Friday, January 30, 2009

part 1: john shade, your fortune's made by fol chen

If possible, I highly suggest having a chat with Fol Chen lead-man Samuel Bing. This will, naturally, lead to committing an act of low-level, madcap international espionage with the band as a whole. 'Cause if John Shade, Your Fortune's Made (2/3) isn’t the soundtrack to a night that starts with innocent intentions before snowballing into an over-stuffed getaway car hell-bent on a dance party suicide mission, then, well...your guess is as good as mine.

Fol Chen is universally loved around the Would-Be Hipster compound for all the obvious reasons. Of course, how were to know that their top-shelf Plastic Snow track was only scratched the surface for what was to come? Fol Chen has made a debut album that glows like Marsellus Wallace's brief case. I'm not kidding. If I listen to "The Idiot" one more time, this entire review might blissfully devolve into a Pulp Fiction style rant about the beauty of sneaking a touch of Prince-like vocals into your otherwise "romantic-core" style. (Less blasphemy, more creations of tasty sub-genres for the next generation of troubadours to hijack and awkwardly tag their output. Foot massage optional.)

At this point you're clearly wondering: who are these masked men (and woman)? What is this terrifying mission I inadvertently agreed to when I tore the cellophane off my CD or pushed the download button on Emusic? And what about the looming (Phil) specter of the mysterious John Shade? Well...I'm not completely sure. If we're to follow the cryptic clues left in musical form (and who doesn't look to their indie-rock for secret messages these days?) the mission is both varied and complex, with no two musical "orders" exactly the same. To survive to see part two, you'll have to delve into the very nature of belief, cram romantic sorrow down your throat like so much bitter wedding cake, traverse southern California under a red sky, (fire season?) and watch lots of cable TV with the same frequency and passion I keep hitting repeat on "The Idiot" (AHAHHA!)

Clearly, information on the enemy has sunk to an all time low. But he looms. Oh yes, he looms. Keep strong, fellow Would-Be Hipsters, Fol Chen needs you. Keep strong, and keep your romantic streak alive. But most importantly...keep dancing.

mp3: "No Wedding Cake" by Fol Chen

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

eps everywhere

EPs are like flirting. A look, a wink, a catchy hook...and then, with any luck, you're left breathless with a crumpled piece of paper containing a release date for an LP wedged in your sweating hand. Like the good-looking guy winking at me from across the room, here's a few EPs that have been catching my ear over the past six or so months. Here's hoping he's not gay it's the sign of full-lengths to come.

m.a.g.i.c by the sound of arrows

Their second EP in so many years (available today), The Sound of Arrows are quickly turning into habitual flirts. This time though, with their first full-length on the horizon, the pretty boys of the Swedish electopop scene might be ready to commit, ready to create "Magical landscapes, sprinkled with stardust and unicorns, churches and kids." While the samples are a bit more obvious this go around, the source of their sonic magic isn't quite so clear. Why is this so appealing? I'm betting on a combination of my ongoing Labrador addiction, some sort of Swedish Harry Potter-style wizardry, and good-old-fashioned work ethic from two musicians still young enough to be dubbed "wunderkind." 

mp3: "M.A.G.I.C" by The Sound of Arrows

imaginary by the happy hollows

I have to admit, this took a bit to grow on me. Hence the review on an album that came out sometime before...Christmas? Before Halloween? (I honestly have have no was probably earlier. I'm making this up as I go along.) My main problem before finally coming around to this glorious punk-rock renaissance: I'm not by nature a rocker. (I'm more of a "mocker.") However, this is something special. The Happy Hollows are the Sonic Youth on Prozac we've always hoped for. The Imaginary EP is fresh, youthful, fun, and constantly on the verge of either falling apart or dancing into the sunset if not for lead-woman Sarah Negahdari's riot girl growl. The best part? You can grab this album for free.

mp3: "Lieutenant" by Happy Hollows

panesian nights by cfcf

I'm still riding the wave of obsession generated by Cut Copy's last album. Thankfully, while, they're off touring, we have Canada's answer to the rainbow synth, CFCF. The band that struck my fancy as part of the Sally Shapiro remixes, caught the ear of record executives, and voila! An EP was born. Occasionally I find myself still wishing there was a voice over the deliciously trashy 80s beats, but you've gotta save something for the second date, right?

