6.03.2006

Jesus would be a Xiu Xiu fan


Early reports say the album is their best yet.

WEEEEEEEEEEE!!

4.27.2006

dreck and whining

Will someone please, please, God, hit me up with an album released sometime this year that doesn't land me in a pile of my own drool? Honestly, 2005 looks like an exciting year for music compared to what '06 is shaping up to be. Middling rock, flaccid pop, white bread techno, I am so. bored. Much of the critically praised shit I've waded through leads me to believe that people are just looking for something, anything, to praise recently. Band of Horses may very well be this year's Bloc Party for me -- nice enough band that gets way too much attention for near-flawless execution of enormously derivative and mostly unmemorable music. Though I do appreciate Everything All the Time more than that Bloc Party album, I already forget the name, it's nice at best.

The Knife's Silent Shout? Would be groovy enough if the production weren't so damn sterile. It's too bad, because you can hear the urgency of the timbres underneath the matte finish just itching to break out. And if that's what they were going for, well, congrats, I'll put it on next time I want to shake my ass to bed.

I can't say I was surprised when the new Flaming Lips album kinda, um, sucked. Nor can I say I was surprised at the new AFX to be more of the excellent same old same old. But I am incredibly disappointed with The Streets' latest go at it. I mean,
A Grand Don't Come for Free was so spectacular because it turned Mike Skinner's uninteresting, pathetic existence into something epic. (That, and it had "Blinded by the Lights," perhaps the closest musical approximation to getting fucked up I've ever heard.) But The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living is just... uninteresting and pathetic. But what's more, it's irritating as hell. Mike Skinner was once believable in his mundane revelations, now he just sounds coked up and overconfidently underconfident. Don't get me wrong, it's a fun album, but its aims are way too obvious, which makes it all the more aggravating when he misses the targets nearly every time. The verses to "War of the Sexes" are promising, but get utterly crushed by the gratingly awkward chorus; but even that can't beat the oh-shit-I-have-to-come-up-with-another-catch-phrase banality that is "Memento Mori". Weirdly enough, the awfully un-English-sounding "All Goes out the Window" is my favorite track here, strange considering I almost never really care for the slower, more R&B-influenced tracks on rap albums. Yeah, all in all, it looks like the boundary between endearing and annoying was a lot thinner than I thought. Damn.

So come on, other than Neko Case, can ANYONE tell me what needs to be heard from this year so far? I hear new Ghostface is good....

4.17.2006

he poos WHAT?

Finally! Some 2006 albums I feel like gushing over...

Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

I mean, I've known Neko to be "that voice" ever since I bought The New Pornographers' Mass Romantic, but how was I to know she had so much more to offer?? (Don't say Blacklisted, don't say Blacklisted... actually I just missed the boat on that one, oopsie.) I mean, those lyrics! How was I supposed to tell the woman was so subtlely poetic when all I knew was TNP's ever-increasingly irritatingly vague lyrics? Okay, I'll shut up about how unprepared I was to
*heart* this album.

No, I really do love it. This is not your typical Americana/country dig, no no (though her interp of "John Saw That Number" makes me feel like
Nashville is somewhere I would actually want to be for longer than a few days). Instead of the bare-bones, straightforward storytelling one might expect, you get fragmented mythologies and shattered narratives that urge you to explore the strange and bizarre facets to Neko's nuanced and expressive poetry. Single phrases jump out at first, and later transform in meaning when you slowly appreciate the context. Hell, I'm still figuring this shit out. It's engaging, and what's better, it's enormously pleasurable to engage with. The tunes are easy and catchy but never cloying. Oh, and the arrangements! I mean, I ain't know jack about different types of guitars or anything, but the instrumentation is clearly enormously variable and creative; each song's is distinct from the next, alternately conjuring darkness, warmth, and nostalgia. And then there's Neko's voice... fuck it, I'm not going to talk about Neko's voice. Everyone talks about Neko's voice. It's marvelous. The end. The point shouldn't be the voice, because damnit, that's only one element of the greatness that is the whole of this album. Seriously, I will definitely be basking in it all summer.


Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds

Off the bat, I had, like, many reservations about this album. Like, how about the fact that it's called He Poos Clouds. And the artist calls himself Final Fantasy. And the album is described as a song cycle based on the eight spheres of magic in Dungeons & Dragons. Hell, that info alone is enough to make me hate this album. RPG's bug the crap out of me. I never understood the point. Why are you sitting indoors, making up shit about some random character for hours on end, when you can be, oh I don't know, out doing something with yourself? It's called REALITY, people, COME ONNNN.

