Thursday, December 31, 2009

Aughts Mix

I had no intentions of doing a decade-spanning mix. Then upon hearing my plan to review the decade on my radio show, a recipient of the year-end mix asked if I would be making a decade retrospective as well. Being the geek that I am, once I had that bee in my bonnet, I couldn't let it go. And here we are.

I had to go for a two-disc set. Disc one is more rock oriented whereas disc 2 is more dance oriented. Even so, these discs are far from comprehensive. There are many regrettable omissions (Scissor Sisters, Crystal Castles, CSS, Erykah Badu, Madlib, Brazilian Girls, Broadcast, She & Him, We are Scientists, The Bird and the Bee, Regina Spektor, Rainbow Arabia...). But cuts had to be made. Some of these were due to time, others to flow. The second disc was a bitch to put together, but I finally whittled it down and made it fit.

I will provide only the briefest of notes. A friend recently posted his top albums of the decade on Twitter, which forced concise reasons and justifications. I'll be about as brief.

Download Disc 1
Download Disc 2

One More Time: The Music of the Oughts

Disc 1

1. Sigur Ros - Vaka (2002)
One that I admittedly don't listen to much these days, though it is still incredible. A huge album for my friends and I that year. We left this playing while we slept each night during a debaucherous NYC trip. Also one of the best live shows I've ever seen.

2. Air - Playground Love (2000)

One of the last Air albums that I liked. The song (and album) so perfectly fit the mood of The Virgin Suicides.

3. Death Cab for Cutie - A Movie Script Ending (2001)

This will forever remind me of my time at WPTS and the fall of 2006, when I rediscovered the album.

4. M83 - Kim & Jessie (2008)

Great album, great band, great song. The oughts nod to the '80s.

5. Ra Ra Riot - Can You Tell (2008)

A favorite from 2008, a nearly perfect album.

6. Peter Bjorn and John - Young Folks (2007)

I've already heard this in the grocery store, but oh well. I don't mind whistling while buying my produce.

7. Radiohead - Idioteque (2000)

I'm not a huge Radiohead fan, but OK Computer and Kid A are all aces.

8. Bat For Lashes - What's a Girl To Do (2006)

Incredible expression of a very specific emotion. Also a great video that reminds me of dreams I've had:

9. The XX - Vcr (2009)

Another favorite from this year's debut by The XX. See 2009 mix notes for more.

10. +/- - Yo Yo Yo (Please Don't Fall in Love) (2002)

This made it onto nearly every mix I made in 2002 and 2003. Also another fond CMJ memory of seeing these folks in some club or another.

11. Santogold – L.E.S. Artistes (2008)

The big single from my favorite album of 2008.

12. MGMT – Electric Feel (2008)

I hear this pretty much every time I'm out in Pittsburgh, and I'm still pretty okay with that.

13. New Young Pony Club – Get Lucky (2007)

A 2007 favorite from this UK indie dance-rock outfit. Hoping their 2010 follow up is as good.

14. The Raveonettes - Heartbreak Stroll (2003)

From Chain Gang of Love, the first Raveonettes album I heard, and still my favorite.

15. Hot Hot Heat - Get in or Get Out (2002)

Good lord - a year's worth of memories associated with Hot Hot Heat's Make Up the Breakdown. CMJ 2002 shenanigans and post-'80s night gatherings among them. This band will always remind me of a friend who was obsessed with them at the time. This song also summed up my feelings about Pittsburgh circa 2003.

16. Ted Leo - Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone? (2003)

I've heard a few more recent Ted Leo records, but none of them have done much for me. Hearts of Oak remains a favorite though. One of the better bands WPTS brought in during my tenure there.

17. Phoenix - 1901 (2009)

Another favorite from the decade's final year. Ubiquitous. Catchy. Still rock out to this one despite the Cadillac commercial.

18. Spoon - You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb (2007)

I first heard Spoon when Catch the Moonlight came out. Each album sees them developing their craft - a trend that will hopefully continue with their January 2010 release. They also understand the importance of brevity, which applaud heartily.

19. The White Stripes - The Denial Twist (2005)

I mentioned on my radio show that I might have to pick Jack White for "artist of the decade." He's always got at least one project coming out every year, and I have yet to be disappointed. The White Stripes (four this decade), the Loretta Lynn record, the Raconteurs albums (two this decade), the Dead Weather, the Third Man record label and store, not to mention touring behind all of these acts as well. Get Behind Me Satan remains my favorite White Stripes record, and here's one reason why.

20. The Dresden Dolls - Sing (2006)

The first Dresden Dolls record was great. The second was far superior. They found their niche and perfected it on Yes Virgina. This song is one that has gradually stood out from the album in the course of three years. Just sing.

21. Flaming Lips - Do You Realize?? (2002)

Many memories associated with the Yoshimi album as well. Another huge one during the WPTS years. This song is at once joyous and tragic, but ultimately compels the listener to realize the value of life and time.

Disc 2

1. Snoop Dog feat. Pharrell - Drop It Like It's Hot (2004)

It was between this and "Sensual Seduction." This was the song that brought Snoop back into people's musical consciousness, including myself (though he certainly remained a focus in pop culture). I remember driving back to Iowa after Thanksgiving or Christmas that year, hearing this on the radio and exclaiming that the breakdown was right out of the Rick Rubin playbook.

2. Outkast - So Fresh, So Clean (2000)

So many Outkast songs to choose from. "Hey Ya!" is undoubtedly a decade-defining song. But I'm a little sick of it (which is not to say that I don't boogie down when I hear it). I intended to include "The Whole World," but time prevented its inclusion. Just as well. Stankonia is one of my very favorite albums of the decade, and one that holds up quite well as we enter the next.

3. Common - Go! (2005)

Truthfully, I have a deeper connection to Be's follow up, Finding Forever. But Be deserves every bit of praise it's received, and this song is probably the highlight of the album for me. A frequent soundtrack when I go out for a run.

4. Jamie Lidell - Multiply (2005)

The song that introduced me to Jamie Lidell, from the album of the same name. This and its follow up Jim are fantastic soul throwbacks, although Multiply is interesting in that it incorporates more musical styles.

5. Gnarls Barkley - Crazy (2006)

The "big hit" from my favorite album of 2006. I'm still not sick of hearing this one. I only wish that Cee-Lo and Dangermouse stopped with this album. By 2008's The Odd Couple, they'd run out of creative steam.

6. The Roots feat. Cody Chestnut - The Seed 2.0 (2002)

To the extent one can say that The Roots had a "hit," this is it. I think it was actually in a Mandy Moore movie, so I guess that seals the deal. Their best work resides in the previous decade, but they've put out a series of consistently pleasing albums in the oughts as well (Phrenolgy, Game Theory, Tipping Point and Rising Down).

7. Spank Rock feat. Amanda Blank - Bump (2006)

Baltimore's best. Easily in my top 5 hip hop albums of the decade. Perhaps second only to The Black Album.. Speaking of which -

8. Jay-Z - 99 Problems (2003)

A juggernaut. Imagine if Jay-Z actually had retired after this album. Talk about going out on top. Of course, he didn't hold to it, and has released three albums in the ensuing years. A boy's gotta eat.

9. Prince - Black Sweat (2006)

Across six albums, the best thing the man recorded this decade. Straddles the fence between sounding current and "this is obviously Prince" more effectively than anything else he put out in the aughts.

10. M.I.A. - Galang (2005)

The first time that I head M.I.A. was in a friend's car on a visit to Portland. It was one of the very few times in recent history that my legitimate response was "I've never heard anything like this." Two great albums (Arular and Kala), and I'm told work is beginning on the third. Count me in.

11. Lil Wayne - Lollipop (2008)

Honestly, Lil' Wayne is the best thing that's happened to mainstream hip hop in the latter part of the decade. No homo. Despite his personal issues, he's prolific, productive and in general, I think interesting. I'm not holding out hope on his upcoming rock album though.

12. Lady Gaga - Poker Face (2008)

I won't go into my Lady Gaga rant here. Most of you have heard it before. Just dance.

13. Nelly Furtado feat. Missy Elliot - Do It (remix) (2007)

This begins a three-track sequence of my favorite pop albums of the decade, though I can't rank among them. Nelly Furtado's Loose! (produced by Timbaland - producer of the decade?) is one of the best pop / party albums of the decade. Perfect for getting ready for a night on the town. I liked "Promiscuous." I loved "Maneater." "Do It" blew me away. This remix has the added bonus of a Missy cameo.

14. Gwen Stefani - What You Waiting For- (2004)

I've liked No Doubt since they hit it big with Tragic Kingdom. And I was pleased when they took a dancier direction with Rock Steady. But that didn't prepare me for Love Angel Music Baby. I played the hell out of this for a good 6-8 months. The follow up (The Sweet Escape) has some great tracks (especially the title cut), but pales in comparison.

15. Kylie Minogue - Can't Get You Out of My Head (2001)

It's a good thing we have people like Nelly, Gwen and Kylie, because god knows Madonna hasn't done anything relevant this decade. It baffles me that Kylie Minogue hasn't had more success Stateside. She had three great albums this decade (Fever, Body Language, X), of which Fever remains the strongest. It's poppy, danceable, sexy, and of course has some great videos (even aside from the eye candy that is Kylie).

16. Justice - D.A.N.C.E (2007)

These next two tracks carry with them memories of the fall of 2007 in Iowa. I was getting way into these albums while prepping for comps (boo). But finally got to boogie down to them at the party that followed the exam (yay!). They were also staples while getting amped for the Friday ritual of happy hour followed by karaoke. Ahh, good times. Anywho, this song in particular was one of the hottest tracks that year, and a tribute to the then-living Michael Jackson. Justice probably also gets my award for best TV appearance of the decade:

17. Chromeo - Bonafied Lovin (2007)

I know I mentioned how great the Furtado/Gwen/Kylie discs were, but Fancy Footwork is seriously the best party album released this decade. They've got a sense of humor, they've mastered the Minneapolis sound and they sure can get down. They've got a new one slated for summer 2010, and if the lead single is any indication, we will not be disappointed.

18. Cut Copy - Lights and Music (2008)

Lights and music are frequently on my mind. Add dancing to the mix, and this may well be my theme song. The big "hit" from the great synthy dance album In Ghost Colours. A friend commented that they're carrying the New Order torch, and I can't disagree with that. Hold it high, I say.

19. Daft Punk - One More Time (2001)

I once saw an interview with Chromeo where they referred to Daft Punk's Discovery album as the French Thriller. Granted, it wasn't an international chart-topping phenomenon that shattered age, gender and racial barriers. But I can say that amongst my friends and within the realm of college radio, calling this the Thriller of the decade is pretty accurate. Everyone had it, everyone loved it. It was all over the place - a fixture at dance parties, plenty of college airplay, a series of commercials. Also like Thriller, listening to this album immediately transports me to a very specific point in my life, and a flood of memories rush forth. Sadly, their output since has failed to live up to the precedent set by this album and it's predecessor Homework. Alas.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Gonzo on the air, 12/27

Following last week's 2009 retrospective, this week was an extended 3 hour review of some of the best music of the decade. By no means comprehensive, and I avoided 2009 in the interest of overlapping the previous show.

The Good, the Bad and the Queen-The History Song (2007)
M83-Kim and Jessie (2008)
Peter, Bjorn and John-Young Folks (2007)
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists-Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone (2002)
The Detroit Cobras-I Wanna Holler (But the Town's Too Small) (2005)
Hot Hot Heat-Get in or Get out (2002)
The Raveonettes-That Great Love Sound (2003)
Loretta Lynn-Portland, OR (2004)
The White Stripes-The Hardest Button to Button (2003)
The Raconteurs-Steady as She Goes (2006)
The Flaming Lips-Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)
Sigur Ros-Track 1 (2002)
Broadcast-Unchanging Window (2000)
Ra Ra Riot-Run My Mouth (2008)
Spoon-You Got Yr Cherry Bomb (2007)
MGMT-Kids (2008)
New Young Pony Club-Get Lucky (2007)
CSS-Reggae All Night (2008)
Ladytron-The Way that I Found You (2000)
Cut Copy-Lights and Music (2008)
Kylie Minogue-Can't Get You Out of My Head (2001)
Gwen Stefani-Serious (2004)
Nelly Furtado-Maneater (2006)
Gnarls Barkley-Smiley Faces(2006)
Outkast-Hey Ya! (2003)
The Roots-The Seed 2.0 (2002)
Common-I Want You (2007)
Prince-Black Sweat (2006)
MIA-Pull Up the People (2005)
Santogold-Say Aha (2008)
Jamie Lidell-When I Come Back Around (2005)
Justice-D.A.N.C.E. (2007)
Chromeo-Bonafide Lovin' (2007)
Daft Punk-Digital Love (2000)

Next week - no central them, just rockin' out like I do. Listen Sundays from 10pm-12am EST at

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gonzo (+ Marc Morrison!) on the air, 12/20

A special show, hope you were able to listen. For the first 2.5 hours, Marc Morrison and I tag teamed our favorites from 2009. A lot of fun, and I got turned on to some new tunes as well. For the last hour, I flew solo and spun some of my favorite dance tracks from 2009.

Animal Collective - Brother Sport(M)
The Raveonettes - Bang! (G)
Umphrey’s McGee-Made to Measure (M)
Thao with the Get Down Stay Down-When We Swam (G)
UUVVWWZ-Shark Suit (M)
The Dead Weather-Treat Me Like Your Mother(G)
Grizzly Bear-Southern Point (M)
Bat for Lashes-Daniel(G)
Bibio-Great Are the Piths (M)
M. Ward (feat. Zooey Deschanel)-Never Had Nobody Like You (G)
Beep Beep - Mermaid Struggle(M)
The Paper Hats-The Sleeping Prophet (M)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs-Skeletons (G)
Roger Klug-Dump Me Hard (M)
Camera Obscura-French Navy (G)
Nite Jewel-Weak for Me (M)
YACHT-Psychic City/Voodoo City (G)
Norah Jones-Chasing Pirates (M)
The XX-Shelter (G)
Vampire Weekend-Cousins(M)
Arctic Monkeys-Crying Lightning (G)
Dirty Projectors-Two Doves (M)
Antony & the Johnsons-Kiss My Name(G)
Bell X1-The Great Defector (M)
The Bird and the Bee-Love Letter to Japan(G)
Crystal Antlers-Andrew (M)
El Michaels Affair-C.R.E.A.M.
Royksopp-Vision One
La Roux-Bulletproof
Annie-My Love is Better
Kid Sister-Right Hand Hi
Major Lazer (feat. Mr. Lex and Santigold)-I'll Make Ya (aka Hold the Line)
Amanda Blank-Make it Take it
Tiga-Sex O'Clock
Felix da Housecat-Elvi$
Aceyalone-The Lonely Ones
Blackrock (feat. Mos Def)-On the Vista
Alan Wilkis-N.I.C.E.
Prince-Ol' Skool Company

Next week: The best of the DECADE!!!!! Sunday night, 10pm until at least 12AM on 90.1 FM in Indiana, PA -streaming at

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gonzo on the air, 12/13

Way late in posting this. But it has been a bear of a week!
The Ramones-Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)
Martha & the Muffins-Danceparc
Camera Obscura-French Navy
Lily Allen-LDN
The Dollyrots-Our Way out of LA
The Waitresses-Christmas Wrapping
The Flaming Lips-Watching the Planets (feat. Karen O.)
Evolution Control Committee-The Christmas Wrong
Queen-Get Down Make Love
The Cars-Shoo Bee Doo/Candy-O
MGMT-Electric Feel
Chromeo-Night by Night
Blackroc-On the Vista (feat. Mos Def)
Run DMC-Christmas in Hollis
Aceyalone-The Lonely Ones
Jamie Lidell-Multiply
Gladys Knight and the Pips-I Heard it Through the Grapevine
James Brown-Soulful Christmas Tree
The Chipmunks-Sleigh Ride
The Beatles-Christmas Time is Here Again

Also don't forget: this week will be an extra special show! Tune in at 8pm to hear an hour of Marc Morrison's Sunday Sampler. At 9, Marc and I spend two hours reflecting on the best music of 2009. At 11, I'll fly solo until 12 (or maybe even longer, seeing that I don't have to work Monday!). It all begins at 8pm EST on 90.1 FM WIUP. Stream at

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2009 mix

Friends, lovers, countrymen - another year is about to pass us by. How is this possible?

