Top 10 Albums of 2013

This was a great year for music, I felt like no one genre dominated. It also seems like the mainstream media and even some mainstream listeners were crossing boundaries and listening to musical styles they would typically ignore. There was so much music this year that even artists I really like I didn’t get a chance to fully listen to their albums. This top 10 evolved more than any top 10 I’ve ever worked on. I eventually had to remove albums with songs I really really loved because I didn’t love them as albums. There’s a lot of great stuff missing so at the end I’ll include an expanded honorable mention section.

After each entry I’ll include a Spotify link so you can listen to the album but if you’re lazy I also made a playlist of my 10 favorite songs from my top 10. I’ll leave that link at the end of the list. Feel free to leave some comments and share your favorite albums with me.

 

10. Venna – Third Generation Hymnal (Broken Cricles) 

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Third Genration Hymnal blew 2013 wide open by releasing in the first couple weeks of January. It wasn’t going to take me much convincing to like an album made by ex-members of The Felix Culpa but I was enamored with this release even after the first listen. Venna know exactly when to let a song breathe and when to let it exhale. The songs shift from soft ballad to rollicking acoustic number effortlessly. Unfortunately the band hung it up in August but at least they left us with this incredible album.

Spotify Link: Venna – Third Generation Hymnal

9. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris (Columbia/Tan Cressida/Odd Future Records)

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We all know the story of Earl Sweatshirt and his hotly anticipated 2nd album Doris. The only real question was would it deliver. It did, without a doubt. Earl raps over the dark twisted beats that Odd Future was known for when they were just kids making music on their own terms. Doris is a completely unorthodox hip-hop album. He routinely lets the guests rap first, segues are bizarre dark interludes, and the content is often in the vein of traditional hip-hop. The result is kind of genius, like a fun house mirror version of mainstream rap. Hopefully we don’t have to wait 4 years for the next album from Earl Sweatshirt because he has a lot of game changing to do.

Spotify Link: Earl Sweatshirt – Doris

8. Defeater – Letters Home (Bridge 9)

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Defeater’s last album featured a 4 song acoustic epilogue and dare I say it some catchy tunes. They could have gone soft, made something even more accessible instead they got more aggressive. Letters Home is a blistering love letter (pun intended) to the genre they came up in. Singer Derek Archambault’s vocals are set to full grit sandpaper and the band almost never relents. Your ears rarely get a chance to relax during the album’s quickly moving ten tracks. Don’t expect an acoustic epilogue, don’t expect a catchy chorus, just expect one of the best hardcore albums of 2013.

Spotify Link: Defeater – Letters Home

7. The Front Bottoms -Talon of the Hawk (Bar/None Records)

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Once you get passed their silly name, you’ll find their mostly silly music. Talon of the Hawk is 12 tracks of instantly unforgettable folk-dance-pop-punk. These songs bored their way into my head and never left for weeks. I spent whole train rides to and from work playing this album front to back. If you’re looking for an album that you can throw on and not think about too hard while the world passes you by you could do a lot worse than this.

Spotify Link: The Front Bottoms – Talon Of The Hawk

6. Deafheaven – Sunbather (Deathwish) 

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No other album this year crosses genres harder than Sunbather. Do you like metal? Do you like instrumental post-rock? Do you like good music? Stop what you’re doing and give your ears the sonic treat that is Sunbather. Give yourself an hour and a good pair of headphones you’re about to take a trip and you don’t want any distractions. Deafheaven has crafted an absolute crowning achievement in whatever weird genre they have carved out for themselves. This album is absolutely worthy of all the accolades it has received from all across the music press.

Spotify Link: Deafheaven – Sunbather

5. Mixtapes – Ordinary Silence (No Sleep Records)

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Last year Mixtapes put out my 4th favorite album “Even on the Worst Nights”. It was their debut album and was a fun giddy blast of male-female dual vocal pop-punk. Well, honestly that’s exactly what you get on their second album. But they have matured perfectly. The songs are better, the lyrics are better, the musicianship is great, the band has upped their game in every way. There’s no reason these guys shouldn’t be huge especially if they keep this up on their next album.

Spotify Link: Mixtapes – Ordinary Silence

4. Fall Out Boy – Save Rock and Roll (Island-Def Jam) 

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There was no way in a million years one of the biggest rock bands in the world was going to come back from a self-imposed hiatus and make a good record. Especially after putting out 2 messy albums. Anyone who listened to Folie a Deux could tell that Fall Out Boy was headed towards an implosion. The album tried to merge genres but it was clear this was due to infighting in the band. On Save Rock and Roll, Fall Out Boy sound like the most confident band in the world, like they were always supposed to be a dance-rock band. It may not sound like old Fall Out Boy, but it sounds like the best Fall Out Boy for the year 2013.

