Posts tagged ‘Diplo’

April 9, 2010

M.I.A. is feeling insecure.

So, as you probably know, M.I.A. shit on Lady Gaga in an interview in NME.

“None of her music’s reflective of how weird she wants to be or thinks she is. She models herself on Grace Jones and Madonna, but the music sounds like 20-year-old Ibiza disco, you know?”

She’s not progressive, but she’s a good mimic. She sounds more like me than I fucking do! That’s a talent and she’s got a great team behind her, but she’s the industry’s last stab at making itself important – saying ‘You need our money behind you, the endorsements, the stadiums’.

The singer-songwriter added: “Respect to her, she’s kept a hundred thousand people working, but my belief is you Do It Yourself.”

Lady Gaga’s kind of the big target right now since she’s been so dominant the past two years. To a degree M.I.A. has a point, in my opinion. Lady Gaga, musically, is not breaking any ground. I trashed The Fame because of how derivative it was. But, on The Fame Monster the songwriting is really good. I’m not sure why M.I.A. is worried or gives a shit though. I’m not sure if their audiences mesh that much. While I like Lady Gaga, M.I.A. is by far the more innovative artist musically. Make fun of Lady Gaga’s outfits all you want, she is innovative when it comes to her fashion. And, Lady Gaga has put in the time, playing in N.Y. bars, clubs and competitions before she was famous. (She also strikes me as being batshit before she was famous too.) If M.I.A. wanted to go after someone, she should have gone after Rihanna for completely ripping her off for the “Rude Boy” video.

Diplo called Rihanna out on it on his Twitter, and even made a Rude Boy / Boyz mashup.

Rihanna – Rude Boy (Diplo Rudeboyz remix)

Die Antwoord has a solid case against Rihanna too.

I’m not surprised M.I.A. doesn’t give a fuck about going after someone on her own label (Interscope). M.I.A. is “authentic” enough. Really, I would love to see M.I.A. and Lady Gaga to a collab together. It would be fucking sick.

April 5, 2010

A Major Lazer show looks fucking nuts.

Wish they were coming to Phoenix.

March 25, 2010

Robyn – Fembot

Robyn released a new track streaming on her website. “Fembot” is a bouncy electro dance track with funny lyrics about being a sexy robot. It’s everything you want from her. Instead of “The Girl And The Robot” (Royksopp), she is the robot. “I got a lot of automatic booty applications.” According to an interview with Pitchfork, the album is out in June and Diplo produces a track.

Robyn – Fembot

Royksopp – The Girl And The Robot (with Robyn)

Her website is pretty trippy too.


Tags: , ,
February 17, 2010

Die Antwoord vs Enya – Orinoco Ninja Flow

Die Antwoord is new to me. I discovered this from Diplo’s twitter, which linked me to this website. But, it’s hilarious. “Sail away motherfucker!”

Die Antwoord vs Enya – Orinoco Ninja Flow (Wedding DJ’s remix)

Die Antwoord’s official website
is a bit nuts. Seems Die Antwoord is three? people, two guys and girl from South Africa. Their website is really well designed and interesting. If you click the Secret Chamber link it’ll take you to a nutty interactive “room” where you click around and get freaky images or creepy videos featuring some bald Gollum-like dude. But yeah, you can stream their whole forthcoming album called $O$. It’s legitimately awesome.

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.

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.

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.

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