Which three-legged rock band has (finally!) ditched their longtime producer in hopes of revitalizing their career?
Details to come in the new year.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Which three-legged rock band has (finally!) ditched their longtime producer in hopes of revitalizing their career?
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Well, after two weeks of being sure of my choice this year, I changed my mind today, moved that album to second place and went with the record that, despite its flaws, meant the most to me this year - the album that ushered me in to a new apartment, that makes me think of shower curtains and Halloween and laughing and, most of all, Jen.
Here are my top three albums of 2006:
3. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - The Letting Go
2. Shearwater - Palo Santo
1. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
That's it! Just a so-so year for music after the glory of 2005, but a lot of good stuff and the promise of much more to come in 2007.
Happy New Year everyone!
Posted by Matthew at 10:40 PM
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
I will announce the winner of RIB's 2006 Album of the Year on the blog tomorrow night/early Thursday morning. For now, here are Nos. 10 through 4, with videos - be they live, promotional or fan-made:
10. My Brightest Diamond - Bring Me the Workhorse
9. Figurines - Skeleton
8. Belle and Sebastian - The Life Pursuit
7. The Long Winters - Putting the Days to Bed
6. Bob Dylan - Modern Times
5. The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
4. Joanna Newsom - Ys
That, of course, leaves three from my original list of ten nominees: The Decemberists' "The Crane Wife", Shearwater's "Palo Santo" and 2003 MAOTY winner Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's "The Letting Go". Which one will top the list? My two or three regular readers wait with baited breath (if I'm lucky)!
UPDATE: Nos. 3-1.
Posted by Matthew at 10:26 PM
This video - a favorite of my sister's when we were kids (and which, subsequently, I was forced to watch about a hundred thousand times) - comes from the classic
JK Rowling film from the mid-80s about a school for young witches, called The Worst Witch, which Suzy got for Christmas and which had us cracking up last night.
Tim Curry's brilliant vocal and dance performance on "Anything Can Happen on Halloween" is topped here only by his bow tie and the awesome special effects. (For more info and analysis of this fine family film and the Tim Curry vid, click here and especially here.)
On a slightly more serious note, I finally got my Shakey bio! Thanks Mr. & Mrs. P.!
Posted by Matthew at 7:22 AM
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
The following is partly an excuse to link to this digg story claiming that the Lost hiatus is to be cut short.
But if that isn't enough to help you through these weeks without the rapidly declining ABC drama, then check out this Lost/Weird Al cartoon mashup (delightfully, for me, featuring a brief take on R.E.M.'s Bang and Blame video and a nod to Monty Python at the end):
Via the gum.
Posted by Matthew at 8:55 AM
Monday, December 18, 2006
This isn't music-related, but I just wanted to say, on a personal note, that I was deeply honored to find out last week that I had been named TIME magazine's Person of the Year.
In 2006, wars were fought across the globe, films were made and books written, the injured and sick were treated by countless doctors and just as many teachers imparted their knowledge and wisdom to the next generation of leaders, scientists and poets.
Meanwhile, I sat on my ass and blogged. Blogged my heart out about every fool thing that caught my eye. Once, even, I uploaded a short video I made to YouTube.
And TIME noticed.
(Frankly, I thought I had killed any chance I had of winning when I bashed the magazine's top 100 albums of all-time list on this very blog, calling it out for being the piece of crap that it was, but it seems the judges, admirably, are thick-skinned and might even have appreciated my blunt, but honest criticism).
For the first time ever, as TIME points out, I am part of my own world; when TV networks and Hollywood failed to develop enough crap to waste my time, I turned to my PowerBook to fill the void. When monopolized radio stations continued to ignore my favorite indie rock bands, I linked to mp3's. No, I didn't create the music, make the news or actually do any real reporting on this blog. Instead, I faithfully culled information I found on the Web and repackaged it by downloading and resizing photos and typing "a href" over and over again. And while I was lucky to get 50 unique visitors in a day, little did I know that TIME was one of them.
TIME, you were able to look past my numerous shortcomings and lack of any real redeeming value - recognizing that 2006 was not a year marked solely by political turmoil, civil war and growing religious fundamentalism, both in our country and abroad, but of snarky commentary and user-uploaded garbage - and see me as the Person of the Year I always knew I could be.
For that I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Posted by Matthew at 9:48 AM
Friday, December 15, 2006
New Arcade Fire song! New Arcade Fire song!
Called Intervention (from their upcoming album, Neon Bible), it's awash in pipe organ and shimmering guitar - and you can listen to an okay-quality radio rip of it via youaintnopicasso.com
(I've also provided a direct mp3 link below - grab it while it lasts).
Says the DJ afterward, "If that doesn't get you somewhere special, I feel sorry for you." I like it, but my standards are way too high after Funeral and I'm half expecting to be disappointed by the album. Despite the not exactly pro-Church sentiment and the strident anti-war message, Intervention also has a Christmassy ballad feel to it. I would like it a lot more if it sounded less like U2.
Arcade Fire - Intervention [mp3].
* * *
UPDATE: A commenter at sg posted an mp3 of the band performing the song live - a more bare bones version, in case you want to compare. Personally, I like the pipe organ. Click here for the mp3.
You can also listen to the album version of Intervention - albeit in crappy quality (at least it was over my cell phone) - by calling 1-866-636-6242 ext. 7777. Seriously.
Posted by Matthew at 8:26 AM
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
With just 12 days left until Christmas (11 if Christmas Eve is your big day, like it is in my family), I thought I'd take a second to explain how each year I spend countless hours trying to discover new bands and then, once December hits, I hardly listen to anything less than forty years old.
