Tag Archives: Dear Science

9 Things To Look Forward To in 2009

2008 is almost gone as the New Year will arrive in a matter of hours (or it may have already arrived depending on when you read this). So, in anticipation for the number of times I’ll forget to put “2009” on whatever documents need a proper year, here’s a little listing of 9 things I’ll be looking forward to in the next year…

9. Surprises

I suppose this is something resembling a cop-out in a list, but part of looking forward to the many things that will color our near-future is not knowing what will come next. Some of my favorite things from 2008 I never saw coming, anticipated, or was given any knowledge to anticipate at all. That includes things such as the release of TV On The Radio’s Dear Science, – which was a surprise simply because it was announced less than two months prior to its release so there was not any forewarning or buildup like with Return to Cookie Mountain – to movies such as The Wackness (a great summer coming-of-age movie that could have easily been a bust) and books I’ll pick up randomly, sunny days outdoors… by definition, anything really. Now how can you go wrong there?

8. New Food For Animals LP

Food For Animals – You Right (live in Baltimore)

You read it here folks, from the mouth of the animals themselves. Food For Animals will be dropping a new album in the next year, and if Belly is any indication, it should be one hell of a package. No info or sounds on what the trio of hip-hop noiseniks are cooking up, but in the last year since Belly was released they’ve certainly mastered their live set, and if the mixes posted on their blog offer any indication, they’ve got some great stuff coming around the corner.

7. Say Anything – Say Anything

Say Anything – Woe (live, acoustic)

I’ve been a Say Anything believer since stumbling upon …is a Real Boy in 2004. I’d found so few records that made such honest, emotionally compelling, and furiously anthemic when I picked up the album, and it remains a favorite of mine. The reason this isn’t ranked higher is because the long-awaited follow-up, In Defense of the Genre, was a bit of a disappointment (but really, it must’ve been rough following up that brilliant first record). Still, there were bright spots in that massive double album, and Max Bemis no doubt has set his goals high for a record he has said will discuss the nuances of every day life. Let’s see how people will respond to emo that strives to be simply normal.

6. Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back by Christopher R. Weingarten for 33 1/3

Public Enemy – Bring The Noise (live, Pitchfork Music Festival)

Here’s the math equation: Take one of hip-hop’s best albums done by one of the genre’s best bands, add in the former drummer for one of the best experimental rock outfits today, and multiply it by a publishing company that lets music obsessives run wild. What do you get? It looks like what may be one of the best books in the 33 1/3 book series. According to a certain schedule, Continuum should be releasing the book on It Takes A Nation of Millions… at some point this year, a read which should be wonderful in and of itself. Add in the fact that its written by Christopher R. Weingarten, the former kit-smasher for Parts & Labor who left the band to pursue a career in journalism and to write the Public Enemy book, and you’ve got an equation for what should be a success for Continuum and readers alike.

5. Jimmy Eat World Clarity Tour

Jimmy Eat World – Lucky Denver Mint

This is an emo/Jimmy Eat World/music fan’s wet dream. Celebrating the 10th year anniversary of the little-album-that-record-executives-thought-it-couldn’t-but-did, Jimmy Eat World will triumphantly play Clarity in its entirety for an American tour starting in February. Whether or not the performance will live up to some people’s expectations is one thing; the fact that Jimmy Eat World are touring this record is an entirely different aspect which meets any and all expectations. This is the album that by all intents and purposes was something of a failure; if Jimmy Eat World were to tour one record, it would probably be their critically-acclaimed and commercially-successful self-titled album. However, Clarity remains a fan favorite, and after the many years and stories surrounding the band and that album, J.E.W. are showing what really matters to them: the fans. It should be a fantastic set, simply by the band showing up.

4. The Road Movie

Still from The Road

Still from The Road

I read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road this past summer, a little while after it won piles of awards and recognition and a little while before the movie’s release. Turns out it was a little more than a little while before the film came out, as it was unfortunately delayed from its 2008 release. The book sent me into something of a shock after a quick gust through it in a matter of days. The transfer from the page to the screen is usually very tenuous, but McCarthy’s words have a very visual style that will no doubt aid the story’s sense of reality in a post-apocalyptic world. And noting the folks in front of and behind the camera for the movie, this may be on of the best to come out of 2009.

3. Dan Deacon – Bromst

Dan Deacon – Crystal Cat

Dan Deacon may have unintentionally thrust himself into the limelight with 2007’s Spiderman of the Rings, but the man wasn’t unconscious of the world around him as it happened. Deacon has made a concerted effort to experiment in all forms of his life as long as he has everyone’s undivided attention and support (and he probably would if they didn’t). That means crazy local festivals, crazy town-sized tours, crazy kiddie-electronic-cum-rave songs that stick in your brain like putty. And with Bromst, an album that was meant to be released this year but has since been delayed until March, Deacon doesn’t seem to quit. No matter how the record will be received, it will physically (or at least sonically) be received, a testament to his enduring ability to test his own musical will and conceptual might. It should be quite a listen.

2. Watchmen Movie

Watchmen Trailer 2

Why question this? Again, like most of the things on this list, simply existing will make Watchmen memorable. As a movie, who knows whether the thumb of the public will go up or down (or better yet, that of the comic’s cult fan base). But, barring the recent legal activity surrounding the film and its impending release, as long as the movie hits theaters it will be a success. Not only commercially, but for the comic book movie genre and for struggling screenplays everywhere (this film has been in talks for since the original graphic novel first hit stands). And it looks so damn pretty.

1. Inauguration

Barack Obama’s Acceptance Speech

No matter what your political beliefs are, this will be a massive event. “Historic” to a pin. I’ll be there, amongst however many millions of people that are expected to show up and see Barack Obama sworn in as the President of the United States. Just typing that is getting me excited for the new year.

Happy New Year!

They Said It…

Right on the button… The emo-inspiring (in pop terminology, that is) webcomic title of Pictures For Sad Children has some of the driest and most on-point sense of humor I’ve seen online. And the depictions of music blogs and obsessions with top 10 lists is pretty histerical, even given my own end of the year lists.

