• 2011 in way too many statistics.

    Gen 1 2012, 19:27

    How much of a loser does it make me that I've actually been looking forward to being able to do this for a couple weeks now? Clearly, I have no life.

    If, understandably, you choose to skip over this nonsense (sorry if you followed this link from some artist or track page thinking it would be something substantial), I'm currently partway through counting down my top twenty albums of the year here with download links and overly-wordy reviews and junk.

    And now, as per usual, my fifty most played artists. With play counts and position changes from last year. Bolded were not within last year's top fifty. Underlined are artists I hadn't properly listened to before this year.

    1. Deas Vail (731 plays)
    2. Grizzly Bear (622 plays)
    3. Wye Oak (592 plays)
    4. Laura Marling (569 plays) DOWN 2
    5. Bombay Bicycle Club (502 plays)
    6. Eisley (434 plays)
    7. The Antlers (415 plays) UP 11
    8. Sarah Slean (401 plays) UP 42
    9. Bright Eyes (384 plays) UP 31
    10. Fleet Foxes (379 plays)
    11. The Rosebuds (375 plays)
    12. Jeniferever (371 plays) UP 13
    13. Lydia (344 plays) DOWN 2
    14. Los Campesinos! (343 plays) UP 1
    15. Dum Dum Girls (336 plays)
    16. Lykke Li (315 plays)
    17. The Elected (303 plays)
    17. The Cinema (303 plays)
    19. Sufjan Stevens (284 plays) DOWN 16
    20. Maria Taylor (245 plays) UP 9
    21. My Brightest Diamond (241 plays)
    22. Feist (229 plays)
    23. Mates of State (220 plays) DOWN 1
    24. Rilo Kiley (217 plays) UP 4
    25. Now It's Overhead (211 plays) DOWN 6
    26. Mutemath (210 plays)
    27. Okkervil River (194 plays)
    28. The Decemberists (193 plays) UP 8
    29. St. Vincent (177 plays)
    30. Beach House (171 plays) DOWN 18
    31. Asobi Seksu (139 plays) UP 12
    31. Warpaint (139 plays)
    33. The Narrative (132 plays) DOWN 24
    34. Copeland (127 plays)
    35. Kate Bush (121 plays)
    36. Joanna Newsom (120 plays) DOWN 35
    37. Zola Jesus (119 plays) DOWN 10
    37. She & Him (119 plays) DOWN 32
    39. Stars (105 plays) DOWN 26
    40. Azure Ray (103 plays) DOWN 32
    41. Lady Gaga (101 plays) NO CHANGE
    42. Shannon Wright (94 plays) DOWN 32
    43. Neko Case (92 plays) UP 2
    44. Fredrik (90 plays)
    44. Amanda Palmer (90 plays)
    46. Alela Diane (88 plays)
    47. Sharon Van Etten (84 plays)
    48. Mew (80 plays) DOWN 7
    48. Arcade Fire (80 plays) DOWN 27
    50. Tegan and Sara (76 plays) DOWN 17

    Top fifty tracks and play counts.

    1. Grizzly Bear – All We Ask (59 plays)
    2. Laura Marling – Sophia (58 plays)
    3. Grizzly Bear – While You Wait for the Others (54 plays)
    4. Wye Oak – Civilian (50 plays)
    4. Bombay Bicycle Club – Shuffle (50 plays)
    6. Deas Vail – Birds (48 plays)
    6. Wye Oak – Holy Holy (48 plays)
    8. Grizzly Bear – Ready, Able (47 plays)
    8. Wye Oak – Fish (47 plays)
    10. The Antlers – Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out (46 plays)
    11. The Cinema – My Blood Is Full Of Airplanes (45 plays)
    12. Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks (44 plays)
    12. Eisley – Watch It Die (44 plays)
    12. Lykke Li – Sadness Is a Blessing (44 plays)
    15. Eisley – I Wish (43 plays)
    15. The Cinema – She's On My Arm Now (43 plays)
    17. The Antlers – Parentheses (41 plays)
    17. Bombay Bicycle Club – Leave It (41 plays)
    17. Laura Marling – I Was Just a Card (41 plays)
    20. Eisley – Smarter (40 plays)
    20. The Cinema – The Wolf (40 plays)
    22. Bombay Bicycle Club – Bad Timing (39 plays)
    22. Laura Marling – Don't Ask Me Why (39 plays)
    22. Wye Oak – Doubt (39 plays)
    22. The Cinema – Say It Like You Mean It (39 plays)
    26. Grizzly Bear – Fine for Now (38 plays)
    26. Grizzly Bear – Southern Point (38 plays)
    26. Grizzly Bear – Foreground (38 plays)
    26. Deas Vail – Sunlight (38 plays)
    26. Bright Eyes – Approximate Sunlight (38 plays)
    26. Bombay Bicycle Club – What You Want (38 plays)
    26. My Brightest Diamond – Be Brave (38 plays)
    26. Los Campesinos! – By Your Hand (38 plays)
    34. The Cinema – Kill It (37 plays)
    35. Bombay Bicycle Club – How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep (36 plays)
    35. Jeniferever – Waifs & Strays (36 plays)
    35. Fleet Foxes – The Shrine / An Argument (36 plays)
    38. Eisley – Sad (35 plays)
    38. Fleet Foxes – Someone You'd Admire (35 plays)
    38. Los Campesinos! – To Tundra (35 plays)
    41. Grizzly Bear – About Face (34 plays)
    41. Laura Marling – Salinas (34 plays)
    41. Wye Oak – Dogs Eyes (34 plays)
    41. Lykke Li – I Follow Rivers (34 plays)
    41. Lydia – Ghosts (34 plays)
    46. Grizzly Bear – Cheerleader (33 plays)
    46. Wye Oak – Plains (33 plays)
    46. Wye Oak – We Were Wealth (33 plays)
    46. Laura Marling – Night After Night (33 plays)
    46. Bombay Bicycle Club – Beggars (33 plays)

    Top fifty with one track per artist.

    1. Grizzly Bear – All We Ask (59 plays)
    2. Laura Marling – Sophia (58 plays)
    3. Wye Oak – Civilian (50 plays)
    3. Bombay Bicycle Club – Shuffle (50 plays)
    5. Deas Vail – Birds (48 plays)
    6. The Antlers – Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out (46 plays)
    7. The Cinema – My Blood Is Full Of Airplanes (45 plays)
    8. Eisley – Watch It Die (44 plays)
    8. Lykke Li – Sadness Is a Blessing (44 plays)
    10. Bright Eyes – Approximate Sunlight (38 plays)
    10. My Brightest Diamond – Be Brave (38 plays)
    10. Los Campesinos! – By Your Hand (38 plays)
    13. Jeniferever – Waifs & Strays (36 plays)
    13. Fleet Foxes – The Shrine / An Argument (36 plays)
    15. Lydia – Ghosts (34 plays)
    16. Dum Dum Girls - Coming Down (33 plays)
    17. The Rosebuds - Waiting for You (32 plays)
    18. Okkervil River - Wake and Be Fine (27 plays)
    19. Maria Taylor - Like It Does (26 plays)
    20. Warpaint - Undertow (23 plays)
    20. St. Vincent - Surgeon (23 plays)
    20. Feist - Undiscovered First (23 plays)
    23. The Elected - Have You Been Cheated (22 plays)
    24. Arcade Fire - We Used to Wait (20 plays)
    24. The Narrative - Make it Right (20 plays)
    26. Sharon Van Etten - Don't Do It (19 plays)
    26. The Decemberists - June Hymn (19 plays)
    26. Asobi Seksu - Perfectly Crystal (19 plays)
    26. Robin Pecknold - I'm Losing Myself (feat. Ed Droste) (19 plays)
    30. Sarah Slean - Last Year's War (18 plays)
    31. Alela Diane - The Rifle (17 plays)
    31. Mutemath - All or Nothing (17 plays)
    33. Rilo Kiley - 13 (16 plays)
    33. Sufjan Stevens - All Delighted People (Original Version) (16 plays)
    35. Now It's Overhead - Believe What They Decide (15 plays)
    35. Mates of State - Sway (15 plays)
    37. Radiohead - Idioteque (14 plays)
    37. Carissa's Wierd - Meredith & Iris (14 plays)
    39. Beach House - Real Love (13 plays)
    39. Zola Jesus - I Can't Stand (13 plays)
    39. Lady Gaga - Bloody Mary (13 plays)
    42. Fredrik - Inventress of Ill (and Everything) (12 plays)
    43. Headless Heroes - Here Before (11 plays)
    43. Young the Giant - Apartment (11 plays)
    43. Amanda Palmer - on an unknown beach (11 plays)
    46. Maria Taylor with Andy LeMaster - Birmingham 1982 (10 plays)
    46. Copeland - To Be Happy Now (10 plays)
    46. Esben and the Witch - Marching Song (10 plays)
    46. First Aid Kit - Winter Is All Over You (10 plays)
    46. Summer Camp - Losing My Mind (10 plays)

    One more pointless list because I just like statistics: top fifty minus all tracks from 2011 releases (this made sense when I thought of the idea; now it just looks like I was obsessed with two bands in particular - which actually isn't too far from the truth).

    1. Grizzly Bear – All We Ask (59 plays)
    2. Grizzly Bear – While You Wait for the Others (54 plays)
    3. Deas Vail – Birds (48 plays)
    4. Grizzly Bear – Ready, Able (47 plays)
    5. Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks (44 plays)
    6. Grizzly Bear – Fine for Now (38 plays)
    6. Grizzly Bear – Southern Point (38 plays)
    6. Grizzly Bear – Foreground (38 plays)
    6. Deas Vail – Sunlight (38 plays)
    10. Grizzly Bear – About Face (34 plays)
    11. Grizzly Bear – Cheerleader (33 plays)
    12. Grizzly Bear - Dory (32 plays)
    13. Grizzly Bear - I Live With You (30 plays)
    13. Grizzly Bear - Hold Still (30 plays)
    15. Deas Vail - Cages (28 plays)
    16. Wye Oak - Take It in (27 plays)
    17. Wye Oak - Keeping Company (24 plays)
    17. Deas Vail - Excuses (24 plays)
    19. Warpaint - Undertow (23 plays)
    20. Deas Vail - Life In These Little Boats (22 plays)
    20. Deas Vail - Growing Pains (22 plays)
    20. Deas Vail - The Things You Were (22 plays)
    23. The Antlers - Shiva (21 plays)
    23. Deas Vail - The Leaper (21 plays)
    25. Deas Vail - Atlantis (20 plays)
    25. Arcade Fire - We Used to Wait (20 plays)
    27. Deas Vail - The Great Physician (19 plays)
    27. Deas Vail - Under Our Skin (19 plays)
    27. Deas Vail - Tell Me (19 plays)
    27. Sharon Van Etten - Don't Do It (19 plays)
    31. Sarah Slean - Last Year's War (18 plays)
    31. Deas Vail - Dance In Perfect Time (18 plays)
    31. Wye Oak - That I Do (18 plays)
    34. Sarah Slean - Count Me Out (17 plays)
    34. Alela Diane - The Rifle (17 plays)
    34. Deas Vail - Under Cover (17 plays)
    34. Deas Vail - Puzzles and Pieces (17 plays)
    34. Laura Marling - Goodbye England (Covered in Snow) (17 plays)
    39. Rilo Kiley - 13 (16 plays)
    39. Laura Marling - Hope in the Air (16 plays)
    39. Warpaint - Composure (16 plays)
    39. Warpaint - Baby (19 plays)
    39. Sufjan Stevens - All Delighted People (Original Version) (16 plays)
    44. Sarah Slean - Blue Parade (15 plays)
    44. Grizzly Bear - Easier (15 plays)
    44. Now It's Overhead - Believe What They Decide (15 plays)
    44. Deas Vail - Rewind (15 plays)
    44. Warpaint - Set Your Arms Down (15 plays)
    44. Warpaint - Warpaint (15 plays)
    44. Wye Oak - Tattoo (15 plays)
  • 2010: Top Artists & Tracks

    Gen 1 2011, 15:48

    Once again, please ignore my nerdy compulsion to make unnecessarily complicated charts tracking my musical tastes.

    Top fifty artists with play counts and position changes from last year's list. Bolded artists were not within last year's fifty. Underlined are artists I didn't like or listen to much/at all until this year.

    1. Joanna Newsom (806 plays) UP 34
    2. Laura Marling (701 plays)
    3. Sufjan Stevens (678 plays)
    4. Nina Nastasia (609 plays)
    5. She & Him (581 plays) UP 28
    6. Owen Pallett (565 plays)
    7. Janelle Monáe (551 plays)
    8. Azure Ray (454 plays)
    9. The Narrative (426 plays) UP 37
    10. Shannon Wright (411 plays) UP 10
    11. Lydia (373 plays) UP 6
    12. Beach House (341 plays) DOWN 5
    13. Stars (332 plays) UP 14
    14. The Morning Of (307 plays)
    15. Los Campesinos! (293 plays) DOWN 5
    16. Stephen Trask [Hedwig and the Angry Inch OST] (259 plays)
    17. iamamiwhoami (233 plays)
    18. The Antlers (231 plays)
    19. Now It's Overhead (226 plays) DOWN 6
    20. First Aid Kit (219 plays)
    21. Arcade Fire (214 plays)
    22. Mates of State (206 plays) UP 10
    23. Smoosh (200 plays)
    24. Grammatics (187 plays) DOWN 19
    25. Jeniferever (180 plays) DOWN 21
    26. Fiona Apple (179 plays) UP 20
    27. Zola Jesus (177 plays)
    28. Rilo Kiley (169 plays) DOWN 16
    29. Maria Taylor (159 plays) DOWN 11
    30. Jenny and Johnny (158 plays)
    31. The Soldier Thread (151 plays)
    32. Jónsi (150 plays)
    33. Tegan and Sara (148 plays) DOWN 22
    34. The Secret History (145 plays)
    34. Margot & the Nuclear So and So's (145 plays) DOWN 26
    36. Club 8 (143 plays)
    36. The Decemberists (143 plays) DOWN 34
    38. Orenda Fink (139 plays)
    39. No Doubt (132 plays) DOWN 15
    40. Bright Eyes (123 plays) DOWN 21
    41. Mew (117 plays) DOWN 40
    41. Lady Gaga (117 plays) DOWN 5
    43. Yeah Yeah Yeahs (109 plays) DOWN 34
    43. Asobi Seksu (109 plays) DOWN 28
    45. Neko Case (106 plays) DOWN 42
    45. Ra Ra Riot (106 plays)
    47. Villagers (104 plays)
    47. School of Seven Bells (104 plays)
    49. Tori Amos (103 plays) DOWN 23
    50. Sarah Slean (101 plays) DOWN 6

    Top fifty tracks with play counts.

    1. Sufjan Stevens – The Owl and the Tanager (66 plays)
    2. Laura Marling – What He Wrote (64 plays)
    3. Janelle Monáe – Many Moons (61 plays)
    4. Owen Pallett – E Is For Estranged (60 plays)
    4. Lydia – Empty Out Your Stomach (60 plays)
    6. Laura Marling – Hope in the Air (57 plays)
    6. Joanna Newsom – In California (57 plays)
    6. Joanna Newsom – Good Intentions Paving Company (57 plays)
    9. She & Him – Ridin' in My Car (56 plays)
    10. Laura Marling – Rambling Man (55 plays)
    11. The Narrative – Don't Want to Fall (54 plays)
    12. The Narrative – Trains (53 plays)
    13. She & Him – Thieves (48 plays)
    14. She & Him – Over It Over Again (46 plays)
    14. Owen Pallett – The Great Elsewhere (46 plays)
    14. Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me (46 plays)
    17. Laura Marling – Blackberry Stone (45 plays)
    17. Joanna Newsom – Go Long (45 plays)
    19. Laura Marling – Made by Maid (43 plays)
    19. Joanna Newsom – No Provenance (43 plays)
    19. iamamiwhoami – n (43 plays)
    22. Stephen Trask – The Origin of Love (42 plays)
    22. Joanna Newsom – Soft as Chalk (42 plays)
    22. Jenny and Johnny – Big Wave (42 plays)
    25. She & Him – Don't Look Back (41 plays)
    25. Owen Pallett – What Do You Think Will Happen Now? (41 plays)
    27. Nina Nastasia – Wakes (39 plays)
    27. Laura Marling – Devil's Spoke (39 plays)
    27. Sufjan Stevens – Enchanting Ghost (39 plays)
    27. Sufjan Stevens – I Walked (39 plays)
    31. Janelle Monáe – Come Alive (The War of the Roses) (38 plays)
    31. She & Him – In the Sun (38 plays)
    31. Owen Pallett – Oh Heartland, Up Yours! (38 plays)
    31. Joanna Newsom – '81 (38 plays)
    35. Laura Marling – Alpha Shallows (37 plays)
    35. Owen Pallett – Tryst With Mephistopheles (37 plays)
    35. iamamiwhoami – b (37 plays)
    35. iamamiwhoami – o (37 plays)
    39. Laura Marling – Night Terror (36 plays)
    39. Joanna Newsom – Easy (36 plays)
    39. The Narrative – Empty Space (36 plays)
    39. Lydia – A Place Near The City (36 plays)
    43. Stephen Trask – Midnight Radio (35 plays)
    43. Janelle Monáe – Violet Stars Happy Hunting! (35 plays)
    43. Janelle Monáe – Faster (35 plays)
    43. Joanna Newsom – Jackrabbits (35 plays)
    47. She & Him – Me and You (34 plays)
    47. The Morning Of – What You Can't Control (34 plays)
    47. Laura Marling – Goodbye England (Covered in Snow) (34 plays)
    47. Sufjan Stevens – Vesuvius (34 plays)

    Top fifty tracks without artist repeats. (Kind of pointless but oh well.)

