Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Books From Several Decades on Being Human

1. Grow Up! by Frank Pittman. This is witty, quick reading on how to be a grown up man or woman. Pittmann reviews movies for therapeutic journals. He is both funny and wise. http://http://www.amazon.com/Grow-Up-Taking-Responsibility-Happy/dp/1582380406/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262237927&sr=1-1

2. Dance of Anger: A Woman's Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships by Harriet Lerner. Lerner has a plethora of books about different psychological dynamics. She is popular, down to earth and helpful on most counts. This is considered her best. http://http://www.amazon.com/Dance-Anger-Changing-Patterns-Relationships/dp/006074104X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262240021&sr=1-1

3. Unlocking the Mystery of Your Emotions by Archibald Hart. I believe this may be Hart's first book. He is a well respected Christian psychologist out of Fuller. All of his books dealing with such subjects as Adrenalin and Stress, Male Sexuality, and Anxiety, can be helpful. http://http://www.amazon.com/Unlocking-Mystery-Your-Emotions-Rep/dp/0849931991/ref=sr_1_16?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262238408&sr=1-16

4. The Truth About Love: The Highs, the Lows, and How You Can Make It Last Forever by Pat Love. Love is a tall, red headed Texan, who after her first marriage failed, went back to get a doctorate in psychology specializing in what makes love last past the chemical high. I have not read her book Hot Monogamy but have her speak regarding it. She is a very entertaining writer and speaker. I think this is one of the best books on the market about what actually comprises love. http://www.amazon.com/Truth-About-Love-Highs-Forever/dp/0684871882/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262238829&sr=1-1

5. How To Avoid Marrying a Jerk by John Van Epp. John writes and speaks to alert his audience of the red flags in relationships in order to prevent marrying a jerk or jerkette. He refers to movie clips to prove his points. http://www.amazon.com/How-Avoid-Falling-Love-Jerk/dp/0071548424/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262239288&sr=1-1

6. Cost: A Novel by Roxana Robinson. Robinson writes a gripping novel on heroin addiction and the devastating emotional effect it brings to a three generation family. http://www.amazon.com/Cost-Novel-Roxana-Robinson/dp/0312428464/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262240195&sr=1-1

7. Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Still Alice, a novel, by a Harvard neuroscientist, is the best book that I read this year. If you wish to learn about Alzheimer's Disease and its effect on the person and their family and experience a poignant story, Still Alice is an excellent read. As one reviewer put it: "A masterpiece that will touch lives in ways none of us can even imagine. This book is the best portrayal of the Alzheimer's journey that I have read." http://www.amazon.com/Still-Alice-Lisa-Genova/dp/1439102813/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262240471&sr=1-1

8. Not " Just Friends" by Shirley P. Glass. Glass, now deceased mother of Ira Glass on NPR, utilizes two decades of original research and hundreds of clinical cases "to chronicle the human story of what occurs before, during and after the trauma of betrayal. Today with the Internet and today's workplace well-intentioned people cross the line that separates platonic friendship from romantic love." http://www.amazon.com/Not-Just-Friends-Rebuilding Recovering/dp/0743225503/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_1

9. How to Get a Date Worth Keeping by Henry Cloud. Cloud, eminent psychologist, gives a quick read on strategies for getting your numbers up in the dating world. Cloud, who married when he was in his 30s, disputes the widely accepted hypothesis of just waiting because God will give you a mate. http://http://www.amazon.com/How-Get-Date-Worth-Keeping/dp/0310262658/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262242216&sr=1-8

10. Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples by Harville Hendrix. I believe this may be Hendrix's first book but it is still one of the best on understanding how when you marry you not only marry your spouse but you also marry your spouse's family. He compares the Conscious Marriage with the Unconscious Marriage. http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Love-You-Want-Anniversary/dp/0805087001/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262242784&sr=1-1

11. You Just Don't Understand: Men and Women in Conversation by Deborah Tannen. Tom and I read this book together when we were trying to figure out why we were having "communication problems." If the truth be known, I read Tannen's book and then persuaded Tom to discuss her ideas with me on a weekend vacation. Our marriage was better because of Tannen. Generally speaking, women's talk is for connection whereas men communicate just the facts. Listen at the chatter at any baseball game. Neither one's communication style is better than the other. We are just different. http://www.amazon.com/You-Just-Dont-Understand-Conversation/dp/0060959622/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_b

12. All You Need Is Love and Other Lies About Marriages by John W. Jacobs, M.D. Jacobs writes excellent, common sense truths that one can apply to their marriage if they are willing. http://http://www.amazon.com/Need-Love-Other-About-Marriage/dp/0060509317/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262243327&sr=1-1

13. The Way to Love Your Wife: Creating Greater Love & Passion in the Bedroom and Men And Sex by Clifford L. Penner and Joyce J. Penner. Preeminent Christian sex therapists (no this is not an oxymoron) Joyce and Cliff Penner are the gurus of all you want to know about sexual intimacy. http://www.amazon.com/Way-Love-Your-Wife-Creating/dp/158997445X/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262244113&sr=1-4 And: http://www.amazon.com/Men-Sex-Clifford-L-Penner/dp/0840777906/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262244113&sr=1-5

14. A Model for Marriage: Covenant, Grace, Empowerment And Intimacy by Jack O. Balswick and Judith K. Balswick. I learned from the Balswicks during my years at Fuller. Their book includes theology from the renowned Ray Anderson and a more academic look at marriage --- still helpful and challenging. I found their Trinitarian model of marriage insightful when considering God's gift of marriage. http://www.amazon.com/Model-Marriage-Covenant-Empowerment-Intimacy/dp/0830827609/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262244198&sr=1-10

15. An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison. Jamison, a Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is a foremost authority on manic-depressive disease from her academic studies as well as from her first hand life experience. http://http://www.amazon.com/Unquiet-Mind-Memoir-Moods-Madness/dp/0679763309/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262245597&sr=1-3

16. Lament for a Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff. This slim volume is one of the best books that I have read on grief and loss. Yale theologian Wolsterstorff shares his heart break with the death of his twenty-five year old son. One never wants to experience such a loss; however, his thoughts give us a glimpse into his world of intimate pain and questions about such tragedies. http://www.amazon.com/Lament-Son-Nicholas-Wolterstorff/dp/080280294X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262246379&sr=1-1

17. I Don't Want To Talk About It by Terrence Real. For me Real's book was a riveting read. As Pia Mellody notes: "Boys in our culture are taught that real men are stoic. The ability to not complain, endure pain, and strive in the face of adversity is admired and celebrated in story and song. The price paid for this isolation is depression." Real gives men courage by telling his own story of trauma and recovery. http://http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Talk- About-Overcoming/dp/0684835398/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262247305&sr=8-2


18. The Recovery of Family Life by Elton and Pauline Trueblood. I bought my tattered copy of this book at a library sale for 29 cents. Tom quoted the book in our daughter Amy's wedding. It was written in the 50s but it still is one of my favorite books on the sacredness of marriage. http://www.amazon.com/Recovery-Family-Elton-Pauline-Trueblood/dp/9001885128/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262246607&sr=1-1

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Best Comic Books and Comic Series of the Decade

I like this hip blog full of hip songs, but someone really needed to nerd it up. In that vein, I offer the list of comics I enjoyed most this decade. This is admittedly partial (I don't read Marvel, but apparently they have an interesting character who is both a man and a spider!), but I've wasted enough of this decade on comics that I should have some expertise.

