Saturday, December 30, 2006

Records I Buy Blind Item #1

Which three-legged rock band has (finally!) ditched their longtime producer in hopes of revitalizing their career?

Details to come in the new year.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

2006 Album of the Year: Nos. 3-1

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!

[Nos. 10-4].

And the Winner Is...

Umm, no.

Diverging from TIME's sentiments, "you" can kiss my ass.

(I'll be back later with the real deal.)

UPDATE: The You crap continues.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

2006 Album of the Year: Nos. 10-4

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.

Best Music-Related Christmas Gift

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.!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Lost Meets Weird Al

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.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Thank You, TIME

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.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Arcade Fire - Intervention

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 (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.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Records I Buy's Pretty Obvious Top 5 Christmas Albums of All Time List

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]

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

We Walked in Song (Update)

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 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).

Saturday, December 09, 2006

We Walked in Song

In a "new album exclusive" at Keith Abbott's, 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 Sun
(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.
The Innocence Mission - I Never Knew You From the Sun [iTunes]

Friday, December 08, 2006

Rosie Thomas - These Friends of Mine

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.

Trapped in the Clauset

File Under: "What the hell's this got to do with cupcakes?!"

A special holiday treat, via stereogum.

WARNING: Parts two and three are packed with violent, bloodsoaked blasphemy (and, hence, are even more hilarious).

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Kid A

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.


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.

- Author Stephen King on Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars"
(from Entertainment Weekly)

Garden of Eden

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]

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

No One I Know Likes Joanna Newsom

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!]

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Clint Mansell - The Fountain (Music from the Motion Picture)

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.)