Dec 302008

Blogger Holiday

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Hey folks, I’m skipping this weeks column, and will instead try to post a few smaller things over the next week.  To make up for that, here’s a mind-blowingly awesome music video that I was reminded of while talking to my good friend Ann at work today:

Hooray for the Animaniacs!  (Why yes I’m a child of the 90s, why do you ask?)

Dec 262008

Okay, okay, so I promise I won’t make a habit of sharing random memes or anything, but I saw this and it was too awesome not to repost:

Source: I Can Haz
Dec 252008

Merry Christmas

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Both from myself and from the inimitable duo of David Bowie and Bing Crosby.

Dec 232008

This list was even harder to come up with than the best albums.  (Speaking of which, I’m still kicking myself for one ommission from that list: Day & Age by the Killers.  It’s brilliant and definitely deserves to be on that list.  But thems the breaks when you try to break an AMAZING year in music down to 5 albums and 5 singles.)

At any rate, I’ve been agonizing over this for the past few days, so it’s time to just rip the bandaid off and get it over with.  So here they are, the best singles of 2008:

5.)  The Last of the Shadow Puppets, “The Age of the Understatement”:

4.)  The Killers, “Spaceman”

3.)  Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, “Magick”:

2.)  Sigur Rós, “Gobbledigook” (video is NSFW):

1.)  The Cure, “The Only One”:

The Cure – The Only One – The Cure

Dec 192008

Five Song Titles That Would Be Creepy To Find in a Fortune Cookie

“Your Body Is a Wonderland”

“Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying”

“The Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage”

“I Will Possess Your Heart”

“You’re Having My Baby”

Dec 172008

Best Albums of 2008

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Well, it’s that time of the year folks.  Snow is on the ground and lists are in the air.  And not one to miss out on a good excuse for a list, this week’s Tuesday Playlist will be usurped instead by my picks for best album of the year.  Two notes before we begin, though:

1.) So I take it from the resounding silence on Friday that no one who reads this blog is interested in playing the Friday Five Quiz Game.   (Save for Ann.  Thanks, Ann!)  I dig.  If anyone’s still curious, the answer was that all the bands had had a member die while the band was active.

2.) As my friend Mike reminded me, the new album by Jubilee is supposed to be out sometime before the end of the year.  Now that I’ve been reminded of that, I do remember reading that somewhere, but now I can’t find any info on a hard release date.

So with those notes out of the way, on to the list.  There was some pretty stiff competition this year, and a lot of records that would have been clear choices other years just didn’t quite make the cut.  Below are my choices for the best albums of 2008.  As always, feel free to tell me in the comments just how wrong I am.

Fifty-Two Tuesday’s Best Albums of 2008

5.) Yael Naim, Yael Naïm

With a history-making single, “New Soul”, and an album to match, Israeli pop songstress Yael Naïm exploded onto the American scene earlier this year.  The album is a trilingual pop masterpiece that makes me sincerely hope that we’ll be hearing more from Ms. Naïm in the future.  If for no other reason than I’d love to have a few more catchy Pop singles like the bopping, upbeat “New Soul”.  Seriously, go listen to it a few times.  That is what a pop single is meant to be.

4.) The Shondes, The Red Sea

For as much as I’ve squeed about this album the past year, you’d think this was my number one album of all time at all, ever.  Really, it’s just a damn fine album of solid rock music that’s novel and interesting besides.  What makes it even more amazing is that it’s a self-released album by a comparatively obscure bunch of rock mavens.  I honestly think that it’s not only one of the best albums of the year, but also one of the most important.  The Shondes are playing with genre, message, and composition in ways that other bands lately just aren’t.

3.) The Cure, 4:13 Dream

Simply put, this album was a tidy, well-produced encapsulation of everything I’ve ever liked about the Cure.  Slick, guitar-driven New Wave, heavy with quippy little hooks and dark, dream-like lyrics.  Well-crafted songs, clean production, and Robert Smith and company in top form.  What more can one ask for, really?