I admit I was nervous. By May, I felt that 2009 was letting me down. There just wasn't much in the way of music that moved me. But the summer and fall rectified that, and 2009 ended up churning out some pretty great tunes, some of which I am here to share with you. Once again, I found myself forced to shave seconds off of many song intros and outros just to fit it all onto one disc. And once again, I have succeeded. Rock on. However, my one disclaimer here is that I didn't have much time to devote to these notes. But it's all about the music anyway. And I look forward to hearing your mixes/reading your lists soon. Also, I plan on making a post reflecting on the entire decade in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for that.

Happy holidays, and may the funk be with you in 2010. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

Twisted and Deranged: 2009 in Song

1. The Raveonettes – “Gone Forever” In and Out of Control (Vice Records)

The Raveonettes returned with the follow-up to 2007’s Lust Lust Lust (featured on that year’s annual mix). Like it’s predecessor, In and Out of Control doesn’t cover a whole lot of new ground, but that doesn’t make it a bad album. Admittedly, some songs are perhaps poppier than most of the band’s material (the singles “Bang” and “Last Dance,” for example), but they are still quite good, incredibly catchy, and downright enjoyable tunes. I do like the bits where they let noise take over (as in Lust’s “Aly, Walk With Me”), and the first portion of “Gone Forever” captures that well. I also feel like the Raveonettes are at their best when they’re in a minor key, with excessive reverb on the guitars and vocals, adding up to an overall ominous song quality. “Gone Forever” is a winner there.

Official Website

On MySpace

2. Arctic Monkeys – “Crying Lightning” Humbug (Domino)

Either the Arctic Monkeys haven’t done anything to impress me up to this point, or I just haven’t been paying attention. I heard this song in heavy rotation on KRUI. I liked it the first time I heard it, but it really sucked me in by the third or fourth listen. I love the structure of the song, the complementary way the chorus plays off of the verse, and the buildup of Alex Turner’s vocals. For some reason, my fantasy mind can hear David Bowie doing this with Iggy Pop during the Berlin period. Humbug is a solid listen throughout, and I know must retrace my steps and check out their previous albums.

Official Website

On MySpace

3. The Dead Weather – “I Cut Like a Buffalo” Horehound (Third Man)

Another year, another Jack White project. Seriously, every year that I make one of these mixes, there’s some sort of Jack White production that warrants representation. With The Dead Weather, we have the rhythm section of White’s *other* side project, The Raconteurs (who in turn came from The Greenhornes), The Kills’ Alison Mosshart and White (on drums!!!!). Frankly, it’s a perfect match up. I aimed to include “Treat Me Like Your Mother,” but opted for “I Cut Like a Buffalo” due to time constraints. No matter. This a wonderfully weird track (how in fact, does one cut like a buffalo?), accompanied by a video showcasing Jack White’s patented brand of creepy:

Official Website

On MySpace

4. Bat For Lashes – “Daniel” Two Suns (Astralwerks)

I was a pretty big fan of Bat for Lashes’ 2007 debut, Fur and Gold, but Two Suns offers a more consistent and richly textured album. Although this saw release early in the year, “Daniel” became one of my most played tracks of fall 2009. And to be honest, it may be the track on this mix that I’ve listened to more than any other. The rhythm, emotional vibe and Natasha Khan’s hauntingly beautiful vocals give this one a lot of replay value in my book (er, on my digital music device).

Official Website

On MySpace

5. The XX – “Shelter” The XX (XL Recordings)

The XX's self-titled debut not only gets my seal of approval, but also stands as my top pick for 2009. They have a mellow, almost atmospheric vibe (Wikipedia describes them as “dream pop,” whatever that means), and I openly admit that I have a soft spot for male/female vocal interplay. The album is mellow, sparse and moody in equal measure. I highly recommend checking it out.

Official Website
On MySpace

6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Skeletons” It’s Blitz! (Interscope)

I’ve never been a huge fan of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but I’ve always liked them pretty well. Listening to 2009’s It’s Blitz, this song immediately struck a chord . It’s a ridiculously beautiful, fragile track that has what I would call a cinematic quality to it. I can just see this being used to great effect on some especially emotionally draining episode of Six Feet Under or something like that. It also has this slow, progressive build that adds to its ultimate intensity. I don’t know, I’m just a big softy.

Official Website
On MySpace

7. Antony & the Johnsons – “Kiss My Name” The Crying Light (Secretly Canadian)

I’ve heard a few Antony tracks over the years, but never paid them much mind. Earlier this year, I was hipped to 2008’s Hercules and Love Affair project, which I liked quite a bit. Shortly after, I caught Antony and the Johnsons performing “Aeon” on David Letterman:

Watching this performance, it finally clicked – I felt like I got it. In checking out The Crying Light LP, I immediately became a fan. I admit that part of it is a fascination with Antony’s performance of gender (if pop music scholars aren’t writing on this already, they will be very soon). But more than that, it’s the emotion and the richness of many songs’ arrangements that make The Crying Light one of my favorite albums of 2009.

Official Website
On MySpace

8. Thao with the Get Down Stay Down – “When We Swam” Know Better Learn Faster (Kill Rock Stars)

Double-entendre I’m sure, but I can’t quite make out the metaphor completely. Thao with the Get Down Stay Down hail from San Francisco, and have put out four records since 2005. Thao has also done some solo work and collaborations with other artists. Go figure, I never heard of them until this fall. I know that this comes as a shock given my perennial hipness, but even old Gonzo misses a beat now and again. I don’t really have much else to say here, but it’s a good album.

Official Website
On MySpace

9. YACHT – “Psychic City” See the Mystery Lights (DFA Records)

Another ditty that’s been in heavy rotation on KRUI. What’s odd is that this song reminds me of Iowa City, but clearly I didn’t live there while the song was out, and I wasn’t aware of it during my visit. That association is either a byproduct of hearing it on KRUI, or a suggestion that KRUI has a “sound.” Or both. But I digress. I took to the song pretty immediately, and made hearing the album a priority once I learned who the artist was. The See Mystery Lights album tends stick with this indie rock dance vibe, which I can totally get down with. And in Claire Evans’ vocals, I hear echoes of The Waitresses’ Patty Donahue. I like.

Official Website
On MySpace

10. Phoenix – “1901” Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glass Note)

Count me among the many who had never heard Phoenix until 2009. And if we’re going strictly on the number spins each album received, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix would probably win my pick for album of the year. But I already gave my top spot to The XX. However, I can say without doubt that “1901” was *the* song of 2009. The single started making the rounds months ahead of the album’s release, with a flood of remixes to follow (at the band’s urging). I definitely got sucked into the (well-deserved) hype, and sought it out pretty immediately upon release (shout out to Paul’s CDs). It’s a great, straightforward rock record that veers towards pop, but manages to do so without losing integrity. I admit I was a little upset that it took practically no time for this to happen:

…but on the other hand, I kind of expected it. Nonetheless, still a great album, and a great tune.

Official Website

On MySpace

11. The Bird and the Bee – “Love Letter to Japan” Rayguns Are Not Just the Future (Blue Note)

The Bird and the Bee were a late entry on the first of my annual mixes back in 2006. In the interim, they’ve put out a few EPs with somewhat mixed results. Their second full length, Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future is an equally mixed bag. It’s not that they’re putting out bad material, just that the ”Bird and the Bee sound” as a whole doesn’t seem to be progressing very much. They’re still delightful, I’d just like to see some evolution. And that is likely why this little gem captivates me. Lyrics aside, my take home message from this song is "don't give up on The Bird and the Bee just yet."

Official Website
On MySpace

12. Annie – “My Love Is Better” Don’t Stop (Smalltown Supersound)

We have now officially entered the dance portion of the 2009 mix . At long last, we have the follow up to the Scandanavian pop princess’s debut Anniemalism. After multiple delays and leaks, the wait for Don’t Stop was worth it (although absent is last year’s single “I Know Your Girlfriend Hates Me”). This is electro dance pop at its finest. The ballads don’t work nearly as well as the dance numbers, but the strengths of the latter outweigh the weaknesses of the former. It would be perhaps too easy to label Annie the 21st century Norwegian Kylie Minogue. But I just did anyway.

Official Website
On MySpace

13. Royksopp – “Happy Up Here” Junior (Astralwerks)

I know it’s beyond cliché to sample P-Funk at this point, but they do it so well – and with one of my favorite tracks, “Do That Stuff.” (Truth be told, I don’t think it’s a sample proper.) Another of my favorites from this disc (“Vision One”) incorporates Stevie Wonder’s “Too High” to great effect. The whole Junior album is in this electro-funk-pop vein, and it’s a winner. Also, I’m told Royksopp is slated to release a companion album in 2010, appropriately titled Senior, so keep an (or an ear) out for that.

