Hey Guys, Jimmy Here.
My time at WECS is coming to an end! Last year around this time, I did my Top Albums of 2015 (So Far), and although I could have repeated that idea, I figured there are a lot of those on the internet, so I decided to do something a bit more personal.
This is a list of the top albums that went across my desk as Music Director, and why they were so important. Although most are some of my favorite to listen to, all of them have an empirical story behind them as well.
We will start from 10.
10. Joanna Newsome- Divers
Joanna Newsome, a renown freak folk artist, could really only find air time on college radio. Her unique high-pitched voice or graceful harp tunes really wouldn’t fit elsewhere. This album was a good representation of the unification college radio offers to musicians, by getting small pockets throughout the entire nation to help promote and review albums via CMJ. She was even featured on the cover of CMJ magazine last winter, which helped her get her music out to an even larger audience. The “college radio strategy” was a tremendous help to many critically acclaimed musicians including Moby and R.E.M.
I was not only glad to get this album, but I was anticipating it for a while anticipating it for quite a while. College radio was a cool way to get your hands on those releases- another example of anticipation in music that college radio fulfilled was the final release of Youth Lagoon.
If you like Joanna, you may be interested in Emile and Ogden, and this viral video of Gaelynn Lea, the winner of the 2016 Tiny Desk Contest.
9. Various Artists- A Salute to the Thin White Duke
Compilations got some love this year, some of them had a lot of airtime like one from Milk Records that featured a bunch of cool artists, including the one and only Courtney Barnett with an awesome single, “Three Packs A Day”. There were some I really liked, such as the annual Portland showcase comp, PDX POP NOW, or Amazon’s release of Indie for the Holidays featuring a dope song from Soak, which I can’t seem to find anywhere online.
But, this David Bowie Tribute Comp took the cake. Although I could have given this slot to his final album, which was released on college radio just before his death, I just loved hearing how his music was so cherished by so many musicians. There a few favorites, including Rogue Waves’ Modern Love and Starman by The Deer Tracks- but give the album a listen and develop your own fave!
If your looking for other great Bowie covers, The Flaming Lips did a cool cover. And in similar vein, here is The Spook School performing a song about David Bowie’s Songs.
For a little obituary I wrote on David Bowie, check out this link.
8. Quilt- Plaza
This is important to me because I was having a rough day (boohoo am I right?) about something so stupid I can’t even remember what it was. Anyways, there I was sorting through mail and I stumble upon this psychy hippy dippy record. It turned my day around because I love Quilt- I got into them through a friend’s project called Faces on Film, who played a show with them in Boston.
There are a few good bands in the Boston Music Scene- does it compete with the New York Music Scene? I don’t really care, if we cater to this conversation someone is going to bring up baseball and I will get bored.
7. Gun Outfit- Dream All Over
I loved this album, it wasn’t a big one, and I think we were one of the stations who gave it some of the most spins, but I loved it. It was one of the first “Music Descriptions” I wrote for the Student DJs, trying to get them to play more new music, which was an initiative I expanded upon, that originated from our last MD, Eddie. These music reviews were a way to assure that people could get a feel for digital music without the album cover or bio that usually is on the CD. Although, starting in the fall we will have a digital slideshow to show-off the album covers of music in rotation, so wahoo!
My review took directly from the title of the band and album- check out the track Gotta Wanna, it just sounds like it has this outlaw-Waylon Jennings, or Alt. Country base with a hazy dream aspect to it. I figured the band name “Gun Outfit” really reminded me of a cowboy or a western hero, like a gunslinger with a holster and everything, and the album title “Dream All Over” speaks for itself with dreamy elements all over the album.
For our support, the band sent us a pressed vinyl of the album, which was cool for a student DJ we had who was trying to use his tables more.
6. Cloud Cult- The Seeker
Cloud Cult is a band that I personally love, and, for me, was an early access point to indie rock when I started to listen when I came into college. Before college, I listened to mainly older music, and was eager for a new sound. Cloud Cult is an avant-garde, art rock band, and I have loved their sound since I first listened to the album “Light Chasers.” What was even cooler about getting the album was the front man of the project, Craig Minowa, called me to say thanks for getting it to number one on our charts! It was cool, especially since I didn’t have too much time to do artists interviews this year- so this was a fun alternative.
