Archive for November, 2008

November 27, 2008

Top 10 Favorite Albums 2008

This year has been a weird one for me. I think I’ve listened to music less this year then I ever have before. Some of it has to do with less free time, too many podcasts (which I’ve cut down on), too much news watching and obsessing over the election, my job taking a huge toll on me. An album had to really stand out for it to demand my attention. And, in the end perhaps this is a better list for it. That’s not to say I haven’t listened to a lot of music this year. I’ve heard the Bon Iver, Cut Copy, Shearwater, Deerhunter, She & Him, Santogold, etc albums. And, I do recommend those albums as well. But, this list represents what I put on repeat this year. In order, but in no way claiming it’s the “best” music of the year, my Top 10 for 2008:

10. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive: I became a believer with this, their 4th album. I had read so much about how well respected and liked The Hold Steady are. While I definitely agreed that Craig Finn is a charismatic singer and gifted storyteller, I felt musically little on their first three albums stood out. Stay Positive is a whole other story. The songwriting is so much stronger this time. Sure, I can point to the usage of harpsichord on “One For The Cutters”, or the gothic banjo tinged song “Both Crosses”, or the non-cheesy use of a talkbox on “Joke About Jamaica”. But, even the traditional Hold Steady rock songs are memorable this time. What an awesome rock anthem “Constructive Summer” is, especially that piano-led bridge. Favorite Songs: Constructive Summer, Both Crosses, Joke About Jamaica

9. Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster…: British twee pop/punk with shared male/female lead vocals and seemingly the rest of the seven-piece band on background vocals. Plus glockenspiels. Plus violins. Plus whatever else. The band earns its exclamation point. Each song is a controlled mess, seemingly about to go off the rails, yet it never quite does. Instead it’s just really fun to listen to. The six-minute “You! Me! Dancing!” doesn’t seem any longer than the the two-minute “My Year In Lists”. For me, what makes the band really stand out is the wittiness of the lyrics. There are great lines that stick out all over. “I’m taking far too many chances on these less idealistic romances”, or “Four sweaty boys with guitars tell me nothing about my life”, or “The opposite of true love is as follows: Reality” are just a few great examples. If only every indie pop/punk band were this intelligent about their emotional issues. Favorite Songs: Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats, My Year In Lists, You! Me! Dancing!

8. Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna: This is clearly their “pop structure” album. Gang Gang Dance have taken their stew of Brooklyn indie guitars, tribal drumming, beats, ambient synths, and the exotic vocal mews and wails of Liz Bougatsos and tightened it all into (slightly) more structure. Hell, there’s even a hiphop track with a guest rapper, UK grime artist Tinchy Stryder, on “Princes”. All the songs flow into each other, much like previous album God’s Money, but especially on tracks like the out and out er… house jam of “House Jam” there are actual resemblances to songs. You can tell apart the tribal-punk of “First Communication” from the techno of “Afoot”. Clearly, this band is talented enough to go all out dance-pop if they wanted to. They’re all the better for subverting pop into their own unique hypnotic soundscapes. Favorite Songs: Afoot, House Jam, Desert Storm

7. Hercules & Love Affair – Hercules & Love Affair: Hey look, it’s the annual DFA production on my top 10. This is modern disco. But not cheesy. Instead, it’s classy, sophisticated, mature. Which makes sense, as it’s been 30 years since disco’s peak. “Blind” is the peak of the album, melancholic lyrics about growing older and finding yourself alone set to a pulsing dancefloor backdrop. Everything sounds lush and gorgeous. There are live horns all over the album, for example on the extended outro of “This Is My Love”, creating a jazzy Manhattan atmosphere. Finally, I must add what an achievement it is that they have cast Antony of Antony And The Johnsons in the roll of disco siren, a role that I don’t find irritating at all and actually feel perfectly suits his androgynous vocals. Favorite Songs: Blind, This Is My Love, True False/Fake Real

6. Portishead – Third: Do I need to tell you about Portishead? If so, get yourself an education already. Their third album will not surprise you in its mood. It’s suffocating in its dark mood, and filled with heartbreak and dread. The sound is still modern noir, blues, and ::sigh:: trip-hop. And it’s still gorgeous. That’s not to say the songwriting is more of the same. In fact, nothing on their previous two albums sounds like the pulsing drone of “We Carry On” or the powerful industrial track “Machine Gun”. It takes two minutes before Beth Gibbons makes her entrance during the krautrock of “Silence”, which begins the album with a sample of a man talking in Portuegese. What may be surprising is that 11 years after their last album, it easily is an equal of their first two, now considered classic, albums. I really hope 11 years doesn’t pass before their fourth. Favorite Songs: Silence, The Rip, Machine Gun