    1. Sufjan Stevens – The Owl and the Tanager (66 plays)
    2. Laura Marling – What He Wrote (64 plays)
    3. Janelle Monáe – Many Moons (61 plays)
    4. Owen Pallett – E Is For Estranged (60 plays)
    4. Lydia – Empty Out Your Stomach (60 plays)
    6. Joanna Newsom – In California (57 plays)
    7. She & Him – Ridin' in My Car (56 plays)
    8. The Narrative – Don't Want to Fall (54 plays)
    9. iamamiwhoami – n (43 plays)
    10. Stephen Trask – The Origin of Love (42 plays)
    10. Jenny and Johnny – Big Wave (42 plays)
    12. Nina Nastasia – Wakes (39 plays)
    13. The Morning Of – What You Can't Control (34 plays)
    14. Jónsi – Tornado (31 plays)
    15. The Antlers - Shiva (29 plays)
    16. Beach House - Silver Soul (27 plays)
    16. Zola Jesus - Manifest Destiny (27 plays)
    18. First Aid Kit - Ghost Town (26 plays)
    19. No Doubt - Cellophane Boy (25 plays)
    19. The Secret History - Death Mods (25 plays)
    19. Stars - Fixed (25 plays)
    22. Villagers - Becoming a Jackal (24 plays)
    22. Azure Ray - On and On Again (24 plays)
    24. Röyksopp - What Else Is There (23 plays)
    24. Los Campesinos! - In Medias Res (23 plays)
    26. Delphic - Doubt (21 plays)
    26. Arcade Fire - Ready to Start (21 plays)
    28. Smoosh - Finnerödja (20 plays)
    29. Andrew Bird - Action/Adventure (19 plays)
    29. The Soldier Thread - Fractions (19 plays)
    31. Orenda Fink - Wind (18 plays)
    31. Geographer - Kites (18 plays)
    31. Club 8 - Dancing with the mentally ill (18 plays)
    31. School of Seven Bells - Windstorm (18 plays)
    35. Fiona Apple - Fast As You Can (17 plays)
    36. Bowerbirds - Teeth (16 plays)
    36. Jarrod Gorbel - I'll Do Better (16 plays)
    36. Grammatics - KRUPT (16 plays)
    39. Jeniferever - Concrete and Glass (15 plays)
    39. Deas Vail - Last Place (15 plays)
    39. Mates of State - Love Letter (15 plays)
    39. Shannon Wright - Dim Reader (15 plays)
    39. Now It's Overhead - Turn & Go (15 plays)
    44. Maria Taylor - My Favorite... Love (14 plays)
    44. Ra Ra Riot - Keep It Quiet (14 plays)
    46. Rilo Kiley - More Adventurous (13 plays)
    46. Lady Gaga - Poker Face (13 plays)
    46. The Mynabirds - Give It Time (13 plays)
    46. States - Time to Begin (13 plays)
    50. Parenthetical Girls - A Song for Ellie Greenwich (11 plays)
  • Best of '09

    Gen 10 2010, 2:32

    Well, it's not the most uber elite indie list in the world but it's stuff that I've personally enjoyed immensely so... I don't really care what anyone else thinks about it.

    20. Meg & Dia - Here, Here and Here
    19. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
    18. Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career
    17. Shannon Wright - Honeybee Girls
    16. Asobi Seksu - Hush
    15. Deas Vail - Birds & Cages
    14. Mandy Moore - Amanda Leigh
    13. Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster
    12. Anchor & Braille - Felt
    11. St. Vincent - Actor
    10. Metric - Fantasies
    9. Tegan and Sara - Sainthood
    8. 1997 - Notes from Underground
    7. Lightning Dust - Infinite Light
    6. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
    5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!
    4. The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love
    3. Mew - No More Stories/Are Told Today/I'm Sorry/They Washed Away//No More Stories/The World Is Grey/I'm Tired/Let's Wash Away
    2. Grammatics - Grammatics
    1. Jeniferever - Spring Tides

    Write-ups and shit here.

    Here's to 2010!
  • 2009: Top Artists & Tracks

    Dic 31 2009, 19:00

    Please ignore. I have nothing better to do with my time and tracking my listening habits excites me more than it probably should. (Also, I know the year isn't quite over yet but I doubt the numbers are going to change enough to make a difference in those last few hours.)

    First up, top fifty artists with play counts and position changes from last year's list (bolded artists were not within last year's fifty; underlined are artists I hadn't listened to extensively before this year).

    1. Mew (763 plays)
    2. The Decemberists (681 plays)
    3. Neko Case (621 plays)
    4. Jeniferever (572 plays)
    5. Grammatics (514 plays)
    5. 1997 (514 plays) UP 4
    7. Beach House (509 plays)
    8. Margot & the Nuclear So and So's (490 plays) UP 36
    9. Yeah Yeah Yeahs (482 plays) UP 20
    10. Los Campesinos! (441 plays) DOWN 7
    11. Tegan and Sara (436 plays) UP 13
    12. Rilo Kiley (391 plays) DOWN 10
    13. Now It's Overhead (384 plays) DOWN 9
    13. Mandy Moore (384 plays)
    15. Asobi Seksu (359 plays) UP 7
    16. Deas Vail (351 plays)
    17. Lydia (345 plays) DOWN 16
    18. Maria Taylor (340 plays) UP 29
    19. Bright Eyes (314 plays) UP 9
    20. Shannon Wright (298 plays) UP 12
    21. Copeland (292 plays) DOWN 9
    22. Meg & Dia (291 plays)
    23. St. Vincent (263 plays)
    24. No Doubt (260 plays) DOWN 3
    25. Andrew Bird (244 plays)
    26. Tori Amos (242 plays) DOWN 3
    27. Stars (241 plays) DOWN 13
    28. Regina Spektor (237 plays)
    29. Imogen Heap (234 plays)
    30. Lightning Dust (225 plays)
    31. The Dresden Dolls (224 plays) DOWN 24
    32. Mates of State (210 plays) DOWN 24
    33. She & Him (197 plays) DOWN 15
    34. Metric (187 plays)
    34. Joanna Newsom (187 plays)
    36. Lady Gaga (186 plays)
    37. Tilly and the Wall (181 plays) DOWN 31
    38. Okkervil River (178 plays) DOWN 29
    39. Eisley (173 plays) DOWN 19
    40. Camera Obscura (171 plays)
    41. Sleater-Kinney (169 plays) DOWN 25
    42. Anchor & Braille (167 plays)
    43. The Elected (162 plays) DOWN 1
    44. My Brightest Diamond (161 plays) DOWN 19
    44. Sarah Slean (161 plays) DOWN 28
    46. The Narrative (160 plays)
    46. Fiona Apple (160 plays) DOWN 2
    48. A Camp (154 plays)
    49. The Anniversary (149 plays) DOWN 44
    50. Amanda Palmer (144 plays) DOWN 37

    Next, top fifty tracks with play counts.

    1. Jeniferever – St. Gallen (78 plays)
    2. Grammatics – New Franchise (57 plays)
    2. The Decemberists – The Engine Driver (57 plays)
    4. Grammatics – Polar Swelling (56 plays)
    5. 1997 – #3 (54 plays)
    6. Grammatics – Time Capsules & The Greater Truth (46 plays)
    7. Meg & Dia – Fighting For Nothing (45 plays)
    8. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Hysteric (44 plays)
    8. Neko Case – Magpie to the Morning (44 plays)
    10. Imogen Heap – Canvas (42 plays)
    10. Mandy Moore – Nothing Everything (42 plays)
    10. Mew – The Zookeeper's Boy (42 plays)
    10. Lightning Dust – Never Seen (42 plays)
    10. Grammatics – Cruel Tricks of the Light (42 plays)
    15. Jeniferever – The Hourglass (41 plays)
    16. 1997 – Wolf + Sheep (40 plays)
    16. Maria Taylor – It's Time (40 plays)
    16. Joanna Newsom – Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie (40 plays)
    16. Deas Vail – Shoreline (40 plays)
    20. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Little Shadow (39 plays)
    20. 1997 – Falling Down (39 plays)
    22. Beach House – Turtle Island (38 plays)
    22. Neko Case – This Tornado Loves You (38 plays)
    22. 1997 – Sympathy For The Living (38 plays)
    22. Stephen Malkmus & The Million Dollar Bashers – Ballad of a Thin Man (38 plays)
    26. Neko Case – Prison Girls (37 plays)
    26. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Dull Life (37 plays)
    26. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Runaway (37 plays)
    26. Mandy Moore – Indian Summer (37 plays)
    30. Neko Case – Vengeance Is Sleeping (36 plays)
    30. Neko Case – People Got a Lotta Nerve (36 plays)
    32. Grammatics – The Vague Archive (35 plays)
    32. Jeniferever – Nangijala (35 plays)
    32. Mandy Moore – Fern Dell (35 plays)
    35. Jeniferever – Ring Out the Grief (34 plays)
    35. 1997 – #1 (34 plays)
    35. Jeniferever – Swimming Eyes (34 plays)
    35. Grammatics – Relentless Fours (34 plays)
    39. The Decemberists – The Bagman's Gambit (33 plays)
    39. Margot & the Nuclear So and So's – Broadripple Is Burning (33 plays)
    39. Mew – Vaccine (33 plays)
    42. My Brightest Diamond – Gone Away (32 plays)
    42. Los Campesinos! – The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future (32 plays)
    42. The Narrative – Tautou (32 plays)
    42. Mew – Introducing Palace Players (32 plays)
    42. 1997 – A Fruitless Year (32 plays)
    42. Maria Taylor – Time Lapse Lifeline (32 plays)
    48. 1997 – Pagan Melodies (31 plays)
    48. Tegan and Sara – Night Watch (31 plays)
    48. Grammatics – Inkjet Lakes (31 plays)

    As if that wasn't enough, I wanted to see what my top tracks would look like without repeated artists. It gets a bit random near the bottom because I don't actually play tracks over and over very often.

