Archive for ‘Yet Another List’

December 10, 2009

25 Favorite Songs Of 2009

The xx


Every year I do a Top 10 Favorite Albums list. Frankly, I had a hard time listening to all the music I wanted to this year. This is partially due to it being an extremely strong year for music. It’s really one big cliche now, but in this day and age, I found myself much more listening to specific songs on my iPod, instead of whole albums. So, instead, I bring you the 25 songs I loved the most this year. I recommend all host albums as well.

1. Animal Collective – Summertime Clothes: For a long time I aggressively didn’t “get” Animal Collective, partially as a “fuck you” posture. This song was the key, because it’s an art-rave track. Art-rave. Merriweather Post Pavillion makes the rest of their albums make sense.

2. Annie – Don’t Stop: Annie does intelligent indie electropop, which she calls “pop with strange edges”. This song is one of three truly new songs on her 2009 version of the album Don’t Stop. The heavy (but not in your face) beat, the twinkling synths, the whole production by Paul Epworth add up to a pop song that doesn’t sound pop. Her breathy sweet vocal on top ties it together. Few singers can sing breathy AND with bravado like she does. That is why Annie is special.

3. Bat For Lashes – Sleep Alone: Natasha Khan mixes some Indian guitar, a huge bassline, a stuttering pounding beat, some maracas, synths, and her gorgeously sad voice for a bewitching track about her literally casting a spell to combat her loneliness. She deserves to be said in the same company as Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks, and I point to a track like this as proof. Except Natasha Khan can do beats better than most electronic producers.

4. The Big Pink – Velvet: The British do epic electronic rock better than anyone else, and this track comes in line with that grand tradition. Headphone filling.

5. Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career: Phil Spector reverb. And Campbell’s vocals which say her maudlin career is over, but sound like it’s not. Yeah, that’s Camera Obscura. What made me love this song is that twinkling upward piano line that runs throughout.

6. Neko Case – This Tornado Loves Me: It’s a obsessed love song expressed by a personified tornado. And it breaks your heart. Enough said.

7. Delorean – Seasun: This house song makes the world feel glorious. It sounds like sunrise over an ocean. Such a thrill when that beat drops halfway through.

8. Franz Ferdinand – Live Alone: It’s just a classic FF track. Lots of swagger, great synth chorus that sends the song skyward, and lyrics that somehow make not moving in together sound totally awesome.

9. Girls Aloud – The Loving Kind: Co-written with the Pet Shop Boys. If the Spice Girls had had songs that sounded this effortlessly good to your ears, they might still be around. Girls Aloud knocked this song out on their FIFTH album. Girl group perfection.

10. Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks: If the Beach Boys were still together and went indie-rock.

11. The Juan MacLean – Tonight: Disco house epic. Easily one of the very best tracks out of the DFA house so far. It’s how I feel about going out in song form: Melancholy, but hopeful and glad. I’ve played the song many times driving fast down the highway on my way out or back home late at night. The trumpet solo 5:30 – 6:45 makes life feel infinite.

12. Lady Gaga – Bad Romance: The first 35 seconds dominate. Frankly, this is the peak of Lady Gaga. It’s her on all cylinders, and makes me believe she’s a contender despite her bullshit. Sure, rave has existed for 20 years, but she’s managed to bring it to the masses like few else. Oh, and “Ra-ra-ah-ahah-roma-ro-mama-ga-ga-ooh-la-la.”

13. & 14. Major Lazer – Hold The Line / When You Hear The Bassline: Diplo and Switch’s dancehall creation was my favorite driving album this year. Shit is hot. The first two songs are the perfect example of how you start a mix. Atmospheric spaghetti western guitars begin “Hold The Line”, then the dancehall beat hits, and Mr Lex and Santigold sound badass. Love that Nokia vibration sound. It really makes your head vibrate. “When You Hear The Bassline” turns shit way up with that pounding… er bassline. I’ll put these two songs, and the entire album, against any hiphop, dancehall shit you play me, and it’ll be hotter.
Hold The Line:

When You Hear The Bassline:

15. Monsters Of Folk – Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.): Jim James, M. Ward, and Conor Oberst do some sorta trip hop sensual song. As a letter to God. I saw them live this year, and this song is gorgeous live.

16. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – The Tenure Itch: This to me is the sweetest, prettiest track off their album. For a debut album, they did their My Bloody Valentine indebted (heavily) thing really well, and this was my favorite moment. A song this romantic and shy is why their band name is the best name they could have.

17. The Phenomenal Handclap Band – All Of The Above: From an album that sounds like it was recorded in the 70’s, I think I listened to this song the most because of the strutting bassline that kicks in 47 seconds in.

18. The Raveonettes – Suicide: Their In And Out Of Control album was the Raveonettes embracing the pop part of their, in my opinion, iconic style. Which is appropriate, given Lust Lust Lust’s embrace of their feedback part. “Suicide” blew me away, because it is the sweetest, prettiest singing of the word “suicide” that has probably ever been committed to tape. And, the lyric is “Lick your lips and fuck suicide”, for the record. Only The Raveonettes.

19. Saint Etienne – The Sea: This track comes from the double disc reissue of a 1997 album that was previously Japan only, called Continental. “The Sea” comes late in an album filled with Saint Etienne’s usual pristine take on house and pop. Suddenly, Etienne drop a drum ‘n’ bass track. And, it’ll stand up to any drum ‘n’ bass track you’ll play me. Such is the greatness of Saint Etienne.