Emmmm... sorry. I guess I can't fault Owen Pallett (the man behind the goofy name) too much, seeing as that he is out doing something with himself, something pretty impressive at that.
He Poos Clouds is by no means perfect, but it does exude creativity, ingenuity, and a striving for something greater than the whole of the parts -- things that have been sorely lacking in most albums released so far this year. Each track features a string quartet, with the occasional piano or sparse percussion, and Owen's sweet boyish voice. To compare him to Patrick Wolf or Andrew Bird seems sort of lazy, though; while the other two have obvious influences respectively in retro pop and blues & folk, Final Fantasy's material sounds a lot fresher, a sort of classical-pop hybrid that owes a lot more to Beethoven than The Beatles. It's a new sound that's quite unprecedented by anything recently released (thank god... as if we needed more derivative sludge anyway).

Still skeptical about the lyrical content? A song cycle based on D&D? No worries -- I see little here to complain about, and more than that, a lot to praise. He Poos Clouds's thematic material ranges from insecurity to suicide, from homoeroticism to metacriticism, from family to Kara Saun (yes, he mentions Kara Saun! TOTES BONUS POINTS). Mostly, though, the album seems, to me, to be about achieving transcendence within the constraints of our middling mortal lives. I know, I know, long worn-out existential banter, right? Hardly, in this case -- Pallett's words take on eerie shades of social and personal criticism as the narratives become more and more entrenched in one another. And something tells me that it's directed at the type of people who might start an album critique hating on RPG's....

Then again, I'm not sure about that. It's complicated stuff, and frankly it'll be quite the joy to figure out on your own. Do iiiiit.

3.19.2006

no guitars, totes fun

Saw Vitalic last night in Detroit with Laurel, what a fuckin treat. Pascal Arbez is a proper Euro techno DJ through and through, early-30's, bald shaven head, way chill. Well not the music, as expected. Extended versions of "La Rock 01" and "My Friend Dario" easily the highlights, he also spun some stuff which I assume is newer, and was quite good, had a different feel than the OK Cowboy romps, a little harder with some killer bass. Arbez was all smiles for the crowd of about 70-80, I was all sweaty for the crowd of one (Laurel) when we kept dancing until the place closed, having the dance floor pretty much to ourselves after 3. My knees are sore but I feel oh so cleansed.

3.13.2006

well-oiled, that's what you are

some older releases that have been getting my attention lately...

Holopaw - Holopaw
Warbly and beautifully understated indie-country that makes me feel like I'm in Kansas. (I've never been to Kansas.) Smoothing out the transition to spring like a skinny joint on a humid day.



Mylo - Destroy Rock & Roll
Dude, they actually play this stuff on European radio. And it's, like, quality! Ear-candy along the lines of Daft Punk or Kylie sans-vocals. Yep, it's strutting music.



The Dirty Projectors - The Glad Fact
Oddball/heady/pretentious meets crafted/pretty/down-to-earth with this gritty indie amalgam of styles and sounds. A folk-art cantata with a high-art sensibility? Fuck that, Vic, this thing has too much soul.



The National - Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers
The immediate progenitor of the even-better Alligator, most of this album is Grade-A melancholia for your inner alcoholic burnout.

2.17.2006

Top 50 Albums of 2005

Finally.

50. Mount Eerie No Flashlight
49. Tori Amos
The Beekeeper
48. Broken Social Scene
Broken Social Scene
47. Hood
Outside Closer
46. Wolf Parade
Apologies to the Queen Mary
45. Spoon
Gimme Fiction
44. Kanye West
Late Registration
43. Voxtrot
Raised by Wolves EP
42. Madonna
Confessions on a Dance Floor
41. Robyn
Robyn


40. Patrick Wolf
Wind in the Wires
39. Hanne Hukkelberg
Little Things
38. XXL
Ciautistico!
37. Missy Elliott
The Cookbook
36. Melodium
La Tête Qui Flotte
35. Wilco
Kicking Television (Live in Chicago)
34. Lightning Bolt Hypermagic Mountain
33. Deerhoof
Green Cosmos EP
32. Eluvium
Talk Amongst the Trees
31. The Joggers
With a Cape and a Cane


30. Six Organs of Admittance School
of the Flower
29. Andrew Bird
The Mysterious Production of Eggs
28. Art Brut
Bang Bang Rock & Roll
27. Gang Gang Dance
God’s Money
26. The Books
Lost & Safe
25. Alog
Miniatures
24. Akron/Family
Akron/Family
23. My Morning Jacket
Z
22. Emiliana Torrini
Fisherman's Woman
21. Antony & The Johnsons
I Am A Bird Now


20. Death Cab for Cutie Plans

I have little defense for Death Cab against the haters. Accusations of triteness, oversentimentality, unevenness -- all true. So, uh, yeah, no defense. But let me go on the offense and say, probably contentiously, that few songwriters know how to pair a melody with lyrics like Ben Gibbard. Yup, I said it, what you gonna do about it? Deny that the melodies to, say, "Soul Meets Body" or "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" are almost intractably perfect? Yeah, I didn't think so.