Spotify Link: Fall Out Boy – Save Rock And Roll

3. Tyler, the Creator – Wolf (Odd Future Records) 

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You either love him or hate him, but Tyler, the Creator released the most creative hip-hop album of the year. That is as long as you went into this knowing it was the final part of the trilogy Tyler started with this 2009 debut “Bastard”. This is by far Tyler’s best work. His production work is at a point where I’m sure some rappers would just wish Tyler would quit rapping and produce beats for them. The lyrics range from his silliest to his most deadly serious. And of course Wolf is part of the overarching narrative that has permeated all 3 of Tyler’s albums. And when you get to the end of  Wolf and you realize exactly what has happened and where this album fits into the trilogy you kind of just have to sit down and shake your head. How did this kid get so smart?

Spotify Link: Tyler, The Creator – Wolf

2. The World is a Beautiful Place and I’m No Longer Afraid to Die – Whenever, if Ever (Topshelf Records)

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It took these guys 3 years to create and release their debut album and every second of it feels like its been meticulously planned. Its nearly impossible for me to start at the first track and not listen all the way through to the end. This was very very nearly my album of the year because its just fucking perfect. While this isn’t my number 1 album I can’t recommend it highly enough. Call these guys indie rock, post-hardcore, emo revival whatever just give this album a chance. Whenever, if Ever is an emotional ride that hasn’t been attempted since emo rock’s heyday. It blows me away every time I listen to it. Every piano key tickle, every lyric, every drum beat is placed so deliberately I find myself listening with my jaw open. These guys are incredible and if it takes them 5 years to make another album I won’t care as long as they do.

Spotify Link: Whenever, If Ever

1. Touché Amoré – Is Survived By (Deathwish) 

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Touche Amore is my favorite band. This was my most anticipated album all year. It lived up to all the hype and then some. While its not nearly as cohesive as “Whenever, if Ever” the lyrical content hit me in a perfect place at the right moment in my life. The band’s musicianship is at all time high. It’s produced and mixed perfectly. These guys could be a huge huge heavy rock band based on this album. Is Survived By is all at once sweeping, epic, aggressive, and emotional. No band is bending the hardcore genre to their will like Touche Amore and they are gaining fans by the thousands every day. See these guys on their next tour because next time it might be in an arena, or while standing in a huge field.

Spotify Link: Touché Amoré – Is Survived By

Honorable Mention:

Balance and Composure “The Things We Think We’re Missing”
Kanye West “Yeezus”
Dowsing “I Don’t Even Care Anymore”
Sainthood Reps “Headswell”
The Wonder Years “The Greatest Generation”
Justin Timberlake “The 20/20 Experience Parts 1 and 2”
Into It. Over It. “Intersections”
Shone “Heat Thing”
The Fold “Moving Past”

Top 10 Albums of 2013 Playlist: Top 10 of 2013

Predictions for the 2013 Spike VGX Awards

The Spike Video Game Awards are tomorrow (12/7/2013) and since Fish and I will be live tweeting the festivities I thought I should get my predictions for the winners down ahead of time. So, here are the list of nominees with my pick for winner italicized. I’ll bold the actual winners. HERE WE GO!

Game of the Year

  • BioShock Infinite
  • Grand Theft Auto 5
  • Super Mario 3D World
  • The Last of Us
  • Tomb Raider

Studio of the Year

  • Irrational Games
  • Naughty Dog
  • Rockstar North
  • The Fullbright Company

Best Shooter

  • Battlefield 4
  • BioShock Infinite
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts
  • Metro: Last Light

Best Action Adventure Game

  • Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag
  • Grand Theft Auto 5
  • The Last of Us
  • Tomb Raider

Best Sports Game

  • FIFA 14
  • MLB 13: The Show
  • NBA 2K14
  • NHL 14

Best Independent Game

  • Gone Home
  • Kentucky Route Zero
  • Papers, Please
  • The Stanley Parable

Best RPG

  • Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening
  • Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
  • Pokemon X/Y

Best Fighting Game

  • Divekick
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us
  • Killer Instinct
  • Tekken Revolution

Best Driving Game

  • F1 2013
  • Grid 2
  • Forza Motorsport 5
  • Need for Speed Rivals

Best DLC

  • Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep
  • Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall
  • Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
  • Mass Effect 3: Citadel

Best Xbox Game

  • BioShock Infinite
  • Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
  • Grand Theft Auto 5
  • Tomb Raider