20. Saint Etienne – Girl VII (Richard X Remix): Taken from Richard X’s Foxbase Beta album, a remix of Saint Etienne’s entire debut album Foxbase Alpha. According to the commentary track to Foxbase Beta (yes, really), Saint Etienne say they wrote “Girl VII” to represent their impression of the glamour of London. Richard X takes “Girl VII” to such lush heights, you feel the glamour all the more. It’s one track on Foxbase Beta that I truly prefer to the original. And, that is rare in a remix. Somehow Richard X recreates “Girl VII” into a 4:30 minute constantly evolving and changing beast, yet all the elements came from, and follow, the original track. Epic. Perhaps the best remix I’ve ever heard.

21. Sally Shapiro – Mircale: Like others, I wasn’t as enamored with My Guilty Pleasure as much as Sally Shapiro’s debut. That’s what happens when you create a debut that’s borderline perfect. But, this electro track will always rank as one of her best. It’s Sally Shapiro at her most muscular and anthemic. And, for someone as breathy and shy as her, it was a welcome surprise.

22. Britney Spears – Womanizer: Why Britney is Britney.

23. The xx – Crystalized: I’m a huge sucker for male/female vocals. The way The xx weave their vocals together on “Crystalized” is magical. They do the atmospheric, minimalist, dreampop thing so well, and listening to this track and its host album breaks my heart in the best way possible.

24. Yacht – Afterlife: Here’s some sing-songy jaded female sung funky techno indie guitar shit. I’m still waiting for The DFA to get their due as a label. People mention labels like Jagjaguwar, Secretly Canadian, and Saddle Creek. The DFA constantly shepherd incredible dance music, and I never hear their name mentioned unless LCD Soundsystem release music. Shame.

25. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero: Answered the question, “What if the YYYs added synthesizers?” Answer: Sound like the YYYs. Happily confirmed when the synthesizers become guitars after the first chorus. What a rush. They’re one of the very best bands we have right now.

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August 2, 2009

Complete Ultimate 80’s Playlist

I was born in 1978, so the 80’s were formative on my musical tastes more than anything else. I adore 80’s music because it is so unique compared to any other decade. It’s the tremendous dominance of the synthesizers, but also what the artists and bands did with them. The melodies of 80’s songs are very strong. The lyrics and performances are so unabashedly honest and yes, cheesy. But, it is that lack of irony that makes the 80’s so special. I’ve always said the ultimate 80’s song is “Puttin On The Ritz” by Taco. When else in history would the song not only be taken seriously, but also become a big hit? Only the 80’s.

When Napster first came on the scene, one of the first things I attempted to do was create my own personal 80’s compilation. Any store bought compilation is unsatisfactory. There will be four or five songs that I love, a couple I like, and then a bunch I never cared for. And, no compilation has the big artists like Madonna or Michael Jackson. At the time, 1999, I was able to gather about four CDs worth of 80’s music, 70 or 80 songs. Two years ago, I decided to re-download the songs because the sound quality of Mp3s has gotten so much better. With the advent of iTunes and Amazon Mp3, you can now buy single songs and not have to waste money anymore. I then began a list of my absolute favorite 80’s songs. Over the past two years I have turned to this list and added more songs. This is more of a challenge than you may think. Since a lot of 80’s songs come from one-hit wonders, it can be hard to figure out what a song is called or who did it. You can just recall the melody. Do you know who did “Two Of Hearts”? What about “Somebody’s Watching Me?”. Or “Obsession”? No, but I bet you know the songs though. I consider this list a service to people in part.

So, what constitutes an “80’s song”? I think for the most part it is intuition. You know it when you hear it. I’d say my general rules were: 1) Is it evocative of that decade and would it sound out of place if released at any other time? 2) Was it a single or video? 3) Does it recall my personal childhood memories? Those are the guiding principles for this list. Furthermore, in researching this list, I often turned to YouTube, because the videos are what much of my memories and love for these songs come from.

I have childhood memories, like when I was nine or ten of “Burning Down The House” and “Once In A Lifetime” by Talking Heads. Not so much “Crosseyed And Painless”, as incredible of song that is. The only R.E.M. song I am including is “Stand” because the video is deep in my memory, and along with “Shiny Happy People” is one of their purely pop songs. I hope these examples illustrate some of the choices I have made in compiling this list.

Some notes:
1) It would be very easy for me to sit here and list tons of music like The Smiths, New Order, Jesus And Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Pixies, Siouxsie And The Banshees, etc. You know those bands aren’t “80’s music”.
2) I also am not including other music I was into when I was young, like Metallica, Slayer, Nine Inch Nails, etc.
3) I never liked Hair Metal. I still don’t.
4) That whole “New Jack Swing” movement, New Edition, Tony Toni Tone, Guy, etc didn’t age well at all.
5) I’m very tired of these songs: “With Or Without You” by U2, “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, and “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper. Ten years ago I may have included these songs on the list.
6) I’ve never been big into “Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Sorry.
7) I’ve never cared much for The Cure, Tom Petty, or Prince. Those may be glaring omissions to people.
8 ) There isn’t much rap on here because I didn’t listen to much as a child. I loved “Around The Way Girl” by LL Cool J, but that is from 1990.
9) Elton John’s career tanked after 1975. I’ve heard entire 80’s albums by him, they’re not very good.

Otherwise, feel free to make suggestions of songs I may have missed. I’ll let you know if I truly missed them or just don’t care for them. This list is not meant as a “Best Of” list. These are songs I love, and they are dear to my heart. This is an emotional list, not an intellectual one. I have no interest in hearing, “That song sucks!”

And yes, I own all these songs.