19. The New Pornographers Twin Cinema

So, uh, what's with the lyrics here? Anybody know? I'm not sure what to make of "So heads down, thumbs up/Four beats from soft and get set to exercise your right/Use it tonight" or "The perception, it is wrong, mile after mile/The phantom taste drinking wine from your heels." I'm not sure I want to, either. Frankly, I think the wham-bam yay-hooray power pop is much better suited to the one-line epiphanies of Mass Romantic or the ecstatic "hey la, hey la" jam at the end of "The Bleeding Heart Show." For this reason, I'm not putting Twin Cinema as high as other fans might; the lyrics seem too often arbitarily ambiguous to qualify it as truly great. I still like their debut better. But lyrics aside, the music really is power pop perfection. Catchy but harmonically unpredictable, rhythmic hiccups, sugar pop riffs, and the best drumming this side of splenda make this album a pop affecionado's dream.


18. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!

"You will pay for your excessive charm." Indeed, CYHSY! You shall be damned for your accessible bubblegum riffs! Your ridiculously mature instrumental arrangements and pristine production are to be punished! Overhype backlash will cast you into the nether regions where only anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-hipsters reside! For only in these regions does everyone sing like you sing, and it is only appropriate that you should be subjected to this funny, nihilistic, non-self-conscious voice that you (and Pitchfork, those bastards) have forced upon us all...


17. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra... - Horses in the Sky

People seem to be getting weary of political albums these days, and this is perhaps the only explanation I can come up with for the widespread overlooking of this album as one of the best this year. Sounding something like a mix of Godspeed You Black Emperor, Leonard Cohen, and Neutral Milk Hotel, Horses in the Sky is a post-rock masterpiece loaded with melancholy, grit, anger, and a little bit of blind faith about the imminent apocalypse. Some may be turned off by the whole played-out "rock symphony" thing, but it can't be denied that Silver Mt. Zion pulls it off here with gripping resignation.


16. Grizzly Bear Horn of Plenty (+ The Remixes)

Horn of Plenty is an odd specimen. Distant acoustic guitar, clattering percussive noise, reverb-soaked vocals and dreamy floating “ohs” and “ahs” quietly combine to effectually simulate what it must feel like to be suspended in a clear vat of viscous green jelly while your blurry friends and lovers talk to each other about you on the other side of the glass. As the album progresses, the atmospherics slowly build a muddy haze somewhere between your ears, producing the musical equivalent of mental novocaine. Yeah, it’s pretty cool – and it demonstrates an enormous amount of potential for the future of this new band.


15. Okkervil River Black Sheep Boy

I've heard this described as "alt-country emo" on more than one year-end list, each of which basically goes on to apologize for the "emo" half. Not sure if that's necessary, because first of all, I hear little strictly emo influence on this album. Folk-tinged rock that explores myths and longings of hope, frustration, infatuation, and alienation through choked and wonderfully cohesive lyrics, yes. Chris Carraba, no. Whatever. Screw the comparisons; the oh-so-RAWK ups and downs of this album are alone enough to sustain it, the fine-tuned fairy tales and failure and misfortune are what make Black Sheep Boy great.


14. M.I.A. Arular

Indelibly weird yet undeniably stylish, this album is probably hip-hop's biggest breath of fresh air in several years (and that includes Kanye and Dizzee). Arular grates at times -- the timbres of the synths and M.I.A.'s double-panned nasal voice can be a lot much -- and hell, it even sucks occasionally (all I have to say is "Amazon"), but it's worthy of the hype and praise, especially considering booty jams -- nay, booty STATEMENTS -- like "Sunshowers," "10$," and "Galang".


13. Björk Drawing Restraint 9

Björk, Björk, Björk... will you ever cease to challenge your listeners? Will you ever spoonfeed us what we want to hear, how we want to hear it? Will you ever forget about dissonant cluster brass choruses and extraterrestrial pearl drops? No? Good, I was hoping not. Drawing Restraint 9 is the most difficult listen of any of Björk's releases (including Medúlla), especially considering it's mostly instrumental, but it's also one of the most forcefully forward-thinking avant-pop/classical hybrids I've ever heard. I would hardly agree with the faux-Björkism that "Everything is music!" but this is further proof that, for Björk, music is everything.