    1. Jeniferever – St. Gallen (78 plays)
    2. Grammatics – New Franchise (57 plays)
    2. The Decemberists – The Engine Driver (57 plays)
    4. 1997 – #3 (54 plays)
    5. Meg & Dia – Fighting For Nothing (45 plays)
    6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Hysteric (44 plays)
    6. Neko Case – Magpie to the Morning (44 plays)
    8. Imogen Heap – Canvas (42 plays)
    8. Mandy Moore – Nothing Everything (42 plays)
    8. Mew – The Zookeeper's Boy (42 plays)
    8. Lightning Dust – Never Seen (42 plays)
    12. Maria Taylor – It's Time (40 plays)
    12. Joanna Newsom – Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie (40 plays)
    12. Deas Vail – Shoreline (40 plays)
    15. Beach House – Turtle Island (38 plays)
    15. Stephen Malkmus & The Million Dollar Bashers – Ballad of a Thin Man (38 plays)
    17. Margot & the Nuclear So and So's – Broadripple Is Burning (33 plays)
    18. My Brightest Diamond – Gone Away (32 plays)
    18. Los Campesinos! – The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future (32 plays)
    18. The Narrative – Tautou (32 plays)
    21. Tegan and Sara – Night Watch (31 plays)
    21. Lydia – Always Move Fast (31 plays)
    23. St. Vincent – Actor Out of Work (30 plays)
    24. Metric – Blindness (29 plays)
    24. Lady GaGa – Alejandro (29 plays)
    24. Now It's Overhead – Wonderful Scar (29 plays)
    27. Anchor & Braille – Wedding/Funeral (28 plays)
    27. No Doubt – Excuse Me Mr. (28 plays)
    27. Copeland – Kite (28 plays)
    27. She & Him – I Put a Spell on You (28 plays)
    31. Asobi Seksu – Blind Little Rain (27 plays)
    32. Eisley – Away We Go (Garage Band Demo) (25 plays)
    33. Rilo Kiley – Pictures of Success (24 plays)
    34. Okkervil River – The Latest Toughs (23 plays)
    35. Bright Eyes – Devil in the Details (21 plays)
    35. Jenny Lewis – Trying My Best to Love You (21 plays)
    37. The Soldier Thread – Cannons (20 plays)
    38. Dirty Projectors – Stillness Is the Move (19 plays)
    38. Shannon Wright – You Hurry Wonder (19 plays)
    38. Amanda Palmer – Runs in the Family (19 plays)
    41. Tori Amos – Northern Lad (18 plays)
    41. Final Fantasy – The Butcher (18 plays)
    41. Feist and Ben Gibbard – Train Song (18 plays)
    41. Orenda Fink – High Ground (18 plays)
    41. The Whispertown 2000 – Erase The Lines (18 plays)
    46. Andrew Bird – Armchairs (17 plays)
    46. A Camp – Golden Teeth and Silver Medals (17 plays)
    46. Camera Obscura – Away With Murder (17 plays)
    46. Agent Ribbons – Your Love Is the Smallest Doll (17 plays)
    50. Regina Spektor – Blue Lips (16 plays)

    Shut up about my total lack of a life. I'm already well aware.
  • Best of '08

    Gen 13 2009, 17:46

    My personal favorites of the year.

    20. Johnny Foreigner - Waited Up 'Til It Was Light
    19. Lovedrug - The Sucker Punch Show
    18. Tilly and the Wall - O
    17. The Whispertown 2000 - Swim
    16. My Brightest Diamond - A Thousand Shark's Teeth
    15. One For The Team - Build It Up
    14. 1997 - On the Run
    13. Dear and the Headlights - Drunk Like Bible Times
    12. Be Your Own Pet - Get Awkward
    11. The Narrative - Just Say Yes
    10. Ra Ra Riot - The Rhumb Line
    9. Margot & the Nuclear So and So's - Animal!/Not Animal
    8. Mates of State - Re-Arrange Us
    7. Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
    6. Okkervil River - The Stand Ins

    5. She & Him - Volume One

    On a purely superficial level, Volume One can best be described as "cute". Once you dig a bit deeper, though, it's obvious that the album has so much more to offer beyond simply serving as pleasant ear candy. None of these songs can be called lyrically genius or melodically challenging, but they can be called something much more commendable, at least in my opinion, and that is classic. A song can have the most introspective, wordy lyrics imaginable or be positively drenched in sonic experimentation but if it's not instantly memorable, if it doesn't get stuck in your head and stay there for ages, if you never get the urge to hear it over and over and over again, how good is it, really? What do amazing lyrics matter if the melody is so dull that you can't remember how they go? And how impressive is it when a song is so covered with bells and whistles that its emotional core is smothered and replaced with unfeeling, robotic, and detached studio trickery? This is the reason why Volume One is so refreshing; the songs are simple and unadorned, they are allowed some breathing room, and you can just bask in the glory of Zooey Deschanel's lovely voice and penchant for all things vintage. It's just as easy to believe these songs were written in the '50s as it is to believe they were written in the twenty-first century and this is a good thing. It gives them a timeless quality and sometimes, this can be a hard feat to accomplish effectively but Zooey and musical partner M. Ward do it with seemingly little effort. The real star of the show, though, is Zooey's voice. It truly does sound like it comes straight out of a long-past decade and though it can sometimes sound a bit rough around the edges, it's always completely charming and full of attitude. Take "Change Is Hard", a stirring torch ballad that owes much of its success to Zooey's flawless, heartbreaking, and just plain gorgeous vocal delivery. And when she sings coyly on the catchy "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?", "I've got to get your presence/Let's make it known/I think you're just so pleasant/I would like you for my own," it's hard not to get caught with a huge, dumb grin spread across your face. This album is chock full of moments that are similarly adorable and charming and sweet and every other cutesy adjective you could possibly think up, but it's also full of well-written and infectious songs and, most importantly, a true passion for making music. Let's hope that Volume Two, whenever it comes, goes down just as easily and sweetly.

    4. Los Campesinos! - Hold on Now, Youngster.../We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

    I thought for sure that I had made some extravagant claim about Hold on Now, Youngster... being my album of the year before I had even heard it but, alas, it appears I'm not as idiotic as I think I am because I can't seem to find myself saying that anywhere. The closest I could find was in my personal blog back in April when I first started keeping track of my '08 list; Los Campesinos! occupied the top spot then and I had said in regards to the top two that they were "all but set in stone" which obviously turned out to be mildly untrue. LC! have since been uprooted from their position and well, the album that was number two kind of traveled in the opposite direction, if you know what I mean (I'm trying to be vague here and failing). Anyway, if you would have asked me to make a list a couple months ago, they would probably have fallen even lower, not because I love the album any less, but because I stopped listening to it obsessively quite awhile ago and it isn't nearly as emotionally resonant as a good deal of its competitors, which is a big thing to me and a large component in deciding how this list should be ranked. But then they had to go and release We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed which, while not quite as good, re-established my adoration of them and I decided that, between the two, there was more than enough amazingness to justify a relatively high finish. Los Campesinos! won't change your life or cause you to come to some grand epiphany on its meaning but they are sure to make you dance, sing, and scream along to their songs out of pure, unadulterated joy and giddiness. They have perfected the craft of writing an excellent pop hook, they combine aspects of twee and punk in such a way that they are never overly sweet or overly angsty, and, to put it simply, they are just tons of fun. Neither Gareth nor Aleksandra have ideal singing voices but they are more than adequate for their particular sound and their lack of skill is actually rather charming; LC! is the kind of band that makes you think, "Hey, I might not be the most talented person in the world, but I can make it as long as I have fun and love what I'm doing with every cell of my being!" It also helps that they have insanely witty, pop culturally informed, often hilarious, and more than a little unabashedly pretentious lyrics. "When our eyes meet all that I can read is 'you're the b-side'"; "We kid ourselves there's future in the fucking but there is no fucking future"; "I cannot emphasize enough that my body is a badly-designed, poorly put-together vessel/Harboring these diminishing, so-called 'vital organs'/Hope my heart goes first/I hope my heart goes first!" On the surface, they are just amusing and clever but they are actually extremely multi-dimensional and layered; it's absolutely brilliant.

