Diario

  • My top 100 albums (minus one)

    Ago 15 2008, 16:24

    I wrote it for a message board, but felt like that was a lot of effort for just a message board, so I'm cross-posting it wherever I feel like. I was going to do facebook, til I realized I'd have to totally reformat it. So I picked here instead. All the important people are here, anyway. ;-)

    So anyone 99 top albums...
    ... with one TBD title.

    Reverse ranked (for great surprise factor)... with comments as I deem
    they appear. (Commenting on all 100 would be ridiculous... but I
    always enjoy writing (**english major nerd**)... so whatever.)

    099. The New Pornographers - Mass Romantic

    ...Just like the awkward coupling on the cover, this album is a
    no-holds-barred, somewhat spontaneous masterpiece. It lays the
    groundwork for their following albums, while also putting some of the
    best songs into the NP repertoire.

    098. The Magic Numbers - The Magic Numbers

    ...Ignoring the lyrics, The Magic Numbers sound like perfect "I just
    fell in love, let's sing a chorus!" music. Except for that taint of
    sorrow in the lead singer's voice. The sing-a-long harmonies are
    great.

    097. Ben Charest - [album]The Triplets of Belleville[/album]

    ...Highly Django Reinhardt-inspired, the soundtrack sounds like a
    gypsy trip through naughty drugs. Amazingly, the track that is played
    with a vacuum, a newspaper, and refrigerator in the movie was actually
    played that way for the recording, too.

    096. the danielson famile - Fetch the Compass Kids

    ...Daniel Johnson meets awkward religious ditties delivered in Daniel
    Smith's trademark falsetto squeak. Always feels like it could fall
    apart at any moment, yet doesn't.

    095. The Arcade Fire - Funeral

    ...Rich and epic in tone this could have been a top-ten selection,
    unfortunately sounding the same through much of the CD drops it.

    094. Eagles of Death Metal - Peace Love Death Metal

    ...Good, ol' sexified rock n roll with pervy swagger. Ace.

    093. mewithoutYou - A to B LIfe

    ...Frantic Fugazi-meets-Soul Coughing art rock. Their first album and
    despite the low ranking on the top 100 provided the best mwY live
    experience.

    092. TV on the Radio - Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes

    ...Raw energy mixed with a pulse and fervor. Yet also manages to feel
    like a dream-scape. So little becomes so much. Also provider of a
    fantastic concert experience.

    091. Woven Hand - Consider the Birds

    ...While David Eugene Edwards' solo project has never quite reached
    the fervor of his old gig in 16 Horsepower, Woven Hand takes a more
    textured approach to his stark vision.

    090. Radiohead - Hail to the Thief

    ...I was hoping I had 100 albums I liked more than a Radiohead album,
    but alas, one snuck its way on. Oh well, it is a really good album so
    no complaints. Varied but flows.

    089. the danielson famile - Tri-Danielson: Alpha

    ...Tri-Danielson: Alpha and Tri-Danielson: Omega were released within
    a half-a-year of each other and are meant as companion albums. Still,
    they are different albums so I couldn't put them on the same number.
    As such, Omega became the odd man out and didn't make the list. Pity.
    A very cyclical album. For reasons I won't explain.

    088. Joy Electric - The White Songbook

    ...It is pretty audacious to name your album after the seminal The
    Beatles album. But it was oddly prophetic as The White Songbook is by
    far Joy Electrics best work. It is electronic, sung with a put-on
    British accent... but dark, dense, and full of wholly-hella-catchy
    melodies.

    087. Miighty Flashlight - Miighty Flashlight

    ...Loose, easy to move to, acoustic, and crazy are all adjectives that
    would work with the first and only Miighty Flashlight album. Hard to
    describe, but might appeal to fans of Joan of Arc/Make Believe and
    Ugly Casanova.

    086. Tantrum of the Muse - Modernmu$ick(2000!)
    (no image)
    ...Is it bad taste to include a local band on these lists? What if
    they were nationally distributed? The album is poorly recorded, but
    through the tape haze is an original vision that hints to Mike Patton
    and Roadside Monument. Listen to: Eunuch (The Sinai Orgies),
    Chiroptera Armada

    085. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

    ...The break-out album for Case, despite releasing a number of
    fantastic albums prior to it. Her voice is at top form on the album,
    with it's perilous heavy-yet-light tone.

    084. Pedro the Lion - Winners Never Quit

    ...As much as he's hated, David Bazan still manages to sound
    distinctive. He is one of those people who has embraced himself to
    make music and just lays it out there, flaws and all. As such, Winners
    Never Quit is his most uneven album, and the one that travels the most
    sonic ground. Yet it also has the best high points of any of his
    albums.

    083. Roadside Monument - Beside This Brief Hexagonal
    (no image)
    ...Specializing in making the discordant appealing, Roadside
    definitely has that "If Sonic Youth were harder and more willing to
    explore the contrast between loud and soft" mid-90s indie sound going
    on.

    082. Cursive - Happy Hollow

    ...I thought they couldn't top The Ugly Organ but boy howdy was
    I wrong. Anthem-esque ironly ladled discord that maximizes the catchy
    pop factor songs need to survive.

    081. Jem - Finally Woken

    ...Heavenly indie-pop, heavy on the rising, spine-tingling choruses
    and cutesy backing vocals. Some of the best songs of the niche are on
    this album, which is saying something.

    080. Slapp Happy/Henry Cow - Desperate Straights

    ...bands Slapp Happy and Henry Cow joined together for this faux-freak-folk-cum-
    Renaissance-Fair oddity. The nice musical turns
    and fun humor displayed on the opening track will allow the listener
    to know right away if this is a band down their ally.

    079. The Residents - Meet the Residents

    ...A defaced Beatles cover is an appropriate introduction to The
    Residents' first full length album. Also appropriate is the opening
    track, a barely decipherable cover of a Nancy Sinatra classic, Boots.
    Twisted, random, and goes by all too quickly as tracks bleed into and
    from each other.

    078. The White Stripes - De Stijl

    ...Ah, so The White Stripes rank after all! Well... welll.... welllll.
    Their second album is still raw, but shows adult refinements that are
    a break from the normal blues-influenced-garage-rock that the White
    Stripes specialize in.

    077. Man Man - The Man In A Blue Turban With A Face

    ...Ah, Man Man. Owners of the greatest live show known to man. They
    are wizards at hinting at Tom Waits and Frank Zappa comparisons,
    without every actually allowing anyone to firmly pin it on them.

    076. Dear Ephesus - The Consolation of Pianissimo
    (no image)
    ...One of those bands where it feels like each instrument is doing
    something totally different from each other, yet it comes together to
    form this cohesive whole that makes this great wall of sound. Of their
    two albums, this one is chock full of great songs, while the other
    feels like a cohesive album.

    075. Danielson - Ships

    ...For their most recent album Daniel Smith decided to drop the
    "Famile" from their name. The result is their most accessible album.
    I'll let minds greater than mine decide whether that is a good thing
    or not.

    074. Ninety Pound Wuss - Short Hand Operation

    ...Sloppy speed-punk-rock, shouted with conviction. Vocals usually hit
    that perfect point where they stand in sharp contrast to the music. It
    actually becomes quite compelling. The variety in the songs keeps
    things from feeling redundant (a common curse of the genre).

    073. Viva Voce - Get Yr Blood Sucked Out

    ...Sweet rock-centric sunny ditties. Feels sweet without feeling
    gimmicky. Definitely has that "It's summer and I'm driving with my
    significant other" feel to it.

    072. Zao - (Self-Titled)

    ...(Self-Titled) is Zao at their most experimental. The breaks from
    their distinct metalcore are frequent and unexpected... while feeling
    perfectly natural and naturally perfect. The kind of album that is
    hard to pick specific songs from since the whole scope of the album is
    important for each song, but...

    071. The Evens - The Evens

    ...At various points in life I enjoyed Fugazi. But I never considered
    them the amazing ground breaking band that most do. The Evens, a side
    project of the front-man, manages to be super compelling by stripping
    down the sound and adding an alluring female voice to counter-point
    his.

    070. Johnny Cash - American IV

    ...I remember the day Johnny Cash died I went into work, bright and
    early, and brought my copy of this album. We (my boss and I) stuck in
    the bonus DVD which featured the music video for Hurt and it was...
    extremely sad and touching at the same time. Especially having read
    his excellent autobiography.

    069. Lengsel - Solace

    ...Frantic, bleak black metal. It is an album meant to be played so
    loud your ears ring, so loud everything becomes almost indecipherable.

    068. Soul Coughing - Irresistible Bliss

    ...The delivery is what makes Mike Doughty distinct. It is a kind of
    stream-of-consciousness poetry slam... only without really being
    poetry. And being really catchy.

    067. Midlake - Trials of Van Occupanther

    ...Mellow-but-driven and softly fried rock. Has an epic feel, despite
    the musical simplicity.

    066. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois

    ...Overblown orchestrated indie preciousness. Sweet.

    065. The Rolling Stones - Their Satanic Majesties Request

    ...The Stones' attempt at psychedelia is actually really awesome. It
    is sloppy, disjointed, and much cooler than their other material.

    064. Royal - My Dear

    ...Loud guitar art-rock that takes definite cues from Sonic Youth. As
    a friend once told me, they are masters at going from extremely loud
    to super quiet. Oh yeah, plus a female vocalist. (The dude in the band
    would later go on to form Serena Maneesh).

    063. Sonic Youth - Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star

    ...This is a criminally overlooked album in the Sonic Youth catalog.
    Still, not the most beginner-friendly Sonic Youth album.

    062. Wilco - Sky Blue Sky

    ...This is Wilco's chill smooth rock album. It is their most focused
    project.

    061. The Residents - Eskimo

    ...Eskimo is a landmark recording. It is essentially The Residents
    telling different stories about Eskimos using nothing more than
    environmental sounds. It is totally audacious, but it works.

    060. The Violet Burning - Drop-Dead
    (no-image)
    ...Fuzzy rock. The sort of thing that is more than the sum of its
    parts. Some of the most epic live shows I've seen.

    059. Queens of the Stone Age - Rated-R

    ...Nicotine... xtc... alcohol... and, oh yeah, marijuana. First track
    definitely sets the stage...

    058. Steve Reich - The Desert Music

    ...Master of minimalism. My first introduction.

    057. Vince Guardaldi - [album]A Charlie Brown Christmas[/album]

    ...This is about the only thing that will get me in the Christmas
    spirit anymore. I tend toward scrooge-ing. Great piano-focused jazz.


    056. Big Boi (OutKast) - Speakerboxxx

    ...Everyone focused on "Shake It" from the Andre3000 joint when the
    double album released, but it is Speakerboxxx which features the best
    tracks... and there are a lot of them.

    055. Neko Case - Blacklisted

    ...A bit more country than her following album, but not as country as
    her preceding few, Blacklisted finds a happy middle ground.
    Overlooked.

    054. [album]Miniatures: A Sequence of 51 Tiny Masterpieces[/album]

    ...Various artist comps are rarely material for lists like this,
    however for this an exception must be made. Tracks are exclusive, and
    features some of the craziest music set to tape. (Well, The Residents
    are featured, after all).

    053. Melt-Banana - Cell-Scapes

    ...They went from a Locust-esque approach of just pounding short songs
    out to this... an album of songs of normal length. And they're
    good... ultra-high-octane... with their crazy Japanese vocalist.
    Sounds just about perfect.

    052. Soul Coughing - El Oso

    ...I'm rollin', I'm rollin', oooooh yeahhh.

    051. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

    ...This was a seminal album in my life. Opened my eyes to a lot of
    things. Even better yet, I totally bought the album blind: never heard
    of them before, didn't know the controversy surrounding it. Fell in
    love immediately.

    050. Thurston Moore - Psychic Hearts

    ...Stepping out from Sonic Youth and Thurston, unsurprisingly, doesn't
    sound much different (this time around.) Some killer guitar-oriented
    tracks.