Superman – Red Son: One of the best uses of the Elseworlds concept, which reinvents the stories of famous heroes. This one imagines Superman’s rocket crashing in Soviet Russia during the Cold War and ending up a tool of the Communist government. Lex Luthor is the American hero who tries to take him down.

Batman - No Man’s Land: A huge, sprawling, ambitious story. Gotham City is devastated by an earthquake, and the US government washes its hands of the problem (a twist that seemed impossible on its original release that became infinitely more plausible, and insightful, after Katrina). Batman and his buddies are left to deal with the scared and out of control populace. Unlike most of the Batman events this decade, this one delivered on its potential.

The Walking Dead: This zombie series doesn’t pull its punches. It’s graphic and bloody, featuring zombies who arms and faces are rotting away. But like all good zombie stories, the real rot takes places among the humans who are picking up the broken pieces of civilization. The dialogue can be a bit cheesy, but the plots are brutal, and the black and white art is perfect.

Blankets: A sweet little love story to remedy the bad influence of those zombie comics.

Ex Machina: While everyone was salivating over the clever series Y: The Last Man, Bryan K Vaughan was also writing this even better series about a man with superpowers who foils half of 9/11 and ends up mayor of New York City.

Justice: Everybody loves Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come, and I admit that series was more innovative. But Justice reaffirms why people should read classic superhero comics. It offers sharp characterization with insightful little moments, gorgeous art, interesting villains, and great action sequences.

Torso: This true life account of a murder investigation late in Elliot Ness' career redefines what the genre can do by blending actual documents from archival research with gritty art.

Gotham Central: A brilliant premise, made even more brilliant in its execution. Essentially, this is NYPD Blue if it happened in Batman’s Gotham City. It offers fully realized cop characters who must deal with the problems that come with a city overrun with costumed super-villains. By letting Bats and the Joker recede into the background, the series humanized the comic world. Without hyperbole, you could make a case that this 40 issue series is the best that DC comics ever produced.

Stay nerdy, folks!
Ryan Weber

Top 25 Songs of the Decade

I like these best of the decade lists, both because I love unnecessary debates and because I’m always about five years behind the curve and a list like this levels the playing field. The list of here is based on the entirely scientific method of figuring out which songs I listened to repeatedly in these past ten years.

25: Steady As She Goes – The Raconteurs: Jack White’s side projects are better than most regular bands.

24: Instant Pleasure – Rufus Wainwright: When Rufus Wainwright sang “If drinking coffee’s your idea of really cool, you can’t expect no crazy chick to notice you,” I think he was talking about me.

23: What Was I Thinkin? - Dierks Bentley: The decade’s best redneck antics until Cheney shot his hunting partner.

22: Elevation – U2: One of the purest rock songs of the decade. It immediately felt both fresh and classic.

21: White Daisies Passing – Rocky Votolato: My wife put this on the first mix she ever made me. Another reason to love her.

20: Flyswatter – The Eels: An energetic little song, and “icewater/flyswatter” is my favorite rhyme of the decade.

19: Nineteen – Tegan and Sarah: Like all the best songs about teen love, this one makes it sound more serious than it actually is. Also, I ranked this #19! Isn’t that cute!

18: Bohemian Like You – The Dandy Warhols: This catchy, all-purpose riff got overplayed (that’s what happens when you license your song to appear in the Flushed Away trailer), but the lyrics still effectively zing people with hip haircuts.

17: The Hardest Button to Button - The White Stripes: This song gets the maximum mileage out of the simplest riffs.

16: Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key – Billy Bragg and Wilco: It turns out one of decade’s most inventive projects was a recreation of unreleased Woody Guthrie songs. Billy Bragg and Wilco make something old new again.

15: Paragraph President - Blackalicious: When Gift of Gab gets going here, the rhymes nearly fall over one another.

14: Diladed – The Mountain Goats: The decade’s most ominous use of violins.

13: Burn, Don’t Freeze – Sleater Kinney: There are other nominees from Sleater Kinney (Sympathy, Entertainer), but ever since The Guess Who’s No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature, I’ve been a sucker for songs that climax with overlapping vocals.

12: Bowtie - Outkast: Sure, Hey Ya! was the catchy, ubiquitous hit from Speakerboxx/A Love Below, but years later, this is still the dual album’s funkiest cut.

11: Dracula’s Wedding - Outkast: Spooky beats, plus some literary insight: who knew that Van Helsing was so excited about great peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?

10: Red Clay Halo – Gillian Welch: Gillian Welch’s down home harmonies feel even more authentic when they’re about dirt.

9: Til I Collapse – Eminem/50 Cent/Tupac: Easily the best of the 4,317 Tupac songs released after his death.

8: I Turn My Camera On - Spoon: The funky grooves make me want to dance, but in the safety of emotionally distant lyrics like “I turn my feelings off / You’ve made me untouchable for life” I can still keep the stick securely in my ass.

7: John Saw That Number – Neko Case: If you’re one of the three people left not impressed by Neko Case’s set of pipes, this song will do the trick.

6: 99 Problems (Gray album version) – Jay Z: Turns out Jay Z and the Beatles mix beautifully. My experiments blending Flo Rida andThe Monkees have been less successful.

5: Turn a Square – The Shins: This Shins song didn’t change my life, but that part that goes “All my thoughts run astray / and I’m a walking cliché / when such a creature I sight” did make it slightly better.

4: Skeleton Key – Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s: A dysfunctional relationship rarely sounded this good.

3: The Cross - Nas: If the decade offered a pointlessly arrogant and needlessly sacrilegious song that hit harder than this one, I didn’t hear it.

2: Man of Constant Sorrow – The Soggy Bottom Boys: This song performs an almost impossible task in O Brother, Where Art Thou by being good enough to justify the pardon of the men who perform it. Good thing Bernie Madoff can’t sing like this.

1: Hurt – Johnny Cash: Johnny Cash sings like a man pursued by death, and it turns out he was right. The song makes you want to kill yourself, but in the best possible way.

Thanks for reading. Hopefully, the next decade gives us this many good songs and one fewer Fergie.