mp3: "Crystal Mines" by CFCF

valencia by penny century

Sometimes an EP brilliantly catches a young band on the rise. Honestly, when the up-and-coming Rilo Kiley e-mails you, how are you to say no? Answer: you don't. That would be crazy talk. The music is poppy, the lyrics heartfelt. This is the song-craft of an eternal youth spent in the northern Sweden sunshine (don't laugh). The fact that all the band members are in their early-twenties means the party has just started. Here's to the next album and century.

mp3: "Valencia" by Penny Century

hot work
by the pity party

LA darlings The Pity Party are marketing to you (or so claims their Myspace). The good news is, the first taste, their Hot Work EP can be yours for the price of an e-mail address! If you act now, they'll throw in squealing guitar riffs, vocals from a chick who could most definably beat me up in a dark ally and Autolux-style angst. Bonus: they're as good with pointy sticks as they are pointed hooks.

mp3: "Wanting Want" by The Pity Party

Saturday, January 24, 2009

pins and panzers by plushgun

I'm terribly split on Plushgun's debut album Pins and Panzers (out 2/17). Conflicted. Torn. As tortured as one can be when voicing opinions on a blog read by roughly seven people. (Keeping it real, folks.) It's not a bad album by any means...if it were it would have already been chucked on my Amoeba pile and we would have been spared this review. In fact, parts of it are downright promising and catchy. It'll be big with the least that seems to be the hope.

Let's start with the good. Musically, this is a project akin to something Jimmy Tamborello might create when hopped up on Redbull during an all night collaborative stint with Final Fantasy's Owen Pallet. In other words, it's freaking catchy. Advanced electro-indie bubble gum pop for adults.

There in lies the problem. This is clearly music for adults. Yet lyrically, the whole Plushgun project has advanced as far as the average tenth-grade girl's Livejournal. The bright side? Every emotion is felt with depth and incontrovertible passion. The dark side? This is a twenty-something man singling about illicit-teen-aged drinking, innocent crushes, and having not one, not two or three...but twenty different pairs of leggings for an outfit (as a metaphor for a personality- shifting friend, of course). Pardon me, but...what?

Where the audience for this? "Adults1" are too busy pretending their crises are played out on a different stage, teens are all locked out of the 21 and over clubs where Plushgun plays. That is, if there are teens. If there's one thing market research has clearly taught us, it's that our nation's youth don't want to hear their struggle voiced by a late 20-something geek-chic synth hero. No, current trends indicate they'd prefer their struggle as written by fifty-year-old men delivered by in hot-topic sized chunks. Dang it, I suddenly feel really old.

Wait. Let's go back a two paragraphs. I know I'm flogging the dead horse here, but the human language is broad and deep, and the best metaphor you can find for the shifting sands of personal identity is...a girl's leggings? This is not unlike the scene in Love and Death when Diane Keaton moans, "He's taken all the beauty in life and condensed it down to that of a small fish!" I think the real tragedy here is how much I want to enjoy Plushgun. So close.

If you're a person who doesn't parse lyrics with the passion of a grad student (or alternately if you're a musically advanced teenage girl) then this might be your new favorite artist. If not, you'll be driven to start rereading old diaries, toying with calling up old high school crushes, and bemoaning the death of your youthful innocence. Either way, it's an experience, right?

1. It baffles me that I've somehow landed in that category.

mp3: "Dancing In a Mindfield" by Plushgun
Mp3: "Just Impolite" by Plushgun

Sunday, January 18, 2009

end of year list #4

Because doing thing on time is so last year.

I have to admit, of my many would-be-hipster activities, this has been the most challenging by far. Many were the hours spent in bitter self-doubt over the simple choice of who would make the list, and who would be edited away into oblivion. As I anguished, the nights rolled by slowly -- taking their toll on my sanity.

