Posts tagged ‘Annie’

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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November 3, 2009

Annie – Don’t Stop

In my world Annie is bigger than Lady Gaga. “Poker Face” is a big dumb 2×4 to the face, “Don’t Stop” is subtle artistry. Listen to that twinkling chorus and bridge. Album out domestically Nov 17th, though I recommend the 2 disc import already out.

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July 2, 2009

Lady Gaga – The Fame

Let’s start with the good. They picked the singles really well. “Just Dance” and “Poker Face” are pretty decent club bangers with choruses that get stuck in your head. I particularly like the last minute of “Just Dance” where the song shifts to a 4/4 club beat. I also like the “live drum” beat of “Poker Face” and that “mamama” vocal bit. “Paparazzi” has a nice shuffling beat and 80’s new wave synths.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album is pretty terrible. Especially the last half. “Money Honey” is where she runs the ideas from “Just Dance” and “Poker Face” into the ground. “Again Again” slows things down to sub-Christina Aguilera balladry and the shuffling, swinging melody may be one of the most unoriginal melodies in existence and should be retired. “Boys Boys Boys” sounds like a Gwen Stefani / Rock Steady throwaway. “Brown Eyes” sounds like “Again Again” but worse. The “blues” guitar in the song is just about the most unconvincing thing on the whole album, and at points she sounds a little like Avril Lavigne. And that is a lot of the problem. The whole album is a pastiche of more talented, more original artists. Lady Gaga sounds like Annie Lennox in “Poker Face”. She sounds like Gwen Stefani again in “Summerboy”, and the song sounds like a Blondie or Franz Ferdinand rip that was popular two or three years ago. Final song “I Like It Rough” remembers that the album started as a electro pop record. It’s a pretty good despite the Aguilera theatrics.

“Lovegame” is the perfect example of why the album is awful lyrically. “Lets have some fun, this beat is sick, I want to take a ride on your disco stick” is in the running for worst lyrics ever. It’s not helped by a boring 90’s techno/rave melody that goes nowhere and stays that way. The awful “Eh Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)”, which musically sounds like a track on an 80s comp I’d skip over, says it all in its title, doesn’t it. You can argue that she’s doing this as some sort of “piss take” on celebrity culture. But, it’s quite clear she has a huge marketing campaign behind her. It’s clear by her fashions and her early 90’s Madonna-like stage performances that she wants people to notice her. It’s also clear that by trying to reference David Bowie and Queen, and not the artists she really resembles (Aguilera, Stefani, etc), it’s a grab for some sort of respectability that is completely fabricated.

Now for something new to my blog. I’ve been so interested and critical of this album because I listen to a lot of female dance pop artists. I wanted to see why this woman has been selected as the “next Madonna” or whatever. I am completely unconvinced, and would like to give you examples of current female artists who deserve the same popularity and exposure as Lady Gaga is getting. And, also I’ll include some songs by popular artists that do what Lady Gaga does, but better. Lest you think I’m being a snob, the first song I pick is:

Britney Spears – Break The Ice from Blackout. This song also has the live drum sound going on, but the composition of the song is of such a high quality. The cycling synth line is infectuous. And, unlike anything on Lady Gaga’s album the song fills your headphones.

Girls Aloud – Biology from Chemistry. The song starts with a shambolic rendition of a typical bluesy guitar melody, but it’s a red herring. It quickly shifts into a galloping techno track that builds with a huge crescendo. The chorus doesn’t even hit until two minutes in. This is about as good as pop music gets.

Roisin Murphy – Movie Star from Overpowered. A synth riff more monstrous than anything off Lady Gaga’s album. And a lyrical topic tackled throughout Lady Gaga’s album. Just done in a self-aware, and tactful way.

Goldfrapp – Koko from Supernatural. Another huge synth riff, clearly influenced by Gary Numan and creating a pounding yet ethereal pop track out of it. Goldfrapp make their synths rock on this track. And the bridge is divine.

Annie – Loco from Don’t Stop. This song is unreleased. I love the mixture of techno synths and britpop guitar played by Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand. I still listen to this and am amazed Annie didn’t feel it good enough to release.