Best PlayStation Game

  • Grand Theft Auto 5
  • Rayman Legends
  • The Last of Us
  • Tomb Raider

Best Nintendo Game

  • Pikmin 3
  • Rayman Legends
  • Super Mario 3D World
  • The Wonderful 101

Best PC Game

  • Battlefield 4
  • Gone Home
  • Papers, Please
  • The Stanley Parable

Best Handheld Game

  • Animal Crossing: New Leaf
  • Pokemon X/Y
  • Tearaway
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Best Casual Game

  • Animal Crossing: New Leaf
  • Disney Infinity
  • Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time
  • Skylanders Swap Force

Best Voice Actor

  • Troy Baker as Joel in The Last of Us
  • Troy Baker as Booker DeWitt in BioShock Infinite
  • Steven Ogg as Trevor Philips in Grand Theft Auto 5
  • Willem Dafoe as Nathan Dawkins in Beyond: Two Souls

Best Voice Actress

  • Ashely Johnson as Ellie in The Last of Us
  • Courtnee Draper as Elizabeth in BioShock Infinite
  • Camilla Luddington as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider
  • Ellen Page as Jodie Holmes in Beyond: Two Souls

Best Soundtrack

  • BioShock Infinite
  • Grand Theft Auto 5
  • Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
  • The Last of Us

Best Song in a Game

  • “ADHD” by Kendrick Lamar (Grand Theft Auto 5)
  • “Sleepwalking” by The Chain Gang of 1974 (Grand Theft Auto 5)
  • “Survival” by Eminem (Call of Duty: Ghosts)
  • “Will the Circle be Unbroken” by Courtnee Draper & Troy Baker (BioShock Infinite)

Most Anticipated Game

  • South Park: The Stick of Truth
  • Destiny
  • Watch Dogs
  • Titanfall
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Top 10 Most Pretentious Moments in Pitchfork’s Guest List of 2012

Every year Pitchfork ends their Best Of coverage with the “guest list“. They ask any artists deemed worthy for a best of list for 2012. What they get back are some of the most ridiculous and pretentious lists you’ll ever read. Here are the 10 most pretentious moments and lists.

10. A large chunk of the artists can’t even be bothered to come up with 10 things. Now, I know they weren’t asked specifically for 10 things, but come on. 

9. The Antlers’ Peter Silberman’s Other Year’s Top Albums. Seriously. He named albums from not 2012. 

8. Merchandise name their top “taypes_2012” and have the balls to write (Self Released) after many of them. Wow! Really? 

7. Sky Ferreira names her “top everything” manages to think of 4 things. 

6. Eleanor Freidberger’s “Most Played Songs” many of them are not from this year. 

5. Chairlifts’ Caroline Polacheck names her “Brain-Melt Moments Had to 2012 Releases” names 2 from 2011, but also names her list “Brain-Melt Moments”. 

4. Most of the lists are specifically written as “in no order” and then don’t include numbers. THANKS FOR THE HEADS UP! 

3. Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum’s List of Top Things to do on Tour includes the gems “Not Listening to Music”, how much fun it is to go to a movie theater and watch snippets of all the bad movies, and “watching the world from the post-sauna perspective”.

2. Doldrums’ Best of 2012 features 2 number 10’s rather than call anything number 1. 

1. The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle’s TOP FIVE GENRES OF 2012 IN JOHN DARNIELLE’S KITCHEN

Top 10 Video Games of 2012!

Alright, I really really want you to listen to this years Bullshot! end of the year special. It can be found here. So in hopes to encourage you to listen I’m only going to post 2 or 3 sentences on why I liked these games. For more discussion listen to Bullshot! Thanks!

 

10. ZombiU – Wii U (Ubisoft)

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ZombiU feels more like a ride or an experience. Something you would pay many tokens to play at the arcade. It also shows that third parties might know what to do with Nintendo’s latest console.

9. Uncharted: Golden Abyss – PS Vita (SCEA/Sony Bend)

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By far and away the best game for the Vita. Uncharted is brilliantly written and acted and was one of the most satisfying adventures of the year.

8. Mass Effect 3 – Xbox 360/PS3/PC/Wii U (EA/BioWare)

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Mass Effect 3 is nowhere near as good as Mass Effect 2, but you have to respect BioWare for seeing this trilogy to its conclusion.

7. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning – Xbox 360/PS3/PC (EA/38 Studios/Big Huge Games)

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A brilliant mash up of Fable and Skyrim. Its too bad the game was caught up in the 38 Studios controversy because people missed one of the best RPGs of 2012.