While Jen has spent her evenings in the living room watching various holiday movies - White Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (old and new), Miracle on 34th Street, even the putrid Christmas with the Kranks - I have pretty much worn out my stylus listening to the first of what I consider to be the most essential Christmas albums:
1. Nat King Cole - The Christmas Song
I could listen to nothing else but this every December and not feel like I'm missing out. Every song on this record is the definitive version. I put this record on and I am aged in single digits again and can remember when waiting for our guests to leave on Christmas Eve was interminable.
There are tons of songs I need to hear on Christmas - Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, Fairytale of New York, Blue Christmas, Carol of the Bells, Santa Baby - but when it comes to records, this is my go-to.
The rest of my list, therefore, is almost an afterthought, mostly for shuffle mode use. But since I like five as a number, here are four more to round out what I will call Records I Buy's Pretty Obvious Top 5 Christmas Albums of All Time List:
2. Bing Crosby - White Christmas
When people around me get tired of Nat King Cole and force me to switch it, this is what goes on. It's a notch below The Christmas Song, but it's still great and you can't go wrong with Bing.
Plus, what would Christmas be without White Christmas and a few others that aren't found on TCS?
Still, when people turn their backs, I put Nat back on.
3. Burl Ives - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
A Holly Jolly Christmas. Silver and Gold. Stop-motion animation. Gotta love it.
Okay, you don't actually have to love it, being that some of these songs - like We're a Couple of Misfits - are like Chinese water torture (or like waterboarding, to use a contemporary term).
Still, I am trying to churn out five here and this is only the third.
Moving right along...
4. The Chipmunks - Christmas with the Chipmunks
Depending on my mood, this is either slightly more or slightly less annoying than Rudolph.
But my father laughs every time someone puts this on. He's nearly sixty years old, but I suspect that every time this is played, he feels the same way I do when I hear Nat King Cole.
5. Sufjan Stevens - Songs for Christmas
Officially released this year, I had a bootleg of the original EPs last year and it's starting to become a Christmas tradition. Not every song is great, but who writes brilliant new Christmas songs nowadays besides Sufjan? That Was the Worst Christmas Ever! and Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance! are highlights.
Will it have the lasting power of The Christmas Song? Probably not, but at least it's something fresh to add to an increasingly cobwebby mix.
Sufjan Stevens - That Was the Worst Christmas Ever! [mp3]
Posted by Matthew at 12:48 AM
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Badman Records has posted the following tease, along with a tiny picture of the new Innocence Mission album, We Walked in Song, on their Web site.
The excitement builds! (Although the claim that "each note played and sung seems essential" reenforces my belief that this will continue IM's trend of making shorter and shorter albums; this one will be about twenty seconds long, beginning with a single note from Don's guitar, a tap on Mike's bass, a gorgeous wail from Karen, and then a final note from Don. The end).
UPDATE: So I did some poking around with the URL of the above image and found a larger version of the cover. Here it is:
The girl's face, by the way, is taken from the picture I posted here, which is also currently on the home page at theinnocencemission.com. This cover seems like a bit of classic Innocence Mission album artwork (the girl's face, taken from an old-looking photo) combined with the more recent use of colorful bits (reminscent of Karen's painting and artwork for Now the Day is Over).
Posted by Matthew at 8:56 AM
Saturday, December 09, 2006
In a "new album exclusive" at Keith Abbott's IMDiscog.com, it's been announced that next year's Innocence Mission record will be called We Walked in Song.
Very hymn-like, very IM-like. And also a bit sad. Why is it We Walked in Song and not We Walk in Song?
One of the best tracks on the last IM album proper, Befriended, is called I Never Knew You From the Sun and I believe it's about Karen's mother, though I could be wrong. Regardless, it captures perfectly what this album title brings to mind: loss. So in honor of that, here are the lyrics to INKYFTS. If you don't own it, it's worth quite a bit more than that 99 cents.
I Never Knew You From The SunThe Innocence Mission - I Never Knew You From the Sun [iTunes]
(for Mary McCullough)
What a time it was.
I was befriended and was a friend
for the longest while. You were here,
and I never knew you from the sun.
Snow is on the ground
but this is not my landscape now,
where I find myself without you.
Oh I never knew you from the sun.
Oh I had a friend. I had a friend I loved.
Now I walk for miles
into dark forests of piano songs. I'm lost.
Deep into my sleeves, deep in my sleeves,
pockets down where I always reach,
you are there.
Oh I never knew you from the sun,
never, never knew you from the sun.
Posted by Matthew at 9:36 PM
Friday, December 08, 2006
File Under: Records I (Might Want You To) Buy (Me For Christmas)
Rosie Thomas is releasing a new digital album next week (thanks Heather from The Rose Garden for the tip), featuring Sufjan (It's Becoming Annoying How Prolific I Am, But I'm Still A Freaking Genius) Stevens and Denison (Everyone's Favorite Innocence Mission Opening Act) Witmer. Click on the image for her Web site/song samples.
Rosie, by the way, has a very beautiful, rich singing voice but has the most annoying, high-pitched squeak of a speaking voice you could possibly imagine. Or perhaps she was high/joking/sucking down copious amounts of helium when I saw her live? Just the fact that I'm asking should tell you all you need to know.
Listening now to the first song previewed on her site. It's called Much Farther To Go and it gets really good when Sufjan's voice comes in to the mix. They sing about holding hands on the train to Brooklyn Heights and I am drawn right in. But the start of the song is drving me nuts. Is she really saying "The sidewalks are white as snow" instead of "The sidewalks are white with snow"? Because the way I'm hearing it sounds so stupid.
Posted by Matthew at 9:15 PM
Thursday, December 07, 2006
A holiday gift idea from Tekserve.
iPod Baby Onesie
This is your chance to turn your baby into a clickwheel iPod. Sorry, noise-canceling headphones not included. Available in a variety of sizes and in either pink, blue, white or black.