2.) Portishead, Third

Normally when we say that a band’s new album was “worth the wait”, we’re not talking about a wait of a decade.  That is, of course, unless we’re talking about Portishead’s highly anticipated third album, the aptly named, Third.  This album is not only the best that this year in Synth Pop had to offer, it’s good enough that it may well set the bar for the genre for a few years to come.  Rumor has it Portishead are already hard at work on the next album (working title: Fourth ?), so our grandchildren will have that to look forward to.

1.) Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

On the surface, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ fourteenth studio album is full of exactly the sort of crunchy, noisy, dark rock that we’ve come to expect from them after all these years.  But dig deeper (no pun intended) and there’s also some pretty clever images and some pretty powerful recurrent themes.   It displays the sort of deep symbolism and insightful commentary that common opinion tells us doesn’t exist in modern music.  It marries form and substance into a package which, aside from being great rock music, is excellent art.

Video: The music video for the title track off of Nick Cave
and the Bad Seeds' Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!.

Honorable Mentions:

Chris Walla, Field Manual

Okay, so apparently I was the only person in the world who liked this album?  I thought it was both well-conceived and well-executed, but other reviewers seem to be sort of tepid at best about it.  Admittedly it hasn’t grown on me much, but I thought it had a lot of good tracks and really wanted only for cohesion.  I mean, hell, it deserves a spot on this list if only for the fact that it contains some of the first politically-oriented music I’ve heard in ages that didn’t make me want to reach through my stereo and punch whoever was singing it.

The Raconteurs, Consolers of the Lonely

If anyone ever asks me to defend my assertion that The Raconteurs are one of the best narrative bands in modern music, (second, I think, only to Nick Cave) I’ll point them to two songs: “The Switch and the Spur” and “Carolina Drama”.  Admittedly, the former isn’t really a coherent story so much as a brilliantly drawn-out snapshot scene from one, but they’re both exactly the sort of evocative, rocking tunes that make the band both great musicians and great storytellers.  To be honest, I kind of hope that they’re next album is a rock opera.  Yeah, you heard me.  I said that I’d welcome news a Raconteurs rock opera.  So there.

Dec 152008

…I’m seriously just going to say “fuck it” and redirect this blog to Bob Lefsetz’.  I keep meaning to link to a few of his articles, but he puts up awesome ones pretty much at the rate of one per day.  If you’re interested in the music industry and where it’s going, you really need to be reading his stuff.

But here’s an idea that’s really interesting to me: Season concert passes.  (I know, that’s not QUITE the point of the post, but I found it a fascinating idea.)  If the Gorge sold them, I’d buy one.  As it is, I’m almost as turned off by the hassle of having to fight for tickets or buy them off auction sites as I am by the price.  If I could by one ticket in March for every show I wanted to see between then and October, I’d be willing to pay pretty handsomely for it.

What do you folks think: could venues have a successful season ticket business?  I imagine it’d depend on the venue; are there any venues for which you, personally, would by a season pass?

Dec 122008

Friday Five

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I think we’re going to try something a little different this week.  Here are five bands that have something in common.  What is it?

Alice in Chains


Joy Division


Lynyrd Skynyrd

Dec 092008

Intro: Hey, did you hear the one about the deaf trombone player?  .  .  .   Yeah, neither has he.

Listening: Well, I finally managed to break, at least temporarily, my Silversun Pickups addiction.  It required a potent cocktail of the new Killers album, the latest Luomo album, and several listens through The Shondes’ The Red Sea.

Now I talked about the Killers album last week, and it’s just grown on me since.  But the surprise find of the week was this band Luomo.  Maybe it’s just me, but until I ran across a tweet on Jeph Jacques’ twitter feed about their album Convivial.  He mentioned that it’s a blend of good modern techno and vocal house, both things of which I am a fan, so I figure I’d give it a try.  I liked the samples I found online, so I grabbed a copy over at Amazon.  And, well, Jeph’s description is apt: the album blends the bend of light, chirpy techno with classic-sounding, vocalled trance tunes.  I’m especially a fan of the track “Love You All” which features legato vocals over a busy, syncopated beat and makes great use of breaks.

Another tune I’m particularly fond of is “Slow Dying Places”, which starts of with a laid-back, bass-centric sound that wouldn’t be out of place on an old Thievery Corporation album.  It slowly builds, adding faster and more percussive layers, until it’s morphed into a great upper-mid-tempo dance track.  The production and crafting on this tune are particularly masterful.  A lot of layers very different layers all blend together to make a tune that’s as intricate as it is energetic.