I came up with list after list; each one more flawed than the last. I bemoaned my condition to fellow occasional would-be-hipster P.W.C -- and found out he had a top-ten list he had compiled "just in case." Woefully unprepared for the task before me, I implored his assistance -- and though I'm pretty sure such things are considered "abominations" in the holy books of most major religions -- behold the unholy union of our (though mostly his) lists!

ten favorite albums

1 • Lindstrøm - Where I Go You Go Too

This album isn't just "inspired by" the Tangerine Dream/Jean-Michael Jarre/Vangelis/Jan Hammer school of synthesizer bliss, it sounds like it absolutely could have come from that era (if you overlook some sonic trickery which perhaps would be impossible in the late 70s/early 80s). It makes me really happy not only that Lindstrøm made this type of throwback album, but that people understood, respected and enjoyed the album for the wonderful gift it is.

2 • Aradhna - Amrit Vani

Technically this album came out Dec 21, 2007, but since it was only 10 days away from the cutoff, it's here. This is a Christian Indian group primarily focused around acoustic guitar and sitar compositions based off of bhajans, devotional songs to Jesus. The music is challenging, unique, the spoken refrains perfect, and the first and last songs especially are wonderful. "World-Fusion" music is something I am very wary of, but this band is totally legit and wonderful, with very solid production to boot. If you are looking to expand your musical vocabulary, I cannot recommend this band enough.

3 • Kelley Polar - I Need You To Hold On While the Sky is Falling

Woefully underappreciated, this album deserves far more accolade than it received. In fact, Kelley Polar deserves far more accolade than he receives. The indie community needs to get it together and start giving Kelley Polar a lot of serious attention. "Chrysanthemum" is the probably the best song about nuclear destruction I am aware of. And the chorus of "Rosenband" is one of my favorites ever – "And all around us was Elysium, Elysium, Elysium, Elysium, Elysium, Elysium, Elysium".

4.5 • Covox - Infiltrator EP

%100 8-bit. %100 awesome -- I just can't get Kickflip out of my head. Full of sassy hooks, epic-and-almost-narrative 8-bit masterpieces worthy of a 14 karat gold re-release of the original Legend of Zelda cart. I think most poeple are split on the 8-bit music scene -- some hate it, some love it. My list. I love it. Deal with it.

4 • M83 - Saturdays = Youth

A beautiful shoe gaze-y pop album full of earnest 80s sounds.

5 • Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours

The Cut Copy album where it all came together. Some really, really gorgeous pop combining shoegaze, art-rock and filter-disco into one wonderful giddy glowing neon tidepool of sound.

6 • Lullatone. - The Bedtime Beat

The best sleepy-time/bathtime themed album of the decade!

7 • Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles

Though this band has an uncomfortable air of controversy hanging around them, which has cleared up somewhat as of recently, they are undeniably sonically exciting.

8 •Chairlift Does You Inspire You

One part 80's synth-pop, two-parts dreamy lyrics courtesy of secret-weapon Caroline Polachek, three parts oh-so-New-Order guitar riffs, and four parts awesome. I dare you to listen to Territory and not raise your eyebrows. Double dare.

9 • Manual - Confluence

One of Manual's best ambient albums so far. Gorgeous and warm.

10 • Keith Canisius - Ferris Wheel Makeout

Shoegaze bliss pop electronics.

ten favorite songs

1 • Deastro - Light Powered

I hope this guy blows up soon. This single is relentless and insane like a Saturday morning cartoon theme show song. If Sasquatches ever appear en masse and invade North American cities, they should do so to this song. Seriously, this song is RAD. Really, really RAD.

2 • M83- Couleurs

Driving, layered, with a fantastically oscillating drone in the background. Definitely the best M83 song to feature a cowbell ever.

3 • Aradhna - Narahari

Great, swelling production, with an uplifting, soothing group chorus. Highly recommended.

4 • Ladyhawke - Dusk 'Til Dawn

Super catchy, 1980s-styleed pop for teenagers dancing in their bedrooms, from a New Zealand girl named Pip.

5 • Kanye West – Street Lights

I find this the most sonically inventive song I've heard from Kanye yet, with an intro riff that seriously sounds like it could be a My Bloody Valentine song. Really. Great vocal melody, too.

6 • Johann Johannson - The Rocket Builder (Io Pan!)

Beautiful neoclassical piece, great sound and weight. Really worth getting right now.