Still, the thing I love most about end of the year lists isn’t an incessant need to categorize everything, but rather reflect on some of the music/movies/whatever that I found particularly compelling from the past year. These lists are often attempts by many to stand the “test of time,” but in many ways they’re a great marking for an individual’s personal state-in-time. Looking back on some of my previous end of year lists, I see records I undeniably loved and still cherish, but I can see there are other albums that would have garnered higher spots and some records that mean more to me as a, dare I say it, nostalgic item more than “album # of whatever year it is.” Looking back, there are some albums I might dig up soon and give another re-listen (because catching up on music is a job in and of itself).

Largehearted Boy has a full listing of countless year end music listings, to which this blog was humbly included, so check out that site for all the music you could ever want and more. I will not even attempt to match what he’s done, but rather give something of a breakdown, matching where I placed my top 10 against other listings. Enjoy:

# 1: TV On The Radio – Dear Science,

#1: Ann Powers (L.A. Times), The A.V. Club, Chris DeLine (Culture Bully), Entertainment Weekly, Jon Pareles (New York Times), Josh Keller (Culture Bully), Michael D. Ayers (Billboard), MTV, Rolling Stone, Spin

#2: Edna Gundersen (USA Today), I Guess I’m Floating, Margaret Wappler (L.A. Times), Stereogum (Gummy Awards), NME, TIME, WOXY (Top Played Albums)

#3: Blender, New Haven Register, Tiny Mix Tapes, Uncut Magazine

#4: Alexandra Cahill (Billboard), Erik Thompson (Culture Bully), Greg Kot (Chicago Tribune), NPR Listeners Poll

#5: Amy Lindsey (KEXP), Justin Harris (Billboard), Cleveland Plain Dealer

#6: Pitchfork, Troy Carpenter (Billboard)

#7: Associated Press (Best Rock Albums), Nate Chinen (New York Times), Q Magazine

#8: Susan Visakowitz (Billboard)

#9: Cortney Harding (Billboard)

#10: Jessica Letkemann (Billboard)

#11: Chicago Sun-Times

#20: Mojo

#27: Drowned In Sound

#33: Amazon.com editors’ Best Albums

#50: Paste Magazine

General Favorite Listing: John Bush (Allmusic.com, top pop albums), Heather Phares (Allmusic.com, top pop albums), James Christopher Monger (Allmusic.com, top pop albums), Jason Kinnard (KEXP), Joan Anderman (Boston Globe), Kelly Hilst (KEXP), Limewire Music Blog, Sarah Rodman (Boston Globe),

Honorable Mention: New York Observer

#2: Why? – Alopecia

#1: Morgan Kluck (KEXP)

#6: About.com

#7: Drowned In Sound

#8: Eric Mahollitz (KEXP)

#10: Morgan Chosnyk (KEXP)

#11: Tiny Mix Tapes

#13: Stereogum (Gummy Awards)

#24: Cokemachineglow

General Favorites Listings: Kyle Johnson (KEXP)

Honorable Mention: Pitchfork

#3: Parts & LaborReceivers/Escapers Two

#5. New Haven Register

#6: Greg Kot (Chicago Tribune)

#9: Amazon.com editors’ Best Alternative Rock Albums

#12: Chicago Sun-Times

#25: I Rock Cleveland

#53: Amazon.com editors’ Best Albums

General Favorite Listing: Allmusic.com Best Noise Albums

#4: Sun Kil MoonApril

#1: Erik Thompson (Culture Bully)

#2: Jonathan Cohen (Billboard)

#5: New York Observer

#7: Robert Thompson (Billboard)

#8: Paste Magazine

#16: The A.V. Club

Honorable Mention: Pitchfork

#5: PonytailIce Cream Spiritual

#8: Blender

#12: Tiny Mix Tapes

#13: Fact Magazine

#50: Pitchfork

General Favorite Listing: Allmusic.com Best Noise Albums

#6: Neon NeonStainless Style

#7: Uncut Magazine

#11: NME

#28: Mojo

General Favorite Listings: Stephen Thomas Erlewine (Allmusic.com, top pop albums), Matt Collar (Allmusic.com, top pop albums),

#7: The Mae Shi – HLLLYH

#8: Baltimore City Paper

#18: Pitchfork

#8: The DodosVisiter

#2: Josh Keller (Culture Bully)

#5: Katie Hasty (Billboard)

#9: Chris Barton (L.A. Times)

#10: Eric Mahollitz (KEXP), NPR Second Stage

#12: Cokemachineglow

#23: Stereogum (Gummy Awards)

#24: I Guess I’m Floating

#39: Paste Magazine

Honorable Mention: Pitchfork

#9: Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires

#8: Drowned In Sound

#10: NME

#46: WOXY (Top Played Albums)

General Favorites Listings: Melissa Trejo (KEXP)

#10: Food For AnimalsBelly

Looks like it’s just me…

…then again, this list is quite short of “comprehensive.” And in the end, it’s ultimately the individual who chooses what they like, right?

Top o’ 2008

THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2008 (and other things)

So, like any music-related blog, here’s a listing of my top albums this year. Some of it may seem a bit odd and arbitrary, but there’s some backings to my orderings. But, it’s all merely numbers – I’ve enjoyed all these albums throughout the year, and completely numberless. However, for the sake of order, here’s the list…

 

35. AmpLiveRainydayz Remixes

Here’s a great album remix concept that works out all the way through. Rather than simply mashing up In Rainbows with another album, AmpLive rearranges the Radiohead tracks into completely new and downright great hip-hop songs. Del’s track (“Videotapez”) is one of the best hip-hop songs of the year.

34. High Places03/07 – 09/07

It’s a bit random, but this selection of songs recorded by High Places made from March to September of last year is, if anything, a mark at how great this band can be. “Head Spins” and “Jump In” offer up some fantastic experimental pop songs, bringing some heft to the album of mostly-studio experimentations.

33. Future IslandsWave Like Home

Comparisons are pretty easy, but in this case, it’s impossible to ignore. Baltimore’s Future Islands sound a little something like if New Order used cheap laptop technology for their electronics and were fronted by a slightly subdued Iggy Pop. “Old Friend” is perhpas one of the most endearing beginnings to any album this year.

32. Fuck Buttons Street Horrsing

Listen to the first two tracks and just try not getting hypnotized. Experimental-art-whatever-kind-of-rock that’s quite pallatable.

