Thursday, December 03, 2009

Top Ten Albums of the Decade: 5

05. Brian Wilson, SMiLE

In 2004, the would-be Beach Boys masterpiece SMiLE easily became a modern marvel released solely by the bat-shit insane and driving creative force of said group, Brian Wilson. Despite its well documented and storied history, its 1966 origins, and it's somewhat controversial existence, the LP shines in a remarkably prevalent manner, showcasing transcendent heart, focus and infinitely bizarre creativity.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Top Ten Most Underrated Albums of the Decade: 10-1

10. Dirty on Purpose, Hallelujah Sirens (2006)

09. French Kicks, Swimming (2008)

08. Beanie Sigel, The B. Coming (2005)

07. Blonde Redhead, 23 (2007)

06. Pretty Girls Make Graves, The New Romance (2003)

05. The Blood Brothers, Burn, Piano Island, Burn (2003)

04. Sway, This Is My Demo (2005)

03. The Distillers, Coral Fang (2003)

02. Hot Snakes, Suicide Invoice (2002)

01. Bloc Party, A Weekend In The City (2007)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Top Ten Albums of the Decade: 6

06. M.I.A., Arular (2005)

I guess this could count as one of the first times the blogosphere proved its worth. Pretty much coming out of nowhere, Arular was genuinely exciting with all of its hybrid sampling of Baile funk and Sri Lankan dubstep. Mia's sharp political wit and sexual energy (both intimidating and inviting) gave the album a unique identity that made it not only original but completely unforgettable.

Top Ten Albums of the Decade: 7

07. Kanye West, The College Dropout (2004)

Back when it was just a "Benz and a backpack," and that was actually ironic and somewhat interesting. Clever without being snarky; charming without alienating. Plus, sometimes it seemed like he actually had something to say. Sure, the skills of his respective "flow" could easily be called into question, but there was such a brilliant aesthetic created by all the elements on the LP--an "it" factor that just couldn't be denied--that The College Dropout remains, quite simply, an instant classic.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Top Ten Albums of the Decade: 8

08. Interpol, Turn On The Bright Lights (2002)

It's still so damned hypnotic. But really that's just a laundry list of words you're supposed to use to describe Interpol's beguiling debut. Truth is, they have no subtlety. All that atmosphere was really part of the big, lavish show the band was putting on for us. Which is fine. With Turn On The Bright Lights, though, when we first met them, all that quiet and all that dark blended so gracefully with all of those wonderful riffs and nonsensical lyrics; what were we to do but fall in love?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Top Ten Albums of the Decade: 9

09. Nellie McKay, Pretty Little Head (2006)

Like a Tour De Force of vulnerability, frankness, sarcasm and massive ego, Nellie McKay's controversial Pretty Little Head never really lived up to the dropped-from-the-label hype that it garnered at first, but that's probably for the best. It has such a labored vision, it only seems right that it goes under-appreciated. A double album, full of more boast than it is bloat, McKay easily integrates her bratty/crass persona introduced on her debut with that of a less forced, slightly wiser songstress with all of the venom to boot. It was a balance matched brilliantly with the overly twee, chamber pop accompanying her. Nellie McKay is also

Top Ten Albums of the Decade: 10

10. Outkast, Stankonia (2000)

It seems like such a distant memory when Outkast were not only on the precipice of what music was about to become, but what it was. I guess, in a way, both were true--and false. None the less, Stankonia remains the obvious watershed moment for a duo that could not have been more ambitious, and should have probably been less gigantic. Perfect dashes of what became standard Southern Rap, Soul, Funk and some oddly delivered Pop, Stankonia was at its most curious when it wasn't paying attention to what it was doing; because then you were able to see how effortless it all was.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Track Review: "Cousins," Vampire Weekend

Rating: 8
I suppose "Horchata" and its beach-like, breezy atmosphere could use a schizo counterpart; and here it is. Easily serving as a scuzzed up "A-Punk," this is maybe the most easily accessible rock single of the year. Utterly simple in its tunefulness, yet expertly layered and executed. I mean, this is the polish that Vampire Weekend has perfected. It still makes them look "preppy," I guess, but it suits them so well. Listen here.