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May 6, 2009

Top 10 Favorite Albums 2009… so far

Yes, it’s only May 6th. That means 2009 has existed for only four months and some change. But, I can easily make a list of 10 albums that came out this year that I love. 2009 can end now. Most of the links below are to YouTube videos, and I hope you’ll click on them. In alphabetical order:

1. Art Brut – Art Brut Vs. Satan: Let’s face it, you listen to Art Brut for Eddie Argos, his blunt British voice and his acerbic lyrics. On Vs. Satan he drops more of his signature lines like “I fought the floor and the floor won” and “Why is everyone trying to sound like U2, it’s not a very cool thing to do.” Art Brut are a music geek’s band. Argos constantly recalls rock and roll’s history, and spends half the album talking about how much he loves music. How can you not love a band who writes a song called “DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake”, which is about just that. Their music is deceptively simple, and seven minute final track “Mysterious Bruises” proves, to me at least, that they’re accomplished songwriters. Art Brut’s first album, Bang Bang Rock & Roll was a favorite of mine, but for some reason It’s A Bit Complicated didn’t quite connect with me as much. I can’t put a finger on what the difference is, but their new album is back to form.

2. Bat For Lashes – Two Suns: You can compare her to Kate Bush, Annie Lennox and others, but no one truly sounds like Natasha Khan. I see her witchy, mystic aesthetic as only continuing a great female tradition. Her voice is unique and powerful. Her way with rhythm and percussion, using tympani, shakers, bells, handclaps and whatever else is, in my opinion, her signature. I loved Fur And Gold, and I think this album is worlds better. “Sleep Alone” is my favorite song of the year so far, with its pulsing bassline, grooving beat, and vaguely Indian guitar. Khan was somehow able to impress Scott Walker enough to lend his voice to the theatrical closing duet “The Big Sleep”, and she stands shoulder to shoulder with someone I consider possibly the greatest living male vocalist. And, of course “Daniel”, which apparently is really about The Karate Kid character and amounts to a great new wave pop song that is in no way as cheesy as it sounds. I could say lots more, but maybe you should look at her performing “Daniel” and “Sleep Alone” on British show Later… With Jools Holland. That should convince you.

3. Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career: This is what romance and heartbreak sounds like. If you like Camera Obscura already, you’ll know they’ve been building to this album. Much of My Maudlin Career is full on classical pop, songs like “French Navy” and Careless Love” melodically driven by strings. Other songs, like “Honey In The Sun” are horn and organ driven affairs. Their music is modern 50s and 60s pop, reminiscent of Roy Orbison, girl groups, and country. The album is produced with tons of reverb and echo, which gives it a dream-like quality. Traceyanne Campbell’s voice and lyrics are as sad and lovely as you could ever ask for. Example, “I know you mean well, yes I know that you do, but sooner or later you’re gonna break me in two” from “Towns and Cities”, later saying “Oh still I wanna tell you I love you best”. This album is how you imagine your heartbreak would sound if it were music. And, it should be played loud like you mean it.

4. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone: As I said in my earlier blog entry, Neko Case is an inventive, unique songwriter with arguably the best voice in music. Middle Cyclone is an emotional, dramatic album. It’s poetic and artistic. It’s organic and natural. “This Tornado Loves You” is one of the greatest love songs I’ve ever heard, literally told from the point of view of a tornado and a great metaphor for what love can feel like. She makes her covers of “Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth” and “Don’t Forget Me” her own songs. Her songs shift and change, like in “The Pharoahs” where it starts with one melody, and quickly shifts to a whole new melody. She does dark noir, like the sax laden “Red Tide”, or bright and fun like “People Got A Lot Of Nerve”. Really, she can do no wrong in my eyes. And yes, I even like to listen to the end track “Marais La Nuit” which is a 30 minute recording of frog song and night ambience.

5. The Decemberists – The Hazards Of Love: I was pretty skeptical when I heard that the new Decemberists album was going to be their “rock opera”. I was pleasantly surprised, because I think this album is pretty fucking great. It continues the traditions of Pink Floyd and The Who. They even recall Heart with the vocals of Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) on “The Wanting Comes In Waves”. But, it sounds like The Decemberists. I barely know what’s going on in the story. Something about a girl getting kidnapped and some guy trying to get her back from a Queen? No? Oh well. It rocks, has harpsichords, strings, banjos and accordians. Like a Decemberists album. There are multiple vocalists and musical themes are repeated throughout, just like a rock opera should sound have. They really pull off the whole thing. It easily could have been a disaster.

6. The Juan MacLean – The Future Will Come: I listened to nothing else for two straight weeks. Like I said in my blog entry, I feel like this album is what the last 30 years of electronic dance music has led to. It’s fun, sad, and great to drive to.

7. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – S/t: Their feedback drenched guitars and precious male and female vocals will remind you of a few shoegazing bands. But, so what. Their debut album has 10 fantastic songs. From the drumless opening track “Contender” to the pounding “Be My Baby” drums of last track “Gentle Sons”, all you’ll think is that this is a great band to have around. Especially when they find time for the sweet brit-pop of the acoustic guitar driven “Stay Alive”.

8. Royksopp – Junior: Their third album is a happy medium between their debut, Melody A.M., and their second album, The Understanding. The pretty downtempo of one has been married to the pulsing electropop of the other. You have the pounding techno track “This Must Be It”, sung by The Knife’s Karin Dreijer Andersson, which they drop four songs into the album like they could do it in their sleep. Then the pretty whimsical pop of “Miss It So Much”, sung by Lykke Li (which reminded me how much I love her voice). The string epic “Royksopp Forever” starts off like an Air pastiche, but in the middle shifts into a gorgeous song befitting it’s name. Royksopp are known for being great producers, and this album sounds amazing. It’ll fill your headphones with clicks and whirs and synths, “True To Life” being a great example. I think ultimately what sets Royksopp apart is their music is fun to listen to, and it sounds like they had fun making it. After all, lead off song is called “Happy Up Here” and it samples the video game Space Invaders.

