Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
If you haven't finished your shopping by now, GOOD LUCK.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
First up is the 'original' video, which was part of The John Lennon Video Collection, never released on DVD. Like a few others on that collection, this appears to have been assembled posthumously and features a photo montage. I hadn't seen this in years - I used to have a copy that a friend of mine taped from a Laserdisc. A LASERDISC!
The second version comes from the Lennon Legend DVD, released in 2003. In this version, Yoko Ono assembled a series of images that, though difficult to watch, are extremely powerful in the aim of provoking both thought and action in relation to the song's refrain.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
(This was one of the more amusing immediate images resulting from entering '2008' into Google Image.)
I told you that these podcasts would be sporadic at best!
If this one seems a little thrown together, it is. But I wanted to put a podcast together to showcase music from 2008. Maybe you've already seen the track list/notes for my 2008 best-of cd. Note that this podcast differs significantly from that compilation. There is minimal overlap (4 artists, 1 track). This was an opportunity to give love to some tracks/albums/artists that didn't fit onto the cd.
Download Podcast #3: 2008 Year-End Edition
This Episode's Featured Artists
If you like what you hear, check out more from these artists:
Ra Ra Riot
The Bird And The Bee
Fujiya & Miyagi
Ranbow ArabiaRainbow Arabia
Lee "Scratch" Perry
I'm told that Crosby had no idea who Bowie was, but told his producers to "get somebody the kids listen to." Even better that this was filmed in 1977, probably the height of Bowie's coked-out phase. I've also read that Bing was kind of an ass to Bowie. And as Michael reports on IckMusic, Bowie actually requested NOT to sing "Little Drummer Boy," and the meshing of "Peace On Earth" was a compromise. Hm.
One of the odder pairings in Xmas pop music history, for sure. Yet somehow it works, and it isn't Christmas Eve until I see this come up on VH1 Classic (in the old days, just plain old VH1. Before that, what we used to call Music TeleVision).
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I've mentioned here before that The Raveonettes are one of my very favorite bands out there at the moment. I actually just found out that they're playing DC next month, which I may have to go to, although that weekend is looking pretty booked at the moment.
Anyhow, a few years ago they released an incredible Christmas song called..."The Christmas Song." Take a listen:
The Christmas Song - The Raveonettes
Gorgeous, yeah? Well, they Raves have just issued a digital only Christmas Ep, Wishing You a Rave Christmas. I finally remembered to get it last night, and it is well worth your $4 for this holiday cheer. It includes three originals and a cover of Darlene Love's classic "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." You can find the EP on iTunes or Download from Amazon.
I do have fond memories of this xmas special. Of course, the Raisins were the draw, but really the other skits were more entertaining/memorable. Looks like YouTube has the whole thing, so I'll have to relive 1988 some evening soon.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
So as promised, I will be posting one classic (in my mind, for various reasons) xmas vid for each of the next 12 days.
First up is this nugget from 1984, recently covered by Miley Cirus or one of those other teeny boppers.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
It's been a pretty solid year, I have to say. As I mentioned to a few other folks, this year's edition is perhaps less varied than previous years, but that also makes it a bit more consistent as a mix. As always, there were some very difficult cuts - be sure to check out the honorable mentions as well. And it goes without saying that I'm very interested in what's topping your year-end lists, dear readers.
Ok, on with the show -
1. The Raconteurs - "Consoler of the Lonely" Consolers of the Lonely (Warner Bros.)
The Raconteurs album, along with the Gnarls Barkley disc were the first purchases I made in 2008, and I was very much looking forward to both of them. While the GB disc was an utter disappointment (see below), Consolers of the Lonely is a great sophomore effort from "Jack White's other band." As with their 2006 debut Broken Boy Soldiers, Consolers is a great, straightforward rock record. Unlike its predecessor however, this album shows a bit more breadth. The arrangements and compositions are a little more interesting, and a wider array of instruments round out the band's sound more fully (brass, organ, fiddles!). Two years ago, I took the Raconteurs to be a one-off side project, but Consolers shows that Benson, White, et. al. can regroup and evolve as a unit. I wish that I could say the same for Gnarls Barkley, but alas. I will say that the album could stand some edits. Some songs, particularly "You Don't Understand Me," "Many Shades of Black" and "Rich Kid Blues" seem to drag on and are actually disruptive to the album's flow. I really wanted to include "Carolina Drama," my absolute favorite track on the album, but it didn't jibe with the rest of the mix. But that's okay - this is an excellent opener, and I love the tempo changes.