7 • Hearts of Palm UK – Goodbye

A great song off a great album. Makes me all sniffly.

8 • DaedelusMake It So

Sleepy-eyed vocals, great filtered disco feel, probably the best single I've heard yet from LA-based Victorian-electro performer Daedelus.

9 • Beach House - Some Things Last a Long Time

Those thunderous drums and the most reverb-drenched tambourine of 2008.

10 • Chris Schlarb – I

From Twilight & Ghost Stories, this is a great slab of ambient beauty that would make for excellent company on a rainy morning spent inside with books. Music like this makes me feel very blessed to live in an age where we have music like this.

5 Bands People Should Talk About More:

Slow Dancing Society.


Kelley Polar.

Paul Hardcastle.

Orange Crush (the Norwegian electronic musician, not the pop punk band).

Top 3 shows of 2008

1 •m83 @ the henry fonda

the lights were bright, and beats were loud, and the crowd was wild. I loved the energy at this show and m83 had a few new tricks up its sleeve hot on the heels of it's new album release, Saturdays = Youth. Really memorable; really awesome.

2 •chairlift @ the echo

my first review for the would be hipsters, and you'll be glad to know the law of beginners luck was in full effect. These guys were great. When Caroline Polachek started singing over those sweet, sweet synths... and the guitar riffs... and the awesome.

3 •dungen @ the echo

partly because they were so different than most bands I go see, partly because they put on a great show and partly because of the large drunk man who stood behind me a good portion of the time shouting at the top of this lungs, this easily makes the top three.

In 2009 I might:

Release an album of my musics. Raise 3kmonies for AIDS and ride a bike to San Francisco. Get married or decide to spend the rest of my life alone. Learn to play a saw. Figure out why Chicken salad is so delicious. Release a few zines. Have a few art shows. Move to Portland and revel in the glory of the Hipster God, an ancient alien entity enshrined deep beneath the surface of the earth and mother to all hipsters; she watches over us, even her would-be children, with love and everlasting grace.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

the crying light by antony and the johnsons

I'll be honest. I started and restarted this review several times before coming to an obvious conclusion: Antony and the Johnsons are incredibly difficult to write about. And they aren't making it any easier with their new album The Crying Light (out 1/20).

If you've ever encountered Antony Hegarty, you know exactly what to expect. (If not, pick up last year's Another World EP and report back for further instruction.) No, expectations vs. delivery aren't what's blocking this from being a full-fledged review. Antony's bizarre yet vulnerable voice continues to float and dance over lush orchestration - I particularly like the reoccurring oboe and clarinet motif. It's a beautiful, cabaret-noir album, and (as usual) more than a bit heartbreaking. Musical evolution is overrated when no-one else serves it up quite like this.

Maybe it's difficult because this time around, Antony has tackled an incredibly universal topic - the health of our own world. And, judging by the album's first single, "Another World," (or alternately, watching the evening news) it ain't pretty. As a call to social responsibility, lines like I'll miss the animals / I need another world are a painful reminder of what we stand to lose. It's a spellbinding call for awakening, enlightenment and in "Daylight and the Sun," mourning for light both literal and metaphorical.

Ultimately though, the difficultly lies in the gestalt created by word, voice, and orchestration. (Well, that along with my general inability to use grown-up words when awed.) Clearly this is one of those terrible, rare cases when, despite my urge to throw a dog-eared thesaurus worth of words at the blog. You're much better off just taking a listen. Do so in wonder while I slink away at my inability to convey my own awe.

mp3: "Another World" by Antony and the Johnsons

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

dear john by loney dear

The music of Loney Dear is an amicable mix of bittersweet memories paired with addictive orchestral pop chords. This is the music of gray days when, rather than be depressed, your memories provide a backdrop for quiet nostalgia. Seeing as how I run on quiet nostalgia (and a little bit of tofu), this was easily one of my most anticipated albums of the year1.

Of course this time around, the quiet nostalgia honed to perfection in 2007's Loney Noir, isn't quite so quiet. Dear John (available 1/27) is, as the name might imply, a bit darker than previous sugar-spun outings2. The gray day has turned into a cloudless night. While you're tucked inside scribing emo rants into your journal (dear diary, stuff sucks...) lead man and brains behind the Loney Dear operation Emil Svanängen is out howling at the moon. And darn it if he still didn't sound pretty epic out there. And pretty. If only all artists could have such melodic demons.