9. St. Vincent – Actor: I like this album more than her first album Marry Me. This album is lush with strings and woodwinds. Some songs groove, some songs float. Songs meander in different melodic directions at will, and at times will suddenly surprise you with sections of loud guitar and percussion. Annie Clark has a lovely voice, and the whole album is gorgeous to listen to. The more times you listen, the more you notice. She seamlessly and artistically mixes rock, jazz, classical, and electronica. There’s so much going on, and it just came out yesterday, so I really can’t begin to discuss specific tracks right now. You should see her live, she’s adorable and a great guitar player.

10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!: I can’t add much more than my previous blog entry. Provided they don’t break up for some reason, it’s safe to say YYYs are one of this generation’s greatest bands. I really never thought I’d enjoy string versions of YYYs songs as much as I do…

I feel I must comment on one more album:

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion: I’ve had a hard time “getting” Animal Collective. Each album is welcomed with tons of praise and love. And, I get that they’re talented, and I agree they have a truly original sound. But, their albums always have seemed like aural soup to me, with little for my ear to grab on to. Animal Collective mix folk, ambient, Beach Boys style vocals, psychedelic rock, etc etc etc. But, their newest album is a conscious effort to streamline their sound into four to five minute structures, and I have to say I really enjoy it. Especially “Summertime Clothes”, which is an actual electronic dance song with a great beat. Their music can be joyful, like “Brother Sport”, and they’re like a playful kitten you can’t help but warm up to despite how pretentious I think they can be. And, they can sing. I have to admit that. I’m going to have to give their earlier albums another chance now.

February 8, 2009

Ultimate 80’s Mix

I’ve been slowly working on creating an Ultimate 80’s playlist. No store-bought compilation, whether it be an 80’s compilation, or a Christmas compilation, ever seems to make me totally happy. You’ll get 3 songs you love, 5 songs you like, and 7 you can really do without. On Christmas CDs you’ll get Bing Crosby, John Lennon, and then the latest shitty boy band (Jonas Brothers). So, I started to work on making my own collection of 80’s songs. It currently stands at 132 songs, and you can be sure when I feel the list is complete I’ll be posting it here. I have it broken down by year, and so far 1983 seems to be the golden year with 29 songs. Anyhow, a friend of mine said her and her sister challenged each other to make an Ultimate 80’s mix, so I quickly formed my own 80’s mix of my absolute favorite songs that takes up one CD. The mix is in chronological order. There is no Joy Division, The Cure, The Smiths, R.E.M.. We all know what is meant by “80’s Music”, and those type of bands aren’t it. Since the 80’s were every bit as much about the videos, I’ve decided to post my list with the videos for each song. Hope you enjoy!

I’m still getting the hang of WordPress. Please click the title of this blog entry, and then you’ll see I’ve split this entry into pages. 18 videos would make for a very long blog entry.

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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.

July 2, 2008

If I should read these, i’m about 1/5 there.

Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Strike out the books you have no intention of ever reading, or were forced to read at school and hated.
5) Reprint this list in your own LJ so we can try and track down these people who’ve read 6 and force books upon them 😉

I’m not going to do any of the instructions.

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee Atticus Finch is my hero, BTW.

The Bible (I’ve read parts of it)

Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

Complete Works of Shakespeare I’ve not read them all, but I’ve read more than like 90% of Americans, I can safely say.

Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

Middlemarch – George Eliot

Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

Bleak House – Charles Dickens

War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

Emma – Jane Austen

Persuasion – Jane Austen

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres

Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

Animal Farm – George Orwell

The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

One Hundred Years of Solitude

A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irvine

The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Lord of the Flies – William Golding

Atonement – Ian McEwan

Life of Pi – Yann Martel

Dune – Frank Herbert

Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

The Secret History – Donna Tartt

The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

On The Road – Jack Kerouac

Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding

Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

Moby Dick – Herman Melville

Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

Dracula – Bram Stoker

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

Ulysses – James Joyce

The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

Germinal – Emile Zola

Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

Possession – AS Byatt

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

The Color Purple – Alice Walker

The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

Charlotte’s Web – EB White

The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

Watership Down – Richard Adams

A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

June 26, 2008

John Legend is a whore. (Music 6 months in)

C’mon dude. Lexus, Target and JC Penney commercials?

Anyway, here are my favorite albums of the year so far, in alphabetical order.

1. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours: What a weird mix of indie rock, techno, new wave, etc. Not one song quite sounds like the last. Somehow it works.
2. Fleet Foxes – S/t: Will go down as the most gorgeous album of the year. It fills my heart every time I listen to it. A masterpiece.
3. Hercules & Love Affair – S/t: The DFA astonish me every year. Modern disco at its finest. Sexy. Endlessly inventive. Antony on his own albums is a bit grating, but as a disco siren he’s great.
4. Ladytron – Velocifero: They didn’t top Witching Hour, their last album, but still a strong set of songs on a more gothic industrial bent.
5. Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster: British indie pop fun from start to finish. Seems to throw every instrument into the mix at breakneck speed but somehow never sounds cluttered.
6. Neon Neon – “Stainless Style”: Modern 80’s music. What fun. Finally someone gets it right.
7. Portishead – Third: It’s easy to be disappointed when you’ve been waiting 11 years for a new album by one of your favorite groups. Instead Portishead created their third classic album.
8. Robyn – S/t: Every song is a hit single. Between the sass of the pop hiphop song “Konichiwa Bitches” or the raw emotion of the trance ballad “With Every Heartbeat”, once again I am scratching my head as to why it takes a Swede do make great pop music and Americans are stuck with shit like Britney or Katy Perry.
9. Santogold – S/t: Easily can be compared to M.I.A. and Lily Allen, both of whom she’s friendly with apparently, but doesn’t make the album any less good. Good music is good music, no matter how much it reminds you of other artists. Great album to drive to.
10. She & Him – Volume One: Zooey Deschanel should give up on acting and just sing. That’s how good her voice is. What an easy album to like.

