It seems like sometimes track runners have a hard time making it over the hurdles at the 250-300m mark in a 400m race. I wouldn't know because I don't do it, but I have a very similar feeling when it comes to blogging. Here I am, post #101 and I barely know what to do with myself. Of course, I've been listening to a ton of new music and it's all amazing and I want to spill my guts about it and post download links and tell you about my life, but right now, it seems so much easier to post a new picture and just write "LULZ" on the bottom or post tons of underground railroad to candyland videos without feeling the need to explain them at all.
Of course, if you haven't added it to the reader, check out my tumblr for your daily dose of exactly what you'd expect from me.
Anyways, I do apologize profusely for neglecting my duties here. It makes me sad that I've gone for so long without posting anything here because this blog was definitely my first love. I do have some exciting things lined up, starting with a new muxtape (not an official muxtape, however) already up for your listening pleasure on the dot com. Well bros, keep it real and make sure to ride me until I post again.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Posted by christopher at 8:41 AM
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Thank you for being here. To the four of you who read this blog from time to time, I'd like to give you a treat. It was meant to be my Christmas present to everyone, but it's super late. Hopefully, you can still find the time to enjoy it a little bit.
I can't believe I've kept this blog going for as long as I have without getting too bored. It's been over a year of spotty posting and hopefully some of the content has been meaningful.
Anyways, I just did a major muxtape update and here are the tracklistings (with a few comments, of course):
MUXTAPE #6: noise pop (04.17.08)
this one was based around all those cool laser snare hits in the gbv song.
1. darker my love - "opening" (darker my love)
2. mark lanegan band - "head" (bubblegum)
3. dinosaur jr. - "sludgefeast" (you're living all over me)
4. skywave - "here she comes" (synthstatic)
5. guided by voices - "i'll replace you with machines" (earthquake glue)
6. no age - "sleeper hold" (nouns)
7. the raveonettes - "attack of the ghost riders" (whip it on)
8. sonic youth - "youth against fascism" (dirty)
9. medicine - "defective" (shot forth self living)
MUXTAPE #11: ryan adams is a golden god (05.16.08)
ryan adams plays the hits. 48 hours would have been his best album, but it never came out. now we'll never know how good he really could be (since he's quitting). i'm looking forward to his book though.
1. ryan adams - "damn, sam (i love a woman that rains)" (heartbreaker)
2. whiskeytown - "yesterday's news" (stranger's almanac)
3. ryan adams - "hallelujah" (48 hours, but this version is from demolition)
4. whiskeytown - "crazy about you" (pneumonia)
5. ryan adams - "my winding wheel" (heartbreaker)
6. ryan adams - "la cienega just smiled" (suicide handbook)
7. whiskeytown - "don't wanna know why (demo)" (forever valentine)
8. ryan adams - "chin up, cheer up" (48 hours, but this version is from demolition)
9. ryan adams - "dear chicago" (demolition)
MUXTAPE #27: carl newman's greatest hits (sort of) (12.07.08)
this one was made in anticipation of ac newman's new solo album, which isn't all that good. some great new pornographers stuff here, including a neko case song that has the newman charm all over it, as well as burt bacharach and a zombies covers.
1. ac newman - "miracle drug" (the slow wonder)
2. zumpano - "i dig you" (look what the rookie did)
3. the new pornographers - "the electric version" (electric version)
4. ac newman - "drink to me" (the slow wonder)
5. zumpano - "what the world needs now (live)" (live on cbc, 1999)
6. the new pornographers - "letter from an occupant" (mass romantic)
7. ac newman - "on the table" (the slow wonder)
8. zumpano - "changes" (b-side)
9. the new pornographers - "the bleeding heart show" (twin cinema)
MUXTAPE #29: christmas 1997 (12.30.08)
i was listening to a bunch of emo from 1997 and realized a bunch of it was sort of seasonally appropriate. contained: one of my favorite jimmy eat world songs, one of my favorite get up kids songs (REUNION) and a song by boysnightout, a canadian band that could have been as big as my chemical romance, had they played their cards right.
1. the promise ring - "b is for bethlehem" (nothing feels good)
2. paris, texas - "cadillac of high hair" (so, you think it's hot here?)
3. texas is the reason - "johnny on the spot" (do you know who you are?)
4. jimmy eat world - "christmas card" (singles)
5. algernon cadwallader - "katie's conscience" (some kind of cadwallader)
6. spitalfield - "you can't stop" (remember right now)
7. hey mercedes - "quality revenge at last" (loses control)
8. the get up kids - "one year later" (red letter day ep)
9. boysnightout - "punched in the nose (demo)" (demo)
MUXTAPE #30: post-everything (01.07.09)
i got really stoked on post-hardcore one day and just went for it. contained: rose for bohdan, whose album was given away for free by deathbombarc as well as an at the drive-in b-side and a new abe vigoda song that sounds like the 80s.
