Archive for January, 2007

29
Jan
07

2006 in Rewind (Part 1 of 3)

Looking back at the music of 2006 is a bit disappointing compared to 2005 and 2004. I can more easily think of the bands I discovered in earnest in 2005 than this past year, including Amsterdam, Stars, The Subways, Hal, Of Montreal, Sufjan Stevens, and Spoon, to name but a few. Not to mention Paul Weller’s best solo album in ages. Without a doubt, Amsterdam will forever represent 2005; a band that immediately joined The Jam, James (read the exciting news!!), The Connells, and others as one of my all-time favorites. Hell, I flew to London to see Amsterdam at the Borderline and I have the ticket stub prominently displayed in my home office.

So, the point is, that putting together the proverbial “best of” for 2006 is problematic. It’s also questionable in quality because reading the year in review posts by Jason and Dave helped further bring home the fact of how much wonderful music I simply missed. I miss it every year, but 2006 might be more egregious than usual. I respect Jason and Dave’s taste in music more than any people I know and I haven’t heard most of the music on their lists aside from a couple of songs. Many of my musical purchases in 2006 were from also from old favorites: Robyn Hitchcock, Grant-Lee Phillips, and Johan–not kids with new sounds.

I’ll depart from the preface and get to my picks in just a moment, if you’re actually still reading. All of this is not to suggest that I didn’t enjoy some great albums this past year, so I hope you enjoy my musings. I’ll also depart from the MiS style manual, and most popular music writing parlance, and start with my top album. This ain’t no f-ing countdown. However, due note that I’m posting my review in three parts this week: my top 5 (1/29), the remaining 5 with honorable mentions (1/31), and my mix CD of 2006 (2/2). After all, since we’re supposedly on the cusp of the downfall of the album, shouldn’t we be ranking singles? I don’t like that or believe it, but that’s the argument…

1. Neil Young: Living with War (Reprise)

This was perhaps my easiest choice, despite it being for a complex set of reasons I cannot fully explain. While my choice is certainly about living with war (and how numb we all seem to have become), I’m actually not typically a huge fan of such overt political statements. While it doesn’t get much more overt than Young here, I find the quality of the music coupled with the passion and concern worthy of my top album of the year. These songs stay with you and it’s easily the 2006 album I have listened to the most. My only previous Young purchase was his classic album “Harvest,” so my choice also has little to do with any substantial previous appreciation of his music. This album admittedly has many flaws, but I still believe it’s the most important album ever from Young, one of our most important musicians. That right there is enough to make it my top album of the year.

Thousands of children scarred for life
Millions of tears for a soldier’s wife
Both sides are losing now
Heaven takes them in

“Shock and Awe”

2. Sloan: Never Hear the End of It (U.S.: Yep Roc/Canada: Sony-BMG)

This album is quite an accomplishment by the Canadian power pop veterans, originally formed in Nova Scotia in 1991. I was not alone in thinking they were ready to fade into obscurity following their career-spanning singles collection released in 2005. This album represents the band’s Abbey Road: 30 songs, most of them gems. Sloan is still intently treading familar territory, i.e. the Beatles and 70s pop, but this album features some of their most memorable songs and melodies of their career. If you appreciate guitar pop of a generation ago, it’s worth a listen.

Listen to the radio
Where did everybody go?
There’s silence all around the globe

“Listen to the Radio”

Note: While only released in 2007 in the U.S., this album was released in Canada in 2006 and that’s when I bought it.

3. Midlake: The Trials of Van Occupanther (Bella Union)

I admittedly didn’t hear this album until 2007, so it’s still fresh in my mind and in my heart. Who knew that the best sounding Britpop in the vein of Travis would arrive from Denton, Texas in 2006. This is my first listen to Midlake, even though it’s the band’s second album following 2004’s Bamnan & Silvercork, an album I surely will be picking up this year. This album flows from beginning to end with an ease and warmth that is comforting and stirring. If I had heard the album earlier, it might be my top choice for album of the year. While most critics are citing its clear 70s, American sound, I think the connections to Britpop are also clear, with Travis being the most obvious. In fact, how many American bands are signed to a UK indie, as Midlake is with Bella Union? I rest my case. Despite the Britpop influence, there is something very American about this release, with lyrics that exist in an historical mileux reminiscent of Guadalcanal Diary and Grant Lee Buffalo.

