Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Honorable Mentions of 2006, part II...

The rest of the best, Honorable mention-style...

We Are Scientists- With Love An
d Squalor (Virgin)

Technically, this was an '05 release (in the UK) but wasn't released until January 10th here in the States. And I didn't get it until March, after seeing these cats on Conan one night when I was battling insomnia. Another band that played it big overseas, selling out recent gigs over there in less than 5 hours. But here, we like our polished crap-pop way too much. Huh...

Calexico- Garden Ruin (Quarterstick)

I never understood the term "Americana", as if a slice of America could be accurately represented by a song or a band or a genre of music. But I still use the term quite often, it's just easier. Calexico=Americana, easy enough. But there's a stab at some French chanson pop and a few rockers on here, too. This album is what I would expect to hear between a block of Wilco and The Eagles on a radio station while driving between Chicago and Lincoln, Nebraska.

Islands- Return To The Sea (Equator/Rough Trade)

Yeah, if you're not humming these tunes within 3 seconds after the start of each song, check yourself for a pulse. Canada pretty much rules these days, and The Unicorns aren't dead, they've been reincarnated as Islands. My only knock is that it's fun-time, happy-go-lucky, so-sweet-it-hurts-your-teeth pop music, with no serious side. Like They Might Be Giants or Ween. Which isn't a bad thing, I'm just wondering if these guys occasionally have bad days, too. They like hip-hop, that's good...

The Raconteurs- Broken Boy Soldiers (V2)

It's like the White Stripes with a much better drummer! Imagine Jimmy Page getting a hold of Paul McCartney's melodies and then sending a reel-to-reel to Detroit so that Jack White and Brendan Benson could write some words and rock it out with their guitars. I think that song "Level" might be one of the tastiest rockers of the whole year. Bet?

Grizzly Bear- Yellow House (Warp)

Freak folk was huge this year. These guys remind me of Cass McCombs and/or Nick Drake. Call it freak-folk, psychedelic folk, acid folk, whatever. I just know that I like it. It's like coffee-house folk music but someone slipped something into the coffee. Colorado may just be one of my tracks of the year, it's haunting, yet comforting and beautiful. I got this too late in the year, check back soon and it'll probably be in my top 10.

Psapp- The Only Thing I Ever Wanted (Domino)

Tastes like: sickly sweet, c
andy-coated, pop-aliciousness from Psapp, pronounced like the blood of trees that makes the liquified candy substance you pour on top of pancakes. Sounds like: trashcan lids and pots and pans and bells, cuckoo clocks and nail files. Those are just the samples. Not bad, ladies, not bad. Not great, but what would this review be if I didn't knock you down a notch, eh?

The Mountain Goats- Get Lonely (4AD)

I've seen this described
as "somber", "sad", "heartbreaking", but I hear more than that. All I knew of these guys was 2002's All Hail West Texas, which is basically an indie rock opera, or IRO for short. This is also a "concept" album, but for me it didn't have the concepts of a great album. But good is almost great...

The Knife- Silent Shout (Rabid)

Pitchfork's #1 album of 2006? You've got to be kidding, guys. Okay, whatever
. Basically, dark, Swedish dance-synth that's very a) precise b) serious c) European. But not a) pretentious b) sucky c) un-listenable. Some dance music I can't even get through, this I got through and re-listened. And listened again. We Share Our Mother's Health is a jam-and-a-half, yo!

Sunset Rubdown- Shut Up I Am Dreaming (Absolutely Kosher)

There was so much hype surrounding this a
lbum that when I discovered said hype I downloaded the teaser tracks from the band's website. I thought, okay, this doesn't suck, and my biggest knock on it is that it doesn't suck, but it doesn't rule. It doesn't "do" anything except do what it does.

Califone- Roots & Crowns (Thrill Jockey)

Elements of world music, 60s pop, americana (which looks better in lowercase, now that I think about it...). Here's another album full of broken strings and trash can lids and samples of detuned radios buzzing like a fridge stuffed with violins. I think I even heard a hurdy-gurdy in there, too.

