Feb 14 2013

Cougar Microbes Writer Picks 2012: Olivia


Cougar writer Olivia offers his top ten albums for our Top albums of 2012 feature.

Frank Ocean- Channel Orange

Frank Ocean – ‘Channel ORANGE

Without any doubt Frank Ocean is my artist of year. From releasing the beautiful LP ‘Channel ORANGE‘ to shaking up the conservative and often homophobic world of hip hop by publishing an open letter on his Tumblr which suggested that his first love was a man… Putting him at the top of my list for best album of 2012 seemed a natural thing to do.

Admittedly I did not instantly fall in love with Channel ORANGE‘. I was actually wondering whether Frank Ocean was just a modern version of R.Kelly, with a bit more street cred’ since he’s part of young hip-hop collective OFWGKTA . Turns out both Frank Ocean and his album grew on me unexpectedly. Having listened to this album over a hundred times, I now believe that Ocean might have offered us one of the most groundbreaking and avant-garde- musically and lyrically- albums since Kanye‘s ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy‘.

I actually see quite a few similarities between both albums. Like ‘MBDTF’, Ocean‘s album tells a story; it has a clear beginning, continued chapters, and a finale. It has that clear, logical evolution that I find to be often missing in LPs. Like a roller-coaster, the album starts smoothly with songs such as ‘Thinkin Bout You‘ and ‘Sweet Life‘, probably reaches its peak with the centrepiece and 10 minutes long epic ‘Pyramids‘, and finally slows down again with more emotional songs such as ‘Bad Religion‘ and ‘Pink Matter‘. The tracks on the album flow perfectly, and come together seamlessly to create a dramatical and grandiose master of a piece. Just like Kanye’s gem, ‘Channel ORANGE‘ is influenced by a wide range of genres, expresses various emotions and tackles various themes such as decadence and class, unrequited love and sex.

Channel ORANGE‘ is anything but your standard r&b piece and Frank Ocean is far from an average baritone singer . Personally I have a thing for music that is somewhat ‘schizophrenic‘ and think that opposing forces usually tend to create something beautiful. It’s possibly why I am so attached to ‘Channel ORANGE‘, as the artist, and his album are unconventional yet classic, witty yet sombre, simple yet with a bona fide sense of grandeur.

Grizzly - Bear Shields

Grizzly Bear – ‘Shields

Included in the Cougar Microbes albums of 2012 here.

First Aid Kit The lions roar

First Aid Kit – ‘The Lion’s Roar

Included in the Cougar Microbes albums of 2012 here.

Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2012: Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city

Kendrick Lamar – ‘Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City

Included in the Cougar Microbes albums of 2012 here.

Django Django - 'Django Django'

Django Django – ‘Django Django

Included in the Cougar Microbes albums of 2012 here.

Bobby Womack The Bravest Man In The Universe

Bobby Womack – ‘The Bravest Man In The Universe

2012 was marked by the return of music legend Bobby Womack. The man behind the ‘Across 110th Street‘ made a suprise comeback with a beautiful album produced by the extremely talented Damon Albarn ( with whom he had already collaborated on Gorillaz‘ ‘Plastic Beach‘) and XL Recordings‘ owner Richard Russell.

This album is Womack‘s 27th studio album yet I find it suprisingly modern, possibly more so than a lot of albums by new or up and coming artists. I love everything about this album, from the contrast between Womack‘s dark soulful voice and the semi electronic beats, to his amazing duet with Lana Del Rey. One word: Breathtaking.

wild Nothing nocturne

Wild Nothing – ‘Nocturne

Wild Nothing was created in 2009 by Jack Tatum. His debut LP ‘Gemini‘ was already pretty good, but this new LP ‘Nocturne‘ is on a whole new level. Yes, on the negative side one might say that Tatum‘s music is quite predictable and sounds like your usual dream-pop band ( I’m thinking Toro Y Moi, Deerhunter, WU LYF …). Moving past that, I really think ‘Nocturne‘ is a beautiful and pleasurable album. I might not remember it in ten years, but for the moment, songs such as ‘Shadows‘, ‘Paradise‘ or title track ‘Nocturne‘ still manage to brighten up my snowy and cold afternoons.

