Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chris: Top 10 Songs of 2008

In April, scientists at Umeå University discovered the oldest living tree located in Sweden. At 9,550 years old and 13 feet the tree has been able to sustain such a long life by continually cloning itself. When a root stem dies, the tree immediately replicates that stem. Unlike the "tree of life" featured in my last sentence many of the artists featured in 2008 had singles that were not replications of their earlier "incarnations". Wanting to transcend the past and stay relevant, many artists worked with different musicians and utilized unorthodox techniques to ensure longevity in their music.


#10: My President is Black - Young Jeezy feat. Nas

Def Jam Recordings

Buy (Amazon.com)

Atlanta native Young Jeezy begins his Pro-Obama anthem with, "Yeah, this is the realest shit I never wrote." Referring to his ability of not writing down rhymes, and being able to do it "off the dome", Jeezy and guest artist Nas inadvertently predict the 2008 election. "Mr. Black President, yo Obama for real, they gotta put your face on the five-thousand dollar bill." All the while flowing their rhymes like the Tigris River on a summer day, to the sound of horns fit for a heroic protagonist in a Michael Bay film.

With its tone and intensity, hands down best single about the 2008 election.


#9: "Nothing Ever Happened" - Deerhunter



Buy (Amazon.com)

When I first heard this song I was reminded of Sonic Youth's "Hey Joni". It was the initial soft opening, which led to 6 minutes of pure rock & roll that did it. Its one of those songs where the music enhances the singing, not the other way around.

I'd buy this as an instrumental.


8. "Nine In The Afternoon" - Panic at the Disco

Fueled by Ramen

Decaydance Records

Buy (Amazon.com)

"And we know that is could be, and we know that it should be, and you know that you feel it too." I did feel it Panic at the Disco! I also felt much respect for their wanting to distance themselves from the pop-synth of your last album. This song not only is a stark contrast to their previous macabre singles like, "Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off" and "The Only Difference Between Martydom and Suicide is Press Coverage", but much of this year's singles. Paying tribute to bands like the Beatles and Kinks only reinforces my respect.


7. "I'm Not Going To Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You" - Black Kids

Columbia Records


Buy (Amazon.com)

I got a thing for sing-a-long bubble-gum pop songs. From Miley Cyrus' "See You Again" to Tony Basil's "Mickey" these songs ensure a positive mentality when living life, and driving on our freeways. For me, the Black Kid's single ensured much singing in the shower and on the road. Its the, counting chorus and the "Dance, Dance, Dance" that does it. Fall Out Boy did it a few years ago, and with great success they're repeating the formula that makes a great pop song.


6. "Go Hard" - DJ Khaled

Koch Records

Buy (Amazon.com)

The 1981 film Chariots of Fire introduced the single, "Chariots of Fire" which became a staple in the running world as a must when running with an iPOD. With the acidic kicks, vitriolic tongue of Kanye West, and auto-tuned chorus, "GO HARD", DJ Khaled has made a new anthem for runners and Rudy-types everywhere!


5. "Everyone Nose" - N.E.R.D.

Star Trak Entertainment

Buy (Amazon.com)

I had the privilege of seeing the band perform this single live. N.E.R.D. was able to maintain the same funk and smoothness, featured in their recorded single, but magnified it times five. Its the funnest song about cocaine since Grandmaster Flash's "White Lines".


4. "Love Lockdown" - Kanye West

Roc-A-Fella Records

Buy (Amazon.com)

I once thought to myself, "Is this the year of Kanye West ?" I quickly dismissed this thought after realizing that Kanye thinks every year, is the year of Kanye West. This was before he gave his award to Lil' Wayne. A month or so ago Stephen Colbert created "Operation Humble Kanye", and according to iTUNES the mission was a success. Kanye has a heart and he puts much of it into this single.


3. "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" - Radiohead

TBD Records

Buy (Amazon.com)

"Before the night owl, before the animal noises, closed circuit cameras, before you're comatosed." I find this song to be haunting and beautiful at the same time. Sung with anyone else's voice, I'm sure that version would only be inferior to Yorke's. No one can drone like Yorke.

It's the high-hat cymbal too.


2. "Lights Out" - Santogold

Downtown Records

Buy (Amazon.com)

Santogold's homage to 80s greats like Debbie Harry and New Wave in general, is gingerly executed in this song which is surely featured in every hipster's iTunes library. I can only think of one word to describe this song, "avant-garde".