12. Venetian Snares Rossz Csillag Allat Született

One of my favorite album moments from this year is the alternately goofy and vastly bleak, tense intro to "Masodik Galamb." A woman wonders aloud, "Why am I frightened so easily? Pigeon, why can you scare me? Am I not part of your life anymore? Am I not welcome anymore?" Strings plead, the silences pull taut. And then Aaron lays down the Funk. Rossz is by no means perfect -- far from it, in fact -- but there are enough OMG!-moments such as this (or the entirety of "Hajnal") that keeps me coming back to the classical string samples, relentless drill and bass, and harsh realities of this doom-laden thwap! in the skull.


11. M83 Before the Dawn Heals Us

Tongue-in-cheek bombast, check. Imperfect, check. Takes itself too seriously (i.e. just seriously enough), check. Uncompromising, check. Turning days into nights and nights into stars, check. Wide-eyed splendor, check. WOW!, check. Sparkle candy, check. Sonic color washes, check. Bursts of light in midnight dark, check. Film soundtrack drama, check. Leather jacket and motorcycle, check. Fuzz killers, check. Spazz!, check. Synths, guitars, drums, but mostly all human, check. Engorging the atmosphere with juicy possibility, check.


10. Iron & Wine Woman King EP

What can one ever say about Iron & Wine? "Sam Beam is an ill fucking songster," "he matures so much with every record," "he just keeps topping himself," "how doesn't the man ever release anything bad?," etc. The moving Woman King EP is a humble, simple folk-pop homage to the more worshipped and complex gender. Almost every song on here is as good or better than the best on Our Endless Numbered Days. Sam Beam, you are astonishing (i.e. ridiculous), you know that?


9. Animal Collective Feels

Wow, yeah, I really did hate Animal Collective for a while there. What the hell did they think they were doing, yelping and beating and stuttering and droning their way into indie kids' hearts, oh how pointlessly pretentious! how blatantly irritating! annoying! boring! unfulfilling! the whole shtick seemed. Then I heard the stunning "The Purple Bottle" - "Bees" - "Banshee Beat" trifecta of Feels. Umm, holy shit... these guys are genuinely having fun! A lot of fun, and it is a trip-and-a-half. It is goofy. It is smart. It is, for lack of more exacting words, fucking cool. Just listen to the chorus of "Bees," the cascading zither and the fairy tale falsetto choir and shimmer drops and the bees the bees the bees the bees rrrwwrrwwrrrwrrrrwwwrrr. How fucking hip are these guys to make such a sweet enchanted pastel psychedelic cloud easter egg giggle ripple glitter marshmallow Valentine's Day card? With rabbits! And gumdrops!!


8. Vitalic OK Cowboy

Let me just put aside the fact that the centerpiece of this album, "La Rock 01," is probably one of the most fantastic dance floor highs of, well, EVER – a thumping neon injection of strobe-light adrenaline and sweat which will send you into utter Dionysian ecstacy.... Yeah, even aside from THAT, OK Cowboy is probably one of the most consistently impressive techno albums I've ever heard. Of course, it's at its best with the electrotrash schadenfreude stiletto-stomp of “My Friend Dario,” or the mechanical bull get-down grinds of "Poney" (both parts!) and "Newman," but the spacey Air-like interludes such as "The Past" and "Trahison" make even those cigarette-stained walks between the bull and the neon-lit bar worth paying attention to.


7. Sufjan Stevens Illinois

I will probably never say that any Sufjan album, existing or in the future, is better than Greetings from Michigan. I have a ridiculously romantic attachment to both Sufjan himself and that sprawling but fragile diary of his. By the way, why does no one talk about how hott Sufjan is anymore? Is his music really that good to forget that he is the cutest thing hipsters have had to worship since Karen O? And why do people magically disregard Enjoy Your Rabbit as though it never happened? Sorry for the digressions, but really there isn't anything left to say about Illinois. Carefully crafted orchestrations, profoundly touching narratives, "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." and "Casmir Pulaski Day" and "Palisades of Wasps," etc etc etc... it made me seriously consider giving up Michigan as Sufjan's #1. Didn't happen. But I considered.


6. Deerhoof The Runners Four

Before The Runners Four, Deerhoof was one of the foremost anti-rock rock bands of the decade (see: "Dog on the Sidewalk," "Come See the Duck!" BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM). With The Runners Four, Deerhoof becomes the foremost, and perhaps only, anti-anti-rock band of the decade. (Does this make it a rock band then? sort of. I think.) Watch "The Four" clean up, watch Greg and Satomi play "nice," watch them lay down 20 (twenty?!) songs, watch some fans shrug and walk away. Watch music academicians and rock geeks go nuts. The quirky meter shifts! The harmonic puns! The goofy riffs! The cleverness! The elegance and the irony! The simplicity and the unpredictability! The depth and the shallowness! The double-meaning and non-meaning! The sincerity and the parody! I'll say it now: The Runners Four is indeed the most remarkable postmodern musical statement of the new century so far. Whether or not all of these songs really stick (many do, several don't) is beside the point: this is some important shit. This album will be analyzed and interpreted for years to come, and with good reason. It's indie rock's weird Library of Babel.


5. Xiu Xiu La Forêt

Haunted house. Doll house. Children laughing. Baby screaming. Shhhhh. Quiet. Screech, shout. Baby vomit. Bloody vomit. Don't cry. Blood is fun. Baby drink blood. Baby laugh! Yeah, it's really hard for me to describe why I like Xiu Xiu's La Forêt. Maybe because it's so uncompromisingly terrifying and miserable that it's actually kind of twistedly funny. Maybe because it juggles different approaches to the music so deftly, switching from bouncy horror-pop to breathing noise experiments with astounding believability. Or maybe it's just because Jamie Stewart actually gets away with that hilarious/sickening/disturbing retch halfway through “Yellow Raspberry.”

(Or maybe it’s just because Xiu Xiu is fucking awesome.)


4. Roisin Murphy Ruby Blue

First things first: Producer of the Year award, right here folks. Matthew Herbert. Like, wow. There are no words. But let me try: this is what groovy, I mean really groovy pop should sound like. Energetic melodic lines that get better with each repetition. Exciting and varied textures that use strange and enticing noises for percussion. Uncanny melding of acoustic and electric backgrounds that doesn’t sound chintzy in the least. Masterful and unforced appropriating and criss-crossing of disparate musical styles such as jazz, R&B, rock, cabaret, and hip-hop. And one hell of a diva to back it all up. I will best remember the music of early-mid 2005 for the great amount of strong, solid, mature pop music put out, and if there’s any musical signpost that I will remember that time for, it is this sexy and slinky treat of an album.


3. Sigur Ros Takk

Sigur Ros took the "post-" out of their usual "post-rock" this past year. Some were dismayed by the result, but I think it’s resulted in their most focused and mature release yet. They create and sustain tension and release like gangbusters here, making for Glorious-with-a-capital-G moments at least once (usually more) every song. e.g.: "Hoppípola" and "Glosoli" are the almost continuously euphoric, "Saeglopur" (Sigur Ros's first "pop" song -- and yes, it really is amazing) brilliantly builds up one of the most intense music-gasms of the decade, and the end of "Andvari" is the most achingly, almost painfully beautiful post-coital cigarette I’ve heard. Who needs ecstacy when you have Sigur Ros?

After all, this album is, essentially, all about beautiful moments. Sustained, genuine, welcoming, Takk is a smiling face, a loved one. The title means "Thanks" in Icelandic, and the more I listen to it, the more I realize how true the title is to the spirit of the music. For once, Jonsi and the boys don't ask all that much of their listeners, they just want us to sit back and take in all the beauty they have to offer. Takk is proof that Sigur Ros have more beautiful moments than they know what to do with – and it feels so. fucking. good. Thank YOU, Sigur Ros.


2. Fiona Apple Extraordinary Machine

To get out of the way my feelings on the whole producer fiasco surrounding this thing, I’ma turn it over to a much better writer than myself, Matt Perpetua of www.fluxblog.org, because he basically says it all right here:

“It's so unfortunate that the critical reaction to Extraordinary Machine ended up getting so badly muddled by a debate over the relative merits of the Jon Brion and Mike Elizondo versions. I maintain that the final product is better by far, but in any case, the basic quality of these songs remains the same, and the best record of 2005 ends up getting screwed over by vote-splitting. I'm sure that in the future, this album will earn the reputation that it deserves, but it absolutely vexes me to see it get passed over by many of my peers in favor of flimsy hackwork in the meantime. I suspect part of it is due to Apple's subject matter. Writing brilliantly on the topic of love is hardly a fashionable thing….”

Word. So enough about that. Extraordinary Machine is easily one of the very best of 2005. Hell, it's one of the best singer-songwriter albums released this decade so far. It's proof that the piano is not tired out as a pop instrument, and that it does not have to be reduced to Rufus-isms to stay palatable. It also has the rare quality of being classically informed music-wise without turning out cliché or campy.