Short Cuts (2009): Part 3

White Rabbits - It's Frightening

Driven by backbeats and floor tom pounding, It’s Frightening finds White Rabbits with a pummeling sonic onslaught of percussion behind a heap of fractured indie rock and gloomily stilted vocals. This doesn’t always work as well as White Rabbits would like, though. The offshoot of this formula that they found for themselves, is that things can become too… formulaic. Still, this is mostly successful, and even marginally impressive. B- (read the full review here)

Magik Markers - Balf Quarry

Like any Magik Markers album, Balf Quarry is hardly an easy listen. It’s mostly in the way that their noise rock posturing can some times get in the way of the more traditional song writing tropes—which are evident, despite the band’s best efforts—and produce varying results. Just no-wave enough to be completely frustrating and invigorating. C+ (read the full review here)

Japandroids - Post-Nothing

Post-Nothing’s two basic speeds: thrashing pop and reflective noise. Fortunately, the two sides come together in a far less predictable way than would be usually expected, making large portions of the LP thoroughly compelling, if not truly authentic. Filled with bounce, bite and surprising cohesion, Post-Nothing is a deceptive little piece that is as much fun as it is subversive. The stepson of a real punk album. B+ (read the full review here)

Spinnerette - Spinnerette

Complete with anti-pop facades, Spinnerette acts as a weird time capsule that has been unearthed just a bit too soon. It’s a curious throwback that gets more curious as it trudges along through all of its digitized breakdowns and fuzzed up grunge guitars. It mostly comes off like some long abandoned Butch Vig production that he was only half invested in and would rather not talk about anyway. C- (read the full review here)

Mission of Burma - The Sound, The Speed, The Light

Oh, yes. The loudest fracking album of the year, once again. Completely vintage Burma with such little deviation from what has always made them so great. And it's not the dissonance, the noise, or those discordant rhythms that keep a band like this compelling at this point. Those are all part of it, yes, but mainly it's how easily those elements are crafted into a force so refreshing yet still so jolting. A-

Short Cuts (2009): Part 2

We Were Promised Jetpacks - These Four Walls

Power-pop from Edinburgh that aims high in emotive regards, but brings significant force when it comes to rock resonance. Loudness and brashness don't always go hand in hand. There's an elegance on display here behind all of the theatrics, and it's powerful and snappy and damned satisfying. A-

Grizzly Bear -Veckatimest

Definitely a quiet beauty. Contemplative works as well. However, I don't go back to it much, I find. Probably because there is so little mystery to it once you get the basic equation; and you kind of feel like there should be. Still, it has probably three of the better songs of the last few years scattered in there. B+

Mos Def - The Ecstatic

Curious soundbites aside, it's hard not to find the perfect moments. Everywhere from the crisp to questionable production choices, maybe his most down to earth, completely enjoyable LP in years. When things can get so superficial, this is one of those rare, human experiences. A

Arctic Monkeys - Humbug

A fuzzy, swampy production slows down their usual raw/punk edge, but actually adds another dimension that doesn’t necessarily sound more mature--this band would never take themselves quite so seriously--but it certainly comes across as older. Unfortunately, though, this is hardly an album without filler. Humbug can realistically end up being either a terrible mistake, or, quite frankly, a revelation. C+ (read the full review here)

The Antlers - Hospice

It has the ability the be completely devastating and then utterly superfluous, but doesn't have the ability to wear out it's welcome. It's like shoegaze with none of the style. These tones, however, are unmistakably pop, and irrefutably lovely. One of the best of the year, without a doubt. A

Short Cuts (2009): Part 1

Jemina Pearl - Break It Up

Probably some of the best and purest pop-punk you can find. Though, as a former front woman (Be Your Own Pet) at such a young age, that adolescent stench that coats her output works both for and against her. A spunky little nothing that oddly winds up full of some sort of forced existential substance. Beware, however, the law of diminished returns. B

Girls - Album

"Sometimes you just gotta fake it for yourself." A

No Age - Losing Feeling EP

No Age draw their greatest strength in understanding their aims. The juxtaposed buzz saw riffing and pulsing fuzz explosions have been fine as far as playing "Spot the Influence." However, for a young duo such as this, it’s best to keep your heads and realize early on that you’ve invented nothing, but can build upon everything. Nouns accomplished this, warts and all. Losing Feeling looks to drive the point home. A-

Lee Fields & The Expressions, My World

Part of the problem here is that this is a bit too "on the nose," but that is also clearly the best reason to love it. Completely indulgent and masterfully dramatic. It's the soul classic that never was and never will be, but, God damn, if it's not a tuneful little gem. B+

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!

We all get that it's a departure, but that doesn't really seem possible. In a sonic sense, there's less fat to chew, and most of the output comes off across as a misguided freak folk vs. new wave project--and, in an oversimplified way, it is. But it is also a bizarre, deft, and ultimately completely memorable experiment. A

More to come...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Make Believe: Metric, Fantasies

Unless you live in Canada and have had the pleasure of attending some of their frequent live shows, chances are, it has been a while since you’ve heard from Metric. Their last album, 2005’s Live It Out (assuming you don‘t count the 2007 long-delayed release of their previously unreleased/scrapped debut Grow up and Blow Away—which I do not), was a dense, moody exercise in post-rock subtleties partnered with melodic pop declarations. A natural departure from that album’s predecessor (Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?), it remains a watershed moment for a band that loves to play with expectations as much as it strives to exceed them.

*****Read the full review here.