1. "Shut The Club Down" - Girl Talk

Illegal Art

Buy (Amazon.com)

Greg Gillis was at one point was a bio-medical engineer who saved lives and created hope for those within his community. Now Mr. Gillis is a DJ who goes by the name of Girl Talk, who electronically engineers creations like the single, "Shut The Club Down" which allows people to dance merrily to seventeen songs at one time! One Time!

He creates a concoction of 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s music, which defies the law and angers thousands--if not millions of other "musicians" with his brand of music. Did I fail to mention that it is damn good?


I hope everyone enjoyed 2008. With its successes and failures anyway you think of it, its another year on Earth. Cherish it! Now let us move onto 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The 5 Most Disappointing Releases of 2008

I figure I haven't pissed enough people off this year, so here's a list of five albums that just didn't resonate with me like I had expected.

Here's hoping 2009 finds these acts returning to form.


Narrow Stairs - Death Cab For Cutie
Buy (Amazon.com)

Since Transatlanticism, Death Cab's been on a bit of a downward slope. This album wasn't really that bad, but it didn't live up to expectations.

"I Will Possess Your Heart" wasn't too bad though...

Skeletal Lamping - Of Montreal
Buy (Amazon.com)

A mixed bag that provided flashes of Kevin Barnes' brilliance, alternated with flashes of his penchant for indulgence. Again, not really that bad of an album, just a disappointment.

Their live show still kills though.

Dance Gavin Dance - Dance Gavin Dance
Rise Records
Buy (Amazon.com)

The latest victims of Boys Night Out Syndrome, Dance Gavin Dance took everything that made Downtown Battle Mountain good, and tossed it out the window. That's not to say that fate wasn't conspiring against them; line-up changes and heroin addiction do not an opus make. But, I'm just asking, why does every good post-hardcore band have to water things down with handclaps, chanting, and kitschy call-and-response? Is it a stipulation in the contracts, or something?

Donkey - CSS
Sub Pop
Buy (Amazon.com)

Just, no.

I don't get it.


Saturdays = Youth - M83
Mute Records
Buy (Amazon.com)

It's a lonely society, the group of us who weren't completely enamored by Saturdays = Youth. In fact, I believe myself to be the sole member. I don't know, maybe I need to quit asking for a sequel to Dead Cities... and just be happy with what I get. It's not 2003 anymore, and I need to wake up.

But still, I just don't get it. I will continue to listen to this album, much as I have since early this summer, and I will keep trying to see what everybody else sees. Until then, though, I just don't see what the big deal is.

Call me ignorant, plenty have.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Hey all, sorry that things have been all quiet on the Western front. I hope that everybody had a nice Christmas, I certainly did.

My parents bought me a lovely gift: the Nina Simone To Be Free CD collection. So, there will definitely be a fun review coming in the days to come.

Also, a list of the 5 most disappointing albums of 2008, and the 5 most anticipated of 2009.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

An Indie Christmas

So here we are: December 24th, 2008.

It's Christmas time again, Charlie Brown. So, to celebrate, here's a little bit of Christmas-y music - just not the carols you'd expect to hear.

I hope you enjoy them, and have a safe and merry holiday!


1. Day One - Explosions In The Sky
2. Xmas Cake - Rilo Kiley
3. Are You Coming Over For Christmas? - Belle and Sebastian

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Updates from Brand New

I think it's only fitting that the 100th post on this blog be about one of my favorite bands of all time: Brand New. Happy 100, and here's to one hundred more.


It's been awhile since they've updated the website or played a show, and yesterday (as a member of their "Street Team") I received a nice e-mail from their drummer, Brian Lane, with a little bit of a status update on the band. They've apparently been recording for quite some time now, and he hinted at an album release sometime in the next year, as well as some shows.