2. Derek White and the Monophobics - "The Wunderful Lulliloo" Derek White and the Monophobics (self-released)
Sometimes you need to rely on the Internet to show you things in your own backyard. In 2007 (maybe even 2006?)I received a MySpace request from Derek White. Always curious about new artists, I checked it out and immediately loved "Mean Tambourine." When I realized he was from Pittsburgh, my respect jumped significantly. Over the course of a year or so, I listened to the various tunes posted on his MySpace page, which soon became "Derek White and the Monophobics," rather than simply "Derek White." Track after track I dug what I heard, so when the album was ready for release, I jumped on it. First, I applaud the band for their distribution strategy: though the hard copies of the album weren't ready, interested parties could pay $10 for a digital copy (with bonus tracks) and receive a hard copy in the mail when ready. I'm a big fan of hybridizing digital and hard copy distribution rather than having them be oppositional forces. Anyhow, the album came, and it's great. In reviewing the disc for this mix, I was actually a little taken aback at how consistently pleasing the album is. These guys wear their influences on their sleeve, most clearly Brian Wilson. And that's okay. This isn't simply an homage to the Beach Boys. It's a well produced, well constructed album of pop rock. I struggled a bit with which track to include. I wanted to pluck "Surfing the Allegheny" or "You've Got a Friend in Pennsylvania" for my Pittsburgh peeps, but decided to set my regional favoritism aside. My favorite track is probably still the glam-infused "Mean Tambourine," but again, I had to consider the flow of the mix. I'm happy to include "The Wunderful Lullilo" at any rate, for it shows the band's playfulness as well as musical and production skills. I give this album three out of three rivers.
3. She & Him - "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?" Volume One (Merge)
Who knew Zooey Deschanel had such a lovely voice? Interestingly, this received less hype than the Scarlett Johannsen record, which was a rather uninteresting venture. Although it's difficult for me to not think of her as the sister in Almost Famous (or Trillian, for that matter), Volume One pairs Ms. Deschanel with M. Ward for a surprisingly enjoyable alt-country-tinged album. The disc includes two great covers of The Miracles' "You Really Got a Hold on Me" and The Beatles' "I Should Have Known Better," but I have a "no covers" rule for year-end mixes. Though I suppose one could make the argument that this track is a bit of a "Dear Prudence" pastiche.
4. Lightspeed Champion - "Midnight Surprise" Falling Off the Lavender Bridge (Domino)
I believe that this was the first album that I heard in 2008. Lightspeed Champion is the new moniker former member of the Test-Icicles. I've never heard the Test-Icicles and know nothing about them. What I do know is that Falling Off the Lavender Bridge is a great, low key folk-pop album. The whole disc is great, but this is definitely the standout track. I debated its inclusion given the length, but I was able to make it work and I'm pleased that it made the cut.
5. Brazilian Girls - "Good Time" New York City (Verve)
I don't think I'd heard of the Brazilian Girls (who are not Brazilian and only one third female) until this year. Coincidentally it was their 2006 album Talk to La Bomb that I stumbled across, and loved. New York City isn't quite as good of an album, but is still an interesting blend of rock, dance, and occasional hints of jazz and bossa nova. "Good Time" is a basic ode to fun and the simple pleasures of life. I do in fact, just want to have a good time.
6. Love is All - "Wishing Well" A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night (What's Your Rupture?)
Here's one that I found randomly, I believe via Pitchfork, and I believe it was actually the video for this song. They hail from Sweden, if you're trying to place the accent. I guess this is best described simply as "indie dance rock," but it also has sort of a punk edge. But at the same time it's really catchy and poppy. I don't know. Perhaps I'm just pointing to the futility of generic categorization here.