Via Idolator, whose subsequent rant about parents forcing their music on their kids seems like a total non-sequitur. Come on, guys, it's just a fucking outfit.
Posted by Matthew at 11:19 PM
Call me a sloppy sentimentalist if you want; I love this song. In fact, I never met a Snow Patrol song I didn't like (runner-up: ''You're All I Have''). If that makes you want to call me a sap, I can take it; that's why they pay me the big bucks.(from Entertainment Weekly)
- Author Stephen King on Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars"
Posted by Geoff G. at 9:02 AM
I'll be posting a lot about The Innocence Mission in the next few months, with their new album due March 13. The Lancaster trio (who reportedly reunited with former drummer - and restauranteur - Steve Brown on some of the upcoming tracks) seem to take longer and longer with each release, their records getting shorter and sparser but staying just as wonderful. With R.E.M. in massive decline, this indie folk outfit - built from husband-and-wife team of Karen Peris (vocals, guitars, piano) and Don Peris (backing vocals, guitars) and Mike Bitts (bass) - has taken over as my favorite active band. The epochs that pass between their releases is just part of the deal.
I've met all three current members and they were all incredibly sweet and humble. Karen's an amazing performer but spends most of her time on stage shyly looking down or closing her eyes or staring at Don and smiling. She seemed genuinely surprised when I told her how much her music means to me and answered my question about an inaudible lyric in the song Snow ("Oh, I couldn't think of anything, so I just sang nonsense that sounded like words") with the quitest voice on the planet, then wished me a Merry Christmas.
Fellow IM superfan Keith Abbott - who, like me, paid through the nose for a vinyl copy of the band's debut EP, Tending the Rose Garden, which they hate so much they've tried to buy back all 1,000 copies to destroy them - has a great fan site. He is promising big news about the band on Monday but won't even hint as to what it is. Which brings me to the reason for this entry: Keith's new message board, which he calls The Rose Garden. Hopefully, it'll become a great hub for fans of the band and replace some of the low-fi stuff in place now (like the Yahoo group and the mailing list).
I'm still the newest member - with account No. 11 - and my four posts so far make me his most active user.
If you haven't heard the band - though if you know me personally, you probably have - shame on you. There are days when I appreciate their earlier, slightly more rockin' albums as opposed to the quieter, folkier newfangled ones. 1995's Glow, to me, is their masterpiece. But two of my favorite post-Mike Brown tracks are available as free downloads on their official Web site. Direct links are below.
The Innocence Mission - The Lakes of Canada [mp3]
The Innocence Mission - Tomorrow on the Runway [mp3]
Posted by Matthew at 12:27 AM
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Sure, Joanna Newsom's Ys is the fourth-best reviewed album of 2006, according to Metacritic, and Pitchfork gave it a 9.4. Oh...and Boilen, whose listeners picked Ys the sixth-best record of 2006, invited Newsom to guest DJ on All Songs Considered and, to my delight, showed affection for her squeak. So what? No one I've played Ys for likes it.
Geoff G. has ripped it already on this blog, Becca said she liked it but I thought she'd love it and I'm thinking she only said it was good to get me to shut up, the Doran girls both despise it, Steph hasn't heard it but I'm convinced her hatred of Bjork will override her love of Kate Bush is this case, and now Jen is even using my interest in Newsom to rip my taste, musical and otherwise.
Will this deter me? Not really. Cosmia and Only Skin put me directly in touch with my inner lesbian and it's okay for it to be a private joy that no one around me understands. Still, I'd like a loving-Joanna-Newsom partner to discuss and gush with. We can take harp lessons together, chase butterflies through fields, pray to the fucking moon goddess - you know, the kind of crap the arty kids were doing back in high school when I was still a right-wing Nazi.
Actually, I think this is kind of symptomatic of my general need for more music nerd friends. I used to have loads online at Murmurs, but I don't have much time for that anymore, though I post when I can. Jen can appreciate the majority of my music, but she only seems to remember the Joanna Newsoms and the Antonys of the world when we argue about how she likes the new Beyonce song. There is not a single person in my everyday life who has ever heard of Shearwater except if I've told them.
In grad school, Scott and I became friends because we both knew the same obscure reference from a Neil Young bootleg. In Prague, Ryan and I adopted eachother's musical collections. In college, Geoff G. and I shared musical tastes (although I'll never forgive him for skipping out on the midnight sale of Up at Tower Records). In high school, Steph admits, she would have loved My Brightest Diamond but now says it's too dark for her. And Helen is never online anymore.
So if you're reading this and would like to become my new music nerd friend, let me know. Even if you don't like Joanna Newsom.
[Joanna Newsom fans, unite!]
Posted by Matthew at 1:31 AM
Saturday, December 02, 2006
In a word: Yes.
This soundtrack is everything I loved about Requiem for a Dream, but one you can listen to without feeling the need to slit your wrists immediately afterward. The Fountain is a much "bigger" movie in scope than Requiem, and as such the score is much more expansive. Mansell re-ups Kronos Quartet this time, so the strings are still there and still incredibly haunting.
The fact that you don't need Aronofsky's visuals for The Fountain to be a visceral experience shows how good this stuff is. Released: November 10, 2006. ARRESTING.
Stay With Me (mp3)
(Sidebar: In this Post-Colbert/Decemberist/YouTube universe, you gotta give the kids a project, otherwise they'll just break the DMCA like the dirty pirates they are. Hence, the Fountain Remix Contest. Pretty cool.)
Posted by Geoff G. at 9:47 AM
Thursday, November 30, 2006
I laughed so hard during Borat The Movie that I was afraid I was doing internal damage. Here is his music choices, lifted word-for-word from Stereogum:
1. "Beat It" - Michael JacksonsBy the way, if you don't have a Christmas gift for me yet...Borat Musical Listenings...