31. Lil WayneTha Carter III

I’m not sure what convinced me about this record. Oh wait, it could be the brilliant minimalism of “A Milli” and Wayne dropping rhymes like “you drop em cuz we pop em like Orville Redenbacher.” Now that’s an imaginative and oddball line for you.

30. AtmosphereWhen Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold/Strictly Leakage

Sure, Slug’s fit of anger may have become… well, sluggish. But he’s surely got more to offer, as seen on When Life Gives You Lemons. Although there are some rough patches here and there, Slug melts his tales of woe and wisdom of everyday folks with Ant’s increasingly experimental neo-soul. Guest spots from TVOTR’s Tunde Adebimpe and Tom Waits sure do add to the mix. The free Strictly Leackage is a bit of a toss-away in comparison to the large amount of Atmosphere material out there, but pump those beats and you really can’t go wrong.

29. The Very BestThe Very Best Mixtape

This mixtape might be a little higher to the top if it weren’t for the fact that many of its best tracks are simply recylced instrumentals that are quite recognizable… then again, that is part of the appeal of most mixtapes. Even so, Esau Mwamwaya’s skillful flow brings a newfound musicality to the over-used Clash sample on “Paper Planes”… now, if I only new what he was saying…


28. FoalsAntidotes

When I saw Foals in a tiny club in London back in 2007, I was sold. But when Antidotes was released, I didn’t pick it up. Actually, I still haven’t. However, I’ve heard plenty of the album, and after having a sizeable amount of distance from the material and the British hype machine, I must say the things that brought me to the band are still there. There’s the quirky math-minimalist streak, combined with an ambience I originally pushed off in search of more post-punk punch but does the trick. If only some of the songs stood out a little more on their own, or rather, didn’t appear to repeate the tropes of other tracks, this album would have been in the top ten.

27. Pattern Is MovementAll Together

Punk drums and church-like organs with operatic singing, and tons of positive feedback. How can you go wrong?

26. Hercules and Love AffairHercules and Love Affair

The sound of Hercules and Love Affair breathes disco, but it seems to be missing part of the free-for-all effervescence that fills the best tracks of that era. But considering that the large majority of songs from that era get increasingly hard to listen to, consider HALA a neo-disco best of. Some of these songs are that great. Hats off to Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons, who’s trumpet-like warble makes the albums best songs.

25. Apollo Sunshine Shall Noise Upon

Like the Beatles? Like classic rock? Anti-folk? Country? Jam? “Indie?” Well, it’d be best to run out and pick up this record immediately. It’s great to see Apollo Sunshine constantly producing great music, and their work in the studio has certainly begun to equal their live presence. What’s the worst thing about the record? The fact that it hasn’t been getting its proper due.

24. Kanye West808s and Heartbreak

Here’s what my friend had to say to me about this album while arguing about it the other day:

“He doesn’t rap!”

“It’s all electronics!”

Now, on paper/screen image, it’s impossible to register the confused disgust in my friends voice. That’s because he was just making statements, though ones marked with hatred towards the album. For a person who isn’t neccesarily looking for a formula, 808s and Heartbreaks is a solid pop record. The beats are, if anything, still fresh, “despite” the electronics of it. And the auto-tone? Well, it’s better than T-Pain. Moreover, songs like “Say You Will” and “Coldest Winter” seem to stick to the inside of your head no matter what the ratio of electronic singing to rapping may be.

23. Hot ChipMade In The Dark

It’s got some of the best dance tunes of the year, and some of the oddest slow dance songs of the year. You have to give it a hand to Hot Chip to keep on revitalizing their sound and style and interspersing it with effects from reggaeton to two-step to old school soul.

22. The Black KeysAttack & Release

Danger Mouse. Danger Mouse is like cowbell for those musicians who aren’t Blue Oyster Cult. With Attack & Release, DM revitalizes The Black Keys tired and true approach and certainly makes it less tired, working in to fill in the blanks that come with only having a guitar and drum. The funky bump of “Strange Times” and wistful ballad of “Psychotic Girl” have helped revitalize my own faith in this band.

21. Marnie SternThis Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That

Here’s a record for folks who think that the world of the guitar virtuoso is gender oriented. Marnie Stern can shred faster than most of those old phallic hair metal acts, and she does it well to boot. AC/DC-styled riffs at chipmunk paces, math-stylized song structures, and Zach Hill make for pop-fueled fun.

20. Wilderness(k)no(w)here

When the vocals on “High Nero” kick in halfway through the song, it’s as if Wilderness grabs you and goes, “where have you been?” I can’t believe it took me until this band’s 3rd album to discover them, and what a treat it is. Stormy, ambient psych-folk combined with brutally haunting vocals that don’t so much scare as orate tales of loss and redemption. Too bad it’s over far too quickly.

19. Dr. Dog Fate

Another band that took me far too long to discover, but this was purely out of my musical filtering mechanism: the name Dr. Dog just has no appeal. Fortunately, their music is an entirely different beast, a wonderful combination of Beatles melodies, country-fried guitar rants by The Band, and who-knows-where-we’ll-go-with-this-song of good ole’ indie rock. These guys might actually turn me on to classic rock instead of the other way around.

18. Chad VanGaalenSoft Airplane

VanGaalen’s third album is also his best (so far at least), and a complete picture as well; previous records sounded like a mess of VanGaalen screwing around in his basement with random instruments he created and a few good tunes surviving. Well, here that process has paid off, with some of his most mind-gnawing work to date: death, freak-folk, and oftly odd melodies crash and collide to make a great listen all the way through.

17. AliasResurgam

It’s been a banner year for Anticon, and Resurgam is just one of many great records to come out of this Oakland collective over the last couple of years. Almost entirely composed of instrumental work, it’s an ambient take on old school hip-hop that will put you in a state of relaxation for hours on end. It even seems a bit unpleasant when the two vocal songs kick in, at least until you recognize that the same music sits at the foreground of the album.

16. Beach HouseDevotion

I was itrigued to see how Beach House, a band who’s music could easily lull one to sleep, would perform under the insurmountable pressure that comes with taking the stage at Siren Music Festival. Facing the grueling heat, packed crowds of hipsters, and set time near the end of a long, long day, Beach House performed as beautifully as their melodies. Devotion is a spellbinding, ambient mess of tunes that work under any weather or state of emotion. Victoria Legrand’s voice is as soothing as it is soulful, and it carries the entire album to its sleepy-headed end.

