Saturday, December 31, 2005

list season: the top ten albums of 2005.

2005 was a really good year for albums, and being an album guy, there were some i enjoyed wholeheartedly. without any overblowing things, here are my top ten albums of 2005:

1. okkervil river- black sheep boy:
"a cinematic masterpiece about love, loss, and climbing into will sheriff's arms with blood on your clothes. the songs are good on their own, but as a whole, this is, hands down, the best-made album of 2005."

2. bloc party- silent alarm:
"i downloaded a copy in january, bought it in march when i saw them live, and until about september, this was my album of the year without question. silent alarm is paranoid, frantic, gorgeous, atmospheric, rhythmic, and genius. sometimes, all in the same song. out of all the neo-post-punk bands flooding the market, bloc party is most likely the one band we'll still be talking about in thirty years."

3. akron/family- akron/family:
"possibly, one of the most creatively arranged folk albums of the year. listen for: the squeaking chair in 'italy'. still, the creatively arranged songs wouldn't mean shit if the songs weren't great. like black sheep boy and silent alarm, this is an album you have to sit down with and listen from start to finish."

4. final fantasy- has a good home:
"heartbreaking. expansive. viciously witty. i've said too many times this year that owen pallett is the most underrated singer/songwriter in music today. some people call him a 'poor man's andrew bird', but the songs on has a good home are better than nearly every other singer/songwriter combined. guitar, violin, oboe. every last one of them."

5. wolf parade- apologies to the queen mary:
"the first time i heard this album, i did what everyone else did: write them off as a hybrid of modest mouse and the arcade fire. however, taking a little more time with the album, i realized that although issac brock's fingerprints are all over the record, wolf parade created a debut album that will undoubtedly stand the test of time. the thing about apologies is that everyone has a different favorite song from the album."

6. the decemberists- picaresque:
"i covered two songs from this album and threw them on my demo. how could i NOT put this album on my favorites list? from start to finish, this is the most lyrically creative album made in 2005, but you really can't expect less from someone who is arguably america's greatest songwriter. just like the other albums, there is a wide array of musical styles on picaresque: folk, polka, a 'lust for life' rip-off, and one of the best pure pop songs of the year with '16 military wives'. picking a favorite decemberists album is like picking a favorite child, but in few years, picaresque could get an extra scoop of mashed potatoes."

7. clap your hands say yeah- clap your hands say yeah:
"listening to 'clap your hands', the circus-like intro with alec ounsworth sounding like harry carrey, i don't think people realized how weird this band could actually get. from beginning to end, this album was a bizzare, yet extremely enjoyable ride with some really strong songs. the hype was deserved."

8. bright eyes- i'm wide awake, it's morning:
"as much as i pretend i don't like conor oberst and the manufactured emotion in his song, dude is a truly gifted songwriter. witty, poignant, and at times, downright profound, i tried my hardest not to like conor oberst this year. this album, however, stopped me dead in my tracks. he's not our generation's bob dylan by a long shot, but being our generation's conor oberst is good enough for me."

9. art brut- bang bang rock & roll:
"this is what punk is supposed to be. who cares if you only use three chords when you have arguably the greatest lead-singer-that-doesn't-really-sing in indie rock music today? eddie agros shouts, stammers, and struts his way through a variety of every day tales, making even a trip to the laundromat song of the year. when he comes back to america, he's going to ask if you started a band. if you do, and you can't really play your instrument, this is your reference point."

10. kanye west- late registration:
"as much as i've tried to slam kanye for being such an egomaniac, he's committed to making the best songs that he possibly can. he's not the best rapper out, and in many ways, he's not the best producer, but he does both good enough, and has enough foresight to bring on jon brion for co-production, to make the best rap album of the year. late registration is smart, musically expansive, cocky, heartbreaking, and triumphant. in many ways, just like kanye himself. they say the best classes go to the fastest. america's favorite rapper may have been tardy, but he's definitely got the best seat in the classroom."

and here are the honorable mentions (in no particular order):

the white stripes- get behind me satan
franz ferdinand- you could have it so much better.. (this album is my #11)
devendra banhart- cripple crow
fiona apple- extraordinary machine
re-up gang- we got it for cheap, volumes one and two
john vanderslice- pixel revolt
dangerdoom- the mouse and the mask
sufjan stevens- illinois
ryan adams- 29
laura veirs- year of meteors
chad vangaalen- infiniheart

Friday, December 30, 2005

list season: the top 100 songs of 2005.

we're in the i-pod generation. where we can find a song, upload it to i-tunes, and it can join the 1500 more that we already have. music snobs like us listen to so many songs in the span of one year, that only picking 100 is excruciating. but, here goes nothing:

100. fall out boy: "sugar, we're going down"-
don't be surprised that this made the list. even my sister, who listens almost exclusively to r&b, sings it in the car with me. if i could flood the entire world, and could only pick one emo band to bring on the ark with me, fall out boy is totally it.

99. arctic monkeys: "sun goes down (scummy)"-
the intro/outro are the real treats here. "and what a scummy man.." i love singing along and pantomiming the guitar parts.

98. sufjan stevens: "the lord god bird"-
a heartbreaking song written exclusively for npr about [i forget which state's] state bird. the harmonies give me goosebumps.

97. rhymefest: "dynomite"-
already my favorite breakout rapper of 2006, rhymefest drops so much wit over a top-notch just blaze track that it's really unfunny. oh, and whoever has the foresight to rhyme over a beat that samples j.j. from good times in the intro/outro is a good-ass man in my book.

96. giant drag: "this isn't it"-
it wouldn't sound out of place on 90's alternative radio. the simple chorus is ultimately catchy enough to have you accidentally singing it to your girlfriend as you're getting ready for work.

95. jaymay: "color confused"-
a shorter-than-two-minute song, it's a beautiful sentiment: "what if i stayed here/and played every song i know/would you stay/would you go.. away?" i'm not a sucker for love songs, but this is going on a mixtape for my next girlfriend.

94. phil: "hey ya (outkast cover)"-
this is a slower, more heartbreaking version of the original. it conveys an entirely different feeling from the original. i heard this song the day after i had the idea to slow down the original for a "hey ya" cover. oh well. fresh cherries from yakima will have to do something different.

93. iron & wine: "the trapeze swinger"-
it's a nine minute song. it's perfect to put on repeat while cuddling on the couch under a blanket. you'll be asleep in each other's arms before the song ends, and that's not a bad thing at all.

92. kanye west (starring common): "my way home"-
a common solo track on kanye's album gives that only built 4 cuban linx feel, when ghostface got at least one track to himself on another man's solo album. rhyming over just the sample was an ingenious idea, and common paints yet another vivid picture of inner-city life.

91. ryan adams: "elizabeth, you were born to play that part"-
the piano and vocal melodies rival ryan's best work.

90. m.o.p.: "punks jump up"-
a lil' fame solo track, fizzy womack spits some of the wittiest gangsta rap lyrics i've heard all year: "you couldn't bust a motherfuckin' grape in welch's backyard". indeed.

89. the white stripes: "i'm lonely (but i ain't that lonely yet)"-
just jack white's voice and a piano, this song has more soul than joss stone will ever have in her entire career.

88. idiot pilot: "open register"-
the verses are beautiful, but the real meat of this song is right before the chorus..

87. jose gonzales: "save your day"-
beautiful song. if i say anything more, it will ruin its gorgeousness.

86. the walkmen: "there goes my baby (drifters cover)"-
that old-ass piano is my favorite sound in the world. i love the walkmen for that reason.

85. youth group: "piece of wood"-
the fingerpicking, the melody, the added layers, shows the promise of a band still trying to fight their footing.

84. broken social scene: "major label debut"-
one of the quieter moments on their self-titled lp, it works for them. and i love singing the chorus.. "i'm all, fucked up..."

83. luke temple: "to all of my good friends, goodbye"-
this is the musical equivalent of drowning. and i don't mean that in a bad way at all. tell my old lady, i'll be seeing her soon.

84. laura veirs: "untitled"-
lo-fi to the highest degree. i can't even understand what she's saying, but i bet it's profound.

83. little brother: "beautiful morning"-
i'm not a fan of big pooh, but 9th wonder finds a nice little boom-bap beat and a sample, and phonte carries the track. when's the phonte solo album coming?

82. wolf parade: "modern world"-
modern world, i'm not pleased to meet you. modest mouse meets the arcade fire? at first i thought so, but after obessive listening to this song, if there's any likenesses at all, wolf parade takes the best from both bands.

81. voxtrot: "long haul"-
twee as fuck. and you love it.

80. dangerdoom: "sofa king"-
you say funny things. so does doom. all the time. that's why he's my favorite rapper.

79. death cab for cutie: "crooked teeth"-
kids strung out on homemade speed. the "iron lung"-esque guitar solo. the chorus is cliche, but the rest of the song makes up for it.

78. john vanderslice: "farewell transmission"-
everyone knows that i'm a sucker for melancholy piano tracks. hold on. hold on.

77. chad vangaalen: "after the afterlife"-
this is what jack johnson would sound like if he wasn't boring. so tell me 'bout your mom.