Whenever I was a child I wondered what if my name had changed into something more productive like Roscoe
Been born in 1891
Waiting with my Aunt Rosaline

“Roscoe”

>>>>>>>>Mix CD Sneak Listen: “Head Home”<<<<<<<<<<

4. The Lovely Feathers: Hind Hind Legs (Equator)

Don’t worry, I do realize this is the third Canadian listing in my top 4, and there’s no intention to show bias despite the fact I’ll be writing my dissertation on Canadian popular music and cultural policy. It simply couldn’t be avoided, as the Canucks are simply on a creative roll. As the most “indie” sounding of my top 10, it’s not surprising I only discovered them while attending Pop Montreal. I’m rarely so cool. This album is frantically exhilarating from start to finish, demonstrating the band’s wry sense of humor and their sublime live show. Few bands could sound so great in a song titled “Rod Stewart,” singing the lyrics below. If The Lovely Feathers toured with The Features, I think they could conquer the world.

If its just my body you want, my body you want; then come on and tell me
if you want me for my body, for my body, for my body

“Rod Stewart”

5. The Kooks: Inside In/Inside Out (EMI)

I’ve already discussed this album on here. So, I’m not going to write much more. It’s a fine album, despite the sometimes justified criticism it has received in the past year as a result of the typical British hype machine. Speaking of which, with 2006 being the hottest year yet on record, the success of The Arctic Monkeys is even more dumbfounding. I take The Kooks. Hey Kooks, show Denver some love!

Main Entry: kook
Pronunciation: 'kük
Function: noun
Etymology: by shortening & alteration from cuckoo
: one whose ideas or actions are eccentric, fantastic, or insane

the kooks are out
in the street
oh we’re going to steal your skies
all of us

“Matchbox”

TO BE CONTINUED….

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24
Jan
07

No Barking in Sheffield for Little Man Tate

No Barking

Little Man Tate, a four-man group named after a movie directed by Jodie Foster, have been creating quite a ruckus in the short time they have been a band.  In just a year, these lads from Sheffield, England have charted two singles on the UK Billboard Top 40 and are consistently selling out shows across their homeland.  While Sheffield is also home to recently fabled indie rockers, the Arctic Monkeys, Little Man Tate have managed to create some hype of their own with comparisons to the Jam, Interpol, Pulp, and Blur.  They are also drawing critical acclaim for their intense live shows. 

They are currently preparing to release their first full length album on February 8th called About What You Know, which falls on the heels of the playful single, “Man, I Hate Your Band.”  Sonically, the music is driven by a frenzied beat coupled with a killer guitar riff calling to mind the Features in some regard.  The lyrics are amusingly witty, as lead singer Jon Windle muses about his distaste for bands with cocky, self-serving attitudes on the brink of signing a massive record deal. 

Sexy In Latin,” the album’s second single will be released a week before the album, and was actually the first song that won my attention.  The title made me think of someone, perhaps a contributor of this blog, who is known to fancy Latin females at times.  However, rather than it being about an exotic girl, it talks of a childhood love affair that is rekindled in their 20’s.  The song bounces into a fantastic little Brit-pop ditty, complete with a harmonized chorus sure to become engraved in your mind for the day. 

Perhaps they’ll make their way to the US in 2007.  We have plenty of walls in alleyways for them to pee on.

Check them out:

Little Man Tate :: Man, I Hate Your Band (video stream)
Little Man Tate :: Sexy In Latin

Little Man Tate :: Official Site
Little Man Tate :: Myspace

19
Jan
07

Top 5

5. The Presets – Beams

4. MSTRKRFT – The Looks

3. Silversun Pickups – Carnavas

S

2. Wired All Wrong – Break Out the Battletapes

WAW

The Alcohol Speaks To Me Instead of her

1. Spank Rock – YoYoYoYoYo

Amanda Blank, need I say more?

18
Jan
07

Year In Review

2006 was a crazy year for me and it involved many changes.  I got married.  I moved twice.  I bought a home.  I adopted a dog.  I co-founded this blog.  Throughout all the changes, music played its usual role; calming my nerves and serving as my own personal soundtrack threading the days together. 

I found myself listening to music much differently than I have in years past.  I still do not own a portable MP3 device, though I spent money on an album download from iTunes for the first time.  I’m still a strong believer in physical album purchases and I made quite a few of them in 2006.  I didn’t listen to entire albums as much however, and found myself making and listening to various mixes.   I even caught myself skipping around on certain albums in search for a particular song before moving onto another album.  Those who know me understand that sort of listening goes against my self-inflicted rule of listening to complete albums without jumping songs.  Perhaps the change reflected my hectic schedule which transpired into less personal time to listen to music.  Or maybe it’s simply a modern sign of the times with digital music available at every turn on the Internet.  Am I trying to hear as many songs as possible in a day?  Or am I listening (and comprehending) each song that plays?  Unfortunately, those scenarios point to the dilemma we face on a daily basis as music grows in number and tangibility.