1. abe vigoda - "house" (reviver ep)
2. frodus - "there will be no more sun" (and we washed our weapons in the sea)
3. at the drive-in - "incetardis" (this station is non-operational)
4. fugazi - "facet squared" (in on the kill taker)
5. the nation of ulysses - "s.s. exploder" (plays pretty for baby)
6. the plot to blow up the eiffel tower - "attached to the hip" (dissertation, honey)
7. milemarker - "frigid forms sell you warmth" (frigid forms sell)
8. rose for bohdan - "go to your grave" (there it is, the creeping moral decay of the past thousand years)
9. refused - "the deadly rhythm" (the shape of punk to come)
MUXTAPE #31: it's all downtempo from here (01.15.09)
i really used to like "IDM" but always thought it had such a stupid name. i love stuff that's glitchy and dark. i thought jimmy tamborello was the only one doing it, but then i realized that locust guy had been doing it for like 15 years or something before dntel.
1. ratatat - "one" (9 beats)
2. YACHT - "the magic beat (instrumental)" (instrumentals 2007)
3. four tet - "ribbons" (ringer)
4. slowdive - "shine (splendiferous locust mix)" (souvlaki demos)
5. the books - "it never changes to stop" (lost and safe)
6. new order - "ceremony" (substance)
7. m83 - "run into flowers" (dead cities, red seas & lost ghosts)
8. dntel - "(this is) the dream of evan and chan" (life is full of possibilities)
9. statistics - "mr. nathan" (leave your name)
MUXTAPE #32: achievement (01.15.09)
this one started out as three different tape ideas: one was supposed to be a power pop muxtape, one was going to be a talking heads inspired muxtape and the other one was going to be a lo-fi muxtape, but then the songs all came together so well, especially the talking heads section with the new david byrne/dirty projectors song, which is as brilliant as the new prince song.
1. clap your hands say yeah - "underwater (you and me) (demo)" (demo)
2. lilys - "a diana's diana" (everything wrong is imaginary)
3. dirty projectors - "knotty pine (with david byrne)" (dark was the night)
4. handsome furs - "all we want, baby, is everything" (face control)
5. guided by voices - "i am a scientist" (bee thousand)
6. teenage fanclub - "i don't know" (bandwagonesque)
7. prince - "crimson and clover/wild thing" (demo)
8. the three o'clock - "with a cantaloupe girlfriend" (baroque hoedown)
9. gentleman jesse and his men - "you don't have to (if you don't want to)" (gentleman jesse and his men)
What will you bring us?
Hipster Runoff just posted his first mp3 of 2009 ("searching for ‘the next relevant sound’ to align my personal brand with") and it makes me think about what this year will bring for each of us. As I'm typing this, I hear Vampire Weekend on a Grey's Anatomy preview; think about where those guys were this time last year. They were probably six or seven months out of Columbia, in the middle of recording what would become their first album. Did they think that they were going to be this year's Beirut? Well, maybe, but you know what I mean.
Something seems different about this year. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's just time for indie rock to die again or maybe it's where I am in my life, but it's time for a change (OBAMA FTW BANNED WORD KTHX). Maybe this isn't all about the music; I guess it really never was.
Posted by christopher at 10:22 PM
Monday, January 5, 2009
Ed: So here's the deal. I am often reminded about how patience is largely ignored. I'm sitting at my grandparents' house, trying to boot Windows XP from a disc and do a complete System Restore. I've been ignoring the part of my brain that tells me to be patient. You don't always get what you want exactly when you want it. I don't know exactly what it is I've been looking for, but I certainly wasn't going to get it overnight. I have had a rough few weeks and I've been really bad about answering my phone. If you've tried to call me, sorry about that. I will explain in full when I see you all in person, if I haven't already talked to you. Anyways, this was the original Christmas Eve entry. It is unfinished and unedited and presented for your consideration. Expect an email with my Christmas gift.
You know, it seems like every year, I miss Thanksgiving. I know it's coming and I gladly participate in it, but I really miss it. What I mean by this is that I seem to forget its purpose. I think it has something to do with the fact that I'm still in the middle of my semester at school and not being capable of thinking of much else, but every time Christmas rolls around, I snap back into a real place of reflection. Last year, my address came on December 13, my last night of studying for finals. This year, I'm writing this on Christmas night; I've been home for almost two weeks and I feel like I've wasted so many of those days, working towards nothing important.
