Josie Rubio

Top 10 Albums

History of Modern
Bright Antenna

With varying degrees of success, more bands than you can shake a schtick at took pages from the ’80s this past year, from Hurts, Twin Shadow and Chromeo to the Bird and the Bee’s Hall & Oats tribute. But Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark—of Pretty in Pink’s “If You Leave” fame—naturally did it best with the release of the appropriately titled History of Modern and the soaring dance-synth pop that made OMD famous.

Total Life Forever
Sub Pop

A brilliantly crafted pop record, Total Life Forever is comprised of an eclectic mix of songs, from danceable Brit-pop to haunting sparse ballads that build into layered, intricate melodies. An array of influences are hinted at throughout the record—Tears for Fears, the Cure, Talking Heads and Radiohead, to name a few—but the virtuosity displayed throughout the record is purely the Foals’.

Grinderman 2

For three decades since he croaked “Release the bats!” with the Birthday Party, Nick Cave has performed like a maniacal genius who never takes himself too seriously. With the second release from Grinderman, Cave’s latest project, he takes the role again of an eccentric, sometimes sinister master of ceremonies with a playful twinkle in his eye. From the dirty riffs and word play of “Worm Tamer” to the eerie “What I Know,” Grinderman grips the listener and doesn’t release.

Best Coast
Best Coast
Mexican Summer

What would it sound like in a land of sunshine, beaches and kitty-cats? Probably a lot like Best Coast, who depict this very scenario on the cover of the band’s debut full-length. Bethany Consentino’s girl-group vocal delivery and guitarist Bobb Bruno’s California surf–soaked guitar creates the perfect soundtrack for today’s blanket beach parties.

Beach Fossils
Beach Fossils
Captured Tracks

The dreamy vocals and laidback melodies, along with the band’s name and song titles such as “Vacation” and “Lazy Day” on Beach Fossils’ self-titled debut conjure up a sunny coast, so it’s a bit surprising that the band hails from Brooklyn. The group is one of a variety of bands evoking ’60s pop, but Beach Fossils make their mark with Dustin Payseur’s unassuming vocals, the songs’ leisurely pace and guitars that echo a less frenetic New Order. This record is an aural vacation and way more fulfilling than holding a seashell up to your ear.

Beach House
Teen Dream
Sub Pop

The lauded third release from this Baltimore duo is the musical equivalent of a trip to a somewhat surreal carnival on a misty day. Opera-trained vocalist Victoria Legrand’s deep, soulful timbre combine with Alex Scally’s ethereal keyboards and guitar to create a record that is at times playful and other times tinged with the type of melancholy that comes with nostalgia.

Golden Triangle
Double Jointer
Hardly Art

Buying a BMW isn’t punk rock. But most will recognize “Cinco de Mayo,” the first track on Golden Triangle’s debut, with the ubiquitous commercial. Double Jointer is raucous, punk-tinged garage rock, with tambourines, harmonies and bad-girl attitude thrown in for good measure. The record is a fun ride—which is exactly the association the BMW people probably were hoping to attain.

Zola Jesus
Stridulum ep
Sacred Bones

I recently found myself wondering, whatever happened to goth people? Had a deadly mixture of Hot Topic, emo, Juggalos and Twilight driven this subculture to near-extinction? For those who yearn for haunting bordering on ominous keyboards and primal drums in the vein of the Creatures, there’s this EP from Zola Jesus, whose operatically trained vocals soar over a haunting, beautiful landscape that’s uplifting in its beauty. The resulting sound is dark, yet devoid of gloom.

Dum Dum Girls
I Will Be
Sub Pop/Hozac

Dum Dum Girls aren’t from the girl-group school of matching outfits and synchronized dance moves, but rather a garage where you’d find Pinky and Leather Tuscadero. The band’s full-length debut, which was recorded as a solo project by vocalist and guitarist Dee Dee with help from Richard Gottehrer (who wrote “My Boyfriend’s Back” and “I Want Candy” and whose producing credits include Blondie and the Raveonettes), hypnotically merges moody lo-fi and ’60s pop. With catchy melodies and echoed vocals mixing with dark, fuzzy reverb, I Will Be is a flawless mixture of sweet and sour, yin and yang.