    3. Copeland - You Are My Sunshine

    Aaron Marsh's flawlessly smooth falsetto draws you in and his stunningly gorgeous compositions and simple, abstract lyrics force you to stick around. You Are My Sunshine is almost unbelievably beautiful and if the album at number one hadn't already stolen most of my soul and wrenched out my emotions nearly completely by the time this was released, it might actually have made it to the top of the list. The two are very similar in my opinion, not only in style but in the atmosphere they create and how fully they speak to the listener's emotional side. Yes, the songs are quite repetitive and don't change much in tempo and I can completely understand why some people might find them boring; I'll even admit to falling asleep halfway through my first listen of this album (though that can partly be attributed to the fact that a. I was listening to my mp3 player in bed and b. I had kind of pre-determined that I wouldn't like it much for some reason or another so wasn't trying very hard). After two or three listens, the songs still might not have sunk in completely and it's hard to distinguish one from the other, but there's something undeniably appealing about them that you can't quite put your finger on. And after maybe half a dozen listens, you're completely hooked and the repetitiveness ends up being the main selling point: it's soothing and nurturing and slightly hypnotic; it's like each song is gently cradling you and for a few minutes, you're totally unaware of the real world and are only focused on the world created by the music. It's an extremely hard feeling to describe. The best moments on You Are My Sunshine are those tiny unexpected ones that, despite their subtleness, make each song stand apart from the rest: the mesmerizing layered vocals on "Should You Return", the barely there moment of vocal distortion partway through "The Suitcase Song" that is so small but somehow elevates the song to the next level, the seamless injection of a female voice, most notably in "On the Safest Ledge". And the lyrics on their own might not seem extremely impressive - take, for example, "In the moments before time starts moving backward/I will feel her hand in the palm of mine" ("To Be Happy Now") - but they are delivered with such introspection and sadness by Marsh that they resonate a million times more than they do on paper. The entire album just flows so perfectly and is so simple yet so affecting. I wasn't expecting to be blown away by it and that I was makes the listening experience even more gratifying.

    2. Amanda Palmer - Who Killed Amanda Palmer

    Who would have thought the death of Amanda Palmer would turn out to be such an enjoyable listening experience? All joking aside, maybe Who Killed Amanda Palmer is missing a lot of the rawness and vulnerability that permeates the Dresden Dolls' self-titled debut, but such intense emotional resonance is hard to duplicate multiple times over. Besides, even if it doesn't seem quite so effortless, the album has still got plenty of heart-wrenching confessionals and sarcasm-laced social commentary to go around and, technically, it is almost undoubtedly Miss Palmer's most accomplished and fully-realized work yet. This is largely due to the unrestrained, no holds barred approach that is taken to each song. They are more embellished and bombastic than any of her work with the Dolls has ever been yet it never feels like too much; the emotional core of the songs is never overshadowed by their fancy packaging. Ballads like "Ampersand", "Blake Says", "Have to Drive", and "The Point of It All" are drenched in gorgeous string arrangements and choir-esque group vocals but the stark, uncomplicatedly meaningful lyrics are what grab your attention and keep it: "Blake makes friends but only for a minute/He prefers the things he orders from the Internet/And Blake's been having trouble with his head again/He takes his pills but never takes his medicine"; "It's better to waste your day watching the scenery change at a comatose rate/Than to put yourself in it and turn into one of those cigarette ads that you hate." And the faster paced songs have their fair share of twists and turns as well but your ear is never drawn away from Amanda's perfectly-suited vocal performances, whether they be frantic and aggressive ("Runs in the Family"), sarcastic and biting ("Oasis"), or ballsy and over-the-top ("Leeds United"). There is such a vast array of styles and emotions to be found on Who Killed Amanda Palmer that it is at first a bit overwhelming. Once these songs have had a chance to settle in, though, that is when they truly shine. The quieter songs that you may have initially overlooked in favor of the more dramatic ones, in time, sneak up on you and hit you like a speeding bullet, revealing their beauty and depth suddenly and forcefully. These are the kinds of songs that truly make an artist, I think, the ones that at first don't seem extremely special until that one day when they finally allow you to glimpse their glory in full. A lot of musicians can craft something flashy and catchy and immediately gratifying but it takes someone special to create a song so subtle in its greatness that it becomes timeless rather than quickly wearing off of you. Luckily for Miss Palmer (and for us), she seems to be capable of pulling these kinds of songs out of her sleeve with little effort.

    1. Lydia - Illuminate

    What a year it's been for Lydia. When this album came out back in March - and I first declared it my album of the year - it's distribution was extremely limited, only available physically through the band's online store and at shows. Now, less than a year later, the band has signed to a major label, re-released the album on a much wider scale, just finished their first ever music video (to be released in the new year), and will soon embark on a well-deserved headlining tour. So let's get to the music, eh? Illuminate is that album, you know the one; it grabs hold of you and shakes you violently until all of your emotions come spilling out and not only the first time, but with every single listen. These kinds of albums are rare - at least the ones that consume you entirely - and it's hard to come up with words that describe the experience accurately. So to not do it justice at all... These songs are lush and atmospheric, full of swirling melodies that are heartbreaking in their beauty and the lyrics are simple but possess a staggering amount of emotional depth, an attribute that becomes even more obvious over time. To take examples from two of the many lyrical gems: from "One More Day", "Love is not for me, I promise," stated so matter-of-factly that it packs a staggering and unexpected punch straight to the gut; and in "Hospital", the subtle anthemic intensity of "Oh, no one is watching now/Sing like you just might drown/But always come back home." Leighton Antelman's delivery of these lines and others is so spot-on that it propels them to an even higher level; whether he's at his most whispery and hoarse or wailing at the top of his lungs, his voice is always so injected with emotion that it almost hurts to listen. Finally, factor in Mindy White's understated yet stirring background vocals (the only complaint I have about this album is that it needs more Mindy; when she takes the lead on closer "Now the One You Once Loved Is Leaving" it is so refreshing and lovely that you wish she sang more prominently on a few more songs) and you have a recipe for near-perfection. This album is insanely impressive to me, especially considering it is only their second release and they've gone through an insane amount of line-up changes since the band's inception. It's not to everyone's tastes, I know that (but that won't stop me from stubbornly believing anyone who doesn't like it must be deaf), but it definitely deserves a fair chance. Maybe it'll end up being a pleasant surprise and maybe, just maybe, it will effect you as much as it has effected me; even now, after probably hundreds of listens, I can honestly say that it is still getting better each time. I predict huge things in Lydia's future.

    Honorable Mentions:

    Brighten - Early Love
    Cake Bake Betty - To the Dark Tower
    The Dresden Dolls - No, Virginia...
    The Hush Sound - Goodbye Blues
    Maria Taylor with Andy LeMaster - Savannah Drive
    Pretty Balanced - Conical Monocle
    Sarah Slean - The Baroness/The Baroness Redecorates
    Stars - Sad Robots

    For thoughts on the rest of the top twenty and honorable mentions, plus downloads from all, see here.
  • 2008: Top Artists & Tracks

    Gen 1 2009, 6:34

    For referential/comparative/archival/what have you purposes. I am just a statistics freak basically and like to compare how my tastes change over time. So kindly ignore this unsubstantial post.


    1. Lydia (920)
    2. Rilo Kiley (659)
    3. Los Campesinos! (618)
    4. Now It's Overhead (599)
    5. The Anniversary (550)
    6. Tilly and the Wall (541)
    7. The Dresden Dolls (524)
    8. Mates of State (456)
    9. Okkervil River (447)
    10. 1997 (444)
    11. Straylight Run (424)
    12. Copeland (423)
    13. Amanda Palmer (422)
    13. Stars (422)
    15. The Hush Sound (412)
    16. Sleater-Kinney (405)
    17. Sarah Slean (392)
    18. She & Him (359)
    19. Jenny Lewis (351)
    20. Eisley (328)
    21. No Doubt (306)
    22. Asobi Seksu (300)
    23. Tori Amos (295)
    24. Tegan and Sara (238)
    25. My Brightest Diamond (237)
    26. Veda Hille (236)
    27. One For The Team (214)
    28. Bright Eyes (205)
    29. Yeah Yeah Yeahs (202)
    30. Johnny Foreigner (199)
    31. Kristin Hersh (196)
    32. Shannon Wright (190)
    33. Rainer Maria (185)
    34. Cake Bake Betty (183)
    35. Ra Ra Riot (182)
    36. Be Your Own Pet (179)
    36. Lovedrug (179)
    38. The Grates (175)
    38. Kate Bush (175)
    40. Azure Ray (169)
    40. Carissa's Wierd (169)
    42. The Elected (166)
    43. The Good Life (159)
    44. Margot & the Nuclear So and So's (155)
    45. Fiona Apple (152)
    45. Art In Manila (152)
    47. Maria Taylor (150)
    48. Patty Griffin (149)
    49. Brighten (145)
    50. Automatic Loveletter (133)