I would get the occasional call or message from an artist, but this was my favorite since I was able to thank him for getting me into indie rock, and we chatted about how his record label promotes sustainability through music! As you guys may remember from our Summer Update, WECS has been using music as an example of how simple it is to reduce your impact on the planet. Here at WECS, we have eliminated physical CDs from our music submissions and have gone exclusively digital. This change eliminates CD and packaging waste, and fossil fuel use from CD shipment and production.
Check out PBS’s coverage of Earthology, Craig Minowa’s sustainable record label!
5. Dr. Dog- Psychedelic Swamp
I enjoyed this album a lot, enough so that I went to see them in concert at College Street Music Hall, and enough that I started a Official WECS Instagram just to enter a contest so I could win a vinyl for the station. A bit much, I know, but check out this great photo of my dog Mick, being very inspired by the album.
Since then, I have done some more stuff with the Instagram with the bad phone and little time I have. I juggle many hats, including Social Media and Websites, Music Direction, Operations Manager, WECS Radio Club President, and On-Air DJ . Some stations have one person doing social media. Imagine if that is all I had to do? Man, I should join a union or something.
4. Sound of Ceres- Nostalgia for Infinity
Sound of Ceres was one of my favorite random discoveries we got them from a promotion company who doesn’t have a very active relationship with us, so it could have easily fell to the cracks and not been on my radar, but for whatever reason I threw it in the CD player and just loved it. When I listen to some of the tracks, I feel like I am taking a glass elevator through a future utopia. Maybe that review is a bit too specific, but check out the album and maybe you’ll get it.
The grand point of this, listen to college radio because you’ll never know what you’ll discover, but chances are you’ll find something you’ll like or a sound you have never heard before. I found SO much throughout the past four years; especially this past year. Honestly this album was contended for this spot with quite a few records including the band “And the Kids” and Julia Brown’s release “An Abundance of Strawberries” and literally dozens of other albums.
3. Yung- These Thoughts Are Like Mandatory Chores.
Yung is currently on the charts for CMJ with their album “A Youthful Dream” but I am referring to their initial 2015 EP. This EP was important to me, because this is the first ever digital music submission I created. If you followed my postings or my real life rants, I love the idea of digital submissions. I talked about the digital submissions lowering our impact in my review for Cloud Cult’s “Seeker” but this EP was different.
Digital tracks increased what our student DJs could play, since so many artists couldn’t afford to send a physical CD to every station in the nation. With digital, there was no limit, so we were able to increase what student DJs could play, and improve our relationship with many promotion companies, record labels, and local musicians.
Hailing from Denmark, Yuck is a shoegaze dream pop band that is reminiscent of the Brooklyn band Diiv (who released an awesome album earlier this year). They are currently on tour from Fat Possum Records, which produces some of the biggest names in indie rock including Sunflower Beam, Dinosaur Jr, and Wavves.
2. Mac DeMarco- Another One
Although I love the idea of playing new music, or local music, or indie music… some students don’t. I get that, though. WECS is really a cool place because you can do what you want, and sometimes playing a song or an artists you are unfamiliar with can disrupt the flow of your show or playlist.
I wanted to show students that our New Releases could be awesome, and surly enough right before students came back for Fall 2015. Mac DeMarco’s “Another One” was released. This cool, psyche, jangle indie rock album was very accessible for students, and became the perfect example for DJs of how great new releases could be if you just gave them a chance.
Here is one of my favorite videos from the series “What’s in my Bag?” featuring Mac Demarco.
1. The World is a Beautiful Place and I am No Longer Afraid To Die- Harmlessness
Some people may have seen this coming- one of the best things about college radio is it has a long history of supporting local music. One of the cool things about Eastern is that it is surrounded by awesome music, including Dr. Martino, So Sorry, The Merks, and even a few bigger bands who have started in the quiet corner, and have made noise elsewhere including Parsonsfield.
The World is… got their roots in Willimantic, and although it isn’t like they are around playing Third Thursday, their presence is still here because they are a reminder of how all music, no matter if it is pop, rock, jazz, or emo starts somewhere, and can move out of its tiny scene and influence a whole generation around the world. I love Willimantic, so maybe I have some bias, but I would also say that this album was one of my favorite albums as not only a music director, but just as a music fan. I’ve never been into emo too much, so when I first heard The World is.. I was taken back a bit, and since then they have opened my ears to a whole genre of music.
Since Harmlessness, “The World Is” has released an EP and is releasing a reissue of their first EP, Formlessness. It seems they have a lot on their plate, but who knows, maybe they will come back to Willimantic to perform at The Eclectic or Willimantic Records… or maybe even… WECS??? The Radio Gods only know.
Cover image provided from: