@ShaunSJohnson’s April 2015 Playlist!

April 2015 Playlist
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Every month since January 2011, Shaun Johnson has been making monthly playlists of his favorite music. As soon as the last couple days of the month roll around, Shaun starts a new playlist for the next month with whatever music he is jamming out to at that time. These playlists include any music that Shaun loves and are not confined to any specific genre or release date. The playlists usually include new music, but they can also include tracks from bands that Shaun is planning on seeing live that particular month.

These write-ups are solely for Shaun to promote the music he loves and to give him an outlet to write about music in a consistent manner! Don’t be afraid to send him your thoughts on his write-up or playlists on Twitter: @ShaunSJohnson

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I had the privilege of interviewing CHON’s Drew Pelisek in Omaha at The Slowdown at the Circa Survive, Balance and Composure show. It was one of the best concerts, let alone be experiences of my life. Pelisek was one of the coolest band members I have ever met in my entire life. My media production class at Iowa State University demanded a project every single week for the last 6 weeks of class. The main stipulation of the assignments was that they have to have something to do with an event in Ames. It can be a feature on a future event, too. This was particularly rough for me since I lived in Des Moines, Iowa.

I tweeted at Pelisek a few days before their show at The Slowdown in Omaha with Circa Survive and Balance and Composure about a possible interview to preview their Iowa State University show just a few weeks later. He said, “yeah” and I was excited. The tweet was completely on a whim and a final attempt before I would have to do some sort of lame preview of something I don’t care about in Ames.

The next few days before the show I was jamming to CHON’s new album, Grow, nonstop, along with all of their other tracks. I listened to CHON and only CHON for the first week of April because of all the editing I put into the video.

The beginning of April I was watching Transparent on Amazon Prime. I had just finished The Walking Dead’s season five and Better Call Saul’s first season, so I needed to move onto something else. When deciding I watched a couple trailers of shows. Transparent was one of those shows. In the trailer, they used Vance Joy’s “Mess Is Mine”, which is a phenomenal song that fit very well in the shows trailer.

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Sufjan Stevens masterfully crafted some of the most heart-wrenching songs of the year with one of the best albums of 2015 with Carrie & Lowell. There are a bunch of great songs on the album, including “All of Me Wants All of You”, “Fourth of July”, “No Shade In the Shadow of the Cross” and more. The album is truly wonderful and will be on my end of the year list, for sure.

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Madeon also released a new album in 2015 with Adventure. It is a good album, but somewhat forgettable, overall. I do enjoy the tracks where he collaborates with a solid vocalist most. The track with Passion Pit, “Pay No Mind” is probably the best on the album.

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Death Cab for Cutie’s Kintsugi was released in April, also. It falls short of most of their other works. It’s a shame because of how great I know that Death Cab for Cutie can be. This was also their last album together as the same band that released the fantastic albums in their catalog, like Plans and Transatlanticism with Chris Walla’s departure.

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The third single from Passion Pit’s Kindred was released mid-month. It was “Until We Can’t (Let Go)”. If I were to rank the tracks on the album in terms of best to worst, I would put it in the middle of the album overall. A lot of Kindred is really solid, songs like “Lifted Up”, “”Whole Life Story” and “Where the Sky Hangs” are close to the quality of Gossamer’s tracks. I think that Gossamer is nearly perfect overall, so Passion Pit had a lot of work to capitalize on that album. Overall, I think Kindred fell short of that, but it is still a solid album.

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Earl Sweatshirt released I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside at the end of March. Although, I haven’t given it enough time, I really like the first half of it. Tyler, the Creator released the Cherry Bomb in April, too. This year has been a really great one for rap and hip-hop albums. I think Tyler released a good album. The two singles, “FUCKING PERFECT” and “DEATHCAMP” are really great. I also love “SMUCKERS” with Lil Wayne and Kanye West. Lyrically it is heads above Wolf, but I don’t think the album is better at this moment. I connected with songs like “48”, “Awkward” and “Answer” off of Wolf. Tyler, the Creator really has a lot going for him and I think he will be around for a long time.

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I threw some Run the Jewels on the playlist because they were announced as one of the headliners at this year’s 80/35 in Des Moines. I cannot wait! The show will be absolutely bonkers. Earth Wind & Fire’s “September” was on the radio at work and I found myself grooving to it.

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The Bully and JEFF the Brotherhood show was at Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines on April 11th. It was a great show and got me even more excited for Bully’s first full length, Feel Like on June 23rd.

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The Brand New, Circa Survive show was on April 25th and both bands were absolutely unreal. Brand New sounded very good and were everything I expected them to be. They opened with their new song, “Mene”, too, just as I predicted. Seeing Circa Survive twice in the same month was pretty neat. Anthony Green is one of the best frontman and performers of all-time. He looks healthy, vibrant and sounds clean. I’m happy for Green and the rest of the dudes in Circa Survive.

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I became somewhat reminiscent of Electric Forest and some of my friends in my “forest family”. Before Electric Forest, I had never listened to Tycho. At Electric Forest, after we got our camp all set up and the schedule of performances poster put up, we all sat around the poster discussing who we wanted to see. The only person in the group that said anything about Tycho was my friend, Danyiel Turner. There was so much to do and see at Electric Forest but none of it meant much unless I was experiencing it with my friends. So, I told him I would tag-a-long with him for Tycho. And I’m glad I did, since they put on one of the best performances of Forest. Now nearly a year later I’m still listening to their debut album Awake. They would definitely be up higher on my end of the year music list, too.

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End of the Year 2014 List!

Top Albums of the Year

1. Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown

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Every single year I put Every Time I Die on a list, they’re near the top or they flat out top it. 2014 is no different. Looking healthier than ever, the boys from Buffalo, New York released a real ripper and my favorite album of the year, From Parts Unknown. Kurt Ballou, a true metal God, from the band Converge produced the album. It starts with an explosion from “The Great Secret” and ends with arguably the band’s greatest ending to a record, “Idiot”. Songs like their second single “Decayin’ with the Boys” keeps my blood boiling while the piano-led, eerie pseudo-ballad, “Moor” and banger “Exometrium” stitch the album together perfectly. The boys toured the United Kingdom with A Day to Remember, multiple United States tours and Canada with Expire. One of the United States tours was the entire span of the Vans Warped Tour. I made a trip out to Vans Warped Tour just to see them. I probably would have skipped the 8-hour-combined trip and a hotel stay in Minneapolis, MN if it was not for their presence on the tour. So, I’m glad Kevin Lyman got them on the tour. Funny tidbit: the band has it in their contract that Keith and Jordan Buckley’s father barbecue for the entire Warped Tour staff at the Buffalo, New York stop! The barbecue along with their insane live show must be why they have been on the Vans Warped Tour six times already!

2. La Dispute – Rooms of the House

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One of my biggest fails of the year was that I did not get to see La Dispute live. I even bought two tickets for their tour in Minneapolis but when the friend I was going with made a last minute cancellation and I couldn’t find anyone to go with me, I just sucked it up and stayed home. I will not miss the band in 2015! Especially since they recently announced a tour with one of my other favorite bands, Title Fight. I wish the tour wasn’t in Chicago on a Sunday in April, but nonetheless, I will try and make it out to see some of the songs on Rooms of the House. The album is wonderful from start to finish. My only complaint with their previous album, Wildlife, was that at times it seemed like it was droning on just a little bit. This is not the case with Rooms of the House. The album feels complete like Wildlife and never felt like it slumped like Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega And Altair. Although, La Dispute had a wonderful year, I cannot help but worry for their future works since their guitarist, Kevin Whittemore, left the band after their tour supporting Rooms of the House.

3. Code Orange – I Am King

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Also produced by Kurt Ballou, I Am King by Code Orange was easily my biggest surprise of 2014. A year ago, my friend Kyle Ewing recommended then named Code Orange Kids to me. I shamefully shrugged off the recommendation and proceeded to move on with my life. The band’s unique name stuck in my head and after I stumbled on their first release from 2012, Love is Love/Return to Dust, in July of this year, I was hooked. College is a real bitch sometimes. I know I am supposed to be happy and grateful that I even get the chance to attend college but it does cuts into my concert fund and time. Code Orange barreled through the midwest in late September on a co-headlining tour with Twitching Tongues just after I started classes and couldn’t make the 7 hour round trip to Kansas City and back. Code Orange had a truly insane year! They released one of the best albums and even cut the word “Kids” from their name. I will definitely make it a high priority to see them in 2015. Who knows, I may even come out of mosh-tirement for songs like “My World” and “Unclean Spirit”.

4. Phantogram – Voices

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5. Tigers Jaw – Charmer

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6. Pianos Become the Teeth – Keep You

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7. ’68 – In Humor and Sadness

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8. Circa Survive – Descensus

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9. RL Grime – VOID

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10. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
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11-20 Top Albums of 2014

11 Run The Jewels – Run the Jewels 2

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12 Manchester Orchestra – HOPE

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13 The Hotelier – Home, Like No Place Is There

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14 FKA Twigs – LP1

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15 Brian Altano – Misanthrope 

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16 Foster the People – Supermodel

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17 Tycho – Awake

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18 ScHoolboy Q – Oxymoron

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19 Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes

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20 The Fighting Yawns – Montauk

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Top Songs of 2014 (released in 2014)

1. “Fall in Love” by Phantogram

2. “Woman (In Mirror)” by La Dispute

3. “The Great Secret” by Every Time I Die

4. “Woman (Reading)” by La Dispute

5. “Idiot” by Every Time I Die

6. “My World” by Code Orange

7. “Howling at the Moon” by Phantogram

8. “Chlorine” by Title Fight

9. “Best Friend” by Foster the People

10. “Tell Me” by RL Grime

Band of the Year: Every Time I Die

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*Editor’s Note – Josh Newton is no longer in the band. Stephen Micciche replaced him in 2011.

Tour of the Year: Every Time I Die, The Ghost Inside, Architects, Hundredth and Back Track in Minneapolis, MN at Mills City Nights on December 6th, 2014.

This is a live performance from the best tour of the year.

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Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

Various Artists – Guardians of the Galaxy O/S – This soundtrack tied into an amazing storyline and crafted one of 2014’s best movie releases.

Childish Gambino – Kauai EP – Artsy EP that has me excited for Childish Gambino’s next album.

Aphex Twin – Syro – I didn’t get to spend near enough time with this album but from the couple spins I have given it, I think it’s a good album.

Submerged – Don’t Be A Gurn (In Huss We Trust) – Des Moines’ own, Submerged, released a really solid album that I will drunkenly mosh to for years to come.

Chon – Woohoo! EP – Chon opened for Animals as Leaders in Des Moines and I was blown away. These dudes have huge potential to become something extraordinary.

Foxing – The Albatross – Even though his album was originally released in 2013, it was re-issued in 2014. It would have made my list in 2013 if I had a chance to listen to it then. I don’t include re-issues in my list or I would have put it somewhere in the top 20.