It seems like every year, I'm given the same revelation over and over. I look back and tell myself that "this was the hardest year EVAR" or some such nonsense without really thinking about it. I quickly recover and realize that everything I complain about is what the rest of you people call "life." The only difference from before is that the challenges are different; as I get older, the problems get harder and harder, but this is only fair as I'm given more and more capacity to handle things as the years go on. I'm no different from any of you, however I seem to have an abnormal fascination with thinking that my circumstances are "so harsh." I really don't know if this is suburban affective disorder, what comes with being 22 or just something that is a lot more common than I think.
As with every year, I've had challenges and victories, both big and small. Some of you were there with me and the rest of you I missed dearly. I deeply appreciate the support I get from every single one of you and hope that I can return the favor twentyfold.
Posted by christopher at 2:57 PM
Sunday, December 21, 2008
This muxtape is basically just a bunch of songs that punch you in the face sonically. Get stoked.
1. Titus Andronicus - "Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ (The Airing of Grievances)"
This song is a perfect example of why Titus Andronicus have made one of the best albums of the year. This is the first song on the album, which is basically all that needs to be said. Any album that starts with that amount of bombast is bound to be a winner. The text reading at the end of the song is the point in the album when you realize that these dudes were actually trying to make the most epic rock album ever.
2. Sleater-Kinney - "The Fox (The Woods)"
I have a deep appreciation for Sleater-Kinney, though I wouldn't categorize myself as much more than a casual fan. With a band like Sleater-Kinney, I think there's more than a few different types of "casual fan," and I am the sort that appreciates every part of S-K's discography. I listened to enough riot grrl to appreciate the first two albums, I love the pop sensibility of the middle of their career and really love The Woods. The guitars on "The Fox" absolutely snarl and the drum fill in the bridge is brilliant.
3. Nirvana - "Scentless Apprentice (In Utero Albini Mixes)"
Apparently, this version of the song was supposed to be used in an episode of Lost, but the album version aired instead. This is another instance where a guitar can sound like an absolute beast, though this was mostly because of the hard work of Steve Albini, who has finely crafted his guitar sounds over the years at Electrical Audio. I would imagine Albini in his workshop, building amps and pedals with the sole purpose of making hate in sound form. It seems like he wants all of his music to sound like he is a true misanthrope, not just one of those Madison Avenue, novel writer types who "don't like people" because "they're stupid."
4. Hüsker Dü - "Broken Home, Broken Heart (Zen Arcade)"
Bob Mould has written some of the best hardcore songs of the 1980s, and this is one of them. Songs like this one and "New Day Rising" or "Something I Learned Today" just make you want to circle pit into infinity.
5. The Wedding Present - "High (Friday, I'm In Love: A Tribute to The Cure)"
The Wedding Present's recent output has been really weird. It makes me think that they're living in Los Angeles now, which they very well could be, and it also makes me think they still want to be young. I'm guessing at least half the band is actually young, but Gedge is well into his 40s, as he was supposed to be "the next Morrissey" or whatever ridiculous garbage NME put on his head. Either way, they've still got something going for them, and this Cure cover is really great. They still love the distorted octaves and playing fast, so you've gotta give them some credit.
6. April March - "Alec Eiffel (Pixies Fuckin' Die!)"
Speaking of weird tribute contributions, here's one from April March. Yeah, the one from Grindhouse. Though she got way into chanson somewhere around 2000, she put out this cover in the late 90s and it sounds way 90s; the best part is that she took a song that is one of the most covered Pixies songs and made it her own. What this version lacks in Frank Black charm (weird guitar parts, atonal noise), it more than makes up with its melodiousness. It really focuses on the beautiful pop song hidden under the surface of the original.
7. Heatmiser - "Blackout (Dead Air)"
If you didn't know, this song is basically the reason Elliott Smith ended up in Los Angeles. Heatmiser's shows got more and more violent in the Dead Air period and of course, Eliott didn't like this, so he wrote a bunch of songs that ended up being Mic City Sons and then eventually ending the band to write more songs that sounded like Mic City Sons, except quieter and way more sad. Great song though.
8. ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead - "Heart in the Hand of the Matter (Source Tags and Codes)"
Sometimes I forget just how much I like this album. It never really finds its way onto my "essential" or "favorite" albums list, but each of the tracks on the album is brilliant and always find their way onto my mixtapes. Though their more recent output has been spotty, I know they will continue to put out interesting music.