Ryan Weber

Friday, December 25, 2009

FM Gems: Pavarotti

Best Songs I Heard on Non-Rock Radio Stations This Year

My Yuletide entry in this series comes from opera guy Luciano Pavarotti, heard on 91.5 Classical KUSC. Obviously, the man had incredible pipes. But I think what I like more about this, his magical rendition of "O Holy Night," is his heavy, heavy accent and the way he adds extra syllables, like "in a-sin and error a-pining." The way he pronounces "the soul felt its worth" is just crazy. But what a powerful performance. And, of course, what a song. Merry Christmas to all.
— Tom McMahon

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Nate's hottest of the oughts

This was a great time for me to reminisce over the last decade of music and what it meant to me…rocking out with roomies in college and then trying to start a lame band, cruising up and down Pacific Coast Highway, walkmen in airports and third world countries, the switch from lugging 3 CD cases in my car to 1 small iPod, trying bands out live in concert, choosing my own wedding music, and great road trips with my wife. Music is an amazing thing and it amazes me even more the memories that come up from all these albums. I had to do a separate list for ’09 since they feel too recent to be considered “classic” yet and the rest have had a chance to really settle in and become a part of my collection. Like ‘em or not, here are my top 30 picks of the decade followed by my top 10 of 2009. (I’ve also included a favorite song from each as a starting point if you are interested in checking them out.)

2000 Lifehouse- No Name Face
Huge favorite for me while at Pepperdine, especially seeing him live at the Whiskey watching a bunch of bikers rocking with arms raised in praise
“Everything”
2000 Robbie Williams- Sing When You're Winning
Big fan of Robbie’s during Heidelberg and this one before he went a little nuts was one of my favs
“Singing for the Lonely”
2000 Jack Johnson- Brushfire Fairytales
Got me into the mellow folky vibe. Still my favorite of his
“F-Stop Blues”
2001 Ben Harper- Live From Mars
I got started late into Ben, so this was my attempt to catch up and it proved to be an incredible double album. I don’t usually like live albums but I would have loved to see a show from this era
“The Drugs Don’t Work” (Verve cover)
2001 Dashboard Confessional- The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most
My whiny emo guilty obsession…
“The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most”
2001 Jimmy Eat World- Bleed American
Just an amazing album spanning the gamut of their styles.
“Sweetness”
2002 Jason Mraz- Waiting For My Rocket To Come
I miss the old Mraz…glad the world now sees his talent but it was much simpler back then!
“You and I Both”
2003 Muse- Absolution
Got into them thanks to my brother and would still love to see their live show.
“Stockholm Syndrome”
2003 Damien Rice- O
What a sad, beautiful album. Perfect for a rainy day drive
“Amie”
2003 Postal Service- Give Up
So many trips had this as a soundtrack.
“Sleeping In”
2003 Switchfoot- The Beautiful Letdown
Catapulted them out of the CCM industry and into mainstream, and when then really started getting interesting to me.
“Twenty-Four”
2004 Relient K- MmmHmm
Their albums always seemed to fit my mood whenever they came out and worked for whatever I was going through at the time.
“Be My Escape”
2004 Rise Against- Siren Song of the Counter Culture
This has been a great staple for the gym. Gets the BPM going
“Paper Wings”
2004 Shawn McDonald- Simply Nothing
Honest, acoustic worship with an amazing voice. Never get tired of his first release.
“Beautiful”
2005 David Gray- Life In Slow Motion
Almost a tie between this and White Ladder, but too many memories attached to this one.
“From Here You Can Almost See the Sea”
2005 State Radio- Us Against the Crown
Chad from Dispatch puts on a great show and got to see these guys twice locally.
“Right Me Up”
2006 Amos Lee- Supply and Demand
So much soul in this man’s voice. Love it
“Careless”
2006 John Mayer- Continuum
My wife got me tickets to see him and the show solidified this great album as a top pick.
“Stop This Train”
2006 Justin Timberlake- FutureSex/LoveSounds
My poppy guilty pleasure of the decade. How can you not like Justin, come on!
“What Goes Around…”
2006 Mat Kearney- Nothing Left to Lose
Mellow staple for 2006 that still spins a lot to this day.
“Where Do We Go From Here”
2006 Matisyahu- Youth
The undeniable skills of this Hassidic Jewish rapper impressed even the people we were building the church for down in El Salvador.
“Time of Your Song”
2006 Lupe Fiasco- Food and Liquor
I played this one way too much. Can’t wait for his new one…
“The Instrumental”
2006 Ray LaMontagne- Till The Sun Turns Black
Great mellow folk. Putting this one on a mixtape for my wife was a good move!
“Can I Stay”
2006 Silversun Pickups- Carnavas
Basing their entire sound around The Smashing Pumpkins’ 1991 release Gish was a great formula to make a fan out of me.
“Rusted Wheel”
2007 Angels and Airwaves- I-Empire
Pretty epic sounding album. Who would have expected it from the guy from Blink 182?
“Secret Crowds”
2007- Mayday Parade- A Lesson in Romantics
This is the most played in our household mostly because my wife refuses to listen to anything else. Great pop-punk album with lots of harmonies.
“Miserable at Best”
2007 Sherwood- A Different Light
Local San Luis Obispo band that should hit it huge any day now! Unbelievably energetic live show and lots of fun melodies.
“Home”
2007- Joshua Radin- We Were Here
First introduction was a Scrubs episode where I ran to my computer to figure out who was making this amazing music. The self-proclaimed “king of whisper rock” puts on a great show… unless it’s at a bar with a bunch of drunk frat boys…
"Winter”
2007/2008- Jon Foreman- Fall/Winter/Spring/Summer EP’s
Switchfoot lead singer’s attempt to recreate the 4 seasons musically
“The Cure for Pain”
2008- Coldplay- Viva La Vida/Prospekt’s March
Put them in a whole new league for me. Just good solid release for them
“Lost?”

Now for the 2009 in no particular order:

Meese- Broadcast
Denver-based band who went to school with my old roommate. I still can’t believe they haven’t hit it big yet!
“Taking the World On”
Muse- The Resistance
Big album full of some different, but great songs.
“Guiding Light”
Phoenix- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Took me a while to get into this one, but many patient listens really paid off.
“Love Like a Sunset”
Owl City- Ocean Eyes
The single got way too much airplay but I really appreciated the rest of the album…especially since Ben Gibbard refuses to put out another Postal Service record this decade.
“On The Wing”
John Mayer Battle Studies
Even I enjoy a good breakup album now and again. Not quite as bluesy as his last release but still a good one.
“Perfectly Lonely”
Fun- Aim and Ignite
What the band name implies…just a fun album from the lead singer of The Format.
“I Wanna Be The One”
30 Seconds To Mars- This is War
Epic album for the end of the year. Pompous and egotistical but still amazing!
“Hurricane”
Dashboard Confessional- Alter The Ending
Best of both worlds with acoustic versions of all the full band tracks.
“Hell on the Throat”
Relient K- Forget and Not Slow Down
Another good breakup album with a lot more depth from this clever Canton quintet.
“This is the End (If You Want It)”
Silversun Pickups- Swoon
Great follow-up to Carnavas. Wouldn’t expect anything less
“The Royal We”


Paul's Top 75 Albums of the Decade

I remember having a conversation with one of my sister's friends when I was in high school. Pegging me as the sort of fan who enjoyed monitoring trends and taking the pulse of popular music, he sounded a sort of death knell to my obsessive tendencies, predicting that as I got older, my interest in such things would wane and all new music would ultimately be lost on me. I think I spent the entirety of this decade waiting for that to happen; it never did. If anything, my appreciation for pop music intensified during the past ten years, whether it was the 40-hour drives to and from Nashville ("Turn on the Bright Lights" during a May sunset approaching Gallup, New Mexico), long runs (a steady diet of DFA Records and Dismemberment Plan), and spinning picks with the Westside Record Club. And I count some of my favorite experiences of the past decade to be pop music-related, whether it be playing in Spanish Archer, writing music reviews for the Graphic, djing law school parties, or annual trips to Coachella with Thom. It's only in the last year that I've stopped purchasing as much new music as I had in the past. Although this is somewhat a product of being overwhelmed by the glut of bands and blogs that have crowded the airwaves for the latter half of the aughts, there's a more practical reason: I got turntables and have simply been purchasing older vinyl. This might explain why my list of the favorite albums of the decade is almost devoid of albums from this year.

