Helm - Guitar
Tracking guitar parts on Song 1. July 19, 2018
Bret Helm - Vocals, Bass + Guitar
Recording acoustic guitar for Song 5. August 16, 2018
Jason DeWolfe Barton - Drums + Percussion.
Recording Song 3. July 29, 2018

Photo credits on page & video: William Sibick, Joe Russomanno, Sam Rosenthal, Bret Helm, Bart Helm, Jason Barton, Jaymz Todd and the Helm Family Archive.