2017: My Year In Music


/// King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard w/ Mild High Club - Sketches Of East Brunswick
I feel like I initially connected with this album on an almost unconscious level and eventually attributed this seemingly arbitrary connection to being a child raised on the soundscapes presented by late 70's/early 80's Sesame Street. When those flute jams, driving bass, steady drums, and field recordings hit my brain it stirs the deep recesses of my memory.

/// Nick Hakim - Green Twins
Neo Soul will always move forward in its many forms and for some reason, I seem to  gravitate towards it more as I grow older. Nick Hakim hit that sweet spot for me in 2017 while still mixing in enough contemporary production choices to keep Soul from getting stale.

/// Bibio - Phantom Brickwork
It would not be unfair to label this as "background music" and I rarely find such minimalist creations to be top ten material, but the haunting beauty of Phantom Brickwork quietly commanded my attention. This latest release from the already eclectic catalog of Bibio proves that he will continue to explore new sonic territory and do it well.

/// Real Estate - In Mind
I always considered the guitar work of Matt Mondanile to be at the heart of what I loved about Real Estate, so I didn't have high hopes for the first record made without him. It turns out I was wrong, and that this band will continue to support my breeziest of daydreams with or without Mondanile.

/// The Ruby Suns - Sprite Fountain
Sprite Fountain feels like a return to the eclectic spread that made Sea Lion one of my favorite albums of the oughts. Though it feels like a new and different spread, it is still filled with mid-summer jams that always perfectly compliment bike rides along the river.  

/// Blanck Mass - World Eater
I can't ever recall enjoying literal noise, which is what comprises the first third of the outstanding suite on World Eater called Minnesota/ Eas Fors/ Naked. This album is a pretty bizarre and intense journey that seemed to connect with the dark and conflicted side of my 2017.
/// Oh Sees - Orc
I haven't fully embraced a good old fashioned garage rock record in years and it probably shouldn't surprise me that Oh Sees (AKA Thee Oh Sees) were the band to deliver. I've always enjoyed their prolific output and it feels like Orc brought it altogether and rocked my socks off.         

/// Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruins
I think that Grizzly Bear's craftsmanship and ornate soundscapes have become a little under appreciated through the years. Upon the first few listens of Painted Ruins, I lazily thought, "Yep... sounds like another Grizzly Bear record," but with continued spins, I became reacquainted with the depth of layers and texture that create a signature sound that I truly do appreciate.     

/// Kelly Lee Owens - Self Titled
These dark, slow, thumping tracks pulled me through the rainy mist of Olympia for several months. Pure mood and palpable atmosphere are what made Kelly Lee Owens a force to be reckoned with in 2017.

/// Sun Glitter - IT WILL BE FOREVER
I enjoy this album simply because it almost instantly transports me to peak summer heat. If the chill of winter is getting to me or cabin fever is setting in, this album is my antidote.

::: || HONORABLE MENTIONS || :::     
Photay - Onism
It can be hard to stand out in the world of electronica these days and Photay managed to do that for me by putting a little ultra-modern boogie in my step.
Moses Sumney - Aromanticism
This is a thoughtful cinematic journey that I am still revisiting and unraveling.
Spoon - Hot Thoughts
Man...they did it again.
Tispur - Sleepy Creature
There is a certain magic found in this record hiding among the cottonwoods of the Boise River.
Sylvan Esso - What Now
This is a great follow-up to their first release, building and expanding on a sound that continues to feel like a unique take on dance music.

::: || SOME OF MY FAVORITE SONGS OF 2016 || ::: 
Alvvays - Dreams Tonite
Sun Airway - Small Fires
Shabazz Palaces - Shine A Light
Moses Sumney - Doomed
Real Estate - After the Moon
Milo - Paging Mr. Bill Nunn
Au.Ra - Applause
Oddisee - NNGE
Lowly - Deer Eyes
Phoenix - J-Boy


2016: My Year In Music


The sound of this album brought tears to my eyes on multiple occasions. It was definitely something to drown my sorrows in throughout 2016 with a live performance in Seattle to match.

It’s a transcendental, way-outer space, neo-spiritual, kinda vibe… You know what I mean, man? Brunei isn’t music, it’s an experience. You feel me?       

C Duncan is like a male Enya, but instead of being influenced by old-world folk, his primary influence seems to be modern pop and electronica. This album has been my soundtrack to the softly falling snow this winter.

Oddisee makes old school beats fresh again. Nothing flashy or groundbreaking, just reliably dope to the core. 

While much of the world felt gripped in tumult for 2016, this album was a much needed expression of love, joy, and faith. The orchestration, seemingly from the golden age of Hollywood, was yet another comfort to wrap yourself in while in The Dreaming Room.  

I’ve always respected Jazz and enjoyed it in small doses, but BadBadNotGood continues to make Jazz records that I put in heavy rotation. IV is probably their most versatile collection of tracks to date.
I don’t know if I would have enjoyed this album as much as I did if I wasn’t a long-time Aloha listener. This album just came at the right time. I simply needed Aloha again without realizing it.          

It’s Radiohead, no explanation needed.     

Pause is draped in dreamy beats from top to bottom. The perfectly appropriate cover art sums it all up beautifully.

This is  100%, grade-A, good ol’ fashioned “Dad Rock” at it’s finest. I often describe it as a Band of Horses Best-Of album created with new material.

::: || HONORABLE MENTIONS || :::     
Animal Collective - Painting With
Another bizarre turn in the AC catalogue which always peaks my interest. 
Thao With The Get Down Stay Down - A Man Alive
Thao feels very raw and deeply personal in A Man Alive and Having Merrill Garbus in the mix was a huge bonus as well.
Youandewan - There Is No Right Time
A fairly eclectic and minimal electronic record that I kept returning to in 2016.
Kadhja Bonet - The Visitor
A voice like honey, singing about honey, flowing through the mind like honey. Pure gold.
The Album Leaf - Between Waves
I hadn’t connected with The Album leaf’s music in about a decade, but this one brought me right back in like the tide pulling a ship out to sea.
MJ Guider - Precious Systems
Beautiful desolation abounds in these borderless soundscapes. 

::: || SOME OF MY FAVORITE SONGS OF 2016 || ::: 
Beck - Wow
Whitney - Golden Days
Radiohead - Dreamer
Vinyl Williams - Feedback Delicates
David Bazan - Both Hands
Mitski - Your Best American Girl
Liima - Your Heart
Aloha - Signal Drift
Suuns - UN-NO
Whitney - No Woman


2015: My Year In Music


I question wether this album would have made it into my top 10 if I didn’t live in Olympia, WA? It is a perfect compliment to our devastatingly long and beautifully dark winters.

Another collection of experimental trances from Mr. Noah. It lulled me into a wild meditative state from the fist listen.          

Built To Spill is one of my favorite bands of all time and I was a little disheartened by my lack of connection with their previous album. But, Untethered Moon was like a warm hug from my hometown. Thank you.

This album may be best suited for long time Helio Sequence listeners. It is a pretty seamless combination of their raw early days with the well refined sound they currently inhabit. It is the best of both worlds.

Propulsive, progressive, experimental, technical, relentless, forward motion… I love listening to Battles when I’m working out.  

Summer jams abound in Chaz Bundick’s sunniest chapter to date. I can already feel the warm light fading behind the pines. 
This is a pretty fresh take on soul/R&B that really brings the genre back to the forefront for me. Just when you think you’ve got them pegged, they drop the funk on ears to keep things interesting.          

I’m not even that big of a Beirut fan, but this album just hit me with the right sound at the right time. Simple pop songs that were often a instant mood-booster for me in 2015.       

I’ve always enjoyed the groovy tunes of UMO and the grooves got really infectious for me with this latest record. It is a pretty blatant 70’s time-machine, but hey, I was born in the 70’s.           

The pure, haunting beauty of Holter’s latest creation slowly, but surely, won me over in late 2015. My love for this album was fully realized against the backdrop of the misty, snow-capped mountains surrounding LaGrande, Oregon.

::: || HONORABLE MENTIONS || :::     
Youth Lagoon - Savage Hills Ballroom
A strange new turn via another one of my hometown favorites.
Ducktails - St. Catherine
One of those day dream-enducing records I just can’t resist.
Shades - Common Desire
More hometown jams… I must miss Boise, or Boise just creates killer music… probably both?
Lianne La Havas - Blood
Neo soul at it’s finest and most classic.
This collection of world-influenced thumpers is making me hopeful for what these young siblings have in store for our ears in years to come.

::: || SOME OF MY FAVORITE SONGS OF 2015 || ::: 
Panda Bear - Boys Latin
Jamie xx - Gosh
Shades - Desert Eyes
Botany (with Milo) - Au Revoir
Eskimeaux - Folly
Braids - Letting Go
Gilimatias & Alina Baraz - Pretty Thoughts
Youth Lagoon - Kerry
The Helio Sequence - Lost Images
Tobias Jesso Jr. - Without You

Youth Lagoon at the Nuemos - Seattle, WA
It was like watching an insanely mad scientist at work in his dark lab of wonders.


