Monday, January 28, 2008

Once Again, I Suck

Just like last year, I've dropped the ball on rolling out the final five of my list. I am hard at work on them now, and they are coming soon. In the meantime, Jonesey's guesses, while accurate on some counts, are not quite spot on. And, to give you a hint, CANADA SUCKS!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Seriously? Is that it?

Sigh. Come on Apple.

Monday, January 14, 2008


According to Tech Crunch, those Apple Keynote notes that I posted about earlier are bunk. Oh well, here's to hoping that the news DOES have at least something to do with apps and/or widgets for the iphone. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease!!!

Apple Keynote Leak?

Geeking around on the Tubes today, I came across this little nugget.

Highlights include a system for users to create and sell iphone apps, a new Macbook, and the ability to download Youtube clips in iTunes (for free, I'm assuming).

I can't vouch for whether this is the real deal or not, but if you're like me, you're anxiously awaiting the next slice of my free time that I can willingly hand over to my iphone.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Top 20 Of 2007: 10 - 6

10. The National - Boxer
Of all the deep-voiced, melancholy singers to gain fame in the last few years (Interpol’s Paul Banks, Editors’ Tom Smith, etc.), Matt Berninger is definitely the creepiest. While Banks and Smith just seem to sing about how depressed they are, and maybe occasionally about killing someone, Berninger sings about sneaking into people’s apartments and wearing their clothes. For reals. That creepiness lends Boxer its edge, and The National’s songs are simply awesome, creeping along like black ooze into your ears. There are moments of true beauty (“Start a War,” “Green Gloves”) as well as full-on sinister moments and even a rocker or two. It’s a magnificent, dark album worth your time.

9. Marnie Stern - In Advance of the Broken Arm
Let me say right off the bat that Marnie Stern is really, really, really hard to listen to. Every time I’ve played her for someone, their lip kind of turns up and they look at me like I just gave them audio herpes. For the more adventurous, however, this is a fantastic album, right up there with Joanna Newsom’s Ys and Tom Waits’ Bone Machine. She shreds up one side of this record and down the other, and her unique finger-tapping style is more percussive than melodic. The songs are not devoid of melody, however, and some of them, like the opener “Vibrational Match,” are just a stone’s throw away from someone like Bjork. And no other artist this year can match the energy of this record. It explodes.

8. The Avett Brothers - Emotionalism
My God, they just keep getting better and better. My cousin Johnnie introduced me to the Avett Brothers a few years ago with their excellent live album. They were fantastic because they were raw, but that rawness also held them back from being among the elite in the alt-country community. That problem has as much to do with the community as it does with the Avetts; much as I love Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch, they cater to an audience that isn’t really into wild and crazy. And the Avetts are like Old Crow Medicine Show on speed, so it's been hard for them to break through. With Emotionalism, however, they step up their game without diluting it. They still sound just as energetic and crazy as they always have, but they’ve controlled that chaos with an incredible mastery of songcraft. These are fantastic country songs, full of longing and joy, and the band roars through them properly. Songs like “The Weight of Lies” show that they know how to slow it down properly as well. Whereas before they could barely contain themselves during their ballads, they now patiently wait until they can kick our asses once again on songs like "Paranoia in B Major" and "Will You Return." This album proves that The Avett Brothers belong among the elite of alt-country royalty.

7. Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger and Follow the Lights
I’ve written many times on this blog about Ryan Adams. I think that my journey through his music has been one of the most personal relationships I’ve had with anyone’s music in my life. I wrote about Easy Tiger here, and I don’t have much else to say about that album. It’s awesome. Follow the Lights, an EP that he released a few months after Easy Tiger, really brings to life the different phase of his development that he is in right now. It does so most saliently on his remake of his own song “This Is It” from his misguided album Rock N Roll. The thing is, he doesn’t really change the song that much. He just slows the tempo, gets rid of the rock star posturing, and shows us how great the song actually is. The rest of the EP is just as good, from the lilting title track to the fantastic “My Love for You is Real,” previously available only as a live track. Once again, he’s stepped his game up and shown us that there’s plenty more where that came from. And, more importantly, he finally sounds like he’s at peace with his own talent.