Chromatics - Kill For Love

Chromatics – ‘Kill For Love

Included in the Cougar Microbes albums of 2012 here.

Nas - Life Is good

NaS – ‘Life Is Good‘ 

Whenever I talk or think about NaS, I get this uncontrollable urge to quote Jay-Z‘s 2001 diss track ‘Takeover‘ in which he basically summarised his rival’s career. It goes like this: “4 albums in 10 years, nigga? I could divide. That’s one every… let’s say 2, 2 of them shits was doo, 1 was ‘nah’, the other was ‘Illmatic’that’s a one-hot-album-every-10-year average’

When NaS announced a new album, I (and I’m guessing a lot of people) might have feared the worst. Let’s face it, he might be one of the most gifted lyricist and rappers of this generation but has nonetheless come up with some questionable material in the past. However, it seems that a year of personal troubles brings out the best in him. ‘Life is Good‘ is NaS‘ 11th studio album, it comes post Kelis, post daughter’s twitter/condom-gate, and in the midst of many legal issues, but it’s just great.

I am in love with the sumptuous first track of the album, ironically called ‘No Introduction‘, in which NaS, in a semi mid-life crisis style looks back at his life. I guess it introduces the theme of this album. No more Jay-Z beef, or NaS vs The World. ‘Life is Good‘ is NaS vs NaS, reflecting on his personal life, fatherhood, and his experience of hip-hop. One rather personal song called ‘Bye Baby‘ is dedicated to ex-wife Kelis. A bunch of big names feature on his album: Rick Ross on the impressive and intimidating ‘Accident Murderers‘, ‘Reach Out‘ with Mary J Blige, and the surprising ‘Cherry Wine‘ with the late Amy Winehouse.

After years of disappointing his fans, NaS is finally back with an album that is worthy of his reputation. Enjoy.

Purity Ring - 'Shrines'

Purity Ring – ‘Shrines

One of my favourite album of 2012 is definitely Canadian duo Purity Ring‘s first LP entitled ‘Shrines‘. With ‘Shrines‘, band members Roddick and James have perfectly captured the essence of what 2012 should sound like. Their music is a mix of electro-pop, Dubstep, R&B, with a good dose of mystical shoegaze.

Strangely, their sounds amazingly coherent, controlled and unique. From the beginning to the end this album remains captivating.

topalbums2012 Cougar Microbes Writer Picks 2012: Sam

doublecougar Cougar Microbes Writer Picks 2012: Sam


Feb 13 2012

Cougar Microbes Writer Picks 2011: Nicole’s Top 10

The Black Keys – El Camino

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

The Decemberists – The King Is Dead

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire

As a die-hard Ryan Adams fan – hello! – I have nothing bad to say about his latest creation. He can do no wrong. He’s always had the ability to defy genre, and his forte is in crafting timeless classics. And by classic I mean, modern day Neil Young – there I said it.

This time around, on ‘Ashes & Fire‘, he discards all pretense, offering up a series of stripped down ballads and a few crystallized pop songs (see: “Lucky Now”, “Invisible Riverside”, “Chains of Love”).

If you’re a sucker, like I am, for his folk-Americana roots, then be sure to give the title track a few spins. There’s nothing like those few opening verses. I don’t know what’s more thrilling – that or the laid-back love song, “Dirty Rain“.

If his “Wonderwall” cover taught us anything it’s that Ryan Adam‘s can be at his best when he pulls back, and for the most part ‘Ashes & Fire‘ is one of those albums: it’s strength is in its subtleties.

Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

Little Dragon – Ritual Union

Yukimi Nagano’s vocals give major soul to this otherwise electro outfit, and the resulting combination is thoroughly modern. This Swedish band’s recent collaborations with the Gorillaz and SBTRKT are only bringing more attention to their own releases – and rightfully so. Nagano delivers a current take on R&B that’s outside the mainstream.