Next: Albums that completely missed!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Honorable Mentions of 2006, part I...

Second place just means first loser. Here are my "first losers", although most of these that came out before June would have made it on the Top 25 list, provided the year was only six months long. Hell, Morrissey would've been #1 if it wasn't for The Decemberists' October release date. They should call themselves The Octoberists then, right?

That joke really sucked. Just read...

Pretty Girls Make Graves- Elan Vital (Matador)

This just missed! I really wanted this to make it on the Top 25, but after tallying up all my scores, this missed by a point. Oh well- but many good songs on here, I think what hurt this album was that it lacked a cohesiveness that
The New Romance had.

Jenny Lewis With The Watson Twins- Rabbit Fur Coat (Team Love)

Dear Miss Rilo Kiley- great debut solo album! I like this much more than your day job, however, and I hope you do another solo album real soon! Please, keep Conor Oberst off of the next album, I hate that guy. You may have made my list, and if your "boyfriend" put out an album this year, he would've probably been on it, too.

The Hold Steady- Boys And Girls In America (Vagrant)

This album was on a whole bunch of folks' Top Ten lists this year, and even got mentioned in the Holy Grail of Mediocrity,
Rolling Stone. So fucking what? It's pretty good, but not as good as the hype surrounding them. Southtown Girls, the best track on here, goes last, so that alone gives me hope for their next album.

My Chemical Romance- The Black Parade (Reprise)

I gotta admit it, this album was pretty fucking good, even for a rock opera that's not supposed to be a rock opera. See what can happen when an emo band puts the knife down and steps away from the ledge? (Pay attention,
Taking Back Sunday, people may take you serious someday, too!)

The Killers- Sam's Town (Island/Lizard King)

Another album that didn't live up to the media hype. It's still a very good album, but has
Sophomore Jinx written all over it. I think it's called Pearl Jam Syndrome- your first album rules so much that it becomes somewhat iconic (or career-defining) and hard to top. And it didn't help these guys to be compared to Bruce Springsteen in every review from here to ... uh, here to, Sam's Town?

Neko Case- Fox Confessor Brings The Flood (Mint/Anti-)

Nashville called: they said I couldn't put your album
and Jenny Lewis' and Amy Millan's record all on my Top 25, or they'd send someone up here to break either a leg or an arm. I decided I needed both too much, and Amy's album I'm quite fond of, because it's the biggest change for her. Sorry, Miss Case- but hey, good album!

Be Your Own Pet- Be Your Own Pet (XL/Ecstatic Peace)

Better than the
Yeah Yeah Yeah's album by a whole lot and it kicked the crap out of The Sounds' album, too. So, basically- BYOP wants to be the undisputed champ of the chick-fronted art-punk bands currently in resurgence. Man, I'm gonna miss me some Sleater-Kinney. Is LeTigre back in the studio now? And oh yeah- these kids are fresh out of high school, too!

Mates Of State- Bring It Back (Barsuk)
This is another album I wanted on that list, but alas, the songwriting wasn't as strong as
Our Constant Concern, their last album. See, lists are hard to make because it's like a March Madness type of atmosphere- I'm the selection commitee, and past albums are taken into account, so I can have a frame of reference to compare a band to itself. Looks like that early season, non-conference loss to Band Of Horses is going to hurt come Selection Sunday. Ouch!

Mission Of Burma- The Obliterati (Matador)

I'm just noticing now that
Matador has had the most entrants on the Top 25 list. Hmmm. Can they be considered the Independent Label Champion for '06? How about getting a band that retired in 1983 to come back and write two great albums? Sounds impressive. I discovered Mission Of Burma by accident a few years ago- they were a band for 4 years, released one album to great reviews, broke up, and re-formed in 2002. One of only a few actual punk albums released this year. By the way, NoFX's album pretty much sucked. Way to go, guys.