Here's the e-mail, in its entirety:

Dear Friends,
The combination of the holidays and the inclement weather has set a bit of nostalgia upon me. Remember when we used to give you updates more often?
It has come to my attention that Brand New has basically been off tour for almost a year now. So here is your annual festive goings on:
We have all been in the studio on and off since about March. The convenience of recording around the corner has been great, but sometimes a little too comfortable setting. During 2008, we have rounded up some some pre-pro, some real-pro,and some semi-pro material. There are about 15 songs for us to play around with and it seems as though things are winding down and in the final stages.
We cannot exactly tell you when this record will be done, but we can tell you that the new year will bring a bit more excitement from our side of things. We are fully aware of how long we were gone last time, and are not planning on staying home much longer.
Perhaps when it gets a bit warmer out…we will begin to introduce a new website that will bring you endless amounts of entertaining information. We have also talked about playing some new music together.Outside of the dungeon. Which means maybe….…YOU will be able to listen to some of our new music also. maybe.
Until then, we wanted to let everyone know that we are alive and well. Still writing, recording, and frustrated with the lack of blood in mortal kombat vs. dc.
Thank you all for coming to the random Brand New shows scattered throughout the year, as well as Jesse’s shows. Any support for Brand New is appreciated, and we are all forever thankful.
More to come in the new year. Have a safe and happy rest of 2008, and hope to see everyone soon!
I will leave you…with this picture of garrett and his new ride at the studio.
.brand new

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Top 20 Albums Of 2008: #'s 10-1

This the culmination of hundreds of artists making thousands of albums in one short year. So here they are, the 10 best records of 2008.

Please, enjoy.

(Read about albums 20 - 1 here.)


10. Feed the Animals - Girl Talk (original review)
Illegal Art

Feed The Animals, as told by Chris Sanders.

It was his pick for album of the year, so I'll let him tell you all about it.

9. United Nations -United Nations (original review)
Eyeball Records
Buy (Amazon.com)

I guess if Glassjaw wasn't going to get off of its collective ass and release an album, United Nations was the next best thing. Daryl Palumbo, Geoff Rickly, and a few others who (literally) can't be named all got together, and U.N. was what they came up with. File under "violent", "scary", "abrasive", "obscure", and "inaccessible".

Fans of Circle Takes The Square, rejoice a noble birth. Or at least something to tide you over until Circle's next LP.

8. Intimacy - Bloc Party (original review)
Vice Records
Buy (Amazon.com)

Oddly enough, I think I might be the only person quite this enamored of Intimacy. I don't really know why though. The material is some of Bloc Party's catchiest to date, and successfully blends Silent Alarm's rock with the electronic A Weekend In The City to craft a diverse whole which surpasses the sum of its parts.

Bloc Party was the indie darling of the world a few years back, and it seems that everyone's been moving on to each successive "next big thing". Fleet Foxes are fine, Portishead's pretty, and Vampire Weekend are...ah...very naiiice. But me? I still have some room in my library for Bloc Party.

Intimacy is 11 reasons why.

7. Uphill City - I Am Robot And Proud
Buy (Amazon.com)

It's been a crowded race this year, and the whole electronic scene has been thriving, with outstanding records from outfits like No. 9 and Burning Star Core. Heavyhitter Squarepusher disappointed, and Kira Kira's Our Map To The Monster Olympics was (to me) nothing but hype.

Still, just listen to I Am Robot And Proud. Try to be bored. Try not to enjoy it.

Just try.

Best electronica of 2008? Best electronica of 2008.

6. The Lights We Shed Shall Burn Your Eyes - Deepset (original review)
Kitty Wu/Inspire

Read that review. It's all I have to say.

Beautiful music for a beautiful season - the soundtrack of my upstate New York autumn.

5. Take Me To The Sea - Jaguar Love (original review)
Buy (Amazon.com)

I dearly miss The Blood Brothers and everything which they represented. But in the ten years before it becomes appropriate for a reunion show, this album certainly has the potential to tide me over.

4. Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst (original review)
Merge Records
Buy (Amazon.com)

Many artists release a self-titled album as a debut. Other times it signifies a reinvention or new direction for the music. Conor Oberst doesn't fall into either category.

Rather, this is the culmination of Oberst's career working under Bright Eyes, just without that moniker. His Mystic Valley Band provides an excellent backing to his introspective, off-beat lyrics, and the mood is decidedly loungy and alt-country.

You won't find this on any Country radio station, and that's a real shame. Oberst, much like Rocky Votolato, signifies a return to what made country and folk music so appealing years ago, with stark narratives juxtaposed against jangly, manic accompaniments. Songs such as "Danny Callahan" and "Cape Canaveral" are some of Oberst's strongest ever, making his self-titled effort required listening for 2008.

3. Harmonic Motion Volume 1 - Gifts From Enola / you.may.die.in.the.desert
Differential Records
Buy (Amazon.com)

Deepset's beauty aside, the second best post-rock release of 2008 seems obvious to me. When two of the genre's biggest players get together on one record, how can it not be obvious? Gifts From Enola and you.may.die.in.the.desert are immensely talented groups that make immensely enjoyable music, and both bring their 'A' game to this split.