Must hear: “Little Man”, “Please Turn”, “Nightlight”.

My Morning Jacket – Circuital

Rich and free-wheeling rock n’ roll with masterful arrangements.  “Circuital” is an overall solid album, full of peaks and valleys, providing the listener with a complete experience.

Key Tracks: “Victory Dance” “Circuital” “Wonderful” “Holding On To Black Metal

Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde

The Smith Westerns self-titled debut album came as a breath of fresh air in all its fuzzed-out, adolescent glory. So with the release of the more fully realized ‘Dye It Blonde‘ there was a bit of an adjustment. Though the sound got cleaned up all the flirtatious lyrics and wonky guitar remain.

Yuck – Yuck

Wilco – The Whole Love

How do you begin to review a new Wilco album?  This is a band that’s tended to the hearts and minds of listeners everywhere for 17-freakin’ years!  They’re in a class of their own.

What stands out is how inventive they are. This album in particular explores some ambient noise moments that would be space-age if not leveled by Jeff Tweedy’s down-to-earth vocals. ‘The Whole Love‘ is a rhythmic dreamscape that covers a lot of turf. It’s masterfully refined pop and melancholia sandwiched between two starkly different 10 minute tracks, beginning with a wicked melt-your-face guitar solo and ending gently with a lullaby. Delicious!

The Kills – Blood Pressures

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here


Ritual Union by Little Dragon

Dirty Rain by ryanadams

Circuital by My MORNING JACKET

Smith Westerns – Weekend

Get Away by Yuck

Wilco – I Might

The Black Keys – Lonely Boy

Calgary by boniver

The Decemberists – Down By The Water

The Kills – Future Starts Slow

Feb 12 2012

Cougar Microbes Writer Picks 2011: Thom’s Top 10

1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

2. M83- Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

3. The Strokes – Angeles

On their latest album, The Strokes never promised to be anything other than themselves. Although rarely wandering from their earnest and melodic rock and roll, Angles‘ is another visceral slice of slick indie.

4. Lykke li – Wounded Rhymes

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

5. Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx – We’re New Here

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

6.Tieranniesaur – Tieranniesaur!

Tieranniesaur have the perfect mix of dirty dance riffs and pop melodies, ‘rockblocker‘ off their debut album was the perfect summer drunken night, and one of the coolest songs of the year.

7. Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee Part II

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

8. Alexander – Alexander

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

9. The Whip – Wired Together

The Whip really nailed their sound on wired together. It saunters with unshakable confidence, delivering atmospheric and avante garde synth pop whilst never getting above it’s station.

10. White Lies – Rituals

Even without the atmospheric density and grit that covers ‘Ritual‘s outer punk rock layers, it is an album of solid songwriting. Its fog only creates a more complex and moving second album.


Calgary by boniver

Midnight City by M83

01-Rockblocker by tieranniesaur

The Whip: Keep Or Delete

White Lies – Strangers

I Follow Rivers by LykkeLi

Gil Scott-Heron And Jamie XX – NY Is Killing Me

Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win (featuring Santigold) by Beastie Boys


Feb 10 2012

Cougar Microbes Writer Picks 2011: Jazmin’s Top 10

1. The Decemberists- The King is Dead

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

2. Beirut- The Rip Tide

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

3. Death Cab for Cutie- Codes and Keys

I have been a Death Cab super fan since about 2001. ‘We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes’ is one of those albums that stopped me in my tracks, and ‘The Photo Album’ will always be one of my favourite albums of all time. However, whilst Death Cab’s quirky under the radar indie sensibilities may have been what won me over in the first place, I am unashamed in saying that indie rock pop songs (such as 2005’s ‘Plans’) are often when they’re at their strongest. Which is exactly why ‘Codes and Keys’ is so fantastic- tracks such as ‘Stay young, go dancing’ and ‘Portable Television’ are perfect indie pop for the Portland generation.‘Codes and Keys’ basically solidified it for me: Death Cab For Cutie are most definitely the band that I will never fall out of love with.

