Frontier Psychiatrist

Archive for June 2012

(To check out songs 30-16 on our list, click here)

15. Peaking Lights – “Beautiful Son”

Far out, man.  Far out.

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Making a Top 30 songs list is a lot trickier than making a Top 30 albums list. One’s opinion of a song is rarely static, changing with the mood, the time of day, the season.  Additionally, the shear volume of songs released in any given year ensure that any list will prove grossly incomplete.  Why even bother?

Well: because it’s fun, I suppose.  Because we get to have ridiculous debates about the quality of various 3-minute compositions.  Because we get to listen to all of our favorite songs over and over again in preparation.  And, most importantly, because we get to share them with you.  Here’s hoping that you find something you like below, and if you think we’ve left anything out, please let us know in the comments section.  Let the countdown begin.

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(All week we’re counting down our favorites of the year to date.  To check out albums 30 through 11 on our list, click here)

10. Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself

Birdman’s best disc since 2005’s Mysterious Production of EggsBreak It Yourself finds the string virtuoso giving equal attention to expanding and restraining his unique songwriting style. Perfect for a sunny Sunday afternoon, Break It Yourself is as expertly produced as it is written, giving Bird fans a more rewarding listen than any of his interim discs. Extra points for the inclusion of Annie Clark. -PTL

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I listen to hundreds of new records each year, and so I feel that I am as qualified as anyone to say that 2011 kind of sucked.  Of course, like every year, there were a handful of outstanding releases, but there was a genuine lack of depth in the field.  When the time came to fill in our year-end lists, coming up with 25-50 records that really felt like they belonged proved challenging to say the least.

No such problem in 2012.  Already there have been more excellent releases than I care to count, so much so that our lists have undergone almost daily post-deadline revision.  Hip-hop and straight-up guitar-based rock in particular have seem rejuvenated this year, as is reflected in the list below.  While some of the year’s most lauded releases just didn’t strike a chord with our staff (Beach House, Grimes), and others have not been in the world long enough for us to digest (Fiona Apple), there is more than enough good music below to keep you satisfied through the hot summer months.  And so, without further ado, the first part of our Top 30 Albums of 2012 so far:

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Ai Weiwei with “Sunflower Seeds” at the Tate Modern


It may seem unfair to compare one of the most renowned artists and activists in China –and the world– to aspiring American painters, photographers, and sculptors. But the contrast between Ai Weiwei, the subject of a new documentary that screened last week in Williamsburg, and the dozen or so Brooklyn artists whose work I saw in Williamsburg and Greenpoint the prior weekend, could not be more severe. In the eight days of music, film, and art that comprised the Northside Festival, the documentary about Ai and the studio tour spoke to both the possibilities and pitfalls of contemporary art.

While I enjoyed the Northside Art as a casual fan and relished the chance to skulk inside apartments, studios, galleries, and warehouses in North Brooklyn, seeing the film Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry a few days latermade me question the art’s depth. The epiphany reminded me of how I questioned Mexican food in New York after visiting Texas and California. (Stay tuned for the actual Mexico trip). In the film, which packed the house at Union Docs on June 21, Ai comes across as a master conceptual artist and tireless crusader for social justice. While his work is not always literal, it always communicates a clear message. In retrospect, the Northside artists made mostly abstract work that focused on color, light, and shadow, but did not convey much deeper meaning. If Ai’s work looked outward, his Brooklyn brethren looked decidedly inward.

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There is a school of thought that real balls-out, face-melting, teeth-gnashing, soul-blazing rock and roll doesn’t exist anymore. Those who subscribe argue that the contemporary indiesphere or popular music in general has passed on meaty guitars, soring solos and scorched vocals, favoring syrupy synths or jangly acoustics. If you’ve spent any time on FP this year, you’d know that this isn’t the case. Rock and roll is back in a big way, whether it’s the Sonic Youth-esque squalor of The Men’s Open Your Heart, the jet-black psychedelia of Royal Bath’s Better Luck Next Life or Cloud Nothings’ Steve Albini boosted emo-punk callback Attack on Memory. Never content to let others have all the fun, contemporary psych godfather Ty Segall sounds the alarm with this year’s most punishing record yet, and perhaps his best to date: Slaughterhouse, released 6/26 on In The Red and now streaming at Spin.

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Adam Levin, Hot Pink

A recent New Yorker article about good bad books asks why anyone would choose to read pulp instead over something  intellectually stimulating (the illustration shows a man hiding a Stephen King novel inside the cover of War and Peace). The article makes a valid point. You don’t want to read Shakespeare all the time, and if you do, you’re probably a very boring person (consider how watching nothing but Godard films could become tiresome; you need a Farrelly Brothers every now and again). So while ‘genre novels’ may be considered formulaic and sometimes cheesy, they can be good for an overstimulated mind to take a break. What the article doesn’t consider, however, is the middle-ground. Here’s where Adam Levin’s short story collection comes into play.

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Listening To:

Sons of Dionysus

A Transmedia Novel of Myth, Mirth, and the Magical Excess of Youth.