My criteria for this list is somewhat objective. Not objective in the sense that these are, in my opinion, the "best" records of the past decade, but objective in the sense that it is meant to track which albums I, in fact, listened to the most, from purchase to present. This might explain why an album such as Belle & Sebastian's "Dear Catastrophe Waitress," which I actually think is inferior to "The Life Pursuit," ranks ahead of it; I just happened to listen to the former almost obsessively when driving home from Pepperdine during the winter of 2003. And that naturally speaks to the subjective nature of the list, namely, some records, despite their flaws or their missed opportunities or even their shitty songs, just strike a nerve, and, from that moment on, are indelibly associated with a memory or a feeling. I used to think that phenomenon - treasuring music for its associations - was feminine, so I was either wrong or I've spent a decade getting in touch with my feelings. Obviously, all of the albums listed below are, in my opinion, phenomenal, but to read the list as my critical take on what was "best" or "most important" from the decade would be missing the point entirely. To that end, I still haven't even heard any Wolf Parade records, so my knowledge is woefully incomplete.

So, without further adieu, here are my 75 favorite albums of the past decade. Next to some of the higher-ranking entries I've written blurbs reflecting on my experiences with those albums and, perhaps, why they meant and, in most cases, continue to mean so much to me. I know this is indulgent, but it's too fun for me not to indulge when I actually have the opportunity to write about something I care about. There are about 100 more records that, depending on the week, could have made this list; I love them no less.
  1. of montreal - Satanic Panic in the Attic -- Oddly, the list begins with an album that I don't have particularly strong associations with but was, plain and simply, the album I listened to the most over the past decade. This album very clearly serves as a milemarker in the of montreal catalog, the album where the band's twee sensibilities started taking a back seat to their Erasure inclinations. I still can't believe they encored with "Alright" by Supergrass at a 2005 concert I attended; had they played "Girl Don't Tell Me" next, I would've expected they had designs on converting me, and me specifically, to their cause.
  2. Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat -- I bought this album for a friend, and the night I gave it to her, her ex-boyfriend's uncle passed away. I remember that we didn't listen to it but instead drank beer outside her apartment. Had she played the album after I left, I think it would have fit the moment. I didn't buy the album until years later, instead borrowing her copy and burning it to my computer. I still find it to be one of the saddest and funniest albums I regularly listen to (often simultaneously, such as in "Rise Up With Fists!!").
  3. Yo La Tengo - And then Everything Turned Itself Inside Out -- Ever since I purchased this album the day it came out in Heidelberg, Germany, "Tears Are in Your Eyes" has been a mixtape staple of mine. This album evokes the steadiness and resolve of two people who have gone through it all together (kind of like the couple in Stegner's "The Spectator Bird") and are committed to staying the course. It's probably unfair to hoist that upon Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley but I must admit that if their relationship ever ends, I will look at this album and think, "You lied to me."
  4. Broadcast - Tender Buttons -- I had been listening to this album in my car for a good month when I decided it would be good background for a game of scrabble with a girl. It was only then, in that silent, pensive environment, that I heard the ghost in the album, the haunting presence that begins with the descending scale in "I Found the F" and continues until the end. You know how horror movies often trot out a little girl to sing nursery rhymes or something to contrast innocence against depravity? This album conjures that vibe without being trite.
  5. Dr. Dog - Easy Beat -- Kind of like Satanic Panic, this one firmly implanted itself on one listening; I couldn't pry it away for months.
  6. Spoon - Kill the Moonlight -- No fat on this record.
  7. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood -- I've always believed this record was influenced by Carl Newman (see infra) lyrically. Truth is, though, as abstract and intriguing as the lyrics are, it just comes down to the voice. This is Cocteau Twin territory where, to me, it could just be syllables and it wouldn't change a thing.
  8. Dntel - Life is Full of Possibilities -- I picked this record up at Other Music in the early spring of 2002 and immediately listened to it on a long walk in the snow to the Whitney. I forgive Mia Doi Todd for all of her boring performances solely for contributing to "Anywhere Anyone."
  9. The New Pornographers - Mass Romantic -- I remember hearing "The Body Says No" on KXLU in the fall of 2001 from my on-campus apartment. Having been a huge Zumpano fan since high school, but never having any reason to believe the obscure band or its members would re-enter the musical landscape, I lost it. I was totally swept up with emotion that Carl Newman, the songwriter and singer I admired so much, had a new project coming out. I can't imagine having this feeling nowadays. With the proliferation of blogs and Pitchfork chronicling indie rock like it was global affairs, the only surprise is the headline, never the actual song or album. I mean, no Dave Grohl fan just happened upon a Them Crooked Vultures song on the radio and lost his shit; that just doesn't happen any more.
  10. The Walkmen - Bows & Arrows -- I probably saw the Walkmen live more than any other band this decade. I remember the first time - late January 2003 at the Troubadour with Hot Hot Heat. HHH had the radio hit but the Walkmen headlined and seemed committed to stopping all the frivolity. Hamilton Leithauser stalked the stage like a prep school bully, and for some reason (probably b/c I had seen my fair share of effeminate indie rock dudes) it really appealed to me. I think the drumming on this record is phenomenal.
  11. Radiohead - Kid A
  12. Gonzales - Solo Piano
  13. Beachwood Sparks - Beachwood Sparks
  14. Wilco - A Ghost Is Born -- As much as I love Wilco, I believe this is their only album where the great songwriting isn't compromised by the production. "Sky Blue Sky" sounds great, but not all the songs are there. On the other hand, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" has the songs but Jim O'Rourke's production is cold and sterile; I always prefer "Jesus, Etc." live with the warm organ backing instead of the Quaker strings. "A Ghost Is Born" marries both.
  15. Cass McCombs - Dropping the Writ
  16. Stephen Malkmus - Pig Lib and bonus e.p. -- My favorite Malkmus solo record and, sadly, the last with John Moen on drums. Why does everyone think Janet Weiss is such an upgrade? Listen to "Do Not Feed the Oyster;" Weiss' busyness would've ruined that shit, while Moen does his best Bill Ward and comes out victorious.
  17. Bossanova - Hey, Sugar
  18. Kanye West - Late Registration
  19. Cass McCombs - Catacombs
  20. Belle & Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress
  21. Low - Things We Lost in the Fire
  22. The Rapture - Pieces of the People We Love -- I really only listen to the first half of this record, which I believe stacks up against the first half of any record this decade.
  23. The Walkmen - Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone
  24. The Shins - Oh, Inverted World
  25. Blur - Think Tank
  26. The Strokes - Room on Fire
  27. Deerhunter - Microcastles
  28. The Futureheads - S/t
  29. Outkast - Stankonia
  30. Blood Brothers - Crimes
  31. Joanna Newsom - The Milk-eyed Mender
  32. Madvillain - Madvillainy
  33. Elliott Smith - Figure 8
  34. Reigning Sound - Too Much Guitar
  35. Neko Case - The Tigers Have Spoken
  36. Sloan - Never Hear the End of It
  37. A.C. Newman - The Slow Wonder
  38. Daft Punk - Discovery
  39. The Clientele - God Save the Clientele
  40. Field Music - Tones of Town
  41. Hot Snakes - Suicide Invoice
  42. Shelby Lynne - I Am Shelby Lynne
  43. Lambchop - Is a Woman
  44. Spoon - Girls Can Tell
  45. Animal Collective - Meriweather Post Pavilion
  46. Nobody & Mystic Chords of Memory - Tree Colored Sea
  47. Out Hud - Let Us Never Speak of it Again
  48. She & Him - Volume 1
  49. The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
  50. Enon - Hocus Pocus
  51. Impossible Shapes - Horus
  52. Love Is All - 9 Times the Same Song
  53. Belle & Sebastian - The Life Pursuit
  54. Lambchop - Nixon
  55. Unwound - Leaves Turn Inside You
  56. Tortoise - Standards
  57. Deerhoof - Milkman
  58. Exploding Hearts - Guitar Romantic
  59. The Game - The Documentary
  60. The Decemberists - Her Majesty, The Decemberists
  61. Destroyer - This Night
  62. Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
  63. Clipse - Lord Willin'
  64. Jay Reatard - Blood Visions
  65. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
  66. Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights
  67. Dungen - Ta De Lungt
  68. Metro Area - Metro Area
  69. Modest Mouse - The Moon & Antarctica
  70. Delays - Faded Seaside Glamour
  71. Air - Talkie Walkie
  72. The Bigger Lovers - This Affair Never Happened . . . and Here Are 11 Songs About It
  73. Old 97s - Satellite Rides
  74. Dungen - 4
  75. Gorillaz - Demon Days