7. Santogold - "You'll Find a Way" Santogold (Downtown)
I think I have to say that Santogold is my pick for album of the year. I "previewed" the album the week of its release, then promptly ran out and bought a legit copy the next day. I was taken aback with the variety of styles on the album. While the overriding genres represented here are pop/rock/dance oriented, there is an ever looming new wave influence throughout the disc, with occasional flourishes of hip hop and reggae. Immediately upon release, Santogold was being labeled as an MIA clone, which Santogold brushed off admirably. Really, it's a pretty unfair comparison. Though both meld a variety of styles, MIA is much more of a rapper (of sorts) while Santogold is much more focused on melody. Really, there is little on the Santogold record that sounds like MIA, though they have collaborated on a track or two. As I discussed with a friend recently, the comparison seems to exist purely because both are females of color. At any rate, this was probably the album I listened to most in 2008. It's a great album for running ("Unstoppable" became a theme song during my marathon training), for highway driving and I imagine (though I haven't had the pleasure) for dancing. The only track I'm not that fond of is "Anne," and even that might just be because of the opening line ("My name is Anne, I've got a plan"). Sure, "You'll find a Way" and "Lights Out" have already been used in commercials (Nokia and Bud Light Lime, respectively), but I can overlook that. Seriously, Santogold wins my top spot of 2008.
8. The Ting Tings - "Shut Up and Let Me Go" We Started Nothing (Columbia/Red Ink)
I believe I first heard the Ting Tings On Demand while at my parents' house over the summer. If I recall, it was the video for "That's Not My Name." I enjoyed the song's poppiness and snark, but sort of forgot about the band until I saw the video for "Shut Up and Let Me Go." The song hooked me with it's unmistakable new wave/Blondie influence (is 2008 the return of new wave as 2007 was the return of electro?). The entire album is a fun, danceable listen, and probably gets my 2008 award for sensible brevity, being under 40 minutes.
9. Mr. Oizo - "Cut Dick" Lambs Anger (Ed Banger)
Well here's something interesting. Way back in 2000, I was pretty into Mr. Oizo's Analog Worms Attack. I still give it a spin on occasion, but would hardly say I was a "follower" of his music (clearly - he apparently released an album 2005 that never crossed my radar). When I stumbled across word that Oizo was putting out a new disc this year, I was curious. For the most part, Lambs Anger is very different from Analog Worms Attack in that the music is more straightforward and accessible. I'd even go so far as to say it's significantly funkier, whereas Worms was slightly more abstract, into manipulating tempos, etc. Lambs Anger on the other hand, is a consistently danceable electro extravaganza that also has a sense of humor about itself.
10. Alan Wilkis - "It's Been Great" Babies Dream Big (Wilcassettes)
This is the third consecutive year that I've compiled a year-end mix, and for the third straight year, I have to give props to IckMusic for turning me on to an artist. Michael made a quick post about Alan Wilkis' debut. This was the track he shared, and I'm happy to share it with you in turn. The album itself is overall enjoyable, but at times feels a bit strained, as though Wilkis is trying too hard, as in "In My Dreams." But when he's on, he's on.
11. Pop Levi - "Never Never Love" Never Never Love (Counter)
Late winter, some blog or another directed me toward Pop Levi, whom they claimed was a cross between Bowie and Prince. "Yeah yeah," thought I - I've heard this comparison made more frequently than I care to. And it's never been accurate. But lo and behold, it kind of is accurate here, though Pop Levi is exhibits both influences simultaneously. On Never Never Love, Pop Levi works in essentially two categories - Camille-style Prince pop (perhaps most overtly on "Mai's Space" and "Dita Dimone") and Hunky Dory-era folk pop (i.e. "Semi-Babe," "You Don't Gotta Run"). The Bowie/Prince comparison isn't 100% accurate, but both of those influences are audible. Likewise, "Wannamama" is a meld of T-Rex and Gary Glitter-style glam rave up. The title track was my first exposure to the album, via the equally quirky video, and remains one of my favorites.
12. Ratatat - "Mirando" LP3 (XL Recordings)
Ratatat is billed as an electronic outfit, but I'm not sure that label sticks. Sure, they use a lot of "electronics," but much of this album is not what that label typically refers to. It's not exactly dance music. If I hadn't looked it up, I never would have assumed it was a two-piece (synth and guitar). It comes off as somewhat experimental, but also accessible. There are elements of dance, rock and funk instrumentation, as well as electronic and hip hop production. The bottom line is that it's an interesting album, and one that provides a perfect backdrop for grading/writing/editing, etc.