Official Website

On MySpace

14. Kid Cudi – “Make Her Say” (Feat. Kanye West and Common) Man on the Moon: The End of the Day (Motown)

I had to work Lady GaGa in here somewhere. While “Poker Face” probably gets my vote for best Top 40 jam of the year, this reimagining by Kid Kudi, Kanye and Common takes the song to the next level. I’ve never been much a fan of Kanye West. Frankly, I think his own work is overrated, but every once in a while he does something that I love (though usually it’s a production credit). I’d also like to go on record as saying that Common is probably the only rapper that can utter a line like “get up on this conscious dick.” Kid Cudi’s debut album isn’t an amazing piece of work, but this and the inclusion of last year’s single “Day N Nite” make the album worthwhile, and make me think he’s someone to keep an eye on.

Official Website
On MySpace

15. Major Lazer feat. Mr. Lex and Santigold –“ I'll Make Ya” Guns Don’t Kill People…Lazers Do (Downtown)

I’m pretty into the respective production styles of Diplo and Switch. So when I caught wind that they were producing a reggae/dancehall record, I was amped. This was definitely my jammin'-out-in-the-car disc for summer 2009. It could stand some editing, but there are some real bangers on the album, this one included. I believe this premiered on their MySpace page, but when I saw Santogold/Santigold earlier this summer, she played a bit of it live, only further raising my anticipation. Speaking of bangers and Santigold…

Official Website
On MySpace

16. N.A.S.A. – “Whatchadoin?” Feat. Spank Rock, MIA, Santogold, Nick Zinner The Spirit of Apollo (Anti)

Holy hell. I have to give credit to Markadelphia over at IckMusic for hipping me to this one. Mark wrote a glowing review of the record, and in particular the Karen O., Fatlip and ODB track “Strange Enough.” That track is great, but “Whatchadoin?” and its all-star lineup are what sealed the deal for me on the N.A.S.A. record. On this track, we have Baltimore’s own Spank Rock, MIA, Santogold and Nick Zinner. I admit I know nothing about Nick Zinner. But just the thought of this collaboration had my mind reeling. And the track itself does not disappoint. The rest of the album is a similarly star-studded affair. N.A.S.A. man the DJing and production duties, while vocals are taken up by the likes of David Byrne, Chuck D., Method Man, Chali 2na, RZA, Kool Keith, Tom Waits, Lykke Li, Del, Ghostface and more. It’s the all star jam of the year. Not infallible, but pretty damn good throughout.

On MySpace

17. Amanda Blank – “Might Like You Better” I Love You (Downtown)

Speaking of Spank Rock, his frequent sidekick Amanda Blank dropped her solo debut this year as well. Actually, she opened for Santogold, and that little taste of the album got me pretty excited. I didn’t even realize that the core of this song is lifted from a Romeo Void track (thanks, Mike C. for bringing this to light). Blank is definitely running with the crass and explicit lyrics she contributed to the Spank Rock tracks, and that is a-ok with me. She also does an on-point cover of “Make Up” by Vanity 6. Way to win me over.

Official Website
On MySpace

18. Kid Sister – “Life on TV” Ultraviolet (Downtown)

Another oft-delayed and much anticipated release, we finally got the debut from Chicago’s Kid Sister this year. Kid Sister is one of those artists who successfully generated an internet buzz via MySpace and the blogosphere, particularly with her Kanye west collaboration “Pro Nails” (which even made it onto Comcast’s On Demand service). Kid Sister bills herself as a rapper, though I think that’s not an entirely accurate characterization of her music. I’d say she’s more pop with hip hop leanings. There were a number of tracks slated for inclusion on my little mix, but I ultimately chose this one because a) “Pro Nails” is a little old at this point b) this one just flowed best in the mix and c) I’m a media scholar, and it’s about TV. I won’t lie, one of my first thoughts upon hearing it was “This would be a good prelude to the TV lecture in my 101 course.” And so it shall be, next semester.

On MySpace

19. Felix Da Housecat – “We All Wanna Be Prince” He Was King (Nettwerk Records)

It goes without saying that this floored me when I first encountered it. It’s a blatant homage that unabashedly lifts nearly every move from the Prince playbook, including constant lyrical references to Prince jams. And it works so damn well. I mean, listen to that little moan in the song’s intro! Felix really constructed a tribute that succesfully capture the sound of the 1999 era. Besides such perfect execution of Prince’s style, what I love about this song is that truer words were never spoken – we do all wanna be Prince! At least I do.

Official Website
On MySpace

20. Alan Wilkis – “N.I.C.E.” Pink and Purple (Wilcassettes)

Last year, Alan Wilkis released his debut album, Babies Dream Big. You may recall that the album’s track “It’s Been Great” made last year’s list. This summer, Alan dropped an EP that was even better than Babies, and was for all intents and purposes, right up my alley. With Pink and Purple, Wilkis embraces his funkiness whole-heartedly, incorporating influences from the late 1970s and 1980s such as Prince, MJ, the Gap Band and Rick James (among others). The result is a head-bobbin’, body-movin’ set can, would and should have you dancing. Alan was kind enough to chat with me earlier in the summer – check out our discussion for some insight into Pink and Purple. Alan has also been hard at work on a slew of great remixes – keep your eyes peeled on this blog to catch a listen.

Official Website
On MySpace

21. Prince – “Dance 4 Me” Lotusflow3r (NPG)

Hallelujah! Well, you know that I went out to get Prince’s Lotusflow3r set the day it was released, following which I posted a lengthy review. To recap briefly, disc one is his latest protégé (Bria Valente). It is also filler. The other two discs however, have Prince in solid form with the guitar-baesd Loutusflow3r disc and the synth dance vibe of MPLSound. I generally try to avoid making this next claim, but I do think that it could be a dynamite single disc collection. Alas. But the whole set was something like $10, so I shouldn’t complain too much. Predictably, I’m most drawn to MPLSound. And that disc will forever remind me my dissertation defense/visit to Iowa City, because it was one of two CDs that I had access to during my stay (the other was MGMT, which will now produce similar associations). I knew from the getgo that “Dance 4 Me” was going to be what made the cut for the year-end mix, though I would like to have included “Ol’ Skool Company” (admittedly for its radio and drumming references). But “Dance 4 Me” is a standout jam, breaking out the Camille voice, turning on that “I’m Prince, you want me” charm, embracing the synths and the Linn LM-1 drum machine, and generally just making me want to get down. Prince, I salute you for recuperating yourself after that Planet Earth disaster in 2007.

Official Website

2009 Honorable Mentions:

Aceyalone-The Lonely Ones (Deconstruction)
Camera Obscura-My Maudlin Career (4AD)
El Michaels Affair-Enter the 37th Chamber (Fatbeats)
M. Ward-Hold Time (Merge)
Maxwell-Blacksummer’s Night (Columbia)
Rainbow Arabia-Kabukimono (Manimal)
Sonic Youth-The Eternal (Matador)
The Very Best-Warm Heart of Africa (Green Owl Records)

Monday, December 14, 2009


Here are some thangs I've been meaning to share:

-Ickmusic is always a treasure trove, but Pete has shared a series of real gems from the Boss. The long and short of it is that in the final nights of his tour with the E Street Band, the Boss played one of his classic albums in full each night. Pete's shared the Buffalo, NY show (featuring Asbury Park), Philadelphia (featuring Darkness on the Edge of Town) and New York City (featuring The River). I've only listened to the Buffalo show, but it's fantastic!

-I'm pretty sure that at some point, I knew of and had possibly even visited Pop Dose. But Michael (of IckMusic fame) has recently hipped me to the site, and I can't say enough about it. A sort of clearinghouse for everything popular culture. Check out their podcasts, which are absurdly entertaining (they've had me laughing out loud while running, which I'm sure makes bystanders nervous). Also have a look at the 25 Days of Mellowmas, their annual holiday feature.