Monday, December 21, 2009

Top Fifteen Things Paul Forgot About This Decade But Remembered When He Put His Mind to It

(15) Home Phone Numbers
(14) Roommates (the living situation)
(13) Broken Social Scene
(12) Campers (the shoes)
(11) Eminem
(10) Smoke Breaks
(9) Colin Powell
(8) Album Release Dates
(7) Bud Light
(6) All Plot Points (Major and Minor) in the First Season of Veronica Mars
(5) Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Matthew Lillard
(4) French Fries
(3) Kevin Brown (the pitcher)
(2) Ja Rule
(1) The Vines

Sunday, December 20, 2009

FM Gems: Montell Jordan

Best Songs I Heard on Non-Rock Radio Stations This Year

My second entry in this series comes from R&B also-ran Montell Jordan, heard on 93.5 KDAY. Three things I like about this jam, "Get It On Tonite":
1. It has an awesome sample ("Love for the Sake of Love," by Claudja Barry).
2. Montell Jordan went to Pepperdine.
3. I thought his only hit was "This Is How We Do It."
— Tom McMahon

Saturday, December 19, 2009

this is what i like.

this is a list of albums.  it's not exactly my top 25 for the decade, but it's close.  i like to overanalyze so i decided i'd make it easier and narrow my 25 by limiting each band to one album.  i've been a bit behind on new music of late so i'm sure i'm missing stuff i'd like.
i was having too hard a time ordering them by preference so i've just randomly assigned them an order.  deal with it.  why 25?  why not?  that's as good a reason as any.
now that we've set the ground rules, here's the list with minimal explanation:

1. menomena - friend and foe (2007)
these are some weird dudes.  their song writing process is even weirder.  the music, however, is excellent and i'd like them to make more.

2. gogol bordello - super taranta! (2007)
you can't trust gypsies.

3. shins - chutes too narrow (2003)
back when i was driving from sc to pepperdine every weekend i listened to this album like it was going out of style... which it was. 

4. the notwist - neon golden (2002)
listen to this album and try to figure out how a band that started in germany's grunge-metal scene made such an awesome indie rock/electronica album.

5. the flaming lips - yoshimi battles the pink robots (2002)
this is a great album, but you should probably listen to the soft bulletin instead.

6. wolf parade - apologies to the queen mary (2005)
the guys in this band are in about 37 bands, none of which have made any albums nearly as good as this one or the newer wolf parade album, at mount zoomer.

7. the good, the bad, the queen1 (2007)
i prefer to think that when damon albarn and paul simonon were writing the songs for this album that simonon did most of the work because the clash were much better than either blur or the gorillaz.

8. ted leo and the pharmacists - shake the sheets (2004)
sure, this guy's a crazy leftist, but he makes good music.  just because i'd side with johnny ramone over joey ramone in a political debate doesn't mean i can't enjoy this album.

9. vampire weekend - vampire weekend (2008)
i really wanted to hate this band.  they're ivy leaguers who dress like philosphy grad students and sing about grammar and architecture.  thankfully, they made a record that lived up to the insane amount of internet hype they generated.

10. okkervil river - the stage names (2007)
this one's pretty darn good.

11. arcade fire - funeral (2004)
montreal was founded in 1642.  362 years later arcade fire made this album and i finally found something not to dislike about french canada.  if i had actually ranked these albums, this one would probably be number one.   "rebellion (lies)" is one of the best songs ever recorded and the only to capture my utter distaste for sleep.

12. animal collective - sung tongs (2004)
okay, i get it.  this should say merriweather post pavillion instead of sung tongs, but i haven't heard it yet.  i'll get to it eventually so get off my back already.

13. sufjan stevens - illinois (2005)
"john wayne gacy, jr." is an outstanding song.  wait while i listen to it again... okay you may proceed.

14. ...and you will know us by the trail of dead - source tags and codes (2002)
conrad keely probably did too many psychotropic drugs after this album came out.  that's the only way i can figure that the band's subsequent albums failed to come close to this one.

15. andrew bird - armchair apocrypha (2007)
i saw this guy open for the decemberists at the hollywood bowl which was excellent.  the last time i was on a plane, i had "fiery crash" stuck in my head.

16. the decemberists - crane wife (2006)
picking this album over the hazards of love or any of the others was tough.  the facts are these: "o valencia!" is my cell phone ring; my old roommate made a halloween costume based on "shankill butchers"; "sons and daughters" made for an epic sing along at the last concert i attended; the live performance of hazards was insane, but so was seeing the band play with the l.a. philharmonic in '07.