The Strokes- First Impressions Of Earth (RCA)

If an American band can be so loved across the pond, they have to be good, right? I remember seeing all the comments on the file-sharing sites, basically telling people to not download this album (Ha, yeah right!), and then it goes #1 in the UK its first week. Not only did I download this with the quickness, it's been one of my faves this year. But, my biggest knock on it, as you may have noticed all the honorable mentions contain all the minuses rather than all the pluses that the Top 25 had, it didn't stand up over repeated listens.

There are 10 more Honorable Mentions. Tomorrow, maybe?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Top 25 of 2006- #s 1 through 5...

This is it! the moment you've been waiting for...

Well, the moment I've been waiting for, all year. Without further ado, and I like "ado", here's the Top 5:

5. Easy Star All-Stars- Radiodread (Easy Star) rating: 94

The best band in all of Dub Reggae just got better and ten times more credible. Their previous effort, Dub Side Of The Moon, although instrumentally excellent and full of great ideas, was predictable (because it was a cover album) but was also a bit laughable- the bong hit bubbling at the start of Money instead of the cash register bell and change falling? Ummm, yeah... So they decided to cover the most important band on the planet's most important album. And it comes out perfect and irresistible. Horn lines instead of guitar leads? I never thought something like this could be done, and the list of guest musicians reads like a Jamaican Music Hall Of Fame show: Horace Andy, Sugar Minott, Toots & The Maytals, Morgan Heritage, Israel Vibration... Lord have mercy! Fave Track: Climbing Up The Walls

4. Girl Talk- Night Ripper (Illegal Art) rating: 95

I was raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. My formative years (musically) were from 1984-1994. I can only think that Girl Talk (Pittsburgh's Greg Gillis) was on the same shit I was on during this same time. Crunk rap mixed with 90s alternative? Grunge and soul? Boston and Ludacris together at last? Notorious B.I.G.'s Juicy mixed with The Pharcyde's Passing Me By mixed with Elton John's Tiny Dancer? Mike Jones' Back Then with Seals & Croft's Summer Wind? Remember that song "whoa- oh, it's magic, I knooow.." from those Time-Life 70s albums? The band is Pilot and Girl Talk cuts that shit with Kanye's Gold Digger. So hype, it's just too much, son. Some critics hate the mash-up. I hope it's here to stay. Fave Track: Smash Your Head

3. TV On The Radio- Return To Cookie Mountain (Interscope/4AD) rating:97

I'm loving the old-school, Scott La Rock-style drum beat that starts this album off. "I was a lover, before this war- held up in a luxury suite, behind a barricaded door- now that I've cleaned up, gone legit- I can see clearly: round hole, round whole, square peg don't fit" I'd like to think that this is about the ending of a couple's relationship, but I think it has a much deeper meaning than that. I think it's about man's divorce from romantic, individual thought and his embrace of technology and information. I think the relevant voices of modern society all echo a similar sentiment- that man becomes destitute by elevating himself, and Return To Cookie Mountain is the soundtrack for the impending apocalypse. But it's a really funky and enjoyable whirlwind of rhythm in the meantime. It also doesn't hurt to have an appearance by Mr. Ziggy Stardust himself on here, either. Fave Track: Wolf Like Me

2. Morrissey- Ringleader Of The Tormentors (Sanctuary) rating: 98

Why do the English keep writing songs aimed at our shitty president? Because they have a better, more worldly and informed point of view? Because most of them are smarter than us? God, I'm a sycophantic Anglophile- and if Anglophoma was a type of cancer, Morrissey is its main carcinogen, and this album is one big tumor. "If your god bestows protection upon you, And if the USA doesn't bomb you, I believe I will see you somewhere safe, Looking to the camera, messing around and pulling faces." Moz really can do no wrong in my mind. He could put out a 46-minute track of him laying wet farts over a detuned violin and I'd happily gorge myself on it and declare it the best record of the year. Except this really is one of the best albums of the year and one of the best of Mozza'a career. Fave Track: You Have Killed Me