-Lastly, a student of mine directed me toward Gorilla vs. Bear which looks to be a pretty solid indie blog.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Funk

Two words, kids:


I think there's supposed to be a new album next year. DOPE.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gonzo on the air - 12/6

Iggy Pop-Sister Midnight
Radiohead-Let Down
Rainer Maria-Feeling Neglected
The Grates - Howl
The Knickerbockers-Night Time
The Mighty Hannibal-Get Back
The Sonics-Santa Claus
? and the Mysterians-Can't Get Enough of You, Baby
The Chesterfield Kings-Time Will Tell
The Damned-Neat Neat Neat
Elvis Costello-Mystery Dance
Dave Clark Five-Do You Love Me
Roxy Music-Remake/Remodel
The Clash-Guns of Brixton
Peter Gabriel-Games without Frontiers
Daft Punk-Something About Us
Grove Armada-My Friend
Air-Playground Love
Negativland-Yellow Black and Rectangular
Mr. Oizo-Flat Beat
Prince and the Revolution-Another Lonely Christmas
The Raveonettes-The Christmas Song
Lightspeed Champion-Galaxy of the Lost
Beck-I Get Lonesome
Tom Waits-Innocent When You Dream (78)
Loretta Lynn and Jack White-Portland, Or
Patti Smith-Gloria
Next week (12/13): A special guest!
In two weeks (12/20): Marc Morrison and I get our collab on, reviewing the music of 2009! Note: this special show will begin at 9PM EST.

Tune in sunday nights, 10pm-Midnight EST on WIUP-FM.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Correction of the Year

From the Washington Post:


A Nov. 26 article in the District edition of Local Living incorrectly said a Public Enemy song declared 9/11 a joke. The song refers to 911, the emergency phone number.

(Thanks to Kembrew for this one!)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday FUNK

Was looking for a Bar-Kays clip, but found this instead.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gonzo on the Air, 11/29

Television-Marquee Moon
Persephones Bees-The Way to Your Heart
Rainbow Arabia-Holiday in Congo
The Very Best-Kamphopo
Bondo do Role-Tieta
MIA-Bird Flu
Kid Sister-Right Hand Hi
Schwayze-Get U Home (Alan Wilkis Remix)
Annie-My Love is Better
Sly and the Family Stone-Babies Makin' Babies
Donald Byrd-Mr. Thomas
Stevie Wonder-As
El Michaels Affair-C.R.E.A.M.
Flaming Lips-The Sparrow Looks Up at the Machine
XTC-Another Satellite
Johnny Thunders-You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory
The Lopez-Gates of Heaven
The Raconteurs-Salute Your Solution
Barry & the Remains-Why Do I Cry
Marshmallow Steamroller-Mr. Mol.d
Thee Headcoatees-Dirty Old Man
T Rex-Solid Gold Easy Action
The Buzzcocks-I Don't Mind
Mission of Burma-That's When I Reach for My Revolver
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band-Waiting for the D Train

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Woke up with an overwhelming desire to hear this today.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gonzo on the air - 11/15

Gary Numan-Metal
Goldfrapp-Ooh La La
Client-Lights Go Out
Santogold-LES Artistes
The Noisettes-Don't Upset the Rhythm
Alan Wilkis-Snuggle Up to Nail Down
Royksopp-Happy Up Here
Elastica-Hold Me Now
Peter Bjorn & John-Amsterdam
Dresden Dolls-Necessary Evil
Hot Hot Heat-This Town
Simple Minds-Up on the Catwalk
Midnight Oil-Put Down That Weapon
Bat For Lashes-Daniel
Yeah Yeah Yeahs-Skeletons
Tina Turner-Private Dancer (live/request)
Chris Isaak-Heart Shaped World
Willie Nelson-Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)
Eleni Mandell-Tell Me Twice
M. Ward-Never Had Nobody Like You
Bruce Springsteen-Reason to Believe
Johnny Cash-When the Man Comes Around
Iris DeMent-Hotter than Mojave in my Heart
Erin McKeown-Love in 2 Parts
Antony and the Johnsons-Kiss My Name
The Beatles-For You Blue

Monday, November 9, 2009

Gonzo on the air - 11/8


Derek White and the Monophobics-Baby Baby
The Vaselines-Dying for It
Sonic Youth-Sacred Trickster
We Are Scientists-Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt
The Illusion-Talkin' Sweet Talking Soul
The Detroit Cobras-Nothin' But a Heartache
The Len Price 3-If I Ain't Got You
Gore Gore Girls-Up All Night
The Ting Tings-That's Not My Name
M83-Kim & Jessie
+/- - Yo Yo Yo (Please Don't Fall in Love)
Kate Bush-Running Up That Hill
Crystal Castles-Crimewave
Cut Copy-Hearts on Fire
New Order-True Faith
Prince & the Revolution-17 Days
Brothers Johnson-Strawberry Letter 23
Jamie Lidell-Green Light
The Bird and the Bee-Love Letter to Japan
Thao With the Get Down Stay Down-When We Swam
The Pixies-Hey
The Replacements-Left of the Dial
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts-Everyday People
The Budos Band-Budos Rising
Pop Levi-Dita Dimone
Funkadelic-Nappy Dugout
Talking Heads-This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Belated Friday Funk

A recent discussion of "jim hats" on Facebook brought this classic to mind:

Monday, November 2, 2009

On the Air

We have a vacancy at least temporarily, so I'm stepping up and filling in. I haven't been on air since 2003, so it's kind of exciting. Here's what I played on 11/1:

Spoon-You Got Yr Cherry Bomb
The Raveonettes-Bang!
Ted Leo & the Pharmacists-The Ballad of Sin Eater
The Dead Weather-Treat Me Like Your Mother
The Arctic Monkeys-Crying Lightning
David Bowie-Rebel Rebel
Love is All-Wishing Well
Brian Eno-Needle in the Camel's Eye
Portishead-We Carry On
MGMT-Electric Feel
Siouxsie and the Banshees-Happy House
Morphine-Cure for Pain
Iron & Wine-Woman King
The Good, The Bad and the Queen-The History Song
Genesis-Carpet Crawlers
Big Star-The Battle of El Goodo
Ra Ra Riot-Run My Mouth
YACHT-Psychic City/Voodoo City
New Young Pony Club-The Bomb
Rebekah Star Band-Spell of You
She & Him-I Should Have Known Better
The Pierces-Lights On
Rolling Stones-Dandelion

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Some notes on MJ's This Is It.

Last night I took in Michael Jackson's This is It - in IMAX, no less!

Though I'm certainly an MJ fan, I had my doubts about the London O2 concerts. The live performances that I'd seen from the HIStory tour and the 30th Anniversary show at Madison Square Garden didn't give me much hope that MJ could ever reclaim his throne of pop showmanship.

This is It now has me thinking that those concerts really could have rejuvenated his reputation in global pop culture.

I was encouraged by the promotional clips that had been circulating, which indicated live vocals - and good live vocals at that. The majority of the songs in the film are in fact sung live, and I'm amazed that he was able to get his voice back in shape. This was probably the greatest and most convincing aspect of the film for me.

The dancing wasn't exactly the high-octane performance of MJ's legend. That may be partially due to the fact that these were rehearsals, and may also be the product of middle age. That's not to say the film is devoid of MJ's dancing, just that it's a bit more subdued than one might expect. I will say that in this video footage, his face looked better than it had in the previous 10-15 years.

Most of the man's biggest hits are here"
Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'
They Don't Care About Us
Human Nature
The Way You Make Me Feel
Beat It
I Just Can't Stop Loving You
I Want You Back/The Love You Save/I'll Be There
Earth Song
Black or White
Man in the Mirror

Noticeably absent are any tracks from the much-revered Off the Wall album. Whether or not those were planned for the shows is unclear. It's possible that their absence is simply a product of what footage existed. (the bulk of the performances hail from four or five days' worth of rehearsals).

As much of the press has noted, what's really interesting to see is MJ in the midst of his creative process. Granted, it's not quite the same as getting access to a slew of demo recordings and hearing those classic tracks take shape. But there is definitely a sense of vision and MJ working to realize that vision of what could have been his reclamation of relevance in popular culture. Of course, the unsettling irony is that he achieved that reclamation in death.

Granted, the film was meticulously edited from something like 80 hours of footage. No doubt the producers of the film worked to present MJ in the best possible light. Even so, you do not get the sense of watching someone on the verge of collapse. This doesn't appear to be a chemically dependent man, out of touch with reality. Quite the contrary - he seems focused, energized and set on blowing the O2 arena to bits.