13. Snoop Dogg - "Sensual Seduction" [single; album version available on Ego Trippin'] (Geffen)
Here's a selection where I took a bit of liberty. The single and video were issued very late in 2007. But the album came out in 2008, and really gained its popularity in the early portion of this year. So I think it's still legal to include this on my year-end mix. I was still at home for the semester break last winter when a friend sent me link to the video, which he demanded that I watch immediately. I did, and was blown away on a number of levels. Obviously, the visual homages to Prince's "When Doves Cry" video and Parliament's Mothership Connection album cover warmed my heart. But also, it's a great song. Also, this is probably the first time that I choose a censored radio edit over the album version. One of the things that I love about this version is its slyness. On the other hand, the album version - "Sexual Eruption" - leaves little to the imagination. I find Snoop Dogg such a fascinating pop cultural figure. Really, in 1992 would you have placed your bets on him to maintain - even exponentially increase - his popularity over the following decade+? His music isn't exactly consistently pleasing, but I generally like about half of his albums, and every few years he drops a song that kind of blows me away. This song made me wish that Snoop did an album of straight up r&b material, but alas, that was not quite the theme on Ego Trippin'. However, it is a decent album, and includes a well executed cover of The Time's "Cool."
14. Erykah Badu - "Honey" New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War (Motown)
Erykah Badu is perhaps the greatest female r&b artist of the last decade. With all due respect to Beyonce, Alicia Keys, et. al., Erykah Badu has yet to disappoint me. More importantly, her music and lyrics hit you in that inexplicable way that the best soul music does. New Amerykah definitely incorporates more of a hip hop element than its predecessors, but in a manner that complements rather than overpowers Badu's penchant for crafting soul gems. The album comes with a flyer announcing New Amerykah Part Two in summer 2008, which didn't happen. Who knows if this album's title actually alludes to a series of related releases. (I'm reminded of David Bowie's 1. Outside, for which we never saw parts 2. or 3.) Regardless, "Honey" was the album's lead single, an interesting choice given that it's technically a hidden track. And the excellent video is the kind of thing that music geeks should enjoy.
15. Jamie Lidell - "A Little Bit of Feel Good" Jim (Warp)
An early contender for album of the year. Whereas Lidell's previous album Multiply combined electronic production with songs reminiscent of 1960s soul, on Jim, Jamie Lidell brings an all out, unabashed soul revival. One the one hand, this makes it a less diverse album than Multiply, but on the other hand, it makes Jim a more consistent venture. Song for song, the disc is a solid one. I was initially not very into the ballads "All I Wanna Do" and "Rope of Sand," but they've grown on me a bit and I think are necessary to round out the album. Deciding between this song and "Another Day" was rather difficult, but I had to go with "A Little Bit of Feel Good." It's a bit more interesting in its arrangement and composition, and certainly funkier. I had the fortune of seeing Jamie Lidell in Chicago this summer, and he put on one hell of a show. Check him out if you get the chance. Also check the wonderfully absurd video.
16. CSS (Cansei de Ser Sexi) - "Left Behind" Donkey (Sub Pop)
This was another contender for my album of the year. I first came across this in the last leg of training leading up to the marathon, and it accompanied me on many of those final runs. Unlike the Brazilian Girls, CSS are legitimately Brazilian. The album is a solid dance/pop record, perhaps my favorite of the year and next to Santogold, likely what I listened to most frequently. the video for this song is at once awesome and kind of creepy. The other potential inclusion from this record was "Move," which also has a pretty awesome video (I love how dude is wearing a Michael Jackson Dangerous t-shirt). I'll be catching CSS in DC on 12/20, with the expectation that they will rock my socks off.
17. Crystal Castles (vs. HEALTH) - "Crimewave" Crystal Castles (Last Gang)
"Crimewave" is truly one of my favorite singles of the year. The song was originally released as a 7" in 2007, though I have yet to hear that mix (I did however, find this pretty nifty UK tv performance). I know nothing of HEALTH aside from the fact that they produced this mix of "Crimewave," to which I raise my glass. "Crimewave" is pretty indicative of the album as a whole, although it does contain some harder tracks as well ("Alice Practice," "XXZXCUZX Me," "Love and Caring"). I got really into this album after listening to it on a run in New Orleans in October. It seems much of my music this year revolves around running (or vice versa). I'm pretty okay with that.