1. The Decemberists- The Crane Wife (Capitol) rating: 100

Japanese folk-tale: impoverished man finds injured crane. Brings it in and nurses it back to health. Crane leaves. Enter beautiful woman, whom the man proceeds to fall in love with and marry. To make ends meet, wife weaves wonderful clothes from silk, but here's the catch- he may never watch her at work. His greed increases, she works harder. She becomes ill. He peeks in on her to discover that she is in fact the crane that he nursed back to health and she weaves these beautiful garments from plucking her own feathers and weaving them into the loom. She flies away, never to return. Then Colin Meloy and his band sign to Capitol Records and he writes ten songs about it. I mean to say that he writes about the Crane Wife, not signing to Capitol. Although now that I think about it, I'd love to hear that album, too. Beloved indie band signs to major label. Because Colin could write about anything and I'd totally dig it, maybe even eat the peanuts out of his shit. In my world, Mr. Meloy is approaching Morrissey-level status. I mean, for fuck's sake, he did a six song cover album of Morrissey tunes! I mean, what else does he have to do? Write the best album of 2006? Deliver the best tour of '06 to the world? And on the seventh day he rested! Stylistically, this is closer to The Tain (prog rock) than Picaresque, although not too much unlike it. They changed without changing. So, asking me to pick a favorite song is really tough, but... Fave Track: The Island: Come And See, The Landlord's Daughter, You'll Not Feel The Drowning

Tomorrow: Honorable Mentions...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Top 25 of 2006- #s 6 through 10...

This has been more fun than I thought it would be. I listened to somewhere between 40 to 60 new albums this year. It's a shame I couldn't have sat down and ranked them all, lord knows I have enough paper. But I have a life...

...No I don't.

10. I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness- Fear Is On Our Side (Secretly Canadian) rating: 87

First time I heard these guys I was hooked. Then I kept reading reviews that said these guys sounded too much like Interpol. I'm sorry, I didn't realize that was a bad thing. Just because it shares the moniker of Serious Indie Rock, this band from Austin, TX, doesn't have to be compared to NYC's favorite band of the new millenium. Anyway, if you like that darkened, brooding sound (think: Joy Division or Velvet Underground) you will totally love this album. But it won't love you back. They've already made their choice. And I've made mine! Fave Track: Last Ride Together

9. Gnarls Barkley- St. Elsewhere (Atlantic/Warner) rating: 89
Song Of The Year! CRAZY! This fact is indisputable, because I still can't get this song out of my head and this album's been out since April. This shit is for real. I've heard people be like, "Yeah, that song is mad hype but the rest of the album sucks" and then I throw a banana peel down in front of them while they run to catch a train and watch them fall and hit their stupid head on the ground. Then they wise up and say, "You know that song Who Cares is pretty good, too. And the cover of Gone Daddy Gone is really good, too." And then I remind them that Transformer is the best song on there. The only problem with this album is that it's too short! Fave Track: Transformer

8. Ratatat- Classics (XL) rating: 90

I discovered Ratatat late spring of '05 watching a skate video. I knew that I loved the song but I had no idea who the hell it was because I didn't bother watching the credits to find out. This was the same video that introduced Bloc Party to me and we all know how I feel about Bloc Party. Wait, I'm not sure how I feel about Bloc Party anymore. So my girlfriend recommended Ratatat and I downloaded their self-titled first album, and was like, "Oh shit, this song is from that skate video!" Anyway, they make very accessible guitar/synth/drum machine-pop in the style of bands like Postal Service and Mates Of State, in a glammed-out, video game soundtrack, garage band sort of way. I like not being able to take some things to serious, and instrumental music like this is very, well, fun. God forbid a music snob like me would dare dream about having fun, I mean, why not move to California to play in the sun everyday and leave Philly behind? Ummm... Fave Track: Wildcat