4. Bon Iver- Bon Iver

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

5. Braid- Closer to Closed

Okay, so it was only an EP, but if 2011 can be remembered for only one thing, it has to be the welcome return of Braid and their melodic pop accompanied by Bob Nanna’s distinctive vocals. This 4 track EP is hopefully the shape of what’s to come from a full length in 2012- Kinsella-core style tunes with heartbreaking lyrics. Roll on that 2001-era emo comeback..

6. Surfer Blood- Tarot Classics

Another EP, but one that is too good not to mention. Surfer Blood’s follow up to their 2010 debut ‘Astro Coast’, is all kinds of wonderful. ‘Tarot Classics’ is 4 brilliantly upbeat Beach Boys-esque tracks- the kind of songs that make you want to do spontaneous handclaps as you listen along. Main single ‘Miranda’ is Surfer Blood showing they can take the sound they encapsulated on their debut to the next level- polished hyperactivity if you will. With their second full length due next year, Surfer Blood well and truly remain ones to watch.

6. The Horrible Crowes- Elsie

Filling this year’s Hold Steady/Gaslight Anthem void in my life, The Horrible Crowes debut album oozes Jersey and Springsteen sensibilities. This is the kind of record that is made for dive bar jukeboxes, soundtracking ill advised all night whiskey drinking (the above may or may not have been based on personal experience). Brian Fallon’s vocals sound just as affecting as they do on Gaslight Anthem records, but yet benefit from the stripped down simplicity of The Horrible Crowes’ recording style. It’s a rare thing when side projects contain enough good songs to stand along, but ‘Elsie’ most definitely slots into that elusive category

7. Fleet Foxes- Helplessness Blues

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

8. Bright Eyes- The People’s Key

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

9. Mister Heavenly- Out of Love

An indie-rock supergroup comprising of members of Modest Mouse, Unicorns, Man Man with Michael Cera on touring bass, Mister Heavenly had pretty good odds in producing one of the albums of 2011. Bursting full of upbeat style indie-pop, accompanied by 1950s influences, ‘Out of Love’ is a must listen for anyone who has a remote leaning towards catchy indie rock that doesn’t take itself too seriously. And if that’s not enough, their biography states that Mister Heavenly are ‘very excited by the prospect of their music being used in a big-screen, teen romantic comedy’, which is pretty much all I could ever want from a band’s press release. Instant scene points? Yeah, I think so.

10. Alex Turner – Submarine (Original Movie Soundtrack)

Movie soundtracks aren’t often strong contenders for albums of the year, but Alex Turner’s self composed soundtrack to Richard Ayoade’s ‘Submarine’ is more than worthy of a place in the list. As a huge fan of the book, the songs that Turner produced for the film managed to perfectly encapsulate the melancholy and quirkiness of the story, whilst also showing that there is more to his musical repertoire than just the Arctic Monkeys. All haunting vocals, slow beats and acoustic guitars,especially on stand out track ‘Stuck On The Puzzle’, this a mini album that is most definitely one of the best things to emerge in 2011.


The Decemberists – This Is Why We Fight

Beirut – Santa Fe

Death Cab for Cutie – You Are A Tourist

Calgary by boniver

Braid – “Universe or Worse”

Surfer Blood – Miranda

The Horrible Crowes – Behold the Hurricane

Fleet Foxes – Bedouin Dress

Bright Eyes- Shell Games (k-noble booty folk remix)

Mister Heavenly “Hold My Hand” Live at KDHX 11/12/11

Alex Turner – Stuck on a Puzzle 

Feb 7 2012

Cougar Microbes Writer Picks 2011: Olivia’s Top 10

1. M83- Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

2: Kanye West & Jay Z – Watch The Throne

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

3: Atlas Sound – Parallax

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

4. Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts

For those who don’t know Thurston Moore he’s the genius behind Sonic Youth. With his solo work he offers something very different from the raw material that characterizes his band. This album is very personal, folky and acoustic, oh and it’s produced by none other than Beck. Perfect on a rainy autumn day.