Special mention:
Girl Talk – Feed The Animals: Really it’s Night Ripper Pt. 2. Some of the novelty is gone, but still a great time. He cuts up the songs a bit more this time around, I think more craft went into the album. Favorite moment is “Boyz” by M.I.A. and “Dreams” by The Cranberries mashed.

Biggest disappointment:
My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges: Already discussed it. “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Pt 2.” will be one of my favorite songs of the year though.

I’m not including The Raveonettes “Lust Lust Lust” album since I put it on my top 15 for 2007.

May 7, 2008

The year in music started slow.

With the Vampire Weekend album being the only excellent album being released, but slowly…

The Last Shadow Puppets – The Age Of The Understatement
Santogold – S/t
Portishead – Third
Neon Neon – “Stainless Style”
Robyn- S/t
The Raveonettes – Lust Lust Lust
Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster
Black Mountain – In The Future
She & Him – S/t

January 9, 2008

My current Top 25 Most Played on iTunes

1. Wire – I Should Have Known Better (38 )
2. Kasabian – Test Transmission (32)
3. Ladytron – Soft Power (32)
4. Neko Case – Things That Scare Me (32)
5. Annie – Come Together (30)
6. Bran Van 3000 – More Shopping (30)
7. Annie – Greatest Hit (29)
8. Art Brut – Good Weekend (29)
9. Sons & Daughters – Taste The Last Girl (28 )
10. Sleater-Kinney – What’s Mine Is Yours (27)
11. Bran Van 3000 – Go Shoppin’ (26)
12. Clinic – Come Into Our Room (25)
13. Ladytron – Sugar (25)
14. The Long Blondes – Fulwood Babylon (25)
15. Franz Ferdinand – Eleanor Put Your Boots On (24)
16. Gang Of Four – What We All Want (24)
17. The Knife – Neverland (24)
18. Ladytron – Black Plastic (24)
19. Bjork – Sun In My Mouth (23)
20. Gang Gang Dance – God’s Money III (23)
21. Lily Allen – Friday Night (23)
22. Love Is All – Busy Doing Nothing (23)
23. Menomena – My My (23)
24. Voxtrot – Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives (23)
25. Annie – Intro (22)

(  ) = number of plays

December 3, 2007

Top 15 Of 2007

Top 15 Of 2007
This year was the strongest year for music I can remember since 1997, frankly. I own at least 60 albums released this year, and wish to hear more. As always, these are my favorite albums, not the “best”. I’m not about to insist I listen to the “best” music. Anyhow, here is my lengthly discussion of my

15. Field Music – Tones Of Town: British baroque pop at it’s best. What makes this album stand out for me, and be so listenable, is the inventive song writing. It’s not just that they have strings and pianos, it’s how they’re employed. The strings are often the main part of the melody, not just embellishment, like in “A Gap Has Appeared” or “Kingston”. But, then they can turn around with a song like “Closer At Hand” which is a great guitar-based song. The thing I love the most about this album is the percussion. Lots of interesting bells, tambourine, drum patterns, cymbals, etc. “Sit Tight” is the perfect example, even incorporating beatboxing at the end of the song. The songs are complex, despite constantly clocking in at around three minutes or less. A couple times, like with “A House Is Not A Home” where the song segues seamlessly into “Kingston”, lending the album a unifying progression that is clearly deliberate. And, I must mention the lovely vocals which remind me of the Beach Boys, Crosby, Stills, & Nash or maybe a little Steely Dan.

14. Grinderman – Grinderman: Savage, brutal, and funny. Not 20 seconds goes by in the first song “Get It On” before “motherfucker” is said. “Get It On” primes you for the rest of the album, electric guitar, bongos, and piano with the lyrics creating a lowdown character with “words of wisdom” of “get it on”, drinking panther piss and “fucked the girls you’re probably married to”. This is really a guy’s album, and “No Pussy Blues” is a song only a guy can really understand and it’s one of the best songs Nick Cave has ever written. The verses detail everything he tried to win over a girl. Then the song explodes into a blistering chorus yelling “damn” and “woo” in a way that most guys who have felt frustrated and a little emasculated in life will recognize. Nick Cave knows he’s one of the most charismatic singers in rock, calling “all right, come on Grinderman” during the pulsing outro of “I Don’t Need You (To Set Me Free)”. He uses his ability to tell an engaging story to full effect creating the myth of “Electric Alice” or “Depth Charge Ethel”. There’s balls out garage rock like “Honey Bee (Lets Fly To Mars)” and “Love Bomb” and slow sinister songs like “Grinderman” that use sparse jagged guitar. It all creates a mood of dirty, macho, wild fun. Yet in a serious way this album is Cave’s musical portrayal of the struggles of masculinity.

13. Peter Bjorn & John – Writer’s Block: The first of three Scandinavian artists on my list. “Young Folks” is a classic single. Everyone I know who has heard it loves it. It’s warm and romantic in the very best way. A man and a woman who are deciding to trust each other despite being hurt in the past. Who can deny that whistle? They are able to write irresistable pop melodies like “Let’s Call It Off” using hand claps and steel drums over a funky drumbeat. PB&J balance this with the kind of forlorn lyrics about unsuccessful love which makes people fall in love with great pop songs. “Objects Of My Affection” is a jangling rocker that is a kiss off to a former lover. But things are not that simple, as while the singer will “laugh more often now, cries more often now, I am more me” he will on ” some days, lie around and hardly exist”. The song “Up Against The Wall” with a slightly muted slow rock build has further complexity in the lyrics, saying “maybe we could make it work” but feels “almost that I wish we hadn’t met at all.” Clearly, the lyrics often express a sad mature look at love. You might think the whole affair would sound depressing. Yet, the album is not at all depressing. The inventive song writing makes sure of that: the soaring bongo enhanced chorus to “Young Folks”, the whistling in “Objects Of My Affection”, or the pretty acoustic guitar plucking of “Paris 2004”.