In "I Was Only Going Out", there's an incredibly telling line: I wish it didn't bother me no more, all the things that made me dark for a time. But it still does bother him. It'll take you a few listens to get past the beautiful orchestration to the lyrics (this coming from and admitted word junky). But when you do, you'll quickly discover Svanängen's sorrow is an active one. He's lost, swimming, falling (twelve stories no less). Amidst all the activity he finds time to lament, I've got a hole in my head and a hole in my heart. By the time the haunting violin solo (preformed by Loney Dear tourmate Andrew Bird) on album midpoint "I Got Lost" kicks in, you'll find yourself wishing you were a bit to blame.

This isn't to say that Loney Dear's exploration of angst is in any way self-indulgent. Although, if I might be self-indulgent and pull out an art history term, Dear John can best be described as the auditory equivalent to tenebrism. In non-geek terms this is a fancy way of saying all the darkness only highlights light and beauty. Happy people are all the same. But using your melancholy (artistic or actual) to make others happy? Now that's magic.

Each of Loney Dear's albums make for an incredibly absorbing listen. But live? Breathtaking. Unless you're prepared to craft your sadness into indisputable art, I highly suggest you catch his current tour.

1. There may or may not have been girly squealing when I found it in the mail.
2. Don't worry. It's not you, it's him.

mp3: "Airport Surroundings" by Loney Dear

Monday, January 12, 2009

end of year list #3

And I thought this was hard last year.

I wonder if there are support groups for people who suffer too much angst over silly lists.

ten favorite albums

11 • Visiter by The Dodos
m.a.b. only had nine albums, so I get eleven. I couldn't leave this one off.
10 • Saturdays = Youth by M83
This one grew on me so gradually, so insidiously, that I barely noticed until I saw them live at the end of November and they made my knees wobble. I never thought I would feel this level of affection for something that's a) predominantly electronic, and b) predominantly evocative of the 80s -- not my favorite decade, despite being the one I was born in. Go figure.
9 • Rook by Shearwater
This is some seriously pretty music. And it's never boring. The more I think about it, the more impressive that is.
8 • In Ear Park by Department of Eagles
Another grower. Given another couple months, it wouldn't surprise me if this album battled its way significantly father up this list. It's no secret that I'm a sucker for nonsense words, and so by the time I get to the last minute and a half of "Floating on the Lehigh" (the second-to-last track) I'm pretty much in heaven.
7 • Devotion by Beach House
More from the Seriously Pretty file. Dream pop without the noise, with emphasis on the vocals. It's so subtle and mellow that it can be difficult to get into, but for the right mood, it is just right.
6 • The Family Afloat by Bound Stems
On the strength of solely its opening and closing tracks (slight emphasis on the glorious, culminating crescendo of the latter), The Family Afloat would have to be on this list. The fact that it generally manages to maintain those levels in between is just icing on the cake. For a weird and difficult to explain assortment of personal reasons, this broke my heart more than just about anything else this year.
5 • The Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit
Here it is -- my Car Album of the Year. I love to drive, so I tend to put a lot of emphasis on that soundtrack, and the CDs that never want to come out hold a special place in my otherwise cold, black heart. Just when I thought I'd had enough of this one, it kept coming back. I try not to worry too much about what this means for my psyche.
4 • In Ghost Colours by Cut Copy
This ruined my life. That's all you need to know.
3 • Pershing by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
Sometimes I am a very simple person. Sometimes I crave short, sunny, unpretentious, harmony-laden pop songs about girls and boys and beaches and oceanographers. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin do this ridiculously well.
2 • Field Manual by Chris Walla
I always knew that no one would love Chris Walla's solo album as much as I do, and I was mostly right. He should still tour. Dear Mr. Walla, if you're reading this, please tour. Thank you.
1 • At Mount Zoomer by Wolf Parade
If you were unable to adjust your expectations of what a follow-up to Apologies to the Queen Mary should sound like, then you missed out.