And then there's the lyrics, of which I can't even begin to describe how wonderful (and underrated) they are. The parallels to Tori's best 90's material are sort of amazing.
The fearlessness of putting out there delicious similes and metaphors that, while occasionally coming off cringe-worthy, much more often are indelibly precise, each a fingernail to the jugular. See the duality of being both incredibly aggressive and even more fragile because of it. The ability to articulate just what it feels like to be vulnerable, angry, and downright wronged by people (see: men) and circumstances surrounding them. And as Matt pointed out, how great is it that almost every song on the album is about (or rather, "not about") love? Especially when love is such a plus en vogue topic in the reactionary (see: scared of emo) world of popular music, which these days seems far more enamored with sex and personal or political alienation than with, you know, actual enamorment. So, take my word: This album is poised, fearless, and for the first time in Fiona’s career, bites as much as it barks.


1. The National Alligator

In case you can’t tell by now, I am, at heart, an indie rock man. (I will pause for the groans to subside). Now, great indie rock has a funny way of getting under your skin. Like Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights or The Wrens’ The Meadowlands, you can listen to it from a distance, poking around at the obvious musical influences and nodding along to the youthful (even if somewhat unoriginal) grooves, all the while both appreciating and chuckling at the lyrics: how sad and twisted and twenty-four! Still, you can sympathize, you’ve been there, sure. And maybe you’ll listen to it again and it will ring a little closer to home this time, and the intrigue will keep you going, even if the music still bores you. And then – and then – there comes that one-liner that sticks to the center of your sternum. You don’t even know how it got there in the first place, but it won’t go away. And you’ll listen to the rest of the banalities, and they too will stick, and the melodies inevitably shake you to your core, they resonate throughout your past and present existence hundred-fold, and best of all you know that it equally resonates with the past of this other earnest person offering you all they can muster.

“I’m a birthday candle in a circle of black girls”
“I have weird memories of you”
“You were right about the end, it didn't make a difference”
“We’re the heirs to this glimmering world”
“Break my arms around the one I love”
“All the most important people in New York are nineteen”
“I’ll put on an argyle sweater and put on a smile”
“Didn't anybody tell you how to gracefully disappear in a room?”

Of course, all this probably doesn’t say much to the person who hasn’t listened to Alligator. They won’t have heard Matthew Berninger’s deceptively and masterfully nuanced vocal delivery, nor his captivating sad clown baritone drawl. They also won’t have heard the propelling (and nearly perfect) rhythm section. Or the Cure-like underdog anthems and country-tinged bedroom ballads. Or the poeticism of twentysomethingness, dusty apartments, insecure late-afternoons, crowded bars and belligerent drunken caprices. I know, I know, it all sounds sort of trite on paper, but doesn’t all great indie rock?

2.08.2006

vital

click on "My Friend Dario"

'Cause though the Poney video is great, rarely has video matched my mental preconception of a song so perfectly as "My Friend Dario." This song is so fucking purple.

Top 50 of 2005 coming eventually, I swear.

1.09.2006

why did you listen to that man

Whoa, it's been a while, so I don't really expect anyone to be reading this. But I do expect to get back into the swing of things soon enough with my top albums of 2005. There's 50. There are blurbs. These things take a while.

It's especially hard when others' top of 05 lists get you listening to the wonderful likes of The National's Alligator and Gang Gang Dance's God's Money, and then you don't know what to do with them because you haven't given them the proper chance to stew and and settle into a proper place on the list, but DAMNIT these are some deserving albums!! So, stewing. I think I can have a list up by next week.

Whatevs, anyone reading this has probably also read my given-away list topper on my LJ (link to the right).

All I have to say is please please please -- no more melodies.

listening: "Mr. November" - The National

12.17.2005

Best Songs of 2005 (take two)

1. "Hide and Seek" - Imogen Heap
2. "Since U Been Gone" - Kelly Clarkson
3. "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." - Sufjan Stevens
4. "Hoppípola" - Sigur Ros
5. "Tymps (Sick in the Head)" - Fiona Apple
6. "Leaving the City" - Roisin Murphy
7. "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" - Death Cab for Cutie
8. "Jezebel" - Iron & Wine
9. "La Rock 01" - Vitalic
10. "10$" - M.I.A.