5. Neon Neon – “Stainless Style”: You know all those bands who have been aping 80’s moves? It took Gruff Rhys, the singer from Welsh rock band Super Furry Animals, and Boom Bip, hiphop/electronica producer, to realize the obvious: Why not make actual 80’s music!? A concept album about John DeLorean (think Back To The Future), most of the songs are lush with new wave synths, canned snare hits, falsettos, echoed guitars, and synthy bongo drum percussion. But with no irony, no winking. It’s serious. And seriously fun. Me and my friend Ian drove around listening to this album one day and we kept breaking out in laughter. You can’t listen to the opening 1:20 of “Raquel”, where they ride the beat before the melody even arrives, and not feel they’re having a blast creating this music. The lyrics, “Michael Douglas” being the perfect example, totally evoke the sad decadence of the era. Add to this great hip hop songs fronted by Spank Rock, Yo Majesty, and Fat Lip, and it’s almost too great of an idea to believe it exists. Favorite Songs: I Told Her On Alderaan, Raquel, Michael Douglas

4. Annie – Don’t Stop: This album wasn’t officially released. Annie, saying she’s being a “typical Norwegian”, decided to go back and work on more songs. Just recently Annie said she has severed her relationship with her record label because they didn’t want to give her a concrete release date. Either way, the album was leaked. Annie produces what I call Intelligent Pop Music (IPM). I could talk about every song on the album, but here’s the highlights. “I Know Ur Girlfriend Hates Me” is the adult version of Lavigne’s “Girlfriend”. Sexy and self-confident, where Lavigne can only manage teeny brattiness. “Loco” combines dance-pop with the britpop guitar of guest Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos. “What Do You Want (The Breakfast Song)” is on the surface ridiculously silly with its cheerleader chant of “What do you want, what do you want for breakfast”, but listen to the complexity of the drums and beat structure. The song also gets less silly when you realize she’s talking about matters of the post-coital variety. If she thought this wasn’t good enough to release, I cannot wait for the official release to find out what is. Favorite Songs: I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me, Loco, What Do You Want (The Breakfast Song)

3. Robyn – Robyn: The Swedes and the Norwegian have it all over the rest of the world. I don’t want to beat a dead horse about the pathetic state of pop music. Lets just say I’m not a fan of Katy Perry. Yes, this is Robyn of Show Me Love fame. In the 11 years since that album she’s somehow quietly managed to perfect pop music. This, her third album, was almost all cowritten by her and released on her own label. She’s capable of singing (really singing!) honest, emotional songs, like on the epic techno ballad “With Every Heartbeat” or the dance-pop “Be Mine!”. She’s capable of doing cute rapping on the fun “Konichiwa Bitches” or improving other people’s songs and outdoing Mad Cobra on her cover of the Teddybears’ “Cobrastyle”. She’s even capable of sounding right at home at the cutting edge of electronica like on The Knife produced “Who’s That Girl”. And she’s capable of it because of her obvious talent and her personality that shines throughout the entire album. Every song is a potential hit single, and eight have been released so far. People need to start paying her millions to write songs for them. Favorite Songs: Konichiwa Bitches, Be Mine!, With Every Heartbeat

2. Lykke Li – Youth Novels: Pop music that does so much with so little. The album was produced by Bjorn Yttling of the excellent Peter Bjorn & John. Some songs often have barely a synth, piano or guitar, a beat, and singing, but unless you pay attention you won’t even notice. The sparseness makes it all the more beautiful when the songs become more ornate. Like the strings that grace “Melodies & Desires” or the saxophone that dances around toward the end of “Dance, Dance, Dance”. She’s Swedish, so naturally all the songs are tinged with sadness and melancholy, as all great pop music should be. It permeates through the dance kiss-off of “I’m Good, I’m Gone” or the gorgeous Spanish guitar balladry of “This Trumpet In My Head”. An exception is “Melodies & Desires”, which attains a poetic sensualness I’ve rarely heard. Not for those who cringe at pixie European-accented female vocals, which I happen to adore. Favorite songs: Melodies & Desires, Dance Dance Dance, This Trumpet In My Head

1. Fleet Foxes – Sun Giant EP/Fleet Foxes: Epically gorgeous folk music. The lead singer’s voice, the vocal harmonies, and the instrumentation are beautiful on the same level that classical composers must have been reaching to Heaven with their oratorios and cantatas . On top of that, the songwriting is not just merely pretty, but also complex and surprising. Somehow the album encompasses all four seasons in its sound. It’s a masterpiece, all the more so for being a debut album. The kind of album that I imagine would make other musicians burn their instruments in defeat. Favorite Songs: English House, Your Protector, Blue Ridge Mountains