    049. 16 Horsepower - Secret South


    ...Purchased only because I was so surprised to see it at Circuit
    City, this was my introduction to the bad. Gothic Americana with hints
    of Nick Cave.

    048. The Velvet Underground - White Light/White Heat

    ...From its dense opening, you know WL/WH is going to be a trip. (What
    kind of trip might depend on your drug of choice). Of course, all
    Velvet Underground stuff is more-or-less essential, though this one
    gets the nod for the macabre second track.

    047. Daniel Amos - Fearful Symmetry
    (no image)
    ...There are stronger DA albums, but this one features a track, "Strong Points, Weak Points" that
    might make a top-ten songs of all time list. (Not that I'd be inclined
    to make such a list...) The rest of the album works as a nice
    supplement without ever rising to that level.

    046. The Violet Burning - Demonstrates Plastic and Elastic
    (no image)
    ...Just a good ol' alterna-rock album. One of those where the guitar
    tones are perfect and the songs are catchy as hell.

    045. The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema

    ...The best, most varied collection of songs this band has assembled.
    Doesn't flow quite as well as Mass Romantic, but the strength of the
    tracks trumps that. Though, it doesn't hurt that I saw them live right
    before this album released.

    044. Brother Danielson - Brother : Son

    ...This was, sadly, my very first Danielson-related album. I really
    should have been all over Daniel Smith before this. But alas, I picked
    his "solo" joint before everything else. It is solo in name only...
    everything else is pure Famile.

    043. Renaldo and The Loaf - Songs for Swinging Larvae

    ...Residents worship at its best. It streamlines The Residents' sound
    into something smooth-yet-unpredictable. Way out of print, sadly.

    042. Blanche - If We Can't Trust the Doctors

    ...Blanche has a comfortable, faux-alt-country feel to it, heavily
    rooted in upper-class 1800s aura. Yet all of that, while more-or-less
    feels accurate, hardly informs a reader what they sound like. Pity.
    Good male/female vocals. Strong, catchy songs.

    041. The Beatles - The White Album

    ...The Beatles most intriguing album, The White Album feels more like
    a haphazard collection of songs. The other Beatles albums I have flow
    really well... this one? Not so much. Still, hard to deny the strength
    of the songs.

    040. Wilco - Being There

    ...This is the album where suddenly alt-indie-America realized Jeff
    Tweedy wasn't entirely country. Not that that is a bad realization.
    The transition is rough around the edges, and has flow issues similar
    to The White Album, but lots of marvelous songs.

    039. Sufjan Stevens - Michigan

    ...This is the album that started it all for me. It hadn't been released for too long when I stumbled upon it at our local indie music store and picked it up. It didn't take long for me to realize I had heard nothing like this before and found myself mightily impressed.

    038. Picky Picnic - Picnic Land
    (no cover)
    ...Does The Residents better than The Residents do themselves? Maybe. Zany would be a key descriptor here, and one that doesn't really apply to The Residents. Still, goofy vocals and off-kilter music make a killer combination. Only ever released on cassette, so I have a download, two long mp3s simply titled "side A" and "side B".

    037. Eagles of Death Metal - Death By Sexy

    ...A lot like their first album, except better. Nothing much more to say.

    036. Sonic Youth - A Thousand Leaves

    ...A happy middle ground album for Sonic Youth that partakes in some sounds and ideas from multiple eras of their discography. Most of their albums do not take middle ground, but here it happens quite successfully.

    035. The Residents - Gingerbread Man

    ...This is the album where The Residents embrace the comparisons to twisted nursery rhymes by making a whole album out of the always dark Gingerbread Man story. The Gingerbread Man motif is repeated regularly, giving the album a classical feel.

    034. The Noisettes - What's The Time Mr. Wolf

    ...I love this album. It is one of the rare albums where every single track is amazing. I can just put it on and let it go. Great to drive to.

    033. Andrew Bird - Weather Systems

    ...Still Bird's best, Weather Systems is more stripped down than the albums that follow, but displays some genius song composition. Lame song titles, but thankfully we don't listen to those...

    032. Gomez - How We Operate

    ...This is another one of those albums where the final result is much better than my words can accurately convey. But they are summer songs with a tinge of sadness. The big selling point is how they turn their songs around in a natural, but essential, way to keep each song interesting during its duration.

    031. Extol - Burial

    ...Christian Death Metal from Sweden! Woopie! A heavily nostalgic album for me, although I'd like to think that there is value here beyond nostalgia.

    030. The Residents - Animal Lover

    ...Every Residents album on this list is at least 15 years old... with the exception of this one. With this album they made a perfect combination of that old sound (creepy nursery rhyme feel) with their new sound (very electronic based). It'll make you say "That is like nothing I've heard before" and at the same time "Wow, that is beautiful!". Solid all the way through.

    029. Sonic Youth - Dirty

    ...The main "popular" Sonic Youth album that I consider a favorite, Dirty is where their faux-grunge-pop phase hits its peak. It is an uneven album, but lots of gems to be unearthed. Also holds the distinction of being my first Sonic Youth album.

    028. Emmylou Harris - Wrecking Ball

    ...Emmylou Harris is an angel among swine. Her voice is one of the few that will outshine Neko Case, and she writes better songs to boot. More of her stuff would probably make my list, except I've made the mistake of only acquiring a handful of her albums.

    027. Pattern is Movement - Stowaway
    (no image)
    ...I was expecting something bad (as I always do when I recieve albums to review when I've never heard of the band before), but got something... amazing. A highly technical band that could (wrongly) get thrown in the math rock department, they have a finely tunes ear for contrast. Almost classical vocals top the frenzzied gallop of the music. Unfortunately, it cannot hold up to the test of a live show... too jittery, too precice to be pulled off.

    026. The Denver Gentlemen - Introducing...

    ...The Denver Gentlemen have spawned such groups as 16 Horsepower and Devotchka. This sounds like a more cabaret precursor to Man Man than anything.

    025. Comus - First Utterance

    ...Originally released in the early 70s, First Utterance is one of those CDs that will probably be going in and out of print for a long time. The most recent re-release (2006) is apparently out of print already. Still it is a groundbreaking album for psychedelic oddity.

    024. mewithoutYou - Catch For Us the Foxes

    ...I have commented several times on albums that feel like collections of songs vs albums that flow and become special as a whole. This is the former... a collection of really good songs.

    023. 16 Horsepower - Folklore

    ...More laidback instrumentally (though not in intensity), Folklore has a much starker feel to it than their other material. Just a good listen for most moods (which is not nessesarily true of their other material).

    022. Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere

    ...I did not hear Crazy before I bought the album... and I bought the album about a half a year after everyone else had stopped buzzing about it. But I was knocked on my ass by how solid each and every track is on this monster. Love it.

    021. System of a Down - Mesmerize

    ...This, the first of two companion albums, was initially my favorite due. However, time has shown the other one to rise to the top. Still, there are a ton of fantastic tracks on this.

    020. Steve Reich - Different Trains/Electric Counterpoint

    ...The Different Trains side of this is the stunning melding of horror and minimalistic phasing and counterpoint. The soundclips are taken from interviews about Jews being taken to death camps. It is a somber listen, but ultimately amazing.

    019. Battles - Mirrored

    ...I always love it when the wierd intersects with really catchy, and Battles succeds to do that with their first full length album. Despite the lack of vocals as anything more than another instrument, there is a heart and pulse to this album that a lot of lyricless albums fail to have.

    018. Make Believe - Of Course

    ...This is the best album from the Kinsella brothers. Tehcnical, cockeyed, interesting tone... it is just amazing.

    017. The Danielson Famile - Tell Another Joke At The Ol Choppin' Block

    ...More Daniel Smith wizzardy.

    016. Havalina Rail Co. - Russian Lullabies
    (no image)
    ...A chilly album that sounds like Russia must feel most of the time. An unheard masterpiece (that is, incidentally, being offered for free as a download on their website. PM me for a link if interested.)

    015. Sufjan Stevens - Enjoy Your Rabbit

    ...This is the Sufjan Stevens album that sounds nothing like Sufjan Stevens, at least sonically. It is essentially an electronic classical composition that takes cues from Steve Reich and Philip Glass, while also blazing its own trails.

    014. System of a Down - Hypnotize

    ...I can just put this album on and be set for a 40-some minute drive.

    013. St. Vincent - Marry Me

    ...Marry Me? I'd marry her in a heartbeat. Great voice, writes fantastic songs that never get old, and doesn't mind injecting some dangerous sounds into the mix.

    012. Sonic Youth - Murray Street

    ...This was my first Sonic Youth album, and thus holds a special place in my heart. It is much more mellow and straight forward than most of their stuff, but the songs are strong and the tones perfect.

    011. Tantrum of the Muse - The Heart is a Two Headed Sperm
    (no image)
    ...Almost travels into the hardcore realm, but is creative and focused enough to sidestep the genre. A dark album, with lyrics that would make most parents blink, TotM captured something special with this one.

    010. The Residents - Duck Stab

    ...My first Residents album, and such a sweet introduction, too. This is the epitome of their twisted nursery rhyme comparrison.

    009. The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

    ...Such a fantastic album. One of the strongest first-five tracks on about any album I own. Really surprised me, too... I wasn't expecting anything great. And the succeed it with a fairly major tweak to their sound and tone.

    008. mewithoutYou - Brother, Sister

    ...Thier most recent (but still too old, release a new one guys!) is a masterpiece. Unlike Catch For Us the Foxes the album doesn't have a hundred standout tracks, but as an album it has a marvelous flow that just feels right. It also features a folkier tone than prior albums.

    007. Man Man - Rabbit Habits

    ...YES, yes... this just came out this year. Kind of hasty to be putting it this high on a top-100 favorites list (or even on the list at all). Yet i did it. So sue me. It is a great album and the fullfillment of what the other albums hinted at.

    006. Soulwax - Nite Versions

    ...This album is an electronic treasure. The flow... untouchable. The music... strong enough to get stuck in my head, which is unheard of for an electronic album like this.

    005. Sixpence None the Richer - Sixpence None the Richer

    ...When alterna-pop albums are really dark, you know it is good. This one feels mierd in misery (singles aside), and the album is better for it.The few bright spots are a welcome break from, from, everything else... but you wouldn't trade everything else for more bright spots. It is the perfect balance.

    004. The Residents - Fingerprince

    ...While not as solid as Duck Stab, or some other albums, this is the one that best displays who the band is. Dark, but innocent despite the darkness.

    003. Guigou Chenevier & Sophie Jausserand - A L'Abri Des Micro-Climats
    (no image)
    ...Only available on impossible to find vinyl or as a download via blogs, this is what would happen if The Residents were french, more song oriented, and used a lot of horns. Impeccable. My mind is blown every time I listen to it.

    002. Sonic Youth - NYC Ghosts & Flowers

    ...To me, this is the epitome of what Sonic Youth has done. It rides the line between being extremely experiemental, while at the same time still utilizing their fantastic sense for writing a good catchy melody. The lyrics are often spoken like poetry which gives everything else a laidback feeling, even when chaos is going on.

    001. The Fiery Furnaces - Rehearsing My Choir

    ...For a lot of a bands, getting your grandmother to do vocals would be a huge distraction. Imaging Bono's grandma doing an entire album with him, for example. Yet The Fiery Furnaces make an interesting brand of music, the sort where the quakey rasp of an elderly lady narrarating fits right in. Her voice ties the otherwise spastic and unpredictable Fiery Furnaces together giving the album a vision their other albums lack.