6. Borderlands 2 – Xbox 360/PS3/PC (2K Games/Gearbox Software)

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Borderlands 2 is Borderlands, but bigger. Play with friends or even strangers and the world will melt away. All you will care about is bullets and loot.

5. Assassin’s Creed III – Xbox 360/PS3/PC/Wii U (Ubisoft)

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Assassin’s Creed III makes up for some of Revelations shortcomings, but isn’t as good as Brotherhood. Still the game is beautiful and the conclusion to Desmond’s storyline is fantastic.

4. Spec Ops: The Line – Xbox 360/PS3/PC (2K Games/Yager)

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Spec Ops: The Line is a sub-par military shooter, but underneath its surface lies its dark heart and the best narrative in video games in 2012.

3. Kid Icarus: Uprising – 3DS (Nintendo/Project Sora)

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Incredible writing and voice acting makes up for bizarre controls. Easily the most underrated game of the year. It literally makes me angry that more people didn’t play it.

2. Halo 4 – Xbox 360 (Microsoft Studios/343 Industries)

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Halo grows up. Halo 4 is the first time I can whole heartedly recommend a Halo game since Halo 2. Manned by a new team who seem genuinely excited to be working on new Halo games Halo 4 is an absolute triumph of video game making. The music, the graphics, the gameplay, everything comes together to make one of the most fun to play games of 2012.

1. Journey – PS3 (SCEA/thatgamecompany)  

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Journey is the best game of the year. To say anything else would ruin this incredible experience. If you play video games this is a must play. Even if you don’t play video games, watch someone else play it. It’s something everyone should see.

The First Annual Jim Plachy Beer Awards!

In the year 2012 my love of a fine craft beer became a full fledged hobby. I spent much of my free time this year enjoying many beers, going to my first beer festival, and even venturing to more than a few breweries. I drank nearly 120 unique beers this year and I feel like naming some of my favorites. I’m just getting to know certain styles so you wont see everything represented here but in the styles I feel confident in I have created an award. There are 13 awards including Best Beer of the Year and 2 runners up for Beer of the Year. Let me know some of your favorites so I can give them a try.

 

Best Beer Thing That isn’t a Beer: Untappd 

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Straight up. This post wouldn’t exist without Untappd. What is Untappd? The simple answer is that its Foursquare for beer. You check in to a beer, earn badges, comment on your friends beers, etc. It documented all the beers I’ve had this year, the places I drank them, and even on a scale of 1-5 what I thought of them. Untappd help me discover new beers and even where to get them. The site recently launched a paid account program and I highly recommend it. If you’re drinking beer and you have a computer or smartphone near you, you should be on Untappd. We should also be friends. Look up Jimplachy.

 

Best Place to Drink Beer: Half Acre Beer Company Tap Room

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Half Acre’s amazing tap room only opened in November and I’ve only been there once, but I can say without a doubt that it is the best place I drank beer in, in 2012. Just look at it. The amazing attention to detail, especially in the wood certainly makes it one of the classier tap rooms around. Besides just being a nice place to be in the other fantastic part is that each beer comes in multiple sizes. This includes a 5oz pour for $2 essentially allowing you to make a flight out of any of the 10 beers on tap. Half Acre has been cranking out fantastic beers for over 5 years and now they have an amazing tap room to showcase those beers in.

Best Spring Beer: New Belgium Dig 

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As I wrote when I reviewed Dig its hard to remember sometimes that New Belgium makes anything other than Fat Tire. But they do and the results are usually pretty damn good. Dig is no exception. A perfectly balanced refreshing pale ale, Dig makes me long for the Spring. And finally not just because the weather is getting nicer.

Best Summer Beer: Half Acre Akari Shogun

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Half Acre’s Akari Shogun is listed as a wheat ale, but this is Half Acre we’re talking about so of course they hopped the hell out of it. Beers are routinely called “refreshingly bitter” but never like Akari Shogun. Its a great easy drinking beer, that went down quite nicely on the hot Summer day I drank it. It was on tap at the tap room when I went to go check it out and have regretted not having it again while I was there.

 

Best Fall Beer: Founders Harvest Ale

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I don’t have to tell you that wet-hopped ales are delicious. As a smart beer drinker you should know this. However, I was absolutely unprepared for how amazingly delicious Founders Harvest Ale was. Fruit forward and ridiculously pleasant on the tongue this beer had me seeking out more wet-hopped ales for weeks. None of them held a candle to this one.