7. Yo La Tengo- I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass (Matador) rating: 91

Mets fans from Hoboken, NJ? Ugh, I really wanted to hate this, but I don't. Yo La Tengo isn't a jazz band, but they could be. I was keeping track of which songs I really liked the first time I went through this, and upon further listening I realized that some of these songs are some of this year's best. And this album is sneaking in as one of the year's best. Ballads, shoegaze, pop, rock, neo-psychedelia, it's all here. And two ten-plus minute guitar behemoths bookend the album quite nicely. All I own from Yo La Tengo is some live stuff I got a few years ago and this instrumental soundtrack album they did for a Franch sea-life movie. Be sure that this album will become one of my most played on the old iPod. Fave Track: Mr. Tough

6. Arctic Monkeys- Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (Domino) rating: 92

It feels like this album has been out longer than January. It has, and thanks to internet leakages I've had this since last November. (PS- albums are purposely leaked onto the internet by the record companies to gauge how well it's going to sell by the number of people downloading or "sharing" it...) So, it's been out longer than a year. But not really. The biggest band in Britain this year, and just to give you an idea how big, they sold more albums in their first week than the rest of the Top 20 combined. That's pretty Beatle-esque. These lads probably couldn't get laid with a fistful of money in a whorehouse last October and by February 1st of this year already impregnated half of the UK's able-bodied female population. Okay, maybe not Beatle-esque, but Oasis-esque? Why this album is so beloved in England is because it speaks to the entire under-25 generation, in their language. Yes, it's our language, too. But that cockney fuck-all attitude makes you love these lads from Sheffield. Fave Track: I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor

Yeah, so- Next time we go to #1. And then all the "just missed" albums. This may go on forever...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Top 25 of 2006- #s 11 through 15...

I hope this list is going in accordance with yours. I know you may be wondering where some stuff is- dont worry, it's coming, and if it's not here today it may be here in the next day or two.

Or, it may not be on my list at all...

15. Thom Yorke- The Eraser (XL) rating: 81

Very rarely do I subscribe to a bands' newsletter, but every so often i get an e-mail in my inbox from Thom Yorke's Eraser website, reminding me that he's hard at work on remixes and whatnot, but maybe I'm just looking for a heads-up on Radiohead's new album's release date. This also has that Postal Service-y type of synth/drum machine pop, in a darker vein that, of course, that only Radiohead's main creep could scare up. The album cover down to the lyrics have an eerie, if not spooky quality, and I think it's Thom's aim to be a bit unsettling. Ever see the Radiohead documentary Meeting People Is Easy? It's kind of like that scene when he goes to the bar and asks about the private party for Radiohead and the bouncer guys is like "???" Digest these lyrics from Black Swan: "this is fucked up, fucked up..." Oh, Thom's still a creep. Fave Track: Atoms For Peace

14. Hezekiah Jones- Hezekiah Says You're A-OK (Yer Bird) rating: 82

I chose this not because Raph Cutrufello is a friend of mine, but because this is definitely one of the best albums of the year. I know music, and this is really good music. Enough said. Lyrically, one of the richest contributions to my music library since last year's Album Of The Year (just in my opinion, the only opinion that really matters...) Jens Lekman's Oh You're So Silent Jens. Subjects such as bittersweet longing, love and loss, it's a pretty and at times heartbreaking melange of melodic lo-fi bedroom pop. Almost every mix CD I made this year had a Hezekiah song on it. This is the best album released by a Philadelphian since Boyz II Men's Cooleyhighharmony, and my little brother BJ Mac plays rhythm guitar on Albert Hash! Fave Track: Circumstance