    Unsurprisingly, I did comment on all of them... and Amazon now officially will start blocking us from leeching their images.
  • The Man Man Show 04-08-08

    Apr 9 2008, 8:43

    Ever since I saw Man Man in 2006 at the MaCROCK music fest in Harrisonburg, VA, which was one of those stunning, "am I really experiencing this?" moments, I have wanted to again see Man Man live. I almost got my wish last year when Matt & I (& others) planned on going to Philly to see them--too bad for us the show sold out. But another year, another schedule. I only found out about this show right after my deadline to get my schedule needs into my work supervisor, however, since she had not yet make the schedule, we were good to go. Unfortunately, due to fiscal matters, I couldn't think about purchasing a ticket until payday on Friday... I highly feared the show would sell-out before then. And then I forgot to check and purchase until Saturday. But the show was not yet sold out (though their following shows in NYC were both sold out, even though they are a later date)... I must have been one of the last people to get a ticket, though.

    Well, Matt, one of his friends who's name I (frustratingly) am failing to remember, hightailed it to Philadelphia, enduring obnoxious--but not as horrid as many times-- traffic while trying to get into Philadelphia. Once there we stopped by Spenser's apartment to a) get food THANK YOU SPENSER b) burn some time and c) pick up said Spenser.

    We get to the venue, despite some location issues (though largely fairly headache free). Wait in line for a while (the first of many hours of standing on my feet), are let in, and get a great spot right in front of the stage. Arriving early sure paid off!

    There were three bands-- The Extraordinaires, a Philly band I'd not heard of before (though sampled their myspace a bit while looking forward to the show and enjoyed what was there)-- The Dirty Projectors, a band from Brooklyn (that's New York, foo') whom I had heard of before, but not really listened to-- and finally, of course Man Man, another Philly native.

    After a wait of a fairly expected sort, The Extraordinaires took the stage. The first thing that is noticed about them is their Marlin (fish) acoustic guitar. The other thing initially noticed is the band member's conscious attempt to look and act quirky/weird. Generally, speaking, I find that the more a band consciously tries to be something outwardly, the more likely it is that their music fails miserably. Weirdness, genuine weird avant-gardeness is not something that can hinge on the outward. So it was really surprising to me to see how fantastically the songs held up, eclipsing the visuals to be something grand on their own. While the band's sound seems to owe a huge debt to Man Man, to me the best description is that they took the Beatles weirder material and took further and to a natural conclusion. I found it really impressive. It was, without a doubt, the best opening act I have ever seen for any show. (Interestingly, their lead singer-guy looked a lot like a guy in my Euro-History class... definitely not him, but like an older version of him.)

    In between sets, my favorite non-musical event of the evening happened. A couple of girls moseyed up to the front. In an entirely factitious way (and in context with something Spenser said), I shouted really loudly "F#@* Sufjan!" (If you don't know who that is referencing, don't worry about... just recognize that he is a singer-person). Well, one of the girls turned around and called me out on that. A bit taken aback, but amused at the same time, I responded that I wasn't being serious (I used the "facetious" word, though.. which was probably a poor choice of wording as it has a higher chance of being misinterpreted than simply saying "I wasn't being serious!"). Whatever her response to facetious was, she responded by saying that my beard made up for it. Any compliment to my beard is highly appreciated by me... especially by a lovely female. Well, long(er) story short(er)... she ended up using my body to see above the crowd to find a few friends. This I did not mind at all, quite honestly. Unfortunately, as nice of a person as she was, the friends she located and indirectly brought to the front were absolute a-holes-- loud, drunken, and obnoxious hecklers. Wouldn't surprise me if they were high as well... (though they wouldn't have been alone. For a venue where no smoking is allowed there was a surprising amount of pot in the air).

    I wasn't sure what to think of The Dirty Projectors when they first came on. They are two guys and two girls. The first song was ok, but failed to really impress me. But from thereon, I considered myself super impressed with what they were doing. They reminded me of a cross between Make Believe (the more frenzied and technical Kinsella's bro. project) and Sonic Youth (not so much in sound as guitar wizardry and the lead guitar player's looks/the way he acted), except with heavenly female back-up singing. The guy's guitar playing was incredible. But even more impressive, due to the general rarity of really good female guitar players, was the girl. She was pretty to begin with, but her playing was about on par with the guys. I loved how they didn't really use picks that often, playing instead in a fingerpicking style. Spenser really loved their drummer, although I am not a drumming expert so i had no idea there. My only complaint is that the singing became too predictable as their set wore on. Yes, it is good... and I'll definitely be buying their albums at some point in the not-too-distant future. But at the same time it made their songs flow into one more than they should.

    Tear down and set up for Man Man took forever, though that is hardly unusual. Why bands insist on making the crowd wait so long I'll never know. Well, eventually Man Man came out and the second they did, our fantastic spots in front of the stage suddenly became the spots from hell. They played, as expected, a lot of new material--it was their Cd release show, after all. However, it was with the older material that the crowd became rockin.

    Unfortunately, for as amazing as Man Man was, the crowd made the experience pretty horrible. Spenser and their friend got the worst of the situation. The crowd was always moving, like it was some huge mosh pit. The people made watching the stage and enjoying the show a pretty much impossible proposition, so only a few songs into Man Man's set, I escaped (which in itself was a life & death struggle) and stood in the back like a lameo. However, I figure, better a lameo who was dancing like a dork in the back by himself than someone dying at the hands of a merciless crowd.

    To focus more on the music, Man Man was quite on top of their game. While not as spastic as the show I saw earlier at MaCROCK, they were still tight, and held the audience in the palm of their hand. While it seemed like there were less people on stage, the sound was huge. My position in the back, unfortunately, was not ideal. I couldn't see the lead singer/keyboard player, who is one of the most important people in the band. They came out for two excellent encores. The first one was, in all likelihood, one of those planned encores. The second one seemed to pulll the band back out after the house music had come on. It was pretty fantastic.

    In fact, fantastic is a great word to describe the whole evening. While it was frustrating that the audience was such dickheads, on the whole I feel like I could have paid $25 for my tickets, with each three bands, without feeling like I was out any money.
  • My Year in Music 2007

    Gen 7 2008, 0:15

    It seemed like a weaker year than the past number, though that might be an illusion caused by my suddenly-colleged-student-budget due to my first year of college. Not having the money to frivolously spend on the new, interesting releases makes it much harder to find the hidden gems that I had been so keen on finding other years. As a result my top list doesn't really feel satisfying to me. My number one doesn't feel like a number one, although it is without a doubt the best album I heard this year. My number six might not have cracked my top 10 other years. Whatever.

    Note: All dates taken from Amazon.com unless otherwise noted. "Listen to" track picked is usually my favorite, except in cases where the favorite track is mentioned in the accompanying blurb as being the best (or otherwise really interesting), in which case a runner-up is picked for the "listen to" track. Most smart people should recognize this with me saying so... but I like things to be clear.

    Also, while the top 15 or so is actually my top 15 albums of 2007, the following albums are merely other albums of note that I wanted to write about. This means that, for example, there might be a better album on my ipod than the Klaxons' album, but I might not have wanted to write anything about it. So it is left off. But the numbered albums are in order. Thank you.

    First The Worst/Most Disappointing of Oh Seven (ordered least severely to most severely disappointing):

    Kelly Clarkson - My December (RCA, June 26)
    ...There was something about Breakaway that was easy to identify with. Whatever Breakaway had feels absent on My December. It isn't unpleasant to listen to, but no melodies stick with you. It is as if Clarkson got hit with the sophomore curse one album too slow. Worth listening to, not worth praising. With one exception, "One Minute." It is twists and turns, while sounding dark and sinister. Well, at least as dark and sinister as pop music can get. Listen to: "One Minute."

    Bjork - Volta (Atlantic, May 8)
    ...One of the disappointing albums of the year. Yet, in hindsight Volta's failure was probably inevitable. Volta is the follow-up to Medulla, which is only a masterpiece of an album (Bjork's OK Computer) and any return to the Bjork of normal would end up feeling anticlimactic. Which Volta is, going back to the electro-wizardry of albums like Vespertine and Homogenic. Taken on their own, or even in a head-on-head comparison with those albums, Volta fares pretty well. Unfortunately, Volta will forever remain in the shadow of Medulla. (Incidentally, for fans who hated Medulla, the new one was quite welcomed and loved.) Listen to: "Wanderlust."

    The Shins - Wincing The Night Away (Sub Pop, January 23)
    ...This is another one of those disappointing albums that does nothing that demands a listen. It is pleasant enough while it plays, but there is no reason to listen to it over an earlier Shins release. A few good tracks amid a quagmire of mediocrity. Listen to: "Australia."

    The Residents - The Voice of Midnight (Mute, November)
    ...The release date for this release is sticky, due to manufacturing problems. But I am pretty sure the final date ended up being the end of November. Whatever the case, The Residents might have wanted to wait another year or two and actually make a product worth listening to. The Voice of Midnight takes the worst ideas from the past five years (including a strong focus on spoken word narration) and makes a whole album out of it. It is frustrating because the story the album tells is properly creepy and interesting. But there is just no musical reason to pay this album any mind. So I don't recommend anyone try to. Listen to: "Epilogue."

    The non-top 10, in vague order from bestest to worstest:

    Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity (Kill Rock Stars, January 23)
    ...The new Deerhoof album, while not the frenzied blitzing of past efforts, delivers the turn-on-a-dime cartoonery that was expected from the new Cornelius album. Friend Opportunity is schizophrenic, changing its mind not just from track to track, but moment to moment. It is held together by the cutesy female vocals. Not an album for all moods, but a great listen regardless. Listen to: "The Perfect Me."

    Avril Lavigne - The Best Damn Thing (RCA, April 17)
    ...Most years feature one pop female vocalist that catches my attention. Last year was the second album by Krystal Meyers. The year prior was Kelly Clarkson. This year was Avril Lavigne's third album, The Best Damn Thing. The year was ripe for a surprise contender, considering the forgettable nature of the new Kelly Clarkson album. However, when I got this album for review I was hoping it would be one that I could totally trash (sometimes writing a bad review can be very therapeutic.) I listen to pop music differently. I only listen to pop music when I just want some music that is really catchy and simple, and the singer being female is a must. Avril Lavigne stepped right into this role with some of the catchiest songs I have heard all year--perfect for singing out-loud while driving to work in the early morning. It isn't the sort of thing I could really recommend to most people who aren't a fan of straight-up pop music, but it sure was my guilty-go-to album this year. Listen to: "I Can Do Better."

    Wilco - Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch, May 15)
    ...I wanted to love it... I wanted to hate it. Love because I really like Wilco and really hated A Ghost Is Born. Hate because, well, I didn't think they wouldn't resurrect the feeling of their best material, Being There and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, so what is the point. In the end, I like it, I like it just enough that I would place it as their third best (aka, just above bad and middle of the road.). A lot of that rating is due to the presence of the best song of the year, "Impossible Germany," which has the best dual guitar solo that this world has seen since the 70s. And even then it may be better. Listen to: "Either Way."

    Blanche - Little Amber Bottles (Original Signal, June 18)
    ...Blanche has been one of those artists where the power of their songs aren't immediately felt. It takes some time for their faux-appalacian mountainy twang to really sink in. The first few times I put this album on I was really underwhelmed by the album. At first I thought that this was due to something wrong with the album (were the songs not right? did they not grow enough from the last album? did I just expect the wrong thing?). However, as it turns out, the melodies that Blanche sings are the sort that you have to become totally engaged with as a listener, and to do that you have to already be familiar with them. So listening to the album a few times is essential to get the true experience. It is also one of those albums, like If We Can't Trust The Doctors, that gets better each and every listen. It is one of those albums that, while lower in the rankings right now could at this time next year be in the top-5. Listen to: "I'm Sure Of It."

    Lengsel - The Kiss The Hope (Whirlwind Records, 2006)
    ...Pretty sure this was an '06 release, however, since it wasn't released in America I only imported it in '07, so I am counting it anyway. While wildly different from Solace, their debut, it crafts a similar sense of noise. But it does so in a much more subtle way. Solace was balls-to-the-wall metal. This is metal, but it feels artsier and less single-minded. Since at this point the lineups of both Extol and Lengsel are pretty much identical it is no surprise that Lengsel hearkens back to older Extol material, while retaining a distinct Lengsel feel. Listen to: "An Anonymous Phone-Call and A Dead Line."