    1. Now It's Overhead – Let Up (61)
    2. Lydia – Now The One You Once Loved Is Leaving (59)
    3. Lydia – A Story For Supper (56)
    3. Lydia – Stay Awake (56)
    5. Lydia – One More Day (53)
    6. Lydia – Fate (52)
    7. Amanda Palmer – Runs in the Family (50)
    7. She & Him – Change Is Hard (50)
    9. Lydia – Smile, You've Won (49)
    10. Lydia – Sleep Well (48)
    11. Lydia – All I See (47)
    12. Lydia – Hospital (46)
    12. Los Campesinos! – Death to Los Campesinos! (46)
    14. Okkervil River – On Tour With Zykos (45)
    14. The Anniversary – Till We Earned A Holiday (45)
    14. Tilly and the Wall – Cacophony (45)
    17. Amanda Palmer – Guitar Hero (44)
    18. Los Campesinos! – My Year in Lists (42)
    18. Now It's Overhead – A Skeleton on Display (42)
    18. Lydia – This Is Twice Now (42)
    18. Lydia – I Woke Up Near The Sea (42)
    22. Los Campesinos! – Knee Deep At ATP (41)
    23. Lydia – A Fine Evening For A Rogue (40)
    24. Tilly and the Wall – Chandelier Lake (39)
    25. Straylight Run – Sympathy For The Martyr (38)
    25. Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue (38)
    25. Jenny Lewis – Bad Man's World (38)
    28. Jenny Lewis – Jack Killed Mom (37)
    28. Los Campesinos! – Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks (37)
    30. She & Him – Sweet Darlin' (36)
    30. Lydia – Her And Haley (36)
    30. Lydia – Always Move Fast (36)
    30. Lydia – It's In Your Blood (36)
    30. Mates of State – My Only Offer (36)
    30. Lydia – ...Ha Yeah It Got Pretty Bad (36)
    36. Art in Manila – The Game (35)
    36. The Dresden Dolls – Night Reconnaissance (35)
    36. Okkervil River – Starry Stairs (35)
    36. Ra Ra Riot – Dying Is Fine (35)
    40. Amanda Palmer – Blake Says (34)
    40.Maria Taylor with Andy LeMaster – Tell Me (34)
    40. Tilly and the Wall – Too Excited (34)
    40. Lydia – December (34)
    40. Copeland – On The Safest Ledge (34)
    45. No Doubt – Too Late (33)
    45. Los Campesinos! – We Are All Accelerated Readers (33)
    45. She & Him – Why Do You Let Me Stay Here? (33)
    45. Now It's Overhead – Dark Light Daybreak (33)
    49. Mates of State – Blue and Gold Print (32)
    49. Now It's Overhead – Night Vision (32)

    Happy New Year, everyone!
  • Mates of State - Re-Arrange Us

    Giu 16 2008, 0:37

    Mates of State
    Re-Arrange Us

    Summary for those who don't want to read all this (which I totally understand): These two keep getting better and better. I adore this album, it's either my second or third favorite release of the year so far, and I love it more each time I listen. Now, onto me pretending to be sophisticated and as always, overly wordy...

    Mates of State, the husband/wife duo of Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner, is a fantastic example of a band who keeps evolving and growing without losing what made them so unique and refreshing in the first place. With each of their five albums, they've matured and expanded their sound in a way that seems completely natural, starting with slightly obnoxious lo-fi indie pop songs and ending up with something more grown-up but no less energetic and catchy. Somewhere along the line, they've become more than capable of writing a truly perfect pop song, an accomplishment that is not to be taken lightly. With the latest of these albums, Re-Arrange Us, the Mates take their biggest steps in a new direction yet, ditching Gardner's signature organ and instead opting for simple piano and other keyboards (though piano is not something new to the band's repertoire; see "Parachutes (Funeral Song)", "Drop and Anchor", and "Like U Crazy" for the stunning proof). At first, this seems like it could be a bad move, removing one of their most memorable assets from the equation, but a handful of listens through Re-Arrange Us proves that to be totally untrue. In fact, it only solidifies their strength as songwriters when such a huge part of their sound is altered yet the quality of the music doesn't waver at all. There have been so many examples of the happiness of married life and children turning a musician's music into something bland and uninspired, so it's refreshing to see that Mates of State are still going strong five albums, two children, and seven years of marriage later - and they show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

    The first six tracks on Re-Arrange Us are about as close to flawless as one can possibly get. The opener, "Get Better", announces its arrival with only a bit of light, sprightly piano and rather muted vocals by Mates standards, immediately showcasing the musical maturity and growth since 2006's Bring It Back. Sandwiched in between this tender opening and a lovely orchestral finale is an upbeat ode to positivity in the face of adversity ("Everything's gonna get lighter/Even if it never gets better") which proves that the band hasn't let go of their energetic and fun side at all; it's just been channeled into something slightly more sophisticated. Proving this even further is "Now", probably the most straight-forwardly catchy song on the entire album, in which Gardner and Hammel accomplish the impressive feat of crafting an extremely addicting chorus out of a single word. "My Only Offer" is mellow in comparison, but has a bright, cheerful melody and even throws a bit of brass instrumentation into their usual two-person show, all while the duo sings chirpily about domestic life ("Bought a home we bartered right/2 kids, 2 car delight/Posed pictures on the walls/Small talk in the bedroom halls").

    "The Re-Arranger" brings about a switch to slightly more complicated melodies and a bigger sound. In fact, it's the perfect example of everything good about their music: interweaving alternate vocal melodies, impeccable harmonizing, a switch-up partway through that nearly turns it into a completely different song, and quirky lyrics that make even the most mundane topics enthralling ("Red colonial houses lining all the snow white streets/Working out all our problems there in the back of the house where the ghosts all sleep"). This is followed by "Jigsaw", another bouncy, playful tune that employs the always entertaining trick of Hammel echoing back each of Gardner's lines during the verses. It also doesn't hurt that Ben Gibbard pops up to deliver some background support near the end, though his contribution is surprisingly close to indiscernible. Finally, ending this long streak of highlights is "Blue and Gold Print", the closest to a Mates love ballad that you're likely going to get. It may seem slightly unmemorable at first, but it soon reveals itself as absolutely beautiful and worthy of being mentioned among the album's best. With the soaring vocals of the chorus and the simple, thoughtful lyrics ("So long, lost loves/I haven't forgotten you just yet... I sang instead when other girls only cried/I called it grace; I am a mindless child/But I said, he's treating me right"), it comes to life once its subtle approach really sinks in.

    It's not that the rest of the album is bad, mediocre, or even just good - it's still very above average, but pales in comparison to the stacked first half, something that seems to happen often on Mates releases. However, instead of following the pattern of their first album, My Solo Project, where the later songs never quite click the way the rest do, it's more along the lines of Team Boo, where after multiple listens, those songs become just as indispensable as the earlier highlights. With that said, "Help Help" is probably the song most reminiscent of that 2003 album here, slightly more grown-up without sacrificing an ounce of catchiness. The only reason it's not among the album's best is because the "catchy upbeat pop song" quota has already been filled by many of the previous tracks. "You Are Free" at first seems fairly forgettable, and while it is arguably the weakest track here, it's saved from mediocrity during the second half, due to the gloriously perfect bridge ("You're selling our old ways/Stop telling me the right way to go"). "Great Dane" is, in one word, cute and centered around an infectious wordless scat that is chanted joyously at the beginning and end. Wrapping everything up is "Lullaby Haze", possibly the darkest song the Mates have ever done - which means it is still relatively bright - and full of gorgeously layered and lush piano, drums, strings, and vocals. It follows their tradition of ending things on a slightly less cheery note ("Separate the People", "Running Out") and does so beautifully.

    There is absolutely no filler to be found on Re-Arrange Us and at only ten tracks and a thirty-five minute running time, that is practically a necessity. Each song, whether it is among the album's weakest or strongest, has at least one moment of absolute perfection (and usually many more than one) that sticks in your head and stays there for a very long time. Despite its surface simplicity and lightness, Re-Arrange Us goes much deeper and leaves a much larger impact than is expected. With repeated listens, the songs reveal themselves further and rather than grow stale, become even more infectious and memorable. Instead of ruining their appeal, the slight reworking of their sound has actually enhanced it; in fact, such changes may have even saved them - there's only so much you can do with an electric organ, after all, so the bigger variety of instrumentation is a welcome change. Mates of State have achieved the perfect balance of catering to their fans while still exploring and experimenting with new ideas and in the end, that's the best you can ask for from any band.
  • The Dresden Dolls - No, Virginia...

    Giu 4 2008, 17:12

    The Dresden Dolls
    No, Virginia...

    It's a testament to Amanda Palmer's talent as a songwriter and the Dresden Dolls' talent as performers that a quickly put together collection of rarities and leftovers is better than many lesser bands' album material. Their latest release, No, Virginia..., is an eleven-track assortment consisting mostly of longtime live favorites finally committed to a more permanent format along with a couple of previously released tunes that were harder to get a hold of. As you would expect, the result is something quite schizophrenic, from tender ballads to more aggressive rock-oriented songs, but when you think about it, their proper albums aren't exactly the picture of uniformity either. (Take for example their debut, where you get the punk-y "Girl Anachronism", child-like "Missed Me", dark epic "Half Jack", mysterious interlude "672", and playful tongue-in-cheek "Coin-Operated Boy", one right after the other.) With this in mind, No, Virginia... is nearly as filling as their prior releases; it's even got a few songs that could easily fit among their best ever.