11. "I'll Believe in Anything" - Wolf Parade
12. "Hollaback Girl" - Gwen Stefani
13. "The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth" - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!
14. "Sing Me Spanish Techno" - The New Pornographers
15. "Shake It Off" - Mariah Carey
16. "Storm" - Bjork
17. "Hajnal" - Venetian Snares
18. "Get Together" - Madonna
19. "Lose Control" - Missy Elliott
20. "Bog People" - Xiu Xiu

11.08.2005

children talking

APHEX TWIN. Aphex Twin. Aphex Twin. Aphex Aphex Aphex Twin. Aphexaphexa twin. Twin aphex twin APHEX twin aphex twin!

Everything I could say right now about Aphex Twin has already been said (except for as described above. totally original, I swear). But there's so much to say about Aphex Twin that hasn't been said. I simply couldn't say any more than anyone else can. Really, I can't come close to expressing about Aphex what I know exists deep inside his twisted barrages of sound, smacks and pops and strings of song.

Which is probably why there is so much that hasn't been said about Aphex in critical musical lit... because it's nearly impossible to verbalize the intricacies of shape and density and timbre in even ten seconds of his wildly beautiful sonic architecture, not to mention the wide array of images conjured and emotions felt and visceral impulses that it imbues in you. Do I talk about how the melodic rhythm counterpoints so vibrantly and unexpectedly with the ocean of polyrhythms swimming underneath? Or how it just makes you want to DANCE DANCE MOTHERFUCKER DANCE SHATTER YOUR TORSO ON THE NEAREST WALL SHAKE CRUMBLE BURST?

Either way, writing about it doesn't come close to experiencing it. I mean, you could say that about most music, but the descriptive/experiential gap with Aphex's music is like a fucking canyon. My comfort in not being able to convey this is based on one fact which I am 100% sure of, and it is that my Aphexian reverence will be vindicated when the efforts of Richard D. James will be considered alongside the likes of Steve Reich and John Cage. There are my words. Mark em.

Hooray for the Hangable Auto Bulb release! It is glorious, as expected. Now they just need to get the Analord series on CD.

11.05.2005

what will i learn

Late fall, and I'm finally getting in the mood to listen to Grizzly Bear's Horn of Plenty and Hood's Outside Closer. They both remind me of The Notwist, which I have been growing nostagic for lately, so it only makes sense.

Speaking of which, I am growing nostalgic for my great albums of the past. I don't know about you, but it seems to me that 2005 was filled with an abundance of really solid albums, but few truly AMAZING albums. And I've been missing that experience. So, many returns to Grace and Greetings from Michigan and such.

Notwithstanding, I've been randomly observing this exceptional 2005 album(s?): Extraordinary Machine by Fiona Snapple is a great great great classic pop album for the traditional types. That is to say, it's heavy on the substance and fairly skimpy on the style (sort of vice-versa the popular/indie-approved "good music" these days).

I've found I like the Elizondo and Brion versions equally. It's quite simple to me, really... Elizondo produced the summer version, Brion the winter version. Each album caters to a different mood and atmosphere. Elizondo's is more flighty & wistful, pop-tastic, and structurally tight (unfortunately, it's also frequently tactless and emotionally distant). Brion's is more dramatic, tense, and thoughtful (but often overcontrolled, lacking a pop sensibility, and misses the forest for the trees). What to do? How to make up for the stylistic lamenesses?

Mix & match, y'all! I like the Elizondo tracklisting better...
1. Extraordinary Machine (Brion)
2. Get Him Back (Elizondo)
3. O' Sailor (E)
4. Better Version of Me (B)
5. Tymps (E)
6. Parting Gift (E, obv)
7. Window (B)
8. Oh Well (E)
9. Please Please Please (B)
10. Red Red Red (E)
11. Not About Love (E)
12. Waltz (B)
bonus:
13. Oh, Sailor (B)
14. Oh Well (B)

I had to include both versions of "O Sailor" and "Oh Well" because they are both incredible in their respective ways. Also love the Elizondo "Window" and the Brion "Get Him Back," but you win some you lose some, I guess....

10.25.2005

Kid A+

Just some thoughts on a little big album released just around this time five years ago...

It seems like anyone who really knows Kid A can tell you how revolutionary it was in the rock world (not an exaggeration -- Radiohead might not have done anything too different from say, Can, but this time EVERYONE noticed), or how it either destroyed all their love for Radiohead or multiplied it exponentially, or how "Everything in Its Right Place" never fails to put you in a twitchy state of complacent paranoia.