    Queens of the Stone Age - Era Vulgaris (Interscope, June 12)
    ...Queens of the Stone Age are just fun. While frequently labeled as stoner rock, the music isn't really that fried to deserve that title. However, the buzzed out guitars are fantastic, as is Josh Homme's lazy vocals. The songs are much sharper than those found on Lullabies to Paralyze and just sound better. It is a shake-yer-rump kind of album. Listen to: "Sick, Sick, Sick."

    Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha (Fat Possum Records, March 20)
    ...I have been a been a fan of Andrew Bird ever since randomly picking up his Weather Systems album, which I still contend is his best work. The follow-up, the Egg album, was a boring album punctuated by a couple of great tracks. Armchair Apocrypha rebounds Bird by keeping the general sound of Eggs, but with interesting songs and the ability to break out of the normal "indie" sound. The big thing that makes me mad about the album is how he re-made the track "I" off of Weather Systems, making more electric and taking away the haunting qualities (and re-titling it "Imitosis"). Not cool, Bird. Not cool. Regardless, Armchair rejuvenates my faith in Bird, despite the album not being perfect. Listen to: "Heretics."

    The White Stripes - Icky Thump (Warner Bros, June 19)
    ...As much as I love Jack and Meg, I have to admit that Icky Thump just doesn't feel right. The title track (incidentally also the first track and the best track) is fantastic with the roaring guitar line, the prog keyboards, the whacked-out solos, and the bouncy energy. All energy is then lost with the following track, "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told)", a pseudo-country rock track that is just wince-inducing. The highs are high and the lows are low. Perhaps the biggest problem with the album is that the album feels too slicked up, even the loud, fuzzy guitars have the earmarks of overproduction. The album isn't as bad as I make it sound... but neither is it as good as everyone makes it sound. Listen to: "Bone Broke."

    Eisley - Combinations (Reprise, August 14)
    ...After the first two Eisley EPs, the first full length was very disappointing. I eagerly awaited new material from them. And it came in the middle of this year. And I didn't listen to it, suddenly afraid by the reports of a new rock sound. "Rock," I said, "Would ruin the whimsical joy of Eisley's fairy land." When I finally bought the album I was pleased to find that the rock did not totally destroy Eisley's aesthetic. There are a few points where it sounds too adult for them (see "Invasion" for an example), yet on the whole they manage to both be very electric and fairy-focused at the same time. Listen to: "Come Clean."

    Lovedrug - Everything Starts Where It Ends (Militia Group, March 6)
    ...My relationship with Lovedrug has been long and convoluted. We won't discuss that, other than to mention that I really hated their first album. So I was really surprised when I connected with the new one. The songs are catchy without the bland simplicity. They feel more authentic and, thus, more engaging. Listen to: "Happy Apple Poison."

    CocoRosie - The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stilborn (Touch and Go, April 9)
    ...CoCoRosie sounds like a a creepy music box--they are both innocent sounding and mechanical, with a dark twist that makes the whole thing sound like a nightmare. It is kind of twee, yet too twisted to really qualify. There is a certain Bjork quality to the singing, yet it is tough to see Bjork fans being into this. The sound is cold, but not unpleasantly so. It is definitely lo-fi, but there is as much character in the spaces as in the actual sounds. Not easy listening, yet rewarding. Listen to: "Japan."

    Neon Horse - Neon Horse (Tooth and Nail, May 8)
    ...It is obvious that Tooth and Nail intended for Neon Horse to be the new Demon Hunter. A supergroup without anyone knowing who the members actually were. Perfect for internet gossip which means free promotion, right? It catapulted Demon Hunter into being one of the most popular hard rock groups in Christian music. From the sound of things, Neon Horse is composed has at least Mark Salomon from Stavesacre (whose voice is too individual to mask) and Jason Martin of Starflyer 59 and Bon Voyage (whose guitar tones and style is pretty much easy to identify.) Unfortunately, Neon Horse is too out there for Christian music to find palpable, and neither Stavesacre or Starflyer and big sellers anymore, leaving Neon Horse as another great album that just sits on store shelves. Oh well, at least I have it. Listen to: "I Know- I Just Don't Care."

    The New Pornographers - Challengers (Matador, August 21)
    ...After the frenzied, electric Twin Cinema The New Pornographers' new album, Challengers, feels remarkably subdued. The songs are good, but muted. There are good moments, but most of the album just feels uncompelling. Few songs demand to be listened to, unlike Twin Cinema which was chock full of such songs. It is still The New Pornographers, so it is a nice listen. It just doesn't stack up against their best material. Listen to: "All the Old Showstoppers."

    Virgin Black - Requiem: Mezzo Forte (The End Records, April 3)
    ...Virgin Black has always flirted with operatic ideas in their metal. This has caused them to get compared, not entirely without merit, to Saviour Machine. Yet never before has Virgin Black gone this far down the classical and operatic roads. Apparently the first of three Requiem CDs, Mezzo Forte feels composed like a classical piece, driven by the operatic lead vocals and the chants of the backing choir. The distorted guitars then drive the album into decidedly metal realms without forfeiting the classical influence. A beautiful album. Listen to: "Rest Eternal."

    Grinderman - Grinderman (Anti-, April 10)
    ...Grinderman is a Nick Cave project, which for many people is all you need to know about it. It is rocks, in a bar-piano kind of way. It swings, in a religious fervor sort of way. It is foul, in a crude language sort of way. Unfortunately, the excellent momentum it creates with rocking tracks like "Get It On" gets destroyed by boring, sloppy tracks like "Grinderman" and awkward lyrics like those found on "No Pussy Blues." But the good is really good and worth getting even though the idea is more interesting than the actual execution. Listen to: "Get It On."

    Clinic - Visitations (Domino, January 23)
    ...I was in CD Warehouse, deciding whether I wanted to buy the new Shins album, when the last track on this album, "The Cape," caught my attention. They were playing the album overhead and I was drawn to the Residents-esque weirdness of the track. It was tasty and I was surprised to hear that it was Clinic who made such music. I immediately bought the album and was disappointed to realize that the rest of the album could not really be compared to The Residents. However, the rest of the album has a similar vibe and drive as TV on the Radio mixed, perhaps, with some Twilight Singers. It made me a fan. Now I just hope that for a future album they expand the sound of "The Cape" into a full length experience. Listen to: "Family."

    Klaxons - Myths of the Near Future (Geffen, March 27)
    ...I was introduced to Klaxons through their music video for "Magick," which is one of the craziest, twisted music videos I've seen. It is fantastic. The rising intensity through both the music and the visuals portray sinister fear. And it works really well. I was hoping that same intensity and sinisterness would be present throughout the album, but I was mistaken. Still decent, just anticlimactic. Listen to: "Magick."

    Cornelius - Sensuous (Everloving, April 24)
    ...Sensuous threw me for a loop. I heard FANTASMA and loved its cartoon wizardry. I needed more of that in my life and expected it with the new album. Nuh-huh, said Cornelius. The album starts off with an instrumental track that would sound right at home on an Gastr Del Sol album before skating into the 80s-sounding "Fit Song." Yet once the general sound gets adjusted to, Sensuous provides good songs and fun times. Listen to: "Fit Song."

    Deas Veil - All the Houses Look the Same (Brave New World, March 6)
    ...While it was a weak year in general for music, it was an especially weak year for Christian music. There were a few Christian offerings of note, yet nothing really superb. Deas Veil is nice indie rock with vocals that could be compared with Mew, if Mew were more emo. The songs are catchy and laid back while sounding silky smooth. Listen to: "Surface."

    Derek Webb - The Ringing Bell (INO, May 1)
    ...Derek Webb has, since the release of his first solo album, been considered one of the premiere lyricists in the Christian market. Yet it is only recently that his music has been noticed for the music. The Ringing Bell finds him sounding like a mix between Wilco and Pedro the Lion. Not overly original, but the lyrics have always been the bigger draw to him anyway. Listen to: "A Love That's Stronger Than Our Fear."

    In descending order from 10 to 01 I present:
    JACOB GEHMAN'S TOP 10 CDS OF 2007

    10) Radiohead - In Rainbows (Independent, October 10)
    ...It was the year of Radiohead. Any year with a Radiohead release is hot shit. However, when said band unexpectedly announces a new release, that said new release is coming in just 10 days, and that you can pay what you deem fair, including nothing, then said band just automatically owns that year. Which is what happened in 2007. You know that. (If you didn't, then you probably a) don't use the internet at all and b) don't watch the news.) It was audacious and it overshadowed the music. The music on In Rainbows is typical Radiohead fare, though needs about five listens for it to really sink in. Too many people loved this automatically (either due to the way it was released, or due to just worshiping Radiohead), and too many people hated it automatically (because of the people who loved it automatically). But it really is a solid album and definitely worth the $4 I paid for it (a sum that I came to by way of a horribly complex formula). Listen to: "Jigsaw Falling Into Place."

    09) Ego Plum And The Ebola Music Orchestra - The Rat King (Ebola Music, 2007)
    ...This is what Frank Zappa would have sounded like if he had gone more of a Residents direction with his music. There is some Mr. Bungle in there, and a whole lot of circus influence. It is both sly and self-consious, but the whole persona works well. Sometimes the sound feels empty and in need of something else to fill out the sound. But for a genre starved of new faces, Ego Plum fills a void. Listen to: "Tit For Tat."

    08)Thurston Moore - Trees Outside the Academy (Ecstatic Peace, September 18)
    ...Thurston Moore is the guitarist/vocalist/songwriter for prolific/amazing/innovative band Sonic Youth. While he has released solo stuff before, nothing has ever sounded like this. The album is largely acoustic and laid back, complete with strings section. The change of pace is interesting, as it shows us Thurston knows how to rock the hippie axe (er, acoustic guitar) and isn't limited to the squals of an amplifier to make compelling music. With it being a totally new direction, there are some stumbles (like the afore mentioned string section), but on the whole the album is really good. Listen to: "Fri/End."

    07) Fauxliage - Fauxliage (Nettwerk, August 14)
    ...Fauxliage is the full length collaboration between Delerium and Leigh Nash (Sixpence None The Richer). The cold electronica of Delerium, which by itself would be boring, is transformed into something beautiful when complimented by Leigh Nash's vocals. She adds humanity and warmth to the sound and allows the music to become completely engaging. The album has a moodier feel that the more recent Nash material, hearkening back to the self-titled Sixpence days. Listen to: "Someday the Wind."

    06) The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible (Merge Records, March 6)
    ...When this album leaked all I heard was negative things about it. Which did not surprise me too much. Funeral, their out-of-nowhere success, was a massively overrated album that beyond a few key tracks seemed too monotonous and to really make a full listen worthwhile. "It is about time people realized this band is not worthy of their praise," said I. Well, I remember the exact time I heard this album. I was in DC with a friend and she put it on in the car. I said, "Whoa" at the dark complexity of the first track, "Black Mirror." It sounded like The Arcade Fire, only fuller and sadder. Gone, too, was the awkward meandering and what is left is songs. Neon Bible feels more streamlined than Funeral. But what really surprised me was how good the songs flowed, walking the tightrope between being really catchy and really genuine. Definitely a surprise album this year. Listen to: "Neon Bible."

    05) Hella - There's No 666 in Outer Space (Ipecac, January 30)
    ...It took me a while to get this for the same reason it took me a while to get Eisley: I was afraid of being disappointed. I need not have worried as Hella shows that dramatically changing an aspect of their music does not mean lower quality. Hella has been known as one of those instrumental tech-rock groups ala Lightning Bolt, only more accessible. For There's No 666... the band added a vocalist. It sounds like a terrible idea, but it works. Really well. It is still very crazy, still very technical... only now it has a guiding voice to the chaos to keep everything flowing smoothly. Hella is a band that just keeps getting better. Listen to: "Friends Don't Let Friends Win."