12. Faithless – To All New Arrivals: They are really the most consistent electronica act currently recording. Look at how poor the output of The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Fatboy Slim, etc has become. Every album by Faithless has been well done and enjoyable from start to finish. They’re able to create politically minded music and emotional music without sounding preachy or detracting from being enjoyable and dancable. This album, a concept album about children, is no exception. “Bombs” is lyrically very political, yet a tremendous sounding dance song. Listen to the title track or “I Hope”, and you’ll hear a great song to dance to with lyrics of concern, hope, and love for children that come from their hearts. That is a rare feat, in my mind. “Bombs”, which starts the album, seems to be their take on the state of the world, putting the rest of the album in context. They’re concerned about what future the world is leaving our children. The song “Music Matters” might just be their mission statement, and there’s nothing cuter than the little kid featured right before it. Last track “Emergency” seems designed to remind you they can still throw down a trance rave-up like few else.

11. Nellie McKay – Obligatory Villagers: I’m waiting for McKay’s full fledged Broadway musical. She is that talented, and she truly shows it here. Her last album, Pretty Little Head was good but did feel too bloated at 21 tracks. This album has 9 tracks at is barely 30 minutes, which is perfect. This album is clearly (the start of) her political commentary on the state of America. We are the villagers who have been obliging the president the past 7 years. “Zombie” is a fun bluesy number with actual grunting zombies. Nellie clearly is blaming the South for putting Bush in office for 8 years, especially in the outro with lines like “torture isn’t that bad” and “they hate our freedom”. The first song, “Mother Of Pearl”, where McKay lists criticisms of feminists, seems to confuse people as to what her intent was. I read one review written by a man that said she is literally making fun of feminists. I think it’s shortsighted to take the song literally, especially given McKay’s flat vocal. I think she wants to make you laugh at how ludicrous the whole situation is, saying “feminists have a tumor in their funny bone” balanced with a man comically saying responses to her lines like “take it off”. Nellie ends the song with an amusing “I am Dennis Kucinich, and I approve this message”. The whole album is filled with complex lyrics where Nellie McKay is expressing her political point of view, and it’ll take many listens to get a complete sense of what she is saying here. I could spend a long time discussing each track. It’s the venue she expresses herself, in the style of Broadway musical, that will keep you listening over and over. And the album quite proudly states “all songs written, arranged and orchestrated by Nellie McKay”

10. Klaxons – Myths Of The Near Future: It’s nice when hype pays off, and this mostly happened with Klaxons. Though, they were hyped as nu-rave, and having listened to rave for 15 years, I can say little on this album is even close to rave. Other than the shouts of “DJ!” and the klaxons in “Atlantis To Interzone” and the bridge of “Forgotten Works”, you need to turn to the remixes like Erol Alkan’s gorgeous remix of “Golden Skans” for the rave. The hype did pay off in that clearly Klaxons are very talented at crafting music that recalls 70’s art punk, 80’s new wave, 90’s electronica, yet retain a sound that is Klaxons and very of the present. As I said, “Atlantis To Interzone” has elements of rave, but when it kicks into the blistering chorus there’s no mistaking that this is a band influenced by Gang Of Four. They even turn 90’s house hit “Not Over Yet” by Grace into a art punk track with new wave vocals. “Golden Skans” takes all this new wave nostalgia and actually does something with it creating an exciting modern version of new wave that betters most classic new wave. The hyper breakbeats in “Magick” are far more fun in an art punk setting. All the mythology and literary references to Allen Ginsberg and Alister Crowley in the lyrics is kind of dorky, but also kind of endearing and it’s nice to hear a band who clearly has a brain. The majority of time when a band is hyped the final product is underwhelming. I actually think Klaxons’ first album is better than the hype suggested it would be. Instead of “nu-rave” you get 11 songs that are each different and exciting to listen to. I’ve read they want to go prog next, and I can’t wait.

9. Amy Winehouse – Back To Black: What has happened to Amy Winehouse is really a shame, because there is no denying her voice, her talent at singing and honest lyric writing. I listened to this album because someone was doubting the authenticity of her lyrics, and I became intrigued. I don’t think any doubt can remain of whether the lyrics in “Rehab”, “You Know I’m No Good”, or “Love Is A Losing Game” are authentic. The title song is an instant classic and about as powerfully emotional as music gets. The song can stand proudly next to classic soul songs of the 50s and 60s. It’s heartbreaking, and anyone who has been heartbroken in a complicated relationship knows Winehouse means every word. I honestly feel there is little else original to say about this album. Musically, the live instrumentation coupled with modern beats breathes new life into classic soul music. Winehouse’s vocals and lyrics aside, it’s a great sounding album and very enjoyable start to finish. Winehouse adds the charisma that makes the music so wonderful.

8. The Raveonettes – Lust Lust Lust: I think they have recorded their perfect album. Romantic, sexy, sad, and beautiful. For example, a song titled “Lust” has lyrics like “nothing much to say” and “everywhere I roam life is one big lie”. They proved with their last album, Pretty In Black, they don’t need feedback. Here they prove they’re worthy of following the tradition started by My Bloody Valentine and Jesus & Mary Chain of making feedback beautiful, as almost every song is awash in it. The production is very specific, with guitars usually playing a surf rock melody up front, their pretty harmonized girl-group vocals somewhere in the middle, and the feedback all around, and a drum machine and bass underneath it all. This causes Lust Lust Lust to be their most cohesive sounding album since the Whip It On Ep. The Raveonettes wear their influences on their sleeve. Their name is half a title of a Buddy Holly song thus creating a bastardization of the name The Ronettes. I think the word bastardization is key, as that is what The Raveonettes do. They mash these styles with the guitar feedback of My Bloody Valentine and dark lyrics about love, lust, and loss. I think with Lust Lust Lust there is no question that they have solidified into a band with their own unique sound. I think one listen to “Aly, Walk With Me” or “Dead Sound” will convince you of that. “You Want The Candy” is a girl-group song on which is added reverb, feedback and lyrics about candy, lollipops and asking for a “dirty treat” and talks of “hearts not meant to last”. There you go.