The end of the year crept up on me, and this dated post is evidence of that.  I just didn’t allow myself enough time to listen.  

10.   Alexi Murdoch :: Time Without Consequence
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Alexi Murdoch generated quite a bit of momentum from songs featured on TV shows (The OC), movies (Garden State) and commercials (Honda) between 2004 and 2005. With the subsequent hype machine buzzing, Murdoch spent some time crafting the songs that are featured on his first full length album.  After listening to several offers from major labels to release this album, he decided to release it independently instead.  The music is acoustic folk at its finest, with heartfelt lyrics and a voice that cuts and soothes through each melancholy story line.

9.  Pearl Jam :: S/T
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This album is the first studio release for Pearl Jam on a label other than Epic; the label they originally signed to when they dropped Ten back in 1991.  Ironically, it is the first one in a long while reminiscent to those early days of innocent angst and passion.  Vedder, never one to shy away from racy topics related to political and world matters, continues to wear his heart on his sleeve more than ever before.  What makes this album different than its predecessors, however, is the maturity and direction of each song and lyric.  The music is grand without being complicated.  And Vedder’s emotion is pointed and concise without being redundant and overly dramatic.   

8.  Muse :: Black Holes & Revelations
muse-black-holes-revelations.jpg
Black Holes & Revelations is definitely one of those albums I didn’t listen to nearly as much as I would have liked.  Its release was highly anticipated after playing the shit out of Absolution and Origin of Symmetry for the last couple of years.  It isn’t as strong as either of those, but it definitely has some highlights.  The first track, “Take a Bow” sets a tone for the rest of the album; a modern day rock opera!

7.  Oh No! Oh My! :: S/T
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I posted about this band earlier in the year.  Check it if you missed it the first time.  The album covers a lot of territory musically.  Great indie rock with some synths, beats and electronics mixed in for good measure. 

6.  Spank Rock – Yo Yo Yo Yo
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A stone-cold recommendation straight from the desktop of Dave, this album is a party within itself.  Baltimore had a movement of its own in ’06 and these kids definitely led the way.  The two typical hip hop topics are covered here – drugs and sex.  But the beats turn it into a dance party, with MC Spank Rock (Naeem Juwan) holding court on the mic while tagging his ladies in a Sparks-induced rage.  Bump!

5.  Girl Talk – Night Ripper
girl-talk-night-ripper.jpg
There probably wasn’t another person or act that generated as much hype as Gregg Gillis (aka Girl Talk) in 2006.  Receiving critical acclaim  from the likes of Pitchfork and Rolling Stone magazine, this engineer-by-day turned (“I’m not a DJ”) DJ-by night rolled across America and Europe fueled by the steam of such reviews.  The album is a glorious mix of quick samples culled mostly from Top-40 hits over the past 5-10 years.   Night Ripper is one of those albums to be played before, during, and after the hottest party of the week.

4.  Hot Chip :: The Warning
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Hot Chip was one of my favorite new discoveries of the year.  The music contains a techno-beat backbone combined with elements of pianos and guitars.  Verses and choruses are traded among band co-founders, Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard.  In most cases, Goddard provides a melancholy cadence behind Taylor’s mesmerizing harmonies.   They are another act not to be missed live if you have the opportunity.

3.  The Features – Contrast EP
cover_features_contrast.jpg
The final three on my list could have easily taken the top spot.  This five-song EP was blogged about earlier, and my feelings haven’t changed.  All five songs churn with urgency and passion fueled by a major ethics conflict with their former label.  This band should be huge in every sense of the word.  Hopefully the masses will catch on after they release their second album (expected in 2007).

2.  Wired All Wrong – Break Out the Battle Tapes
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Jeff Turzo and Matt Mahaffey threw their gifted minds together and this glorious album is the fruits of their labor.  It didn’t grab me immediately, but it continues to get better with each listen.  Some might describe it as Industrial Pop.  Others might venture to say it’s electronic with pop tendencies.  Either way, it’s fantastic.  It arguably received the most spins of any new album in the year…so much so that my wife has requested it not be played around her for a while, even though she digs it just as much. 

1.  The Little Ones – Sing Song EP
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I had reservations about choosing an EP as my favorite album of the year, but this band exudes everything I look for in a pop music band.  I’m not a big fan of long albums, so perhaps EPs cater more to my attention span.  The music and lyrics are sugary and sunny without the cavities and sunburn.  If they are able to produce a full length with the same intensity and tone as this 6-song set, you’ll see it atop my list next year.

