Tuesday, December 5, 2006

2006 Mix

Selections from the Year of the Dog: 2006 in 70 Minutes

Hello, friends. I've set up this blog for the sole purpose of providing some notes to accompany my best of 2006 mix (paper doesn't grow on trees you know. Wait...nevermind). I may utilize it as a running music blog, but we'll see. No promises.

Nevertheless, here we are at the end of 2006. What do we have to show for it? Some pretty fucking good music, that's what. After finishing my undergraduate degree, I've often bemoaned the fact that without working at WPTS, I'm very out of the musical loop. Now, three years later, the Internet has come to the rescue. Although the majority of music still comes to me through the suggestion of friends (three cheers for peer pressure!), the abundance of music blogs on the Internet has provided a new means for exposing me to music both old and new. So I feel slightly back in the loop with new music these days, and it feels pretty good. This mix is not comprehensive, but merely a collection of artists and songs that gotten heavy play here at the Zackcave. Hopefully there are some things that tickle your fancy, and perhaps further your own musical journeys. Hope 2007 treats you well.

don't fake the funk,


1. Nino Moschella - "Are You For Real" (The Fix, Ubiquity)

A particularly good music blog that I frequent is Ick Music. The guy likes Prince, Springsteen and The Clash. We get along famously. Earlier this year, he posted this track from Nino Moschella’s debut album. I loved it instantly, and followed up with the rest of the album. It’s very good. His influences are clear – echoes of Prince and Stevie are prevalent. But he does a good job of combining his influences into something all his own. Perhaps this is what Lenny Kravitz would be doing if he hadn’t fallen into a pit of blah roundabouts 1999. Anyhow, it’s a great disc, low fi, funky, good stuff. Recommended.

2. Regina Spektor – “On the Radio” (Begin to Hope, Sire)

It was only last year that I discovered Regina Spektor’s wonderfully titled debut album Soviet Kitsch. Billings of ‘the Russian Tori Amos’ are inevitable. However, much like the above comparison of Nino Moschella and Lenny Kravitz, Spektor’s work is much more interesting than anything Tori has done since 1998. Begin to Hope is every bit as enjoyable as her debut. Not only is this song about radio, but it also mentions Guns n' Roses' "November Rain." This will also be included on my forthcoming mix of songs about radio, which has been brewing for three years.

3. Dresden Dolls – “My Alcoholic Friends” (from Yes, Virginia, Roadrunner)

Upon first listen, I was lukewarm to the Dresden Dolls’ sophomore effort, Yes, Virginia. It just didn’t have the quirkiness of their self titled release. As I continued to spin it however, Yes, Virginia quickly fell into my favor. It is true – it lacks the overt quirk of the first album. However, I know see that as its charm. Yes, Virginia is more polished, and perhaps more adventurous lyrically and musically. There are a number of winners on here, this is only one of them. If you’re interested, ask me about how I wasted a Sunday driving to Minneapolis to see these guys over the summer.

4. Zombi – “Digitalis” (Surface to Air, Relapse)

More prog rock than horror film soundtrack, Pittsburgh’s dynamic duo have made another interesting instrumental excursion, and one that’s gotten a lot of play while I write, grade, etc. The album isn’t as dark as earlier Zombi material, and is a bit more of a throwback to ‘70s prog than even Cosmos. But it’s worthwhile, as I appreciate bands that refuse to make the same record time and again. I also went to the cd release party which was one of the most clausterphobic, sweaty, obstructed-view concert experiences of my life. Le sigh.

5. The Raconteurs – “Store Bought Bones” (from Broken Boy Soldiers V2 Records)

I get the impression that as time goes on, Jack White loses more and more indie credibility. Aside from the Coca-Cola commercial, I feel the complete opposite. Each new project (so far) raises his status in my eyes, whether its producing Loretta Lynn, making what I consider to be the best White Stripes record to date (Get Behind Me Satan), or even the Raconteurs. Now, this isn’t as good as most of the White Stripes stuff, I’ll admit. But it is a great little rock record. It’s interesting and refreshing to hear White in a group dynamic. It’s also worth mentioning that they frequently cover Bowie’s “It Ain’t Easy” and Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) " (yes, I'm aware it's actually a Sonny Bono song) in concert, clearly earning them cool points in my book. This song was picked because “Steady as She Goes” is the radio tune, but I was also thinking how much the verse of this track sounds like a Nirvana song. Maybe it’s just me.