17. interpol - turn on the bright lights (2002)
remember when the strokes were supposed to reclaim the world for rock and roll?  neither do i.  what i do remember is that this album is awesome and so was anticsour love to admire?  not so much.

18. modest mouse - good news for people who love bad news (2004)
this is our moment of indier-than-thou, self-righteous idignance: when "float on" hit the radio, everyone and their mother started listening to modest mouse which was cool.  less cool, however, was that everyone acted like they'd discovered this new band and they hadn't.  they had been around for eleven years.  plus it's not discovering a band if you first heard them on mainstream radio or saw a video on mtv.  my first introduction to modest mouse?  a band t-shirt with a moose on it when i was 14.

19. wilco - yankee hotel foxtrot (2002)
this album always reminds us of super cool 94.3 which was an actual independent radio station2 in orange county for about a year before it switched to spanish language.  they played the heck out of "heavy metal drummer."  seriously, they killed that song.  of course, hearing a great song over and over beats the heck out hearing crazy town.

20. at the drive-in - relationship of command (2000)
a lot of people like the mars volta better than at the drive-in, but i prefer the focus and restraint of the latter over the experimentation for experimentation's sake of the former.  that's probably why i'd pick rubber soul over sgt. pepper's.

21. beck - sea change (2002)
songs from this album are usually my least favorite part of his live shows, but the songs are ridiculously good.  i'm still surprised that beck was able to make this album.

22. the deadly syndrome - the ortolan (2007)
these guys need to record another album and you need to hear this one.  get on it.

23. spoon - girls can tell (2001)
i could just as easily have picked kill the moonlight or gimme fiction, but i listened to this one the other day on a run and i'm humming "chicago at night" right now.

24. clap your hands say yeah - clap your hands say yeah (2005)
i heard it from a friend; the revolution never happened.

25. ryan adams - heartbreaker (2000)
for the longest time, i considered ryan adams nothing more than a punchline because he made ulysses s. grant look like a lightweight and put out what seemed like an album a month3.  then i started listening to this album and, while i kept making jokes until he sobered up, i also gave him the musical respect he deserved.

1the band doesn't really have a name, but it's damon albarn from blur, paul simonon from the clash, simon tong from the verve, and tony allen from africa 70 produced by danger mouse.

2indie 103.1 was owned by clear channel which makes them about as independent at tibet.

3wikipedia lists eleven this decade.  i'm not sure, but i think that's how many albums the rolling stones put out in the sixties when most bands could record and release an album between breakfast and lunch.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Lex's Top 10 Album for the Decade

First of all, let me explain that I am awful about expressing my reasons for loving an album. Sometimes the music just strums my heart strings the right way, other times it might be that I relate the album to a specific time in my life that stands out. It could be the musicianship, the energy, or I could just be crazy for loving it. Whatever the reason (and in no particular order), here are my top 10:

Spoon: Girls Can Tell - 2001
To me, this is a perfect album and is on my all time favorites list, not just my decade list. Everything Hits at Once was the first track on the first mix CD Chris ever made me. After the first listen I was hooked on Spoon (and Chris, of course) This album has been with me for the best and worst days ever since.
2 more reasons to love this album: the cover art, and the perfect album name.

The Natural History: The People That I meet - 2007
First heard this band when they opened for Spoon at the El Rey Theater. I was outside smoking cigarettes (yeah, we were cool back then) with Chris and Morgan when we heard the band start to play. Normally we would have stayed outside through the whole opening act, but something caught our ears and we decided to check them out. A couple of EPs & LPs later, the band disintegrated… this beautiful album is the last of The Natural History. If you haven’t heard it yet, get your hands on it soon. I promise it will be playing in your head for weeks to come.

The Crystal Skulls: Blocked Numbers - 2005
This one was something I had to listen to a few songs at a time. Hussy & Airport Motels were the first two songs that really got me boppin’. Now the album is on regular rotation every few months. Great for long car rides.

The Duke Spirit: Cuts Across the Land - 2005
Two Words: Leila Moss. Energetic album! Makes me want to be a rockstar!. This is my favorite album to rock out to by myself.

The Walkmen: You and Me - 2008
Moody. I can listen to this album for weeks at a time. There is just something special about the sound, and the emotion that fills yur ears when you listen to this one.

Outkast: Speakerboxxx - 2003
Just straight up fun. Sure, it isn’t one that I can listen to all the time—but it never fails to ake me wanna dance.

Lucinda Williams: world without tears - 2003
I bought this and it sat on the shelf for 8 months before I finally gave it a real chance. I love Lucinda’s voice. Imperfect, but always a little raw and real. The song writing on this one is great. She is simple, but sometimes the imagery is just right.

Aimee Mann: Bachelor No.2 - 2000
While searching my brain for missing pieces in my decade list I came across this. By no means is it perfect, but it just had to be this way. Aimee Mann just has an emotional effect on me that I can’t explain.

Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - 2002
What can I say about this album… It was my first taste of Wilco and again, happens to be my favorite Wilco albums. Great balance of pop and sadness. Wilco is always a good choice.

Radiohead: In Rainbows - 2007
I was so excited to hear this for the first time. Although all Radiohead albums are amazing, and they should all really be on this list- this one was perfect. It was everything I wanted it to be and more. I still hear new exciting things when I listen to it today.

Michelle's Favorite Albums of the Decade

Writing this, I realized that I have become one of those people who talks about my children all the time. Whatever. I'm not sorry.

10. The Black and White Album, The Hives (2007)
This album makes me drive crazy. The other night, I drove up onto the sidewalk and then slammed back down into the road when turning onto our street. Tom had to talk me down when I walked in the house because I was freaking out convinced a neighbor was going to call the cops and tell them I was drunk driving with my baby in the back seat and that social services would probably come and take my kids away.

9. Flash Forward to the Good Times, Farmer Dave Scher (2009)

8. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (2008)

7. A Strangely Isolated Place, Ulrich Schnauss (2003)
I have used this album to calm my children and myself many many times. It does indeed transport us all to a strangely isolated place.

6. We Can Create, Maps (2007)
Another great driving album, especially through the canyons on a frosty morning.

5. A Camp, A Camp (2001)

4. Silent Shout, The Knife (2006)
I cannot wait to see The Knife live. If I had to pick between seeing The Knife or The Cardigans live, I would actually pick The Knife. Anyone who knows me knows that's a big-ass deal. Also, my boys love "One Hit" because they can sing along: "Ho ho ho ho." Tommy says, "Listen, I hear it..... Ha ha ha ha."

3. Hold Time, M. Ward (2009)
I'm in love with M. Ward. If I married him, my name would also be M. Ward. But I love my husband a lot, and I've heard M. is a bit of a loner or something...

2. Fever Ray, Fever Ray (2009)
No words to express how this album makes me feel. I think Karin may be the first person to express in music perfectly what it's like to be a mother of two small children... at least what I know of it. I think we would enjoy getting together for a playdate with our kids. And we could even speak Swedish to each other!

1. Long Gone Before Daylight, The Cardigans (2004)
I can listen to this album any time, any mood, and every single song warms my heart every time.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Songs I Wish I Never Heard

I hope I'm allowed to do my LEAST favorite songs of the decade. If that's out of the scope of this blog, I apologize!

