Monday, January 12, 2009

Best Albums of 2008

So after much internal debate I have managed to compile my list of best albums of 2008. Although I have not written a list like this in a long time, I do keep a rough mental list every year which I compare to others floating around. This was definitely a rock year for me. That is not to say that there wasn't some good dubstep, hip hop or r 'n b. That just wasn't where my head was at this year. Anyhow, here's my list.

1) Those Dancing Days -- In Our Space Hero Suits. I came to this record pretty late this year. But it quickly became my favorite. There is something strange in the water in Sweden. I mean how else can you explain the perfectly constructed pop songs from a group of girls barely out of high school. And I do not mean girls in an insulting diminutive way-- they really are that young. Those Dancing Days' songs would not be out of place on a Ronette's record but they are not exactly retro. They are equal parts girl group pop and garage rock. Run Run and Hitten, both released as singles with videos, are stand out tracks. It is impossible to listen to Run Run without getting up to dance. Hitten is a ballad that shows the range this band has. Hopefully, this is only the beginning of great career from this band.

2) King Khan and The Shrines-- Supreme Genius of. As you read this you will probably soon wonder if there is a sort of garage rock theme going on. Yep. I have always been a fan of garage rock. It gets to the heart of what rock and roll is really about. This record captures garage grit with enough funk mixed in to make it great for a dance party in a sweaty basement somewhere. It reminds me somewhat of the DC based outfit the Make-Up from some years back. But the Make-Up, a fantastic live band, did not translate as well on record.

3) Crystal Stilts -- Alight of Night. I think this one still sticks to the garage rock theme. It is a bit more of a shoegazer than a foot stomper, though. They sound like the children of the Jesus of Mary Chain who moved to Brooklyn, dropped out of college and started a band. Tracks like Departure add an element of Ian Curtis tinged post-punk to the mix.

4) Deerhunter -- Microcastes/Weird-Era Continued. My top ten is always in flux. If I wrote this yesterday this record could have easily been number one. I listened to Cryptograms non stop in 2007. Deerhunter sounds to me like what My Bloody Valentine might have evolved in to had they not got stuck in a 1990s rut and decided that loudness was their "thing." Deerhunter in the short time since Cryptograms continues to develop. The tracks on this album rely less on sound design, delay, and effects. The songs themselves stand out as great songs. I also got to check them out live late last year. Definitley a band worth seeing.

5) The Ettes -- Look at Life Again Soon. This record is receiving a lot less buzz than others mentioned on this list. That is unfortunate. It is another female led Nuggets-like garage stomper-- pure unadulterated garage rock. I listen to this one from start to finish which says at lot in this day of single track digital downloading.

6) Sic Alps -- US Ez. Ok I will admit that there is something nostalgic about most of the stuff on this list. I am not sure if that says more about me or more about the records that came out last year. If I were younger my frame of reference would be different. Anyhow, I digress. Sic Alps was recommended to me by a friend who likened it to Brian Jonestown Massacre. I definitely hear that. But I also hear early Sebadoh, the really early cassette recorded stuff. And some of the early Pavement four track stuff. All of these things mix together without sounding derivative or unoriginal.

7) The Kills -- Midnight Boom. This record might be one of the least nostalgic on my list, although I cannot claim that it is completely free from nostalgia. This is minimal rock/pop at its best. This record is what the Ting Tings wish they could be --- edgy and hip without the iTunes commercial cheesy after taste. We will forget that one of the songs found its way to a Gossip Girl episode. I don't watch that show and you probably shouldn't either.

8) CSS -- Donkey. I first heard CSS on their debut two years ago. It was one of many albums coming out that featured dance/groove centered rock. CSS stood out from most of that stuff. This album cements CSS' position on the top of that heap.

9) Times New Viking -- Rip It Off. The first time I heard Times New Viking I said to myself "I didn't even know you could make something this Lo-Fi anymore." It took a few listens and seeing them live before this record became a favorite. It took some getting use to.

10) White Denim -- Workout Holiday. Admittedly when I first started seeing the buzz for this band, I was put of by the name. I know.... I know... don't judge a book by its cover and all that. I find it hard to describe this band's sound. The press seems to lump it under blues rock or garage. But to my ears neither quite gets the complete picture it. It works for "All You Really Have to Do" but not for some many other songs. I hear echos of Pavement, a little Modern Lovers, some Fall, Gang of Four noise fest and maybe even some Pere Ubu. Anyhow, it is just another fun record. It doesn't expect much more than a good time from me. I am easy like that.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Holly Golightly and the Broke Offs - Dirt Don't Hurt (review)

Every now and again I dream of playing guitar for Holly Golightly. Some people that know me might find that funny. I mean there are some who know me more as a electronic music laptop playing geek. But part of me just wants to play some good ol' rock and roll, probably a part bigger than the part who makes geeky instrumental hip hop electronica.