I a huge fanny of this new song by dancing negro, Michael Jacksons. We have many major exports in my country -first is potassium, second is apples and third is small boys to Michaels ranch. Why not? Is niiice!
2. "You Be My Wife" from Borat Musical Listenings....
This is romantic song that I wrote about a woman's in my moviefilm, whom I wanted to make romance inside off. This feature Belinda Bedekovic, our famous keytar player and was produced by Korki Buchek!!!
3. "Throw The Jew Down the Well" from Borat Musical Listenings for Make....
This is most popular children's song in Kazakhstan. It is not in my moviefilm, but was record for Kazak television in cowboy bar in Arizona, which in US and A. I have hear this song have upset some peoples - I think it because my guitar playing not so good. I sorry.
We play this party song at my first wife funeral. Happy times.
5. "It's a Kind of Magic" - Queen
I like very much the lead singer - ladies man Frederick Mercury. It great shame that he die in that car crash. Many peoples say I looks like him, infacts, last month I come 7th in Almaty's annual 'who look most like Freddy Mercury' competition. This out of over 843,000 entrant!
6. "Leader of the Gang" - Garry Glitter
This one from convicted sex criminal Gareth Glitter. He very much admired in Kazakhstan and his music is also popular. Infact he second most popular sex criminal in Kazakhstan. Our most popular Urkin the Rapist who become big star after appearing in my moviefilm 'Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan'
7. "Elokeinu" on Album One Three Seven - Zohar
It is Jew music. You must listen to this, so you know what your enemy is think.
8. "Candle in the Wind" - Elton John
I very much like this song about crushed princess of Wales written by bald homosexual Elton John.
9. "Rock Me Amadeus" - Falco
Me and my producer Azamat Bagatov like listen to this.
10. "I Wanna Sex You Up" - Color Me Badd
This favourite of my 11 year old son, Bilak. His wife and childrens like it too.
11. "Holiday" - Madonna
I liking very much this new song by singing transvestite Madonna. He is very convincing, the only thing that gives him away is his big hands, and the bulge around his chram.
Posted by Matthew at 10:57 PM
So I've already blogged about The Decemberists' own green screen challenge but now Stephen Colbert is fighting back, accusing the band of riding his coat tails after Colbert filmed himself doing a lightsaber dance in front of a green screen and asked Report viewers to add their own footage. So Colbert's new challenge: Edit HIM into the Decemberists O Valencia! video.
Not to be outdone, The Decemberists have written Pitchfork to counter Colbert with "the very first 'Decemberists vs Stephen Colbert Guitar Solo Challenge".
Put down the pen, Colbert, and pick up the axe! Let's see what kind of a man you really are -- let's SHRED.Oh, and Meloy & Co. challenge their fans to edit Colbert into their video, but with a twist.
That's right, we want you to help us defeat Stephen Colbert in our video! Show us how you would 'Mulch' him, take him down to the banks of the Ohio, put a cap in his Dockers.I'm expecting great things to come of this.
UPDATE: Colbert accepts the counterchallenge.
Posted by Matthew at 10:35 PM
Thursday, November 23, 2006
File Under: The Best Albums of 2006
Happy Turkey Day!
It's that time of year for the unveiling of my 2006 Album of the Year nominees (winner to be announced on or around New Year's). I've decided, in the hopes that you will listen to my podcast (you should! it has song clips!), not to list the nominees in this post right away (I'll update it eventually) and just post the (brief) mp3 version of the announcement here for now. Hope you enjoy it!
MAOTY 2006 Nominees [mp3]
UPDATE: You asked for it, you got it...
The nominees for the 2006 MAOTY, in the not-quite-alphabetical order I chose when making the cover art collage posted below (with links, where available):
Belle and Sebastian - The Life Pursuit
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - The Letting Go
Bob Dylan - Modern Times
The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
Figurines - Skeleton
The Long Winters - Putting the Days to Bed
The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
My Brightest Diamond - Bring Me the Workhorse
Joanna Newsom - Ys
Shearwater - Palo Santo
Honorable Mentions: Art Brut - Bang Bang Rock 'N' Roll; Asobi Seksu - Citrus; Band of Horses - Everything All the Time; Current 93 - Black Ships Ate the Sky; Don Peris - Go When the Morning Shineth; The Great Depression - Preaching to the Fire; Grizzly Bear - Yellow House; Guster - Ganging Up on the Sun; Islands - Return to the Sea; Loose Fur - Born Again in the USA; Mogwai - Mr. Beast; Neil Young - Living with War; Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped; Thom Yorke - The Eraser; Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid of You and I WIll Beat Your Ass
Turkey Award: The Flaming Lips - At War with the Mystics
* * *
1993 Counting Crows - August and Everything After
1994 R.E.M. - Monster
1995 The Innocence Mission - Glow
1996 Dave Matthews Band - Crash
1997 U2 - Pop
1998 R.E.M. - Up
1999 John Linnell - State Songs
2000 Radiohead - Kid A
2001 Bjork - Vespertine
2002 Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
2003 Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Master and Everyone
2004 Wilco - A Ghost is Born
2005 Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
* * *
UPDATE 2: The final rankings, Nos. 10-4.
Posted by Matthew at 10:16 AM
Monday, November 20, 2006
UPDATE: Here are the nominees and here is the podcast [mp3].
UPDATE 2: The Top 10, Nos. 10-4 and Nos. 3-1
So it's customary for me to announce my Album of the Year nominees on Thanksgiving Day. Last year, for the first time, it wasn't just a list but a short semi-podcast. Well, I've done that again this time around and, in fact, I just wrapped it up. I crammed it all into just under seven and a half minutes of audio and I think it sounds pretty darn good. A few glitches here and there. I had intended the nominees to be in alphabetical order but I screwed that up and also I forgot to explain the motivation behind the Turkey Award (worst album of the year by a respectable or formerly respectable artist). But pretty good for an amateur with a crappy USB mic and Garageband.