ten favorite songs

10 • "Never Stops" by Deerhunter from Microcastle
Exhibit A: A perfect representation of my favorite pop/rock paradigm. If music were food, I would be approaching morbid obesity because of songs like this.
9 • "This Is How You Spell 'Hahaha, We Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams of a Generation of Faux-Romantics'" by Los Campesinos! from Hold On Now, Youngster...
Absurd title. Lyrics about livejournal. Enough said.
8 • "He Doesn't Know Why" by Fleet Foxes from Fleet Foxes
Seattle had to be represented somewhere on this list.
7 • "Lost Coastlines" by Okkervil River from The Stand Ins
Just because I liked Jonathan Meiburg's album better than Will Sheff's this year doesn't mean I like his voice more, too. I'm contrary like that sometimes.
6 • "So Haunted" by Cut Copy from In Ghost Colours
The moment when the guitars come crashing in at the beginning of this song is so blissful it should be illegal.
5 • "Ashley" by the Dodos from Visiter
My favorite bridge of the year lives here. Ominous and lovely.
4 • "The Modern Leper" by Frightened Rabbit from The Midnight Organ Fight
What is there to say that hasn't already been said, really?
3 • "Modern Mystery" by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin from Pershing
This song should be taken very seriously.
2 • "St. Modesto" by Chris Walla from Field Manual
Seriously, why did no one notice how good this is?
1 • "Kissing the Beehive" by Wolf Parade from At Mount Zoomer
And here you go. An eleven-minute epic that I listened to on repeat this year like it was three-minute pop candy. Nothing else comes close.

five favorite shows

5 • Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin @ the Echo
4 • Colin Meloy @ the Henry Fonda Theatre
3 • Nada Surf @ the Henry Fonda Theatre
2 • Death Cab for Cutie @ the Nokia Theatre
1 • Sunset Rubdown @ the Black Cat (Washington D.C.)

in 2009 I might:

...die of glee when I hear the new Decemberists, So Many Dynamos, and Sunset Rubdown albums, likely in that chronological order, and to only name a few.

mp3: "Never Stops" by Deerhunter
mp3: "Modern Mystery" by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
mp3: "St. Modesto" by Chris Walla
mp3: "Happens to Us All Otherwise" by Bound Stems
mp3: "No One Does It Like You" by Department of Eagles

Sunday, January 11, 2009

end of year list #2

I'm really bad at picking my favorites of anything. I have a terrible memory, and I hate ranking things. I tend to not notice things until after everyone else has – hence the abundance of 2007 releases on my list. I've probably missed a lot of brilliant stuff from this year, but I've been so busy watching Doctor Who and knitting, I've sort of let things get away from me. (Favorite Doctor: Nine. Favorite yarn: Misti Alpaca bulky hand-paint.) Sorry.

ten nine favorite albums

(I totally lost the will to live at 9, and I couldn't decide on a 10th, so I stopped. Sorry.)
9 • Strugglers by Koufax
A lot of my old favorite disappointed me this year. (I'm looking at you, Ben Folds, Futureheads, Death Cab….) So the fact that this old favorite released exactly the album it was supposed to, full of syncopated angst, and then toured to support it, is a beautiful thing.
8 • 12 Crass Songs by Jeffrey Lewis
Astute readers will have noticed that I really enjoy covers. I also enjoy stupid things. Anti-folk covers of Crass songs sung by a comic book illustrator? Win!!
7 • Thank You by the Lashes
Sometimes, you just need loud, fun pop music made by boys who like pie. Most of this was (is?) available on myspace for free, but if ever there was a band that deserved your $5, it's the Lashes. Be nice to them.
6 • Always The Bridesmaid: A Singles Series by the Decemberists
Three 12" singles, six songs that are perfect for putting on your turntable and pretending that people still make vinyl records with tambourines and tubas and banjos on them.
5 • The Supreme Genius of King Khan & The Shrines by King Khan & the Shrines
I think King Khan may be classified as punk doo-wop. Or something. This greatest hits album sounds like something that might have been recorded in 1965 by some fairly messed-up people. But in a totally brilliant way.
4 • Confidence Man by Matt Pryor
If Matt Pryor releases something, it will be on my top 10 list. This is just a given. It's a bit patchy, but the good bits are really very good.
3 • All We Could Do Was Sing by Port O'Brien
Technically released in 2007, this album owned my stereo for a few months this year. If Iron & Wine had a baby with Modest Mouse, and it grew up on an Alaskan fishing boat, it would be Port O'Brien.
2 • Heretic Pride by the Mountain Goats
Dude. The Mountain Goats. Surely that's enough.
1 • Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit
If this album isn't in your top ten, you didn't buy it. Or you have no soul. It's angry and sad and joyful and self-deprecating all at the same time, with some of the greatest instrumentation I've heard in ages. With Scottish accents.

