Friday, December 25, 2009

Jimmy's Favorite Songs from 2009 (in a semi-serious order)


We've got another 6 or so days till 2009 is over, so who knows what could happen, but I think these are my favorite songs from 2009. Check 'em out!

#20 Drummer - "Feel Good Together" - Worst. name. ever (the band is a collaboration between a bunch of different drummers from all different bands, led by the drummer of The Black Keys). I suppose it's a cute name, but in the age of the internet a name like that might as well make it goddamn impossible to find any information about them. Fortunately, names don't really affect music and their talents shined through in a big way.

#19 Spiral Stairs - "Maltese T" - I need to write a post about music that might not have been from released in 2009, but I discovered it then and it was awesome. Pavement would be one of those bands. I'd never heard and I don't recall why I did it, but in March of this year I listened to Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and was hooked immediately. With the announcement later this year they would be reforming, I looked deeper into the catalogue and stumbled across this new track recently by their guitarist. Great stuff.

#18 Miike Snow - "Animal" - The two i's aren't a typo, nor is this song's inclusion on the list. Upbeat, fun song with a pretty sweet music video.

#17 Dinosaur Jr. - "Over It" - Also has a cool video. Nice lil grungy redux in 2009.

#16 Atlas Sound ft. Noah Lennox - "Walkabout" - The influence of Noah Lennox a.k.a. Animal Collective's Panda Bear is immediately apparent in this one and that's a very good thing. It's like if Animal Collective wrote a 3 minute pop song for the radio. Super chillin'.

#15 Yeasayer - "Ambling Alp" - You fucking hipsters did it again. Nice work.

#14 Metric - "Gimme Sympathy" - Metric should be a lot more famous right now.

#13 Animal Collective - "What Would I Want? Sky" - Phil talked about this song and he's dead on. I think "My Girls" is a really great song and it deserved of the many accolades people have heaped on it this year, but I think this new one that just came out takes the cake.

#12 Wale ft. Lady Gaga - "Chillin" - I think a lot of people don't like this new Wale album because of the outrageous hype surrounding it and the crummy track list that bounces 903909239023 places (aside: for somebody that talks about DC in every song, maybe you should like...embrace that style fully on your debut album? I dunno, seems like a pretty obvious choice if you're serious about all your past criticisms you have about recording industry.) BUT, I think this song is a blast no matter what. It's basically a Lady Gaga song, but that's okay, Lady Gaga rules. Wale's parts are pretty trivial, but they're fun and in the spirit of the song so it gets a big thumbs up from me.

#11 Iyaz - "Replay" - one of the few songs on hot 99.5 that I didn't get sick of. That says a lot--they played it every hour for 2 months this fall.

#10 Pearl Jam - "The Fixer" - Kick ass pop-rock tune. It's cool to hear Pearl Jam sing a pop song. It keeps the rest of their work honest. If everything were an epic grungy bitter alt-rock songs trying to recreate Ten and they never smiled, the whole body of work would be diminished. They're older guys having fun now and this let me in on it. Listen to it here:

#9 Julian Casablancas - "11th Dimension" - review my thoughts here. Great, great track.

#8 Girls - "Lust For Life" - Very short, very weird and very cool.

#7 Passion Pit - "Moth's Wings" - There are certain morning songs I like to hear when I wake up. You know the songs that seem to be written for sunny sunday mornings when you've got a day free ahead of you and not a care in the world. "Lay Lady Lay" by Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel's "59th Street Song" immediately come to mind. This song has joined that group. Compared to Passion Pit's other work, it's very gentle in nature, but it still maintains the group's energy and the result is a truly uplifting experience.

#6. Kid CuDi ft. MGMT & Ratatat - "Pursuit of Happiness" - Truth be told it's a sad song, but goddamn do I like kickin' it hard with this playing

#5. Franz Ferdinand - "Lucid Dreams" (album version) - I knew I had to put a FF song on this list somewhere because I listened to the album all year, but I had a lot of trouble deciding what song I liked the very most. I first heard the single "Ulysses" around this time last year loved it. When the album arrived, I heard "Lucid Dreams" in full and was blown away. The full 7+ minute version that closes the album turns into a kickass acid house electronica jam. It's also an incredibly fitting tribute to one of my favorite bands of all time and a major influence on FF, The Stone Roses. This past summer, I saw the band live and they closed their set with a fantastic 15 minute version of the song that ensured that it was one of the top three concerts I'd ever witnessed in my life and the best part of any concert I went to in 2009. Great, great, great song.