05
Jan
07

The year in live music..

EB

With an average of about four shows per month (3.8 to be exact or 46 in all) in 2006 there was destined to be at least a few shows worth talking about in 2007. A common denominator this year seemed to be of course about witnessing a great live performance from a favorite musician of ours, but also at the same time, just getting together with friends to hang out and be stupid at the same time. If it weren’t for that other Hot Chip show in the late fall and the pre-partying beforehand, would have I been able to drop the infamous Slinger? A December trip out to Los Angeles to witness Wired All Wrong obviously sparked many classic moments that will inevitably be referenced for years and that’s not even beginning to talk about their tight act at the Viper Room that one Saturday evening. Catching an act of a favorite musician will always bring upon something to talk about with your friends, but when your stomach is filled with a mix of Mickeys, Sparks, Lip’s E&J and your also around good company, then you have a lethal combination of destined debauchery and just straight up good times.


5. Josh Caterer, Scott Lucas, and Elizabeth Elmore at Schubas-7/4

Just seeing Josh Caterer of Smoking Popes fame who has the most unique voice in all of my rock catalog would have been plenty for this holiday show at the most ideal venue for an unplugged show of this caliber, that being Schubas. Josh had a month long residency in July and every week’s show had a “special guest” who realistically could have been anyone, maybe even Jesus himself. Upon walking into the bar, I quickly realized tonight was going to be a straight up throwback gig with Scott Lucas of Local H notoriety and Elizabeth Elmore, formerly of the band Sarge. Two of these three performers were guilty of acquainting me with what music could truly be over 12 years ago, and then the cute, petite Elizabeth Elmore solidified for me that a punk meets pop group could be fronted and rocked by a little redhead in the late 90’s.

Every song that we were graced with that night from all three performers was the definition of nostalgic for me. Each musician played songs from their now timeless albums that I can say; I grew up on. Josh Caterer and Scott Lucas were partly responsible for the music boom in the 90’s that was taking place in Chicago, and everyone who was fortunate enough to witness this gig can now understand why that explosion even began. Amazing musicians that are doing big things.

4. Hot Chip at Subterranean-3/20

One Monday night in late March, a group of white, yet rather soulful and bouncy gentlemen from London came to the small upstairs bar that is Subterranean. There was enough wave of excitement over the Internet to bring plenty of eager spectators to witness what turned into the most enlightening and energetic shows I have ever witnessed on a Monday night. The amount of equipment alone was something worthwhile to behold, but when they began to rock, this was when we realized Hot Chip was well worth all the hype.

3. Secret Machines at Park West-10/9

TSM

Pink Floyd is realistically just a name to me, but if I was to behold them back in their heyday, I can only imagine a Secret Machines show would be the modern times equivalent. When a band concocts their own 360-degree stage with some of the most choreographed lighting system you’ll most likely ever take in, you know they aren’t fucking around. On stage, these three gentlemen from New York by way of Dallas put out a simply enormous sound that seems to be almost robotically accomplished due to their impeccable timing. If it weren’t for traveling to LA and getting crazy whacked for Girl Talk, this would have been hands down the best show of the year, musically speaking.

The live closing track of the year: First Wave Intact


2. Wired All Wrong at the Viper Room-12/9

Courtesty of J.G…

MM

A four-day weekend in itself is worth noting, let alone in Lost Angeles with three other avid music fans that were up for anything, even staying in boys’ town to witness this newfound supergroup. It was Matt Mahaffey and his new group at the infamous Viper Room, which has history for days, so inevitably this was going to be a timeless one. We called, and Phoenix wasn’t available. For a band still in its infancy, every song was performed as if they’ve been doing this for decades. The timing and energy on stage and in that petite venue was simply incredible. That night, everyone had good rhythm.

1. Girl Talk at the Empty Bottle-9/9

Sparks

What can I possibly say about this one? Girl Talk himself billed this one as a party meets concert, so before he even dropped the first beat, we knew it was on. Obviously, the performance he and his fans put on this Saturday night in September at the Empty Bottle was talked about enough to hype up tickets for his New Year’s Eve show to as much as $150, even though face value was $22. Take the laid back, dirty Empty Bottle with a booming sound system, a kid coming off an 8.4 review on Pitchfork, and quite possibly the party record of the year, to create the nastiest, sweaty dance party most likely this venue has ever witnessed. Since Girl Talk is just a man and his computer, he compensates by inviting whoever the hell wants to come up on stage to bust a move along with him. As far as I can remember, (I can’t) there was not one person in that club not bouncing up and down to the sounds of Greg Gillis’ lethal laptop.




Upcoming Shows:

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