2014: My Year In Music


Every year there is usually somebody out there that feels like they are bringing something new to the table and Adult Jazz was that “somebody” for me in 2014. It is a slow, steady, experimental affair… but it doesn’t feel like they are creating experimental music just for the sake of “challenging the listener”. They softly lulled me into submission. Perhaps the most “challenging” part of listening to one of their tracks is to find a part that you absolutely love, only to realize that it may not come around again. Many of their songs feel like six songs in one. This makes for a very interesting and unexpected journey through a world that gist is

/// tUnE-yArDs - NIKKI NACK 
Merrill Garbus and Nate Brenner know how to have fun with music. They have created a wild and diverse playground of an album called Nikki Nack. Seeing them perform live for a second time reaffirmed my belief that Garbus is an artist in the truest sense of the word who oozes instrumental capabilities while wielding an elastic voice that is unparalleled. Fellow concert attendee Rocky Thomas described the performance appropriately when saying, “It was like a bunch of little girls got together and planned a rock show.” I would add, “Little girls who love watching Pee Wee’s Playhouse!”. Stir all this in with lyrical content that is powerful, thought- provoking, and shared through an incredibly introspective lens on being a woman in 2014, then you realize what a gift tUnE-yArDs is.          

Another dizzying audio journey was unleashed from the brain of Steven Ellison as a meditated on the afterlife. This trippy, jazz-soaked album includes an army of guest artists that take Fly-Lo into new territory. Seeing him live at The Neptune Theatre in Seattle gave the album even more depth for me. It was a full-on assault on the senses with state of the art 3D visuals and bass that was used like a weapon of mass destruction. The foundation shook beneath us as our eyeballs swam through otherworldly portals. It was a perfect complement to the concepts behind the album. You’re Dead! is a trip man… a total trip.  

I have always liked Chad Vangaalen, but this album spoke to me on a level that no previous effort has. Shrink Dust is a collection of songs that floated around in my head like an apparition for days. Vangaalen is literally a one-man-band that also crosses over into the visual arts. He creates his own album artwork, animated music videos, and other amazing projects for the eyes. It is easy for me to embrace his uncompromising worlds of weirdness. Listening to a diverse track like Frozen Paradise immediately followed by the lazy burn of Lila makes me want to lay down and melt into the floorboards. Chad Vangaalen is a true talent that is often overlooked.  

The return of Real Estate was a great way to kick off 2014 for me. It made me really homesick for Boise, sending me into daydreams of riding my bike among the well worn houses of the North End. Atlas grew closer to my heart as spring melted away the harshness of the winter months. I’m not sure that I would love Real Estate without the warm and delicately intricate guitar licks of Matt Mondanile; he is a master at what he does. It doesn’t feel like Real Estate is necessarily doing anything new with their 3rd release, but they sure are feeling like an old friend.  

This album became my soundtrack to Capitol Forest in 2014. Much like summertime in Capitol Forest, it is thick and dark with temperate beams of sunlight peaking through the treetops. Like moss it crawls over decaying wood and ancient stone supping on the morning mist. There is something mystical about the whole encounter. 
This is rock’n roll, period. They do it every time and they did it again. Every couple of years I think to myself, “Do I really need another Spoon record?”. Then after a few listens of their latest effort I think, “Yes, Yes I do!”. Spoon has the unique ability to take the fundamentals of rock’n roll, work with them in a relatively minimal format, and create something very contemporary while simultaneously feeling timeless. They is one of my favorite rock outfits of all time.          

When it comes to electronica music, Grant Eadie knows how to hit most of my sweet spots. The dream-inducing sounds of Brush pulled me in pretty quick. Then by the time I reached it’s amazing centerpiece Island I was fully invested in the ride. It’s rickety beats and gentle guitar strums slowly dive into deep underwater based drops eventually building into a finale that sores on the wings of a violin above the clouds. I look forward to seeing where this young artist’s burgeoning soundscapes will take us next.       

Fatima’s anti-diva approach to Soul/R&B is refreshing. At times, this album takes me clear back to my middle school days, but then, production on tracks like Circle, Ridin’Round (Sky High), and Talk, put it squarely back in the present. It certainly has its share of downcast moments... Yet, the album over-all is filled with positive vibes that put a bounce in my step when needed. If you have any interest in Neo-Soul, then I would highly recommend giving Yellow Memories a spin.           

This was my summer jam. It was the perfect compliment to riding along the Puget Sound, the sunlight reflecting off the water, salt air against the face, seagulls overhead… ahh summertime. Almost every song on the album has a well-crafted solo that is in just the right spot at just the right length. This album doesn’t bring many new things to the table, but it is just a great collection of little woozy pop gems. It was just what I needed this summer. It also has some of my favorite album artwork of the year with most of the credit going to visual artist, Vicki Ling.