15. No AgeNouns

No Age’s Nouns is filled with the kind of songs you seem to know before you even hear them. They’re packed with anthemic punk-rock riffs and bursts, yet remain emotionally perplexing and experimentally arousing. And it’s loud as hell. It’s hardcore for the arty crowd, art for the little punks in us all, and something for everyone.

14. WaleMixtape About Nothing

Here’s a hip-hop artist with a good head on his shoulders and an ego that’s perfectly comfortable in a realm where folks have to defend theirs at every turn. That could be because Wale can crank out dozens of tunes about something as archaic to hip-hop as Seinfeld can be… and it’s great too. Infuse sick rhyming and lyrical foreplay with old school hip-hop meets go-go (and perhaps that genre’s ticket out of D.C.) and tons of rap’s biggest names and you wouldn’t feel the need to defend one’s ego either.

13. The BugLondon Zoo

In an odds-and-ends collection of articles, a close friend of Lester Bangs’ describes PiL’s Metal Box as a musical accompanyment to his depression. In many ways, London Zoo feels like an equally derranged equivalent; the record is so dark, intense, and angry, I’ve yet to listen to the entire album in one sitting. But its intensity displays its musical muscle, as deep-in-your-chest bass grinds with glitchy grime and head-banging dancehall to create one intensely personal meditation on the nadir of society. Not for the weak, but definitely for the musically ambitious.

12. Forest FireSurvival

Here’s a summer record for you – sprawling lo-fi folk that mixes with Velvet Underground-style proto-punk and garage rock done on spare acoustic instruments. It’s enchanting and oft-aggressive, and man does it get in your head and stay there. And to think, they gave this gem away for free…

11. SubtleExiting Arm

The impact of collaborations with members of TV on the Radio bear their mark on Subtle, who’s Exiting Arm takes their sound and turns it to the noises in between. Whereas on earlier recordings Doseone could often be heard spitting rhymes at 100 mph, here his vocals are subdued and sink into the tapestry, which taverses across an odd array of sounds and vibrations, but is a whole product throughout. The minute I heard this thing in an ice cream place over the summer I knew it was stuck to me; months later it’s yet to leave my head.

10. Food For AnimalsBelly

Noise and hip-hop? Whodathunkit? Food For Animals, that’s who. And that’s why Belly, the long-delayed first album from the DC/Baltimore group, is in the top 10. It’s hard to find an album more ambitious in its sound and execution than FFA’s, and it’s as accessible as any other hip-hop blaring on mainstream radio today. It’s glitchy, bass heavy, and dark as hell, but this trio certainly spins some sick off-beats and rhymes that are more shout-along-chorus-friendly than anything else.

9. Friendly FiresFriendly Fires

This is what the Foals record could have been, and what I originally wished it was: a great post-punk dance piece. Infusing that genre with strains of disco, salsa, and Brit pop, Friendly Fires’ debut defines irresistible. The music is taught and catchy, the sound gets in your head and shakes your hips, and the hits keep coming. Friendly Fires sounds like a singles collection, with each track as pop-friendly as the last – funny to think this is the band’s first record.

8. The Dodos Visiter

It may be due to the fact that I had this album on repeat for most of the spring, but Visiter seems to uphold a sense of rebirth and newborn energy that’s often so hard for musicians to capture. Some folks cast the band off as acoustic Animal Collective wannabes, but the album is a beast unto its creators, filled with child-like enthusiasm and sincerity that makes them altogether unique.

7. The Mae ShiHLLLYH

2008 could be the year of concept albums, or, more correctly, the year that produced a handful of great concept albums. The Mae Shi’s tribute to the end of the world sounds positively, well, great. It’s scary, but the band’s mix of agit-punk, twee, and art pop have an endearing effect that carry through the morbid lyrics of “Run To Your Grave” (and that title to boot). It’s got energy and vigor that blasts through the entire album, one concept to the last. For such a depressing topic to tackle, these guys sure make it sound fun.

6. Neon NeonStainless Style

Nostalgia can be a killer, and it’s flogged the 80s past the state of decay, but man oh man do Neon Neon know how to make a bad thing sound great. To call it nostalgia however is making the great concept of Stainless Style seem passe, when in fact it’s a record more “with it” than countless other albums released this year. Much as Gnarls Barkley emphasized “neo” in their neo-soul mix debut two years ago, Neon Neon take the aesthetic tics of 80s pop and place it into an entirely new landscape. It makes it so that the chincy-sounding synth sounds altogether refreshing on tracks like “Dream Cars” or “I Told Her On Alderaan.” It also helps that this project came from the meeting between oddball producer Boom Bip and even-odderball Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys, and they certainly saved their pop-tooth for this record.

5. PonytailIce Cream Spiritual

Ponytail put on one of the best shows I’ve seen this year – so good, I saw them thrice. So I was immediately drawn to the record after grabbing an early release copy after seeing them, doing nothing but playing it for weeks straight. After my mania over the album subsided, I can safely say it’s still a fantastic record. It’s a swirling mess of punk-art-rawk, one that caterwauls off of every surface and smoothly glides through the down-tempos and down singer Molly Siegel’s over-worked larynx to create a record that seethes with passion and power. Kudos to producer J. Robbins for wrestling their great live sound into a well-preserved recording.

4. Sun Kil Moon April

April opens with a song that nearly hits the 10 minute mark, and could have sustained my rapt attention tenfold. “Lost Verses” sweeps along like any Mark Kozelek song, yet there’s something profoundly new and slightly different than the frontman’s previous efforts. It could be his meditation over the death of a former muse, who’s image is never quite literally addressed, but who’s absence hangs over the entire record. Whatever it is, Kozelek delivers every last line with undue sincerity, and it’s probably because they are his own; in retrospect, the biggest problem with Tiny Cities, the last Sun Kil Moon album made entirely of Modest Mouse covers, is that the music wasn’t created by Kozelek himself (although he does a great job of re-imagining most of the songs on the album). But here, you get the sense that Kozelek’s body struggles with every pick at his guitar, even though all you’re left is with that voice and no image behind it. But what a voice it is.