13. Hot Chip- The Warning (EMI/Death From Above) rating: 84

Last summer a friend burnt me some CDs. One band he told me to check out was Architecture In Helsinki. I panned it by the fourth song. Then I read a review of Hot Chip's first album, Coming On Strong, where it was compared to AIH's work. So I decided that I wouldn't like Hot Chip based on that. I'm an impressible bastard, aren't I? But I got Coming On Strong anyway and liked it. But The Warning, their second album, is a more mature blend of electro-pop straight from the chill-out tents of UK raves. Or, the soundtrack to coming down from a night of bug-eyed hallucinogens and club-induced dance excursions. "Excuse me sir, I'm lost- I'm looking for a place where I can get lost, I'm looking for a home for my malfunctioning being, I'm looking for the mechanical music museum". Oh, I think that museum would be full of old Korg synthesizers and Moogs and Devo's hats and the robots from Kraftwerk. What? Those were actual humans? How come no one told me? Fave Track: Colours

12. Cat Power- The Greatest (Matador) rating: 85

Imagine walking into a Memphis juke joint- okay, there's the honky-tonk piano with the loping, heavy-on-the-low end basslines, sultry, smoky female vocals, the Telecaster happens to be turned way down in the mix and the pedal steel's shining through, and oh wait- is that the famous Memphis Rhythm sound? That Stax Records sound? How'd Chan Marshall (Cat's real name) get that sound? Because all the legendary names of the 1970s Memphis music scene play on this album. When Cat says it's "The Greatest", you know she's not playing around. Fave Track: Willie

11. Destroyer- Destroyer's Rubies (Merge) rating: 86

"Why can't you see that a life in art and a life of mimicry - it's the same thing!?!" asks Vancouver's Dan Bejar on Looters' Follies. Oh, Dan Bejar is Destroyer. I've always thought that was so cool, to give your band a name when the band's just you. Except for Bright Eyes, they (he) sucks. Destroyer, basically destroys all he touches. I'm going to throw down some serious names I'm reminded of while listening to this album: Beggars Banquet-era Stones and Syd Barrett-era Floyd. It's psychedelic freak-folk, like Devendra Banhart and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, but way more accessible (read: accessible is music snob for listenable), much like Of Montreal. But Destroyer is Of Vancouver. Canadian jokes, man- gotta love 'em! Fave Track: Sick Priest Learns To Last Forever

There's more. And more. And then...
Check back tomorrow for #s 6 - 10, okay?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Top 25 of 2006- #s 16 through 20...

Next installment...

I don't want to be too wordy (or verbose, if you're studying for your SATs) and just introduce this with a "hey, I'm still breathing, no- I didn't forget about you" kind of post, you know?


20. Portastatic- Be Still Please (Merge) rating: 75

I love it when a band's name doesn't sound like they sound. Take, for instance, Portastatic: I was thinking a Dutch trip-hop act with a dreadlocked DJ spinning backwards Gustav Mahler symphonies over beats produced by the RZA. So then- Portastatic is an American Indie Rock Band (an A.I.R.B. for the uninitiated) that relies on an acoustic guitar-driven and that heavily orchestrated, overtly lush pop sound to give it a feel specifically nothing like the washing machine brand name that it implies. Another album recommended by, this time by David Raposa. Damn it, I really wanna write for Pitchfork so badly! Fave Track: You Blanks

19. Justin Timberlake- FutureSex/LoveSounds (Jive) rating:76

I was like, "I'm so not even going to review this, I could care less..." But, at my girlfriend's urging, I decided to give it a try. And you know what I thought after the first time I
listened to it? "I have to listen to this again!" So I listened to it two more times. Because I had this terrible feeling that I'm almost ashamed to admit- I really, really like this album, and if I listened to it again, maybe I'd come to my senses and see that it sucked. But it doesn't, not even close. See, I want to write about music for a living, as a profession, so that means listening to and objectively reviewing both the good and bad points of a record. I wanted to say that this record is only good because of Timbaland's stellar beats and production (10 of the 14 tracks here are by Timba, not to mention the way he segues each song perfectly with interludes and preludes, something that I'd like to see more of in the future...) but the fact remains that Mr. Timberlake actually writes very well and sings even better. This album has everything it needs to be a huge hit: the club bangers, the slow ballads, the introspective songs, etc. But what I think makes it a good album is the "adultness" of it. He's talking about sex here, but not that "in da club on da dancefloor" tired, cliche sex. He means real, loving, grown-up people sex. And that shows great maturity for a boy-band expatriate. Fave Track: What Goes Around.../...Comes Around