I first heard Holly Golightly as part of the Headcoatees, I was longtime fan of Billy Childish and his various projects and offshoots,  but it was when I heard her voice on the Greenhorne's "There is an End" during the closing credits of Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers that I fell for her.  On this release she teams up with long time collaborator Lawyer Dave.  Here Golightly shows much more of her country and rockabilly side leaving only a hint of the rhythm and blues and garage influences that color her previous work. Most of the songs would not sound out of place on a Loretta Lynn album. 

Recorded in only five days in analog studio in Spain, the album keeps the raw sound one expects. Banjos play a prominent role on the album pushing the country feel. Percussion--various bells, rattles and such-- also sit up front in the mix. Perhaps to upfront at times verging dangerously close to giving the songs a sense of novelty rather than an air of authenticity.

I like this record. I like differently than I did previous Holly Golightly records. The track "Indeed You Do" is the album's standout track. Not surprising it sounds the most like the previous albums to me.

Yo Gabba Gabba's New Season

The new season of Nick Jr.'s Yo Gabba Gabba has started. Just in time. Several times a day my 16 month old daughter grabs the remote and yells out "GAH-BUH! GAH-BUH!" until I play one of the many episodes I have DVRed. I guess the new season is good thing for me, perhaps more than it is for her. We have seen all of the past season's episodes dozens of times each. Repetition is a good thing for toddlers, not so much for parents.

Now I know if you have read my previous posts (the last two), you are probably wondering what does this have to do with music. Yo Gabba Gabba is a musical show. But even when the characters sing their way through their daily morals and lessons, the music does not irritate the way "kids music" often does. For those of you have not seen Yo Gabba Gabba yet, it features a music segment with bands that many of the parents may be familiar with. This season opened with the Ting Tings, most famous for "Shut Up and Let Me  Go" used in one of the catchy iPod commercial, doing a cover of Altered Images "Happy Birthday." That was a great start for the new season and I don't even like the Ting Tings. Other musical guest have included Cornelius, the Shins, and Paul Williams.

Also celebrity cameos help to give parents to watch. Elijah Wood and Laila Ali have contributed a "dancey dance" for the kids at home to follow. Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh does a regular drawing segment. 

Anyhow, I don't work for Nickelodeon. I just watch this show more than once a day so it is always on my mind.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Opal "Happy Nightmare Baby"

Today I wrestled with Maya to get her dressed for our daily trip to the playground. By time we got about a half a block away, it began to rain hard enough for me to cancel the trip, despite the weather guy on the TV promising a nice fall day. Once we got back I found myself in the mood to listen to Opal.

I first heard Opal during my college days many years ago (my first attempt at college I might add). At the time I often shopped at the record shops near campus before, after and/or during classes. "Happy Nightmare Baby" came out on SST records at a time where I often bought stuff on SST without having to hear it first. It was a gamble that paid of off.  Years Decades later I still listen to it. I have long retired my scratchy LP for mp3s I downloaded a the height of the napster boom.

Opal is not as well known or loved as much Kendra Smith's previous band, Dream Syndicate, or it's much more commercially successful successor, Mazzy Star, which the band became after Smith's mid-performance departure. But I much prefer Opal to the latter and at times I like them more than I did Dream Syndicate. Listening to it today, I find myself comparing it to T. Rex's slower shuffles-- a thought which had not occurred to me when I first listened to it. Overall, this album had a raw bluesy feel that did not quite fit in with most of the California psychedelic revival that the band sprung from.

As far as I can tell this record has not been released in digital form. Thanks to Ariel at The Doledrums has an excellent rip of it.

by way of introduction...

So here I am starting a blog. In all likelihood I am bringing the signal to noise ratio down a little more. But I have some time to kill and some things to say. While I don't want to limit myself to any topics, I will spend most of my time here writing about music from the past and the present. Don't be surprised if you find a post or two on politics.

The title of this blog comes from the chorus of Black Flag's "Wound Up" (click for video). 

Anyhow that enough of an introduction for now.