6. Band of Horses - Cease to Begin
Everything All The Time really blew me away when I first heard it, for reasons that aren’t exactly objective. (Shocking, I know.) It came out right around the time that My Morning Jacket put out Z, which in my opinion was a turd of a record. Everything All The Time sounded like what I wanted MMJ to be doing: no-nonsense, kick-ass country-rock. I wish Jim James & Co. well in their new life as a jam band, but for my money I’ll stick with the new guys. And what a record this one is. “Is There a Ghost” is one of my favorite tracks of the year, a soaring anthem that sounds vaguely paranoid and also confrontational. From there the record is mostly mellow, but it’s not sleepy. They are really coming into themselves as musicians, and Ben Bridwell’s vocal performances just keep getting better and better. This is an amazing sophomore effort, and as much as I loved their debut, I honestly didn’t expect them to get this good right away. Fantastic work.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Top 20 Of 2007: 15 - 11

15. Bruce Springsteen - Magic
Me being me, this was one of my most anticipated albums of 2007. And Springsteen didn’t disappoint. At all. In fact, this is his best album since Tunnel of Love. Every song is just as catchy and memorable as the old classics, and he seems to have the energy of ten Bruces, plus two. I know that a lot of people are sick of hearing about his politics, but I think he feels like he is in a unique position to influence. His fan base undoubtedly consists of a good number of right-wing nuts, and knowing that their hero holds these views that they think are un-American may actually get them to think about something. Maybe some of them may even reconsider how they think about America. Aside from all of that, however, this is a great rock record, one that will last just as long as his best work.

14. The White Stripes - Icky Thump
The White Stripes are good again! A cause for celebration if there ever was one. After Elephant and Get Behind Me Satan, I had given them up for dead, or at least for the hipsters. But Icky Thump takes me back to White Blood Cells, the album that made me fall in love with the Stripes. It’s got huge, fantastic riffs to spare, and also bagpipes. Yup, bagpipes. Awesome.

13. Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
As I said before, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Adding Johnny Marr was the best change that Mr. Brock & Co. could have done in the three years since Good News For People Who Love Bad News. He adds a dynamic dimension to their music without changing their sound at all. And “Dashboard” is one of the best songs written this year, period. This record is getting left off a lot of year-end lists, and I have no idea why. It rocks all the way from March.

12. Jason Isbell - Sirens Of The Ditch
I was quite saddened to hear that Jason Isbell left the Drive-By Truckers. They were truly one of the best bands around, with three songwriters who were among the best around. Isbell’s songs were some of the best, straight stories about true people. He hasn’t lost a step on Sirens of the Ditch, though, and it’s nice to hear more than a few of his songs at a time. There are definitely some stinkers here, but even those have their charms. This is a moving, almost poppy record. Here’s to more stretching on the next one.

11. The Shins - Wincing The Night Away
I know a lot of people felt like they fell off on this record, but don’t listen to those people. They know not of what they speak. This is a great record, start to finish. It starts out with “Sleeping Lessons,” a dreamy tune that leads into a monster swell of pop goodness. “Australia” is probably the best song they’ve ever written. As a matter of fact, the songs are all awesome except “Pam Berry.” Whoever the hell that is.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Top 20 Of 2007: 20 - 16

As always, I’m sure that I have missed some true gems. Last year, it was the Long Winters’ fantastic Putting the Days to Bed. This year, I can already tell that Raising Sand, the album that pairs Alison Krauss with Robert Plant, should be on this list. So until I get it, these will have to do.

20. Jesca Hoop - Kismet
“Jesca Hoop's music is like a four-sided coin. She is an old soul, like a black pearl, a good witch or a red moon. Her music is like going swimming in a lake at night.”
-Tom Waits

Oh yeah, and she was his kids’ nanny. Do you need more? Go get this album! It’s wonderful and dark, refreshing and true. How can Tom Waits be wrong?

19. Battles - Mirrored
Pitchfork describes Battles best:
“You know the costume parties where everyone gets lazy or cops out-- bad sweaters, sunglasses, funny hats-- and then someone shows up in a full-on gorilla suit? That would be Battles.”
Apart from being incredible musicians, Battles also love what they do. Their desire to make great music seeps through every note of this album, making it one of this year’s most enjoyable records as well as one of its most challenging.