::: || HONORABLE MENTIONS || :::     
Sylvan Esso
My favorite Pop album of the year that feels like a contemporaty cousin to The Postal Service.
Tycho - Awake
Another solid record from this ever-emerging ambient & electronica artist.
Badbadnotgood - III
Perhaps the first jazz album that I’ve fully embraced.
Foxes in Fiction - Ontario Gothic
This was my antidote for winding-down this year.
Oliver Wilde - Red Tide Opal In The Loose End Womb
This is another excellent record from a very underrated artist in my opinion.

::: || SOME OF MY FAVORITE SONGS OF 2014 || ::: 
St. Vincent - Digital Witness
Slasher Flicks - Little Fang
Lord Raja - Van Go (feat. Jeremiah Jae)
Shabazz Palaces - Colluding Oligarchs
Hundred Waters - Murmurs
tUnE-yArDs - Real Thing
Mimicking Birds - Bloodlines
Real Estate - Talking Backwards
Alex G - Harvey
Conor Oberst - You Are Your Mother’s Child


Seattle Art Show at Portage Bay Goods

The Art of Ben Wilson  |  Sept 5th - Oct 1st, 2014
Portage Bay Goods
621 North 35th Street  |  Seattle, WA 98103
Opening Reception: Friday Sept. 5th, 2014, 6-9pm
Gallery/Shop Hours: Daily 10am-7pm 

I’m grateful to be the featured artist at Portage Bay Goods this September, located in Seattle’s legendary Fremont neighborhood. The opening reception will be part of the Fremont Art Walk this coming “First Friday” evening Sept 5th, 6-9pm. I will have a nice mix of paintings, sculpture, art prints, and concert posters available through the end of the month. I’d like to thank La Ru, Shalene and everybody at Portage Bay Goods for welcoming me into the neighborhood. Check out more details at portagebaygoods.com and fremontfirstfriday.com.

Portage Bay Goods  |  Exterior
Portage Bay Goods  |  Entrance
Portage Bay Goods  |  Interior
Portage Bay Goods  |  Window Display


2013: My Year In Music


Let’s just get this out of the way first. I’ll confess that Youth Lagoon is a Boise-based outfit, so I’m sure there is some bias involved in my love for this album. Trevor Powers easily avoided any signs of a “sophomore slump” with Wondrous Bughouse. His previous album, The Year of Hibernation, was a quiet, inward album about the struggles of youth and transitioning to adulthood. Then, listeners are hit with a wide open, psychedelic funhouse in this 2013 creation. It was one of the most rewarding listens of the year for me. Though the lyrics still appear deeply personal, they speak to broader terms of the human experience. The occasional waltz and haunted merry-go-round tune keeps things really interesting on this beautifully strange trip.      

An intergalactic voyage in remembrance of a friend who died too young might be a fair summary of the funky journey that is Apocalypse. Thundercat is one of those rare felines that can jam on a mind-bending level without creating music that is only appreciated by the technically inclined. This cat brings jazz, R&B, soul, pop, rhythm & blues, disco, dubstep, etc… and then hits puree on the interstellar blender. It is a pseudo-spiritual experience that I had on repeat for much of 2013.    


Stephen Wilkinson has brought another beautifully eclectic mix to the table. He jumps from heavily sampled dubstep, to quietly plucked folk ballads, to experimental electronica, to sunrise ambience and that’s just the first half of the album. Despite his impressive genre hopping, it is still distinctly Bibio and I love every minute of it. You Won’t Remember still gives me woozy chills. It makes me cry as I remember listening to it while riding my bike on a summer breeze through Boise’s historic North End.    

This album was a bit of an anti-depressant for me this year. Not that it is a cheery, pick-me-up of an album, quite the opposite. It is more like finding a friend to wallow in the sadness with. It put my head in a bit of a groggy haze filled with comforting fuzz and glitch. At the base layer it is a traditional singer-songwriter/folk album. However, it is so steeped in layers of samples, synths, beeps, bloops, and ticks that it removes itself from a simple exercise in genre. Almost every track on the record has sonic surprises that come in the form of electronic embellishments. I still don’t know if this is a “real” genre, but Oliver Wilde crafts exceptional folktronica.