9. Darker My Love - "Northern Soul (2)"
This is just good music. I never really liked the band, but the more and more I saw them open up for other bands I was going to see, the more they grew on me. They do a psychedelic-Pavement-gazing thing better than any other band in Los Angeles. The funny thing about that genre is that it seems like that was totally the genre of 2008 here. Let's all start 90s college bands!
Friday, December 19, 2008
Ed.: For those of you who don't know, Sam "Cinema" Song is a film major at NYU and the resident film snob. His "best of" list isn't the usual music list because he claims "he doesn't know anything about music" even though he bleeds hip. I'm glad that he's around so that we can throw stones at... what's the phrase? I'm not sure the phrase even works in this situation, but who really cares? Well, whatever it is, we both do it; I'm glad to have a friend that understands snobbery like me. Anyways, here's a special best of 2008 presentation.
favorite films of 2008, because i know nothing about music. there's still a lot that remains to be seen (a christmas tale, the curious case of benjamin button, etc.) but i feel pretty confident that this list will stay the way it is when all's said and done.
1. rachel getting married (dir. jonathan demme)
that tunde adebimpe sings "unknown legend" to his betrothed at the altar (he's who rachel is getting married to) is reason enough for this to be the best film of the year. pulsates with the rhythms of life, replete with its unpredictable undulations between joy and pain conveyed through the delicious combining of pathos and humor, all handled deftly by demme. anne hathaway is astonishing relative to what she's done up until this point, but she is by no means the star despite her abundance of screen time--this is an ensemble piece through and through, and everyone is perfect. this movie restores my love of the medium as it is everything a great film should be. i only have appreciation and affection for rachel getting married, a beautiful and generous film.
2. flight of the red balloon (dir. hou hsiao-hsien)
i can't not love a film by hou hsiao-hsien, this one made all the more irresistable by its evocations of the beautiful short film le balon rouge. gracefully meandering camera movements, long takes, and juliette binoche's bravura performance give this loving hommage/meditation on cultural displacement and memory a poetic vitality that can only be achieved by hou.
3. momma's man (dir. azazel jacobs) / my winnipeg (dir. guy maddin)
two films, thematically linked, one spot on the list so i can make room for more. both are intensely autobiographical, so personal that it verges on the uncomfortable and are all the more rewarding for it. one is a narrative feature about a man who, after visiting his parents at his childhood home, can't seem to leave (momma's man), and the other an attempt by the filmmaker to escape a sprawling documentary essay about it (my winnipeg). oedipal undertones (or in maddin's case, ubertones) and surrealist imagery abound in these truly original films.
4. don't touch the axe (dir. jacques rivette) (u.s. title: the duchess of langeais)
an underappreciated member of the french new wave, jacques rivette's adaptation of another work by balzac (he previously adapted la belle noiseuse to the screen) is a sensuous costume drama and a marvel of economical filmmaking. max ophuls' influence can be felt throughout, from the fluid and meaningful camera movements to the thematic exploration of human pleasures. jeanne balibar seems to have become his new muse. she's no juliet berto, but she'll do. as is the case with any good period piece of this era, muted passions brim to unbelievable tension and like all of rivette's films, sustains and earns its length. he's one of the few filmmakers i'll accept a running time of over two hours from knowing full well that he'll make use of every second of it.
5. wendy and lucy (dir. kelly reichardt)
transposes vittorio de sica's umberto d. to bush era hard times. the story is profoundly simple--girl is broke and wants to go to alaska to find work, but loses her dog along the way--and is appropriately pared down in its telling. like old joy, it uses the personal to achieve to political, expressing a kind of anxiety and disillusionment unique to this generation, this time and place, and for that if nothing else is an important work. wendy and lucy is a small, quiet film that builds slowly to pack quite the emotional punch.
6. milk (dir. gus van sant)
its prescience in light of all that is proposition 8 is eerie, making the act of watching the film a surreal experience unto itself. as traditional as biopics get, but van sant embellishes the film with aesthetic flourishes and an earnestness that elevate the film to the realm of the sublime. decidedly conventional considering what van sant's been up to with his last four films and the temptation exists to write this film off because of that, but to see the ideas he's developed through his aesthetic experimentation and apply them to a more familiar form is fascinating and inspiring. this is american sentimentality at its best.
7. the dark knight (dir. christopher nolan)
modernity steeped in a greek sense of tragedy and rightfully so, all by way of an american icon restored to power. the darkest and perhaps greatest of comic book movies (my heart will forever belong to ghost world). the dark knight has the sense of a new mythology in its ability to envelope an audience on a textual level while remaining pertenant to the context it comes from, which admittedly can get a little out of hand--the film can easily be read as a bush apologia--but that a film of this kind of entertainment value can be so immediate is enough for me. nothing can be written about this movie without the mention of heath ledger, who will win a posthumous academy award. gary oldman is the unsung hero of this film. batman's motorcycle 180 off the wall and the montage + voice over that ends the film are the giddiest moments the 14 year old in me got to experience at the movies this year.