18. Portishead - "Machine Gun" Third (Mercury)
In the fall of 2002 (my senior year of college), I took a class called 'Media and Music.' It was incredible on a number of levels that I won't get into here. Part of the course requirements was participation in an online discussion board. At some point over the semester, somebody made a passing comment on the board that "I hear Portishead is working on a new album..." Even then, I think a number of us took the "yeah, right" stance. By 2002, it seemed Portishead was a done deal. They hadn't released any new material since 1997, and that whole "trip-hop" thing seemed to have faded. Fast forward to 2008, when I started getting MySpace messages about Portishead playing random shows and working in the studio. I'd kind of given up on them ever doing anything by that point, but lo and behold, here it is - the third Portishead studio album, 11 years after it's predecessor. I approached the album with excitement and hesitation. Excitement because Portishead's previous two studio albums were both incredible. Hesitant, because well, it had been 11 years. Upon first listen, I was relieved that, as a friend of mine also noted, Portishead didn't try to make an album in 2008 that sounded 1998 (hello, Axl Rose). Now, I'm not about to say that Third is on the same level as their self titled album and Dummy, though it is pretty good. It has a couple of amazing tracks, the toppermost of which are "We Carry On" and this, the lead single. I wanted to include "We Carry On," but it's 6:30 runtime threw off the rest of the mix. Ergo, we settle for "Machine Gun," which is still kind of incredible.
19. Ladytron - "Ghosts" Velocifero (Nettwerk)
I was a huge fan of Ladytron's 604 when it came out in 2001, and the album will forever conjure memories of WPTS. 2002's Light & Magic was so-so, and I didn't care much at all for 2005's Witching Hour. To be honest, I was initially pretty lukewarm to Velocifero. Then one morning whilst getting ready to head to the archives, I somehow or another ended up on Ladytron's MySpace page and heard this song as I brushed my teeth. It hit me in a way that it failed to previously, and made me go back to the whole album, which has since become one of my favorites of 2008. I think my initial displeasure was that what I loved so much about 604 was the Gary Numan/Kraftwerk electro element. This album departs from that (as did Witching Hour, which makes me think I need to spin that one again too), though certainly aspects of it persist. It just isn't straightforward dance music, and is a bit more introspective lyrically. This song typifies that. I have a thing for songs that convey emotional complexity. Also a simple, yet fitting video.
20. Cut Copy - "Lights and Music" In Ghost Colours (Modular Interscope)
Well, you know I had to send you off dancing. The Cut Copy record has a strange knack for being simultaneously retro yet sounding current. I don't know quite how that formula shakes out, but I enjoy the end product immensely. I'd heard the name Cut Copy tossed around for most of the year, but it wasn't until I saw a performance of this very song on late night tv (I think Jimmy Kimmel? Maybe Conan...) that I took notice, and promptly gave the entire album a listen. They're playing DC in March, and I hope to attend.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Man Man - kind of Tom Waits meets Frank Zappa.
Ra Ra Riot
Girl Talk Pittsburgh, holla! Just couldn't see the sense in selecting a track from Feed the Animals, which should really be considered a whole piece (and an instant dance party, for that matter).
The Bird and the Bee - of 2006 mix fame. They put out yet another EP this year which is great, but there simply wasn't room on the mix. They're also due to put out a full length in 2009, so stay tuned.
Al Green - + ?uestove = a solid album from this legend, even better than 2003's I Can't Stop.
The Atlas Sound - I actually liked this better than the Deerhunter record.
Rainbow Arabia - they were slated for inclusion up to the final edit. Alas. But check them out. Very cool / unique / crazy stuff.
The Roots - The album is good, but there aren't really any standout tracks. Still a solid disc.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We Are Scientists - Brain Thrust Mastery
I loved With Love and Squalor, and was really looking forward to the follow up. It just didn't do anything for me. Alas.
Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple
Likewise, I loved St. Elsewhere (note that both of these were 2006 releases...) but this follow up pales. I got the feeling that GB was conceived of as a one-off project, but met with perhaps unexpected success, and decided to continue. There are some decent songs on the album, but overall, it's a bore to get through. Hopefully they move on to other projects before they decide to do another misguided album.
Guns N' Roses - Chinese Democracy
Eh, I've already said my piece, so I'll just leave it at that.
Dresden Dolls - No, Virginia
It sounds like what it is - a compilation of tracks that didn't make the cut to Yes, Virginia. And it's pretty easy to see why.
Friday, December 5, 2008
But I do have some things up my sleeve for faithful readers of the Music-O-Rama, including:
*My third annual year-end mix liner notes (see previous two years here)
*12 music videos marking the 12 days of Christmas
*maybe a year-end podcast. This is tricky because of time, but it would give me an opportunity to pay 'spect to albums that didn't make the cut for the 2008 mix. No promises on this one, but I'll try my best.
In the meantime, I noticed that the Xmas mix I posted last year is still available, so feel free to indulge.
Cheers for now,