I will be the first to admit that I love cheesy pop music. The hip hop lover in me is alive and well. I usually switch from KIIS 102.7 to the newest Modest Mouse CD before I leave my car, just in case my husband drives my car next. I still want him to think I'm cool.

However, even though I admit to rocking out to the latest pop music, there is some down right awful music out there. I do think we should celebrate the fact that we live in a country where the following songs made it on any kind of "hits" list. We live in America where people are free to like terrible, terrible, terrible music. And I am free to mock them.

Here is my list of songs I wish I never heard, broken down by year:

2000-Three way tie between Thong Song by Sisqo, Higher by Creed (or anything by Creed), and Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down.

2001-Butterfly by Crazy Town. This song has scarred me because my mom would hum this song around the house. MY MOM! Nobody should have to listen to their mother hum the tune to a song whose lyrics include: Such a sexy,sexy pretty little thing/Fierce nipple pierce you got me sprung with your tongue ring. Really? She didn't know the lyrics, but because this song was played everywhere, she had no choice but to learn the tune and hum it.

2002-Work It by Missy Elliott. I won't even post lyrics in case my nephews ever find this blog, but I like less elephants noises in songs.

2003-Stacy's Mom by Fountains of Wayne. I have a friend named Stacy and people STILL sing this song to her.

2004-American Idiot by Green Day. I'll save my comments about this one for my Ron Paul fan page discussion board.

2005-Don't Cha by the Pussycat Dolls Featuring Busta Rhymes. This must have been on some commercial that aired during baseball games because 2005 was my dad's time to whistle pop songs around the house. No Dad, I don't wish my girlfriend was hot like you.

2006-Fergalicious by Fergie. I haven't figured out how to articulate my hatred for this song. Fergie tied with How to Save a Life by The Fray.

2007-Hey There Delilah by the Plain White Tees. Some guy talking what sounds like a voicemail to his girlfriend gets to make lots of money? Weak. It should be noted this is the year Party Like a Rockstar came out which reminds me of my very funny sister and makes me laugh hysterically.

2008-I Kissed a Girl by Katy Perry. I don't like when people try to stir things up just because. Trying to rebel against your Christian upbringing? Seen it. Yaaaawn.

2009-In an effort to end on a positive note, I'm happy to say I can't think of one song that came out this year that makes my skin crawl. However, the year's not over yet!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Brendan McCormick's Top 11 Albums of 2009.

Top 11 Records of (2+0-0+9)

11.Dan Deacon—Bromst
Slicing up percussion beats and play-toy beeps to build dreamy, semi-manic atmospheres for his sugary-sweet vocal melodies, Deacon turns the brightness down a tick with Bromst. As usual, the tracks will trigger a synthesized, cerebral trip, with sonic space ships flying through sparkling skies full of twinkling bells, but never have Deacon’s songs sounded so full, smart, or dark. Stronger than Spiderman of the Rings, Bromst sticks to Deacon’s strengths while refining his use of space to fill out his floating dance party sound.
Big Tracks—Snookered
Surprise Stefani

10.Built to Spill—There is no Enemy
The last BTS record, You in Reverse, sounded like the band might be going down a more “psychedelic jam band-ish” avenue. The relief came eventually, though, with There is no Enemy, on which Doug Martsch brings the best technical aspects of his last 5 albums together in yet another instant classic. Enemy blends shimmery tunes and mournful melodies of pure gold with the clever guitar scribbling that lifts BTS beyond the unwashed indie masses. Tangents are great, if you have a pretty good idea where you’re going, and this one has brought the band back to what made them great. This album’s sound is appropriately easy going, but nothing is easy unless you are Doug Martsch.
Big Tracks—Hindsight
Oh Yeah

09.Andrew Bird—Noble Beast
Bird has perfected the art of layered composition. On Noble Beast, mouthwatering hooks, harmonies, and spicy rhythms fertilize an unflawed bloom of lyrical mastery. On past albums, Bird seemed more inclined to choose words that fit rhythmically, while Beast gives off the feeling that although the vocabulary didn’t get any smaller, words came easier on this one. Some critics said that no tune on this album stood out as a single, but I disagree. The opener, “Oh No” is instantly irresistible, and three or four others are right there as well. This is (another) AB album that is easy to become obsessed with.
Big Tracks—Oh No
Effigy

08.Atlas Sound—Logos
Athens, Georgia spawns neurotic genius, so it is no surprise that Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox was born and raised there. In the summer of ’09, he accidentally dropped his beautifully haunting, lo-fidelity solo demos all over the net. Luckily, he pulled himself together and decided to package them anyway, eventually releasing Logos. The album is wonderfully deceiving. On the surface, Cox’s ethereal arrangements sound experimental, without much direction. A closer listen reveals a brilliant singer/songwriter with Brian Wilson-esque talent for architecture, pumping melodies through a deliciously melancholy filter.
Big Tracks—Walkabout
Sheila


07.Beirut/Realpeople—March of the Zapotec/Holland
Something is wrong with you if you don’t love a good 19-piece Mexican band. Everybody knows that. Zach Condon is a sponge, and he is soaking up all of the earth’s folk music styles, but his songwriting is so strong that it withstands all influence. The first half of Beirut’s latest effort sounds like a funeral procession that took place in 1908. Neutral Milk-esque horn parts only add to the songs’ antique appeal, and Condon’s crooning never misses. The 2nd half of the album is electronically charged. The change is drastic, but the songwriting shines through so strongly that the record is a success. Not many artists have a style that transcends time like this guy does. Holland is superbly crafted, and it is interesting to compare the two sections of the album, which are astoundingly similar for being so separate. Someone with such a remarkable sound easily could stay inside his comfort zone and remain esteemed, but Condon craves inspiration, and he gets it, no matter how far away it takes him.
Big Tracks—La Llorona
My Night With the Prostitute From Marseille


06.Fever Ray—Fever Ray
Karin and Olof Dreijer could not be more perfect for each other. He controls tribal beats and galactic sounds to blanket her passive aggressive tone. Unlike on the powerful “Silent Shout”, Karin’s anxious vocals are often more open and vulnerable on this album, which is not to say that she has lost her power, but this time the tracks are more fragile, and more pretty. Most of the album is her dueting with sped up or slowed down versions of her self, creating the familiar druid-like eeriness surrounding the entire album. This is some of the best work they’ve done yet.
Big Tracks—When I Grow Up
If I Had A Heart


05.Mew—No More Stories Are Told Today…
This is the pop record I’ve been waiting for from Mew. The album flows smoothly along, without occasionally falling off track this time. The production couldn’t be any better, and with progressive shred contrasting the soaring, angelic voice of Jonas Bjerre, this album doesn’t have one low moment. …Glass Handed Kites was also extremely good, and Mew has since learned how to utilize their strengths in writing, and in the studio. Multiple-movement pieces are nothing new to the band, but unlike before, the assembly has definite direction all throughout. That, and the songs are very good throughout.
They have been around for a long time, but this masterpiece proves that Mew is ready to become the biggest stadium rock band in the world. It’s about time, too, because Muse is really starting to blow.
Big Tracks—Introducing Palace Players
Cartoons and Macreme Wounds