The Fresh & Onlys
Play It Strange
In the Red

The third full-length record from this San Francisco-based quartet is full of sun-kissed gems of catchy, dreamy pop songs that sound like a carefree roadtrip. It’s an eclectic mix peppered with ’60s melodies, Western-tinged guitars and an overall laidback vibe that comes together for an undeniably infectious sound.

Top 10 Live Shows

Public Enemy
Summerstage at Central Park, August 15
New York

Not even spitting rain could dampen the crowd’s excitement to see these hip-hop legends. Chuck D even cracked a joke about Flava Flav’s reality show career.

The Wedding Present
Bowery Ballroom, April 11 and South Street Seaport, August 13
New York

At both shows, these indie rock legends played their classic Bizarro album from beginning to end, and 20 years after its release it sounded as good as ever.

The Gories
Lincoln Center, July 31
New York

As part of the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Roots of American Music series, the garage trio played one of their summer reunion shows at the Damrosch Park Bandshell. The Gories took the stage at the free event after Death and before ? and the Mysterians and Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels for a surreal line-up of some of Detroit’s best.

Sonic Youth
Prospect Park Bandshell, July 31

Later that day, after the Gories show, Sonic Youth played in Prospect Park for a $3 suggested donation as part of the Celebrate Brooklyn! concert series. Overall, it was a great day to be in New York.

The Fresh & Onlys
Shea Stadium, November 3

To clarify, this San Francisco quartet played a DIY space, not the home of the Mets. In this intimate setting, the band played a solid set highlighted by songs from Play It Strange.

Gil Scott-Heron
SOB’s, January 17
New York

Gil Scott-Heron is one of the most charismatic men you’ll ever see onstage, and his storytelling is unparalleled.

Crystal Stilts, The Beets and Beach Fossils
Music Hall of Williamsburg, February 20

The fuzzy reverb of Crystal Stilts, ’60s dream pop courtesy of Beach Fossils and snotty, raucous garage rock from the Beets make for a perfect evening of NYC bands.

Zola Jesus
Place des Arts, October 1

Clad in black, Zola Jesus (a.k.a. Nika Roza Danilova) stalked the stage, backed by three keyboardists and a drummer, who provided a primal, dark dramatic backdrop to her otherworldly, powerful vocals. The performance of “Night” from Trillium swelled to such force that a smaller venue couldn’t have contained it.

Guided By Voices
The Paradise, November 5

There were open displays of bromance and plenty of glass-hoisting at this Guided by Voices reunion show, with the classic ’90s line-up of Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Kevin Fennell, Greg Demos, and of course, Bob Pollard. (For some perspective, the male-female ratio didn’t exactly venture into Rush territory, but there was a line for the men’s restroom and none for the women’s.) Once “The Bar Is Open” sign lit up on the stage, the band tore through songs such as “Queen of Cans and Jars,” “Hot Freaks,” “Weed King,” and, naturally, “A Salty Salute.” They also passed a bottle of tequila around the stage and through the crowd, but still seemed to manage to drink the crowd under the table, as 53-year-old Pollard executed some serious scissor kicks.

Knitting Factory, March 5

When Leatherface took the stage, glasses were raised and lyrics were belted out full force—by the fans, as well as the band. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen people so visibly excited to see a band since I saw New Kids on the Block in seventh grade. Perhaps it’s because the British punk band rarely plays U.S. shows, but there were endless back-slapping man hugs of camaraderie. Toward the end of the set, one guy drunkenly wrapped his arm around Frankie Stubbs and tried to convey something to him, to which he responded, “What?” before laughing and letting the guy jump into the crowd. The covers of “You Are My Sunshine” and the Police’s “Message in a Bottle” were a nice touch.