Sally Shapiro – Miracle from My Guilty Pleasure. From Shapiro’s second album due August 25th. Sally Shapiro’s first album was a gorgeous, unique, well-crafted piece of work, and this first single indicates her second album will bring more of the same only better. This track is a bit more aggressive and anthemic than her earlier work. I also love how her voice is used with the little whispers and multi-tracking.

Robyn – Dream On from Robyn. A bouncy electro track that is conscious of a world beyond fame and sex. Oh, and strings.

Ladytron – Destroy Everything You Touch from Witching Hour. Electro rock pop, gothic and vital and emotional. Bright and bouncy and a dab of shoegaze guitar at the end. It takes a ton of adjectives to explain just this one song.

Lykke Li – Little Bit from Youth Novels. And finally, a slower, quieter song. It’s just as electronic as any of the above songs, but with a pretty, vaguely exotic guitar figure. The lyrics have emotional complexity, but are just as bluntly sexual as Lady Gaga gets: “And for you I keep my legs apart and forget about my tainted heart.”

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 6, 2008

Annie’s 2nd album.

I’ve already called the Fleet Foxes album the best album of the year. It’s a masterpiece.

But, based on what little i’ve heard of Annie’s 2nd album, it might rival Fleet Foxes. I make no secret of my love of British and European female pop singers. I own Spice Girls, Sugababes, and All Saints albums, just as examples. Annie’s first album is one of my top 50 favorite albums of all time, and my favorite female pop album. So far, her new songs are just as good. The anticipation is killing me now. If Avril Lavigne weren’t an immature brat, and knew how to be sexy, she might have done something on this level:
Click here for the video for “I Know Ur Girlfriend Hates Me”. Embedding has been disabled.

If you think i’m crazy, have a look at the sampling from the blogsphere:
Stereogum
Idolator
Panic Manual
Pitchfork

Annie’s Myspace

December 1, 2005

Top Ten Albums of 2005

So, it’s December 1st, and the year is all but over. In my neverending pretention, here is my top ten favorite albums of the past year. It’s not really a list of the “Best”, but likely most of these will make “Best Of” lists in magazines and such. In order, and this is very long, my top ten…

10. Madonna – Confessions On A Dance Floor: I already put most of my thoughts about this album in an earlier blog. What surprises me most about this album is how much various songs will get stuck in my head. While this is largely a four-to-the-floor club album, Madonna & Co. didn’t forget about writing actual songs. So many songs are able to be hummed along to. Yet, the album has an almost seamless flow to it. And, there’s no filler to any of the songs. I’ve really noticed that every song gets going without any drawn out prelude. Because of all this, largely Confessions is an achievement. It would be so easy for this album to have a sameness to each song, yet Madonna escaped that trap. The only duff song in the bunch is “Push”, and I agree that “Isaac” is “Frozen Part II”. “Future Lovers” is still the highlight to my ears. I’m impressed by Madonna’s vocal performance, which sounds so assured after the 1:30 mark (where the bass finally kicks in). I’ve heard a lot of electronic music, trust me that Confessions is excellent.

9. Gorillaz – Demon Days: When will Damon Albarn be hailed as the musical genius he so clearly is? Demon Days is easily better than the first album. Nearly every track on this album is filled with melodic keyboards, fun creative beats, and interesting lyrics. Each song jumps out of the speakers. Listen to the acoustic guitar break on “Last Living Souls” or the crazy piano section in “Every Planet We Reach Is Dead”, courtesy of Ike Turner. The album highlights are seemingly endless. The children’s choir throughout “Dirty Hairy”, and somehow they shoehorn a rap into it. The bit in “All Alone” where it gets all pretty with what sounds like robotic birds and Martina Topley-Bird singing (coincidence?). “Dare” has so much going on in it, I don’t know where to start. How about the incomparable Shaun Ryder on vocals? Or the pristine production by Danger Mouse? Going the choir route is very easy to garner emotion, but “Don’t Get Lost In Heaven” and “Demon Days” is a very moving ending to the album. Damon Albarn is a true artist. He takes everything seriously, even his little “cartoon” band. He demands a lot more respect than I think he gets. This album is further proof. And, one final point: Listen to how much he does with his vocals throughout the album.

8. Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom – The Days Of Mars: This is ‘alone on a quiet Sunday’ type stuff, and not for everyone. Intricate, beautiful, affecting. The Vangelis comparisons are appropriate, and I also think they could be compared to Phillip Glass as well. It’s high praise to be compared to such artists. Their music is a work of art and should be appreciated as such. I find listening to the album to be meditative. The DFA have done a lot this past year, and as much as I liked the discs by LCD Soundsystem (which has grown on me greatly) and The Juan MacLean (which almost made this list), The Days Of Mars is The DFA & Friends artistic album. I appreciate this more.

7. M.I.A. – Arular: An album that is better than its hype. This is the driving in the summer with the windows down album. It’s a blast and M.I.A. sounds like she’s out for blood or sex… or both. Arular is one of those debut albums that is so strong and assured, I fear M.I.A. will never come close again. M.I.A. has a charisma few women rappers can ever hope to have. Through the socio-political sentiments of “Pull Up The People”, to the anarchist thoughts of the “Freedom” skit, to the sexual come-ons of “Hombre” or “10 Dollar”, Arular is a mental rush. Listen to the mixture of call-to-arms lyrics and sexual sighs in “Bucky Done Gun”.Then there’s how easily M.I.A. covers various musical styles. She’s a Sri-Lankan Brit, and the influence of ethnic diversity is all over Arular. The Middle Eastern influences in “Hombre”, the African influences in “Amazon”, and the Caribbean influences in “Sunshowers”. All this spread over a rap/dance CD. The beats are constantly interesting and hit hard and the synths make the album sound electric. She’s been compared to Missy Elliot and Timbaland, and she even name checks them on “Fire Fire”. Yet, I think M.I.A. resembles them little, and frankly is better.

6. Martha Wainwright – Martha Wainwright: If I wanted a song to represent the first half of 2005, “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole” will do. That Martha Wainwright is a talented singer-songwriter comes as no surprise, considering the family she is from. Again, this isn’t a list of the “Best” albums of 2005, just my favorite. I took much of this album to heart. She spoke to me when I needed someone who understood. Not to say this wouldn’t make a “Best Of” list. Her voice has a lot of range to it, from angry and bitter on “Ball & Chain”, to gorgeous and moving on “Wither I Must Wander”. As a songwriter, she can go from a rocker like “G.P.T.” to a ballad like “Don’t Forget”. And, “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole”. A song written with such suspense, delivered with a vocal so passionate and uninhibited. An artist willing to bare their soul as Wainwright does is someone to treasure.

5. Goldfrapp – Supernatural: 2005’s album to fuck to. This sounds like the soundtrack to a decadent orgy. I never thought that woman singing on those early Orbital and Tricky tracks would turn into an S&M sex goddess. But, nevermind Alison Goldfrapp’s seductive vocals and lyrics. Her partner, Will Gregory, is also a music score writer, and it shows in the layers in the song writing. If you really listen there’s just so much going on in each song. With both production, song writing, and vocals, Goldfrapp have raised the bar high on this album. On every front. The disco abandon of “Ride A White Horse” and “Fly Me Away”. There is the orchestral beauty of “Let It Take You” and the pop-opera of “You Never Know”, the likes of which Goldfrapp perfected on Felt Mountain. “Time Out From The World” sounds like it will float you on a cloud. There’s only one “rock” album by strict definition on my list, but Goldfrapp make their keyboards rock. Listen to “Lovely 2 CU” or “Koko” and you’ll hear what I mean. Yes, songs like “Koko” and “Number 1” put their Gary Numan influence on full display, but that doesn’t take away from how great these songs are. The first track, “Ooh La La”, is a perfect mission statement for Supernatural. Listen to how the beat evolves over the first minute, until it finally pumps into high gear. Such is the whole album.