18. Iron and Wine - The Shepherd's Dog
Sam Beam’s been getting mad props since his first record, and I had kind of begun to resent it. His music was great, sure, but he wasn’t stretching his sound at all. He stuck to the sensitive mountain man thing. The Shepherd’s Dog finally completes his growth into a band leader, and a wonderful one at that. It is a rich, complex album full of gypsy melodies and circus imagery. Drive with it at night.

17. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
Panda Bear and Avey Tare had quite a busy year. Panda had another album that will show up later on this list, and Avey spearheaded Strawberry Jam, the most fully realized and consistent Animal Collective album to date. Whereas Panda’s album soaks in gorgeous harmony, Strawberry Jam is full of percussion, chopping and propelling the songs from frenzy to downright insanity. It doesn’t let up for a minute, each song building on the last until you actually feel like you may be going insane. But then you turn it back on the next day.

16. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
Last year’s 45:33 Nike mix first introduced me to LCD Soundsystem. I ran to that album, I drove to it, I worked to it and I wrote to it. It was a wonderful piece of work. Sound of Silver is just as good but in a completely different way. Rather than being a single piece designed to track a mood, it is a collection of completely awesome singles. They don’t hang together as a single piece, but they don’t need to. They rock on their own merits. No other album this year has made me want to shake my booty like this one.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

'07 Part I: Excellent and Disappointing

In advance of my annual Top 20 Albums list, I thought I'd talk about some of the best and worst things that happened in music this year, ranging from albums that didn't quite make the Top 20 to trends that excited and/or infuriated me. We'll start with the good, in no particular order.


1. Rogue Wave - Asleep at Heaven's Gate
They trip up plenty here, but they make some interesting steps forward too. Nice job.

2. Grinderman - Grinderman
Nick Cave doing what Nick Cave does best. Not his best songs, but enough energy and bile to make up for it.

3. Pay What You Want
Radiohead was the most famous example, but Trent Reznor and Saul Williams also experimented with a new business model this year. And you can almost smell the record company fear. I love it.

4. Amy Winehouse
She’s a powerhouse singer, but there’s not enough yet to show me she’s not gonna get boring. We’ll see if she can keep her shit together long enough to do something different. In the meantime, long live the beehive!

5. Tinariwen - Aman Iman: Water is Life
I just found this album, and if I had found it earlier it may have cracked the top 20. It’s awesome nomadic music that sounds as if it’s been around forever. Check it out, seriously.

6. Burial - Untrue
If I still lived in New York, this would be in my top 10. It’s wonderful, moody music to wander the streets to. All my New York readers, you’d be well served to check it out and soundtrack your next long walk with it.

7. Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full
Fab again, and how sweet it is.

8. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
More of the same from Spoon. And that’s a good thing.

9. All Songs Considered podcasts
Bob Boilen may be pretentious, but the guy knows his shit. Consistently one of the best music podcasts around.

10. Live Nation and Madonna
Fuck. Record. Companies.


1. Lyle Lovett - It's Not Big, It's Large
It's not good, it's bad. He sounds like a shadow of his former songwriting self. I hope it’s just a fluke.

2. Dan Deacon
You look like a creepy pederast and you act like Richard Simmons. No thanks.

3. The Overexposure of Feist
For someone whose politics are as left-leaning as Leslie Feist, I can’t cotton to her lending her talents to shill ipods and Verizon phones. I’ll take “Practice What You Preach” for 600, Alex.

4. Bright Eyes - Cassadaga
I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning got me to reconsider my hatred for Bright Eyes, but this album is just plain boring.

5. Patty Griffin - Children Running Through
Not a challenging song in the bunch. Come on.

6. Wilco - Sky Blue Sky
God, how I tried! This is, without a doubt, the most disappointing album of the year. “Impossible Germany” is a gem, but I want to flush the rest of the album down the toilet. I don’t expect YHF every time, but I do expect something besides boring Dad Rock.

7. The Go! Team
Go! away.

8. Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
I really don’t see what the big deal is. I could throw a rock in Brooklyn and hit six dudes who are in bands that sound just like this.

9. Kanye vs. Fiddy
Yeah. Awesome way to remember September 11. Jackasses.

10. The term "Math Rock"
Stupidest micro-genre name ever.

Stay tuned for my list of the Top 20 Albums of 2007. Whoopee!!