#4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Heads Will Roll" - It's simultaneously a dance track, heavy as metal, and with clever lyrics to boot.

#3. Alice in Chains - "Check My Brain" - I'm not sure what I'm more impressed by: this song or the fact that it has been basically 15 years since any serious AIC work and somehow, with a new lead singer, Jerry Cantrell & Co. were able to put such a great album that revels in the past style of the band, but still is new and innovative with a new lead singer and new vitality to it all.

#2. Them Crooked Vultures - "Nobody Loves Me & Neither Do I" - best...rock song...of 2009. New in style, but it harkens back to the heaviness that made the 70s so great.

#1. Grizzly Bear - "While You Wait For The Others" - just a beautiful, beautiful song that still carries all it's vibrancy with me almost 10 months after I first heard it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Phil's Top 25 Songs of 2009

I was considering using images for this post. Then I realized formatting on Blogger is like trying make a dog wear a sweater. As cute as it'll look, it's a pain in the ass and never looks exactly the way it should.

So 2009 was a great year for music! We had Lady Gaga bleeding from the hips, Kanye finally learns he needed to put down the bottle, and the rise of the dreamwave and refined electropop sound. Understand that my taste in music should not affect your taste in music, nor should you let any tight-jean-wearing hipsters who use decimal points to rate albums dictate your taste either. Consider me your playlist man. Of 2009. Listen to the songs (minus my #2 song) in the Lala player below. Sit back and relax, folks.

1. Animal Collective - "My Girls": A frolicking psychedelic ride about every man's simple wants and needs. Ok, that was pretentious. He just wants four adobe slabs and his girls.

2. Grizzly Bear - "Two Weeks": Timeless, clever, and fresh. Good for those bus rides when you stare out your window and contemplate your life like it's directed by Zach Braff.

3. Dirty Projectors - "Stillness is the Move": IMO, Dave Longstreth's band's Bitte Orca isn't a great album. But when he writes songs as self-deprecating and groovy as this, I gotta give him props.

4. Phoenix - "Fences": Valium and electronica.

5. Bat for Lashes - "Daniel": Natasha Khan made it cool to have a teenage heartthrob again. Be still my heart.

6. Girls - "Hellhole Ratrace": Plays out like some drunken late-night tirade, but turns out to be a concert hall sing-along.

7. Washed Out - "New Theory": Hums like elevator music, sounds like an escalator descending into a giant jacuzzi.

8. Metric - "Gimme Sympathy": Rarely are pop songs put together this well, and still not given any radio play. Except in Canada and college.

9. Camera Obscura - "French Navy": This is what romantic comedies should be using to back up key scenes, but end up buying the rights to some shitty Natasha Bedingfield tune.

10. Franz Ferdinand - "What She Came For": Cigarettes, guitar licks, and slick hair.

11. Passion Pit - "Moth's Wings": Wake up to eggs and bacon with this song playing, and I promise you there'll be no red lights on your drive to work (Editor's Note: I take it back.)

12. Kid Cudi ft. MGMT and Ratatat - "Pursuit of Happiness": By no means is Kid Cudi in the pantheon of great hip-hop of the last ten years, but he crosses genres like Lady Gaga crosses genders - and like her, apparently gets away with it.

13. Tegan & Sara - "On Directing": Their album Sainthood proves to be their strongest sound yet, and the Quins' little ditty stands out like a sore loser in love. Good call, twins.

14. Hockey - "Song Away": "I want to write a truthful song over an 80's groove." They got the last part right.

15. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Zero": Not quite "Maps", but Karen O and Co. keep 'em coming.

16. La Roux - "Bulletproof": Elly Jackson's voice comes at you like a tidal wave, and so does her hair.

17. Matt & Kim - "Lessons Learned": It's not that "Daylight" didn't do it for me, but the four-on-the-floor drums did me in here.