3. Parts & LaborReceivers/Escapers Two

For a band that makes a lot of noise, Parts & Labor have made music for just about everyone. Receivers is a fantastic opus of noise juxtaposed against anthemic, stadium-sized pop rock. The electronic bursts and blips are still there, but they’ve become a fixture of a larger pattern; noise doesn’t give way to bubblegum hooks and back again, but it’s all intertwined throughout the album. From “Satellites” to “Solemn Show World,” there’s a song for the punk in everyone (and every punk who submitted sound samples is in a song). For those who don’t like getting too close to accessiblity, Escapers Two offers 50+ “grind pop” songs, most of which barely hit the minute mark and have the mark of dark metal and hardcore punk bursting from the seems… at times, it’s quite beautiful to boot.

2. Why?Alopecia

What a pleasant surprise Alopecia turned out to be. Why?’s previous work always had some inadvertantly beautiful quality to it, but it’d always been battling a range of sounds and ideas passed out by Yoni Wolf. On Alopecia it comes together in a brilliant and cohesive work, with Wolf’s lyrics and stories spilling into one another, but neither clouding up the music or his often enticing nasaly rasp. And, much like most of the top albums of the year, it is a whole product instead of a combination of some good songs repackaged for consumption.

1. TV On The RadioDear Science,

Numbers or not, there was no question this would be my number one album of the year. From the opening moments of “Halfway Home,” I knew this would be a fantastic album. Unlike Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes and Return To Cookie Mountain, Dear Science, is a fully fleshed-out album from beginning to end as each track seemlessly gluides from one to the next. The band’s turn to a poppier and all together accessable sound is just as natural as their work as a band in and of itself; they’re still pushing musical boundaries, using a wide array of feedback and avant-guard noises, but it’s an altogether cohesive and beautiful mess.

Albums I wish I had more time with, because they probably would have made this list:

For those of us who can’t get our hands on every available album to come out this year, it certainly made the “best of” list process a bit more difficult because, having heard at least snipets of the following albums, I wish I’d gotten them all. But, there is always time for more new music. Anyway, here are the ones I would have liked to have on my list:

High PlacesHigh Places

Extra LifeSecular Works

Fall Out BoyFolie á Deux

BeckModern Guilt

The Notwist The Devil, You + Me

HEALTHHEALTH/DISCO

Eddy Current Suppression RingPrimary Colours

Lykke Li Youth Novels

Dan FrielGhost Town

Eagles of Death Metal Heart On

Fleet Foxes Fleet Foxes

Edie Sedgwick Things Are Getting Sinister And Sinisterer

Heavy Heavy Low LowTurtle Nipple and the Toxic Shock

SpiritualizedSongs in A&E

Death VesselNothing Is Precious Enough For Us

DoomtreeDoomtree

Miloshiii

El Ten ElevenThese Promises Are Being Videotaped

School of Seven BellsAlpinisms

Fucked UpThe Chemistry of Common Life

DananananaykroydSissy Hits

Hot Club de ParisLive at Dead Lake

Best of 2008 from 2007:

The albums from last year that made a lasting impact this year.

The Dillinger Escape PlanIre Works

Bon IverFor Emma, Forever Ago

Double DaggerRagged Rubble

VideohipposUnbeast The Leash

MusclesGuns Babes Lemonade

Dear Science, I’ve Made a Mixtape for You

After a bit of a delay, I finally present to you my review for TV on the Radio’s Dear Science,. But I’ve decided to offer up something entirely different in the way of reviews by focusing on the one pitfall of music critique I cannot stand yet find myself using at times: comparison. It’s quite often too easy to draw comparisons to well-known music in the past to describe something unheard of in the present. When used sparingly, it can work well, but used to often and it just comes across as cheap. But I’ve decided to tackle this situation head on by combining it with the underlining theme of this blog; I will compare each track of Dear Science, with an emo song that shares some similar quality of its structure (lyrics, instrumentals, etc). It should have quite an odd result, but hopefully it will allow someone out there to either reconsider some song or band they passed over due to a label (emo) or consider a new song they might stubbornly dismiss just because. So, without further ado, here goes:

*”Halfway Home” = The Promise Ring – “Why Did We Ever Meet”

Both of these songs exercise a certain sense of juxtaposition by combining uplifting instrumentation with relatively dark lyrics about the death of/confusing state of a relationship. And with both singers (Tunde Adebimpe of TVOTR and Davey von Bohlen of TPR) taking on the between-lyrics vocal melodies of “ba-ba-ba-ba-ba ba-ba-ba-ba-ba” (“Halfway Home”) and “do-do-do-do do-do-do” (“Why Did We Ever Meet”), it stretches those juxtapositions to pop power’s upper reaches.

*”Crying” = Egg Hunt – “We All Fall Down”

“Crying” details the trials and tribulations that people go through in life (drug abuse, disaster, biblical disasters, the works) and how they face those problems, often taken in the guise of releasing one’s emotions with crying. Egg Hunt, Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson’s post-Minor Threat studio project, crafted their sound in a similar light to what TV on the Radio do with “Crying”; that is, combine the gamut of pop influences into a powerful musical force. “We All Fall Down” does that, discussing the potential pain one endures in attempting to accomplish things and get somewhere in life, and all with a bit of funk that’s heavily imbued in “Crying.”

Unfortunately, no video/music presentation for this one – check the Dischord site.

*”Dancing Choose” = Atmosphere – “National Disgrace”

And they said emo-rap was weird. Here, TVOTR run into new territory as Tunde’s lyrics are delivered with the kind of spit-fire fury and speed of most hip-hop. With lyrics that portray an odd underbelly of society, it hearkens to Atmosphere, who’s place in the emo spectrum was one of many kinks in the genre’s definition but one that added some fluidity and originality to its constraints, and “National Disgrace.” Fueled with an overwhelming sense of anger towards America’s vapid consumer culture, “National Disgrace” recalls the same fiery passion of “Dancing Choose” by distancing the creator from the negative aspects of a culture they’ve become a part of.