In short, it was a worthwhile look into the construction of Jackson's O2 stint, and I think a fitting final testament. A concert film classic? Probably not. But something that any fan should make a point to see over the next two weeks (though I'm betting on an extended run. One can't help but think the "two week limited engagement" was a means to drum up advanced sales).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Crying Lightning

Either the Arctic Monkeys haven't done much to impress me up to this point, or I totally slept on them. I'm in love with this song though, it's been on a loop all week (in large part thanks to KRUI). The whole album is pretty good, but this is a gem of a rock tune. Video is so-so.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Raveonettes @ 9:30 Club, DC (10/16)

(Photo by Chris Chen)

I've wanted to see The Raveonettes live since I first heard them back in 2004 or 2005. I was perusing music at the Iowa City Public Library when I came across Chain Gang of Love. The name caught my eye. I tend to like groups with "-ettes" affixed to their name: The Marvalettes, the Raylettes, The Ronettes, et. al. I think I may also have heard them on Little Steven's Underground Garage. I loved the album immediately, ended up finding a copy at a record swap not long after, then proceeded to pick up their earlier EP and subsequent releases. But I never got to see them live, because fate wouldn't have it. So when I caught wind that they were performing DC on a Friday night, I quickly made moves.

Openers were the Black Angels, from Austin. Not bad. A little excessive on the reverb, and there wasn't a whole lot of variety in their set. But still enjoyable.

The Raveonettes put on a show that was well worth waiting four years to see. The energy of their music - alternating between '60s pop buoyancy and the darker edges of rock - translates very well into a live setting. They ran through material from 2002's Whip it On up through their newest release, In and Out of Control. They included many of my favorites - "Dead Sound," "Little Animal," "That Great Love Sound," "Aly Walk With Me" (a personal highlight), "Love in a Trashcan" and others that I can't remember at the moment. And of course, they played about half of the new record. I'd only heard it once on their live stream, but it is now in heavy rotation after the show.

Speaking of which, the band has a deal going where anyone that buys the new album at the show gets to attend a brief meet and greet after the show. I was planning on buying the new disc anyway, so this was an added bonus (though sometime between Friday and Sunday, I lost the slip containing the download information). Maybe 20 or so people were at the meet & greet. I never know what to say to my favorite bands when I get the rare chance. I just complimented them on a great show and talked to them about the tour. And got their John Hancocks. I always feel weird asking for autographs too, but when they come pen in hand, it's not so awkward.

In short, the Raveonettes live show gets the Gonzo seal of approval! Check them out if they're hitting your town. And also check out their new album. At least for the time being, you can stream it through their official widget below!

Rave on!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Funk (back from the dead!)

I've been absent, I know. I started my new gig in August and have been super busy. Frankly, blogging is one of the first things to go by the wayside in these situations. But I'll try to get a bit more regular with posting again. I have some things in the works - including a new podcast (finally!), of which this week's Friday Funk is a preview. But I won't divulge the podcast's theme until it's done. So there!

Cherrelle- I Didn't Mean To Turn You On

Monday, September 14, 2009

This is it.

This might be a train wreck (though a meticulously edited one), but I'll probably still try to see it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Funk

More pop than funk, but I digress.

I'm ready for the weekend. Though to be honest, I intend to make it a fairly productive one. But the weekend nevertheless. Enjoy it!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Don't Clap, Just Dance 9/5

I know I've been an absentee blogger. Just been really busy with getting settled in the new place, the new job, etc. I'll try harder, but no promises!

In the meantime, Cunningham and deejayed last night and spun these platters that matter:

The B-52s - Dance This Mess Around
The Police - Masoko Tanga
Clash-This is Radio Clash
Tom Tom Club-Wordy Rappinghood
The Ting Tings - Shut Up and Let Me Go
Scissor Sisters- Kiss You Off
The Blow Up/Yoko Ono - Everyman/Everywoman
The Vaselines, "You Think You're A Man
Camera Obscura - If Looks Could Kill
Orange Juice - Blue Boy
Belle & Sebastian - Legal Man
Sheena Easton - Sugar Walls
De La Soul - A Roller Skating Jam Named 'Saturdays'
Digital Underground - Duwhatchyalike
EPMD - So What Cha Sayin'
SWV - I'm So Into You
Keith Sweat - I Want Her
Johnny Kemp - Just Got Paid (12" mix)
Kano-Can't Hold Back (Your Loving)
Cherrelle- I Didn't Mean to Turn You On
Shannon-Let the Music Play (12" mix)
Chromeo-Bonafide Lovin'
Slave-Just a Touch of Love
Alan Wilkis - N.I.C.E.
Digital Underground-Kiss You Back
2Pac/Snoop-2 of Amerika's Most Wanted
Nump-I Got Grapes
N.A.S.A. feat. Spank Rock, MIA, Santogold, Nick Zinner-Whachadoin?
Wild Sugar - Bring it Here
Rick James - Hard to Get
Mary Jane Girls - Candy Man (12" mix)
Daft Punk - Voyager
Justice - Jack the Riper
Felix Da Housecat - Silver Screen Shower Scene
Les Rythmes Digitales - Hypnotize
Mylo - In My Arms
The Jets - Crush On You
New Edition - My Secret (Didja Gitit Yet?)
Jermaine Stewart - We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off (dance mix)
Earth, Wind and Fire - September
Justice - D.A.N.C.E.
Guy - Don't Clap...Just Dance
Another Bad Creation - Playground
Bell Biv Devoe - Poison
Janet Jackson - Miss You Much
Chaka Khan - I Feel for You
Ready for the World - Oh, Sheila (12" mix)
Power Station - Some Like it Hot
Prince - Let's Work
Michael Jackson - Rock With You
Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney - Say, Say, Say
The Jacksons - Blame it on the Boogie
Diana Ross - Upside Down
Chic - Everybody Dance
Village People - Sex Over the Phone
Madonna - Physical Attraction
Amanda Blank - Might Like You Better
Gwen Stefani - Hollaback Girl
Spank Rock - Bump
Tone Loc - Wild Thing (Peaches mix)
Bondo do Role - Gasolina
SWV - Right Here
Brick - Ain't Gonna Hurt Nobody
Public Enemy - Fight the Power (Do the Right Thing mix)


Thanks to everyone that came out - hopefully we'll rock yer socks again soon!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Funk

Substantial update soon. But for now, Friday Funk takes it to Nigeria:

The REALLY need to do comprehensive Fela boxed sets.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Funk

Sorry for being MIA as of late. Moving will do that to you. But I digress.

Say what you will about Hall & Oates, but this is a funky ass groove.

As a bonus, here's The Bird and the Bee covering the tune:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I'm sorry. I just can't get off of the MJ kick. I will acquiesce that the coverage has been too much, and there's no end in sight. It's died down a bit, but LaToya's kicking up dirt with murder accusations, the autopsy report is done and should be released soon, and toxicology reports are still on the docket. But let's continue to table past and present controversies and reflect on the career. Tonight I've been thinking about James Brown and Michael Jackson.

James Brown was of course hugely influential on MJ. What did J5 play to audition for Berry Gordy all those years ago?

And what about that totally surreal moment when they (and Prince) shared the stage in 1983?

And I've always loved this moment from two decades later:

Money quote: "I can't dance in heels like you."

And on a more somber note:

Monday, July 13, 2009

the 33 1/3 series

After finishing school this spring, most of my reading has been catching up on the books that have accumulated in my "to read" pile over the last few years. Of course in doing so, I end up buying more books anyhow. But that's neither here nor there. The majority of my reading material this summer has been music-related writings. I plan a post with a few raves from this pile, but Continuum's 33 1/3 series deserves their own post.

Most of you are likely familiar with the popular and acclaimed series of books. If you aren't, here's the basic rundown: each book in the series is by a different writer, focusing on a single album. The books are all fairly short, and the form they take varies - some are more about personal reflections of a particular album, others gain access to the artists for interviews and provide more of a chronicling of the disc, others are rock criticism.

The series is already up to 65 individual titles, with another 28 in the works. It's interesting to see what albums are being canonized by the series. Also interesting are the albums from the last 20 years or so, which while popular, may not have gotten a lot of attention as far as focused texts go.

I've barely even scratched the surface on the series. It's hard to compare the books, because they're all written from different perspectives and in different styles. However, they're pretty much always interesting and engaging reads for music geeks. The only one I've not been taken with so far was on The Replacements' Let it Be, mainly because the writer strayed quite a bit from the album itself. But of the other 6 or so that I've read, all have been quite good. One of my personal favorites was Matthew Stearns' take on Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation. In addition to gaining access to interviews with the group, Stearns' introduction is particularly insightful, and has some interesting things to say about sound and recorded media.