What amazes me most about this album is how Radiohead managed to take a baseball bat to song structure, barely mumble some already very obtuse lyrics, experiment with otherworldly electronic noise, and STILL make what is essentially a fantastic rock album. "National Anthem" both bludgeons you with cacophony and pulls you into an irresistible groove, "Idioteque" is moshing disco for the bloodthirsty, and "Motion Picture Soundtrack" has Thom crooning a yearning, sing-you-to-sleep love song (even though it sounds like it's being sung to HAL or something). For every off-pitch tinkle in "Kid A" and anasthetic drone in "Treefingers," there is a catchy power-riff in "Optimistic" and grooving bodily sway to "Morning Bell."

Radiohead managed to stay, essentially, still Radiohead. And though the drasticness of the change caused them to lose a chunk of their fanbase, it didn't affect their record sales in the slightest. Many more picked up on the genius that was Kid A, and its follow-up, Amnesiac, sold even more in its debut week.

Kid A is my favorite Radiohead release. It is also one of the best albums of the decade so far, and even one of my favorite albums of all-time; if anything because it is so incredibly communicative -- even while remaining so incredibly mysterious. There is more to this record than the bevy of musical ideas Thom and his buddies think up.

Most fascinatingly to me, there is a bewildering impersonal warmth to it. As much as Thom Yorke insisted on being Mr. Doomsday at the time of its release, one can't help but feel a sense of an incredibly childlike hope deep, deep inside of this album. Whether this hope is more bitterly sarcastic than genuine is certainly debatable, and clearly the album is laden with premonitions of the apocalypse. On the surface, it seems that the sparkling electronic bubbling that finishes the album is the ultimate sarcastic moment that seals the deal for humanity as Radiohead knows it. But after repeated listens, I can't quite settle with this simplistic view of the record. And I can't pinpoint why not, either. Maybe it's the yearning of the strings in "How to Disappear Completely," or the ethereal, motherlike comfort of "Treefingers," or the way Thom's voice trembles in "Motion Picture Soundtrack." But the album as a whole glows with something unmistakably human, as though it were pregnant with a real flesh-and-blood Kid B.

Hmmm, potential 2006 release? I like it.

listening: "In Limbo" - Radiohead

10.22.2005

cracked out

XIU XIU blows my fucking mind. I've never seen or heard them live, but they are masters of the studio. Their instrumental arrangements are unlike anything, ever. The music and lyrics just drill into that yellow festering pus boil in some shadowy nook in your brain. It makes you tweak a little, maybe your stomach churns or maybe your face goes numb. You go cross-eyed and don't notice that you're drooling. And then Jamie Stewart lays his head on your barely-moving chest and just when you think he's going to fall asleep, he bites it. But lovingly.

I've recently noticed that I find myself drawn, for whatever reason, to performers with eccentric and histrionic musical personalities. I hold Xiu Xiu, Tori, The Microphones, and Bjork all in very high regard, and they all involve careening belligerently in the face of performing convention, especially when it comes to singing.

It's strange, because that is rarely the aspect of the music I like the most about them (except when it comes to Tori, who would be sort of boring if she didn't pant into the microphone). Jamie Stewart's melodramatics are both ridiculous and endearing. Phil Elvrum's voice just sucks, it just so happens to work in most of his sound experiments because it's so weird. And Bjork is Bjork, you know how that goes.

So what's up with the weirdos? Am I empathic, perhaps? Maybe. If I were a musical artist, I would probably croak into the microphone a few times, then sing with a heavy lisp for a while before I bust out some death-metal Slayer shit to cap the song. Yeah, that would be sweet.

listening: "Oh Lately It's So Quiet" - OK Go

10.19.2005

SUP BITCHES




This is what I was talking about the other week. Weird, huh? Yeah, not really when you think about it.

Dudes, everything else I thought I knew about Madonna has blown up before my eyes. Upon reading Z's LJ post that is. My world done turned upside down.

listening: "Spotlight (Aphex Twin mix)" - Wagon Christ

10.15.2005

at least it's not "american life"

It's sort of disappointing that Madonna chose to take the easy - I mean, REALLY easy - way out of her pop music rut. She went with what was safe, which I guess isn't that bad of a thing, except what's safe for Madonna is pretty boring.

"Hung Up," her new single, was leaked the other day. It loops an ABBA single, puts a dance beat behind it, and has Maddy singing some of her worst lyrics since... ever. The melody is junk. The production is okay; nothing to write home about.
I'm sure there will be some amazing remixes in the future, but couldn't she have churned out a better single cut? It won't set any trends, all it does is follow them. Fuck, this could have been on Erotica and we would be none the wiser. I mean, come on. This is fluff. It's dull. It's derivative.

But it's still Madonna. SO it's going on repeat all afternoon!

listening: "time goes by... so slowly" (repeat ad nauseum)