Jen gets first listen when she gets home tonight. But if any of you actually read my blog and want a sneak peek before Thursday, E-mail me and I'll consider forwarding it to you on two conditions: 1) You hold your comments until Thursday and 2) You do actually come here and comment on it.
Posted by Matthew at 4:44 PM
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Joanna Newsom's Ys is a five-song LP without a track under seven minutes (the longest, Only Skin, is 16:53). They each sound like an original fairy tale set to music by the inhabitants of an asylum. I see Newsom in a paper gown, drooling on herself most of the day, but then suddenly waking and putting on brilliant puppet shows for the night watchmen.
I don't know how to pronounce the title of this album and I have quite a bit of navigation through the uncharted waters of these songs ahead of me. And they demand time. But I plan on giving Ys what it deserves, Jen would argue because she sounds like Bjork, but while I definitely hear that, this has something all its own. What that is, I'm not entirely sure. I just know that I like it. Released: November 14, 2006. YSSIREE.
Joanna Newsom - Emily [mp3].
Posted by Matthew at 10:26 PM
It happens all the time that I see something, am amused by it, and then realize much later that I should have blogged it. By which time, it's ancient in the blog world and I feel silly. But if you, my loyal readers, haven't seen it, then it's new to you, right?
So, with apologies to those of you who have seen it, here's some poor fucker appropriating U2's One to show his love of banking. Not that U2 doesn't deserve it.
P.S. In the same spirit of this post, there was a video I saw at Idolator today that I decided not to post. But, you know, just in case.
Posted by Matthew at 9:59 PM
"I may not have the type of voice you like, but I can sing. You can't take that away from me, 'cause singing is a gift from God, and when people say I can't sing, it's kind of like insulting God."Records I Buy Without Further Comment #1 (via perez)
- Fergie tells Vibe magazine
Posted by Geoff G. at 3:00 PM
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Perhaps someday I will be an old man, with fifteen grandchildren, and I'll be deaf and mellow and completely oblivious to rock 'n' roll lists penned by hack journalists who wipe their asses with art just to sell magazines.
But I'm not there yet, so the TIME 100 list gives me chest-ripping agida. In a world full of asinine, fatuous tripe, this is worthy of special recognition.
That Hole's Live Through This made their best of the '90s portion is easy to shrug off. There will always be shite albums on these kind of lists. But what I can't accept - as Jen can attest based on our long conversation about this last night - are the picks from the current decade.
First, the rational ones.
Kanye West - The College DropoutThese work well enough. Kid A was my album of the year for 2000; The Marshall Mathers LP is genius, as is SFTC,SFTS; Outkast and Kanye aren't my bag as much, but they're decent choices nonetheless.
Radiohead - Kid A
Outkast - Stankonia
PJ Harvey - Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea
Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP
But then come the unacceptable choices, picks so awful that I refuse to believe they're only the result of bad taste or faulty assumptions.
Hank Williams - The Essential Hank Williams CollectionThese selections, to me, are a conscious slap in the face to a whole generation of music fans. All of the above artists are dead, and, what's more, they've all been dead for at least 23 years. And Hank's been gone for more than half a century. Yet these "albums" make up slightly less than half of TIME's 2000s list.
Sam Cooke - Portrait Of A Legend 1951-1964
Elvis Presley - Elvis: 30 No. 1 Hits
Muddy Waters - The Anthology, 1947-1972
Do I like these four guys? Absolutely (especially Sam and Hank). But do posthumous compilations of decades-old hits deserve to rank among the best albums of the 21st century? If your answer to that is yes, then you, my friend, are an idiot.
Review of a new album by a living artist coming later tonight or tomorrow.
Posted by Matthew at 9:50 PM
Monday, November 13, 2006
Jay Bennett is mostly famous for getting fired from Wilco by Jeff Tweedy in the documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart. Bennett's off-camera firing provides a nice segue into the glorious third act of the film where, free of both Bennett and their former record label, Wilco can release Yankee Hotel Foxtrot -- hailed in the film as the most amazing album ever.
Of course, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is not the most amazing album ever, but it's pretty damn close.
And what differentiates Yankee Hotel Foxtrot from Wilco's less accessible (and, ultimately, less successful) followup is the pop influence of Jay Bennett.
On his own for his third album, The Magnificent Defeat, Jay is still playing the part of experimenting multi-instrumentalist. This means an album with a tremendous depth and breadth of sounds. From the first discordant look-I-can-still-sound-like-art-rock-Wilco track to the ditty stuffed near the end that sounds like an Irish drinking song, and all the 60's vocals and audio filters in between, Jay is playing with his sound. Like he's trying to show he can do anything.
But, of course, he can't. He does, however, have some core competencies and that leads to a couple of little gems on this album. Whenever his singing is more restrained and held back in his throat, like a guy who's reluctant to speak about such personal matters, the songs are more successful. "The Palace at 4 AM" (clearly, it's a concept he's obsessed with, as his first solo album was titled "The Palace at 4 AM, Part I") mixes his gravely murmuring with layered bubblegum elements, which somehow ends up being heartbreakingly appealing. Later "Survey the Damage" does more with the same vocal stylings and wailing guitars.
The rockers fall apart not in construction, but in Jay's voice. There's an insincerity that comes across.
But I like this album. It's interesting. Maybe it's interesting because I find Jay such an interesting character in the musical universe. He was there for Wilco's best album, but Jeff Tweedy gets all the credit. Back when the Palace at 4 AM Part I was released, Pitchfork wrote a review of it which was (much like this one) drenched with Wilco comparisons. It's hard to separate the two. The last line of that review touched on Wilco's formation, brought about when Tweedy and Jay Farrar broke up Uncle Tupelo with their differences:
Bennett's future may not be you-gotta-wear-shades bright, but we probably shouldn't write him off just yet. Keep in mind that nobody thought Tweedy was the talented Tupelo.I believe Jay has a sublime album in him, yet. He just needs to focus on being Jay, not What-Jay-Could-Be. And maybe that's what makes Jay's music so interesting to me -- seeing if he can do it. Released: September 26, 2006. MULTI-INSTRUMENTALED.