04.Dirty Projectors—Bitte Orca
Dirty Projectors have taken their experimental compositions to great new heights with Bitte Orca. They splash an R&B feel onto their pop tunes, but the group often sounds like it comes from another time. Dave Longstreth is the genius behind the curtain, and his arms and legs are Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian, who manage to catch his every drift. Some of the record’s riffs sound like a wall is melting around them, and the whole album is a wonderfully fresh, very approachable musical experience. Every track has surprises, but Longstreth clearly has control of his unique sound, which is a good thing for the rest of us.
Big Tracks—Stillness is the Move
No Intention

03.Phoenix—Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Phoenix has discovered a musical fit for Thomas Mars’ sweet n’ drowsy falsetto on the great WAP. Every track could be a hit single, minus the 7:00 Love Like a Sunset, which could be a hit single if anyone had an attention span (or listened to the radio). The tunes are all simple but memorable, and every song is ornamented to perfection. The same way Green Day’s Dookie appealed to the masses 15 years ago, and The Strokes’ Is This It? Did the same 10 years ago, everything here just sounds right. Good songs, all perfectly catered to their front man’s unique croon. Phoenix is now added to my “get whatever they release” list. (Green Day is not on that list. Strokes are.)
Big Tracks—Rome
1901

02.Grizzly Bear—Veckatimest
The critics were praising this album before it even came out, and the follow up to the dreary, sluggish Yellow House did, in fact, turn out to be all together amazing. Layered sound textures create an interesting backdrop for soaring vocals and shimmery percussion, but what makes this record great is the songwriting. Beautiful but haunting, the tracks feel as though they were written as one masterwork, and the album’s resonating aftertaste is eerily gloomy. The record was flawlessly produced, and no detail was overlooked. I can find nothing wrong here.
Big Tracks—Two Weeks
Cheerleader

01.Animal Collective—Merriweather Post Pavilion & (Fall Be Kind)
MPP took its place as my favorite album of the year early on, and although some bands came quite close, no one could de-throne Animal Collective in 2009. The album is covered with danceable rhythms, sweet hooks, new twists, and so much more. Each member brings his own style to the effort, and the pieces combine to form an hour long, sonic adventure moon vacation. Avey Tare’s vocals are somewhat less scratchy than on previous records, and Panda Bear’s choirboy whining is still smooth and clean. The lyrics on MPP are peculiar as ever, with metaphors sailing around with jibberish, in a colorful spectrum of sound. Fall Be Kind is a 5-song EP that was released earlier this winter, to deservingly rave reviews. Same formula. Same success. Post Pavilion is their 9th record, and Animal Collective sound better than ever, which for them should be perfectly impossible.
Big Tracks—My Girls
Daily Routine

Monday, December 14, 2009

Best of the Aughts - Ricky's 15 favorite albums of the decade

Narrowing down an entire decade of music to a mere fifteen albums is incredibly difficult. My primary criteria for the selections: did I consistently listen to the entire album from beginning to end without skipping ahead?

Unfortunately, I can't say that about Radiohead's "Kid A" - it's a great album, but that "Treefingers" track bores me immensely (as does the dead air break on the final track). Of course, please feel free to disagree.

Again, this isn't a critic's list. Just my personal favorites. It's been a pleasure reading this group's lists for nearly a decade. Keep 'em coming.

Happy New Year!

Respectfully,
Ricky

15. Nickel Creek, "Why Should the Fire Die?" (August 9, 2005)
14. Muse, "Black Holes and Revelations" (July 11, 2006)
13. Depeche Mode, "Playing The Angel" (October 18, 2005)
12. Britney Spears, "Blackout" (October 30, 2007)
11. Daniel Bedingfield, "Gotta Get Thru This" (August 27, 2002)
10. Evanescence, "Fallen" (March 4, 2003)
9. Coldplay, “Parachutes” (November 7, 2000)
8. Beck, "Sea Change" (September 24, 2002)
7. Madonna, “Confessions on a Dance Floor” (November 15, 2005)
6. Snow Patrol, “Final Straw” (March 30, 2004)
5. Keane, "Hopes and Fears" (May 25, 2004)
4. Robyn, “Robyn” (April 27, 2005)
3. Shelby Lynne, “I Am Shelby Lynne” (Jan. 25, 2000)
2. Switchfoot, "The Beautiful Letdown" (February 25, 2003)
1. Nine Inch Nails, “Year Zero” (April 17, 2007):
"Certainly the album is bleak and doesn't make for bland entertainment, but then, his records never do. This one is as fully realized as a rock & roll album for the post-9/11 world can be…Year Zero is bloodied but unbowed rock with a capital "R"; it's a serious and marginal pop treatise on the lack of political and social awareness inherent in the current and perhaps near future culture. It reveals in song and sound the helplessness bred in the individual's eminent collision and collusion with a perceived enemy. It becomes a kind of manifesto, a Jeremiad prophecy of what may arrive, however metaphorically, if these shadows do not change. It's brilliant, disturbing, necessary."

Full review at: http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:wzfrxz85ldje~T1

Sunday, December 13, 2009

FM Gems: George Strait

Best Songs I Heard on Non-Rock Radio Stations This Year

I made a point of spending more time scanning non-rock radio stations this year on my lengthy drive to and from work in the Los Angeles area. Mainly, I ventured into the formats of country, classical, smooth jazz, non-smooth jazz, and old-school hip hop and R&B. While I'm not crazy about the majority of what these stations play (with the exception of the classical station), I found that it was worth the time spent to come across the occasional gem. So throughout this year's Jamboree, I'm sharing my favorite FM gems, as I like to call them.

The first entry comes from country superstar George Strait, heard on Go Country 105. I love the sentiment of this song, and I love the way they just plow through it and don't even bother with a second verse. The video's pretty great, too.
— Tom McMahon

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Meltdowns!

Watching the touching Allen Iverson press conference last week set me on a path of re-living his “we’re talkin’ about practice” rant, which led me on a path of sports meltdown videos. Here’s a sampling of the best of the 00’s.

I’m not proud that I remember this many and some have been made into ubiquitous beer commercials, but I still can’t get enough of people losing their crap.

The better list is probably best sports rants remixes but i'm just going to go with the original rants.

Please feel free to add ones I missed…many are NSFW….

Chris Berman – 2000

Jim Mora – 2001

Herm Edwards - 2002

Allen Iverson - 2002

Dennis Green - 2006

Joe Mikulik – 2006

Mike Gundy - 2007

Dan Hawkins - 2007

Phillip Wellman - 2007

Kevin Borseth - 2008 (also wins the award for greatest entrance in the history of entrances…)

Omar Minaya - 2009

Not from this decade, but here are some other classics I hadn’t heard…

Tommy Lasorda (for the LA folks…)

Todd Stottlemyre (maybe my all time favorite)