*”Stork and Owl” = Cap’n Jazz – “Oh Messy Life”

TVOTR’s “Stork and Owl” is a dazzling and affecting start and stop song a la’ “I Was a Lover,” with an electronically-plastered back-beat and muddled lyrics about life through the eyes of a couple of animals. “Oh Messy Life” is a brash interpretation of life that’s no less affecting, with lyrical outbursts that turn into-run on rants similar to the section of “Stork and Owl” when Tunde delivers “it goes it goes it goes it goes.” It’s all in the stories of other individuals, and the quick snapshots seem to say a lot about life without ever pointing anything out in a cliched manner.

*”Golden Age” = Dashboard Confessional – “Hands Down”

For those who’s only math involves the equation of “punk + crying = Dashboard”, “Hands Down” is perhaps the happiest song in Chris Carrabba’s canon. It’s simple, catchy, carefree, and yes, happy. It’s also easily one of Dashboard’s best-known songs. And here comes “Golden Age,” a simple, catchy, carefree, and happy song by TV on the Radio, a band that’s certainly known for addressing the negative undercurrents of society. And “Golden Age” looks poised to be one of TVOTR’s best-known songs, hands down.

*”Family Tree” = The Get Up Kids – “I’ll Catch You”

Here are a couple of songs that are almost a departure from these bands’ passionate, bombastic rock sound, but also happen to be just as affective as any ear-bursting blast (if not more) and more haunting than most other tracks. “I’ll Catch You” trades in The Get Up Kids’ usual pop-punk persuasion for a near-ballad, a piano-based ditty that flat-out addresses romantic love, while staying true to the band’s punk parallels with fits of guitar squeal. “Family Tree” is just as moving, letting TVOTR’s sea of feedback settle to reveal an affecting vocal performance similar to Desperate Youth Bloodthirsty Babes‘ “Ambulance.” And it’s all about love, but not without TVOTR’s nom ‘de artiste, with the symbols of death and rapture close behind.

*”Red Dress” = Fugazi – “Nice New Outfit”

Here are two songs that discuss the nadir of society’s underbelly – war – with the symbol of clothing. TVOTR note society’s ability to ignore war, slavery, and pain with the line “go ahead put your red dress on,” while Fugazi comment how that “nice new outfit” with its “straight clean lines” was woven with fabric made of blood and war in foreign countries. And all over a jittery, repeated guitar squeal.

*”Love Dog” = The Appleseed Cast – “Hanging Marionette”

These are two slowly paced songs that seem to send shock waves with each painstakingly sung chorus (or lyrical break) and attain something of a similar melody. Their lyrical qualities can be seen as different sections of a long narrative. In “Hanging Marrionette,” the narrator is stricken by the loss and complete absence of someone near and dear, while light years later that person has transformed into a lonely little “Love Dog,” completely lost to the world.

*”Shout Me Out” = Brand New – “The Archers Bows Have Broken”

TVOTR’s “Shout Me Out” has the aesthetic ideal of casting off the ails of old, facing your problems, and defiantly shouting in their face, all to the tune of an electronically-inclined dance beat. “The Archers Bows Have Broken” is a song that builds and rises, with the characters/band overcoming the death of the old world and facing whatever adversity they had built in their minds with a defiant shout. And man are they a couple of victoriously-charged songs.

*”DLZ” = Jawbreaker – “Boxcar”

“DLZ” is an ambiguous indictment of hipsters/trend-chasers/whatever you want to call them, and the general “mess” they make of things. But when it comes down to it, there’s a certain amount of disconnect between their actions and the ideal they like to say they play out. So when Tunde shouts at the end, “this is beginning to feel like the dawn of the loser forever,” is he eulogizing the 90s punk ideal of loser that Jawbreaker was defending against posers over a decade ago in “Boxcar”? That just may be – both groups seem to notice how the out-crowd has been stifling with too many in-crowd seeking individuals, and are taking their frustration of their culture to the front-line, backed by some pop-friendly panache.

*”Lover’s Day” = Pedro the Lion – “Rapture”

Now, here are two songs about one of the three tenants of rock ‘n’ roll – sex. And while they have divergent views on the issue – TVOTR discuss it in positive terms, while Pedro’s take has a certain element of guilt as the song’s characters are having an affair – the ravenous description of “love making” ties the two together. TVOTR’s celebration of the act (“Yes of course there are miracles/a lover that love’s is one”) eventually meets the orgiastic height of Pedro’s heaven’s gates-as-sex narrative (“Oh my sweet rapture/I hear Jesus calling me home”).

And what do I think of Dear Science,? Well, I think it’s clear that I’ve always been a fan of the band. And this has just been another wonderful treat from a group that I feel like I’ve grown with. Simply put, one of the best of the year.

Too Lazy To Right Write

Michael Moore is the newest guy to pull a Radiohead, but not with music (though if it were, I’m sure it’d be somewhere in the general stereotype for emo these days – whiny and overly-dramatic). Moore released his newest piece, Slacker Uprising, on the net for a free download yesterday, perfectly timed with the upcoming elections. I was as moved by Bowling for Columbine as any other kid my age who saw that movie must have been. But this? Well, see the trailer for yourself:

True, it’s only the trailer, and I may have had some ideologically perplexing opinions about first-impressions in my last post, but it’s clear that’s just as far as Michael Moore will go to approach a subject. I never took Moore’s words at face value; he’s always been relatively upfront about not wanting to be called a documentary filmmaker, as that would imply seeking to find some indefinite fact. Moore’s work is the kind that seeks to persuade first, inform later. But that’s even harder to swallow when the subject he’s attempting to cover – rousing young Americans into voting – is given the finishing polish of a stereotype.

With the trailer, Moore paints himself as the patron saint of liberalism – the youth the lost in a dark and depressing world without his kindness. They are the “slackers” of the title, whom he rallied to vote for John Kerry in a supposedly unprecedented landslide in that demographic. What is this, the early 90s? The slacker is the prototype for Gen Xers and could hardly describe individuals of my generation who first voted in the 2004 election. Growing up, I remember reading and watching countless news stories about how overworked, over-committed, and over-stressed my generation is. Not only that, I’ve lived it (although to a lesser degree of other individuals); I carried book-bags that weighed more than me to school, spent hour after frustrating hour doing seven classes worth of homework an evening, and (most recently) drove myself towards sleep deprivation with extra-curricular activities.