8. chris and don: a love story (dir. tina mascara & guido santi)
this lovely documentary about the incredible relationship between christopher isherwood and don bachardy is the single most moving testament to the power of love(!!!) of the year. i was so wrapped up in the emotions of their story that i'm not quite sure what makes the film such a sucess, but it's pure and achingly beautiful. passages from isherwoods diaries are read that are moving not only because of the sentiment expressed but also the eloquence and mastery of words, which i guess might be the key to the film's greatness--the inclusion of their lives as artists in the context of their relationship (as opposed to a general statement about artists). a simple and unpretentious joy of a film.
9. pineapple express (dir. david gordon green)
needs no explanation.
10. wall-e (dir. andrew stanton)
a great sci-fi robot romance that only the near-perfect pixar could produce. the first half of this film is so perfect it hurts. once on the spaceship though, we enter typical pixar territory which isn't necessariliy a bad thing, but prevents this film from being truly great. didn't much appreciate having its greenness hit me in the face either. randy newman's song might be the worst song ever written for a disney movie. but these are all bad things. the shades of chaplin in wall-e's mannerisms to the inclusion of hello, dolly!, wall-e is made by people who love the movies, a quality that's severely lacking in recent output.
honorable mention: the wrestler, redbelt, happy-go-lucky, ashes of time redux, trouble the water
Posted by christopher at 8:11 PM
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
ED: I am still seeking submissions. Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org soon!
Gregory and the Hawk – Moenie and Kitchi
Someday I'll toss all your presents/And bury the letters left unsent
Cause it's bad to do what's easy/Just cause it's easy
And I wanna do what pleases me but I can't
Lauryn Hill – MTV Unplugged
City and Colour – Bring Me Your Love
Sad music for sad Internet users.
She & Him – Volume One
Zooey is so pretty, dudes. Pretty pretty pretty. This album makes me want to wear poofy skirts and giggle on the phone about cute boys and broken hearts
Mirah – You Think It's Like This But It's Really Like This
The Mirah album that actually came out this year was only okay so I went back and remembered why this one's my favorite.
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Hearing this on repeat at the co-op, I had to start listening to it on my own and now I am embarrassed.
Ingrid Michaelson – Be OK
Well you might be a bit confused /and you might be a little bit bruised
But baby how we spoon like no one else
Thao Nguyen and the Get Down Stay Down – We Brave Bee Stings And All
I can never remember any songs from this album off-hand, but when it comes on I can sing along to every single one.
Posted by christopher at 11:36 AM
Friday, December 12, 2008
As Justin alluded in his Best of list, this year was totally the year of awesome pop-punk. Indie rock is as dead as emocore as far as I'm concerned. How do I know this? Just take a look at the genres of the shows on the schedule at Chain Reaction. EVERYTHING SEEMS TO BE LISTED AS 'INDIE.' DONE.
20. Los Campesinos! - Hold On Now, Youngster.../We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed
Basically, Los Campesinos! are either destined for greatness in the post-C86 scene or they're never going to put out another good album. At first, they seemed sort of gimmicky. They played songs about twee pop and pop music in general and they had a xylophone player and a violin player. It was some sort of self parody joke, but in the end, they were just a good band with a self-aware sense of humor. Both full lengths released this year were exciting, sonically interesting and decent in length, which is terribly difficult to do. Though the first LP contained a few songs that they had released on EPs released in 2007, they fit very well with the rest of the album and were wonderful singles. The second album, We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, was a darker affair that seemed more thought out and more heavily medicated (Ritalined) than Hold On Now, Youngster. Either way, the hooks on the albums are amazing and can't be stopped, even though they're an NME band (I think... they're from Wales or something, which doesn't help).
19. Moscow Olympics - Cut the World
It's good to know that shoegaze has penetrated all the way into the Philippines. I have no idea if this band is part of a scene there or what; all I know is that this is the best shoegaze album of the year and it's from the Philippines.