5. John Maus – We Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves

John Maus sometimes sounds so stereotypical that we might wonder if his music is just a big joke ! Everything is exaggerated and weird, from the way he inserts strange sounds when you least expect it, or his obvious nonstop mimicking of Ian Curtis. It’s a lot to handle, but somehow it works perfectly.

6. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

7. Cut Copy – Zonoscope

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

8. Nicolas Jaar – Space is Only Noise

Jaar is only 21, but he already released one of the most acclaimed and talked about album of the year. I think that says it all.

9. The Kills – Blood Pressures

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

10. Metronomy – The English Riviera

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here


Atlas Sound – The Shakes

John Maus. Hey Moon

Benediction by Thurston Moore

Nicolas Jaar – Space Is Only Noise If You Can See (Dave Aju Remix)

Metronomy – The Look

Jay-Z & Kanye West – Ni@#as In Paris ft. T.I. (Remix)

Midnight City by M83

The Kills – Future starts slow [vinyl version] FullHD

Need You Now by cutcopymusic

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Feb 2 2012

Cougar Microbes Writer Picks 2011: Kyle’s Top 10

1 – Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Mogwai yet again releases an amazingly ambient yet centrally driving album filled with anticpatory progressions and songs that blend sonically disparate sections as if they were just one melodic chorus.

2 – Yeasayer – End Blood

Yeasayer’s ‘End Blood‘ EP made the list thanks to its incredibly different acoustical musings from previous efforts. Described by the band as “two ideas that didn’t fit on (2010 album) Odd Blood” its a radical shift for the relatively newly established band, and hopefully the sound of things to come.

3 – Tech N9ne- All 6’s and 7’s

4 – Ashtar Command – American Sunshine

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

5 – Das Racist – Relax

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

6 – Sbtrkt – SBTRKT

7 – Yelawolf- Radioactive

8 – Atlas Sound – Parallax

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

9 – Sean Douglas –  If We’re Dying

Sean Douglas fills a void in pop music with somewhat of a Billy Joel and Elton John have a threesome with The Fray sort of vibe.  The emotions behind the songs are clear, the musical backing to his excellent and punchy voice is melodic and radio-ready, and the album as a whole works as a thoroughly orchestrated composition.

10 – The Difference – We Are Not The Same


Mogwai – Mexican Grand Prix

Yeasayer – Swallowing the Decibels


“Mark IV (ft. Joshua Radin)” – Ashtar Command

Das Racist – Rainbow in the dark

SBTRKT – Wildfire

Yelawolf – The Hardest Love Song In The World

Atlas Sound – The Shakes

“Unconditional” – Sean Douglas

Out Of Order by The Difference

Feb 1 2012

Cougar Microbes Writer Picks 2011: Emily’s Top 10

1) Gotye – Making Mirrors

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

2. Adele – 21

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

3. The Decemberists – The King is Dead

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

4. Rufus Wainwright – House of Rufus

A massive 19-disc box set of all the magic of Rufus—live performances, albums, singles and b-sides. Even though I could never afford this, it makes the list for best releases. And my Christmas wish list.

5. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here.

6. Paul Simon – So Beautiful or So What

I have always surrendered to anything written by Paul Simon, but this album has charm and wit in spades. He even managed to hold back on that penchant for African drumming.

7. Florence and the Machine – Ceremonials

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here.

8. City & Colour – Little Hell

Although I’m the first to admit this album doesn’t top City & Colour’s previous efforts, it says a lot that it still crushes most other releases of the year.

9. Cake – Showroom of Compassion

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here.

10. J Mascis – Several Shades of Why

I’m not usually brave enough to name a favourite album, but this year it was easy. Mascis brings the power of Dinosaur Jr, the simplicity of bare and honest lyrics, and then his godlike guitar virtuosity, to bear in this true 2011 masterpiece.


Eyes Wide Open by Gotye

Adele – Rolling In The Deep

The Decemberists – This Is Why We Fight

Calgary by boniver

The Afterlife by Paul Simon

Florence & The Machine – What the Water Gave Me (DhARMA Edit)

City and Colour – We Found Each Other In The Dark

J Mascis – Not Enough