Michael Moore

Michael Moore

Moore seems to forget an important point that I’d like to kindly lift from Thursday’s Geoff Rickly; every action you do is inherently political. The idea that voting is absolutely revolutionary – while true centuries ago and in some respects today – is a little old. And its dis-empowering. If this country was built on the idea of the people governing themselves, than any action one does can have some positive (or negative) end result. Punching some ballot (or pressing some images on a computer screen) every two years is hardly revolutionary. The work people of my generation have done – from volunteering, to community building, to simply creating and implementing whatever creative idea they have, is just as powerfully political as single vote.

Moore’s assertion that young people today are “slackers” is the kind of crap that has had an affect on low-voter turnouts in the youngest voting age demographics. It may not be a singular cause, but the fact that most politicians completely ignore this demographic certainly has a large impact. And Moore is simply feeding into that idea. As an icon for liberalism, he’s doing a pretty terrible job as well, merely reiterating stereotypes about liberals and negatively affecting the left side of the American political divide even more. As Thomas Frank asserts in What’s The Matter With Kansas? , the image that a large number of Mid-Western Americans have of liberals is that they are leeches on society, merely doing and producing nothing of value or sustenance. Sounds a little like the definition of a slacker. With that portrait of the most liberal voting demographic, is it any wonder why certain portions of American society have moved to the right. (I realize this is a massive generalization, just on piece of a very complicated puzzle that Frank addresses quite thoroughly and provocatively in his book, but it is still a part of the picture, and an important one at that).

Still, I might watch the movie. It’s hard to tell though, being a slacker and all. I just don’t know if I have the energy or motivation to watch a documentary.

Briefs:

*The New York Timescoverage of My Bloody Valentine’s performance at ATP ends with the following quote:

“You can’t do anything with sound,” Mr. Shields had said, “unless there is emotion.”

And again, there is a case against the idea of “emo” as a viable term for a genre of music.

*The MacArthur “Genius” Awards were announced, with Alex Ross being one of the notable recipients; his book, The Rest Is Noise is a tremendous work on classical music in the 20th Century. I’m part-way through and can’t wait to pick up some Richard Strauss. One of the more interesting narratives for the winners is that of Walter Kitundu, who combines turntables and stringed instruments into some pretty intense works of art (and great instruments in and of themselves):

*TV on the Radio’s Dear Science, is out everywhere. Expect something resembling a review soon…

All The Random Stuff That’s Fit

Let’s break this down in bullet points:

*TV on the Radio‘s Dear Science, has officially been released online, one week early. Who knows why Interscope made the decision, and really, who cares? You can purchase the album on iTunes or stream it for free at Lala (you must sign up first). Upon first listen it is… amazing. There really is no reason to doubt the band, and it sounds that with each growing album they continue to challenge one another as a unit to create a bombshell of a discography. ‘Nuff said.

TV on the Radio

TV on the Radio

*Mean Magazine has one of the oddest things I could have imagined: a video of Ben Kingsley as Ian MacKaye “performing” the song “Minor Threat”. As if my respect for Kingsley as an actor couldn’t grow any more, and then this popped online. My only wish is that there was less of a photo-collage feel and maybe a little narrative. No bother. To think that just a couple of months ago Kingsley was stealing scenes in local movie theaters as a drugged-up shrink in The Wackness; just to see him in the same pose as MacKaye in his Minor Threat days send chills up my spine. It’ll be an odd day when that actually turns into a film, but one I’d love to see. A significantly older man (Kingsley) playing a verbosely young musician (then-teenaged MacKaye) in the pinnacle of hardcore punk bands… now there’s something that would put I’m Not There to shame. Now I can’t seem to get the thought of Adrien Brody as Guy Picciotto for some sort of Revolution Summer project alongside Kingsley…

*Now for a little personal plug: I’ve organized a show at P.A.’s Lounge in Somerville this coming Sunday (September 21) featuring none other than Juiceboxxx, who I wrote about in an earlier post. It’ll also feature sets from Wham City/Baltimore scene stalwarts Narwhalz and DJ Dog Dick (the later who will be performing alongside Dan Deacon on his Baltimore Round Robin Tour), and an opening slot from Boston’s very own Ppalmm. All of these artists have their own unique take on electronic-based music, and it should be one amazing show. At $6 a pop ($9 for those 18-20), you really can’t go wrong.

Juiceboxxx – Thunder Jam III (video):

Narwhalz – Phar-Oooh (live):

Save the rest for Sunday…

More News After This Quick Commercial Break

Mountain Dew commercials rarely make me sit up and pay attention – I simply don’t like their product or most of their commercials. But, towards the end of this ad, which begins with the familiar trope of extreme people drink Mountain Dew, I practically jumped out of my seat:

What is Jack Hanna, the mild-mannered animal lover who populated the TV on the lazy Sunday mornings of my youth, doing in a Mountain Dew commercial? I don’t know. Do I like it? I still don’t know. But, it did do the job that TV ads are supposed to, and that was make me pay attention. And they did it by subverting their normal routine for commercials (although it still was the central theme).

Jack Hanna

Jack Hanna

The oddity that is Jack Hanna in a Mountain Dew ad reminded me of another reoccurring TV presence; Fall Out Boy carrying the logo for Circuit City. I guess it isn’t odd that Fall Out Boy would do advertisements – they’re extremely popular and in a place to do so. It’s just odd that they chose to flog products for Circuit City, a corporate entity that doesn’t exactly scream “teenage rebellion.” Again, it isn’t making me run to my nearest branch (I don’t even know if there is a Circuit City near me), but it made me wake up from my natural commercial break stupor. Here it is, in its full, grainy, bootlegged YouTube nature:

In The (Music-Related) News:

*Rage Against The Machine made quite a scene out in St. Paul last week for the Republican National Convention. Here they are performing a couple of a cappella renditions of “Bulls On Parade” and “Killing In The Name Of”:

Punk percussion protest it ain’t, and positive it ain’t either. There’s a reason they brought Wayne Kramer of the MC5 out on stage during one of their numerous shows to perform “Kick Out The Jams” – Rage is trying to incite the same “revolutionary” attitude that made a mockery of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Frankly, nothing really came out of that episode except for some broken bones and a tired-old tale for old-hippies to remind our generation of our inability to challenge authority. Sure, there was a challenge, but out of the hostility came no change. And the only thing that will come of Rage’s “protest” are the same old thoughts that people hold towards young anarchists and vice versa. Until Rage drops the tired-out diatribe meant to incite police violence, they’ll be unable to achieve much of anything outside of some press clips.
*The New York Times has a great article on how Western entertainment is providing an escape and challenge to the hierarchy of power in the Gaza strip. Gotta wonder if anyone in Gaza is rocking out to the new Panic! At The Disco album…

*More news about TV on the Radio‘s Dear Science, is getting me more and more excited about the album’s release. Good thing September 23rd is right around the corner. Again, the New York Times hops in with an excellent article on the group. It’s a quick narrative that briefly mentions how the new album and the band are strikingly anomalous in the Williamsburg of their past, present, and nearly-gentrified future. Sections discussing the group’s “allusive” sound and a quote where Kyp Malone mentions that, “I’ve been done with cool for years,” reminds me of my own interpretation of emo. And the critique connecting “Golden Age” to Michael Jackson is reminiscent of something I wrote a little while ago.

And now, a (fake) word to wrap everything up:

It is the Golden Age

I’m probably one of countless others to check out the newest TV on the Radio song, “Golden Age,” today. Hopefully, I’m also one of countless others to be absolutely floored by the track. The song is off the band’s new album, Dear Science, which will be arriving in just over a month on Interscope, and is available for streaming access at TVOTR’s site. And you’ll never want to move beyond the opening page after hearing this one. It’s just enough to listen and stare at the record’s cover art:

Dear Science cover

Dear Science cover

The cover is a simple, streamlined vision (not unlike Desperate Youth Bloodthirsty Babes, though considerably lacking any outright image). But the song is not quite simple, and it’s all the better for that. The opening bassline is reminiscent of early Talking Heads, while some of the bridges and choruses remind me of a palatable mix of Michael Jackson and George Michael, with high-pitched vocals swept up by uplifting horn sections. It’s got the familiar TVOTR sound, but it’s got a candy-coated pop blast which is celebrated in the spare hand-claps and the string section that pops up halfway through. And man, is it slick, but with a tasty noise-meets-hip-hop-meets-electro center. Let’s hope the rest of the album sounds like this.

TV on the Radio in earlier years

TV on the Radio in earlier years

The kind of work that TV on the Radio has been doing for “art punk” or whatever you want to call it is reminiscent of what Fugazi was doing for emo (though not necessarily that namesake) about a decade and a half ago. TVOTR sprung up from a creative community (Brooklyn) and have continued to support their friends and like-minded peers within Brooklyn and other dedicated outwardly-thinking musical communities through touring and recording support (David Sitek produces numerous art punk acts while Tunde Adebimpe has lent his vocals to tracks by Power Douglass and Subtle). But equally important is the band’s dedication to furthering their musical output into regions least explored. “Golden Age” is a prime example of that; while their earlier work is buried in waves of ambient noise and oft-rambling instrumentals, “Golden Age” takes a 180 degree turn from that without abandoning their original musical voice. The same goes for Fugazi, the group who ardently supported like-minded musicians in DC and nationally, while furthering their take on emo (and a variety of other genres) from straight-up punk anthems (“Waiting Room”) to dub-infested cathartic blasts (“Shut the Door”) to hip-hop infested philosophy exchanges (“Stacks”) to punk-pop panache (“Public Witness Program”) to fuzz-infested rock bliss (“By You”) to jazz-funk freak-outs (“Break”) to campfire-worthy classic rock (“Argument”). In the ability to further challenge one’s own expectations in the drive to achieve a greater musical creation, these two acts have certainly shown that anything is possible.

TV on the Radio – Modern Romance (Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover):

Building the Playing

Down in New York for the weekend, I decided to take a break from some ear-shattering concerts (short review: Deerhoof rocked Prospect Park, Parts & Labor absolutely killed it at Siren Music Festival) to check out David Byrne’s Playing the Building exhibit at the Battery Maritime Building in Manhattan. The instillation is a wonderful little experiment. Byrne rigged up an old organ and attached each key to a tube that then sets off a sound within different parts of the building. Each key either triggers the sound of banging, whistling, or vibrating in different portions of the structure, thereby creating the concept of “playing the building.”

There are various ideas encapsulated within the instillation that resonate within emo and numerous punk and post-punk genres, to which Byrne himself has been such a vibrant part of since he was a founding member of Talking Heads. The instillation is meant to be an exploration of music in that the sounds emitting from the organ are in no ways linear by classical standards of tuning or performance; while classically-trained musicians will find frustration in the process, those without any musical background and “non-musicians” should potentially use the opportunity to explore making music on such an open template. Whereas knowing how to play an instrument versus a lack of experience or knowledge is the first of many boundaries that helped create the olde world rock status that punk revolted against, Byrne’s installation destroys all those boundaries. If anything, it shifts those boundaries against those with formal training, making it frustrating for those individuals to attempt to create the kind of compositions they’re used to.

Aside from that, Byrne’s exhibit makes it able for anyone with access to said exhibit and patience to wait in line the temporary ability to try their hand at making music (or just plain noise) for a temporary amount of time. Part of what makes emo (and other punk genres) so appealing is that it’s focused on allowing every individual to make music by their own means (or rather, any individual who is up to the task of doing that). But hey, instruments aren’t like penny candy, and those are usually the first resources to grab in order to make music. With Playing the Building, all you need is a Metro card and the ability to sign a waver and you have your chance to make your own noise.

After a 20 minute wait, I tried my hand at “Chopsticks” and fooled around with the keys before quickly getting up, taking a good-humored bow for the patient folks who were behind me. Look out Lil Wayne, I’m about to grab your spot on Billboard.

EXTRA EXTRA:

TV on the Radio

TV on the Radio

More good news from the land of upcoming releases. TV on the Radio have announced the release of their next album! Due out at the end of September, Dear Science, should be another great addition to what has been a wonderful array of noise, punk, and art-rock releases for 2008. Never mind my usual attempts to discuss hype, but whatever you want to call this collection of underground music bubbling up around the country it’s looking to be big. The new new alternative? Maybe. Whatever the case may be, it sure sounds great.

UGK vs TV on the Radio – I Was an International Player (Hood Internet)