That being said, Gifts From Enola steals the show completely on their side of the album. There is an intensity present that was merely hinted at on Loyal Eyes Betrayed The Mind on songs such as "In The Company Of Others". I can easily envision a day when people talk about Gifts From Enola with the same reverence currently reserved for Godspeed and This Is Your Captain Speaking. Which isn't to say that you.may.die.in.the.desert is slacking - because they're not. But the you.may.die on Harmonic Motion is more or less the same band heard on Evergreens and Icicles. Gifts' growth is simply jaw-dropping.

I wish that I could offer a money back guarantee on the enjoyment of this album. That's how confident I am in its power.

2. Tha Carter III - Lil' Wayne
Cash Money
Buy (Amazon.com)

"You can't fool me, I know what you watchin - me! You watch me!"
-Lil' Wayne, 3 Peat

I can only imagine how it must feel to be "The Best Rapper Alive". Self-aware, self-enamored, self-centered, self-aggrandizing, and - most of all - self concious; Lil' Wayne, in a nutshell. All eyes are on him, and he most certainly knows it. In fact, he feeds on the attention, thrives on the adversity, and loves every minute of it. That last part is key - Dwayne Carter, Jr. genuinely enjoys the act of rapping, and it is this quality that shines in his output more than anything else.

Through his impossible rasp, you can tell when he's having fun. One such moment occurs during his delivery of the quote above, where you can actually hear him beaming, smiling in delight at his own wit, his own success. Lil' Wayne probably doesn't need another fan like me, doesn't need somebody else gushing about his latest release, his record-breaking sales figures, his omnipresence in, more than just hip-hop, but all pop music. He doesn't need anyone else to inflate his ego. But I'll do it anyway.

Tha Carter III is a sprawling contradiction. The year's most challenging, vacuous, accessible, weird, affectionate, misogynistic, genuine, and just plain fucked up music is all somehow compressed into a span of 75 minutes. The strength of Wayne's mixtapes would have rendered almost any album superfluous and irrelevant. Lucky for him, Tha Carter III isn't just any other album.

Over ambitious? Yes. Over-hyped? Probably. Overrated? Never. What's more to say, except "Fuck Al Sharpton".

1. Riding Alone For Thousands Of Miles - A Boldogság Minden Reményét Elragadták (original review)

The first time that Riding Alone For Thousands Of Miles graced my ears, I was sure that they were something special. At least, I thought so - after seeing them panned by The Silent Ballet, I began to have second thoughts.

Because, what really makes something the best album of a given year, anyway? Does it just have to be great, or does it have to also be groundbreaking? Must it captivate for as long as it plays, or does it have to haunt you all year and linger in the back of your mind? Or should it simply be the album you listened to the most? And the group, should they be catchy or unpredictable? Mainstream or obscure? Up-and-comers or seasoned veterans?

Or does it even matter?

A Boldogsag etc. is frankly not groundbreaking. It isn't new, it isn't catchy, and it's certainly not mainstream. Nor was it the album I listened to the most this year - according to my last.fm, the one released in 2008 with the most plays is Tha Carter III.

What it is, on the other hand, is monumental. It represents a return to form for a genre gone astray. Riding Alone are a sort of Godspeed after Godspeed, a post-rock band for a new decade. Samples, strings, and silence all collaborate for over an hour to create a brooding tension that sums up War like no other. It is my opinion that it is A Boldogsag, and not Return to Cookie Mountain or Dear Science (as many in the industry contend), which is the soundtrack of this Administration, the disc that successfully captures the air of frustration, terror, and hypocrisy that inhabits our "post-9/11" world.

So while that other website might not be so forgiving, I'm willing to spot the band on the sparse production and mixing. In exchange, they gave me the Album of the Year.

Britney Spears Number Leaks?

So, uh, hoax or not?

Because apparently it was on a YouTube comment for this video that has now been marked as spam...

Has anybody else heard about this? I called the number, and after hearing black metal for about 30 seconds, a southern girl named 'Britney' answered the phone. The whole death metal thing was the first clue to me that this was a fake.

My guess? Somebody named Britney has some mean enemies.

Still, "lol".