    04) The Fiery Furnaces - Widow City (Thrill Jockey, October 9)
    ...People just don't know what to do with The Fiery Furnaces. Everything they do is immediately identifiable. Yet each album is so individual and gets such a polarizing reaction that it might be different bands from album to album. The people who loved Blueberry Boat cry foul at Rehearsing My Choir. The people who hated Bitter Tea loved the same Rehearsing My Choir. Now with Widow City they have somehow managed to make an album that is both as weird as Rehearsing My Choir and also the most accessible album they've made. It is really twist how that can even be, yet somehow it manages both at once. Listen to: "Restorative Beer."

    03) The Noisettes - What's the Time Mr. Wolf? (Universal, February 5)
    ...People in the scene have heard of The Noisettes. The scene people have not listened to The Noisettes. That is what I have decided considering everyone's lack of talking about this album. It is full of fantastic, female fronted rock songs. They are the sort of songs that you could never think up, yet feel so natural after you hear them. They know how to push a song into another world, even after you think the song can't get any better. Definitely recommended, because there isn't a single bad track on the album. Listen to: "Sister Rosetta (Capture the Spirit)."

    02) Battles - Mirrored (Warp Records, May 22)
    ...I got a pre-release of Mirrored in February and instantly fell in love. (I just wanted to say that right away as it seems to be popular of accusing fans of the album that they just listened to it/like it because of Pitchfork's great review.) It was my early pick for album of the year (lasting until I bought the album in the first spot.) The terms "math-rock" and "prog" seem to get thrown around a lot to describe this album, although I don't feel either of them do it any justice. The album could be considered instrumental, although probably has more vocal work than any other album you'll see labeled that way. The vocals are a wordless and blend in with the music, making them seem like just another instrument, like something you might get out of a keyboard. What the vocals do do is give the album an essential spark of humanity to keep the album from falling into the trap of other math-rock artists of being too concerned with technicality. Listen to: "Atlas."

    01) St. Vincent - Marry Me (Beggar's Banquet, July 10)
    ...This was the album that changed my life this year. I obsessed over it and listened to it, cover to cover. I mainlined it like some people mainline heroin. It is assured and individual. Not chock full of new ideas, but arranged in such a way that it is its own thing. It is happy, it is dark. It is whimsical, it is serious. It flows perfectly without being mired in on sound. It is the one album of the year that made me shout, "yes, anytime!" to an album title. (Which, incidentally, is a reference to the greatest television show ever, Arrested Development.) Listen to: "Paris Is Burning," "Your Lips Are Red."

    The top ten is solid, I think. Beyond that the year gets pretty iffy. What an iffy year. It is worth noting that the best music I heard this year was downloaded off of mutant-sounds.blogspot.com, a site the posts out of print music, largely from the 70s (though any decade is free game), often ripped from vinyl or cassette. I am against downloading stuff still in print... but when and item is out of print I have no qualms.
  • Good Day At The Record Show...

    Feb 11 2007, 19:58

    Once a month there is a record show and every month I go swearing I won't spend too much money and every month I get proved wrong. Ai charumba!

    This month I departed with:

    Thurston Moore - Flipped Out Bride... Thurston Moore is one of the main pieces of the legendary Sonic Youth. I have long known of his noise/drone love affair. If you search ebay you can find all kinds of limited/obscure noise projects that he has been involved with. This is one under his name and only his name. It is a two track CD that had innitially been released only as a limited edition (500 copies) vinyl. Now it is on CD for the part of the world that doesn't have a record player.

    Rosie Thomas - These Friends Of Mine... Last year around April Fools a crazy, insane story hit Pitchfork media about how Thomas, Sufjan Stevens, and Denison Witmer were working on recording a CD together and Sufjan got Rosie pregnant. That story is entirely true up to the point of "and Sufjan got Rosie pregnant." The album is technically a Rosie Thomas CD, but both Sufjan and Witmer play heavy roles, in addition to other guest spots by such notable artists as David Bazan (of Pedro the Lion fame), Jeremy Enigk, and Damien Jurado, among other names I don't recognize. The album has been out since, what? December? in digital format, but the real CD release isn't for another month or two.

    Goldrush - The Heart Is The Place... I loved Goldrush's last cd, Ozona. Sort of an indie rock with some southern sunshine. But when I say rock I mean more of a real rock and not the whimpy stuff that passes for rock these days. A March 30 release date.

    The Magic Numbers - Those The Brokes... I've heard mediocre things about this CD, but I had to buy the prerelease. It's been available in Europe for quite a while, and the US release date is still forthcoming. I really like what I've heard of the album so far. I was afraid that the bad reviews might mean that they had abandoned something to disasterous effect.. but it sounds like The Magic Numbers. So I'm happy.

    Page France - ...and the Family Telephone... Scheduled to release on May 8th this was my pre-release find of the year so far. Not to sneeze at Goldrush and Rosie, but ever since seeing Page France live last December I've been in the mood for some new material. I obviously haven't had time to listen to the full album yet, but what I've sampled has been pretty killer.

    So those are the five albums I picked up. This was definitely the best record show stop for, what? 1/3 to 1/2 of a year. So I say sweet.
  • For The First Time In Years...

    Gen 10 2007, 23:10

    ...I recieved a Radrockers.com order. Because for the first time in years I placed a Radrockers order.

    I used to place orders several times a year. That would have been back when I was into hard music (and only Christian music)-- specifically extreme metal-- so it was my main outlet for anything metal that wasn't released on Solid State Records. I poured over the Radrockers catalog, trying to figure out what metal CDs I'd need to get, just from their small blurbs describing them. Keep in mind this was before myspace, and even if it wasn't we still would have only had dial up. So previewing music wasn't really an option.

    Through radrockers I got into bands like Antestor, Slechtvalk, Kekal, and more. I'd go through the catalog, read every available album description and mark the ones that seemed like I might like them. Hours were spent on my bed, adding prices up, shuffling things around, and finally chosing a list of CDs that fell into however much I wanted to spend at the time. The check would get written, mailed off, and two or so weeks later a package would arrive in the mail. The problem with using their mail order was that they had a $25 dollar minimum. So whenever you ordered from them it was going to cost you at least $25.

    But my relationship with the company goes much deeper than that. One of the best parts of going to music festivals (Creation, Purple Door) was that Radrockers usually had a large booth set up piled with CDs that were largely between $4 and $9... with many less and more, too. Most of my festival spending money ended up in their register. When you visited them in person like that there was no minimum requirement, not that I usually spent less than that, either.

    Well, last week I went on thier site for the first time in ages. I was bored at work and figured what the hell. I was especially interested to see if they had any Michael Knott related music that I didn't yet own (LifeSavers, L.S.U., Aunt Bettys, or whatever other monkier he's used in his life.) A quick search revealed only one album that I didn't already have. So I preliminarily put that in my shopping cart to see if there was anything else I wanted to get-- enough to total $25 (since that moronic rule is still in place.)

    I did... and here is what I got.

    Lifesavers (Michael Knott) - A Kiss Of Life
    ...His Lifesavers work is generally not my favorite work. The other two Lifesavers albums I have (Huntington Beach and Poplife) are tolerable, but I don't really go in for the surf rock sound. But this albums seems a lot more like the Michael Knott I know and love.

    Terry Scott Taylor - John Wayne
    ...Ashamedly this is an album I had when it first released (I got a pre-release free because my mom worked at a Christian bookstore) but the CD made a clicking noise in my CD player. It was the CD player's fault and I knew it, but I got rid of it anyway. And I've been kicking myself ever since. Especially since I've gotten into Daniel Amos the past three or so years (of whom Terry Scott Taylor is the leader). I finally took advantage of a chance to re-aquire this. While it isn't my favorite TST work, it is solid enough and has some good tunes.

    Dig Hay Zoose - Magentamantalovetree
    ...Dig Hay Zoose is a band that has haunted me for a long time. I first heard of them from the Browbeats: Unplugged Alternative cd (featuring such artists as Michael Knott, Daniel Amos/Terry Scott Taylor, TheLost Dogs, The Choir, and many more I can't think of off hand. It was an amazing cd (incredible!) and one I might still count among my favorites. One of the more interesting tracks off of the album was by Dig Hay Zoose. Wow, great song. Ever since then I wanted to aquire a DHZ cd. And it never happened. Until now. As the Browbeats title might imply the song I fell in love with was largely acoustic... The Dig Hay Zoose on an actual album is very much rockin'. (Thus one of the few artists who actually had to change their approach for the Browbeats CD.) It's kind of metal, kind of modern rock, there seems to be some jazz influence, heck... are they rapping on this song? Well. They apperently do a little bit of everything. Perhaps not normally a CD I'd pick out if it wasn't for the nostalgic value, but I'm not upset I have it. I think some of these tracks would fit in well on a mix CD. (I would have probably picked it up during my regular radrockers years, but back then it was over $15... now it was $8.)

    Dig Hay Zoose - Ascension 7: Rocketship to Heaven
    ...Their live CD. I also got that since it was only a buck. I haven't really listened to it yet, but if the blurb on radrockers' website is at all accurate it should be good for a live recording from that era.

    Delta Haymax - Delta Haymax
    ...An early Tooth and Nail band. I've heard good things but never heard a single song. At $3 I figured I might as well try it. Kind of bare bones indie rock, but with an interesting spark I can't put my finger on.

    Chaos Is the Poetry - Chaos Is The Poetry
    ...This is the steal of the lot. It was only one dollar and is just some really good alternative rock ala Love Coma or early Sixpence None the Richer (only with a male lead singer). Great songs, nice textures, everything works really well.

    Roadside Monument - Beside This Brief Hexagonal
    ...This artist was awesome. I had I Am The Day Of Current Taste and loved it, but never broadened my horizons. Now I have and it is still good. This album has a bit more edge to it... but it still seems to work well. Kind of like a Make Believe on prozak.

    Terry Scott Taylor - Knowledge & Innocence
    ...Apperently this was recorded in the same era as Daniel Amos' Fearful Symmetry, which is my favorite DA album. So this solo project has a similar feel, although looser. I was really excited to find this and one of the main reasons I decided I could find $25 worth of product to place an order with.

    Anyway. I'm happy. There wasn't really a dud among the whole lot, which was usually the case with those big radrocker orders.
  • Best Shows I Saw In 2006 (Featuring Your OTHER Favorite Band!)

    Gen 3 2007, 5:26

    One interesting thing I noticed about my top 30 albums of the year list (which is my prior journal entry here. Please feel free to read) is that I saw a pretty good percentage of the artists live. I can't figure out if that is because I just did a good job of hunting down good shows, or if the act of seeing an artist live meant that I valued the CD more. Whatever the case, here is my top ten shows of 2006. (I'm hoping I haven't forgotten any... I have a bad memory for shows.)

    11) mewithoutYou (with Movies WIth Heroes) @ The Chameleon Club in Lancaster...
    ...Ok, so I couldn't limit it to 10. I apologize a little bit, but not too hard. Movies With Heroes is pretty darn near perfect live. The lead singer is a little too "nu-emo" for my taste, but other than that the band knows how to lay it down. I have to admit that mewithoutYou usually disappoints me a bit live. This is because the first time I saw them (while [A->B] Life was still their only full length) in Harrisburg with Norma Jean and they absolutely slayed. I mean, it was amazing. Ah-MAZE-ing. They have never been able to quite live up to that... though they can come close. This was one of those shows that came close. Part of it was becasue they were debuting new songs and they sounded superb live. I always love it when they play the Chameleon and I was so mad when I found out their post-Brother, Sister tour didn't involve Lancaster.

    10) Over the Rhine @ The Chalemeon Club...
    ...I went to this mostly because I had several friends from work going, but I enjoyed "Drunkard's Prayer" enough to have my own interest in the show. It was, as per their music, a very tender show, and I enjoyed the change of pace. Plus, I scored a hand-written set list after the show, so that was cool.