So if you haven't dipped into this series, I highly recommend it. You'll probably find yourself (like me) wanting to collect every volume.

Check out the list of current and upcoming titles in the series here.

And check out the consistently entertaining 33 1/3 blog

More on music-related summer reads soon.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Funk

Can't believe I haven't rocked this one yet this summer.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday Funk

Yeah, I'm still on an MJ loop, whatchagonnadoo? Despite the circumstances, I've enjoyed going back through all of my MJ and related material this week. In preparation for the Purple Rain party, I'd been listening to Prince almost exclusively for over a month, so it's been refreshing in that regard.

The original version of this ditty hails from The Jacksons' Triumph LP, a forgotten gem in the MJ catalog. Seriously, this track, "Can You Feel It," "Walk Right Now" and "This Place Hotel" (aka "Heartbreak Hotel")? Lord. Definitely worth picking up. They recently reissued the Jacksons catalog - this and Destiny are the ones to get.

Tonight I will be attending an MJ party in Philadelphia, which I'm looking forward to quite a bit.

Now where are those loafers?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Gonzo Interviews Alan Wilkis!

Holy crap, an interview? I must be moving on up in the blogosphere! And for the first official Gonzo's Music-o-Rama interview, I couldn't be happier to have Alan Wilkis onboard.

Brooklynite Alan Wilkis issued his solo debut Babies Dream Big last year. It was a top pick here at the Music-o-Rama, and indeed, was included on my 2008 year-end mix (I even aped his song for the compilation title!).

So I was pleased as punch when I got a sneak "peek" at Alan's new EP, Pink and Purple, out now. Through the wonders of the Internet, I was able to sit down and have a chat with Mr. Wilkis about his new release, the state of the music industry and vacuum shopping among other things. So sit back, relax and enjoy!

Gonzo: First, let's talk a little bit about the genesis of Pink and Purple. You just dropped the full length Babies Dream Big last year, and already you're back with a 6-song EP. Are these from the same sessions as the full length, were you just motivated by the release of Babies Dream Big or - more bluntly, how did this EP come about and how did it develop so quickly?

Alan Wilkis: I pretty much dove right in after was done promoting Babies. I took about 3 months off of really writing to just promote, try to get the word out. I was probably done properly working on/BDB by February of '08, and started working on new tunes by June or so. None of it was preconceived or old sessions or anything like that - I tend to want to finish something once I start it. Generally one tiny little idea pops up, like a drum beat or a synth loop or something to that effect, and then I just chip away at it, keep adding stuff in every day a little bit at a time - and then eventually I'm sitting on a new song! This usually averages out to about a month or so a song, give or take a little. I was pretty much done wit PAP by February this year, then various holdups (as is always the case).

Gonzo: Well, P&P definitely sounds distinctive from BDB, though it is unmistakably your work. That said, how would you say this release builds upon/follows/departs from Babies Dream Big?

AW: Well I think I set stricter parameters this time around. BDB was definitely more hodge-podge stylistically, like I wanna write something like Bill Withers. Now Prince. Now some classic rock. Now Pink Floyd! This time around, I really tried to reign it in, from the get go wanted to make something more of a consistent listen. Much more decidedly 80s pop, R&B, a little hip-hop w/the 808 sounds, etc... I found it to be a lot easier / liberating actually to have some limits.

Gonzo: Forced you to focus in a way

AW: Absolutely! I mean, my style is really a function of the way I listen to music, in the sense that I treat 80s funk with the same respect as Grind Metal or Bach or whatever it is, really try to learn and absorb from everything, and little bits of all of that music rattling around up there wind up expressing themselves at some point or other. So naturally, I wind up jumping around styles/genres quite a bit, even when I'm TRYING to be "focused"! But it's been really great to at least try to curb those zany impulses at least a little... feels like more of a revelation when I break a rule!

Gonzo: The EP definitely comes across as more focused/direct/cohesive than Babies as a whole.

AW: Great! I tried!

Gonzo: Speaking of recent projects, I loved your remix of Phoenix's "1901." How/why did that come about and more generally, do you have interest in doing more remix work in the future?

AW: Thanks! Yeah that was a total blast to work on. I did a few remixes for friends, more or less for fun and then it dawned on me, genius that I am, that I enjoy remixing! So I started looking around for stems on the internet, blogs, etc... found an acapella here and there, nothing crazy. And then I saw on the Phoenix website, free download of "1901" + free remix stems! I ADORE Phoenix, and have for years, so it was kind of a no-brainer

Gonzo: Wow, I had no idea they did that.

AW: Yeah, a really forward-thinking record label move (other labels take note!). In my search for stems, I came across quite a few fucking irritating things, typical major label moves. I believe for Lily Allen, for example, you had to submit some personal info, sign up for an email list, and BUY THE RECORD in order to receive the stems. Just typical resistance to the way the world works and is continuing to go. And at the end of the day, they're getting a free remix out of it for one of their artists, and all the free promotion that comes with it.

Gonzo: Exactly.

AW: Stuff that people frankly get paid to do (at least talented sought-after remixers). It's just so typical/obnoxious, and such a clear indicator of why the traditional label model continues to implode. ANYWAYS... enough ranting... ha!

The Phoenix remix has led to quite a few new opportunities, currently working on some TOP SECRET remixes for a few notable folks who shall remain nameless. Will keep you posted as soon as I'm at liberty to say!

Gonzo: Oooh, excellent!

AW: The other crazy thing was the Phoenix remix got a ton of love out there! Lots of blog reviews, and it got played on freaking KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic! I'm a total NPR dork, and KCRW is like NPR music mecca, so I more or less fainted when I found that out! Also some other random radio stations put it in rotation I've been really lucky with that, and just goes to show, remixes are such a cool way for little guys like me to get themselves out there, and also for big guys to uncover some new talent + re-imagine their own music.

Gonzo: Well that's great and sounds like it has/will open some doors for you. And honestly, I hadn't heard of Phoenix until the buzz for this LP started, but I love it, and think it will top A LOT of year end lists come December.

AW: DEFINITELY. They totally killed it, and they deserve every bit of praise + attention they've been putting out consistently wonderful music for years, and it's about time, dammit!

Gonzo: Yes, many folks have implored me to get their other records.

AW: Yeah man - you won't be disappointed. Just give the song "If I Ever Feel Better" a listen and you'll be hooked instantly. That's the one that did it for me. Very different from where they're at now, but SO good.

Gonzo: Sweet, will do! You actually touched on something that segues into another question/discussion I had in mind.

AW: Cool. Bring it, baby!

Gonzo: The first part of which is - The EP is getting great press from a diverse set of sources online. I'll also say that getting the nod from Okayplayer is kind of a big deal in my world. To what extent do you think both the independent model and our online culture have helped or hindered your reach? Put another way, if you had a choice between being an artist in the pre- or post Internet era, which would you choose?

AW: Yeah, the OKP thing was another heart-attack inducing moment for me. Well, I wouldn't trade the current landscape for anything in the world, because it's all I know as a proper musician. And frankly, the old ways were such that people got screwed in every way possible, your freedom to make the music you wanted to make was hindered perpetually, everyone had their hands in your pockets every step of the way. I don't have a very positive view on the old system. Nowadays, there are many pros and cons, but at the end of the day, 90% of the steps required / hands in the artist's pocket have been severed altogether. You don't need distribution, and frankly people don't want CDs anymore to begin with. Arguably you couldn't pay people to TAKE CDs for free (some people). Companies like CDBaby and Tunecore, etc... effectively ask you to pay a couple bucks, submit a little info, and BAM you're on iTunes, Amazon, etc., internationally.

I think it makes sense to partner up with a company when you're at the point in your music career where you simply can't handle the amount of business you need to do, when it gets in the way of being creative. But I think you shouldn't bother making music professionally / as a career if you don't have at least some semblance on an idea of how the business works. Because it IS a business, and it IS about marketing a product, and getting it in front of people, and self-promotion, and all the ugly things that artists don't WANT to deal with - and if you aren't on top of that, then there's 10 bajillion other musicians out there that will beat you to it. It's been a humbling experience, but I've developed much thicker skin from putting out + promoting the last album.

Gonzo: At the same time, you have people like Ani Difranco and Fugazi who have made it work even before the Internet boom.