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Band of the Week: Digitalism

Holy Jesus, Batman. There's only 4 days until Christmas.


band of the week #?: digitalism (myspace)

Just listen to "Pogo" - I think you will have heard enough. Digitalism is a lot of fun, and their music is pretty, well, pretty.

That, and their logo is pretty ugly. Just saying.

Either way, Digitalism - good band.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Deepset - The Lights We Shed Shall Burn Your Eyes

Kitty Wu Records


Isaac Brock famously opined that "anyone can equally easily fuck you over" and I'd be inclined to agree.

At least, I was inclined to agree. Things have changed, and now I might be forced to reconsider. Because sometimes, people can surprise you; occasionally, they'll throw you a bone. Once in awhile, instead of bland, watered down instrumentals, your editor places something special on your desk. Deepset, your album is my bone. You are my something special...(Read more at the Silent Ballet)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fall Out Boy - Folie A Deux

Fueled By Ramen
Buy (Amazon.com)


(Note: Also published at Blogcritics.org)

The lyrics of Folie A Deux...


I'm coming apart at the seams.

Pete Wentz. Patrick Stump. Two names you should commit to memory, if you haven't already. Arguably the biggest name in rock, Fall Out Boy is the band to be right now, like it or not.

They're not coming apart any time soon. But...

Doc, there's a hole where something was.

And there really is. Yeah, Fall Out Boy still makes "fun" music, but there's just something missing. It's not as believable as it once was - these kids simply aren't kids anymore. There's a hole in their music, the way I see it - the band still makes infectious pop-punk with a million hooks to boot, but something's off.

Not that much has changed though. Just looking at the tracklist, it's a pop-culture grab bag, with your independent movie nod ("(Coffee's For Closers)"), Roberta Flack reference ("What A Catch, Donnie"), and shout out to Pete Rose ("Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bad Bet"). And those are just the titles!

The only problem is that it's all sort of old hat at this point. This is more or less what Fall Out Boy has always done, just with more polish. Bearing that in mind, it is my sincere hope that they do not become afflicted with Blink 182 syndrome: 30-something dudes singing about cutting class and making out with girls in the back of English.

Ah, to be 18 forever. Maybe Jesse Lacey was on to something...

I will never end up like him.

Famous last words. But at least it sounds like you're heeding the last paragraph's warning.

I don't care what you think, just as long as it's about me.

I want to believe this is true, that Pete Wentz or whoever really means it. Half of me even does believe it. Fall Out Boy experiments a bit on Folie A Deux, and I'm sure that this has alienated a great portion of the Take This To Your Grave crowd (if any of them are still listening). The first example that comes to my mind is the blues-inspired bridge of "I Don't Care", its call-and-response riffage and lyrical interplay a far cry from more direct cuts like "Grenade Jumper" or even "Dance, Dance".

But, I mean, come on, they're only human; of course they want to appeal to a broad market. That sounds harsh, and I'm not trying to cast the word "sell-out" upon the band. But if they want to keep making music - if they want to keep their primary cathartic output open - then, pragmatically speaking, somebody needs to be listening. And so it's here that the band makes a few concessions.

For one, there are more guest spots than a Yung Joc record, and that's just on "What A Catch, Donnie" alone. Songs like "She's My Winona" and "27" are predictable and worn-out, probably just what the fans want, and to ensure that nobody's attention strays, none of the tracks break the five minute mark. But let's go back to that whole guest feature thing again, because this is something done remarkably well on Folie A Deux. "20 Dollar Nose Bleed" has a very Panic at the Disco feel to it (it should, since it's a Brendon Urie vehicle), and not surprisingly winds up as the most upbeat song on the disc. As mentioned earlier, everybody and their mother sings a line on "What A Catch, Donnie", and the overall effect is quite satisfying. Hell, even Lil' Wayne is on Folie A Deux, and as a friend of mine on Twitter observed, it's better than half of Weezy's guest verses all year.

At the end of the day, however, a part of me wants to believe (a part of me needs to believe) that it's still all about them. And it is.

Why won't the world revolve around me?

A fervent question that confirms my beliefs.

I've got troubled thoughts and the self esteem to match.

And here we come to the root of it all. Maybe, just maybe, despite that fact that they're "all growed up", well, maybe they're not. Maybe Fall Out Boy is still just a group of oversized angsty kids from Illinois trying to make themselves feel a tiny bit better through their music.


Key Tracks:
20 Dollar Nose Bleed
Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bad Bet
What A Catch, Donnie