    09) The Lost Dogs @ some church in Harrisburg...
    ...Ok, so we were late (NOT MY FAULT!) so missed the first four or so songs. But the band (who is a super-group of sorts and features the insanely great Terry Scott Taylor) was really entertaining and laid down good tunes. While they are essentially an alt-country group, it was still really funny to see that the majority of the crowd was in the 40 - 90 year age group.

    08) Sufjan Stevens (w/My Brightest Diamond) @ Tower Theater in Philadelphia...
    ...It was nice to see Sufjan Stevens on this tour, though I have to admit that seeing him last year in more intimate bars/clubs was waaaaay more exciting and electric. This show had the bonus of being able to see Shara Worden as My Brightest Diamond, which was awesome, especially seeing how powerful her voice is without studio trickery. Another interesting aspect to the show was how there was a middle aged lady sitting in front of us who was doing her darnedest to dance in her seat with Sufjan Steven's music. Funny to watch.

    07) Danielson @ The Chameleon Club...
    ...the danielson famile is awesome. There is only one other artist in the history of Christian music (the afore mentioned Terry Scott Taylor and his band Daniel Amos (and sorry to those who clicked into this journal because they thought I saw them DA in 2006... NOT MY INTENTION)) who is as rawly creative and zany as Daniel Smith. Which is on the one hand bad because we need more ceative people in this world. On the other hand, at least we have them! I saw the Famile once at Purple Door, but that was before I owned any of their music (or had even heard anything beyond the song "Pottymouth"). I am wanting to say that perhaps one of the Famile members had "Sufjan" stitched across his left breast... but I could be wrong. That was before anyone knew who Sufjan Stevens was. This concert, as just Danielson was good but not as. It was disappointing that they mostly just played tracks off of Ships, only delving into past material with the encore. But hey, we take what we get.

    06) Anathallo, Page France, Denison Witmer @ some club in Philadelphia...
    ...This show was a lot better than I was expecting. The first band (whom I'm wanting to call The Forms, but I could be wrong... and not tagging for that reason) was kind of mediocre. But the next artist, the marvelous Denison Witmer, was awesome. Not so much because of his performance of his music, but because he has this great, easy manner on stage, even though it is just him and his guitar. He tells these great stories which make you feel like you're seeing something special. Then Page France was a LOT better than I expected. Of course, it didn't hurt that the chick was hella cute and was quite vibrant. But their songs translate a lot better on stage than they do on album, where they have a tendancy to sound very Death Cab For Cutie-ish (not tagged because they suck.) Then Anathallo rounded the evening off with a marvelously textured set combined the flair of Sufjan Stevens with the creshendos of Godspeed You! Black Emporor. The best part was watching the percussionist/horn player/xylophone charmer because he looked so amazingly happy and excited to not just be alive... but to be alive while playing this music.

    05) Cursive, Make Believe @ The Chameleon Club...
    ...After an opening band or two Make Believe came out and both shocked and awed me. I had heard their Shock of Being cd (reviewing it for Decapolis) and found it so-so. Well, seeing it live just totally brought their craziness into perspective and it was stunning to see how technical the guitar work actually was. Then Cursive came out and the crowd reacted with so much freaking out that I thought U2 had stepped onto stage. The majority of their set was high energy and crowd pleasing. I was glad that the Chameleon is set up with a balcony for the over-21 crowd so I could avoid getting jostled.

    04) Eagles of Death Metal @ The Chameleon Club...
    ...This was one of the most exciting rock n roll shows I've been to. The band plays their schtick perfectly in front of a crowd and, despite my inntial disappointment that Josh Homme wasn't drumming, the band absolutely slayed. It was both remarkably sexy while being interestingly KIND at the same time. An odd mix, but definitely was both.

    03) The Violet Burning @ The Schreiber Pediatric Center...
    ...Mark this down as the weirdest venue for a show, ever. I was expecting a church, since that was who facilitated the show... but no! Apperently the church meets in a doctor's office... so that is where the show was. It was literally in a doctor's office loby... no stage, just amps and mics set up on the floor in one of the corners. The turn out was low (looked like mostly uninterested youth group kids who were there because a rock band was playing at their church) yet the band put as much into the show as when I've seen them in not just regular venues, but festivals and such. It was pretty awesome.

    02) Man Man, Pattern is Movement @ MaCROCK in Virginia...
    ...My sister was going to school at EMU and my uncle lives right down there. So when I saw on Pattern Is Movement's website that they were playing just a few minutes from there I decided that I had to go. As it turned out the whole family was going because my sister was in a play that was showing that same weekend. So I got to do double duty... see my sister in a play and go to a music festival hosted by JMU. Thankfully, both of the artists I wanted to see were in the same bar (there were different venues spread out across Harrisonburg) and that bar was literally two minutes from where my uncle lives. MaCROCK was Friday evening and all day Saturday. PiM and MM were both Friday evening. I get to the bar before the first band a camp out. I suffer through much mediocre sets, got upset because the only beer the bar carried was Corona and Corona-ripoffs, and then Pattern is Movement played. It was really good. It was the sort of set that I don't think you could appriciate unless you already knew the music. And then Man Man came out and blew. us. away. It was like a religious experience. I hesitate to even explain anything about the concert for fear of cheapening it. I decided that I wasn't going to come back for any more shows on Saturday because my heart wasn't going to be in it.

    01) Sonic Youth, The Flaming Lips, The Magic Numbers, and Ween @ The Allentown Fair in, uh, Allentown...
    ...Notch this up as another oddity. The Allentown Fair apperently has music most nights which you can pay extra to get into. Other evenings featured music like The Black-Eyed Peas and Gretchen Wilson. Somehow this evening scored the amazing line-up you see above. I went with my good friend Jeremy. He was mostly interested in The Flaming Lips and The Magic Numbers. My interests were firmly staked with Sonic Youth. We got there at the opening of the fair, which was either 11am or noon. Started walking around, seeing the sites. Then after we ate we decided to visit the beer garden. On our way there we were rounding a corner and I saw a guy walking towards us who looked suspiciously like Thurston Moore. And walking behind him was someone who looked just exactly like Kim Gordon. And Lee Ranaldo. It was, in fact, the whole band out enjoy the fair before their concert duty. I could only stand and stare as they walked past us. I watched their receeding forms get lost in the crowd while thinking idolotrous thoughts. I was really excited about that, but not so excited as to ignore the fact that there was an insanely great guitar player jamming by himself in a pavilion in front of a crowd of mostly ancient people. (I think his name is Frank Sivak, which I got off of Allentown Fair's website... a search of google revealed no other information on the man, despite the schedule calling him a guitar legend.)

    He was awesome. Just... awesome. Played any request someone shouted out (old rock n roll and blues songs, mostly) and also played the banjo. Then we went to the show. The Magic Numbers were sweet. I didn't know much of their music before hand but came away a fan. Then, in one of the great injustices known to music, Sonic Youth played next. I could understand The Flaming Lips headlining... (though purely from an entertainment standpoint), but it was a great insult that they would have to play before Ween. Thankfully it was still a normal-sized set, at least for what SY is probably used to. It was just jaw dropping. I never heard a Ween song before, but had some hopes that perhaps they would be pretty good. WRONG. It was a horrible, terrible, insanely awful set... and they played forever. I didn't think they would ever end. However, the set did illustrate that as insulting to SY as it is to have Ween playing after them, realistically Ween has one helluva fan base that definitely out massed us SY folk. I have trouble appriciating The Flaming Lips' music, however their live show is very entertaining and kept me captivated. In the beginning Coyne got in a large plastic bubble and rolled out over the crowd in it. He actually rolled right over Jeremy and I twice. We were pretty proud about that. And they had these large streamer cannons that would go off... it was a huge production. Lights, camera, action! While the show didn't make me a believer in their music, I would not hesitate to see them live again.

    WORST SHOW OF THE YEAR:
    mewithoutYou @ The Crocodile Rock Cafe in Allentown...
    ...Horrible, terrible, bad, wretched, God-forsaken venue. I have a journal that outlines the whole thing, if you're interested. Suffice it to say it wasn't the band's problem. It was entire the venue.

    DISAPPOINTING SHOW OF THE YEAR:
    The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players @ The Chameleon Club...
    ...This would have been a lot better except they had a family emergecy (grandmother was sick) so neither Jason Trachtenburg's daughter (the drummer, backup singer) or wife (slideshow projector operator) were there. So he did his thing with the opening band, who performed the same duties as his family, just not as well. It was still amusing... just... sad that the whole family couldn't be there.

    If any of this information sounds familiar, it is because I did a "Top 20 Live" journal a month or two back, where I went through my last.fm top 20 aritsts to see who I saw live.
  • Obligatory Best of 2006 List (Featuring Your Favorite Band!)

    Dic 22 2006, 5:39

    These top X lists are always a bit complex to compose. You have to judge albums of various genres against each other in some sort of manner that somewhat accurately reflects what the cream of the crop was in whatever given year is being subjected to analysis. I tend to prefer to view the question as “What was this year to me in the world of music?” And, as I found, it yielded some surprises and some non-surprises. I also never really know if my list is going to be a top 10, top 20, or what, until I actually order things. Find all of the important releases and chop it off at a nearby round number. In this case a top 30 worked splendidly. So without further ado, the top 30 in the world of music according to Jacob:

    30) Jenny Lewis (with the Watson Twins) - Rabbit Fur Coat... When this album released in January I let out a sign of relief. Because worst case scenario the best album of 2006 was going to be this gem. Unfortunately, several releases in a similar vein showed up to push this one all the way down to 30 on my list, however that should mean that this entire list is killer. The lead singer of Rilo Kiley stepped out on her own and delivers some breezy country indie pop that tastes like champagne. (Team Love)

    29) Loose Fur - Born Again In The USA... A super group of sorts featuring several Wilco members (Jeff Tweedy & Glenn Kotche) and an all-round-handyman in Jim O’Rourke (who most recently departed Sonic Youth after being an official band member for several albums.) It comes as no surprise that the rocking moments frolic the way the O’Rourke-influenced Sonic Youth albums do, or the mellow moments take on a specific Wilco groove. All around it is much better than their first cd and I hope they continue to record together. (Drag City)

    28) Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Ballad Of The Broken Seas... This is one of the albums that beat out Jenny Lewis. While there are a few similarities stylistically, the overall effect of the album is radically different. Isobel Campbell’s voice is angelic, while Lanegan adds his rough, whiskey cured voice. The dichotomy makes for a mesmerizing listen. (V2 Records)

    27) The Curtains - Calamity... It’s confession time. I have not heard any of the prior Curtains albums. Nor have I listened to any Deerhoof albums. I am totally unqualified to judge this album on expectations of past work. So it is a good thing that knowledge of past discographies is not necessary to enjoy music. It is a mixture of whimsical indie pop and experimentalism. (Asthmatic Kitty Records)

    26) Thom Yorke - The Eraser... I don’t get caught up in the Radiohead hype the way many people do. I enjoy most of their records, though find OK Computer to be quite overrated (and, conversely, Hail To The Thief massively underrated.) Despite the various stylistic switcheroos the band has performed, the one constant is Thom Yorke’s mournful moaning voice. Which is the one aspect to Radiohead I will admit a major appreciation for. So I find The Eraser to be more than adequate. (XL Recordings)

    25) Xiu Xiu - The Air Force... I had not heard anything of Xiu Xiu prior to this album. But if the rest of them are this spell binding, then I will definitely have to acquire them. Some of it is mournful indie pop, other is brash noise, but the most compelling is when the two worlds meet, like on track one, “Buzz Saw.” It feels meticulously crafted while maintaining the emotion that careful crafting usually eliminates. (5RC)