The whole album is full of well-crafted trance tunes and is well worth a listen for any fan of trance, techno, or other forms of electronic dance music.

I also recently got around to putting The Red Sea back in my car CD player.  I know I’ve squeed about this album at length in this space, but seriously: if you don’t have a copy, by all means GET ONE.  Easily one of the best rock albums of the year.  (Which is kind of impressive, since it came out the second week of January.)

Upcoming: Wow, yeah, I gotta be honest folks, there’s nothing between now and the end of the year that I’m really all that excited about.  I think everything that might be interesting got a mention last week.  I mean, hell, word has it that even the new Busta Rhymes album is being delayed until after New Years.

Please tell me I’m missing something?  There has to be something good coming out this month.

Thinking: Okay, so I finally got an .mp3 player for my recent trip to DC (I know, I know, I’m the last person on the planet to have one.)  And I knew that once I finally got around to getting one, I’d definitely make good use of it.  But I never realized just how much use it would see.  It goes to work with me every day, and when I’m not listening to it at work, it’s in my bag right next to whatever book I’ve chucked in there for reading material.  And I wind up listening to it a lot.

Which makes me REALLY regret getting the cheapo, $30 2GB, off-brand player.  (Which, by the way, has a shitty little speaker in it.  Which is turned on by default.  That, plus nice headphones, meant that I annoyed the shit out of everyone in earshot the first time I turned it on, because the crappy little speaker was blaring away and I couldn’t tell, because it was playing through my headphones as well.  That wouldn’t have been so embarrassing, but the first time I turned it on was on a crowded airplane.  Thanks, Onyx, your .mp3 player won me the “Douchiest Passenger on the Plane” award!)

So basically, now that I’ve got an .mp3 player, I need a new .mp3 player.  Any suggestions on what to get?  Should I just forget comparison shopping and get an iPod, or are their better deals out there?  I don’t need a huge amount of space, nor does it have to be tiny.  (In fact, large would be preferable.  I have big Polish ditch-diggin’ hands, so a bigger interface wouldn’t be a bad thing.)  Also, I’m clumsy, so if they make ruggedized .mp3 players, that might be a good place for me to start looking.

Well lazyweb?  What’s the right .mp3 player for me?

News: Okay, so the big news of course is that Coldplay are dirty, filthy plagiarists, according to Joe Satriani.  Of course, according to Coldplay, they’re not at all.  It’s looking increasingly like the courts will get to decide.

Here’s Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida”:

And here’s Satriani’s “If I Could Fly”:

Personally?  It kind of sounds like Coldplay should have called their track “Viva La Vida (Joe Satriani Cover w/ Lyrics and None of the Bitchin’ Solos)”.  ‘Course the parenthetical part of the title makes the title kind of awkward, but hey.  Better an unwieldy track title then losing all their album profits in court . . .  What do you folks think?

In other news, Damon Albarn’s massive ego, along with his vacant, smug stare and pasty, spindly body will be reuniting with the other three guys who were in Blur to do a tour.  Er, I’m sorry, did I say tour?  At the moment all they’ve really announced is that they’ll be doing one show, in Hyde park.  Tickets go on sale later this week for the show, which is in July.  I feel this is a bit pessimistic, because the odds of a Blur reuinion show taking longer than a few hours to sell out are slim.

Song of the Week: Okay, so to make up for all those mean things I said about Damon Albarn, here’s Blur performing “End of a Century”, from their The Best Of DVD:

P. S.: Props to Parlophone for allowing embedding of the videos on their official YouTube channel.

Dec 062008

Friday Five

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Five albums I think everyone should get a copy of when they turn 14:

Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures

Ryan Adams, Love Is Hell

Loudermilk, Man With Gun Kills Three

Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings/3 Essays for Orchestra (Performed by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Louis Slatkin.  The adagio is the really important piece, but the whole thing disc is completely breath-taking.)

Edward Elgar, Cello Concerto in E Minor (There are a lot of good recordings of it out there, but I’m particularly fond of the one by the London Philharmonic conducted by John Barbirolli.   Any decent recording will do, though.)