18. Titus Andronicus - The Airing of Grievances
There are so many things to be said about this album. I knew I loved it when I first heard it, but the more I listened to it, the more I realized its genius. There are like six or seven dudes in the band and I think they're in the band more for group vocals and set dressing than anything else. They literally have four guitars and two keyboards on the stage, along with your standard rhythm section. Earlier I compared the album to the Desaparecidos album, and I won't retract that statement, however, I believe that the best part about Titus Andronicus is the fact that they're actually trying to sound juvenile, rather than coming off as too eager and amateurish in attempting to write songs about capitalism being evil. In the self titled track "Titus Andronicus," not only is the refrain "Your life is over" screamed over and over, there is a very subtle part at the end of the first verse where the dude says "Fuck everything, fuck me." This album was definitely made for the 14 year old in all of us that suddenly reappeared in our 20s.
17. The Mae Shi - HLLLYH
The Mae Shi were one of the early Smell bands that came into the internet's collective consciousness pretty early on. They played tons of shows and were one of the noisier bands. When their new songs leaked on a few blogs two years ago, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. What I had known of the Mae Shi was the opening set for the Ozma reunion show a few years back. I hated them. They weren't noisy because it was a conscious choice, it seemed like they were noisy because they didn't want to be playing music at all. The two songs I heard were "Lion and the Lamb" and "Run to Your Grave." I knew that if these were even the only two songs on their new album, they were going to be huge and they deserved it. Those two songs were pop gems and their synths actually sounded great, whereas on their old albums, they didn't. What I've learned about the Mae Shi is that they spend a great deal of time on their electronics and on this album, it really shows. My only gripe with the album is that it is too short. There are a few noisy punk songs which are focused and coherent and one song that is almost 12 minutes long, which is their own dance remix of a melody from the album. The rest of those songs, however, are great. Side note: they also released the best cover of the year of Miley Cyrus' single "See U Again" and it sounds incredibly expensive just because of their brilliant recording and electronics.
16. AU - Verbs
Basically, Animal Collective just met their match. I know some people actually like that band, so I will acknowledge that Au and Animal Collective are different in that AC is more electronic driven whereas Au is more organic, but you have to admit that they are a bit alike. Anyways, Luke Wyland really hit his stride with this album. He collected a bunch of great musicians to play on his songs and it really shows. The end of the album drags a little, but the "All My Friends"/"Are Animals" suite pretty much rules everything, especially if you've seen it live. If you know what I'm talking about, then you know why this album is great.
15. Boris - Smile
Boris has to be one of the best metal bands of all time. They've proven in a few short years that they can pretty much do anything well. They've done drone, psych, thrash, and now they're doing the Melvins shtick, which means they've got everything important covered. The one thing all of their songs have in common is that if you listen to them loud enough, they will crack your skull wide open. Their songs are just that brutal. Also, Michio Kurihara is basically a part of Boris now, seeing as he tours with them, playing not only on the songs off of their collaboration album, Rainbow, but on all the songs they play live. If you take one of the greatest Japanese metal guitarists and add him to the lineup of one of Japan's most exciting metal bands, you get pure gold.
14. Destroyer - Trouble in Dreams
From what I'm getting from other people's lists, they didn't like this one NEARLY as much as they liked Rubies. I liked Rubies fine, but I felt like this one was really good. Maybe I didn't have the absolute Dan Bejar fever in 2006, but now I'm a believer. His New Pornographers songs were what really hooked me, then I heard the excellent This Night. I then took on Rubies, but I was completely intimidated by the nine minute songs. I mean, I get that Bejar's got a lot of lyrics, but damn dude, your songs in the New Pornographers weren't more than like four minutes so keep it clean. Trouble in Dreams has got a little of that going, but it's not over the top. It's the album for those of us who weren't convinced that Bejar could do it without AC Newman standing over his shoulder. Just listen to the first four songs and think about the fact that each one is under four minutes and seems to be just about perfect in length. There are hooks, beautiful guitar parts and wonderful synth sounds, which is everything I could hope for.
13. Annie - Don't Stop
This is the best album of the year that you won't hear this year. It got shelved after Island Records in Europe wasn't satisfied with it, then subsequently dropped her. Annie was in the middle of rerecording a bunch of songs for the album, as well as doing a few new ones when the news came down the river. The album leaked months previous and a lot of people knew it was going to be an absolute gem. There are a lot of great pop moments on this album that Madonna will never be able to attain again, not just because she's old, but because she's really out of touch. Annie just gets it. One of the more hilarious notes about this album is the credits in the liners for the guest guitar work by Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand. All the songs that he plays on require such minimal guitar experience, it is ridiculous. I hope for his sake that he phoned the parts in, however I figure that he worked really hard on recording some of the most bland, danceable guitar tracks on the market today, just like the rest of Franz Ferdinand's catalogue. Anyways, solid album.
12. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
This was basically the sequel to Nick Cave's 2007 side project album, Grinderman. It's super dirty, beyond funny and absolutely brilliant musically. Even though Cave is one of the best arrangers and composers, his biggest asset is probably Warren Ellis. If you listen to the chorus for the title track, "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!" you will notice that beautifully distorted mandolin track. God, if that isn't one of the coolest sounds, I certainly don't know what is. If this were a Johnny Carson joke, the answer would be, "Hell yes, Nick Cave is one jive motherfucker." What's the question? "Does Nick Cave's new album prove that he is the coolest cat making music today?"
11. The Gutter Twins - Saturnalia/Adorata EP
This is the creepiest album I heard this year. According to Jennifer, the T-Bone Burnett album was much scarier, but I stand by my claim. Just look at the album artwork while thinking about Mark Lanegan and tell me you're not scared already. The songs included on the album are so beautifully terrifying, they will creep into your dreams. I promise that if you really listen to the album at least twice, at least one of the songs will be in one of your dreams. It probably won't be a good dream, but it will be there and it will be beyond vivid. You will wake up sweating and out of breath. You will wish there is an episode of Will and Grace on television so that you can get your mind off of "The Stations" or "Idle Hands" (which has one of the worst videos ever). Basically, Dulli and Lanegan decided that they were going to rip Tom Waits' dark stuff really hard and substitute guitars and strings for whatever Tom Waits uses. Dulli and Lanegan also released a wonderful accompanying EP this year called Adorata, which not only has equally creepy artwork, but equally great songs, but in this case, mostly covers with two Gutter Twins b-sides. There's a Primal Scream cover and a Jose Gonzalez cover (beating the fact that both Dulli and Lanegan are bigger in Europe than they ever will be here into the ground), but the real standout is the duet on "St. James Infirmary." God, that song is beautiful when it's sung by a dude with a great voice.
10. Okkervil River - The Stand-Ins
Last year, I said that Will Sheff was probably the next great American songwriter, in line behind dudes like Jeff Tweedy and Ryan Adams. This album pretty much proves it. It could have easily been a throwaway album because it was meant to be the second disc to The Stage Names' first. What surprises me the most is the departure from the Okkervil River formula. As much as I love the band, I understand that their biggest fault is the fact that their "big" songs all sort of sound the same. There isn't a "For Real" or a "Our Life is Not a Movie..." on this album. The first two songs on the album actually sound a lot like Smiths songs, which is extra weird and awesome.
Also awesome is the series of videos the band did with other artists covering the songs off of The Stand-Ins:
9. The Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride
John Darnielle can turn a phrase better than almost anyone else still in the game. He is by far one of the most literate lyricists I've ever heard and somehow he's one of the most prolific at the same time. He had time to write a 33 1/3 book about Black Sabbath IN CHARACTER. Dude has so many EPs and weird singles that I've never even heard of and keeps putting out more. He released two companion EPs for this album/tour and I haven't even had the time to listen to them, though I know they're great. The album is in the style of his later LP work, meaning less lo-fi, and also incorporates a few beautiful string arrangements. The video attached above is for the first song on the album and is one of the most creative videos this year for one of the best songs.
8. No Age - Nouns
I really wanted to hate this album and I got away with it for a while. It seemed really mediocre in comparison to the shiny bits of Weirdo Rippers, but then I realized that it was because they had made a fully coherent album that worked together. This is exactly why I hate No Age. They seem to do everything ALMOST perfectly. The songs are good, but sometimes just a bit too short and not as rewarding as they could be. The songs are a little lackluster, but are a wonderful piece of the puzzle. The most frustrating part about them is seeing them live. They can't figure out how to put on an engrossing live show to save their lives. Maybe it's because of their complex electronics/loop setup, but stopping in between songs for two or three whole minutes without saying anything at all is a bit much. Anyways, this album totally grew on me the more I listened to it. I look forward to seeing them on MTV more.
7. Off With Their Heads - From the Bottom
I almost put this band towards the top of my list just because of what they are, however they put out a wonderful album full of pop punk surprises. It's gruff on the outside, but damn if it isn't just like any other manic depressive on the inside: fucked up, confused and harsh. These Minneapolis dudes have been catching more press over the past few months and it's not because the dude sounds like a pop-punk Dicky Barrett. Anyways, this album is everything you could hope for and a little bit more. It's pure, grade A, grass fed punk rock and it is a beautiful thing. I can't wait to see them when they come around at the beginning of the next year.