Posted by Geoff G. at 12:24 AM
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Speaking of quality filmmaking, The Decemberists and mtvU are sponsoring a contest to let fans put the finishing touches on Meloy & Co.'s upcoming video for O Valencia! (a song I have previously endorsed on this blog). They've filmed the band playing in front of a green screen and wannabe directors need only add a background. This is so Web 2.0 I can barely control myself.
A link to the raw footage is below - maybe it'll inspire you.
The Decemberists - O Valencia! (raw) [mov]
Posted by Matthew at 11:24 AM
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Growing up, the three most magical letters in the English alphabet were r, e and m. The night before an R.E.M. release was like Christmas Eve. The day I bought Monster - which I love, even if you don't - is etched into my memory forever. I remember sitting in math class about to lose my mind, the drive to the store, not finding it (because who expected a bright orange album cover?) and the excitement of having all my expectations thrown in my face, to delicious result.
There are eight million stories I have about the boys from Athens - the Burger King crown incident and other run-ins I've had with the band, including my trip to Georgia; the fans I've met across this country and across Europe; the shows I've seen. Even my first phone conversation with fellow blogger Geoff G. - as two soon-to-be-freshmen speaking to their future college roomate - went from awkward to the spark of a lifelong friendship when we both had the same answer for "Who's your favorite band?"
My interest in R.E.M. has waned these past few years, as their last two releases have left much to be desired, to say the least. But when I put old R.E.M. records on (I have a nice little collection left over from when I would scour every flea market I could find for them), the magic rushes right back and I'm fifteen again.
Same goes for this DVD.
During the period this DVD covers, I was between 4 and 9 years old - and many of these music videos, live performances and interviews, etc. I'll be seeing for the first time (I just put it on as I started to write this, it being a Halloween gift from Jen, who kicks ass!). But in high school I bought up their entire back catalogue - and these songs make up a very significant portion of the soundtrack of my young adulthood. And, along with the Beatles records my father played when I was a kid, these songs make up the foundation of what I love in music - and, to a great extent, what I look for in every new band I discover. Released: September 12, 2006. MAGIC.
Posted by Matthew at 10:48 PM
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
First off, I'd like to thank Matthew for allowing me to bring my numbered feature mentality from the scattershot Staying West to here -- a much more structured room with nice padded walls to bounce off of.
Since I rarely go out and wanderlust through new music the way Matthew does, I have to rely on more prosaic methods of figuring out what the kids are listening to. Hence, The Zeitgeist. I'll find some list or other recurring piece of data on popular music, purchase the top-mentioned song in that dataset from iTunes and review it here. Sounds like a hoot, n'est pas?
The first dataset (and the inspiration for The Zeitgeist) is this interesting new Google project - Google Music Trends.
The chart shows the popularity of songs being listened to by users of Google's instant messenging software, Google Talk. If Google Talk is open, and the user has opted into the Music Trends expiriment, the program funnels every song listened to to Google which creates the list. I have no idea what the sample size is, but it seems to be worldwide. This seems like a slightly more accurate portrait of music popularity than Shadoe Steven's American Top 40, but maybe that's just because I believe technology solves all problems.
Anyways, nerdery aside, at 9:30 this morning, the most popular song was Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars. I purchased it, put it on my iPod and listened to it throughout the day. (You can watch the video.) Here is my assessment:
It's not a particularly great song.
It's basically four and a half minutes of plinky buildup, which generally I like. But to pull it off, the payoff has be sublime (Arcade Fire's "Rebellion (Lies)" comes to mind as a track which does this.) We're treated to swell of guitars at the end, but so what? Lyrical novelty would make up for this, but "If I lay here, / If I just lay here, / Would you lie with me/ And just forget the world?" doesn't quite cut it. Granted, I'm sure at 14, I would have found it fucking profound.
But, I don't actively dislike the song -- it seems like a decent filler song on a good album, a good second-to-last track. I'm just perplexed with it's the big single. (Especially since I rather liked Snow Patrol's last single, Run). It's like they're trying to pull off what Coldplay did with Clocks, but without the driving tempo that made Clocks great. Overall, exactly the song I would imagine hormonal, white, teenaged IM addicts to be listening to. Released: May 9, 2006 NON-OFFENSIVE
Posted by Geoff G. at 10:21 PM
It's Halloween, which can only mean one thing - dusting off my all-time favorite Halloween album: Kronos Quartet performing Philip Glass' score for the original Dracula. I now have the movie, too - thanks, Jen's parents - but for years the music alone has been my fall soundtrack. Haven't spent much time out of the city lately, so there hasn't been any walking through the falling red and yellow leaves with strings dancing in my head. But when I put this on, the leaves appear right in front of me. Sometimes I'm a kid again, trick or treating around my old neighborhood. Sometimes I'm back in the Czech Republic, taking train rides around the country to castles and hiking around for hours with my old discman.
If you don't have this album - and especially if you haven't seen the movie, which is a work of bloody genius even with the old soundtrack (the DVD gives you a choice) - you're missing out. Sure, it gets a bit repetitive in the middle sections, but, to me, it's to Halloween what Nat King Cole's The Christmas Song is to, well, you know. Released: August 31, 1999. ESSENTIAL.
Posted by Matthew at 12:05 AM
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Something had to break my bad mood.