    24) David Bazan - Fewer Moving Parts EP... An EP in songs, not tracks, “Fewer Moving Parts” is probably the most typical indie rock album on this list. And while I haven’t truly loved any Pedro The Lion release since “Winners Never Quit,” the songs on Bazan’s first release since dropping his moniker are just marvelously crafted. There are two versions of each song on the EP (for a total of 10 tracks), a “sellout rock version” (in Bazan’s words) and a stripped out acoustic version. Generally I lean toward the sellout rock, though an occasional spin through the acoustic stuff is good for a variation. (Independent/Jade Tree)

    23) Anathallo - Floating World... Despite Pitchfork’s lament that they’re trying to be like Sufjan Stevens, the truth is that Anathallo has been around since before 99% of the world knew that Sufjan could be a first name. That said, Floating World was my virgin experience with Anathallo. I didn’t even bother looking up the rest of their catalogue until I saw them live last month. While it is true that there are aspects of this release that are akin to what Sufjan Stevens does, Anathallo separates themselves by feeling like a joined unit of people and not like one person directing the show. The joy that comes out of every aspect of the music (despite a rather morose tone) is endearing enough to distract from the idea that using more instruments than guitar/drum/bass/key/vocals makes you a Sufjan rip-off. (Artist Fellowship/Nettwerk)

    22) Leigh Nash - Blue On Blue... Sixpence None the Richer has been consistently one of my top five artists for about the last four years. Leigh Nash’s voice is on a completely different level from most people. When Sixpence broke up I was devastated. Thankfully, she decided to do something on her own and Blue on Blue is the result. It is in a similar pop vein as Divine Discontent and occasionally sounds a bit too polished. However, it should be noted that people who pre-ordered off of Nash’s website got a free live EP with the purchase and those versions are mellower and are much better than the studio versions. Also worthy of mention is her iTunes only Christmas EP which was an unexpected treat this Christmas season and better than most of the stuff on her full length. (One Son Records)

    21) My Brightest Diamond - Bring Me The Workhorse... So when I saw Sufjan Stevens live last year I was dazzled by his lead cheerleader. She was beautiful and energetic and a stunning voice. So I did some internet research and found out that her name was Shara Worden and she made music on her own, too. She started off as Awry, released several CDs (of which I own one, the other being long out of print,) and then changed the name to My Brightest Diamond. Her stuff apart from Sufjan makes more use out of her classically trained vocals, with a deep, rich sound. The album took a while to grow on me, but after I saw her live in September I became a dedicated fan. (Asthmatic Kitty)

    20) Joanna Newsom - Ys... Honestly, her prior album, “The Milk-eyed Mender” did not appeal to me at all. Her voice was harsh and uncontrolled, the harp sounded weak all by it’s lonesome. Yet I decided to buy into the hype with Ys and hope for the best. And Newsom delivered. Both of my former complaints were corrected, her voice can actually be called good here and the orchestration of Van Dyke Parks fills in behind the harp perfectly. (Drag City)

    19) Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings The Flood... Neko Case sounds incredibly epic when she sings. It’s like listening to the trumpets of angels when Jesus returns. Seriously, I’m listening to her now and expect to get raptured at any moment. This album takes the country of Case’s past, adds a lot of sun to brighten things up, as well as some of that indie charm she must have picked up in her other job with The New Pornographers. (Anti-)

    18) Scott Solter plays Pattern is Movement - Canonic... I’m not entirely sure anyone really knows what to put as the artist for this cd. All we know for sure is that Canonic is the title. In 2005 Pattern is Movement released one of my favorite albums of the year, Stowaway. The album was recorded and produced by Scott Solter. After Stowaway’s release the band gave the music back to him and told him to do whatever he wanted with it. So he deconstructed the album, creating something new yet eerily familiar in the process. While all of the sounds are taken from the original CD by Pattern Is Movement, it is composed by Solter. So I’m going by what is on the CD case because it is the most descriptive... Scott Solter Plays Pattern Is Movement. (Home Tapes)

    17) Cursive - Happy Hollow... I got on the Ugly Organ bandwagon pretty late. But I was impressed enough with it to jump at the chance at seeing Cursive live earlier this summer. I was surprised to see a small horn section accompany the band on a number of new tunes. But I liked it (despite someone saying they sounded like a sick cow and ruined them) and picked this up on the release date. Sure, by any regular musical standards the horns sound out of tune and clash with everything else going on, but they add this great chaotic, discordant feeling of eeriness. That mixed with just great songs like Big Bang and Bad Science make the album a winner. (Saddle Creek)

    16) Man Man - Six Demon Bag... I bought this CD and liked it for it’s dabbling in Tom Waits and Frank Zappa and just good ol’ pots ‘n’ pans effect. I fell totally in love with Man Man when I saw them live. It was a surreal experience made even better because I wasn’t expecting it to be that way. Now I can’t listen to the CD without mentally being transported back to that dim venue who only served Corona and other Mexican Corona rip-offs. English Bwudd is a great song and probably one of the best of the year. The album fails to break into the top ten by being anti-climatic now after seeing the live show. It’s hard to get through the CD now just because of how freakin’ amazing it is live.(Ace Fu Records)

    15) Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther... I discovered Midlake when a friend from work and I were stuck in traffic on the PA Turnpike, trying to get to a Phillies baseball game. We were listening to WXPN, which is like an evil mixture of NPR and college radio. They play a little bit of everything, though leaning toward more underground stuff. Midlake came on (and I’m tempted to say it was Roscoe, but I won’t swear to that) and it perfectly fit the scene of us barely moving on the packed out highway. Later, I got a Paste Magazine DVD that had a music video for Young Bride and I knew I had to buy the CD. The music video was so sensitive, yet was musically catchy, and felt a lot like the way Madeleine L’Engle writes to capture the emotion of her characters. Which is high praise indeed coming from a huge L’Engle fan. And the whole album is like this. (Bella Union)

    14) Sonic Youth - The Destroyed Room... While I generally don’t think that b-sides/rarities compilations like this qualify for year end lists due to the fact that is is a compilation with music taken from many different years, some of it previously released, and Tom Waits’ Orphans, which was kept off my top list for this reason, 2006 was the year of Sonic Youth for me and since I am the list maker, I can be the rule breaker. While the mid-to-late 90s tested many Sonic Youth’s fans (despite some of the band’s best material being from that era), The Destroyed Room should be the major label album that draws the line between true fans and those who just liked the band for the grungey pop of Goo. (For a detailed breakdown of the various eras of Sonic Youth, see my journal entry titled “A Look At Sonic Youth.”) While Sonic Youth has released much more experimental and noise oriented works in the past, they have been kept on home grown labels, often the SYR label the band started. The Destroyed Room skates neatly between the two sides of Sonic Youth. It’s experimental without delving completely into the pure noise of the SYR releases, it’s catchy without feeling like there should be reason for it to be. The album is largely instrumental, though both Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon get a few vocal tracks. (Geffin)

    13) Eagles of Death Metal - Death By Sexy... Take one part Josh Homme and three parts sexy rock n roll and you get the Eagles of Death Metal. The band has always felt like a sly wink in the direction of anyone who bothered to look at them, but not in the “we don’t care” way, but in the “we’re just having way too much damn fun” way. And fun is the best word for their off-kilter brand of rock n roll. They put on one helluva live show, too. I’ve never seen a crowd go so nuts for a band without any breakdowns. (Downtown)

    12) The Violet Burning - Drop-Dead... The Violet Burning’s prior album was mediocre. I liked it, but it wasn’t what it could have or should have been, especially considering the band’s track record. When Drop-Dead released I listened to it several times and it seemed like more of the same ol’ same ol’. However, once I dug deeper into what was going on, I realized that there was a lot of great details that were revealing themselves as time went on, like a flower opening. The key for me was track two, All I Want. What was a normal love song on first listen all of a sudden became amazing when I noticed the great keyboard line in the chorus. Then soon after I saw them live in a doctor’s office lobby of all places (I still scratch my head over that one) and it was one of the most intimate shows, all the while The Violet Burning played as hard as if it was a club or church or stadium. We all just had a lot of fun. I do urge those who were turned off by their album “This Is The Moment” to give the band another chance. (Northern Records)

    11) Camille - Le Fil... When I read reviews comparing Le Fil to Bjork’s album Medulla, I knew I had to pick the album up. I loved the way most of the sounds were acapella, and the voice can be one of the most powerful instruments out there. So when albums release that fully make use of the voice’s ability I stand and cheer. And in my opinion Camille surpassed Bjork in the department of writing a great acapella album. Undoubtedly this is partly because Camilla sings in French and I love foreign language albums. Another reason is because Camille knows how to swing with her voice in a way Bjork can’t. It is a delicate album that is both rich and overflowing with goodness. There are a couple of tracks with some non-vocal instrumentation, but it blends in well and avoids being a huge black eye. (Narda/Virgin)

    10) Krystal Meyers - Dying For A Heart... This is my major guilty pleasure of the year. Yes, I know Krystal Meyers is a Christian pop singer who was signed for the sole reason of being a Christian alternative to Avril Lavigne (or however her name is spelled), Kelly Clarkson, and so forth, but the results are just too catchy for me to ignore. I listened through the album several times (getting a free copy through my job) but nothing really stuck out. Then on the day the album released I just put the bloody thing on repeat for background music. It was then midway through the day that I realized how incredibly catchy the dang thing is. I became a believer when I realized that if this was the new Kelly Clarkson album (who I absolutely adore) I would be extremely excited. Like, album of the year excited. So here we are. I’ve continued to play the hell out of this CD and can’t grow tired of it. (Essential Records)

    09) The Residents - Tweedles... Tweedles is the result of a band who has worn several different facades in the past couple of years. There is the smooth sound that we grew to love from Animal Lover, there is some narration and female choirs as found on the River of Crime audio dramas, as well as some new elements in the way an orchestra is used (to great effect.) The first track sets up the album perfectly with it’s complex orchestral composition, some refreshingly normal singing from the lead Resident, and a world music feel to the background singer. It eases us into the dark, twisted world of Tweedles. Insincere is also a standout track with some great discordant backing music, a fantastic story in the narration, followed by a musical climax that sounds ironic when accompanied by the lecture on physical pleasure and the comparison of steaks and orgasms. (Mute/Cryptic)

    08) Miss Violetta Beauregarde - Oki Profanum Volgus Et Arceo... I discovered Miss Violetta Beauregarde when I turned on XPN on my way home from work. They played an awesome track from the album. It was short but sweet and displayed a cut-and-paste mentality that combined with Beauregarde’s punk shout and avant garde compositions was a must-have. The only downside? 16 tracks ringing in at only 20 minutes. We need longer songs, girl! (Temporary Residence Limited)

    07) Matthew Friedberger - Holy Ghost Language School... Yes, The Fiery Furnaces released a CD this year. Yes, Matthew Friedberger, their main songwriter/instrumentalist, released a double disc of his own. Yes, he is threatening his career by massively overexposing himself. Everyone says that of his two discs one is great and the other terrible. They are right. However, most of them have it backwards. Holy Ghost Language School, disc two of his set, is not the throwaway. It is instead the rightful heir to Rehearsing My Choir’s throne (and considering that is my favorite Fiery Furnaces album that is saying something.) It is another CD driven by a vague story line, and the music reflects the random shifts in mood and tone. While the album feels a bit empty without the grandmother lending her powerful spoken word, the album shows the Friedburger hasn’t lost his touch. (859 Recordings)

    06) Danielson - Ships... Daniel Smith might be the most creative person to ever release a CD on a Christian label (the only possible exception being Terry Scott Taylor.) His quirky, avant garde vision is usually incomprehensible by most people, even those in the indie scene. His songs are anthems, dressed in a high pitched falsetto and banjos, xylophones, keys and a host of backup singers. The effect is rather insane, which is an interesting contrast to the way Daniel Smith appears when not wearing the Danielson (Famile, Brother) hat. While ultra indie Christian kids and super cool indie magazines have long hailed Smith’s genius, only recently has he surfaced into the consciousness of the indie scene on a larger scale. (Probably due in no small part to his hand in helping Sufjan Stevens out before Sufjan was a household name... though the 9.1 Pitchfork rating didn’t hurt any.) I don’t think it is possible for anyone to be so quirky and catchy all at the same time. (Secretly Canadian)