18. Yo La Tengo - "Here to Fall": From their latest potpourri album Popular Songs, this tune fits into the "pained lover" category. I think.

19. The Sounds - "No One Sleeps While I'm Awake": Maja Ivarsson channels Grace Slick's contralto in this glam rock wonder.

20. The xx - "Stars": Remember how I mentioned dreamwave above? Yeah, this is what I'm talking about.

21. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - "Ramona": For a B-side, this sticks out stronger than some of the released singles from their self-titled album. But check out their other work as well.

22. Noah and the Whale - "Blue Skies": A very literal song about heartbreak, but the orchestral tweaks are what won me over. The entire album deserves a spin.

23. The Antlers - "Sylvia": Depressing, yet redeeming. It'll rattle you like an insulin shot.

24. Dragonette - "Easy": A pop song, but a love song. It might not make you dance, but it'll make you smile. (Editor's Note: That sounded cheesy.)

25. Uninhabitable Mansions - "Maps Not Accurate": A supergroup that includes Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Au Revoir Simone, it's hard to say where they landed on the sound - but it's fresh.

Here's to 2009. Auld Lang Syne. -- PC

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Bravery - "Stir the Blood" (Review)

As a huge fan of their eponymous first album, and an even bigger fan of second album, “The Sun and the Moon”, I had a lot of expectations for The Bravery’s third album, Stir the Blood.

First the criticism-

In the first two albums, every song was unique and a great listen. Not so for this album. The songs are darker for sure, and they achieve some cool effects-such as in Song For Jacob. The problem is that a lot of the songs are similar to each other and lack a unique feel.

On top of that, the melodies in many of them, like “Jack-O’-Lantern Man”, “Red Hands and White Knuckles”, and “I Have Seen the Future” don’t seem to flow directly from the instrumentation. Rather, singer Sam Endicott seems to place his vocals separate from the rest of the song, the effect being that he demonstrates his remarkable virtuoso skills at the expense of the song’s natural progression. In contrast- a couple good examples of the different parts of the song giving one another enough room to develop independently can be found in The Ring Song and Tyrant, both from their self-titled first album.

Anthony Burulcich’s drumming is excellent as always; unfortunately, I don’t think it’s used to its full potential to really steer songs in new directions. You can see Burulcich’s unique imprint in songs like Honest Mistake off the first album and in the mind-blowing conclusion to The Ocean off the second album, elements that are sadly missing in Stir the Blood.

As for the positive-

There are some really solid songs on this album. The single, “Slow Poison” is wonderful, musically and lyrically, with a perfect mixture of Sam Endicott’s leathery, emotional, straining voice singing dark lyrics against the upbeat, 80’s new wave-y background.

However, the best song on the album by far is “The Spectator.” Again, lyrically powerful stuff, some great visuals:

"His eyes, like two cats, scratching in his head

Begging him for sleep, starving for a bed."

I don't know much about music theory, but I believe that the song uses minor two part harmony vocals when they sing "Chime Chime Chime..." that produce a really cool effect. Look for it at 2:53. I tried recording the same part myself as a 3-part harmony triad- totally destroys the effect that The Bravery cultivated, one that fits perfectly with the subject of the lyrics.

Two songs that completely stand out on the album, in the sense that they don't really fit the feel of the other songs, are She's So Bendable, (that seems to have taken a page out of BJ Thomas' Rock Me Gently) and Sugar Pill, both very cool with unique mixing.

Like all Bravery albums, give the songs a few listens; at least one or two will be sure to grow on you. --- FA

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Papas Fritas - "Way You Walk"

I had never heard of Papas Fritas up until a few weeks ago, and I'm pretty sure I never would have run across them unless my friend had pointed them out. They're like Fleetwood Mac if they went to college together in the 2000s. Actually, they even covered Book of Love from the band's 1982 album Mirage. They've got pop, rock, alt, hell - even disco influences.