Icy warm, a bit like The Moody Blues but with the softer side of Radiohead thrown in. Jonathan Meiburg's lyrics are gorgeous, albeit hard to hear (the one strike so far against this one is the production - the volume jumps a bit between the soft parts and the loud ones). Johnny Viola is one of the most beautiful songs I've heard all year - in, as I've said, a strong year for songs. And it's only one of the many standouts on this album, even after only a couple of listens. I haven't lived with this long, but I have a feeling it will stick. Released: May 2, 2006. A REAL FIND.
Thanks to The Rich Girls Are Weeping for the tip.
Shearwater - Johnny Viola [mp3] (thank you Baby, You Got a Stew Goin'! for the link.)
Posted by Matthew at 10:33 PM
Thursday, October 26, 2006
In keeping with the grump theme that's developed this week...
This time of year always means I'm starting to think about my end of year "Best Of" list, and, of course, my album of the year. Nowadays, when I put an album on, I listen to it with an ear for how complete it is. But what I'm finding is that most of my favorite releases from 2006 contain great songs, but lack something as a whole.
I can make quite a list of The Best Songs of 2006 - which I will do before the year is out - but it's much harder when I have to think of the Best Albums. They all seemed flawed to me. Dylan's is good, but it pales in comparison to his best work; The Decemberists new one is solid, but not Picaresque; Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's The Letting Go has some amazing songs and others that don't connect; The Mountain Goats record is a bit samey and sometimes a bit pathetic; Belle and Sebastian and The Long Winters are both good but not as strong as their previous efforts; Loose Fur isn't Wilco; Current 93 is just too freakish; Asobi Seksu is a bit too shoegazey; Art Brut is only good in small doses; Band of Horses is derivative; Figurines is fun but a tad immature...I could go on and on with my list but it's already well past my bedtime.
Over the next couple months, I will whittle them down and pick one. But last year there were at least five legitimate candidates for my top spot - albums I was really excited about, from start to finish.
All five would win this year.
Posted by Matthew at 1:36 AM
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
A band I had never heard of called Beat Radio has released their entire debut LP, The Great Big Sea, as a free download on their Web site, which means you are legally required to at least give it a spin. I grabbed it, moments ago, and, on the advice of a music blog called Thank God I'm A Nutsack, I have already listened to a song called Treetops, which is a pretty decent song that I'll probably keep after I've deleted the rest of it. And did I mention it was free?
Beat Radio - The Great Big Sea [zip]
Posted by Matthew at 12:22 AM
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Thanks to iTunes and the Lord of the Byron, I got three new albums on Sunday night/Monday morning.
I will likely not give them the time they deserve because I have bought way too many albums this year and haven't given them enough time yet either. Oh well. My college/Prague days are clearly over.
On to the albums...
The first impulse buy was Yellow House by Grizzly Bear. (And yes, I actually do buy the vast majority of my albums with actual money). They're a Brooklyn band, I liked their album cover, the Pitchfork review was glowing and the clips sounded good. And it was the early morning and I was continuing to bemoan the fact that this year hasn't been nearly as good for music as last year was.
So I like it. It reminds me a bit of Kingsbury Manx. But I can't shake the pretentiousness I hear in this album. It's pretty, it's seemingly what I would want in an album, yet I picture the band with smug looks on their faces as they play their various instruments. I haven't much basis for this, I guess, it's just that their music is a tad too precious, and their Web site really fucking annoys me, what with the posed band photos and these descriptions of the band and their album:
Home-recorded songs can feel incomplete whilst being as tantalizingly indicative as the sketches before a painting. The outlines, though interesting in their own respect, are not as satisfying as the finished version. Grizzly Bear, however, have approached song writing as a craft to master from their very first album, Horn of Plenty onwards. Enamored by how a song "reads", they were fully present from prologue to denouement even though singer/songwriter Edward Droste recorded them by himself in his Brooklyn bedroom. Fuelled by a bout of post-relationship inspiration, those first songs celebrated the creative liberation of the ProTools era. They explored the depths of break-ups through crystal-clear tones, field sounds and woozy, complex harmonies.From prologue to denouement, I find their Web site to be incomplete whilst being as tantalizingly indicative of really bad PR copy or what a bunch of fucktards actually think about themselves. And:
The new material that comprises Yellow House (released on Warp Records on September 4th) puts the band at the vanguard of contemporary song writing. The album was self-recorded during an idyllic summer. The makeshift studio was provided by Droste's mom's living room in a yellow house just off Cape Cod.In other words, after brunch with Buffy and Skyler down at the Club, the band reconvened to continue celebrating the creative liberation of the ProTools era. Released: September 5, 2006.
M. Ward has been recommended to me enough times now and his new one, Post-War, is getting critical acclaim, so it became my second pickup of the early morning. On first listen, I liked it more than the Grizzly Bear album, although this is again an album that seems to favor style over substance.
He's an indie singer-songwriter and it's an album of indie singer-songwriter songs, his first with a backing band. Chinese Translation, the single, is either charming because of the beat and the sing-a-longability or annoying because the storyline seems like it's promising to impart some wisdom but doesn't, at all. (Yes, yes, his point is that there are no actual answers, and that we're all on the same quest for something that can't be found, blah blah blah, but I'm sorry, I don't buy it). I do like some of this album, but I could see myself listening to it for about another week. I am evidently missing something, because everyone else is shitting themselves over this one. Released: August 29, 2006. M. BORED.
Everytime Beck releases an album, I wonder if I should get it, eventually do, find it nice enough I guess, and then it collects dust (real, digital or otherwise). This is probably going to be the same exact thing, and, if so, I may have finally had enough. Released: October 3, 2006. BLECCH.
Boy, am I negative this evening. Did I mention how awesome Bread, Love and Cha Cha Cha is?