    05) Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped... As mentioned earlier this was my Year of Sonic Youth. This is due mostly to the fact that I *mostly* completed my SY collection, properly started appreciating it, and FREAKIN’ SAW THEM LIVE. However, it was the year of Sonic Youth from the perspective of the world as a whole, too. Consider. 1 regular full length album in the form of Rather Ripped. 3 rereleases of hard to acquire albums (the self-titled EP, the Ciccone Youth “Whitey Album,” and Thurston Moore’s solo joint “Psychic Hearts.”) One rarities/b-sides album (see #14 on my list.) Not to mention an addition to their noise-oriented SYR label, SYR 6 (which, to the relief of most of you I left off of the top 30.) Rather Ripped a return to the pop that people fell in love with on Goo and Dirty, while adding a more prevalent rock n roll edge that was tempered on those albums. Yet it also manages to feel like a natural progression from their prior two albums. (Geffin)

    04) Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere... Hype is a cruel mistress. I learned that several years ago after getting burned on multiple hype machines (Sigur Ros, GY!BE, Bright Eyes, and more) that it really doesn’t pay to pay attention to hype. So instead I’ve been a hype creator. That Sufjan Stevens thing? That was all me. While he’s an extreme example, I’ve gotten into judging music based on what I think of it... not what I should think of it. So that said, when people started jumping on the Gnarls Barkley bandwagon I didn’t really pay attention. I didn’t even hear the song Crazy until I bought the album. Which I swear must have been August... a good 3 months after the release date. I don’t even remember what caused me to buy it (I think I just got in the mood). Whatever the case, I picked it up and, yes, Crazy blew me away. But what was even more impressive to me was that the whole bloody album was chock full of songs I liked just as good as, if not better, than Crazy. It was an album I could put on and listen to from beginning to end and just groooove. Granted, Crazy is the song that is easiest to rip from the context of the album and it still make sense (e.g.: a mix tape) but it is not the song that I look forward to reaching when I hit the play button. Great album. (Downtown)

    03) Make Believe - Of Course... I was lukewarm on Make Believe’s first full length when I reviewed it for Decapolis.com last year. And while I think my complaint about it was valid, seeing the band live (when the opened for the afore mentioned Cursive) brought things into perspective for me as they put on a superb set. I was impressed with how well they could pull off the insanely technical guitar work and vocal gymnastics live. While I grew a greater appreciation for their first full length, it still didn’t enter any of my top-whatever lists. Of Course changed that completely. The album is massive. It is chock full of frantic guitar work, stop and go percussion, and stream of consciousness vocals. Not to mention the songs have gotten really catchy. Make Believe made me a huge believer this year. (Flameshovel)

    02) mewithoutYou - Brother, Sister... I got a pre-release of this album over a month before the release date, something I lorded over all of my mewithoutYou loving friends. I talked about mewithoutYou without cease, even to my friends who had dismissed the band (*cough*Matt*/cough.*) I called it the band’s greatest statement to date. I called it album of the year. I called it a masterpiece in a Christian market devoid of such works of art. Brilliant, raw, textured. It was everything I expected out of the band and more. It shows what happens when a band writes the kind of songs they want to write without feeling the pressure to write the album their fans want. The album opens up with the sound of rain and Aaron Weiss mumbling for a minute or two before the chorus hits and a backing chorus (a brilliant re-occouring theme) sends things to spine tingling heights. Wolf Am I! (And Shadow) starts off like a standard mwY tune, but starts upping the ante. At one point Aaron’s voice goes hoarse at the end of one of his shouts, so intensely he was singing. Then comes a bridge where the guitars throw in some great, noodling lines that are totally unexpected. Epic. (Tooth and Nail Records)

    01) Gomez - How We Operate... When I reviewed this album for Decapolis, I was fairly sure it was going to be my album of the year. When I acquired the new mewithoutYou I re-thought that for a month and a half. But as both albums grew older, it became obvious that while both are classics and stellar, How We Operate is the one that caused a total 180 degree turn in my thinking. It was my album of the year. And five, ten, or twenty years from now when Brother, Sister is counted among the best of the decade and people barely remember Gomez I will still say I made the right decision here. Gomez is my reminder that as much as I want to pigeon hole a band, or make assumptions based on the label they release music on, it all boils down to the music, which should not be labeled until it is heard. My only prior experience with Gomez before receiving this album for review was reviewing their double disc live album last year. The live album was ok, but disorienting due to having never heard them before. I discarded them in my mind as just another band. So when I got a shipment of CDs to review for Decapolis I groaned when I saw How We Operate in there. I wanted to hate it. I knew I was going to hate it. I started composing the negative review in my head even while I dreaded writing it. I listened to it. Then I listened to it again. I said, “Those are some fine songs!” I listened to it voluntarily, without thinking about writing the review. I listened to it to drive, while just fiddling around on the internet, before bed. I said, “This album is stunning.” Not only is it album of the year, but it is also the most underrated album of the year. No one is talking about it, no one cares. But I am. And I do. (ATO Records)

    That is it. The fairly definitive 30 albums that make my year worth waking up for. Of course, I discovered some albums and bands that weren’t 2006 releases that made life worth living, too. But that would be a different list for a different day.
  • The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players LIVE

    Dic 21 2006, 16:25

    Well. You should have seen how estatic I was when I found out the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players were going to do a concert in my hometown at the Chameleon Club. I found out at the end of November, with just enough time to make sure I wasn't scheduled to work.

    I was excited. So much so that I decided to watch thier "On Broadway!" DVD again. It's a DVD I recieved to do a review of, so I watched it once in August (or September?) and then neglected. So I broke it out and watched it with my mom. She was intrigued, so I offered that she could come with me to the show. She agreed, mostly to my pleasure.

    The show was scheduled for the 20th of December. (Which my clever readers will recognize as Wednesday. Or, if you read this today, last night.) My mom befriended a guy from her work who is about my age and wanted him to come along to see if he and I click. So the three of us went.

    The crowd was sparce. Though the split-level feature of the Chameleon probably made it look smaller than it was. The main floor was all ages, with the balcony 21+. It was probably a show that would have worked better with the younger people up top and us elder folk down below. But whatever the case, it was still one of the thinner crowds I've seen at a Chameleon concert.

    The first band was The Bear And The Wolf, who are a local group. They try to call themselves psycodelic rock, but really they are more of a post rock outfit. A mixture, perhaps, between Anathallo and GY!BE. I have a friend who is their drummer, so I am kind of biased toward them for that... so I didn't mind the set. Their compositions are ok, though not so different as to stand out. And the band has absolutely zero personality. They just sit, look down, and do their thing.

    Ching Chong Song was the second act, and they were an oddity! Musically they were great. A guy who played piano and sang, and a girl who sang and played the saw. It was just the two of them, and that's all they need, musically. However, she had this weird need to flash her breasts. It happened once before they started, and in the middle of her set she was like, "Boob check!" and dropped her dress past her breasts. So that was kind of awkward. And not appropriate for an all ages show. So I didn't buy a CD for that reason.

    Then we were delivered with our big disappointment for the evening. Jason Trachtenburg came out and started the evening with some humorous and fun conversation before breaking the news that the other two members of the band, his daughter and wife, weren't able to make it tonight because of a family medical emergecy. So he was the only one of the family to get to perform, although he had the guy from Ching Chong Song play drums, and the girl do the slideshow projector and do some backup vocals. Thankfully she put on a hooded sweatshirt, so we did have to worry about any unexpected... flashage.

    Well. The show wasn't ideal, but it was still a good experience. And Jason Trachtenburg is a trooper and I applaud him mightily. And I hope Tina Pena's mother gets better. And I hope they come to Lancaster again sometime.
  • 3d, 9h and 52m ago...

    Dic 15 2006, 13:47

    Astute readers of my site might recognize that it's been over three days since I last scrobbled any music. Said readers might be forgiven for thinking that I had somehow just dropped off a cliff. Or let go of the website the way a guy dumps a girl he's bored with. But I'm not that cruel. Or dead.

    I got a laptop. So my dad (understandably) wanted all of my music off of his desktop computer. My laptop is not connected to the internet. I see that you finally understand my conondrum. Well. I'll still scrobble some (when I attach my ipod to my dad's computer while internetting)... but it won't be with the same frequency or ferver. Until January. Then the racehorses will be let loose and my music listening will enter catostrophic heights.

    Until then, other than a few random scrobbles, last.fm will be a purely social outlet for me where I keep up with friends and discover new music.
  • Bought A Bunch of CDs Today...

    Dic 10 2006, 17:51

    Once a month there is this great record show at a local highschool. A bunch of vendors set up tables and peddle their wares. My favorite one is a guy who sells pre-releases at rock bottom prices. So I aquired...

    Leigh Nash - "Wishing For This EP"... Leigh Nash was the lead singer of Sixpence None the Richer before their break-up and has since ventured out all by her solo self. Amazing voice. "Wishing For This" is a Christmas EP that is actually available only as an iTunes download. However, they made some "real" cds to pass out to various places that do reviews. So I scored one of these.

    Micah P Hinson - "And The Opera Circuit"... I don't know much about this guy, but I remember reading a review for his new cd (this one) and thinking that the description sounded spot-on. I haven't listened to the whole thing yet but the first several tracks remind me of a folk artist (slow & mellow) with some 16 Horsepower moments. My enjoyment will rest entirely on how often he indulges in the 16 Horsepower-esque moments. The more the merrier, I say.

    Isobel Campbell - "Milkwhite Sheets"... Isobel Campbell blesses us with her second CD of the year. However, this one ditches Mark Lanegan and the rougher, Tom Waitsy influenced music, for something a lot more simple and contemplative. It allows Campbell's voice to shine and take center stage.

    Swan Lake - "Beast Moans"... A lot of hype surrounding this album. It's a super-group of sorts. I'm mostly familiar with Dan Bejar (Destroyer, The New Pornographers), though from what I've read he's not the only one in the band who's someone. The first track is pretty sweet. I think the rest of them will live up to that.

    Gomez - "Five Men In A Hut"... I became a Gomez fan this year after hearing their stunning album, "How We Operate." It will probably end up being my album of the year. This is a two disc singles collection and while as a whole I am not a fan of singles collections, I figured this would be a great introduction to the rest of Gomez's catalogue. Plus it's got a couple of previously unreleased tracks, so if I feel the need to go out and buy every Gomez album, these CDs won't feel like a complete waste.

    Also recieved lately, thanks to the mailorder marvels of the internet...

    Anathallo - "Anathallogy: A Collection of Songs Recorded 2000-2003"... I saw Anathallo live last Sunday in Philadelphia and it was an awesome show. I was aquainted with "Floating World," their newest release, but didn't have any of their back catalogue. Their "Hymns" EP is out of print now and going for outrageous prices on eBay, but they allow you to download the EP for free now (let me know if you want the www address). So I got that. And on browsing their website I found this new release. It collects three complete Anathallo releases (one ep and two short "full lengths") into this two disc set. Which, after you download the Hymns ep, and take into account Floating World, essentially completes their recorded output up to this point. It's cheap (comparatively speaking) and definitely worth grabbing.

    Scott Solter plays Pattern is Movement - "Canonic"... Last year Pattern is Movement released one of my favorite albums of the year, "Stowaway." Scott Solter prodouced the album. After the album was finished, the band handed the tapes back to Solter to do whatever with. So he completely deconstructed the album and assembled a cut-and-paste alterrnate version of it. Apperently all of the sounds are cut and looped from the original recording. There were no added parts or sounds. Which, when listening to it, is kind of amazing. It works well as an album, though it's hard for me to get as excited over it as "Stowaway." But definitely check out Pattern Is Movement. They're amazing. And this CD is great to have. It just won't get quite as many plays... nor a spot on my top 10 list.