76. bloc party: "so here we are"-
it's all about the atmosphere. this song is so beautiful. if i weren't so macho [joke], i probably would cry every time i heard it.

75. clap your hands say yeah: "is this love?"-
great instrumentation, and the freakout totally fucking rules.

74. re-up gang: "stay from around me"-
coke rap was at an all-time high this year. and like i've said more than once, the clipse were at the forefront. over the right beat, they create classics. see: lord willin'.

73. the decemberists: "the mariner's revenge"-
a nine-minute epic [with an accordion] about being trapped the belly of a whale with your asshole stepdad. this is why colin meloy is america's greatest songwriter.

72. franz ferdinand: "evil and a heathen"-
the stooges, guys? it's unexpected, but extremely welcome. this is the best garage rock song by a neo-new-wave band this year.

71. doveman: "fade into you (mazzy star cover)"-
an even drowsier version than the original, the beauty is still there.

70. cat power: "the greatest"-
some people don't like the druggy, memphis alt-country direction that chan marshall is going towards. i, for one, am not one of those people. and in all honesty, this is the very first cat power song i've listened to all the way through.

69. art brut: "modern art"-
secretly, it makes you want to rock out, too.

68. common: "chi city"-
common hasn't spit this hard since.. god knows when. and this is one of the hardest beats that kanye has ever made. and of course, the obligatory chappelle's show reference: "i slap a nigga like you, and tell him, 'rick james, bitch!' "

67. my morning jacket: "off the record"-
the very first time i heard this song, i was like, "who the fuck is this?" it's like a hybrid of ska, southern rock, and damn fine pop music.

66. ghostface and raekwon: "kilos"-
they took a children's song about weight conversion, and totally made a classic coke-rap song.

65. the mars volta: "the widow"-
the closest thing they'll ever come to a real song. and what a classic one it is.

64. bright eyes: "lua"-
a love-letter to new york, kinda, conor observes his hipster companion going to the bathroom to do bad things, and paints a perfect picture of urban life.

63. amerie: "1 thing"-
the very first time this song came on, i LITERALLY got up and started dancing. i totally missed the boat on go-go. good thing rich harrison is bringing it to the masses. it's a lot better than the boring r&b that's out right now.

62. oasis: "love like a bomb"-
sure, it's a rip-off of john lennon, but what oasis song isn't? the melody is tops.

61. the white stripes: "take, take, take"-
a fictional tale about meeting rita hayworth. a chorus in 11/4 time, in which the fact that meg can even keep up says a lot about her improvement on drums. the weirder jack white gets, the more i love him.

60. hot hot heat: "goodnight, goodnight"-
more proof that the best pop songs usually clock in at less than 2 1/2 minutes.

59. sufjan stevens: "john wayne gacy jr."-
sufjan creates a sincere record about a serial killer. the part where he harmonizes "oh my god" gives me goosebumps. he's going to go down as our generation's greatest songwriter. and this is going to be the reference point.

58. kings of leon: "taper jean girl"-
this is where the "southern strokes" comparisons come in. and that's probably why this is my favorite song off of their sophomore album.

57. the game: "no more fun and games"-
dude saves his best rhymes for the hardest beat on this record. is he in a class all by himself like a brown eminem? not quite. but, he says what he feels. LOL @ him calling alicia keys a dyke.

56. final fantasy: "adventure.exe"-
a wonderfully idiosyncratic song title, and two minutes of the most awesome acoustic whimsy you'll hear this year. hey yo, yo, yo, yo, yo.. he needs an empire to overthrow. give him yours. i'm serious, bloggers: make him king of the world next year.

55. fiona apple: "o sailor"-
noone does heartbreak like fiona. and "sailor" is the most awesome pet name for a guy ever.

54. jay-z: "dear summer"-
the only reason anyone would willfully buy memphis bleek's abysmal third solo album. i'm a fan of extended metaphor. just as good: when he spit this song on new york's hot 97 fm over the classic beat to black rob's "can i live".

53. the bravery: "an honest mistake"-
love them or leave them, the bravery scored a well-deserved hit with this song. the falsettos towards the end of each chorus may cause people singing it to grab some tea afterwards.

52. re-up gang featuring skateboard p: "play your part"-
jacking the beat from 50 cent and tony yayo's "we run new york" was only half the fun. and pharrell attacks neptunes biters with arguably his best verse yet.

51. ying yang twins: "wait (the whisper song)"-
was it the most misogynistic song [of any genre] released this year? sure. was it damn fun to whisper the chorus? i can't lie: absolutely.

50. coldplay: "what if"-
the chorus takes us all the way back to parachutes, where coldplay were the frontrunners for the "next radiohead" crown. anthemic in all the right ways.

49. devendra banhart: "chinese children"-
sing it at work and freak people out. it's really fun.

48. the subways: "i want to hear what you have to say"-
an acoustic intro. followed by the rock. boy and girl singing lead on different verses. simple, yet effective.

47. clap your hands say yeah: "let the cool goddess rust away"-
a near-perfect weirdo-pop song. the voice cracks are endearing.

46. voxtrot: "raised by wolves"-
the breakout band of 2006's best song yet. go ahead and love me. i'm a hungry man.

45. the game: "120 bars"-
supposedly the last in game's series of 50 cent disses. undoubtedly the best.

44. those transatlantics: "boys and children, sing for summer"-
simply put: it's a wonderful song. the tempo change adds a nice little twist, too.

43. kanye west: "gold digger (diplo remix)"-
diplo takes ray charles' "i got a friend", and flips it with an 808 beat. wonderfully danceable.

42. bright eyes: "when the president talks to god"-
subtlety is not quite conor's thing. but it's one of the most poignant diss songs of our generation. as scathing as tupac's "hit 'em up".

41. queens of the stone age: "little sister"-
i've got a fever. and you know what the perscription is. that boy josh homme can write a catchy tune.

40. final fantasy: "the cn tower belongs to the dead"-
had a good run anyway. owen pallett is a genius. i keep on trying to tell you.

39. death cab for cutie: "different names for the same thing"-
as if the piano intro wasn't a good enough song as it was, the boys had to add a postal service-esque jam. one of the best songs on their album, and i don't even like the postal service.

38. arctic monkeys: "riot van"-
so, baby stop calling. over and over, yeah. and give me some funny cigarettes. a nice, laid back track.

37. wolf parade: "you are a runner and i am my father's son"-
you all know how much i like this song. i covered it.

36. franz ferdinand: "eleanor, put your boots back on"-
a piano ballad about alex kapranos' girlfriend. usually, that's a formula for disaster. however, it's the biggest departure from every franz ferdinand song you've ever heard. and it's of high quality. just like all the others.

35. akron/family: "italy"-
a wonderfully-relaxed eight minute song, with a melody that's been stuck in my head for the past three weeks.

34. kanye west (featuring cam'ron and consequence): "gone"-
one of the most minimalist tracks of kanye's career, this song shows these three rappers at their wittiest. damn, 'ye; it'd be stupid to diss you. even your superficial tracks is super-official.

33. the strokes: "ask me anything"-
everyone's favorite new york hipsters go all magnetic fields on us, using just a mellotron and cello for accompaniment to julian's best voice in rock music™. he has nothing to say. which is fine. just hum us a tune.

32. rza and mf doom: "biochemical equation"-
over a soul sample that would make kanye turn in his card, rza gets all philosophical on us, fighting the devil in the first verse, and telling us how his friend used to do cartwheels during his sobriety test on the third. during the second verse, doom delivers yet another high-quality verse.

31. wolf parade: "same ghost every night"-
the closest thing this band will ever have to a ballad, and they had to ruin it by talking about ghosts. that was a joke. i love ghosts, and so do you.

30. laura veirs: "through the glow"-
i imagine driving down the freeway on an excessively lit stretch of city while this song is playing. slightly dark, wholly beautiful.

29. chad vangaalen: "1000 pound eyelids"-
there's no better song concept than falling asleep at the wheel and "fucking the car up real good". but, underneath all the trumpets and bubbling is one of the most endearing love statements of the year: "i'm super sorry, but my eyes got really heavy/and the last thing i remembered is your smile."

28. death cab for cutie: "i will follow you into the dark"-
arguably the best song that ben gibbard has ever written. it's a love song, but still has the underlying hints of indie rock cynicism: "love of mine/someday you will die".

27. del the funkee homosapien: "fragments"-
del sings the kinda-hook, calling out a woman that he's not scared of "beating down to the ground". key lyric: "you don't wanna play no games/it only works when you young and beautiful". another highlight is when he's describing the wicked witch's mirror "shattering and shit".

26. the clipse: "studin y'all"-
a track from the clipse's still-on-the-shelf sophomore album, this proves that even though this song was recorded nearly three years ago, the boys from that 'ol virginny never lost their swagger.

25. final fantasy: "(reverse)"-
the opening lyrics say it all: i love you but sometimes, i need a day off. don't get that facelift.

24. bloc party: "helicopter"-
as if to say. as if to say. as if to say, he doesn't like chocolate. that's british for "george bush doesn't care about black people". a sonic youth-esque guitar riff carries this song as kele asks, "are you hoping for a miracle?" with songs this good, sometimes i forget that a rock band can't bring it to us.

23. maximo park: "grafitti"-
the most overlooked post-punk-pop band's best song thus far. i'll do grafitti if you sing to me in french. i don't know what it means, but i have this feeling if i use it in a bar, i'd be getting some action that night.

22. rhymefest: "these days"-
because, sometimes, your baby mama just don't understand: i ain't rich, bitch; it's just an advance.

21. the white stripes: "white moon"-
she led me and led me. and i ate what was fed me, 'till i purged every word in this song. whoever led jack into writing this needs to give me her address, so i can send her flowers.

20. the decemberists: "eli the barrowboy"-
a ghost who pushes around a wheelbarrow, who is too broke to buy his girl some nice clothes. in many ways, it's different from "gold digger," but in many ways, it's exactly the same.

19. david & the citizens: "now she sleeps in a box..."-
what a narrative. what top-notch instrumentation. music (for robots) greatest contribution to society this year.

18. neutral milk hotel: "circle of friends"-
a couple months ago, an old jeff mangum demo was unearthed. this minor-key ballad, akin to "oh comely", is the best song from it.

17. cold war kids: "heavy boots"-
the best modest mouse song that issac brock didn't write.

16. broken social scene: "shoreline (7/4)"-
a rock song in 7/4 time. i'm sure we should expect that from broken social scene, but if it were any other band, it would be revolutionary.

15. kanye west (featuring nas and really doe): "we major"-
kanye drops jewels, really doe drops the best rap chorus i've heard in a while, and nas goes on auto-pilot over the greatest rap beat of the year.

14. spoon: "i turn my camera on"-
britt daniel never tried to make us dance before. which makes this track even more special.

13. arctic monkeys: "i bet that you look good on the dancefloor"-
this is the song that started all the hype. number one without a record deal. and for a good damn reason. a throwback to when punk actually meant something.

12. fiona apple: "parting gift"-
the best song ever about being bored with your beau. out of all the hype among the two versions of this album, sometimes the best fiona apple records are the ones that aren't produced at all.

11. the comas: "sadness is an imaginary gun"-
an amazingly melancholy guitar line and pistol imagery are used in this wonderful demo taken from the comas' website. no wonder vagrant records signed them.

10. raekwon: "state of grace"-
the best rap song of the year starts out with a sample from every rapper's favorite movie, scarface. i can't say anything i haven't already said about this song, so i digress.

9. arcade fire: "cold wind"-
a dark and haunting acoustic guitar line starts out the song, and you start to envision yourself in a graveyard, watching the people walk by. there's a cold wind blowing, obviously.

8. franz ferdinand: "walk away"-
it's like morrissey singing over a spaghetti western. i love the sound of you walking away. genius.

7. wolf parade: "sons and daughters of hungry ghosts"-
a rollicking drum beat. an uber-catchy chorus. lyric of the year: "god doesn't always have the best goddamn plans". so catchy, i'm sure even sufjan has sung along at least once.

6. art brut: "formed a band"-
this is how punk should sound like. rambunctious. witty. with a singer that doesn't sing.

5. okkervil river: "a glow"-
lots of reverb. climb into my arms. with blood on your clothes. you've got a glow. you've got a glow.

4. kanye west: "gold digger"-
this is why i'm not as hard on kanye as most other bloggers who like their stars humble. kanye is a fucking genius. even hov said it. he took a great sample, jon brion, and a saxaphone, and turned it into not only a great rap song, but a CLASSIC party song. she was supposed to buy your shorty tyco with your money. but she didn't. this song is too catchy and too smart to ever get old.

3. clap your hands say yeah: "in this home on ice"-
atmospheric and danceable. this is the song that got me into them. classic.

2. bloc party: "banquet"-
as a hit single, this song is, allow me to be cliche: so, so, so underrated. from start to finish, i listen all the way through. every time.

1. the long winters: "the commander thinks aloud"-
from start to finish, lyrically and instrumentally, this is a perfect song. john roderick is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite songwriters. and this is his best song yet.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

list season: the top 5 "better them on the radio than clay aiken" bands of 2005.

radio is a dastardly beast. it swallows bands whole and spits out the trash at the least-common-denominator. for every nirvana, that changed the parameters of radio; or radiohead, who changed the parameters of popular music in general, there are radio-ready bands who the 14-year-olds think it's cool to like. i'm not exempt: i loved smashing pumpkins, bush, and hootie and the blowfish. this post is not about the GREAT bands that happen to make music that is played on the radio. this post is for the not-so-good bands who are heralded by radio programmers as something more than what they really are.

5. "rock and roll queen":
the subways are a really good band. but this is, by far, their worst song. it's what sixth graders write on the outside of their notebooks, saving it for the really cool girl that they don't have the nerve to talk to. this song probably took about six minutes to write. but this song and its o.c. endorsement is what's gaining the band their "next big thing" status. so, more power to them. better them on the radio than clay aiken.

4. the bravery:
whether you think these guys sound exactly like the killers, or if you think sam endicott looks exactly like a mix between morrissey and mark arm, "an honest mistake," arguably the bravery's best song blew up on radio this past year. however, their second single wasn't as good. neither was the rest of the album. but the guys have LOTS of style, and a little potential. better them on the radio than clay aiken.

3. youth group:
when i first heard youth group, i said what everyone else said: "diet death cab for cutie". but going back and listening to "shadowland", their first single, and more songs from their album like "why don't the buildings cry", they actually sound EXACTLY like nada surf. i mean, i know the band is still young and trying to find their sound, but this is just flagrant. oh well. better them on the radio than clay aiken.

2. coldplay:
so, a band with a ton of promise in the beginning got stuck at the bends, and now, they're at their third album, and don't realize that they should be AHEAD of radiohead right now. parachutes was the bends. a rush of blood to the head should have been ok computer. but it was the bends, too. and x&y was actually not as good. they should be at their kid a by now. better them on the radio than clay aiken.

1. the killers:
when the killers first came out, i was all over their shit. i saw them at a tiny venue at the bumbershoot festival, and that was the very first rock show i had ever gone to. i don't know if it's overkill, or the fact that i'm older, but i'm really starting to see how mediocre they really are. "mr. brightside" has always been my least favorite killers song, and of course it's their biggest hit. oh well. better them on the radio than clay aiken.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

list season: the top 10 albums that are not going to be on my top albums list... of 2005.

as long as i've been listening to indie music, i tend to liken my tastes to the critics. in 2005, i've realized that i have somewhat different tastes than a lot of them. but at the same time, critics are just fans who are paid for their opinions. and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the difference between them and us. so, bloggers, please don't jump down my throat if your favorite album is on this list:

10. i am a bird, now:
it's good and everything, but i'm just not into antony's voice.

9. twin cinema:

i don't know. i really never got into the new pornographers. it's not that they're not good, either. just not my thing. i haven't found "that song" to convert me.

8. gimmie fiction:
"i turn my camera on" is one of my favorite songs of the year. however, i didn't spend enough time with this album to include it as one of my favorites.

7. alligator:
i tried really hard to get into this one. i couldn't do it, though. i need whatever album "the thrilling of claire" is on. that is one amazing song.

6. set yourself on fire:
the musicianship is great, but the songs are a little too poppy for me.

5. feels:
i didn't listen to this album enough times to give it a fair shot. i should have reviewed it like i promised.

4. broken social scene:
just like you forgot it in people, the songs are really hit-or-miss. "shoreline" and "major label debut" are two of the best songs made all year. those, along with "lovers spit", are the only bss songs i love.

3. z:
another album i gave a fair chance and just wasn't really into. i really like "off the record", though.

2. the woods:
i was never really into the whole riot grrl thing. and although this is a departure from that, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

1. illinois:
sufjan created a masterpiece with this record: a pop record that will go down in history. sufjan, because of this record, will become the greatest singer/songwriter of the 00's. however, i still prefer seven swans.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

list season: the top 5 proper nouns of 2005.

so, in the legendary season of lists, sometimes there are things that happen in music that aren't really done musically that are still fucking awesome, to say the very least. so, i'm stepping outside of the realm of sitting in front of my computer all day [or in some cases, not particularly] listening to music, and offering up my top five proper nouns of the year. things that i read, saw, or heard about. the important ones are all here:

5. colin meloy-
now, everyone who reads this blog knows that meloy is my favorite songwriter. but let me tell you something: this dude had the best year ever. another critically-heralded neo-classic album; not one, but two very successful american tours [during his stop in seattle, the day after the decemberists got their gear robbed, he played "red right ankle" on 12-string for the very first time. that's gotta count for something]; he and his band got all of their gear stolen, and decemberists fans [who are some of the most loyal fans you'll ever meet] donated to the cause, so they could buy new instruments; he wrote his own book [covering the replacements' let it be in the 33 1/3 book series]; provided one of the most talked-about moments of the year when his band and death cab shared the stage for a rousing cover of fleetwood mac's "go your own way"; signed with a major label; AND his longtime girlfriend is pregnant with his first child. noone could ask for a year better than that.

4. ok computer being number one on spin's "best albums of the past 20 years" list-
it's about time one of the greatest records of all time gets a little recognition. haha! that was a joke.

3. i-pod wars-
the most friendly way to argue the merit of your intense music snobbery. good thing there have been no casualties as of yet. however, my best-of-three series with ryan from muzzle of bees was very intense.

2. the cliff notes for "trapped in the closet, parts 1-5"-
highlight: the glossary.
y'all ass is crazy: your entire ass is crazy.

1. fat joe at the vma's-
"i just want everyone at home to know i feel real safe right now, thanks to the police protection provided by g-unit." undoubtedly, quote of the fucking year.

Monday, December 26, 2005

list season: the top five record labels of 2005.

due to the intense rise of mp3 blogs, mixtapes, limewire, etc., record labels are becoming less and less important as we go further into the 21st century. i remember the days when i exclusively listened to rap and labels like ruff ryders and [especially] roc-a-fella were putting out consistently great records every few months. there are labels still putting out really good music, and this list is dedicated to those people who work on getting amazing artists into our record stores and shit:

5. def jam:
okay, so i only put def jam on this list because of their president, shawn carter. i don't care who you are, you know that jay-z is the benchmark of cool. the four coolest people to ever live are as follows: jesus christ, james dean, the fonz, and jay-z. president carter transends cool, regardless of race, just like henry winkler did for his legendary character in the 70's. says rza: "the fonz is the coolest motherfucker of anybody, white or black." and that goes the same for the president of def jam records. now, let's hope that they put out a decent album in 2006.

4. young god:
devendra banhart and akron/family put out two of the year's best albums this year, making micheal gira's folk-ish label a benchmark for creative music.

3. domino:
not only are they the uk label-of-choice for geniuses such as steven malkmus, but they have a roster that includes two of the most exciting uk acts today [franz ferdinand, arctic monkeys], and one very promising noise-art-punk band with a terrible name [test icicles]. expect another big year for this label, as they put out the arctic monkeys' debut, and yet another franz ferdinand album.

2. sub pop:
one breakout band [wolf parade], one genius a&r/producer [issac brock], and an overwhelming roster of talent, sub pop continues to be indie rock's new york yankees. and with new aquisition the brunettes, and albums from bands that change your life [the shins, iron & wine], 2006 is going to be yet another championship year.

1. barsuk:
i know what you're doing. this should be considered biased, since barsuk is a semi-obscure hometown label. however, the barsuk name is rising in stock as of late. the label has the most consistent roster in music today, put a whole bunch of great releases out [ultimatum, the weight is a gift, pixel revolt], and welcomed some extremely talented and established artists [mates of state, rocky votolato]. although they lost their breadwinner, death cab for cutie, they're starting ot prove that one band isn't going to make or break this label.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

list season: the top 10 songs from bad (or largely mediocre) albums of 2005.

now, i'm more of an albums person. so, if an album sucks, i'm not really into it, needless to say. however, there are some really great songs buried beneath all kinds of bullshit, and this list is in tribute to that:

10. bright eyes- "gold mind gutted" [from digital ash in a digital urn]:
as it is common knowledge in the world of indie rock/pop/folk/whatever, conor oberst released two albums in 2005. the folk record, which is being called the best record of his career [i personally prefer lifted], is undoubtedly the better of the two. the electro/rock record was at best mediocre [and i bought it on a regrettable impulse buy-- can i trade it in for i'm wide awake, it's morning?]. however, this song is better than the rest of this entire album combined. and it's easily worth at least half of the $15 i wasted.

9. ..and you will know us by the trail of dead- "worlds apart" [from worlds apart]:

there's something about the jangly guitars and the drum sound that just make me wanna shout along. it could also be one of the most profanity-laced lead singles from anyone who is not a rapper, but i could be wrong.

8. weezer- "haunt you every day" [from make believe]:
lyrically, sonically, and emotionally, it's the best song weezer has written since "keep fishin".

7. kaiser chiefs- "i predict a riot" [from employment]:
it's a crying shame when your best song is your lead single. makes everyone disappointed when you put out the album.

6. nada surf- "what is your secret?" [from the weight is a gift]:
nice actress metaphor, good harmonies. most of the rest of the album wears off after three weeks, but this song stuck with me for a long, long time.

5. 50 cent- "in my hood" [from the massacre]:
top-notch beat. a 50 cent hook so good, you wonder why he didn't think of any other mindless gangsta rap this good.

4. gorillaz, featuring mf doom- "november has come" [from demon days]:
you know the only reason why i think this is a good song. but, damon albarn does a good job on the hook. it almost "moves the whole spot like some old ass and skunk meat."

3. coldplay- "what if" [from x&y]:
the chorus is as anthemic as anything on a rush of blood to the head. too bad the rest of the album [except for certain moments] was just undeniably boring.

2. little brother- "watch me" [from the minstrel show]:
at some points, the album drags out. a lot. this song is the highlight.

1. oasis- "the importance of being idle" [from don't believe the truth]:
on a largely forgettable album with like two or three of oasis's top-dollar songs, "..idle" has to be the best oasis song since "champagne supernova". favorite oasis songs of all time, in order of importance: "don't look back at anger", "champagne supernova", "wonderwall", "live forever", and "the importance of being idle". noel falsettos are what dreams are made of.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

list season: the top 5 breakout stars of 2005.

sometimes, a band is a lot more special when they come from nowhere. last year, that band was a husband/wife songwriting team with a supporting cast of extremely capable musicians from montreal. this year, that band took over the fucking world, and david bowie invited them over for sandwiches. in 2005, there were a considerable amount of breakout stars, but few of them had the potential to be future superstars as the following five bands:

5. art brut-
eddie agros is a witty man. he got together with a bunch of rockers down for the cause, and wisecracked all the way to the bank [and top of the pops]. by just talking to the kids, art brut blitzed their way towards indie-rock royalty in 2005.

4. giant drag-
annie hardy took the "foul-mouthed, but cute-as-a-button" female singer/songwriter approach to new levels of stardom this year. oh, and the songs aren't half bad, either.

3. the subways-
although "rock and roll queen," the song that is all over modern rock radio and the o.c., is a "microwave anthem" for kids too young to remember nirvana the first time around, these kids took the perfect rock template [good looks, kick-ass stage presence, and the boy-brother-girlfriend lineup], and made better songs to back up their image. "i wanna hear what you have to say" and their amazing cover of tv on the radio's "staring at the sun" are good enough reasons to say that these kids are off to a running start.

2. wolf parade-
i must not be very cool. i didn't hear about these guys until sub pop had already released their untitled demo, building up buzz for their debut, apologies to the queen mary. then, before i knew it, they were playing cmj, and being touted as the next big things. oh, and the songs are amazing. i could name at least five songs off of the album that are modern classics.

1. arctic monkeys-
horrible name, amazing songs. at first, i couldn't see what the buzz was about. then, i heard "i bet you look good on the dancefloor" on kexp. needless to say, i was converted. i downloaded the demos that had been circling around the internet, and "scummy", "riot van", and "from the ritz to the rubble" are three of the best songs i've heard all year. if there were a genre called "band-that-absolutely-fucking-rocks,"
then the monkeys would be peeking their heads into the upper echelon.

Friday, December 23, 2005

list season: the top 10 b-sides/demos/unreleased songs of 2005.

to me, a song is a song. and being the obscurist i am, i tend to prefer b-sides and rarities more than i enjoy the hit singles. that's one of the reasons why i chose to cover "waiting on you" instead of, say, "el scorcho". b-sides sometimes are throwaways, sure, but when you're a good artist, it shows your depth as a songwriter. listening to a demo is like reading a songwriter's notebook: you only get what's necessary. and unreleased songs are sometimes unreleased for good reasons, but sometimes not. so, here's my tribute to the best hard-to-find songs of this calendar year:

10. death cab for cutie- "jealousy rides with me" [b-side to "soul meets body"]:
i'm a sucker for extended metaphor. and this song is not very much different in simplicity and emotional relavance to their cover of "earth angel".

9. kanye west featuring talib kweli, q-tip, common, and rhymefest- "we can make it better" [i believe this is from the japanese version of late registration]:
just when you think kanye is going to strangle this track with his observation of a sorrority girl ["delta's brown-skinned, aka's light-skinned/and they supposed to be bougie, so they got white friends/first day of school, i'ma take you sight-seeing/show you what we do on weekends for excitement/she said, "i know what you 'bout to say like your hypeman"/she had a nigga hit her, now she only date white men.."], rhymefest steals the entire show with one line: "clinton ain't in office, who gon' give us shit free, now?"

8. hot hot heat- "wait a second" [demo, also one of the b-sides to the "goodnight goodnight" single]:
when i heard the almost-anthemic chorus, i got really excited for elevator to be released. they should have kept this song for the album, because it's better than most everything on the full-length.

7. bloc party- "hero" [b-side to "two more years"]:
the second-best use of handclaps in a song this year. that's a good enough reason to put them on the list.

6. maximo park- "stray talk" [b-side to "grafitti" (i think)]:
it was a welcome change-of-direction when i first heard this track, which is a dance-post-disco-punk band with an entirely acoustic track. not entirely folky, but very stripped down and enjoyable.

5. elliot smith- "angel in the snow" [unreleased]:
beautiful, yet undeniably melancholy. still, i can't help singing along to the chorus: "don't you know i loooooved you.." it proves that there is still a broad red line between "emotional" and "emo".

4. the futureheads- "we cannot lose" [b-side to "area"]:
the simplistic bassline, the urgency in the extremely singable chorus.. there's not much to not like about this song. except how many times i play it in succession, and do my frustratingly annoying air guitar moves.

3. tv on the radio- "dry drunk emporer" [free download, unreleased song]:
for everyone who thought "when the president talks to god" was a little too direct, here's a protest song with a little more subtlety. the live version is just as defiant.

2. sufjan stevens- "chicago (solo banjo demo)" [unreleased]:
listening to this acoustic version of "chicago", it made me realize that why i prefer seven swans to the projects from the "50 states project". sufjan sounds more vulnerable over intimate arrangements. and i'm a sucker for minimalism, too. when i hear sufjan sing, "i drove to new york/in a van/with my friend/we slept in parking lots/i don't mind/i don't mind," i can see the music video in my head. this song is the perfect soundtrack for driving cross country and sleeping in parking lots. not that i've done that lately or anything.

1. radiohead- "i want none of this" [from help: a day in the life]:
i've always preferred Gloomy Radiohead™ to any other form of the band. "bulletproof (i wish i was)," "exit music (for a film)," and "we suck young blood" have always been among my favorite radiohead songs. "street spirit" is one of the best songs ever made. i love sitting in a dark-ish room and listening to radiohead, pondering my existance and everyone else's. okay, maybe not the last one, but radiohead is the perfect soundtrack to a late night or a comedown [or, perhaps, a late-night comedown]. if "i want none of this" is an eerie sample of things to come, then a lot of people aren't going to like radiohead's new album, whenever it comes out. however, i will be first in line to say radiohead outdid themselves once again.

you'll never believe me, so/why don't you find out for yourself?

i wanted to thank all of my favorite blogs for linking armchair up with the "list season" posts. i consider myself more of a blog fan than an actual blogger, so the fact that so many sites that people read like the bible [most notably: largehearted boy, gvb, chromewaves, and clever titles, not to mention anyone whose blog i haven't read who linked me up] read my blog is unreal. it started out as a fun way to pass the time, a satire of music journalism. i feel like i don't deserve all this attention, but i like it anyway. haha..

about list season: i apologize for not making a list season post every day on the day that it says it's posted [i'm usually 1-3 days behind], but i promise you, on january 1st, there's going to be a list for every day of the month of december. and, of course, since bethanne contributes as well, sometimes two. i feel the need to offer an explanation: i work in retail. 'nuff said.

matt from you ain't no picasso [] has "the prettiest songs written about serial killers", and "bailey part two" isn't on there. he must not have heard it. plus, "bailey.." is fictional, and i don't know if he meant "prettiest songs about REAL serial killers". i felt the obligation to contact him on myspace [he's on fresh cherries from yakima's friends list] and tell him about it. it's bethanne's favorite fresh cherries song. that's gotta count for something.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

list season: bethanne's favorite holiday songs

Ah, the Christmas season is here. Unfortunatly for many who go shopping for last-minute gifts trying to get into the holiday spirit, we have to hear the same holiday tunes over store PAs while waiting in line. However, I'm here to share my favorite Christmas songs for those to appreciate. (In no particular order.)

1. Run-DMC - Christmas In Hollis

I grew up with this being on MTV every year for Christmas - when they were playing videos, anyway - and with it being featured on an old skit on Jackass makes me love this song even more. It's my favorite Christmas song because it was unexpected at the time it was recorded and it still resonates with me today. (Check out Thunderbirds Are Now! covering this song on Clever Titles...)

2. Blink 182 - I Won't Be Home For Christmas

It's the makings of a classic Christmas song: Boy goes psycho around Christmas time. Destroys decorations. Girlfriend gets concerned. Cops get called. Boy gets thrown in jail and forced by his cellmate to perform anal sex. And you thought your plans for the holiday were horrible........

Moral of the story: I'm a sucker for juvenile behavior. I miss Blink.

3. The Vandals - Oi! To The World

The classic punk-rock Christmas song. No Doubt tried - and kind of failed - to cover this song properly. Though they used horns to give it a ska-feel, I prefer my punk rock christmas songs to be....PUNK ROCK!

4. Rilo Kiley - Christmas Cake

This song is cute. Especially the begining.

5. My Chemical Romance - All I Want For Christmas Is You

Mr. Douglas and I were just talking about this song - and thus gave me the idea to write this list - after I told him how I had this song downloaded. I gave it a spin and found it much more tolerable and awesome than the original version by Mariah Carey. (At least Gerald Way doesn't sound like a dying cat.) Of course, it spawned this part of the coversation:

bethanne: hot button topic for december: who would you rather have serenade you? gerald way or mariah carey?
douglas: haha; niiice!

I now leave you guys with that question.

And try to enjoy the holidays and don't wait until the last minute to spread that holiday cheer. Oh what fun.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

list season: the armchair awards.

best song title of 2005: thunderbirds are now- "better safe than safari"
runner up: final fantasy- "the cn tower belongs to the dead"

best waste of time of 2005: date my mom, season one.

most inappropriate line to quote in front of your boss in 2005: "whatcha gonna do with all that ass, all that ass inside them jeans?"

cultural phenomenon that i totally missed the boat on in 2005: "they ain't ready" by k-fed.

cultural phenomenon that i joined in 2004 that blew up like a biblical event in 2005: myspace

best use of handclaps of 2005: "the not-so city life" by pants yell!

the coolest second-banana of 2005: blake sennett of rilo kiley.

best blatant robbery of a catchphrase in 2005: clever titles are so last summer- "we got the internet goin' nuts" [stolen from paul wall on "still tippin' "]

most OBVIOUS statement of 2005: "george bush doesn't care about black people."

best insult of 2005: "picking on the killers is like pushing a kid out of a wheelchair." -sam of the bravery.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

list season: the top 11 musical surprise moments of 2005.

sometimes, when you're listening to a song, there is a moment that knocks you on your ass. those moments are what music snobs like us live for. we like bands that throw curveballs, to sit in front of our computers, or on the bus with our i-pods, and say "wtf?" for that reason, that's why most of us think jack johnson is irrepressibly boring. so, here are my favorite surprise moments of the year:

11. "one nigga, two nigga, three nigga, four. one of these niggas is 'bout to get FUCKED UP!"
-'ol dirty bastard, from "lift ya skirt" [rhymefest's a star is born, volume 1]:

first of all, the couplet doesn't rhyme. secondly, dirty yells "FUCKED UP" seemingly out of nowhere. at first, it's kinda jarring, but it's just dirty being dirty, and [even if you're white], you find yourself rapping along to it.

10. the end of "library" by final fantasy:
the entire song is a backwards bass kick and a violin melody. once the actual song is finished, a brass instrument and a plucked violin carries the track outward with a darker feel. it changes the mood suddenly, and makes you think about the song in an entirely different light.

9. meatwad quoting "beef rapp":
mf doom gives the mic to meatwad [from the hillarious animated comedy aqua teen hunger force], who raps almost the entire first verse of the mf classic. and then caps carl in the process. gangsta. pure gangsta.

8. the middle eight bars in the verses of okkervil river's "for real":
it starts out so quiet, and then, the guitars burst, and will sheriff is screaming "I REALLY MISS WHAT REALLY DIDN'T EXIST..." the soft-quiet dynamic is what makes this song so fucking special.

7. clap your hands say yeah, "clap your hands":
you'd never expect a band who can't go a whole record review without the words "talking" and "heads" to make an intro that sounds like harry carey fronting a circus. some people think this is the worst track, and a blemish on an otherwise perfect album, but i think it makes sense to start off an album with someone noone was really expecting. plus, i think it's a really good song.

6. r. kelly's "trapped in the closet", where rufus reveals that he's gay:
the first in a series of bizzare twists, this is the exact moment in my life when i realized that robert kelly is a genius.

5. the beginning of xiu xiu's cover of "gigantic":
you know how the doors on dollar stores have little bells on them? well, one is slammed like right at the beginning of this song, and you're like, "what the fuck was that?" and then, it actually becomes pretty cool.

4. about two minutes into death cab for cutie's "different names for the same thing":
in the spirit of transatlanticism, the song starts out like a piano ballad. then, it goes into this postal service-esque series of blips and basslines [which is probably one of the best basslines i've heard this year], and goes into full-on rock mode. it sounds like it would be fun to play, and more importantly, it doesn't sounds like something you'd expect at all on the first listen.

3. towards the end of clap your hands say yeah's "is this love":
the time signature change is pure genius, and catchy as all hell.

2. "dear sons and daughters of hungry ghosts" by wolf parade:
not the entire song, but one of the most surprising [and best] lyrics of the year: "god doesn't always have the best goddamn plans".

1. the tempo change in fiona apple's "not about love":
the very first time i heard it [the jon brion version was leaked on my local radio station. yes, the one that got national headlines for leaking fiona's entire album on the radio. the one that made andrew harms, arguably seattle's best dj, a national footnote], the tempo in the entire second verse was sped-up to no end, and almost sounded unrecognizable. it made fiona sound like she was crazy. and it made me want to listen to that song every day for the rest of my natural life.

Monday, December 19, 2005

list season: the top seven cover songs in 2005. [with honorable mentions]

cover songs are a tricky breed. some strip all of the elements of the original song and make something even better, and other strip the elements of the original song and make it a steaming pile of crap. some bands add things, and others take everything out except for the melody [see: tv on the radio's cover of "mr. grieves", one of my favorite cover songs of all time]. so, here are some of the cover songs i heard in 2005 that made me think of the original in a whole different light:

7. mystery jets- "pioneers" [bloc party cover]:
an almost calyspo-pop cover of the paranoid-sounding original. makes me wanna dance instead of worry about the state of the world.

6. the subways- "staring at the sun" [tv on the radio cover]:
a bright, acoustic cover of a dark, electronic original. the subways take something frantic and turn it into something beautiful. props to them for being a breakout major-label band covering such a genius band that is still in relative obscurity.

5. maximo park- "isolation" [john lennon cover]:
these boys take a classic and absolutely OWN it. probably the only band in the world besides the futureheads that can make a neo-new-wave dancefloor anthem in 5/4 time.

4. bishop allen- "psycho killer" [talking heads cover]:
it sounds almost just like the original, but that's why it works. most dance-punk bands should play this at every show.

3. the decemberists- "ask" [smiths cover]:
they probably played this in years past, but i only heard it about three months ago. the saxaphone and the military-esque drumming makes it work for me.

2. iron & wine- "such great heights" [postal service cover]:
better than the original. the lyrics work better with sam beam's hushed vocals and harmonies better than the twitchy synth-pop. maybe i'm biased, because i don't like the postal service. at all.

1. the arcade fire- "maps" [yeah yeah yeahs cover]:
one of 2004's best bands covering another one of 2004's best bands. a novel idea, and it works, due to the arcade fire's fixation on excessive instrumentation, whereas the original was based on minimalism.

honorable mentions:
david gray- "smile like you mean it" [killers cover]
the decemberists- "wuthering heights" [kate bush cover]
okkervil river- "black sheep boy" [tim harding cover]
the white stripes- "walking with a ghost" [tegan and sara cover]

best fresh cherries from yakima covers:
"you are a runner and i am my father's son" [wolf parade cover]
"eli, the barrowboy" [decemberists cover]
"waiting on you" [weezer cover]
(they're floating around the internet, so you can find them if you try. hint: use my sidebar)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

list season: the top ten mf doom lyrics of 2005.

i've made it no secret that mf doom is my favorite rapper. as a fan of lyricism, his idiosyncratic and obscure pop culture references are something i live for. although he 2005 collaboration with dangerdoom was the best rap release of 2005, it was far from the villian's best work. that should tell you what i've already known for a while: a lackluster effort from metalface is still better than most rap aritsts best efforts. here are the best lyrics from the mouse and the mask, as well as his guests appearances on records by rza and de la soul:

10. "cheers, is that your beer kid? then swallow it/or get chased by the sandman on some apollo shit"

"scared of a bunch of water/then get out the rain/order a rapper for lunch/and spit out the chain"

8. "tears burn your eyes worse than fresh s-curl sauce"

7. "cornier and phonier than a play-fight/take two of these and don't phone me on the late night"

6. "show love to others/we all brothers like the bee gees"

5. "drag him by his mic cord and leave him holdin' the bag"

4. "act like you know like toucan sam and them/he eat rappers like part of a complete breakfast/they rhymes ain't worth the weight of they cheap necklace"

3. "got it sewn up like thread 'n bobbin' bonus pack"

2. "closet full of skeletons and terry cloth kangols"

1. "they raps ain't got no gift like a lonely christmas"

Saturday, December 17, 2005

list season: top 6 blogs of 2005.

ladies and gentlemen, this is a blog. blogs, which are short for "weblogs", are where people from all walks of life can make an online journal of whatever is on their mind. there are book blogs, photography blogs, but the most popular are music blogs. music blogs can do many different things. they can host rare or not-so-rare mp3's [something the armchair novelist doesn't do, because i'm too lazy to take them down if a record label demands that of me-- in which i probably would respond with an erect middle finger, anyway], aloof opinions about musicians and music in general [which is the foundation on which this particular blogs stands], a chance to feature a flavor-of-the-month, or an opportunity for a little-known band to get some moderate-to-major exposure. i just started regularly reading blogs in 2005, so here are my favorites, which should be expected:

6. brooklyn vegan-
this is one of the major players in the blog-o-sphere [i dislike that term, but nothing describes it better]. the vegan does live reviews, sometimes posts rare or brand-new mp3's, and provides links. everything a blog should do. i do have to say that i mostly go to brooklyn vegan only for its sidebar.

5. muzzle of bees-
in-depth live reviews. mp3's galore. the innovative "getting to know your blogger" features. solid writing. there are so many good things about this blog. including but not limited to the fact that ryan's sidebar is in alphabetical order. good for the armchair novelist, bad for you ain't no picasso [who really doesn't need that much help with traffic anyway].

4. chromewaves-
i read it religiously because of frank's GREAT links to what's going on. plus, the "sunday cleaning" feature is something i'm intensely jealous of not thinking of first.

3. largehearted boy-
i can't say enough good things about it. shorties, daily downloads, bittorrent bunch? godddamn. i go to lhb every day. sometimes twice, to make sure i didn't miss anything. i even went through the archives a couple months ago.

2. gorilla vs. bear-
chris has become one of the most popular bloggers on the web, and for good reason. he mixes up the news, reviews, and mp3's from indie favorites [such as his obsession, sufjan stevens] with pieces on little known bands who should get some decent exposure. i first heard about birdmonster from him, and now, they're poised to be the breakout band of 2006. it also doesn't hurt to have the most in-depth sidebar in the history of blogging.

1. clever titles are so last summer-
i know this sounds like total and complete bias [after all, bethanne IS a contributor to my own blog], but let me give you the reasons why bethanne has possibly the best blog in the world right now:

+coverage of the lansing music scene [where i've discovered some awesome bands such as those transatlantics and calliope], as well as mp3's by obscure bands [such as javelins and a very obscure project called fresh cherries from yakima].

+honest and witty commentary about shitty bands and rappers.

+a different theme almost every week. [last week- covers. this week- side projects. pardon the omaha bias.]

+former [or current?] obsession with my favorite songwriter, colin meloy.

+in-depth [bordering on obsessive-compulsive, which is a good thing when you're talking writing] live reviews.

+undoubtedly the hardest working blogger out there right now.

Friday, December 16, 2005

list season: best in show 2005.

i was inspired by yeti don't dance [] to do my very own shows list. and instead of ranking them, like i've done for almost every list this month, i'll format it just like jerry did. hey, it's okay for me to bite someone's style every once in a while; it's not like i NEVER have my own ideas:

best show i went to by myself:
the long winters @ chop suey. i intentionally by myself, because i bought tickets like two days before the show, so it was more of a "seat of the pants" type deal. and i do have to say that i really enjoyed myself that night. hearing "the commander thinks aloud" for the very first time is like losing your virginity.

other best show i went to by myself:
bloc party @ neumo's. i tried to find like five people to go with, and they all cancelled on me, so i sold my ticket in line for $10. waiting for the doors to open, the guy in front of me gave me a pop tart. they were generic ones [meaning they tasted terrible], but that's the nicest thing a stranger has ever done for me. the best moment of that show came from during the freakout in "positive tension", where the band was going crazy [especially russell and his skinny arms strumming the guitar harder than anyone i've ever seen], the crowd in front of me was moshing, and i'm standing in awe directly behind the mosh pit, and everyone stopping to scream, "SO FUCKING USELESS!"

best acknowledgement of an encore:
tegan and sara @ neumo's. "this is the part where we go backstage and stand awkwardly for like three minutes, and then come back out to play some more songs."

best use of a drum kit:
franz ferdinand @ the paramount. alex kept standing on the drum kit and jumping off. i couldn't count enough times he did that, but it looked really cool. they had stairs leading to the drums!

worst display of hipster coolness:
tv on the radio @ the paramount. these guys played the most life-affirming, visceral set i've ever seen in my life, and all of the fucking goddamn scenesters just stood there with their arms are folded, like they were too good to enjoy the shit. they played their hearts out, and got a lukewarm response. that hurts my heart.

best place to meet a nice lesbian [aka the "pink triangle award"]:
tegan and sara @ neumo's.

bad band who totally had a kick-ass show:
the bravery @ endfest [white river amplitheater]. i watched these guys CONTROL the crowd with a stage presence brandon flowers couldn't muster up on his best fucking day.

best use of irony and a hip-hop cover:
aqueduct @ endfest. for god's sake, they played "damn it feels good to be a gangsta" by the geto boys! and it was a perfect moment to be in the sun that day.

best boring live band:
interpol @ endfest. i'm a big fan of the band, but they're pretty boring live. i'd rather just listen to the records at home and pantomime them myself.

best use of an accordion:
the decemberists @ the showbox. they played a week before they released picaresque, and all the kids knew the words. it was fun.

best onstage banter:
john roderick [the long winters] @ the crocodile cafe. there were too much wit going on during the show for me to list a highlight reel, but trust me: there's probably not a single soul in the music industry who is better at being a smart-ass.

best live moment:
5,000 kids jumping up and down and shouting the lyrics to "take me out". at the paramount. on my BIRTHDAY. i couldn't have dreamed of a better birthday party.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

list season: top 9 rap albums of 2005.

2005 was a really stagnant year for hip-hop, let me tell you. as much as i love the art form, when you have a frustratingly mediocre rapper like young jezzy and a horrific one like mike jones [who?] being your breakout stars of the year, then something is seriously wrong with the state of hip-hop these days. lil wayne and juelz santana might have been on the list if i had listened to their records before the deadline. to name my top nine hip-hop albums of the year was a REAL fucking stretch, but i think i can do it.

9. the game- the documentary:
bol [] said it best when he summed up the tracks that just blaze produced for this album: "not only does just blaze create amazing rap records, he creates amazing rap records for motherfuckers who can't even RAP!" game's rapping talent is marginal at best [but EXTREMELY better than 50 cent's rap style], but somehow, he created one of the only hip-hop records this year that elicited more than one listen.

essential track: "no more fun and games"

8. re-up gang- we got it 4 cheap, volume one:
coke rap was really big in 2005, and due to some label drama with jive records, malice and pusha were at the forefront of it, because they do it better [and more often] than any other rapper. i'm glad they got it for cheap, but if they upped the price, i wouldn't be mad. they deserve to get the big payoff. the other members of the re-up gang, sandman and ab-liva, are great additions to the group. gun in my hand, no watch as i bear arms, indeed.

essential track: "studin y'all"

7. little brother- the minstrel show:
the minstrelization of hip-hop music is a topic that should have been touched on years ago, and thanks should go out to phonte and big pooh for having the balls to make a concept album out of it on their major label debut, making it the most punk-rock thing a rap group has ever done. although the first two listens are the most rewarding, little brother is too good of a group to get blacklisted by national black media. it's a damn shame, but it happens to the best groups.

essential track: "watch me"

6. one be lo- sonogram:
the most underrated rapper out right now. point blank, period.

essential track: "propaganda"

5. re-up gang- we got it 4 cheap, volume 2:
they did it again. two albums on the same list. i told you hip-hop had a stagnant year. not to mention that pharrell is on a hot streak as far as his rap skills are concerned. "sprinkle my kicks and snares, soundin' like little me's/it's a shame cause you make little cheese/how you gangsta or pimp with little bullets, little freeeeaks..?"

essential track: "play your part"

4. common- be:
this record was highly-anticipated when kanye west put his executive producer stamp on this album. but the star is not kanye's production, surprisingly. common delivers his best lyrical performance in years. "go" is probably one of my least favorite songs of the year, but it sure beats the hell out of listening to "my humps" for the 475th time.

essential track: "chi city"

3. think differently presents wu-tang meets the indie culture:
i was very skeptical of this project, due to the number of low-level rap projects that are wu-tang affilliated. however, i was floored by the number of quality tracks on this release. ras kass and del the funky homosapien steal the show with two tracks each, but my favorite rapper, mf doom provides the highlight reel during his verse of the release's first "single". his verse was so good, that rza went back to the studio and put a verse at the end of the song.

essential track: rza featuring mf doom- "biochemical equation"

2. kanye west- late registration:
as much as i hate to build kanye's ego even more [he's good, but not good enough to be an asshole], when he hooked up with jon brion and spent two million dollars recording the follow-up to his eponymous debut, the two of them made the most musically-ambitious hip-hop album of all time. what rap songs do YOU know have the glockenspiel on them? kanye's lyricism isn't above par, but it's good enough. i suppose i can let him talk his shit again.

essential track: "we major (featuring nas and really doe)"

1. dangerdoom- the mouse and the mask:
this is no surprise to regular readers of this blog, but honestly, noone can hold a candle to doom's lyricism. couple that with danger mouse's best beats that had nothing to do with paul mccartney, and you have the hip-hop album of the year. it's no madvillian, but this year was so lackluster as far as hip-hop was concerned, if doom would have coughed on a record, he would have made rap record of the year.

essential track: "bada bing"

list season: bethanne's five favorite side-projects

Taking a break from the MP3-palooza that is my main gig, I'm glad to give this list as a sneak-peek of what I'm going to be posting MP3s of next week.

For some people in bands, playing in one band isn't enough. Some people can't stop making music and that is why we have these five wonderful bands (okay, technically six.....) that prove that even as a side project, these bands can stand out in their own right.

5. The Good Mornings

Two of my friends in Calliope are present in this band. Instead of the swirling, psychadelic pop Calliope is known for, the Good Mornings inject country and folk into alternative pop and come off as charming and enduring. It's a damn shame they are going to be no more after January.

4. Mayday

Not only does this band boasts Ted Stevens of Cursive, but also Pat Oakes of Ladyfinger and several (former) members of Bright Eyes and Lullaby for the Working Class. Country-rock with whiskey and gin at its' finest. Their album Bushido Kareoke is a damn fine album from this year.

3. The Postal Service

Yes, I do not like Ben Gibbard. But I have to give him and Jimmy Tamborello of Dntel credit for crafting catchy pop songs that not only get stuck in your head, but also make you feel familiar in uncertain places.

2. The Good Life

One of the ultimate side-projects. Again, another member of Cursive is featured, only this time, it's Tim Kasher and the songs range from poppy and mellow to heartwrenching and self-depricating. This is NOT the music you should listen to when you drink since you will feel sad for days.

1. Beep Beep / Broken Spindles

Joel Petersen of The Faint is the hardest working man in the indie music scene these days. Why? He's got three bands to play in. Not only do you have the Faint with their dark-wave dance rock, but Beep Beep's art-punk and sexually charged lyrics are unlike anything you'll hear on your typical MP3 blog. Broken Spindles, Joel's solo-side project, combines wicked instrumental electronic music with dark vocals and raw emotion while gorgeous rhythms and melodies chime in the background. Glorious, glorious, glorious.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

list season: top six underrated bands of 2005.

i hate using the word "overrated", it just seems to come from bitter, jealous people who can't think of any slurs against really good bands. "underrated", however, is a completely fair word, used to give shine to those people who deserve recognition. ladies and gentlemen, the most underrated bands of 2005.

6. the national-
i know i said that they were ranked too high on the "best bands of 2005" list, but i actually hadn't heard alligator at the time. they're really good, and i don't hear enough about them.

5. chad vangaalen-
in the vast pool of singer/songwriters in independent music, infiniheart proved to be a quiet sleeper during its year of release in america. vangaalen is one of the most talented songwriters in the field right now, and i'll be dammed if you can give me a better song concept than falling asleep at the wheel ["1000 pound eyelids"].

4. graham coxon-
happiness in magazines was more liked by me than anything that blur has put out, especially "freaking out". yet, damon albarn still gets more press for his abysmal gorillaz follow-up. coxon can't even sell in america, and that's a goddamn shame.

3. ras kass-
he stole the show on the wu-tang meets the indie culture album ["the rape over: cheney chargin' $45 dollars for a case of soda.."], and yet, the bloggers still don't give him his well-earned props. ras is one of the illest rappers to EVER live. he's just too intellegent for his own good. at least i can appreciate that.

2. maximo park-
in the year of gang of four and bands-that-sound-like gang of four, this newcastle band was criminally underlooked in america. the only post-punk bands that have better songs are the futureheads, bloc party, and interpol. "apply some pressure", "grafitti", "wasteland" [from the help! a day in the life disc], and their AMAZING cover of "isolation" alone were better than most bands' entire albums.

1. final fantasy-
sometimes, i think americans wouldn't know a good singer/songwriter if one bit them in the fucking ass. no offense to sufjan, but owen pallett is one of the wittiest, musically-talented, original songwriters i've heard in years. and no offense to stephen merritt, but owen pallett is my favorite gay songwriter. from beginning to end, has a good home is one of the best albums i've heard this year, and it saddened me for it to not be included on TOO FUCKING MANY year-end lists. you americans disappoint me. disgraceful. note to all bloggers in 2006: MAKE OWEN PALLETT KING OF THE WORLD.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

live review: mf doom [featuring one be lo, john robinson, and two white guys who really sucked]; chop suey, 12/12/05

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i'm extremely mad at mf doom. not like "he's not my favorite rapper anymore" mad, but "how dare you make your fans pay 22 dollars and get bored out of their minds waiting for you to rock the house" mad. doom, for a rapper, is an extremely charismatic performer, and he really blew the roof off of the joint. but making us wait FOUR HOURS to get on, and making us sit through five different rappers before you decide to take the stage? wow.

the first rapper, i actually forgot his name. but i remember the fact that he was awful. "white privilege" was his first song, which was basically a gripe that he wasn't being respected as a white rapper, name-dropping eminem and elvis in the process. ho-hum, get over yourself. the highlight of his set was when he threw on a george bush mask, and did an awesome satire rap from the point-of-view of our president. then, he went into the most horrific, embarassing display of hip-hop the entire night: "the penis song", in which he wasted three and a half minutes complaining about how small his penis is. horrible.

one be lo then took the stage, and i hate to spoil the rest of this paragraph, but other than doom, the man also known as one man army was the best rapper of the night. he had skill, charisma, stage presence.. he was the total package. he deserves to be successful. my buddy austin and i congratulated him as he walked through the crowd later on. my other buddy ryan bought two of his cd's, and we listened to them on the way home.

moka only was the next rapper's name. he was a tall, lanky, goofy white guy that couldn't rap. and he used the n-word very freely. i'm sure he only did it because 80% of the entire crowd was white. he was an embarassment to hip-hop, and at one moment, when the crowd fell silent, i booed him, and the part of the audience near me laughed hysterically. then, in a moment of defense, he mocked me, which i thought was cute. this guy was definitely the worst rapper of the night.

then, doom's hypemen came out and performed a couple [boring songs]. then, john robinson came out, and although he was good, the crowd was bored and hungry for some doom [we'd been listening to music since eight, and it was nearly 11:30]. then, another of doom's hypemen performed a song, and they weren't as good as john robinson's shit [mostly because john had almost all of his tracks produced by doom]. i was asleep standing up, then i heard a loud cheer. IT'S DOOM-- in a long-sleeved t-shirt and a backwards, all-black, new era fitted cap! he stood behind the turntables for the rest of his hypeman's set, and everyone was into it, because DOOM WAS IN THE BUILDING!

finally, doom starts off his set with "hoe cakes", with everyone in the crowd chanting "super"! our hero went into an abbriviated tour of mm.. food, with the crowd in the palm of his hand. he did "kookies", "kon karne", "beef rapp", as well as other songs. he also went into a few madvillain songs, which elicited just as big a response as the mm.. food joints. he did "curls", "figaro" (which everyone belted out at the end..), and "accordion". then, he went all the way back to operation.. doomsday! those songs didn't generally get a great reception except for longtime fans like me and my buddy bryan.. especially when "rhymes like dimes" came on. then, he left the stage and did a one-song encore from take me to your leader. and he left just like he came. with the crowd wanting more doom.

the show as a whole was way too long, and with a small percentage of quality acts. if the bill only consisted of doom, one be lo, and john robinson, then the show would have been a success. but the shitty white rappers caused the show to be a bit of overkill. and the white guys were so shitty, i told austin (who, just in case you didn't catch it, IS white) that i would be embarassed to be white that night. but i suppose the bill made people even more hungry for doom than anyone expected, which made his performance even more exciting.

future list season post: things martha stewart should do with nirvana's publishing.

martin: did you hear about martha stewart buying part of nirvana's publishing? sorry for interrupting, but wow.
bethanne: yes
bethanne: i'm miffed
martin: weirdness.
martin: what's martha stewart going to do with nirvana's publishing? bake it cookies?
bethanne: hahahahaha
bethanne: there's a list for you to make now!
martin: things martha stewart should do with nirvana's publishing.
martin: hahaha..
bethanne: that would rule

list season: the top 10 songs on "funeral"

you know it, i know it, bethanne knows it. funeral by the arcade fire was the best album of last year. so, in a move that usually isn't typical of many bloggers, i'm going to skip back an entire calendar year, and give you my favorite tracks from this classic album.

10. "haiti"-
out of the dark tracks, the anthemic tracks, the uplifiting ones, a pop song doesn't really fit. even though it's one of the best pop songs of the year.

9. "neighborhood #3 (power out)"-
doing a list like this is like ranking your children. it's blasphemous, but i told myself that i was going to do it. i'd have to say that the only downside to this song is the vocals. i can't sing along to screaming. haha.

8. "neighborhood #2 (laika)"-
everytime i play this song around my sister/roommate, she goes, "what the hell is that white guy screaming about?" once again, you can't sing along to screaming. but, like "#3", this is a good song, and it's agonizing for me to point out the things i dislike about the songs.

7. "une annee sans lamiere"-
i can't sing along to french. maybe if it were spanish..

6. "rebellion (lies)"-
when the drum kick from "haiti" continues, everyone knows where it's going. the 90's alt-rock-equse bassline kicks in, and win's calmest vocals on the record float through the first verse. when win's vocals get more impassionate, i get goosebumps.

5. "neighborhood #4 (7 kettles)"-
maybe i like this track because it screams "fresh cherries from yakima"! the sparse acoustic guitar line, the kettles in the background, the cymbal flourishes. it sounds like a song i'd record if i had the money and extraordinarily talented musicians around me. plus, the lyric "you can't raise a baby on motor oil" is obvious, but uplifiting at the same time.

4. "in the backseat"-
one of the best album closers ever, it has regine on vocals, and her wail at the end give me chills. the musicial build-up to the end makes for the most climactic moment on the album.

3. "wake up"-
uplifting record. i can't say enough good things about them, so i won't even start. but, i do have to say the tempo change at the end to the motown-esque jam is one of the best moments i've heard in indie rock in a loooong time.

2. "neighborhood #1 (tunnels)"-
without a doubt the best lyrical performance on the album ("yeah, i'll build a tunnel, from my window to yours"), the narrative of building a city on top of the snowed-in town is probably the best concept i've ever heard, and i'm jealous i didn't write it.

1. "crown of love"-
a perfect song. harmonies, melodies, instrumentation, everything. especially when they speed up the tempo at the end.

yet ANOTHER reason why i hate republicans.

sure, this man was a gang member, and he might or might not have murdered those people, but this man turned his life around. and what does he get for it? he gets killed by the terminator. fuck arnold. fuck george bush jr. and sr. sorry sacks of shit they all are.

Monday, December 12, 2005

list season: top 8 seattle albums/ep's of 2005.

if you hadn't noticed, i live in the greater-seattle area. i've lived out here for about 7 1/2 years, and in those years [partially due to listening exclusively to hip-hop], i never knew there was such a vivrant music scene. and i feel ashamed that i didn't know this before last year. oh well; what's in yesterday's newspaper is old news. and next year, who knows? your boy might even be a PART of the music scene here. here are my top 7 seattle-area releases of 2005:

8. harvey danger- little by little:
sean nelson is undoubtedly one of the most talented lyricists in alternative rock, and this release is no exception at all [sample lyric, from "cream and bastards rise": "you don't have to be a genius, but it helps to"-- proving that although noone likes a smartass, it's only because they're jealous]. "wine, women, and song" is my favorite song out of harvey danger's entire discography. yes, i like it even more than "flagpole sitta".

7. the pale pacific- urgency:
the first time i heard this cd, i immediately dismissed it as " diet death cab for cutie", but as an indie-pop group, the pale pacific have a lot of promise. especially on songs like "back to you" and their most rocking song, "written down".

6. laura veirs- year of meteors:
this release is so varied that it basically defies classification. from the subdued, yet uptempo "secret someones", to the rocking "black gold blues", to the almost-too-lo-fi "untitled", this is one of the sleeper hits of the year. my favorite track being the folky "through the glow", laura's sweet voice almost makes up for her choice in eyewear. [i'm sorry. i have a right not to like her glasses, don't i?]

5. math and physics club- weekends away ep:
the first time i heard "sixteen and pretty", i fell silent for about fourty minutes after i heard it. such a beautiful song. the entire ep is chock full of great twee-pop songs, reminiscent of the lucksmiths or tigermilk-era belle & sebastian, minus the cynicism.

4. death cab for cutie- plans:
let me start out by saying that the backlash against death cab was completely unwarranted. "sellout" is a term that went out of style in like 1996. seriously; let's be mature. "crooked teeth" has a solo that sounds like it was cribbed off of "my iron lung", which is not a bad reference point. "different names for the same thing" is one of my favorite songs off of the album, and "i will follow you into the dark" is possibly the best song that ben gibbard has ever written. no extra instruments, no white noise [like on "a lack of color"]; just ben's voice and an acoustic guitar. exactly how death cab for cutie probably started.

3. aqueduct- i sold gold:
earlier in the year, kanye west called franz ferdinand's style "white crunk", but if anyone can take that genre and run with it, it would be david terry. keyboards, live drums, and electric guitars are all over the place on this energetic, rhythmic album. "hardcore days and softcore nights" reads like a hip-hop song, anyway ["don't ever ask me where i'm from/in six states, that's considered dumb"]. aqueduct straddles the line between comical and beautiful all over this album.

2. luke temple- hold a match for the gasoline world:
i bought this cd from the mill pond records website, and the day i got it [which was in like april or may], i listened to it four times in succession. from the opening clarinet note on "someone, somewhere", to the last bit of white noise from the hidden track. although he gets lots of comparisons to paul simon, can paul howl like luke does on "god only knows"? if so, e-mail me the track in which he does. i'm not familiar with his work. the best part about luke temple is that he knows exactly what instruments to use on each track. none of these songs seem too excessive or too spare. it's just right. every time. this album is an underrated classic. maybe in four or five years, people will realize how great this piece of work is.

1. the long winters- ultimatum ep:
to make a long story short, this ep has some of the best songs of john roderick's career. seriously. it even has a live version of "bride and bridle", which is my favorite song on when i pretend to fall.