    The album opens with "Dear Jenny", an energetic number that most brings to mind the Dolls' self-coined genre - punk cabaret; Palmer frenetically delivers darkly entertaining lyrics that describe the occupants and practices of a shady mental institution ("Specialists review the year in tears and call for drastic measures/Send them to resorts for boys and girls to get their wits together... Sometimes they let strangers in and other times they check their records/When they check out in the morning dad puts out the lie detectors") over she and Brian Viglione's signature piano and drums combo. The inclusion of this track is especially rewarding to any Dolls fan who has been tortured by its appearance on their website's lyrics page for years despite the lack of a recording. Following is another catchy uptempo song, "Night Reconnaissance", that joyously celebrates a night of stealing lawn ornaments from an uptight wealthy neighborhood. Other tracks on the album also follow this recipe of unassumingly upbeat music that tells a surprisingly dark story: "Ultima Esperanza" is a twisted fairytale about a blossoming online relationship between two people, one of them a legless recluse, while "Lonesome Organist Rapes Page Turner" - a fantastic track that was puzzlingly only available previously on the Japanese edition of Yes, Virginia... - details a disturbing secret between a young girl and her much older piano teacher ("He said, 'Oh darling, you're charming/Please don't find it alarming/If I pull this stop out to free up a hand for heavy petting'").

    The remaining few songs that can fit into the "uptempo and catchy" category are simpler lyric and music-wise and therefore not quite as appealing. "Sorry Bunch" sounds almost half-finished, never managing to reach a satisfying climax, and seems to be more of a vessel for Viglione's fun, breezy background vocals than anything meant to leave a lasting impact. "The Kill" takes itself more seriously with its dually playful and insightful lyrics ("I am eleven feet/Okay, eight/Six foot three... The punchlines point at you/And all the comebacks in the world are in your head/And you can't say them until everybody leaves/And it's just you and your imaginary friends") and the build-up from more restrained verses to a mildly aggressive ending, but it doesn't entirely live up to its full potential - possibly due to the fact that the extended outro that was performed live is omitted from the studio recording. Finally, rounding out this group is the solitary non-original inclusion, a cover of the Psychedelic Furs' "Pretty in Pink"; it has a much fuller sound instrumentally than most Dolls tracks and is actually very enjoyable, but of course, doesn't hold a candle to any of their own material.

    A good amount of songs that could be considered among the band's best ("Half Jack", "Truce", "Delilah", etc.) are of the more emotional variety: ones that start out soft and quiet before evolving into something epic and intense and usually accompanied by personal, reflective, and very depressing lyrics. It's no surprise then that No, Virginia...'s most memorable moments also fit into this mold. "The Mouse and the Model" is classic Dresden Dolls (with a bit of guitar thrown in for good measure), full of gorgeous piano lines, impeccably complimentary drumming, a seamless switch from ballad to intense rocker, and Palmer's unique biting lyrics ("It's dark over here on the flip side of reason/The teaser could be something easy like 'They did it in a book'/You're a crook, you're a fake, you're committed/If you did it say you did it/If you didn't suck it up and say you did"). Then there's "The Gardener", which opens with only a daunting bass guitar (shocking!) melody and sparse percussion before expanding to include whispery vocals that are actually scary in how hushed and deliberate they are. Throughout its five minutes, it teeters just on the edge of exploding, threatening to burst at the seams at any moment but never actually doing so (right when it teases you by getting dangerously close it dies back down again), which ends up being its biggest draw. It culminates in Palmer and Viglione wailing eerily, "The gardener's coming to collect" and when it suddenly ends, you're left shocked that such a relatively simple song could leave you so shaken. "The Sheep Song" pales in comparison, but it is another potent little tune, creating a punk cabaret-style lullaby out of a decidedly unsuitable topic for one ("Counting sheep, I lay me down to sleep/But I see a sheep who will not leave/From the back they catch him in a trap/Hit his head and send him off to bed").

    But wait - we still haven't reached the peak of this satisfyingly above average hodgepodge of leftovers. That comes with "Boston", a sister song to their self-titled debut's closer "Truce", which appropriately and perfectly wraps things up here as its mate did there. It is arguably the most personal track and the kind that proves Palmer's immense talent as a songwriter most effectively. She writes about personal experiences in a way that is very specific to her own thoughts and feelings but also leaves room for the listener's interpretation, letting them match it to their life just as well as it fits to hers. Her lyrics drop your heart to your stomach and then rip it out and stomp on it, all in the nicest, most pleasurable way possible. There are too many examples of these deeply resonating lines in just this song alone to list them all, from the devastatingly hopeless declaration of, "Honestly your foot is out the door/And I've got scores of offers elsewhere/And keep both feet planted firmly in the air/And tomorrow you can totally erase me from your mind/No, really, everything is fine" to the simple finale, "I know for a fact that I loved someone/And for about a year he lived in Boston." The accompanying music also illustrates grandly the duo's talent at their instruments; Palmer's piano-playing switches frequently and flawlessly from quiet to loud, soft to heavy, legato to staccato while at the drums, Viglione adapts to every slight change with just as much grace and ease. They are the definition of a match made in musical heaven and despite the fact that Palmer often seems to be the head of the show, Viglione's presence would be just as sorely missed as hers would be; it is an essential part of the equation and without it, the Dresden Dolls simply couldn't exist.

    If there are any complaints to be made about No, Virginia..., the most obvious one is that Palmer's voice is noticeably worn-out and strained on a few tracks such as "Dear Jenny" and "Night Reconnaissance" because they were recorded just weeks prior to her recent vocal cord surgery. While the situation wasn't entirely in her hands, they could have waited until afterwards and who knows, maybe the songs would have sounded better. In all honesty, though, the slightly squeaky, all-over-the-place sound of them kind of adds to the band's already chaotic and damaged style; it's really not a big enough of a deal either way to make a fuss over. Other than that, any other issues - varying production quality, a jarring flow from track to track - can be attributed to the fact that this is, after all, not a proper album and therefore, those kinds of things are to be expected. Overall, it is a highly fulfilling collection, with a handful of songs that are as good as (or in some cases, even better than) anything on their two studio albums. It should definitely be able to hold a hungry Dolls fan over until the much-anticipated release of Palmer's solo debut later this year and hopefully, much more from the band further down the road.
  • 1997 - On the Run

    Giu 2 2008, 19:10

    I haven't done one of these in awhile and I feel especially accomplished with this one because I had to essentially write the whole thing over from memory after the original was lost due to unforeseen computer issues. Anyway, all opinion, blah, blah, blah. Songs here.

    On the Run

    One glance at the cover of their sophomore release, On the Run, will tell you exactly how much 1997 has changed and evolved as a band since their debut. The cover of that album, last year's A Better View of the Rising Moon, features a drawing of a cozy little house settled amongst abstract doodles of flowers and stars. It is reminiscent of a child's artwork - bright, colorful, vibrant - and serves as a good indication of the music inside: catchy, energetic songs whose youthful and joyous melodies betray the comparatively darker lyrics that ruminate on such subjects as failed relationships and broken homes. Here, any false happiness has been erased and replaced with a mysterious grainy photograph of a solitary figure. The image brings many emotions to mind - depression, restlessness, abandonment, desperation - and it too hints at the album's contents. These songs make no effort to mask their less-than-happy lyrics and the instrumentation and vocals are intense, moody, aggressive, a far cry from the anthemic sing-along choruses and bouncy harmonies of the band's first album. In little more than a year, 1997 has become nearly an entirely different band. The impressive part is that neither version of the band is any better or worse than the other; they can exist as two separate entities rather than constantly competing. Once this balance is achieved in the listener's head, On the Run becomes a truly fantastic record, different but no less enjoyable or fulfilling - and maybe even more so.

    Another huge reason for the drastic shift in sound is the addition of keyboardist/vocalist Alida Marroni. Her voice is more soulful and classic than former member Kerri Mack's powerful pop-punk pipes. It is also more affected; she sometimes takes vocal turns that come off as over-the-top and artificial, an affliction that can probably be partly blamed on her young age. With each subsequent listen, however, her few bad decisions are less noticeable and pale in comparison to her brightest moments. Even if she hasn't completely found her style yet, there's no denying that she does have a very impressive voice. After the initial shock of such a difference wears off, it becomes obvious that she fits the direction the band has taken very well and no one else could do a better job, not even Mack, whose cheerful shout-y voice is hard to imagine singing these darker tunes.

    One thing that hasn't changed is the band's unique distribution of lead vocals amongst three of its members: Marroni, Kevin Thomas, and guitarist Caleb Pepp. This is probably their most appealing draw-in, as it keeps their sound from ever getting too stale or repetitive. Even though the boys' voices can often sound quite similar, each person has their own style to bring to the table. On A Better View of the Rising Moon, most songs didn't feature one vocalist prominently, instead choosing to focus on all three as a single unit, with a surplus of call-and-response and layered dissonant melodies. Here, there isn't nearly as much collaboration and while it is missed at first, it also gives each singer a chance to stand up on their own. In some bands, a lack of equal talent among multiple singers causes the songs to suffer, but all three have strong voices which are as capable of leading as they are of following. Despite the bigger focus on individuals, there are a few songs more reminiscent of their past approach scattered throughout the album ("4 a.m. Conversation", "Tennessee Song Pt. 2").