It is rare for me to find something so dark, bleak, and off-kilter to be incredibly inviting. Don’t get me wrong, These New Puritans are not creating contemporary Scott Walker-style music. It has melodies and sounds that create a fog of beauty that is a bit more accessible than Mr. Walker. However, it is still an eerie, acquired taste. Their use of more symphonic instruments and brooding atmosphere make a curious match to quiet vocals seemingly sung on a last breath. Field of Reeds is not a nightmare, but you’ll probably want to sleep with the nightlight on.  

This album is summertime in a bottle. I’ve been pretty hit and miss with Ernest Greene’s previous 80’s-laden song craft. The introduction of more acoustic instrumentation and live drums brought a warm human touch that reeled me right into Paracosm. It is the sound of coasting with all windows down while summer winds fill the cabin of your vehicle. There is still the occasional journey into the soundtrack of the closing credits to Never Ending Story, but hey, that is still one of my favorite movies. 
/// KWES - ILP.
Experimental R&B, what a great idea. I don’t know if Kwes came up with it, but he sure knows how to execute it. It feels like Kwes is bringing something new to the table. It is not mind-blowing or revolutionary, it is a quiet, unusual sound that I couldn’t ignore in late 2013. Even the poetry of his lyrics feels experimental with it’s broad strokes of word association. The opening track Purplehands comes to mind, “Red and blue makes purple, crop circles bury the fruits of our love”.

Here is another group that pushed the looming “sophmore slump” to the side of the road. I feel Mount Kimbie refined, improved, and progressed their infectious sound on all fronts with this worthy second effort. They took the next natural step in bringing more vocals into the mix including some slack-jawed rhymes at the hands of Britain’s current wonder-kid King Krule. As all forms of electronica continue to be on the rise, it is groups like Mount Kimbie that keep things fresh for me among a sea of stale fish.    

This album felt like my personal soundtrack to the city of Olympia, WA which I now call home. Misty mountains filled with lakes, streams, and waterfalls; lantern walks in mossy, fern-covered woods; rain drops splashing on a bearded face; a domed political edifice glowing through the fog; this is what Antiphon has become to me. I had almost written Midlake off when I experienced a big disconnect with their previous effort, The Courage of Others. But the winds of change within the band and in my family’s life brought us back together again. A happy union under the gray skies of Olympia.      

This is dream-pop at it’s most REM inducing state. This record lulled me into a reverb soaked trance so soft and subtle that 50 minutes pass by without measure. There are other forces at work in this album that I can’t ignore. For example, the amazing art by Yoko Kuno throughout the packaging or a creation story that drew me in immediately. Visions of a little Japanese woman recording quietly in a small Tokyo apartment so as not to disturb the neighbors definitely peaked my interest. Butterfly Case is a audio dose best taken while lying down.

Local Natives - Hummingbird
Amazing production, atmosphere, and soaring falsettos made this album stand out from the crowd in 2013.

King Krule - 6 Feet Beneath The Moon
This kid’s got swagger to spare and I look forward to seeing how his sound develops in the many years he has ahead of him. 

James Blake - Overgrown
He continues to foster a sound that is quite unique in a world where this is becoming a herculean task.

Rogue Wave - Nightingale Floors
Another solid record by one of my longtime favorites. The killer packaging with art by Andrew Schoultz doesn't hurt either.  

Shigeto - No Better Time Than Now
I’ve always enjoyed Shigeto, but after seeing him create my favorite performance of the entire 2013 Treefort Music Festival, he is on a new level for me. Much respect.
The Strokes - Comedown Machine

I feel like all media was encouraging me to NOT like this album, but I did, a lot.

::: || BEST LIVE PERFORMANCE OF 2013 || :::
James Blake at the Showbox (Sodo) - Seattle, WA
If there was Museum of Modern Music, then this performance would be the featured exhibition. 


Peoples Art Of Portland Show

The Art of Ben Wilson  |  July 20th - August 11th, 2013
Peoples Art Of Portland 
700 SW 5th (3rd Floor) Suite 4005  |  Portland, OR 97204
Opening Reception: Saturday July 20th, 2013, 5-9pm
Gallery Hours: Thurs-Sun 12-6pm 

I'm honored to be having a show in my home away from home, Portland Oregon! It features a big mix of art prints, posters, originals, and more. Around 60 art prints and posters will be framed and ready to hang. Though I am the "featured artist" there will also be 100 plus artists participating in a "Carnival" themed show in the gallery as well. It sounds like it will be another killer show at The People's Art of Portland! I'd like to give a big thanks to the gallery curators Jason Brown and Chris Haberman for bringing it all together. Feel free to Check out more info at the Facebook Event page.

Peoples Art Of Portland  |  Entrance  |  Photo By: David Burbach
Peoples Art Of Portland  |  Exterior 
Peoples Art Of Portland  |  Interior