 

Best Winter Beer(Holiday Beers Included): Revolution Fistmas Ale

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Revolution’s Fistmas Ale hits me right in my weak point. Ginger. I love things that taste like ginger. Fistmas combines one of the most delicious red ales I’ve tasted with tasty orange and a nice spicy shot of ginger. If there is any downside to this beer its that the ginger flavor fades in older bottles. Maybe Rev should think about bottling this stuff a little closer to Christmas next year. Fresh this stuff cannot be beat.

 

Best Fruit Beer: New Glarus Apple Ale

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Apple Ale by New Glarus tastes like a carbonated caramel apple. I don’t really know what else you need to know. Fresh apple juice with a hint of sweet caramel. It is absolutely fantastic and makes me long to try New Glarus’ other fruit beers.

 

Best New Hard Cider: Angry Orchard Crisp Apple

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Angry Orchard came out of nowhere and is taking the hard cider game by storm. Angry Orchard’s crisp apple is everything you want a hard cider to be. Sweet, crisp like fresh apples, and with just enough booze to let you know you’re drinking alcohol. There hasn’t been a hard cider this well balanced since Woodchuck Amber. And that is saying a lot.

 

Best Hard Cider: Woodchuck Pear

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How good is Woodchuck Pear Cider? I don’t even like pears and I could drink this stuff all day. This stuff was hard to find in the Chicago area for quite a while, but then Binny’s upped their cider selection and brought Woodchuck Pear into its stores. There is nothing more satisfying, tangy, and refreshing than Woodchuck Pear.

 

Best New Brewery: Solemn Oath 

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Solemn Oath are awesome guys and gals who took a chance on opening a brewery in the suburbs and they are absolutely nailing it. Tons of experimentation, an amazing tap room, really neat artwork, and integrating with the beer community are just a few of the reasons why Solemn Oath is the best new brewery of 2012. How much do I like Solemn Oath? I’m not even a huge fan of their beer. That’s right, I’ve had about 5 of their beers and none of them have really knocked my socks off. But I like them, the people. And I think they will continue to do amazing things for the local beer scene and that’s why they are the best new brewery of 2012.

 

Best Brewery: Revolution Brewing 

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I could have easily named Revolution the best new brewery in 2012 seeing as how they opened in March. But they aren’t the best new brewery, they are the best brewery of the year. In 9 months they opened a taproom and a restaurant, brewed up countless amazing beers, released 2 barrel aged beers to much excitement, and racked up a few medals and “best-of-shows”. Revolution absolutely killed in 2012 and I can’t even imagine what they have in store for 2013. Here’s to Rev pumping out some more of my favorite beers.

 

Best New Beer: Revolution Anti-Hero IPA

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My favorite beer style is the pale ale. So when I went to the Wheaton Ale Fest this past August I stuck to trying a bunch of IPAs I’ve never had before. They all tasted pretty much the same. And then I had this. Anti-Hero IPA. It was an oasis in a desert of boring same-old IPAs. Its sweet, fruity, bitter, with just enough malt to let you know its there but not overpowering. This is the beer that I want constantly in my fridge at all times. If its on tap somewhere I can’t help but order one. By far and away this was the best new beer of the year.

 

Best Beer of 2012(2nd Runner Up): Goose Island Juliet 

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Juliet was the first and quite frankly the best sour beer I’ve ever had. Bursting with a sour blackberry flavor Juliet left my mouth watering with every sip. It made me crave it. I tried to savor my bottle but I just couldn’t. It was too good. Juliet opened my mind to sour beers but so far they have all paled in comparison. Until we meet again Juliet.

 

Best Beer of 2012(1st Runner Up): Boulder Beer Co. Oak-Aged Apri-Cran Mojo IPA

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This beer is as rare as its name is long. How rare is it? The pic above is a picture I took of it with Untappd. Its also the first result when you google image search this beer. On tap at the Bavarian Lodge back in August I had never heard of its base beer(Mojo IPA)let alone this oak aged fruitified version. I didn’t even know there was an advantage to aging an IPA. In fact I thought it was frowned upon, since the hops would fade. This beer however was incredible. Absolutely no bitterness and the added fruit really brought out the flavors in the hops that remained. Somewhere between a fruit beer and……a cider? I couldn’t wrap my head around it but I enjoyed every sip. Hopefully one day we will be reunited.

 

Best Beer of 2012: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout

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Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about the almighty Bourbon County Stout so I’m not sure what I can add to the conversation. However I’ll do my best. Stouts are not beers I’m a big fan of, but what Goose Island does with Bourbon County can only be described as magical. The flavors of chocolate, coffee, and butterscotch compete with every taste bud on your tongue. Your brain gets confused, the burn of the alcohol starts to affect you and by the time you’re done you are a different person. Its hard to believe this is even a beer. It feels elevated, it feels so much bigger than the word beer. Bourbon County Stout is an experience I wish everyone could take. It is remarkable.