ten favorite songs

10 • "Air Guitar" by the Republic Tigers from Keep Color
I have this weird fascination with Kenn Jankowski that I can't really put my finger on. He seems abnormally quiet and serious every time I see him, and then he goes ahead and releases a song about the awesomeness of air guitar – it's gotta be the silliest song of the year, and yet it takes itself so very seriously, there's no way I couldn't fall in love with it.
9 • "I've Got the Sex" by the Mountain Goats – never officially recorded, but it's around on bootlegs and things
John Darnielle is not, by nature, a sexy man. Squashed strawberries are not necessarily sexy. Neither is the phrase "basal body temperature." But somehow, when you put them all together on the Troubadour stage, your breath might catch in your throat a little.
8 • "Five Years Time" by Noah & the Whale from Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down
This is the reason I bought my ukulele. It's sugary indie-pop made by whistling Brits, and it pops into my head for no reason at all at least once a week. And I never mind.
7 • "Writing a Letter" by the Smoking Popes from 1991-1998
This is a very old song. It's a very simple song. It makes me drive too fast on the 134. But it uses "whomever" properly, and that makes me adore both the song and Josh Caterer.
6 • "36th St" / "N" by Reggie & the Full Effect from Last Stop: Crappy Town
Reggie replaced goofiness and anger with, well, angst and anger, and this haunting outro to Last Stop blows me away every time.
5 • "Accident" by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin which has not, to my knowledge, been properly recorded(?)
I discovered SSLYBY ages ago, but never paid them much attention until ako insisted I see them live earlier in 2008. They won me over. This song is my favorite, and I don't know why.
4 • " Le Fils De Jacques Dutronc" by King Khan & the Shrines from What Is?!
From an amazing album released in 2007 by a band from Montreal, this is, as far as I can tell, the only French song in King Khan's canon. I've no idea what it's about, but a French friend of mine tells me that it's partly about eating pickles. It sure keeps your toe tapping, though.
3 • "Garden Rose" by Lavender Diamond from Imagine Our Love
Also released last year. I'll never stop a bullet, but a bullet might stop me / I'll never drink the ocean but the ocean might drink me - if that doesn't win you over, there's something wrong.
2 • "Poke" by Frightened Rabbit from Midnight Organ Fight
Seeing this song performed live may have changed my life. A lot.
1 • "Lovecraft in Brooklyn" by the Mountain Goats from Heretic Pride
While my theme song should be "Autoclave", this song about the famous author's xenophobia is too absurd not to adore. There's something in the bass line and sparse, chugging guitar riff and that snare/hi-hat thing that just makes me happy.

five favorite shows

5 • The King Kahn & BBQ Show @ the Echo
I was nearly killed by drunken redheads. But seeing these two men in sequins and sparkly wigs and pink turbans singing punk-rock doo-wop tunes while kids stage-dived was definitely worth any injuries I sustained.