4. Royksopp – The Understanding: Epic. Their first album, Melody AM, does nothing to prepare you for hearing this. From huge techno epics like “Triumphant” and “Alpha Male”, to pumping dance tracks like “Only This Moment”, “Follow My Ruin”, and “Beautiful Day Without You”, to emotional breakbeat tracks like “49 Percent”, “What Else Is There?”, and “Someone Like Me” they do no wrong. As an electronic act, Royksopp’s ability to cover so many moods so well on The Understanding is relatively unparalleled in my experience. The album is flawless from beginning to end. I would compare the album to UNKLE’s Never, Never Land, but The Understanding is better crafted and more enjoyable. And, with Royksopp’s production on fellow Norwegian Annie’s album (See #2), clearly they’re a master at pop as well. Being part Norwegian, I feel a lot of pride this year. Great cover, too.

3. Sleater-Kinney – The Woods: This is the only rock album on this list, and maybe the reason is because it’s so far and above anything else I’ve heard recently. Yes, this is Sleater-Kinney’s “maturity record”. But, that usually means boring. These songs are filled with passion. From the raw intensity of album opener “The Fox”, you know Sleater-Kinney aren’t fucking around. The clear album highlights are “What’s Mine Is Yours” and “Let’s Call It Love”. Both songs are a startling departure for them. “What’s Mine Is Yours” begins normal enough, but in the middle there is a sudden roaring guitar solo from Carrie Brownstein. “Let’s Call It Love” is an 11 minute swirling freak-out. Yet, when you listen to these two songs, it is clear Sleater-Kinney are not creating wank for wanking sake. There’s so much passion in the songs, you can hear this is coming from an emotional place. “Let’s Call It Love” segues without pause into final song “Night Light”, which with it’s pleading vocal and down turning chords ends things on a moving, melancholy note. Sleater-Kinney haven’t forgotten to write great songs. As powerful as songs like “Wilderness” and “Jumper” are, they’re also very melodic, which shows how far Sleater-Kinney have truly come from their punk grrrl roots. It’s been an evolution on all on their own terms. There’s still room for social commentary, as on “Modern Girl” and the raging “Entertain”. In my opinion, no rock album comes close to the breadth of emotion, talent, and sheer rock ‘n’ roll power that Sleater-Kinney has with The Woods.

2. Annie – Anniemal: Pop is not a dirty word. Not when it sounds this good. Pop music normally doesn’t deserve production and beats this good. But, Annie does because she has charisma to spare. If you’re a guy, you’ll likely fall a little in love with her. I admit I have been seduced. She’ll play hard to get (Chewing Gum), she’ll chew you out (Always Too Late), she’ll shyly hit on you (Heartbeat), she’ll slyly hint how good she is in bed (Anniemal), and she’ll tell you how in love she is (Greatest Hit). Her singing makes you listen to the lyrics, and it’s rare that lyrics matter in pop songs. There’s more to her voice than I think we’ve seen yet, judging from “Wedding” (where yes, finally, she wants to marry you) from Annie’s DJ Kicks CD. Partnered with the production talents of Richard X and Royksopp, it’s no wonder Anniemal sounds so fantastic. I think “Chewing Gum”, rather than “Heartbeat”, is the perfect pop song. I wasn’t too impressed with “Heartbeat” at first. But wouldn’t you know it, the song got lodged in my head at some point too. The whole album has. Artistically, the album is phenomenal. Listen to the sparkling disco of “Greatest Hit”, or the complexity in the beat structure of “Heartbeat”, or the acid house mid-section in “Come Together”. I defy anyone to name a better pop album to come out in the last ten years.

1. Ladytron – Witching Hour: Hands down, my favorite album of this year. I listened to it non-stop for a week after I bought it. Literally, I listened to nothing else. I already have a blog about the album, but here are some more thoughts. It’s about as perfect of a sound to my ears as modern music could have. Keyboards, beats, guitars, and a female singer. Personally, I like their reliance on Helen Marnie, rather than Mira Aroyo. Marnie’s voice is much more front and center on this album and adds a lot of emotion to the music. Mira Aroyo’s disaffected vocals would get boring through a whole album. Another thing I noticed, listening to the album more, are the lyrics: “If I give you sugar will you give me, something elusive and temporary”, “You put the end in weekend”, and “The traffic won’t know, the traffic is slow and thoughtless” are but three favorites of mine. In my ten “Desert Island Discs”, this would make the cut.

Biggest Surprise: Franz Ferdinand – You Could Have It So Much Better: Never would guess that they were capable of slow songs. Maybe they will have a lasting career.