 

 

 

Top 10 Albums of 2012

10. MellowHype – Numbers (Odd Future Records)

A lot of albums rotated into and out of the number 10 spot on this list. Numbers kept popping up, and I wasn’t sure why as I hadn’t really listened to the full album more then once. So I started skipping around to the songs I liked and I realized that its Left Brain’s production that kept me coming back. See, I’m pretty sure Odd Future as a group has a shelf life like they wont be all together forever. Some will go on to greater success than others and they wont all be famous for rapping. After giving the highlight tracks a few more spins I realized that Left Brain could go on to be a legit in demand producer for mainstream hip-hop tracks. Numbers will be the touchstone, the album we go back to and say…”this….this is when we know Left Brain was going to be huge”.

Spotify Link: MellowHype – Numbers

 

9. Further Seems Forever – Penny Black (Rise Records)

There was a lot of reunions this year and a lot of Emo revival. Of course I’m talking about late 90s early 00s Emo music and not the hairstyle. A lot of great bands got back together but one of the most welcome reunions in 2012 was Further Seems Forever. In 2001 the band released their absolutely incredible debut album “The Moon is Down”. Unfortunately not long after its release singer Chris Carrabba would find fame with his solo project Dashboard Confessional. The band stuck together and recorded two more albums each with a different singer and each with varying levels of success. The band called it quits after the release of the 3rd album “Hide Nothing”. Over the last couple of years the band would pop up at festivals playing with Chris back in the role of lead singer. But they wouldn’t commit to being back together. Thankfully that changed in 2012. The band has released the proper follow-up to “The Moon is Down” and it is as dynamic and emotional as its predecessor. But it definitely doesn’t sound like it belongs in 2001, this is an emotional alternative rock album that honestly should be playing on modern rock radio. This thing is chock full of catchy singles and would please fans of Dashboard Confessional if only they knew it existed. Hopefully the lack of success on this record doesn’t dissuade the band into sticking it out and making more incredible music together.

Spotify Link: Further Seems Forever – Penny Black

 

8. Odd Future — The OF Tape Vol. 2 (Odd Future Records) 

The perfect introduction to Odd Future is this album. It features every member including Earl has some of their best songs and even features a multiple cover gimmick so fans would try to collect them all. The album spans all of the groups sounds from dark and sinister, to ridiculous hip-hop satire. There’s even the first half of Frank Ocean’s “White” the second half of which would appear on “Channel Orange”. I’m not sure this album would change any minds about Odd Future but it would definitely give you a glimpse into their world. For a fan like me it was everything I was hoping for and more. Proof that these guys still have plenty of tricks up their sleeves.

Spotify Link: Odd Future – The OF Tape Vol. 2

7. The Chariot — One Wing (Entertainment One Music)

The Chariot is a band that fades into and out of my musical consciousness every other album. But when I do remember to check them out they absolutely floor me. Their latest “One Wing” is an absolute showstopper. Taking twists and turns you wouldn’t expect. The albums 10 tracks dart and dive between full on hardcore barn burners to a song featuring a mariachi break down. I can’t make this up. If any part of you has any respect for heavy music then definitely give this album a shot. Its a short journey but you’ll be glad you took it.

Spotify Link: The Chariot – One Wing

6. The Casket Lottery — Real Fear (No Sleep Records)

The Casket Lottery toiled away for years as one of the most underrated bands in Emo. 10 years after the release of their last album “Survival is for Cowards” the band returns pretty much out of nowhere with “Real Fear”. The band hasn’t played any shows, or made many waves. I don’t think they even have a Twitter account. Yet they are so well respected that No Sleep agreed to release this album. The band still hasn’t played any shows outside of their hometown and show no signs of touring. In their heyday I was a HUGE Casket Lottery fan and was terrified that this wouldn’t be any good. I mean how could it be? I vaguely knew the band was even back together. Luckily, this album is incredible. Track after track I continued to be blown away by the musicianship, the lyrics, and how well it all fit together. Its like they didn’t even miss a step. You know what? Its better than that its like they are a whole new band. This might as well be their debut album. The only thing that betrays that notion is how incredible it is front to back. You know these guys are veterans after one listen. Here’s hoping they hit the road and continue to make incredible music.