Posted by Matthew at 11:11 PM
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Bishop Allen is a Brooklyn-based band that has released an EP every month of this year as they work on their next album. You can download some samples from their Web site. I just grabbed a bunch, including a real good one called Like Castanets, from the September EP, described by the band as such:
Justin was invited down to Chile just a bit ago because his movie was screening in festivals there. He walked around Santiago, through the streets and the antipodal Winter. If I remember right, he flew back and then we hopped in the van to go on tour. When we returned to New York, we recorded this song first thing for the new EP, and it remains our favorite.I'm really digging this song.
Bishop Allen - Like Castanets [mp3]
Posted by Matthew at 2:17 PM
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Let's start with Return to the Sea by Islands. This album has been atop enough "Best of '06 So Far" lists that I finally felt compelled to check it out. Like the Danielson album, though, you shouldn't be fooled by the hype. This is another of the Fiery Furnaces/ADD-inspired albums that you'll either love for its choas or hate for its lack of cohesion. I must admit I was charmed by it, but if I had to pick I would probably go with the latter. There should really be a warning label for this genre of albums.
Swans (Life After Death), the first track, is an epic of the "Will....this...song...ever...end?" variety and I had decided to despise this album by the time it was over. But the next couple of songs are decent enough and Rough Gem forced a smile onto my face. I could see my little sister liking this - and I might pass it on to her. It is "charming", but not as much as other "charming" albums I have (Architecture in Helsinki comes to mind) and will likely collect digital dust on the inside of my harddrive. Released: April 4, 2006 (look at that - my sister's birthday!). STRANDED.
Meanwhile, if a band sounds exactly like another, previously existing band, are they a waste of time? Should they be scorned? That is my quandry with Band of Horses, who remind me a great deal of My Morning Jacket. Despite having a more gorgeous album cover than MMJ's latest, lead singer Ben Bridwell sounds a whole lot like Jim James (although he also sings like he could have been a Beach Boy in a previous life) and the band rocks in a very similar way. Sometimes, I think maybe the answer to my question is no, that this is a worthy album despite sounding derivative. But sometimes, I put it on and think to myself, "I'd rather be listening to Z." I'm really going to have to get back to you on this one. I will tell you one thing, though, the song posted via YouTube below (The Funeral) kicks major ass. Released: March 21, 2006. UNDECIDED.
Posted by Matthew at 7:56 PM
Thursday, October 12, 2006
With Picaresque - and the great show they put on at Webster Hall - I quickly fell in love with The Decemberists last year, especially their quirky charm and Colin Meloy's Mellvillian lyrics, from The Mariner's Revenge Song, an eight-minute-plus seafaring tale of long-unrequited vengence taken inside the belly of a whale, to The Engine Driver, an R.E.M.-esque song of a railroad worker who writes novels to rid himself of painful memories of an ex-lover. And Angels and Angles, a soft love song that closes out the album, and The Sporting Life, a perfect song for dosado-ing. In other words, a great mix of moving, fantastic storytelling and lighthearted fun.
I knew that it was The Decemberists' masterpiece.
So The Crane Wife, their first major-label release, was bound to disappoint. It just was a matter of how much.
Happily, it's not too much. The Crane Wife is not Picaresque - the playful songs aren't as playful and the epic tales aren't as compelling. And the music is far more bizarre - The Island begins like vintage Band On The Run-era Paul McCartney before turning into a Leprechauns-on-acid Irish jig. But it's an awesome song, and there is plenty more to like here. The Shankill Butchers is already an essential on my personal Halloween soundtrack, and Yankee Bayonet and The Crane Wife 3 also help make up a strong collection of folk songs, although Sons & Daughters, after starting strong, becomes repetitive and a bit annoying. The highlight of the album (besides the Meloy/Laura Veirs duet on Yankee) is O Valencia!, a Romeo and Juliet-inspired tale of warring families and forbidden love, which has the album's best hook. Released: October 3, 2006. MELOYDIOUS.
Posted by Matthew at 9:26 PM
Monday, October 09, 2006
File Under: Records I Play
Just in case you think I am only using the word "record" to sound hip - which is, don't get me wrong, exactly what I'm trying to do - I finally got my lovely birthday turntable set up in my new Hoboken digs. I have a thirty-year-old stereo with horrid speakers that crap out every couple of songs, but listening to Computer World on vinyl, while playing it simultaneously in iTunes, makes me the happiest geek on Madison Street.
Spin the black circle!
"Inside you, the time moves, but she don't fade..."
So now I'll have to write reviews of all the records I've picked up at flea markets but never actually listened to because my parents' record player was broken. The first one I should write about is "Bread, Love and Cha-Cha-Cha" which I was just dancing around the room to. It's better even than I had imagined it from the album art (yes, that's a giant loaf of bread smoking a cigarette and wearing a beret). And once we get a couch, you can come over and listen to it, too.
Posted by Matthew at 9:29 PM
Thursday, September 28, 2006
So I'm moving this weekend and probably won't have Internet for several days. And, as it turns out, our ex-roommate called all the way from Hong Kong this past week and cancelled the Internet at my current place.
Needless to say, my blogging time will be extremely limited for the next week or so.
In the meantime, read about the non-death of Paul Vance if you haven't already.
Posted by Matthew at 11:22 AM
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
So usually I try to avoid TV at all costs, but tonight I watched the Yankee game with pops and I was surprised and delighted to hear the voice of Erlend Oye (from one of my favorite bands, Kings of Convenience, and one of my not-so-favorite bands Whitest Boy Alive) in one of those GEICO caveman commercials. If you're wondering, the track is called "Remind Me" and it's from Röyksopp's 2002 album Melody A.M.
As I've said before on this blog, I'm not exactly enamored with Oye's electronic catalogue, but it was nice to see GEICO getting it done - especially after those awful talking british gecko ads which literally drive me into a blinding rage.
Posted by Matthew at 12:05 AM