6. Vampire Weekend - s/t
The Feist album of 2008. You absolutely can't stop these dudes. They're not selling iPods, but they're basically selling college, white sweater vests and Topsiders the same way. My favorite part about the band is their keyboard player, who is just a bro. There was one particular interview on pitchfork.tv where the band was interviewed and played in the English Honors Society frat house or something and the band dynamic is more than apparent. The whole time, the dude who obviously writes all the music seems way uncomfortable with everything while the keyboard player dude is basically throwing up the superfinger while blasting a Natty Ice 30. This album is blowing 18 year old minds everywhere while their dads are totally pissed that they're somehow still uncool. The songs are catchy beyond belief. Just you wait until they make a biopic about Vampire Weekend in 30 years.
5. Thao Nguyen and the Get Down Stay Down - We Brave Bee Stings and All
Everyone keeps saying, "Oh it's like a boring You Are Free era Cat Power copy," but this album is so much more than that. It's a paean to childhood summers without being a seasonal album. Every single song on this album is a gem. The best part about this album is the band. Thao's songwriting is super strong and she's a very skilled guitar player, but her backing band is even better. The Get Down Stay Down is made up of three ultra talented guys who are some of the SQUAREST DUDES IN THE WORLD. They play so well together and it really shines with Tucker Martine's production. If Thao puts out another album like this, you can expect her to be sign to a label much bigger than Kill Rock Stars, but all signs point to "will not try to be a pop star."
4. Vivian Girls - s/t
The Vivian Girls were probably this year's most enigmatic act. They put out a bunch of 7"s in 2007 and 2008 and were one of those bands everyone talked about, but no one had actually heard. At the beginning of the year, the band toured and released their full length ONLY on limited press vinyl (500 copies), which means it sold out ridiculously quick and it wasn't immediately repressed. The album is one part Jesus and Mary Chain, one part B-52s, one part Go-Gos and 100% Black Tambourine, which makes for wonderful music. The production is super lo-fi without sounding cheap. It's hazy and dreamy without losing that punk rock grrl feel. They continue to put out 7"s and will tour a ton. I am just disappointed that this band is from Brooklyn and is somehow related to Crystal Stilts.
3. Algernon Cadwallader - Some Kind of Cadwallader
This band completely makes me think of sophomore/junior years of high school. It just makes me think of how my mind was blown when I discovered Cap'n Jazz and Braid for myself. You make anything math-y and angular and you have my heart. End of story.
2. Jason Anderson - The Hopeful and The Unafraid
Jason Anderson has done it again. 2007-2008 were so completely productive for him. I can't seem to believe that he released so much music over the last two years (a few full length albums, a few free albums and a little over a hundred songs from his "Song A Day" project), and yet he still hasn't lost it. Dude writes some of the most epic, wonderful, beautiful songs about life and friends and generally getting stoked. These albums remind me that we have amazing capacity and if we've got friends, what else do we need? "El Paso" is easily one of the most Springsteen songs J. Anderson has ever written and it's great. It's like seven minutes long and I think it's basically a 14,000 word essay on living life to it's full potential. If you listen to it once, listen to it again, but very carefully the second time. The words this man is saying will change your life.
1. Good Luck - Into Lake Griffy
Hands down, this is the best album of the year. Nothing really came close to this album. There isn't a weak spot on the album. If you don't know, Good Luck is Ginger Alford from One Reason, Matty Pop Chart and Mike from the k-10 Prospect and they've come together to form the best pop punk band I've heard in years. The album is full of hooks, has super positive lyrics co-written by Matt and Ginger and is recorded perfectly, which is to say that it sounds like someone spent money on recording it. It's amazing to listen to what happens when three of the most toured musicians write songs together. The most surprising part about the album is how great the guitar playing is on the album. Matt's guitar parts are crisp and well played, but also incredibly technical. Ted Leo would be totally jealous of some of the guitar parts on this album. Opener "How To Live Here" is absolutely the most perfect opening song. It's such a fast song and is brilliant pop. Lines like "Yeah, everyone feels alone/maybe more, maybe less/maybe this year or next year/or when they grow old/but what a bogus affliction!/it's the human condition." are the reason why they are the best at what they do. They've really covered a lot of ground on this album, and if they ever decide to record another album, it will definitely be hard to top songs like "Come Home", "Pajammin'", "1001 Open Hands" or the "Stars Were Exploding"/"Bringing Them Back to Life" suite, which is essentially two versions of the same, short song, but with two very different effects. The first is a full bodied, pop punk version of the song sung by Ginger and the second is a more sparse version sung by Matt. Diehard Jawbreaker fans criticized Blake Schwarzenbach when he started Jets to Brazil because his lyrics were so simple, but those people were really missing out on the truth in simplicity. These songs have that exact same quality. This band has set the bar.
Posted by christopher at 6:24 PM