Spotify Link: The Casket Lottery – Real Fear

5. Circa Survive — Violent Waves (Self-Released)

Circa Survive’s fourth album is arguably their best. There are no singles here but instead we get probably the most cohesive album of the year. Skipping around probably wouldn’t be wise. I compare this album to The Felix Culpa’s “Sever Your Roots” which is about as high of a compliment I can give an album. Violent Waves is meant to be listened to all the way through. An experience like this is rare these days, most bands struggle to write a few good songs. Circa Survive has crafted a brilliant album. I can’t wait to hear what they do next.

Spotify Link: Circa Survive – Violent Waves

4. Mixtapes — Even on the Worst Nights (No Sleep Records)

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While Pop-Punk isn’t dead it does evolve pretty quickly these days. “Even on the Worst Nights” the debut album from Mixtapes is solid proof of that. At their heart the band is pop-punk and they have some definite pop-punk gems on here, but it’s the deviations from the formula that make this album special. First there are the dual male/female vocals. They never feel forced and are always in the right place. The acoustic tracks are inserted into the album perfectly. Giving the album a chance to breathe. Then there are heavier “alt-rock” tracks. Still catchy, still heartfelt and will make you wonder why Mixtapes isn’t a huge band. I could see these guys sharing an arena stage with Green Day or Foo Fighters. There were so many incredible debut albums this year and Mixtapes is way way up there.

Spotify Link: Mixtapes – Even on the Worst Nights

#3 Cloud Nothings “Attack on Memory” (Carpark Records)

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Cloud Nothings latest album leads the Emo revival charge. Released in January “Attack on Memory” kicked the year off with a vengeance. I was convinced for a good chunk of the year that this would be my Album of the Year. The album opens with the droning and frantic “No Future/No Past” and continues to throw curve balls for the entire 30 minutes. The album is only 8 songs but there is enough variety and emotion here to eclipse almost every other album I heard this year. Cloud Nothings have made what is easily the most underrated album of the year and by a wide wide margin.

Spotify Link: Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory

#2 Code Orange Kids — Love is Love//Return to Dust (Deathwish, Inc) 

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You have exactly one second to prepare yourself for the onslaught that is “Love is Love//Return to Dust”. That’s all you get before the insanity begins. If you can make it to the end of the first track you are rewarded with a chance to breathe. 30 or so seconds of a single guitar lulls you into a false sense of security before the next track begins and promptly begins kicking your ass again. While at their core Code Orange Kids are a hardcore band that’s not all they do here on their debut album. The song “Colors (Into Nothing)” is like all the best parts of Underoath’s atmospheric tracks distilled down to 3 minutes. Code Orange Kids are blazing their own trail. Not by going in their own direction, but by burning to the ground everything that came before them.

Spotify Link: Code Orange Kids – Love Is Love // Return To Dust

#1 Frank Ocean — channel ORANGE (Def Jam) 

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This album is truly the album of the year. In a year where we re-elected a black president, several states legalized gay marriage and marijuana, no album was more 2012 than “channel ORANGE”. A complete destruction and rebuilding of R&B Frank Ocean manages to defy simple genres. There is nothing here that can be categorized. For over an hour Frank Ocean lays his life open for all to hear. Its like stumbling on a journal you know you shouldn’t be reading but you can’t put it down. The music almost doesn’t matter, but luckily the music is incredible. The dubstep tinged “Pyramids”, the heart-wrenching ballad “Bad Religon”, and the funky “Pink Matter” are just a few examples of how all over the place this album can seem when separated. But when combined the 17 tracks of “channel ORANGE” make for the greatest listening experience of the year. Frank Ocean is the breakout star of 2012 and he’s made a masterpiece of an album that will live on as a historic moment in music history for years to come.

Spotify Link: Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE

REVIEW: PSVita

Its been a week now since Sony rolled out the PSVita and you’ve already read countless reviews of the hardware. So, instead of writing your typical 2000 word review I’ve decided to lay it out as a fake FAQ of sorts. I’ll write a statement or question and then I’ll answer it True, False, or something snarky. Make sense? Ok! Here we go!

The screen is really awesome. TRUE

The 5″ OLED screen is ridiculous. The only thing that outdoes it is the iPhone’s Retina Display. The viewing angles are insane, the colors are crisp and bright, the whole thing is just beautiful. I could see myself watching an entire movie on the Vita.

The Vita is not portable. FALSE

The Vita is not POCKETABLE. Buy a case for your Vita and throw it in your bag and you are all set to go. I took mine with me on a train ride, and on a few car trips and it is fine. Case. Bag. Done.