Biggest Disappointment: Dandy Warhols – Odditorium & blah blah blah: Proof that I am not biased in my opinions. This album really does suck.

Cooler Than Thou: You Say Party! We Say Die! – Hit The Floor: Pretty Girls Make Graves, Le Tigre, and the B52’s wrapped into one. Try and find it.

As Good As They All Said: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – S/T: Sure, I feel like I’m listening to the Talking Heads. Not a bad thing.

Guilty Pleasure: Kasabian – S/T: Sounds so much like The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Oasis, and Primal Scream I should hate it. Yet I love it so and hate myself for it.

October 26, 2005

A look into how I think about and appreciate music.

Are there any albums that you liked more over time because you’d get hooked on some of the songs individually? What I mean is, 10,000 Hz Legend by Air was a disappointment. On my first listens, I was only really into “Radian” and “Don’t Be Light”. But, over time I grew to love “Electronic Performers”. And, now I’m really into “Lucky And Unhappy”. Slowly I’m appreciating the entire album.

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head and when you finally listen to it the song sounds even better than you remembered? I recently had that experience with “Scarecrow” from the recent Beck album. Great song.

Sometimes an album takes the right moment for it to hit me. Bjork’s Vespertine is the key example for me. The first few times I listened to it, I wasn’t all that thrilled. One warm morning I put the CD on. I was completely alone in the house. I had the windows open, and it was quiet and still outside. The music hit me like few pieces have ever. I teared up a lot during it. And, it wasn’t out of sadness. Bjork so clearly found this beautiful love and it was all right there in her music. I was single at the time, and it filled me with hope. Other than Automatic For The People it’s my favorite album.

One of the things I most love about music is that one moment in a great song that makes the song great. Here are but six examples:
–There’s a moment 4:30 minutes into “Yr City’s A Sucker” by LCD Soundystem where James Murphy multitracks a wailing vocal.
–The moment 2:15 minutes into “To Hell With Poverty” by Gang Of Four where the song stops and stutters into staccato notes.
–The part 1:35 minutes into “40 Versions” by Wire where the words “Niagara Falls” sounds more sinister then I ever thought they could.
–The disco break about 2:33 minutes into “Greatest Hit” by Annie, especially the little breathing you can hear Annie doing in the background.
–There’s a part of “The Private Psychedelic Reel” by the Chemical Brothers about 3:35 into it where the song literally swallows itself.
–Clinic getting all Beach Boys on you on “2nd Foot Stomp” about 1:26 minutes in.

August 13, 2005

It surprises and scares, like me, like me

The Juan Maclean album is pretty spectacular. Better than the LCD Soundsystem album, in my opinion. There are a lot of great electronic and dance albums coming out this year. The Royksopp, the Deep Dish, the Annie discs. I’m really pleased. The DFA continue to impress. I cannot wait to hear the Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom album.

There’s a moment in the song “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears at 1:45 where they have this really cool synth chord progression and one of them yells out “YEAH!” with such joy. I love that moment. It’s one of my favorite in all music.

I bought the Antony And The Johnsons album about a week ago. I can’t get past the first song. It’s too affecting. I turn the album off after listening to the first song every time I put the album on.

Is there anything better than driving in warm weather with the windows down and blasting music? Other than sex?

July 20, 2005

What you should be listening to.

Best of 2005 (Jan – Jun)

10. Death In Vegas – Satan’s Circus
9. Queens Of The Stone Age – Lullabys To Paralyze
8. Gorillaz – Demon Days
7. Beck – Guero
6. Out Hud – Let Us Never Speak Of It Again
5. M.I.A. – Arular
4. Martha Wainwright – self titled
3. The Raveonettes – Pretty In Black
2. Annie – Anniemal
1. Sleater-Kinney – The Woods

June 6, 2005

Do you like good music?

Everyone who likes good pop music, good dance music, good music in general, should pick up the Anniemal disc by Annie tomorrow. It’s finally getting a domestic release tomorrow. Naturally, the music nerd that is me bought the import awhile ago. Download “Greatest Hit” or “Chewing Gum” and be seduced.

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