AW: Yup, totally. And Raphael Saadiq, big hero of mine.

Gonzo: Oh yes. His album last year was a slick disc of soul.

AW: Yeah! And the purple one, I believe, is independent too? Nowadays, at least. I think he has some label help, but he owns his own music at the end of the day.

Gonzo: He (Prince) is, though he often enlists majors strictly for distribution.

AW: Totally. But he's possibly the best example I could think of, of when an artist reaches a scale SO HUGE that it's just pointless to run his own business end of things (he'd never make another song if he spent his days tracking down royalties in Europe...)

The one last point I wanted to make about the indie route / music and the internet etc. is the barrier to entry is lower, people rarely pay for music anymore, etc. So it's definitely tougher to make a living at it, but I still prefer it this way. My record would not exist 10 years ago, maybe less.

Gonzo: But historically, artist profit margins have been more significant in shows and merchandise than music product anyway.

AW: Totally.

Gonzo: Not that touring is cheap by any means.

AW: Although I never tour or play shows these days, haven't in years.

Gonzo: Why is that?

AW: Just a recording junkie now. Hard to say. I think it's because I've been in so many bands, spent so many fruitless hours in rehearsals preparing for a gig every three weeks, that only our friends came to. It was hard to feel "progress" after a certain point. With recording, I have something permanent, and I definitely feel forward motion with each new song / release.

Gonzo: Makes sense. The progress is more tangible.

AW: Totally. I think my time is better spent these days behind the boards. (That said, if Joe record label came along and said here's a million bucks, go make records and tour, I'd be on that like flies on a pig!) (and after all my ranting... pretty hilarious, eh?)

Gonzo: Ha well you know, when opportunity knocks -

AW: Yup.

Gonzo: On both of your releases, I hear echoes of a few artists - what artists/groups would you say have had the greatest impact on your musical development, and how so?

AW: Well there's quite a few big ones!

Gonzo: Loaded question for us music junkies, but have to ask!

AW: OBVIOUSLY PRINCE! Stevie Wonder, Rick James, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Bill Withers, Al Green, Dazz Band, Gap Band, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Midnight Star, Klymaxx, I could go on and on. Raphael Saadiq is the man. Max Tundra, Junior Boys, Dirty Projectors, Chromeo, Aphex Twin , Squarepusher, Bach, not sure when to stop... ha

Gonzo: I caught Chromeo live last fall - incredible.

AW: SO GOOD! Me too!

Gonzo: One of my favorite records of the decade.

AW: ME TOO!!!! I saw them in NY. They are the best. You will love this: I was in Bed Bath and Beyond with my lady friend and who do I see in the vacuum cleaner area but P-Thugg.

Gonzo: HA!

AW: I walk closer, circle the aisle a little but try to lay low / not be a creepy stalker and lo and behold it's definitely him, and Dave is further down the aisle. I finally muster up the balls, and I tap P on the shoulder, voice squeaks a little "ummm.... you guys.... ummm...[squeak] You guys are... who I think you are, right?" They both smiled and were like "Yup. What are you getting?" "This vacuum cleaner." "US TOO!"

Gonzo: HA! Bed Bath & Beyond - where the magic happens

AW: Always. My girl and I are STUPID huge fans, so we were a little starstruck. They were super nice

Gonzo: A Chromeo/Wilkis collab would be out of this world.

AW: Good god, I would give an arm for that (maybe a kidney too).

Gonzo: To continue this tangent for one more second - have you seen the episode of the Daryl Hall webshow they did?

AW: Definitely.

Gonzo: Ah ok. Had to mention it, because that was a moment when my worlds collided.

AW: I completely forgot Hall & Oates on the FYI list. I was super into yacht rock during BDB. Doobie Bros, Steely Dan, Hall & Oates, etc.

Gonzo: For sure. Michael Macdonald!

AW: He came from somewhere back in here long agoooooo

Gonzo: Ha ha. Ok, to get back on track (somewhat?) - Given recent events, I want to take a moment to talk about Michael Jackson. I caught your blog post, which I thought was right on - indeed, Thriller was my first musical memory as well, as I discussed on my own blog. I'm still trying to wrap my head around his death and living in a post-Michael Jackson world. Feel free to expound upon other reflections about the man and his work, but specifically I wanted to ask how his music shaped your own development musically.

AW: Oh man... MJ is just my hero. Thanks for reading the blog post by the way! I mean, Thriller was the first music I fell in love with period. And I'm still in love with it.

Gonzo: Seconded.

AW: And at this rate, my love will continue for a zillion years (or death... ugh... whichever comes first, I guess!) And he just keeps coming back to me. I'll forget for a little while, then he just reappears and it's back on again. I would like to think that the majority of my "sound" is PYT and specifically the choruses, when that little synth pokes through on the side that's like my whole ballgame. And seriously, I STILL HEAR NEW SHIT in his songs. STILL!

Gonzo: Well if you're picking a single track to be a guiding light, PYT is pretty unstoppable.

AW: Yeah it's a force. Such interesting chord changes, SO catchy, so funky, so fun.

Gonzo: Anyone that doesn't make it to the dancefloor on that one should just go home.

AW: Absolutely. A million ways to listen to it + appreciate it. Have you ever read the Quincy Jones autobiography?

Gonzo: No, but I'm sure it's got some great bits.

AW: Holy shit, that is a book and a half. A MUST READ. The man is god. Period.

Gonzo: I haven't read much music stuff in the last few years (grad school) but have been making up for it in the last few months. Will add it to the list!

AW: Gotcha. Well, between the stories, the lessons, and all the MJ-ness it's unreal. In related news, my musical best friend from college was in college jazz band back in the day. And every year they'd get a heavy hitter to come teach a master class and tell some stories, etc. Quincy came one year (HOLY SHIT, RIGHT?).

Gonzo: Jesus.

AW: And there was a Q&A, everyone's asking all this cheesy bullshit. And my friend (who is awesome) was like, "Mr. Jones. every time I want to get people dancing at a party, I put on Billie Jean, and I want to thank you for that." Later that day, my friend was in the bathroom at a urinal and Quincy came in to adjacent urinal, "Hey Matt... that was real cool what you said." HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Gonzo: Holy !

AW: I am eternally jealous and in awe of that story.

Gonzo: For sure. Yeah it's weird - those incredible bass grooves - BJ, Thriller, Smooth Criminal - I've actually found them sort of haunting in the last few days.

AW: Yeah, totally. I mean, they are among the most memorable pieces of pop music ever, not even a debatable point, really. And losing MJ is just such a damn shame and doubly sad that he'd been forced into such a recluse. Media attention etc. just ruined him.

Gonzo: Exactly. I would subtitle my book on MJ "The Most Tragic Tale in Pop Music History."

AW: There ya go - I like it! I'd read that. The REAL Thriller!

Gonzo: Seriously. Sidenote - just ordered the QJ autobio for $0.01 on Amazon. HOLLA

AW: OH SNAP. Well done! It's a quick read, you'll love it. I don't read much anymore... was an english major in college and just devoured fiction at the time, and totally fell by the wayside ever since. But QJ's book is one of the few I actually picked, and thank the lord I did. Well my man, I think I'm gonna have to retire any minute... any final questions / stuff to wrap it?

Gonzo: Well, if we're down to the last question, here it is:

AW: Ha ha - drumroll pleeeeease!

Gonzo: What's next on the Alan Wilkis agenda?

AW: WOOOOOOOAHHHHHH! Well... a few more official top secret remixes in the pipeline, 3 to be exact (if anybody out there wants a remix, you know where to find me!). Also co-producing a new record for some friends of mine over the summer / early fall - the band is called Project Jenny, Project Jan (they are lovely, by the way). They did a delightful collaboration album with a bunch of awesome bands including Fujiya & Miyagi + Mixel Pixel. And then I guess it's on to solo record number #3!

Gonzo: Woot!

AW: Ha ha! Woot indeed, my man... woot indeed. Trying to hustle, you know?

Gonzo: Fo-sheezy.

AW: Ha ha. Well this has been an absolute pleasure!

Gonzo: Likewise! Congrats on the EP, thanks for taking the time to chat, and keep us posted!

AW: Thanks so much, man! Will do!

Alan Wilkis is all over the web! Check out:
his MySpace page
his Facebook
his official website, including blog and storefront!

Also, Pink and Purple is out now on the and the iTunes. GITIT!