You need the 3G version. MAYBE

This all depends on just how connected you want to be. Many of the games have online multiplayer or some kind of networking feature. Plus all the apps are for the web. Foursquare, Twitter, Netflix, etc all require a data connection. Unit 13 a game due out next week has a constantly updating leaderboard and begs you to keep it connected to the Internet. If you’re just going to play this at home, or at places with WiFi you should be fine. You could also always just get a tethering plan for your smartphone which is what I might end up doing.

Does the battery suck? KINDA

I let the Vita sit for a couple of days fully charged and the battery meter didn’t move a bit. However on Saturday I played 2 hours of Uncharted, a half hour of ModNation Racers, and an hour of Hot Shots Golf and that killed the battery. The 3DS gets about the same amount of game play time out of a full charge and we all got over that. Plus right now most of the games are meant to be played in short bursts. Battery life will be a bigger problem when online multiplayer gaming becomes more prevalent on the system.

Do the thumbsticks really make a big difference? YES

The Vita is basically a PS3 controller with a screen. It makes all the difference in the world. Uncharted FEELS like a brand new full entry in the series. Not a half assed version of the franchise. That’s another exciting thing about the Vita it will expand franchises. Something I will talk about in more detail on Bullshot! because my theory is a tad complicated.

Do I need to buy one right now? NO

Nope it’s just a video game system you don’t NEED it. I’m in love with mine, but if you aren’t going to find yourself in situations where you need to play a video game to kill some time or because you only have one TV in the house and you can’t always play games then the Vita is fantastic, otherwise you can wait.

I’ll definitely be talking about it more on Bullshot! and I’ll do a mini-review of Uncharted: Golden Abyss when I wrap it up.

 

Beer Review: New Belgium Dig

New Belgium is responsible for the uber-popular Fat Tire. This is their Spring seasonal called Dig. It’s an American Pale Ale which is a style I have been digging (get it?) lately so I decided to pick up a bottle. I love the color and the aroma is big fruity hops. So is the taste with a very pleasant bitterness. What follows is my Beer Advocate review. It averaged out to a 4/5.

A: Brilliant copper color with a nice light head. It doesn’t last long but by the time I finished it I had plenty of lacing.  4.0

S: I get lots of fruit on the first sniff. Grapefruit and apricot is at the front. Then I get the fruit mixed with malt in the background.  4.0

T: Bitter fruity hops. Quite a bit of bitterness here but it’s very pleasant and mixes well with the other flavors. The fruits in the smell are just as nice in the taste.  4.0

M: The mouthfeel is nice with a decent amount of carbonation. I enjoyed letting it linger on my tongue.  4.0

O: This is one of my new favorites. With the “mainstreamification” of Fat Tire I tend to forget that New Belgium does a lot of great beers. I’ll definitely be reaching for this beer again. It’s one of the best examples of a pleasantly bitter beer I’ve had since I started this “enjoying my beer” thing.  4.0

Beer Review: Sam Adams Coastal Wheat

Sam Adams is where it all kind of started for me. Sam Adams Light was the first beer I deemed “not gross” and could drink more than one in a sitting. It was the first beer I knew I could pick up a six pack of and bring to a party with me. While for the most part Sam Adams has fallen out of favor with most craft beer snobs I couldn’t resist trying one of their “brewmaster” beers. Coastal Wheat is decent, but in the end not something I would really reach for and I tend to enjoy wheat beers. Drinking one on a hot Summer day might be refreshing but I wouldn’t pick this up for my next beach party. Which I’m sure I’ll be having this Summer.

Beer Advocate Review:

A: Pours Yellow, hazy, exactly what I wanted it to look like.  3.5

S: Not much smell to be had. I got a small whiff of the lemon but subsequent sniffs came up dry.  2.5

T: A little sour, no bitterness. As it warmed up the wheat came forward. The lemon was pleasant and not fakey like I believed it would be.  3.0

M: Felt lots of carbonation on my back teeth. Very thin.  3.0

O: This would be very good on a hot day, but I could only drink one and it isn’t something I would really reach for over other beers. Pleasant enough but nothing special.  3.0

BA turned this into a 2.93/5

Beer Reviews Are Coming!

So I’ve decided that I want to write reviews of the beers I’ve been trying lately. I’ll be using the Beer Advocate method of beer review. Rating Appearance, Smell, Taste, Mouthfeel, and an Overall score using a scale that goes 1-5 with half points allowed. I’ll be posting these first on BA but then do an expanded version here on the site. BA takes your scores you give the beer and uses some sort of weird weighted system that I don’t understand to give your beer rating a final score. The first beer up will be Sam Adams Coastal Wheat. I’ll have it up before the day is out.