Honorable Mention: Girl Talk – Feed The Animals: Night Ripper Version 2, different songs, same awesome.
Honorable Mention Pt. 2: Flying Lotus – Los Angeles: You know the great instrumental hip hop interludes on Adult Swim. This guy does them. Total ear candy.
Biggest Disappointment: My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges: What a snoozefest.
Band I Still Can’t Quite Get Behind: TV On The Radio – Dear Science,: Everything I read tells me they’re geniuses. But, I just don’t find myself enjoying them as much as I apparently should? I dunno, their music sounds like aural soup to me.
Notice Something Missing?: Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend: Because I feel empty after listening to it. It inspires nothing out of me.
Finally: The Raveonettes – Lust Lust Lust: Was included on last year’s list since it was released in Europe in 2007.

November 24, 2008

I wish they represented Hollywood.

Cheri Oteri, Janeane Garofalo, and Illeana Douglas. What does it say about me that I think these are truly interesting paparazzi photos, not the latest Spencer/Heidi or Wentz/Simpson photos? All three people here rock. Hollywood would be a more interesting place if people gave more of a shit about them. They look like real people and have actual talent.

Source: dlisted

November 21, 2008

Two Interesting Articles.

First, an article from Pitchfork about the latest iTunes version which has the Genius feature. This feature looks at your music, sends that information to Apple, and Apple then makes music recommendations when you play any song and also enables iTunes to take a song and create a mix from that one song out of your collection. This article discusses how this leads to the categorization of us, the music listeners. I think it’s a very well written article, and has a genuine point. The internet sometimes tends to make us less social, less free. Gee, why talk to other people about what kind of new music to check out when Apple does it for us? This is why I still insist on making people mixes, even if maybe they don’t care for them. It’s my way of directly sharing with people new music they may not have heard. I’m being musically social with my friends. Furthermore, the article mentions how life, for some, is all about taking photos so you can post them on your Flickr or Facebook. Look at this insane picture the article links to. I’ve been to shows with people who just seem to take endless pictures. Even I have been victim to it a couple times, and then realized how stupid it is. It’s like my principle of never getting drunk at a concert. I want to experience the music and nothing but the music. I rarely take pictures in general unless I go somewhere special that I may never go to again, like San Diego. I’ve been to the Grand Canyon three times, and only during the first visit did I take pictures. I never bring a camera when I am hanging out with friends. I want to experience them in the moment, not them in picture form later sitting alone at my computer.

Second, here is an article from the Onion A.V. Club by the relatively well known writer Chuck Klosterman. It’s his review of the new Guns And Roses album, Chinese Democracy, which you can hear on Myspace. I have not listened to it yet, though I definitely plan on it. Apparently it’s being well received, which I am glad for. I always liked GnR, but I think it would be terrible if Axl Rose wasted all that time, effort, and money for a shitty album. Anyway, this article is so well written, and I really wish I had become a music writer when I read something like this.

November 20, 2008

Fuck Web 2.0

All I wanted to do was copy and paste a bit of conversation with my friend Ian on iChat where I commented on something he later blogged about. I just wanted to put that bit of conversation as a blog comment. After a half hour i still can’t totally figure out how to do it. I can’t drag and drop it. I took a screenshot of the window, and it’s in some fucking .tiff format that I can’t upload on to Photobucket. Why is this process so hard? It really bothers me sometimes that so much on the internet is done for pointlessness. Like creating applications like (Lil) Green Patch and websites like Twitter. But when i want to do something relatively practical, like copy and paste a bit of conversation into a blog comment, it’s a fucking chore and a half. Sure, I can post “tweets” about how i’m taking a shit right now, no problem. Fucking great. Fuck Web 2.0. I don’t have a twitter account. I think updating the MySpace and Facebook statuses are (more than) enough. Well the latest thing is Qwitter. It’s some application that tells you who stopped following your Twitter and what tweet caused them to stop. Seriously. So now you can sit there and feel rejected. I discovered it because someone had twittered about someone who stopped following their Twitter. Are you fucking kidding me? Isn’t there enough in life to deal with? I just cannot get on board with this shit.

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November 19, 2008

Belle & Sebastian are the best band ever.

Well, in my little world they are = ) They put out a 2CD BBC Sessions/live album yesterday, and it features one of my favorite songs by them, “The Wrong Girl”. Here’s a live video of it. Look how charming they are:

November 15, 2008

Palin is now celebrity blog fodder.

That comes as no surprise, of course. Here she is in short shorts:

I do have to say she’s quite attractive. Too bad she’s a nutball.

More pictures are on this blog.

November 13, 2008

Fuck Facebook

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