    There isn't really a low point through all eleven of On the Run's tracks. There is plenty of variety, each song very different from the next. Tracks like "Dancing with the Devil" and "Sunset Beyond Black Clouds" are quite Straylight Run-esque, with their intense vocals and surprisingly complex and beautiful instrumentation. The latter especially has a chorus that seems ripped straight from the book of John Nolan. The Marroni-led "I Will Always Find You" and "A Dream of Form in Days of Thought" bring to mind a more moody and sensual Eisley or The Hush Sound, brimming with dark piano chords, dramatic vocals, and depressing lyrics ("You're tired of keeping us together/I'm pushing harder for your heart/You could not bear to face it sober/My love is pulling us apart"; "This is what it takes/To live under the weight/Of everything you've done/And this is what it's like/To spend your life behind/The barrel of a gun"). Comparisons to these and other bands may be easy to make, but 1997 definitely have their own sound and know how to incorporate their influences without sacrificing any individuality.

    Elsewhere, there are still many more highlights. "4 a.m. Conversation" features heavy guitar riffs and Marroni and Thomas trading lyrical barbs as a couple on the verge of a break-up ("You say I'm immature, that I hide behind a mask/You know that I'm right/I'd rather run away than give this love a chance"). Shockingly devoid of the grating preciousness that clouds most songs on the subject, "January 19th" is a love song of sorts to Pepp's baby daughter, its inspirational lyrics ("You've got my hands to hold/You've got my arms when the world gets too cold/Wherever in life you want to go/You've got my hands... Lily, when you wake up/After all your dreams stop/Close your eyes and save them for the day I'm coming home/I'll keep you safe forever/You know that I will never let you go") contradicted by an aggressive vocal delivery. "Zechariah's Song" is an introspective ("I've got a friend who talks to Jesus/To heal her broken heart/But she's holding onto pieces/She's never even thought of letting go") upbeat number that showcases all three singers in a way more similar to their first record than most of the others.

    Finally, wrapping things up nicely is the acoustic title track. The two-and-a-half-minute closer is led by Pepp and his acoustic guitar, with only a few seconds of harmonizing from Marroni, an oddly fitting singing saw appearance, and a bit of harmonica near the end interrupting the solitude. Nearly every track on the album touches on the universal topic of restlessness, constant wandering, and finding oneself on the road. (Three other songs apart from this one even feature the line "on the run", though it's not obvious if it is actually intentional.) "On the Run", though, offers a final summary of that theme, a more focused and simple exploration of it: "I've spent my best years on the road/I've done my share of ramblin', think I'll head back to my home/But nowhere ever seems like it's the only place for me/So as much as I don't wanna be alone, I gotta leave." It's the most sparse and slow song on the album, but is another standout for that; its stripped-down atmosphere serves as a perfect bookend to the album's catchy beginning.

    There is one more important quality that On the Run shares with its predecessor: both albums are slow-burners. They seem slightly unimpressive at first, unassuming, but there is something present that keeps you listening until it finally clicks. Once this has happened, every song becomes a highlight, each one as good as the next, so that it is nearly impossible to pick favorites. Over more time, the songs reveal themselves even further, until the ones that used to do nothing turn into the ones you love the most. When patience is rewarded like this, when albums that never grabbed you suddenly take hold of your being completely, these are the moments when it feels best to be a music fan. Maybe 1997 haven't quite reached that level yet - they are still a fairly new band, after all - but they're getting dangerously close. Thomas has stated in the past, "We don’t ever want to play the same music. We always want to grow and try different things." If they continue evolving and maturing so drastically, it should definitely be interesting to see where their music goes in the future. For right now, they are just another one of those scarily talented young bands, with two totally different yet totally fulfilling albums, that deserve more attention than they're getting.

    Geez, was that long enough? I have no concept of being brief, apparently, but we all knew this.
  • She & Him - Volume One

    Apr 6 2008, 1:54

    She & Him
    Volume One

    At some point in their careers, many actors decide to try their hand at music and the end result usually falls into one of these two categories: they should either stick with their day job or are in all honesty not that good at acting or singing. Sometimes, though, a miracle happens and an actor/singer comes along that is actually extremely talented at both. Luckily for her and for us, Zooey Deschanel falls into this elusive third category. She has shown off her surprisingly impressive voice in a few films over the past couple of years, but none of that even hinted that she could create such a strong and enjoyable debut album. Performing under the moniker She & Him, with the help of M. Ward, Zooey shines on Volume One, a collection of mostly her own compositions that show off an even lovelier voice than anyone could imagine she had - and a pretty good grasp on songwriting and arranging as well. The lo-fi production and simple instrumentation put the focus on the straight-forward, adorable lyrics and unpolished but endearing vocals that bring to mind the singers of decades long past. There are no fancy adornments or surprising out-of-left-field moments, but these songs don't need any. They may be simple but they are also fully realized and subtly catchy; and who needs eccentricity when there's such a beautiful voice to capture and keep the listener's attention all on its own?

    Volume One opens with "Sentimental Heart", which is every bit as plaintive and romantic as the title suggests. It's a soft, aching ballad that showcases Zooey's unique voice over a very simple piano and violin melody, only to change gears slightly at the end as the song fades out and back in with a deliberate drum beat and gorgeous layered harmonizing. "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?" is much more upbeat, with extremely cute lyrics anticipating the start of a relationship rather than lamenting the end of one ("I've got to get your presence/Let's make it known/I think you're just so pleasant/I would like you for my own"). Full of handclaps and ending with a chorus of infectious "do-do-do"s, it sounds like it belongs more to the girl group pop of the '50s and '60s than to the present.

    "This Is Not a Test" follows the same upbeat trend, but borrows more from the alt-country side of the spectrum. The lyrics are some of the album's most insightful ("Think of all the children in the drifts of snow/Winners never quit but winters never rest") and Zooey's voice is at its strongest and most soaring. It also features a cute little trumpet solo which is unique because it is not actually a trumpet, but Zooey vocalizing an approximation of one - which works surprisingly well given the cheesiness of the concept. Next up is "Change Is Hard", an extremely beautiful and emotional torch song that is easily a highlight thanks to the sorrowful vocal delivery and sad lyrics: "I'm all out of luck but what else could I be?/I know he's yours and he'll never belong to me again/I did him wrong/So don't brag, keep it to yourself/I did him wrong/No, I was never enough/But I can try to toughen up." The streak continues with "I Thought I Saw Your Face Today", a mid-tempo retro-sounding pop tune that is almost monotonous but in an oddly endearing way rather than a boring one.

    Due to this string of perfect tracks at the beginning of the album, the second half doesn't shine quite as much in comparison, but there are a few amazing gems to be found later on as well. "Black Hole" is a playful and short acoustic number, its quirky melody and lyrics contrasting nicely with the actually depressing subject matter of a break-up: "I'm stuck here getting misty over you/I'm alone on a bicycle for two." It is followed by "Got Me", one of the most obviously country-influenced tracks and one of the best displays of Zooey's vocal talent; she easily wails and croons like a true diva. The final track, "Sweet Darlin'", is a true return to the quality of the first five songs (it is also the only original track that wasn't written entirely by Zooey; it was co-written with none other than another actor/musician, Jason Schwartzman). The adorable and straight-forward lyrics ("When things were a little bit clearer/When we got nearer/I shied from your touch/Now that I know what I want, see/I think that it haunts me/I want you too much!") are complimented by smartly-placed claps, a lovely and energetic string arrangement, and more of those impeccable vocal harmonies.

    The two covers that flesh out the tracklisting are probably the least necessary songs here. They get lost amongst everything else and don't stick out as extremely memorable, which if anything, is just more proof of Zooey's talent as a songwriter. Still, they're far from bad. "I Should Have Known Better" is the best of the two, though it is bogged down by M. Ward's vocal part which seems a bit too lazy and slow in comparison to the slight playfulness of the rest of the song. There is also a hidden track that is worth mentioning: a brief but lovely a cappella rendition of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" that shows off a subtly soulful side of Zooey's voice.

    Overall, Volume One is a very impressive debut for Ms. Deschanel - and not only impressive for an actor turned musician, but impressive even if that wasn't the case. M. Ward's lo-fi production style works perfectly with her simple, classic songs to create an album that's quite anachronistic, though in the best way possible. It's refreshing to hear amongst all of the slickly-produced, very clean records being created by other female singer-songwriters of today. The quirks and imperfections only add to the album's charm. The audible laughs and background chatter, the sometimes untrained and rough aspects of Zooey's voice - these little flaws just give the already catchy and well-written songs more character and memorability. Even through the slightly uneven second half of Volume One, something keeps you listening until the end and this ability is an extremely important one to have as a musician. So, kudos to Zooey for being completely charming and irresistible even in her weakest moments - and, oh yeah, she has a pretty fantastic voice as well.

    For fans of: Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins, Neko Case, Jolie Holland, M. Ward, Coconut Records

    As always, songs here.