6. Koop - "Koop Island Blues" (Koop Island, K7)

This was a very last minute entry. Some of you are getting this on 12/9, and I discovered it on 12/8. This is another find from the excellent IckMusic blog. The band sells themselves as “the swing of the 1930s, the exoticism of forgotten orchestras and entertainers performing on late 40s yacht cruises to Jamaica" in their bio. Very breezy, jazz tinged melodies here. A few of the tracks remind me of Broadcast. The disc alternates between male and female lead vocals, with a few instrumntals thrown in for good measure. I could see this being the soundtrack to my summer. To bad we're rapidly heading toward the midwest winter.

7. Persephone’s Bees – “Way to Your Heart” (Notes from the Underworld, Sony)

An online friend of mine mentioned this, and I was intrigued by the name of the artist and the album. I love it! Poppy happy goodness! They remind me a lot of the Swedish band Komeda, although with a bit more punch. Not much more to say, but they’re worth checking out - a fun disc.

8. Lilly Allen – “Not Big” (Alright, Still, EMI)

This one may not even be out in the States yet. I’m so cutting edge it’s crazy! More girly pop rock, although Lilly Allen has a bit more sass. The whole album is apparently a ‘fuck you’ to an ex-boyfriend, but most of the music is a poppy good time. Her accent reminds me a bit of M.I.A., and she wears a nice dress on the cover. She's sassy and sexy! But we're not meant to be. She has far too much baggage for me to deal with.

9. The Grates – “Inside/Outside” (Gravity Won’t Get You High, Cherry Tree)

What's up with me and female fronted pop bands? Who knows, but there are apparently a smattering of good ones out there right now. These guys are from Australia. Even better is the tale of their genesis, according to All Music: “Karaoke -- an unhinged rendition of the Disney chestnut "A Whole New World," to be specific -- brought Australians Patience Hodgson, John Patterson, and Alana Skyring together as musicians.” I need to party with these people. Nice cowbell action! Also see the videos on their website, as they kick ass. One involves them playing a children’s birthday party, and the other has Monty Python-style animation. Both are extremely colorful.

10. The Flaming Lips – “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” (At War With the Mystics, Warner Bros.)

I’ve never been a huge Flaming Lips fan, but liked them well enough, particularly their college radio staples. I saw them play with Sonic Youth this fall, and have to give them praise for pulling out all the stops in their live show. While I’m not inclined to see them again (I get the feeling they do the same schtick every show), I was really impressed with their performance antics, as well as their musical performance. This song was a highlight of the show, although the studio version admittedly sounds a bit flat in comparison. Still, it’s a fun little ditty. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs' attempt to sue for copyright infringement is still pending. I totally made that up. Sorry.

11. New York Dolls – “Dance Like a Monkey” (One Day it Will Please Us to Remember Even This, Roadrunner)

One of only two albums this year that I was compelled to buy on the morning of release. In the spring semester, I was working on a seminar paper about gender and sexuality in glam rock. The paper ended up being a disappointment. Nevertheless, I spent the bulk of the semester immersing myself in glam (even more than usual). In the midst of this, I found an mp3 on a random blog, labeling the track to be “the new New York Dolls single from their upcoming album.” What what? I was immediately skeptical, chalking this up to rumor and the notorious mislabeling of music on the Internet (such as "Bjork"'s early 1980s German-language smash, “99 Luftballoons”). Yet upon first listen, it was clearly the Dolls. Or what’s left of them anyway. Admittedly, I have a hard time accepting bands with few remaining members continuing to the band names, particularly in cases where absent members were such a key part of the band's character (i.e. Johnny Thunders). Anyone that’s talked to me about The New Cars, Guns n’ Roses, INXS, The Who, etc. in recent years knows my feelings on this matter. That aside, when the record came out in July, I was shocked at how good it actually was. To be sure, it could have been pared down a bit. Still, it sounded like the Dolls with a contemporary edge. This was also one of two cds that I had out while spending 24 hours cleaning my apartment before moving out, and thus became very familiar with it (the other was Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Once Upon a Time, if you’re curious). Thumbs up, despite not really being a Dolls a record minus Nolan, Kane and Thunders.

12. We Are Scientists – “The Great Escape” (With Love and Squalor, Virgin)

I think this was the first 2006 release that I bought. I initially only checked this out online because I thought it was a great band name. But these guys rock in the “we’re so indie we’re on a major label” kind of way. I compare them to Hot Hot Heat. At any rate, I found a used copy shortly thereafter, and it’s been perhaps my most played album of the year. They also have some great videos that you should check out. - see their website.

13. Gnarls Barkley – “Smiley Faces” (St. Elsewhere, Downtown/Atlantic)

This album initially came to me via Matt. We have an interesting relationship. We both love music. We both love Prince. The similarities generally end there. We disagree about music daily (of course, I contend that I’m always right, because I’m that kind of jerk). In Gnarls Barkley, we have a rare instance of total agreement. It sounds like a strange marriage, Danger Mouse and Cee-lo. But it works beautifully. The album is alternately fun, dark, humorous. I felt it in June, but now I can say with confidence that St. Elsewhere is my pick for album of the year. This track just happens to stick out as a favorite of mine on the album, though it’s solid straight through (I’m not even sick of hearing “Crazy” yet, which could perhaps be considered this year’s “Hey Ya!” in terms of pop cultural ubiquity).

14. Scissor Sisters – “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’” (Ta-Dah, Universal)

I loved this single when it came out, preceding the album by about a month. It's catchy, shamelessly apes the Bee-Gees, and makes me wanna dance. Initially, I felt the album was a let down, lacking the consistency of their first disc. Upon reconsideration, its a worthy follow up to their self-titled debut, but still not quite as good.

15. The Bird and The Bee - "Fucking Boyfriend" (again and again and again and again, Blue Note)

Working on revisions for a paper near 3am one night in recent history, I took a breather to poke around online for some music. Pitchfork had a review of the title track to this EP. I did some research. Somewhere, a reviewer made comparisons to Bjork and Portishead. This, coupled with the fact that they're on Blue Note piqued my curiosity. I visited their myspace page and gave a listen. It's much poppier than anything Portishead ever did, but it does have that sort of airy quality to it. (Actually, there's a track on their myspace page that is even better than the songs on the EP - go check out "Because.") They have a full length coming out in early 2007, which is definitely on my 'to buy' list already. The EP also has a Peaches remix of this track. I'm convinced that if Studio 13 actually played good music, that remix would be in heavy rotation. They're probably playing some shitty club mix of "Sexyback" instead.

16. Goldfrapp – “Ooh La La” (Supernature, Mute)

Goldfrapp is one of those names that I’ve heard thrown around for a while, but never followed through on. Stephanie put a handful of Goldfrapp tracks on a mix for me, and then another friend of mine from high school was praising her when we met over Thanksgiving. So I finally gave her a listen, and I dig it. It kind of reminds me of Air, perhaps a little less French. This is what they’re grooving to in space, kids.

17. Jay-Z – “Kingdom Come” (Kingdom Come, Roc-a-Fella)

The Black Album it ain’t. But it is an admirable follow up, and this title track is, as the kids like to say, bangin’. What grabbed me about this one was the extremely interesting manipulation of the Rick James sample. It took 15 years, but somebody finally reclaimed “Super Freak” from MC Hammer. It actually took me a while to recognize the sample, which in my mind is the mark of good sampling.

18. Prince – “Black Sweat” (from 3121, NPG/Universal)

Writing on Prince’s career trajectory, a critic once claimed that after his peak, even the bad Prince albums have good songs on them. I stand by this statement . I know by now not to expect a masterpiece from my man these days, but I still get a sort of schoolgirl anxiety when he has something new coming out. When asked what the album sounds like by friends, I told them “it sounds like what you would expect Prince to sound like at this point in his career,” which I stand by. Overall, the album has the usual isolated gems in a cloud of ho-hum tunes. Among the keepers here are the title track and “Black Sweat.” “Black Sweat” could have been a moderate hit, I think. It sounds Timbaland-ish enough to catch even my undergrads’ attention. And it’s always somewhat reassuring to hear the new millennium, Watchtower-totin’ Jehovah-lovin’ Prince get a little bit dirty. Alas, the excitement around this album died off once all of the fans bought it, as per usual this days.

19. Nelly Furtado feat. Timbaland – “Promiscuous” (Loose, Geffen)

Every year there is at least one top 40 tune that appeals to me for some inexplicable reason. Past examples: “Get this Party Started,” “Don’t Cha,” “What’s Luv,” etc. This happened to be the jam this year. I think I first heard this in my tv crit class. I asked students to bring in music videos for us to analyze, and someone brought this in. What can I say, it’s catchy, and the song was basically inescapable over the summer. It’s not as good as “Turn Out the Light” (which apparently none of my students knew, but whatever). But it’s a good pop jam.

A few disappointments

The Black Keys – Magic Potion

Highly anticipated, but pales in comparison to its predecessor. Magic Potion feels generally uninspired, - glad I downloaded it before running out to buy it. Perhaps this is the result of the band’s exit from the great Fat Possum label.

Kool Keith- The Return of Dr. Octagon

Not that I expected it to be good. The concept alone screams “attempt to reclaim cred.”

Gwen Stefani – The Sweet Escape

It’s ok, but it ain’t no “Hollaback Girl.”


These titles have been omitted solely because I haven’t heard them yet:

-Beck The Information
-Johnny Cash American V
-Jucifer If Thine Enemy Hunger
-Sonic Youth Rather Ripped