4 • Koufax / Smoking Popes @ the Knitting Factory
Koufax's rhythm section and the Smoking Popes' absurdity made this a glorious show that I didn't expect to enjoy nearly as much as I did.
3 • Matt Pryor @ the Troubadour
C'mon. He did Get Up Kids songs. How was that not gonna make it to my list?
2 • Frightened Rabbit @ the Echoplex
Well, I mean, Frightened Rabbit. Dude. They are very, very good at what they do.
1 • The Mountain Goats @ the Troubadour
I saw the Mountain Goats twice – don't ask me to pick which show I liked more. The first show had insane banter, the second had guitar god riffs. How's a girl to choose?

the five people I'd invite to a dinner party:

I've always dreamt of having a voice-themed dinner party. That way I can just sit back and let these insanely intelligent men with the world's best voices chat amongst themselves, and I can sit in a corner and not get in the way. The guest list is as follows:
Stephen Fry, Colin Meloy, Alan Rickman, John Darnielle, and, of course, Christopher Walken.

my residual regrets of 2007:

Not paying enough attention to friends and family, including, but not limited to, my mother, my sister, my trans-Pacific pen pal/collaborator, my guitar, my ukulele, and my bass, and everyone who's now angry at me for listing my musical instruments before them. Although your really should know better by now.

in 2009 I might:

Figure out that real grownups spend their money on car payments and furniture and alcohol, and not on used Buffalo Springfield LPs, ukulele strings, alpaca yarn, or plastic pirates. Then, immediately discover that being a grownup sucks.

mp3: "I've Got the Sex (live at Pitzer College)" by the Mountain Goats
mp3: "Valerie Plame (live)" by the Decemberists, from Always The Bridesmaid
mp3: "Accident (live)" by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
mp3: "Modern Leper (live)" by Frightened Rabbit, from Midnight Organ Fight, performed live for LiveDaily
mp3: "I Woke Up Today (live at Primavera Sound)" by Port O'Brien, from All We Could Do Was Sing

Thursday, January 8, 2009

monolator bootlegs!

Please tell me I'm not the only one suffering from a yuletide hangover. I started the new year, not partying like it's 1999 (or rather 2009), but holding my head and praying the cold medication would kick in. While things have drastically improved in the week since my New Year's Eve party for one (theme: ...but with a whimper), my overall enthusiasm for work is hovering around, oh, nil.

Thankfully, The Monolators have come riding to the rescue, banishing beginning-of-the-year apathy like the indie rock heroes that they are. Get live bootlegs! Is it still punk rock if the band endorses it? Do I care?

Straight from the Monolator's mouth (Eli to be precise):

We recorded each show of our residency -- 4 weeks' worth in fact -- on my old cassette 4 track deck, and we're going to post a new one every week in January leading up to our show at the Echo with The Voyeurs on the 27th.

Intrigued? Grab a hi-fi sample here and head over to the Monolator blog to grab the whole down-and-dirty shebang.

Also: For those of you who are flush, may I also suggest investing in their recently released, imperative-based album Don't Dance1? After two months of listening I can safely vouch that it has yet to lose that oh-so-happy sonic cotton candy feel.

1.You're not the boss of me!

mp3: "I Must Be Dreaming" by The Monolators

Sunday, January 4, 2009

plastic snow wrap-up

Today, I bundled up the Plastic Snow proceeds and wrote a check to Midnight Mission. Not a bad way to start off the new year!

A big thank you to all the musicians, artists, crew, and support staff who rose to the occasion, answered all our demands, and made our goofy little idea into a fully fleshed out, fun little holiday album.

If you are lucky enough to meet any of these people who donated their time and talents, I highly suggest you:

smile, say hi, shake their hands (both of them), high-five, hug, buy their album, buy tickets to their show, buy them an assortment of baked goods and/or pie, engage in friendly political debate, challenge them to a game of pool, name small children/pets/boats in their honor, invite them to the christening of said small children/pets/boats, offer to defenestrate their enemies, tattoo their name(s) across your forehead...


simply thank them for being awesome.

The Rock Stars:
the breakups, Carmen Rizzo, The Dandelion Council, Dreaming Ferns, Dustin O'Halloran, Earlimart, Fol Chen, Great Northern, The Hectors, I Make This Sound, Let's Go Sailing, Letting Up Despite Great Faults, The Monolators, Pierre de Reeder (with Jeff Litz), Princeton, Sara Lov, The Sweet Hurt,

The Team:
Angel Wren, Darius Fong, David Studarus, Gena Tuso, Hubert and Miss Patty, Natalie

The Awesome Supporters:

Audra Binkley, Erin Johnson, Greg McKinney, Kathy Ward, Mark and Wendy Redfern, Sea Level Todd, Sue DeSimone