Way You Walk is funky. Sounds a little like Morphine, if you've ever listened to them - the kind of song that sounds good on late-night drives, or walking in the streetlights. The thick bassline and clapping have this stripped-down feeling, giving way to the lyrics about guy whose lady is cheating on him. Check out their album Buildings and Grounds if you likey. -- PC

Animal Collective - "What Would I Want? Sky"

I've got no problem with art for art's sake. What I don't believe in is liking art for liking art's sake, if that makes any sense. Anyway, this has to do with the overheapings of praise for Brooklyn/Baltimore band Animal Collective. Yeah, I get it - they like samples, they like long takes, they like experimental music. Now critics feel it necessary to preempt their proper place in music history as innovators as if they'll only be remembered for it in the future - a la Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica. 2009's Merriweather Post Pavillion is the band's most commercial work so far, and even if I don't think it's a great album by far, they're definitely warming up on me. My Girls is still a great single - it goes to show that when they find a groovy melody, they can win new hearts.

Their recent EP Fall Be Kind is another move in the right direction. The second track, What Would I Want? Sky uses (if you haven't heard already) the first legal sample of a Grateful Dead tune - Unbroken Chain from Mars Hotel. The song ascends like a psychedelic rocketship, blasting off and once it breaks through the dreamy stratosphere, kicks in with Phil Lesh crooning in the background, with Avey Tare's vocals intertwining just perfectly. It rides on its confidence. The Dead should be proud. -- PC

Friday, December 4, 2009

"If you can't do it right, you can always do what's left"

Them Crooked Vultures. I've heard mixed opinions. I have mixed opinions, but there's a few songs that are just too good for anyone to ignore in my very unhumble opinion.

The album opens up with the crunchiest of the crunchy, "Nobody Loves Me and Neither Do I." This song is phenomenal for a few reasons. For one, it manages to combine all three of the individuals,

(Random aside: In what order do you name the three founders of the band? Go first with the traditional lead singer who kinda sucks compared to the others, go with the most important historically from the best band of all time, or the one who is arguably the most important rock star in the world right now and was the catalyst for the project in the first place? Alphabetical? Do they draw straws? No matter what, I'm fucking bitter I missed seeing them in concert. BUT ANYWAYS....) manages to combine all three's individual talents in an extremely complimentary way.

The song starts out with Josh Homme's lyrics over a pure Queens of the Stone Age stoner rock jam bit with some silly lyrics:

"Well if sex is a weapon, then smash, boom, pow,
How do you like me now?

You can't always do it right, you can always do what's left

So I told her I was trash, she wait til after and said I already know...
I've got a beautiful place to put your face and she was right,"

What holds this all together better than your typical QOTSA song is Dave Grohl's drumming. Much like Jimmy Chamberlin pushing along Billy Corgan's silliness on guitar, Dave Grohl keeps the song moving and kicking ass, for the lack of a better term. Then we get into a little bridge that starts picking up pace and makes you wonder, but wheeeeeere's John Paul Jones? Gimme some bass, yo!

And then it happens.

There's a brief pause...and the heaviest 2.5 minutes recorded in AT LEAST 15 years takes over.

"CUT IT!!!!!!!!"

Listen to the song and you'll understand very quickly. In the meantime, I'll be headbanging. Also, check out the listed below:

Modest Mouse - "King Rat" music video

What we have here is a detailed account of some friendly whales navigating a ship in search of "food". The skipper in charge mans the ship underneath the sun while horns from the clouds tell him and the battleship what's up. The seagulls fly over the sea, but soon shit gets weird.

Has anyone ever noticed how radar never signals anything good? When was the last time a friendly dude found somebody else friendly via radar in a movie? NEVER. IT DOESN'T HAPPEN. Doesn't happen this time either, the radar finds some victims and we've got some horrific whales on HUMAN violence.


My god I'm scared myself, I don't even need to know Isaac Brock's details about this horrifying story, his shrieks alone convey the horrible stripping of the human carcasses and the frenetic beat accompanying the partying scene similarly says it all. In this twisted tale, all the horrendous things humanity does for bills comes back to haunt them in graphic detail

Down goes the people (or whales) down the shoots and becomes human (or fish) stick mush. Perhaps the most horrifying image? At the end. My god, I hope my puppy doesn't see his dinner like the pet in the video does.


If there is a better look into Heath's head post-Batman, pre-death, I don't know what it is. This video will make you freak.