18. Band Of Horses- Everything All The Time (SubPop) rating: 77

Whoa, this guy sounds exactly like My Morning Jacket's Jim James. Just like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's lead singer sounds like David Byrne. Confused? I'll make it easier for you- this album is excellent. Good pop from SubPop. I read a lot of blogs and visit a whole gaggle of reputable music sites on this here good old internet. This band was recommended by Pitchfork's Stephen Duesner back in March, and I'm glad I took that guy's advice. Think of (to borrow Duesner's comparison) crossed with MMJThe Shins gives you a Band Of Horses. Fave Track: The First Song

17. Belle & Sebastian- The Life Pursuit (Matador/Rough Trade) rating: 79

Oh my, does twee pish get any better than this? Scottish pop will always have a place in my heart, ever since Stuart Murdoch beckoned me to step into his office back in 2003 (I know, I was late catching the Belle & Sebastian wave, so sue me) I haven't cared that most critics think B&S's best is behind them. It's never too late to jump on the bandwagon, even if everyone seems to want to jump off. I even had a brief fascination with learning Scottish slang because of B&S. Away an bile yer heid, the blues'r still blue, mind ya. Fave Track: We Are The Sleepyheads

16. The Dears- Gang Of Losers (MapleMusic/Arts&Crafts) rating: 80

"I hang out with all the pariahs, everyone is almost done with me..." croons The Dears' Murray Lightburn on Ticket To Immortality, the second track on Gang Of Losers. The soulful introspection and lyrical beauty of this album is juxtaposed thematically with some of the most eclectic musical compositions of any album this year. I like the new direction The Dears are headed for- becoming ever more optimistic despite their gloomy past. Sometimes I listen to an album and think to myself (and occasionally I say it out loud) "How the hell is this band not huge, like insanely huge?" I think it's because when words are written and set to music, and those words suddenly carry weight, they give themselves power and they become all too real. This album, emotionally, is one of the realest of the year. It hits very close to home, almost uncomfortably so sometimes. So, shall we call it Canadian Brit-pop, or should I just call Mr. Lightburn the black Mozza? Fave Track: Ballad Of Humankindness

Okay then, keep your channel tuned for #s 11 - 20. Meet me here tomorrow...

Friday, December 15, 2006

Top 25 of 2006- #s 21 through 25...

I am so tired of all the year-end lists.

First, all the radios agree with all the TVs and all the TVs agree with all the magazines and then lists are made, tirelessly, by teams of geeks crunching numbers and ratings and seeing what goes where and when and how.

My list, has no science to it- every album is listened to
, and then re-listened to, and then listened to again. Each song is painstakingly pored over, lyrics sheets read and re-read, and scores are tallied.

And you get, for the second year (first year on, might I add?) the Jimmy Mac's Musicologist Year In Music, 2006. Without further ado, here's my favorite records of the past 12 months, starting at the bottom:

25. Cursive- Happy Hollow (Saddle Creek) rating: 68

Okay, there's this idea that the universe was created by this big huge explosion, possibly called The Big Bang, that supports a scientific view of creationism and leaves that whole story of Genesis (the Bible Genesis, not the Phil Collins' one...) a huge fictionalized lie against humanity, and Cursive's Tim Kasher is pissed. So he writes this semi-rock opera, which actually plays like 2 separate albums. The first half fucking rocks. The second half, doesn't quite rock like the first half but provides a coherency to finish the story off. I like that a few bands out there still do "concept" records, even if I think the subject is somewhat trite, it's music that rocks and music that rocks is still pretty cool. I'm glad these guys decided to not be so freaking emo anymore. Hey, i had an emo music phase. We all did, right? Fave Track: Bad Sects