7. Bat For Lashes – Fur & Gold: While I do like current female songwriters like Feist and Regina Spektor, I can’t help but compare them to Joni Mitchell or Tori Amos and the like. I think Natasha Khan, who is Bat For Lashes, has a witchiness that can be compared to Bjork or Kate Bush. But, I think she has a sound and style all her own. Probably you can tell from her chosen name, there’s a lot of gothic mysticism and a enchanted quality to her sound. Even the faster paced songs like “Horse And I” or “Prescilla” have a particular sparseness to them. Much of the album, with it’s harpsichord, hand claps, and songs about “The Wizard” asking you to “drink his blood and he’s our leader”, evoke Renaissance folk. The throbbing “Trophy” tells of a trophy she made that “everyone who touched it found a heaven on Earth” and how it fell into the wrong hands. Khan’s voice can be beautiful and expressive, as in the quiet harpsichord driven “Tahiti”, or powerful as in the slowly building “I Saw The Light”. In “What’s A Girl To Do?” she takes the classic drum pattern of “Be My Baby” and loosens it up a bit. Lyrically, the song looks down the line of a relationship asking what she’s to do when her “heart grows colder with each day” and her “dreams are on a train to trainwreck town”.Quiet piano ballads like “Sad Eyes” or “Seal Jubilee” lull you into a dream like state. She even makes a Bruce Springsteen song, “I’m On Fire” sound like a Bat For Lashes song. And that tells me Bat For Lashes are already on the road to becoming very much their own artist.

6. !!! – Myth Takes: This is the album they’ve been promising us since they first started. The first five songs are unstoppable. I’ve never heard another album that has a stronger first half. The swagger of “Myth Takes”, the hectic art punk of “All Our Heroes Are Weirdos”, the hedonistic dance party “Must Be The Moon”, the slinky disco “A New Name”, and the epic funk of “Heart Of Hearts”. This is a band who loves to play, dance and have fun, and the whole album is infectious in its enthusiasm. Sixth song, “Sweet Life” is an all right song, but kills the momentum for me. “Yadnus” brings the funk back with galloping drums reminiscent of “Rock And Roll Pt. 2” by Gary Glitter (think about it) and that awesome synthy guitar riff that starts things off. “Bend Over Beethoven” is a classic !!! eight minute punk funk workout in the vein of “Intensify” or “Shit Scheisse Merde”. Few bands have !!!’s charisma and the ability to put a big goofy smile on your face. They can write great tunes like “Must Be The Moon” and “Heart Of Hearts”, yet they are capable of big electronic breakdowns like at the end of those songs. I guess !!! feel a need to give you a break with songs like “Sweet Life” and the ending comedown “Infinifold”, but when the rest is the most fun you’ve ever had listening to music…

5. Menomena – Friend And Foe: This album makes me glad I am alive. Three band members who play a wide variety of instruments, record various parts with each instrument, and digitally assemble them into a finished song. Each song is a sound college, yet the album never sounds a mess. The layers of instrumental elements don’t bury each other, instead they are building blocks that create a whole song. In fact, this is album is clearly a cohesive artistic statement. Many of the songs lyrically deal with struggling in relationships and with identity, lending meaning to the title Friend And Foe. Evil Bee talks of “oh to be a machine, oh to be wanted, to be useful”. The soaring epic “My My”, with it’s slashing guitar riff and gorgeous piano asks “what if all my enemies were dead, and I could forget everything they said, could I be then who I really am?’ At times, especially with “Air Aid” the band approach Philip Glass territory with it’s repetitive baritone sax riffs. I won’t really say much more about the music, except to say there are piano, xylophones, horns, organ, bass, drums all cut up and put together. There are seemingly millions of musical ideas started and stopped and yet it never sounds overstuffed. You’re just left with the exciting feeling that original art balanced with emotion is something still possible in music even in the year 2007. Speaking of art, the album cover is simply gorgeous and must be seen.

4. Long Blondes – Someone To Drive You Home: A female Pulp. That I am not saying the Long Blondes “sound like Pulp” says everything I need to about this album. I never thought someone could compare to Jarvis Cocker, but Kate Jackson and the lyrics she sings stands almost shoulder to shoulder with him. So rarely can I find a band or artist who writes songs about relationships whom I can relate to as an adult. This album is almost a concept album of Kate Jackson telling younger women she “knows how it feels to be your age” as she says in “Once And Never Again”. Elsewhere he relates her own stories as a single adult looking for love, often finding herself passed by for boring women, such as in “Giddy Stratospheres”. There’s a weariness that comes with age, such as when she says she “won’t kid myself about happy endings, I’m too old for that now” in the epic “You Could Have Both”. Meanwhile the music not only stands up, but betters the Brit-rock and Post-post punk of the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, Art Brut, etc. Listen to the gallop that starts “You Could Have Both”, and then they dial it down immediately coasting on Jackson’s lovely worldless vocal. By the end it turns into a pounding expression of romantic frustration. Songs like “Lust In The Movies and “Separated By Motorways” have a fun punky flair. Others like “Giddy Stratospheres” and “Weekend Without Makeup” bounce along thanks to a fantastic melodic rhythm section. I could spend a lot of time quoting this album. There’s a great deal of wit. I relate to songs like “Madame Ray” and “Only Lovers Left Alive”, songs about being put on the back burner while your love interest pursues people clearly wrong for them. It’s why I fell in love with it.

3. M.I.A. – Kala: Everyone made such a big fuss over Kanye’s new album because it used more synths and whatever else. To them, I point to M.I.A. She makes anyone else currently making hip hop look lazy and behind the times. Like Arular, this album is the driving album of this year. The beat in “Boys” is absolutely punishing. The synth stabs in “Hussel” are dirty and cool as fuck. The beat on “Paper Planes” built on gunshots, hammer click, and cash register (blam blam blam, click, ch-ching) might be fun to blast but literally might be dangerous in the wrong neighborhood. Though lets face it, we learned on Arular that M.I.A. creates beats on a completely higher level than most out there. On Arular she incorporated styles from all over the world, African, Asian, Brazilian, etc. and she does so again on Kala. On “Bamboo Banga” she samples a Bollywood song. Then later she betters a Bollywood song by covering and rewriting the lyrics on “Jimmy” from the 70’s movie Disco Dancer. On “Jimmy” we also find out she can actually sing and has a nice voice! She uses actual aborigine Australian children on a quiet hip hop song about fishing called “Mango Pickle Down River”. It says a lot that the least radical song might be “Come Around”, the only song produced by Timbaland. Some may say M.I.A. depends on producers, but while Diplo did all of Arular, he only produced three songs on this album. Switch did much of the rest. Yet it sounds like a natural extension of Arular, which tells me M.I.A. is in artistic control.

2. Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala: Perfection. On this album Jens Lekman does no wrong. You rarely find a songwriter that can combine sadness, humor, honesty, sweetness, and romance all into one song like he does in “A Postcard To Nina”. He can go from the epic grandeur of “And I Remember Every Kiss” to the naked heartbreak of “I’m Leaving You Because I Don’t Love You” to the sweet dedication to a hairdresser “Sharin”. Lekman can do fun dance pop songs like “Sipping On The Sweet Nectar” or sweet songs like “Your Arms Around Me”. He works mostly on a laptop, and isn’t afraid to show it off. He bends and manipulates the samples he uses. He even samples himself singing when he was a child in “It Was A Strange Time In My Life”, which is really sweet and fun. I should stress that I am discussing sampling with an artist who performs chamber pop music. Not hip hop or dance. Sometimes you can’t tell at first if he’s using real instrumentation or a sample, then he cuts it up like at the end of “Kanske Ar Jag Kar I Dig” . But make no mistake, “The Opposite Of Hallelujah” or “Your Arms Around Me” demonstrate he can write for actual strings. The details he puts into his lyrics are so unique and lends a constant feeling of honesty to his songwriting. He can talk about small town Swedish life in “Friday Night At The Drive-In Bingo” or cutting avocados in the kitchen in “Your Arms Around Me”. In every which way, Jens Lekman is a musical genius and a joy to listen to.

1. LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver: Perfection again. There isn’t a bad song. In fact, there isn’t song that is not worthy of being on a mix CD. Maybe James Murphy, music nerd that he is, wants it that way. Much can be and has been said about how he employs drum machines, live drums, bass, cowbell, etc.. The album’s pacing is perfect, “Get Innocuous!” explodes out of the gate, combining the synth line from Kraftwerk’s “The Robots” and a Bowiesque vocal. Then, he takes it down a peg with funky “Time To Get Away”. The dancefloor filler mid-section of “All My Friends”, “Us V Them”, and “Watch The Tapes” is euphoric and exhilarating. The comedown of the quieter yet still dancable “Sound Of Silver” and the ballad “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” is the right way to end the album. It was a lovely, unique experience to hear the instrumental version of “Someone Great” in the 45:33 album (my #4 album last year), and then to hear this album for the first time and recognize it. But, I never would have guessed Murphy would use it to put a complex emotional lyric to. Of course, his social commentary in “North American Scum” and “New York…” is always intelligent and mature, and always welcome. There is not a false note on the entire album. There is a meticulous craft involved in the making of this album, and every layer and detail sounds thought out. This album sounds like James Murphy is beginning to put himself in the same category as the great artists like Bowie, David Byrne, Brian Eno, Mark E. Smith, and the others he so admires.

Look, Radiohead and Bjork Released Albums: In Rainbows and Volta
I do really enjoy both of these albums, but I’m always left with a feeling like nothing will compare to The Bends, OK Computer, Post, and Vespertine…

Best Album You Haven’t Heard: Kathy Diamond – Miss Diamond To You
Modern, classy disco at it’s best, produced by Maurice Fulton. This album has the clearest production I think I’ve ever heard. Somehow he’s able to make the record sound stark yet lush, best shown off in the song “Over”. I had to order it directly from the German label.

Over-rated: Justice / Simian Mobile Disco
I’ve been listening to all forms of dance music since I was 12. I do not get what the fuss is about. We already have a crappy Daft Punk. They’re called Daft Punk. I guarantee the same hipsters listening to Justice and SMD laughed at Fatboy Slim, despite it all sounding like his remix of “I See You Baby” by Groove Armada. I heard “D.A.N.C.E.” spun at a club, and it still wasn’t good to me.

Biggest Disappointments: Arcade Fire – Neon Bible / Air – Pocket Symphony
– Air finally delivered on all the potential they’ve hinted at since their first EP: the potential to be boring. Somehow they made Jarvis Cocker boring. That’s a feat. There are some nice songs, but nothing to stand up to anything in the past.
– The Arcade Fire added a church organ to their bombast and left out actual tunes. I don’t care how much people gush over this album, except for “Keep The Car Running” not one song stands out to me.
LCD