24. Lady Sovereign- Public Warning (DefJam) rating:69

grime [grahym] –noun 1. dirt, soot, or other filthy matter,
esp. adhering to or embedded in a surface. –verb (used with object) 2. to cover with dirt; make very dirty; soil. Last year's big-breakthrough, M.I.A., introduced it to the mainstream last year, The Streets and Dizzee Rascal failed to break through with it- if you're unfamiliar with the hip-hop subgenre known as "grime", it's that 2-step breakbeat style of drum and bass from London. An appreciator of all things British, I fell for Sov after the third song, Random. Stylistically, Public Warning lends a nod to M.I.A., and the self-proclaimed "littlest midget in the game" reminds you that "Smokin' kills and so do my lyrics, If you're poppin' pills then trust ur not wiv it, Cus I got da skills, And I'm over da limit, Dishin' lyrics like meals every second every minute". Too bad that DefJam CEO Sean Carter's (otherwise known as Jay-Z) own album wasn't this good. Make way for the S-O-V! Fave Track: Love Or Hate Me

23. Margot And The Nuclear So And So's- The Dust Of Retreat (Artemis) rating: 71

I'm going to call these guys (and gals) The
Decemberists, Jr. But please, this a huge complement, so don't anyone get offended. It's just that if Colin Meloy & Co. were from The East Village, they'd be Margot And The ... man, another thing, what's with that name? How can such a good band have such a crappy name? So I went to good old Wikipedia, because they know everything, and found out that they got their name from Gwyneth Paltrow's character from The Royal Tenenbaums and the rest is about how W pronounces the word "nuclear". So there. But this is an actual album, like the recording of a set or series of concepts similarly themed, set to music and chords. I wish more people made albums like this one. Fave Track: Skeleton Key

22. Amy Millan- Honey From The Tombs (Arts&Crafts) rating: 72

Canadian songstress from one of my favorite bands, Stars, thought it would be a good idea to release a country album. Best idea she ever had. Although it's not completely draped in a western motif, it has its straightforward rockers and lovely heart-felt ballads, but for argument's sake, it's pretty
country-ized. Like country-fried steak. Wrapped in canadian bacon. Damn, I'm hungry... For songs about losin' lovers, skinny boys, Thoreau and whiskey. Fave Track: Blue In Yr Eye

21. Forward, Russia!- Give Me A Wall (Co-Op/Mute) rating: 73

Dance-punk may have hit its peak last year with Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand and the departure of both Death From Above 1979 and Test Icicles may have signaled its end, but hold on a moment- here comes Forward, Russia! and their own artsy brand of danceable hard rock from Leeds, UK. I have this theory: if the Brits love it, it should go over big here, right? Not always the case. But it seems to be the case with me. Heavy and guitar driven, bashy drums, synth-grooves, all-over-the-place one minute, tight and perfected the next... Funky, post-rock, genre-bending screamcore. Fave Track: Nineteen

Stay tuned for the next Blog: #s 16 through 20

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Musicology 101...

I've realized that no one is going to take my writing serious until I got serious about it myself.

What I mean is that the "other" social networking site that the whole world is on is basically a joke. One, big, overblown joke. For me to continually keep making posts and be expected to take myself serious among all the drunk and horny frat boys looking to score and emo teens trying so desparately to be "understood", it's time I moved on to a grown-up person's blog.

So, here I am, I hope we can be friends.

I'm going to write about music and music only, because everything else pretty much sucks out loud and in color. I'm not having the greatest day today and I hope it doesn't rear its ugly head in the form of cynicism or overtly caustic sarcasm. I'll try to be a nice guy, for the most part. I'll try to update this regularly, also.

Hopefully a new album every week, plus an old album. And, for you, because this is the internet and it is still an interactive entity, feel free to request an album to review.

So, maybe three posts a week, starting after the new year? I think it's reasonable to expect that from me...

Thank you,
reader meet author: